Star Wars Episode VII

As I drove into work this morning, I was thinking about the very thing that was every nerd’s mind right now. Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilms, and the upcoming new installment to the Star Wars franchise. Episode VII.

As I considered the possibilities, I couldn’t help but feel that there’s just no way the Star Wars movies could get worse after the most recent trilogy of episodes I through III. Web comic artist Zach Weiner(…smith) nailed the sentiments on the head with his tweet on the matter.

In her defense, she's probably the only Disney Princess with a blaster...

In her defense, she’s probably the only Disney Princess with a blaster…

The purchase is a blessing and a curse in my opinion. On one hand, Disney has had very impressive returns after purchasing Marvel. The downside is that Disney would have a lot of incentive to avoid some of the darker themes that were explored in the third episode and persisted through the original trilogy.

I honestly have very, very little idea what Episode VII would contain. My understanding is that the ideas and story for tales of a post-Imperial galaxy exist. Several novels suggest as much. But I really don’t know what to expect. Disney gave themselves a due date of 2015, so I’d like to think they had a game plan on the table. At least a script of somekind and a few ideas of what to look for cast wise.

To be honest, my favorite area of the Star Wars franchise is actually the awesome Knights of the Old Republic series by BioWare. The intriguing first game was so good, I beat it and immediately started a new character. While I haven’t touched the MMORPG, the single player games were fairly awesome and I hope Disney has the guts to continue making them. Perhaps even talk to BioWare about a new KotOR trilogy in the same continuous vein of Mass Effect.

While I don’t know if Disney can do as well as the original movie trilogy, I don’t think they can do as badly as the prequel trilogy. It will probably help that Lucas will not be directing it. Episodes V and VI were not directed by him for one. Guess we’ll find out in a couple of years.

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Life Story? Meh

"He is NOT Judge Judy and Executioner!" -Nick Frost

“He is NOT Judge Judy and Executioner!” -Nick Frost

Are origin stories necessary?

A number of critics have been asking this question after the recent movie, The Amazing Spider-Man. I absolutely appreciate how much different this origin story was from the last. But there were still the tedious elements they felt they had to addressed. 

I’m going to skip the long debate and reach for the nuclear device. Episodes I thru III of the Star Wars trilogy. It’s true. Pretty much the first three movies revolve around the origin of the Empire (which was interesting) and the origin of Darth Vader. And while the third movie was a bit redemptive, it was still not a pleasing experience.

Origin stories often followed a similar pattern: A tragic incident, usually involving one’s parents, “drives the hero to good”. It’s been done with Spider-Man, Daredevil, a bit of it was touched upon in Hulk. As much as I love his work, it was reused in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

It’s also kind of why the origin of Iron Man was so mentionable different than most. Forget the cliched “reason for being a super hero”, Stark had his reason when someone stuck a gun in his face and put shrapnel in his heart. When one becomes a victim of their own carelessness, a dawning sense of responsibility can sometimes take over. Both Iron Man movies were more about Stark cleaning up the results, both indirect and not, of his actions.

Why am I bringing this up? Probably because of the upcoming Dredd movie, a reboot of the terrible Judge Dredd from 1995. According to many critics who have already viewed it, the movie is not an origin story. And so far, their reviews have been pretty good. Another example to chew on is The Dark Knight. Not only did we know nothing of the Joker’s origin, but we were likely fed lies.

You mean, you can make a great comicbook movie without addressing where the hero came from? This concept can be explained through a very simple analogy. Imagine if a stranger came up to you and introduced themself with, “Hello! I’m John Smith.”

Chances are, you’ll forget his name in no time.

Now suppose you see the guy do something more interesting before he introduces himself. Say, he stops a mugger from stealing a lady’s purse. Or he does something impossible, like web slinging his way across the city or turning into a giant green monsters. All of a sudden, the whole question of “Who is this guy?” is way more interesting.

Trust me. Strike up a conversation with a stranger, but don’t tell them your name. If you hit it off, then they’ll be way more interested in knowing who you are.

That’s why there’s a strange, lasting appeal about Judge Dredd. In the comics, he never takes his helmet off, maintaining a mystique about him. They broke that rule in 1995 with Stallone and that didn’t work well for them. But my understanding is that they DON’T break that rule with this upcoming movie.

Imagine that! A movie where you never see the hero’s face. Ever. I have to give Karl Urban kudos for his willingness to stay true to the character. I’d also imagine that, if Peter Jackson ever got the green light for the Halo movie, there would have been Hollywood executives pressuring him to have the Master Chief remove his helmet.  

“The hero needs to be sexy!” Some of these guys claim. It’s high time we start asking, “Why? Why do we always need origin stories? Why does the hero have to be sexy?”

And after decades of story writing, comics and development, I’d say time and history are on our side. Maybe it’s time to challenge the status quo a bit. Maybe they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

I’ll be seeing The Dark Knight Rises tomorrow… looking incredibly forward to it.

Gears of War Day

I'll get my chance to play. Some day.

I'll get my chance to play. Some day.

So it’s confession time on GOW3-day. I’ve never played any of the Gears of War series. I’ve always wanted too, but never have.

There are a few reasons for this. First, I’m a PC gamer. I just don’t have the money to shell out for an XBox 360 when the majority of games I want come to PC. Yeah, Microsoft had a few titles I wanted to try, but the PC had more. That, and I use my PC for work as well as play.

This is a half excuse however, because the original Gears of War came to PC, eventually. But GOW2 didn’t and GOW3 probably won’t either.

The second reason I’ve held back is because Gears of War has always struck me as a series that was going to end. It’s the story of one major conflict. Conflicts always come to some conclusion. They did in the original three Star Wars movies. And when they end, I’m left hungering for more. It’s rough to hook a fan on fast paced combat and co-operative play and then tell them that the good times are over.

But what about the Halo series? I hear you. Yes, it’s being continued. And I loved the first Halo. The second one lost me when they made it shorter and the weapons more generic and less interesting. The developers felt like they tried too hard revamping the graphic engine instead of focusing on level designs and gameplay. The first Halo was something special and unique at the time. Then they tried too hard to commercialize it and to make it generic, with too much focus on the multiplayer. It stop being an awe inspiring piece of sci fi themed game play and instead became the thrill of frat boys and their frag parties.

I regarded Gears of War from a distance. I read the Wikipedia entries and watched videos. It seemed different. It did not seem to betray its core integrity. It seemed to have some story to tell that it never lost focus of. From the outside, I noticed that details changed but the central concepts didn’t. It seems as good a time as any to jump in. I’ll go hunting for the PC version of the original game and see if I can’t catch up before long.

Like a book everyone but me has read.