Why is it such good news that George Lucas is returning to Star Wars? Why would it matter to the kind of person who watches all the movies and wears Star Wars t shirts? The reason is that George Lucas is the original force (or Force, if you will) behind the whole Star Wars franchise. He was the mastermind behind the original series, and his return triggers the hope for a return to form. With George Lucas back at the wheel, it is hoped that the original series, which lost its way a long time ago, will be back on top and ready to really inspire people and show true creativity in a way that the Disney-funded franchise did not.
Let’s rewind. George Lucas was the man behind the myth as far as Star Wars is concerned. The original creative genius behind the series was a man with very original ideas who was able to craft something the world had never seen. The Joycean, or perhaps Campbellian, genius behind the original Star Wars is something that could never be replicated by a committee or a focus group. It’s the kind of true creativity that nobody could replicate besides the original Jedi master himself.
Then Lucas created the prequels, which weren’t as good. Now that nobody could tell George Lucas “no”, he was able to make all the self-indulgent creative mistakes he was prevented from making during the first trilogy. Because he was famous and well-known now, nobody dared to tell him “no”. Perhaps he surrounded himself with suck-ups, or perhaps it was mere happenstance, but George Lucas was now able to do whatever he wanted, and it ended up with an absolute mess of a prequel trilogy. This finally ended when he sold the franchise to Disney. This, it was thought, might repair the series.
But that ended poorly, too. Once Disney got ahold of the series, it became democratized, corporatized, commodified, fed through focus groups and committees, a creature of bureaucracy. It was now a product, and not a product in the sense of a creation by an individual. Star Wars became something mass-produced, and that killed its appeal. It was one more politically correct franchise aiming to appeal to the lowest common denominator in a country with no unity and no common culture. It was a product for the masses, with no identity and no sense of exclusion or boundaries. It was simply a creative travesty.
With George Lucas back at the helm, we dare to hope for something better. We dare to hope that his self-indulgent tendencies have been fully attenuated, and that he will serve as a guide to take Star Wars back to creative validity. We want to see something new and exciting, not self-indulgent like the prequels and not a corporate mass-production like the latest films, but the true product of a creative mind. We want to see if George Lucas still has it in him. Let’s hope for the best. May the Force be with him.
I once heard someone, a favorite author of mine on Quora, make an observation like this: “Sci-fi is about ideas, and fantasy is about spirituality.” This left me scratching my head at first. How in the world is something like Lord of the Rings about spirituality? And how is something like Star Trek about ideas? But the more I thought about it, the more I began to think that that guy was actually right. Sci-fi really is about ideas, and fantasy really is about spirituality. I thought long and hard, and I eventually came to a surprising conclusion: Star Wars is really fantasy, not sci-fi. The kind of guy who wears a Star Wars t shirt might disagree, but hear me out.
We all know that Tolkien is fantasy, right? And The Lord of the Rings really is about Tolkien’s spirituality. Tolkien was very Christian (he was Roman Catholic and devout) but also very pagan, in a way. There is something very deeply Norse about Tolkien’s worldview; his outlook on life has some of the pathos and tragedy of Norse mythology, but it’s wrapped in the hope (in fact, the certainty) of an ultimate triumph that comes from his Christian beliefs. CS Lewis is even more obvious. Michael Ende’s Neverending Story is an expression of Anthroposophy, which was a spiritual philosophy that he believed in.
Sci-fi is about ideas. Star Trek is the idea of utopia and how we can move closer to it. Dune is the idea of human potential being pushed to its limit. Michael Crichton’s books are about the abuse of technology and all the ways that that can become a problem. He was especially interested in the abuses of biotech. The difference is that sci-fi is much more analytical, much more rational and deductive, whereas fantasy is much more emotional and mythological. Fantasy can contain ideas, yes, but in a much more “blurry” way, not as clean cut or logical.
These two genres can be disguised as one another. What I mean is, there are a lot of so-called “fantasy” that is actually sci-fi, and a lot of so-called “sci-fi” that is actually fantasy. If you’re reading a book that looks like fantasy, but where there are definite rules of magic and systems in place, and where wizards do “research” to further their magic, then you’re looking at sci-fi disguised as fantasy. Those wizards are just physicists in pointy hats. Similarly, just as there are some fantasy franchises that are just disguised sci-fi, there are some sci-fi franchises that are actually disguised fantasy.
One of those is… Star Wars! I said earlier that fantasy is an expression of a person’s spirituality. I hazard a guess that George Lucas has a very particular view on this kind of thing. I don’t know anything about the guy, but if what I said about fantasy is true, then George Lucas probably has a very particular kind of spirituality to him, and that’s what is coming up in Star Wars. The Force almost seems like a concept out of Eastern religion! There is something vaguely Hindu or Buddhist about the themes expressed in Star Wars. So since fantasy is an expression of a person’s spirituality, I think it’s safe to say that Star Wars is fantasy.
If you’ve ever watched Star Wars, you may have noticed the the supposedly “feared” Imperial Stormtroopers are lousy shots. This is something that people in cinema of continuously commented on. You can look anywhere on the internet and see people complaining and joking about this. On forums and other websites, everybody cracks jokes about the Stormtroopers being unable to hit the broad side of a barn. This has become legendary, a trope, so to speak. In fact, at this point, it even has a name: the Stormtrooper Effect. The Stormtrooper Effect is not limited to just Star Wars, but is present in many other franchises.
But why? Why would something so strange and ridiculous be so common? You’d think that such an unrealistic trope would have no place in most media, because if the audience doesn’t buy it, it won’t make any money. However, there’s more to it than that. You see, the Stormtrooper Effect is actually inevitable in any media where the heroes are fighting against hordes of mooks. Because if the mooks all had good aim, then the heroes would be dead at the beginning, and then there’d be no story. Not only is this not unique to Star Wars, it’s downright ubiquitous!
On top of that, you have to remember that the Stormtrooper Effect is not so unrealistic. In fact, it’s very, very realistic. Most soldiers who fire their weapons in war never actually hit an enemy. It takes hundreds of rounds fired on average for one kill to be scored. This is because the Stormtrooper Effect is actually a realistic depiction of how hard it is to hit a moving, intelligent human target who doesn’t want to be shot. If anything, the lack of realism flows in the other direction: it’s the heroes who have the unrealistic aim. Their aim is unrealistically good!
If you’re a big enough fan of the series to wear Star Wars t shirts, then you can probably point out some places where the Stormtrooper Effect doesn’t apply. For example, in the prequels, whenever a main character has a lightsaber that they can use to deflect blaster shots, the Stormtrooper Effect is no longer a problem. Now that the main character has a lightsaber to protect them and make sure they make it to the end (since they’re indispensable to the plot) the Stormtrooper Effect is no longer needed. It makes sense, and also provides a sense of realism because it shows that Stormtroopers do sometimes hit their targets, even if that target is a Jedi who can deflect the shots. That’s what you see on a Star Wars t shirt.
So the Stormtrooper Effect is ubiquitous because it has to be, but you can see some places where it doesn’t apply. Generally speaking, it helps to have some variety in fiction. Having the bad guys just miss is a default option for the writers. In order to mix things up a little, it helps to have other reasons for the heroes not to get shot.
For those who are late to the party I’m just posting text conversations with my best friend Dave. These are about as nerdy as two guys can get.
Dave C: Gandalf vs Dumbledore
Dave I: Gandalf. Plus I’d throw a party afterwards. I hate Dumbledork.
DC: Gandalf wasn’t my fav either but dumbledorf could actually do magic.
DI: Gandalf beat the Balrog. With a sword.
DC: Yeah I should have qualified no sword.
DI: Dumbledork died to Severus Snape. Without a sword I’d still say Gandalf. Remember his duel with Saruman.
DC: I’ll give you that he would win. I wanted to make it a contest. Noah rock monsters vs Jar Jar Binks in suckiness.
DI: In terms of annoyance and also how much damage done to nerd culture Jar Jar by a landslide. He is the Black Plague of suckiness.
DC: I’m off today. Ewoks would of been better.
DI: Yeah. Jar Jar or Ewoks. Noah lava monsters or Twiki.
DC: Lava monster.
DI: I’d say Jar Jar and Ewoks are equally bad but for different reason. By the way do you think the Ewoks will surface in the new movie?
DC: There are supposed to be Wookies. I bet there are a s&*%load of Wookies.
DI: Maybe. What if Wookies married Ewoks? eWookies? Like an iPhone? Regardless they would be suck x20.
DC: I’m not fond of Wookies either. Chewie was a whiny bitch and the least effective fighter. (image courtesy of the Star Wars t-shirt category)
DI: Yep. Also if you really want to hate Wookies go watch the Star Wars Holiday Special. (note-DO NOT WATCH THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL. You have been warned)
DI: Two words. Wookie porn. Be sure to wish George Lucas a Happy Life Day in December.
the Infamous Dave Inman
Dave C: I want a McDlt and a Shamrock Shake.
Dave I: Ugh. Love it when your employee creates more work than she saves.
DC: That is what employees do. The busier I get the less I let employees do so I can get everything done.
DI: Can I just clone myself a few times?
DC: It’s expensive and you end up with rejects and paying support is a bitch.
DI: How about a hologram of myself?
DC: “Help me David Inman you’re my only hope”? Like that?
DC: I have one of my father saying “never get married and don’t have kids”.
DI: Ever wonder why the didn’t just stick Dr. Theopolis’s brain into Twiki’s body and cut the annoying characters in that show by 50%?
DC: ALL THE TIME.
DI: Kingpin or Jabba the Hut?
DI: Jabba has a live band and a hover palace.
DI: Solo. He gets Carrie Fisher when she’s young and hot. Also his ship doesn’t have sparklers coming out the back.
DC: Flash was in better shape and hawkmen are way cooler to hang out with than Wookies.
DI: Solo was in good enough shape.
DI: Mean but true. (Image courtesy of my Star Wars t-shirts collection)
the Infamous Dave Inman
I, like 99.999% of the nerd world, recently saw the new Star Wars trailer and am very excited. I like where they are going with the guy from Attack the Block and loved the Mark Hamil voice over. I have my fingers crossed rigidly in hopes of a reboot that washes out both the hatred I feel for Lucas for Episodes I-III and the hatred I feel for JJ Abrams for the last two Star Trek train wrecks.
However, like I did with the first one there always has to something that bugs me about it and as much as I hate to say it in this case it’s Harrison Ford. Don’t get me wrong. I love Han Solo and thought his inclusion in this film as a veteran rogue giving advice to a new group of swashbucklers would be awesome. However the instead opted to stick him in with only the wrinkles on his face showing any sign that time has passed. He is even dressed exactly the same (you would think that sometime in the past 20 years he might have picked up a hat or found his old Def Leppard t-shirt. Chewbacca looks exactly the same and has the same crossbow. Don’t Wookies get grey hair at some point? There was a lot of grey on Itchy from the Star Wars Holiday Special. Sorry Disney. Lucas created it so it is still canon. Happy Life Day! Chewie image courtesy of our collection of Star Wars t-shirts). It looks like they are going to stick Han Solo in like he’s been smuggling “spice” since the Emperor died.
But really the problem is that his cameo felt as forced and awkward as a catheter made from a firehose. It felt like going to a wild 6 keg frat party at college and have your uncle show up and hang out. You are glad to see him but he just seems really out of place and kind of hampers your enjoyment. It just felt odd. Also what was up with his line “Chewie…we’re home”? Wasn’t he a general in the rebellion at the end of Jedi? Also wasn’t he supposed to marry Princess Leia? Was that the best line they could think of for him? Maybe if they wanted to ramp up the cheese factor.
Anyway regardless I am very excited and will write more on it soon. Thanks
the Infamous Dave Inman
My fandom of the Wachowski siblings tends to jump around a lot. It seems to me they always come up with some amazing concept and about half the time make something mindblowingly brilliant and the other half the the time trip on an unresolved plot thread from their last movie and fall on their face in the execution. Naturally I love the Matrix and V for Vendetta but all the other Matrices and Cloud Atlas all kind of sucked in weird ways.
However there is no one who can say the Wachowski’s lack ambition or vision and their films for good or ill don’t push the envelope. As for Jupiter Ascending it kind of reads like a mini map of the Wachoski’s total filmography: cool and up at times, lame and laughably silly at others. I walked into the film hoping for something great and was at times very satisfied yet at others bitterly disappointed.
Where this film rules is in some of the visuals, the scope of the story (truly the term “Space Opera” can be applied here), the acting (far beyond what the film called for), the art direction, the subtle details, and just plain being one of the few original sci fi concept films in current memory. Most of our science fiction derives from books, comics, or TV shows but let us not forget some of the great original concept films that defined our most beloved genre: Star Wars, the Road Warrior, Alien, Robocop, E.T., Avatar, District 9, Escape From New York, Time Bandits, etc. It seems these days Hollywood is terrified of doing a film that does not have a built in fan base and so we are stuck with a lot of retreads and sub-mediocre source material. I applaud the risk the Wachowskis are willing to take on something like this. (Image courtesy of the Star Wars t shirt category)
Plus the visuals were all great. Kind of a super advanced steam punk aesthetic. The universe created is potentially huge and contains a plethora of small details that could each in turn be fleshed out into it’s own movie. The costuming and sets were great. And of course my personal favorite: the rocket skate boots. Not only did they look and act super cool but they kind of looked like they could actually work. I sure as hell want a pair.
Where it falls apart is in what I like the call the “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” stage of script development. Wouldn’t it be cool if we wasted 20 minutes of the film having the main character go through a Brazil-esque bureaucracy for no reason? Wouldn’t it be cool if a billion year old human society were ruled by a 15th century backstabbing English royal family? Wouldn’t it be cool if we injected the main characters huge Russian immigrant family into this epic story to weight it down like a meal of pasta and assorted fishing weights? Wouldn’t it be cool if the main character started off as a housekeeper and then at the end after being named queen of the planet and insanely wealthy decide to keep on scrubbing toilets for…no reason at all? These and many more wouldn’t it be cool ideas are the ones you write on a dry erase board during the early concept meetings then steady erase them as you realize they are too ponderous, too complicated, or most importantly too off point for the film. Apparently the Wachowskis accidentally used a Sharpie instead of a dry erase marker.
I also had a problem with the ridiculous level to which the evil of the villain and his plan was portrayed. Remember in Time Bandits how David Warner played the physical manifestation of Evil and in the end turned into a black powder so evil that if you touched it you would explode? Well that evil is a mild fart in a sewer compared to the evil that is the bad guy here and his plan. SPOILER ALERT In the movie they spoke of “Harvesting” planets without going into the details of what they needed all the humans for. At one point there is a scene where a chariot is being piloted by a human incorporated into the machinery and I thought “Hey, that’s kind of cool. Maybe they need humans to become cyborg slaves. Sort of like Servitors from Warhammer 40,000.” Nope. They need to literally torture humans to death in order extract their immortality elixir like high tech vampires and at that point I completely stopped taking the story at all seriously. I’d give my father more credibility when he’d play the “Got your nose” game by grabbing my nose and sticking his thumb out of his fist (plus the one time he actually cut off the end of my nose). Kind of silly fun but ultimately irredeemably comically stupid.
Speaking of stupid I’m also going to dump all over the character of Jupiter. One concept that did not get written in permanent ink on the idea board was making her a strong willed intelligent female capable of getting herself out of trouble. In this film she is a dope who listens to and agrees with anything any male tells her and constantly is in need of rescue by Channing Tatum. Also they injected an awkward and stupid romance into this film with all the subtlety of a colonoscopy performed with a harpoon gun. It’s unfortunate as I am a fan of Mila Kunis and have come to like Channing Tatum. I honestly believe they are both capably of better roles and also that they delivered way more acting than the script really called for.
But for all that I can say: rocket boots. If all you want is great visuals and some decent action (although of course the fate of the universe once again devolves into a fist fight between two muscle boys. Why is it evil super villains and their good guy nemeses can never seem to recruit more than three guys each? When I move into the evil super villain stage of my career I’m going to have an army of henchmen big enough to overthrow most third world countries) this film will entertain you. If you want to take your sci fi seriously and are hoping for a new Matrix prepare for disappointment. However I am going to ask each of you to try to see it in order to support the much needed sci fi movie industry. We can’t have Tom Cruise carry it entirely on his shoulders. 3 of 5 phasers.
the Infamous Dave Inman
This is one of my favorite episodes. My childhood was rife with alienation and isolation from other human beings and I therefore truly identified with poor Charlie Evans. I know a lot of other reviewers of Star Trek didn’t really like this episode due to the whole “god child” cliche (which would later be revisited in the Squire of Gothos) as well as the fact that this is another episode that treats women like walking talking sex dolls but the fate of Charlie (and his dark sense of humor) always struck a chord with me. To this day I feel terrible and kind of tear up whenever I see the final scene of Charlie begging for help. The terror he shows is apparent and the massive abandonment pretty much feels like my 2nd grade all the way through high school graduation.
Anyway this episode made number 8 on my personal top 10 best TOS Episode list. I suppose it’s true that I am more drawn towards the darker stories. Shore Leave and the Trouble with Tribbles I can take or leave but given the opportunity to see City on the Edge of Forever or the Conscious of the King and I will always take it. Take what you will of that if you care to try to understand my own dark personality. (Dark Side (that’s the literal translation) image comes from my collection of Star Wars t-shirts)
the Infamous Dave Inman
“Best of the Series.”
Best of the series is a term that is bandied around a lot these days usually as an excuse for a film that is slightly less repugnant than the rest of the Hollywood effluent that typically flows into our sight holes. Revenge of the Sith was the best of the Star Wars prequel series but as a stand alone movie it is dried excrement on the end of a stick which is also made of dried excrement. The last Twilight movie was like receiving a full lobotomy with a power sander but was modestly more watchable than the rest. Only in the golden world of comparison can some films be considered decent if only like the first meal of actual food regardless of quality after a month of eating rotten horse meat, tree bark, and gravel. (R2 image courtesy of the Star Wars t-shirts category)
This was not always the case. The Empire Strikes Back is generally considered the best of the Star Wars series but is a great movie by itself and the other two are either good or watchable (Ewoks aside). The Godfather 2 is one of the great films of the 20th century but Godfather 1 was awesome as well. Somewhere there is a parallel universe wherein creating a film franchise does not mean watering the individual films down to the level of transparency. The best of a series should be a wondrous film experience even for someone who did not see the other films, did not read the books, or is not a ravaging fan boy.
The greatest star ship ever.
Still more pluses and minuses.
If I could choose a vehicle to be buried in it would be the Falcon. It is so freaking cool and true classic Sci Fi nostalgia not to mention the true symbol of Star Wars. In a real sense I was glad it wasn’t ruined by appearing in Episodes I-III and am glad to see it reappear here. I look forward to seeing it again. (Image from the Star Wars t-shirts collection)
Minus: all the other techno crap in the trailer.
This film is falling into the same trap that sucked the prequels into and that is EVERY SINGLE THING YOU SEE HAS TO REFERENCE SOMETHING FROM THE ORIGINAL 3! The problem is like the Uncanny Valley for non humans: the stuff looks almost right but is just off enough to make you not like it. Is that an X-Wing fighter? Yeah, sort of but not really. Oh, look! Stormtroopers. Wait they changed the helmets. Let’s feature a jet bike! But what would make it cooler is if we glued one of the giant steamer trunks from Joe vs the Volcano to the front of it. I’m not saying I dislike change (although really, I do) but sometimes it’s OK to come up with something original. If the war is still going on 20 years later (Rebel symbol and Stormtroopers kind of implies it) the technological advancement should have been tremendous. We don’t need to be constantly reminded of where this story came from. It says so in the title with the words Star Wars.