Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Complete Star Wars Saga

So last week, Avon schools were on Fall Break. For the youth who were not going anywhere I held a Star Wars marathon, because there was more than 1 who had never seen a Star Wars movie. Fourteen youth participated in this event, but only five made it the whole night (technically if take out the people who dozed off I think only one made it the whole night with me.)

Watching all of the Star Wars movies in one sitting was a life goal of mine. Now that I have taken in the whole Star Wars story at one time here are some of thoughts about my favorite movies

1. The Original Trilogy is better
I have long been a defender of the prequel movies, especially episodes II and III, claiming they are not that bad and that episode III especially is quite good. However, when viewed from a story telling perspective and viewing both prequels as separate story arcs in the same saga, the prequel does not hold a candle to the original. The main reason for this, comes down to pacing. The prequel trilogy is to rushed in its pacing. For example compare Episode IV to Episode I. In A New Hope, there are three segments that feel roughly equal (even though time wise they are not). In a very rough outline form the plot progresses as such Tatooine (introduction)==>Death Star (rising action)==> Yavin IV (finale). Episode I though progresses as such Naboo (introduction)===>Tatooine (Introudction/Rising Action)===>Coruscant (Rising Action)==>Naboo (finale). Star Wars as always uses a change in location to push the plot along, and in the prequel movies they are changing locations to many times. Compared to the movies of the original trilogy the pacing of the prequels feels far to rushed and hectic.

2. The Best part of the story is not explicit
So when viewed as one story, all of the Star Wars movies together really do tell a good epic, with Darth Vader as the main character. The problem is that a lot of the major themes that are associated with Darth Vader's story are present but not explicitly presented. For example, a major part of the Darth Vader story is that he is the "chosen one" who will bring "balance to the force." However, the story never resolves if he actually does it (this is partly because Return of the Jedi was made 16 years before Phantom Menace, but regardless). Darth Vader does restore balance to the force, but the details are not told. Here is how it goes down. One of the MAJOR problems with the prequels is they never explain why the force is out of balance in the first place. Some references are made, and it is sort of revealed the jedi believe the force is out of balance because the sith still exist. However, this is not it at all. The force is out of balance, because the Jedi have lost focus of the light side. The jedi became to much of a political entity and focused to much on periphery concerns (avoiding attachment) instead of focusing on others unconditionally (which Anikan says is the point of the Jedi. Taking young children from their families, and commanding a slave army are not actions that a "good" organization would do without serious moral qualms. The fact that the Jedi did this show they had sort of lost their way. This is shown by how arrogant the jedi are portrayed (examples include the librarian from episode II, and Yoda saying that arrogance was becoming common in jedi) This is why their ability to use the force had diminished, and this is why the force was out of balance. Darth Vader and the Emperor swung the balance the other way, and plunged the galaxy in darkness.
However, in the end Darth Vader redeemed himself. One of the cool aspects of Darth Vader is the path that led him to the dark side was a selfish desire to save some one else, but the action that redeemed him was a selfless act to save someone else. This action left Luke the last Jedi or Sith in the galaxy. More importantly, as a Jedi he had learned to face his anger and hate without giving into them. This means that Luke, the sole force user, was balanced and this was brought by the actions of Darth Vader so he did fulfill the prophecy in the end.

3. George Lucas can not be trusted with technology
One of the biggest things the prequel movies show is that George Lucas gets carried away when he has access to computers that can literally do anything. Prime example of this is Jar Jar Binks, which reaches its climax in episode I with a juvenile and unnecessary fart joke. Even the original trilogy is tainted by this with the special editions. Going to far with technology is best seen in Return of the Jedi.

4. The music is awesome
Well actually this is a no brainer, but when watched together it is absolutly incredible how good of a job John Williams did at integrating some of the original trilogy themes into the prequel trilogies. This is especially true with the Imperial march, it makes a foreboding quick appearance in episode I, comes out in a bit more force in the other 2 prequel movies, only to be full realized in Empire Strikes Back. This music is used very well to convey the rise of Darth Vader and the Empire.

5. Timing is odd
This is a nitpick, but the timing of the movies across the board is odd. With the exception of Episodes I and II and the time between the movies is never stated, and I only knew them from outside the movie sources. Also some of the movies, especially Attack of the Clones and the Empire Strikes Back have internal timing issues. Basically, these movies have to be watched with the assumption that the events are being portrayed in the best story telling order but not necessarily chronological order, because if the events are shown in a strict chronological order, then some of then the timing is truly odd and off.

6. The universe is better than the Story

The appeal of Star Wars to me has always been the universe. George Lucas did create an exciting galaxy far, far away that is fun to get a glimpse into. When compared to other modern epics like the Lord of the Rings, story wise Star Wars does not get close. However, I would rather play a video game or read a book set in the Star Wars universe because the setting is much more compelling. Plus, with the exception of Episode I (and Episode II when I am being cynical) Star Wars is always FUN to watch and get lost in.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Zombie Day 2009 Recap

This past weekend Zombieland came out and my brother and I had plans to see it. However, these plans quickly grew from seeing a movie to a full on celebration of the undead, and thus Zombie day is born. Here is a recap of how we celebrated Zombie Day:

After getting some food (sadly I didn't know of any place local that served brain sandwiches), we started with some Left 4 Dead. This is THE zombie video game, that is all about playing well with others to survive Zombie hordes and infected with mean special abilities. Using the power of the internet we hooked up with someone else we knew who was unable to come up for Zombie Day but still wanted to take part. Left 4 Dead recently had a new level come out for download so we played that.
We played through co-operatively first and beat the level. We then tried it in versus, which is were one team plays as survivors and the other as Zombies. This did not go so well. In fact we got absolutly destroyed.

After that, my brother and I switched to another video game, Zombie Apocalypse. This is simple yet satisfying game that involves fighting wave after wave of Zombies

From there it was time to go see Zombieland.

This movie was absolutly incredible, in that it did everything right, and quite honestly it is hard to do Zombie movies right. This is because Zombies are really a setting for a movie. So the movie has to still stand as a good movie in whatever genre it is in (which fro Zombieland was clearly comedy). A good Zombie movie also has to make good use of the Zombies, which this one did. Finally, a good zombie movie in some way explores the human condition, by focusing on what makes us human (either the good or the bad) in a world that has gone dead. Zombieland does all of this well. Plus, Woody Harrelson plays one of the most fun to watch characters who may have ever been created. Abigail, who normally roles her eyes when it comes to Zombies even liked it.

After the mandatory Noble Romans deep dish Sicilian (aka the best pizza ever), we continued by taking on some 19th century Zombies in A Touch of Evil. This is a board game where everyone controls a hero and strives to be the person who defeats the evil villain and save the town of Shadowbrook. For this game the villain was the Necromancer, who had an army of zombies fighting for him.

After that we played a quick dice game called "Mmm. . .Brains!"
Theoretically this game is about Zombies collecting brains and then eating them. However it is a seriously stretched theme and the game is really about rolling dice. However, it is Zombie themed so it counts!
Zombie day ended with a little bit more Left 4 Dead and my brother being gracious enough to try a rough prototype of my own Zombie game.

We only began to scratch the surface of what could be done on Zombie day. Video game wise, we could have played Nazi Zombies, Resident Evil 5 co-op or rented a House of the Dead Wii game. When it comes to table top games we did not play Zombies!!!, Humans!!!, Last Night on Earth ,or Zombie Fluxx.

Plus, in theory by the end of the month I will be receiving in the mail All Things Zombie the boardgame, which is suppose to be the definitive Zombie game.

With all that potential, maybe Zombie Day should happen more than once a year. . .