“The Rise of Skywalker” & Redemption

MV5BMDljNTQ5ODItZmQwMy00M2ExLTljOTQtZTVjNGE2NTg0NGIxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODkzNTgxMDg@._V1_I recently saw The Rise of Skywalker (TROS) for a second time and enjoyed the movie more than I did during my first viewing. All of the issues I raised in my review – such as the convoluted plot and pacing – still drag the movie down, but I also found myself better able to enjoy the spectacle. Unfortunately, I also became more frustrated with the resolution of Ben Solo’s arc and how it treated the theme of redemption. This is especially disappointing because I credit Return of the Jedi (ROTJ) with shaping a lot of my early thinking about redemption. As a child, seeing Anakin Skywalker ask for forgiveness made me realize that all people – even those who commit acts of evil – have the potential for good. 

WARNING: Major SPOILERS for TROS Ahead! Continue reading ““The Rise of Skywalker” & Redemption”

Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

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The final episode of the Skywalker saga is here and my feelings about it are… complicated. While I’ve criticized some of the story choices in JJ Abrams’ previous films (such as his 2009 Star Trek reboot), I’d always believe that he is a talented director who knows how to infuse a movie with energy and at least take viewers on a fun roller coaster ride. As such, I was incredibly disappointed that The Rise of Skywalker (TROS) felt so cluttered and rushed. There’s a lot of plot in the movie, partly because it seems Abrams didn’t agree with the direction that Rian Johnson took the story in The Last Jedi (TLJ). TROS retcons certain plot points and themes in TLJ, and in doing so crams enough plot for two movies into the space of just over two hours. It’s hard to escape the impression that Johnson and Abrams never met to discuss the overall direction of the story.  Continue reading “Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker””

“Alien Vault” by Ian Nathan

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I discussed Alien, Ridley Scott’s seminal science fiction masterpiece, on a Mythgard podcast last year. Alien is one of my favorite films. No matter how many times I watch the film, I can’t help but be drawn into Scott’s dark, dreary vision of our future. Like Star Wars, another science fiction classic from that era, the story behind the scenes is almost as interesting as the film itself. In Alien Vault, Ian Nathan chronicles what it took to make a film unlike anything else before or since. Continue reading ““Alien Vault” by Ian Nathan”

“George Orwell: A Life” by Bernard Crick

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The name “Orwell” is more closely associated with dystopia visions of the future than with a man who lived and breathed. Ever since the publication of 1984, we’ve used the term “Orwellian” to describe suffocating oppression in totalitarian regimes. Yet, George Orwell’s life and political philosophy was more than a condemnation of totalitarianism, as notable as that condemnation was. Bernard Crick’s biography of Orwell – the first of its kind when it was published in 1980 – attempts to understand the man and his works.  Continue reading ““George Orwell: A Life” by Bernard Crick”

REVIEW: “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance”

MV5BNjVjODZmYWEtNjZhNC00MTdkLTgyMGYtNDBiODRmMzJkMDdjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_If anybody had told me five years ago that 2019’s hottest new fantasy show would be a spinoff of Jim Henson’s cult classic The Dark Crystal, I probably would have questioned their sanity. I’ve long had a fondness for the original film and even appeared as a guest on the Trial by Stone podcast. Nevertheless, Dark Crystal seemed destined to remain a niche fandom. The film came out the year I was born and wasn’t a particularly big box office hit. Moreover, the movie characters are all puppets; a fantasy epic without people doesn’t exactly scream marketability.

Fortunately, we live in a wonderful, bizarre world in which Netflix is prepared to give talented artists millions of dollars to bring their crazy visions to life. Continue reading “REVIEW: “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance””

“Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy”

As regular readers of this blog will know, Blade Runner and its sequel Blade Runner 2049 are two of my favorite science fiction films. I’m honored to have a chapter in the upcoming book Blade Runner 2049 and Philosophy. The chapter looks at replicants from the perspective of the political science literature on ethnic conflict. This was a fun project and led me to new insights into the film. The book goes on sale on August 20, 2019.

 

“A People’s Future of the United States”

40163361._SY475_I’m a political scientist and I love science fiction, so in some ways A People’s Future of the United States was right up my alley. This is a collection of short stories by progressive science fiction authors about possible visions for America’s future. Some of the stories are more literal extrapolations of present trends into the future. Others try to show how our future could be different – for better or worse. A few work more on a thematic or symbolic level than a literal level.

As I mentioned, these are progressive science fiction authors. The futures imagined in this book all fall along the same political ideology. You won’t find libertarians in the vein of Robert Heinlein in this book. These stories don’t use subtle analogies to try to introduce new points of view or challenge preexisting biases. Rather, they’re bold proclamations about our political future. They’re more about inspiring those who already agree rather than persuading those who don’t. I certainly don’t say that as a criticism, but rather to note that the book will likely appeal most to certain kinds of readers.

I hope this isn’t the last book of its kind. I love the idea of science fiction authors engaging in more (overtly) political storytelling.

“Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski

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Some of us might know Joseph Michael Straczynski through his work on Babylon 5. Some of us came to know him through his time on the Spider-Man and Superman comic book lines. Some might have found Joe by browsing on Netflix and finding Sense8. Some of us might even know him primarily through his always amusing and often insightful Twitter feed.

Well, unless you’ve read this book, you don’t know Joe. Continue reading ““Becoming Superman” by J. Michael Straczynski”

“Relay” comic

672071._SX1280_QL80_TTD_-296x450Relay, a new science fiction comic series from Aftershock Comics, is both refreshingly original and frustratingly opaque. The story is set far in the future. In accord with the dominant religion, humans invite a giant device known as a “relay” onto each planet they have colonized. The relays guide human evolution, speeding up the process of civilization, but also impose uniformity. The main character, Jad, begins as a true believer, but ultimately starts to wonder about the true purpose of the relays.  Continue reading ““Relay” comic”

“Star Wars: Dark Disciple” by Christie Golden

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I am writing an article about Star Wars Expanded Universe references in the animated TV shows for an upcoming book, and so decided to reread Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple. This book is a fascinating case study in transmedia storytelling and adaptation. Dark Disciple is based on scripts written by Katie Lucas for The Clone Wars animated show before it was canceled in 2013. However, the seeds of the story originated in the Dark Horse Comics Republic line, which was part of the Clone Wars multimedia project in the early 2000s. The book both draws upon and contradicts the comics in interesting ways. Continue reading ““Star Wars: Dark Disciple” by Christie Golden”