Sunday, December 27, 2020

This Is The Way

What a time to be a Star Wars fan!

I feel I have said this before and what followed was a somewhat mixed bag, with the misses feeling more impactful than the hits. This time things are different, largely because of the success of...

With the second season of this amazing streaming series now complete, I'd like to take a moment to discuss it, the recent announcements of Lucasfilm/Disney's upcoming slate of Star Wars projects, and what it all means to me and my love of gaming in that galaxy 'Long Ago' and 'Far, Far Away'.

First and foremost, let me say I absolutely LOVE The Mandalorian. It is Star Wars perfected, distilled down to its core and key ingredients, with all the impurities and waste burned away. It is high adventure, fast paced action, dramatic pathos, and great characters set against a backdrop of fantastic worlds, bizarre creatures, and cool aliens. Add in robots, vehicles, starships, and space battles and you've got exactly what I crave. 

In the second season finale, you've also got a shot of nostalgia big enough to drop a Bantha but it serves the story and fits perfectly with what has come before it. It builds not the narrative of the series instead of taking away from it (which honestly I felt another episode did do and it was the only disappointing episode the show has had thus far). Star Wars is at its best when serving as a love letter to classic storytelling models we are familiar with such as Westerns, Samurai films, World War II movies, and Fairy Tales. Some may call it fan service but when it is done well I believe Star Wars has earned the right to reference another beloved classic, and that's Star Wars itself.

What is scheduled to follow The Mandalorian is nothing short of amazing, with 12 additional products planned for streaming and theatrical release over the next three years, not including - let me repeat - Not including - Season 3 of The Mandalorian. 

In addition to the continuation of the Mandalorian there will be an unnamed, unspecified film being written and directed by Taika Waititi and the 10 projects shown above. This is also a Boba Fett series (likely a limited series) not shown in this image entitled, 'The Book of Boba Fett'. There is a lot to go over and very little information on any of it but there are a few stand-out items (at least for me) that I'd like to address. 

The only confirmed feature film other than Waititi's mystery movie is Rogue Squadron, directed by Wonder Woman/WW 1984 director Patty Jenkins, and scheduled for release in 2023. That's a long way off but I felt this was definitely worth mentioned because of my intense but mixed feelings about it.

Starfighters and their pilots are one of my favorite elements of the Star Wars universe and stories that focus on them are definitely something I enjoy. I am a big fan of the Star Wars Squadrons video game (especially now that they've added the B-Wing Fighter), the Alphabet Squadrons books (though they could have been even better. Such is the nature of Star Wars novels), and the attack on Scarif in 'Rogue One' was my favorite part of the film after the Darth Vader hallway sequence. 

This seems like it would be the Star Wars movie I've been waiting for. Seems...

I am not enamored with Patty Jenkins as a director. I feel like Wonder Woman was only OK at best and most of her other work has been good but not necessarily awe-inspiring. I am extremely moved by her announcement video  however and I do believe in her desire to make a fantastic fighter pilot film. We'll have to see if her interest in the subject can add that extra umpf needed to make this a great movie. 

Next up according to my level of interest is 'Rangers of the New Republic', a streaming series coming to Disney+. No official airdate has been given as of yet.

Ever since the rather disappointing Sequel Trilogy I've felt that the New Republic and by association all the effort that went into establishing it (i.e. the Original Star Wars Trilogy) was being depicted as kind of a waste. Didn't we fall in love with this IP in the first place by watching a band of rebels overthrow a tyrannical government in hopes of establishing (really re-establishing) a democracy? Thirty years later it gets destroyed and crumbles just like that? 

Moreover, we just never got to see the win if you know what I mean. We never got to see the happily ever after, even if it wasn't quite perfect. This was addressed and vastly improved by the Mandalorian, which sees Agents of the New Republic (perhaps these are the Rangers?) patrolling the Outer Rim of the galaxy desperately trying to hunt down criminals and maintain law and order. 

I've always loved the idea of a galactic patrol zooming through the stars tracking down cosmic criminals and helping people in need. From the Lensmen series and the Green Lantern Corps they inspired to Andre Norton's Space Police short story collection and even The Galaxy Police of Japan's Tenchi Muyo series, the idea of officially sanctioned interstellar do-gooders is right up my alley. Can't wait to see where this series takes that concept as applied to the Star Wars milieu. 

Star Wars: Ahsoka is of course the highly anticipated live-action series featuring Rosario Dawson as Ahsoka Tano, everyone's favorite Togruta former apprentice of the big kahuna himself, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. I am very much looking forward to this though I do have some trepidations.

The episode of The Mandalorian in which she made her debut was the only episode out of the two seasons of that show that I can honestly say I did not like. She, Dawson as Ahsoka, was fine. I didn't like how it essentially interrupted Mando's story, added very little beyond an info dump of The Child's background (which I frankly found to make little sense) and the whole thing just felt like a commercial for her upcoming show.

Also, her mention of searching for 'Grand Admiral' Thrawn at the end annoyed me. I know, I know, everybody loves Thrawn and I will admit I found him pretty cool in Rebels but I honestly despise the character and his mention in live-action further bummed me out. It means we will have to see him in live-action sometime in the future. We can't put Superheroes in spandex because it would appear hokey but we can have an Imperial Officer who is a blue alien with glowing red eyes in Star Wars. Ugh. I'd much rather see a live-action Jaxxon

Could the live-action Ahsoka series be the much rumored 
Star Wars Rebels sequel I've been dying for?

If not, Why Not?

The biggest surprise in the world of Star Wars entertainment wasn't supposed to be a surprise at all. We'd been hearing rumors for sometime of a new series featuring a fan favorite character but his show wasn't included in the Investor's Day announcements. Many thought it was an oversight, other said it was proof it was just a rumor but instead it was withheld so as not to ruin the end of Season 2 of The Mandalorian. It turns out we are getting a series featuring the first Mandalorian Bounty Hunter we ever met. It's all right here in...

Beyond these...

The Acolyte is a curious series set to take place during the High Republic, a period 200 years before the Prequel era. It follows a female protagonist investigating the secret world of Dark Side powers and the emerging forces of evil that [I assume] lead to the rise of Emperor Palpatine. 

I'm excited to see a Lando show announced and if the rumors and speculations are true it could be a really good addition to the line up. Supposedly we would see Billy Dee Williams as an older Lando Calrissian reminiscing about the adventures of his youth, which we will then watch with the younger Lando played by Donald Glover. I love this idea!

Speaking of old friends, the Obi-Wan Kenobi series featuring Ewan McGregor as the titular Jedi in hiding is scheduled to be a mini-series on Disney+. This series will tell a tale of Master Kenobi on Tatooine watching over and protecting young Luke Skywalker. He is joined by fellow Prequel alum Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker and/or Darth Vader. Honestly it hasn't been revealed yet how Christensen will be involved exactly but I could see anything from flashbacks to Vader on the hunt for Kenobi, trying to track down his former mentor following Order 66. 

The last of the live-action series that I'd mention is Andor, focusing on the character of Cassian Andor from Rogue One. I am not particularly interested in this one though I will likely check it out it, it's probably on the bottom of my list as far as these announcements go. 

I am eager to check out the new animated series, The Bad Batch. Wasn't super stoked about it at first, since we barely got to know those characters and they seemed rather one note but the trailer looks very promising. I am kind of bummed the next animated series isn't a Star Wars: Rebels sequel though. OK, very bummed.

Star Wars: Visions is an anthology series of animated episodes each done by a different Japanese Anime studio. I have no idea what to expect from this project but I find the idea very intriguing. Not only will it be cool to see the Star Wars galaxy in Anime form but also, what do those of the Japanese cultural mindset appreciate about Star Wars? Sooo on board for this. 

Another animated project mentioned that I am curious about is Star Wars: A Droid Story. My love of Droids aside, the description of this as an animated series being co-developed by the division of ILM that worked on Vader Immortal and the other Virtual Reality games makes me wonder what visual style this series will have. I am most intrigued. 

What does this me for me and my long time love of Star Wars gaming? Well, the main take away is more material, more inspiration, more reason than ever to start up an ongoing Star Wars RPG campaign.

The thing that has made running a Star Wars game difficult in the recent past is the fact that it seems harder to get everyone on the same day as to what a Star Wars game entails. This is because Star Wars itself, like Star Trek, has suffered from an identity crisis. It and its fandom have fractured somewhat, with those who love the franchise differing on what the franchise is really about. What makes and is good Star Wars is no longer a question with a singular answer set in place by a singular vision. 

Now, it seems that may change, at least to some extent. The Mandalorian has proven that good Star Wars is good Star Wars. There is a certain 'true form' to the setting and its stories. With many of the shows mentioned above taking place in the same time period and said to be culminating in a multi-series crossover event a la Marvel's Netflix Defenders or CW's Crisis on Infinite Earths, the new 'default' era of Star Wars could prove perfect for gaming in.  

More on that as things progress...

I know this post is already quite long but I want to conclude with remembrance of those Star Wars icons how have become one with The Force. 

Within the past several months we lost two English actors whose physical talent and presence made for the greatest villains in annals of Star Wars and among the most memorable in cinematic history.

David Prowse, the British bodybuilder, weightlifter, and character actor who played Darth Vader passed away on November 28th of this year due to an unspecified illness. He was 85. Prowse's early career as a bodybuilder landed him the role of Julian, Frank Alexander's bodyguard in the film, A Clockwork Orange. Interestingly, he trained various actors for roles of a very physical nature, including Christopher Reeve for Superman and Cary Elwes as Wesley in The Princess Bride.

Jeremy Bulloch passed away at the much too young age of 75 on December 17th due to complications from Parkinson's Disease. Bulloch was best known as the actor who played the bounty hunter Boba Fett in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. He was a character actor who regularly appeared in both major and minor roles in British television show, including sitcoms, and had minor supporting roles in the James Bond film franchise. 

Lastly and by no means least, quite the opposite in fact, we remember that two years ago we lost the galaxy's princess and our real world treasure Carrie Fisher.

Thank you all for coming with me on this tour of the galaxy long ago and far, far away.

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, Happy Life Day, and May The Force Be With You!

Barking Alien

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