Tagged: Force Awakens

Joe Corallo: Rogue One – A Marketing Story

Before I jump into my main point about the latest live action Star Wars adventure known as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I’d like to make some things clear. First, I loved it. By noon this past Friday I had seen it twice. I enjoyed it more than The Force Awakens. I’d be more than happy to go out and spend the money to see it again.

Now that I made that very clear, I’d like to go into two of my observations. While I wouldn’t necessarily consider anything I’m about to state as a spoiler, that doesn’t mean you won’t. If you are very sensitive to anything even remotely resembling a spoiler, please watch Rogue One before you continue reading.

We’re all on the same page now? Great!

The first observation I’m going to make revolves around foreign markets. In particular, the Chinese movie going market. China has become the second largest market for movies in the world and Hollywood has been taking advantage of that. The Force Awakens failed to go over well in China, which made it impossible for the movie to beat out Avatar for the highest grossing film of all time.

In an effort to change that, Rogue One features Hong Kong action mega star Donnie Yen as well as another prominent Chinese actor, Wen Jiang. It’s a solid marketing move and could prove very lucrative for Disney if it gets China’s moviegoers to the theaters for it.

This is more or less a neutral move to pander to an audience. While this does mean precious character real estate isn’t going to other groups or to Asian American actors, it’s still diverse casting. It is also pandering and not really risktaking. While we can discuss this as being good representation, we have to acknowledge it’s also smart business.

Don’t think that considering financial gains to be made in other countries from Hollywood will always have a neutral impact like this. In some cases it’s a positive impact. Movies like Iron Man 3 likely avoided offensive stereotyping with the character of the Mandarin by not wanting to offend that audience. That’s great. Hollywood becoming more worldly for that reason is important and encouraging.

There are drawbacks, however. One of the biggest examples being Doctor Strange. In a politically motivated move, Disney avoided casting someone to portray the Tibetan character of the Ancient One and instead changed the origin of the character to be Celtic while keeping the Asian aesthetic. The thought being that the Chinese government would inhibit the movie’s release and cost the studio precious revenue. While that’s not what is happening with a movie like Rogue One, this mindset could potentially be damaging in other ways. Dehumanizing the people of Tibet or erasing them entirely for a generation will have consequences. As will promoting talent from other countries as Asian American actors and actresses are given more and more hurdles to overcome to make it in Hollywood.

My second observation has to do with the characters of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus who are played by Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. I’ve seen many opinion pieces going around about how they’re clearly a gay couple with evidence from the movie. I’m going to make my thoughts on this very clear.

I’m not happy that Disney’s approach to Star Wars so far had involved queer baiting. If they weren’t aware they were doing that in The Force Awakens they certainly knew for Rogue One.

There is nothing about either sets of those characters that directly implies they’re in a relationship, or that they even want a relationship together. They like having each other around and aren’t shy about their admiration of each other in both movies, but men showing some affection towards each other does not mean they are in a sexual relationship and that kind of thinking can be dangerous and continue to inhibit straight people from feeling they can express themselves that way without implications as well as keeping queer people in the closet longer.

It’s 2016. If you want to have queer characters in your movie, you can.

You don’t need to code them. If you’re coding them, then you’re only speaking to a queer audience. This is an audience that doesn’t need coding anymore; we need real representation. Besides, coding characters so only a queer audience might read them as queer isn’t speaking to straight audiences who are the ones who really need to understand queer characters more and understand that we exist and we aren’t going anywhere.

A reason to code characters in 2016 would be so you can make more money at the box office by not potentially turning away moviegoers who might think twice about wanting to see a queer love story play out while also wanting to make nice with a queer audience. They might also want to make sure people in countries with governments that may be less friendly to the queer community will allow the movie to play unhindered. Not sure something like that would happen? Queer elements have been edited out of anime like Sailor Moon back in the 90s so it could play on TV here in the States.

I completely understand that not everything out there will have queer representation and I am okay with that. What I don’t want to keep seeing are queer baiting story elements like we’ve been seeing in Star Wars since Disney has taken the helm. Either have the representation or don’t. You don’t get to have it both ways and we can’t keep praising companies like Disney for representation that isn’t actually there.

Rogue One was a solid installment in the Star Wars universe and might be my favorite installment since the original trilogy concluded. I highly recommend it. That doesn’t mean we can’t keep hoping for something better even if it means rebelling against some of those in power. Rebellions are built on hope.

John Ostrander: Star Wars – The Trouble with Quibbles

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Spoiler Alert: This column will deal with some plot points in Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens. It’s possible that you may not have seen it yet although I think just about anyone who has any real interest in seeing it has seen it. If you are one of those who haven’t seen it and want to avoid plot revelations, avoid this column. Likewise, if you just don’t give a hang about Star Wars, you might want to avoid it as well. It’ll just bore the life out of you. Fan geek stuff. You know.

I’ve seen the new Star Wars film, Episode VII The Force Awakens a couple of times. Twice at least in the IMAX theater and now on Blu-Ray. Basically, I really enjoyed it. It makes up for the prequels and does what I always wanted in the next Star Wars film – it tells me what happened next.

That said, I do have some quibbles. I don’t mind, as some fans do, that the movie seems to replicate plot points from the first SW film, a.k.a. Episode IV. They had the Death Star, Episode VII has the Starkiller Base. The planet Alderaan gets blowed up real good in Episode IV; the planetary system that included Coruscant got blowed up real good in Episode VII (which, by the way, I think was a mistake). Both films have the mentor figure killed off by the villain dressed in black who wears a helmet. Skywalker males are whiners in all the trilogies. Anakin was a big time whiner in the prequels, Luke whined at least at the start, and now Kylo Ren whines just before he commits patricide. Leia never whines. Han doesn’t whine. Just the Skywalker boys.

Some of the similarities annoy me. Why is it, when the Jedi suffer a set-back, they go off somewhere to pout… excuse me, “meditate”… while the galaxy falls apart? Yoda and Obi-Wan could have found and rallied the remaining Jedi (or created new ones) to go after Darth Vader and Darth Sidious. But no. The remaining Jedi lie in hiding while terrible things happen to the galaxy and the planet Alderaan gets blowed up real good while the remaining Jedi pout. I mean meditate. In the new film, it’s a big plot point that the galaxy is waiting for Luke to come back and save it. The bad guys are hunting for his location so they can kill him and wipe out any possibility of the Jedi really returning. That’s a given. Where’s Luke? Off pouting. I mean meditating. And the flaming Coruscant system gets blowed up real good.

I suppose it could be argued that Luke, after his first attempt to make more Jedi goes spectacularly bad, decides to go look for the first Jedi Temple since he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. However, that’s speculating without any real proof.

In the earlier Star Wars films, it is said that Darth Vader, a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker, still had some good in him. I’ve argued this before: I don’t see it. He killed children, he betrayed the Jedi Order, he helped hunt down remaining Jedi, he was complicit in the destruction of the planet Alderaan but it’s okay because, at the end, he turns on the evil Emperor because the latter is electrocuting Vader’s son.

Now, in the latest film, the new Man In Black, Kylo Ren, a.k.a. the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, kills people, wrecks Luke’s nascent new Jedi Club, orders the destruction of a village, is complicit in the destruction of a whole planetary system and he commits patricide. Yes, this a-hole kills off his Dad, Han Solo, who is one of the favorite characters in Star Wars, who is trying to help him at the time. Kylo does lots of other nasty stuff but we know he will be around for the next film and probably the one after that. If the other films follow the pattern of the earlier films, we may see a desire to redeem the little bugger as Vader was redeemed.

Let me repeat. Kylo (Ben Solo) Ren commits patricide. Throughout history in Western Civilization, that is considered an unspeakable crime, an unforgivable sin. I loved Han Solo and, before he buys it in this film, we’re given some great moments that reminds us all why he’s such a favorite character. And his little snot of a son kills him.

I suppose in the next film or so we’ll get some of Ren’s backstory and maybe understand him better. As it is, I feel no sympathy, no empathy for him. I don’t think he is redeemable any more than I think Vader/Anakin was redeemed. IMO, he needs to die as soon as the plot can arrange it.

However, as I said before, these are quibbles. I don’t want to give the impression that I didn’t like the new Star Wars because I enjoyed it immensely. I found it satisfying and a great return to a galaxy far, far away. I think the female lead, Daisy Ridley playing Rey, is a wonderful addition to the saga. At recent conventions I’ve attended, I’ve seen a lot of young girls cos-playing Rey and I think that’s great. It invigorates Star Wars with new energy.

But they can shoot Kylo Ren any time.

Dennis O’Neil: Technology Always Precedes Art

 

Archie Jughead

Let’s hop on back 40,000 years into the past and watch a fellow named Urg make marks on a cave wall with a piece of flint. We happen to know that Urg has only recently learned that he can make these marks and he is now in the process of finding a use for them. Hey, listen… he’s now making sounds. Could they be words? Can they give us a clue as what he thinks he’s doing?

URG: Ar-chee! Jug-heed! Ann-tee-loop!

And now we fire up our time traveling whatsis and behold! – we find ourselves in the pages of a comic book. The panel we’re in shows those Riverdale High funsters Archie and Jughead strolling down a sunny street. Nearby, enjoying a snack of grass, is an antelope.

ARCHIE: Hey Jug! Isn’t that an antelope?

JUGHEAD: Sure looks like one. Wonder why the artist put that in!

Okay, half turn to the left or right, depending on your political preference, and we find ourselves in the real world – that is, the world we happen to inhabit. We’ve just snuck through a back door into this week’s topic (and yes, maybe I’m being generous in calling what follows a “topic.”) In one sentence, here we go:

Technology always precedes art.

That’s really all I have to say, but I’ll expend a bit more band width anyway.

Remember Urg? He found that he could put scratches on the cave wall and then discovered that these scratches could be pictures and suddenly he was an artist! Time rushed forward and Urg’s descendants put Urg-like scratches into clay tablets and then people had both pictures and writing and then later descendants of Urg invented paint and canvas and various kinds of printing inclluding high speed presses driven by steam and photography and radio and television and silicon chips and the bank width I’m expending…

Urg sure had a lot of descendants and a number of them, maybe without realizing exactly what they were doing, put gadgetry devised by someone else to expressing themselves and amusing their neighbors and pretty soon, there stood Disneyland. And much, much more.

That “much, much more” might be a problem, unless it isn’t. Cinematic technology can put spectacular images on the screen and if we have a toy, we humans will play with it. (I saw a planet explode just the other day.) And all those explosions and chases can serve the story that contains them, but on another level, they’re spectacle. What I fear is that the spectacle is overwhelming drama and theme and the other stuff that can be put on screens and so we’re collectively losing valuable gifts the ancients knew about, things like catharsis and empathy. Am I tilting at windmills? Maybe. Probably.

The exploding planet happened in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I’ll certainly see the next episode in the Star Wars franchise.

Mindy Newell: Review Redux

Supergirl Fox

Cat Grant: One time at a party, Paul McCartney swore to me that he and Yoko were the closest of friends. He was more convincing.

Cat Grant not accepting Kara Danvers’ statement that she (Kara) is not Supergirl

Rey: There are stories about what happened.

Han Solo: It’s true. All of it. The Dark Side. The Jedi. They’re real.

Listen Up! Spoilers Abound, So If You Don’t Want To Know, Don’t Read This Column.

A few weeks ago, four days before Christmas to be exact, I said that I loved Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and had problems with Supergirl.  While I still love Episode VI of a saga that took place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there are two things that bother me. Silly things, to be sure, but just enough to pick at my enjoyment a teensy bit:

I miss the 20th Century Fox fanfare that opened all the other Star Wars movies.

Composed in 1933 by Alfred Newman, head of the studio’s music department, the extended version – which is the one that became so integral to the films – debuted with The Robe, the first film to be shown in Cinemascope. But it had been phased out by the late ‘70s by the then-struggling-to-survive studio when its savior, George Lucas – who had always loved the logo, the sweeping spotlights, and the fanfare – insisted on its use in his “little space opera fantasy.” Then, when John Williams developed the theme to Star Wars, he used the same key as the fanfare, and has said that it was meant to be an extension of Alfred Newman’s work.

And so, ever since May 25, 1977, all of us have felt their heartbeats quicken, felt goose bumps prickle their skin, and felt the hairs on the back of our necks stand up in anticipation and salute as those drums, those trumpets, those sweeping spotlights acted as a clarion call to that galaxy so far, far way where an epic adventure happened such a long time ago. It became such an intrinsic part of the Star Wars universe that it’s now part and parcel of the soundtracks of the first six movies

Seeing a Star Wars movie introduced by Sleeping Beauty’s castle – a “side effect” of Disney’s ownership of the franchise – just ain’t the same, folks.

The only pilot I want to see flying the Millennium Falcon is Han Solo – with Chewie at his side, of course.

Seeing the Falcon in action again after 30+ years, soaring and doing loop-de-loops and evading TIE fighters, was almost like a religious experience, except for one thing – it wasn’t Han and Chewie at the controls. I can’t really explain it, I know it’s kind of dumb: after all, Lando Calrissian flew the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” in Return of the Jedi – but I’ll tell you a secret: I always objected to that, too.

Just to get the bad taste out of my mouth, I’ll tell you what I did absolutely love in The Force Awakens:

The climatic scene between Han Solo and his son, Ben, now known as Kylo Renn, on a catwalk stretching across a seemingly bottomless abyss inside a technological marvel.

A perfect callback to the climatic scene in The Empire Strikes Back, as another father – Darth Vader, once known as Annakin Skywalker – confronted his son, Luke, and revealed truth to him as they faced off on another catwalk high above a seemingly endless abyss inside another technological marvel.

Also a few weeks ago, in the same column (four days before Christmas to be exact), I listed some of my complaints about Supergirl. Well, with the advantage of having watched new episodes of the series, I take back much of what I said:

“We met Aunt Astra and we know right away that she’s evil. She might as well have had a mustache to twirl. We shouldn’t even have known who she was – tease us, fool us. Mix us up. Maybe sometimes she’s good, sometimes she’s bad, maybe she’s somewhere in the middle. What’s her relationship with Kara? And since we’re supposed to be identifying with Kara, that should have been her deal as well.”

It’s almost as if the writers read my column, although of course that’s incredibly egotistical of me, and besides, I’m pretty sure that Astra’s back story and relationship to Kara was already in the show’s “bible.” It turns out that Astra is a villain depending on what side of the argument you hold to – is she an “eco-terrorist,” or an “eco-hero?”  Some argue – as Astra does – that desperate times call for desperate measures, that the needs of the many outweigh needs of the few, or the one. And her relationship with her niece, Kara, is becoming way more complicated as truths about Kara’s mother are being revealed.

“Kara was stuck in the Phantom Zone for years. And this hasn’t had any lasting affects? No emotional or psychological hang-ups? No anger issues at her cousin for dumping her in some strangers’ laps and flying off? No PTSD from seeing her parents, her civilization, her planet from being blown to kingdom come? Did the Danvers even attempt some sort of therapy? She should have trouble forming relationships, she should have trust issues, jeez, let’s see some anger.”

Confrontations with her Aunt, with her sister, Alex, with Cat Grant, with James and with Winn, with Maxwell Lord, with General Lane, and even her hologram mother…

The perky girl is still perky and kind and bubbly, but she’s letting the spunk and anger out, too. You go, SuperGRRRL!

“How many times and in how many ways can Kara talk about proving herself? This fast became a one-trick pony that quickly wore out its welcome and became a whine that is repeated in each and every episode as expository statements to her sister, to Jimmy, to Winn, to Hank…hey, Kara, take a tip from Yoda: “Did not you see Strikes Back the Empire Does? Do, or do not. There is no try.” Seriously, I’m waiting for somebody to tell her to just shut the fuck up already.”

She ain’t whining no more. Well, no so much, anyway. She’s absorbing Nike’s words of wisdom. Just Do It.

One thing that does piss me off big time!:

J’inn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, a.k.a. Hank Henshaw, used his morphing ability to impersonate Supergirl and paid Cat Grant a visit as Supergirl just as the real Kara walks into her boss’ office, thus convincing Cat Grant that Kara Danvers isn’t the Kryptonian Maid of Steel.

No! No! No!

The sad and hackneyed use of a friend of the superhero impersonating said superhero so that said superhero could be seen at the same time and in the same place as said superhero’s secret identity – Batman impersonating Superman to throw Lois Lane off the scent, for instance – oh, come on! That went out back in the 1960s, for cryin’ out loud!

I’m holding on to the hope that Cat Grant is only playing dumb.

John Ostrander: Anybody Out There See The Force Awakens?

Poe Dameron

Not so long ago in a movie theater not too far away. . .

(WARNING! Danger, Will Robinson! Spoilers spoilers spoilers!

If you have not seen SW VII and you don’t want to know what happen , avoid this article. In order to discuss it, plot details will get revealed. You’ve been warned.)

Okay, so I’m late to the party. Again. I finally went to see Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens this last week after about a gazillion other folks had seen it (it has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide).

I’m not an average SW fan. I’d labored in Uncle George’s sandbox for about a decade, writing Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. So I know the territory pretty well. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I was a fan from before the first movie came out, as I’d read the novel of the movie. So my credentials are pretty good.

I really enjoyed myself. Episode VII now joins Episodes IV and V as my favorites. I am sorry to say that my prediction on these pages from a few weeks ago turned out to be true. This is one time Han definitely should have shot first.

There are those (especially fans) who have quibbles and some of them are fair. There are re-cycled elements to the plot, most especially a planet killing (in this case, planetary system killing) weapon like the Death Star. This time it’s called Starkiller Base. You kinda wish the bad guys would think up some other threat. It makes them Vader One Notes.

Speaking of – the main baddie is dressed in black with a black armored mask and uses the Dark Side, pretty much like Darth Vader and is, in fact, Vader’s grandson. (See? I warned you there would be spoilers.) He appears to be conflicted (as Vader supposedly was) and there “is still good in him” but does some pretty rotten things, as Vader did, and I’m not certain I think he’s worth redeeming. He orders an entire village killed. He’s an accomplice in killing off an entire planetary system. He kills his dad, for crying out loud! (And once again, Star Wars has characters with daddy issues.)

Luke Skywalker has gone missing and everyone seems to be looking for him. He was training a bunch of new Jedi but one went bad and killed the others and Luke went off into self-exile. Why do the Jedi keep on doing that? Something goes wrong and they go off to pout somewhere. Yoda did it. Obi-Wan did it (he was supposedly watching over Luke but he also was in self-imposed exile).

There is a father-son confrontation on a metal crosswalk that doesn’t end well. Spaceships still travel at the speed of plot. The climax includes an X-wing attack on a small target to destroy the Big Bad Weapon as time is running out for the good guys.

I understand the desire to use former plot elements; this is re-starting the franchise and calling back to the first film (now called Episode IV). That’s what ignited our love for Star Wars in the first place. Having a story that reminds us of all that is not necessarily a bad idea. And it executed real well. Great visuals and, for a change, a really good script with sharp dialogue.

Above all, there were plenty of new things as well, key among them were the younger cast members. Don’t get me wrong – I just about cheered every time the older ones showed up. “Chewie. . .we’re home.” just about killed me. Heck, just seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time was great. What was key is that the new Luke Skywalker figure is female – Rey, played by newcomer Daisy Ridley. Yes, yes, yes – Leia was always a hero, but not like this. This is a Force using, lightsaber swinging hero and it’s a she. That is huge, IMO. And I think it’s going to have a powerful impact on young girls seeing the movie.

And the other new central hero, Finn (played by John Boyega) is black. Star Wars, in the past, has had trouble working in minorities, for whatever reason. This puts them front and center. Also, I don’t recall a character like Finn before in SW; he’s a turncoat stormtrooper who can’t be the bastard that he’s ordered to be. He rebels, he defects, and – yeah – he also swings a lightsaber.

Our third new hero, Poe Dameron, is the hottest pilot in the Resistance and is played by a Latino, Guatemalan born Oscar Isaac. Yes, Jimmy Smits is Latino and played Bail Organa (Leia’s adoptive father) in the prequel trilogy so Isaac is not the first Latino to play a major role in Star Wars but Poe Dameron is a hot shot X-Wing pilot and that’s just sexy.

The latest Star Wars reflects the changing face of the United States and that makes it feel far more contemporary. It speaks to now while retaining what we’ve loved about Star Wars. And it’s just great fun. I’ll be eagerly waiting Episode VIII and, in the meantime, will go back again to see Episode VII many times. It’s taken a couple decades but there is a Star Wars worth viewing again.

May the Force be with us all.

Martha Thomases: The Star Wars Conspiracy!

2014 NBCUniversal TCA Winter Press Tour Portraits

So since Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens today, and since I’m not going to go see it until after this weekend at the earliest, I thought I would do a trip down memory lane combined with a little bit of pop culture history.

You know, a nostalgic story about the experience I had seeing the first one in a theater, then a reference to Jack Kirby, and a sideline into older types of mythologies that tell similar tales. By the end, we would have deduced that there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them, and we would have been entertained and elevated.

And then, I got lost on the Internet.

Apparently, Star Wars in general and J. J. Abrams in particular are all part of a plan by the Jews to eliminate the Aryan race.

I’m not going to put in a lot of links to substantiate my points. I don’t want to drive any more traffic to the sites. I feel soiled enough that I looked at them.

Look, I get that there are crazy people out there, people who get set off by things that, for the rest of us, are innocuous. So when John Boyega was cast as one of the leads in the new film, racists went nuts saying the film is anti-white propaganda. Because, clearly, all leading roles in movies are by Divine Right given to white men. If they aren’t, it’s because of some social justice warrior affirmative action social engineering. Or, something.

I liked the original Star Wars trilogy. I liked parts of the next three movies (I would watch Ewan McGregor do just about anything, including crawling through sewers). Even when I didn’t like something, I was interested in what Lucas wanted to do.

When he sold out to Disney (and then gave most of the money away), I was nervous about what would happen. As it turns out, I like J. J. Abrams more than many of my fellow nerds. I liked his Star Trek movies, despite my friends’ attempts to prove to me, empirically, that they’re bad. I liked a bunch of the television shows he produced. I like saying “Bad Robot” when the animated logo comes on.

So I want to see what he does with Star Wars.

It is interesting to me that so many who decry “political correctness” and “censorship” and “social justice warriors” demand exactly those things when the person speaking has another point of view. in this case, the person speaking is Abrams (with the implied consent of Lucas and Disney). If he chooses to make a film about a white woman, a black man and scores of characters of many species, that’s his right.

I mean, Kirk Cameron made Saving Christmas, a movie I have no desire to see, and I didn’t call for his death.

I certainly didn’t see it as part of a millennia long conspiracy to destroy my way of life, and therefore a call to rain down violence and destruction on those who chose to buy tickets. The people at the crazy websites who don’t like Boyega & Co. use Hitler as a good example to support their positions. Because J. J. Abrams is trying to “kike” things up. (Yes, they use that word.)

You know, there are always the crazies in the world, of all stripes. Usually, they have enough common sense and/or shame to try to disguise their craziness. No one in the United States, in my lifetime, has wanted to be seen as a Nazi. Maybe an extreme conservative, even a racist, but not someone in favor of death camps.

Until this election cycle.

If you don’t want to see John Boyega, if that’s an affront to your morality, don’t go. More seats for me.

Dennis O’Neil: “Star Wars. Nothing But Star Wars…”

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Yo, fellow geeks! Are we holding our breaths? Can we squirm with anticipation for another day or two? Because, as you well know, this is the week. The latest Star Wars flick is about to open and hey! I thought the fuss surrounding the release of the last Batman movie was a big honking deal, but that, compared to the Star Wars fuss, was a third grade talent show.

At what point will we see it (and be assured that, despite our extreme maturity, we will see it because under our wrinkles live, well, geeks.) Will we be waiting at the 21-plex when its cute little machines and pleasant humans begin ticket-selling on Friday morning? Or will we exercise a little self-restraint and avoid the mall for another little while until the dust settles and maybe there’s a few more parking spaces? (But who am I kidding? It’s the holiday season and there will never be enough parking spaces, at least not until January. Then maybe.)

Television commercials and magazine covers and news stories…

Yep, big honking deal, all right and a stark contrast to the release of the first Star Wars entertainment, way back in 1977. I saw that almost be accident. I was doing something or other in Los Angeles when I encountered David Gerrold, science fiction writer and editor who had, bless him, published an early sf story of mine in an anthology. David was going to a movie screening and had an extra ticket and was I interested and… why not? I knew virtually nothing about the movie but David was pleasant company and the screening was in a theater owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the Oscar awarders – which made it the toniest theater I’d ever visited. I was going to pass that up? Nope.

What followed was a great afternoon in the dark.

And Star Wars quickly became a hit (and helped spawn an interest in mythology) and, along with its sequels, has been in our heads ever since. All to the good? Shrug. I’m a pop culture guy – read: geek – and you’re not about to catch me knocking the stuff that’s given me so many good moments and, not incidentally, kept me warm and nourished for about a half century.

But I look at the news media and behold the shabby state of the world and wonder if, as a civilization, we aren’t paying too much attention to our amusements and not enough to matters that make us squirm, not with anticipation, but with dread. Global warming. Terrorism. Mass shootings. Mutating microorganisms. Racism. Education. You know. To find relief from the planet’s woes we engross ourselves in all things pop culture, and let’s include athletics and gossip in that category, and we neglect what’s genuinely important and when the world worsens from the neglect, we again run from the fear the neglect causes by seeking refuge in the trivia that, arguably, has been contributing to the worsening. Round and round and round…

But, you know? Maybe if we get to the mall early, before school lets out, we might find a parking space…

(The editor would like to thank Nick “Winters” for inspiring today’s headline. His Christmas special presently airs on Netflix.)

John Ostrander: Idle Speculation in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

star_wars_wallpaper_4I can tell by the saturation of TV trailers that Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens is opening real, real soon in a theater near, near to you.

Of course I’m going to see it, probably around March when seats will become available. Pre-sales have been incredible. And I’ve been trying to avoid spoilers. Originally, I read the Star Wars novelization before the first movie (a.k.a. Episode IV) so I knew the plot twists and turns. I was determined to be spoiler-free for Empire Strikes Back but, at a Chicago Minicon I attended, a ten-year old boy came up while I was talking with Larry Charet, the event co-organizer, and asked him, “Do you know if the Star Wars comic adaptation is like the movie?” (The adaptation had come out ahead of the movie.) Larry didn’t know so the kid continued, “Because in the comic it says the Darth Vader is Luke’s father.”

Gaaaaah!

Well, I didn’t kill the kid. (And no, you didn’t get a Spoiler Alert from me. If you don’t know that little item from the movie after all this time, you didn’t care anyway.) And J.J. Abrams and the folks at Disney are being very parsimonious with information other than what they want us to know.

Not knowing anything hasn’t kept fans from idle speculation, When has it ever? So I’m going to do a little idle speculation of my own. I don’t know anything more than any of you do but, since I wrote Star Wars comics for ten years, some people may think that I have an inside track on all this. I don’t. Anyway, here’s my big theory:

Han Solo is going to die in The Force Awakens.

I’m not the first person to speculate this. It’s been back and forth over the web but I have some reasons.

  • Harrison Ford is getting up there in years. He’s 73 right now. A really good looking 73, I’ll grant you. I wish I looked even half as good as he does. Star Wars Episode VIII isn’t due to come out until 2017 and it has just barely started filming. Episode IX won’t be out until 2019. Ford is getting ooooold, folks.
  • Ol’ Harrison is a tad bit reckless, my fellow fans. He crashed a plane recently. He walked away but he could’ve just as easily been killed. So maybe the Powers-That-Be (aka Disney) don’t want to take that chance.
  • Maybe the way they lured Ford back to the role (outside of a big paycheck) is to promise to do what Ford wanted them to do back in Episode III – kill off his character.
  • Star Wars consistently kills off characters. Death is a prominent feature in the films. Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Maul, Darth Sidious, Amidalalala, almost the whole freaking Jedi Order, Luke’s aunt and uncle, Obi-Wan Kenobi, everyone on the Death Star (both 1 and 2), Yoda, Emperor Palaptine, Anakin/Darth Vader – the list goes on and on. Han’s death would have a shock and a strong emotional impact for even the casual fan. If whoever kills him escapes, it provides a strong plot element for the next two films. The fans will want to see the killer brought to justice. Guaranteed continued high attendance.
  • It’s not like we’ll totally lose Han. A Young Han Solo film is scheduled for 2018. If it’s young Han Solo then it’s a guarantee that Harrison Ford won’t be playing him. He’s oooooold.

I’m standing by this one for now. Han Solo is going to take the dirt nap. If he doesn’t? Hey – that’s fine by me too. Just remember you heard it here first. Or second. Or forty-fifth. Let’s think of this as an experiment – will I become an anonymous source? Will anyone quote me? That would be a giggle.

Han Solo is going to die. For sure.

Unless he doesn’t.

Oh, and I forgot. Spoiler alert.

John Ostrander’s Big Coming Attractions

Spectre

Having written last week about the movies I saw this last summer and really enjoyed, I might as well this week talk about what’s coming up in the movie theaters between now and the end of the year. Which ones look interesting and which ones I’m really looking forward to.

The latter is the easiest to identify – Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens – and the next entry in the James Bond saga, Spectre.

Star Wars is a gimme. I’ve been a Star Wars fans for a loooooong time and I labored in George Lucas’s vineyard for about ten years, doing a passel of comics. Yes, those are now in the process of being taken out of continuity but, OTOH, they were never A Canon, which meant Lucas could disregard them at any moment.

The Force Awakens is going to do what I really wanted after Episode VI came out – it’s going to tell me what happened next. When I really like a story, that’s always what I want – what happened next. GL decided to go back and do a prequel about how we got to the start of Star Wars. Okay, that’s what interested him but not me so much.

Oh, and he dicked around with the whole “Did Han shoot first?” question. It was never a question until Lucas dicked around with it: Han shot first. Why he needed to dick around with that, I don’t know. His first answer was the correct one. However, I’m wandering off topic.

How interested I will continue to be with the Star Wars franchise will depend on this next movie, but there is no question I’m going to see Episode VII.

The other big film in the fall season is the next James Bond movie, Spectre. I’ve become a big fan of Daniel Craig as Bond; in fact, I will go so far as to speak heresy and say he is now my favorite Bond. (I hereby apologize to my buddy, Kevin Hatch, but there it is.) The last Bond film, Skyfall, cemented that for me. The director on that, Sam Mendes, is back with Craig for Spectre which evokes the organization that was Bond’s usual Big Bad. This might be Craig’s last outing as Bond and, if so, will make it all bittersweet but also something I absolutely must see.

There are other films that have attracted my attention for one reason or another. None of them are anticipated with quite the same fervor for me of the Star Wars and the Bond entries but they have caught my eye. The ads for The Intern look interesting. Anne Hathaway with Robert De Niro as a widower/retiree who becomes her intern on her company. The two seem to play together well and it looks entertaining.

Black Mass looks as if Johnny Depp has remembered he can act instead of just messing around and that interests me. The Martian has Ridley Scott doing sci/fi again with Matt Damon as his lead. That’s a combination I find attractive. Likewise, Bridge Of Spies has Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks in a spy story. I could go for that.

Carol, with Todd Haynes directing Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mare, in a 1950s piece by Patricia Highsmith about a lesbian romance. Doesn’t sound like my usual cup of tea but the combination of story and artists makes it intriguing. I wish I could say I was chomping at the bit to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 but I haven’t seen Part 1 yet so it’s not high on my must-see list. Trumbo, on the other hand, is about the famed screenwriter blacklisted in the 50s for (allegedly) being a Communist sympathizer and that one I do want to see. There’s also a version of Frankenstein coming out with James McEvoy and Daniel Radcliffe that seems to be calling to me. Maybe. I want to see some reviews first.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are doing Sisters and the title and those two actresses are enough to catch my attention. Oliver Stone is directing Jason Gordon-Levitt in Snowden, the story of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Could be interesting.

And that brings us to the end of the year and the dawn of 2016 and the film I really want to see next year is, of course, Suicide Squad. However, I’ll try not to get ahead of myself.

There may be other films that I discover as we go along. Some I won’t need to see on the big screen; some will work just as well on my TV. Some will be disappointments, some will be surprises. And your list may vary.

In the meantime, I’m popping the popcorn.