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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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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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