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!

Finally! A Darth Plagueis Novel.

Yesterday I discovered that Lucas Books has finally decided to put out their long awaited Darth Plagueis novel! Check out the news and a brief outline of the novel at The Force.net.

The cover art for Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

This novel was originally announced shortly after the debut of Revenge of the Sith where we heard the first tantalizing mentions of this Sith lord who trained the Emperor and his brief biography. At the time I was incredibly excited by this news, I’m a sucker for the bad guys, they’re always so much more interesting then the good guys. Especially when it comes to the Jedi and the Sith. Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of the Jedi, Yoda, Mace Windu, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and all things Lightside are great! But we’ve seen it all before, you know? We all know how a Jedi should act. Selflessness, virtue, peace, knowledge, defense, one with nature, etc. etc. We get it. There are plenty of Jedi in the Star Wars universe and over the course of the 6 movies we get a good look at their structure, teachings, and individuals.

When it comes to the Sith however, they remain something of a mystery to us, at least in the movie universe. In the books there is quite an expanded knowledgebase about the Sith and their history, but even with that there are extensive gaps leading up to the time of the movies. The Sith are figures in Star Wars that leave something to the imagination, they are the element we don’t know enough about. When you think about it, most of the knowledge we do have about the Sith in the films is given to us by the Jedi, sworn enemies of the Sith who have spent a good portion of their history trying to erase the memory of them from the galaxy. We can assume their interpretation of the Sith is slightly skewed.

Darth Plagueis the Wise

To make a few comparisons, the Sith are the Apocrypha to the Jedi’s Bible. The heretics and Cathars to the Jedi catholic church. A feud that started as an ideological difference erupts into a full out war which results in the victor being known as “right” and the loser being known as “wrong.” From there the Jedi go on to establish themselves as philosophers and peacekeepers working with the Galactic Republic to maintain an order of light. While on the other hand the Sith, who are believed to be vanquished, must alter their strategy, work in secret and pass their teachings on in a more clandestine manner with a new motivation of total revenge against those who had tried to destroy them.

Of course I could go back and forth about this history of the Jedi and Sith but what I’m getting at is the allure of the Sith.

What draws more curiosity, an object sitting openly under a lamp, or an object hidden in shadow just out of sight? Clearly you can tell what there is with the object under the lamp, you can observe it and know something about it just by looking at it whether it interests you or not. But that hidden object has so much more appeal because you just can’t know exactly what it is until you investigate. It’s the whole idea of wrapping a present as opposed to just handing someone a gift. That element of the unknown, the mystery, it’s what gets our attention.

Long analogy, short I like the Sith because there’s just comparatively so little information about them in Star Wars lure.

The Darth Bane trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn was a good Sithy read, detailing the middle history of the Sith and how the order was reduced from an army similar to the Jedi, to the master and apprentice system we see in the movies. As interesting as that was I was still more excited about the talk of a Darth Plagueis book.  Unfortunately after Revenge of the Sith the Plagueis book was delayed in favor of several other books including a Darth Vader novel and a story about the construction of the first Death Star. Topics that had already seen several novelizations over the years. I read those books however and enjoyed them, but still anticipated the Plagueis read. Unfortunately it was eventually cancelled with no further word.

Finally yesterday, years later, I find out that it is back on! There is even a cover and a brief summary indicating that this time they mean it.

Why am I so excited for this book? Well as I said before I’m a fan of the bad guys in general and the Sith in particular. Perhaps my favorite Sith is Darth Sidious, Emperor Palpatine. And why shouldn’t he be? If you like the Sith than you’d have to love the Master who orchestrated the final destruction of the Jedi order, subverted the government that pandered to those same Jedi, and who put the Sith in sole control of the largest imperial rule the galaxy had ever seen. Sidious is the Sith Lord who brought about the endgame of a thousand years of Sith patience and planning. This is the man who worked openly among the Jedi undetected, who trained Darth Maul, and who bested Yoda in one of the most epic lightsaber duels of all time.

But who trained Darth Sidious?

Darth Plagueis the wise. If Sidious turned out to be such an evil badass, the guy who instructed him must have been fairly impressive himself. Finally we will get the chance to learn more about this mysterious penultimate Sith Master in James Luceno’s next book simply titled Darth Plagueis.

Darth Plagueis and a young Sidious

Actually James Luceno himself is another reason I’m really looking forward to this book. I love his Star Wars novels especially Cloak of Deception, Labyrinth of Evil, and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader. Luceno is a skilled and subtle author who writes the Sith and the Darkside well, not simply portraying them as evil villains who do bad purely for the sake of being evil, but actually portrays them with some depth as to why they do what they do, how they are different from the Jedi, and why they use the Force in the manner they do.  Aside from that, in my opinion Luceno is one of the few Star Wars authors who really captures the feel and scope of the Star Wars universe that we are used to in the films. He has a deep understanding of the characters, history, and setting of the Star Wars universe that really takes his books to the next level. He blends well the elements of action, politics, and philosophy that are found in Star Wars making his works more than simply “typical” sci-fi books in the guise of Star Wars novels.

James Luceno

I haven’t been keeping up with most of the new Star Wars novels, I believe the last one I read was 2009’s Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber, but with this book finally being released I again have a Star Wars novel that I’m really looking forward to.

That is all!

Babylon 5 NOT Returning According To JMS

Whomp, whomp.

Yeah so after the cryptic messages from Straczynski at comic con, followed by the loose lips of Walter Koenig at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convetion, there were high hopes for some kind of return to the Babylon 5 universe.  I personally have been following this story with great interest if you saw my post a few weeks back here.  That, however, is not the case according to show creator J. Michael Straczynski, as he has firmly shot down such talk in recent news.

Claiming that Koenig misspoke and that there are no plans for more B5 in the future.  There has been some amusing outrage across the net directed at the actor for falsely getting B5 fan’s hopes up.  A John Sheridan fan page on Facebook had the status of “Bester, you motherfucker.”  And there have been other sites jokingly comparing the mix up of information to a deep rooted conspiracy similar to something orchestrated by the psi-corps.

I can’t really blame Koenig however, he’s always been a major supporter of the show and was clearly just eager to see another B5 project as well.  I was actually hesitant to post this newest development in hopes that there might be some clarification or reconciliation between JMS’ rebuff of Walter Koenig and his own comments at San Diego.  Alas there has been no further word.  It seems odd though, there apparently was something going on, can we just assume that negotiations went south with Warner Bros. execs?  Or was there perhaps simply some miscommunication and there were in fact never any plans for more adventures in the B5 universe?


One additional bit of information I find interesting is that very recently all of Babylon 5 was taken down from Netflix streaming, which a friend of mine pointed out could indicate that they are planning for some type of new release.  This could mean that the show might be seeing a blu-ray re-release soon.  Perhaps ol’ Walter Koenig was being tapped for a few recording sessions to do some commentary for some of his crucial episodes?

Who the hell knows?  I still hold out some hope however, despite Joe Straczynski’s recent denials, because there’s just too much potential story telling there to simply leave Babylon 5 on the shelf somewhere.

That is all!

UPDATED! Possible New Series For Babylon 5?

I was checking my email yesterday and was sorting through some of my Google Alerts that I’ve let back up for too long.  One of my regular alerts is for Babylon 5, so I can try and stay on top of any new developments or commentary about the show.  Well the first B5 alert I checked contained a link that had both bits of information for me.  The link lead me over to this IGN story from Comic-Con.  There isn’t really much there to go on, but the coverage talks about a panel at the con featuring Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski discussing his previous work on the show, and an enigmatic mention of a new Babylon 5 series that may be in the works.  Warner Bros. apparently seemed to be looking to launch a new network (?) and were thinking about having a Babylon 5 spin-off as part of its lineup.  That scenario has changed however but from what it sounds like ol’ Joe Straczynski seems to think that there is still hope for this new Babylon 5 show seeing the light of day via some other channel through Warners.  One of the most interesting things mentioned in the article is that the deal Straczynski made would have given the show a much bigger budget than its previous incarnations and would have granted the creator full creative control over this new series.

Babylon 5 creator and writer J. Michael Straczynski

If even half of this Babylon 5 discussion turns out to be true I will be extremely excited.

If you are reading this and are a fan of the original B5 series you should help garner some interest for this new project by making your opinion known.  If you haven’t already, go over to the official Babylon 5 Facebook Page and hit them with a “like.”  Make sure to comment on their posts and bring up your enjoyment of the show and a desire for a new series!  It might not be a grand gesture but if there is enough activity on the page and if there is an influx of fans making comments, someone is bound to take notice.  Also get over to whatever geek and sci-fi message boards or forums you happen to post on regularly and bring up this idea of a new Babylon 5 series.  Rejuvenate the interest of the old fans and maybe pique the curiosity of some new ones.  It’s all part of my continuing mission to bring Babylon 5 back to the sci-fi forefront.

The early days of Babylon 5

UPDATE: 9/18/2011

So here’s some new information that has come to my attention recently.  At the recent Las Vegas Star Trek convention, Trek and Babylon 5 regular Walter Koenig revealed that he has had some recent talks with good ol’ JMS about this new Babylon 5 project that is in the works and that although he can’t reveal any solid details about the project at this time, there was apparently discussion that it might be a feature length film.  Whatever it is if Koenig is involved that pretty much blows my previous speculations out of the water (see below).  Clearly this project will be continuing the storyline left off from the original series and might be something along the lines of the story seen in the book Final Reckoning: The Fate of Bester and bring some kind final resolution to the mysterious fate of the regular B5 foil Alfred Bester who Walter Koenig portrayed during the five year story arc of the show.  With this new information there is still the possibility that there could be a new series in the works but now it feels more like another direct to DVD release similar to the last few B5 spin-offs.  Either way I’m excited.  I would of course love to see a new show, but I would also be glad to see any new story from the Babylon 5 universe even if it is just a single B5 movie.  We shall see though, I’m glad that the momentum for this project is still building and that this new development has people talking, eager to see more from J. Michael Straczynzki and the ol’ Babylon 5 gang.  Here is a LINK to the original story as reported by TrekMovie.com.

Now as far as my (now defunct) speculation goes as to what this new series could be about, I personally would love to see a prequel of sorts, perhaps focusing on the Earth/Dilgar war.  That would be a timeline that is just enough removed from the original that you could easily allow for a whole new cast while keeping the overall look of the series familiar to long time fans.  I would of course also love to see a show that picks up where the old shows left off, but sadly many of the best cast members of the series are now gone to us.  I personally wouldn’t want to return to the original timeline without the likes of G’Kar, Dr. Franklin, Zack Allen, or even Zathras.  In order to take the show in a new and interesting direction and to honor the memory of those wonderful actors who made the series what it is, my vote is for a prequel show.  A show that tells the story that leads up to the Babylon 5 station with some new faces and new stories to tell.  But let’s not forget that Babylon 5, like any sci-fi show worth it’s salt, has some time traveling elements.  So even if the new show takes place during the past, there’s still a slight chance we might be able to see some familiar faces one way or another.

Warleader Jha'dur fought against the Earth Alliance during the Earth/Dilgar war and was the last survivor of the Dilgar race.

That is all!

Worst Movie Universes To Call Home

Everyone has a favorite movie and some folks even fantasize about living within certain movie universes and partaking in the ideal settings or grand adventures portrayed on the big screen. Take me for example, I’ve got a whole life plotted out for myself should I one day happen to find that I’m living within the Star Wars universe. I would get a job at Cybot Galactica working in droid manufacturing, my wife would be a Twi’lek, we’d have a pet Ewok, we’d be model Imperial citizens, and there’d be a modest little prefab duracrete domicile in the rural outskirts of Tepasi that we’d call home.

But enough about that! We’re not here to read about my Star Wars RPG character, we’re here to discuss the movie universes that no one wants to live in, the most dangerous movie landscapes which if they were real, would surely claim the lives of all but the best of us. Of course as we all know movie universes operate under unique laws of physics that ensure the safety of all the leading men and lady types within them. But for all of us average schlubs and below average slobs these unreal realities would not be ideal worlds to call home.
Let’s take a look at what I believe are the top 5 most dangerous movie universes to live in!

#5- Any Zombie Universe!

Zombies suck. Rather, they bite, and how! It’s pretty obvious why living in a zombie infested world would not be cool. There are several different zombie movie universes and several varieties of zombies but they all have a few things in common. First of all, if you’re alive, you’re delicious. Zombies want to eat the living, that’s just what they do. Also they are mostly thoughtless, which means there’s no negotiating with them. That means zombie universes are the epitome of if you’re not with us, you’re against us. Second, zombies outnumber the living. Pretty much in every zombie flick whether it takes place in a small secluded town, or deals with a global undead outbreak the zombie-to-human ratio is tipped in their favor, not ours. In the movies no one seems to get their shit together to quell the zombie outbreak until half the population is already infected. Whompers. Finally, though zombies are undead creatures immune to pain they do have the “Headshot Weakness.” Everyone knows that if you put a bullet between the eyes of a zombie or bash its skull in with a blunt object, you’ll have yourself a re-dead zombie. That’s all well and good but that means if you want to make it in a zombie universe your ass had better be a class-A marksman or have decent upper body strength, but it’s hard to keep a steady hand when you’re constantly terrified and ones strength tends to get drained when you barely have time to eat and sleep between incidents of being chased around by the living dead.

#4- The Neverending Story Universe!

Now you might be asking yourself, “what would be so dangerous about living in this magical fantasy realm of friendly rock biters, talking tortoises, mystical princesses, and flying luck dragons?” and to be honest there isn’t anything inherently dangerous about the Neverending Story Universe, the problems occur when you remember that the universe of the Neverending Story is contained within a magical book, and that universes existence depends on said magical book being read. So if you live within that universe your entire existence depends on the reading comprehension level of whoever happens to pick up your book universe. Uh oh! Now do you see where the danger lies? People are stupid. Kids don’t read anymore! That was the whole plot of the first Neverending Story, the universe was being consumed by the Nothing, and if it was bad then you better believe it’s worse now! To be fair though it’s not really their fault they don’t read, what with teachers under tremendous scrutiny these days and testing standards which have deemed reading useful only for the purpose of answering questions presented in the various achievement tests. It’s surprising our society hasn’t already devolved into a bunch of proto-men speaking in grunts and monosyllabic phrases, only able to comprehend single letter text message style writing that is no longer then 240 characters. Needless to say I wouldn’t feel very secure living in a society that was based on the literacy of our culture. Though I guess there is a slight hope for the Neverending Story universe if they can manage to get their magical book onto a digital format, or better yet, simply convert their readership based existence into a viewership based existence powered by those who watch the movie instead of read the book. But alas that wouldn’t last very long either considering only nostalgic 30-somethings like myself still watch the movie, until there is an effects centric summer blockbuster remake of the Neverending Story I’d steer clear of setting up shop in that universe!

#3- The Godzilla Universe!

Unbridled destruction. Dispassionate stomping monster feet crushing thousands of people with each step. Battling monsters waging war with incredible powers that lay waste to countless square miles of cityscape with each uncanny blast. Well over thirty-five giant radioactive monster attacks have taken place since 1954 each more deadly and more destructive then the last! Does this sound like a world you want to live in? Clearly these people don’t learn their lesson seeing as they repeatedly fuck with nature or try to take advantage of the terrifying beasts of Monster Island. Though Godzilla and his cohorts seem partial to destroying Japanese cities they have not been solely limited to that island nation. Regardless, think of the constant fear the rest of the world would live with knowing that there were a great number of enormous monsters dwelling within the ocean that just need the slightest provocation to set them off on another rampage. The conventional weapons of man are useless against these behemoths and there is no environment on the planet which can deter them. It’s surprising that the petty human populace of the world haven’t turned to barbarism, fighting against one another and enslaving their conquered neighbors in order to offer them up as sacrifices to the unflinching monster overlords that could quite easily obliterate them without even noticing. Though this Lovecraftian existence isn’t quite what we have within the Godzilla universe, it is precariously perched on a razor thin edge and could topple into that type of maddening chaos at any moment. Who knows what world crushing tempest of impairment awaits mankind when the monsters decide to rise up again?

#2- The Alien/Predator Universe!

This one is a double whammy! Aliens and Predators. You can’t win with either of these guys. The future is bleak for mankind. Should we venture into the outer reaches of the cosmos we will inevitably run into the Xenomorph aliens of the Alien movies. However even if we seclude ourselves from the greater galaxy our strongest and most skilled warriors will still fall prey to the aliens from the Predator films, who scour planets for the most challenging prey to hunt and have found a favorite trophy with mankind. If you’re fat and lazy you’ll make a nice incubator for an Alien chestbuster, but if you’re fit and athletic you’ll find a tri laser scope aimed at your forehead. Worst of all is when the two species battle each other and Earth simply becomes the intergalactic proving ground to show which alien is superior, with us pitiful humans getting caught in the crossfire. The best advice I can offer if you chose to live in this universe is to really let yourself go, get off the diet, and forget the workout regimen but invest in a flamethrower and acid resistant body armor. Other than that, you’re on your own.

#1- The Matrix Universe!

Unless you’re one of the few resistance fighters who realize that you’re in the Matrix universe, then you’re already in danger! That’s right, within the Matrix every man, woman, and child has already been captured, bred, and programmed by the bad guys. The machines have already won and your unreliable genetic material is simply keeping things running until your body fails and you are recycled and your proteins are processed to feed your other pathetic human matrix-mates. But if you are brought out of the matrix and allowed to experience reality then the shit really hits the fan because you will be hunted down by the relentless programming and automated defenses that are in place to ensure that any rogue elements are dealt with swiftly. Though the resistance fighters are armed with a lot of wizard technology, gadgets, matrix tricks, and some cool characters dressed like badasses unless you’re Keanu Reeves, you’re still going to get your ass handed to you by Agent Smith and his evil omnipotent matrix constructs. In all honesty I still have not seen the Matrix sequels. I really enjoyed the first one and thought it was a really stellar idea for a movie. The action sequences were unique and groundbreaking and are still emulated and parodied to this day. I just thought it had a good ending point. At the end he realizes his full potential, he becomes aware of the matrix around him, he can control things, and he is a super powerful being within the matrix. A savior type of character who we just assume goes on to make quick work of the villainy within that universe, free all the unbeknownst slaves, and they all live happily ever after rebuilding the world that was destroyed around them. That however wasn’t where it ended and there were more movies. I just never got around to seeing them, and have since been told that I’m not really missing anything and so have stayed away. I can however tell you without a doubt that I would not want to actually live within the matrix universe. If I was stuck plugged into the matrix and still had to live this half-assed life, no thanks. If I’m going to be a brainwashed cyberorganic component powering some evil machine I at least want to be rich and carefree, not working some shitty 9 to 5 and hoping against hope that the wife and I can get the bills worked out this month. And I know for sure I wouldn’t have enough motivation to be one of the good guys, putting my life on the line to fight for some destroyed landscape in a post apocalyptic reality. You would literally have nothing to fight for. Everything you know and love is in the matrix and fake, and the real world is desolate and almost beyond repair. It’s a lose/lose situation at best as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway there you have it, five movie universes that I’m pretty sure no one would actually want to call their reality!

That is all!

Space Exploration is the Human Legacy

Yesterday NPR had a story about the possible next generation of spacecraft that might make deliveries and carry astronauts for NASA now that the shuttle program is being done away with.  The new spacecraft will be made by the private aeronautics company known as SpaceX (yes it sounds like “Space Sex”) and will have twice the cargo weight capacity of the current shuttles.  The new rocket is being called Falcon Heavy and could be making its first launch as soon as 2013.  You can read the whole article HERE.

The possible design of the Falcon Heavy by SpaceX

In other space news, a fascinating article by Steven Kotler in this month’s Playboy deals with the very real and very near future industry of asteroid mining.  Yes that long running staple of the sci-fi genre, asteroid mining could become a reality and change everything.  One expert in the article states that he believes the first trillionaires on Earth will be the individuals who take the risks and invest in off world resource gathering.  NASA has flown probes up to, and kept pace with, various asteroids collecting particles and dust in their wake.  The Japanese on the other hand have gone one step further, not only sending probes to match the speed of an asteroid, but have actually landed on the asteroid’s surface, scraped it for samples, and then flew back to Earth with the samples intact.  That is essentially what the industry of asteroid mining would look like, only on a bigger scale.  Since asteroids are not within our Earthly atmosphere they aren’t processed and diffused, they are highly concentrated chunks of ore which wouldn’t require extensive digging to cull.  Whatever materials you can scrape off the surface, is pretty much what the entire asteroid is made of.  Those materials include iron, nickel, gold, platinum, and water, along with hundreds of other minerals that can be in short supply here on Earth.  This work with asteroid interception and remote resource gathering is a perfect stepping stone for a manned Mars mission, and eventual off world colonization.  If we can obtain resources like water and iron from asteroids and send them to, say, a Mars colony without having to ship them from Earth, that would drastically lower the costs of such missions.

Artists rendering of remote asteroid mining

 

As far as I’m concerned space exploration is one of the most important endeavors humans can hope to undertake.  It is a topic I have felt strongly about for many years and I will continue to uselessly argue for it with anyone who can hear me until I’m dead.  My opinions on the matter are not new, or based in astute scientific research that I’ve conducted, or even all that original.  The reason I feel I must repeat my feelings though are because people seem to forget, and lose sight.  So few people think about the big picture of the world, the future of humanity.  How we live on a razor thin edge which could be toppled at any moment from any number of sources beyond our control and unless we look out toward space now, everything we are currently doing becomes excruciatingly meaningless.

Some time in the future, countless days from now, our sun will die.  It will grow colder, dimmer, and expand enveloping our planet and evaporating away our histories and cultures.  Of course I suppose even that is wishful thinking, expecting the human race to make it that long considering we will more likely kill each other off through violence, pollution, and war.  Though even if we were to survive our own very human struggles there is still the regular threat from any number of extinction events that have swept the world previously.  What I’m getting at is one way or another, our world is doomed, humanity is doomed, and unless we take to the stars and move beyond where we are now everything we know and will ever know will simply cease to exist as if none of it ever existed.  A brief flash of light in the darkness of the universe, that no one saw.

Of course it all sounds very nostalgic, perhaps naively optimistic.  What’s to stop Earth colonies on Mars or elsewhere from turning out exactly the same as Earth, with war, pollution, and poverty?  Nothing, most likely those ventures will start out as purely financial stakes, some sort of corporate interests that want to make a buck.  Whenever we do set up bases on off-world landscapes (and I firmly believe we will) I have no real expectation that it will be done with the human races best interests in mind, it will most likely be much more small minded and profit driven.  However such a venture will allow people like me to look beyond those two dimensional motivations and have some small hope, some reassurance that the human race is indeed stepping out and establishing itself with at least a larger scope in mind.  We all know the old saying, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  I honestly look forward to news of longer space voyages and established bases on other worlds because until that time there is always the dark pall hanging over us that perhaps the space programs will be completely done away with one day, and we will be stuck on this planet isolated, simply waiting to become extinct.  Until I see images of humans on other planets, there will be a slight sadness and sense of longing when looking up at the night sky.

Destination: Mars

Others out there are doubtlessly reading this and deriding these comments and my thoughts on the future and space exploration.  That’s fine, that’s understandable.  But when people say they are tired of seeing money spent on rockets into space when there are plenty of people here on Earth that need it, my only response to them would be “I guess you missed my point.”  Inflated military budgets and our war industry work more for the spread of conflict and loss of life then they work against it.  Our medical industry is working hard to make us immortal which will be nice when the shattering of Earth does eventually roll around, at least we’ll still be around to see it.  Our entertainment culture, which is important to the identity of the human race, should blindly keep shoveling millions upon millions of dollars into the movie, sports, television, and video game industries so that we can be thoroughly distracted from the realities of war and poverty, and so we don’t have to think about difficult and deep thoughts such as the future of the human race.  Why would we want to spend money on space exploration?  To perhaps actually preserve the legacy of the human race?  Preposterous!

I don’t have any real answers to anything and I’m certainly not really doing much in my life to change the situation or rally support for the space program or anything like that.  I suppose my main point in writing this post is simply to share my thoughts and perhaps invoke some others out there to think about the future, the planet, and the big picture as a whole.  If I’ve done that at all that’s great, and I hope you continue to think big and encourage others to do so.  If you’ve gotten nothing out of reading this, if you think I’m an idiot and you want that five minutes of your life back I say that’s what you get for reading a blog entitled “Mindless Philosophy!”

To the future!

That is all!