Tuesday, April 29, 2014

'Star Wars: Episode VII' Cast Assembles

Man, what I wouldn't give to be a part of that table read. Lucasfilm and Disney have announced the cast for J.J. Abrams' forthcoming Star Wars: Episode VII, due to hit theaters worldwide on Dec. 18, 2015

Joining returning franchise mainstays Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker are John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow. The main cast joined Abrams, writer Lawrence Kasdan, producer Bryan Burk and Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy for a read-through of the script on Tuesday at Pinewood Studios in the U.K.

I know Driver has been hinted to be playing a villain in Episode VII, but it's otherwise difficult to predict the type of new characters we can expect in the next film. Will Lord of the Rings alum Serkis be stepping into his Gollum comfort zone as a digital character? Will Ridley play one of the Solo offspring? Such questions will hopefully be answered soon as Episode VII begins filming in the coming weeks.

With this big news coming out just days before Star Wars Day, May 4, it's a damn good time to be a geek. To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, we've taken our first step into a larger world.

Monday, April 28, 2014

So Long, 'Star Wars' Expanded Universe!

On April 25, StarWars.com clarified Disney's stance on previous works in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which includes books, comics, video games and other media that told stories in George Lucas' galaxy outside the core films. Essentially, The House of Mouse is wiping the slate clean, rendering all EU content produced over the last several decades decidedly "non-canon" as to not hinder the creative direction of future films in the franchise, including a sequel trilogy beginning next year. So the Star Wars films (and, according to the StarWars.com statement, the recent Clone Wars cartoon) will exist in the new canon. For hardcore fans of the Yuuzhang Vong, however, I'm afraid I've got some bad news ...

Although I appreciate the value of the EU as it was — it kept Star Wars alive in the early 1990s when there were no films to support the franchise — I don't mourn its death in the slightest. In fact, I feel it was far overdue.

Like many Star Wars fans who were too young (or not yet born) to experience Alan Dean Foster's 1978 novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye or 1979's The Han Solo Adventures by Brian Daley, my exposure to the EU began with Timothy Zahn's so-called "Thrawn Trilogy," which began in 1991 with Heir to the Empire in 1991 and continued with Dark Force Rising and The Last Command in the years that followed. Although the stories were somewhat ridiculous — including such facepalm-worthy concepts as force-nullifying caterpillars and a clone of Luke Skywalker named "Luuke Skywalker" — they more than adequately satisfied fans' hunger for more adventures in that galaxy far, far away.

Other EU novels followed, including such high points as Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston's X-Wing series and Shadows of the Empire. There were even some amazing comics and video games to emerge from the EU, including successful Dark Horse titles like Tales of the Jedi and Dark Empire and such LucasArts gems as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and Knights of the Old Republic.

Unfortunately, the Expanded Universe would eventually devolve into a wasteland of Force-sensitive Mary Sues and more than enough "copy-and-paste" science-fiction plots to shake a lightsaber at. By the time the laborious New Jedi Order series killed off Chewbacca by having him crushed by a moon (yep), the EU had become more of a headache than a haven for Star Wars fans. Hell, it was a lot worse than the prequels at times.

George Lucas never put much stock in the EU himself, going so far as to designate other forms of media outside of his films as a lower level of canon — licensed fiction that was more "what if?" than anything else due to their questionable continuity and contradicting narratives. Now, it appears as though Disney and Lucasfilm are making a concerted effort to streamline the franchise and make it more consistent, with the same people guiding the films keeping watch over all content associated with the brand. Comic books, novels, video games and animated series will be just as "real" as the films. Ultimately, don't we want all of these stories to connect with each other in a meaningful way?

It goes against one of the most commonly used phrases in Star Wars, but I'll say it anyway:

I have a good feeling about this.

Friday, April 11, 2014

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' - A Haiku Review

You've probably read plenty of Captain America: The Winter Soldier reviews since the Marvel Studios blockbuster hit theaters last week, but how many were written as short-form Japanese poetry? 

Enjoy this brief and hopefully moving piece about Steve Rogers' latest cinematic adventure.

Winter Soldier rocks.
Among the best Marvel films.
Also, hail Hydra.