Tag Archives: Disney

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- The Haters Can Suck It

 

Okay, so I’ve talked quite a bit about Star Wars the past few days, but I have just one more rant on the subject before I give it a rest. I’m not a huge fan of the prequels. I don’t think too many people over the age of 25 are. That said, I’ve never ranted about how Lucas is only out for the money every time he does something Star Wars related. You hear it EVERY. TIME. “Another edition! Lucas is just fleecing the fans! He doesn’t care!” Few things here about why that statement is utterly stupid:

1. It’s a business, so yes they’re trying to make money. That’s kind of the point of the whole free enterprise/capitalist thing we’ve got going here in America. So complaining about a business man trying to make money with his products is like complaining about a plumber charging you for fixing your toilet. I’m not talking about complaining about the price here, to be clear, I’m talking about complaining about being charged at all. Star Wars is a brand, a very beloved brand, but a brand. I don’t hear those same people bitching about another Avengers movie, so why freak out over a new Star Wars movie? For those who do so out of fear it’ll suck, that’s understandable. For those who complain it’s because they want to make money, that’s idiotic.

2. He doesn’t keep tinkering with the movies because he’s trying to charge people again, he does it because he honestly believes it makes the movies better and he can’t stop messing with his creation. Any creator understands this to a degree, because we all do it. There comes a point where you have to just step away and leave it alone. I think Lucas has finally gotten to that point, hence the sale and semi-retirement. That doesn’t make the changes good changes, but to him he thinks they are. Again, another reason why this sale is a good thing for fans.

3. He doesn’t really need more money, and I’ll prove that statement presently. If you think a couple extra million here or there is really the driving force behind Lucas’s decisions then you’re a moron. The man is one of the richest people in the world. Last time I checked, and I admit it has been a while, he was in the top 100 list, perhaps the top 50. He has billions of dollars. He and his kids are pretty much set for their lifetimes, and perhaps for his grandkid’s lifetimes too if they’re smart about how they handle the money and the economy doesn’t completely tank for good.

Now, to the “Lucas sold out! He’s selling our childhood and his creation for money!” crowd. Shut up. I’ll tell you why-  it was announced yesterday that Lucas, when the Disney deal is finalized, will be donating the money to charity. Specifically to help fund education. Four. Billion. Dollars. He’s not keeping a cent of it. The remainder that won’t be going towards charity is the stock in Disney. The rest is being used for philanthropy. I know, that selfish jerk. You can read the full article and the details here. I know there are still going to be a few jackasses that’ll manage to still say something snarky about this, but those people are morons and aren’t worth listening to. Just because you can share your opinion on the internet doesn’t always mean you should.  Yes, I am aware of the irony of that statement given that it’s exactly what I’m doing here, but it’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

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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Rant Alert- Star Wars, Disney & Haters

I think I established my Star Wars pedigree when I did my rant about Clone Wars. Needless to say, I’m a big fan. Star Wars means a lot to me, outside of the traditional geek reasoning. As a kid growing up Star Wars was my “happy place”. I’m a “thick” guy and grew up that way. I was picked on a lot. I had a lot of other issues going on as well, such as struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts (I tried to hang myself when I was 11). Star Wars was always the thing I could get lost in, be it the movies, books, or comics. I could escape my reality for a bit in that galaxy far, far away and when I was done things didn’t seem so bad. For a kid like me that was a very important thing. So when I say Star Wars is important to me now you have some idea of just how much and why.

I got the news about yesterday’s big announcement in the form of a text message from my girlfriend. Like most other people I was completely shocked and then I checked to make sure it didn’t inexplicably become April 1st somehow. Disney bought out Lucas? New Star Wars movies? What the what?!

I read all the articles, watched the videos of Lucas and company discussing the deal and the future of Star Wars, and then I headed straight for Facebook & Twitter- like you do. Most of my close friends and fellow nerds had the same general reaction I had- cautious optimism. Lucas has had a profound impact on movies- no one denies that. He is a genius in his own way, and as a fan I owe him a great deal of gratitude. That said, Star Wars has always been best when Lucas was a “creative consultant” and other talented people were left to do the heavy lifting. The original trilogy worked so well because Lucas had no choice but to make it a collaborative effort. Empire Strikes Back is a perfect example as Lucas came up with the story and produced but left the rest to other people. It’s the reason it is the best film of the entire series. As another example The Clone Wars, as i stated previously, has grown to be a genuinely good show. Sure it has a few episodes each season that fall flat, but overall it’s quite good. The reason for that is Lucas has a lot of talented, creative people working on the show, and he’s only there to give his two cents. The prequels, in contrast, were the way they were because Lucas had complete creative control and there was no one to tell him otherwise when he did horrible things like Jar Jar Binks.

With Kathleen Kennedy (who has a great professional pedigree) in charge while Lucas is only a “creative consultant” and is otherwise retired, we have a real shot at getting the kinds of movies we all hoped the prequels would be. That’s not even mentioning the TV shows and other additional movies that will result (Pixar Star Wars anyone?).  As I scrolled through Facebook and Twitter I found exactly what I was expecting- a ton of people generally being hipster naysayers. You have the “rape/take a dump on my childhood” set; the “Lucas sold out!” set, which genuinely amuses me to no end; the douchebags who are going to crap on everything regardless because they think it’s “cool”; and then the largest group, who are genuinely concerned and/or just outright negative because the prequels completely turned them off towards Star Wars. This last group I can completely understand. Whoever ends up helming Ep. 7 is going to have a HUGE job ahead of them, because the movie is going to have to be damn near perfect to win back a lot of the goodwill that was squandered with the last three movies. I still have hope. Call me cautiously optimistic. Here’s why:

Let’s look at Disney’s track record and ignore the ridiculous “The mouse owns everything and they’re going to turn Star Wars into the mouseketeers in space!” people. Disney currently owns Pixar, Miramax, & Marvel. All three have not only NOT been turned into something they were not previously, but they have arguably improved greatly since the Mouse took them over. Let’s look at Marvel specifically because it’s the closest example to the current situation with Lucasfilm. There were cries of “DOOOOOOM!” when the deal happened a few years back, with people saying the same kinds of things as they’re saying now about Star Wars. What really happened? None of it. The comics side of things pretty much kept doing what they always have done (for better or for worse). Marvel Studios was now able to make the kinds of movies that fans and general audiences who know nothing of comics want to see. The results have been a shared Marvel movie universe with awesome quality ultimately resulting in a movie that a lot of people never thought they’d be able to pull off well- The Avengers. You remember The Avengers don’t you? The third highest grossing film ever? The movie that was pretty much an overwhelming hit with both critics and audiences around the world? Yeah, that movie. Under the Mouse.

What I’m saying is let’s give them a chance to show us what they have in mind. Lets stop peeing in the Cheerios of fans who are actually excited and hopeful that their favorite universe might get the treatment we’ve been wanting for decades. That’s not to say I don’t have my own reservations- most notably what might happen with the comics once the contract with Dark Horse runs out. However, even in those areas I’m willing to wait and see rather than freak out. For the first time in over a decade I’m excited about Star Wars. I feel like that teenager again who would hunt the internet for rumors, any rumors, about the new movie. That guy who talked for hours with friends both online and off about the possibilities. I missed that guy, and I’m hoping he’ll stick around for a while.

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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Holy Crap! Disney Buys Lucasfilm!

In a move no one saw coming, Disney signed a deal to buy Lucasfilm today for 4 billion dollars, which includes all of Lucasfilm’s trademarks such as the Star Wars franchise and Indiana Jones, as well as Skywalker Sound and ILM. They then announced that Lucas has been working with Disney execs in planning out more Star Wars movies, something Lucas previously said would never happen, with the first, Episode 7,  being set to release in 2015 kicking off a new trilogy. I’m absolutely floored right now. I actually checked to make sure this wasn’t a prank, then I checked the calendar to make sure it wasn’t April 1st, but it’s real. You can check out the details along with a video here.

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