Why Rogue One Might Be Better Than the Force Awakens

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Star Wars fans should always be quick to remember that the Star Wars movies were not created in a vacuum (regardless of their various deep space settings).  George Lucas himself has stated that the Star Wars movies were essentially an amalgam of some of his favorite movies and genres assembled within a new and different science fiction setting.

For instance the Dune novels by Frank Herbert are directly referenced more than once in the Star Wars films and it doesn’t take much additional digging to find their influence throughout.

The samurai film epics of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa were another major influence on George Lucas and many elements from the movie The Hidden Fortress are woven into the narrative of the original Star Wars movie.

The film noir genre itself and movies like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca were ones Lucas grew up enjoying and many of the seedier elements of the Star Wars universe find their origins with them.  The Mos Eisley Cantina and Jabba the Hutt are a direct result of Lucas’ love of the gritty gangster ridden noir films.

There are of course other influences and aspects of the creation of the Star Wars movies which can be traced to many different sources; various science fiction, other films, fantasy literature, mythology, and even real world politics all of which are too numerous to mention here.  All of this is to say that originally Star Wars was never about the things for which it has now become famous, like reinventing the movie industry or altering the perception of science fiction on the big screen.  Instead I would argue that Star Wars was Lucas’ attempt to reintroduce many of the elements of “classic” Hollywood back into the harsh and often dreary cinemascape of the 1970’s.

At this point I must immediately interject here that I in no way believe Star Wars to be a rip-off or even unoriginal, in fact quite the opposite.  Although the Star Wars movies are heavy on familiar themes, pulp fiction references, and film making of a bygone era (even the scene transitions are antiquated wipes, pans, and dissolves) it was all pieced together in a wholly unique blend of space opera epic which introduced the world to the lightsaber, X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Wookiees, droids, and a whole slew of iconic planets, characters, aliens, and starships.

My point is this: As a long time Star Wars fan I have cultivated the opinion that, as a general rule, Star Wars (in all it’s varied forms and formats) is at its best when it emulates other things and frames them within the Star Wars universe; and doesn’t try too hard to be “Star Wars”.  Star Wars is not purely sci-fi, it isn’t purely fantasy, and it isn’t meant to be dramatic high art.  When any of these elements over shadows the others or when the elements of Star Wars itself begin to dominate the storyline the result is failure.

From my experience this balancing game falls apart in the expanded universe books, games, and other forums.  Though there is an argument for such an imbalance within the prequel movies as well and the reason why that trilogy has become so universally panned (though all of that is a topic for another time).

With the Star Wars novels in particular, especially the now defunct old EU, the authors attempt to capture the feeling of Star Wars too much by directly referencing the Star Wars universe in an awkward forced way.  Or they focus far too much on the sci-fi elements of the setting, presenting high tech jargon while casually rattling off obscure alien species and bits of Star Wars trivia in order to seem authentic.  All the while lauding a story lines which might seem clever in other sci-fi but seem out of place in the context of Star Wars.

There are however some great Star Wars novels, some of my favorites are the Death Troopers books by Joe Schreiber which are essentially horror/zombie novels set in the Star Wars universe.  Additionally Cloak of Deception and Darth Plagueis by James Luceno take up the staples of political thrillers set during the time of the prequel era and include all the Sith intrigue and Jedi apolitical maneuvering you’d expect, along with plenty of action and starships.

Similarly many of the best episodes of the Clone Wars series were when Dave Filoni and company played with various concepts and framed genre and  various trope story lines which had not been seen in the Star Wars universe beforehand.  The Clone Wars cartoon included murder mysteries, heist episodes, and giant kaiju-like monster attacks; all under the interpretations of the Star Wars universe.

Even the Star Wars video games have been at their best when they simply borrow from other popular video games and lend their unique and exciting Star Wars spin to the premise and gameplay.  Star Wars Battlefront was essentially Battlefield 1942 in space.  Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds was very much the Star Wars version of StarcraftStar Wars Racer, the Phantom Menace podracing game, was the Star Wars answer to any number of popular racing games of the day.  Those video games were GREAT!  Sure there were other impressive Star Wars games through the ages but many of those put a tight focus on specific characters or directly put the players in control of reenacting scenes from the movies.

Other Star Wars games did not stand up as well.

One of my least favorite games were the Force Unleashed series.  I believe they suffered from trying far too hard to feel Star Wars.  There certainly was some enjoyment in the array of Force powers available to Starkiller, the main character of the games, and the sandbox of destruction possible as a result.  However that game was a ridiculous mosaic of random elements from the Star Wars saga combined with fanboy wish fulfillment, wrapped in an incomprehensible story arc which was absolutely contradictory to the canon of the movies themselves.  I know a lot of people enjoyed that pair of games but not me and I’m sorry, it’s how I feel.

The only real example of a Star Wars property making a success from overtly trying to be “Star Warsy” was The Force Awakens, which does it’s best to redesign the original movie nearly beat for beat while adding several new and exciting characters and twists throughout.  In fact my biggest complaint regarding Episode VII is the plots general unoriginality.  However the characters and overall execution were so great that the redundancies in the narrative could be overlooked.

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This December will see the release of the first Star Wars spinoff movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (ugh.  Just call them Anthology Movies).  Rogue One is being touted as a war film, a pilot ace flick, and a heist movie all taking place within the setting of the Star Wars universe.  It is because of what we know regarding the plot that I believe Rogue One will be a great Star Wars movie and possibly better than The Force Awakens, for the reasons stated above.

The Star Wars universe is precisely that, an expansive diverse universe of possibilities and has the possibility to be so much more than a story of the Skywalker family and the Jedi.  Star Wars is also not simply a pattern of film making which if done right can be repeated ad nauseam into infinity.  And the Star Wars universe certainly is not just another sci-fi franchise that any tired sci-fi story can pasted onto, sprinkled with a few lightsabers, and titled Star Wars.  It is the exoticness of the well-worn settings and pervasive mandate for adventure which the Star Wars universe was built upon and which is able to take old stories and reform them in new ways.

Hopefully this is the case with Rogue One.

I really hope Rogue One takes off (pun intended) and is a big hit for Disney and Lucasfilm and I would love to see this first spin off movie blow The Force Awakens out of the water.  I’ve said this before, and although I have absolutely no ill will towards the Force Awakens, but I really hope that in the long run Episode VII really isn’t anyone’s favorite Star Wars flick.  With so much new Star Wars on the horizon hopefully as new movies keep opening up in theaters they will continue to outdo the previous ones in new and different ways.

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George Lucas Doesn’t Hate The Fans, He’s Just A Terrible Artist

“Art is never finished, only abandoned.

—-Leonardo Di Vinci

“Star Wars is like a woman who was once vibrant and beautiful but who has had an obscene amount of plastic surgery and hasn’t been allowed to age gracefully.”  —-Some Guy on a Star Wars Forum

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or simply aren’t a Star Wars fan or geek of any ilk, you most likely have been hearing the complaints about the changes made to the Star Wars movies in their upcoming blu-ray release.  Most of the recent controversy has centered around some added bits of dialogue given to Darth Vader during the climactic final battle between Vader, Palpatine, and Luke Skywalker in Return of the Jedi.  In this newest version Darth Vader screams “No! Nooo!” as he picks up his Sith master and gives him the shaft.  A phrase that has already garnered some fan ridicule when it was used in Revenge of the Sith and now has them outraged due to its insertion into the iconic ending of the original trilogy.

Cover of the upcoming Star Wars Blu-Ray

Now many Star Wars fans out there already have several complaints to bring up against Uncle George, the bearded creator.  This recent tinkering with the saga seems to be the straw that infuriated the camel’s core fanbase.  Many other blogs and commentaries seem to imply that they feel George Lucas hates the fans, cares nothing for the Star Wars saga, and thinks that adding to, and messing with, the movies will encourage us gullible fans to shell out a few extra bucks in order to collect a newer version of the films.

But here’s how I see it.

From what I can tell George Lucas does NOT hate the fans of his movies, or think that they are fools.  On the contrary Lucas seems to take quite an interest in the fans and their activities.  He has personally attended several of the Star Wars Celebration conventions and I have personally seen him speak twice.  From all indications he seems actually quite congenial to, and appreciative of, his fans.  One quick example that comes to mind is when Uncle George was taking questions at one of the previously mentioned Star Wars Celebrations, when one particularly stereotypical geeky fan asked a very specific and involved question about buzz droids and particle shielding on Jedi starfighters.  George took a breath and was about to answer the inquiry before the other fans in the auditorium booed the awkward questioner down from the mic.  I remember personally yelling something along the lines of “Ask that kind of shit at a Trek convention!”  George Lucas however said nothing, and simply shrugged as if disappointed he didn’t get to answer.

George Lucas shakes hands with a young Jedi fan

What I’m getting at is that George Lucas could be so much more standoffish with his fans, he could be like the Emperor, mysterious and removed from the people.  Instead he seems to make appearances quite often, has dialogues with the fans, and has even given his take on a few of the popular criticisms about his work.

That’s not to say that George Lucas hasn’t made some mistakes in his work.  I am in no way simply pardoning Lucas for everything just because he takes a few minutes to chat with the fan boys.  Jarjar was waaaaay overdone.  Episode II is terrible.  Han shooting first was stupid.  He shouldn’t have directed the prequels.  And Indiana Jones 4 was total shit (but actually I put most of the blame for that debacle on the other major players involved with that one, Lucas’ story could have been one of my favorite Indy movies, but the execution was atrocious!)

Now onto the idea that Lucas hates the Star Wars universe, or simply has no regard for the established universe that is Star Wars.  I’ve commented on this before in my post about Lucas VS the Fan Boys.  Without repeating myself too much I’ll just restate that I’ve never felt, nor have I really seen any evidence to support the idea that Lucas simply doesn’t care about what changes he makes to the Star Wars universe.  On the contrary I have to say that if you’ve read any interviews with Dave Filoni, the director of the Clone Wars cartoon, or George Lucas himself, you’ll discover that there is quite a bit of thought and effort put into what new elements are added to the Star Wars universe through the cartoons, and film changes, and how those elements fit in with the existing Star Wars realm.  Sure Lucas makes changes to established and iconic scenes, and tinkers with works he’s already completed but I attribute that more to the idea that Lucas is a perfectionist who regularly thinks about how he wishes this or that scene had turned out better.  I don’t believe he makes changes on a whim, but instead foolishly makes these edits based on his current state of mind, and not his original inspired direction.  As a writer myself I can sympathize with wanting to tweak your work to make it just right.  That however has to happen before it is unleashed upon the world.

Which brings me to the last part of my rant.

“Lucas just wants to make a quick buck off the fans by making some unnecessary changes and putting the movies out on a new format.”  George Lucas knows how to make a buck, there is no denying that.  That son of a bitch is the grand master of merchandising and he established the style of promotion and rebranding that keeps a product fresh in the mind of the consumer.  He knows how to stretch something out and get the most from fan expectations and desires.  I’m convinced that the only reason we haven’t seen the live action Star Wars television series yet is because the Clone Wars was far more popular and successful than originally anticipated, so why show all your cards at once?  Get the most of the Clone Wars and when that winds down, ramp up the live action show once more.  Some might say it’s a dick move, but it’s just good business.  Hold onto those good ideas until you need them, and keep the product going.  It’s America, it’s capitalism.  So all our Star Wars dreams aren’t coming true all at once, too bad.

I believe Lucas does what he does in terms of changes, additions, tinkering, etc. because deep down George Lucas is still clinging to his indie film school roots.  Somewhere deep down there is still good in Lucas, he pictures himself as a hipster film geek who praises 2001: A Space Odyssey and Kurosawa movies.  He wants to try to perfect his art however and is afraid to let things go until they are “done right.”  The problem is of course that things are never done right, they’re just done as best as they can be.  As the above quote states art is never finished, only abandoned.  This of course means that George Lucas is a terrible artist in that he just can’t let go.  I’m not saying he shouldn’t have made the prequels or has done too much with the Clone Wars, on the contrary, for the most part, I really enjoy these new segments of the Star Wars saga (glaring annoyances aside.)  It just means that Lucas has to learn to let go.  When he stepped back from the directors chair on the original movies we found that his vision could be fulfilled just as well, if not better, through a different set of eyes.

A young George Lucas with his friend, a young Francis Ford Coppola

It is my theory that George Lucas is not a spiteful person, nor a solely greedy one.  If any maladjustment can be assigned to him I would say he suffers from excessive vainglory.  He wants his works to be the best, and remain the best.  Star Wars, his inarguable pinnacle achievement and best known creation was once the apex of movie making, a groundbreaking achievement in film.  He is slow to relinquish that glory and so attempts to make his art a continual work in progress, slowly adapting the state of the art practices of the present to his masterpiece of the past.  Without a doubt Lucas has been a pioneer in new technologies and styles of film making, but he is unable to completely let go of his pride and the earlier works that got him there.

That is why you fail.

That is all!

Listening To Star Wars

As a humungous Star Wars fan and a collector of various Star Wars memorabilia I often hear the question “What’s your favorite item in you Star Wars collection?”  That is a question I don’t think I’ve ever successfully answered.  I constantly think about it however, trying to come up with an answer for the next person who asks.  Some of the contenders are my small Star Wars vinyl collection, the old cassette and projector reel set my wife salvaged from an abandoned classroom media collection, the few figures I have from the original Star Wars toy run that I played with as a kid which were purchased from various yard sales and flea markets, or the theater projection reel of the trailer for the Star Wars special editions that I stole from the local movie theater during my college days.

All of those are fantastic, and each has some of my favorite Star Wars related memories attached to them.  These items are certainly more valuable to me than the most expensive piece in my collection, a good story and a shared moment are more important than an original rocket firing Boba Fett figure.  However the one element of my collection that perhaps fueled my Star Wars fandom more than any others (with the exception of the movies themselves) are my boxed sets of the Star Wars radio dramas.  For anyone out there who is an avid Star Wars fan and who hasn’t listened to the Star Wars radio dramas you’re really missing out!  Produced for NPR and put together with full permission from George Lucas himself the radio dramas are full of many of Ben Burtt’s familiar sound elements from Star Wars; firing blasters, Vader’s menacing breathing, and the distinctive sound of TIE Fighters soaring through space.  There are even several recognizable voices from a few actors reprising their roles for the radio.


It is difficult to succinctly sum up why I love the radio dramas so much.  I guess I would put it this way; if you see a movie based on a book viewers inevitably remark that, even though the movie might be good, the book was better.  Although Star Wars is not based on a book, the Star Wars radio dramas are in some ways the book version of the Star Wars movies, retroactively of course.

Hopefully that makes sense.

What I’m getting at is that the Star Wars radio dramas really do a great job expanding each of the movies, fleshing out the characters, and really adding a helpful perspective to the action seen in the movies.  Questions that might arise during the movies, are answered in the radio dramas.  Lines of dialogue from the films such as Vader’s quote to Leia “You weren’t on any mercy mission this time!”  Suddenly become crystal clear and full of meaning.  By adding several hours of storytelling to each of the already established narratives of the Star Wars films, the radio dramas give us the opportunity to delve deeper into the Star Wars universe and have a better understanding of why the characters do what they do.

A recording session from the first radio drama. David Clennon as Admiral Motti, Keene Curtis as Grand Moff Tarkin, and Brock Peters as Darth Vader

The only thing that can be a little off-putting for us hardcore Star Wars fans is hearing iconic bits of long memorized dialogue being recited by new voices with different, unfamiliar, inflections.  The most difficult element to get used to is the casting of Darth Vader, sadly James Earl Jones does not take on the mantle of Vader in the radio dramas thus leaving the part lacking that iconic grandeur that has become associated with the voice of the dark lord of the Sith.  Don’t get me wrong, Brock Peters, an actor who has his own sci-fi cred from his work on Star Trek and elsewhere, does a wonderful job as the radio voice of Vader.  After awhile you get comfortable with Peter’s voice in the role, but honestly who can replace the smooth booming baritone of James Earl Jones?

There are however several actors from the movies who pick up their parts once again in the radio dramas.  Anthony Daniels, Mr. Star Wars himself, is the only original cast member who performs in all three of the radio dramas as the distinctly prissy C-3PO.  Mark Hamill returns as Luke for A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but sadly is not present for Return of the Jedi.  I assume this was Hamill’s first venture into voice acting and perhaps paved the way for his future career?  Billy Dee Williams provides the smooth talking dialogue for Lando Calrissian in the Empire Strikes Back but sadly he too is not a part of Return of the Jedi.  There are also some special guest stars who take on some of the other major parts.  John Lithgow gives an amusing performance as Yoda in Empire and Jedi.  Ed Asner speaks fluent huttese in his role as Jabba the Hutt, and Ed Begley Jr. voices Boba Fett in Jedi delivering his dialogue with a whispering menace.

Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Bernard Behrens as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Perry King as Han Solo, and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.

The Star Wars radio dramas provide a rediscovery of the Star Wars saga.  If you haven’t listened to these audio productions I highly suggest you sit down and make time to take them in.  With the last days of summer winding down there isn’t a better time.  Set up the hammock in your backyard with the CD player beside you and close your eyes as you return to Tatooine to discover new adventures of Luke Skywalker.  Maybe you’ve got a vacation on the horizon and a long car trip ahead of you, the radio dramas would make for a perfect listening experience for you and the family.

Anthony Daniels and Mark Hamill go over a scene from A New Hope.

At  6 ½ hours long the first production, A New Hope, is the longest of the dramas and provides the most new material for Star Wars fans.  It reveals the Empires subjugation of the planet Ralltiir, how Princess Leia begins to learn just how ruthless the Imperial forces really are, and how Leia and Bail Organa get into some serious trouble with the Empire.  There are also several new sections of Luke on Tatooine with his friends in Anchorhead where we get a chance to learn how Luke came to be known as the best pilot in the outer rim.  We even get the few moments just before where the movie opens and what leads to the Star Destroyer chasing down the Tantive IV.

The Empire Strikes Back radio drama clocks in a little shorter, at 5 hours long.  We get some more information about the construction of Echo Base on Hoth and find out how Luke was promoted to commander.  There are several expanded scenes in this second production where we get a little more information about classic moments from the movie.  We get to hear Captain Needa’s ill-fated apology and learn that Luke’s leap from the bridge in Cloud City was indeed a willing attempt to take his own life rather than be taken in by Vader to join the Empire.

With only 6 episodes and just 3 hours long the Return of the Jedi production is the shortest of the radio dramas and the one that provides the least amount of new material beyond the films.  We do however get to hear how Luke constructed his green bladed lightsaber by parsing the journals of Obi-Wan, a scene that has been revealed to be included in the upcoming blu-ray release of the Star Wars movies.  There are some extended scenes aboard the second Death Star and at the court of Jabba the Hutt, including an interesting moment between Han Solo and Boba Fett within the dungeons of Jabba’s palace.

When I first listened to the Star Wars radio dramas I was blown away by how well done they were and just how much was revealed about the Star Wars universe.  Countless hours of my youth were spent laying on my bed listening to the unfolding story of Star Wars as heard from a pile of cassette tapes.  My imagination easily filled in the scenes as my favorite heroes and villains worked their way through new locals and revealed events that went unseen in the original trilogy.  The radio dramas gave me a lasting appreciation for the unique medium of radio, and provided me with a whole new Star Wars cast to idolize.

Although choosing my favorite bit of Star Wars memorabilia is still something of a challenge, I can say without hesitation that if I were to be dropped off on a desert island and I had to choose only one group of my Star Wars swag to take with me, I would definitely bring along the Star Wars radio dramas.  Well, that and a power source and some type of audio player!

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the cast & crew of the Star Wars radio productions!

Brian Daley – Writer

John Madden – Director

Perry King – Han Solo

Ann Sachs – Princess Leia Organa

Bernard Behrens – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Brock Peters – Darth Vader

John Lithgow – Yoda

Anthony Daniels – C-3PO

Billy Dee Williams – Lando Calrissian (Empire Strikes Back only)

Mark Hamill – Luke Skywalker (A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back only)

Ed Begley Jr. – Boba Fett (Return of the Jedi only)

Ed Asner –Jabba the Hutt

Some links to more information about the Star Wars Radio Dramas:

The Star Wars Radio Drama

The Empire Strikes Back Radio Drama

Return of the Jedi Radio Drama

Purchasing the radio dramas!

 

That is all!

Friday Funny Pages: Yoda Spit Take

 

 

 

Hello readers, it’s time once again for Friday Funny Pages.  I haven’t posted a blog since last Friday, my apologies for the lack of activity but I’ve been focusing on my current job hunt which has been quite a feat in this dismal economy also the wife and I took a few days to go camping and escape from the disheartening reality of modern living if only for a little over 48 hours.  Now I’m back, somewhat recharged, and ready to bare down and dive back into my regular writing agenda!  So let’s get right to it shall we?

Today’s panel comes to us from the great, and now defunct, Star Wars Tales comic book.  For those who might not know Star Wars Tales was a monthly collection put out by Dark Horse of two or three short stories set in the Star Wars universe.  Generally these stories were not considered canon, rather they were imaginative little vignettes that would explore portions of the movies that went unseen or elaborate on details that were only mentioned in passing during the films.  Many were interesting side-stories and serious explorations of the themes of Star Wars, while others were goofball parodies and comedic asides.  This panel comes to use from the latter category.  This panel is intended to be funny.  The image comes from a story entitled “Force Fiction” written by Kevin Rubio with art by Lucas Marangon.  The setting is a small cafe somewhere on Coruscant shortly after the events of Episode I, where Yoda and Mace Windu are discussing the fate of a certain young Force adept by the name of Skywalker.  This particular spit take comes after Mace determines that he thinks Anakin Skywalker should be given Qui-Gon’s lightsaber and trained as a Jedi.  Yoda isn’t too happy about it, and points out all the reasons why not to train the boy, reasons we as the reader know to be all valid points.  That’s not the point of this story however, for as the two Jedi knights sit quietly eating their lunch a group of raiders suddenly smash through the front of the cafe intent on robbing the place and the story quickly becomes an homage to Pulp Fiction and the iconic scene with Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in a very similar small dinning establishment (of course I don’t need to remind anyone who plays Mace Windu in Star Wars).

Anyway it’s a funny little Star Wars bit and this image of Yoda taken by surprise is just really amusing to me.  Also if you look closely you will see that Yoda is sitting in the Jedi equivalent of a booster seat.  Good stuff.  If any of you Star Wars fans out there have not made yourselves familiar with the stories in Star Wars Tales I suggest you do so ASAP.  There are a ton of genuinely excellent Star Wars stories throughout the pages, both serious and funny.  Though they aren’t putting out any new books anymore you can get Star Wars tales in trade paperback, there are several volumes available.  At about $20 a pop it’s a worthy investment!  May the Farce be with you!

That is all!

Unsung Casualties Of Star Wars

     Oh hello there, welcome back.  I have finally returned with another, if not untimely, post!  I was out of commission there for a few days due to the aforementioned technical difficulties I was having with the ol’ computing machine, and as such I was not able to get this post up for the Memorial Day weekend as I had planned.  Better late than never right?

     Anywho, as you should know by now my all-time favorite movies are the Star Wars films, hell the name of my blog is derived from C-3PO’s dialogue from the movies.  I know the Star Wars saga inside and out, I have particularly great nostalgia for the original trilogy but I also appreciate the prequel trilogy and I certainly don’t offhandedly dismiss episodes I, II, and III as some others might.  As far as I’m concerned the two trilogies represent two very different eras and achievements in film making, not to mention two very different periods in one film makers career.  One thing that I think we can agree all six Star Wars movies do have are wars, after all it would be quite a deceptive title for a movie series without them.  As with any war or series of wars there are a great many heroes on both sides.  Star Wars is chock full of memorable characters who, due to their bravery, strength, tactics, or leadership have gone on to become cinematic legends.  We all know Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  Who could forget the Jedi generals and separatist commanders?  However those aren’t the folks I’m concerned about with this post, what about the other, lesser known heroes of Star Wars? Those soldiers who fought and died so that the better known big shots could continue the fight for the ideals and principles they believed in.  Those are the heroes I’d like to take a minute to remember, the unsung martyrs of the Star Wars saga.  Here are a few I think are worthy of mention:

Sometimes you get to pilot a fast ship, and sometimes you're dead.

NAME:  Tiree

HOME PLANET:  Corellia

RANK:  Pilot, point, Gold Squadron

CAMPAIGNS SERVED:  Corellia, Yavin

HOBBIES:  Making observations, painting, bird watching

PERSONAL INFO:  Tiree was a valued Y-Wing pilot set as point man for Gold Squadron over other more veteran members of the flight crew. Tiree flew during several skirmishes and was hand-picked to fly the Death Star mission. He was certified on both X-Wing and Y-Wing class fighters, though the Y-Wings are much slower, neither group really came out well from that battle now did they?

DEATH:  Electrocution from disrupted instrument panels after being hit by Darth Vader’s laser cannons. His ship later hit the Death Star’s trench
wall and exploded.

QUOTE:  “The guns. They’ve stopped.”

It takes a real man to apologize, a real dead man.

NAME: Lorth Needa

HOME PLANET: Coruscant

RANK: Captain, Imperial Star Destroyer Avenger, Death Squadron

CAMPAIGNS SERVED: Clone Wars, Coruscant Defense, Hoth

HOBBIES: Apologizing, being honest, claiming responsibility

PERSONAL INFO: Captain Needa had an outstanding career and participated in several crucial battles during both the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War including the battle of Coruscant where his ship directly confronted and prevented the escape of General Grievous’ Invisible Hand, the ship that held then Supreme Chancellor Palpatine captive. Needa was awarded several commendations and awards for outstanding service and his family had a proud heritage of military service. Unfortunately for him, awards and clean records can’t capture renegade rebel starships, or even grant him enough prestige for an on-screen death.

DEATH: Force choked by Darth Vader Execution for treasonous acts against the Empire.

QUOTE: “I shall assume full responsibility for losing them, and apologize to Lord Vader.”

Dyer should have installed higher safety railings for the Endor bunker.

NAME: Dyer

HOME PLANET: Ralltiir

RANK: Colonel, Imperial Army, Stormtrooper Corps

CAMPAIGNS SERVED: Bestine IV, Deep Space, Endor

HOBBIES: Giving orders, building and subsequently guarding installations.

PERSONAL INFO: Colonel Dyer was never one to play sports as a child, growing up on Ralltiir he was often teased about his inability to catch.  Given the nickname “Lamproid hands” in school (because Lamproids have no arms) Dyer eventually escaped such ridicule by joining the Galactic Empire, where his harsh discipline and desire to prove himself allowed him to flourish as a commander of an Imperial Stormtrooper detachment.  He was eventually given the prestigious honor of constructing and maintaining the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor.

DEATH: Knocked over a railing when hit with a tool box thrown by rebel general Han Solo. Fell into the bunker reactor core and was subsequently killed.

QUOTE: “Freeze!”

Sith Lords only like useful cowards, not nay saying recreants.

NAME: Daultay Dofine

HOME PLANET: Neimoidia

RANK: Captain, Droid Control Ship Saak’ak, Trade Federation

CAMPAIGNS SERVED: Clak’dor VII Trade Riots, Naboo blockade

HOBBIES: Worrying, backstabbing, wringing his hands

PERSONAL INFO: Heralding from a well established family, the Dofine clan has held prominent positions within the forces of the Trade Federation for decades. Daultay used his connections and political scheming to attach himself to the fleet of Viceroy Nute Gunray. Dofine was ascending to a position of power within the Federation until his worrisome nature and fear of the supernatural powers of the Jedi got the best of him. Apparently Sith Lords don’t take kindly to being seen as powerless against the Jedi, who knew?

DEATH: After being dismissed from Gunray’s inner circle Daultay Dofine was killed aboard the droid control ship when it was destroyed by some
kid in orbit over Naboo.

QUOTE: “I’m not going in there with two Jedi. Send the droid.”

Corde' had the distinction of not being Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, or Rose Byrne.

NAME: Corde’

HOME PLANET: Naboo

RANK: Handmaiden, Royal Security Forces

CAMPAIGNS SERVED: Naboo, Coruscant

HOBBIES: Wearing other people’s clothes, assuming identities, taking bullets, and feeling inadequate.

PERSONAL INFO: Although not officially members of the Naboo Royal Forces all handmaidens are trained in various small arms and hand to hand combat in order to protect the political figures they attend to. In the case of high-ranking leaders such as queens and senators that job description goes into working as public decoys. Some handmaidens assume the identity, characteristics, and mannerisms of those they are protecting, even impersonating their style of speech. Occasionally this of course means these decoys get snuffed by would-be assassins, which is somehow a failure on their part.

DEATH: Corde’ was killed in an explosion on a landing pad on Coruscant near the senate rotunda. The attack was aimed at Padme Amidala.

QUOTE: “I’m so sorry. I’ve failed you Senator.”

Don't talk to strangers kids, or people you know who suddenly have bloodshot yellow Sith eyes.

NAME: Sors Bandeam

HOME PLANET: Coruscant, Jedi Temple

RANK: Jedi youngling, Jakrab clan

CAMPAIGNS SERVED: Operation: Knightfall, Defense of Jedi Temple

HOBBIES: Coloring, tugging at heart-strings, naively trusting
others

PERSONAL INFO: Sors began his Jedi career as an infant. The majority of his early life was under the care and tutelage of the wise and powerful Master Yoda. Prior to the clone attacks on Coruscant Sors and his clanmates were beginning to learn about sensing the Dark Side and being aware of impending danger. Unfortunately they hadn’t completed that training module before the issuing of Order 66. When the chaos of the attack on the Jedi Temple started Sors and the other younglings of Jakrab clan were scooted off to the High Council chambers for safety, there only members of the Jedi Council would have access.

DEATH: Sors was brutally cut down with the rest of his comrades by the newly initiated Sith Lord, Darth Vader.

QUOTE: “Master Skywalker, there are too many of them! What are we going to do?”

     Well there you have it just a few of the nameless faces from the Star Wars saga I believe deserved some recognition.  Before anyone tries to start in on me, let me just say that I absolutely mean no disrespect to the real soldiers who have fought, and continue to fight, in wars around the world.  I am honored and have the greatest respect for the men and women of the United States armed forces and I don’t want anyone to accuse me of taking the Memorial Day holiday lightly, this is all in good fun.  I suppose you could say that I simply prefer my wars to be of the fictional variety where none have to actually die.  It’s nice to observe a struggle that I know has been choreographed purely for entertainment purposes and displays a black and white picture of good versus evil which simply doesn’t exist in the real world.

That is all!

Save Us John Williams!

     Ugh!  This is completely off topic but  I just watched the Rebecca Black video on YouTube, you know the one where some random teenage girl is singing like a car alarm about a day of the week, complete with explanations of the subsequent days that follow.  Christ!  If you’re not convinced our nations creative culture has hit rock bottom then just go take a peek at the video for “Friday.”  My wife summed it up best in saying that that production was the outcome of children being coddled and told that everything they do is “awesome” and “special.”  Sorry kids sometimes you just can’t sing, no matter how much you dial up the autotune.  We can’t all be star athletes either.  Hard work and perseverance are a major part of achieving what we want out of life, but sometimes a measure of talent is needed to actually make those dreams a reality.  Play to your strengths. 

     Ah but why waste my breath right?  I mean that music video is awful, but it already has over a million views.  Sure many, like myself, have watched it simply to see how bad it is but that notion is lost on our commercialized culture.  A million views means a lot of eyes have seen this train wreck and when there’s an inevitable follow up there will be an immediate viewership response which means there can be some profit to be made on this shit.  I really don’t hold anything against the young lady herself, at best she has been misguided, at worst she’s a bit delusional.  But I don’t see it as having much to do with her. Someone with some film equipment noticed her genuine desire to be a star (talent aside) and the dollar signs started floating down from the heavens as the plans were set into motion to make her the next Justin Beiber/Disney-esque pop star.  There is so little class left in our culture.  Sigh

     I could go on and on ranting, but that wasn’t actually what I wanted to write about today.  I came here with the intention of talking about my love for composer John Williams.  However after seeing that video this morning it just put me in a foul, pessimistic mood so I had to piss and moan a bit.  Anywho, on to John Williams.  Now there’s a classy dude.  I would not hesitate to place John Williams among the ranks of Mozart and Beethoven.  Traditional classical music scholars might scoff at the idea that a mere movie composer, who writes scores for films, would even be considered equal to the great symphonic masters of history.  But I say, really what’s the difference?  John Williams has written traditional symphonies, not many, but he has a few under his belt.  He is though of course most known for his memorable and moving film scores, which often complete the movies they are a part of.  Imagine Jaws without its soundtrack.  Not only the famous tensely menacing theme of the shark but also the incidental sections which highlight the adventure of the open water really add quite a bit to that movie.  Without that music Jaws would seem rather flat and somewhat dull.  It is impossible to separate the music from the action.  Now think about Mozart, Wagner, and Mendelssohn many of their best known works come from their operas and theatrical pieces.  The movies of their day.  I’ll grant you that in some cases these masters had a much larger role in the stories that were being portrayed on stage, but it was all about the music telling those stories, evoking the emotions and tensions that were being played out on stage.

Fact: I have seen John Williams in concert more times than any other band/musician.

     Let me just say that I do like to think of myself as having a rather eclectic taste in music, I don’t only listen to symphonic and classical music. I can appreciate pretty much all music and have it represented in some form or another on my ipod.  With the exception of modern country music, that shits awful.  Though even that has a few exceptions I suppose.  I realize that the only musical discussions on my blog currently are this, and a post about Handel.  I just think it’s important to understand the history of music, and appreciate the diversity of classical music that is out there.  There are some exciting and cool works to listen to, it’s not all chamber music and lullabies for your developing toddler.

     Now back to John Williams.  I have said for a long time that I believe the great film composers are the true legacy of classical music and the great composers of the past.  John Williams, Henry Mancini, Howard Shore, even Danny Elfman all draw on the past as well as adding something new to the sound of symphonic music.  I would love to hear more works from these and other modern movie composers played along with the Bizet and Verdi pieces that are played on NPR and elsewhere. 

     My fandom of John Williams and my overall appreciation of movie scores, began in 1993 at the tender age of twelve.  At that time I had very little knowledge of such subjects.  One weekend my dad told me he was taking me to a movie, we were going to see Jurassic Park.  As I sat in the theater watching the awesome scenery and effects of that movie one thing struck me which had never occurred to me about a movie before.  The music.  It was an “ah ha!” moment for me that has really effected my movie going experience to this day.  I remember exactly which scene it was that caught my attention, it was towards the beginning of the movie just before they reach the island, as the group is soaring over the ocean in a helicopter on their approach to Jurassic Park.  The music is perfectly timed with a cut, so that the music shoots up suddenly to sweep the viewer up and soar them along to this tropical location.  It is a memorable tune that had me paying attention to the rest of the music in the movie, but not distracting me at all from what was happening as people were getting chased and bitten in half by dinosaurs, in fact it enhanced that experience.  As the credits rolled I made sure to pay attention and see who had written that crazy awesome score.  John Williams, a name that would send me investigating all his other work.

Jurassic Park, both the movie and the book, changed my life.

     Back in modern times, the wife and I watched Jurassic Park again recently and I was reminded just how perfectly John Williams’ score weaves the action together as well as highlights the slower more emotional scenes.  I would argue that his work on Jurassic Park is his finest in terms of punctuating a movie, in doing the most heavy lifting to create suspense, and in establishing an overall sense of wonder.  As a kid I was obsessed with Jurassic Park and the soundtrack was actually the first CD I ever bought.  (Yeah I’m awesome.)  Through some searching I soon realized that John Williams was the man behind the music of my favorite movies of all time, Star Wars.  From there I discovered that John Williams was the sound of Jaws, Indiana Jones, and pretty much every Steven Spielberg movie ever.  I was hooked for life, and the rest is history.

Frequent collaborators, John Williams and Steven Spielberg.

     This blog has kind of gotten off track, I had a whole comparison ready to go between the Magic Flute and the ET soundtrack, but I’ve gone on too long at this point.  I have more or less just lectured about my love for John Williams.  I guess if I had to sum up this blog it would be to encourage any parents out there, or hip aunts and uncles, etc. to go out and purchase some John Williams music for some of the kids in your family.  Chances are they already like some of the movies he’s been a part of, so it is an easy in.  Start your kids off with something like the Star Wars soundtracks.  Their enjoyment of something familiar might encourage an interest in classical works, and the intricacies of large orchestral pieces.  That interest might than be translated into other music, be it classical or rock and roll or hip hop.  If kids have a good understanding of different sounds, and the building blocks of music they might be able to cultivate a genuine interest in music, instead of a desire for fame through music.  Maybe John Williams can even help our future generations avoid being bamboozled into making terrible musical decisions, like taking part in obnoxious music videos about random words.

That is all!

John Williams has been as equally important to these movies as the actors and directors.

Star Wars Episode VII: Cry of the Fanboys

     Everyone knows I am a huge Star Wars fan.  I live and breathe Star Wars.  I know the movies by heart, I can name just about any background character in every scene, I know the comics, and I read the books.  I own the ewoks movies and have both the ewoks and droids cartoons on DVD.  I even have a bootleg of the Star Wars Holiday Special (gasp!).  It is fair to say that I have an extensive knowledge of Star Wars that goes far beyond the depth of the films alone.  I however don’t know everything.  I wouldn’t say that I am an unparalleled expert in the Star Wars mythos; doubtlessly there are many others out there who know more about the ever expanding galaxy far, far away than I do.  For instance I have not read every single book in the now extensive Star Wars library.  There are just some that don’t interest me, and it’s tough to keep up on the ones that do.

The Thrawn trilogy are some books almost all fans praise

     One of the biggest things going in Star Wars today is the Clone Wars series on Cartoon Network.  I have loved what they are doing with this show and I have really grown to enjoy the creative team that is involved in bringing this aspect of Star Wars to the small screen.  Lead by director Dave Filoni the show has only grown stronger as far as I’m concerned, in both look and story.  After a shaky start with the release of the less then stellar Clone Wars movie they have continued to surprise me with the quality and depth of the developing tone of the show. 

     The Clone Wars has really brought to light a tremendous new niche in the hefty Star Wars EU.  For those who might not know “the EU” is a term used by Star Wars fans, and others, to refer to the Expanded Universe of the franchise, i.e.; the aspects of Star Wars that are not explicitly detailed in, or are altogether separate from but remaining tied to the universe of, the Star Wars movies.  To call the movies canon and everything else EU is not exactly correct though, because every officially published Star Wars work is considered canon, though subordinate to the six movies, and the whims of George Lucas himself.  The EU started small with a few spin off movies, a run of comics, and several book trilogies and has exploded into cartoons, video games, several ongoing comic books, and hundreds of novels and reference books.  It is safe to say that today the material of the EU far outweighs that of its parent films.

The legitimacy of the canon from the Droids cartoon is on shaky ground.

     Well the Clone Wars cartoon has proven to be something of a unique outing for the EU in that the canon of this particular show seems to have a greater weight to it due to the direct involvement of George Lucas.  This cartoon is a strong collaboration between Dave Filoni and his team and George Lucas and his extensive resources.  I would go so far as to compare this project to Lucas’ days during the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi where Uncle George stepped out from the role of director and instead focused his attention on story and overall look and feel of his universe as executive producer.

George Lucas and Dave Filoni

     This “word of Lucas” canon vibe of the Clone Wars has rekindled a fierce EU vs. Canon debate that has been brewing amongst Star Wars fanboys for decades.  Strictly from my personal take on the whole thing it seems like some people are Star Wars fans, enjoying the high adventure and sci-fi/fantasy blend of the movies while others are fans of sci-fi, who happen to enjoy Star Wars more or less because of the sci-fi elements of the movies.  I could go on and on about this debate but my feelings are George Lucas runs the show, he created Star Wars and allows the EU to even exist, Lucas giveth and Lucas can taketh away.

     For the most part Star Wars fans have eagerly embraced the Clone Wars, but there are a few things that have ruffled the feathers of the EU purists.  The first major issue that I became aware of was a three episode story arc in season two that featured the planet Mandalore and the Mandalorian warriors which are fan favorites.  Of course the Mandalorian lineage provided Boba Fett with his training and distinctive armor.  As we all know, any time Boba Fett is involved Star Wars fans go ape shit and express their very adamant opinions about the character.  In fact allow me to take a second to talk directly to the Boba fans out there.

     Hi gang, personally I like Boba Fett, he’s a cool character, and he’s got some nice armor but enough already!  Put an ice pack on those Boba boners and get over it!  There is nothing in those Clone Wars episodes that ruin Boba Fett or his history!  The information that deals with Boba Fett is given by the episodes villain who does nothing but lie and deceive about his activities!  Clearly he wasn’t a fountain of truth, and because he was trying to hide his criminal activities he of course is not going to link himself with a known criminal such as Jango Fett.  So what if Jango’s blue color scheme is part of a group called Death Watch?  They’re still Mandalorians, and Mandalorians who have taken up the battle armor of their people in an effort to reclaim their warrior past!

"Ugh! Now my cross stitched Fett family tree will have to be completely redone!"

 

Sorry, just had to take a moment and share a few thoughts with those fans. 

     Another more recent tid bit that has people all worked up is the death of Jedi Master Even Piell in one of the latest episodes.  Master Piell is not one of my favorite Jedi.  He appears in Episode I and did not return for Episode II and to be honest I didn’t give him much thought, I never liked his character design and his backstory was “blah.”  But apparently his death in the show went against an EU depiction of his death (although there is some vagueness in these claims) and fans are up in arms about this.  Some fans are waiting to see how Dave Filoni will try to explain it and wondering why they would so blatantly go against the EU.  For more on this development check out this discussion thread on wookieepedia.com HERE.  A little ridiculous.

This guy = controversy

     Once again I state that George Lucas can and will do whatever the hell he wants to do and he should be allowed to.  This is his playground; just because he let someone else build a sand castle doesn’t mean he has to let it stand forever if it gets in the way of him building an even cooler sandcastle that a greater number of people can enjoy.  Frankly the EU lost me after one of the earlier books tried to tell me Boba Fett’s real name was Jaster Mereel.  First off why would Boba Fett need a secret identity?  He’s not a super hero.  And second that’s a terrible name.  All of that has been retconned nicely these days, even fitting in with the whole Death Watch fiasco.

     I don’t want it to seem like I am not a fan of the EU stuff, I really am, but I am also comfortable with the fact that the EU does not have the final word on Star Wars, George Lucas does.  There is a lot of good EU works out there, I especially enjoy the comics.  There is also a great deal of bad EU stuff out there, and I’m sure fans of the EU would argue that there are a few bad Star Wars movies out there as well.  My personal problem with the EU comes down to the writers trying to write Star Wars as a strictly sci-fi genre by detailing the aspects of hyperspace travel, or trying to discern the illogical ranking system of the Empire.  For me Star Wars EU is at its best when it takes something familiar and interprets it through a Star Wars filter, taking into account the equal parts sci-fi and fantasy.  Dave Filoni and his Clone Wars team understand this.  The Clone Wars has allowed Star Wars to put its spin on the horror genre, giant monster movies, westerns, and much more.   Essentially that’s what Star Wars is all about, the movies were not wholly original in their concepts, they are full of old school high adventure fantasy, gritty noir gangster and war films, and serialized hits like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers.  Lucas took all those elements and transformed them into this new imaginative universe.  It was his execution and the interpretation of his ideas that was important.  If you try to later breakdown that universe through EU works it just gets tiring and stops being exciting, especially when it loses that fantasy sense of the unknown.

Anyway enough ranting for now, I’ve gone on far too long!

That is all!