Tag Archives: star wars

After a Second Viewing, The Last Jedi Doesn’t Suck as Much as I Thought

Hey 3.5 readers.  BQB here.

SPOILERS, although if you haven’t seen it yet, you don’t really care that much, do you?

As you 3.5 are aware, I really laid into The Last Jedi when it came out, calling it the stinkburger to end all stinkburgers.  In particularly, it bugged me that the Force Awakens set us up for hopes of awesome Luke/Rey Jedi training montages and possibility Luke is Rey’s father.  Instead, we got a bitter old Luke who just whines about all his problems to Rey.  Our hero, who we assumed would go on to be a lifelong badass just gave up on life and stared at the ceiling of a cave for 30 years.  Just didn’t seem like a good life for Star Wars’ most beloved hero.

But after watching it a second time and without the “WTF are they doing to Luke?” lens I watched it with the first time, I get it.

Two main points:

#1 – Lack of Communication and Assuming the Worst

There’s an ongoing subplot in which Poe challenges Admiral Holdo’s leadership.  When he learns she is evacuating the ship, he is angry, telling her that the First Order will just blow the escape transports up and she’s a coward who refuses to fight.

SPOILER – as it turns out, Holdo had a plan.  Once the ship was evacuated, she rammed the First Order ship at light speed, sacrificing herself but making a cool scene in the process.

A lack of communication is tearing us apart.  When we hear disagreement, we immediately assume the disagreeing person is an enemy.  We shut down attempts for the disagreeing party to explain their point of view.  We assume the worst and we assume any explanations offered are really just attempts to mask evil intent.

Holdo might have told Poe to shut up and trust her and avoided a mutiny.  Poe might have assumed his commanding officer had learned a thing or two in her movement up the ranks and trusted her.

In the real world, we see Democrats and Republicans assume the worst about each other every day when they could try to reach common ground and make some deals that might be beneficial to all.

#2 – We are Hopelessly Stuck in the Past and This is Ruining Our Future

Luke is stuck in the past.  He is paralyzed by the Jedi’s past mistakes.  The Jedi trained his father, Anakin, and in doing so, unleashed Darth Vader on the world.  When Luke sees the same evil lurking in Ben Solo, he thinks about killing Ben to avoid repeating the mistake that was made with Vader.  He doesn’t, but this display sets Ben down a bad path, turning him into Kylo Ren.

Was Luke wrong in not killing Ben?  Perhaps he did not learn from the Jedi’s past mistake.  Perhaps emotion made him avoid reason – i.e. ignoring the hard learned via Vader lesson that if evil is spotted in a Jedi trainee, said trainee should be sliced and diced with a lightsaber ASAP.

Or maybe Luke chose not to be beholden to the past.  A past failure with Vader doesn’t mean a future failure with Ben.  By being stuck in the past, Luke caved into past fears and raised his lightsaber toward Ben in anger.  Ben had done nothing wrong and was pre-judged based on a past he didn’t live.  Assuming the worst in people before they have even had a chance to become the worst might just turn them into the worst as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ben informs Rey she can drop her past, let it go and become stronger.  Forget about her parents.  There was nothing special about them.  Stop clinging to a hope that they’ll swoop in and save her and offer an epic story of why they had to abandon her.

Perhaps the real world advice there on a personal level is to stop trying to make your parents happy and make yourself happy.

On a generational level, it might be that everyone needs to hug it out and get a long.  Stop looking at each other as enemies just because our parents did.  Stop repeating the mistakes made by past generations and stop carrying their biases and mistakes into the next generation.

There was a part where Rey had a chance to join Kylo Ren.  Maybe the Resistance and the First Order are just two sides of the same coin – zealots who can’t let the past go, who are bent on carrying past grudges into the future forever, even if they must tear the galaxy apart forever.

I think it would have been a real coup if Rey and Ben had teamed up.  It would have been a fabulous cliffhanger, though I don’t know what a Rey and Ren vs. the First Order and the Resistance film looks like.

In reality, we don’t have to hate each other because our parents did.  We don’t have to repeat our parents’ mistakes because we fear change.  We don’t have to be stuck in ruts forever because of mistakes we made in our personal lives.

Conclusion – Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water

Luke, and to my surprise, Ghost Yoda, decide that the Jedi should go the way of the dodo because of mistakes they made.  This seems rather Draconian and ignores all the good the Jedi did…and it also assumes that it is possible for any organization to exist with a perfect track record and that organizations should only exist if they only never, ever, ever make a mistake.  The second a mistake is made, the organization must disband.

Yes, the Jedi made Vader but they also defeated Vader.  Rey points this out so maybe in a way she is a voice of reason.

Real world application?  There seems to be a disturbing sentiment out there that because of America’s bad history, it can never have any kind of a good future.  Slavery.  The killing of Native Americans.  The list goes on and on.

Do we wish that equal rights for all had been established on Day One?  Yes.  But luckily, the mechanisms needed to bring about change via various legal and governmental process.  Today, we aren’t perfect, but surely we’ve come along way, even in the past 50 years.

America isn’t perfect but like an imperfect body, wounds heal.  The develop scars to remind us of past mistakes, scars which serve as reminders to not repeat past errors and to keep on a path that doesn’t open up new wounds.

America and Jedi have both made mistakes but to get rid of either because of past mistakes is to assume any and all replacements of America and/or Jedi will offer complete 100 percent perfection.

Plus, I just don’t think anyone wants to see a Star Wars movie with Jedi.  If the Jedi are gone altogether or are renamed the Knights of Gawooby Dooby or something, I think that will be the point where Star Wars jumps the shark.

Your thoughts?

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Daily Discussion with BQB – Why is the Star Wars Franchise in the Dumper?

Hey, 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

“Solo” did poorly at the box office, though strangely, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Meanwhile, the latest saga films, “Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” were commercial successes, but the fans aren’t happy.

“Rogue One” did well commercially and in my opinion, is the best of the four new films.

I do believe this is partly “Star Wars fatigue.”  Absence makes the heart grow fonder and when 10-20 years passed between sequels, you really got excited to see a new film.  I was 20 when “The Phantom Menace” came out and while today, I think that movie does not hold up, at the time, I was just so excited to see light sabers being whirled around on screen again.

Say what you will about the prequels, but they did, absent an occasional hiccup, at least attempt to follow the pre-established rules of the universe.  Plus, the characters were put into peril, so the stakes were high.

Sure, you know faves like Yoda or Obi Wan weren’t going to buy the farm, but faves like Mace Windu or Qui Gon Jinn were kicking the bucket so the peril made you grip the edge of your seat.

Cliffhangers and new threads meant something.  When new questions popped up, you’d get answers.  Maybe not answers you wanted but you got something.

Here in the new saga films, there’s a lot of jerking us around.  Too clever by half writers saying, “Ha!  Fooled you!” and not realizing that if there’s no payoff we are losing interest.

So, if we’re getting a new film once a year, plus the films aren’t paying off for the super fans, I don’t know, this doesn’t bode well for the franchise.

I think either they should have cast new actors to play Han, Luke and Leia (younger actors) and start a new three part saga right after the end of “Return of the Jedi.”

Either that, or they should have put it far into the future and just wracked their brains to create all new characters, perhaps some older aliens who live longer coming in from the old films, but a whole new setup with heroes and villains.

Instead, they tried, just as King Solomon once did, to split the proverbial baby and as we all know, babies don’t split well, they are much better off intact in one piece.  A future that was just an homage to the past didn’t bode well.

My two cents.  What say you, 3.5 Jedis?

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The New Star Wars Movies – Why Disney is Screwing it Up

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Hey 3.5 readers.

Oddly, “Solo” did poorly at the box office, even though I think it was pretty good.  Out of the four new films, “Rogue One” and “Solo” are the only ones I’m interested in watching again.  “Force Awakens” and “Last Jedi” are drek.

Which leads me to a conclusion – “Star Wars” only works during the period of the Empire’s reign and ensuing war against the Rebellion.  You’ve got the best villain in movie history, Darth Vader, who, let’s be honest, carries the franchise.  You’ve got the most beloved characters – Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie et all.

The prequels were fun at the time they were released but they don’t hold up over time (though “Revenge of the Sith” is solid.)  Sith holds up because we see Yoda being a badass, we see Anakin’s final transformation into Vader.  Vader always makes these movies watchable.

Alas, when we lose Vader and the original characters and/or time period, the franchise starts to poop the bed.  Keep in mind “Rogue One” had all new characters and a brief Vader cameo.  The new characters carry it because we understand the stakes – the Empire doesn’t mess around and to be caught means certain death for the rebels.

I think Disney sort of understood that the Empire vs. Rebellion dynamic sells the franchise.  So, they attempted to resurrect it with this odd idea that is never really explained, namely that the Republic has been restored but remnants of the Empire and Rebellion are still fighting each other in the form of the “First Order” and “The Resistance.”

Meh.  Lame.  One would think it would be the Republic vs. the First Order or what have you.  We learn little of Snoke, while Kylo Ren is sort of fun as an emo Vader wannabe quasi hipster rebel against mom and dad millennial Sith lord, there just isn’t enough story.  We’re thrown in and we aren’t told a lot about this world.

Further, there were attempts to capitalize on Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and the late Carrie Fisher being around long enough to appear in the films.  In retrospect, perhaps they would have been better used in sequels in the late 1990s, early 2000s where they were younger and more spry.  They weren’t in fighting shape this go-around, not knocking them, that’s just what time does to us.

But look what they did to Han and Leia.  These great heroes are relegated to an elderly, washed up bickering couple.  Maybe Leia isn’t because she’s a general but Han apparently never gets behind traveling the galaxy with his furry BFF Chewie.  Didn’t we, as fans, want more for these beloved characters?

As fans, didn’t we envision Luke traveling the galaxy, getting into adventures in his middle and old age?  Did we really want him to just run off to an island, become a hermit and a whiner?

Let me break it down.  “Solo” proved (well, to me but apparently not to the public) that younger actors could play Solo, Lando and thus younger actors could have played Leia, Luke, etc.

They did it with “Star Trek.”  Sure, we balked.  But then we remembered that Chris Pine isn’t an insult to Shatner but an homage.  The new doesn’t replace the old.  It’s just a way we can bring our old faves back again.

All the original characters were fairly young at the end of “Return of the Jedi” so there was a whole, big, beautiful timeline that could have been explored between Luke, Leia and Han’s youth and their old age.  You could have incorporated Hammill, Ford and Fisher into it, maybe as old timers remembering their youth.

There’s a whole slew of novels that the fans loved that cover the time after the fall of the Empire, showing our heroes going up against remnants of the Empire and even facing new villains.

So, I think there was a big well of possibility there that was left untapped.  And sadly, to stay true to the new dumb films, if it is ever tapped, you have to make Han and Leia a bitter divorced couple who never see each other.

Are “Awakens” and “Last” fun spectacles?  Maybe “Awakens” was ok for the nostalgia factor, but “Last Jedi” left me disappointed.

The whole thing has taught me that other than Empire vs. Rebellion, there really isn’t any idea for a future for the franchise.  I understand that Hammill, Ford and Fisher are iconic and not easy to replace.  Those are big shoes to fill.  But we felt that way about “Star Trek” and low and behold, that worked and with careful cast selection and good writing, it could have worked again here.

They’ve chosen to mine the Empire days with side stories but I really think the main saga could have continued with young actors playing the originals.

Oh well.  At some point, the saga will have to enter a new time period with a whole new setting, a whole new power structure, new villains, new heroes, and, God help us, they’re going to have to come up with a new threat other than the Death Star.

Until a solid writing team nails that, they should stick with Empire vs. Rebellion and perhaps look into seeing if the Han/Leia divorce can be written off as a bad dream.  Perhaps Episodes 7-9 can all be written off as a bad fever dream had by Chewie when he got a hold of some tainted chili cheese fries and farted himself into a coma.

Then when he wakes up, he’s with a younger cast.  It picks up after “Return of the Jedi” and a young Luke, Han and Leia travel the galaxy tracking down the Empire remnants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

He did it all for the wookie…the wookie…so you can take that cookie…and stick it up your…

Sorry.  BQB here with a review of “Solo: A Star Wars Story.”

I don’t know why I expected this movie to suck bantha dookie.  Probably because “The Last Jedi” sucked so much of it, that I lost faith in the Force completely.  This film renewed it though.  My official opinion is that it doesn’t suck at all.  In fact, it’s quite good.

Should I spoil the plot?  Probably not.  Suffice to say, it’s an origin story, and somehow director Ron Howard, without even casting Tom Hanks as he does in many of his other movies, gives us something that feels original and yet, it satisfies all of us long suffering nerds who know “Star Wars” inside out and have a checklist of things we want to see in a Han Solo biopic.

How did Han (Alden Ehrenreich) get that infamous blaster?  How did he become a great pilot?  How did win a card game against Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) to get his mitts on the Millenium Falcon?  How did he complete the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs? And, most importantly, how did he meet his big, furry, BFF, the one and only Chewbacca?

All these questions and more are answered and they’re answered thoughtfully – like, not just a nod to all of us old geeks who want to see the pop culture of our youth remain intact in today’s films.  But it’s not done in such a stodgy manner that (I assume) the youngsters who may not get all the references won’t still enjoy it.

Ehrenreich plays Han well as an anti-hero who is in it for himself, yet when given the chance to do good over bad, picks the former.  As Han always has, he makes it up as he goes along, often infuriating his colleagues with his imperfection and fly by the seat of his pants style, even though few ever realize that when the chips are down, sometimes you just have to punch it and hope for the best.

Donald Glover is the living, breathing reincarnation of a young Billy Dee Williams, part homage and part parody of everyone’s favorite self-absorbed, duplicitous space gambler.  From his closet filled with way too many capes to his attempts to narrate his own biography into a hologram recorder, Glover manages to make us laugh, though there are some scenes where we see his softer side and he makes us cry.  It’s almost enough to make us wonder when will Disney make a Lando standalone?

Emilia Clarke thrills as Han’s love interest, Qi’ra.  I’d been worried about her.  While she’s always a delight as the Khaleesi on “Game of Thrones,” her movie career got off to a bad start with the godawful “Terminator: Genisys.”  I never thought the problem in that movie was her so much as a) the script sucked and b) she was miscast, recruited to play the ultra butch lady soldier Sarah Connor even though she’s the very definition of femininity.

Here, she excels as the stuck up priss, the hot babe Han is happy to be bossed around by, hoping that one day by doing so, he’ll get to complete her Kessel run in 12 parsecs.  Thankfully, she does so well that the Terminator film has been terminated from my memory.

Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton and Jon Favreau’s voice round out the cast as a troop of ne’er-do-wells who give Han his introduction to the criminal underworld of space, with Woody’s Beckett serving as Han’s impromptu father figure.

For awhile, I did wonder if Paul Bettany, known to us as Jarvis and later, the Vision in “The Avengers” was miscast.  Could the proper Brit play a sinister mob boss?  Turns out, he can and he does.

Overall, it’s great, and I do think its success proves one thing – the best films in this franchise are set during the Vader/Palpatine Empire years.  Perhaps one day, some great writing team will come up with a fantastic premise for a future for “Star Wars,” but they haven’t done it yet, and should probably keep the tales set during the Empire’s reign until they do.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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#FridaysWithBQB – Interview #7 – Sean P. Carlin – A Couple of Gen Xers Talk About Movies, Screenwriting and Zombie Prison Breaks

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Author Website

I first virtually met Sean P. Carlin in 2015. Wow, has it been that long? I was surrounded by hideous undead brain biters during the infamous East Randomtown zombie apocalypse which, if you’re one of the 3.5 readers of my blog, then you know that was a thing that actually happened. Check out #31ZombieAuthors on Twitter for more information.  I was interviewing authors of zombie fiction, getting their advice on how to keep my brains safe and low and behold, Sean reached out on Twitter to offer what assistance he could.

By the way, the rest of you people reading this offered me no assistance against the zombie hordes whatsoever, so you’ll all have to live with that guilt and shame for the rest of your lives. Sean, on the other hand, can go on with a clear conscience.

My God, 3.5 readers. Look at that smile Sean is flashing. What reason could anyone possibly have to be that happy? Did he just win the lottery? Did someone give him a cookie? Has he concocted a maniacal, supervillain plot to hold the world for ransom?
Perhaps all those reasons and more are in play, or maybe he’s just pleased that his novel, “Escape From Rikers Island” will be out soon. Maybe he’s happy he’s a screenwriter during a new golden age of television and cinema, where streaming technology is making it possible for more projects to be greenlit than ever.

Maybe it’s just gas? I don’t know. Let’s ask him.

BOLD = BQB; ITALICS=Sean

QUESTION #1 – Sean, I’m utterly miserable 24/7. I’ve tried yoga. I’ve tried meditation. I’ve tried tai chi and chai tea (at the same time.) Nothing ever works. I’m stuck being a mopey prick. So I must ask, why do you look so happy in the picture above? Is it due to any of the reasons I listed above?

And while we’re at it, are we really in a new golden age of TV and movies thanks to streaming or is that just something I made up in a fever dream? I did eat some bad taco salad earlier so hallucinations on my part are entirely possible.

RESPONSE #1: Well, that particular photo was taken in Badlands National Park in South Dakota in 2016, during a three-week road trip my wife and I took through the western United States, so I was in a pretty good mood! (I think I’m also somewhat smiling in goofy disbelief at the sheer force of the wind blowing against my face, as evidenced by the Ace Ventura–style sweep of my hair!)

But, regardless, I consider myself a pretty happy guy! I’ve got a wonderful wife, the best friends a man could ask for, and I get to “traffic in my own daydreams” for a living, to borrow the phraseology of UCLA screenwriting chair Richard Walter. Not too shabby.

When I get gloomy, and God knows we’re living in some strange days, I try to remember something my late father once said: Each of scored an invite to the Big Party — life itself. When you stop to consider the astronomical odds against simply being alive, and the finiteness of that life (however long it may last), it’s hard to justify wasting such a miraculous opportunity on perpetual cynicism and negativity.

On the subject of wasting time (just kidding — sort of): Are we in a Golden Age of Television? In terms of both an abundance of quality material and creative opportunities for writers of all different stripes and backgrounds, yes, I would say so. Television has certainly eclipsed cinema with respect to the narrative and thematic complexity of its storytelling. Movies simply don’t matter the way they once did; they don’t drive the cultural conversation like they did in the twentieth century. Television — if one can even identify the medium by that antiquated designation anymore — has assumed the mantle of cultural conversation-starter.

That said, though, there’s too much of it. There are something like five hundred scripted shows in production at present across the various platforms, and most of them are structured in this ongoing, serialized format, which requires you to watch every episode, in sequential order, for years on end. You know what I’m saying? If you’re going to commit to a show like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, you are required to start from the beginning, follow every episode, and stick with it for however many seasons its open-ended, ever-expanding narrative can continue to run. Sometimes that’s fun, but more often than not, I’m starting to find it exhausting. It’s such a breath of fresh air, in a way, when a show like Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville comes along, a series in which each episode tells a closed-ended, perfectly self-contained story with a resolution and — anyone remember these? — a point. You can watch any episode of The Orville, in any order, and follow the story of that particular installment without confusion. Unlike virtually every other drama on TV right now, it doesn’t demand to be watched week in and week out. Good for MacFarlane for daring to be square. Who would’ve imagined, back when we were growing up, that old-fashioned, standalone storytelling would one day be subversive?

QUESTION #2 – I’ve got to be honest. I interview a lot of authors on this fine blog, but I’ve never read any of their works. I’d like to, but I don’t have the time. (FYI if you’re reading this and you’re an author I interviewed, please know I’m not talking about you. I read all of your stuff and it was great. I’m talking about all those other chumps who aren’t you.)

All that being said, “Escape from Rikers Island” sounds like something I’d actually be interested in plunking my hard earned money down for. In fact, in January, I made 12 cents off of a book I self-published on Amazon, so I’ll probably put that towards a copy of your book.

The description you give on your blog intrigues me. A detective has to work with gangbangers he put behind bars to escape a zombie infestation that has broken out on Rikers Island, the infamous New York prison. I can see it now. Backstabbing, intrigue, revenge, and brain biters. Surely, if one of the zombies doesn’t eat the detective’s brains, one of the criminals with a grudge against him will try to bash them in.

Not gonna lie. I can see this as a movie. I’d go see that and eat lots of popcorn to it. Tell my 3.5 readers more about this. What inspired you to write what will surely turn out to be a masterpiece? More importantly, when this book becomes a bestseller, will you remember the little people, like me and my 3.5 readers, or will you go all Hollywood and forget us all?

RESPONSE #2: Far from my ensuring my seat at the table in the halls of Hollywood power, I’m actually hoping Escape from Rikers Island will signify my long-desired escape from L.A.! The concept was originally devised as a spec screenplay in 2011; we even had Ice Cube attached to star and produce for a Los Angeles minute. But as is so often the case in the movie biz, the project didn’t move forward, and I moved on to other things (that also didn’t move forward!) with other producers.

Eventually I grew frustrated with the inability to get new materials sold and/or produced in Hollywood, and I’d been privately entertaining the notion of writing a novel, anyway. This was in 2014, when the riots in Ferguson were making headlines, and that, along with the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (among, unfortunately, many others), were catalyzing this uncomfortable (but overdue) national conversation about the militarization of the police, and their strained relationship with underprivileged communities. At the same time, the stop-and-frisk program of racial profiling was coming under intense critical scrutiny in my hometown of New York, and I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll revisit Escape from Rikers Island, but this time do it as a novel where I’ll really have the canvas to explore some of those sociopolitical issues with depth and nuance.” Because the real-estate limitations of a screenplay just don’t allow for that kind of philosophical digression or thematic complexity.

So, yes, EFRI is about a white NYPD detective and a black gangbanger — men on different sides of the law who also happen to share a complicated, contentious history with one another — who are forced to set aside their considerable differences and work together to escape New York’s sprawling, 415-acre detention center during a sudden zombie-like outbreak among the 15,000 inmates there! It’s a mashup of two popular subgenres I’ve never really seen combined: the “prison break” and “zombie outbreak” narratives. That was an exciting place to start, because I could immediately see all these very familiar tropes and conventions “remixed” and presented in a new way.

And I could’ve set the story in any old prison — one of my own invention, even — but Rikers Island is such a fascinating, labyrinthine place with a bizarrely sordid history, and what makes it all the more compelling is how little most people really know of it. And I’m talking about New Yorkers, mind you: Most lifelong residents couldn’t even find Rikers on a map! And I thought, “Yep — that’s my setting.” And when you put two men who really don’t like each other in a place that’s dark and dangerous under normal circumstances, and then throw the undead into the mix, all the tensions simmering between them are exacerbated, and you don’t know if these guys are going to survive each other, let alone the zombie outbreak in this inescapable fortress.

So, I took the premise, plot, and set pieces from the screenplay I’d developed a few years earlier, and then I used the breadth the prose format afforded to really dig deep into the psychologies and characterizations of these two native New Yorkers: to learn their backstories, to portray the complexity of their lawman-and-outlaw dynamic, and to use their perspectives as guys who grew up as lower-class kids in the outer boroughs to say something about the world as it is right now. I think good horror has always done that; certainly Night of the Living Dead, the first contemporary zombie tale, operates on two levels beautifully: It’s a chilling monster story with a profound sociocultural conscience.

Question #3 – Is the zombie genre dying? Is it dead…er, or undead? Personally, I love “The Walking Dead” but I do think the “survivors banding together to traverse the zombie infested landscape” bit is jumping the shark. Perhaps that’s why authors are turning to new ways to put humans amidst zombies, i.e. in your case, a prison full of brain chompers. It’s not that people are tired of zombies but just that authors need to find new ways to put brains into peril. Thoughts?

RESPONSE #3: I don’t think any genre is ever dead. Sometimes they become creatively depleted for a time, until someone comes along with a new spin. I remember a few years ago, when Twilight was all the rage, and people were saying, “Vampires are in vogue again!” When weren’t they, exactly? I mean, at what point during the twentieth century alone did vampires fall out of fashion? During the silent-film era, we had Vampyr and Nosferatu. Then Bela Lugosi reinterpreted the archetype in formalwear. Hammer came along and brought vampires out of the shadows of expressionism and into living Technicolor. Then Anne Rice took the genre and reimagined it as a domestic drama — Ordinary People with vampires. The Hunger gave us lesbian vampires, which was kind of a big deal in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The Lost Boys was, incredibly, the first to do teenage vampires, which became its own subgenre with Buffy and Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. Every time the genre starts to slip into self-parody — and we’re certainly there now with the whole emo-vampire thing — somebody comes along again with a fresh take on it, and everything old becomes relevant anew.

Zombies are no different, really. Max Brooks repurposed them for the post-9/11 era, as an allegory for bioterrorism and so forth. What Kirkman did so brilliantly was that he took this zombie-apocalypse narrative we love — notably Dawn of the Dead, but pretty much any of them adhered to the same basic template — and said, “But now what happens?” In the closed-ended structure of the Dead movies, Romero used the metaphor of the zombie apocalypse to comment on some sociological concern, be it civil rights or conspicuous consumption or what have you. With The Walking Dead, it’s the structure itself — the open-ended, nonlinear, What now…? format — that is the social commentary, such as it is, of the show: In a Digital Age that has completely upended our traditional understanding of beginnings, middles, and ends — of linear narrative arcs — The Walking Dead becomes a reflection of a worldview in which there is no resolution, no helicopter that’s going to show up in the final reel to airlift us away from the existential intractability of our problems. And that’s exciting… for a while. But it can become tedious, too. And I think the viewer fatigue with the show you point out indicates a longing for a conclusion — Where’s the damn helicopter already? — or some kind of point to it all, like we get each week from The Orville. But to those waiting for that, I would refer you to Lost: It ain’t gonna happen because the entire point of the show is that it’s simply meant to keep expanding until, like the well walker from season two, it finally collapses under its own bloated weight.

And then perhaps the genre will go into remission for a while, until someone figures out a way to reinvent it. Certainly with Escape from Rikers Island, I made a very conscious choice to subvert popular convention and tell the story of a contained outbreak, not an apocalyptic one. In that sense, structurally, EFRI is much closer to Jurassic Park than it is to The Walking Dead. One way isn’t better than the other; you just have to make a creative decision that best serves the story you’re trying to tell.

Question #4 – On your blog, you discuss how every villain has a backstory. Villains aren’t born. They’re made. They all have some reason why they turned bad. As you point out, Jason Voorhees was left to die by incompetent camp counselors, while the ghosts in “Poltergeist” weren’t happy that suburban homes sprouted up on their burial grounds.

I find myself in agreement. Let’s face it. Darth Vader carries “Star Wars.” In any given story, is the villain more interesting than the hero? Should any aspiring writers who happen to be reading this put extra effort into crafting their baddies?

RESPONSE #4: I think every character in a story should be as interesting as possible! The theme of a good story is reflected in the protagonist’s arc: If you look at Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is a man who rejects faith in favor of science; he lives exclusively in the quirky intellect of his own head (hence his surname). And then the Headless Horseman comes along, whose very existence challenges Crane’s worldview, because this is a supernatural creature, unexplainable by science, without a head! Protagonist and antagonist are perfect physical and spiritual opposites, and through that opposition, the story’s thematics are fully and richly explored. That’s an extreme, almost on-the-nose example, but I think it illustrates why a hero and villain should be designed to work like counterparts in a Swiss watch, each one indispensably integral to the story’s conflict and, ultimately, its meaning.

Some story models, like the superhero genre (of which The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are a part), require a more defined or overt villain than others. (There’s no villain, after all, in When Harry Met Sally…, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or even Star Trek IV.) But a good villain should definitely have a logical point of view and corresponding agenda, and should always be designed with an eye toward how he affects the protagonist externally (the story’s major plot conflict) as well as internally (the hero’s transformational arc). Darth Vader is certainly one of the all-time greats, because in addition to being visually striking and psychologically layered (we learn a bit more about him in each movie), he serves as a stark example for the idealistic, sometimes overeager Luke of what can happen when great power isn’t tempered with moral discipline. Being the Chosen One comes with a terrible burden of responsibility, and true heroism is often far from a Romantic ideal; the Luke of Return of the Jedi understands that in a way he simply didn’t before his harrowing confrontation with Vader at the climax of Empire.

Right now, the high-water mark in cinematic villainy has probably yet to be surpassed by Heath Ledger’s Joker. And it’s an amazing performance, for sure, but absent Ledger’s captivating interpretation, you still have a very dynamic characterization right there on the page: The way he challenges Batman ideologically gives The Dark Knight a depth it wouldn’t otherwise have — that the original Burton movie certainly doesn’t have — if he was merely a physical threat. Batman, like Luke Skywalker, is made wiser for his contest with the nemesis; there’s no story without either one of them, so both are equally important.

Question #5 – Can we talk about “The Last Jedi?” You wrote an extensive post about it, focusing on Gen-Xers’ feelings towards it. I’ll get to Gen X in the next question, but I’d like your overall thoughts on the film. Or rather, I’ll tell you what I thought and then you can tell me if I’m right or wrong.

I thought this movie sucked with the gale force wind of a thousand hoover vacuum cleaners. That’s not a charge I toss out easily, as my 3.5 readers will attest, I’m fairly kind to most movies I review.  I mean, hell, any movie that has been made is better than mine, because I haven’t made one, so who am I to judge?  But I stand by my claim here.  It really sucked.

Ironically, I enjoyed “The Force Awakens.” However, (SPOILER ALERT), the ending of that movie gives us this broad, sweeping scene where Rey meets the long-lost Luke Skywalker. The two lock eyes and you’re like, “Oh my God! Rey has found the master who can teach her the ways of the Force!”

So, I went into “The Last Jedi” expecting a lot of awesome training montages where Luke would become the Mr. Miyagi to Rey’s Daniel-san, but instead, all I got was an old man whining about his misspent life. At no time ever does he offer Rey anything in the way of practical advice and I just felt like if I wanted to see an older person bitch and moan about lost youth, I’d just record myself, but no one wants to listen to that, so I’m not sure why anyone thought people would want to hear such ennui from Luke Skywalker.

In short, I came in the hopes of Luke teaching Rey awesome light saber tricks and instead, I got to watch an old man turn a young girl into his discount psychiatrist, telling her all his problems, that frankly, she probably didn’t want to here.

Am I right? Wrong? What say you?

RESPONSE #5: Boy, it’s so hard to know where to start with The Last Jedi. I thought — and there are many who disagree — it was a very sloppy, indulgent, tonally uneven piece of filmmaking. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blockbuster movie that displayed such open contempt for its own fan base. It’s hard to guess what Rian Johnson was thinking when he made it, and I certainly can’t find logic in the decision to hire a nostalgic director for the first one, then pass the baton to an iconoclastic director for the second one. I think Disney needed from the outset to pick a creative direction, one way or the other but not both, and see that vision through. Trying to have it both ways has been, it would seem, a mistake.

But that actually goes to a much bigger challenge Disney is now facing with this franchise. They paid through the nose for one of the very few branded IPs that everyone adores: Star Wars is the holy grail of four-quadrant appeal. But what I don’t think they took into account was how the very history of the series complicates its relationship with the different generations of fans, right? On the one hand, you’ve got the first-generation audience who grew up with this series in real time, and thusly feels very proprietary about it; they’ve also spent the last thirty-five years both waiting to see Luke Skywalker back in action, and wondering if that would in fact ever even happen. So, for them, The Last Jedi is the culmination of literally a lifetime of hopes and dreams, a reunion with a childhood hero they didn’t know for certain they’d ever see again.

On the other hand, you’ve got the third-generation fans, for whom forty years of history is binge-experienced — compressed and consumed in short order, like a season of television that streams on Netflix — so what a ten-year-old expects from Star Wars isn’t what a forty-year-old does. The “return of Luke Skywalker” doesn’t carry the same emotional weight or sense of expectation for them, therefore they aren’t disappointed with his controversial depiction in The Last Jedi, or Anakin’s in The Phantom Menace, for that matter; to their eyes, it’s all just one more episode in the never-ending continuum of the saga. And they’re not wrong to feel that way — it’s simply the perspective they have on the narrative, having made no temporal investment in it. It’s the difference between showing up for the harvest versus having sown the seeds and tended the crops.

Consequently, Disney finds itself trying to service two incompatible and irreconcilable demographics. And I suspect what you’re going to start to see moving forward is a Star Wars that exclusively caters to younger and newer viewers. Even the nostalgic-to-a-fault J. J. Abrams is limited now in how much fan service he can indulge in Episode IX, what with the onscreen deaths of Luke and Han, and the off-screen death of Carrie Fisher. For better or worse, Star Wars is going to be a new thing now, for a new audience, and my generation is going to have to learn to accept that and, if they don’t like it, move on from it, because, if we don’t, Star Wars will only continue to disappoint us — that much is undeniable now.

We all wanted these new movies to put us back in touch with the child within. I’m honestly not sure that would’ve been possible even if this sequel trilogy hadn’t been so ill-conceived from Day One. Some very questionable choices got made — from signing the original troika to the project and then not giving them any storylines together, to teeing up a big backstory for Rey only to tell us, “No, there isn’t one, actually, and you were idiots for expecting otherwise” — and there’s no reversing that now. But the good news, such as it is, is this: We are finally free to let go of Star Wars. We don’t have to keep retuning to this franchise with Pavlovian fealty, because the thing we wanted so desperately from it is never coming to us. But there can be solace in acceptance, though acceptance by nature is bittersweet, because we only have to learn to accept things we wish weren’t so.

QUESTION #6 – You mention in your post you saw “Return of the Jedi” in the movie theater. I did too. Ergo, I’m going to venture a guess we are roughly within the same age range. (How do you stay well preserved? Are you a vampire or something? I wake up everyday looking like someone clocked my face with a brick, but I digress.)

In your post about fan reactions to “The Last Jedi,” you discuss how Gen-Xers love their 1980s pop culture and how they often are let down by modern day reboots. As you paraphrased Roy Batty, the villain from “Blade Runner,” all those feelings that Gen-Xers had about the pop culture from their youth are gone, “like tears in the rain.”

I agree. Whenever I watch a reboot of a franchise I enjoyed in the 1980s, I try to remember a) it’s about today’s kids. I had my time to be a kid. Now today’s movies must appeal to today’s kids and b) a reboot doesn’t take away the old movie. The new “Ghostbusters” didn’t remove the Bill Murray classic. I can still watch Murray and Akroyd clown around with proton packs on their backs any time.

Ultimately, if a franchise has to be changed in order to make today’s kids happy, I’m for it. Where I get critical is when the source material is tinkered with just for the sake of change, i.e. some Hollywood suit just wanted to do something different just to make it his/her own.

It’s a double-edged sword. In some respects, 1980s source material may not hold up for today’s youth. Then again, there’s a reason why the source material was so popular, so radical deviations from a tried and true formula may leave the filmmaker with egg on his/her face.

OK. I’ll stop rambling on and on and ask what you think about all that.

RESPONSE #6: In order to fully appreciate how we came to be stuck in this Era of the Endless Reboot, you have to look at Gen X’s place in history from a sociological standpoint. (I am an Xer myself.) Barring an actual zombie apocalypse, which I think many of us would welcome at this point, we are the last generation in the history of humanity — really consider this for a moment — that will retain any memory of the bygone analog world in which every moment we experienced as we experienced it wasn’t being recorded and posted online, and one could actually run down to the grocery store and be out of reach for twenty minutes without setting off a family-wide panic. In the span of a single generation, human civilization went from a linear sense of reality (as we’ve understood it for the past several millennia, and as reflected in our closed-looped fictions like Star Wars: A New Hope and Night of the Living Dead and TOS and TNG) to a hyperlinked one (as exemplified by Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and Mr. Robot). Make no mistake: We are deeply traumatized by the passing of the analog world into the new, ever-on, always-interconnected Digital Era. Millennials don’t have this problem, because they were born into a digital world. (They have other issues as a result of that, but that’s a different matter.)

And that’s where all the incessant recapitulation of 1980s ephemera — Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Transformers, Lethal Weapon, Cobra Kai — comes in: It’s a coping mechanism. We’ve escaped into the bedtime stories of a less-complicated era — Star Wars serves as a reminder of the straight-line, analog pleasures of the lost world in which we came of age — and we’ve kind of gotten ourselves addicted to that nostalgia. Which would be bad enough in itself, but as the current custodians of pop culture, we’re force-feeding today’s kids the stories and heroes of a previous century, and I think that’s a pretty irresponsible abdication of our cultural obligation (and I’m calling out filmmakers like J. J. Abrams for it). They deserve their own heroes, their own legends, not our warmed-over second helpings. But, then, we’re not really making Star Wars or Transformers for them; we’re making it for ourselves. Which makes us a generation that’s submitted to willing infantilization, doesn’t it? So when we start finding ourselves prematurely put out to pasture by the Millennials — which is, to be clear, already happening — we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. We’re a generation about looking behind, not ahead. And our pop culture is a pitiable testament to that.

So all the reboots, therefore, act as a sort of Groundhog Day-like time warp in which we get to perennially relive the eighties — that fragile, fleeting, blissful moment right before our collective worldview was irreparably shattered. I mean, that’s the essence of Ready Player One, isn’t it? While the world is going to hell around us, we’ve retreated into this immersive, orgiastic virtual-reality simulation of an eighties pop-cultural time capsule. It’s The Goldbergs meets The Matrix. Ready Player One is just an exaggerated fable of what we’re actually doing, and we should be troubled by what it says about us.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  Yikes, you’ve convinced me.  I think I’m going to go lie down in the grass and let the moss grow over me, but first, let’s carry on with this interview.

QUESTION #7 – I think your use of the “tears in the rain” quote sums up Gen-X’s attempts to relive youth via reboots to no avail succinctly. My parents were baby boomers and all they had to offer me from their time was literally 90,343 cowboy movies. I can’t even imagine what watching TV from 1950-1970 was like. “Do you want to watch a cowboy movie? No thanks, I’m already watching another cowboy movie.”

All the cowboy movies were the same too. Stoic hero wants to save the town. Villain wants to destroy the town. Townsfolk turn on the hero, tell him to let the villain win or else things will get worse for the town. Hero displays great courage and has a shoot out with the villain in the end.

Somewhere around the 1970s, Hollywood retired all the six-shooters. We got “Star Wars.” We got “Aliens.” The 1980s gave us “Terminator,” “Goonies,” and a slew of Schwarzenegger and Stallone action flicks.

Ultimately, movies, at least when it comes to special effects, were just starting to become great when we were kids. I suppose there’s an argument that many old black and white films were good too, but I didn’t really appreciate those until I became an adult.

What I’m saying is children of the 1980s got to see things that were never seen on film before. It all even got better in the 1990s. “Jurassic Park” ushered in a whole new era of CGI.

It was fun, but now that the special effects have been around for so long, we’ll never be able to relive that simpler time when all of the stuff we were seeing on screen seemed like real life magic, will we?

RESPONSE #7: We’ve mythologized the 1980s the way Boomers did the fifties. But even at that, our parents didn’t fetishize their childhood heroes and fantasies the way we do. That’s an idiopathic characteristic of Generation X. I will certainly agree, as someone who experienced it firsthand, that Lucas and Spielberg and their contemporaries, in the ’70s and ’80s, conjured a level of cinematic wonder and wizardry the likes of which had no precedent, and stories like Ready Player One are nothing if not a sincere and loving paean to that. (And now we’ve come full circle, with Spielberg directing the RP1 feature adaptation.) As you observe, those were magical movies. They were more than movies; they were visions. And when you couple that with the fact that they were the first movies we ever saw, it made for some very profound childhood impressions, but perhaps it also got us hooked on that special brand of astonishment to the point where we’ve spent our adult lives chasing that initial high. That’s what I mean when I say we have an addiction to nostalgia. We want those analog pleasures back — we would happily trade every convenience of the Digital Age for them — but they’re tears in rain, like you say. The analog world isn’t coming back. Our innocence isn’t coming back. Ever. It’s all gone. But it doesn’t mean we can’t find new pleasures and meaningful experiences yet, we just need to learn to live in the here and now. We’re still at the Big Party, after all! Let’s make the most of it. Let’s agree, collectively, that the Skywalkers had their day — those stories were indelible and cherished parts of our formative experiences — but this is a new day now. I’m reminded of that old Guns N’ Roses lyric: “Yesterday’s got nothin’ for me/ Old pictures that I’ll always see/ I ain’t got time to reminisce old novelties.”

QUESTION #8 – I thought the 2014 reboot of “Robocop” was actually pretty tight. It captured the spirit of the movie, the ennui of a man who sort of remembers his past but doesn’t really, how he’s this badass machine yet there’s not much of the human part of him left so he doesn’t feel very whole. There were updates for modern times yet I walked away thinking it was a reboot that did the original justice.

Have you seen any reboots out there that Gen X and Millennials can agree on?

RESPONSE #8: The one that springs to mind would be the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, though I confess I haven’t yet seen the third movie. That’s no easy feat they pulled off, operating as a faithful prologue to the Charlton Heston classic — and giving it a contextual backstory that’s enlightening rather than redundant (à la the Star Wars prequels) — but also existing as its own thing that doesn’t require franchise familiarity to enjoy. They also, like the original, have something directly relevant to say about the folkways of the era in which they were produced, which good sci-fi, like good horror, ought to do.

It also took tremendous courage on the part of the storytellers to make Caesar the protagonist, and not sideline him in favor of a human surrogate. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies made that mistake: Rather than letting the robots be the main, front-and-center heroes, as they were in the old cartoon series, they got skittish and told the story through the eyes of a human character — first Shia and later Mark Wahlberg. I bet they worried that audiences wouldn’t relate to a nonhuman protagonist (which is pretty ironic considering how emotionally vacuous Bay’s movies have always been). Planet of the Apes proved that audiences can empathize with an anthropomorphic hero even in a live-action movie. I mean, yes, they had the benefit of photorealistic CGI and Andy Serkis’ motion-capture mastery, but it was the artful characterization of Caesar that made us empathize with him. Those movies are very emotional, in complete contrast with Transformers.

QUESTION #9 – Suppose my 3.5 readers are aspiring screenwriters. What’s the first thing they should do to get started?

RESPONSE #9: I hold bachelor’s degrees in both cinema and English, and it was only when I became a working screenwriter that I realized how little I knew about storytelling craft. Why doesn’t college — or even high school — offer a basic Storytelling 101 course? Instead, they talk a lot of theory. And theory is interesting, and not without value, but someone who wants to learn the nuts and bolts of storytelling — for any medium — needs to learn, practice, and master three fundamentals: structure, genre, and characterization. And to do that, you need to study a codified methodology — a program of unified principles that can show you how you build a story from the ground up and create an emotionally engaging narrative experience. You can write a great script intuitively once, perhaps, but in order to know how to do it on command, you have to develop your toolbox. So, for that, I would recommend studying Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey for mythic structure, Blake Snyder’s three Save the Cat! books for an overview of the ten types of genres (or story models), and David Freeman’s Beyond Structure workshop to learn the techniques of effective characterization. That’s all you need to know to master the discipline, and it’ll only cost you about $300 total, versus what you’d spend on a degree to learn nothing especially useful. But you’ll need to reread and practice those materials often, for several years, before they become second nature.

Those three pillars of storytelling are what aspirants need to be worried about learning. Then, if you want to be a screenwriter, you can read Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, which will teach you the formatting requirements of that particular medium; if you want to be an author, which has its own syntactic demands, read David Morrell’s The Successful Novelist; Dennis O’Neil’s The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics can give you an overview of that specific form. But that all comes later; first and foremost you have to commit to learning the fundamentals of narratology.

The last point I would add is that, as my mentor David Freeman is so fond of saying, there are no rules, only tools. Aspiring screenwriters often cling to absolutes, and they look to industry-standard instructionals like Save the Cat! to provide those: If I do X and Y, I’ll get Z. If my inciting incident hits on page 12, and my first act break on 25, I’ll have a story that works. If only. Storytelling is about applied craft, for sure, but there’s no magic formula. A hammer is only as effective as the carpenter is skilled at using it.

QUESTION #10 – My condolences. You’ve been convicted of cutting that little tag off your mattress in the first degree and have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Sorry, but mattress tag laws are very strict.

You’re just beginning to adjust to prisoner life when a zombie outbreak, similar to the one in your novel, occurs. You look inside a random cell, hoping to find items you can use to save your brains from the undead.

Alas, the only three items you find are a) a ukulele b) an origami unicorn and c) a 50-foot long licorice whip.

How will you use these items to defend yourself against the incoming zombie horde?

RESPONSE #10: Do you have any idea just how resourceful and inventive prison inmates are? There’s no telling what they could devise from those three items! I’m not nearly as imaginative as someone who’s been confined indefinitely to a six-by-eight concrete box, but I’d wager they could use the origami unicorn as a “kite” — a coded message passed under cell doors — to coordinate an escape. The ukulele? Hell, that’s an armory unto itself: the neck and headstock could be fashioned into a stake; the strings used as garrotes; the body could be splintered into shivs. As for a fifty-foot licorice whip… well, how else you gonna climb down the outer wall? But you’re gonna want to use a tough, rubbery brand, and not the soft, chewy kind. Stale Twizzlers, maybe; steer clear of Red Vines. You’d think the chances of encountering any one of those articles in jail is pretty slim, but you’d be surprised the kind of contraband that turns up. Licorice is the least of it.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: My BQB HQ supercomputer indicates this response has roughly a 93.49% chance of successfully warding off a zombie attack, so good show.  Thank you for stopping by, Sean, and let my 3.5 readers know when we can get our hands on a copy of “Escape from Rikers Island.”

 

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Top Ten Things Wrong With Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Ahh, nerds.  We do love to bitch and moan about our nerd movies.

Oh well.  Let me add to the bitch fest.

From BQB HQ in fabulous East Randomtown, here are the Top Ten Things Wrong With Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

SPOILERS ABOUND!!!

#10 – A Lost Opportunity for Rey and Ren

There’s a scene where Kylo Ren turns on Snoke, then offers Rey an opportunity to join with him.  Screw the First Order.  Screw the Resistance.  Perhaps they are just two opposing forces who live to destroy.  Together, they could unite and bring peace to the galaxy.

Rey refuses but maybe that would have been more interesting if she had accepted?  The franchise does eventually need to go off in a new direction.  This could have been it.  Perhaps some gray area of who the bad guy is would be a cool development.  Would Finn have to fight his friend?

#9 – Luke Was a Whiny Bitch

He always was, but there was too much whining and not enough training.  Rey and Luke never bond or form a master/trainee relationship.

#8 – Who the Hell is Snoke?

Snoke is basically a poor man’s Emperor.  Sounds like him.  Acts like him.  Who is he?  What’s his background?  Where did he come from?  We never learn much about him.  For an all-powerful being, he is dispatched a little too easily.

#7 – The Force Belongs to All of Us

An appeal to modern sensibilities but it forgets rules.  I mean, the mitochlorian thing was always stupid, but once a rule is made, i.e. Jedis have special blood, then the rule is made.  Or forgetting mitochlorians, because it always was stupid, there was always at least the idea that only special people can control the Force.  Now Luke accuses the Jedi of hoarding Force power that should have been used by all?  Sigh.

#6 – Stick with the Rules

Speaking of rule breaking – the Force requires training.  Some discover they can use it, but to use it to a large degree has always required training.  Did Leia train to pull herself out of space?  Cool scene, but without an explanation of her training, it’s breaking a rule.

#5 – Casino Planet

Seemed like a weak attempt to blend Star Wars and James Bond.

#4 – Why Project?

Why did they have Luke project his form if he was just going to die anyway?  Lame.

#3 – I Hope Rey Isn’t the Last Jedi

In the years to come, the franchise can go in all sorts of directions.  Perhaps there will be stories that branch off from the original trilogy, the original characters, etc.  New heroes rise, new villains and new threats emerge.  At any rate, you’ll always need Jedis.  Sorry, but to the average Joe, “Jedi” is a word that means “person who uses the Force.”  Gotta have Jedis.  No one wants to see uh, I don’t know, the uh “Kadoobie Doobie Warriors” or what have you.

#2 – Rey Has No Training

Remember how Luke had to train with Obi Wan?  How Anakin had to train with Obi Wan?

Remember when Rey got training and…oh wait, no she just picked up a lightsaber one day and was a master at it.  Huh.  Odd.  Sounds like a rule break.

#1 – Master/Apprentice

Speaking of, the Master and Apprentice roles have served Star Wars well.  Kylo’s master is Snoke.  Rey has no Master but could use one.

YOUR THOUGHTS

Did you see something wrong with Star Wars?  Discuss in the comments.

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Real Movie Review – Star Wars: Episode 8: The Last Jedi

To quote Jon Lovitz’ “The Critic” – “it stinks.”

BQB here with a real review of the new Star Wars flick.  Be forewarned of SPOILERS.

At the outset, I must say that I don’t think the magic of the original films, now dubbed “Episodes 4-6,” will ever recreated.  You see, from the early days of cinema in the 1930s up until like, 1970, films were basically recorded plays.  Then the young baby boomers took over and directors like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg upped the special effects game.

“Star Wars” was unlike anything ever seen before on film but since then, we have been spoiled and the biggest, most intense scenes fail to wow us.

If, “The Force Awakens” was a modern rehash of “A New Hope,” then “The Last Jedi” is a lesser version of the film many say is the best of the “Star Wars” series, “The Empire Strikes Back.”

However, while “Empire” say Luke grow and train under the wise tutelage of Yoda, “Last Jedi” gives us a rather lackluster dynamic between Luke and Rey.

The ending scene of the last film, where Rey meets Luke in a sweeping view on a remote island, gave us hope of some really intense training and wisdom passing-on, such that would turn Rey from a naive young girl to a badass, as Yoda did to Luke years before.

Alas, instead we get a very whiny old Luke, lamenting how his life has been wasted, that the Jedi Council was a lame hoarding of Force power and really the force should belong to us all and if that’s the case then they’re rewriting history because the whole premise of the series has been that only special people can control the Force and just as in life, some people when given power will use it for good and others will be corrupted by it and turn evil.

For me, it was just too much whining.  I’d hoped that we’d see Luke in some late life Obi-Wan Kenobi badassery.  Sir Alec Guinness never whined so much but Old Luke is whinier than Young Luke who just wanted to go to Tashi to pick up some power converters.

We were promised epic training and instead Luke just whines to Rey…and whines…and whines. I mean, give this script to your most basic writer and he/she would have put in some Mr. Miyagi style training montages but there was none of that.  Luke just bitches and moans about how he wasted his life being a Jedi and then eventually Rey like, just leaves.

Seriously, maybe I fell asleep but one minute Rey was on the island listening to Luke’s sobfest and then the next she’s on a ship entering the space battle.  It’s like, she just got tired of the bullshit and was like, “I guess no one’s teaching me any badass light saber moves here even though the audience would have enjoyed seeing that so I’ll just leave this depressed old fucker and go into a space battle now.”

Overall, I feel like Hamill could have been put to better use.

SPOILER – the ending, Luke does get some awesomeness in, I’ll admit that.  But I didn’t quite get the point of it.  Ren has his army blast the ever loving shit out of Luke and Luke just dusts himself off.  It’s cool and funny and then we learn that Luke’s only there in a ghostly form.  At first, I thought Luke had died in the blast and become a ghost like so many Jedi before him, but then we learn that Luke was projecting a spirit form of himself from his home on the island the entire time…which doesn’t really make sense.  And then he dies anyway so…I thought the point of him projecting himself was to keep him alive for future movies so if he’s going to die while projecting himself then why not have him die in battle?

Then again, maybe he didn’t die.  Maybe he disappeared.  Preserve a possibility he might return?  Who knows?

I have to say I think there’s a lot of back story the writers have us assume.  I think a three movie arc where the Galaxy is at piece and then Ben Solo, Luke’s nephew, trains under Luke and turns to the dark side and fucks up the galaxy by the end of the third movie would have been more interesting than just jumping into where we are now.  We are told through flashbacks that Luke became forlorn after his nephew turned evil but that story would have been better in a film than what we are seeing now.

Meanwhile, the subplot with Finn and Rose going on an adventure to a casino planet to find a hacker was silly, an attempt to give sort of a space Bond vibe, except Finn and Rose just show up in their regular clothes and look rather silly.  We learn late in the film Rose has a crush on Finn, but perhaps the two gussying up in fancy duds to infiltrate the party and Finn getting confused, maybe realizing he has options, maybe he could be with Rey, maybe he could be with Rose or what have you, might have been interesting.  Maybe not.  It all seemed out of place.

Like many of the characters, Benicio Del Toro’s DJ (the hacker) is sort of cookie cutter stock.  He’s got an odd lisp but we don’t know why he’s so weird and eccentric.  Admittedly, he has the most interesting lines of the film, pointing out that evil arms dealers make their money by selling not only to the First Order but also to the Resistance.  Whereas past films showed the Empire as bad and the Rebels as unwaveringly good, this part leads us to wonder whether or not both sides are not just two faces of the same coin, that because neither will back down, the death and carnage continues and the galaxy remains in ruins while arms dealers profit.

Further, we were promised a big reveal about Rey’s parentage and what we got was a let down.  There were some clues that led us to believe that Rey was Luke’s daughter, i.e. why else would Luke’s lightsaber call to her, and if Ren’s claim that Rey’s parents were just trash who sold her for beer money is true, then there’s a lot of clues just left on the table, a lot of build up just to let us down.  I’m hoping in the third film we’ll find out Ren lied.

I don’t know if the initial “Star Wars” genie can ever be let out of the bottle again.  Although, last year’s “Rogue One” was impressive to me, so perhaps it is possible.

I think the long term problem for the franchise is the creation of a post-Vader, post-original character world.  Vader is the baddest-ass villain ever created.  Admit it.  When you first saw him force choke a subordinate, you immediately thought about the worst, nastiest boss you ever had and it scared you.

Eventually, the franchise will have to enter a post original movie world – one without the original characters, without Vader, without the Skywalkers, without the Empire….will they be able to create villains and heroes who are just as riveting?

Time will tell…but they had one shot to provide us with some Luke on screen awesomeness and they blew it.  Rey and Luke never bond, never develop any kind of friendship or master/trainee relationship…he’s basically a guy she meets who whines to her.  You’re not really left with the impression that Rey got anything out of her meeting with Luke, that she’s better for it, that she has any connection to him, that she’ll ever think about him again and and honestly, that’s a failure.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy but I mean, I’m not really in a rush to see it again.

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Movie Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Wow, 3.5 readers.  Just plain, wow!

BQB here with a review of “The Last Jedi.”

So, as you recall, our last film ended with Rey meeting Luke in a sweeping scene on a remote island.  I have to be honest, I liked the last film initially but after awhile, it did seem lame, a pile of fluff, a rehash of the old film.

They really outdid themselves this time, from the immediate space battle that ensues as Luke and Rey escape to the remote planet of Baatha Fisk, to the riveting fight scene in which Poe Dameron’s fate is left unclear.  That cliffhanger is left unaddressed and it seemed odd to have such a big question so early in the film go unanswered but I suppose there were clues throughout the film.  The helmet that was found on Cheeops is perhaps a sign that Poe might live to fight another day.

Snope’s origins are revealed and it does make sense that he was trained by Yoda.  The ghost scenes featuring Yoda, Old Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi seemed cheesy at first, a patronizing throwback to something that seemed lame in the original films, but then after awhile I thought about it and I’ll give some slack to the writers there.  But for ghostly involvement, I’m not sure how certain plot points could have been given.

I don’t really want to give it away but I have to admit, I found it lame that the lightsaber “called” to Rey in the last film.  I mean, it’s an inanimate object but the explanation makes sense.  I’m not sure Rey’s added power will hold up in future films but within this film it worked.

I don’t really buy that Finn could have bested Kylo Ren in a fight but then again I talked to other fans and they indicate that the love Finn feels for Rey is what drives him, giving him extra adrenaline and that’s what allowed him to defeat Ren, just has he managed to escape Captain Phasma earlier.

Chewie remains the heart of the story and the beloved wookie finally gets some character development.  Who knew the wookie was gay all along, despised by his own family and thrown off his home planet just for being who he is?  Admittedly, it does seem like social justice pandering and I think the point could have been made without the five minute male wookie on male wookie sex scene.  Yikes!  So much violence.

Further, I think the movie’s downfall is that it tries too hard to go with the “ripped from the headlines” trope.  Personally, I think it is bad writing to take current events and news items and work them into science fiction, especially when sci-fi allows for so much imagination to be explored.  For example, Wax Fassa, the businessman that double crosses Luke and Rey, offering them free passage to Sverador is an obvious Trump clone.  Although it was humorous to see an alien with fake hair and it gave the audience a good laugh, it cheapened the whole series.  Come on Disney.  There are plenty of opportunities to make fun of the President, it doesn’t need to be done during our much loved franchise.

Finally, it seemed lame that Luke was thrown off the last remaining vestige of the Jedi Council.  Sure, he made a pass on Mara Jade but it seemed unclear whether or not they were in love or just mere colleagues on a mission.  Did Luke go too far in his affections?  Was he misunderstood?  Was he falsely accused or did our hero fall and make an unwanted sexual advance toward a fellow Jedi?  Look, I get it, just because Luke is our favorite Jedi doesn’t mean he gets free reign to abuse women so if he did it then he has no place on the council but I just think the council didn’t give Luke due process or a right to have a say.

I mean, Jek Fanna had a point.  “Keep your robot hand off the ladies’ asses, buddy.”  That’s wise advice that hopefully Luke will remember in the future.  Will he redeem himself?  I suppose we’ll find out in the next film.

Or maybe we won’t because literally everyone died at the end of this one, murdered by Jar Jar Binks, who was narrating the story based on items pinned to a bulletin board in an intergalactic police station the entire time.  #mindblown.

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The Empire Strikes Back – Tonight on TNT

Hey 3.5 readers.

It’s Star Wars day on TNT.  They’ve been playing the prequels today and they’ve been advertising that Empire Strikes Back will be on tonight.

So, if you haven’t seen any of the Star Wars films in awhile, now’s your chance.

 

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May the Fourth Be With You, 3.5 Readers

May the Fourth be with you, indeed.

I need to make this post longer.  What is your favorite Star Wars film?

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