Archive for Sidelong Glance

Fatal Faves: Darksaber

darksaberYou know how many people with the benefit of hindsight like to rag on Kevin J. Anderson’s work? A lot, including myself. But that’s hindsight; in his time he was an extremely influential (and prolific) author throughout most of the Bantam Expanded Universe, and regardless of the critics a lot of his works are still beloved by fans. Because of his proliferation, his work was often among the first stories that thousands of burgeoning young fans read. That includes me. My first “adult” EU book was the anthology Tales of the Bounty Hunters, where, I’ll be honest, I loved KJA’s IG-88-centric story “Therefore I Amsecond most out of all of them. (What was the first? “The Last Man Standing”, of course.)

Once I had moved from the short story collections and into full-fledged novels, I was given a number of Bantam-era novels from a used bookstore for a birthday. It was a mixture of them, no complete sets, meaning I owned a third of the Crispin Han Solo trilogy, a third of the Bounty Hunter trilogy, and so on. One of the books was the KJA scribed Darksaber, a lesser book of his, not as high-profile as the Jedi Academy Trilogy or as landmark as Tales of the Jedi. The book blew my mind in a lot of ways, I recall reading it through several times, and going back over my favorite chapters more often than that.

Here’s the thing. I enjoyed so much of Darksaber, and it made such an impression on me that scenes are still stuck in my mind today. That’s more than I can say for most of the other books I had in that era (Slave Ship anyone?). When I think of the Bantam era, I think of the X-Wing series first, and then Darksaber, even before Heir to the Empire. It so perfectly exemplifies the era of Star Wars publishing for me. The story, the characters, the plot(s), the twists, everything is just so pulp, so Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. » Read more..

“That’s Not How the Force Works!” – Looking at the Force in The Force Awakens

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The Force has become a rather divisive topic for Star Wars fans. Because of its nebulous nature that’s cribbed and sampled from a number of different mystic and religious beliefs, interpretations of its limits and abilities range across a wide spectrum. It’s especially difficult because of the different ways the Force was handled between the trilogies, with The Phantom Menace introducing midi-chlorians and their symbiotic relationship with cells into the mix while The Empire Strikes Back speaks solely of an omnipresent energy field.

We’re not going to go into all of that, of course. We could write several weeks’ worth of articles about the Force and its ins-and-outs across all of the films, The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. What we are going to do is zero in on the most recent film in the saga and the source for the fantastic quote that gave this article its title. The Force Awakens is very much a throwback film, taking the Star Wars franchise back to its roots, and its portrayal of the Force is no different.

The Force Awakens gives us a back-to-basics look at the Force, with the few practitioners of it being shrouded in mystery and myth, and the extent and even nature of their abilities left open to interpretation. One of the first characters we see on screen, Lor San Tekka, is a member of what supplementary materials call the Church of the Force, an organization that, aside from the name, we know almost nothing about except that they are devoted to keeping the ideals of the Jedi alive even when the Order has been scattered and largely destroyed. It’s an interesting thought and idea, that even those not sensitive to the Force still seek to serve it. » Read more..

The Downfall of the Star Wars Film Universe

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The Effects Wizards

The wonders of modern visual effects have brought some terrifically imaginative and amazingly realistic things to the screen in the past couple of decades. Ever since Jurassic Park and Terminator 2 let the computer genie out of the bottle, the limits to what can be portrayed on screen have shortened more and more each year. Since the turn of the millennium, technology has advanced to such a point where just about any world, creature or event can be created or re-created in lifelike detail, no matter how outrageous it is. It’s certainly hard to see how a good number of the modern blockbuster films most of us see each summer might have been made just twenty years earlier. They might have been made, certainly, but they would have looked a lot different.

As amazing as this has been for those who love movies, it has also had an unfortunate retroactive effect on films done before this time. » Read more..

Entertaining Insanity – A Review of Star Wars: Dark Disciple

—–WARNING, VAGUE SPOILERS AHEAD–—

darkdiscipleThe Clone Wars dominated the landscape of Star Wars media for a good ten years or so, from the release of Attack of the Clones onward. The once-mysterious conflict referred to by Obi-Wan was fleshed out to an almost absurd extent. Once the Disney era of Star Wars publishing began, though, that focus shifted back toward the original trilogy era, leaving fans used to the focus on the prequels feeling left out. Then Dark Disciple was announced, and the combination of author and subject matter made most fans throw up their hands in either jubilation or utter despair. Christie Golden’s only contributions to Star Wars before now were in the Fate of the Jedi series, which has a rather mixed reputation among many readers. Not having read them myself, I sought to go into this book with as open a mind toward Golden as possible, since I try not to assign blame to authors for elements in books that are, often, works by committee to some degree.

What I did not expect from Dark Disciple was how much it resembles its other major building block (and something I do have familiarity with): scripts from Star Wars: The Clone Wars that never made it through production due to the show’s cancellation. » Read more..

Vader’s Vilest Villainy: The Best of the Dark Lord

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There is no point to underselling just how important Darth Vader has been and is to the Star Wars franchise. He gave fans someone to boo (or cheer for), an iconic villain who is instantly recognizable, formidable, effective and intimidating. Anakin Skywalker’s past gives him backstory and depth, but it is Vader, with his raspy automated breathing, melodramatic deeper-than-deep voice, and grotesque-like helmeted visage that is the face of a franchise and one of the most venerated film characters of a generation. He is the third greatest cinema villain of all time according to the American Film Institute, behind only Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. It is small wonder that rumors about a film or project revolving around Vader have been swirling ever since Disney purchased Lucasfilm. When you have a character with that sort of impact, reputation and familiarity, not using them in some way would be far crazier than leaving them be.

While the prospect of a Vader-centric spin-off film is neither here nor there, using him in novels and comics is far from forbidden now and was hardly restricted before (unless you wanted to bring him back to life). Before the prequel trilogy, Vader was an indomitable force who could not be corrupted, turned aside or defeated in battle, the Empire’s foremost military commander. After his past as Skywalker came into better light, searching through his inner space and figuring out his thoughts and feelings became more of the norm, while still leaving him a formidable and deadly martial threat. But which of his appearances were the best (outside of those on film, of course)? » Read more..

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