The Rise of Sky-high Expecations

January 5, 2020

After seeing The Rise of Skywalker, I tweeted: “Actually saw TROS. First Star Wars I’ve seen in a cinema since TFA. It was good! Not sure what movie the naysayers saw or what they were smoking beforehand.”

TROS press pic

Which I’ll admit does imply I was unaware of all it’s flaws, which I was not unaware of. I don’t believe anyone could be, they’re glaring. The question is, do you care? And I didn’t.

I knew going in—based not only on the two previous films in this newest trilogy but the six preceding films of the other two trilogies—that it was going to be a shit-show of plot-driven illogical nonsense and ham-fisted retconning. What I cared about was will I enjoy it? And, for the most part, with low expectations and no stakes riding on it, I did. I even shed a single tear at Ben’s redemption and the star-crossed lovers’ solitary kiss.

What I found confusing was that all of the film’s armchair critics hadn’t gone in with the same blissfully forgiving mindset. After all, these are the people who LOVE Star Wars, right? These are people who seem to have a lot riding on enjoying it and they seem to have stacked their own decks against being able to.

Now that I’ve watched a few critical reviews of The Rise of Skywalker, I think I understand things a bit better. Of course, I agree with the criticisms objectively. As I said, the flaws are glaring. But it seems what I want and expect from a Star Wars movie is different from what other people do which is also different from what Star Wars has actually ever been in the past or even has the potential to be.

What do I want from a Star Wars movie? Friends running around going pew! pew! pew! That’s it and that’s what I got. I was happy. What people seem to have wanted instead: a deeply significant and nuanced multi-generational epic.

From a franchise that treats morality, ethics, and politics as a literal good/evil binary.

There’s lots of logical holes to pick in The Rise of Skywalker from pacing issues and illogical character motivations to seemingly arbitrary retconning. But I’ve always felt that The Empire Strikes Back was full of that stuff too. And Return of The Jedi even more so with things like the pointless sibling revelation that had no actual impact on the plot.

So what did people really want and expect from The Rise of Skywalker? Are they even aware of what this thing is they love? It’s like the shared hallucinatory head cannon of what Star Wars is, and people have internally retconned it to always have been, no longer has any relation to what actually is on the screen.

Does Star Wars have potential to be “more”? Sure. It’s got space wizards and bloodlines and characters who find the fate of the galaxy is in their hands. That is certainly a recipe (arguably concocted by Frank Herbert in his Dune series of books) for a vast epic filled to the brim with deep lore where valiant but flawed heroes navigate the “feints within feints” of clandestine amoral political forces.

But to do so Star Wars would have to abandon what the core of Star Wars is. It would have to lose being a light buddy adventure-comedy which it could be argued all three films in the Original Trilogy were to varying degrees. Of course, the Prequel Trilogy did mostly abandon this aspect for the more dour tone of a serious military and political drama where no one seems to be buddies at all. You might be aware there were a few fans who didn’t care for this direction. But there were others who did and lauded the attempt to imbue the Star Wars universe with an historic and political depth that was only hinted at in the OT. If the Sequel Trilogy has any one fundamental fault it’s been trying to play both sides of the field. The dramatic scope of a meticulously detailed nine-book fantasy epic while still being a frivolous matinee adventure in the style of Flash Gordon.

So what we have are two Star Wars existing simultaneously: Flash Gordon Star Wars and Dune Star Wars. Sometimes they are apart (A New Hope vs. Revenge of the Sith) and sometimes they coexist (The Empire Strikes Back and The Rise of Skywalker).

That isn’t to say there can’t be darkness or emotional content in our matinee serial, but despite the literal world-ending stakes the heroes face Flash Gordon Star Wars wasn’t built for deep psychological studies or complex political maneuvering. It doesn’t have the frame for that stuff and it buckles under the weight.

Similarly when Dune Star Wars tries to plumb the psychological depths and motivations of characters in this galactic struggle, it runs up against the wall of morality being a laughably reductive good/evil binary. It’s the philosophical equivalent of a cartoon Disney villain and also buckles under the weight of trying to hang a broader and deeper story upon. To me, it’s like watching the Scooby-Doo gang attempt to perform Hamlet.

Of course, at this point I expect a million voices to cry out “Whoa whoa whoa! But what about Empire? It is a perfect film. Check. Mate.”

Was it perfect though? In 2011 I wrote about all the flaws I see in Empire in a zine essay subtly titled The Empire Sucks Back. I’ll admit, it’s exactly the sort of essay I scoff at now when people lay-out all the joy-killing imperfections in TROS. But people seem to forget, or were too young to have experienced that—critical reviews aside—Empire wasn’t universally enjoyed. People didn’t, in fact, think that Star Wars needed to be anything other than a fun romp through the galaxy trading sarcastic quips and pew! pew! pew!-ing bad guys. There’s been a bit of a cultural retcon that Empire was always seen as the best Star Wars film and that Return of the Jedi, despite teddy-bear-shaped flaws, wasn’t actually greeted by many with a sense of “Finally, we’re back to what a Star Wars movie was supposed to be! A fun space adventure!”

I only bring this up to illustrate what I believe is a cognitive dissonance shared by many Star Wars fans today. I suspect a combination of childhood nostalgia, merchandise-driven Lucasfilm propaganda, and the sweet seduction of herd mentality has resulted in a fanatical belief that Star Wars movies have always been “good” movies, when I believe an objective analysis of them demonstrates they have always been flawed and messy. This cognitive dissonance, in my opinion, has coloured fans’ perceptions of the latest trilogy in an unfair way.

It’s not unfair to say that about half of each of the Disney era movies are a steaming dung-heap, but I do think it’s unfair to hold them up against movies which contain many of the same flaws and thus find them lacking.

It makes me question if many fans really love Star Wars films or if they’re fanatically devoted to an ideal based more on head canon and off-camera lore than the actual films.


Episode 227: Star Trek Survey Results

January 10, 2017


We made a survey about Star Trek. A whopping 47 people responded (including us)! These results are totally scientific and reveal the ultimate truth about who the best and worst characters are and what series is the true fan favourite. You can’t argue with the opinions of a whole 47 people.

Listen via Soundcloud (above) or the fancy “enhanced” video version on our YouTube channel (below) which features illustrative and illuminating  image pop-ups a-plenty.

See below for data! Small-d data, not Data. There really should’ve been an episode where the Enterprise was almost destroyed because someone misunderstood which data/Data was being referred to.

Read the rest of this entry »

I’m pregnant. Please don’t ask me if it’s a boy or a girl.

August 30, 2016

Pregnant banner

Our world is a place where we face a lot of social pressures, a lot of pressures to conform. I can think of many examples from my own life where I felt like I was less valuable for not fitting into the role that society seemed to expect from me. Many of these feelings connect directly to gender roles, gender stereotypes and gender expectations. I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned to value the things that make me unique, I have come to embrace non-conformity as though it was a choice, my choice, but it was not and never has been. I march to the beat of different drum because I can’t hear any other drum beat. And now, I’m finally happy about it. I love the things that make me different.

But now things are changing. I’m pregnant. Soon, we’ll have a baby. I’ll be a mom. I think parents want what’s best for their children and while I think that we’ve come a long way, in terms of gender roles, I think we still have a long way to go. Here’s how I know. We are obsessed with gender. Obsessed. 90% of people who speak to me about my pregnancy ask if it’s a boy or a girl. It’s a ubiquitous question, it would seem, that people ask without even really thinking about it. Along the lines of “how was your summer?” But before we really get into why I find this question problematic, I think we’re going need to establish a bit of common understanding first.

Let’s talk about sex vs. gender. So sex refers to chromosomal traits, male, female, intersex. Chromosomes, DNA, dictate what we look like and sex chromosomes dictate, among other things, what our genitals look like. Most people have genitals that are easily distinguished. A male sex chromosome results in a penis. Female sex chromosomes result in a vagina. Gender, on the other, is a social construct, it’s about behaving in a certain way that a culture has decided is either masculine or feminine. It’s being a “boy” or a “girl”, a “man” or a “woman.” Our society says that there are certain ways we behave that make us one or the other. I think this creates an incredibly narrow view of who we are, or who we can be as people. I think we are ready to value a much broader spectrum of humanity, and I think we have already begun to.

MandiPigeonNow back to babies. Babies do not exhibit gender. So when people ask if I’m having a boy or a girl, I think what they’re really asking is if the baby is male or female, because it’s really too soon to know anything about the baby’s gender and we won’t for quite some time even after it’s born. Now, why is it seemingly so important to everyone to know what a baby’s sex is? Are they really desperately curious to know what my baby’s genitals look like? Why? If you think about that objectively it’s actually pretty creepy. I think the truth is that most people see sex and gender as interchangeable synonyms. And for most of the population, particularly all the cis folk out there, they really are. But for trans, gender queer and gender non-conforming folk and folk who never felt like they fit into society’s expectation of their gender, there’s a lot more going on. My guess is that people think they will know something about who the baby is going to be if they know its sex. And when a baby is in utero, its sex is one of the few distinguishing things we can find out, but I don’t think it tells us anything about who this unborn person is going to be, and to imagine otherwise does them a disservice, it limits them. Why are we so anxious to fill this blank slate for them, before they’re even born?

Don’t get me wrong, if you fit nice and snuggly in society’s expectations of gender, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, if my baby fits nice and snuggly into society’s expectations, that’s great too, but, if they don’t, wouldn’t it be glorious for this baby to be free to figure that out on their own? To find their path and have it be valued for whatever it is, right from the beginning, to hear that there are many different ways to be a human and that they are not contingent on what one’s genitals look like. That sounds beautiful to me. It sounds like it doesn’t take anything away from anyone else and like it doesn’t hurt anyone.

Does this mean I won’t let my child play with trucks or wear pink or take risks or play it safe? Nope. What it means is that I want to let them fill in their own slate, and I want to celebrate their uniqueness along the way. Will it be easy? No. We have lived in, and been formed by this gendered society, and it will be a constant challenge to not gender our child based on their genitalia. But I know it’s worth it. I know young people that have struggled for so long to find a path to their true selves, and who have had people who love them try to steer them off that path at every turn. I want my baby, my child to have every opportunity to create their own path and to take us along on the journey, wherever it may lead.

And you, my friends, can help. Please don’t ask me if my baby is a boy or a girl. Not now, not once it has been born. Take some time to reflect on why you want to ask the question, what would the answer mean to you? Why is it important? Feel free to engage me in conversation about this choice, but please know that it comes from a lot of thought and is not a decision made on a whim. If you would like to challenge the ideas I’ve presented here, please be sure to put in a lot of thought and research of your own. When we fit easily into the world, when it’s set up for people like us, we experience privilege, and sometimes that can make us blind to the struggles of those who don’t fit, those for whom the world has not been tailored. If you are someone who finds that gender roles and expectations suit you pretty well, your personal experiences may not serve very well as an argument against what I’ve proposed here. This is an argument for valuing a minority, and it cannot be informed by the experiences of the majority.

This is not meant as an attack or judgement against anyone. If you are someone who has already asked me this question, this is not an attack on you, not at all. I appreciate your interest in our family, in this new human, whomever they may become. I know you will care for them. This is a good chance though, to expand your thinking, and why not? It’s so interesting to think about things in new and different ways. I for one am always enthusiastic to learn how to navigate the world in a more inclusive and respectful way, and I am honoured when people offer me the opportunity to share in that journey. I hope you will share in this journey with us.

— Mandi

Stranger Than Fan Fiction

August 12, 2016

The lunatics have taken over the asylum

Marvel SW cross

There was a time fanfic was a much derided form of writing. It was separated from professional writing by an abundance of mary-sue characters, pretzel-shaped soap-opera plots and continuity so shoddy that sharks were jumped on cyborg dragons even before the shark made an appearance. Some would argue that we’re still living in that time. I’d agree except it seems like over the last ten years, Hollywood has been completely taken over by fanfic writers and almost every recent genre flick is an elaborate fan film. Except by virtue of household names in the cast and high production values, it’s difficult to distinguish a mainstream cinema release from a fan-made homage based on quality alone.

Read the rest of this entry »

Not The Sequel I’m Looking For

October 23, 2015


Probably the only other sci-fi film that’s been looked forward to with as much rabid anticipation as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was Episode I: The Phantom Menace. But because of Episode I, fans are looking forward to it with both ecstatic anticipation and creeping dread.

I think there’s some wisdom to this guy’s argument that The Force Awakens is bound to leave hardcore fans feeling let down. Not because it’ll inevitably suck, but because (let’s just use me as an example) that at 43 years old, no matter how good the movie is, I’m not going to be filled with the same heightened state of wonder I had at age five. I’ll just be literally incapable of it from a physiological and psychological standpoint. It’s a natural part of aging that probably keeps the world from being a much more bonkers place than it already is. Though it could be argued the world actually is being run by people disengaged from reality living in a constant childlike state of make-believe. That would explain everything from America’s reluctance to embrace gun-control to whatever’s going on in the Middle East with robots bombing children.

The inability for The Force Awakens to inspire that same childlike wonder is also a natural part of addiction. Trying to attain that original high is the reason Star Wars merchandising is such a huge industry. You keep mainlining new sculps of Boba Fett figures but you just end up feeling numb inside.

And I think some fans are going to be letdown only because it’ll be the end of speculation. They’ll know if director J.J. Binks actually pulled it off. They’ll know if Luke has really gone over to the Dark Side. They’ll know if blah-blah character is blah-blah thing from blah-blah-blah. What’ll be left to care about?

But I’ll go further in saying that The Force Awakens isn’t even a sequel to Star Wars.

At least not the Star Wars from my childhood. The one that was not called A New Hope when I saw it (see above). I’ve come to realize mine is a very specific perception of the film. So specific that I’m open to the possibility I’m alone in this perception. My Star Wars has little to do with five out of six of the existing films and absolutely nothing to do with the batshit free-for-all that’s the Expanded Universe (of which I’ve only read, in graphic novel form no less, the arc that continues from the end of Return of the Jedi where Luke really does turn to the Dark Side in order to defeat a reincarnated Emperor clone and one shark is jumped after another).

One thing I am sure of, my dislike of the Prequels isn’t specific to me. For fans of the Original Trilogy, it surrounds us, penetrates us and it binds us together. I’ve heard from some that Episode I even ruined, or at least dampened, their enjoyment of the whole franchise. But the reason for my dislike might be more unique. The Prequels specifically ruined my enjoyment of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Not because how spectacularly bad the Prequels are tainted everything they touched, it’s that they made me realize the universe in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi is divergent from the one I personally experienced in (for the sake of clarity I’ll call it) A New Hope. This is something I already knew on some level, but the Prequels really hit the point home.

Even when I was a kid The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi left me cold. More so than I would admit to myself. At the time my blinding love for Star Wars prevented me from understanding exactly what it was I didn’t like about the films. I chalked it up to being mildly disappointed my hero and role model* Luke didn’t get the girl or that Empire ended on a WTF cliffhanger or that the Ewoks were unbearably cheesy. It was something more fundamental.

In the universe I experienced watching A New Hope, Obi-Wan and Vader were the last two Jedi. There was no Yoda, there were no Sith, Luke and Leia were obviously not related, and the Emperor wasn’t some kind of space-Sauron but just some dude. Sure, an “evil” dude by all accounts—something between Hitler, Stalin and whoever the worst Ceasar was—but just a man. Which is somehow much more truly evil than a guy in a nappy black robe who’s controlled by some kind of cosmic black magic.

For example, in  A New Hope Vader is a brutal and undeniably scary nemesis, but Grand Moff Tarkin is a much more chilling villain. You get the sense Tarkin really believes he’s acting morally, for the greater good of the Empire and its citizens. He’d probably admit he’s detached and unsentimental in the expedient way he deals with the Rebels, but he sees the Rebels the same way the Oval Office sees ISIS. His Death Star is America’s drone strikes. In this film you get the sense he’s an extension of the Emperor (since the Emperor is too busy to show up on screen, all you get is a sense) and the Emperor is a similarly pragmatic and unflinching colonial bureaucrat more than a psychopathic tyrant.

The film is shockingly low in expository dialogue about what exactly the political situation in this galaxy is. By way oblique comments and the way people react to the presence of Storm Troopers in Mos Eisley, the audience extrapolates the Empire is a totalitarian regime (Owen and Beru’s fate pretty much solidifies this impression). But exactly how the Empire operates, how it treats citizens, what restrictions on freedom and what level of taxation it imposes is never stated. We assume it’s pretty dire since there’s apparently a significant rebellion underway. Clevery, Lucas made the officer’s uniforms look a bit like Nazi uniforms so we immediately have visions of concentration camps and genocide. It’s an effective short-form, the Hollywood “black hat” updated for 1977.


What we don’t know, however, is if there are concentration camps, or if the Empire is committing genocide, or why the Rebels are rebelling at all. For all we know the Rebels are radicalized jihadists trying to overthrow what was a relatively just and benign government that only abolished the Senate and built a Death Star in a last-ditch response to years of terrorist activity.

Now, that is a fan theory I am not seriously putting forward. But my point is the political situation in the galaxy of A New Hope is subtle and complex and has a ring of authenticity to it. The political landscape changes beginning with Empire Strikes Back, where it transforms into a dumbed-down good vs. evil struggle. The Emperor isn’t an off-screen character, we see him well enough to know he’s a creepy old Satanic looking wizard guy. By Return of the Jedi, the circle is complete and all subtlety and nuance is dead. He’s an evil space wizard. He has no complex human motivations, he’s just Evil—an embodiment of the Dark Side.

As well, before The Empire Strikes Back I had the sense the “Dark Side” was more of a metaphor. Simply a phrase the Jedi would use to describe people using The Force for nefarious gains and not a separate thing as it seems to have become in Empire.

Vader saying to Luke “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side” is a whole different kettle of fish than Obi-Wan describing to Luke how Vader had been “seduced” by the Dark Side. The former is literally making the pitch, “Hey, come and make a conscious life decision to be the living embodiment of evil. No justifications, no metaphors. Become literally evil. C’mon, son.”

In contrast, being “seduced by the Dark Side” is never believing you’ve become evil yourself but simply that you’re using this immense power you hold to more easily achieve your goals and, hey, what’s the big deal anyway? It’s not like you’ve become evil. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and all that.

Forget about the Prequel character Anakin for now. That name was never mentioned in A New Hope and Vader and Luke’s father really are two different people as far as we know. The idea that Vader was actually seduced by his own innate cruelty coupled with immense Jedi power is much more interesting than he’s fallen prey to something like an evil cosmic entity from Star Trek.

anakinoriginalAs it’s portrayed in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the Dark Side is like a spell that apparently changes Vader’s entire personality (from what looks like, at the end of Jedi, a pretty affable guy full of joviality and without a hint of cruelty in him) and which Luke is able to magically remove at the end of the film with a little less effort than a Catholic exorcism. But it’s not even like it’s a spell that gets cast upon you, it’s a conscious opt-in (to become a tyrant’s henchman for reasons unexplained in the original trilogy) and suddenly opt-out of just in time to save your long lost son.

This is pretty muddy, having-it-both-ways storytelling and part of the reason the Prequels had no option other than to be even muddier in trying to explain Anakin’s conversion. Trying show his journey from irrepressible blonde munchkin to the hulking masked psycho who crushes a man’s larynx in his fist before tossing him like a rag-doll into the wall, then date-rape drug interrogates his daughter and amputates his son’s hand is a herculean task. It’s like watching Little Orphan Annie turn into Regan MacNeil.

It’s a nearly impossible transformation that would’ve been helped if Jake Lloyd had the Damien-like uncanniness of a Culkin brother. But, as we know, he didn’t**. And even if Jake Lloyd did have a touch of the Anti-Christ in him, his character’s turn to the Dark Side would still be muddy. The Dark Side is at turns either that evil cosmic entity that possesses good people to do really, really bad things—like slaughter children—and also a conscious decision to “turn” to the Dark Side—because who doesn’t want to choose to slaughter children?

But more importantly, once the Force evolved from a its Taoist roots (everything is connected, there’s light and dark within everything) to a simple Jesus/Satan allegory (the two opposing Forces of literal good and evil) the Star Wars tale became a very different type of story set in a very different universe. And that’s the universe of The Force Awakens.

That isn’t to say I’m going to skip the film altogether or that I’ve preordained I won’t enjoy it. Not at all. I’m even kind of looking forward to the possibility of Darth Luke. But I’ll be seeing it not as the continuation of the hands-down favourite movie from my childhood, but merely yet another sequel to a couple films I honestly only kinda-sorta liked when I was a kid.

* Luke is a pretty terrible role model. I’m pretty much convinced in the new movie he’ll be a bitter old MRA bent on destroying the galaxy because his sister friend-zoned him 30 years ago. The reason he’s not on the poster because he’s “gone his own way”.

** I clearly didn’t mean adult Jake Lloyd, who ended up being true freaky.

Episode 206: Furious Furiosa Fury Road

May 20, 2015


Jakob and Mandi go for a drive on Fury Road.

Facebook conversations with Darryll on the topic of Mad Max: Fury Road

Back in college, I took applied arts with Darryll Doucette, film maker and presenter on the Dread Media podcast, where we bonded by talking about movies between classes. In the decade since graduating and parting ways, we’ve stayed in touch on Facebook to have the occasional gab session about some film or other. With Road Warrior being very important to both of us, when the first production shots for Fury Road appeared last June it was inevitable we’d have some things to say.

June 25, 2014

Jakob: The robot arm is disappointing. The whole appeal of the original was the low-techness of it all. This seems more like Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone which is awesome too, but in a totally different way.

Max max first  exclusive

Darryll: The arm doesn’t look so much robotic as hydraulic. More deiselpunk actually with it’s pistons and such. But I see your point. Everything’s looking kind of designed rather than cobbled together. Characters should be too busy surviving to build this.

Jakob: Well, I would assume even if it’s like diesel-powered (I know you didn’t mean literally) that there’s have to be a cybernetic interface to make it work. Which seems hella-hi-tech. I mean, maybe she was a robotics professor before the collapse… but still… it feels like shark-jumping before they even get to the sharks.

Darryll: Oh, I agree. Cybernetics have no place in this world.

  1. I wish Eric Bana were playing Max.
  2. This story takes place, chronologically, between Mad Max and Road Warrior yet seems heavily informed by the Hollywood revisions of Beyond Thunderdome. A move that might ruin the film for me.

Jakob: Eric Bana… Tom Hardy… Ryans Hemsworth, Gosling or Reynolds… no difference to me. I don’t really care about the casting. Hardy seems as good a choice as any. At least it’s not Affleck.

So, they’re setting it as an episode 1.5? What? I wonder why. I’m sure no one wants to see that chapter. And are people supposed to then watch a Gibson Max, then Hardy’s Max and then back to Gibson and then, supposedly, more Hardy films? What? I thought it was supposed to be between Road Warrior and Thunderdome as a way to erase Thunderdome from the cannon. Oh well.

Darryll: It would be way more logical to set it after Road Warrior. But my real beef lies in the differences between a post-collapse story, which is what Mad Max 1 and 2 are, and a post-apocalypse story, which Thunderdome decided to be for american audiences. By the look of things, I’d say Fury Road has placed itself on the Thunderdome timeline. Fail.

SpacehunterJakob: But man, it’ll be an awesome sequel to this. Casting is pretty much perfect.

Darryll:  Love Spacehunter. I always thought of it as a standalone Han Solo adventure.

December 17, 2014

After our “Preview Reviews episode (200), where Mandi and I shared our thoughts on some (then) upcoming summer films based on their trailers, including Fury Road, Darryll had this advice for me.

Darryll: Jakob, I suggest letting go of the Road Warrior comparisons. I know where you’re coming from but that road leads to disappointment. Fury Road is a different future altogether. Taken on it’s own merits, of all the trailers you featured, it looks to be the most visually dynamic and thrilling. It’s familiar but not a rehash. It’s something else.

Jakob: That’s an absurd thing to say about a sequel. Want to take the franchise in a significantly different direction? Create a new franchise. The result will be better because you won’t be lumbered with the past. But, of course, this film only exists as a platform to make money, not because there was a burning need to further the story. If my goal was to just enjoy the movie, yes jettisoning Road Warrior would be the way to go. That’s not my goal.

Darryll: On the one hand, you seem to be complaining that the other films [on the podcast] are too much of the same, while on the other you are complaining that Mad Max is not the same enough. Well, we can agree, I think, that Thunderdome is different from Road Warrior which is different from Mad Max. My point being that Miller set the precedent a long time ago that the sequels are only tenuously connected. Not really direct sequels so much as permutations on a world featuring familiar elements. Namely, the character, Max. 

Please note, I am not commenting on the quality of the films or even my personal preferences but just on the creative decisions made by the creator of all these films. He seems quite willing to change things up whenever it suits the story he wants to tell. To complain that this new one is not enough like the one you liked the most is to ignore the interchangeable nature of the film series as a whole.

Jakob: I think it’s a super valid criticism. Thunderdome is terrible—and not only because it’s so tenuously connected to the Road Warrior world. It’s not enjoyable on its own merrits. I could say it sucked only because it was too different from Road Warrior, but let’s be honest—it’s just a bad film. Thankfully Road Warrior was just as tenuously connected to Mad Max. Like Lucas apparently fluked out with A New Hope, Miller seems to have fluked out with Road Warrior. And that’s fine. He can make whatever film he wants now. But I refuse to work at liking it or have to jettison a love for Road Warrior to do so.

I’ll grant you I may be placing too tall an order for me to like the film—keep it in the Road Warrior universe but not just rehash the same chases and set pieces. Probably nearly impossible to strike that balance. If Fury Road is enjoyable on its own merits, I’ll enjoy it however much it’s like or unlike Road Warrior. Just like with Aliens—very different from Alien, but just as enjoyable on its own merits.

Darryll: I am certainly not asking you to jettison your love of Road Warrior. And Thunderdome is certainly a bad film with or without comparisons to Road Warrior or Mad Max. I only ask that you also judge Fury Road on it’s own merits, in the spirit of the interchangeable nature of the series. I ask only that if it is in fact “good”, you enjoy it for that. And if it’s “bad” we can rail against it’s actual faults and not it’s refusal to adhere to the tenants of Road Warrior.

Actually, my personal preference would have been a return to the world set in Mad Max. To me, a world crumbling on the edge of despair and ruin is far more interesting than continuing to explore a contrived post-apocalypse. With each film the time before the collapse recedes further into the past while Max endures. Returning to that moment on the precipice to have another look at the world around Max would be a welcome change.

Jakob:  Actually, as much as I’m not a fan of the “reboot”, but given that they went with a young Tom Hardy and not an aging Mel, yeah, why not do a new trilogy starting with the crumbling world of the first film? Start fresh.

Darryll:  Yeah, one of the great things about Mad Max is the feeling of a society on the edge. The edge of a frontier. The edge of collapse. The edge of despair and oblivion. Very much the climate in our current real world if you ask me. Returning to that edge to take an updated look around would be very interesting. Seeing Hardy as Max as an MFP officer again would be a welcome shock treatment to the entire series.

And of all the films, the gang in Mad Max feels the most realistic. Very much a “gang” and not a pseudo “tribe”, to call back to an earlier thread*. Even their clothes are more realistic motorcycle gang clothes. No feathers, mohawks, or football fetish gear.

* I believe the referenced thread may have been on Darryll’s or Dread Media’s wall in which I was bemoaning how the Fury Road gangs in the trailer seemed to have appropriated some form of neo-tribalism and “gone native”, as opposed to the ’70s “glam-rock” look of bike gangs of Road Warrior. The latter of which had nothing to do with a wholesale and insensitive (on the part of the filmmakers) and nonsensical (on the part of characters) appropriation of indigenous cultures.

Jakob:  Ah, but this is where my opinion is nuanced. The gang in Mad Max is more realistic, but more hum-drum. The gang in Road Warrior strikes an incredibly precarious balance between fantastical and being just this side of believable.

Darryll: Ha! Right. The apocalypse was an excuse for these guys to go completely off the rails and indulge every barbaric whim. I always suspected a couple of Maximum Security prisons were emptied during the riots between Mad Max and Road Warrior .

Jakob:  I more meant the feather boas and buttless chaps. Mad Max needed more of those.

May 15, 2015

Darryll: Fury Road? I need to dish about it, nerd-style.

Jakob: Haven’t been yet. Hopefully this weekend.

Darryll: Post-Haste!

Jakob: I’ll see what I can do. Moonwood was supposed to see it as a group, but we’re having trouble even scheduling a practice so I might have to drag Mandi to it tomorrow morning. Actually, she’s on board now that the MRAs are protesting it, haha. I’m really trying not the let the unanimous good reviews and “100% Fresh” rating not get my hopes up.

Darryll: I hope she’ll dig it. Lots of strong female badasses. I’ll say no more.

Jakob: Well, that’s hardly a spoiler. Though Mandi and I are of the mindset that being “a badass” does not necessarily make for a strong female character. Sometimes can be just the opposite. So my expectations remain sufficiently low to enjoy myself.

Darryll: I couldn’t agree more. It’s all there.


Darryll:  Ha! Just go see it!

May 16, 2015

Jakob:  Saw it.

Darryll: Oh, oh. And….?

Jakob: After being super bored for the first half hour, it picked up.

Darryll: Yeah, it’s a little shaky starting off. I suspect lots of deleted footage from first act. Also didn’t care for Max narration or daughter(?) flashbacks. But once Furiosa hits the road its on. I was surprised at Max’s vulnerability. Miller’s stripped him of his mythical status. Very welcome change.

Jakob: A more welcome change would have been to strip him from the script. A completely superfluous non-character. He just got in the way of the narrative. The daughter ghost/hallucinations were nowhere near as interesting as the original back story and corny to boot. I didn’t start getting interested in anything until the scene where the wife finds Nux hiding in the look-out compartment thing. Then I finally felt tethered to the film in some way.

Darryll: As a supporting character, yes, Max does get in the way of the narrative. That’s kinda the point. He’s a complication to Furiosa until he regains some sanity and becomes an asset. I enjoyed his arc a great deal if not Hardy’s perfomance at all times. I loved his Seven Samurai moment of going off into the fog and coming back with loot.

Jakob: I think Nux could’ve filled all those shoes and things would’ve been much tighter and made for a better focused story. I would’ve rather have seen Furiosa (worst name ever btw) or one of the older desert ladies do that Seven Samurai bit.

Darryll: It would have been super cool if one of the older ladies did that but Furiosa would never leave the brides alone that long. Not troubled by her name. It’s rarely used anyhow.

Jakob: I would’ve liked to have seen them introduced much earlier as well. Since they were the most interesting and human characters. When I thought ‘Furiosa’ was a name given to her by Joe, or her gang name, was okay with it. But when it was revealed to be her childhood name it bugged me.

Darryll: Was it? I missed that.

Jakob: Yeah, the woman who was “bait” says to the others “This is our Furiosa.”

I also couldn’t believe in the world Miller was setting up. I didn’t buy any of those three psychotic warlord clowns could keep their empires together. Especially Joe running that hydroponic farm. I couldn’t buy that he could keep that kind of operation going much less built it up. So unless the back-story was that he’d raided it and taken it over at some point (which we’re not told at all) the Citadel made no logical sense.

Darryll: One way or another, Miller was gonna have to include this insane cavalcade of circus cars. At least, we’re shown an infrastructure that could support such an army. The cars would be utterly ridiculous without that. So for that, I am grateful. On the other hand, The Citadel is not far from the goofiness of Bartertown so it’s a toss up. I thought of it as something like an Aztec, or Egyptian civilization. So, there’s that.

Jakob: I still doubted there was the infrastructure to support those cars. Gas Town must’ve been a helluva producer for everyone to waste that much fuel all the time.

Darryll: Their insane fuel consumption was, again, kind of the point. They were just repeating the wasteful lifestyle of the rulers before the end times. Joe was ridiculously proud of his trumped up army.

Jakob: I understood the message of the consumption and was okay with it on that rhetorical level. I just didn’t buy these fringe communities could function and flourish for any length of time.

Darryll: Agreed. His kingdom was tenuous at best. It plays out that way too.

Jakob: I just didn’t believe he had the presence of mind to have even a tenuous kingdom.

Darryll: He did act like a spoiled Royal. Fun as a main villain but, yeah, not as scary as Humungous at a ground level. Nux was the character I could have done without. His arc was jarring to me. I would have preferred he stay a villain.

Jakob: Really? His flipping allegiance was far too abrupt, but I loved his arc. If they’d gotten rid of Max and 20 minutes of pointless car chase at the beginning, they could’ve done his story more justice. Also his performance outshone the two main leads by miles.

Darryll: Whoah. Theron was awesome. No one held a candle to her performance. I would watch a sequel with just her but I cant say the same for Nux.

Jakob: I found her delivery stilted and awkward. Fault of clunky lines more that her acting perhaps. But every one had clunky lines and I only winced when she or Hardy were delivering them. Mandi pointed out she did some great silent acting. I agreed it was reminiscent of Gibson’s actually.

Darryll: Her only clunky delivery was a comment in the canyon about, “having bad luck.” Weird syntax on that. Felt like a fifth or sixth take.  As for “20 min of pointless car chase…” You’re losing me there. The initial chase was great and all part of Furiosa’s plan to lose her squad of War Boys.

Jakob: It was visually stunning. I found it pointless because I had no reason to care about Furiosa or her plan at that point. Or the wives except on a basic universal human rights level. I didn’t have a reason to care about Max at that point either.

Darryll: You’re right. But a lot (most if not all) of character development happens in the action beats. Their ability to work (fight) together pays off big in the grand finale. We don’t need to love or even care about them that early in the movie. A little mystery concerning motive is always welcome. And I loved the complete lack of verbal exposition. We catch up just as things speed up. I loved it. Silly warts and all. It made my heart beat. Going to see it again tomorrow with Nadine.

Jakob: I disagree. The character development happened in those quieter scenes between the chase scenes. I think if the first chase scene had only been 10 minutes long instead of not letting up for what felt like 40 minutes, I could’ve lived with the character/motivation mystery. But I’m someone who finds action sequences boring without well established context. Even amazing, inventive scenes like in this film. I’d rather be told a story than shown a spectacle. If both can happen, all the better. Once the story kicked in about a third of the way in, I started to enjoy myself.

I’m glad it got your heart beating. I should make clear, I did enjoy lots of the film. I just didn’t think it was all that good overall. Though I will say it’ll probably end up being one of the best constructed action/Hollywood films this year. If not the best.

In Defense of Turtle Nostrils

April 2, 2014


This thing (reported by Bad Ass Digest) where a fan fixed the creepy snouts from Michael Bay‘s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film has been making the rounds. Not having seen the trailer, I was in agreement. Yeah, those nostrils sure create a horrible uncanny valley feeling and the fan sure improved these Turtles. But then I watched the trailer.

And, you know, I think Bay’s redesign—so long as you’re not looking at a still photo—actually works really well. If for no other reason than in the previous live-action films the faithful-to-the-source material facial designs never really worked. In the comic and cartoon those absurdly wide mouths and not having nostrils was fine. It was a comic, it was a cartoon, suspension of disbelief was easy. Sure, they had to breathe through their mouths like, well, I guess like teenage boys, but they looked cute and goofy and fitting for a cartoon. This new take on their appearance makes them strangely more relatable. They’re hideous mutants, more-so than before, but in a kind of cutesy, charming Quazimodo way. And I can kind of believe in them.

In the old movies, let’s be honest here, the Turtles just seemed like a really, really stupid idea and looked really, really dumb.

Now, if we want to talk about potential problems revealed in the trailer (which at first viewing looked surprisingly decent) I think we can find a few things.

  1. Megan Fox as April O’Neil. She appears to be doing an okay acting job this time out but you only actually see her in flashes. I’m not sure she even says more than one or two syllables in the whole trailer. The only “acting” we see is a horrible pantomime fainting spell. Besides the obvious question of SINCE WHEN DOES APRIL O’NEIL FAINT? this gives us an indication of the level of humour we can expect. Namely a low-level but pervasive misogyny (hahaha she fainted like a weak girl hahaha) and I suspect this will be a running gag. Undoubtedly, former role-model April will be little reduced to little more than a damsel to be placed in successively more distressing rescue situations until the bound-to-be explosive finale explodes in an orgy of fireballs, heat shimmers, flying debris and sub-sonic detonation bass-drops. I also expect fart jokes (that’s fine, if you’re into that) and some homophobic digs between Turtle-bros. I hope not, but this is where’d I’d place my bets if I were a betting man.
  2. The plot appears to just be Robocop but with mutant turtles instead of a cyborg. The city is basically RoCo’s New Detroit and the Turles, just like our buddy RoCo, have been created specifically to combat the waves of crime and terrorism which plague the city. It’s not the derivative nature of this scenario that bugs me (though it does seem lazy and boring) as much as that in the original Turtle mythos our boys originated from pets lost in the sewers that got into some toxic waste. There was a nice irony that our toxic follies are what will create our mutant saviors—sort of a reverse Godzilla-effect. Also, the Turtles took it upon themselves to become our heroes instead of it being something they’re being forced into—and will supposedly struggle with in various annoying and boring angsty ways.
  3. Perhaps the worst though is that sliding down the snowy mountainside scene. I can’t help but feel this points to what will prove to be a reliance on “theme park ride” action set-pieces which are, I think everyone except Hollywood has figured out by now, never as exciting as they promise to be. Yet action film plots these days continue to be little more than the glue which holds a half-dozen of these things together. On the plus side, there’ll lots of opportunities for bathroom breaks if you (unlike me) are planning to see this in the theatre.

So far the only thing I can see that looks legitimately good about this film is the kind of creepy Turtle redesign.



August 24, 2013

So it was announced recently that Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. You know this and, as you also know, nerds completely lost their shit. Even the normally positivist Wil Wheaton took a swipe on Twitter saying, “Really looking forward to seeing Affleck bring the depth and gravitas to Batman that he brought to Daredevil and Gigli.”

Or maybe he wasn’t being sarcastic? Hard to say with that guy.

Anyway, Ben’s is the latest face that launched a thousand memes. Almost all of them suggest a better casting choice. The most popular pick seems to be Karl Urban.

And that makes sense. After all anyone can play Batman as long as they have a chin that looks good in a cowl (as Urban proved he did as Judge Dredd). Plus, it doesn’t matter how buff the actor is because the molded rubber suit they squeeze him in will have all the requisite pecks and eight-pack abs built-in.

The secret to casting Batman is who’ll make a good Bruce Wayne. That’s been the achilles heel of all Batmen from Michael Keaton onwards. Wayne needs a balance of brooding darkness and dashing charm. Bale was too brooding and made for an actively dislikable Bruce. Clooney was somehow too dashing and Keaton was too charming to the point of just being a clown (the less said about Kilmer, the better).

I think this is why people are upset about Affleck being cast, not that he’ll make a bad Batman (his chin seems a bit small to me, actually) but they assume his Bruce Wayne is going to be like his character in Chasing Amy, or worse, Gigli (not that anyone’s actually seen it). Maybe someone like Karl Urban or Clive Owens or Guy Pearce (check him out in Lockout if you’re not convinced) could find that middle-ground between Bale’s emo mopester and Clooney’s “I’d clearly rather be playing James Bond” takes on the iconic role.

But that’d just be more of the same. Who could put a bona fide fresh spin on the role? Who could make it edgy and entertaining? Who could really make their own?

Click to reveal a Better Batman Than Ben

No, really. He’d be great. Really. Fantastic.

First of all, what’s the main problem with the whole Batman premise? Only complete morons couldn’t see that Bruce Wayne is clearly Batman. Maybe Adam West era Commissioner Gordon and Chief O’Hara clearly had heads full of rocks, but all the various Catwomen are supposed to be brilliant. Yet somehow not so brilliant they can’t recognise men they’ve been slow dancing with in the previous scene.

Think about it, when you’re at a halloween party and your friend unexpectedly comes in a Batman costume, do you for a second think, “Who’s Batman?”

No, you say, “Rad Batman costume, Josh!”

A cowl doesn’t disguise shit.

But here’s where our pick excels. His chin doesn’t fit the top half of his face so much, everyone would be fooled. And if you knew Bruce Wayne, as played by him, you’d never expect that guy to be a masked vigilante by night. Everyone would be completely fooled. Even Superman with his x-ray vision wouldn’t believe his eyes!

Okay, yes, he does have a very distinctive voice. But imagine him doing something like Bale’s “Batman voice”… that’d just confuse the fuck out of people. It’d be awesome.

Mark our words: Best Batman/Bruce Wayne ever.

DOCTOR WHO’S NEXT?: 10 Picks For The Next Doctor

June 4, 2013

Doctor_Who banner

Unless you live under a TARDIS, you know Matt Smith is quitting his tenure as the Doctor. Perhaps the only likely suspect who could get me to watch the next regeneration is Benedict Cumberbatch.

But, given his new Star Trek fame (and the fact he better damn well be concentrating on new Sherlock episodes), he’s a long shot. Also he’d be about as boring a status-quo Doctor as you could possibly squeeze out of the Dr. Who machine: tall, thin, dark and terribly British.

So who could break the Dr. Who mold? Here are my top-ten picks of people who probably won’t even be considered.

Doctor W judi-dench_2198108b1. Dame Judi Dench

The first name that came to my mind when I thought about possible Doctors-in-waiting was “Jude”. And, oddly, it wasn’t Jude Law. No, we’re talking The Dame. Not only would she be a hard-as-nails Doctor, she’d bring a much needed reserve to her portrayal of the famous Time Lord. Also, she could play the role as a bit of a grandmotherly figure, which could be an interesting dynamic. Sort of like a sci-fi Nanny McPhee. But let’s face it, though she played M in the James Bond films (proving she’s not shy of lowly “genre” work), she’s not going to do it. So why bother even entertaining the daydream?

doctor-w_helen-mirren-baftas-red-carpet-2013_12. Helen Mirren

Someone who might do it though, is UK television aluma Helen Mirren. And she might even be a better choice. Old enough to play that same grandmotherly angle, but young enough that we’d not be worried about her breaking a hip. We already know from Prime Suspect she can also do hard-as-nails and, from those RED movies, she can do whatever action is required by Dr. Who. As a bonus, she’s more suited than Dench to playing up the Doctor’s annoying “zany” side (while still dialing it way back, hopefully).

doctor-who-tildaswintonacnestudiosfall2013413. Tilda Swinton

When I think of the Doctor, I think, “What a weirdo.” When I think of Tilda Swinton, I think, “What an awesome weirdo.” Done and done. Other than the fact she might actually be a Time Lord in real life (or a member of some other alien race) and  might not want draw attention to that. Not that the Doctor has ever been terribly covert operator.

Doctor WhoTricky-260x2604. Adrian Thaws (Tricky)

So far I’ve been focusing on possible female actors to add a little much needed gender parity to the franchise. But, assuming they’re not going to make the Doctor a woman, how about a man who isn’t whiter-than-white? Tricky‘s done some underrated acting and is, like Tilda, a bit of a damn weirdo. I could listen to that odd marble-mouthed voice all day. Plus, his music career has been sputtering and stalling for the last decade and it’s been a bit painful to watch. Maybe a stint as the Doctor could help jump-start it again. Or just distract us from what’s become a perennial series of “come back album” failures.

Doctor Who Naveen+Andrews+Naveen+Andrews+Outside+London+ks8ixpwVmwWl5. Naveen Andrews

Yeah, Sayid from Lost. How about a suave and swarthy South Asian Doctor? It seems like an obvious choice for regeneration since this particular Time Lord is so freakin’ obsessed with being British every single time that he’d look to Jolly Old’s colonial past for inspiration. I know, I know, he couldn’t even choose to be ginger when he ended up as David Tennant, but still…

Doctor W dawn-french6. Dawn French

Considering how being “wacky” is apparently an entrenched character trait, a good Doctor should actually be played by a good comedian. And there aren’t many British comedians better than Dawn French. In fact, I think she might actually be my top pick on this list. If the producers would be brave enough to picture someone who is not male, not rail-thin and is over-40, French would be a perfect fit. In her career, she’s played characters who’ve displayed all the qualities required by a Doctor. Most importantly, when she acts goofy, unlike a certain someone named Christopher Eccleston, she’s entertaining to watch. That is, she induces laughter and not massive, full-body cringing.

doctor-who-lenny-7078238617. Lenny Henry

Equally funny, though not as versatile (from what I’ve seen), French’s ex-husband Lenny Henry would be an interesting over-40 choice. Personally, I’d like to see a Doctor with the kind of snarky, ballsy, cocksure, arrogant-to-a-fault attitude displayed by his Chef. Also, dude’s black. Win-win.

doctor-w-takei-sin108-523-2013-201108-high-jpg8. George Takei

Sure, the obvious Star Trek veteran to play the Doctor would be Sir Patrick Stewart. But maybe it’s time for an American actor to fill the role. Why always British? Why always straight? I don’t think I really have to make a case for why George Takei would be an amazing Doctor. You’re already nodding you head. Oh myyyy indeed.

doctor-w-katie-leung-7085910637_613a0bef6a9. Katie Leung

Likewise, the obvious Harry Potter alumni for the role would be Dan Radcliffe, or the more likely in need of work, Rupert Grint. But what about Katie Leung who played Cho Chang? Scottish and Asian! Okay, okay. She’s more an “affirmative action” choice here. She made no impression on me at all as Cho other than being oatmeal. So, really, she’d be perfect companion material. Spunky but kind of boring. There needs to be a little diversity on that side of the Dr. Who equation too, after all.

Doctor who Rowan Atkinson article_fa296ab40abfffed_1360325309_9j-4aaqsk10. Rowan Atkinson

Okay, if there has got to be a white guy in the list (since they’re obviously going to pick a white guy), how about Mr. Blackadder Bean? Like Dawn French and Lenny Henry, Rowan Atknison is a top-shelf comedian. And though we rarely get to see him not being a completely irritating clown, he can do straight as well as anyone (and also comedy that isn’t based on pulling stupid faces). It’s actually a crime against acting that his serious side hasn’t really been given its day in court. It’d be interesting to see the Doctor as an older, Oxford professor type as well. Leather patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket and all that. Maybe smokes a pipe and needs reading glasses. Dr. Who could be the role of his lifetime.

MAY THE 4th but not the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th or 6th BE WITH ME

May 4, 2013

May the 4th graphic

It’s annual Star Wars Day! Also probably the biggest “celebration of a kind of ropy pun” day.

One of the things I became vaguely known for in Internet circles was my opinion that The Empire Strikes Back is not as good as people have convinced themselves it is. But other than a mild dislike of Ewoks and the obligatory loathing for the Prequel Trilogy, I still considered myself a Star Wars fan. I had been since I was five and always would be. Heck, even if I didn’t think Empire was all that and a bag of chips, I could still enjoy it well enough.

But a few months ago, when they announced that production of Episode VII had begun, I had an epiphany that nearly floored me: I didn’t care.

I say “nearly” floored me because I didn’t care so much that I didn’t care that I didn’t care they were finally going to make the final three films. It did, however, cause me wonder why it is I didn’t care. After all, I’d been a fan since I was 5 years old. That’s 35 years. That’s a pretty significant chunk of time in anyone’s life.

And it hit me.

I didn’t care because it wasn’t going to be a continuation of “my” Star Wars. And not just because the Prequels cocked things up irrevocably.

The reason I didn’t like the Prequels wasn’t really Jake Lloyd or Jar-Jar or too much ponderous plot and action and too little character development and decent dialogue. It’s just that it bore little or no relation to the Star Wars I knew and loved. Sure, it was the story of how the world of “my” Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope), had come to be except that… it wasn’t.

Though the events of Episodes I through III, do hamfistedly arrive at a sort of interpretation of the universe in the first (er, 4th) film, it’s not actually the same world. And this is the real reason (not the ones in my previous essay) I never cared for the 5th and 6th chapters in the Star Wars saga either.

In Episode IV there’s a real menace in the galaxy. We learn in later films that this menace is a dark wizard made of pure, undiluted evil, but in Episode IV the Emperor is an unseen entity who we understand has the juggernaut of his military put the boots to anyone who gets in his path. Or is he? He might only be a figurehead under the sway of the military. He might be a child. He might not even really exist. Who really knows?

If you only watch A New Hope the impression you get is that the Emperor is a master politician; more of a Ceasar or Richard III than a Sauron or Voldemort. Or maybe he’s not. It’s not important. The Emperor is just the idea of unstoppable power. So huge, it can’t be shown on screen. Your imagination does a better job.

But we do get the impression he’s just a man. He even employs a sort of dark wizard (there’s no mention of the Sith) as an attack dog (the chillingly viscous Lord Vader) but instead he has placed a Nazi death camp Commandant (Grand Moff Tarkin) as his second in command. This says a lot about this Emperor we know hardly anything about. It shows what he values as strength and what kind of man he thinks can run his empire best.

It makes zero sense coming out of the Prequel Trilogy that Vader isn’t in command of the Death Star. Sure, apologists can make excuses (not based on anything actually in the films) about why this might be, but in A New Hope Vader isn’t an avatar for the Emperor the way he is in Empire and Return of the Jedi. Tarkin is.

It’s Tarkin who is the cold, dispassionate face of a bloated bureaucracy grown too large to sustain itself economically and is forced to rule by suppression. It’s an empire run by the unthinking, banal, human evil we see in our own world.

As soon as we see the Emperor in Episode V, everything changes and by Episode VI, Return of the Jedi, it’s completely altered. The Empire is now the playground for an insane, megalomaniacal wizard.  The plight of the rebels goes from fighting a system of government that’s slid out of control and has begun to turn a blind eye to the atrocities committed in the name of maintaining order, to fighting against cartoon henchmen under the sway of an evil magician. It changes the very nature of everything in the saga from the political situation to the psychology of those involved. It’s a completely different story set in a very different universe.

Everything in A New Hope has a certain sense of reality about it. From the aging technology in Mos Eisley, to what we understand of this crumbling Republic which has just been disbanded, to moisture farms, to the droids. It’s a world far removed from our own, but still very similar.

Even this thing called The Force that these relics (Obi Wan and Vader) from some old monk order seem to be able to use is a very muted kind of magic compared to the unlimited source of power we later come to understand it as. In Episode IV it was something you could almost believe you could personally tap into. Let go of your feelings. Feel the Force flow through you. Is this what happens when we meditate and focus and can suddenly make that 2-point basketball shot? Even if we know it’s not, it’s a magic we can relate to.

It’s so subtle that Han Solo doesn’t even really believe it exists. What kind of a halfwit, after all those massive Jedi wars of the Prequels, wouldn’t believe in The Force? It’d be like us not believing atomic bombs were used in WWII. The way we see The Force in A New Hope, it makes sense he wouldn’t believe in it. It really would just look like “luck” to him. It’s more interesting that way than Yoda and Vader being able to throw giant metal cases around hanger bays like overstuffed pillows with the mere flick of a finger.

Perhaps I see Star Wars Episode IV with too literal an eye. But it’s the eye with which I fell in love with that story 35 years ago. Even when I saw it at the age of 8, The Empire Strikes Back never sat right with me and I wasn’t able to put my finger on why. Since I was only 8, I just thought it was because I didn’t like Han getting Leia instead of Luke and it ends on a bullshit cliffhanger.

Now that I’ve had a few more years to think about it, I understand I’m still waiting for the proper sequel to that movie I saw in the summer of 1977. A movie I still love above all others.

So, May the 4th be with me!

But not The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th or 6th.

%d bloggers like this: