The Force is With JJ

I’ve been a fan of a number of JJ Abrams’ projects for a while.

Alias was an incredible TV show. Lost was one of my favorite shows ever. And I thought the Star Trek movie he directed was great.

But still, I had my issues with him. He left Alias in the middle of its third season and Lost right after shooting the pilot episode (this was a bigger problem for Alias than it was for Lost). And while the Star Trek movie was very entertaining, story-wise, it was a lot like the original Star Wars.

So a few months ago, when it was announced that Abrams would direct Star Wars Episode VII, I thought he was a decent pick. He’s a Star Wars fan and loves the material, but I’ve had some misgivings about his involvement in his other projects.

But after reading part of an interview JJ did with Empire Magazine, I think that he’s the absolute best pick. In describing how he, who was not a Star Trek fan, made two movies for some of the world’s most discerning fans, JJ said he’s taking a similar approach to Star Wars:  “I feel like I can identify a hunger for what I would want to see again and that is an incredibly exciting place to begin a project.”

As a fan, he’s absolutely right.

The Most Dangerous Children’s Book Ever

Darth Vader and SonEarlier tonight, Hope asked me to read her a book, a request I always grant. She had the book in the picture to the right, saying “Daddy, that’s Darth Vader.” I wanted to continue the conversation so I pointed to the other figure on the cover, asking her if she knew who it was.

When she answered in the negative, I said “that’s Darth Vader’s little b….”

And then I realized there is no way I can read “Darth Vader and Son” to my children. I would be a horrible father and person if I let my children even look at this book before watching any of the Star Wars saga.

So I finished my sentence.

“…buddy. Hey, let’s read something else.”

I immediately hid the book, vowing to myself to get it out of the house as soon as possible.

I’m glad that Hope and Luke have some exposure to Star Wars (something I think The Civee probably disagrees with me on). And I’m looking forward to watching the movies with them when they can understand and sit through something longer than an episode of Sesame Street. A few years ago I read an article online (which I can’t find) where the author suggested watching in a different order (4, 1, 2, 5, 3, 6 (even possibly cutting out Episode I)). So this is something I have put some thought into.

Star Wars and its characters are ubiquitous. I’m glad my children will have it around (again, The Civee may disagree here). There are a lot of great Star Wars-related toys and educational materials. And the book does have its moments. But what was the Lucasfilm licensing department thinking with this book?

I’d rather Luke and Hope play with Jar Jar and Ewok rock ’em sock ’em robots than be spoiled in this way.

So this book will disappear for a long, long time. And hopefully, by the time Hope and Luke get around to watching Star Wars, there will be some surprises left.

 

Happy Anniversary, Internet

I have a weird memory. I’m horrible with names. But I’m great with places and dates. The first time I saw a Yankees win a World Series was October 26, 1996. My first Weezer concert was August 30, 2000. And 20 years ago today, on October 31, 1992, I went online for the first time.

My father had just gotten a new computer. A few weeks earlier, I read an item in Wizard magazine about a Star Wars bulletin board on the America On Line service, which my father subscribed to. I started the program, dialed in and after having the modem screech at me, started discussing Star Wars with my fellow nerds.

Twenty years later, the Internet is part of everyday life. Star Wars is cool again. And I can remember October 31, 1992 like it was yesterday.

I [Surprisingly Don’t] Have a Bad Feeling About This

Disney owns a large part of my childhood.

Growing up, I read and collected comic books and was loyal to the Marvel line. A few years ago, Disney bought Marvel.

I was also a Star Wars fan. I was into Star Wars when it seemed like no one else was and all we’d have is three movies in a galaxy far, far away. Well, today Star Wars is pretty popular, with three more movies and a lifetime’s worth of extended universe media. Oh, and a new owner. Today, Disney bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas for $4 billion.

Disney isn’t buying Lucasfilm to just hold on to the intellectual property. They’re planning on making some serious money, starting with some new Star Wars movies. From the official release:

In 2015, we’re planning to release Star Wars Episode 7 – the first feature film under the “Disney-Lucasfilm” brand. That will be followed by Episodes 8 and 9 – and our long term plan is to release a new Star Wars feature film every two to three years. We’re very happy that George Lucas will be creative consultant on our new Star Wars films…

The first I heard of today’s news, I didn’t know about Episode 7. My reaction was negative. This looked like George Lucas was selling out.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is a good thing. The truth is, George sold out when he signed on with Fox to make Star Wars back in the 70s. Star Wars was a branded commodity even then, and the money it made helped ensure more entries in the franchise. I had some issues with the prequels, but overall, I enjoyed them.

Sure, Disney will Disney-fy the Star Wars franchise. But that’s nothing different from what George Lucas has been doing with Star Wars over the past two decades.

As for the future movies (and I can’t tell whether the Disney release means the saga will end with 9, or whether there will be more after that), if I’m ever worried about the story being diluted, I always have my copies of the original three episodes. Additionally, according to reports, George has been working on these new movies over the past few months (and won’t be doing any writing or directing). Additionally, Disney has made some quality movies based off its newly-acquired Marvel properties over the past few years while respecting the source material. Sure, there will be a lot more Star Wars material for kids (and that’s who the saga is aimed at), but as for the movies, with the Disney/Marvel track record, there’s nothing to be worried about.

I’m excited about this, and the biggest reason I’m excited really has nothing to do with the quality of the movies. I saw all the original trilogy in the theaters, first run with my father (well, technically, we saw the Empire Strikes Back as part of a double feature the month before Jedi came out). And I still remember that. I can say that I’ll get to take my kids to see new Star Wars movies in the theater in a few years. That’s so cool.

And for that reason alone, as a member of the Star Wars fan universe, I for one welcome our new corporate overlords.

The Fanboy Menace

Way back during my first month of blogging, I wrote about my the last time I saw a Star Wars movie in the theater. It was probably the sixth or seventh (or maybe eighth) time I saw Return of the Sith in the theaters. But my rationale for going was sound. As I wrote at the timeI figured there won’t be many more times that I can say a Star Wars movie is playing in the movie theaters.

Well tonight, the opportunity presented itself as Star Wars Episode I opened in 3-D in theaters. True, The Phantom Menace is the worst of the six Star Wars movies. But it’s an entertaining flick, and if I’m going to catch the other parts of the saga when their 3-D release hits the theaters in coming years, I might as well start with the first movie.

For a 12-year-old movie not originally shot in 3-D, the conversion wasn’t that bad. There were some scenes that didn’t feel like they had any 3-D elements at all. There were some (like the space scenes) that felt like there should have been more use of 3-D. And there were others where it felt well done.  Overall, I’ve seen the movie a lot and I was surprised at the number of things (mostly in the background) that I haven’t seen or noticed before.

There were a lot of kids in the theater, who seemed entertained, which was nice to see. There was a boy next to me who really enjoyed the movie. I’m glad for him that they just get better from here on out (and part of me couldn’t help but think that The Phantom Menace could have been so much better had George stuck to his original script).

So if things keep to their current schedule, we’ll get a Star Wars movie in 3-D each year over the next six years. Even though I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve gotten to see these movies (in the theater and at home), it will be nice to see them again. And by the time the Original Trilogy gets out, just maybe I’ll bring Hope along.

Coming to Our Galaxy This Summer

The Civee and I are having another baby.

The Civee is 18 weeks along and is feeling a lot better than she was a few weeks ago. The baby is due around June 27. It’s been tough to keep this news off the blog for as long as I have, but The Civee and I wanted to go for her ultrasound before making it public.

Because Hope was born with a cleft lip and palate, the chances were greater that any other children of ours would be born with one also. Hence, the waiting and a slight bit of nervousness leading up to today. However, in an ultrasound session that seemed like it lasted all day, the technician and doctor declared the baby healthy. While they can’t tell about the palate, the lip is intact, which has taken a lot off of our minds. We also chose not to find out whether the baby would be a boy or a girl, and even now after the ultrasound, we’re fine waiting until late June.

We know Hope will be a great big sister. But she doesn’t know yet. While we’re very excited about the new addition, part of me wishes we could have Hope to ourselves for a little while longer. But I think just like Hope, the new baby will be a lot of fun.

It seems like right now, the baby is enjoying itself in its current environment. The technician managed to capture this shot of the baby giving us the thumbs-up sign, telling us everything’s going to be okay.

But that means more than just everything’s going to be okay. Because Hope has some speech delays, we’ve used some sign-language with her. In our family, the sign for Da-da is the thumbs up. I don’t know how baby number two knows sign language already, but its first recorded communication has made me happy.

*and yes, the titular line of this post is a Star Wars reference

It’s Time to Watch the Movie

It was a rainy day and The Civee and I had to do something with Hope this afternoon. We decided to take her to a movie.

We went to see The Muppets. It was age appropriate for her, The Civee and I wouldn’t be totally bored and Hope is familiar with the Muppets from Weezer’s Keep Fishin’ video (Weezer has a surprising number of kid-friendly videos).

We were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to last the whole movie. Hope gets vocal and likes to move around a lot, but we were willing to try.

The theater wasn’t that crowded, so we got seats near the aisle. There were a number of trailers and a Toy Story short before the movie started. Hope seemed to get the idea of watching what was going on on the big screen, although she often stood on her seat and talked (asking for more popcorn, mostly).

We did have to take her for a walk a few times and she got real antsy towards the end (damn those previews and the short feature!). But overall, she enjoyed the experience. The Civee and I liked the movie. And I’m glad to know what happened to the world’s supply of New Coke.

Also, when we were on our way into the theater, I saw a poster for the next movie I’m taking Hope to see:

My Sixth-Generation Star Wars Set

Throughout my life, I haven’t made it any secret that I’m a fan of Star Wars. I’ve even written about it on the blog once in a while.

However, for various reasons, I didn’t write about what I got for my birthday last month- the Star Wars complete saga Blu-Ray set.  Between getting it and now, I’ve watched the movies and the bonus features.  The bonus features are great to finally have (although it would have been nice to have some of them cleaned up a bit) and the movies look incredible. Others have written about changes made to the movies, and while I don’t begrudge George Lucas the opportunity to change his movies, most of these changes are just unnecessary. Darth Vader’s new NOOOOOO at the end of Jedi is more bizarre than offensive. But the change that affects me the most is the blinking Ewoks.  That’s just creepy.

By my count, this is the sixth ‘complete set’ of Star Wars I’ve gotten (or made) over the past twenty five years (four versions on VHS, and two on DVD), and I would bet that none of those versions are the same.

I’ve done the whole watch the saga over a few days thing before and can’t say I’ve noticed anything new this latest go-around. It’s still an enjoyable watch, especially seeing how the Prequel Trilogy improves with each installment and how the scope of the Original Trilogy grows each movie. Before getting the set, I read J.W. Rinzler’s Making of Star Wars and Making of Empire Strikes Back, which provided excellent background to the movies. It’s clear after reading them (and reviewing the different drafts of each movie) that while George had some ideas and themes he wanted to explore, at no point did he have the whole saga (whether it was a six-, nine- or 12-movie saga) planned out beforehand.

Unfortunately, the amount of background information for the Prequel Trilogy isn’t as abundant. For Episodes II and III, George wrote the movies as the art department developed characters and places. However, I recently found (or rediscovered) something that gives an idea about George’s original plan for The Phantom Menace. The Episode I Insider’s Guide CD that came out back in ’99 (which I still have somewhere) had bits from the original script sprinkled throughout. Michael Kaminski, who wrote the Secret History of Star Wars did a great job of compiling all the script information.

The original story for The Phantom Menace was much better than what we got (and I say this as someone who enjoyed TPM). The movie isn’t as childish; Jar Jar isn’t a bumbling fool, Anakin is more mature and there’s more depth to the interactions between the characters (for instance, there’s actual racial tension between the Naboo and the Gungans). The only drawbacks I can think of is that Qui-Gon doesn’t enter the story until the last third of the movie (Obi Wan is on his own) and Palpatine’s maneuvers to become Chancellor aren’t shown. But overall, the story just feels better.  Give it a read sometime.

Who knows, maybe one day, George will have the technology to go back and make that movie (or any other draft he wants). But I’m betting that won’t happen until seven or eight editions of the Star Wars Complete Saga from now.

That One With The Ice Planet, The Green Muppet and Lobot

I didn’t realize this earlier (if I had, this entry would have been posted yesterday, instead of today), but yesterday, May 21, 2010 was the 30th anniversary of the release of The Empire Strikes Back.

Now I feel old.

I was born in ’77, the year Star Wars came out.  I don’t have exact memories, but I have flashes of memories of seeing Star Wars in the theaters (and back then, it was in the theaters for years, not weeks like the movies of today) a few different times.  I was hugely into Star Wars as a kid.  But for some reason it took me a while to see Empire.  But unlike with Episode IV, I do remember the first time I saw Empire.

It was actually a few years after it came out- sometime in April or May of ’83, right before Return of the Jedi (which I saw on its opening night in a drive in, but that’s another story).  In that spring of ’83, I was five and after seeing several commercials for Jedi, my father knew that I needed to see Empire before seeing Jedi.

Or else I would have been spoiled big-time.

So King Classic found a theater somewhere in North Jersey that was having a double feature of Star Wars and Empire back to back.  And it was on a Friday.  So my father took me out of kindergarten that day, sat through Star Wars for yet another time with me and then also sat through Empire with me.

As a five-year-old, the movie blew my mind.  And it still continues to do so, probably because I gotten it more as I’ve aged.  I have to say that Star Wars and Empire are tied for first on my favorite movie list (followed closely by UHF), but I do have a better story for the first time I saw Empire.  And maybe because I saw it two years after it came out, I shouldn’t feel so old.