Monday, December 21, 2015

Nitpicking Star Wars: The Force Awakens

****Spoiler Alert - don't continue reading if you don't want any details to be spoiled****

My family went to see the new Star Wars yesterday, along with just about everyone else, it seems. We enjoyed it. It was certainly better than the horrid prequels (episodes 1-3). But other than the special effects, it wasn't as good as the original three. 

I could go into great detail about what I enjoyed about the movie (my favorite was the battle detritus on the desert planet, the ATT Walker and Star Destroyer and other wreckage strewn around), but instead I want to nitpick the issues I had with the movie. Why do this? Because of some vain hope that JJ Abrams might hear about the problems and actually agree with them and do something to fix them in the sequels!

So, in no particular order, here are the biggest flaws I saw in the movie:

  • If a trained swordsperson faces off against someone who has never held a sword in their life, it's going to be over in no time at all. It won't be a real fight. Yet, here we saw two such rookies hold their own to some degree and then one of them even beat the trained person, albeit with light sabers rather than swords, but it's the same principle. These fights should have been no contest, and having it actually go the way it did was absurd. The sad thing is, it could have been done realistically and still fit the story line well. Kylo Ren (the trained one) could have laughingly laid out Finn in a couple of seconds, merely wounding him and sneeringly leaving him alive while he then faced off with Rey. He then could have easily whipped Rey as well, but then her anger could have welled up in an enormous burst of pure Force rage (untrained, but it could have shown just how immense her talent with the Force is) and blasted Kylo. To me that would have worked better and actually felt realistic.
  • The Millennium Falcon just happening to be there on the desert planet with the supertalent Rey
  • The desert planet having to be exactly like Tatooine except with a different name
  • Han Solo just happening--in a whole wide galaxy--to be right there and find the Millennium Falcon. And if there was a tracking device on the ship, what kind of lousy tracker it must have been in such an advanced society to only work if the ship is powered on!
  • The whole fly down the trenches with tie fighters following you to blow up the death star-like ending. Why oh why did they have to go with a cliche here? There are so many cool things that can be done; you don't have to resort to doing the same things! Actually, this movie repeats all manner of elements of the original rather than try to actually be original itself.
  • Sucking up a star so nice and neatly? I don't think a star would behave so properly even if such a thing could be done.
  • The planet-destroying superweapon blasts off four beams and they somehow destroy four planets or moons that just happen to be right near where the main characters are, and by the way all of these moons or planets are all visible right near each other and all are habitable. 
  • The Supreme Leader Snoke looks pretty ancient, so where the heck was he a few decades ago when the Emperor and Darth Vader were running things? I'd have bought this better if he were younger and could have been an up-and-comer rather than believe that such a talent with the Force went completely under the radar back then.
  • Probably the number one worst aspect within the movie was that it rushed each stage. The original trilogy did a great job of spending some time in each location, allowing us some character development and letting us really get to know each place. The settings themselves became characters in the films. Here each location was rushed through, cramming too many into one film and not allowing the locations to really come to life. I sure hope they come out with an extended version on Blu-Ray that adds in a lot of deleted scenes that would allow more development of each setting.
Hey, at least it was a much better movie than the prequels, and it gives hope that the sequels will become even better if they listen and learn from the mistakes they made with this one. One of my sons said, as we were leaving the theater, and the rest of us agreed with him, that it wasn't embarrassing to watch this one. That's so true. It was embarrassing to watch the prequels, because they felt so wrong on so many levels. This one shows the promise that the original trilogy gave us.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Perceptions Change

First off, there's a nice new interview with me over at The Leighgendarium!

I had a nice review of my sci-fi novel The Immortality Game recently that made me think more about how different perceptions can be in different time periods. The reviewer mentioned that it was hard to believe that the character Marcus could manage as much running as he does, given how out of shape he is.

This is a perfectly fair point to make. I did state a number of times throughout the novel that Marcus was overweight, had a belly, and otherwise looked down on himself for being out of shape, and I never did try to explain why this isn't necessarily true from our current perceptions. I wouldn't have explained it, because the book is written from the point of view of the characters, so it is only their own perceptions that come into play.
How can it be that characters can view Marcus as overweight and out of shape but he can run as far as he did in the story? The reason is that by modern day standards Marcus would be considered by most of us to be in quite good shape! That's right, he thinks he is 'fat' and has a big belly only because he is comparing himself to the standards of his time, not our time. In my future, nanotechnology has reached a point where billions of differently programmed nanobots flowing through your body help keep you in fantastic shape with minimal effort on your part. That means most people walk around looking like highly-toned athletes of today. Those who work hard not to stay in shape, like Marcus, can end up just a little flabby, so that in the view of people at that time he could be looked down upon, while people of today's world would tend to think that he is in great shape.

Have you written stories that used big differences in perception like this?