Tag Archives: Clone Wars

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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Rant Alert- Star Wars: The Clone Wars

I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was Return of the Jedi. I had to watch them any time one came on TV, no matter what else I was doing. When they were released on VHS I watched a Star Wars movie just about every day. It was always on in the background. I had all the action figures, even Boba Fett and the Emperor, which I had to beg my parents to send away for in the mail.  (Yes, I took them out of the box. They are well-used and I regret nothing!) When Tim Zahn started releasing his Thrawn Trilogy I begged my parents to buy me the hardbacks. I was in Jr. High and I devoured each of them in just a few nights. They blew my mind. New Star Wars! From there I collected all the Bantam books. I had to have them the day they were released, even the ones that ended up being pretty crappy. I didn’t care, they were Star Wars. Then they announced they were working on the new movies. The Prequels. Darth Vader before he was Darth Vader! We’ll get to see the final fight between him and Obi-Wan! The Clone Wars! SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!! I followed fan sites religiously for tidbits of new information, spoilers, speculation. It was ridiculous.

And like everyone else in the summer of 1999, I was really disappointed in what we got.

That didn’t stop me from seeing it 6 times in the theaters, but still, The Phantom Menace was horrible (with the exception of any scenes of Jedi using their lightsabers and that final, epic duel with Maul). Episode II was better, but still not up to par with any of the originals. Episode III was the closest to making the mark, but it, too, still fell short thanks to clunky dialogue, cheesy/wooden acting, and a focus on stuff that no one but Lucas cared about. (Read the novelization by Matt Stover, though. It was one of the best Star Wars books written and it shows what that movie COULD have been.) The prequels had come and gone, and we were left disillusioned and wanting. The novels, too, had hit a funk, where they tried to do too-long connected storylines using multiple authors. The only saving grace for a fan like me was the comics being released by Dark Horse, which were still high quality and made even the prequel era fun.

The the first, short cartoon series based on the Clone Wars hit, and it was amazing. It was done by the same guy that did Samurai Jack, and while I never really loved the art design, the story itself was really cool. Then they announced the Clone Wars would be a full TV series done using CGI. They released the pilot as a movie and while it had it’s issues I thought it was pretty fun, but the kiddie humor and Anakin’s padawan (He has a what?!) was annoying. Still, for the first time since 1999 I had hope that we would have new Star Wars stuff, other than the comics and select books, that would be fun.

I’m happy to say my hope was well-founded. Dave Filoni and his crew, in the last 5 years, have delivered Star Wars worthy of the name, and it’s only improved with each season. The art direction continues to get better. The storylines went from being laced with kiddie humor to growing more mature, and sometimes dark, just as Bruce Timm did with the Justice League Unlimited series. Here is Star Wars for both kids and adults that satisfies both demographics without sacrificing quality. There are occasional misses during the course of each season, but overall the series is Star Wars that fans have been waiting for. Anakin’s padawan, Asoka, went from being annoying and snarky to a strong female character that female fans could relate to and root for. Anakin’s destiny is often hinted at, and as the series moves forward those foundations for the darkness that eventually overtakes him are laid. (Such as force choking and torturing a prisoner for information to save Asoka).

Originally the Clone Wars was planned for 5 seasons, but it’s become apparent that they intend to run longer than that. I’m hoping that they may actually go through the events of Episode III (and tell it better), but I doubt it. I do hope, however, that once Clone Wars is over they might move on to a new series set either during the rebellion or showcasing events after RoTJ. I know there is a live action series planned that takes place between Ep.III and IV, but who knows when (if ever) that’ll actually get off the ground. Either way, I love having new Star Wars to look forward to and enjoy. If you’ve put off checking out the series either due to the prequels leaving a bad taste in your mouth or because you wrote it off as a “kids show” do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll be glad you did.

The Clone Wars airs on the Cartoon Network on Saturday’s at 9:30 A.M. central time and is available in full on iTunes.

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

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