In Defense of CGI

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Computer Generated Imagery or, as it’s better known, CGI gets a huge amount of flak from just about everyone. It may have revolutionized filmmaking, it may have opened the doors to unrealized dreams for directors but none of that stops it from getting a regular royal kicking! Now why is that? I am inclined to suggest it is a combination of factors – lazy thinking and fool filmmakers. Together, these two factors form an unholy alchemy into a destructive firestorm of criticism that never fails to repeatedly roast CGI.

First then: Lazy thinking. The charge made against CGI is that it is lazy and unimaginative. This is the sort of charge anyone could come up, no matter their state of being. Drunk as a skunk? You can still slur that CGI is lazy. High as a kite? Hey man, I may be lazing here stoned but it takes a laze to know a laze and that CGI is a laze! This charge falls apart the instant it hits reality. Here’s the world of CGI as the accusers would like it:

CGI Data Monkey hits Run on his computer panel, goes down the pub for a swift couple of pints, comes back a couple of hours later and blam! Work’s done. » Read more..

What Star Wars Can Learn From the DC Animated Universe

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As I’ve mentioned, well, repeatedly at this point, I’m unusual among my generation (and certainly among people with Star Wars websites) in that I didn’t really grow up with Star Wars. My first exposure to the original trilogy was the release of the Special Editions, at which point I was already almost 15. I have no memories of the films correlating with my early development, my understanding of narrative, or my appreciation of science fiction and/or fantasy. In fact, I’m still not really into sci-fi and fantasy to the extent that many SW fans are.

No, growing up, my thing was superheroes. My earliest genre memories are of the original Ninja Turtles cartoon in the eighties, which led to Spider-Man and X-Men in the nineties, which led to buying actual comics around 1995, which I’ve been collecting pretty much ever since.

But despite my natural affinity for Marvel properties, the genre throughline from childhood all the way to my college years was the DC Animated Universe. I was ten when the first episode of Batman: The Animated Series debuted in 1992, and I still remember it vividly all these years later—because that episode, spearheaded by visionaries Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, ended up ushering in an expansive new DC continuity that lasted more than a decade in animated form, and technically continues in comics form to this day. From Batman to Superman to Batman Beyond to Justice League (with the occasional Static Shock and Zeta Project thrown in for good measure), Dini, Timm, and others built a shared universe rivaling its comic-book predecessor (and in my opinion, often surpassing it in quality), developing disparate elements—and, crucially, voice actors—from series to series and era to era in a way that imbued each new story with a weight that’s rarely seen in children’s television. The DCAU taught me what expansive, long-form storytelling could do, and I owe my appreciation of continuity in Star Wars to that example. Here are some of its other lessons. » Read more..

What Star Wars Can Learn from Warcraft

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When I’m not thinking about Yuuzhan Vong, Sith Lords, or Force philosophy, I’m probably thinking about blood elves. In other words, World of Warcraft. The Warcraft franchise spans three real-time-strategy games, one MMO that is still the definition of the genre, and quite a few spin-off novels and comics. The Warcraftverse is starting to enter the cultural lexicon more and more, and for a game celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, it still has quite the audience.

Warcraft has plenty of things to offer other media, especially since as a franchise it’s rife with pop culture references. It’s an expansive world whose unexplored corners, plot holes, and possibilities for expansion echo those of Star Wars. As something of the definition of its genre and a mishmash of references and ideas, it has much of the worldbuilding feel of Star Wars. There has been much discussion over the last few years about whether Warcraft is a dying franchise, but it certainly doesn’t feel dead to those of us who lose $15 a month and much of our free time to it. No other MMO has been able to knock it off its pedestal, despite quite a bit of effort (even from SWTOR). It’s successfully navigated many years and quite a few different markets, and has much to offer to other massive media franchises. » Read more..

Scoring the Saga: The Music of Star Wars

What would Star Wars be without John Williams? The opening blast of horns, percussion and strings in the Star Wars theme is one of the most iconic moments in all of cinema. The music score for the film we now know as Episode IV: A New Hope has more than stood the test of time, being named #1 on the American Film Institute’s list of the all-time best movie scores, and each successive entry in the series only added to that legacy. Songs like the Cantina Theme, the Imperial March, Duel of the Fates and Battle of the Heroes are hummed across the world by hardcore fans and casual moviegoers alike. The series’ collective soundtrack ranks with the most iconic and influential film scores of all time.

You don’t have to rely on imagination to wonder what Star Wars would be without its soundtrack. If you watch the first trailer cut for the first film, you see iconic scenes from the Death Star escape and the cantina fight unfold in almost complete silence aside from a stock synthesized beat. It’s an eerie experience. John Williams gave the Star Wars films a sound that is at once classic and distinctive, filled with blaring trumpets, shouting horns, soaring violins, humming cellos, pounding drums and crashing cymbals. His work is a substantial part of what has made the films such icons of pop culture for the last four decades. » Read more..

A New Dawn shines a light on the future of Star Wars

In our previous review, we discussed how Honor Among Thieves provides a blueprint for the future of the EU. Since then, there has been a rather unprecedented change in the nature of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Now redubbed “Legends,” the old EU is functionally an alternate universe continuity which serves as a large resource for the new ongoing Star Wars canon to draw inspiration from or even fully import background concepts and ideas. All upcoming Star Wars novels will be part of this new canon, vetted by the Lucasfilm Story Group in order to ensure cohesion between the novels, comics, television series, and films to a greater extent than the often ramshackle cohesion between the old EU and the films. A New Dawn (AND), written by Star Wars novel and comic veteran and fan-favorite John Jackson Miller (JJM), is the first adult novel to be released under the auspices of the Story Group.

Instead of a standard review, we’re going to take a look how AND uses and implements the old EU, and how it departs from it. To get the reviewing part out of the way though – it’s a fun Star Wars story with an original cast of characters and a fascinating villain. These factors are important to why it’s a fun story, but they’re also important in (hopefully) hinting at the style of future novels as well as the Rebels television series. Executive Producer Dave Filoni has already stated his preference for Rebels to focus on its particular cast of characters because the galaxy is large enough to show exciting adventures without needing to resort to film characters as a narrative crutch. If AND is any indication, such a thing is not only possible but also preferable.

» Read more..

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