Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher


"Any good piece of material like Shakespeare ought to be open to reinterpretation." ~Denzel Washington 

Let's face it, if you are reading this blog or this review then chances are you have seen Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope more than once. In fact chances are that you can either quote back or replay in your mind the entire film.  Perhaps you remember not so fondly your youthful days in school where Shakespeare was a chore and even possibly a bore. Did you need Cliff Notes to struggle through iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets?

Author Ian Doescher combines his love for both Star Wars and Shakespeare into this rather unique retelling of Star Wars.  Sure you may be wary of Shakespeare's prose, but fear not. The beauty of this book is that it can serve as both a novel diversion for fans of Star Wars and also maybe, just maybe it can serve as a young reader's first steps into a larger world, the world of Shakespeare.

I won't pretend to be an expert on Shakespeare, sure I have read his plays and sonnets in school, I have watched various film adaptations of his works and generally I think I understand what he means at least half of the time.  This book is accessible in a way that some of the Bard's work is not because we all speak the language of Star Wars.

The book is a rather quick read and follows very closely the film. Some of the dialogue remains in the book without being signifcantly changed, some lines only have a word or two changed and some are completely reformulated leaving the meaning but fitting this story better. You will note some significant divergences in passages featuring asides and monologues by characters.  Frankly these added elements were my favorite part of the book.  What is R2 really thinking and expressing with all those beeps and boops? Doescher clearly had fun translating Star Wars into the style of Shakespeare and it doth show on the page.

At 176 pages the book contains a handful of black and white illustrations and a lot of white space on the page given it's structure.  This makes the book a very quick read.

I can heartily endorse picking up William Shakespeare's Star Wars this summer. I think you shall enjoy it, perhaps you will even act out a few scenes.

For more on William Shakespeare's Star Wars visit Quirk Books and see this interview with author Ian Doescher.

William Shakespeare's Star Wars goes on sale July 2, 2013 with a MSRP of $14.95.


Editor's Note: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher Quirk. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Star Wars: Episode VII Casting Call: Connecting the Dots


First reported by the website Bleeding Cool and subsequently independently confirmed by TheForce.Net and Big Shiny Robot, we have our first information regarding casting for Star Wars: Episode VII.

According to Bleeding Cool the characters listed below will be "lead characters" though they stress the casting call may not be in order of importance, i.e. the first character listed may not be the "star" of the film.
"Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit.
Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking.
A late twentysomething male, fit, handsome and confident.
Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn’ t need to be particularly fit.
A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit.
Forty something male, fit, military type.
Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn’t need to be fit."
So we have a physical description for seven characters to be featured prominently in Episode VII, both TFN and Big Shiny Robot were able to get on the record comments from Lucasfilm sources confirming the authenticity of the Death Star plans..err casting call.

Lets take these character descriptions and have some fun.

Some things that immediately pop-out to me:

1) No Twins:

Sorry Expanded Universe fans, but looks like we won't be seeing Jacen and Jaina. If they were going the twin route it would be surprising for one to be a leading character and one not to be.

2) A New Big Three or Four?

We have two teenage females and two twenty-something males.  This generational grouping would seem to be the core for the films.  Will there be three central characters or four this time?

3) Heroes or Villains?

In addition to the youngsters we have a male in his seventies, a male in his forties and a male in his thirties.  Will these characters be mentors or obstacles for our heroes to overcome?

4) Romance and too many Skywalkers:

While it's not clear if JJ Abrams actually said Episode VII would feature a central love story (see Club Jade), if there is a love story that features prominently in the film(s) then it could affect the characters and screen time of the characters.  It is possible that we could see offspring of both Luke and a mystery partner and also of Han and Leia.  However to expect Skywalker and Solo children to be the new big three would for obvious and icky reasons limit the screen time that could be either devoted to a love story or two the Big Three's next generation.

5) Unknown Actors and Actresses:

Personal preference but I hope we see relatively unknown or completely unknown actors and actresses in the leading roles in Episode VII.

6) Love Triangle:

It strikes me that teen female #1 will be the central character and pursued by the two twenty-something males. It could be a set up a bit like Harry Potter, with the two boys potentially both competing for Hermoine Granger, but perhaps teen female #2 is there to be Ginny Weasley for one of those guys.

Breaking Down the Character Profiles:

(1) Late-teen female, independent, good sense of humour, fit.

Young, independent, sense of humor and fit. Sounds like the female lead to me.

A Tenel Ka type
(2) Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking.

The character that all the nerds can identify with.  Not the most likely guy to (help) save the day and get the girl but I expect we see something along those lines. Is it too much to ask for this to be Wedge Antilles Jr.?



(3) A late twentysomething male, fit, handsome and confident.

Right out of central casting, the "Senior Quarterback" type.  This is the guy you expect the lead to pick.  This is also the character who's "perfect" exterior hides a deep flaw that makes for an intersting or conflicted character.

A Zekk type?
(4) Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn’ t need to be particularly fit.

Now this is interesting.  The most obvious thing to think is that this is a Galactic Civil War veteran.  What is his current occupation.  I lay the odds at 70% Rogue (Smuggler), 20% Military Leader (General), 5% Jedi Master and 5% Politician.

A Booster Terrik type

(5) A second young female, also late teens, tough, smart and fit.

Not much to go on with this description. Though it does seem to be clearly subordinate to the description of the first female.  One interesting possibility is that this could be a villain.  We haven't really seen a young antagonist in the Star Wars films (not counting Anakin in Episode III of course).

(6) Forty something male, fit, military type.

Most likely scenario is that this is the lead Imperial Naval Officer and nominal villain in the film.  Could be a New Republic military officer but I'd wager this is a villain.

Admiral Piett
(7) Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn’t need to be fit.

To me this says Daniel Jackson type. Could be a slicer (Star Wars equivalent of a computer hacker) or some type of scientist or teacher.


Plausible Plots:

Now this is really throwing darts at the board based on the scant information that we have.  But lets work off of a couple assumptions.  1) Assume that Han, Luke and Leia will be in the new trilogy but will be in a supporting or mentoring role.  2) Assume that in Lucas/Arndt's vision of the post-Return of the Jedi era, that the Jedi Order did not propagate as quickly as it's Expanded Universe version of events.

I think that sets up three main scenarios that the story could spring from and where we will meet our new big three or four.

1) Jedi Academy:

Probably the least likely in my mind, but based on the Expanded Universe and the success of this type of story in the past we could see something like this. The youngsters in school story has been seen with different age groups and different settings but two good examples are the Harry Potter series and the recent X-Men: First Class.

Luke sets himself up as a Jedi Master on some remote location, perhaps even with Han hanging around to help teach more practical skills to the Jedi students.  What this scenario has going for it is the visual coolness of lightsabers and how hard it could be to resist inserting a bunch of Jedi into the story for that cool factor.

2) Military Unit:

While the Emperor is dead the last vestiges of his Empire still cling to power in different regions of space.  We meet either a Starfighter squadron or perhaps a small elite strike team starring our teens and twenties characters.  A little more of a Battlestar Galactica feel meets the X-Wing series of novels feel.

3) Smugglers Crew: 

I think this would be an interesting way to kick things off.  Let's say the young female lead is either a Solo or Skywalker. Feeling the pressure of living up to her parents reputations, her independent streak causes her to strike out on her own and she falls into the crew of smugglers.  Perhaps with a Talon Karrde type or Booster Terrik type as the smuggler chief. This female lead doesn't look to put herself into the center of the galaxies problems but events and the Force have a way of bringing her into the center of things and she must embrace her family history and become a hero/leader etc.

I hope you enjoyed my initial thoughts and speculations.  I will have more as we learn more details about Episode VII as production unfolds. Stay tuned.

SOURCES: Bleeding Cool, TFN, and Big Shiny Robot

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Rule of Two: Wins Two Daytime Emmy Awards

Image Source: THR
It's about time.  I would just like to wish a big heartfelt congratulations to the entire cast and crew of Star Wars: The Clone Wars for their Daytime Emmy Award win tonight.  It is a much deserved honor for a show that took television animation to a whole new creative level.




To those members of the cast and crew that I have gotten the chance to interact with, you guys rock and the passion and hard work that went into the series was evident and while fan appreciation is great, sometimes it is nice to get a shiny trophy to.

The Clone Wars may be over as a on-going series, but it will live on in syndication and home video releases and like all good Star Wars projects it will lead to a wave of talent finding other projects to work on in Hollywood both in the Star Wars universe and outside of it.  The best of luck to all the cast and crew in their future endeavors.

May the Force be with you, always.


SOURCE: Emmyonline.org

Review: Man of Steel


SPOILER FREE REVIEW:

Director Zach Snyder (300 and Watchmen) and writers David S. Goyer (who wrote Nolan's Batman trilogy) and Christopher Nolan (Batman, Inception, etc.) provide with a new cinematic re-imagining of Superman's origin story.  The choice of titles for the film is fitting as Man of Steel is much less about the adventures of Superman and much more about the forging and tempering of the character as we see Clark and then Kal grapple with both his humanity and his Kryptonian heritage.

Man of Steel is a darker and grittier telling of the Superman story, and Henry Cavill provides a strong performance demonstrating a range of emotions that makes sense for Clark as he takes his first steps as Superman.

Russel Crowe's performance as Jor-El terrific and the entire design of Kryptonian technology in the film was especially particularly the metallic hologram like communication devices.

The movie may be considered overlong by some and much criticism has been made about the time spent and level of destruction wrought by the characters in their various battles.  To this viewer there was not a ton of fat to be cut from this film, Laurence Fishburne's Perry White gets a scene towards the films climax that is used to heighten the tension, but to me could have been cut to help with pacing.

Some of my favorite parts of any Superman story are the Kents, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane do great work, especially Costner who nails the role.  The real key to the character of Superman isn't all the fancy powers that he has, it is the choice.  The choice to limit ones self.  Kal-El is an individual that by sheer force can take or do almost anything he wants, this would provide most individuals with to tempting a path towards selfishness and evil.  Superman is an individual out to prove Lord Acton wrong.  In order to make Clark's choice of good make sense is providing a believable and morally grounded upbringing.  Pa Kent is the perfect all-American father, typifying the hard working, sacrificing and faith that are at the core of the Rockewellian America that Superman represents.

It is the story of Clark which the rest of the film's story plays off of.  The appearance of Zod and his goals for Kal-El and Kryptonians presents Clark with an important choice, one that is tied up with identity and duty.  Can Clark forge a path between worlds ushering in a co-operative existence between Kryptonians and humans? Or must he choose to live as a Kryptonian or as a man from Kansas with some nifty powers?

THOUGHTS WITH SPOILERS: 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Star Wars Rebels: To be 3-D Animation Like The Clone Wars?

Hello  "Rebels" Stormtrooper?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Supervising Director and Star Wars Rebels Executive Producer Dave Filoni recently wrote a blog entry for StarWars.com expressing his gratitude to design artist and sculptor Darren Marshall who is leaving Lucasfilm.

If you have watched any of the behind the scenes videos on StarWars.com or the bonus content on The Clone Wars Blu-ray releases then you have seen some of Marshall's work.  The sculpted heads on sticks.
"He would do full standing figures at times, other times just the head, including Ahsoka, Savage Opress, Baron Papanoida, Bossk, Saesee Tiin, Plo Koon, Adi Gallia, Oppo Rancisis (spoiler) — 72 maquettes in total, many seen and many yet unseen by you, the fans."

Oppo Rancisis and Tarkin
Some including myself have speculated that the new series Rebels would switch to a more traditional 2-D animation style for production and cost reasons with the change of corporate ownership.  This speculation was fueled when Joel Aron appeared in a StarWars.com video discussing a different look of the show in terms of color schemes and going back to Ralph McQuarrie's concept art work on the films as a basis for Rebels' look.

What is interesting is a bit of a throw away line which gives us a clue that Rebels is likely going to be a 3-D animated series instead of the more traditional 2-D animation.  This would make sense if the team wanted to re-use some resources and character models created from The Clone Wars for the new series.

 "I bring this up today because sadly this is Darren’s last week as part of my crew. And while Darren will be moving on, I am happy to say that you will all be enjoying his work for many years to come; not just because of The Clone Wars, but because Darren also created sculpts of the primary characters for our upcoming series, Star Wars Rebels."

Interesting isn't it.

SOURCE: StarWars.com

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Disney/Lucasfilm Animated Feature To Be Directed by Gary Rydstrom

Brenda Chapman
In an interview with Animation Magazine, Brave Co-Director and Lucasfilm consultant Brenda Chapman revealed some minor details about a project she worked on for Lucasfilm and who else was and is involved in the project.

"You are working for DreamWorks and consulting for Lucasfilm. Could you reveal your current project?
My plans are to develop a project at DreamWorks. Right now, I am at the beginning of writing on that project – adapting a children’s book- with my longtime friend Irene Mecchi, with whom I worked on The Lion King and Brave; and on a Lucasfilm project. I can’t tell you which book it is. The project is very different than Brave, but yet has a strong female protagonist. It’s funny with magic and heart."

"Tell us about your consultation plans at Lucasfilm.
I have been working on a project with Lucas for quite some time — about six months. When Lucasfilm was handed over to Kathleen Kennedy, she asked me to consult on the film to help solve its story problems. It was an opportunity for me to work with her. I felt honored to be asked by her, after what happened at Pixar. DreamWorks was very generous to me in postponing my start date with them so that I could work with Kathleen, also. My work on the project is done. My good friend, Gary Rydstrom, is directing it now."
It is interesting to note that while we don't know the subject of the animated feature we do get a good bit of info on the creative team behind it.
Irene Mecchi
It sounds like a movie project that Kennedy is taking a very leading role in and presumably will serve as executive producer on. We know Chapman was a "consultant" on the project and she mentions her friend Irene Mecchi who has written a ton for Disney (The Lion King, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Brave). Whether Mecchi is the primary script writer on the film or is also in a consultant-type role is not clear. I would note that Mecchi is a San Francisco native and there may be more connections and personal and professional relationships between her and the folks at Lucasfilm and Disney.  
Gary Rydstrom
Chapman goes on to reveal that Gary Rydstrom who comes from a sound design background and has directed a couple Pixar animated shorts, Lifted (2006) and Hawaiian Vacation (2011) will be directing the project. It is interesting to note that Rydstrom has worked for Skywalker Sound on various Lucasfilm projects in the past, including Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Willow, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, Star Tours and Episodes I and II. He also worked on the ultimate Star Wars spoof, Spaceballs. So he has all that going for him.  



Untitled Lucasfilm Animation Feature (201?)
Director: Gary Rydstrom
Writer: Irene Mecchi (?)
Executive Producer: Kathleen Kennedy
Consultants: George Lucas (?) and Brenda Chapman



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Clone Wars Bonus Content News & Rumors: Ten Episodes According to Kevin Kiner



The Clone Wars composer Kevin Kiner recently gave an interview with the Full of Sith podcast in which he reveals a bit about the planned Star Wars: The Clone Wars "Bonus Content."

In the episode titled, "Special Release: Kevin Kiner" released on June 11, 2013 at approximately 20 minutes into the episode, Kiner talked about his work on the bonus content.

"We have about ten shows that we're still working on, that are going to be part of this special material. And even hopefully there is going to be a soundtrack record as part of this special material. We'll see they're in negotiations about that so we're not positive that's going to happen. "

Ten episodes means we are likely only getting three story arcs or three story arcs and a stand alone episode. Of course he said "still working on" so it may be even more assuming they aren't working on the Clovis arc which we assume was completed because it was planned to be mid-season five originally.

The three Clovis arc episodes are "An Old Friend," "The Rise of Clovis," and "Crisis at the Heart." These episodes were 4.19-21 in production order meaning they were produced at the end of the season four batch of episodes. They were originally scheduled to be episodes 6 through 8 of season five.

This could mean that we are getting the Clovis arc (3 episodes) plus an additional 10 episodes. The Order 66 arc (4 episodes?) and a Sifo-Dyas arc (4 episodes?), and then 2 more unknown episodes.  Star Wars Underworld captured a Twitter discussion from TCW writer Matt Michnovetz which seems to confirm that he believes the Order 66 arc and the Sifo-Dyas arc are both 4 episodes in length. It is also important to keep in mind that there are two arcs that we know about that may or may not be getting finished, one of Michnovetz's Bounty Hunter arc and the other is the Yoda arc.  The Disney Star Wars Weekends clip of Yoda and Anakin from the bonus content may have been from another arc, not the Yoda arc that has been discussed by TCW cast and crew.  

The other interesting aspect of what Kiner had to say was connecting the soundtrack and the bonus content. Could it be a DVD/Blu-ray plus soundtrack combo pack? 

I will keep you posted as soon as any Clone Wars news breaks, but I think we will be waiting until Star Wars Celebration Europe (July 26-28) before we get any official announcement about the form and content of the "bonus content."


Monday, June 10, 2013

Video Game News: Star Wars: Battlefront Announced by EA/DICE



The first newly announced game from new Star Wars video game license holder Electronic Arts is the long anticipated and lobbied for third installment in the Battlefront series.



Tentatively titled "Star Wars: Battlefront" EA released a teaser trailer today.  Feast your eyes on the beauty of next generation Star Wars video games.

SOURCE: Starwars.com


Behind the Scenes: Pringles The Force For Fun: Vader Visits


Good things come from Indiana. Like Larry Bird and an episode of The West Wing and well I am sure there is some other cool stuff too.

Steven Houser may soon be Indiana's new favorite son if he can conquer the competition in the Pringles The Force For Fun video contest.

His entry "Vader Visits" shows the danger of uninvited house guests.

Check out a cool behind the scenes clip below


For more visit Youtube.com/Pringles

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pringles & Star Wars: The Force For Fun Finalist: Darth Visits

When the Dark Lord of the Sith wants your Pringles it is best to just give the man the can.

This week's featured The Force For Fun Finalist is "Darth Visists" from director Steven Houser.



This week's contest giveaway open to U.S. residents is a JAWA Plush Doll and 2 cans of Pringles.


a Rafflecopter giveaway Free stuff is always better when it is free Star Wars stuff.


SOURCE: Youtube.com/Pringles

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Episode VII Breaking News: American Actors Halt British Accent Practice En masse


Did you ever notice that foreign actors can usually pull off an American accent much better than American actors can pull off any of the myriad of British accents?  Well I guess it's one lest thing we have to worry about in Star Wars Episode VII.  Those Coruscanti and Imperial accents should be in full effect in the Sequel Trilogy with today's not surprising news about production beginning in London likely in early (January) 2014.

Star Wars: Episode VII director J.J. Abrams made some comments at the Producers Guild of America's Produced by Conference 2013.

THR:
J.J. Abrams says he will be moving to London at the end of the year for production on Star Wars: Episode VII, likely to begin early 2014.
"We are, most likely, if all goes as planned, going to be moving to London at the end of the year for the Star Wars movie," Abrams said Saturday at the Produced By Conference.

HitFix:
Abrams noted that he would have preferred to shoot "Episode VII" closer to home in LA., but Disney had planned a U.K. shoot even before he signed on to direct. 

I guess this means me crashing the shooting locations of Episode VII is out.

SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter and Hitfix

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Clone Wars Bonus Content Speculation: Disney Home Video Release and Disney Digital Copy Plus


In a series of posts I will examine the most likely channels for Disney to distribute the remaining Star Wars: The Clone Wars finished episodes.  Up first is Digital Copy Distribution.

Temporary Cover Art
While I don't think we know the legal particulars, i.e. if Warner Bros. retains any home video distribution rights to The Clone Wars series or whether those rights were merely temporarily licensed like the rights licensed to Cartoon Network.
"Cartoon Network’s sister company Warner Bros. distributed the Clone Wars movie in 2008 and has been selling past episodes of Clone Wars on DVD and Blu-ray discs. That is another deal that is likely to move in the future to Disney for home video distribution." ~The Hollywood Reporter
If Amazon UK and Blu-ray.com are to be believed it looks like Warner Bros. will be distributing Season Five's home video release.

If home video distribution rights revert to Lucasfilm and it's parent company Disney with the sale than it is possible Disney could add the finished Season Six episodes, now referred to as "Bonus Content" as a additional digital copy download when purchasing Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season Five Blu-ray or DVD.

It is also possible that Disney will be releasing a complete The Clone Wars Box Set that could include these episodes on a bonus disc as well as digital copies.

It was recently announced that on June 11th, Disney will be ditching it's current "digital copy" program and replacing it with a new "digital copy plus" program.  According to The Hollywood Reporter:
"Instead of accessing the digital copy from a disc in the “superset” combo pack, a digital copy of the film can now be accessed directly from the website by consumers who purchase any disc configuration of the film. The website then facilitates the digital delivery of the movie through the consumer’s provider of choice -- in this case, either iTunes, Amazon Instant video or Vudu -- and eliminates the need for a digital copy to be included in the disc package." 
Given Disney's penchant for squeezing every last penny out of home video sales, I would think it isn't terribly likely that the bonus content would be added as a free download to the purchase of a Disney distributed The Clone Wars box set either Season Five or The Complete Series.  The distribution of the bonus content this way would be a cool use of the revamped digital copy system that Disney is deploying however.

Another viable option would be to edit together the bonus arcs into short 66 or  88 minute films and release them directly to video.  This could be as single releases (probably only on DVD) or as a collection (probably on both DVD and Blu-ray).  If they release the bonus content as feature length cuts I think fans would really dig it and they could air them as prime time specials on the Disney Channel or XD before their home video release.  Again if they do a home video release for them they could also do the digital copy plus copy as well.


SOURCES: IGN and THR 


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pringles & Star Wars: The Force For Fun Finalist: Wookiee Mistake and Week 4 Giveaway Contest


Produced by team Side of Fries (Jordan Allen, Luke Rocheleau and Brooke Dooley) this weeks Pringles The Force For Fun Finalist presents us with a rather compelling truth. Don't count on a wookiee to bring snacks to your party.  Also itty bitty stormtroopers are cute but they probably still can't hit anything with a blaster rifle.


The Force For Fun Week 4 Giveaway: R2-D2 Folding Chair and Pringles



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Contest open to U.S. Residents only, for complete rules click on the Rafflecopter link.

For more great The Force For Fun content visit Youtube.com/Pringles


Review: A Discourse in Steel: A Tale of Egil and Nix


Dark and damaged heroes have never been so much fun.  Author Paul S. Kemp appears to be an author at the heights of his powers in his second novel following the adventures of Egil and Nix.  A follow up to 2012's The Hammer and the Blade, A Discourse in Steel is a very different story with different villains and different themes but the same fun.

Publisher's Summary:
Egil and Nix have retired, as they always said they would. No, really – they have! No more sword and hammer-play for them!
But when two recent acquaintances come calling for help, our hapless heroes find themselves up against the might of the entire Thieves Guild.
And when kidnapping the leader of the most powerful guild in the land seems like the best course of action, you know you’re in over your head…
A hugely-enjoyable adventure in classic sword and sorcery mode, from the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Deceived and The Hammer and the Blade.
Egil and Nix aren't looking for a fight, but they are still more than able to bring the violence when it is called for. As a reader you may question their morals based on their owning a bar and brothel, but it's clear that these men have a code.  Protect your own, protect the weak and respect a person's choices.  While Nix does most of the talking and we see most of the novel through his point of view, Egil really stars.  The pain, strength and purpose of Egil drive the novel and we get some great character development that reveals what makes Egil tick and a hint of what he may want for the future.

The antagonists in this novel, the Thieves Guild while evil are a more human evil than we saw in The Hammer and the Blade, this group presents us with the ugly mishmash of organized crime and religious zealotry.  While the Guild provides a multitude of opponents for Egil and Nix, there is a strength in the bond between the two that is much more valuable than a large group of thieves all looking for ways to stab each other in the back.  The conflicts within the Guild provide an interesting side story that drives the plot and shapes the fates of characters in some interesting ways.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel is that both the heroes and the villains of the novel make the same mistake, they bite of more than they can chew.  No matter how much hot water Egil and Nix seem to get themselves into, they always seem to find a way out some times by use of gewgaws and sometimes by blind luck.  Through it all, Kemp delivers dialogue exchanges between the two that runs the spectrum of humorous to touching.  Kemp has the voices of these two characters down and there may be no better example than the third page of chapter seven, (page 148 in the advance review copy) which is possibly my favorite page of fiction in a long while.  Of course as the pair display, sometimes it is best to let your steel do the talking.

The other thing that I really enjoyed about this novel is the continued world building that takes place in Kemp's own fantasy universe.  The mixture of gods, monsters, magic and men provides for familiar character types and settings but with the Kemp's unique brand of violence, salty language and colorful adjectives.

As a reader I do have some issues with the ending of the novel, though I can certainly understand why Kemp chose the direction he did.  But this is only a minor quibble that doesn't detract from the overall enjoyment of the novel.

After reading A Discourse in Steel, I only have one question...when does the next tale of Egil and Nix come out? I suggest you grab a good ale and sit down with this book, I don't think you will regret it.

LINKS: Angry Robot Books, PaulsKemp.com, Amazon.com and Goodreads

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Star Wars Rebels: The Pyrite Vader


"The action-filled series is set between the events of Episode III and IV -- an era spanning almost two decades never-before explored on-screen. Star Wars Rebels takes place in a time where the Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights as a fledgling rebellion against the Empire is taking shape. Details about the show are a closely guarded secret at this point." ~StarWars.com Press Release

Possibly the hardest character for the team behind Star Wars Rebels to deal with is also the most appealing character for them to play with.  An animated series staring Darth Vader could be a marketer's or merchandiser's dream, but it could also be fool's gold for a storyteller if not handled well.

The Vader of this time period is a dark and complex character and the broadcast home and likely target audience for the show gives me some pause.

Where The Clone Wars series ran into some of the biggest issues was the extreme swings it took at times from a more immature tone clearly directed at younger audiences and a more mature tone that had a wider appeal including to adults.  Speaking purely for myself and admittedly my thoughts are colored by self-interest, I believe that we do a disservice to children by dumbing down their entertainment.  Children and adults react to Star Wars and stories like it because of the larger themes and moral issues raised.  The best episodes of The Clone Wars incorporated the humor, fun and wonder that are at the heart of Star Wars, but balanced this with a darker tone set in a galaxy in the midst of civil war.

Star Wars Rebels is set during the Dark Times, where as the press release states "..the Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy and hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights."  This setting is a tremendously compelling starting point for a series, but is Disney committed to deliver the types of stories that this setting demands?

We do not yet know the details of the show, we do know that it will air on Disney XD (excluding the 1-hour premier episode on Disney Channel) and we can assume that it will be a 30-minute show (22 minutes after commercials are factored in). We do not know if it will be a Saturday morning show or a prime time show.  I would hope that this ends up as a prime time show on XD and becomes one of their flagship programs.

If the Kinberg, Filoni and Weisman are going to use Vader in a substantial role on the show, then they need to be true to the character and not trivialize him by having him become the recurring villain that the heroes of the show frequently get the better of, only to run away like General Grievous.

Vader of this period is so compelling because he is a man caught between worlds.  Still grieving for the loss of Anakin, Padme and his unborn child.  Filled with doubt and regret about the choices that he has made and the results it has caused.  Stuck in the walking iron-lung that is his new armored visage and adjusting to his new physical handicaps.  At the same time he is trying to learn how to harness his new powers accessible through the Dark Side, to figure out the new dynamic that exists between he and Sidious as Master and Apprentice.  He is a man who has made so many bad decisions, even though he knows he is going the wrong way, he sees no other way now but to keep going. This means that not only does he hate his new master, but he also hates himself, and the Jedi or anyone else that reminds him of Anakin. This hatred gets projected externally because he hates himself so much  that confronting the truth of his situation is too much for him to face.

The Expanded Universe shows us that the Vader of this period is far from perfect and certainly not the seemingly invincible monster we meet in Episode IV. Vader's defeats and failures during this period should be explored, but it will be important to do so in a way that doesn't trivialize the character or make him into what should be a galactic laughing stock by the time we get to Episode IV.  If Vader is used in the show their must be some character growth and growing pains as he adjusts to his new role, at the same time their must be a clear momentum towards becoming the Dark Lord we all know and love. As Vader becomes more sure of himself in his new role and abilities, we should see an increase in both competency and lethality that he displays.

One of the biggest storytelling concerns that I have is that in dealing with the Vader of this period on an animated show, that they will not be willing to go far enough in showing just how evil Vader has become.  The Clone Wars in the fourth and fifth seasons went to some pretty dark and violent places, but will Disney allow the same latitude or will the show be homogenized into more traditional children's animated fare?

Ultimately as a Star Wars fan I can only ask one thing of the storytellers behind Rebels, respect the character of Darth Vader.  If they do this and do it well then the show could really be something special. If they don't handle Vader well or simply use him as a billowing cape we see sweep down Imperial hallways occasionally then I think they will have missed a golden opportunity to add something special to the Star Wars mythos.

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