The Force Awakens San Diego ComicCon Trailer (We’re Out In A Desert Edition)

Hey readers, sorry for the absence, but sometimes life gets in the way.  I should get back to regular posting in the weeks ahead, and I have quite a lot to say, and a backlog of reviews I need to get to.

I thought I would break my silence talking about the much ballyhooed release of a behind the scenes trailer for The Force Awakens at ComicCon.  Practical seemed to be the operative word of the night at the panel presentation… practical effects, sets… everything practical.  Of course this was all spin designed to cater to disgruntled fanboys obsessed with the notion that the Prequel Trilogy is nothing but non stop CG effects and sets.

Of course this completely ignores all reality.  Phantom Menace alone used more practical (meaning miniature) effects then the entire Original Trilogy combined.  That trend continued with Attack of the Clones, but if you were to listen to many of the Lucas bashers they would have audiences believe that Lucas constructed all of the sets, costumes, aliens, and even actors inside a computer … well that’s simply untrue.

Unfortunately Lucasfilm appears to be in on the act now, subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, implying that the Prequels were somehow artificial, and the decisions to take advantage of emerging technologies was a mistake.  If someone were to drink every time JJ Abrams used the words “real” or “practical,” that individual would be three sheets to the wind only 15 minutes into the presentation.

As the great Alfalfa once said: “I’ve had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more.”

So I whipped up this little video using the template of the real ComicCon behind the scenes trailer to highlight some of the amazing work of the artists, construction crews, model builders, and creature effects crew who worked on the Prequel Trilogy.  It’s still in a rough state, and I’d like to tweak the audio a bit, but I thought in light of it being Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Week I’d get it out to fans:

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Prequel Fans Have Heard The Dog Whistle

Great article by Friend of the Blog… Lazy Padawan

Friday’s San Diego Comic Con TFA panel was carefully constructed to generate positive, even ecstatic buzz. All of those panels are meant to do that, whether it’s a rare appearance from a huge movie star, the debut of a two-fisted trailer, an ensemble cast appearing together, or goofy surprise stunts like the new Spiderman showing up to ask a question in costume.

If you went by the happy, even joyous tweets from those who attended the panel and the free show afterwards (complete with fireworks) or the geek media reports, it was the best thing since sliced bread. I felt a bit stung that I’d missed out, especially on the concert afterwards. It was in an outdoor area where I could’ve seen and heard the event, even if I hadn’t attended the panel. As I put it on Twitter, it felt like a friend threw a party but didn’t invite…

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Learning to Let Go…

The Star Wars HeresiesGood friend of the blog, Paul F. McDonald, author of the outstanding book, The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols, and Philosophies of Episodes I-III (I highly recommend this book to any Star Wars fan wishing to explore the deeper meanings of the Saga), recently wrote a brief essay on his site entitled, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”  Paul examines a growing ambivalence he felt regarding Star Wars in a post-Lucas world, but how two things brought him back to full-throated Star Wars fandom: 1) Star Wars Rebels, and 2) the Force Awakens Teaser.  I certainly agreed with him about Rebels, and the news coming out of the Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One panel filled me with excitement.  But I still had a great deal of concern about the future of Star Wars sans George Lucas.  Could Lucasfilm tell the kinds of rich, deeply layer stories George had with the Saga and The Clone Wars.  There was kind of a maddening tug of war going on with the fan within me.  On the one hand there was all kinds of news coming out of Celebration that as a fan really got me jazzed, however, JJ’s statements about the themes of Star Wars and his constant catering to a particular portion of the fanbase still left me deeply troubled.

Qui-Gon and Anakin

But, Paul brought up one great point in his essay that I had to consider… one of the central themes of the Prequel Trilogy is learning to let go of the things we are attached to… and that even included George.  George is gone, and I needed to come to terms with that.  While that is something I’m going to still wrestle with for some time, looking back on the hundreds and hundres of Star Wars stories told in books, comics, and short stories I’ve collected over the years there have been plenty of Star Wars stories told by authors that have the same depth and emotional resonance as George’s Saga.  One book in particular, “Kenobi,” by frequent Star Wars novelist John Jackson Miller, is one of the finest Star Wars tales ever told and would be a worthy addition to the Star Wars film legacy.  Star Wars didn’t just have to be about George and his wishes, and although I still wish George was involved at Lucasfilm, those days are gone.George Lucas

I needed to let go…

I still stand by my earlier criticisms of JJ Abrams, and I still have a lot of concern about the film he will deliver in December.  Not because of Lucas’ absence, but Abrams abilities as filmmaker and storyteller, and his own views of the Saga which I find to be very constrictive.  But overall I have to admit the materials coming out of Lucasfilm since George’s departure  have only honored what came before, and have fit in quite nicely as part of a larger tapestry of the overall Saga.  From the remaining Clone Wars stories, to Rebels, and the books and comics, it’s clear the Star Wars Story Group, led by Kiri Hart, takes its job seriously, and will do their best to deliver quality Star Wars stories that even George would be proud to have his name attached to.

The final piece which really helped me to let go of George and just try to enjoy the Star Wars that was coming was rewatching a special video produced for starwars.com following the release of Revenge of the Sith.  The Journey was a two part video released the Summer of 85 as both a “Thank you” to George, and a “Thank you” to the fans.  While Clone Wars had been announced by George it appeared the cinematic Saga was over and George would soon retire leaving Star Wars to television.  As fans we would no longer share that communal bond in a darkened theater and would have to be content enjoying the Saga, and stories to come, in the comfort of our living rooms…. no longer joined as fans.  Looking at this video as a “goodbye,” from George really helped me say “Farewell,” to him as the guardian of the Star Wars galaxy.

The Journey Part 1

The Journey Part 2

(These videos are only available via starwars.com, but are also included as part of the bonus content for the recent Star Wars Digital Movie Collection)

I’ll still have plenty of things to say about Star Wars coming from Disney, and if I think Disney/Lucasfilm goes off the rails with certain stories I’ll still be posting my criticisms.  But now is the time for me to sit back, and enjoy the ride ahead.  I really need to heed the advise of those paragons of wisdom, once trapped on the Satellite of Love, who famously quipped: “Just repeat to yourself it’s just a show, I should really just relax.”

Mike & the Bots

 

My Hiatus – There and Back Again

I’m back.  It took a while for the bug to return, but I’m back.

While I had promised back in late December to return to regular blogging in a “few weeks” a number of events occurred that legitimately made writing regular updates nearly impossible.  Namely my job situation changed, and for a few weeks over the Holiday season I had to look for a new job.  I found that job in early January, but I felt it was inappropriate to be spending my newly found free time writing about my passion for Star Wars when I needed to find work.  Also during this period I went through a fairly profound change in my faith, and moved closer to a more orthodox Christian tradition.  During this same time I spent a good deal of time in prayer, and reading my Bible.  Again, it was a time to be serious and less focused on something that’s let’s face it… a little frivolous.

georgelucasHowever, something else happened that made me really examine my fandom, and what was happening within the Star Wars fan community, and Disney’s handling of the Saga.

Back in January Cinema Blend interviewed George Lucas for his upcoming animated film, Strange Magic.  In the interview Lucas stated:

“The ones that I sold to Disney, they came up to the decision that they didn’t really want to do those. So they made up their own. So it’s not the ones that I originally wrote.” 

I was floored.  Disney had claimed these films were based on George’s treatments for the Sequel Trilogy.  How in the world could Disney simply discard Lucas’ ideas, and what impact would that ultimately have on Star Wars as a whole?  To me this was akin to a publisher buying the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth sagas, then asking Professor Tolkien, if he were alive, to develop a sequel trilogy to the Lord of the Rings, then he turns in the manuscript, and the publisher says, “Sorry, John, we’ve decided to go a different direction.”

Then follow that up with the announcement that Prequel Trilogy basher and writer of the first Star Wars spinoff fim, Garry Whitta, was being replaced by ANOTHER Lucas basher, Chris Weitz.  Of course this announcement, along with the Lucas interview set the internets ablaze, and once again exposed the seedy underbelly of a small, but vocal minority of Star Wars who insist on bashing Lucas, and fans of the Prequels at any turn.

I realized that I had my fill of this nonsense.  The endless online forums battles, my Twitter feed being filled with garbage from countless geek websites deriding fans of the entire Saga, or once again bashing Disney or Lucas for not giving them the “unaltered” Original Trilogy in high definition.  Unfortunately it appeared the continued segregation of fans between trilogies, by fans was going to continue, and Disney was doing little to foster a sense of welcoming fans of the whole Saga.  Even a casual statement like, “We stand behind George’s vision of the Saga and will continue to honor it going forward,” would be a nice sentiment.  Instead they hire yet another Lucas basher, albeit a little less intense, Chuck Wendig, to write the official story of what happened in the days that followed the Battle of Endor.  Is it really that hard to find creative types who have a love for George’s six-part Saga (Disney here’s a hint there’s a guy you are already employing, his name is Dave Filoni)?godfather3

So I decided to step away from fandom for a while… my passion appeared to be waning. But just when I thought I was, as REM put it, “Losing My Religion,” a few things happened along the way that rekindled it.  Just when I thought I was out, Star Wars pulled me back in.

While all of these negative behind the scenes things were happening on the Disney/Lucasfilm front, the actual products being released were pretty darn good.  Marvel Comics began their stewardship of the Star Wars license, and so far the results have been pretty good.  The Princess Leia mini series, and Kanan: The Last Padawan have been outstanding titles.  Star Wars started strong but has kind of meandered as of late, and the last two issue of Vader have been pretty bad (I’ll be reviewing the four titles in an upcoming post soon), but overall it looks like Marvel has a good handle on the Saga and have incorporated elements of the entire Saga in their story telling.  Meanwhile the official canon has also continued in a series of pretty good novels.  So far Tarkin has been a standout among the new books, but the Rebels prequel novel, A New Dawn was quite good as well.  Unfortunately the Luke Skywalker novel, Heir to the Jedi was hit or miss, but all in all the canon novels appear to be well thought out and have tied into the comics very smoothly.Kanan

In addition to this quality expanded canon coming from Lucasfilm, Disney’s animated series, Star Wars Rebels, ended in a rousing fashion.  After some early missteps, and some ratings confusion, the show found its footing and a regular audience on Disney Channel during reruns.  More adventures await as the second season is set to debut and will have a full order of 22 episodes.  Hopefully, Disney will allow the adventures of the Ghost Crew continue for some time, and introduce new Younglings and Padawans to the Star Wars universe.

While I may have been growing weary of Star Wars fandom, and Disney’s apparent miscues, the canon material coming from Lucasfilm kept my fandom on a low burn.  However, what finally put it over the top to a full boil came from fellow fan Mike Klimo and his brilliant blog Star Wars Ring Theory.  I had known about Mike’s blog for a few months, but recent he has been making the rounds on a number of podcasts and will be featured in a write up in Star Wars Insider.  So what is Star Wars Ring Theory… well as I’ve always suspected, Lucas’ entire Star Wars Saga completes a circle in how it presents itself.  Lucas used a writing technique call “ring composition” to construct all six episodes of the Saga.  Basically Mike did the serious research of going episode by episode, and more importantly, shot by shot, and line by line, showing how together the entire Saga makes up a intricately woven tapestry… Lucas constructed the Saga in a very specific fashion, and while it can be enjoyed on just a basic, almost visceral level; if you dig deeper, there’s something more… a lot more.  Digging deep into Mike’s work, and listening to him speak so passionately about it made me realize how much the Saga meant to me, and I wasn’t about to let a bunch of grumpy fans, or misguided corporate suits take away from my enjoyment of George’s work.Ring Theory

So I’m officially back, and will return to my normal writing schedule.  Thanks to my readers for being patient with me, but rest assured there will be some good stuff coming up in the weeks ahead.

Coming soon: The Most Subversive Star Wars Story Ever… The Phantom Menace

I’ll Be Returning This Week

After a furious pace of blog posts, I decided it was time to take a brief break for the Holidays. In addition there were some major work related changes going on with the Evans family, so I needed to focus on that.  So I’ll be back this week with regular posts.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas and will have a terrific New Year!

May the Force Be With You!

Do… or do not. There is nor try. Part II

Well, I posted this blog entry a couple of months ago, and I’d like to thank all of my readers who have responded.  Right now I’ve been training for the upcoming Star Wars Disneyland Half Marathon, and our race team has been raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).  We have a team goal to raise $9,000 for LLS and are about $1,000 short right now.  So during this Holiday season I’d like to ask my fellow Star Wars fans to consider a small donation to LLS through our team.  You can find the details at the bottom of the article.

Now for those of you asking why the heck I’d be doing something crazy like walking 13.1 miles… well continue reading:

October 2, 2014:

One of501st the best aspects of Star Wars fandom is the sheer number of fans who are involved in charitable works.  Both the 501st and Rebel Legion are well know for their involvement in fundraising and bringing attention to a whole host of notable cause like children’s cancer research, the American Red Cross, and the Make a Wish Foundation among others.  And other Star Wars fans across the world have joined forces to raise money to help offset medical expenses for fellow fans, or simply help out in their local communities.

To be a member of the Evans clan, community service is pretty much a requirement.  You WILL help out those who are in need or less fortunate than yourself, and you WILL do whatever is asked of you with a grateful heart.  My wife and I firmly believe this is a way to actively put our faith into action, and will pass on a legacy of community service to our children, and theirs. rebel legion

For the past 13 years or so my wife has helped raise funds for the American Cancer Society and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  Most of our fund raising activity surrounds racing events like marathons, half-marathons, and triathlons.  We help out in race prep, getting runners registered, working the finish line passing our water to runners, and tear down.  Rather than pay us, the company who sponsors the race pays our favorite charity.

Of course my wife got the bug to actually participate in some of these races as a walker.  She would diligently fundraise, for each race with her monies going to her charity of choice. She would work through the grind of training, and the inevitable pain of race day.  But in the meantime she would raise thousands to help cancer research.

Racing LadiesYou see, my wife hates cancer… I mean HATES it with a passion.  It has taken away family members and close friends of hers well before their time.  So she relentlessly pursues her goal of wiping out cancer from the planet, all the while towing her husband and kids along to help her raise money.  Then last year she convinced my youngest, Kiersten, to participate in a race.  She had a blast and wanted to do it again.  So their goal was to participate in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco.

Then my daughter got an idea… a devious, wicked idea… Dad loves Star Wars, right?  So let’s get dad to join us and do the Star Wars Disneyland Half Marathon in January. How could I say no, it’s Star Wars, it’s Disneyland (my other fan passion) and it’s for an awesome cause?  Well of course I couldn’t say no; so there it is.

So that’s the purpose for this particular post.  The Evans family is raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through Team in Training for the upcoming race, and I will be run/walking the 13.1 mile course (GULP). Frankly, it’s a little intimidating, as I’ve put on a bit of weight (to put it nicely) since I participated in the PF Chang’s Rock n Roll Marathon years and years ago.  But I’m determined to DO it… not try.

So, the Evans team needs your help.  Our goal as a team is to raise $9,000.  We are getting there, but the December 31st deadline is quickly approaching.  So, if you feel inclined, I’ve put a link to my fundraising page here (or you can click on the really cool Return of the Jedi inspired graphic below) where you can make a tax free donation of any amount you want.  Even if you can’t contribute at this time, just drop a well wish in the comment field below, or say a quick prayer (if that’s your thing), or send some positive vibes our way:

Disney Marathon

Hey, it’s me… on a podcast? And cool Freddie Prinze Jr. interviews!

WHOWARSlgAfter my Disney rant spread across the interwebs, podcaster and Star Wars & Doctor Who superfan, Rob Irwin reached out to me to discuss Rebels and ratings.  Due to time zones (he’s based out of Sydney, Australia), I couldn’t do the show live, but he was kind enough to send me a series of question that I hope shed some more light on the ratings for Rebels.  If you are a Star Wars and Doctor Who fan (like myself), I highly recommend his podcast Who Wars.  You can listen to this week’s episode by clicking on the logo.

Freddie-Prinze-JrAnd speaking of podcasting, if you don’t want to hear me drone on, you can listen to a couple of great interviews with Rebels star, Freddie Prinze Jr., who plays Kanan.  He’s got some great stories to tell about his own fandom and interest in Kung Fu movies.  He’s been making the rounds this week on a number of fan podcasts.  So, far I’ve listened to him on Rebel Force Radio, and in a great in depth discussion with the fine folks at Coffee With Kenobi.  Give them a listen!

RebelForcecoffee with kenobi