Sunday, 16 August 2015

Are We Approaching Star Wars Overkill?


Star Wars Land is coming to a Galaxy Not So Far Away. This announcement at the D23 Expo is just the latest of many since Disney bought Lucasfilm and got on with fixing the Star Wars universe.

Disney shook up the canon to prepare the way for a terrifying quantity of new media. We've got Star Wars Rebels, the new trilogy that starts with The Force Awakens, some amazing new games, new books and several new comic lines. Star Wars has landed in Disney stores and has an increased presence in Disney parks. And that is on top of all the usual marketing and tie-ins that usually pre-empt a Star Wars movie release.

The pieces have always been there (the books especially!) but Disney has brought such a laser-sharp focus that it has caused my other half to ask me last night "Isn't there a danger they'll kill this franchise via overload?"

Is there a risk of that? I'm of an age that I've seen the Shadows of the Empire, Special Edition cinematic release and Prequel hypes come and go. Star Wars books have been published at an ever faster pace over that period. The list of game and comic releases during this period is just huge. Star Wars is, I would say, even more "mainstream" than it was before the Prequels. And so I think the appetite for Star Wars content is just that much higher than it has been before.

I think Disney have, for the time being, a license to print money. Jurassic World (a movie whose story was basic at best) has flourished at the cinema based on a strong franchise and lots of fans reliving their childhood (and making their kids live through their mid-life crisis). Well Star Wars (thanks to being released over 25 years) gets even more of that nostalgic benefit on top of having one of the strongest media brands in history.

Which leads me on to my most important point... MORE STAR WARS STUFF NEEDED!!!! TAKE MY MONEY DISNEY!!!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Jurassic World... Worth The Wait???

Here be spoilers...

I've been waiting for Jurassic World to come out for so long that it is barely worth linking to the obligatory yearly posts pining for it.

Let me put you in the picture... I was 9 years old when the hype around the imminent release of Jurassic Park (the movie) began. By the time I went to see it I had already devoured Michael Crichton's book (total 9 year old bookworm) and collected the entire Jurassic Park card collection. Sticker books, quilt covers, toys and comics were soon littering my room all covered in the red and black logo. I LOVED Jurassic Park.

So I went into Jurassic World with overly high expectations. They were not met. This movie seemed to lack a heart and, worse, at times lacked any sort of danger to the characters that might make it a little more thrilling.

Was it a bad movie? Hell no. Beautifully shot, with Chris Pratt putting in a sterling (and hunky) performance as Owen the raptor keeper, it was pretty epic. There were thrills, there were dinosaurs and there were nods to the original (especially awesome one near the end involving a red flare!).



But the negatives were there a plenty. A very thin storyline. A disjointed "In peril, not in peril, in peril, not in peril" approach to our main characters meant you didn't really feel they were in much danger (though this approach did work pretty well in Jurassic Park III I admit). The character of Henry Wu was way over-used considering how bland he was. The villain was so "villain by numbers" that when he inevitably died it was a bit "Meh". The kids "journey" to "brotherly love" was laid on way too thick.

There were some excellent moments though. When the velociraptors head off with Owen to hunt the I. Rex. When they suddenly and unexpectantly turn against him. When the T-Rex (somewhat inevitably, I actually assumed this was how things would play out) arrives on the scene and saves the day (a totally fan-wank moment to "correct" the supposed wrong of Spinosaurus besting T-Rex in JPIII). But it was still an excellent scene.

So a mixed bag. A good movie. Obviously it was never going to capture the magic of Jurassic Park but I'd argue Jurassic Park III was also superior to Jurassic World. I did get myself a Jurassic World cup so all was not lost (and Lego Jurassic World is AMAZING)!!!

Given there were only about 10 people in the entire cinema, I'm concerned there may not be a sequel... but let's hope there is a second chance!!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Disney: Bringing The Franchises We Love To Heel

Star Wars canon had become unbearably bloated. We need look no further than Jaxxon for a prime example of said bloat (even if he was a very early one!). 

I loved the Expanded Universe. But the Galaxy had become too full and too busy. There was little space left for a fresh perspective. At least in Star Wars you could go out of the original timeframe to create new epics like the Star Wars: Legacy comics. Still, Disney's decision to cut the fat and do away with anything outside the movies and Clone Wars will do for Star Wars what a reboot has done for Star Trek: create exciting new possibilities for stories (and money making opportunities for Disney too, I'm not forgetting that... everyone wins!). 

And now it would seem the same "refresher" is coming to the Marvel Universe. With Secret Wars Disney is "ending the Marvel Universe". Again, like with Star Wars, it doesn't appear to be a "reboot". Instead it looks like a re-jigging of overly complicated canon (in this case Marvel's thousands of different realities) into a shape that better pleases the investors (and hopefully new fans too). 

With today's major announcement that Marvel will get more oversight of Sony's Spider-Man franchise (and have it form a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) I think it likely the same clear-cut vision is focussing policy there too. Given Marvel's complex fictional universe and its almost as complex licensing agreements in real life, Disney is taking it slow but I think it is getting on with the job of cleaning house in order to allow fresh ideas to thrive. You have to prune the weeds after all before something new can grow. 

I've got two predictions: 

1) Fox will be under pressure to follow Sony's lead and bring the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That'd need to happen after X-Men: Apocalypse and the new Fantastic Four movie but as long as Fantastic Four's movie doesn't contradict anything in the MCU and once X-Men: Apocalypse closes off the second X-Men trilogy it could be easily achieved. 

2) The Marvel Universe will be brought ever closer in line with the MCU and I think there will be a new "Ultimate" like line of comics that exist within that universe. 

All this tidying up suits me fine. I look forward to the next set of adventures... 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Star Wars: Legacy, A Fitting End To The Expanded Universe


I've finally finished an extended marathon reading of all the Star Wars: Legacy comics. Set over a hundred years after Return of the Jedi, this is the story of a Second Imperial Civil War. The heirs to the Rebels are now on the run once again as a new Sith Lord reigns over a revived Empire. The only power that can challenge it? Another version of the Empire!

In Volume 1 we meet a descendant of Luke Skywalker, Cade, who is a smuggler and a rogue. More a Force sensitive Han Solo than a Jedi Knight,  Cade and his two smuggler associates are dragged unwilling deeper and deeper into galactic politics and battles against the Sith Empire.

The first volume of Legacy is full of characters, "a cast of thousands" is only just slightly exaggerating. Whilst this can make the narrative seem disjointed in a marathon read, it also captures the epic scale of Lucas' "Galaxy". One issue you'll find yourself on the Mon Calamari homeworld Dac watching an Imperial Knight desperately fight to save a doomed race, the next you are on Bastion, or in the Hidden Temple, or... well just take my word for it... this is the sequel you are looking for.

Epic battles, romance, betrayal, R2 D2.... this comic had everything you could want from a Star Wars product and still managed to feel like something completely different. The Sith make Emperor Palpatine look civilised. Among them are some of the best villains to ever grace the pages of a Star Wars comic.

Volume 1 ends on a deeply unsatisfying note in issue 50 (hint: nothing gets resolved) but thankfully a 6 part mini-series "Star Wars Legacy: War" brings the story of the Second Imperial Civil War to an end though very much leaves the story open (with Sith still spread across the Galaxy) for a return.



In 2013 Star Wars: Legacy was revived with Volume 2. However this time we are following Ania Solo (yes a descendant of Han and Leia) and this is quite a different beast to the first series. Here we go small-scale, focussed on a small group of characters in a tightly written story. Ania soon gets a very interesting set of friends (a Mon Calamari engineer, an assassin droid, an Imperial Knight and a devoted little Imperial Comm Droid) and an even more interesting set of opponents (the forces of the Empress and a new Darth lord seeking to put an end to the One Sith order).

For all of Volume 1's epicness, Volume 2 actually feels like a better book. You will come to like Ania and her crew. Though the ending feels rushed (possibly through necessity given the ending of Dark Horse's two decade long Star Wars license) the series wraps up all the Legacy story arcs and brings the Galaxy to a more hopeful place than its been in since before the events of A Phantom Menace. Which is rather a nice place for it to end considering that the last issue was one of the last entries into the Expanded Universe before the new Canon came into being. The Expanded Universe now lives on as "Legends" freeing up some story space for Disney's renewed Star Wars franchise. Whilst this is great for the future, it does feel somewhat sad to say goodbye to the characters and Galaxy who've entertained over the last couple of decades...

On to watching a new story now unfold...

 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

So January 2015, What Goodies Have You Got For Me?

Project Almanac



This looks like it might be interesting. I HATE "found footage" movies generally (the last movie I saw in 2014 was unfortunately Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, you can never get that time back) but this one is about time travel (and the butterfly effect) which is something that generally gets me excited. The first review doesn't seem all that bad (for a found footage movie!). I'll definitely check this out as soon as possible.

12 Monkeys

Mmm... more time travel. Based on fact it is a Syfy series I'm unsure about whether it'll be any good or not but its at least a welcome addition to genre TV. I'm looking forward to trying this out.

Star Wars 


A new comics era begins as the now Disney owned Star Wars returns to the now Disney owned Marvel. Yes I was sad to see Dark Horse stop publishing Star Wars but I'm pleased to see a new, canon approved, comic with all-new adventures for our favourite rebels. Who knows where it might take us and what parts of the Galaxy we might get to see. Excited!! Out January 14th. 

Uncanny Avengers


Rick Remender is up there with Scott Snyder as one of my current favourite comic writers. Uncanny Avengers is getting relaunched in January and I can't wait to see what fun (for which see terribly traumatic moments) he has in store for us with this new team. Plus.. .Rogue. :) 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Exciting Geeky Stuff Ahead In 2015

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting year for my inner-geek (Jae Fact: I'm 75% inner-geek). Thought I'd take a look at what is upcoming.

Movies


Jupiter Ascending


The Matrix was THE sci-fi event of my teens. The Wachowskis are returning to original movie sci-fi and regardless of whether it turns out to be any good I have to applaud any attempt at a non-sequel, non-novel adaption, non-superhero take on the genre. The trailer makes it look rather epic.



Jurassic World 


How long have we waited for this? FOREVER. I cannot begin to express how eager I am to see this. I was an absolutely Jurassic Park FREAK when I was 10 and I will attempt to out FREAK 10 year old Jae this time too. Plus... Chris Pratt is HOT.



Star Wars: The Force Awakens 


I own the Star Wars Encyclopaedia. I own vehicle guides, novels, comics and I even give the prequel trilogy a get out of jail free card. I'm that sort of Star Wars fan. I am sooooooo excited to get a new Star Wars movie. :)


So Many Marvel Movies 


10 years ago could you imagine Marvel releasing so many movies of such high quality in such a short space of time? Now we are just spoilt for choice! From the Marvel Cinematic Universe we have Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man upcoming with Age of Ultron looking absolutely fantastic.

Fox is also treating us to a reboot of Fantastic Four, something it very much needed (Jae Fact: Jae once disrupted filming on Rise of the Silver Surfer when he insisted on sticking to his normal walk to work filming or no filming. They weren't amused). I hope it won't be disappointing.



Terminator Genisys


Terminator canon is becoming very tricky, and the number of actors playing certain roles is starting to get a bit silly BUT Arnold Schwarzenegger is back and Terminator remains a foundational franchise in my rise to geekhood. I'm interested to see if some of the coolness of the first two movies can be salvaged and restored.



London Has Fallen


Olympus Has Fallen (along with White House Down) was my "I shouldn't really like it but I do" breakout movie of 2013. So its sequel set in London is something I'll be keen to keep a close eye on. 

Television 


Westworld 

I'm just intrigued as to how they are going to evolve this story into a TV series. Second Michael Crichton property to pique my interest in 2015, his legacy lives on at least!

More Marvel TV 

Marvel is taking over the world. In 2015 Agent Carter and Daredevil join Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D in representing the MCU on the small screen. Daredevil is the first of the Netflix series which will hopefully expand the MCU in interesting ways. 

Parks and Recreation 

Parks and Recreation is coming to an end. Sad times. It is an acquired taste but it is one that I actually did acquire. Wonderful show, great performances and Chris Pratt. Mmm... 


Comics 


Marvel

A new era in Star Wars awaits us as Lucasfilm's new sister company, Marvel, takes over Star Wars comics from Dark Horse. 


With the Expanded Universe now a thing of the past, we'll have to see where Disney's more canon-friendly approach takes us. But my pull-list is going to be heaving!

In other news... Spider-Man 2099 returns to the 2099 universe... yet another look back to young Jae's favourite things.

DC


Hmm... DC's New 52 (something that re-ignited a long dormant love of comics in me) has turned sour and seems to lack direction (with the honourary exception of some comics like Snyder's Batman). I will keep an eye on DC's April 2015 "Convergence" event to see if the outcome of that brings some spirit back to the DC Universe. 



Sunday, 13 July 2014

Jurassic World Is Really, Really Happening (SPOILERS)

Forgive me for being ever sceptical but I've been looking forward to Jurassic Park IV (now titled Jurassic World) for quite a long time and there have been many disappointments on the road. But with filming well under way and information leaking from the set I think that I can finally sit back and start getting excited!

So what's the goss?

20 odd years after the original Jurassic Park's collapse a new dinosaur park has been built in its place on Isla Nublar (for the uninitiated, Lost World and JPIII took place on Isla Sorna AKA "Site B", we've not revisited Isla Nublar since the first movie). Jurassic World is a successful attraction but the blasé (or perhaps jaded) people of the world have grown bored and visitor numbers are falling. 


In an attempt to create a sensational new exhibit which will get Jurassic World the attention of the world once more, the park's scientists have developed a new dinosaur (possibly called Diabolus Rex). And that seems to be where things go wrong...

There was a lot of fanboy rage when the concept of a "genetically enhanced" dinosaur was first mooted. However, as Colin Trevorrow has implied, this is actually a concept from the original Michael Crichton novel.

In a scene near the end of the book Henry Wu, the much put upon genius behind the successful cloning of dinosaurs, laments that John Hammond will not let him further augment his creations to make them more entertaining and less dangerous. Though Hammond is keen on an authentic experience it transpires that the current "versions" of species in the park have already been manipulated to be more palatable to prospective visitors as it was felt that the speed and aggression "real" dinosaurs (i.e. the first batch that Wu created) would not be in keeping with visitor's expectations of slow and plodding creatures that early paleontologists had theorised about.

And with Henry Wu due to make a return appearance in Jurassic World, it seems likely Hammond's passed away and his "talents" are being used to their fullest (though, of course, it may be his character will be the one who understands the dangers of what is being done and tries to stop it).

So I'm pretty stoked to see exactly what this new dinosaur looks like. With big crowds and new exhibits I'm pretty sure the opening scenes are going to look pretty fantastic.



I'm particularly looking forward to at least a glimpse of a mosasaur or two! My ten year old self, sat there reading Jurassic Park and desperately looking forward to the original movie, would be very proud of my high levels of excitement. :) Roll on my birthday week 2015... (well timed there Universal!)