Apart from fixating on the Poggle the Lesser, I also talk about my love of Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire books, seeing Return of the Jedi when I was ten and thinking that was it for Star Wars, and much more Star Wars nerdy goodness. You can listen on any podcast provider, but here’s a link to Spotify.
I had a blast chatting with the Authorized Podcast gang about Alexander Freed’s excellent novelisation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. We discuss capes, Andor, Tony Gilroy, whether George Lucas ever expected to make a sequel to Star Wars, and the novel’s wonderfully catty memos between Krennic, Tarkin and Galen Erso…
This post contains huge spoilers for Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker, so if you haven’t seen it, please go no further than the adorable Aki Aki mother and child of spoilerdom…
Okay, all good? We’ve all seen it, yes? Fine, you have been warned.
If you’ve been following my blog since the release of The Force Awakens you’ll know that I’ve been keen on these films, making several trips to the movies to see them in 2D, 3D and fill-your-eyes-with-space-joy IMAX. I liked The Force Awakens very much, with a few caveats, and I loved The Last Jedi precisely for the reasons that some folk hated it. I saw Rise of Skywalker at the movies on the opening weekend… and never went back.
It’s like a knickerbocker glory dessert: it looks great on the menu, piled high with the things you love, but by the time you’re halfway through you’re either sick or exhausted of it.
It hurtles along at a reckless pace in the hope that the viewer can barely draw breath long enough to realise that the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, characters popping in and out of scenes for nuggets of exposition, constant fake-outs with characters seemingly doomed one minute then fine the next, and threads that only make sense if you go and buy the novelisation… It is, as my dear old nan used to say, a bugger’s muddle.
Of course, I immediately pre-ordered the Blu Ray.
I mean, I’ve got all the others, so why have a gap in my collection? (Curse my completist tendencies!) When it arrived, the first thing I watched was not the film, but a documentary called The Skywalker Legacy. It’s over two hours long and is worth the price of the Blu Ray alone. It reminded me of all the good things in this film: the level of craft on this production is phenomenal. The design, costume, hair & make-up, visual effects, special effects, animatronics, stunts (the stunt coordinator Eunice Huthart is a joy to watch) are all incredible. These are top people at their peak and they make the film look and sound amazing, and they and the actors all put their heart and souls into the film and they clearly had a great time making it. Except one person…
Chris Terrio is a fine screenwriter. His work on Argo saw him nominated for many awards and he won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. There’s no doubting his credentials. On the Skywalker Legacy documentary he has the look of a deer in headlights, because he knows more than anyone (with the possible exception of JJ Abrams) the impossibility of what he has to deliver. Not only must he conjure up a blockbuster screenplay that wraps up a trilogy (never easy), he is also burdened with all eight other films in the series and countless spin off novels, comics, theme parks and cartoons.
As I was watching the documentary it dawned on me: how could this film be anything other than a disappointment? And I think Chris Terrio and JJ knew this too.
Once I accepted this… I was okay with the movie! I watched it again last night, and the same criticisms remain (it really makes no bloody sense whatsoever), but it works on an emotional level and for this soppy old sod that’s good enough for me. Also — and this is something Star Wars fans don’t like to talk about — the original films are full of similar story holes… (if anyone can explain the logic behind Luke’s plot to rescue Han in Return of the Jedi, then I’ll buy them a Mars Bar)
The truth is, nothing will recapture the giddy excitement of seeing those films as a child. I can remember each trip vividly, and all the emotional baggage of those films cannot possibly be matched by any screenplay, reboot or remake. I’m coming to terms with the idea that this universe will live on long after I’m gone. It’s not mine anymore, and I’m fine with that. I think… The Rise of Skywalker is the favourite film of some other child who had their mind blown by this incredible universe, and good for them.
Let’s end with the one person who never set a foot wrong throughout all nine films. Please be upstanding for Mr John Williams…
Geeks. We’re tricky buggers to buy for at Christmas. Yes, our loved ones might know that we like that thing with the spaceships/dragons/zombies, but where do they even start when it comes to selecting that special gift book…? Here! That’s where! Just forward this blog in the safe knowledge that whatever they get you, it’ll be awesome.
Below are some of my favourites for this Christmas*
Support your local bookshop! Order a copy of these books from them and help ensure that our High Streets thrive. However, all the links below are to Amazon UK for reasons of a) convenience, and b) I have an affiliates thing with them and I get 5% of each sale, and c) I have no shame.
Just gorgeous. A chronicle of everyone’s favourite smuggler from conception to casting, through to movies, comics and novels with fold out pages, replica storyboards, little surprises tucked away in envelopes and more. This is the sort of book that’s nightmare to reprint so get in fast. Buy from Amazon.
A terrific oral history and making-of book of the four series so far of Black Mirror. Compiled by Jason Arnopp, this takes you episode-by-episode with creator Charlie Brooker, Exec Producer Annabel Jones, and collaborators including Jodie Foster, Jodie Whittaker and other people not called Jodie. Essential for fans of the show.
I’ve loved every minute of A Series of Unfortunate Events and this glorious behind the scenes book is ahead of the game with details and photos of the final series (coming in Jan 2019)… I must confess, I’ve had a glimpse and it looks as sumptuous as ever.
Choc full of Cookies, wampas, Biths and banthas this is crammed full of proper geeky insider knowledge (Porgs have forward-facing eyes to help them catch fish, apparently) for Star Wars fans of any age and for fans of the movies, novels, cartoons and comics.
Simon Stålenhag is probably best known for his crowdfunded book Tales from the Loop, which showed children playing among abandoned robots in the aftermath of a particle accelerator experiment gone wrong. The Electric State continues the post-apocalyptic theme on a journey across a ravaged America. This is sublime storytelling and a feast for the eyes (and the Russo brothers have snapped up the film rights!)
Another incredible piece of production, this behind-the-scenes book is made to look like a well-thumbed library book, wrapped in plastic, stained and with a thorough breakdown of how the show was made and its ’80s inspirations. I saw a pre-publication copy of this at the MCM Comic Con and snapped it up there and then.
I loved Simon Brew’s previous Movie Geek book, which was like my favourite nerdy movie conversations down the pub, and this is very much in the same format. Endlessly fascinating with chapter headings like Key questions raised by watching Peppa Pig, The symbolism of Peaky Blinders and Spoiler Culture and its effect on outdoor filming, and written in Den of Geek’s positive style, TV fans will lap this up.
And I’ve saved the best till last. Ursula K Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea was the first fantasy I ever read. More than Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, this is what first fired my imagination when it came to magic and dragons. This complete illustrated collection, illustrated by Charles Vess, includes Le Guin’s last ever story Firelight, written when she knew she was dying. It reduced me to a sobbing wreck, and I can think of no better reason to recommend it. But just… look at it…
*Full disclosure: some of these were donated by publishers, but only after I begged/cajoled/threatened them for copies because I really wanted them, and some I bought myself…
My co-presenter this week was the wonderful Jenn McMenemy, whose own podcast The Ancient History Fangirl, has just launched its second episode and it’s a blast. Check it out here.
In other news, I hit 60% funded on The End of Magic this week! A huge thanks to everyone who has supported the book so far. As a reward (punishment) here’s me reading from the book with another terrible “comedy” accent…
Yes, that’s the BBC microphone muffler I found in the gutter in Oxford Circus last week…
I mention this as it’s one of the many highlights from last week’s Bestseller experiment live show that are now available to plug directly into your earholes via the medium of podcast. Click here for audio fun time.
Thanks to snowmaggeddon I had to record this one at home, but the usually flaky BT broadband actually held up and a splendid time was had by all. We discussed…
The dark secrets of metadata and how you can make it work for your books
How you can make a blog work harder
Tips for when you’re stuck on your outline
Why you should celebrate weaknesses
The pros and cons of present tense versus past tense
We discover what “brain tabs” are, and we discuss top tips for avoiding distractions while writing
The question from Edward Kane on tenses was a fun one to answer, though I’ve since realised that my erudite rambling could be cut down to two simple principles:
The present tense works better for unreliable narrators
The past tense works better for reliable narrators
And the less we will say about the future tense the better*
*I made a bad grammar joke! Am I not funny?
PS. That novel I wrote with Mark Desvaux is still getting lovely reviews. Grab your copy here and tell us what you think.
PS. Oh, and if you want to support our work on the podcast, we now have a Patreon. Do please support us and we can keep this crazy train rolling.
There’s been a lot of chatter online regarding a certain new space opera movie. I forget what it’s called. Flash Starkiller and The Laser Sword of Doom or something. In amongst all the manbaby cries of “You ruined my childhood by making it for girls!” there is a common criticism that actually carries some heft. Here’s when one reply I got when I blogged about how much I liked the film…
Did you see the same movie I saw? It was long, boring, and filled with plot holes that you could fly a star destroyer through.
It can’t be denied that the film has plot holes. One occured to me only this morning: if Luke flew his X-Wing to Ach-To, how did he do it without Artoo? I didn’t think you could fly an X-Wing without an astromech… okay, maybe you can, or because The Force, or whatever?
That’s just one of many little niggles in the story, but here’s the thing, and you might want to be sitting down for this one… Ready? You sure…?
ALL OF THOSE SPACE LASER SWORD MOVIES ARE FULL OF PLOT HOLES!
All of ’em. Here’s a few that come to mind…
Just how long was Luke traning on Dagobah? The weeks/months/years it takes to become a Jedi, or the few hours it took the Falcon to fly to Bespin?
Why would Obi Wan take a baby Skywalker to the planet where his dad was born and not bother to change the kid’s name?
Why did the Death Star come out of hyperspace so far away from Yavin and give the Rebels so much time to prepare?
Who did Leia’s hair and makeup in the Ewok village?
And that beloved saga isn’t the only one suffering from holy story syndrome:
How did Andy’s poster get back on the wall in his cell in The Shawshank Redemption?
Who heard Charles Foster Kane say “Rosebud”?
What was Bruce Willis doing in his downtime when he wasn’t hanging out with the kid on the Sixth Sense?
Almost all of the finale of Ocean’s 11
Every Bond film ever made
Just how did Tom Hagen cut that horse’s head off in the Godfather without waking anyone? And I’ll buy lunch for anyone who can explain the plot of The Godfather II to me without hesitation, repetition or deviation.
Most, if not all, stories have plot holes in them. I would go so far as to say that life itself is full of plot holes, but this isn’t a post-Brexit therapy group so let’s move on.
We’re willing to gloss over plot holes because WE RESPOND TO STORIES ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL. And boy do we get emotional when we talk about beloved series and characters. And because they’re so beloved they’re put under far more scrutiny than those lesser movies we might watch once and then forget.
As a writer, this doesn’t mean you now have licence to fill your script with gaping plot holes. We all vary in our tolerance of plot holes, and you need to work hard to ensure that your story makes sense. When you spot a hole you need to fix it, and don’t just paper over the cracks hoping we won’t notice.
Always work under the supposition that your audience is smarter than you are.However, it’s inevitable that one or two might slip through, no matter how rigorous you are, especially if you’re writing science fiction and fantasy where you’re working with magic and hyperspace and other wonders that don’t exist.
But ask yourself what’s more important: a watertight logic puzzle, or a fairytale that punches you in the gut? I know it’s not an either/or situation, but I know which end of the spectrum I veer towards.
May The Force Be With You and Toto’s still going to be put down by Mrs. Gulch when Dorothy wakes…
Until next time, happy writing!
PS. Don’t get me started on people who think they’re clever pointing out petty continuity errors in movies.
PPS. That novel I wrote with Mark Desvaux doesn’t have a single plot hole in it. Not one. I dare you to find one. Grab your copy here and prove me wrong.
This blog post has MASSIVE SPOILERS for Star Wars The Last Jedi, so if you haven’t seen it yet, please scroll no further than the porg of spoilderdom…
Ready for spoilery thoughts? Here we go…
“You have to kill the past,’ says Kylo Ren in Rian Johnson’s take on the Star Wars saga. To say that this film has been divisive would be an understatement, but the film wears its themes on its sleeve, and the viewer soon discovers that this will be no ordinary Star Wars story. It opens with a comedy sketch co-starring Adrian Edmonson, followed by Luke tossing his lightsaber over a cliff, then the Resistance fleet is all but wiped out, General Leia is ejected into space, Admiral Ackbar discovers that even he can’t repel scripts of this magnitude, and no one says “I have a very bad feeling about this,” or any of its variants, which might be a first for the series.
This is an irreverent movie, and thank the Maker for that. I enjoyed The Force Awakens and Rogue One very much, though both were quick to doff the cap to tradition and tiptoed very carefully through the minefield of fan expectation. Johnson’s film streaks gleefully through the minefield, flipping the bird at any man-baby fanboy appalled at the liberties he takes (and it does seem to be all men complaining… We really have to stop getting so petulant about stuff like this, guys).
As I watched, I kept thinking; “I didn’t know the Force could do that,” and “Ooh, that’s new!” and it engaged me in a way that a Star Wars film hasn’t done since Return of the Jedi, and it’s given me a fun quote that I’ll be using on my kids for years to come: “Congratulations. Everything you just said in that sentence is wrong.”
It’s not perfect. The middle is pretty baggy, Snoke is still uninteresting as a villain. and threads are set-up and resolved a little too quickly – mainly the excursion to Canto Bight and Poe Dameron’s mini-mutiny – though one has to wonder if the latter of these was affected by the sudden passing of Carrie Fisher. (Pauses to sniff and make excuses about something in my eye)
Fisher is heartbreakingly good in the few scenes she’s conscious in, and it makes you wonder how great she would have been had she lived to complete the role. Hamill shines, giving a career-best send-off to a character that started as a callow youth, and ends a grizzled, regretful war veteran in hiding. His final vision of two suns setting is a wonderful bookend to his story, and a genuine lump-in-the-throat moment.
For me, the most thrilling part of this film is its message that anyone can be the hero now. You don’t have to be a Skywalker, or even a distant second cousin, or a collection of immaculate midichlorians, as many thought Rey to be. You can be Rose, or her sister Paige, or that stable boy and his friends at the very end. Heroism doesn’t require a special lineage, you don’t need to come from a renowned family, or be in the top percentage of society. In a time when we’re seeing the powers-that-be on their worst behaviour, that’s a very important message for any yoot watching this film. And this is a film for the young fans; giving them ownership of the series with a range of diverse and interesting new characters. Maybe that’s why the older fanboys are so distressed…? Someone else is playing with their toys and they’re not playing by the rules…
Curiously, and refreshingly, the film doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. Rian Johnson has cleared the decks and JJ Abrams now has a free reign to wind-up the trilogy any way he pleases. I hope he has as much fun with his new film as Rian did with his, and takes advantage of how Rian Johnson just saved Star Wars saga from disappearing up its own continuity. The fact that none of us has the first clue where this is going next is really exciting and I can’t wait for Episode IX.
For our family it was a huge shock when Carrie Fisher passed away at the end of last year. We are massive Star Wars fans in our house and it was a sad day for all. We will all look forward to seeing Star Wars VIII when it comes out in the cinema. As a tribute to Carrie Fisher we chimed the Star Wars theme tune at the end of our bell ringing practice the other week. Whoever said bell ringers are boring, clearly hasn’t met the band I ring with. Thank you so much to the other ringers who made this possible.