Tag Archives: Star Wars

The Force Unleashed II

I had fun with The Force Unleashed. It was buggy, frustratingly repetitive, and the story was a bit out there, but at the end of the day it let you be a total Sith badass which was really all I wanted from it. So when they announced a sequel, and then after I was swept off my feet with the footage they showed at Star Wars Celebration V I was ready to dive back into Starkiller’s world. While TFU2 looked great and eliminated a lot of the issues that bogged down the first one, it also found new problems and clocked in at an easy, under ten hour experience.

And that’s my biggest beef with it: its length. I can see passed repetitive gameplay (to a point) but without even trying to I managed to beat the game in two sittings on the Hard difficulty setting. About seven hours of play time. As I approached what turned out to be the game’s finale I kept telling myself that there was no way that it was almost over. There was so much left to do, right? I mean the story had barely even unfolded. But sure enough it was done in seven hours. Done with only two boss battles. If actually felt like there were parts of the game missing, gameplay and story wise. We were lined up with the possibilities of fighting not just Boba Fett, but your own evil clone and neither really come to light. Fett is seen in a couple of quick cutscenes and while you do get to hack up several Starkiller clones, their all a bunch of newly hatch test tube Sith who are less powerful than enemies you’ve already encountered. Going toe-to-toe with your mirror self would have been cool, because at least you’d feel like you accomplished something. You know that, what with time paradoxes and all, you can’t kill Vader. You can “defeat” him, but not kill him. And for the sake of staying spoiler free I won’t elaborate on the Light or Dark Side endings other than saying the Light Side ending left my jaw on the floor for all the wrong reasons.

I’ll quickly hit on the story: You’re a clone of Starkiller that Vader has been secretly working on but so far all of your predecessors have gone crazy with the real Starkiller’s memories and were killed. You manage to escape and hook up with Kota–the blind samurai Jedi from the first one–and then you take off after Juno Eclipse, your love interest from the first one. And that’s it. The state of the Rebellion, the cool existential questions about whether or not you’re a clone or the real Starkiller–and how either way, what is it that REALLY makes a person, the body or the soul–are all pretty much left hanging. This world is a much different place from the last time we stepped into it, but instead of seeing how it’s changed we spend all of our time on Kamino, on a Rebel cruiser or Cato Neimoidia. Three locations verses how many the last time around? And of all the planets fans would want to see, and we only really get one here, we get the Trade Federation homeworld?

I know that this all fits my supposed M.O. as a hater who refuses to give any post-THX edition original trilogy Star Wars any credit, but I was enjoying this game. I wasn’t ready for it to end. I wanted more, damn it, and not in a “whoa, I need t play this again instantly and tell everyone I know to play it” kind of way. It was more of a “That’s it?!”

On the plus side they really did clean up the visuals and I didn’t encounter any game ending bugs. There’s also the upcoming Endor DLC (Dark Side Lightning + Ewoks = Fan-fucking-tastic!) But I still would have liked to spend some more time in the main game before beating it as savagely as I did (one week and I scored most of the PS3 trophies for it). The idea of a Star Wars take on God of War is too good to pass up. If there’s a third game in the works–and based on the ending there almost has to be–I’ll play it. I just hope that they can continue to learn from what doesn’t work and hopefully not replace old issues with new ones.

RIP Irvin Kershner

So I’m really at a loss for words here. Odds are if you’re reading this that you know how I feel about Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back in particular. This morning Irvin Kershner, the director of The Empire Strikes Back, passed away.

Kershner brought the best out of the characters and worlds that George had created. It was his directing, along with Kasdan’s script, that elevated this world above the realm of Kid’s Stuff. He showed us our heroes at their lowest points, and though they ended the film defeated, he saw brought them to a point of hope, though greatly diminished from where they left off in A New Hope. Kershner made these characters real, even giving life to a little green elf and a man in head-to-toe golden plastic. Good vs. Evil is universal, fairy tale conflict, but a crisis of faith (Luke), spirituality (Yoda), love (Han and Leia) and heartbreaking betrayal (Lando/Vader’s big reveal) are universal, real-world struggles that strike a chord in all of us one way or another. These were the things that made The Empire Strikes Back, despite all of it’s otherworldly spectacle, the most down-to-Earth of the films.

Star Wars’ legacy has already shown that, 30 years after The Empire Strikes Back was released, these films still prove to be just as powerful as ever. Kershner’s contribution both to that legacy and to fandom as whole, like the Force, will always be with us.

The Girlfriend Experience: Episode One–The Phantom Menace

This is a six-part (potentially longer if we get into The Clone Wars) series where I will sit through the Star Wars saga chronologically with my girlfriend who has, aside from snippets here and there and that one time I sat her down with A New Hope, never watched the original trilogy in its entirety. My purpose is to see how a person without the emotional attachment of having grown up with the originals will:

1) Respond to the prequel trilogy on their own and in light of their reputation

2) Respond to the original trilogy three decades after the fact, especially in light of their place in cinematic history

3)  View The Saga in its entirety as a single, over-arcing story

I also decided to use the title of porn star Sasha Grey’s non-porn film, The Girlfriend Experience, in a shameless attempt to bait dudes looking for spank material into clicking on my blog, thus bumping up my hit count. And to that end: Sasha Grey Sasha Grey porn nude tits vagina anal anal blow jobs pooper Sasha Grey. Sex.

1) Briefly summarize the plot of The Phantom Menace.
um. the republic was all corrupt and the jedi knights had to go fight to regain peace among the peoples for queen amidala. then by chance they found anakin and qui-gon thought he was the chosen one so they gambled to get him. the jedi leaders didn’t think anakin should be trained but qui-gon’s dying wish was to have him be trained by ob-wan. then there was like a war and sith lords and shit.

2) Which character(s) did you like the most and why?
i liked anakin best, he was smart and cute and i liked his whole back story. they did a great job building his character, i cried when he had to leave his mom. and i liked the connection between him and padme. also, qui-gon because he was a total hotty. duh.

3) Which character(s) did you like the least and why?
jarjar binks was gay. i HATED the way he talked. him/his species were an obvious cheap ploy to get kids into the movie.

4) What was your favorite scene(s) and why?
i liked when they were on anakin’s planet… meeting him, during the pod race and with his mom.

5) What would you have liked more of?
i would have liked more back story on queen amidala/padme and on qui-gon. i was sad he died because i liked him and wanted more of him.

6) What could you have done with less of?
too much cgi and computer animation… i like that they use it but everything looked too shiny and new. i would have liked if they kept it grittier and rustic feeling. it all felt too polished. also, some of the alien characters were just too out there, it took from the feel of movie.

7) What did you know about certain characters going into the movie/figure out as it went along?
i know ob-wan, he is a jedi. i think he is a good guy in the later movies. i know that anakin and luke are related in some way obviously, i kinda thought they were the same person but i guess not. ’cause you just said no. jabba the hut was there, he is fat. i kept asking why queen amidala and padme were both played by natalie portman, and i still don’t really get why but at least i know that i wasn’t imagining things.

8 ) What sticks in your mind most about The Phantom Menace?
i know tony must think im an idiot ’cause i kinda didn’t know what was going on the whole time.

9) What, if anything, surprised you about The Phantom Menace?
i was surprised that it was a little hokey almost… i remember the old movies feeling so much more important and this one just didn’t strike me in the same way. not that i’ve watched (empire strikes back and return of the jedi) in entirety or anything. the animated characters took way too much away from the whole star wars feel.

10) What were your general impressions of The Phantom Menace?
i know that i am slightly jaded by things you have said about the movie. i don’t think i am ready to say if it was good or bad or mediocre. i did enjoy watching it with you, of course, but i do think that the plot wasn’t as strong as it could have been (i obviously had some issues following) and i wasn’t really charmed by it.

I was surprised by how much Sondra enjoyed Jake Lloyd. While I never found him particularly awful (he’s a kid and they generally blow in movies) he seemed to be a pretty high ranking bone of contention for a lot of people. I also found it odd that she didn’t ever mention Darth Maul in our post-TPM discussion. He tends to be one of the few highlights for prequel haters. However, I was really blown away by just how little she knew of what was coming down the line. The fact that she asked me at one point of Luke and Anakin are the same person got me really excited to see what the uninitiated would consider to be big twists. Example: she was crushed when she over heard a casual Star Wars discussion at work and had Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader spoiled for her. Those are the sort of OMG moments this experiment is all about. Curious…

Celebration V recap!: or, Didn’t You Go to Some Star Wars con, like, a month ago?!

First the second part: No, I went to Comic Con International a month ago, DUH! I went to Star Wars Celebration V, like, a WEEK a go. So there!

Now the first bit. Recap! Why the hell has it taken me a whole week to get to writing about the closest thing to a religious experience (slight overstatement? you decide!) I will ever…uh…experience…

Well, the answer’s not a flattering one. I’m lazy. Pure and simple. Plus I felt no overwhelming rush since there’s lots of information about CV out there AND I was pretty consistently posting photos over the course of the four days. Yes, that’s right, if you or someone you love is unfortunate enough to follow me on twitter or are fans of My Best Friend is a Wookiee on Facebook then you were bombarded by photos at a rate usually reserved for tweenaged girls who stumble across a Jonas Brothers look-a-like bikini charity car wash.

But those photos cold have been faked! I could have just stolen other people’s memories of celebrating Star Wars and called them my own, even going as far as the photoshop myself in some of them! Just who the hell do I think I am?! I think I’m a swag hound whose idea of self restrain when it comes to buying Star Wars merch still proves to be more than I should have spent. I wore a Rebel flight suit, in public, despite it not being up to Rebel Legion par. I had the audacity to tell some dude who asked me for a cigarette in a parking lot that, despite his claims, he wasn’t Boba Fett only to find out that he was, in fact Daniel Logan, the actor who portrayed him in Episode II and The Clone Wars and I lived to tell the tale–no disintegration!

Moments before I pissed in this guy's gas tank...

The first day was a relative breeze. I wandered aimlessly, figured out where everything was and, most importantly, I spent all of my money on toys right off the bat. I figured it would be best to just get it out of my system early so that I could enjoy the panels and events unburdened by the fear that the last vintage-packaged Zuckuss and 4-Lom could be swept out from under me while I was listening to Ben Burtt discuss how he used an old audio clip of John Wayne for Garindan‘s voice.

Not Shown: IG-88 coffee mug, kick ass signed Ralph McQuarrie print and Princess Leia "hair bun" earmuffs.

I was also, for the first time ever, wearing a Star Wars costume. Growing up I was terrified of dressing up in costume outside of Halloween because I assumed it was a giant, self-imposed “Kick Me” sign. My costume, that of a Rebel X-Wing pilot, looked great. A lot of the thanks goes to my wonderful girlfriend, who upon realizing she’d have to make me nerdy costumes at a pretty early stage in our relationship,  decided not to run far, far away to the welcoming arms of some non-geek.

...So of course when I find the guy someone wants to get our picture! It took a lot for us not to kill one another. Clearly we were thinking of the children.

The next two days consisted of lots of panels. Ben Burtt gave a great talk about the origins of some classic Star Wars sound effects and the process by which he turned animal roars and the sounds of twanging tension wires into Wookiees and lightsabers. LucasArts had some awesome gameplay footage and cutscenes from The Force Unleashed II, then a hands on demo running on the show floor. It was still very much a pre-final demo, but it already feels a lot more intuitive than the original. Throw in a couple of very God of War inspired elements and I for one was pretty pleased with it.

The Clone Wars had a great showing, and it was a blast watching Supervising Director Dave Filoni squirm while trying his hardest to answer the questions of adorable young Star Wars fans while still maintaining his producer-mandated veil of secrecy. We did see the reveal of Darth Maul’s brother (zuh?), the Clone Wars debut of Delta Squad and the vague admission that we will see a connection to the classic trilogy.

I also got to meet fellow author and Star Wars nut, John Booth, whose Collect All 21! I wrote about in my last post. We only spoke for a few minutes, but he was a super nice guy. We have a lot in common, John and I, everything from our love of these films to our mutual, though short-lived jealousy over the other’s book. Back when I was writing My best Friend is a Wookiee (then under any number of working titles, from Fear and Loathing in Mos Eisley to You Don’t Ob-Wan Ke-know-me) I somehow came across John’s book. My immediate response was “Fuck! Someone beat me to it!” then I clicked out of the page, erased my browser’s history and shot crystal meth into my eyeballs until I forgot I ever discovered it. When I met John he confessed to initially feeling like I had written his book. Of course after we both sat down with them we realized that while our obsessions were mutual and our experiences similar, we were both of two very different ages of fandom and as such we learned from one another as opposed to having to throw down and battle each other to the replica-death with replica-lightsabers. I said it in my last post, but I’ll say it again, Collect All 21! was a lot of fun, and any fan should do themselves the service of giving it a read.

Of course the big reveal of the weekend was during Jon Stewart’s interview with George Lucas that the whole saga will be hitting Blu-Ray next year. No indication that the pre-special editions will be on the set, but at this point that’s a battle we fans should probably just throw the towel in on. Plus I really don’t know how much I want to see the old Vaseline blob job in high-definition. And for me, now, the prospect of getting deleted scenes from episodes IV, V and VI make up for it.

By the end of the third day I was pretty much wiped. After three days of soaking in all things Star Wars I was physically and mentally exhausted. I’m bummed that I missed out on Gary Kurtz talking about his role in the original trilogy and a Return of the Jedi that might have been, but the LA Times did a great piece with him here.

The highlight of my trip, however, was getting to give a copy of the book to Carrie Fisher. On the last day of the event I was just sort of wandering through the exhibit hall. There weren’t any panels left that i wanted to catch before I had to leave for the airport, so I just took it all in one last time. It was then, when I least expected it, that Princess Leia walked by, arm in arm with some dude, on the convention floor. She walked right. by. me. As if on autopilot I started to follow her. It felt like I was floating through some weird daydream, but I was quickly snapped out of it by the whispering masses.

“Oh my god…”

“Look who it is!”

“It’s her! I can’t believe it’s here!”

Realizing that the poor woman was about to get bum rushed I quickly slid up alongside her.

“Excuse me, Carrie?” Carrie?! Who the fuck am I to call her that!

“Yes?”

“Hi! IwrotethisbookandI’dbehonoredifyoutookacopy!”

“…Okay…?”

I handed her the book, thanked her and split. Fuckin’ ran away! Part of it was because I couldn’t believe I addressed her by her first name like we went way back or something. (We do go way back, she just doesn’t know it. Also, when I say we go way back I mean me and the image of her in her metal slave bikini on the cover of my Return of the Jedi VHS “go way back”). The other part of it was because I half expected George Lucas’ goon squad to crack down on me hard for disturbing her worshipleness.

And so on that note I went back to my hotel, the swankiest of the swank EconoLodge and waited impatiently to get on a plane that would take me away from this temporary holy land. I’m already looking forward to Celebration VI. With any luck it will be anywhere other than Orlando in August.

Collect all 21!

Love it or hate it, Star Wars was the grandpappy of a lot of things–modern special effects, the blockbuster as we now know it and, most important for this particular discussion, the atomic shockwave of tie-in merchandise. There are three school of thought on the merchandising aspect of films:

1) Those who were around before Star Wars and think it’s obnoxious

2) Those, like myself, who were born long enough after Star Wars that it has become totally commonplace and therefore barely noticable

3) Those who, like author John Booth, were there when it started and have a special fondness and appreciation for it all that neither of the other groups can quite relate to

In his memoir Collect all 21!: Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek, Booth recounts the six year span during which the original Star Wars trilogy was released from the point of view of a wide-eyed kid with an insatiable hunger for Star Wars “guys.” As a kid who grew up swimming upstream against wave after wave of new toy crazes–basically anything with an animated series and a cool new weapon–I had never really considered that all of it had to have started somewhere.

John speaks of  creating his own logic and fantasies with his Star Wars guys–when or why, outside of a kid’s playroom, would Darth Vader ever tool around in Luke’s landspeeder?–spoofing the films by overdubbing a read-along storybook cassette, and the fledgling days of the expanded universe. A lot of this stuff was strangely–or maybe not so strangely–similar to my own experiences with Star Wars as a kid. I too had to think up some bizarre back story as to why C-3PO would be flying a TIE Fighter because for a few months they were the only toys I had from the Power of the Force line. Like Booth, I was sequestered in the outfield when I played little league because that’s where guys like I us did the least amount of damage to our team. And, like Booth and his pals, I too dabbled in a bit of Star Wars parody.

What I found most interesting–and where both of our books really differed–was that when John hit that age where he started to outgrow Star Wars, there weren’t any new ones coming along. He was twelve when Jedi came out and considers himself lucky to get the “last” Star Wars movie before he was too old. I was twelve when the Special Editions were released and it was then that I started to question certain things. Having to deal with the prequels while simultaneously coping with puberty, high school and early adulthood certainly, in my personal opinion, are why I think I have/had such an adverse reaction to the new trilogy in the first place. I was stuck between the rock of my childhood and the hard place of growing up. John didn’t get the prequels until he had moved beyond all that awkward growing up stuff and had a child of his own. While he recognized the flaws, he was able to share the new movies with a kid who wasn’t burdened by thirty years of lore, unattainable expectations and the rose colored, though often hazy glasses of nostalgia.

What I took away from this book is the feeling that, with my own book, I had in fact tapped into something universal which had been my hope all along. John and I are Star Wars fans from two distinctly different eras of fandom, yet our experiences are quite similar. It tells me that, as I had long assumed, Star Wars speaks across generations. It’s seemingly never-ending shelf life sort of already made that obvious, but it was refreshing to learn that from another fan’s true life story as opposed to a Lucasfilm exec.

Boba Fett, new title and some other informative crap

So I’m really bad at this. Like, really bad. So bad that I’ve probably opened a previous post by discussing just how bad I am at posting frequently. Like I said: really, really bad at this blogging business.

Since our last chat (I assume you all read this out loud and have conversations with yourself as if I were right there with you) I went to San Francisco and came back. While there I did a couple of Mortified shows and did not find the Skywalker Ranch. But I did get my picture taken in front of what, at the time, I assumed WAS the Skywalker Ranch. And by in front of I mean from a short distance away from it up on a hill with it in the background. Observe:

Okay, so I can’t find the picture. I’ll show you later. Remind me (remember? It’s supposed to be like we’re talking!)

Anyway…the book. The book is done. D. U. N! It’s due out mid-September, which seems both an eternity and not nearly far enough away. It’s hard to know whether or not all my ducks are in a row here because I don’t know what those ducks or the row they should be standing in looks like. I can’t even say the hard part’s done because it’s all very relative. Yes, writing is difficult, but I spent roughly two years on it. Compare that to, say, the few weeks I have to find people interested in writing endorsements, or planning out how to get the word about the book out there…that shit’s HARD. Even if I had another two years for that stuff I’d still feel like it wasn’t enough time. It’s a hell of an education. Next time around I’ll have just shy of no clue about how to do things.

The book also has a new title. After a bizarre series of events I’ll discuss at a later time the book was renamed, finally and officially, My Best Friend is a Wookiee: One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy. It’s coming out in hardcover so that it looks extra super important!

I’ve also been busy reading the Boba Fett Omnibus. Boba’s a fun character to play with because, at his best, he’s a tight lipped bad ass who everyone else acts around. He’s really only got two modes: bad ass or oops, I’m getting eaten accidentally by the Sarlacc. He’s pretty much always a bad ass (so far, at least) and seeing characters react before he even shows up can be fun. Personally I enjoyed getting a better sense of who some of SW’s more over-looked bounty hunters really are. Zuckuss and 4-LOM really shine in The Yavin Vassilika. But so far the  best character moment has come from Boba Fett himself. In Twin Engines of Destruction. When Dengar makes a comment about Fett always hiding his face because of all the scarring he got from the Sarlacc Fett responds with “This IS my face.” It’s a particularly bold statement for the character. We get no real background of the man in these comics and absolutely none from the original trilogy, yet he’s a wildly popular character. Does seeing him as a boy in Episode II and knowing about his past really fill any sort of need fans may have had? I doubt it. I can’t speak for his younger self coming back into play with The Clone Wars this season, but regardless of what revelations they may come up with for him, Boba Fett will always be Boba Fett, aka, the dude in the green armor who caught Han Solo. That’s enough for me, personally, that and the mystique that follows him wherever he goes. What do I want out of a Boba Fett story? Ass kicking. Anything else I can take or leave, so long as he does in fact kick some ass. And he usually does.

General Nerdery

I’ve been balls deep in Star Wars stuff for the last few months. Actually that’s a statement that could be made about most of my life, but the last few months have seen a particularly strong resurgence in the Force around these parts. It’s hard not to feel like I’m eleven years old all over again in spite of having a driver’s license, beard, job, bills and lack of a bed time. It’s fun. It’s very time consuming, but what else would I be doing with my time? Probably just playing video games, which I would have been doing thirteen years ago too if not for the copious amounts of Star Wars cards we were playing. Speaking of video games, I do plan on writing something up about Brutal Legend as soon as I finish it. Though flawed, it’s the most fun I’ve had with a game in ages, plus there’s a flimsy-at-best Star Wars connection, so it merits a write up.

My roommate and I have so far managed to grind through one and a half games of the Star Wars card game. The first one ended mid-game because I had to go to work and after almost two hours there was no end in sight. You could even argue that after that long there was no beginning in sight. That first half a game was a slow process of stutter stepping through gameplay phases in an attempt to crack the often confusing rules. By the end of the two hours we felt like we had a decent idea and when we started over a couple of days later we managed to see it through to the end. We haven’t played since, however, because neither of us have had the two-plus hours to dedicate to throwing down again. But hopefully that’ll happen again soon.

While we’re on the subject, last month I scored a sweet find at my old comic shop back home in Massachusetts, Harrison’s in Salem. I was home for my sister’s wedding, so of course going to the comic shop was my first order of business. Since I have as of recently found myself playing Magic: The Gathering I figured I’d grab a couple of booster packs and guess what I found sitting in the display case…

Yes sir, the LAST packs of the Star Wars: CCG in the shop! And not only were they the last they had, but they happened to be from each of the playsets I was heavily invested in! Did I get anything good? How the hell do I know!? The rules for each set became additionally complicated so who knows, maybe I got some bad ass interrupts, but for the most part I think I got junk. The two cool cards I did get were both things I already had: Obi-Wan’s Lightsaber and a rare Star Destroyer. But still, the nostalgia factor kept it from being a total bust.

Currently I’m reading through volume two of the Legacy series. After that I think I’ll have depleted my new Star Wars stuff, so a trip to the library for some of the novels I missed during my ten year hiatus from the Expanded Universe might be in order. In non-Star Wars-but-geeky-none-the-less news I’ve started to read through a steampunk anthology called, fittingly enough, Steampunk. It’s a genre I’ve always enjoyed from afar, basically only understanding the idea of it but having never read much of it aside from the works of China Mieville which could be lumped in with steampunk amongst other things. I feel like it’s a type of sci-fi that is free of the shackles of scientific explanation because a lot of the times the science involved could never work now, nevermind a hundred and fifty years ago. It’s an entirely refreshing setting for science fiction, especially for me since I have always held Star Wars to be the gold standard for science fiction (solely a personal opinion and one that, yes, I understand is very narrow minded in the grand scheme of all things sci-fi). There is a lot of genre fiction out there that I have completely passed over and just as I’m bringing myself up to speed on Star Wars, I think it’s high time I played catch up with other brands of nerdery as well.

And in case you ever wanted to know what a steampunked version of Star Wars would look like, here you go: Sillof’s Workshop