“Poe Dameron: Free Fall” by Alex Segura

Image-1“You were a spice runner?” 

JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio wanted to create conflict between the main characters in The Rise of Skywalker and so gave each one a secret they were hiding. For Poe, this meant he now had a shady past as a drug dealer. This proved controversial. Some fans pointed out that the new backstory seemed to contradict other Star Wars stories about Poe Dameron, such as the novel Before the Awakening. Others noted that making the first Latino lead in the franchise a drug runner played into some unfortunate stereotypes. In the film, Finn and Rey seem to quickly forgive and forget Poe’s shady past, but Alex Segura’s Poe Dameron: Free Fall seems to exist largely to explain this new backstory. Continue reading ““Poe Dameron: Free Fall” by Alex Segura”

“Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge”

51KPpunHkhLI had the opportunity to visit the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge theme park in Disney World last December, just a few months before it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a lifelong Star Wars fan, it was an incredible experience. I cam away extremely impressed with the attention to detail and the quality of the merchandise, food, and other amenities. Disney’s Imagineers went the extra mile to make the park feel immersive; once you enter, you can’t see anything to remind you that you’re still on Earth.

I had read Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire novel and the Galaxy’s Edge comics before I went, so I understood the importance of Batuu to the Resistance and the First Order. I loved having read about Dok-Ondar and then seeing him. My wife and I had fun trying to identify the Resistance spy.

Unfortunately, the park itself doesn’t make that backstory accessible to most visitors. Continue reading ““Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge””

“The Star Wars Heresies” by Paul F. McDonald

Anakin as baby Jesus? (Star Wars Heresies)
Anakin as baby Jesus?

Like many Star Wars fans, I used to dislike the Prequel Trilogy. Unlike most of those fans, I’ve read The Star Wars Heresies.

The Original Trilogy rightly receives considerable praise for the ways in which it echoes Campbellian “hero’s journey” and other mythological themes. Paul F. McDonald, librarian and consummate Star Wars fan, applies the same thoughtful analysis to The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. While I was aware of some of the parallels between the Prequels and real-world mythology, this book showed me that I had barely scratched the surface. Continue reading ““The Star Wars Heresies” by Paul F. McDonald”

How “Star Wars: Duel of the Fates” fixes “The Rise of Skywalker”

star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-21Writing movie reviews can be tricky because we can only judge a film based on what we see on screen. We can’t compare the movie we got with the one we might have gotten. Usually. With the leak of Colin Trevorrow’s script for Episode IX, we have a rare treat: a look at a possible alternative to the film we got. The story, titled Duel of the Fates, is quite different from the story told by J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio. I don’t know if I’m ready to declare that it’s “better” than The Rise of Skywalker (TROS), but do think Trevorrow’s script does a better job than the final film of continuing the themes and character arcs set up in The Last Jedi. Continue reading “How “Star Wars: Duel of the Fates” fixes “The Rise of Skywalker””

“The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

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I’ve made no secret of my disappointment in The Rise of Skywalker (TROS), particularly in Ben Solo’s redemption arc. However, whatever my feelings about the final film, I find the process of making Star Wars movies fascinating. I always make it a point to pick up the “Art of Star Wars” books by Lucasfilm creative art manager Phil Szostak, which collects concept art used to bring director J.J. Abram and writer Chris Terrio’s story to life. Continue reading ““The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker””

Blade Runner, Coronavirus, & Loneliness

MV5BNzQzMzJhZTEtOWM4NS00MTdhLTg0YjgtMjM4MDRkZjUwZDBlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU0OTQ0OTY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,671,1000_AL_One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot during the coronavirus pandemic is loneliness. Most of us are in a state of lockdown or practicing social distancing. Loneliness is going to be a real challenge for many people. Not everyone has a significant other or family in their household. Not everyone has a strong social support network. Humans, even introverts, are social animals who crave some sense of belonging.

Feelings of loneliness had been increasing in much of the Western world even before COVID-19. As our societies have become richer and more urbanized, community institutions and social trust have broken down. Several years ago, the United Kingdom released a cross-government strategy to address loneliness. The U.S Health and Human Services Department refers to loneliness as an “epidemic” in American society.

After listening to the latest Shoulder of Orion podcast episode, I started to think about this problem through the lens of Blade Runner, one of my favorite films. The original Blade Runner is one of the most poignant meditations about loneliness I’ve ever experienced. Rick Deckard technically is not alone for much of the film. He regularly communicates and interacts with other characters. Yet, he is emotionally disconnected from the rest of the world. He begins the film eating alone at a sushi bar. Gaff and the Los Angeles Police Department only want him because he’s useful for a job. He doesn’t have an emotionally fulfilled life.

Deckard had shut himself off from his emotions – probably a necessity for his line of work. He comes across as cold and dismissive. When Rachel confronts him about the results of the Voight-Kampff test, Deckard does not even try to comfort her – at this point, she is a job, not a person. Over the course of the film, Deckard reconnects with that human sense of empathy. He allows himself to be emotionally shaken by Zhora’s death. He learns to care for and love Rachel. He recognizes the humanity in Roy. By the end of the film, Deckard is no longer alone. He is not free from danger and runs away from his home  but he is with Rachel (the events of Blade Runner 2049 are another matter).

Continue reading “Blade Runner, Coronavirus, & Loneliness”

“Inventing Tomorrow” by Sarah Cole

9780231193122I admit I’m probably not the intended audience for this book. I’ve read H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, and I’m very interested in the history of science fiction, but I’m not as well versed in his broader body of work. Sarah Cole’s Inventing Tomorrow is an academic study of Wells’s writing that takes him seriously as an early 20th century author. Not an early 20th century science fiction author – just an author. Continue reading ““Inventing Tomorrow” by Sarah Cole”

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”