Tag Archives: Star Wars

A semi-spoiler-free take on The Last Jedi

I walked out of Star Wars: The Last Jedi last night grinning ear to ear. It is a fun, epic film. It has so many nods to the characters we know and love. The visuals are stunning, the acting great, the humor is amazing and on point, and yet there’s tragedy as well. I think euphoric might be too strong a word, but it’s in the thesaurus neighborhood.

Then I thought about writing this now-traditional review for the blog. And in the light of day, the flaws show — and in a way that they didn’t for The Force Awakens or Rogue One. I think these are flaws of ambition, because there is a lot going on in The Last Jedi, and Rian Johnson is trying to do things we haven’t seen before. When he succeeds, he does so amazingly well. When he falls short, it can be obvious and distracting.

I don’t think I can post anything without putting in some spoilers here, but if you’ve read up on the film — features, reviews, etc. — then I think you’ll be OK. But if you’re determined to have a spoiler-free zone, stop here and just know that it’s worth your movie-going dollars if you’re a Star Wars fan, and that you’ll have a blast.   Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Geek

Rogue One review: War is hell

Last year, in anticipation of seeing Star Wars return to theaters with The Force Awakens, I reviewed all the Star Wars films. (You can click here to find them.) And I was quite pleased with The Force Awakens; a year later, I can report I’m still pleased as punch whenever I see it again.

So naturally, I was excited about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And the good folks at the Disney-owned Lucasfilm did not disappoint. However, this needs to be said right up front: This is not your typical Star Wars movie.

Last week, I saw more than a few folks on Twitter laughing at reviewers who said Rogue One was the first Star Wars movie to deal with war. “War” is in the title of all seven movies! How could they not be about war?

But I get it now. Rogue One is very much about war. This movie is about suffering, sacrifice, moral gray areas, fighting for a cause, losing and winning and the costs of both. Moreso than any other Star Wars film, Rogue One is a meditation on war and its effects. And when viewed through that lens, it does a pretty damn good job of it.

Spoilers ahead! I don’t feel like parsing my language or writing around certain topics, so I’m gonna just roll with it. It’s not horribly spoileriffic, but if you don’t want Rogue One spoiled, don’t read on.  Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Geek

A spoiler-free take on The Force Awakens

You know, as I sit here and try to gather my thoughts, I’m really taken by just how difficult it is to not attach spoilers to any review or mention of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There was a lot that happened in that film, man, most of it really cool and intriguing.

But since it’s likely many of you haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ll behave myself here and simply talk about what worked for me and what didn’t, as best I can without giving anything away.

First off, let’s get one thing out of the way: The Force Awakens is very much a Star Wars movie, in all the ways you’d hope for. It’s a completely fun ride and well worth your hard-earned cash. I had a blast. My 11-year-old daughter had a blast. It’s a great adventure with action, heart and humor.

It’s Star Wars, in all the ways it should be (and many of the ways the prequels missed completely).

So let’s break it down, author-style, by the elements of story: Setting, character and plot.  Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Geek

Star Wars wayback machine: Return of the Jedi

We’re just a few days away, people. The Force Awakens arrives Thursday night, and I’ll be writing up something on Friday. Just in time for the big event: The wayback machine review/recap/whatever of Return of the Jedi.

Coming on the heels of The Empire Strikes BackJedi suffers from the comparison. We see glimmers of Star Wars‘ future — dry dialogue, shoehorned cuteness — and it’s certainly the weakest of the original trilogy.

But you know what? It’s really not that bad. Sure, you have to put some things aside as you watch, but the things that make Star Wars great are present here, unlike some of the prequel movies. It’s unmistakably Star Wars.

Let’s dive in.  Continue reading


Filed under Geek

Star Wars wayback machine: The Empire Strikes Back

The rewatch of the Star Wars saga — done during my morning elliptical workout — is almost over, and I admit, it’s made the half-hour exercise routine go pretty fast. I’ve enjoyed revisiting these movies, and it’s geared me up nicely for next Thursday’s showing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

In this rewatch, we have the crown jewel of the entire saga: The Empire Strikes Back. Pretty much everything we love about Star Wars is front-and-center here, and this one stands up to the test of time as well as any classic film you can think of. Yes, it’s as good as I remembered.

That said, a few bits stood out as being a touch dated or clunky — but others really seemed to shine even brighter than I realized. Let’s break it down.  Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Geek

Star Wars wayback machine: Star Wars (or A New Hope if you prefer)

I’ve been reviewing each of the Star Wars movies, starting with the prequels, in anticipation of The Force Awakens on Dec. 17. (I got the first showing nearest my town, naturally.) Everything I’ve seen of the new movie has been positive, and so my cautious optimism is firmly in place.

The original Star Wars, also known as Episode IV: A New Hope if you’re a stickler for such things, is a huge part of why I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer today. I think there are definitely parallels between this film and my first book, The Daedalus Incident, and that’s no accident. Like Lucas, I leaned heavily on Campbell in constructing Daedalus; I often called the book a cross between Master and Commander and Star Wars.

I think the success of the first movie had much to do with Campbell’s hero’s journey. There’s a resonance to those myth-cycles that Campbell correctly identified, and we see ourselves in the characters as they embark on the journey — or in other archetypes of the myth-cycle, depending on where we are in life.

So maybe we’re Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia, central to this story. Maybe we’re Han Solo, the loner sidekick who nonetheless heeds the call. Maybe we’re Obi-Wan, providing wisdom before stepping aside to allow others to build further. Or maybe we’re even Vader himself, drowning in our fear and anger and sorrow until we can find a path to redemption.

These were the thoughts in my head as I watched Star Wars for what seemed like the millionth time. I know this movie by heart. In fact, while in my 20s and firmly in my barfly life-stage, several friends and I recreated the entire movie over pints at the pub. We didn’t miss a line. There are few cultural touchstones so firmly rooted in our global community as this one.

But I’m now looking at it with fresh eyes, and asking myself…is it really any good? Does it stand up to the test of time and the grey clouds of cynicism accumulated with age?  Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Geek

Star Wars wayback machine: Revenge of the Sith

It’s the final piece of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and — perhaps unsurprisingly — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels and, if I may be a touch heretical, on a par with Return of the Jedi. It very much echoes what made the original trilogy special, despite having many of the problems that plagued the other prequels.

A large part of that has to do with payoff — we suffered through The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones just to get to that iconic moment when Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker turns to the Dark Side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith. And for the most part, this movie delivers on that.

So let’s start with what Revenge of the Sith got right before we figure out the bits that went wrong.  Continue reading


Filed under Geek

Star Wars wayback machine: Attack of the Clones

Back once again with the Star Wars rewatch in preparation for Episode VII: The Force Awakens. We already tackled The Phantom Menace, so now it’s time for Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

My ding against Phantom Menace was that it was largely superfluous; you could’ve handled Anakin’s introductions to Obi-Wan and Padme in about 15 minutes and built a better movie around that. My problem with Attack of the Clones isn’t that it’s meaningless — it advances both the A-plot (Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side) and B-plot (the rise of the Empire).

My problem is that it has plot holes large enough to drive a Star Destroyer through. Seriously, some of this stuff makes zero sense.

Let’s start with the much-maligned love story between Anakin and Padme. Now, I don’t blame either actor here for what we saw, because Lucas loves his stilted exposition and lengthy declarations of emotion. And having been a lovestruck late-teens, early 20-something, I can actually relate to Anakin’s headspace here, to my great surprise. No, my issue is Padme, as in…what the hell are you thinking?  Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Geek

Star Wars wayback machine: The Phantom Menace

I am very much a Star Wars fan. I saw the very first one in the theater at the tender age of five, and I still remember freaking out as Vader was about to off Kenobi, hands over my face but watching between my fingers. I’ve seen all six films in the theaters, and Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy was awesome. Admittedly, I’ve not kept up with the rest of the EU-now-Legends novels, nor with Clone Wars or Rebels. But I do love my Star Wars.

In fact, I’d venture to say that I wouldn’t be a SF/F writer today if Star Wars hadn’t lit my imagination on fire back in 1977. And yes, I have tickets pre-ordered to see The Force Awakens on Thursday, Dec. 17, at a local theater. It’s on, people. It’s ON.

So to prepare for the return of Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie, I’ve started rewatching all six movies, in episodic order, while I’m huffing and puffing on the elliptical each morning. And I’m going to blog some thoughts about each of them when I’m done. First up, Episode I: The Phantom Menace.   Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Geek