Moving Forward with The Last Jedi

There’s a saying, attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, that says “you cannot step in the same river twice.” It’s a quote I’ve been thinking about a lot about since watching (and re-watching, and re-watching) The Last Jedi.

A lot has been said about the latest Star Wars film and its relationship to the past. Some people are firmly of the mindset that The Last Jedi ruined what’s come before, in terms of key elements like our understanding of the Force to the treatment of Luke Skywalker. Others say that the film marks an important pivot for the franchise as it respectfully moves away from its long, detailed history and charts a new future. Still others contend that nostalgia is a dangerous thing, and the purpose of The Last Jedi was to gleefully destroy everything that’s come before it.

While I certainly believe that two of these interpretations are ...

The Phantom Menace Also Defied Star Wars Expectations

Boy oh boy has The Last Jedi stirred up a hornet’s nest.

But, look: I’m not here to discuss that whole thing. Not at the moment, at least. Rather, let’s go back to the halcyon days of Star Was fandom, back to 1999 where there wasn’t all this debating over who was a “real” Star Wars fan or any talk about a single movie ruining the entire franchise.

Oh wait.

Like 2017, 1999 (and beyond) proved to be a contentious year for the Star Wars franchise. On May 19, The Phantom Menace was released in theatres, kicking off the beginning of the prequel trilogy and what can fairly be described as a tumultuous chapter in the Star Wars franchise. Due in part to the growth of the internet, the prequels became the target of rage, mockery, humor, discussion, debate, and pretty much everything in-between. Whether you love or hate these ...

Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Proves it’s Okay to Have Some Serious Fun

Many moons ago, when I was a young lad attending ye olde undergraduate university, I was filled with visions of writing big, rollicking sci-fi and fantasy stories. My heroes were Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Star Wars (yes, your hero can be a movie and not a person—just roll with it). I settled into my first creative writing class and was promptly told—in a syllabus about the size of a Robert Jordan novel, ironically—that I could take my ideas of writing genre fiction and go straight to hell. Serious Writers—yes, writers is intentionally capitalized in this context—didn’t dabble in space and elves and lightsabers, and if I turned in a story that even tickled my professor’s olfactory senses with a whiff of genre, it would go unread and, therefore, ungraded.

Suffice to say, that class was a fucking drag.

Now, this isn’t going to be a ...

Anakin Skywalker Was a Gray Jedi

“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

Since Luke Skywalker dropped that bomb in the middle of the Star Wars universe in the first trailer for The Last Jedi, questions have been swirling:

Has Luke turned to the Dark Side?

Has he discovered something about the Jedi Order that will redefine what the term “Jedi” means?

Will Rey evolve past the binary Dark/Light Side and become the first (canonical) Gray Jedi?

GIVE US MORE PORGS.

Okay, the last one isn’t a question. It’s a demand. From all of us—and we’re serious, Lucasfilm.

Ahem…Anyway.

The central nugget here is that all signs are pointing to a new era for the Jedi. One that’s more ambiguous in its understanding of good and evil; one that’s more complex, perhaps darker, and less—again—binary.

If only we had Star Wars stories that explored the uneasy complexities of the Jedi Order. If only, ...

ambiguity The Last Jedi Star Wars prequels
ambiguity The Last Jedi Star Wars prequels

The Unappreciated Genius of John Carpenter

John Carpenter is one of the greatest American filmmakers. Ever. Period. The end.

There—I’ll just come out swinging. See, I toyed with several different ways of saying what I mean to say. Initially, I started this piece by talking about the names commonly associated with American filmmaking auteurs: Scorsese, Kubrick, and Paul Thomas Anderson to name a few. The point I was trying to make was how, when the idea of great American filmmakers is discussed, John Carpenter is generally left out of the conversation—and it’s a total injustice.

So, let’s take a spin down retrospective lane and look at the movies that make Carpenter one of the greats. Because I’ll tell you what: From 1976 until 1986, Carpenter crafted a streak of films that are arguably as good as any other ten-year period from even the most celebrated and acclaimed directors.

Let’s start in 1976, the year Carpenter released his ...

6 Books to Tide You Over Until Star Wars: The Last Jedi

For most Star Wars fans, there’s one true thing that surrounds us, and binds us. Sure, we may squabble about which movie is the best and argue over who Snoke really is (it’s the angry resurrected ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn, obvs), but we all agree that there’s no such thing as too much Star Wars. But the fact is, only so much Star Wars exists. Granted, when all’s told between movies, TV shows, canon novels, non-canon novels, video games, board games, and comics, there’s a lot of content out there. But it’s already been five months since Rogue One, and a grim reality is taking hold: there’s still 200 whole days that separate us from our next cinematic Star Wars fix. And if you’ve already read/watched/consumed everything there is to consume, you’re going to need to fill your time with… something. Well, if you can’t have Star Wars, ...
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How George Lucas’s Love of Cinema Changed Movies Forever

In 1975, a little movie about big trouble in a New England resort town came along and changed American cinema. That movie was Jaws, the Steven Spielberg-directed shark thriller that’s credited with inventing the summer blockbuster. Not only was Jaws a runaway box office success, but it was a bit of an anomaly in the fabric of 1970s American filmmaking. After all, from a certain point of view, the ‘70s can be understood as the American art house decade; in no other period did auteur-driven movies—such as The Godfather, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The French Connection—find so much mainstream success. Jaws, though, gave audiences something totally different, and people came in droves to see it. And then, just two summers later, audiences’ desire for big budget, genre-drive movies was cemented when Star Wars took the entire world by storm. But for all ...