Brick Vader is a sight to behold.
Feed ’em to the pigs, Errol.
Brick Vader is a sight to behold.
Feed ’em to the pigs, Errol.
This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 26th December 2015.
As part of our now regular christmas tradition of seeing a movie with the family the day after christmas, we’ve been to watching the new Star Wars movie today. There’s a big and pretty nice theater just a few hundred meters down the road from my parent’s house and this time of the year there’s always something we all want to watch. I had decided pretty early on that I am not going to see the movie on my own, but if my family wants to see it I’d been happy to go along with it. I’ll keept this review down to specific details that have already been revealed by the trailers and so on, so it’s not entirely spoiler free, but I won’t be talking about anything that gets revealed only in the movie itself.
I’ve seen the movie in 3D and didn’t enjoy that. I think the projector was slightly misaligned but aside from a faint “shadow” to both sides of objects with a high contrast to the background I don’t think that was much of a problem. Nobody else complained about that. I think this was the third or fourth movie I’ve seen in 3D and it just seems to not be working for me. I see the depth effect and colors look crisp, but I take a while to get focused on the image and for large parts of the movie the cuts are just so fast that it’s already by the next image once I’ve found my orientation. And any time there’s some shit flying in the foreground it completely messes up my vision as well. The combined effect was that everything appeared extremely jittery and out of focus the whole time so that after 20 minutes or so I just watched it without glasses. That meant the whole movie was blurry, but that’s something I could live with in exchange for not straining my eyes for over two hours. Not sure if it’s all me, or the projector, or if they used 3D poorly in the movie. But I never enjoyed it in some of the Hobbit movies either. Please get over this fad soon and show movies normally again.
I also saw it in German. The voice acting was fine, but since English is mostly a highly simplified version of old North German it is almost always possible to translate dialogue in a way that achieves almost perfect lip synching. Unfortunately the result is a highly simplified version of modern Standard German, that sounds completely unnatural and incredibly stilted. And when you’re passably fluent in English, you probably could reconstruct the exact original English script from just hearing the German lines. It’s word by word translation and that always sounds shit.
Now to the movie itself. My overall impression is that this is “a new Star Wars”. It is very much really Star Wars and not something else with the name tagged on (yes, I hate Nu Trek), but it’s not more of the “old Star Wars”. It’s Star Wars, but a different Star Wars. Though the last 15 had already been a different Star Wars than my Star Wars. And now we have another one. I am not thrilled about that, but I think that’s okay and it would have been unreasonable to expect something else.
What also quite surprised me is that I liked the new heroes. Ray and Fin are good characters. I always wanted to see more of them. At no moment did I think “Could we please and this scene with Anakin and Padme and get back to the good part with Obi-Wan some more?” If anything, I’d actually have enjoyed having a bit more of them instead of Han and Leia. The same can not be said for the villains. There is a new Vader type guy, a new Tarkin type guy, and a new Emperor type guy and they are all really weak, bland, and too cliched. Yes, Star Wars always made extreme use of archetypes, but the classic movies used them very effectively. Here they are just cliches. There’s also a stormtrooper commander who is clearly set up to be a major villain but who ends up completely underused. Couldn’t we have had her as the big bad for the movie? That would have been nice.
And speaking of New Vader, New Tarkin, and New Emperor. I think you could recreate the entire movie using only shots from the classic movies and maybe just 20% new footage. And it’s not subtle nods, it’s one to one copied images and things. There’s a planet that looks 100% like Tatooine, but is actually called something else. New Tatooine. Later they come to the New Cantina which has the New Band and they meet a New Yoda character. And of course there’s always the New R2-D2 and the protagonist is obviously New Luke. George Lucas was given a lot of shit for putting way too many classic movie references into the clone wars movies, but at least he tried to be subtle. This movie constantly seems like it want to pause and ask “Do you get it?! This image/scene/character is a copy of something from the old movie.” And that’s a major annoyance.
But that’s an annoyance you might be able to overlook. But the worst offense of the movie is that the script is just total shit. I think someone had a pretty good idea for the story, but when someone tried to create a series of scenes that could show the story they just completely fucked it up. The introduction of the background is done pretty badly. There’s no longer the Rebellion against the Empire, but instead there is the First Order that wants to destroy the Republic and is fighting the Resistance. Maybe the translation fucked up, but I don’t know whether the Republic and the Resistance are the same group or not. And the First Order looks completely like the Empire so that I am not sure if it’s perhaps just the same Empire with a new name on the doorbell. And who is this New Emperor anyway. He’s just there with no indication at all how he came to succeed the old one. If it’s the same Empire. Maybe it’s a new group that just uses matching uniforms and ships. I don’t know, the movie didn’t say. The New Vader completely sucks because we’re never given any reason to believe that he is a threat. New Tarkin never does anything. Character’s are acting like they really need to do something, but I never get any reason why that would be important. There is one quite surprising moment later in the movie, but that lasted only for about 2 seconds until I remembered that this all was meant to mirror another moment from another movie that was much better.
I actually wasn’t sure if the big battle at the end was the big showdown until it was already over. It felt much more like filler that is meant to get the characters somewhere to do something there. But no. The big explosion looks so elaborate, this was probably meant to have been the big showdown. While I said the movie feels like Star Wars, that’s mostly about the visuals. But where it really fails is in recreating the amazement and wonder of the classic movies. Or even the clone war movies. It’s mostly a bit bland and doesn’t really feel like the galaxy far, far away.
That you could remake almost the entire movie with clips from the classic movies is bad, but could be overlooked if you really want to. But the script is so godawful that the entire pacing and tension of the movie is just plain shit. The music was adequate. But for something like Star Wars, adequate constitutes a failure. However, I did like the new protagonists. While I don’t feel like seeing this movie a second time, I do really want to see the next one. Just to see more of those two and if their stories go anywhere.
But even considering that, when it comes to my Yay or Nay rating, I have to give this movie a Nay. It’s not an ordeal to sit through (if you can get it in normal and not in 3D) and it does show some promise for future films, but it’s nothing you have to see. The script is so bad you should have no problem at all starting with the next one. There isn’t anything here that you’d need to know for the future. So maybe it’s more like a Meh than a Nay. 2 stars out of 5. C-. 65%. It’s better than Episode 1 and 2, but worse than 4. I don’t know if it’s slightly better than 3 or slightly worse, but everything considered they are probably quite even.
When writing about the Star Wars games that I played, I noticed that almost all of them are pretty old by now. So I got to work to create some kind of timeline of what I consider the important books, comics, and games of the Expanded Universe and the result I got is this.
You can get the 90s Kid out of the 90s, but you can’t get the 90s out of the 90s Kid. It really seems like the golden age of Star Wars to me, which is not terribly surprising given how old I was then. If I would have been into anything else, I probably would still vonsider the 90s to be the best period it ever had.
Another thing that surprised me in hindsight that there were six years between the release of Episode 1 and Episode 3. Such restraint! It almost seems like they were making those movies one at at time. Which seems incredibly slow by today’s standards. At least I got to be relieved that the time between 3 and 7 was not nearly as long as the time between 6 and 1, which by this point would no longer have surprised me. Still, in trade school I have classmates who were not even born when Episode 1 was out.
Impressive. Most impressive.
If you played the game, you recognize that this isn’t just a Star War movie, this is a real Tie Fighter movie. I’ve played this game and X-Wing to no end and this one was clearly done by someone who has not just seen it, but knows how it feels to play. I’ve never seen such a smoothly done attempt at representing game mechanics in a movie. If you haven’t played the game, you probably won’t be able to spot the moments that emulate it.
Very nicely done.
In a roughly chronological order, as far as I can remember it.
These are games that I have not played yet but plan to do so, or which have been announced and that I am looking forward to to see how they turn out.
This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 23rd September 2015.
I am as big a Star Wars fan as you can get before it gets insane and embarassing. But I am also highly critical of it and more than just willing to recognize its many flaws. And, oh dear, there’s so much of them. But one of the biggest ones is one I’ve almost never see discussed anywhere.
The Expanded Universe, at it’s very essence, is fundamentally racist.
And this has nothing to do with Lando Calrissian or even Jar Jar Binks. People have complained about the Neimodians talking in a Japanese accent and being show as ruthless conquerors driven by greed, and I can understand that to some degree. And really, the makeover of Watto in Episode II is indeed the most racist shit I’ve ever seen outside of Nazi propaganda cartoons.
But no, I am not talking about that here. The problem I want to adress is at the same time less controversial but also much, much farther reaching. Many worlds in science fiction often get accused of being Planets of Hats, where the whole population really has only a single defining trait. Star Wars does that too. And very hard. And all the time. Even ignoring the accents of Neimodians and Gungans and any resemblance they may have to those found in some parts of the world, the entire worldbuilding of Star Wars is based on a way of percieving people and cultures that has a clear and unambigious term: Racism.
Racism, at its very core, is not specifically about discrimination or hatred or limited to any minorities. These are issues that result from racism. Racism itself is the idea that a group of people who share a common ancestry can easily be defined by a few traits that are shared among all of them. So if you have seen one person of that group, you know not only everything about that group, but also everything about every single member of that group. Racism is the idea that shared biological ancestry makes all people of that group the same in several fundamental traits.
And nowhere in fiction have I ever seen this principle applied so consistently and agressively. Though I think it neededs to be added, that this is primarily about the Expanded Universe, all the novels, comics, and videogames that build upon the movies. The movies themselves are relatively free of this since it is rare to ever see more than a single individual of any species other than humans. But in the EU it’s really bad. If you have one character of a species appearing in the movies, even in a really tiny role, that character is almost always turned into the universal archetype for the entire species in all subsequent works.
Take for example the Bith. The Bith really only appear for a few seconds and have no relevance to the plot. They are these guys.
The bar in which Luke and Obi-wan meet Han Solo and Chewbacca happens to have a band of Bith playing during the few minutes they stay at that place. Do we learn anything about these guys at all? No, nothing. Except that these are in a band that plays in a bar. As the EU is concerned, this is everything you need to know about the Bith. Because in the EU, the Bith are a species of performance artists and musicians. All of them. That’s what they are known for throughout the galaxy. When musicians get mentioned, very often they are Bith. It’s like the Bith have a monopoly on playing music for the whole galaxy.
Here we have a group of Jawas. In their natural environment. Shoting at droids to repair and sell them. Jawas have many appearnces throughout Star Wars, but in the movies themselves I believe they really only have one significant appearance. (Other than background dressing.) And they are always surrounded by metal scrap and working on salvaged machines. Most often traveling around in their huge brown, angular trucks. Because in the movies there was one group of Jawas who had such a big brown truck, wore brown robes, and apparently salvaged broken droids to make a living. One group of 10 or 20 individuals. And what they did on that one day instantly became the template for the entire culture and nature of the whole species. You have seen one Jawa, you have seen all Jawas.
And there are virtually no exceptions to this rule. Chewbacca can fix shapeships and droids and in his backstory he used to be an imperial slave. Pretty much all Wookies you’ll ever see are good with machines and the entire species has been enslaved by the Empire. And not just the empire. In the days of the Old Republic, 4,000 years before the Empire, they were being enslaved by the Czerca corporation. Once a slave, always a slave. The whole species.
All Sullustans are good pilots, all Bothans are spies or politicians, all Verpines and Sluisi are great mechanics, all Twi’lek women are strippers, all Trandoshans are bounty hunters, Rodian culture is all about hunting, all Gamoreans are mercenaries, all Hutts are criminal businessmen (…slugs), all Chiss are military geniuses, all Noghri are super stealthy assassins, all Ithorians are pacifistic, all Corellians are roguish pilots with a problem for authority, all humans from Tatooine are farmers. It goes on and on. (And, being Star Wars, on, and on, and on, and on…)
In the Expanded Universe of Star Wars, the basic concept of racism is an actual fact. If just see one member of a species for a few seconds, you know everything there is to know about the entire species and every single individual. I can understand how it happens on a single episode of Star Trek that visits a planet only once, which then is never appearing again. But when it happens over decades and is done by dozens of writers in completely different stories, I find it rather inexcuseable.
Honorable mention goes to my favorite Twi’lek Nawara Ven, who has the distinction of being not some sly gangster but a starfighter pilot/lawyer of unquestionable integrity. But then, being a lawyer does kind of put him into a similar niche as smugglers and spies. It’s just their nature, I guess…
Spotted this for the first time when I last watched the movie this May.
Three matching shots, all while something terrible is about to happen to Han. Nice detail.
This was originally posted on Spriggan’s Den on 6th February 2016.
Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi is a comic series that was published by Dark Horse from 1993 to 1998 with a total of 35 issues. This was only two years after the Thrawn Series by Timothy Zahn had kickstarted the Expanded Universe as we know it now, placing it pretty early in the history of Star Wars tales. The series was created by Tom Veitch, who had written the Dark Empire comic series a year earlier (which I consider the greatest travisty of the Star Wars universe after the Holiday Special), but he was joined by Kevin Anderson in 1994, who had just released his Jedi Academy novel series (which also has a pretty poor reputation among fans) and became the sole writer for the series a year later.
The Tales of the Jedi are set 4,000 years before the movies, in a time when the Republic was still smaller, the galaxy less explored, and the Jedi much more numerous. The first three story arcs, written by Veitch, (and giving us the now popular title “Knights of the Old Republic”) follow the adventures of the young Jedi Ulic Qel-Droma and his brother Cay and their fellow knight Tott Doneeta, who are send to the planet Onderon to help the government of the capital city end a war with the tribes living in the surounding jungles. They discover the spirit of the Dark Jedi Freedon Nadd manipulating the events on the planet, facing the three Jedi with a much bigger threat than they anticipated. As the crisis escalates, Ulic’s path crosses with the newly trained Jedi Nomi Sunrider, who has an exceptional talent for the Battle Meditation technique, which allows a single Jedi to coordinate the efforts of an entire army and making her extremely valuable.
Once Kevin Anderson joined as second writer, he introduces Exar Kun, a character from his Jedi Academy novels, whose spirit is trying to turn Luke’s Jedi students on Yavin 4 to the Dark Side. Exar Kun is unhappy with his master not trusting him to learn about the dangerous powers of the Dark Side and so sets out to learn more about them on his own. A path that very much mirrors that of Anakin Skywalker in the movies that were made a few years later. Exar Kun gets corrupted by the still not fully destroyed spirit of Freedon Nadd who leads him to the ancient Sith tombs of Korriban, where he once more unearthes the ancient secrets of the Sith. At the same time Ulic Qel-Droma is trying to infiltrate the leadership of a new Sith cult called the Krath who also have been guided by Freedon Nadd and establishing their own galactic power by allying with the Mandalorians and become a major threat to the Republic. Halfway through the arc, after the Dark Lords of the Sith series, Veitch left as a writer, leaving the field entirely to Anderson with the Sith War series.
A third main arc is set a thousand years earlier and centers on the first clash between the Republic and the Sith Empire under the leadership of Naga Sadow, who uses trickery and conspiracy to first destroy his rivals for control over the empire in The Golden Age of the Sith and then sets his eyes on the Republic in The Fall of the Sith Empire. A final, much shoter arc called Redeption, is set some years after The Sith War, but is mostly a personal story of Nomi Sunrider’s daughter Vima and doesn’t really add much to the historic lore of the Old Republic.
The setting of these comics would later return on the Knights of the Old Republic videogames, which right after the release of the second game got another comic series also, and confusingly, called Knights of the Old Republic. I was interested in those comics and had read the Jedi Academy novels at some point in the late 90s, so I decided to start at the very begining with the Tales of the Jedi series to know more about those references to Exar Kun, Ulic Qel-Droma, and Naga Sadow. When I first read them some three or four years ago, I quite enjoyed them. But having read them again over the last two weeks, my opinion of the series is now very different.
The first arc, written by Veitch, is really pretty bad. The art is very sloppy and ugly, characters are as flat as it can get, and what little traces of a plot there are are almost entirely told by exposition in boxes with the characters not really contributing anything with their own words. The second arc, begun by Veitch and Anderson, is a noticable improvement in that the art now looks only bad and that the plot consists of exposition in speech bubbles instead of boxes. It’s still a bad comic, though. The third arc, now done completely by Anderson alone, first starts surprisingly well with Golden Age of the Sith. The art has now been upgraded to simply ugly, though servicable, and there’s actual plot and Naga Sadow has some real personality as we follow him taking out his rivals and becoming new Dark Lord of the Sith. Sadly that didn’t last and The Fall of the Sith Empire is right back to being a jumbled mess of exposition. The short Redemption at the very end is okay, I guess. I still don’t think it’s any good or very interesting.
So yeah. My final impression of the Tales of the Jedi series is that it’s bad! There are noticable improvements over time, but those are simply from “godawful” to “only bad”. The only reason why I would recommend to anyone to read any of these comics, would be a great interest in the lore of the early days of the Star Wars universe. But even then I would say that only The Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire are worth it. If you really want to know about Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun, then you’re much better of at just reading the page on Wookiepedia. There is so little plot and characterization in Veitch’s comics that you really are not missing out anything. It probably is much more exciting to read a detailed summary than to shovel your way through that pile of dung yourself.
When Battlefront 3 had been announced I was quite interested in it. I am not much of an online shoter player, only having played Counter Strike, Jedi Outcast, Quake 3 to any real extend and a bit of Battlefield 1942, and those were all obviously a long time ago. Battlefront 3 seemed like a good opportunity to give it another try, but reviews and popular opinion of that game were just so poor that I skipped it. Though it’s certainly a very pretty looking game. The best looking one I’ve ever seen.
So I am quite looking forwards to Battlefront 4. If they manage to fix their mistakes from the last game, it looks like something I’d want to play.
I just found out that this game will also have a campaign. I’m not expecting much of it (though I do really like the campaign in Bad Company) but it certainly looks like an interesting idea for a story.
The hero is a female imperial special forces commander who is send to Endor to put an end to that ridiculous Ewok problem at the shield generator when suddenly everything goes to hell. The Emperor dead, the Death Star destroyed, Vader dead, Piett dead, and the Executor gone. That’s the moment when things start not looking good anymore for the Empire. This could be an interesting setup for a story.
I wouldn’t expect too much from it, though. It might very well be only four hours long and most likely she’s going to join the Rebels halfway through. Which is in fact the main topic everyone is complaining about in the comments. When was the last time that you actually played a genuine Imperial character in a game? As far as I know that was Tie Fighter in 1994, which I believe was also the only time. If they can manage to make a halfway decent Bad Guy campaign it would certainly be welcome.
Another thing to point out is that the protagonist is a mid-30s brown woman. When did you ever see that in a mainstream action game before? But at the same time, this is 2017! Why is this still something worth mentioning? That you can praise a company for doing this is really an embarrasment for everyone else. When was the last time we got a non-fantasy action game with a female hero? The only ones I can think of are Metroid and Tomb Raider. Which started over 20 years ago! Seriously? The early 90s were less conservative than we are now? What a shame. I hope we’ll be seing some more of this before the end of the decade