Thursday, August 20, 2009

Writing Update (8/20/09)

Sorry for the lack of updating. First draft of the first issue of my first comic script is done, and I'm putting all my energy into it.

Be back in a day or two.

Monday, August 17, 2009

District 9 (Day One)

First off, District 9 was made for 30 million dollars. Some people have gone as far as to say the film was made for only 30 million dollars. Personally, I want to bitch slap anyone who attaches an adjective to that sum that makes it sound like 30 million dollars isn't a shitload of money.

Why? Because 30 million dollars is a shitload of money. Once again, if you disagree, the bitch slap queue forms to your left.

Movies cost too much to make these days. It's that simple. You want to know why you're paying ten dollars for a movie ticket? You want to know why so many creative decisions are made by Hollywood suits instead of writers and directors? You want to know why so many studio films are becoming even more bland, formulaic, pandering wastes of time than ever? It's because even a movie like Funny People costs $75 million to make these days.

I've taken ten movies, big event films, from the past thirty years - since the original Star Wars, which helped usher in the summer blockbuster, as it were - and used an inflation calculator to show what they would cost to make in 2008, the year District 9 went into production. These estimates were made using wikipedia...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Half-Life Sale!

Absolutely big - huge - sale on the Half-Life games over at Steam. If you haven't played them all yet, buy them, download them, and play them - before I have to disown you on a matter of principle.

Of course, I just bought Half-Life 2: Episode Two on the PC, which means I now own all of the Orange Box - save the PC version of Portal - on two different I am, in fact, that kind of fan. But I'm still passionate on the subject and happen to take great pleasure in disowning people on a regular basis, so I would download those games right now...if you want to stay on my good side.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Batman: Arkham Asylum (Demo)

First off, thanks for sticking with me through four days of Star Wars ranting, which probably ran about four days longer than it should.

Now on to the Arkham Asylum Demo...

The demo lasts about twenty minutes, but that was enough time to impress me. Immediately after finishing the demo, I went to my computer and pre-ordered it on Amazon, instead of hoping that Gamefly would promptly send me a virgin or near-virgin copy after its release.

The demo isn't extraordinary, but it's solid and competent. That may sound like I'm damning it with faint praise - but a comic tie-in game with solid controls, that is actually, you know, fun, is a rare beast. And I can't say enough good things about the person who made sure to get the voice talent from Batman: The Animated Series.

The controls are simple, intuitive. Batman's attack combos look awesome, though it can feel like the game is doing most of the fighting for you. Of course, this is the game's tutorial level, and not a good measure for how the fighting system will handle as the game gets going. And someone finally got the grappling hook right, and combined with effective stealth tactics, the game creates a truly authentic Batman experience.

Not a big fan of the game's art design, though. The characters look like they were designed by a fourteen year-old. OK...a very talented fourteen year-old, but still a kid who could listen to Pretty Hate Machine all day long while designing Batman-themed cosplay outfits for his friends that could successfully pull double duty at a rave later that night. Harley Quinn doesn't look scary, but I find the notion that someone thought all those ridiculous leather straps looked cool very troubling, indeed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars (Part IV)

...Star Trek, which between five TV shows, ten movies, and more books than one could count, almost killed itself with overexposure, bloated continuity, and franchise fatigue. No matter what you thought about the new Star Trek movie, I think we can all agree that it was time to wipe the slate clean and start over.

There are simple ways of fixing the discrepinces between the EU and the "official" Lucas stories. The easiest way to fix this would be to seperate the Star Wars stories in print and the Star Wars stories told through moving images into two similar but mutually exclusive universes. This isn't a perfect solution: it would certainly confuse casual fans - but casual fans aren't the ones reading the books these days. But it would make all the continuity problems and ridiculous retcons a thing of the past. This would give the EU writers - especially writers like Traviss, who created a whole culture and numerous memorable characters - the room to create their own part of the Star Wars universe, without fear that years of hard work would be rendered mute, even obsolete once a story written or sponsored by Lucas goes into production.

The other solution, which would upset hardcore fans, is to greatly reduce the amount of Expanded Universe content produced, or to steer EU writers towards The Old Republic or Legacy eras, settings solely created by EU authors and managed by the EU editors.

Either way, Star Wars needs to replace quantity with quality. To produce less stories, stories that should be original, exciting, and accessible to both casual and hardcore fans, that would form a memorable, cohesive universe. I don't think Star Wars is in as much trouble currently as Trek during the Voyager/Enterprise years, but if the live action show doesn't deliver, both in terms of quality and accessibility, then this franchise will truly be in trouble of collapsing in on itself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars (Part III)

(First off, the link above - glad to see I'm not the only one with this opinion.)

...a publishing event with the Thrawn trilogy, one Star Wars novel a year, quickly became an onslaught of books, comics, videogames, and now TV shows. Some of these stories have been good, most of them decent, and a handful of them appallingly bad (Kevin J. Anderson, I'm looking in your general direction) - but for some reason, someone thought that these hundreds of stories by dozens of authors across multiple forms of media should all coexist together. That should all be (cue sinister music).

This would've been all well and good, if it hadn't quickly become clear that George Lucas wasn't done with Star Wars. I'm not a huge follower of the EU (Star Wars should end with Return of the Jedi - and it is a happy ending), but I know a good portion of the novels written before The Phantom Menace's release have been negated by the prequel trilogy - even Timothy Zahn's Thrawn novels. And as we see with Karen Traviss's departure from Star Wars, it's a problem that's only getting worse, now that there's a weekly TV show set during The Clone Wars, with another TV show, set during the period between Episodes III and IV, on the way.

After 1999, I thought we'd see a much firmer hand by Lucas and his editors in regards to the tie-in books, especially those set in the prequel trilogy: fewer books, published farther apart, with more attention paid to producing a cohesive universe.

But the release schedule for Star Wars stories - especially the novels - has only increased in this decade, and the canon has grown bloated, convoluted, and often inaccessible to casual fans. It's like Stars Wars is going down the road as...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars (Part II)

...moxie. To use a now classic Star Wars analogy, her clones shot first - a lot. Nor did she mind giving her characters rough edges or flaws, even the Jedi. I didn't realize until looking at the forums linked above, but her take - and it truly was her take - on Star Wars produced very strong reactions out of fans, both positive and negative. But to me, getting a strong emotional reaction out of readers means that she was doing something right. Of course, at the same time, she's the lady that killed Mara Jade (whether it was her idea or not, she was the messenger - and, baby, did people ever shoot the messenger on that one), but the less said about the Legacy of the Force series, the better.

I don't want to comment too much on her reasons for leaving, which seems to be that her version of Mando culture and/or Boba Fett is about to be completely negated by one - if not both - of the TV shows. Not having all the facts, I'm going to steer clear of any opinions or blame on that matter.

But Traviss's depature shows a real problem with Star Wars these days, which is no one person's fault, but is something that needs to be addressed. I'm a passionate fan, but I'm also a fan with perspective. The blame doesn't fall on her shoulders, or The Clone Wars writers, or even George Lucas. The problem is simply that there has been too much material produced since Timothy Zahn took the first step in creating what is now called the Expanded Universe back in the early 90's.

What started as...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Karen Traviss Retiring from Star Wars

This, my friends, is a real shame.

As someone who reads tie-in novels as a guilty pleasure, I never expect much from them. I don't think anyone does. Fans love a movie, a comic, a game and they just want more of the same. Karen Traviss's tenure with Star Wars was one of the rare times that fans actually got more out of a tie-in series, and not just more of the same.

As I've said before on this site, Traviss brought both teeth and heart back to Star Wars. I like the prequels - especially Sith - but there's no denying that it's hard to care about anyone in those movies, save Obi-Wan and Yoda. And Lucas left a lot of half-formed ideas and dangling plot threads left either undeveloped or unresolved. His inability to develop both the flaws in the Jedi Order and the identity (or the lack thereof) of the clones greatly reduced the emotional impact of the prequel trilogy.

Traviss took those lingering threads and ran with them, to great effect. And, man, does she have...