A Lego Star Destroyer with the Vader canteen scene INSIDE

I aspire to build custom Lego sets and so I am triply in awe of those who can do so. And when someone builds a mammoth Star Destroyer that is more than just a shell, I’m completely blown away. Behold the bestest Lego Star Destroyer that will probably ever be built. When I saw this, my brain turned into thousands of red 1x1x1 bricks and were blown out the back of my head.

I don’t even know how Lego figured out how to build the official Ultimate Collector’s Set. For those who have built Lego sets before, these things are really coolly engineered from the inside out. When I start building a set, I have no idea how the first page of instructions leads to the finished product. This guy, Doomhandle, goes and does it bigger and better. It has rooms, hallways, walkways, even a bacta tank. All the photos are here.

And for those of you in the know, the non-canon Death Star canteen bit by comedian Eddie Izzard is classic. For a Lego reenactment to accompany his bit, check out this video. This Star Destroyer even has that canteen, with a ton of detail. Just imagine what Vader finds on his tray.

10 Reasons We Need an Obi-Wan Kenobi Trilogy

Given that there are rumors about a possible Obi-Wan movie trilogy, here I will make my pitch in support of such:

1. Ewan McGregor was fantastic as Obi-Wan in the prequels. My judgement may be clouded by my man-crush on him, but so be it.
2. Because the Episode 7-9 characters may have a connection to him. (Ewan had a line of dialogue as Obi-Wan in Ep VII…)
3. Protecting Luke would probably require him to act abroad in the galaxy (especially since the kid’s last name is Skywalker).
4. Great dramatic tension in his conflict between watching over Luke and answering calls for help. The comics have touched on this already some.
5. Bail Organa knows where he is. Episode IV may not be the first time Bail reached out to Obi-Wan for help.
6. Tie the movies to Star Wars Rebels, which covers the birth of the Rebellion.
7. How does he live as a former Jedi who doesn’t use the Force, with Hutts and Sandpeople and no job?
8. Does he still talk to Qui-Gonn? Mace? How does he know that Yoda lives on Dagobah? What if Kenobi visited Yoda? What if Jinn visited both of them?
9. What does he do when he learns that Darth Vader is alive and a scary cyborg? Does he try to stop him? Maybe through a third party, like Black Sun?
10. At some point, the Empire could discover him (probably not on Tatooine) and then pursue him. By sending Vader. How does he escape and protect Luke then?

The JJ Abrams Apology Tour Awakens

This guy, huh? He creates the biggest movie of 2015, creates an iconic droid character that makes R2-D2 look like a garbage can, building on a heap of smashing achievements in TV and movies. However, if history is any indicator, he will soon be apologizing for what critics didn’t like. (In fact, some feared he started pre-apologizing with the trailer!)

No matter what you think about Star Wars: The Force Awakens (I loved it both times I saw it) you knew, I knew, and he knew, that there would be detractors. Detractors with good points, even. No movie is perfect and Star Wars fans are not easy to please.

Here’s how the JJ apology tour works. He seems like a relatively non-egotistical, reflective, thoughtful guy. When he’s promoting a given movie, he’s upbeat, he’s excited about it. He should be, because he really pours his heart, brain, and soul into every aspect of a movie he writes and/or directs.

But then the movie comes out. Some critics,  fans, cinemaphiles, even other directors, will dump on it in some ways. With Star Trek, it was the lens-flare and the red matter, for instance. Any creative type knows that you should probably not read the reviews, or respond to complaints. But JJ can’t help himself.

At first, JJ ignores the complaints, at least publicly. Some time after the movie’s release, he’ll defend his choices but be super-nice about it. He’ll explain his reasoning, talk about his process, his approach, and actually does a decent job impressing me, at least.

That’s where we’re at with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Check out his lengthy answers in this podcast or this i09 article about the podcast. The press are claiming that he ‘understands‘ the concerns. Is he trying to convince the critics or himself? He’s starting to second-guess his own choices, I think.

And then, down the road, there will be a ‘popular mismemory’ about reaction to his film. Like that Star Trek Into Darkness was terrible and the end of the franchise, which it wasn’t. And he’ll say okay, maybe the critics have a point. Maybe he did this thing or that wrong and he’s sorry, he won’t do that again. No overdoing the lens flare, the fan service, the hiding the villain too much, the unsolved mysteries, the lack of exposition, etc.

It happened with both Star Trek movies he directed. It happened with Super 8. It happened with Lost and Fringe. Eventually, JJ will agree with some critics and say he’s sorry. He’s going to do it on Star Wars pretty soon. And he shouldn’t. He did a bang-up job.

Don’t apologize, JJ, don’t!

Vader Gets The S.H.I.T.T.S.

Vader: I have you now.

<squints at the rear of Luke’s X-wing>

Vader: Suspect’s license number is Indigo-November-Charlie-Oscar-Mike Six Five.

<Vader’s screen display>

  • S.H.I.T.T.S. Query #401,839:
  • Name: Skywalker, Luke
  • License issued: Today
  • Flight hours: 0
  • Address: Lars Homestead, Tatooine
  • Status: Rebel traitor – EXECUTE IMMEDIATELY

R2: Man, I haven’t been pulled over in six days. I bet these Imps have the S.H.I.T.T.S.

Luke: What?

R2: Synchronized Hyperwave Imperial Traitor Tracking System. S.H.I.T.T.S

Luke: First you trick me into taking off your restraining bolt, then you get my aunt and uncle killed, and now you’re gonna put me right back in the detention block I just escaped from!

R2: They’re not going to catch us. We’re on a mission from Ben…

Top 11 Problems With the Original Star Wars Trilogy

JJ Abrams and Michael Arndt are working on Episode VII, which is to be filmed in Scotland. There’s two other stand-alone movies in the works and the Disney takeover of Star Wars seems to be fully operational. But let’s revisit some of the not-so-great stuff about the original trilogy, before the fanboys defecate all over the un-released sequels:

1. Palpatine’s motivation does not seem to exist. Napoleon, Alexander, Mussolini, all real life dictators have some kind of goal or interest. Palpatine is just evil and power, Force-twisting his mustache, cackling at his own badness.

2. Ben Kenobi hides on the planet of his nemesis’ birth, keeps his last name, develops a reputation as a ‘wizard,’ and continues dressing as a Jedi (see #3). Sherlock Holmes, master of disguise, he is not.

3. Jedi robes. Look at Owen Lars. Look at Ben Kenobi. Look at farmboy Luke Skywalker. Look at Jawas, for the Maker’s sake. All Tatooine Desert dwellers wear desert robes, right? Except they used Kenobi’s desert dweller disguise as the actual Jedi robes/uniform in all the other movies! Are the Jedi all moisture farmers? Why don’t they have more civilized outfits like Luke did in Episode VI? The world-building suddenly seems really thin, doesn’t it?

4. Luke’s fall to the dark side. I’ve blogged about this before. It just doesn’t make sense.

5. Female fighter pilots. Episode VI was supposed to have them, but they got cut. Every kid in the 1980s wondered why there were no women flying spaceships. If Leia could operate a speeder bike, why couldn’t some of her sisters fly a ship?

6. Metal lightsabers. Jedi are into life force and nature and stuff, but they use the most industrial, ugly contraptions for their primary weapon and trademark symbol. This didn’t occur to me until I saw a Star Wars Clone Wars episode where the Wookiee youngling Gunchi constructs a wooden lightsaber that is actually quite beautiful. Now a Jedi with a lightsaber reminds me of a Druid with a crowbar. Again, the world-building is really thin here.

7. Sith rule of two. What happens if the two Sith on Bothawui find out about another two Sith chapter on Mandalore? Awkward.

8. C-3PO. Annoying, completely useless, serves no purpose. He’s worse than Jar Jar in story terms (other than needless Ewok worship). He’s simply a foil for R2 and an irritant to Han and Chewie.

9. Star Destroyers colliding. How dumb are the bridge crews of both ships? Did the emperor find the dumbest people in the galaxy with British accents to run the Imperial Navy? Yeesh.

10. TIE fighters. Yes, TIE fighters. What purpose do those panels serve? Solar panels? Are they satellites running tiny flight computers? No, they are starfighters. They are simply a ball cockpit with some guns and engines. Which makes little sense. What if the solar panels are just big armor plates? That would be much better. But they’re not.

11. Space slug. How stupid are our heroes to fly into something’s stomach? How implausible is it that a space slug that size lives in vacuum and sustains itself in an asteroid belt? At least the aliens in the cantina had something to justify their existence. The space slug seems like it came out of a bad 1950s sci fi flick. It would have been better for the Falcon to land on the underside of an asteroid and hide.

Still, I love those movies. They transcend their problems.

My Own Star Wars Holiday Special (featuring the Kessellian Spice Tree)

Han prefers a straight fight to all this hiding in the Kessellian spice tree.

Han prefers a straight fight to all this hiding in the Kessellian spice tree.

I am old enough to remember when there was not a lot to the Star Wars universe. No Yoda, Darth Maul, Admiral Thrawn, Galactic Republic, etc. There was just Episode IV, the Star Wars Holiday Special (I saw it when I was 5) and a bizarre Star Wars comic book I saw in a barber shop that featured Han and Luke having an adventure on a wooden sailing ship (I swear).

During those years we had a Xmas tree with multi-colored mini-lights. I loved those lights. They were just like the stars in Star Wars, and the lights in the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, and the console lights in the Death Star laser’s control room. It’s why I like cityscapes at night. Lots of little colored lights are burned into my brain as a sense memory.

Remember, Han said that he made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs (the route is 18 parsecs long – Kessel is a world known only for its spice mines, the premiere Star Wars drug). Xmas tree lights looked like glowing bits of spice to me. I imagined that Kessel was a planet with giant trees (remember, I had seen the SWHS) that grew spice, and smugglers like Han and Chewie snuck in to mining settlements built under the spice tree to pick up the shipment, with Imperials patrolling the area. Compared to the Holiday Special, and that strange comic, this was not even close to being as weird.

(Note: The bubble light in the picture above is a recent addition courtesy of my wife – it was a childhood memory of hers that I had never seen or heard of. But they are kind of cool, like eye droppers of boiling oil. Maybe they are spice boilers?)

Park your freighter under the spice tree to avoid Imperial flyovers

Park your freighter under the spice tree to avoid Imperial flyovers

And that is how Star Wars action figures came to be living in the little ‘landings’ of branches in my parent’s house. In later years, we added G.I. Joes to the mix and even swapped the 3.75″ action figures for space Legos. Space Legos allowed us to build an entire settlement under the tree, plus ships and people. They may be the ultimate in a sci-fi play scenario on a Xmas tree.

The whole time, for years, I was thinking: the (vertical, triangular, organic) spice ‘mines’ of Kessel. I recently recreated this for the benefit of Facebook friends:

Chewie is about to bring this stormtrooper a present upside his helmet

Chewie is about to bring this stormtrooper a present upside his helmet

I realize that this experience probably says a lot about me and how my imagination works. For better or worse.

Top 10 Reasons why Disney Buying Star Wars is a Bad Thing

1. Star Wars is a lemon. Disney overpaid for a past with no future. Yoda has become Mickey Mouse, relegated to cartoon character/national icon. Yes, there is money in the merchandising, the expanded universe, the Legos. The parodies (including the Lego video games I love) have cheapened the franchise though. There’s only so much cultural juice to get from the franchise before it turns into total camp.

2. Tight schedule. Announcing a new movie in two years sounds like total folly. They just laid down $4 billion, and they probably need to show a quick return on investment. Ask Jon Favreau how a 2 year timeframe worked out for Iron Man 2. All they have is a story treatment from George Lucas? Which means they have nothing. A decent Star Wars movie takes years of planning and pre-production. You want to get the first one very, very right. You’ll need a year in post-production, which means you have one year to write, cast, build sets (or CGI the whole thing) and shoot it. It’s going to be a shitshow with that kind of schedule.

3. Expanded Universe. Star Wars has so much canon hanging around it’s neck, from The Old Republic to the Galactic Alliance. The expanded universe has become repetitive and derivative, with the original heroes going through yet another trilogy of crises and character arcs that is like a soap opera/comic book series. At about 40 years out from the Battle of Yavin, a second civil war looms, one Solo child is dead, Chewie is dead, the galaxy is mostly destroyed, and another Solo Jedi is about to fall to the Dark Side and kill Luke’s wife. Or does Disney just dump the entire EU and start fresh? Can they pull off a retcon that big and not alienate hardcore fans? Doubtful.

4. Casting. Even if you can reunite Han, Leia and Luke, will they be cameos or carry the movie? Will they throw in some new characters to ‘appeal to the kids’ like Snips in Clone Wars? If Harrison Ford passes on doing this, (a high likelihood) do you write Han out, make him die years earlier or something? There’s no good solution here, which leads to…

5. Disney is damned either way. Derivative or deviant are the only artistic choices here. Go deviant, risk not being Star Warsy enough and court damnation from the One True Star Wars Religion. Or go derivative and campy, and watch moviegoers yawn at AARP versions of Han, Luke and Leia tossing off in-jokes. Has Disney thought about whether it can cancel Episode IX if VIII bombs?

6. Director. Who can handle a space opera these days? Who has the vision? A huge fan like Kevin Smith, Jon Favreau or JJ Abrams? Someone who isn’t? Someone from LucasFilm? Spielberg? Zemeckis? Pixar? Who do you choose? Who is available like yesterday? And how do you decide how much George Lucas can weigh in on this?

7. Family entertainment? Can Disney do dark? Scruffy-looking spaceports and smugglers? Everything they have done has a squeaky-clean patina to it, from Hannah Montana to the Avengers. They slap fresh coats of paint on everything and bend reality toward the idyllic. The press release was loaded with noise about Star Wars being family entertainment. That is a bad omen.

8. Lucasfilm exodus. I imagine a good chunk of George’s employees were expecting that the reigns of power would stay in-house and many were probably chomping at the bit to take over. Now they get to answer to Disney execs? It’s everything Lucas worked to avoid. When the talent ups and leaves, it could create a downward spiral that will force Disney to totally assimilate LucasFilm into Disney, at which point Star Wars and Playhouse Disney will be run by the same people. Ugh.

9. Video games. Movies and toys may be bigger, but video games are increasingly eating their lunch. Can Disney make that jump? They seem utterly incapable at the moment, unless they license it out. They need something like Batman: Arkham Asylum, not Kingdom Hearts. Adding a Facebook social media game to the Star Wars catalog won’t cut it. I foresee huge development costs for one clunker after another.

10. Holiday Special. There is no guarantee of magic just because it’s Star Wars.