What Star Wars Can Learn From Mad Max: Fury Road

furyroad2Pop quiz, hotshot: which great science fantasy franchise is returning to the world in 2015 after many years of absence? Why, Mad Max, of course! George Miller’s post-apocalyptic series has returned to us, and it appears to be in better shape than ever. Critics and audiences appear to be in love with this movie, so it would seem like it’s time to take a good look at it. So get your driving wheel from the pile, spray your face so you can enter Valhalla, and come with us to see the lessons Star Wars could learn from Mad Max: Fury Road!

Stand by your franchise’s style

Desert wastelands. Ridiculous character names like Rictus Erectus or Toast the Knowing. Punk aesthetics and ridiculously souped-up vehicles. Extreme close ups before crashes. Low camera angles during chase scenes. These are the aesthetic choices Miller and Byron Kennedy applied to The Road Warrior back in 1981 and turned it into a global phenomenon. These are exactly the same choices Miller applied to Fury Road in 2015. And why wouldn’t he?

You don’t even need to see the main character driving his Pursuit Special to know you are watching a Mad Max movie: it’s obvious from the first minute that you are back to the universe you left thirty years before. The movie uses some CGI here and there, when practical effects just won’t do it, but it manages to feel as genuine and gritty as The Road Warrior felt. It goes without saying, but the same thinking could easily apply to Star Wars: there’s nothing wrong with Star Wars just as it is. We love the way it is, with its simple plotlines, its black and white characters, and its cheesy names. There’s no need to “bring Star Wars to the twenty-first century”. It’s still great! Don’t mess with it! » Read more..

Star Wars Might Have a Disney Problem

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While the initial marketing push for The Force Awakens will come this September with Journey to‘s oft-misunderstood slate of twenty “books“, those of us who remember the prequels know that that’s only the first drops of the thunderstorm that will descend a couple months later when the film actually comes out. And even then, print material will only comprise a small portion of the flood—the graphic in that link is cumulative, not movie-by-movie, but it’s a safe bet that a plurality, maybe even the majority, of Disney’s profits from the sequel trilogy will come from capital-M Merchandising. There will be action figures, of course, but there will also be t-shirts, bed sheets, Hot Wheels, umbrellas, Sprite bottles, sneakers, and whatever the hell these are.

But that’s Star Wars. Ubiquitous branded nonsense, for better or for worse, is synonymous with our franchise of choice, and we’re used to it by now. So what’s different about it now that Disney is holding the reins?

It’s widely understood by now (because they’re happy to admit it) that Disney views Marvel, its last big acquisition, as specifically a boys’ property, and it’s pretty clear that same sentiment led to their purchase of Star Wars. As the thinking goes, Disney’s big in-house merch machine is their string of “princess” movies like Frozen—which, of course, are only for girls, because it’s not like I still remember all the words to “Under the Sea” or anything—so now they want to conquer the boys’ market via these big acquisitions, because something something Global Supremacy. » Read more..

No Sleep Till Bespin – On Hyperspace Travel Times

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One of the best selling points of the canon reboot has been the opportunity to revisit troublesome details in the worldbuilding of the Galaxy Far Far Away that were either ill-conceived to begin with, or became overcomplicated as the years went on and new stories piled up. One detail that was confusing from the get-go is exactly how fast hyperspace is. For one thing, the film characters call it “light speed”, when it’s clearly got to be way, way faster than that—in fact, the films also tend to suggest each transit takes no more than a few hours; no one brings a change of clothes before departing Tatooine for Alderaan, and Luke doesn’t seem very stiff or grubby when he exits his X-wing on Dagobah.

So maybe you can’t blame the Expanded Universe for never really ironing out these inconsistencies; they didn’t have much to go on. When I raised this topic to the others, David Schwarz pointed out that West End Games’ original table for the transit times depicted in the original trilogy (below) actually contained a typo that suggested all these trips took a matter of days, not hours—which might have been more sensible, but certainly doesn’t seem to be the films’ intent, and isn’t that more important?

Meanwhile, one of my own favorite examples dates all the way back to Heir to the Empire—the Star Destroyer Chimaera, with a hyperdrive faster than even the Falcon‘s, takes five days to travel from Myrkr to Wayland. Look for those two planets on the Essential Atlasgalactic map and you’ll find them practically right on top of each other at the coordinates N-7. So if it takes five days to go that tiny distance (and it’s not a freak detail; multi-day hyperspace journeys factor into the Thrawn trilogy alone on multiple occasions), how the hell did Luke survive a trip from Hoth (K-18) to Dagobah (M-19) without his body eating straight through that flight suit? » Read more..

Pick and Choose: Not Always Liking Canon

DEOssusLibraryWhat do we accept as canon, how do we perceive canon, why does it matter? It matters because there are things we aren’t willing to give up. Those don’t have to be large elements; it may be something small, concepts, ideas, whatever it is that really makes Star Wars what it is. Our relationship as fans with the Star Wars canon has varied over the years, and now that we definitely know what is and isn’t canon, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier for us to feel at peace with it. It feels like we’re living in a blended universe nowadays, where there is a possibility of many things becoming canon even if little is set in stone.

One of the best terms I’ve heard lately is “shadow canon.” There are plenty of ideas in Star Wars that haven’t been formally canonized, plenty of events not mentioned, but the references to them are plain. Clearly, there are some things that may have survived the great Legends announcement mostly intact, but may never be mentioned as such. Simply put, there are enough good ideas from Legends that it’s worth it to allow some things to make their way into canon, even if a bit indirectly. It brings a sense of unity and allows for the selection of the best elements of older canon. You can’t do a complete reboot without maintaining some of the original features of the story, and the small things being brought into new canon help Star Wars feel less empty.

» Read more..

Meet the Marvels: Charles Soule

shehulkcoverIn David Schwarz’s series Meet the Marvels, he’s been spotlighting the previous work of Marvel’s current slate of Star Wars writers, including Star Wars‘s Jason Aaron, Darth Vader‘s Kieron Gillen, and most recently, Princess Leia‘s Mark Waid (since he hadn’t written comics previously, Greg Weisman was skipped—but if you’d like to read more about his work pre-Kanan and Star Wars Rebels, Ben Wahrman has you covered). That brings us up to Charles Soule, who was announced around Celebration Anaheim as writing a Lando miniseries to follow Waid’s Leia. Though he’s certainly made a name for himself in recent years with prominent work like The Death of Wolverine, Soule’s bibliography isn’t quite as extensive as a Gillen or an Aaron, so David was gracious enough to hand this one off to me—so that I might extol the virtues of Soule’s awesome relaunch of She-Hulk last year.

She-Hulk is an interesting character; on the one hand, she’s the absolute embodiment of the ancient comics trope of taking a popular male hero and sloppily stapling on a uterus rather than creating a totally original female character (and not only was she unoriginal, but She-Hulk was also a staple of the sleazy “Swimsuit Special” era of comics). On the other hand, Jennifer Walters (as it says on her birth certificate) has proven remarkably adept at representing all sorts of progressive, empowering messages. She’s funny: even at their tackiest, She-Hulk comics have always had a wry just-this-side-of-Deadpool element of metahumor to them that gives the character a certain snarky agency lost to more “serious” characters. She’s also pretty much always in control of her abilities: She-Hulk is Jennifer Walters, there’s no Jekyll/Hyde melodrama in her life whatsoever, and Soule’s series in particular depicted her in Hulk form literally all the time. She’s not stunted by or ashamed of her powers, they’re simply who she is—which puts her miles ahead of Bruce Banner. And lastly, did I mention she’s a goddamn lawyer? » Read more..

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