Monthly Archives: December 2015

71 Ways The New Star Wars is Exactly Like the Original Star Wars


My wife and I went to see Star Wars VII again the other day. (It holds up just as well on the second viewing. In fact, it’s maybe even more enjoyable, because you start to pick up on things you missed on the first go-round; like the training droid Luke used in Episode IV that Finn tosses aside while hunting for parts in the Millenium Falcon.) We went specifically to give the film a close viewing to see if we could discern any more about what’s going on with Rey, what’s going on with Kylo Ren, and — well, honestly, it was just so good we both wanted to see it again.

We noticed on first viewing that the new film is very much an homage to the first film, sharing not just similar themes and plot arcs, but often very specific details in common. So we came home and watched episode IV again, just to contrast and compare. And because we’re both that guy when it comes to movies and stories and nerd stuff, we took notes.

20151224_073604.jpg

Seriously, a lot of notes.

Here, then, are 71 ways that Star Wars IV: A New Hope and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens are basically the same movie.

There are spoilers below. These things are not necessarily in order (but a surprising number of them are).

  1. Opening shot of a ridiculously big starship flying over an alien planet.
  2. A robot that talks only in bleeps is prominent, especially in the opening scenes.
  3. The robot is given a super-secret map by its owner.
  4. The bad guys invade. They wear masks and believe in a shoot-first-ask-questions-later policy.
  5. The bad guys pretty much rout the rebels they’re attacking.
  6. The Big Bad Guy (henceforth BBG) shows up, intimidates a ton of people, but doesn’t actually do any fighting himself.
  7. BBG straight-up murders a defenseless man because he doesn’t like what the guy has to say.
  8. The robot narrowly escapes capture by the faceless bad guys.
  9. The robot is separated from its owner.
  10. The robot becomes stranded alone on a desert planet
  11. This desert planet should, by all accounts, cripple the robot’s wheel-based propulsion, but doesn’t, because movies.
  12. The bad guys begin a hunt for the robot on the desert planet. You’d think they’d be able to use scanners or scopes to find it, but movies.
  13. The robot’s first encounter is with a scavenging alien critter who wants to sell the robot (maybe for parts).
  14. A young, somewhat dashing hero-type liberates the robot from its captors.
  15. This hero is exceptionally dusty, because he/she does dirty, manual labor to scrape out a meager existence.
  16. The robot follows the hero home like a little lost puppy.
  17. This hero’s parents are absent.
  18. The hero discovers that the robot is involved in the rebellion and gets hyped.
  19. The robot’s secret cargo points the hero toward an ancient, long-lost Jedi Master.
  20. C3PO slaps R2D2 around, perhaps a little more than is necessary.
  21. C3PO thanks the Maker, and it feels a little forced and weird.
  22. The hero drives a red, hovering vehicle.
  23. The hero gets attacked by local brutes.
  24. The hero is revealed to have a convenient set of piloting skills.
  25. The hero is presented with Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber by a mentor figure.
  26. The BBG is revealed to have once been a good man who was later seduced by evil.
  27. The BBG is a little more consumed than his cohorts with finding the robot.
  28. The BBG force-chokes a subordinate officer over losing the robot.
  29. Extreme and gratuitous violence by the bad guys drives the hero to leave the home planet.
  30. The BBG personally tortures a captive from the earlier raid for information.
  31. The hero escapes from danger by Jedi mind-tricking a hapless stormtrooper.
  32. There is a bar full of weird aliens of dubious persuasion.
  33. A hero seeks passage off the planet and away from the Empire with a pair of shady guys.
  34. Han Solo’s debts catch up with him.
  35. Han straight-up murders a dude to escape capture or death himself.
  36. The female lead finds herself in the hands of the enemy.
  37. The interrogated female has “considerable resistance” to the BBG’s mind probe.
  38. The bad guys reveal that their newest base of operation is also a weapon capable of blowing up entire planets.
  39. The bad guys blow up entire planets, partly out of revenge, partly as a show of force.
  40. Shady aliens in the bar rat the hero’s presence out to the bad guys.
  41. The Millenium Falcon is where the Band of Heroes comes together.
  42. The Millenium Falcon, on first sight, is described by the hero as, basically, garbage.
  43. Han Solo bristles at the heroes’ unrecognition of the Millenium Falcon’s awesomeness.
  44. The hero escapes the desert planet aboard the Millenium Falcon.
  45. The Millenium Falcon, soon after escaping the desert planet, is caught by hostiles in a tractor beam, and the heroes find themselves in an unfriendly situation.
  46. The captured prisoner sasses the BBG interrogating him/her, and pays a price for it.
  47. Chewbacca punches out a bad guy captain to gain access to a restricted area on the enemy base.
  48. The Band of Heroes goes looking for the captured female on the enemy base.
  49. The BBG “senses the presence” of the mentor/father figure in the Band of Heroes.
  50. The captured female turns out to be just as capable of kicking ass as her “rescuers”.
  51. Han Solo has a bad feeling about this.
  52. A Stormtrooper, probably named Wilhelm, dies to the sound of a well-known film scream.
  53. The mentor/father figure separates himself from the Band of Heroes to disable a critical part of the enemy base.
  54. Heroes shoot the controls to a mechanical door; this causes the door to operate in their favor.
  55. The mentor/father figure engages in dialog with the BBG about his wicked ways.
  56. The mentor/father figure deliberately lowers his guard to the BBG.
  57. The BBG then straight-up murders the mentor/father figure.
  58. The Millenium Falcon goes to pieces inside (circuitry bursting into flames etc) during an escape attempt.
  59. A high-ranking bad guy doesn’t entirely trust the BBG.
  60. The rebel base is disguised in a series of caves and ruins on a forest planet.
  61. The rebels hold a big-ass strategy meeting to figure out how to destroy the bad guys base/weapon.
  62. Han Solo offers the hero a job as an alternative to going on the quest.
  63. A member of the Band of Heroes bails out of the quest to save his own skin.
  64. The rebels attack the bad guys’ base/weapon in tiny fighter ships as opposed to bringing in heavy artillery.
  65. The attack is focused on a video game weak point in the base’s construction.
  66. There is a minute-to-minute countdown all through the final sequences as the big bad enemy weapon prepares to fire.
  67. The BBG points out to his cohorts (and himself) that the Force is strong with the hero.
  68. In the final skirmish, the villain is neutralized for this battle — but not killed.
  69. The ally who left for selfish reasons comes back to aid the hero at the enemy base.
  70. The enemy base/weapon is struck by a few strategically well-placed shots from an ace pilot.
  71. The enemy base/weapon explodes in dramatic fashion.

So, this is all good fun. Of course, the films are also very different. The hero is not a whiny teenager but rather an ass-kicking desert girl. The villain is dark and terrifying, but is also incredibly vulnerable. The plot lines are more layered, more intertwined. And, my god, the film and its special effects are absolutely gorgeous.

It’s clear to me that this film is a sort of love letter to fans of the original series who were disillusioned with the prequels. “Look,” Episode VII says, “We see and respect the source material that you love so much, and we’re going to treat it lovingly and with respect.”

Only a year and a half until the next one.

See something we missed? Something we got wrong? Let me know below.

*Runs away making lightsaber noises*


The Holiday Lay-Low


The next several days will feature lots of driving around, lots of doing things, lots of holiday cheer, possibly lots of drinking. It seems as good a time as any to take a few days off from trying to be creative. I may post here during that time, but probably not at length, and certainly not with regularity.

In the meantime:

Happy Festivus.

 


A Non-Review Rave on Star Wars: The Force Awakens


I’ve just seen the new Star Wars movie, and waiting the two days after the opening to see it was … difficult. I’ve been avoiding social media pretty carefully to make sure I didn’t ruin any of the movie for myself. (Spoiler alert: there are no spoilers in this post.)

But anyway, I’ve seen it. And … I’m not going to write a full review right now, or maybe ever, because I have a feeling more talented people than I will surely have that covered.

What I will say is that this guy:

Kylo Ren

Image lifted from starwars.com.

has just absolutely taken the heart of me.

I thought I knew what good and evil were in the Star Wars universe. I thought I knew what I could expect from a villain. But I did not.

Upon the first viewing, Kylo Ren strikes me as certainly the most interesting villain in the Star Wars universe so far (including good ol’ Darth Vader, though that’s maybe Lucas’s fault for making the prequels so … weird), and possibly one of the most interesting villains in recent blockbustery cinematic history. He has a terrifying, yet imperfect, control over the Force. He’s bad, but not in the way you expect him to be bad.

He’s vulnerable. Which is something no Star Wars villain has ever been, really. They tend to be invincible, until they’re not. Not so, Kylo. His quest leaves him scarred inside and out. And while his identity is not a mystery — we learn about halfway through the film who he is — what is a delightful mystery is what has happened to him to make him who he is.

A mystery for the future films to explain, no doubt.

But let me dispense with any possible spoilerating. The movie is as good as advertised. I suspected this about five minutes into the film, but knew it to be true beyond a shadow of a doubt thanks to my wife: my wife, who is as much a Star Wars fan as a cat is a fan of trying to murder you on the stairs (not so much seeking it out, really, but if the opportunity is there — well, why not). She leaned over to me about twenty minutes into the film and whispered, “I think I’m really into this.”

Me, too.

Now, having just come in from seeing the movie, I hope you’ll excuse me. I just … I just need a minute.


I Write Like Awesome Writers


I was recently directed to a neat little corner of the web: a textual analyser designed to scratch the egos of fledgling writers everywhere by informing them that they write like this or that famous author.

Now, obviously, only James Joyce writes like James Joyce, but it’s fun to pretend. And testing a few of my samples in the machine, I got results that pleased me mightily.

First…

I write like
Douglas Adams

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Which just makes me smile, seeing as he’s absolutely, full-stop, make-no-exceptions my favorite author. But then, just for icing on the cake, I tried another sample and got this one:

I write like
Neil Gaiman

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

At which point I stopped, because why keep playing when you’ve already won the game?

You can check it out at I Write Like.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Cold Storage


 

When we talk about writing, we’re usually focused on the glitzy stuff. LOL JUST KIDDING, as if there’s anything glitzy about sitting in our darkened rooms, pounding feverishly on our keyboards until we collapse from exhaustion and despair.) That act of raw creation is what non-writers think about, it’s what burgeoning writers focus on, it’s indelibly the picture of what a writer does. Rightly so.

If only I could look like such a boss when I write.

If only I could look like such a boss when I write.

Sitting down to write the draft, spilling the words forth onto the page is what it’s all about. Whether it’s the unstoppable flood of a river smashing through its dam or the pained trickle of a man with a swollen prostate, the writing is what matters. Word count. Finished chapters. The flutter of ink-stained pages landing on the pile.

But it’s not the whole picture, not by far.

The first draft, magical though it may feel, results in something you wouldn’t want to bring home to meet your parents. Like a Frankenstein’s monster made of mismatched limbs or a garage-built car constructed from nothing but spare parts, the first draft is imperfect, incomplete.

What the monster needs, though, is not to get fixed right away. What the monster needs is some time in cold storage.

My wife makes a hell of a cheesecake. The process is simple: whip all the ingredients together, smash them into a mold, bake at 350. But it’s not done after it bakes, not nearly. It comes out of the oven and goes straight into the fridge to draw all the heat out of it, to actively stop that act of creation that causes all its components to chemically react. Only then — only after it’s lost all the heat of its making and had a chance for its parts to settle, compact and congeal — is it ready for the finishing touches, its layer of cream frosting, its drizzling of cherry syrup.

The time not cooking, in other words, is just as important to the finished product as the cooking itself.

So it is with writing.

You pour the raw ingredients of character and conflict into the mixing bowl and beat furiously for the first draft, then toss it into the oven of creation for a while for those conflicts to bake, boil, and bubble over. You drain yourself as a writer and channel all that energy of creation into the making of this thing. And then you throw it in the freezer.

Take it off the fire of creation. Remove the heat of your emotions for all its little parts. Give it some time alone to settle, and more importantly, give yourself time to cool off. Put those emotions about the story into storage and do your best to forget about the damn thing for a while. Only then can you come back to the story level-headed and clear-sighted enough to put the proper finishing touches on.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think we’ve still got a bit of leftover cheesecake in the fridge.

This post is part of SoCS. Head to LindaGHill‘s blog to check it out and get involved. And, yeah, I’m still taking something of a break from my standard re-motivational weekend rambles; it feels odd to write about writing when I’m not actually writing much. Regularly scheduled programming will return someday.


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