Episode 1: a long, long time ago, in a fandom far, far away

Today, May 19th marks the ten year anniversary of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

It’s been ten years. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe the excitement and the thrill and the magic of anticipation I felt back then. My friend Eric and I waited in line, for how long I don’t even recall, to get in on opening day at the Cinemark Theater in Katy on I-10, which will forever be my Star Wars theater. The months leading up to the release were amazing, with tidbits and screen shots leaking out from sites like TheForce.net, sites I reloaded obsessively. To this day, this teaser image still gives me the chills:

Episode One: The Phantom Menace
Episode One: The Phantom Menace

And of course the pod race and the final battle with Darth Maul – the greatest star wars villain ever – were pure-adrenaline amazing enough to make all the annoyances worthwhile – even Jar Jar. Mostly.

In a lot of ways Episode One let us all down, but the anticipation was something special, and an experience in and of itself. So, rock on Star Wars, with your Clone Wars and your CGI and your toy lines and your Anakin backpacks. Someday someone is gonna come along and pull a JJ Abrams on you, too.

Vader slaughters the Jedi

Darth Vader apparently attacked the Church of the Jedi congregation in Holyhead, Wales. He struck Jedi Master Jonba Hehol on the head with a metal crutch, and bruised Jedi Master Mormi Hehol’s thigh.

District Judge Andrew Shaw sentenced Vader to two months in jail, but suspended the sentence for one year. He also ordered Vader to pay his victims a nominal fee for damages and court costs. Vader’s lawyer, Frances Jones, says Vader knew his behavior was wrong, but had no recollection of the incident because he’d drunk an entire 2 1/2-gallon box of wine beforehand.

The Force is Wii us

the Wiisabre is at last a reality. This isn’t some hack flash-based game, but the real thing:

LucasArts to Unleash the Force on the Wii in Spring 2008

Star Warsâ„¢: The Force Unleashedâ„¢ Coming to Nintendo’s Platform with Exclusive Duel Mode

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Sept. 18, 2007 – LucasArts today revealed that Star Warsâ„¢: The Force Unleashedâ„¢ will come to the Wiiâ„¢ home videogame system from Nintendo next spring, offering owners the unique chance to live out their Jedi fantasies by wielding the Wii Remoteâ„¢ as a lightsaber while using the Nunchukâ„¢ controller to torment foes with their Forceâ„¢ powers.

The Force Unleashed casts players as Darth Vader’s “Secret Apprentice” and promises to unveil new revelations about the Star Wars galaxy. The game’s expansive story is set during the largely unexplored era between Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. In it, players will assist the iconic villain in his quest to rid the universe of Jedi – and face decisions that could change the course of their destiny.

The Wii version, in development by Krome Studios, will also add an exclusive duel mode in which players can compete head-to-head with their friends to determine the ultimate Jedi Master.

“The Wii is a great platform for The Force Unleashed, because the console’s motion-oriented controllers really bring the game to life,” said Jim Ward, President of LucasArts. “We’ve worked hard to make the Wii version of the game unique in order to truly let you unleash the Force.”

Oh man. Oh man. Oh man.

Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo

Best headline to a news story EVER. Perfectly descriptive, too:

SEOUL, South Korea – They came from all over the world, poles in hand, and feet ready to inch more than half a mile across a high wire strung over the Han River in a spine-tingling battle of balance, speed and high anxiety.

The top prize was $15k for crossing the wire fastest; I was tempted to try for a greedo/shot first joke, but I know my limits.


Old news, but still:

During an extended technical demonstration for a new, unnamed Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 Star Wars title, LucasArts staff have confirmed to Gamasutra the company’s intense interest in creating a Wii lightsaber game, if not yet its explicit existence.

At the end of the demonstration, Gamasutra inquired as to whether the company planned on creating a lightsaber game for the Wii, after many commented on he suitability of the system to the concept – especially after an internal speaker was revealed in the controller being used to demo the concept.

This question produced a number of knowing smiles around the room from LucasArts employees, followed by the comments: “We know” and “We are looking into it”, as possible concepts for the game were discussed. However, the firm has not yet made any official announcements regarding planned Wii titles.

UPDATE: This seems relevant. Imagine: me in my living room, you in yours, and we engage in a duel. I’m toast.

Soon we will all be able to unleash our inner Star Wars Kids… Continue reading “Wii-sabre”

Luminous beings are we

not this crude matter:

I have always found this scene to be deeply insightful, in ways that transcend the mere plot and apply to reality and life. In many ways, the quote itself is fundamental to why I am devout. But it has just as much secular meaning as it does spiritual. George Lucas is often derided for creating a “new age religion” (and in fact in E4:ANH a character actually insults the Jedi as a “religion” to Vader’s face) but I appreciate the deeper universal truth he is describing here.

If we are just bags of meat, then all we strive for simply doesn’t matter. Only if there is something beyond does it begin to have any meaning or purpose. What shape that Beyond takes; be it Paradise or Transhumanism or something else entirely, is mostly a matter of simple taste.

interview with Greg Bear

this is a pretty wide-ranging interview, worth reading in full. But one thing that leaped out at me was this Q&A, because not many people are aware of Bear’s work in the Star Trek and Star Wars universes.

Aberrant Dreams: You are also one of the few writers that come to mind, having written in both the Star Trek and the Star Wars universes. At every science fiction convention, there is always a panel about Star Wars verses Star Trek. If you found yourself on that panel, for which side would you bat?

Greg Bear: Well, there wouldn’t have been a Star Wars without a Star Trek. I’m sure even George Lucas would admit that. If you go back to the lineage of interstellar travel and space opera, you’ll find two sides of the equation.

I think Star Trek adheres to the more seriously extrapolated side, despite some of the sillier episodes. It was more of a universe you could imagine yourself living in with fewer fantasy elements.

Star Wars came along and mixes in so many different elements. There are pulp films, samurai movies, Arthurian legend, and science fiction, and it’s all planted in a thoroughly convincing science fiction designed universe. It was a flavor that no one had quite seen before, and it was also done with tremendous conviction and love. At that time, Star Wars became a kind of crossover bridge for science fiction and fantasy. I think is still is to this day, while Star Trek and science fiction are more closely aligned. Its universe is a little more convincing.

Ultimately, it depends on your feeling of the moment. If you want rip-roaring action and that sort of thing, I still like Star Wars. I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since 1977. I don’t follow all of the novels and all of the off-shoots—it would take a lifetime at this point. I certainly haven’t done that with the Star Trek novels, either, and I’m not even that familiar with the more recent Star Trek series.

He also discusses transhumanism and his forthcoming book about the middle east and the west.

a disturbance in the Force

I wrote a few days ago of my victory over the Lucas Empire, bending the Bearded One to my will in re-releasing the original Star Wars Trilogy on DVD without the plot “enhancements”.

It seems that celebration may be premature. Quint of AICN delivers the bad news:

The releases are going to be the 1995 Laserdisc masters and The Digital Bits confirmed today that they won’t even be anamorphic widescreen transfers, just the letterboxed transfers, which would mean we’re not getting the full theatrical experience. For sound junkies there is no option to listen to a digitally remastered THX soundtrack. We’ll get the two-channel stereo.

all the original STAR WARS films were released as 70mm experiences during their releases, which would mean they did have a 6-channel audio mix originally, so the 2-channel stereo only option on the DVD just became officially ridiculous.

In other words, these DVDs will look and sound like crappy laserdisc versions, with sound akin to a pair of headphones. Not even minimal surround sound or digitally remastered film!

As if to add insult to injury, the DVD covers will also suck, using stupid photoshop-level montages rather than the original stylized artwork of the 1970s-era posters. Quint has scans, so go take a look.

It’s clear that these are “bastard” releases that are intended to scoop up extra change from the hardcore. As Quint notes, it’s a real dilemma for a true-blue fan. Will these sucky DVDs be the only way we can ever get the original Star Wars? (My letterbox VHS tapes aren’t going to last much longer). Or should we hold out for a future release with the real remastering and full six channel sound?

Since I am budgetarily constrained, my answer is easy – wait, for what I really want rather than this half-assed effort which is really a step backwards IMHO from the VHS tapes I already own. Still, it’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow, that the very DVDs I’ve clamored for years to see are now not worth purchasing. I hope that Lucas follows through and does release “real” versions in the years to come. I’ll pay a lot more for those should they become available…

Han shot first

A long time ago, on a blog far away, I called for a boycott of Episode III.

And how the Empire trembled!

However, though convinced of the righteousness of my cause, my resolve began to waver.

Well, to make a long story short, I’m not Mahatma Gandhi, ok?

But it seems that the mere existence of my boycott threat – however short-lived – ultimately attained the desired goal. For behold, I claim total victory:

In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you’ll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.

This release will only be available for a limited time: from September 12th to December 31st. International release will follow on or about the same day. Each original theatrical version will feature Dolby 2.0 Surround sound, close-captioning, and subtitles in English, French and Spanish for their U.S. release.

All has occurred exactly as I have forseen.

Han shot first