Posts tagged with "star wars" - Faerye Net 2011-01-08T22:07:28+00:00 Felicity Shoulders What makes a good sequel 2011-01-08T22:07:28+00:00 2011-01-14T16:55:59+00:00 <p>In the movie-watching spree that constitutes the Ryan &amp; Felicity holiday tradition, I have recently watched partial or complete arcs of the following movie franchises: <em>Back to the Future</em>, <em>Star Wars</em>, <em>Alien</em>, and <em>Terminator</em>. (Small spoilers only &#8212; and if you&#8217;re not spoiled on this stuff, welcome to my blog!)</p> <p>Early on in this decadent parade of wonders, Ryan remarked to me that <em>Empire Strikes Back</em> is one of the best movie sequels ever. We talked about that and what it does so well. Then, just now, after rewatching the somewhat lackluster <em>Terminator 3</em>, we watched <em>Terminator Salvation</em>. We had been told it was bad. We decided to try it anyway, out of an unusual completionist urge. (I haven&#8217;t watched <em>Alien 3</em> and don&#8217;t plan to, okay?)</p> <p><em>Terminator Salvation</em> was great. Surprisingly tightly plotted. New Skynet tech and types were logical, part of a burgeoning machine ecosystem. It was well acted, full of ties to the original movie and winks at the entire Cameron oeuvre.</p> <p>This has cemented my desire to think (and therefore ramble) about what makes a good sequel (and in part, what does <span class="caps">NOT</span>.)</p> <p>1. <strong>A good sequel expands the universe of the original.</strong> This should be true of a straight sequel, not just the second act of three. Yes, the viewer loved the first one, but if you rehash the same material, some part of them will wonder why they didn&#8217;t just watch it again. <em>Empire Strikes Back</em> took us to new worlds, showed us a hint of the Emperor we&#8217;d only heard of, brought us inside the Imperial Fleet.</p> <p>2. <strong>It stays true to the original.</strong> This is tricky, but to my English-major self that means it develops at least some of the most important themes of the original. <em>Aliens</em> is a different <strong>genre</strong> from <em>Alien</em>, and some might argue not a true sequel, but it&#8217;s still about the same things: conflict between corporate and human interests, the relationship between human and artificial intelligence, social class, et c. It also means you don&#8217;t add a bunch of extraneous new characters that detract from the ones we know and care about.</p> <p>3. <strong>It deepens the characters.</strong> The feelings between Han and Leia, the risk-taking prompted by Marty&#8217;s insecurity, Ripley&#8217;s motherhood&#8230;these are things that didn&#8217;t exist in the first story, but don&#8217;t contradict it. They breathe new meaning retroactively into the first story while using the increased space granted by success (a necessary condition for sequels) to increase the emotional attachment of the audience.</p> <p>4. <strong>It follows through.</strong> If we were promised post-apocalyptic guerilla warfare, give it to us. If you hung a craft full of alien eggs on the wall like Chekhov&#8217;s gun, take that sucker down and start firing facehuggers. Don&#8217;t promise &#8220;I&#8217;m going to show these people what you don&#8217;t want them to see&#8230;.A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries.&#8221; and then ignore those people to have boring fisticuffs with infinite agents instead.</p> <p>5. <strong>It rewards the audience&#8217;s fidelity.</strong> This is perhaps the riskiest part. See number 1 &#8212; don&#8217;t rehash. The peril of the sequel, especially in action movies, is doing the same thing over, but bigger and fancier. Catch phrases become atrophied, meaningless, a string of checkboxes or gotcha moments. Chases become an obligation, not a thrill. The script serves the formula rather than the story. We didn&#8217;t need to see the T-101 shoot up a bunch of cop cars and smugly calculate 0 human casualties in T3. It was something we&#8217;d already seen, but shorn of the context that made it relevant in T2. A good reference is something that makes sense in the new context to someone who hasn&#8217;t seen the referent. If we haven&#8217;t seen <em>Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom</em>, we don&#8217;t scratch our heads in <em>Last Crusade</em> when Indy says &#8220;Fly? Yes. Land? No!&#8221; Obviously it matters whether he can fly a plane, and his incomplete knowledge creates tension and humor. T4 was full of shots, sets and moments that made devoted fans point and grin, but those things served this movie. Rhyme, don&#8217;t repeat.</p> <p>6. <strong>It surprises us.</strong> Keeping your promises doesn&#8217;t mean being predictable. We have expectations now, and you can play with them. Having the T-101 be the good guy in T2 reversed our expectations. (In T3 it was just a bit tired.) It surprised us. It surprised John Connor. It surprised Sarah Connor into an iconic image of surprise (I know I mentally fall down and backpedal against a waxed floor from time to time.) Set up a love triangle, then knock it down with a relative revelation. Make us expect the repeat, then play against it: a formidable swordsman menaces Indy, he reaches for his gun &#8212; but it isn&#8217;t there.</p> <p>Really, what this all boils down to is respecting the original but showing us something new. The <em>Star Wars</em> prequels contradict the originals and depart from their spirit. <em>Star Trek V</em>, among its other sins, takes us past a Galactic Barrier we crossed in the series and acts like that&#8217;s where no man has gone before. This is simple stuff, really, but I imagine that deep in Hollywood, making something complicated and expensive with hundreds of other people, it&#8217;s easy to forget what you&#8217;re really doing. You&#8217;re gathering the children by the fire to tell them a story. They say, &#8220;Tell us another!&#8221; They say, &#8220;What happens next?&#8221;</p> The Antilles Theorem 2010-12-26T21:23:59+00:00 2010-12-27T15:02:53+00:00 <p>In the course of acquainting myself with <a href="" target="links">Ryan</a>&#8216;s childhood favorites, the <em>Star Wars: X-Wing</em> series by Michael Stackpole, I have come up with yet another of my kooky and largely impractical theories. I call it <em>The Antilles Theorem</em>. It is a litmus test for (old school) Star Wars fandom. Because, let&#8217;s face it, they&#8217;re lovable movies. Many people <em>like</em> them but are not fans. Fans watch and rewatch and quote; some know the Expanded Universe or play the roleplaying game. Before you jump to conclusions and start talking about mouse droids and assuming your interlocutors are aware that <a href="" target="links">Han shot first</a>, I suggest applying this.</p> <p><b>The Antilles Theorem: Any real fan of the original Star Wars series knows who Wedge Antilles is.</b></p> <p>So you just say, &#8220;One of my favorite characters in <em>Star Wars</em> is Wedge Antilles,&#8221; and if the respondent says &#8220;Get clear, Wedge, you can&#8217;t do any more good back there!&#8221; or starts babbling about Rogue Squadron tie-in novels, you are gold. (Likewise if they say, &#8220;Did you know that the captain of the blockade-runner in the first scene of <em>New Hope</em> was going to be named Antilles too?&#8221;) If they stare blankly at you, unable to recall this crucial and beloved but secondary character, I recommend smiling kindly and keeping the conversation general.</p> <p><em>Many Bothans died to bring you this post. You&#8217;re welcome.</em></p> Top Ten Favorite Fictional Ships 2010-12-26T13:38:04+00:00 2010-12-26T13:38:21+00:00 <p>Because I recently named a vehicle, this <em>burning question</em> has been on my mind. (Wikipedia links contain spoilers, natch.) List subject to change without notice if I remember any more awesome vessels!</p> <ol> <li><strong>The Millennium Falcon</strong> &#8211; &#8220;I got your promise: not a scratch?&#8221;</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Enterprise-D</strong> &#8211; Icon of my formative years. I still physically wince when I watch <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Cause and Effect&#8221;</a>. Or <a href="" target="links"><em>Generations</em></a>, but please, who doesn&#8217;t?</li> <li><strong>Serenity</strong> &#8211; My favorite episode is <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Out of Gas&#8221;</a>.</li> <li><strong>(<span class="caps">SSV</span>) Normandy</strong> &#8211; Hey, <a href="" target="links">giving me a ship</a> is a good way to engage my affections. If you have a yacht on hand, I invite you to check if this works for non-fictional craft!</li> <li><b><span class="caps">HMS</span> Surprise </b>- Yes, I know there are real <span class="caps">HMS</span> <em>Surprise</em>s. But none of them have Jack Aubrey&#8217;s initials carved into the cap of the masthead, which <a href="" target="links">this one</a> does.</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Enterprise (-A)</strong> &#8211; It is a classic, I&#8217;ll admit.</li> <li><strong>The Dawn Treader</strong></li> <li><strong>The White Star</strong> &#8211; Despite the <a href="" target="links">dilution effect</a>.</li> <li><strong><span class="caps">USS</span> Defiant</strong> &#8211; It looks like an anteater, but then, my high school mascot was an aardvark.</li> <li><strong>Johnny Dooit&#8217;s sand-boat</strong> &#8211; From <em><a href="" target="links">The Road to Oz</a></em>. If anyone reading didn&#8217;t need to be told, then I salute you!</li> </ol> Reluctant romantics 2010-11-27T15:25:15+00:00 2011-03-09T20:23:19+00:00 <p>At the beginning of the &#8220;Much Ado About Nothing&#8221; production in the BBC&#8217;s <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-00794051289025'>Shakespeare Retold</a></em>, the credits roll over events several years before the action of the play. Beatrice is preparing for a big date; Benedick is preparing&#8230;to skip town for a big job.</p> <p>Now, some of you may realize this isn&#8217;t countertextual: it&#8217;s a spinning out of one line:<br /> <blockquote><span class="caps">DON</span> <span class="caps">PEDRO</span>: Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of<br /> Signior Benedick.</p> <p><span class="caps">BEATRICE</span>: Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave<br /> him use for it, a double heart for his single one:<br /> marry, once before he won it of me with false dice,<br /> therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.</blockquote></p> <p>I could go on at some length about the casting of this production &#8212; Damian Lewis as Benedick, <strong>be still my heart</strong>; and Sarah Parish, the pretty, witty Beatrice with the motile face. But I&#8217;m here to talk about the introduction and one shot in particular where Beatrice scatters red rose petals over her bed, then looks at them, goes off screen, and comes back with a dustbuster to remove them. With her expressive face, you see the whole thought process play out.</p> <p>I love this moment. It crystallizes something very important: Beatrice is a reluctant romantic. She is a romantic, or she never would have thought of the petals: but once deployed they strike her as too much, too obvious, too vulnerable, too earnest. Too romantic.</p> <p>I can sympathize. I don&#8217;t know what scholar put forward the idea of the romance cult, but I first read about it in Ernest Becker&#8217;s <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780684832401'>The Denial of Death</a></em>. Basically, the idea is that as the power of the Church has declined in post-Medieval Europe (and the European-inflected West) the place of Christianity has been supplied by worldly romance. Sure, the Western world is still chock-full of Christians, but Christianity can no longer safely be assumed to be a universal constant. Stories told in the Renaissance and later depend on different universal truths and aspirations, a different transcendant happiness: romantic love. Love, moreover, that transforms and elevates, that is itself a destiny and purpose. True Love with One person, Forever.</p> <p>It&#8217;s natural, perhaps, that this world order should have its cynics, just as the religious one did. But most of us &#8212; not all, I note &#8212; do crave companionship, and the idea of a lasting partnership that will fix us and save us from ourselves has been programmed in from an early age. Even those of us who believe more in density than in destiny often have a yearning heart.</p> <p>And so, for us, there are the reluctant romantics, the bickering lovers, the banterers and sarcastics. Beatrices and Benedicks, Hans and Leias: characters who are strong and self-reliant, resistant perhaps to the vulnerability of love or belief in it, characters who demonstrate with every barbed word and cynical protest that they will not go gently into the sunset. It&#8217;s become an overused device itself, but done right, it still enchants. In the process of convincing their doubting hearts, they convince ours too.</p> LUCAAAAAAAS! 2007-07-24T18:05:19+00:00 2008-06-08T11:44:03+00:00 <p>First you make a beloved scene, then you trample all over a beloved scene, then you <a href="" target="links">wear a shirt</a> expressing [y]our indignation at the trampling <span class="caps">YOU</span> did? You play with our emotions, Mr. Lucas!</P> <p>P.S. The title of this blogget should be read in manner of <em>Star Trek II</em> Kirkism. That&#8217;s right, <em>Star Trek</em>. Chew on that, Lucas!</p> Episode III: Revenge of G.R.O.S.S. 2005-05-19T10:02:20+00:00 2008-05-30T13:56:07+00:00 <p><em>This article contains very mild spoilers. If you, for instance, don&#8217;t know that Anakin becomes Darth Vader and the Jedi are wiped out, then I suggest you go watch <a href="" target="links">the</a> <a href="" target="links"><span class="caps">GOOD</span></a> <a href="" target="links">movies</a>.</em></p> <p>&#8220;<a href="" target="links">Loren</a>&#8217;s back in town,&#8221; said <a href="" target="links">wonko</a>, &#8220;and he&#8217;s going to a 12:01 showing of Episode 3. You want to go?&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;Georgie has not earned that level of devotion from me! But, yeah, of course.&#8221;</p> <p>Having heard various ravings on the topic of this movie, I was already envisioning a blog post for today. It began:</p> <p><blockquote>Dear George,<br />I know I said you would never win me back, but somehow you&#8217;ve swept me off my feet&#8230;.</blockquote></p> <p>However, this is not that post. I remain unswept. Don&#8217;t get me wrong; the movie was not bad at all. It felt a lot more like <em>Star Wars</em> &mdash; though of course had it really felt exactly like the original three, I&#8217;da been swept like a dust bunny when the Queen is coming to tea. It had strengths, but many failings. I&#8217;m not here to discuss the shots that would have taken my breath away in a video game but were <em>juuuust</em> too fake for a movie, or the classically stilted Lucas dialogue, or how focused on stunt rather than emotion all the obligitory duels in the first three are, or why fabulous actors suddenly become wooden in these movies. Nor am I here to praise the underlying political message (Yay, Georgie! Give blue lightsaber vs. red lightsaber a <em>whole</em> new meaning!)</p> <p>This is what I&#8217;m here to talk about: I love Princess Leia. She&#8217;s one of the most important fictional characters in my life &mdash; probably <em>the</em> most. And George Lucas and Carrie Fisher brought her forth when the track record for strong women in adventure movies, let alone sci fi, was poor. She started a streak, from Ripley in 1979 (though she still had to strip down to Very Small Underwear onscreen) onward, through to the Evie Carnahans and Elizabeth Swans of our present, happy day &mdash; albeit with some people Just Not Getting it (Vicky Vale, folks, <em>1989</em>. If the Joker wanted you for a little giggle-girl, wouldn&#8217;t you at least, I dunno, get a gun?) During Episode I, I was vaguely insulted that Queen Kabuki was supposed to be Leia&#8217;s mom. During Episode II, her moments of action-heroine spunk made my disapprobation wane slightly. I went into Episode <span class="caps">III</span> with some expectations of the wooden piece labelled &#8216;heroine&#8217; being a strong character, perhaps noble in the face of adversity, choking back her own pain and disappointment to hasten into hiding and protect her children.</p> <p>About twenty minutes into the movie, at the first or second mention of &#8216;bringing balance to the Force,&#8217; I thought, <em>Maybe what the guldurned prophecy means is that Anakin will bring about <span class="caps">GENDER</span> balance in the Force. Luke&#8217;s a Jedi, Leia becomes a Jedi. Balance!</em> I thought I was making a funny.</p> <p>Then the Jedi purge began. A few male Jedi tried to hold off their attackers but were killed. Then, a scantily-clad female Jedi of the tentacle-head dancing girl species&#8230;got shot in the back and fell dead into the flowery mud. I didn&#8217;t even see a lightsaber on her belt. I made a noise of protest. Cut to another female Jedi, on a speeder bike. She&#8230; got shot in the back without realizing what was happening and dissolved in a fireball. No more female Jedi were shown. I think there were some girls among the younglings, but the only ones we saw with lit lightsabers, even in the security holograms, were boys.</p> <p><em>Perhaps Padm&eacute; will save me</em>, I thought! <em>Perhaps she will stop sitting around like a pregnant prom queen</em> (seriously. Prom. Seven different costumes of prom.) <em>and exchanging high school-style &#8220;No, I love <span class="caps">YOU</span> more!&#8221;s with her tall drink of evil, and DO something.</em> I was right! She eventually left her apartment! To&#8230;run to the arms of the guy she&#8217;d been told was eeeeevil (since small-scale genocide seems to get her hot, why am I surprised?) and get smacked around. &#8220;You&#8217;re a good person!&#8221; she whined. Umm, no, honey. He&#8217;s not.</p> <p>And on the more abstract women&#8217;s issue of sexual mores&#8230;she won&#8217;t be allowed to continue in the Senate if she has a baby without being (publicly) married? We have <em>clones</em> running around and yet it&#8217;s inconceivable that a rich lady of politics and leisure went to the Republic Sperm Bank and said, &#8220;Have any force-sensitive blond donors?&#8221; And didn&#8217;t they make a big point of Padm&eacute; being an elected official? The mandate of the people only lasts until you become a single mother? Lovely.</p> <p>I&#8217;m not saying George Lucas is a misogynist bastard. Heck, I wouldn&#8217;t even say that he is indulging in deliberate sexism. But I am saying that a tenth of the care and attention he lavished on droid designs would have, if aimed at women, revealed that his movie had no female Jedi Council members; no women carrying lightsabers (or even blasters, unless I missed a scene); no women resisting or fighting back; and a weak, sorry excuse for a female heroine.</p><p> No, filmmakers don&#8217;t have a responsibility to portray a society only recently fallen from the utopic as full of strong, empowered women. But when a filmmaker gives one generation of girls the best role model for intelligence, assertiveness, wit, strength, competence and leadership for which they could ask, and another generation of girls a passive paper doll with bad taste in men, I get disappointed. I&#8217;m pretty sure Leia would be, too.</p> Sometimes... 2005-05-15T12:11:59+00:00 2010-08-03T12:58:30+00:00 <p>someone&#8217;s work reaches deep into your heart and pulls out your innermost feelings for all to see. Sometimes it&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">a geeky comic strip</a>.