Review: Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

TFAAround the age of 8 or 9, I was experiencing Star Wars for the first time on a screen of 10 inches. I preferred watching movies in solitude, so I would set up our family’s box-sixed portable TV on one of the endtables in our living room, and insert one of three tapes – the edited-for-TV Special Edition of A New Hope taped off of PBS, the edited-for-TV Phantom Menace taped off Fox, or a rented copy of the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi (I’d deemed Empire to depressing for a rewatch). For the first time in my life I was part of a larger world, and a great love of film bloomed.

I’m like many with their own childhood Star Wars stories. The series holds a timeless, universal appeal that inspires the most passionate emotional attachment of any film franchise ever made. Perhaps that’s because of how Star Wars seems to blend every genre of film together in one big, beautiful mosaic. Star Wars practically IS film, and with its latest installment The Force Awakens, the vice versa can be true once again.

I’ve expressed my fears as Star Wars transferred hands from creator George Lucas, who’d pledged an end to the series on film, to the Disney corporation, who had instantly greenlit The Force Awakens and would surely whore it out tenfold. I expected, perhaps even wanted, to hate director J.J. Abrams and the Lucasfilm team for The Force Awakens being the one to drop the torch, to extinguish the light of the series for all time.

And that’s just me – Star Wars’ legacy spans nearly 40 years of films, TV, comic books, video games, merchandise, and more. The universe means so much to so many different generations with different takes on its many tales. Lucasfilm and Abrams have taken careful consideration of all this, and in an exhaustive effort to please everybody, The Force Awakens is actually a very likable, if familiar rebirth of the series.

Like its predecessors, the film is drawn in simple strokes – Luke Skywalker is missing. The Galactic Civil War rages on thirty years after Return of the Jedi, in the form of the New Order (bad guys) and the Resistance (good guys). Before being captured by the Empire on the planet Jakku, X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) gives droid BB-8 a secret map to Skywalker’s whereabouts. BB-8 then stumbles upon Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who traverses Jakku’s deserts for the remains of imperial machinery. There is also Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper horrified by war, who teams up with Rey to return the map to the Resistance. They are pursued by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a wannabe Darth Vader of the New Order wielding the power of the Dark Side. There are appearances from the older players of the saga as well, but I’ll leave those as nostalgic surprises for the viewer to discover, just as they are intended to be.

While watching The Force Awakens, I found myself internally berating its inane dialogue (“C’mon! We need a pilot!”) and hokey sentimentalism (“You came back for me?!”). But, I recalled, are these not qualities of the original Star Wars as well?

So I sat back, shut my mind up, and I let the movie work its magic. And I was whisked right back into that larger world.

If the original trilogy was George Lucas’ prize automobile, then J.J. Abrams has gone to Lucas’ old garage, studied the original blueprints, cosmetics of the machine, looked under the hood, memorized every detail of its design, and then built a pretty chewiewerehomedamn close replica. And it runs like a dream. I imagine a lot of that can be attributed to Abrams calling in all the old pit crew to put the vehicle together – we have Empire and Jedi screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan co-scribing, sound master Ben Burtt bringing back some familiar sounds from the series’ past, and John Williams rounding out with a rousing, triumphant score. Even Drew Struzan was enlisted to provide some poster art. And though Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is mugging at CGI monsters now, he’s still got that leading-man swagger that made him a star back in ‘77. And the new players are holding their own just as well amongst the veterans to boot.

Abrams is also one of those smart everyman directors who, like Lucas, puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you the full sensory experience of its speed. We nod. We like the way this engine sounds. We like the feel of it when it vrooms. And Abrams’ own tiny contributions feel like welcome twists on an old machine. The lightsaber duel, for one, is slower, more feral and akin to medieval fencing, a fresh perspective on the cartoonish acrobatics of 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. Abrams understands through and through why these movies worked so well; The Force Awakens, like Hope, Empire, and Jedi, are about idealism, comradery, friendship, loyalty, and on a deeper level, life and legacy. Awakens retains the tone, the spirit, and the fun, rah-rah attitude of the originals. Credit Lucasfilm for that too – The Force Awakens can stand among the best of the company’s Expanded Universe stories as a natural complement to the Original Trilogy before it.

Yes, there’s a “but” coming.

You might recognize the film’s key plot points, the cute little droid carrying secret plans, the captured Rebel leader being tortured for the location of said plans, the mysterious masked villain, the shadowy evil figure behind him, the old man mentor, the cantina of bizarre creatures, the giant space station that can destroy planets…are all retreads of A New Hope. Sure, the series has always called back to and paralleled itself (“like poetry” says Lucas), but a beat-for-beat recreation of Hope feels too safe, a concession to fans lying in the wait with pitchforks for anything deviating from the series’ past, and a studio with a very large investment to protect.

Which is the key problem with Awakens…it fails to innovate, to push the technological envelope in the same way its predecessors did. All stormtroopersthe planets look like rehashes of the original trilogy’s – desert planet, forest planet, and ice planet. The World War II symbolism of the originals also feels conspicuously foregrounded, not to mention dated. Abrams claims the New Order are like if the Nazis all fled to Argentina and reformed, and obviously fans would not object to bringing back such iconic enemies. I would’ve liked, however, to have seen Abrams do something a little ballsier to parallel more modern warfare…what if instead of Nazis, the bad guys were stand-ins for the Russians during the Cold War?

Abrams also struggles to find the visual comedy of the series. Awakens has some chuckle-worthy moments but nothing like the campy humor of the originals, which while occasionally cringe-worthy, provided a cutesy way of breaking up the action. Add to that some lingering continuity issues with the series as a whole, and Awakens isn’t quite as satisfying as it could’ve been.

My past posts have suggested a great distaste for Disney corporatizing the series. With The Force Awakens, I felt just as pumped up as I did watching the originals as a kid. And I think I’ve made peace with those anti-Disney sentiments now. The simple truth is, Star Wars isn’t mine anymore. It is being passed to a new generation. Episodes I-VI will always hold special places in my heart, and the series will continue to be a great influence on me as an artist and as a person. But when you love something, you let it go. Rather than selfishly denounce all future Star Wars material, I want the kids of today to see The Force Awakens and get as wide-eyed, as uplifted, and as inspired I was was watching the originals.

Though hopefully on a slightly bigger size screen.



Images: themarysue,,


X-citing Changes: Highlights of Comic-Con 2015

ccdp“I’m touching myself tonight,” announces Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool in front of a packed Hall H crowd of over 6,000 people. The Con posits a reminder in front of panelists their audience may be under 18, but that didn’t stop anyone from blowing the roof off the hall with hard language, innuendo, and brutally violent imagery.

And it was beautiful.

It’s the people going against the grain that elevate Comic-Con from a mundane gathering of smelly nerds worshipping at the feet of a bunch of contractually obligated stars, themselves shoved out into the spotlight to recite canned answers to banal questions and collect their paycheck.

Yeah, I’m letting my bitter old fuck side show again, but I did quite enjoy what I saw of this years’ festivities online. And for my annual coverage I’ll be going against the grain myself, limiting myself to a single post recapping the whole of what I got out of the Con, rather than laboriously recounting panels you’ve likely already read about elsewhere. Lots to cover, little time.

Supergirl pilot screening

While San Diego glimpsed the official premiere of CBS’ new superhero series by “Arrow” and “Flash” showrunner Greg Berlanti, I treated myself to the leaked pilot from months prior. “Supergirl” centers on Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist), sent to Earth from the dying planet Krypton just after her cousin Kal-El. But Kara is caught in the Phantom Zone and delayed in her arrival on Earth by 24 years, long enough for baby Kal to have already grown up into the Man of Steel. After some time to grow up herself, Kara now works in National City as a lowly coffee-fetcher, but is slowly beginning to follow in her cousin’s footsteps by using her powers to help others.

“Supergirl” owes a great deal to Richard Donner’s 1978 Superman: the Movie in tone, musical cues, design, and occasionally, cliché. Where the new cinematic Superman in Man of Steel abandoned Clark Kent’s mousy Bringing Up Baby routine, now “Supergirl” picks it up in its stead. Your mileage on that may vary, thoughSupergirl_Promo_SG6F30H_587252_640x360 undisputedly, every player in the pilot gives a pretty solid performance handling the usual clunky pilot writing, complete with Kara doing “woman things” like picking out what to wear on a date with an online match.

In the funny books, Supergirl is an inherently silly Silver-Age spinoff of the Superman mythos. She does all the same things the Man of Steel can do, except she’s a woman. “Supergirl” makes a valiant effort to remove the character from Superman’s world, but comparisons are inevitable. Superman is sorely missed from this series, referred to only as “the big man” or glimpsed briefly as a silhouette in the sun.

I do wonder, with the whole of the internet demanding studios for more female superhero adaptations, would it not be more beneficial for Warners to have picked someone like Zatanna or Power Girl to lead a new series? As an original adaptation not tied to any other male heroes, is that not making an even greater statement, that women don’t need to live in the shadow of men?

Still, this about as good as a Supergirl pilot gets, so if it fails, time to call out the aforementioned rabble-rousers for not supporting the type of quality product they incessantly demand more of.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

mayclylksn2pjygltivcAfter a brief look at Ezra Miller as the Flash (an interesting but highly questionable casting choice) and the Green Lantern Corps reboot, the Batman v Superman panel had a brand new trailer to showcase, released officially online afterward.

A lot of what I wrote in my editorial on the first trailer still stands – it’s all very overwrought, with the Batman/Superman conflict painted as more of a political struggle containing underlying themes of security/taking-the-fight-to-them-type stuff (what snooty critics would tiredly label “post-9/11 subtext”). Substance is always good, but the dark, Christopher Nolan-esque seriousness of the whole thing feels gloomy when it should be thrilling. I miss the fun, winking charm of previous Superman films, the ones where he’s solving things rather than creating more problems. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – Batman is about having problems, Superman is about finding solutions.

We’ll see come March. This is a very important movie for the future of DC Comics on film, and I worry we’ll never again reach the heights of The Dark Knight or Superman: the Movie. Still, kudos to Warner for their filmmaker-driven approach, which should nonetheless deliver more satisfying adaptations than Marvel Studios.

Suicide Squad

Leaked from the con and later officially released by a comic-con-international-2015-warner-bros-presentationgrumbling Warner Bros, footage from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad has been rocking the internet, and for good reason – it looks far better than Zack Snyder’s dour team-up. Uniting some of DC’s more obscure villains to tackle impossible missions is great movie material not just because of its excellent source, but because it looks to be something bold and visionary, something DIFFERENT in the face of the same old superhero shtick Marvel continues to peddle. Even Jared Leto’s Joker looks quite solid, not that there was any doubt in my mind.

Here’s hoping for a movie that lives up to what Jon Ostrander accomplished with the comics. Provided director Ayer is channeling Fury and not Sabotage, I think he’ll do just fine.



Before Bryan Singer provided an intriguing, if expected look at X-Men: Apocalypse, it was director Tim Miller, star Ryan Reynolds, and the cast of Deadpool that brought the thunder Saturday night. In a bit of leaked footage from the upcoming film, as Reynolds is being wheeled away on a stretcher on the promise of gaining superpowers, he cries out, “Please don’t make the suit green. Or animated!” I’ve since watched the leaked footage several times over.

Deadpool’s hilarious panel followed suit, providing some uproariously funny commentary about Miller’s occasional on-set crying, cracking jokes about bestiality, and more. The panel proved the sweet irreverence the Con desperately needed; everyone involved appeared genuinely proud of what they’ve accomplished with the film thus far. Vulture wrote it first and I agree wholeheartedly; if Deadpool is as funny and entertaining as it looks, it could prove the most vital superhero movie of 2016.

Honorable Mentions

I’m not a big fan, but Ash vs. Evil Dead looks like a fun return to an old fan-favorite franchise. The Hateful Eight should have an incredible soundtrack now that Ennio Morricone is onboard for the score, and I may just have to travel to catch it in 70 mm from how passionately Tarantino speaks of the format. The ever-funny Bill Murray proved a welcome addition to the Con family appearing for Open Road’s Rock the Kasbah, which if the trailer is any indication, looks to be a great showcase for the actor’s brand of dry, cool-as-fuck

Jay Garrick will appear in the second season of The Flash played by Teddy Sears, a welcome addition to a series that I quite enjoyed overall this past fall. But can we all agree that Legends of Tomorrow looks like shit?

People continue to jizz themselves over The Force Awakens. I will say that all involved seem very genuine about making the best movie they can, but I’ve still seen nothing to convince me the film won’t be anything more than ordinary and unessential, not unlike this summer’s Jurassic World.

Victor Frankenstein’s panel featured stars James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe exchanging unintentional innuendo about their character’s sexual proclivities, proving an entertaining break from the norm. And M. Night Shyamalan stopped by to promote his return-to-form of sorts in The Visit. It’s a prime vehicle for the director’s comeback, but I can’t help but feel that prospect is more cosmetic than anything – the first trailer looks just as awkward a mix of creepy and unintentionally hilarious as The Happening. We’ll see come September.

Dishonorable Mention

Quick bone to pick with the rapidly-devolving Arrow, a show which has producer Greg Berlanti claiming that season four will finally feature the hero’s transition from Arrow to Green Arrow. But isn’t that what viewers were promised each summer preceding the last two seasons? Then there’s the eye-rolling decision to turn classic Justice Society character Mr. Terrific gay on the show. I think Stan Lee said it best, why fundamentally change who these characters are when you can just create new ones? Aside from that, I may delve into the specifics of what I hated so much about Season 3 of “Arrow,” but suffice to say, they’ll have one less viewer tuning in this fall.



We are in the midst of an evolving infrastructure at San Diego Comic-Con. People waiting in line for Hall H for days are now being treated to J.J. Abrams and Zack Snyder bringing them water, t-shirts, a surprise Batmobile appearance, and private invites to a John Williams concert.

And to big money-hungry studios bitching about your trailers leaking – fuck off. People are inevitably going to try to leak your footage, so instead of whining to news outlets about how your footage “wasn’t ready” for public consumption, either be ready to screen it, or don’t screen it at all. Leakage proves thousands of online viewers are interested in your product, and they shouldn’t be excluded just because they didn’t spend thousands to travel to San Diego.

When I started writing these Comic-Con posts, it was difficult to even find footage of the panels themselves. We’ve come a long way since then now that all of this years’ are readily available, however it’s time to take the next step. How about a paid VIP service giving online viewers a live streaming experience of the panels? There’s a huge online audience out there waiting and studios are too busy bitching to realize it.

Regardless, it takes a great panel to remind me why I follow this event in the first place and Deadpool’s was the one to do it. The film was not only the shake-up the convention needed, but that the movie industry will need as well; here’s hoping it delivers as positive an impact as it did in San Diego.

IMAGES: MetroUK, moviepilot, CBSstatic, Wall Street National, altpress, pagesix, flavorwire, nytimes

Ryan’s Most Anticipated of 2014

So excited was I for 2014’s potential slate of films that I’d actually had a draft of this list written up back in July. Several release date changes, new additions, and comprehensive rewrites later, and here we are at my final list of eagerly-awaiteds. And I haven’t settled for just ten.

15. Exodus

exodus-christian-baleAs an atheist, formerly a COFC (Child of Forced Christianity), biblical films have often rubbed me the wrong way. In part, it’s people’s cultish fanaticism, the outdated lies the church feeds to gullible geriatrics, and the sick way it lends its “seal of approval” to certain films dealing in its scripture. It’s also why I’ll likely be skipping Darren Aronofsky’s Noah – the director spoon-fed me enough Christian tripe in The Fountain to last a lifetime.

Yes, I am an atheist. Happily, so is Ridley Scott.

So it seems Exodus is aiming for something a bit deeper than propaganda. The smartest religion-based films all have a sense of spirituality about them, not in a pandering sense, but to appeal to the similarities we share as a species. Our fears, our hopes, our desires, these emotions transcend organized religion and speak to each of us on a personal level. Scott, who handled even the most heavy-handed Christian themes in last year’s Prometheus admirably, should be able to strike that cord with a more universal tone. On top of that, Christian Bale will almost certainly prove a fantastic casting choice as Moses.

14. Maps to the Stars

file_177163_1_map-of-the-stars1I prefer director David Cronenberg when he’s making hard-edged mystery movies like A History of Violence over winking, meta works like eXistenZ, but the director’s latest film dealing with, according to star Julianne Moore, “the pursuit of fame at any cost,” has me intrigued. And already the signs of Cronenberg’s trademark meta-ness are there – this is the first film the 70-year old Canadian filmmaker has ever shot in Los Angeles, a film being produced by the very people he’ll be criticizing.

Maps to the Stars began as a screenplay by Bruce Wagner, who turned it into the novel “Dead Stars” after the project fell through, then re-adapted it into a screenplay when it was picked up again. The New York Times described Wagner’s novel as, “Stomach-turning, sick-making, rancid, repugnant, repellent, squalid, odious, fetid, disgusting.” Sounds right up Cronenberg’s alley.

13. 22 Jump Street

16-22-jump-streetI’d forgotten just how much I loved last year’s 21 Jump Street until I bought and re-watched the film on a whim during Black Friday. It is a truly hilarious movie, one of the funniest I’ve seen in a while, with its self-aware sending-up of the action genre. The film also did some really clever stuff portraying the generational gap between this and last decade’s high schoolers, which spoke to my funny bone more than even the passing years ever could.

Its sequel presents a similar premise, with Schmidt and Jenko (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) heading to college to find and bust up a new drug ring. I love the fact that the film unabashedly revels in the absurdity of its new title, being named as such simply because the cops now occupy the church across the street. My only concern is that the original screenwriters aren’t present, but luckily its directors are, so hopefully 22 Jump Street won’t fall victim to the typical comedy sequel pitfall of, you know, completely tarnishing the original film (ahem, Hangover).

12. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Andy-Serkis-as-Caesar-in-Dawn-of-the-Planet-of-the-Apes2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was easily the best Apes film since the 1968 original, effectively relaunching the dormant franchise by going back and telling the backstory behind the simians’ takeover of Earth. It was smart about paying homage to the series’ legacy, while doing enough of its own thing to justify its own existence. One of the best surprises of the year was hearing the familiar, “Get your stinking paws off me you damned dirty ape!” followed by Caesar’s bellow of, “NO!” All I remember thinking was, “oh shit!”

Now it’s four years later, and the hyper-intelligent apes have been training and populating the forest where James Franco left them. The humans are now contemplating war against the apes to take back their land. How will the apes continue developing their speech? Will they start using obscenities? Have they perfected their British accents yet? Either way, with some likely incredible effects work from WETA and a motion-captured Andy Cerkis, let’s hope newbie Apes director Matt Reeves can keep this fire stoked.

11. The Expendables 3

expendables-2-logoTo call the Expendables films a guilty pleasure would imply some sort of guilt. I am completely, totally, unabashedly in support of Stallone’s biennial teaming of the best and boldest action stars for one big, fun ass-kicking session. And this time around the roster additions are even more impressive: Wesley Snipes, Jackie Chan, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Antonio Banderas round out an already outstanding ensemble of action veterans.

Behind the camera is Red Hill director Patrick Hughes, an interesting choice, one which matches Stallone’s desire to inflict the series with new blood. Let’s just hope the casting of several pretty-boy nobodies won’t take the focus off the more established actors who better deserve the pat on the back. Let’s also hope this isn’t the last we see of Stallone’s franchise; with stars like Nicolas Cage (sought out for this installment, eventually replaced by Kelsey Grammar due to scheduling issues), Kurt Russell, and several other action greats who’ve still yet to enter the fray, it’d be a damn shame for Stallone to retire the team without giving them their time to shine.

10. A Million Ways to Die in the West

amwtditw2Last year’s Ted proved Seth McFarlane wasn’t just a capable showrunner, but a capable film director as well, seamlessly translating his self-referential, gross-out, 80s-referencing, gut-bustingly funny brand of humor to the silver screen. I can’t wait to see what he does with his latest, a parody of the western genre featuring a mess of celebrities in either major roles or cameos (Liam Neeson!). It’ll be a true test of McFarlane’s abilities, seeing if he can’t handle the bigger budget and star-studded cast. But with the way he gracefully took it on the chin during his  unfairly reviled Oscar hosting gig, I have no doubt McFarlane can pull it off. And hey, it can’t be any worse than the current state of his familiar animated cartoon show, which has long outstayed its welcome.

9. Maleficent

maleficent-watch-first-trailer-movie-angelina-jolieWith Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland pushed back to 2015, I’ve turned to another film for my classic Disney fix – this retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of its antagonist, starring Angelina Jolie in a role she is absolutely perfect for.

The film should prove an intriguing re-invention of the timeless Disney mythology. The spindle, the thicket forest, it’s all there thanks to production designer-turned-director Robert Stromberg, who also worked on Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, a film which certainly can’t be faulted for its design. There’s also Beauty and the Beast scribe Linda Woolverton and DC Animated writer Paul Dini on scripting duties, both of whom are sure to bring something special to the film.

On top of that, the character herself was the stuff of my childhood nightmares. There’s just something  innately terrifying about her appearance on a very primal level, and the film’s trailer already showcases a doozy of an exchange between her and Aurora:

“Don’t be afraid!”

“I am not afraid.”

“Then come out!”

“Then you will be afraid.”


8. Gone Girl

gone-girlLately I feel as though I’d been unfair to the subject of my first full blog-based review, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I should’ve better appreciated the film’s atmosphere, its slick mystery plot and unique character portrayal. I very much hope to be better singing Fincher’s praises on his next novel adaptation.

Fincher, whose talents are probably better suited here than on Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea remake, will direct the story of a man searching for his lost bride from a script by the novel’s original author Gillian Flynn. I haven’t read the novel, but the promise of neo-noir-like themes of deception and paranoia between the couple intrigues me. It’ll prove interesting to see how Flynn chooses to adapt her novel’s way of revealing plot points entirely from the perspective of its leads (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike). And on a side note, Affleck himself has been making some very smart career choices lately (Runner Runner excluded), so I have to give him credit for really growing up in a big way. This is definitely a film I’m watching out for.

7. X-Men: Days of Future Past

xmdofpIt wasn’t until very recently that I began to truly appreciate what director Bryan Singer had done on X-Men. Yes, I’d reasoned, the 2000 film rejuvenated the comic book movie. Yes, it spurred studios to begin taking pulp properties seriously. Yes, it balanced an effective ensemble. It also spawned a series that still hasn’t quite mined the heart of its source material, a series filled with blaringly obvious metaphors and thinly-drawn characters (read: walking sets of powers) in its earliest installments.

Now, I see and appreciate what Singer was doing. His films aren’t about the script or the characters. They’re about the staging, the gravity he lends to the proceedings, the real-world application he brings to the pulp, and the spot-on casting of these actors. With that in mind, I’m even more excited for Days of Future Past, which will not only unite the cast of Singer’s films with their younger, equally brilliant counterparts from First Class, but also boast a script that’s been toiled over by First Class’ Matthew Vaughn and Simon Kinberg. It all feels like one big culmination of everything the series has been building up to.

A dystopian future spurs Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to travel back in time to fix the past and save the present; I like this idea that out of ultimate despair, out of complete hopelessness, comes hope for the future. I also like the idea of Professor X meeting himself at a very different time in his life (as in the above image), comparing and contrasting the two Xs. Days of Future Past’s trailer provides a dark gravity the series hasn’t seen since X2, and could easily wind up being the best of the series.

6. A Walk Among the Tombstones

liam-neeson-filming-a-walk-among-the-tombstones-3Two Liam Neeson-starrers will grace the silver screen in 2014. The first is February’s airplane heist thriller Non-Stop from Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra, which looks to be along the same silly, fun lines as the first Taken. The other is this, the long-gestating adaptation of Lawrence Block’s 10th Matthew Scudder detective novel about a retired cop investigating the rape and murder of a drug dealer’s wife. And while Taken sold me on the prospect of more action-centric Neeson vehicles (which even he doesn’t take seriously), it’s great to see such a talented dramatic actor bringing his considerable gravitas to something a bit more…well, serious.

The adaptation, to be helmed by writer/director Scott Frank (The Lookout) has been heavily praised by Block himself, who wrote, “I couldn’t be happier about either the star or the writer/director, both of them genuine artists and brilliant professionals. My book’s in good hands.” You rarely hear such a ringing endorsement from the author of an adapted novel these days, so I fully expect to enjoy my walk this Fall.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

capwsThe second Captain America faces an uphill battle. It must make up for time lost after the all-too-humble characterization seen in The First Avenger, better expanding on Cap’s authoritative voice as written in The Avengers. It must balance the blockbuster thrills of team-based conflict involving newcomers Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), while still depicting the more intimate inner turmoil of Rogers (Chris Evans), a man out of time who has lost both a lover and a best friend, forced to face a world he no longer recognizes. It must take audiences through the tragic arc of Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), another sorely underdeveloped character in First Avenger. Most importantly, it must convince audiences that good-guy Rogers is as interesting a character as Batman or Iron Man. Indeed he is, in the comics anyway, which is why I’m happy to see the excellent Ed Brubaker-written Winter Soldier arc being translated to the silver screen. With “Community” directors Anthony and Joe Russo taking over for the safe, mechanical direction of Joe Johnston, Winter Soldier looks to be the smarter, edgier political/spy thriller to better tap into the heart of what Cap is all about. And finally, a suit that looks great and lets Cap’s ears breathe.

4. Interstellar

interstellar_lead-449006It’s a former Spielberg project back on track thanks to the Nolan brothers, and it’s just as shrouded in mystery as when it was last buzzing about. A 2008 draft of the script by Jonah Nolan suggests ties to black holes and alternate planes of existence, a fascinating prospect which should prove to be smart sci-fi material for director Christopher’s first venture into the genre.

I like Nolan as a filmmaker, but despite what Batman fanboys hailing him as god’s gift to cinema will tell you, he really isn’t at his best directing action. It’s the suspense, the intrigue, the sheer storytelling ability showcased in Memento and The Prestige that make Nolan special. Those abilities seem to have suffered a bit after the overwritten Inception and the underwritten Dark Knight Rises, both of which experienced overblown hype that may very well have gone to the director’s head. Still, with admitted influences in sci-fi greats Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick, Nolan’s own space odyssey has potential to be something truly special.

3. The Hobbit: There and Back Again

the-hobbit-there-and-back-again-postponed-until-december-2014-129368-a-1362124090-470-75There’s not much praise I haven’t already heaped on Peter Jackson and his team for their outstanding work bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit to life. The third and final installment of the trilogy will be their last-ever outing to Middle-Earth, making for all the more reason to be excited for the epic, bittersweet conclusion to Bilbo and the Dwarves’ saga.

As such, the storied Battle of Five Armies of the novel is sure to be the most epic of Jackson’s entire Middle-Earth saga. It’s a lofty expectation, given that these Hobbit films haven’t quite taken the world by storm in the same way the Lord of the Rings trilogy did. But they are a nice throwback to those films, showcasing a great mythology worthy of praise for WETA’s brilliant design work alone. Something tells me Jackson’s Tintin sequel and whatever other New Zealand-based projects the director has planned after ending his tenure with Tolkien just won’t compare.

2. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

josh-brolin-sin-city-a-dame-to-kill-forDéjà vu…Robert Rodriguez’s highly-anticipated follow-up to 2005’s Sin City teased us with an official 2013 release date before the director revealed it was all a ruse to hold that date for Machete Kills. The film, which will take another year for its effects to be completed, will now see release in August, yet the delay has done little to dampen my enthusiasm for the sequel to one of my all-time favorite films. Everything I said in last year’s Most Anticipated post still applies, so there’s little I have to add to what will hopefully jump-start Sin City into a full-blown franchise. And I can’t be the only one who’s praying for Clive Owen to make a surprise reprisal of post-face-operation Dwight for the climax of the film’s title segment.

1. Knight of Cups

knight-of-cups-stillIt’s rare these days for any one film to completely blow me away, but what Terrence Malick achieved in To the Wonder was nothing short of spellbinding. I’m expecting equally big things from his next, a story of Hollywood excess starring two of my favorite working actors, Christian Bale and Natalie Portman, among a cast of equally impressive players.

As is sadly the standard with Malick’s work, the question of whether or not these actors will actually make the final cut is another matter entirely. Malick is notorious for shooting hundreds of hours of footage and constantly changing the focus of the final cut during his films’ lengthy post-production period.

Malick shot Cups simultaneously with his next, an as-yet untitled film about the music industry which starred, among others, Michael Fassbender, who recently expressed doubt he would make it into the final cut. Yet to read Fassbender talk of what a privilege it was to work with Malick regardless is telling enough. Truly, Malick’s meticulousness is the work of a master director, one who has spawned some of the most profound, intensely detailed, meticulously crafted films of the past half-century. As far as I’m concerned, he can take all the time he needs.

Happy New Year all! Expect my 2013 Top Ten list very soon.

Review: Ender’s Game

ENDER'S GAMEOrson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game is a landmark in modern science fiction. The writer crafted a dystopian vision of young children being recruited into military school, put through a series of mental and physical regimens, and most frighteningly, robbed of all contact from their families. It is labeled a young adult book, but is also very graphic, capturing the violence in its characters, the disturbing way adults can twist their minds and manipulate them for their own purposes. It had a profound influence on me back in Middle School, and its film counterpart captures a great many of its most poignant themes.

An alien invasion of Formics, unseen to the public’s eyes, has devastated Earth’s cities and led to the military to begin looking for special children in their new initiative against the enemy. 14-year-old Ender Wiggen (Asa Butterfield) is picked out by military bigwigs Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) for his ability to not just end a conflict, but keep it from happening again. Ender fears himself and his abilities; he embodies both the traits of his empathetic sister Violet (Abigail Breslin) and his violent brother   (Jimmy Pinchak). Graff pushes Ender into joining battle school, where the young fighter is immediately framed as a prodigy, much to the chagrin of the other students. He’s pushed harder and harder up through the ranks, training and making friends like Bean (Aramis Knight) and Petra (Hailee Steinfeld). But the training soon grows deadly serious, and Ender finds himself center stage in the most important game of his young life.

Hats off to Card for not only spawning the modern adult novel in Ender’s Game, but sticking with the film adaptation through every step of its nearly 20-year development. Oscar-winning Tsotsi director Gavin Hood’s adaptation of Card’s work, one of the best sci-fi mythologies ever written, bears more imagination and vision than most films of late. Hood himself is finally redeemed after 2009’s abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a movie with Fox’s muddy footprints all over it. Ender’s Game proves he’s better at handling a big-budget production with more creative control than most gave him credit for. If the director, who also wrote the script, can be faulted for anything here, it’s that he skimps on the exposition, hurrying the story of the novel along to keep it all within the magical two-hour time limit. As a result, we miss out on some of the novel’s deeper character moments detailing, for one, why Ender is so passionate about his family and sister Violet in particular.

Most impressive are the battle room sequences, the Quiddich matches of a new generation. Hood cares so deeply for their design that they even seem to recall, to the best of my memory, the original novel’s cover art. The film is also cast perfectly; Butterfield and Steinfeld are some of the most capable young leads of recent memory, conveying both vulnerability and leading presence. I had to smile when I saw how Hood had cast Bean; in first reading both Ender’s Game and its follow-up Ender’s Shadow, I’d always wondered how filmmakers would get a character like Bean to work without actually directing a five-year-old child actor to cuss and fight as he’s written to do. What results is Hood toning down Bean’s character and casting an actor who looks a lot more youthful than he actually is.

It’s the kids and how they’re treated that makes Ender’s Game not just a blockbuster, but an examination of relevant ethical debates. The idea of eliminating threats before they happen seems to be a recurring theme in movies of late (the upcoming Robocop remake and Captain America sequel, among others), a timely parallel to the US’s use of drones in Libya last year. “We can debate the ethics later,” says Colonel Graff. “Right now, there may not even be a later.” We watch Graff treat Ender like a father still indoctrinating an adolescent son with his beliefs, when the child himself is simply ready to start proving himself on his own. We feel conflicted about the film’s disturbing undercurrent of programming, of brainwashing children into killing, and robbing them of their innocence. Graff thinks he knows what’s best for Ender, but it is Ender that hasn’t realized the consequences of what he’s been asked to do. In the end, there really IS no villain of Ender’s Game, just different points of view.

If there’s anything glaringly wrong with the film, it’s that I wanted more from it. With so much ground to cover, readers will miss the little things, like Ender’s exhaustion during the third act, his choice to cheat the games he plays, and his overall rebellious nature. Still, this is a solid adaptation of a truly great novel that speaks to adolescents better than any book before it. I’m reminded of my own upbringing, and the place I was in when I first read the book. Ender is very much an avatar for children of all ages, a figure of unending hope for a flawed humanity.


The Games Begin: San Diego Comic-Con 2013 (Day One)


cc1It’s Heraldic Criticism’s second annual second-hand Comic-Con coverage, and I’ll be posting daily recaps of the day’s events and giving my reactions to the things I read, watch, and experience online.

Video Games to Movies

IGN posted a report of this panel, posing the question of whether or not video game movies are finally coming into their own. Among the panel was filmmaker Tim Miller (Deadpool) and writer Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), and others attached to in-development game adaptations. Panelists discussed the difficulties in translating a video game to the silver screen, mentioning the upcoming Need for Speed, Assassin’s Creed, and Deus Ex movies. The panel also talked about the differences between comics-to-movies and video games-to-movies, and expressed hope that video games can finally get their own X-Men or Spider-Man soon.

Personally, I still have my doubts whether games can ever even be considered art themselves. Nonetheless, I’m of the opinion video game movies can work, given the right property and the right filmmaker. One of the biggest things, considering how liberally games borrow from movies these days, is making sure a film adaptation doesn’t feel redundant, and yet still stays true to the game’s mythology. The formula hasn’t been cracked yet, but at least both mediums have some degree of interactivity to them; look at Rear Window, revolutionary in its time for implicating the viewer in the same voyeuristic tendencies as its protagonist. Using those kind of techniques for a video game movie would be a subtle way to translate the game’s interactivity to the screen. Artistically, it’s a huge challenge, especially considering past efforts like Super Mario Bros. or Mortal Kombat. These efforts failed because their source material was insubstantial, unfit to be translated into a narrative storytelling form. With cutscene-heavy games like Metal Gear Solid and Deus Ex, however, a decent film adaptation doesn’t seem entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Someday, perhaps.

Batman: Arkham Origins

DC’s liveblog this year was again rather uninformative and unhelpful as the team delved into the upcoming Arkham series prequel, revealing new gameplay, the inclusion of little-known villain Copperhead, Deathstroke as a playable character, and more. I’m excited for the game, but at this stage, developing the game in-house without Rocksteady feels like merely a money-saving move, and instead of telling another great story, designed solely to promote a wider range of lesser-known Batman villains. Hopefully there’s a bit more to it than that.

Summit – Ender’s Game

Summit’s gone all-out to promote Ender’s Game, based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, and one of my personal favorites from back in Middle School. Just look at their fantastic booth experience:

Courtesy Unofficial SDCC blog

After the cast of Divergent left the stage, the Ender’s Game panel (followed via kicked off with director Gavin Hood, co-writer Bob Orci, and stars Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld, and Harrison Ford. After showing some brand new footage and getting the Q&A going, I was reminded of how much I appreciated the book when I first read it, how angry I felt at seeing the military’s treatment of Ender as a tool for their own gain. It’s an effective story, especially at that age.

Of course, the panel couldn’t go on without acknowledging the controversy over Orson Scott Card’s views on gay marriage, wherein gay communities have planned to boycott the film as a result. Apparently people aren’t intelligent enough to distinguish between an author and his work. Even after Lionsgate dismissed Card’s opinions and publically offered LGBT groups a free screening of the movie, the group responded that it wasn’t enough. Seriously? This is an attempt by those groups to blacklist a talented author just because he doesn’t share the same worldview, and that’s just wrong.

The panel also featured several questions for Harrison Ford, including one fan asking what Han Solo and Indiana Jones’ first word to each other would be. “Hi…how are you?” answered Ford.

Ender’s Game looks excellent; November can’t come soon enough.

Perhaps most exciting Thursday, however, was the tease of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which not only featured some actual displays of the Sentinels to be featured in the film, but also saw the leak of a few behind-the-scenes pics:


Great to see Jackman sporting the white hair streaks as in the comic but…could it be…the classic yellow Wolvie suit he’s finally wearing?! Never thought I’d be this excited for a Fox-produced X-film.


Great new pics. I’ll talk more about the film after its panel on Saturday, but I can’t wait to find out just what the hell is going on with this movie’s place in the timeline.

To be continued…

A Bad Feeling About This: Why Disney’s Lucasfilm Acquisition Spells True Doom for ‘Star Wars’



If there are two things I’ve learned in the seven-and-a-half years since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, it’s that women are impossible, and Star Wars is dead. Kaput. Expired. Regardless of what the prequels yielded, George Lucas and his company were finished making live-action movies. So whenever discussion of a potential Star Wars 7 arose in casual conversation among friends, I would chuckle warmly and perhaps reference one of the many parodies surrounding the title. The series had endured enough damage, I thought. It was time to settle back and enjoy a lifetime of pleasant memories and warm nostalgia, maybe re-watch the Original Trilogy with my kids someday and share with them something that had long ago inspired me to do what I do. And maybe, just maybe, in that time, George Lucas’ recently-announced retirement would bring about the long-awaited restoration of the original release versions of the trilogy. Either way, I saw no Gungans or re-edits in my future, and I was all the happier for it.

So like many, the news of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm came as a complete shock. The George Lucas once demanding full control over any and all aspect of his property was now lamenting the fact that he was the only one who never got to be a fan and happy that the prospect would finally come. Still, the deal made sense in a way – Disney and Lucas have been longtime partners, namely teaming up to bring about the many Indiana Jones and Star Wars-themed events and attractions at the company’s theme parks. You’d think that, given how protective Lucasfilm was over its franchises, that the company would be allotted complete creative control over its output. You’d think that maybe Lucasfilm would finally be allowed to reclaim some of its former glory after Lucas’ departure, given the many talented people still working there with likely several bold new ideas of where to take the franchise next.

Right. Then I woke up.

With the announcement of Disney’s acquisition also came the incredibly presumptuous news that the company had set a target 2015 release date for a seventh Star Wars film to be set after Return of the Jedi. I stared at my computer screen dumbfounded. I bitched. I cussed. A friend called me up and we bitched and cussed together. Overreaction? Perhaps, but I know I’m not the only one. This series has touched so many people, and I know there are others just as disgusted and horrified at the larger implications of this news as me. Really, you’d think by this point, the ongoing reputation of Star Wars hitting rock bottom wouldn’t be so repulsing, but I suppose to ever expect the series to finally bottom out would be wishful thinking. Where Lucas dug deeper and deeper to lower the bar before finally hitting a rock and giving up, Disney came in to toss away the shovel and start drilling. You think Lucas was beating a dead horse? Now he’s got the Mouse Machine beating it for him.

But why, you might ask, if this such a bad thing for whatever modicum of dignity this series has left? Glad you asked.

Let’s start with the fact that Lucasfilm is seemingly no longer in direct control of its properties. From the looks of it, this isn’t the same situation as when Disney acquired Marvel some years ago, where the company has since been essentially left to its own means. Lucas himself assigned producer Kathleen Kennedy as head of the company, and now she reports to Alan Horn, head of Walt Disney Studios. We’re talking about all new management here, which, while certainly there may be some good things that come with Lucas’ departure, on the whole, it’s going to be Disney calling the shots from now on.

Really, for all their faults, Lucasfilm under George Lucas did have the good sense to quit making live action movies for a time. While I won’t argue that Star Wars was whored out immensely under his regime, the company was also independent and with limited resources, with just a single man at the helm. Now, with a major multi-million dollar corporation calling the shots, the potential for abuse is practically unlimited. How about a Jar-Jar themed attraction at Disney World? A Disney Channel cartoon starring a young Luke Skywalker and his buddies on Tatooine? An ABC sitcom featuring everyone’s favorite whistle-blower Garindan? In the pantheon of bad ideas, Lucas’ misdeeds are petty compared to what’s been made of Star Wars without his involvement. Really, we could be looking at several decades worth of material rivaling the Holiday Special in terms of awful. Just let that sink in for a minute.


Under Lucas, there was at least a familiarity to the mediocrity. Now, it’s a whole new ball game. And it’s not just Star Wars – once the distribution rights to Indiana Jones are sorted out with Paramount, it and seemingly every other Lucasfilm property will all be going to Disney. Remember that Shia LeBouf-centric Indiana Jones 5 batted around for a time after the fourth film? And remember how Disney basically launched Shia LeBouf’s career with Even Stevens? You see where I’m going with this, let us speak no more of it. And what happens with Harrison Ford once he’s hung up the fedora for good? Even Lucas and Spielberg understood that Ford was Indy and to recast the role would be blasphemous. You think Disney shares that sensibility when there’s money to be made? If you do, you’ve more faith in them than I.

Not to mention, Disney has a long, storied history of abusing its new acquisitions. Think of how the company has whored out the Muppets over the past several years. For last year’s release of Jason Segel’s The Muppets (a solid movie in its own right, to be clear), the familiar Jim Henson characters were everywhere, making appearances on talk shows, interviewing celebrities for the red-carper premieres of other Disney movies…the company completely took away the fantasy of the Muppet world. A rag-tag group of mischief makers had been turned into squeaky-clean kids toys, marketing tools pandering to children and plastered all over the media. Hell, what was Mickey Mouse originally but a mischievous cartoon character? Now you see aging mothers wearing his likeness on t-shirts. Say what you will about Lucasfilm, but for all the merchandising and perceived selling-out, the fantasy of that world, the edge of that universe, was still more or less preserved. Disney is going to scrub away whatever’s left of it.

I mean, look at this (credit goes to Bleeding Cool):

And even this, long before the acquisition:

Good god, can you miss the point any more? If you’re going to completely sterilize Star Wars and take the punch out of everything it once stood for, then this is a pretty damn good start. And this is what Disney is already doing to Lucas’ beloved characters. Now picture that on a massive, widespread scale.

Some might argue that, like Marvel before it, Disney may very well leave Lucasfilm alone. Bullshit. Marvel has committed people at their company determined to keep its properties all on the right track and keeping to a consistent image/vision. Lucasfilm had George Lucas there to give the final word on everything as far as integrity to the property was concerned, and now that he’s gone, who’s going to be the visionary now? Horn and his cronies, that’s who, and unlike Lucas’ largely one-man operation, they’ve got the means to keep this kind of thing going on for an eternity.

Let’s not forget also that even Disney employees themselves have admitted their live-action output is garbage, focused more on visual flair than narrative. What makes people think a future seventh episode will be any different? “Oh, but they hired an Oscar-winning screenwriter, and he’s using George Lucas’ old story treatments!” some might counter (writings which Lucas denied the existence of for years, but that’s another matter entirely). Really, who cares? They could resurrect Shakespeare for all I care. In Disney’s hands, Star Wars won’t be Star Wars.

Besides, it’s widely know that whatever treatments Lucas may have been plotting weren’t extensive enough to be translated to film without being heavily rewritten, as was the case with the prequels before them. And that’s even ignoring the fact that much of what Lucas planned for those films was used in Return of the Jedi to wrap everything up when he thought he was done with the series for good (see The Secret History of Star Wars for details). So what we’re looking at, in a sense, is a company with a shitty live-action division hiring people other than those who made Star Wars Star Wars to make Star Wars. Even as a Lucas dissenter, that just makes me feel dirty.

So then, what people made Star Wars the legacy it is today in the first place? People like Ben Burtt, John Williams, Joe Johnston, Irvin Kershner, Stuart Freeborn, and countless other names, not the least of which Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. I don’t see any of these guys returning to their respective positions, regardless of what’s already been making headlines in recent weeks. Look past the PR bullshit and you’ll see a group of people that have long moved on, a people with far too much going on right now and with too much pride to return, under new management no less, to what will likely be a soulless imitation of what came before. If they do, I will lose a great deal of respect for them.

Even from a basic screenwriting perspective, George Lucas had a very distinct way of telling his stories. And even the prequels, essentially the filmmaker’s one-man show, had tbilderaces of good stuff amidst their visual indulgence. Lucas’ dialogue, while bad, had an idealistic, otherworldly quality to it that made the Star Wars universe feel so unique. Such unnatural, yet endlessly-quotable lines like “I have a bad feeling about this” have become iconic over the years…who could try to replicate that? Really, the highest one could hope to shoot for is to ape Segel’s Muppets and just make the best fan film possible. But even then, it’s not really Star Wars, just someone else’s interpretation. So as much as internet fanboys are ready to rally behind movie-of-the-week names like Jon Favreau and J.J. Abrams, nothing Disney could do would convince me a seventh episode would ever truly be a worthy follow-up.

What it all comes down to is, too much time has passed. These films have been engrained in our cultural heritage for generations; people are too familiar with the saga and its classic status to accept anything less than what came before. Really, another time and place and I would’ve been thrilled at this news. Back in 1978, Lucas himself wanted the series to become something of an anthology series, with his friends Spielberg, Coppola, De Palma, and more each getting to direct an episode. The approach could’ve worked, except when Star Wars exploded into a major franchise, Lucas claimed direct ownership and kept the property largely to himself. In the time since then, the remaining story threads Lucas planned for future episodes were all tied up with Return of the Jedi, having only left room to go backward and make the prequels if he ever desired to. Then those happened, and pretty much cemented the fact that the series should’ve stayed dead.

I’ve actually seen several online forum dwellers celebrate the fact that the franchise is no longer in Lucas’ hands. Sure, that’s all well and good, but at what cost? Lucas should’ve left the company to its own means and its own decisions. Lucasfilm could’ve once again been a visionary company employing visionary people with great ideas to share. If there are any such people working there now, it looks as though they’ll never be heard in the way their predecessors, Ben Burtt, Joe Johnston, etc. were. Now, Disney’s corporate hand will be there to continue to stifle their ideas, a reality made especially clear by the fact that the studio is setting a release date on another episode before they’ve even entered pre-production.

I’ve also seen people celebrate the idea of more Star Wars movies in generalFOCStarWars_jpg_627x325_crop_upscale_q85. May I ask why? Because of how much time has passed, I’ve always failed to see the point of Star Wars without its principle players from the OT present. What is Star Wars without Han, Chewie, Leia, Luke, 3P0, R2, Vader, etc.? Character is an integral part of what makes this series so special. Could I buy into a new set of characters and a new time period? Maybe, but you’d think in all the time the Expanded Universe had been around, someone would’ve been able to make something better or on par with the OT. If even that’s not possible, then what’s the point?

In short, I wouldn’t be caught dead watching a new episode in the hands of Disney, who will no doubt continue moving the property further and further away from what made the Original Trilogy so great in the first place. I’m saddened to think that the greatness of those films may one day be so diluted by Disney’s corporate prostitution that even the simple sense of child-like wonder I felt while watching the OT as a kid will begin to fade away. The ubiquitous reach of the Disney Corporation is so wide, there’ll be little chance of staying completely away from their version of the Star Wars universe. I worry that myself and new fans will never again be able to see the old movies the way they should be seen.

As for Lucas himself, the filmmaker has become all but blameless for whatever happens to the franchise. I’d bet that’s probably part of why he sold it all off in the first place, tired of being a constant pariah for what he’s done. So instead of pointing my finger back at Lucas yet again for such a disastrous decision for the fate of Star Wars, I’m pointing it squarely at fans and general audiences. Where we go from here, ladies and gentlemen, is up to you. The responsibility has fallen to you. It’s your fault if this thing isn’t allowed to be put out of its misery like it should be. It’s your fault if you continue buying tickets and complain about it afterwards. It’s your fault if you continue to blindly support an even larger Empire sure to criminally exploit Star Wars into oblivion.

Me, I’ll be continuing to swear off anything further to do with the property outside of the Original Trilogy. I suggest anyone with the good taste to understand what I’m saying to do the same. Ignore the widespread media attention and endless rumors to come. It’s time to move on from this dead, buried, unearthed, raped corpse of a franchise.


One of the central themes of Star Wars is the underdog/nature vs. the machine, a metaphor for Lucas’ ardent criticism of the studio system and his fight to maintain the integrity of his work. How ironic that for everything he sacrificed along the way, his greatest creation is now a part of that machine.