Posts Tagged ‘Star Wars’

Selling Alderaan By The Pound

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

My new favourite blog is, sadly, no longer being updated, but there is plenty of archived stuff there to dig into. Going back to the urban legend beloved of stoned students in the 90s, namely that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon was a sort of secret soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz, this is “one nerd’s attempt to find an album that synchs up with Star Wars”. Here’s an article in which the gentleman in question looks back on the “experiment”, and doesn’t even attempt to justify it. None needed. Anything that brings together my two favourite things, Star Wars and (in the case of the album referenced in the above title) “moody prog rock” is bound to get my approval.

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And I turned, as I had turned as a boy…

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Comics blogger Kate Beaton regularly creates comics in which she converses with her younger self, and recently invited her readers to do the same, leading to an avalanche of responses. I found about this while looking through Lissa Treiman’s blog (whose strip for the Scary Go Round Feats of Strength competition rightfully won, even though it was up against some, ahem, super awesome entries). So, like many others, I was inspired to make my own:

Conversations with my younger self

Well what else am I going to talk to my younger self about? I don’t know about anything else. I suspect I have fallen into an easy stereotype here. Many of the responses to Kate’s blog post were along the lines of KID: “I like cartoons and comics”, ADULT: “Me too!”, BOTH: “Yay!”. Cartoonists are a predictable lot, and I haven’t exactly moved away from the immature norm. Ah well. On a similar theme, I knocked together another one:

Conversations with my younger self part 2

Now, I am aware of the slightly dodgy Freudian implications of waving around an obvious massive (not to mention glowing) phallic symbol in order to impress my childhood self, but the truth is I would have literally killed for one of these things when i was six.

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Upside Down

Monday, July 28th, 2008

So what is it about upside down lightsabers? Throughout the Star Wars expanded universe artists are constantly depicting lesser known Jedi with their swords held the wrong way round. This year we have two big Star Warsular events on the horizon, The upcoming Clone Wars animated TV series/Pilot movie, and The Force Unleashed video game. The former prominently features a jailbait alien padawan babe brandishing her saber widdershins, whereas the latter (seemingly in development for the last 53 years, and undoubtedly the Shadows of the Empire of the noughties) focuses on Darth Vader’s secret apprentice, the intertextually named ‘Starkiller’, who also doesn’t know the pointy end from the blunt one. Innumerable fan films and comic books also include this bizarre phenomenon.

I once spent a very enjoyable day playing the much maligned Playstation game Jedi Power Battles, in which the token female Jedi Council member Adi Gallia was depicted using a lightsaber in the Australian fashion (and it was red too, what was meant to be going on there?)

Sure it looks cool, and for all I know it could be based on a real martial art technique, but I don’t recall anyone in the actual movies doing it. In order to point the blade out in front of you, you would have to have your elbow up in the air, which can’t be comfortable can it?

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Return of the Fanboys

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Here is a heads up to let you know that we have reposted the most viewed comic we have ever done. A dubious honour, seeing as it piggybacks on the interest in Fanboys, a movie which itself piggybacks on the popularity of Star Wars. Our pageviews went through the roof for a few days, thanks to TheForce.Net, Digg and StumbleUpon.  It was almost like being genuinely popular, although it’s a good job we didn’t let it go to our heads and rush out to buy that speedboat.

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The Ascent of Fan

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

So I finally saw Fanboys thanks to a competition that ran on The ForceCast. I think I read about this movie back in the 90s on Ain’t It Cool News, and it has taken this long to (barely) get a release, a wait of almost Chinese Democracyesque proportions. There’s still no sign of it getting an official release in the UK but those of us who remember the early days of DVD and hung onto our multi region players have at least got the option to get hold of the US DVD.

While it’s a relief to finally get to see the movie that people have been talking about for so long, it only appeared in a handful of American cinemas, and the DVD release has been pretty low key. Coupled with a rather negative critical response, it seems that relatively few people will see it , and that’s a shame as, while it’s far from perfect, it has a massive untapped potential audience that is bound to take it to their hearts.

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The film is a story of a group of friends in 1998 who decide to travel across country to break into Skywalker Ranch, so that they can get to see the unreleased Star Wars Episode I before one of them pegs it. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in the fact that this idea occurred to me many times in the run up to the release of what was surely the most anticipated movie of all time.

At this point, of course, a million AICN Talkbackers will routinely pipe up that when those guys eventually see it they’ll wish they hadn’t bothered. But Fanboys is about the journey, and the characters’ relationships more than the eventual outcome. Along the way there are a few slightly undercooked comedic episodes, some evidence of the studio’s interference, and some fairly unnecessary stunt casting, but the thing that carries the movie along is the terrific chemistry between the central cast. Adding to this is the attention to detail, making it feel like these guys are real friends and real fans. Weirdly, it feels like it actually was made in the late 90s (a side effect of its low budget), and it’s interesting to compare it to 1998’s Free Enterprise, a story about Star Trek fans told with more sophistication, but less charm.

Definitely recommended viewing for fans of Star Wars. And Rush.

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A Wretched Hive of Vapid Celebrities and Overpriced Drinks

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

OK the new entry in the Star Wars saga is pretty interesting, but I’m not sure where it fits in the timeline. For one thing The Mos Eisley Cantina has turned into one of those ghastly sports bars. It looks worse than The Outlander Club from Episode II. Daft Punk fit right in, of course, as they look exactly like those police robots from THX 1138 and Indie Godheads Ian Brown and Noel Gallagher are now so grizzled that they don’t exactly look out of place next to Hammerhead and Snaggletooth. I don’t know about Snoop Dogg awkwardly handling a lightsaber though. The Drop It Like It’s Hot hitmaker is about as convincing a Jedi as Don-Wan Kihotay. Walrus Man is clearly disappointed with the state of hip hop today and just wants to make his feelings known.

Girly voiced male model and occasional “Soccer” player David Beckhams makes an appearance, being hassled by Greedo… or at least some other rodian – they not only all look alike but they even dress the same. Jabba wants him to play for his team – at this point I could hear a million voices suddenly cry out in terror – or at least a bunch of fanboys bleating about their childhoods being raped. Look, if Adidas is going to sell overpriced sports gear with stormtroopers on or something, that’s fine, but all they need to do to get me to shell out is flog those casual jackets that Luke and Han wear in Empire. That’s what was wrong with the prequels, no casual jackets!

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Childhood, Changes and Choices

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

There’s more changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray and certain parts of the internet are blowing up with outrage. Most of these tweaks are pretty inconsequential (as ever), aside from one, namely at the end of Return Of The Jedi when Darth Vader finally turns and pitches The Emperor down one of the Star Wars Universe’s many bottomless shafts, he bellows “NOOOOO!!!”, seemingly a cut and paste of the audio from the heavily memed and much hated ending of Revenge of The Sith. If you’re going to do a callback to something in a movie series that’s mostly awesome, why go for something so risible? It’s exactly the same as Chewbacca in Sith reprising his Tarzan roar from Jedi. Yeah, like that was anyone’s favourite bit.

A tense scene on Cloud City

I'm not sure about some of these changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray

It’s a pretty ridiculous change, and undercuts the epic nature of the scene, where the music tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Vader’s head. And I got a little depressed about it when I first heard about it. This just seemed so baffling a choice that it sent my tiny nerd brain into a tailspin. I’ve never really had a problem with the changes in these movies, and ultimately, none of them change the movies or make them worse, but none of them were necessary. Adding extra stuff in is just gilding the lily, or as I believe it’s called in modern parlance “Vajazzling”.

After reading a ton of tiresome “Lucas raped my childhood by changing the movies again even though I hated every version of them for the last decade” style invective, I came across this measured and thoughtful article on GeekPlanet, and it got me thinking about choice. We have become so accustomed to having every possible choice presented to us, when limited choices come up, we tend to lose our shit. People want the original versions of those movies, and it’s a pretty reasonable and understandable point of view.

Leaving aside what you consider to be the original version (even back in 1977 there were two different sound mixes of Star Wars in circulation), or which version you grew up with (for me it was a recording of the first showing on ITV in 1981 or 82, complete with ads for Bisto and Allied Carpets, not to mention a different voice for Aunt Beru and the presence of the line “Close the blast doors”), I think people forget that we live in a privileged age of unlimited on demand entertainment. Listen carefully younglings, because this crazy old man’s gonna teach you a few things about the past.

A long time ago, in the 1970s to be precise, there was one Star Wars movie and it was called Star Wars. Darth Vader was some asthmatic dude who killed Skywalker senior, The Emperor was just some politician who got lucky and people didn’t allow droids in drinking establishments. Luke still never really had a chance with Princess Leia though, even though we thought he did. There was no video version. The only way to own a part of that movie was to get reels of “selected scenes” on super 8 film. They were silent and in black and white, but if you were willing to fork out the price of a small house you could get them with sound and in colour. I dread to think what the quality was like, but the very idea of it was so far out of my reach, it seemed an impossible fantasy.

Years later (many years later) the films were available on video. I won The Empire Strikes Back on Betamax in some competition or other. It had trailers for The Cannonball Run and All The Right Moves (featuring a pre Scientology Tom Cruise), and in the actual film you could clearly see the plains of hoth through the snowspeeders. That tape withstood several hundred plays, and that suggests to me that audio visual nerds are right when they say Beta was the superior format. Incidentally, why did they name it “Betamax”? Isn’t that automatically dooming it to runner up status in the format wars? They should have called it “Alphamax” at least.

I remember reading about the Laserdisc collection in the early 90s. Not only did it have the movies in a digital format that would never degrade (like a CD!), it had – gasp! – bonus material like documentaries, photo galleries and audio interviews on something called “alternate layers”. The very idea blew my fucking mind! But again, this was something I could only dream of, surely only millionaires owned such a thing as a laserdisc player. With actual LASERS!

I am not sure how this fits into Return of the Jedi but it looks awesome!

Yet more changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray

When it comes down to it, if I want to watch Jedi without that weird outburst from Vader, I can just watch the DVD. And if I want to watch Jedi without creepy old Hayden Christensen’s head pasted over avuncular old Sebastian Shaw’s (Star Wars FACT: Sebastian Shaw had a long term relationship with John Peel’s mother), I can watch my bootleg versions of the original trilogy (dubs of the laserdisc versions). If only I’d waited a couple of years I could’ve bought them legitimately as Lucasfilm went ahead and released pretty much the same thing in 2007, although I think mine were put together by someone whose love of those movies is a little more casual than mine, as the case of the first movie reads “The New Hope”. I have the choice to watch whichever version I choose.

Those bootlegs aren’t perfect of course – a source of fan rage is that they want HD remastered versions of the original versions of the movies, presumably unaware that once you remaster anything it can’t be considered to be “original” anything. They are however, perfectly watchable  – better than the video versions I had growing up (when the shield generator on Endor blew up in Jedi, the tracking always went mental), but the DVDs aren’t perfect, and guess what, the Blu Rays won’t be either. In a few years we’ll be watching everything in Super High Definition that will make HD look like dogshit  (or, more probably, it will be ever so slightly better if you look closely).

People will continue to bitch, loudly proclaim that they’re not buying it, and make fan edits. Fair play to them if they want to painstakingly piece together their preference as to what those movies should be (a bit like one G. Lucas seems to do every few years – everyone’s gotta have a hobby), but I have no interest in watching some ridiculous version of The Phantom Menace with both Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd edited out. I bet that makes sense, and after all the original is ridiculous enough (HEYOOO!)

Being surprised about Lucas changing his movies after the fact is like being surprised about all the porn on the internet. He’s being doing it ever since the first movie, and will keep on until he becomes a force ghost. The biggest change he ever made was making Darth Vader Luke’s father. It’s pretty clear they were unrelated in the first movie and by including that plot twist in the second (and the full explanation in the third), it changed the meaning of the first movie and the whole shape of the saga. And yet I don’t recall anyone ever complaining about that.

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May The I Have A Bad Feeling About This

Friday, May 4th, 2012

It’s May The Fourth, so at some point my Mum will make the joke she’s been making every year since 1978. Of course, to an obsessive bantha hugging nerd such as myself, every day is Star Wars day. Recently the artist Ralph McQuarrie passed away and his contribution to the look of the Star Wars universe can’t be overstated – in fact it’s entirely possible that without his initial paintings, Star Wars wouldn’t have even got made. That story’s been told many times before, and far more eloquently than I ever could, but the best I can do is to say that he is the single biggest artistic influence on me. I probably didn’t realise that for many years. Even as a fairly ignorant kid growing up I knew who he was, as his work was all over various books and magazines (that was our equivalent of the world wide web, back in the 70s), but I certainly didn’t understand any of the principles of filmmaking. I thought his paintings were based on the films, rather than the other way around (It always baffled me that the stuff in the paintings was slightly different).

When I was a kid, I watched my Betamax copy of The Empire Strikes Back every weekend (every day on school holidays). I remember one time I paused the tape on one of my favourite shots (our heroes escaping onto the Cloud City landing platform) and drew my version of the scene. Turns out practically that entire image was Ralph’s. Not only did he do amazing concept art, but he also knocked out a bunch of matte paintings in his spare time. Talented bastard!

Shortly after McQuarrie, another legend of fantasy and science fiction art passed away. Jean Giraud, AKA Moebius. Although his work was probably not as widely seen, he was massively influential and his surreal, organic vistas and unique, off kilter characters are instantly recognisable. And, I was surprised to learn that Ralph McQuarrie’s design for the Imperial Probe Droid in Empire, was based on a Moebius drawing. Let’s all shoot at floating mechanical spider things, in tribute to Jean and Ralph.

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