Rant Alert: The State of Star Wars

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I think I have already established my Star Wars geek cred previously, but given all the news lately and my reinvigorated hunger for the franchise thanks to various things I’ll be discussing presently, I thought it’d be a good time to examine the state of the franchise, what we have to look forward to, and address all the negativity that seems to be the default setting whenever anything Star Wars is mentioned. In fact, let’s just start with the negativity thing, because I’m kind of sick of hearing about it. I understand that the prequels were, lets be honest, pretty craptacular. I just tried to re-watch them on BluRay the other day and it really is hard to sit through. However, as I’m about to show, that doesn’t automatically make all things Star Wars horrible. Additionally I would like to point out that regardless of how disappointing the prequels were, they did accomplish two good things:

1. We got a lot more awesome Star Wars music from John Williams

2. The prequels opened up the universe a bit more for other areas of the EU to explore, areas that were previously off limits to the novels, comics, games, etc. Many of those things, set during the time of the prequels, have actually been quality entertainment, but I’ll get into that in more detail presently.

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First, lets look at the most obvious “big thing”. I won’t discuss the sale to Disney because I’ve already talked about that at length. I do want to talk about Ep. VII. While I remain cautiously optomistic, the fact that the people behind the story have massive credit, geek and otherwise, is a very positive sign. We have Michael Arndt writing the script. For those who don’t know, this is the same guy that wrote Toy Story 3 and Little Miss Sunshine– both quality stories. On board consulting is Lawrence Kasdan, the screenwriter for Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Raiders of the Lost Ark (the first Indiana Jones), and Simon Kinberg, who wrote the RDJ version of Sherlock Holmes and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Now, the addition of Kinberg could make some people balk, depending on how much you liked SH or M&MS (I thought they were fun), but the fact that Lawrence Kasdan is on board has me really excited. ESB is my favorite movie of all time, and what he wanted to do with ROTJ was right on the money until Lucas made changes (in his defense the Ewoks were originally Wookies).

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Okay, so J.J. Abrams is officially directing the next movie. “Lens flare! Durp de derp!” Can we please put a moratorium on the lens flare jokes? They weren’t exactly witty the first time, and now they’re just annoying as hell. Personally I’ve enjoyed all the films Abrams has directed. I loved NuTrek and thought it was an extremely smart way to reboot without throwing out everything that has come before. A lot of die hard fans didn’t like it because it wasn’t “their Star Trek” and that’s fine, but it was still a really fun, entertaining movie, (but yes, there were plot holes and too much lens flare) and I think it went a long way in proving that Abrams has what it takes to do a decent Star Wars film. Also, just to point out for all the “Lost sucked!” critics: Abrams didn’t screw up Lost. He was involved with the pilot episode, and that was pretty much it (it was also the best episode of the entire show). He’s mostly a producer and idea man, TV-wise, and once the productions are up and running he leaves the rest to the show runners. What they do after the fact is on them, not him.

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I already did a rant on Clone Wars, but after the latest episode I just wanted to reiterate just how freaking good this show is. Seriously, the “Maul Arc” was hand-down the best storyline they’ve done, and the final episode of that arc that aired on Saturday is the best episode of the show. Period. It was a prime example of just how good Star Wars can be- my jaw dropped twice in shock and I’m still geeking out about it. Even if you aren’t a fan of the show or have never seen an episode, go watch that episode. Go ahead. I’ll wait… The only bad thing about the Clone Wars, and this has been a constant since Season 1, there is always 1 story arc that is either really kid oriented, boring, or both. This season it was the droid squad arc (though seeing the commando was cool). However, it’s usually just after those “dud arcs” that things get really good, so it’s worth it to throw the kiddies a bone to get stories like the one I just mentioned. If you haven’t given the show a shot and are a Star Wars fan, do yourself a favor and check it out. The series has only gotten better as its gotten older, the stories can be quite mature, but it’s still something you can watch with your kids. Basically it’s like the original trilogy movies- fun for everyone.

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I know it’s become the bandwagon thing to hate on Bioware, but they are still my favorite game company and they still make excellent games. The Old Republic is one of them. SWTOR was a massive undertaking. It’s the first MMO Bioware tried to do, and they wanted to do it differently then everyone else. They wanted to make an MMO that was more about story, and they did. They made a Bioware game that you can play with other people if you want. That’s exactly what I was looking for. I never got into PvP in games. I don’t care about “end game content”. I care about a good story and a game that makes me feel like I’m living in that galaxy far, far away with my friends. I wanted a game I could play predominantly solo, and play with friends when I felt like it. That is exactly the game I got. It’s basically Knights of the Old Republic 3-8. It’s got fully-voiced NPCs and cut-scenes. Each class has it’s own storyline, and while some are better than others, it’s still very much a Bioware game and massively better than any other MMO I’ve played in that regard.

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Sure, there are bugs, and stuff that needs to be worked out from time to time (ALL MMOs, including the vaunted WOW, are the same way). They probably launched a few months before they should have, but right now the game is a ton of fun. I played since beta and took a couple of months off, but since I’ve been back it’s been the only game I’ve played for the last two months. SWTOR is free to play now, and you can play the entire storyline with a character, level 1-50, without ever needing to spend a dime. Sure, you won’t have all the features subscribers have and it may take you a little longer, but you won’t be gimped to the point where you have to spend money in order to play. Still, the subscription is more than worth it IMO. Either way, give it a try if you haven’t. You aren’t out anything doing so.

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When I saw the gameplay and trailer for this during E3 I was blown away. It looks absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. The gameplay looks exactly like the cut-scenes, and that amazes me. Lucasarts is working with ILM and it’s the first time the two have worked hand-in-hand on a project like this:

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It takes place on Coruscant and surrounds the criminal underworld. No lightsabers or force powers, just a blaster and your skill. It sounds like a ton of fun and a nice change of pace. They’ve assured worried fans that the Disney buy-out hasn’t affected production at all. In fact, they say Disney has been incredibly supportive of the project. I can’t wait to see more.

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I own just about every Star Wars novel there is. I used to be a huge fan of the books and release day was like a holiday for me. The books have been incredibly hit or miss in the last ten years or so, unfortunately, but there are still gems that hit every now and then, like the book above. I’m really hoping with the new movies we might get an in-flux of new talent and fresh stories, because I really miss sitting down with a good Star Wars novel and jut getting lost in that universe for a while. Plus, as a writer it’s still a dream of mine to be able to write in that universe one day.

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The one aspect that does bother me about the Disney buy-out is that it means that Marvel is going to get the franchise for the comics. Dark Horse has done an amazing job with the franchise and has constantly released quality books. Marvel’s track record…well….isn’t as good. I still have hope that maybe Marvel might surprise me, but I’m not convinced they can deliver the quality that Dark Horse has.

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Overall, despite the setbacks of the prequels, Star Wars is still a viable franchise that is alive and well and is hopefully heading into a new age of revitalization and quality. As fans we have a lot to look forward to. Here’s hoping that our optimism will be rewarded.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective,  the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, and the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1- all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here.

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