Archive for prequel trilogy

Thanking the Maker

Posted in Opinion, Spotlight with tags , , , , , , on 4 May 2017 by Megan

by guest blogger Michael O’Connor
GeorgeShotFirst.com

A little over a year ago, I started a company with some friends of mine. We were feeling dispirited, frustrated, and annoyed. The Star Wars that we loved was being thrown under the landspeeder. And the man who had created that saga, George Lucas, had been tied to that landspeeder and was being dragged through the mud.

The common consensus was that Star Wars was better without Lucas, that he was a creator hated by his own fans. Except… we didn’t feel that way. We felt like something crucial had been lost, and we were confused why so many fans apparently hated the man who had created this exciting and rewarding saga in the first place.

So we decided to test our loyalty and commitment to the Star Wars of our childhoods and its creator. We started an apparel company and we called it George Shot First.

Our mission was simple: we wanted to offer a positive counterpoint to the “George Lucas is Satan” consensus and see if we couldn’t find some other people out there who might agree with us. We imbued our designs with the same sense of sly humor that we always appreciated in his films, whether it was the Star Wars saga or American Graffiti, Indiana Jones or even Radioland Murders. And we aimed the reticles of our satire at elements of the fandom whose hypocrisy and arrogance had sullied the reputation of our community.

In other words, we wanted to make a statement, and we were crossing our fingers that somebody would listen to it.

We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed by the response. Fans from all over the world picked up the gauntlet that we threw down and proudly proclaimed their admiration and respect for Mr. Lucas. They were as relieved as we were to discover they weren’t alone, that there were others out there who also felt as they did. We may have started this company to make a statement, but in the process, we’d actually managed to build a community.  

Not everyone who joined our merry band had come to their fandom the same as us–some of us were fans of the films, others gravitated to the books, the video games or the graphic novels–but we all realized that without George Lucas, this wonderful galaxy full of stories wouldn’t exist and that both our childhoods and adulthoods would have been all the poorer for it.

For me personally, the works of George Lucas have been vital touchstones in my life. His films have been some of my most reliable guides in helping to understand the world and my place in it. And as it has evolved, so have I; its growth and expansion mirrored my own.

I first discovered Star Wars as a kid in middle school, and I immediately gravitated towards Luke Skywalker. I recognized in him all my yearnings for adventure and purpose, for an escape from the normal and mundane. Luke’s integrity and honesty, his humility and stubborn incorruptibility were traits I aspired to attain. The promise of The Force spoke to me in a way real-world religion never had; the idea of everything being connected as if by invisible strings and we merely needed to reconfigure our brains, to “unlearn” what we had learned, to reach out and pluck those strings. We could play reality like a musical instrument.

In high school and college, I saw the prequels, and in them I recognized Anakin as a new side of my personality emerging during those teenage years. I, like Anakin, felt disrespected, inferior, and frustrated at my own shortcomings and others’ expectations of me. I also saw in Anakin my darker, baser emotions, and realized the danger in giving into them. Anakin’s struggles were my own as I sought connections with others and understanding of a world that was becoming more complicated and frightening. Watching Anakin fail, I saw where I must succeed, where I needed to avoid his pitfalls to overcome my own limitations.

At various times in my life, the Star Wars films have been my most reliable resources for getting through trying times and inspiring me to move forward rather than take the easy way out and remain in one place. And at times, George Lucas’ other films have also spoken to these needs.

In THX-1138 I see my own struggles played out onscreen. Individualism or conformity? Fitting in at the expense of one’s own desires or coping with the dangers, loneliness and isolation inherent in being separate? There are arguments for and against both approaches, and that film has helped me understand where and how I need to find balance.

And then there’s American Graffiti, which always reminds me of the importance of change, risk and ambition. It’s easy to stay in one place, to be complacent and comfortable. But it’s far more rewarding to challenge yourself and strike out for parts unknown. Maybe you’ll fail, but you’ll also learn along the way. Without American Graffiti to inspire me, I’m not sure I would have made some of the risks I’ve made in my life, risks that in hindsight were so integral and so important for my development.

So while I’d like to thank George Lucas on behalf of everyone at George Shot First, I also need to thank him on behalf of myself. His films have both inspired and challenged me; they have excited my senses, stoked my imagination, and yet also forced me to look at myself in the mirror and wonder how I could become a better version of me. His films have sustained me more than any mere entertainment could ever accomplish; his characters, his philosophies, and his ideas have enriched my life in ways too many to even conceive. Without his artistic influence in my life, I honestly shudder to think of the kind of person I might have become.

And finally, I’d like to thank YOU as well. If you’re here reading this, it’s probably because you are also a fan and you might have experienced similar sensations upon being exposed to George Lucas’ work. Without you, we would be alone in the wilderness, yelling to an audience that would not and could not hear us.

It’s so important to continue showing our respect and admiration for the individual whose artistic contributions have made such a difference in so many lives. And if we’re all loud enough, who knows? Maybe he’ll even hear us.

Michael O’Connor is a member of George Shot First, an apparel company dedicated to championing respect and admiration for George Lucas. Please join us by visiting our website (www.georgeshotfirst.com), liking us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/georgeshotfirst)  and following us on Twitter (www.twitter.com/georgeshot1st). You can support our cause by purchasing any t-shirt or hat from our website. Be sure to take advantage of our special May the 4th Sale all day Thursday, May 4th and Friday, May 5th!

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Star Wars’ Holy Month

Posted in Announcements with tags , , , , on 9 May 2016 by Megan

What’s up, Wars Fans? I’ll tell you what’s up — the month of May. Or as I’ve decided to call it, Maul. (Jadeuary, Fettuary, Marr, Aaypril, Maul, see?) The month of all months as far as any self-respecting Star Wars fan is concerned. Yes, yes, there’s that greeting card holiday business with May 4, and if you really want Sitho de Mayo or Revenge of the Sixth or whatever the next two days are, you’re welcome to them.

But there are bigger and better holidays afoot, my friends! Star Wars Day is May 25, the date that gave us Star Wars back in 1977 as well as my personal favorite Return of the Jedi in ’83. May 16 gives us Episode II’s birthday; May 19 is for Episode I and Episode III. Empire Strikes Back gets its day on the 21st. And there’s a cornucopia of Star Wars actors’ birthdays this month, too, not least of all Peter Cushing (May 26) and Christopher Lee (May 27).

George Lucas

And then there’s the patriarch. George Lucas. The literal Maker as far as the Wars is concerned. His birthday is May 14.

Now, I legitimately don’t care what you think of George Lucas. My own feelings and opinions are as complicated as they can be about someone who amounts to a complete stranger who created a thing that takes up roughly 40% of my entire life. I don’t like him, but I respect him. I don’t have a high opinion of him, yet I admire him, his imagination, his creations, his tenacity. This guy was barely older than I am now when he was catapulted to the top of an unforgiving industry. And like me, he seems like someone with severe social anxieties, someone ill-equipped for such massive fame on such an abrupt scale. Yes, I think he let his ego get in the way of smart choices when it came to filming the prequel trilogy — but if I’m honest, I could look at Paradise Lost and say “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” The point is not “how would you have done it” — the point is, “Is what was done great?”

The answer is yes. Yes, it is great. All six Star Wars films are great. The Indiana Jones films and TV series are great. If his other contributions — Willow, Howard the Duck— are not great, they are not terrible, either, but are unfortunate mediocre younger siblings of geniuses who would stand just fine on their own if they weren’t constantly compared to their elders. I’ll level with you: I was far more entertained by Howard the Duck than I was by THX-1138. But here, the point is not “do you like it” — the point is, “Is it great?

And the answer is still, yes! George Lucas’ visions have not shaped one generation — they will shape many. By using Joseph Campbell’s themes on mythology, by combining and rearranging the best that the best filmmakers of his lifetime had to offer, Lucas created something no one ever had nor ever will again create. Space mythology, space opera — a Casablanca of science fiction, where a hundred cliches expertly linked can move us to tears. And the life that George Lucas breathed into it came from something else, from having a heart and passion for the fans. Once in an interview, Lucas drew an analogy of Star Wars being a sort of “trinity,” himself the “father” (in control), the works themselves “the son” (physical form), and the fans being the “holy spirit” that breathes life and vision into the works. On the back of Star Wars Through the Years, there’s a quote from him that he was trying to recreate scifi as he remembered it, those “free and fun” old serials — he achieved it and then some.

Fanaticism, by definition, knows no bounds or control. Despite the negative opinions I do have about George Lucas, I more than freely acknowledge he has not deserved the treatment he’s gotten. Fans essentially appropriated his brainchild and pushed him out; it is burning insult to that injury that Disney has treated his legacy with as much care as they’d treat a bag of garbage. Childish disappointment in films that could never live up to 25 years of mental hyping caused some of the fanbase to behave abusively toward the man they literally owe their entire fanaticism to.

So the stance I would urge people to take is one of fairness: acknowledge that the man, like any human, has innumerable faults and has made bad choices. Guess what, so have you, and at least your faults and bad choices are generally protected by privacy and anonymity, luxuries he has not had. At the same time, acknowledge his greatness: he created something no one else ever could have. He had the vision and the crew to produce this amazing thing that hit the public in the right way at the right time. We owe him for that.

If you love Star Wars, you owe Mr. Lucas your thanks. That’s basic. That’s human decency. You don’t have to love him; you don’t have to pretend he doesn’t have faults. Just acknowledge “Here is a human being who is responsible for creating something I think is so great that I spend most of my life thinking about it.”

And if you’re really hardcore, how about you send those words his way?

See, friends, what I’m introducing in this post is the concept of a new holiday: Thanksgeorging. This holiday is for Star Wars fans to celebrate on the last Thursday of May (the 26th this year). Although I encourage fans to send Mr. Lucas a note for his birthday, which is Saturday, I know that may be pretty short notice for you. So let’s get together, coordinate our efforts, and send Mr. Lucas a thank you note for our new holiday. Here’s a handy stock guide, if you don’t word good — just be sure to adjust it so it fits your personality!

And lastly, a shout-out to my new favorite blog/store: George Shot First. I invite you to dress the part on the first Thanksgeorging Day, and send me a picture of yourself rocking one of these awesome shirts. I’ll be doing a post on May 26 to showcase pictures of your shirts, letters, and anything else you happen to send me that has to do with thanking the Maker!

thanksthreepio

And if you don’t send me anything, I’ll do a much lonelier version of me celebrating my new holiday by myself . . . *cue sad music* So, come on, let’s show George Lucas what his work means to us!

I’m trying to get the word count to 1138. Can you tell? I’m so close and it’s so fitting! More details will follow, but for now — get your shirt, write your letter, send me some pics. George Lucas deserves some thanking. For more, see also this post.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Book

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , on 8 August 2015 by Megan

Day 8 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

I know a week consists of seven days. (I also know the names of those seven days in A Galaxy Far, Far Away.) But first of all, this month started weird on a Saturday and I wanted the challenge to run Sunday-Saturday. And second of all, this is a librarian’s blog and the focus is always going to be on books.

The original challenge didn’t include books, because the SWPAS site focuses exclusively on the films. It’s not a choice I would make, but I’m weird because I can’t/don’t separate the films from the books anyway. There’s no difference in my mind between Cloak of Deception and Attack of the Clones. Deal with it.

That being said — what is my favorite prequel-era book? Well, a prequel-era book has to be one set during the decade the prequels actually cover — books set between 1108-1118. The highest rating I’ve given during that era is four stars and tied between Outbound Flight and Shadow Hunter.

shadowhunter

Honestly, I’m going to go with Shadow Hunter. Michael Reaves’ Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is an underrated favorite I’ve loved since I first read it almost fifteen years ago. I can remember stumbling breathlessly through it, adrenaline and teary eyes only adding to the thrill ride.

In 1999, with Vision of the Future complete, a brand-new Star Wars era had been opened for exploration, and this way my first foray into it. No longer would the pre-ANH years be shrouded in mystery.

This is what happened before The Phantom Menace. This is who and what the phantom menace is. We had only just been shown the Old Republic for the first time, but already, this book ripped away illusions: corruption and weakness, even the Jedi choked by the weeds of hypocrisy and evil. (Yes, the Jedi were evil — they kidnapped children! If that’s not evil, what is?)

Lorn Pavan catapulted to near the top of my favorite Star Wars character lists, a tragic man with a lost son and a grudge against the Jedi. Darth Maul’s quest filled me with horror. And while the end of the book was inevitable, the ride was no less awesome.

I really need to reread this thing.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Ship

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , on 7 August 2015 by Megan

Day 7 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Now, I was simultaneously surprised and yet not surprised to discover that this meant romantic. I still don’t like fangirls, I detest “feels,” and even if The X-Files is what gave us the concept, I really do not like or approve of “shipping.” There actually is a prequel-era relationship I “headcanon,” which I believe is the correct “shipping” terminology, but I’ve already done a post on it. See here for my detailed rave about Shmi-Gon.

But since I don’t believe in romance in any other capacity, we’re going to abandon the challenge-writer’s intention here and move on to far more interesting territory. If you want romance shipping, go read about Shmi-Gon. Because this post . . . this post is about the J-type 327 Nubian royal starship.

Naboo_Royal_Starship

I love this ship. I have been in love with it since the first time I ever saw it, the first time I turned to that page in the Episode I Visual Dictionary and learned all the minute trivia about it.

One of the undeniable highlights of the PT is its glittering design. Things are softer, more organic, more colorful, and filled with light. This ship looks like it congealed out of mercury, and remains surely one of the most beautiful starships in scifi. I used to imagine having one called The Seven Sins, because how prosaic is it the Naboo didn’t name their royal starship? They did polish it by hand, though.

NabooRoyalStarshipTatooine

The first I saw of the ship was in the Visual Dictionary I carried around with me for months in 1999, until it fell apart. I also eventually picked up the Complete Cross Sections and memorized the ship’s schematics in that.

Spaceships have rarely terribly interested me; they remind me of that “science” part of science fiction that I find boring and frustrating. But this elegant bit of quicksilver had my mind at once. It’s exactly what I could see myself traveling in if I lived then. Aerodynamic, sleek, beautiful, yes, it’s very flashy, but at the same time, it’s extremely practical.

I love everything about it, and it’s only one of the many reasons Episode I is such an awesome movie. So there!

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Planet

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , on 6 August 2015 by Megan

Day 6 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Well, I sort of said Coruscant yesterday, so I’ll try to come up with something else. I’ll confess that I have never liked Naboo. Yeah, never liked it. Tatooine isn’t a PT planet. Kamino or Geonosis? Nope, I’ve got it.

Utapau and Kamino are certainly unique among the offerings of the PT: Naboo is just Italy in space; Tatooine we’ve seen before, and Geonosis is just red Tatooine. But these two offered the kind of CGI-enhanced vistas we long for in science fiction–vistas you won’t see from earth. One planet is nothing but ocean and the other is nothing but savanna. And while I love the Kaminoans as a race far more than I like either of the sentient species on Utapau, the planet Utapau really attracts me.

Even as I sat in the theater for the midnight showing of Episode III the first time, my first thought on seeing the savage beauty of Utapau was, This is a science fiction planet. This epitomizes what an imaginary scifi world should be.

An Outer Rim world with water making up only .9% of the planet’s surface, Utapau has nine moons, an arid temperate climate, and a 27-hour day. This planet covered with cave networks and sinkholes made an attractive hiding place for the Separatist General Grevious–and in 2005, I know I wasn’t the only one reminded of the ongoing search for Osama bin Ladin in the caves of Afghanistan. I’m sure this wasn’t accidental on Lucas’ part, either, though I can’t give you a citation of him saying Obi-Wan’s triumph over Grevious was meant to inspire Americans in the midst of a decade-long wait for justice.

The Utapauan visuals are dazzling, and I’m never going to forgive Disney for denying me the chance to see it in the retro-3D that made Episode I a fresh thrill. I felt as giddy as on a roller coaster watching Boga dive over the edge of the cliff just on a normal cinema screen! How much more incredible would it have been? (sad sigh)

Speaking of Boga, where would any discussion of this awesome planet be if I didn’t mention the amazingness that is the varactyl?

 

Not only does this hero remind me of a floppy Newfoundland dog we had when I was a teen — which we lost to cancer the same year as Episode III, actually — but she helps show us a side of the Jedi that is under-represented: connection with all life. Obi-Wan says in E4 that the Force binds all living things together and Luke repeatedly uses this power to dispel predators from flesh-eating grubs to mutant cthons and one yeti-like creature in The New Rebellion. Obi-Wan’s preference for a live animal mount over a mechanical speeder recalls Tolkien’s emphasis on nature over industry, and the book and a deleted scene further emphasize that Obi-Wan chose Boga specifically because of the connection between them.

Also, the cooing and yipping is another Ben Burtt masterpiece and I’m kind of really super excited to get a varactyl mount of my own in The Old Republic!

So, yes, all that cool stuff combined makes Utapau my favorite planet of the prequels, though Kamino is a narrow contender because I like Kaminoans and they also have flying giant manta rays.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Scene

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , , on 5 August 2015 by Megan

Day 5 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

I mentioned yesterday that Episode II wasn’t even “in the running” for favorite Prequel film, so it seems appropriate that I grant it my favorite scene.

There are so many things about this scene to love. First of all, like its twin Episode V, Episode II is weak on a lot of things from dialogue to continuity–but, like its twin Episode V, it never fails to disappoint on a visual. The lines, colors, framing are all top-notch.

Ever since I read about Luke Skywalker standing on the roof of the palace drinking hot chocolate and watching the traffic below, I have longed to see Coruscant. As the most significant planet birthed in the EU and fleshed out on screen, it should hold a special place in any fan’s heart, and certainly mine. I remember there was a preview pack of Episode I cards in my Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game–the design on the back of the cards was the Coruscant skyline and I used to stare at it in rapt attention.

I pored with the same attention over McQuarrie’s concept art in The Illustrated Star Wars Universe. What was life like in this city-planet, so unlike anything in my experience, the teenage girl living in rural Ohio, the nearest town consisting of 11,000 people twelve miles away? The Episode I glimpses were so brief, they were little more than tantalizing. I didn’t get to really find out until Episode II in 2002, four years after my first piqued curiosity.

From the speeder chase that dives from the skyline to the nightclubs, to the shipping lanes, Senate hall, and corridors of the Jedi Temple, Episode II delivers Coruscant visuals like no other. And of all those scenes, the best, the most amazing is Dex’s Diner in the commerce district (CoCo Town).

I’ve mentioned this a time or two before (1)(2). I mean, come on, I even baked a cake in honor of this scene! So how could I answer any differently?

In a deleted scene (and in the book), we see the Temple archive droids let Obi-Wan down. They can’t give him the information he needs, so, like his mentor Qui-Gon, he turns to the streets, to the common folk outside the Temple who know what’s what. He has a long relationship with this place, as Qui-Gon used to come here for help when it was Didi’s diner. As Qui-Gon had a non-Jedi confidant and assistant in Didi, Obi-Wan has Dexter.

I really love Dexter (as the previously linked post indicates). He’s a great character who just radiates cool backstory. This scene is one of the rare places of Episode II where the dialogue shines: all showing, no telling. There’s the added bonus that Dexter reminds me of the first college professor I ever had, an amazing naturalist who died in 2005 but whose class Local Flora changed my life. I may be importing a lot of Jaworski’s personality onto Dex, but they both had encyclopedic knowledge of anything you could ask about and an interesting story  to go along with. They also both preferred a wardrobe of holey shirts and baggy pants, though Jaworski’s shirts were black — seriously, Dex, it hides the dirt better! Get a clue ;)

So, in short, while there’s a lot in E2 I’ll fast forward out of frustration or boredom, this is a scene I could watch several times in a row and undoubtedly find something new and interesting every time. I love it.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Film

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , on 4 August 2015 by Megan

Day 4 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Well, you know this. There’s only three of them. And as much as I love Episode I, Episode III still claims the title. (Sorry, II is not and has never been in the running.)

Kenobi_skywalker_duel

I don’t know what to say. It’s barely been over a year since I posted about “Favorite PT Movie.” What can I tell you?

Most anticipated film of my life, check.

Most epic lightsaber duel ever committed to film, check.

Most hilarious Chinese bootleg? Double check . . .

11a

I don’t love Episode III the most because it has the least sketchy material of the PT. Actually, it has some of the stuff I hate most — for having the most lightsaber duels of any of the six films, most of those don’t count because either people who should be stunning duelists get taken out like punks, or they’re visually absurd Yoda stupidity.

It’s all about subtext. Episode III is a great object lesson for why “show, don’t tell” is important, because an aging George Lucas became all about telling instead of showing. “We’re best friends,” says Obi-Wan. “The Sith are bad!” says the Council. “I don’t want you to die,” says Anakin. Nothing in the film backs up the statements; you have to import it on your own. But I like importing things on my own.

Episode III made A New Hope worth watching. Right before going to see E3 at midnight, I watched I and II back to back. The next day, I watched A New Hope and actually saw it for the first time. Episode III came out just over eight years since I first saw ANH, but with the context of III, I suddenly noticed every long look, every hesitant pause, every flicker in the eyes of Obi-Wan, Owen, Beru. I’m with Mark Hamill: I don’t know how Alec Guinness was able to do that, knowing less than we know now, but it was masterful.

ANH_still2

Visually stunning, Episode III is almost so beautiful, I can’t stand it. That sweeping view of the Battle of Coruscant is etched on my memory. The blaze of blue sabers against red lava was straight out of the dreams I’d been having for eight years. Anakin, matured and handsome after three years of war, is a tormented creature you want to pull out of the cage before he’s destroyed by people who only pretend to be friends so they can use him.

3ep3_01

And Obi-Wan is a warhorse, a general, but one so blinded and in thrall to the Jedi Council that he can’t see the big picture, can’t see the threads of deceit and betrayal from both Jedi and Sith.

The whole thing is heartbreakingly Greek tragedy. It’s the perfect center to the saga, and well deserves its place as my #2 favorite film of all time.