Fan Fic or Former Fan Fic

These past few years there had been announcements of Mel Brooks finally planning to get around to Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money.  That might be received with great gratitude especially by disgruntled Star Wars and Star Trek fans of today, the disenfranchised who are often called “toxic” by the millionaires who are trolling them with ham-fisted messaging, arbitrary changes to lore, and illogical turns of story.

Would the full power and influence of the all-powerful Mouse neuter any jibes ? We are still waiting for someone to bankroll the sequel to Spaceballs, even though it seems like a sure bet.  But even as we speculate about what kinds of observations Mel Brooks and his team could come up with, any ideas have to compete with an efficient internet that generates cheeky memes often before a movie is released.

We already question every little thing, as well we should.  Even though the discourse is hyper-charged by youtubers who make a living stirring the pot, and the marketing spin-masters reminding them that they are all “man-babies” regardless of gender if they do not like the new ingredients or preparation of what they are being fed.

Why was Luke  standing on the edge of a cliff at the end of The Force Awakens? Put Yogurt in that position and maybe he is zipping up as he turns having peed?

People refer to the astral projection used by force sensitive people in The Last Jedi as “force skype.” We might ask how with all the technology available why don’t they have smart phones? Maybe Kylo gets a good deal on data through the First Order, unlimited, and someone like Rey might be lured to join the dark side for that plan.

Or is the current iteration of Star Wars, for example, already beyond satire? The image of the late Carrie Fisher a year after her real life passing as Leia surviving and flying without oxygen in the vacuum of space became the “Carrie Poppins” meme immediately, insensitive or not.

I like the idea that Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson who is enthusiastic and open about the prospect of returning to his role) could return and get an impression on how messed up the galaxy far, far away has become and could consult THE WHILLS that reportedly were intended to be in Episodes VII, VIII and IX in George Lucas’ rejected outlines. The Whills (a network of intelligent tiny organisms that witness everything and keep a journal) might advise that things are off course and Mace could find the World Between Worlds indicated in the Rebels TV series and pull characters out of certain dangerous or vital moments to course correct things back to the way they were in the Expended Universe novels and comics now dismissed by Disney era Lucasfilm as “Legends.” The one good thing to come from the new “canon” is the World Between Worlds concept.

I’m happy there will be a Kenobi TV series. There is already a Jamie Costa fan film of Kenobi on the way.  He had previously made Han Solo: A Smuggler’s Trade before the official feature Solo: A Star Wars Story was released. Back in the prequel era, where Star Wars arguably was at its lowest point in terms of official features, great fan films were being made and some of them winning the George Lucas Selects award around Star Wars Celebration time. Lucasfilm had been making available elements of their sound catalog because Lucas himself felt fan films were just another way for fans to “play Star Wars.”

Those who own the legal rights to something may play hardball from time to time and might not necessarily have a better handle on filmmaking than many of the fans.  JJ Abrams calls himself a lifelong Star Wars fan, as does Rian Johnson and much of the fanbase have referred to their installments as big budget fan films.  Except that in some cases what the once built-in fanbase wanted to see took a lower priority to ostensibly progressive websites and op-ed contributors will analyse it and whether there are enough elements to appease keyboard warriors on the extreme left who do not buy the ancillary merchandise and likely don’t buy the movies on home video or rush to the opening weekend, let alone hit the cinema twice.  Instead these elements predictably alienate the Generation X fans, many of whom are male and / or white. The Force Awakens sidelines Finn and his side-kick Rose disparages him with snide remarks implying that he is at heart a deserter regardless of context – despite the Resistance being a voluntary organization.  Poe as the Latino cast member looks about as brown as Rey who is the blonde white Eugenics template. JJ prides himself lately letting people know there is an undisclosed representation of LBGTQ2S folk among the characters, so why is that not the adverting tag line on the posters and in the trailers ?  “No one is ever really gone….. and we have lots of gay characters now.” The crux of the conflict is whether Lucasfilm story group decisions and Kennedy decisions come from a genuine love of Star Wars, especially the Original Trilogy, or whether it is just looked at as a delivery device fro grandstanding.  Where the heart and soul have been arguably ripped from the product, some find hope in The Mandalorian and others just from fan films recalling the breezy tone they liked long ago.

All things considered, this time I won’t be waiting in line the night before opening day. I will take my time before seeing Episode IX and “giving it a chance” on a DVD borrowed from the Toronto Public Library.

But fan films and student films I could watch endlessly.  And re-watch the original Trilogy if not for the Special Edition meddling and the latest addition to the Greedo scene, the inexplicable word, “MacKlunky

 

Template Manifesto

Aspects of this might have been mentioned in other posts, but it is something I turn over in my head excessively, like a crazy person, either for past meetings that could have been more efficient or future projects.  Of course, each creative person will approach a project in whatever way allows them to function and thrive and finally be satisfied somewhat and feel ownership for the results.  The following is just what seems to work for me, but feel free to copy and use or revise to suit yourself:

FOUNDATION PRINCIPLE OF PROJECTS:

It is better to have no movie than to have the wrong movie. Whether the story was broken with a group or written by an individual, once it is read and the tires are kicked in terms of story continuity and it suits the taste of the team leader or director, this is where the project is defined. The more general a goal, the easier it is to attract collaborators. The more specific it becomes, usually that weeds people out so that only those most appropriate for it are involved. So this is all about making sure nobody feels misled and needless upset on location under a time crunch is reduced.  No sense fixing something that is not broken. There is what John Cleese calls open system and closed system of working, the latter being the point where choices have been made and you get on with it.

Every investor, crew member, and actor – anyone involved – has to have one thing in common: They all must be willing to make the same movie as the director.  If the director has to – as part of a written agreement with an investor – initial every page of the screenplay to indicate he or she will indeed make the movie as described, that is a workable condition.  To initial the ether for the sake of promising improvisation would not be possible.

To be involved has to be an INFORMED choice, which requires reading the script so that all concerned know about anything controversial in the planned content.  Though my own politics may be left of the middle, I show no respect for the extreme right nor the extreme left.  Reading 100 pages of screenplay may be work, but nothing compared to the efforts of making a movie. Anyone interested is welcome to look at storyboard sketches also.   Exceptions to the rule might be background performers who only have t know the parameters of the event where they are needed to gather and none should be admitted (even friends who just want to get a message to someone and go) without signing in as part of the waiver / release for their image; It is too easy for someone to decide to hang around, be lost in the shuffle, and end up on screen without release which could compromise the production.  If you can reconcile yourself to the material, any rude jokes for example, triggering content, ideology or lack thereof, that is when to move forward and embrace the experience.

Conversely, should somebody not like the screenplay, my writing, my storyboarding approach to directing and have no confidence in the work or myself, then I would not have a leg to stand on with such a person who why would I walk into the burning house of working with him/her? So this brings us back to the primary principle of wanting to or being willing to make the same movie the director wants to make.

*** END OF MANIFESTO ***

Some people thrive on chaos.  That is NOT what this project will be about, nor will it be a repository for random shtick.  The fiscally responsible Roger Corman approach for low budget is to lock the script and storyboard everything so that the crew can anticipate in advance of a shoot what equipment is needed to achieve the shots and how much time is needed so that we can make the day.

Should the bulk of casting or crewing come from the same person, it is especially vital that this individual meet the above criteria and want to make the same movie. Otherwise the project can deteriorate into a popularity contest or an unstable democracy.  The one nod to democracy should be the informed choice made at the outset whether or not to participate. “You have to follow your own gut.  No hard feelings if you don’t want to be part of this.”

That is a sincere response to those who opt out or attempt to coerce a script change or omission to suit his or her personal peccadillo. I consider it a polite lie, but have said it myself. Many people I know lean so far to the left they would ban and erase every performance of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.”  So there would be a natural clash with me.

My policy is this:  John Cleese, a co-founder of Monty Python, perhaps put it best quoting his friend and a co-author Robin Snynner of Life and How to Survive It:

“If people can’t control their own emotions, then they have to start trying to control other people’s behaviors.”

This applies to trying to block or erase anything that may set off anxiety for those who have survived trauma. Good intentions or not.  Survivors have suffered loss of control, so they may act out in one form or another by exerting whatever control over others – if only on social media or campaigning to have something banned, censored or pulled from the airwaves or public spaces. For this reason, the sensibility of outrage culture is suspect and needs to be resisted.  This is a big part of the joy and satisfaction of my own writing, which may not apply if you are not burdened by my style or quirks.  The story and plot of a movie just a container for specific lines or shots I am passionate about putting into the world. I don’t especially embrace the “kill your darlings” credo because so much of my writing is JUST little darlings.

If they are delivered “fast and flat” as Barry Sonnenfeld like his comedy dialogue, that is usually best for anything I write.  Like a pebble skimming the surface of the water. When people read, they may come to a dead stop after a risky quip, but the movie doesn’t. If a table reading is organized it has to be without anyone checking their phone for texts and everyone engaged and energized so it isn’t just an intellectual recitation of content but we are selling ourselves on the potential fun tone (or whatever tone you prefer). A cold read may be a challenge some actors like, but it doesn’t serve to make the table read engaging.  You want to catch any words tough to pronounce or any speed bumps. But even saying that, coordinating a table read can be exhausting. But at least it can get across a version of the proposed content so that anyone attending or hearing a recording of the audio at least can get an idea of the music of the pacing in various runs of dialogue and what it really is they are making an informed choice to join.

 

 

Knives Out

Entertaining movie.  I hesitated about seeing it, and even declared on social media that I would not, so that Rian Johnson makes $9 less at the box office.  But sure enough before bargain Tuesday was over I found myself sitting in the cinema.

The moviemaking is solid and the plot itself seems to sort of make sense. When you see it you might wonder to yourself whether telling someone dreadful out of error might be cause for a manslaughter charge if it leads to fatality.  But just put that non-spoiler into your back pocket until after watching the movie.

Apart from one quip reference to Baby Driver, what may date this movie in a few years is reference to Trump and keeping kids in cages, as well as a young boy in the film who is meant to represent internet “trolls” AKA disenfranchised Star Wars fans who disliked The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson’s previous film.

A distinction can be made between the writing and directing which are much as they should be and the writer-director himself Rian Johnson who either has a disproportionate amount of hate for how he wrote Luke Skywalker and the creation of time-wasting characters like Rose Tico and Vice Admiral Holdo while allowing Admiral Ackbar to die off screen with no distinction.  It can be impressive to note that the writer of Knives Out is the same screenwriter who gave us TLJ, a script that is taught in university courses as an example of how not to compose a screenplay.  But as good and tight as Knives Out may be, the praise by critics is nudged upwards just a bit by the inclusion of the Trump references and the repeated suggestion that those who are not firmly on the extreme left must be “Nazis.”

If you can look past that, you may enjoy the movie.  The second trailer I recall some people swearing it had a line referring to one of the black dogs at the estate as “Lando.” I may have imagined that, but strangely in the final cut of the movie in theatres neither of the dogs is referred to by name.  That seems a bit suspect. Except that watching it again the line I hear is “I think Linda was upset.”  So Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis’ character.  Not Lando. Had it been so, that might have been a sarcastic dismissal of people frustrated that Lando did not turn out to be the “code breaker” on Canto Bight, which is otherwise a pointless sequence in The Last Jedi.

 

 

Grinding Your Gears

In the past, each completed project gave me a morale boost to fuel the next.  If something goes off track or I’ve been given (and naively accepted) a false resource that collapses, it can be difficult to just transfer energy to something else.  I think people talking to themselves may be re-living conversations where they could have anticipated the worst and come away with dignity and saved some time.  I can grind my psychological gears in a quiet moment wasting energy on a “would-could-shoulda.”  Things may have gone the same way ultimately sooner or later.  Maybe sooner if you put a fine point on it.

If it feels like there is some Faustian embargo in the air, you might be making the wrong deal.  If someone wants to be the creative power behind the throne, they can get their own throne.  And as I’ve said before, if someone doesn’t have faith in you as a director or doesn’t like the script, you’ve got no leg to stand on with that person and why walk into that burning house?  If on the other hand they want to impose something on the film – random shtick, improvisation, ideology – it will negate or compromise your sense of authorship.  It is one thing to improve a script, kicking the tires, questioning logic or continuity. These are things the writer can answer and figure out without losing the sense of authentic authorship.  A full range of talents have clung to a credit even if it meant arbitration and even if it meant that everybody knew the best lines came from someone else.  But if what motivates you is the work itself and seeing your own ideas vindicated (or giving them every chance to be vindicated), it is worth remembering that Jim Jarmush claims that he writes a screenplay in longhand, one draft, and gives it to a typist and then just makes his movie. I suspect there are many critical darlings who do that and if something seems unclear in the movie it is taken as artistic ambiguity.  It is not unlikely that a first draft and final draft will have the same percentage of people who like or dislike the resulting movie.  Se7en famously had many drafts generated in the development phase, only to have its original shocking draft by Andrew Kevin Walker find its way to David Fincher’s attention so he could insist on reverting to that. The Verdict was adapted by David Mamet and then compromised by others until director Sidney Lumet insisted on discarding the development and reverting to Mamet.  Those seem like no-brainer choices, but it took a good cook insisted that not everybody had to piss in the soup.  Especially if you are a writer-director, you are gong to take the heat for a mediocre movie so you may as well be gambling on your own taste and your own work rather than someone else.

Discussion of movies from a fan perspective can generate some of the worst ideas for how it “could have been better.” One guy re-edited The Last Jedi just to make sure that in his version Admiral Ackbar is still alive. There are many things wrong with that movie, and that character should have had an on-screen death and one with nobility (maybe securing an oxygen mask onto Princess Leia before floating off dead in the vacuum of space). But even with a Lucasfilm Story Group and producers looking at the script, and hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, they went with Rian Johnson’s whims and took their chances.  Each writer has to take his or her own chances.  You might even be satisfied just writing character descriptions and an outline of scenes and letting others expand on that. But however long the process, you arrive at a point where you say THIS is the script I want to translate into storyboard drawings and finally stage for the camera.  Not a hundred other variations which you have considered and discarded.

The internet has accelerated the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” and also the consequences of answering with honesty.   People can insist on being called something they are not. It may be personally vital to know that a writer-director credit reflects your actual writing and your direction. I would feel false if I did not plan my own shots and the progression of images. That is where my satisfaction comes from.  Simply gathering people together to shoot something is not in itself cathartic. It is kind of a necessary evil.  Most of the anxiety will come from just how the house of cards will fall. Some people thrive on chaos, but I don’t.  I wouldn’t invest in chaos.

There are people who push to destroy the auteur theory of direction, where “A film by” credits are seen as giving too much importance to the role of director. I don’t really come down on either side of those false binary options.  The designation of director – let alone writer – can be given to anyone from a fraud who shows up and takes credit for everyone else to someone coming from a Hitchcock perspective where film grammar and psychology motivate the shot choices and the audience is being directed by the person they have been told is doing so.  None of us has to be a genius or feel like one to achieve the latter description.  It might help to be obsessed with finding the best shot for a moment or an interesting and appropriate way to transition between scenes. I’ve done short films that people hated and written screenplays that some people did not get, but I honored my impulses in any case and that is a big part of it.

So many processes appear to be about stripping the finger prints from a work. The issue celebrated might be the subject matter or a sociopolitical bent and not the WAY something was written or the WAY it was directed.  Style may be stripped away, and for me style is a big part of what makes me love cinema.

Does this blog make me look fat?

 

 

 

 

All Making the Same Movie

Boilerplate for Compatibility:

Investors, crew and cast, before anything else, have to be willing to make the same movie as the director. Each person might have a different movie in their mind’s eye or might choose or omit a different shot or joke than someone else.  There can be as many approaches as there are people, so first thing’s first: Know what the movie is, who has defined the project, at least make peace with whose vision you are helping bring to life. If the director is trying to be the servant of many masters, chipping away anything that someone else might not like, it will be an empty final result.

If a director believes he or she is Kubrick, the crew usually will make that person’s life hell.  So I don’t think I am Kubrick or Spielberg.  I want to make sure that I am giving myself the best chance to to get across the movie that is in my head and in stages of imperfection like the script and storyboard sketches. I’m not going to shoot myself in the foot trying to prove how I’m unlike the best directors and unworthy of directing the attention of the audience.

My plan for a low budget film is to respect the fiscally responsible Roger Corman approach and lock the script, storyboard every shot, and know before we arrive on set or location what the camera is going to do and what equipment will be needed to facilitate that.

The opposite would be to go forward with someone who either hasn’t read the script or doesn’t like it or outright objects to something in it and doesn’t believe in the director. In which case the writer-director doesn’t have a leg to stand on with that person, and who wants to walk into that burning house?

If someone doesn’t believe in the script and wants to infuse it with improvisation, it should be noted that any commentary track for a Christopher Guest movie mentions how long it takes to explore material through improvisation and then the year it takes to find the movie in editing.  If the main point of initiating a movie is that you want your screenplay to see the light of day, and you want to feel authentic about your writing credit, make sure it is known that you ban improvisation. Things will be discovered on a day even with a prepared and well rehearsed cast that might not be in the script, but the expectation of happy accidents do not have to define the project or put the director in the frustrating position of reigning people in to get them back on book.  You want to weed out people who do not like the script, or you will fall behind and go into overtime not for your shot list and the care of setting up a sequence but to placate the egos of actors who want to be de facto writers.

It will be interesting to learn the details of what happened on Solo: A Star Wars Story before Ron Howard was brought in to right the ship.  The version most circulated is that the original director Lord and Miller being improv wranglers on their previous live action movies were not used to storyboarding their shots and merely considered their process about riffing on scripts and generating material on set through improvisation.  This despite the fact that they were graced with a screenplay by Star Wars veteran Lawrence Kasdan and his son Jon.  Each day, the budget went over because the directors went into overtime and held the crew due entirely to the indulgence in improvisation. The actors played along but one reportedly eventually mentioned to a producer (maybe Kathleen Kennedy) that this was going on and that Alden Eirenrich as Solo was being called upon to do a sort of Ace Ventura energy level that seemed contrary to the laconic Harrison Ford characterization. What is puzzling might be that producers would get continuity reports each day that would have stated for 90% of the shoot that they were going into overtime each day and this could have been caught and rectified. As an executive producer and co-writer, after reviewing the footage that had been shot, Kasdan objected to the freewheeling approach and wanted the directors to stick to the script.

It is vital at the outset, either overtly or covertly, to discover whether a collaborator believes in the project or the script.  In my own case as a writer-director I have had to nudge people towards telling me what they thought or exposing some other reason they might want to infiltrate the movie.  The last thing you want is the ground moving under your feet. Someone may object to a well-earned joke against an arrogant character.  I would rather take the heat of someone expressing outrage over a joke than let someone else’s sensitivity pre-emptively make it go away.

It is asking a lot to say tentatively to a prospective actor or crew member to read the entire screenplay, maybe 100 – 120 pages, to make an informed choice.  But that work pales by comparison to everything you will ask them to do in pushing through the schedule of shooting the movie.  This mostly applies if you have a subversive sensibility.  I today’s climate, that is bold.  But any element of a script can be upsetting to a crew or cast member or a segment of the audience, and they may as well address and confront that in advance.

It is one level of difficult to draw people with a general idea of making a movie, but the more specific your goals and in terms of locations and props and number of cast or the kind of script you want to get away with it will be more of a challenge. There is no point putting off that challenge and waiting for a conflict somewhere down the line.  It is vital to want to make the same movie, or to be willing to.

In The Art of War, Sun Tzu says, “Every battle is won before it is ever fought.”

 

 

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Straw

Anticipating the release of The Rise of Skywalker, Episode IX of Star Wars, this might be the right time to join the chorus and have a last rant.

Before The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson had been quoted as saying that he didn’t write in isolation but bounced ideas off of something called the Lucasfilm Story Group. I thought wow, they must be the cream of the dramaturgical crop to be in that circle of experts! We could speculate about some great writers that might be consulting there.  In the aftermath of The Last Jedi, Star Wars fans went on a mission to expose each member and examine the credits and education of each Story Group hired by Kathleen Kennedy.

Like  JJ Abrams’ wife Katie McGrath who went on to found the TimesUp movement on the heels of MeToo blowing up, Kathleen Kennedy is driven by identity politics.  In a movie like Lincoln or Schindler’s List, a social message is so central to the story that there needs to be no labored imposition of it.  Looking at something like Star Wars, is someone is not genuinely a fan of it and looks down on the genre at all, it might be seen as nothing more than a delivery device.

At no other time in the history of cinema has it been easier to find out what the core built-in audience for a brand wants to see.  By 2012, the bitter aftertaste of the Prequel trilogy meant that Star Wars fans could see room for improvement and the possibility of a fresh take if George Lucas was not 100% in control and jaded about his creation.  All Disney had to do was get the main characters back together.  The worst thing to do would be to sideline or disrespect them and taint the Original Trilogy.

Let’s look at intentions and whether the logic works.

They wanted to lure audiences with the possibility of getting the band back together. Mark Hamill was paid a bonus to say nothing about how drastically Luke Skywalker was sidelined in The Force Awakens, being a destination more than an active participant.

Harrison Ford’s career as a leading man had a lot of longevity, so his agreement to play Han Solo again opened the door to certain mischief. They would want Chewbacca to be in the movie, which is fine. Chewie died in a much publicized Lucasfilm-approved novel called Vector Prime, being on a planet when it exploded, around the time Han would have been 55.  This opened the door to totally abandoning over a hundred previously approved novels and beyond that also comics that were now branded Legends instead of canon.  Many fans, especially post-Last Jedi, would prefer to consider those novels as representing what “really happened” after Return of the Jedi as seen in 1983.  Some remember the old Marvel comics run that somewhat extended the story, and most refer to Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy.

What we got had the priority of setting up a few new heroes for the future, propped up by the classic Star Wars characters.  Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose Tico, and Kylo Ren were functional enough ciphers and the actors are talented but the writing – thanks largely to the priorities of the Lucasfilm Story Group – ring false.

Finn was raised as a storm trooper and chose humanity and abandoned the First Order, but The Last Jedi portrays his character as if he is an all-round deserter.  This partially through Rose Tico a mechanic who takes it upon herself to spend her hours loitering around escape pods looking for people to stun and drag to to the brig – including a known Resistance hero surely outranking her.  And for this, she is allowed to tag along on a mission.  The whole way, she is the person in the know about the meeting point Canto Bight and informing Finn about where he is wrong and sending them on a wild goose chase or two. She has to be in power and leading because TimesUpMeTooGirlPower.

Princess Leia / General Leia Organa says no to a magnetic bombing run Poe wants to do, so Poe switches off his intercom…. thus making sure he can’t hear her, but why the hell doesn’t the GENERAL have direct communication on the open line to all of the fleet, including the BOMBERS she could call off?

After Poe’s demotion, and aiding a covert mission that fails, and finally leading a mutiny, Leia asks people why they are looking at her and “Follow him.” Which confuses the woke narrative a bit.   Admiral Holdo decides that only she should be left in the rebel flagship, which is known to be a flagship and a one way trip whether she thought of ramming initially or not.  How brilliant is she that she couldn’t pick a droid to sacrifice itself? Rose Tico the mechanic who likes to zap war heroes considers saving the Fartiers (Neverending Story type horses) from the abusing racetrack by helping set them free gets onto a ship with Finn and leaves them in the fields to be easily rounded up again and brought back to their stables.

General Leia is sidelined by recuperation from FLOATING IN SPACE without oxygen.  Her replacement is Vice Admiral Holo, and one would think there would be great comedic potential if a great leader had to be replaced by an incompetent one but that can’t happen because she ALSO has to appear to know better than Poe and keep him in his subordinate place as a male.

Finn is reduced to pining for Rey, ostensibly concerned for her safety but – especially in this universe – isn’t she capable of looking out for herself?

Rey gets to be the enlightened and optimistic, right, and sympathetic one compared to Luke Skywalker’s ret con as a grumpy old Jedi gone to seed.  This is the most disappointing change to Star Wars.   IT ONLY went that way because Rey can’t be mansplained (what we used to call trained) by a white old male.  Master, schmashter. It strains credibility on the script level by finally having Luke (once his force connection is restored) collapse a shelter using “force-push” technique only to have Rey chase him down and fight until he lands on his back supposedly helpless and lets Rey stick her (formerly his) light-saber in his face to pin him down. He could use the very same force-push to flip the saber from Rey’s hand and then suspend her upside down. Instead he gives us his side of the most useless backstory about himself and his nephew.

If he thinks Ben Solo (Kylo) is going to turn to the Dark Side, WHY CREEP to his bedside in the night with a light-saber ready to kill him? Why not ask his mother, Leia, to go talk to him?

And no mention of what uproar happened politically when Luke and Leia’s parentage (Darth Vader) was outed ? There is a Disney-era novel called Bloodline that covers that, but they couldn’t be bothered to make that a pivotal point in the movies.  It makes sense if Ben distrusts his parents and his uncle for keeping a big secret from him.  But if it makes sense, it could not belong.

So there is much to account for.  The woke Lucasfilm Story Group, their boss Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson especially but also JJ Abrams.  When Lawrence Kasdan was co-writing The Force Awakens, at least the Han Solo material had humor and focus and felt like Star Wars.  And that movie at least flowed, even though it had its own share of head-scratchers and questions never to be answered.

And now they say retroactively that Luke trained Leia in the force and swordsmanship before the events of these new movies.  Okay, fine.  But we know it was not the plan all along because in The Force Awakens Leia refers to Luke as “a Jedi” when talking to Han. That might have been an opportunity to give SOME hint that she is also one.  Maybe Luke is a “better” or “lesser” jedi than her.  But even THEN, I’m sorry but I can’t buy even a Jedi waking up in the vacuum of space and force-pulling herself to safety.

I don’t know if the Sage – or what’s left of it – can force pull itself to safety now.  Too many of the most ardent fans already see Star Wars in a vacuum.  That is to say that – other than the unaltered Original Trilogy – it sucks.

 

 

 

 

A facebook page asked the question of “what should we do” about “toxic fandom?” This will be short:

The concept of “angry fandom” is a mislead. It is a distraction. Don’t be fooled. The idea that fans (AKA the once built-in audience) is the problem makes no sense.

There are hardcore U2 fans for 30 years that can speak at length about why they don’t like the newer songs or which albums were the best. To be informed and deep dive into any brand is to also intimately know its flaws.

I’m a first generation Star Wars fan and I can still respect the Original Trilogy even if I don’t see much to respect in the follow-ups. I can love Terminator and T2 and be annoyed that Cameron decided to kill off the point of those earlier films. And that irritation is not something to shade with pathology.

If movies are a delivery device for clumsy social messaging, that shows a disrespect for all of the other elements that go into good storytelling. Toxic this and toxic this and man babies…. all part of a playbook for spin and misdirection. It is about big money movie studios with huge marketing budgets for tent pole projects punching down at the average potential moviegoer, sometimes with a dash of gas lighting to make a percentage of audience members afraid of speaking up against what is being pushed, the movie or the blind preemptive insults from actors, writers or directors who promote the myth of the truly racist, sexist, homophobic troll who is the only sort of person who would respond to Ghostbusters 2016 (sometimes marketed as Answer the Call, except in the movie itself where it is still just called Ghostbusters) or who would dare celebrate Jason Reitman reverting to the continuity of the 1980’s iteration that actually had a built in fan base, possibly Generation X but also built from decades of home video formats and releases and a cartoon series featuring the original characters.  It must be a horrible misanthrope who would dare prefer the pre-Disney novels of the Extended Universe, like Heir to the Empire, as opposed to an appropriation of Luke Skywalker that would creep up to his sleeping nephew to possibly kill him and then to opt out of any positive action he could contribute because now he believes all good actions will be greeted with an equally opposite reaction in a galaxy far, far away so why bother fighting the good fight.

The way to deal with “angry fans” is make note of their market feedback, and avoid characterizing them politically. Because some Coke fans hated New Coke, and some are knowledgeable enough to say the New Coke/ Coke Classic was a marketing genius strategy to disguise the switch from cane sugar to corn syrup. Right now we have entered the corn syrup age of cinema.