Tag Archives: Star Wars

A long time ago, in a courtroom far far away…..

Well, it’s done. The sci-fi legend of our generation is now complete. Our parents had Dr. Strangeglove and 1984. Their parents were transfixed by H. G. Wells. The generation before that had Jules Verne. And we got Star Wars….

Title: Star Wars on Trial: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Debate the Most Popular Science Fiction Films of All Time
Editors: David Brin, Matthew Woodring Stover
Year: 2006
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Love it or hate it, most people would have to agree that the Star Wars saga is undoubtedly one of the greatest phenomena of modern pop culture. Of course, with popularity comes criticism, and Star Wars is no exception. Is it mythically rooted drama with something to say, or merely brainless eye candy? Is it science fiction or fantasy? Are the spinoff novels a good thing or an abomination? What about the politics, philosophy, and ethics of that galaxy far far away? These and many other questions have been discussed by fans and critics for years, and are discussed yet again in the present volume. Part of the Smart Pop book series from BenBella Books, Star Wars on Trial looks at this cinematic juggernaut from every possible angle (including a few unexpected ones). The book is laid out as a courtroom drama, with David Brin as the prosecutor, Matthew Woodring Stover as the defense, and a droid judge to maintain order. There are also essays or “briefs” submitted by many other SF/F authors on both sides of the debate (see the tags for a full list). This courtroom format comes across as silly sometimes (all right, most of the time), but the book does a good job of bringing a wide variety of opinions to bear on the subject.

The main topics for debate are presented as a series of charges, with each charge then being addressed by both prosecution and defense. The charges are as follows:

1. The politics of Star Wars are anti-democratic and elitist.
2. While claiming mythic significance, Star Wars portrays no admirable religious or ethical belies.
3. Star Wars novels are poor substitutes for real science fiction and are driving real sf off the shelves.
4. Science fiction filmmaking has been reduced by Star Wars to poorly written special effects exravaganzas.
5. Star Wars has dumbed down the perception of science fiction in the popular imagination.
6. Star Wars pretends to be science fiction, but is really fantasy.
7. Women in Star Wars are portrayed as fundamentally weak.
8. The plot holes and logical gaps in Star Wars make it ill-suited for an intelligent viewer.

If those accusations sound overly negative, let me put your mind at ease by saying this book is not merely an exercise in Star Wars bashing. Brin and his supporters do come on strong and put the screws to George Lucas and his creation (and rightly so, I think). But on the other hand, Stover and his defense team manage to hold their ground quite admirably. In fact, I would venture to say that most readers who begin reading this book with a preconceived bias, either for or against these movies, will likely come away with the feeling that things aren’t quite as simple or clear-cut as they thought. Many good points are made on both sides of the debate, some that I had never considered before. I, for one, now have a better view of both the flaws and the strengths of this film series (I think there are many of both), and for that reason it was well worth reading.

Recent games played — quick reviews

swforcefracture

The Force Unleashed had been my most anticipated game of the year, but sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations. At least it has an appropriate title, for in this game the Force is indeed unleashed, and unleashed big time — so much that it’s actually ridiculous. Take all the power of all the Jedi in all the Star Wars movies, add it all together, and you get an idea of what you can do here. So Yoda can lift an X-wing out of the swamp? He’s an amateur. YOU can rip a freakin’ star destroyer out of the sky, and barely break a sweat doing it! Tie fighters? Swat them away like flies. You can throw around so much lightning the Emperor would be envious. Your Force powers are so strong, you can pretty much get through the game without using your lightsaber at all. And you’re just an apprentice? What happens when you’re actually a Sith master, I wonder?

The story is rather lackluster and muddled. There’s no role-playing aspect to it, no moral choices to be made, no different paths to take (except for one minor choice near the end). You’re stuck playing the character the game gives you, doing the things the games wants you to do, sitting through the boring cut scenes trying to figure out what’s going on. You’re forced into this double/triple agent kind of arrangement, never knowing for sure if deep down inside you’re really evil or not. And the characters are flat and unimpressive, especially the main character, who is just some average-looking human guy with no unique presence at all. I feel the designers could have put in a little effort here, to give us someone more interesting, a character as compelling as Darth Maul for instance. The Jedi you have to fight are similarly unimpressive — no wisdom to impart, no witty dialogue, no evidence of their vastly greater experience with the Force, but simply opponents, just there to be killed.

The Force powers are fun, but altogether unbelievable and not consistent with everything else we know about the Star Wars universe. The graphics are good, but nothing spectacular. The voice-acting is poor. The combat system is adequate; the basics are easy enough to learn, but all the extra “combos” involve overly complex sequences of button-pushing, making them just about useless. Of course that hardly matters, because you can get through the game just by blasting those Force powers constantly.

There have been previous Star Wars games that were better than this one. Better in terms of role-playing, in terms of story, and in terms of having a more balanced and reasonable approach to the Force. I don’t know, maybe I’m strange, but I feel that games should get better as the years go by. There’s still not a Star Wars game better than Jedi Outcast, and hell, that was released six years ago. The Knights of the Old Republic games also put this one to shame.

Fracture is also disappointing in several ways. There’s a superficial veneer of science fiction, but it’s used as nothing more than a cheap background. Basically this game is a shooter largely modeled on (read: ripped off from) Halo. In fact, much of the game feels almost exactly like Halo, but without Halo’s sense of story and drama. There’s an added twist with the ground deformation technology: you are able to use the ground around you, raising it or lowering it to suit your needs (for cover, or to reach a ledge, or whatever). That’s kinda cool, but not really interesting enough to save the game from mediocrity.
It’s a satisfying, if unoriginal, combat experience, but that’s all this game has going for it. Maybe my standards are just too high, but I think there should be something more than that.