In honour of The Force Awakens coming out… whenever that is, we’ve decided to rewatch Star Wars. All six. In in-universe chronology.
Yes, today we watched The Phantom Menace.
The Phantom Menace: things that weren’t too bad:
- The references to the original trilogy were mostly kinda cute, and not all of them were over the top. The “I have a bad feeling about this” is meant to immediately make someone like me feel at home, and I liked that. Also going through a ventilation shaft was pretty funny.
- The meet-cute of C3PO and R2-D2 is, indeed, quite cute.
- The cameo from Warwick Davis: weird! But cool.
- Samuel L. Jackson.
- A nod to diversity: at least two noticeable black humans and two female pilots! Amazing.
- Liam Neeson’s hair.
- The fight between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul is fantastic.
- Double-ended light sabre!!
- James: the music. At least they got John Williams back.
What were you thinking, George?
- It’s a film about trade negotiations going wrong. I mean really.
- TOO MUCH CGI GEORGE. This is why we can’t have nice things.
- Qui-Gon’s use of mind tricks as soon as things are slightly difficult is just repulsive.
- Darth Maul. Not his existence, his lack of one. What a wasted character, man.
- He has basically no dialogue!
- He has no motivation!
- His fight with Qui-Gon is too short.
- The pod race. I did not need to see all three laps, George.
- The Gungans. I am all in favour of ignored/oppressed people showing they have something to contribute, but did it have to be in such a racist and boring way?
- Jar Jar Binks. Everything about him.
- I do mean everything.
- Ani? Really? For the boy who grows up to be Darth Vader? Seriously.
- Why did you make him so young?
- Why did you make him so petulant?
- Didn’t your casting call throw up any other options?
- Ewan McGregor’s hair.
- Qui-Gon is a master Jedi and he’s fooled by some make-up as to who actually has the power in the entourage of women? Really?
- George, you made Anakin the product of a virgin birth and only spent ten seconds thinking about it. I mean, seriously, man, what the hell?
- James: the visuals reminded of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. It just looked plastic.
What can I say, I’m one of those people who thinks that Solo is really the star of the Star Wars movies; I was very annoyed that eps1-3 didn’t make a reference to him, even something as small as ‘here’s this kid I’m teaching to be a smuggler…’.
Anyway, a friend was cleaning out her house of books and I became the recipient of a Rather Large Bag of Star Wars novels… and I have finally dipped my toe in. I started here partly because SOLO, and partly because of this article about the author, AC Crispin, having recently died. And I had no idea that AC = Ann.
Look, this is not a novel that was ever going to win literary prizes. The prose is a bit clunky, some of the characters are a bit stock, and yes the overall plot is a bit hackneyed. BUT! But.
a) It’s SOLO. Who doesn’t want to know how the galaxy’s most loveable rogue got to where he is? Who doesn’t want to know why someone so rough on the outside actually has such a soft smooshy inside? (Much like a tauntaun…). Plus, how did he GET that tough exterior? How did he and Chewbacca find each other, and what about the Millennium Falcon? These are questions I really want an answer to. So, I’ll read the novels.
b) It expands the Star Wars universe. I think one reason why I really like the idea of the enormous number of tie-in novels is that they’re all set in the same universe, but they don’t concentrate on just one bit. The Zahn novels didn’t; this one novel takes the reader to a few different planets, and while most of them are (as far as I recall) referenced in the original movies, this book looks at them from a rather different perspective – and it still works. It’s a lot grubbier, mostly. Yes Solo is a smuggler in the movies, yes Tatooine is the planet-futherest-from-the-bright-centre-of-the-galaxy – but really you don’t see much of the seamier side of the planets, let alone of the empire as an Evil Empire. Contrariwise, Crispin sets a lot of her story in the criminal underground, or on a slave plantation. Some people are nice, some are downright rotters.
c) Gratuitous Star Wars references. Sure Solo’s miff-ed-ness at being called scruffy got a bit tired after a while, but still – funny.
d) It takes Star Wars stuff but it makes it different. There’s an elderly Wookee woman that Solo’s friends with, and there are clear parallels to Chewbacca (also with his non-human companion Muuurgh) – but it’s not identical. There’s a romantic interest and again, parallels to Leia but by no means identical, and indeed provides some rather thought-provoking points on why Solo reacts the way he does to Leia (abandonment issues). Links to the Hutts, being a pilot, etc – all of these essential elements are there, but Crispin does interesting enough things with them that it’s by no means ‘young Solo just imitates old Solo.’ And that’s cool.
Thus this novel was definitely light entertainment. It’s light because it doesn’t require an enormous investment of time or thought-process from the reader – although it does raise genuine issues and does not simply ignore them. It’s entertainment because there are pirates, and smugglers, and chases, and Han Solo.
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In which we present The Subgenre Report. Is the concept of subgenres meaningful to readers and writers, or just a marketing trick?
Which subgenres are OMG so hot right now, and which genre is doing subgenres better than spec fic?
In other news, Alisa hurls herself into crowdfunding with the baby clock ticking down to midnight…
Alisa: Continuum S1, crimeScene convention, plug for Kaleidoscope, Coode St Podcast ep 162 with Rachel Swirsky; Report from Planet Midnight, Nalo Hopkinson
Tansy: BBC Radio Neverwhere; Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, The Almighty Johnsons
Alex: Agents of SHIELD; Star Wars: The Paradise Snare, AC Crispin; Ragnarok, AS Byatt
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I reviewed the first in the Thrawn trilogy, Heir to the Empire, here, and it’s taken me a while to get around to the rest of the series. But I have finally read Dark Force Rising and The Last Command and you know what? I continued to enjoy them. Such that I do plan on reading more in the expanded universe. Especially since I discovered there’s a Han Solo trilogy set just before the events of episode IV. (!!) What follows is in no way a comprehensive review of the last two books… more just some rambling thoughts. These thoughts do contain spoilers, both for the first book and the later ones.
Look, the first thing I have to say is WILL MARA AND LUKE JUST HURRY UP and get together already?? If they don’t end up having a beautiful Leia/Han relationship, or at least a tempestuous love affair, I will be righteously peeved. Because they are so clearly right for each other.
Oh my, this may be the first really serious case of ‘shipping I’ve ever experienced. It might mean I can never read any of the later books IN CASE I AM WRONG.
It’s really the characters that kept me reading here. I did enjoy the plot – and an enormous amount of kudos goes to Zahn, and I guess Lucas as the owner of the franchise for allowing him to do it: the idea that actually, it might take more than one battle to change the fate of an entire galaxy is brilliant and I am so glad it actually gets explored. Bizarre as it might seem, there wasn’t enough politicking in these books for me. I understand that the focus is on the threat posed by Grand Admiral Thrawn, especially as he keeps showing up, attacking important planets, and then running away again – and that Luke and Han and Leia get to go off and have exciting adventures. And there’s a bit of politicking as Admiral Ackbar is confronted by the weaselly Fey’lya with fraudulent bank accounts, and the occasional discussion about which planets are dispensable. But seriously, people! Where is the tit-for-tat bargaining to get planets on your side? Where is the committee taxed with the task of writing a new constitution? Are we having elections any time soon? These are the questions I want resolved!
Possibly I have been thinking about real-world revolutions too much.
So, characters. While the Mara/Luke thing frustrated me, my greatest surprise on finishing the trilogy was the revelation of who Delta Source – the source of all that oh-so-useful intel Thrawn keeps getting from inside the very bowels of the New Republic – actually was. And this was clever, and nicely played, etc. But I had been reading for 2.5 books absolutely convinced that the source was Winter, Leia’s aide. I do not remember why I thought this – I vaguely recall some scene in the first book that seemed to suggest she was secretly communicating with someone, but maybe my brain invented this as a reason for thinking she was eeevil. Perhaps she’s just too perfect and I am too accustomed to betrayal in my science fiction. Or maybe, maybe, the revelation in this book was a trick and she will still turn out to be a traitor! ha ha!
Luke is slightly less wet than in the films, which is nice. There’s still a lot of ‘oh my goodness what if I’m not good enough?’ which I always imagine in the voice of Annie from the eponymous movie. Still, he’s making advances in understanding and using the Force, so that’s a positive.
Han continues to be awesome, and still struggles somewhat with actually being respectable. I really like that he is cranky about not having time with his wife, and only going off on missions when they are of Direst Importance To Save the Galaxy. And even then he’s not happy about it. Also, he loves his kids. That’s nice. And there’s some good banter with Lando.
Leia is the great revelation for me, in these books. Yes she had some great parts to play in the films, but I was quite concerned – especially as the trilogy opens with her pregnant, with twins – that she would rapidly be sidelined. But oh no. She is on missions, and getting into trouble, and negotiating deals, pretty much until she gives birth. (She would probably get on well with Alexia Tarabotti… although she may not care quite so much about dresses.) Not in a run-around-oops-my-belly-got-in-the-way way, though; she is consciously aware of the twins, and of ensuring their safety – but she faces the difficult question of keeping them physically safe while also safeguarding the new republic she has also helped to birth. (Those metaphors could get a leedle clunky, not to mention questionable.) Anyway, she’s great. And shoots things. And uses the Force. And overrides the men for their own, and her own, good.
Of the lesser characters… Threepio is more annoying than ever. Lando gets a nice amount of page-space, and continues to be banterific. Mara is probably the most intriguing of the new characters, with the gradual revelations about her background – Emperor’s Hand, maybe some sort of access to the Force, an overwhelming desire to kill Luke but actually
wanting to shag him needing him to get things completed. I can see that she will be a big character in later books – or ought to be anyway.
There are of course lots of other new characters introduced in this trilogy… possibly too many, actually. Thrawn and his XO Pellaeon are interesting opponents, and I said in my first review that it’s an intriguing narrative device to give the reader such a clear insight into the ‘enemy’. While it makes Thrawn come across as a definite enemy – cos he’s a bit nuts; no one should be able to gain that sort of insight just from looking at a society’s art – that’s just creepy – Pellaeon is a good follower, a genuine believer in the empire but not a fanatic, delightfully concerned for the welfare of his crew, and basically sympathetic. It’s very sad that he’s on the wrong side, and I wonder if this is an intentional move: make the reader see that people on both sides are (for want of a better word) human? Because the same sort of thing happens, of course, with the alien Noghri – whose entrance into the story is as assassins, and who progress to being allies of the New Republic because of their allegiance to the children of Vader and because the Empire is shown as having screwed them over (…which actually makes their devotion to the children of Vader problematic, unless they’ve transferred their allegiance because of the revealing of the truth…).
And then there’s Talon Karrde, who if I’m not much mistaken will also feature in later books, because he is basically the replacement for Han in the bad-ass but basically good (chaotic good maybe?) stakes. Smuggler, racketeer, but still good to his people and basically honest… yeh. Han replacement. And he’d totally shoot first, too.
There will be more Star Wars in my future. Not sure when, but it will happen.
I read my first Star Wars book. AND I LIKED IT.
Set a few years after the events of The Return of the Jedi, Han and Leia are married and expecting twins, while Luke is trying to figure out how to be the best Jedi he can. All three – but especially Leia – are trying to figure out how you go from being rebels to being politicians and actually make a galactic empire work, which any revolutionary will tell you is damn hard work. The story here is partly about that, which could make for a rather dreary story of political machinations, but is largely driven by the fact that not everyone is happy with the overthrow of the Emperor, OH NO PRECIOUS THEY’RE NOT. Grand Admiral Thrawn is devoted to the idea that he is a fitting heir to the Emperor, and he’s got some spaceships and a bunch of soldiers and some rather tricksy plans to try and accomplish just that.
Look, it’s no Ursula le Guin or Gwyneth Jones. But it is, surprisingly to me, really quite enjoyable. I think Zahn captured Han and Luke’s personas and dialogue quirks quite nicely – Leia felt a bit ‘newer’, mostly because I think she actually got a bit more air time as a real human being here than she did in any of the films. So that’s nice. I did enjoy the interplay between Han and Leia as they continue to adjust to married life; Han is accepting and generally supportive of Leia’s political role, if frequently concerned that she’s pushing herself far too hard.
One of the more intriguing aspects of this as a novel is that it takes full advantage of being in third person, and carries on the tradition of the films, by showing the actions of the villains as well as the heroes (and various apparently chaotic-neutral characters) in rather surprising detail. So while the reader doesn’t know exactly all of Thrawn’s devious schemes, we get to read about his attempts to find and recruit his own Jedi dude; plus there’s Talon Karrde, who I’d never heard of before but kinda fills the slightly-dubious-businessman-cum-smuggler that Han no longer has, thanks to going completely straight, and many of whose machinations the reader is privy to.
I don’t have the sequels yet, but I do intend to read them. I’m not in a screaming hurry, but I am dead keen. I’ve heard these are the best of the expanded universe, but I admit that I’ll probably seek out more, at some stage. Trying to balance a desire for adventure with the requirement to be a serious politician is intriguing.
Did I mention that I think this counts as my first media tie-in novel? How exciting.
With the new series, that is; it’s not really possible for someone of my generation and temperament to be disappointed with the original. I’m far too blinkered.
Anyway, this is something that I have been thinking about for years – oh, ever since I originally saw the new trilogy, really. Now there are lots – lots – of things that annoyed me, and most of them have been discussed at length and with more elegance than I could manage. But the one thing that irks me every time (aside from Padme’s clothing…) is this:
Lucas introduces Owen and Boru.
He introduces Chewbacca.
He introduces the Hutts, and Bobba Fett.
But there is no Han Solo.
Seriously? No mention? No “oh look there’s a smuggler, he’s got his nephew Han with him learning the ropes”?
Bugs me a lot. Just saying.
This weekend has seen me both nerd it up and bogan it… down…
Saturday night we headed off to the first MSO Pops event for the year. It was called “Star Wars and Beyond,” so I was expecting it to be space-y type stuff, much like the one we went to a few years ago. Rather, it was subtitled “A celebration of John Williams,” so it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. There were still 5 pieces from Star Wars, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Superman, and Lost in Space… but we also got music from Memoirs of a Geisha, JFK, and Schindler’s List, to name just a few. The music was, of course, exceptional; the conductor was the same guy we saw do the space-themed one, and he did the same Superman joke – pulling his shirt apart – and he wore the Obi-Wan cloak, and even pulled out a Princess Leia hairpiece! He’s a good sport. Perhaps the best bit was him coming out on a tiny little bike, with a red hoody on and an ET in the basket in front….
With a 20 minute intermission, the concert lasted just over 2.5 hours, and by the end of it I was definitely done; my tolerance for instrumental music had definitely been reached. I have so many classical music aficionados among my friends that I sometimes feel quite guilty for not being that interested. But I realised something last night: I am not interested in being challenged by music. I am challenged in my reading, and I do not care to extend that to my ears. And that’s OK.
Today… well, today was different. Today we went to see Top Gear Live. We were three rows from the front, front on to the screens; we were close enough that when the flares flamed, and the cars were on fire, we could feel the heat on our faces. The ca-soccer was marvellous: played mostly with Reliant Robins (the three-wheeled jobbies), it was incredibly skilful driving. And there was a motorcyclist doing stunts that involved a JBC digger. But the bits in between the stunts… Jeremy Clarkson and James May were kinda funny; Richard Hammond wasn’t there so they’d replaced him with Steve Jacobson (Kenny), who was mostly unfunny; and sadly, the repertoire of jokes largely consisted of fat jokes, homophobin jokes, penis jokes, and poo jokes. Not the sorts of thing that are actually funny. If I had paid for the tickets, I would have been disappointed.
I did enjoy looking at the range of racing cars in the museum they had set up, though, with Mustangs and Corbettes and Alfas and Selbys… there is a little part of me that is quite the rev-head. I was sad that the rain had started when the performance finished, because it meant we didn’t get to see the drifting demonstration.
Of course, you will have to have a passing appreciation of both Star Wars and Star Trek to get the awesomeness… but it’s still remarkably clever editing, even if you don’t!
When we saw that the MSO was doing Space Classics as part of their MSO Pops series, we bought tix as soon as we could. And it was last night; we’ve only been waiting for about three months.
So, a few of the nerdier moments: the trombones and a couple of French horns had glow-sticks strapped to part of their instruments; there were Stormtroopers and Darth Vader wandering around beforehand, posing for photos (a few kids had brought their own lightsabers…); but I didn’t see anyone dressed up who wasn’t meant to be, thankfully.
As expected, the night began with “Sunrise” from Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathrustra – and I still get goosebumps when I hear it. They did very clever things with the lights during this, and in a number of other pieces too: for this, they had a line of lights basically imitating sunrise, which worked surprisingly well. That went straight into the main theme from Star Wars, which was awesome.(1) It just never gets old.
There was a lot of Star Wars, unsurprisingly. We also got Close Encounters of the Third Kind; three Holst pieces (Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter; it may be my favourite set of classical music in the world, which is not that hard, admittedly. It’s possibly that only The Nutcracker Suite would give it a run for its money); J. Strass’ Blue Danube (so lovely!); ET – bike ride and main theme; Star Trek, Thunderbirds are GO!; and Superman. Personally, I think the last two were stretching it a bit. I would have thought maybe X-Files or Twilight Zone would have been more appropriate, and probably more recognisable, than Thunderbirds at least. There’s an ongoing discussion about just how space-y Superman can claim to be.
One of the possible reasons for including Thunderbirds was, of course, audience interaction. That’s right, gentle Reader: if you listen to the Classic FM broadcast sometime in the future, you will indeed hear four sections of the audience count down (begun by the orchestra with FIVE!), and then everyone shout “Thunderbirds are GO!” It was quite funny. In my vast experience of these things, when conductors are allowed to talk to the audience about things other than ultra-serious matters of musicology, they tend to think they’re very damn funny… and stray in to dad-joke territory. Last night’s conductor (Anthony Inglis, if you’re interested), nearly did so. A couple of things saved him. One: acknowledging he’s a trekkie. This doesn’t necessarily save him from dad-joke-hell, but it does at least give him a context (and a reason for including a pre-recorded ‘Captain’s Log’ bit before the Star Trek section). Two: the intro to Superman. He made the audience stand up, and pretend to get into superhero clobber, starting with underwear over pants (including the all-too-predictable stern, “I said on, madam!”), then ripping jackets off. Apparently the audience didn’t do it to his standard, so he had to show us how it’s done: he took off his jacket, and tie, and then – can you credit it, Reader? – ripped his shirt open to reveal a Superman tshirt! We were in hysterics.(2)
And then, for the encore, we got the entirety of the throne room/end credits sequence from A New Hope. Brilliant! With Mr Inglis as Obi-Wan. Also hysterical! But not nearly as funny as when Darth and his Stormtroopers marched in and stood in front of the stage, pointing their guns at the audience – and Darth turned around and, standing directly behind the conductor, started conducting with his light-saber…
Two things to gripe about, though, both in the programme.
a) The Herald Sun ad: “But seeing as though we’re a sponsor…”. Argh!
b) Star Wars is “now officially the fourth chapter”. You what?
Overall, it was a great programme of music. My love is now investigating the 501st Legion and considering a career as a Stormtrooper for charity.
(1) Interesting fact: the Star Wars music was done by the London Symphony Orchestra originally; the main trumpet then is the same person today! Amazing. And when he first played the opening fanfare, he reportedly declared ‘This is going to be huge,’ or words to that effect.
(2) And I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was completely set up – whether his shirt had press-studs, for example – or if authenticity was sought, with buttons flying out over the violas.
We went to B’s place the other day to watch some movies, and decided on the Star Wars trilogy. J was muttering and complaining for most of the first, something about revisionism because in the remastered versions Greedo shoots first, in the Mos Eisley sequence with Han… (are we sad?). I don’t see what the problem is, but J has some very strong thoughts on the matter. I am often a fan of revisionism; it can lead to some very interesting history, and is at least convenient for pointing out that our interpretation of past events can never be static. However. I must say that there was, in fact, a piece of revisionism that really, really annoyed me. At the end of Return of the Jedi – after everything is just fine – and the ghosts turn up… they have Hayden $%@^ Christensen appearing! Not the original Darth/Anakin! Really, really upsetting.