Archive for Ben Crofts

Points of View on A Certain Point of View

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Jay: So guys, we’ve had a chance to digest From A Certain Point of View for a little while. This was always an interesting project — a book commemorating the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope, but trying to avoid well-trod ground. It was a huge undertaking to get 43 authors involved, and even more so to accomplish all of that for a charitable cause. Here at Eleven-ThirtyEight, we’ve been extolling the virtues of short stories for a while — both as a way to introduce new authors into the mix and to experiment with different kinds of stories. After all, I think several of us would agree that there is no one right way to tell a Star Wars story — that we can think beyond the expectations of Jedi, space battles, past tense, all of that, and get something different that still feels very much like Star Wars (the original movie was, after all, experimentation based on the familiar).

FACPOV gave us that — and it gave us a large variety of stories, catering to various different perspectives and interests. I’m sure that between all of us, there was at least one story that we knew we’d love as soon as Del Rey announced the story subjects. But what I want to get into first is…what surprised you? We’ll have time to talk about expected favorites later, but for me part of the joy was finding several stories I never expected to be my favorites, but they were. Was it the same for you?

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Phasma v Inferno Squad: Dawn of Empire

—major Phasma spoilers ahead—

phasmanovelIt’s interesting that both of these books have come out in close proximity to each other. Each exists to promote a different item – Phasma is a Journey to the Last Jedi book, while Battlefront II: Inferno Squad tells you exactly what it is about. Both give an Imperial viewpoint, but they do so in very different ways.

Inferno Squad puts us in the position of four highly skilled Imperials – fighter pilots, military mechanic, and intelligence officer – and shows us how they view the world. Phasma is a biographical tale of its enigmatic lead, but is wrapped up in a far more interesting story of conflict with a First Order true believer. Of the two books I found Phasma the easier read. Both books sketch a very unpleasant picture, but only Inferno Squad attempts to give the reader an inside perspective of the Empire. The equivalent picture for the First Order and Phasma’s view of it is never covered in Phasma, instead it’s a story of how others perceive her.

It comes down to brutal honesty versus salesmanship. Inferno Squad seems to want to sell the reader on the worth of Imperial ideals. Phasma does not care about that, she does not care about you. You don’t like how she does things? Phasma says fuck you. She’s too harsh? Phasma says fuck you. Can’t she look out for anyone other than number one? Phasma says fuck you. The reader still gets a very clear picture of who and what Phasma is all about, but there is a lack of justification offered. There is character in Phasma who is all about justified belief and that’s Cardinal, the red stormtrooper who wants to know her origin.

Inferno Squad gives the most extreme, hardcore Imperial viewpoint there has ever been. There have been Imperial characters before – Legends’ Jahan Cross in Agent of the Empire, Baron Fel in X-Wing, more recently Rae Sloane in A New Dawn / Aftermath, however, in all three cases, it was either very clear they did not care for superweaponry as represented by the Death Star or they were ambiguous in their support of it. Inferno Squad dispenses with this and gives us Iden Versio, who we first encounter defending the Death Star at the Battle of Yavin while she still exults in the destruction of Alderaan by it. Just to hammer the point home further, if this first impression was not sufficient, the squad later drinks a bottle of Alderaanian wine as a celebration. » Read more..

Here Today, Gone Trevorrow: JJ Abrams Returns to Land the Plane

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I don’t like for this site to do instant-reaction pieces very often because I want us to be measured at all times, and focused on the big picture rather than the heat of the moment. But sometimes an announcement comes along that’s so vaguely detailed that there’s nothing particularly informed or complex we as fans are in a position to say about it—so it’s either offer up our first impressions for what they are, or ignore it entirely.

But how could we possibly ignore something as big as the news that JJ Abrams will be returning to the franchise to direct Episode IX after Colin Trevorrow was put on a bus out of town? With most directors, Trevorrow and even Rian Johnson included, you can speculate a great deal about what their version of a Star Wars film would look like based on their other work, but Abrams is the only working director who has an actual Star Wars film already under their belt that we can pick apart for clues as to what he’ll do next.1

That said? I’m reasonably agnostic on this choice. I love The Force Awakens even more two years later than I did when I first saw it, so I’m completely certain he can produce another Star Wars film that I enjoy. But Star Trek Into Darkness (while I don’t hate it as much as many do) wasn’t anywhere near as good as his first Trek film so I’m not quite convinced he’s the kind of director who gets better at a given property with practice—TFA could very well be his high-water mark.

I also wonder how he’ll cooperate with Lucasfilm this time around; Bad Robot had a pretty heavy hand in TFA because LFL was still largely getting their shit together and figuring out how they wanted to do things—their trust in him was rewarded that time, but with a more firmly ensconced Story Group and a president who knows what she wants and isn’t screwing around, is he willing to accept more “outside” input this time around? Is he willing to take chances of his own? I hope so.

Since Abrams is such a known quantity in this fandom, I’ll make this a little more challenging for the rest of you—if you’re generally positive about this news, what’s the thing that most concerns you? And if you’re generally negative, what are you most optimistic about? » Read more..

  1. Yes, I’m excluding Lucas—let the guy retire. []

The Han Solo Movie Doesn’t Have a Title Yet So Why Should This Article?

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While Eleven-ThirtyEight shall forever remain gloriously free of any obligation to “report” the “news”, sometimes it’s nice to chime in on a hot topic while it’s still hot, and the big hot news this week was the departure of directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the still-annoyingly-untitled Han Solo standalone film. While the Disney era of Star Wars films has had no shortage of backstage drama already, Lord and Miller had been with the project for such a long time, and were so far into filming, that to lose them less than a year out from the release date seems a new threshold entirely. How does everyone feel about this? While we may not know much (indeed, may never know) about exactly what this means for the final film, does the steady stream of shenanigans make you at all wary of how Lucasfilm works with its directors on the macro level?

Jay: Overall, I don’t have an opinion on this. Or at least, my opinion is to register a non-opinion. I have a couple of reasons for this: from my overall low level of interest in the Han Solo film (like I’ve said before, it probably won’t be until I see trailers that I’ll get interested) to the fact that we really don’t know all that much about what happened other than that the directors are leaving. Everything else is speculation, or based on information we can’t corroborate.

Of course, it doesn’t look good. How can it? I don’t know how much to credit the THR or Variety “sources,” but even from LFL’s own statements, “creative differences” at this stage of the game is not great.

But. I think we have to withhold judgment about the actual decision until we see the outcome. Maybe they wanted to be bold and risky with this one, and it didn’t work out. That could be because LFL is being too risk-averse, or it could be because the film really wasn’t working out. We don’t know if the creative differences were foreseeable, a risk hedged against, or a surprise. There are really multiple ways to read it, and I don’t know that “LFL didn’t do their homework” or “Kathleen Kennedy is meddling” (these are opinions I’ve seen voiced around) are things we really have any basis to say. We may well guess at the reasons the directors are leaving (or fired, I guess — it’s probably reasonable to read “creative differences” as a euphemism for firing) but that’s all it is. » Read more..

Parts of a Plan: Two Brits Debate the Sequel Trilogy

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Ben: It was the best of times, the worst of times, the time with a plan, the time with parts of a plan. Wait a minute, ‘parts of a plan’ ? What’s next, 11 percent of a plan? Yes, per this recent snippet:

“I had presumed (wrongly) that JJ Abrams and Larry Kasdan might have sketched out an arc for the entirety of the current trilogy. But as Rian Johnson told me, it really was a creative handoff—‘Over to you, Rian.’ And Rian is handing off to Colin Trevorrow in the same way. He said he’s made a mess that Colin will somehow have to clean up.”

David Kamp (Vanity Fair) on what surprised him most about The Last Jedi

This certainly set a Wookiee loose among stormtroopers, with people inclined to being confident, or considerably less so, of a successful outcome for the sequel trilogy. So, I got together with a fellow Brit fan to do a quick exchange as to what effect this has, both for the film trilogy but also wider elements.

Mark, I’ve got a couple of reasons for why this admission of there being no plan pulls the rug out from under a good few aspects of Star Wars.

One is the sheer degree to which The Force Awakens took it – originally I planned to hold off until Episode IX came out and then watch the lot, with the advantage of the films being bolstered by the books or comics. Problem is I’m no longer as certain that’s going to happen now as there isn’t as much of a plan as I thought. That’s a problem when your opening shot culminates, in part, with Han Solo being killed by his dark-side son. Just throwing that out there and leaving it to someone else to pick up feels awfully slapdash. If it was more restrained, I’d likely be less wary. » Read more..

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