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kottke.org posts about Star Wars

A Fan-Made Trailer for an Anime Version of Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 24, 2018

Dmitry Grozov is a Russian comic artist who has made a trailer for an anime version of Star Wars: A New Hope. This treatment of Star Wars is fitting given the Asian, and particularly Japanese, influence on the film.

I would watch the hell out of a full-length version of this.

For Sale: Han Solo’s Jacket & Indiana Jones’ Fedora

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2018

A huge cache of rare Hollywood memorabilia is up for sale at a London auction on September 20. The catalog includes over 600 items from movies like Back to the Future, Blade Runner, Batman, Blues Brothers, Die Hard, Goonies, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, James Bond, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, Superman, Terminator, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and X-Men.

Among the most valuable and unique items are the iconic Indiana Jones hat worn by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark (estimate £200,000-£300,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 01

They’re also selling Indy’s bullwhip from Temple of Doom (estimate £50,000-£70,000).

The most expensive item is Han Solo’s jacket from Empire Strikes Back (£500,000-£1,000,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 02

Pairs nicely with this stormtrooper helmet from the first film (estimate £40,000-£60,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 03

Marty McFly’s hoverboard from Back to the Future II (estimate £30,000-£50,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 04

They’re also offering the DeLorean’s OUTATIME license plate from the first film (estimate £10,000-£15,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 05

A Wonka Bar from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (estimate £8,000-£10,000), a rare item because most props from the film were “destroyed at its Bavarian film studio to allow production to wrap quickly, making way for the immediate filming of Cabaret”:

Hollywood Auction 2018 06

Captain Picard’s uniform from the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation (£10,000-£15,000):

Hollywood Auction 2018 07

And a bunch of other stuff, including John McClane’s radio from Die Hard, Edward Scissorhands’ costume, Mikey’s doubloon from The Goonies, a T-800 exoskeleton from Terminator 2, Tom Hanks’ helmet from Saving Private Ryan, a THX 138 license plate from American Graffiti, and a full-size drivable replica of the DeLorean from Back to the Future.

If you want to bid on any of this stuff, either in person, via the phone, or online, check out the info page on how to register.

What made Darth Vader such a visually iconic character

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2018

Darth Vader was only on screen in the original Star Wars movie for 8 minutes and for a little under 34 minutes in the whole original trilogy. In the latest Nerdwriter episode, Evan Puschak examines how the cinematography of the films (particularly Empire Strikes Back) helped make Vader into an iconic character despite such little screentime.

Today seems to be movie villain day on kottke.org: see also this morning’s post on Black Panther’s Killmonger.

Imaginary insects based on Star Wars characters

posted by Jason Kottke   May 21, 2018

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Star Wars Insects

Illustrator Richard Wilkinson is drawing a series of insects inspired by Star Wars and other pop cultural items.

This project was born out of a fascination with collecting, cataloguing and classifying.

It draws inspiration from classic Natural History illustration but explores the subjects that we love to collect and classify from the modern world: Films, TV, Video Games, Comics, Vehicles, Sneakers, Brands etc.

The first book of the series, working title: “Arthropoda Iconicus Volume I: Insects From A Far Away Galaxy”, is a collection of insects that bear a subtle yet uncanny resemblance to characters and vehicles from the worlds favourite space opera.

You can check out more on his Instagram and a few are available as prints in his online shop. (via colossal)

Star Wars: The Last Laser Master

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 06, 2018

The Auralnauts have finished up their epic comedic retelling of the first six episodes of Star Wars with episode 6, The Last Laser Master. Follow Laser Master Duke Dirtfarmer and his friends in the fight against the Empire and its fearsome planet-killing weapon: Laser Moon II.

You can watch the five other episodes — including Jedi Party, The Friend Zone, and Revenge of Middle Management — in this playlist.

For snackier Auralnauts fare, see How to make a blockbuster movie trailer, some Bane outtakes from the Dark Knight Rises, and the Star Wars throne room scene minus the John Williams score.

Why are action movie trailers sounding more musical lately?

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 22, 2018

Did you watch the teaser trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story or the recent trailer for Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp? Here they are if you need a refresher:

In both clips, you’ll notice how the sounds of the action — phaser blasts, switch flicks, explosions, engine revs, gun shots, tires squealing — are synched to the music…and in some cases, make music of their own. This is most apparent in the Ant-Man trailer starting at around 0:45.

Pacing in-movie sound effects to sound musical isn’t exactly new (martial arts flicks come to mind, as do the rapid-fire cuts from Requiem for a Dream), but these recent uses of the technique in these trailers have to be influenced by Baby Driver, Edgar Wright’s 2017 “action musical”. Just about every action in the movie is timed to the soundtrack. Take a look, or rather, take a listen at the gunfight that starts at around 1:20 in this clip:

What’s particularly interesting about the use of this technique in the Ant-Man trailer is that Wright was replaced as the director of the first Ant-Man movie (which he refuses to watch), which freed him up to direct Baby Driver. I wonder if the trailer’s sound design is a subtle fuck you to Wright on behalf of Marvel/Disney, a sly homage by the person who cut the trailer together, or just the unwitting borrowing of an ear-catching technique?

I’d expect to see more usage of this technique as the summer action movie trailer season heats up. Has anyone noticed any other recent uses?

Update: Here are several more trailers that use this effect, although none of them quite to extent of Ant-Man or Baby Driver: Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed, Deadpool, an upcoming Mission Impossible movie (as well as an older one), Suicide Squad, The Punisher, and even the Coen’s A Serious Man.

That’s four Marvel trailers that do it. I wonder if Wright drew inspiration from them instead of the other way around? (via @opeyre, @celiacunningham, @vlavallee, trailer town, @paulstachniak)

Solo, A Star Wars Story

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 05, 2018

Someday, I will see the trailer for a new Star Wars movie and not get completely gooey inside. Today is not that day. Here’s the briefer “TV spot” (don’t call it a trailer!) that aired during the Super Bowl last night.

I think my insides and outsides briefly switched places when they showed Donald Glover as Lando.

Update: Demi Adejuyigbe made this fake Donald Glover / Childish Gambino song about Lando and it’s too good.

Update: The Solo trailer with a soundtrack of the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage is an improvement on the actual trailer:

Which is not surprising…adding Sabotage to any fast-paced video sequence improves it.

Update: New longer trailer. Still cautiously optimistic!

John Williams conducting the opening fanfare for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 29, 2018

Director Rian Johnson has posted a short clip of the legendary John Williams conducting the opening fanfare (aka the Star Wars theme) for The Last Jedi. It is difficult to think of the Star Wars films without Williams’ music.

What if Chewbacca sounded like Pee-wee Herman?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2018

This is probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever posted and I love it.

A guide to the musical leitmotifs in Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 09, 2018

In the New Yorker, Alex Ross points to Frank Lehman’s Complete Catalogue of the Motivic Material in ‘Star Wars,’ Episodes I-VIII, which has been updated to include The Last Jedi. Ross goes on to note that composer John Williams did some of his strongest work for the film, deftly employing musical themes called leitmotifs to supplement (and sometimes subvert) the on-screen action. (Spoilers, ho!)

In early scenes set at a remote, ruined Jedi temple, we keep hearing an attenuated, beclouded version of the Force motto: this evokes Luke’s embittered renunciation of the Jedi project. As the young heroine Rey begins to coax him out of his funk, the Force stretches out and is unfurled at length. Sometimes, the music does all of the work of explaining what is going on. In one scene, Leia, Luke’s Force-capable sister, communicates telepathically with her son Kylo Ren, who has gone over to the dark side and is training his guns on her vessel. Leia’s theme is briefly heard against a dissonant cluster chord. Earlier in the saga, we might have been subjected to dialogue along the lines of “Don’t do this! I’m your mother!” Williams’s musical paraphrase is more elegant.

If you’re looking for a primer/refresher for the use of leitmotif in film, Evan Puschak’s video on Howard Shore’s music for the Lord of the Rings films is a good place to start. (via anil dash)

The People’s History of Tattooine

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 29, 2017

tusken raiders.jpeg

On May 17, 2014, a Saturday morning, a bunch of very bored, very geeky dads on Twitter spontaneously created something weird and fun. Jacob Harris kicked it off, I helped get it going, others joined in. Dan Sinker called it The People’s History of Tattooine, and that name has stuck.

Since Storify has announced that it’s shutting down, I’ve been looking for a permanent home for the People’s History. A lot of the tweets have been deleted, and threads have been broken. I also wanted something without the Twitter-y cruft, but that still preserved the back-and-forth, so I decided to format it kinda like a teleplay. Jason suggested posting it here at Kottke.org. I can’t think of a better home for it.

THE PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF TATTOOINE

starring
(in order of appearance)

JACOB HARRIS
TIM CARMODY
FRANCIS HWANG
AZIZ GILANI
JAMES SCHIRMER
SKOTT KLEBE
DAN SINKER
SCOTT KLEIN
ANIL DASH
TED HAN
MICHAEL DONOHOE
MIKE MONTEIRO
and
DARTH
(not pictured)

JACOB HARRIS
What if Mos Eisley wasn’t really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?

TIM CARMODY
What do you mean, “these blaster marks are too precise to be made by Sand People?” Who talks like that?

JACOB HARRIS
also Sand People is not the preferred nomenclature.

TIM CARMODY
They have a rich cultural history that’s led them to survive and thrive under spectacularly awful conditions.

JACOB HARRIS
Mos Eisley may not look like much but it’s a a bedroom community with decent schools and affordable housing.

TIM CARMODY
You can just imagine Obi-Wan after years of being a Jedi on Coruscant being stuck in this place and just getting madder and madder.

JACOB HARRIS
yeah nobody cares that the blue milk is so much more artisanal on Coruscant

TIM CARMODY
Obi-Wan only goes to Mos Eisley once every three months to get drunk and he basically becomes like Byron.

JACOB HARRIS
so he clings to things like lightsabers and ancient Jedi religion…

“I’m just saying you can’t trust a man what plays in a cantina band. Not you, Figrin D’ith. You’re one of the good ones!”

I also imagine Tosche Station as some sort of affluent suburban mall where Luke just goes to loiter when bored.

TIM CARMODY
That’s totally true about dudes in cantina bands though

JACOB HARRIS
you don’t get to be Max Rebo overnight. Playing in the cantina is like their version of the Beatles in Hamburg, Tim.

TIM CARMODY
Luke is such a little shit. Imagine Lucas’s direction: “Mark, just reach out and grab the bartender by the sleeve.”

JACOB HARRIS
All I’m saying is that for a place he allegedly hates, Obi Wan sure knows exactly where the best cantina is. Maybe what Obi Wan really hates is himself for having a good time and enjoying the cantina scene

TIM CARMODY
he goes home with one of Jabba’s six-boobed dancers and hates himself for it

JACOB HARRIS
that Obi Wan thinks his little “put the hood over my head and make strange noises” is what scares Sand People is racist too. Maybe they just run because they don’t want to deal with the racist old man who gets violent and complains more will come back

FRANCIS HWANG
You can’t be mad at Obi Wan. That’s just how all the Jedi talked back then.

JACOB HARRIS
“more civilized time?” Check your privilege, Obi Wan

FRANCIS HWANG
“When I was growing up we called the Sand People ‘savage’, but we didn’t mean anything by it… The Sand People used to know their place until those Imperial carpetbaggers came here and started putting ideas in their heads.”

AZIZ GILANI
The ‘sand people’ were really just desert nomads emancipating the massive slave population. #Perspective

JACOB HARRIS
the Tusken People. “Raiders” presumes some malevolent intent. They are trying to preserve the desert habitat and Luke wants to race through it in his speeder. The Tusken are just trying to keep parts of Tatooine wild and undeveloped by heavy industry.

JAMES SCHIRMER
One could argue calling them “Tuskens” is little better than “Raiders.” See: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Fort_Tusken …

JACOB HARRIS
they use it to rob the slur of its power

SKOTT KLEBE
Belatedly realizing that in a crime scene distinguished by precise blaster marks, Storm Troopers are your last suspects. I mean, based on the rest of the movie, should say “These blaster marks are too precise to be made by Storm Troopers.” But who’s right there pawning the guilt off on the Empire? And who used to be a renowned Jedi marksman himself? Obi-wan!

Connect the dots, people! It was Obi-Wan from the beginning!

Face it - Obi-Wan killed Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in order to let Luke to sell his speeder for funds to leave the planet.

ELON GREEN
A small part of me wishes I understood this.

JACOB HARRIS
it’s a pretty obscure film

DAN SINKER
The People’s History of Tattoine that Jacob Harris and Tim Carmody wrote this morning is an essential document.

JACOB HARRIS
all I’m saying is that I don’t blame the Tusken People for steering clear of the racist, violent and armed old man

DAN SINKER
“he’s making those noises again, honey bring the kids inside.”

JACOB HARRIS
and the Greater Mos Eisley Business Improvement District doesn’t care about the rantings of a separatist hermit

SCOTT KLEIN
Actually they’re so offended by being called “sand people” that they beat up any outsider who wanders by.

DAN SINKER
think of the number of letters he wrote in to the Tattoine Times-Call

SKOTT KLEBE
But traveling in a straight line to conceal their numbers? That’s just plain deceptive.

DAN SINKER
THAT’S JUST HOW THEY *WALK* MAN.

JACOB HARRIS
it’s a nature preserve, Scott, and Luke just thinks he can drive his speeder through it. Like anybody forgets what Luke and his friends did to native womp rat populations at Beggars Canyon Park

SKOTT KLEBE
but how can you trust people who walk like that? They must be up to all kinds of stuff. Tricky walking, ew.

JACOB HARRIS
they’re only concealing their numbers if you have trouble telling them apart

SKOTT KLEBE
If they wanted us to be able to tell them apart, they shouldn’t conceal their faces. Their fault, not mine.

JACOB HARRIS
maybe those are their faces, Skott. Sheesh!

DAN SINKER
Jesus old man, aren’t you late for a pancake breakfast at the Jedi Knights Lodge?

SKOTT KLEBE
is it racist that I don’t think skin can be made out of canvas and metal?

DAN SINKER
Not *All* Jedi.

SKOTT KLEBE
if liking Jedi “no hands” pancakes is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

SCOTT KLEIN
And let’s face it, there’s good reason for them to distrust Skywalkers.

JACOB HARRIS
Child of known felon hanging out with a violent separatist and disturbing the peace of their home

DAN SINKER
it’s not like it was generations ago. The kid’s *dad* was The One Who Killed. Didn’t even change his name.

JACOB HARRIS
so it might seem extreme to knock Luke out and vandalize his annoying speeder, but they’d had enough.

SCOTT KLEIN
If c3po hadn’t fallen off that ledge he’d have translated Tusken. “You’re scaring us! We mean you no harm!”

TIM CARMODY
Luke and Obi-Wan don’t even stand up for their droids, man. Tattooine is so fucking racist.

JACOB HARRIS
no, it’s very diverse. Which is why Obi Wan hates it.

TIM CARMODY
That bartender is no prize either, is all I’m saying. And they let Threepio get kicked out like it’s nothing

SKOTT KLEBE
Now you’re just forcing your affluent Coruscantist cultural standards on them.

TIM CARMODY
My freedom is bound up with everyone’s freedom, whether they’re Jedis or Tuscans or droids or Hutts.

SKOTT KLEBE
You’re hurting the revolution with this talk.

TIM CARMODY
You can have your species-ist *Rebellion*; I’m talking about real revolution.

DAN SINKER
“Used to be that every kind of creature turned out for the podrace. Now we just keep to our own.”

JACOB HARRIS
the Tusken who scares Luke when he’s using his binoculars is just an old man with a walking stick

TIM CARMODY
Mos Eisley hasn’t been the same since the Spaceport Riots in ‘67. Then they built Tosche Station and…

DAN SINKER
can you blame them for rioting? I mean Anakin did come in and “slaughtered them like animals.” His words, man

ANIL DASH
You’re all talking small potatoes. Big story is Palpatine’s equity in Sienar Systems.

TIM CARMODY
Your “Big Story” of the military-imperial complex lets you ignore what’s right in your FACE

ANIL DASH
the economic system is predicated on turning a man born into slavery against persons of sand. NOT ALLDERAAN!

DAN SINKER
YOU GUYS this is the exact thing those crazy old wizards want us to do: fight against each other.

SCOTT KLEIN
I hear they recruited child soldiers to blow up a gov’t building on Endor.

DAN SINKER
don’t even get me started on what they did to the Hothian ice caps.

JACOB HARRIS
you’re walking single-file to avoid damaging gundark nests and some jerk in a speeder races in… of course you’re going to knock him and out and vandalize his speeder to warn him and friends

TED HAN
Hey the Jedi have a multi-generational history of child labor & gambling on children.

MICHAEL DONOHOE
Not fair - Jedi provided shelter, regular meals, education, social mobility

MIKE MONTEIRO
Say what you will about the Empire, but supply ships arrived on time.

TIM CARMODY
You can do a lot of things on time if you don’t even care about your own clones.

MIKE MONTEIRO
The clones knew what they were signing up for.

DAN SINKER
The Rebellion: they get their *one* Mon Calamari general to sell the world on a plan that was *clearly* a trap

TIM CARMODY
I think Akbar, Calrissian, and Mon Mothma were set up to take the fall, frankly.

DAN SINKER
let’s give the drug runner a medal, but have the Wookie that does everything stand around with the Droids.

TIM CARMODY
I was wondering when we’d get here. The clearest evidence racism isn’t just hearts & minds, but institutional. Offstage, R2 shouts “THIS IS SOME BULLSHIT,” and they just turn and laugh right in his face.

JACOB HARRIS
maybe Chewbacca didn’t want to take their bullshit medal. He doesn’t need their approval

DAN SINKER
meanwhile, Da Mayor is all, “Wookie, always do the right thing.”

ANIL DASH
Given the Mon Calamari tendency to treat Bothans as disposable, it’s no wonder why Akbar got to be the token.

TIM CARMODY
Another way the original trilogy is superior to prequels: its characters seem racist, rather than its author.

ANIL DASH
imagine an Ep 1 that was about Palpatine manipulating tensions between Amidala and the Gungans.

JACOB HARRIS
I think Lucas thinks he’s making a deep statement about racism using droids

ANIL DASH
except he never touches it again and they are never liberated. So.

TIM CARMODY
Droids in the OT are almost exactly slaves. Socially, they are treated precisely as slaves were treated. Especially classical slavery (Rome, etc.), the parallels are astonishing.

SKOTT KLEBE
Jawas drive Tuskens away from sustainable agriculture by creating a market for captured droids.

MICHAEL DONOHOE
agreed - attempts to disrupt Jawas crowdsourced droid marketplace point to old ways of thinking

ANIL DASH
and what do we know about environmental impact of extractive factory farming like water evaporation?

MIKE MONTEIRO
Fair. But what about the evaporation farmers? We need to teach that whole sector new job skills.

ANIL DASH
last time someone “disrupted” that sector, we ended up with a bunch of astromechs nobody can repair.

MIKE MONTEIRO
Because the Trade Federation was funding anything they could flip to the Empire. Remember Droidr?

ANIL DASH
well, if you make anything original, they’ll just rip it off on Kamino. In the new R2 units, they can only project holograms you buy from Industrial Automaton.

JACOB HARRIS
can we get back to the Rebellion exploiting native population as soldiers on Endor?

TIM CARMODY
First they totally underestimate them. Then they trick them. Then they send them to die.

JACOB HARRIS
in Clone Wars all Jedi are automatically Generals despite no experience. Clones die.

MIKE MONTEIRO
How did OUR moisture get under THEIR sand?

JACOB HARRIS
highest rank a clone could get was Commander. No wonder they fragged Jedi in the end

ANIL DASH
ORDER 66 WAS AN INSIDE JOB

JACOB HARRIS
Order 66 wasn’t brainwashing, it was the chickens coming home to roost

ANIL DASH
what are the odds the same guy survives Order 66 and *both* Death Stars exploding?

MIKE MONTEIRO
If @darth was awake we’d be looking at a gif of Admiral Akbar reading My Pet Goat right now

ANIL DASH
@darth WAKE UP GREEPLE

MIKE MONTEIRO
Follow the galactic credits. Who was awarded the Death Star contracts? Twice.

SKOTT KLEBE
how deep does the rabbit hole go?

SKOTT KLEBE
here I always thought Kenobi was playin cool, not recognizing R2 and C3PO in Ep 4. Now seems more likely R2 and C3PO were just two of the millions he’d betrayed in his life, and who can keep track?

JACOB HARRIS
“hello there friend” and “I don’t recall owning a droid” are subtle threats to R2 to shut up

SKOTT KLEBE
“And we are friends, right? You wouldn’t want _not_ to be friends, would you?”

MIKE MONTEIRO
Follow the death sticks and you get a death stick case, but follow the galactic credits…

TIM CARMODY
Never forget that the movies aren’t historical documents, but propaganda 1000s years later. If all this is IN legends Republic/Jedi use to justify Rebellion, imagine what’s left OUT.

The Jedi as samurai vs. the Jedi as ninja

posted by Tim Carmody   Dec 22, 2017

ridley-hamill-last-jedi-luke-rey.jpg

What’s nice (if exhausting) about Star Wars is that you can never run out of Star Wars content, because you can talk about Star Wars forever. Maybe you can do this about anything, and in an alternate universe, we’re talking about the Rocky franchise like it’s Talmud. But I think Star Wars both gives you enough material and leaves you enough conceptual empty space that it’s possible to just generate talk and talk and talk.

In an ongoing franchise, this runs the risk of that empty space collapsing and fans feeling like their imaginations have been foreclosed. Again, this happens to every fandom, but Star Wars fans seem to take it pretty hard.

Consider the Jedi. Even if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, you know if you’ve seen The Force Awakens that characters in the new trilogy are using the Force to do things the Original Trilogy and prequels implied either required a lot of training or exceptional genetic gifts, and ideally both. In the new trilogy, the rules feel a little looser. Light sabers and force magic are things that some people are better at than others, sure, but they also can… kind of just do. And oh my, does this have people in their feelings.

Writing for The Week, Lili Loofbourow does a good job of explaining why:

The fact that Johnson’s Star Wars is more “democratic”… means, paradoxically, that it is also less interested in the rituals of samurai training that made Star Wars so satisfying. Becoming a great Jedi warrior used to be serious work; it demanded talent and skill and time. Later it seemed to require an aristocratic bloodline as well (what with the midi-chlorians, etc.). Now it just demands talent and no study… What was the point of Yoda? Do the sages have nothing to tell us? Did they ever?

See, there’s actually a three-part division here. The original trilogy emphasizes spiritual and physical training; the prequels, bloodline or origins; the new trilogy, being gifted and/or rising to the moment.

And actually, there are strands of all three theories in all three sets of movies. It’s just a question of relative weight. Training is important in the original trilogy; it’s also important in the prequels — they talk about it all the time! — and in the new movies (The Last Jedi is basically about Rey looking for a teacher from start to finish).

But training also became important to fans who rejected the introduction of midi-chlorians in the prequels. No, they said — the force isn’t about alien doodads in your bloodstream, it’s about training and discipline. It might be strong in families, but it’s available to anyone. So they leaned particularly hard on that crutch, only to see it (seemingly) kicked out of the way. And the fandom came crashing down.

One theory I really like comes from Abraham Riesman. It’s misleadingly titled “The Case for Midi-Chlorians.” What it really says, as I read it, is that the Jedi themselves do not fully understand what the Force is. Consequently, at different moments, and in response to different crises, they reinterpret it. They go into exile; they restore temples; they abandon them.1 They do not have it figured out, but are always refiguring it out for themselves, and for us.

Maybe midi-chlorians are as stupid an explanation of the Force as their real-world critics say they are. What if high midi-chlorian counts had a loose correlation to Force sensitivity, but weren’t actual causes of it, and the Jedi just misinterpreted their data? What if this was something like medieval doctors rambling on for centuries about humors and leeches — a faux-scientific delusion that was wholeheartedly embraced by a guild of people who loved to preach their own greatness to the hoi polloi? Perhaps the Jedi had thunk themselves into utter stupidity on an array of matters. Midi-chlorians were just one manifestation of their high-minded idiocy. From that point of view, the prequels are a tragedy about well-intentioned intellectuals whose myopic condescension led them onto a path of war and self-immolation…

So how do we explain the fact that Luke’s trainers don’t mention them?

I like to think it’s because they realized in their old age that midi-chlorians aren’t worth worrying about. Yoda and Obi-Wan had decades to ponder the nature of the Force and refine their conception of it down to its essence. Maybe, in looking back on the downfall of the Jedi, they realized that hewing too closely to specific explanations of the Force was a fool’s errand, a pseudo-intellectual distraction from what’s really important: spiritual contemplation and selfless deeds. As such, they may have thought Luke had the opportunity to build a future Jedi Order that wouldn’t repeat their mistakes. Like their decision to hide Leia’s familial relationship to him, they felt that Luke was better off without certain tidbits — and, unlike their dissembling about his sister, this was a worthwhile sin of omission. A condescending one, yes, but hey, old Jedi habits die hard.

Ultimately, both Riesman and Loofbourow come back to the same point: different people like Star Wars for different reasons, and we’re constantly jettisoning the bits we don’t like in favor of the ones we do. And the Jedi are doing that too.

This touches on my own personal fan theory, which is that the Jedi are better off and more interesting when they act less like samurai and more like ninja. Vader is 100 percent a samurai. He dresses like one, he acts like one: a loyal and noble retainer to state power. Obi-Wan in the original trilogy is not a samurai. He’s a trickster, a wizard, who uses misdirection and stealth rather than, well, force. He’ll throw down when he has to, but even his fight with Vader is more of a sleight-of-hand than an iron fist.

The Jedi should never have been the police force of the galaxy. They’re not Thors, but Lokis. They should have been rumors, legends. They don’t wear recognizable uniforms, but either simple robes or black cloaks. None but the initiated should have ever known they were real.

But maybe that is just the ethos of an order in exile, as the ninja were said to have been, scattered and displaced to the mountains of Japan.2

Maybe ninja is what you become when you can’t be samurai any more. When the old ways stop working, invent new old ways.

  1. See Babylonian Talmud, Book 10: History of the Talmud, tr. by Michael L. Rodkinson, [1918]:

    The sages, the commentators of the Talmud, differed in opinion as to the epoch when the Talmud began to be written down. The scholars of Spain, and their colleagues and disciples, said that it had been recorded from notes possessed since schools had begun in Israel, a long time before R. Jehudah the Nasi. The scholars of France, among them “Rashi,” however, declared that not a line was written till the completion of the Talmud, before which its study had been oral. Each school adduced proofs in behalf of its assertion. Modern scholars have made a compromise between these various versions, by asserting that during the first centuries the commentators of the Talmud in the beginning had taken notes of their studies, and later had written them out in a permanent form. It would seem that as the persecutions had at their commencement been very severe, and the sages felt that their lives were in peril, they decided to write its teaching in secret and to conceal it from its foes. No sooner had the Pharisees granted permission for this (for till then it was absolutely forbidden to put in writing oral law) than the number of manuscripts became very great; and when R. Jehudah the Nasi came to occupy the seat of his father and had been confirmed in authority (since he enjoyed the friendship of one Antonius, who was in power at Rome), he discovered that from the multitude of the trees the forest could not be seen; that is, from the multitude of the Mishnas the people had lost sight of the Talmud. He therefore resolved to compile, selecting out of all the written and the unwritten law, clear Mishnayoth, and to systematize them.

  2. From the Wikipedia entry on “Togakure-ryu”:

    According to Bujinkan researcher Glenn Morris, Togakure-ryu originated in the Mie Prefecture with its creator, Daisuke Nishina. Morris explains that it was started in 1162, as a way of fighting in the war between the Genji and Heike (Taira) clans. The style itself would go on to be known as the origination of ninjutsu and its various fighting styles. Nishina was a samurai and a member of the Genji clan, which had been staging a revolt against the Heike clan because of their oppression against the Genji people. The revolt, however, was crushed and Nishina fled his home village of Togakure in Shinano Province to save his children….

    Togakure-ryu’s ninpo taijutsu is described as being “fundamentally different” from other styles of Japanese martial arts that are currently taught in Japan and around the world. This is largely because, unlike these other styles, Togakure-ryu does not have a “tightly regimated (sic) organizational structure.” The Bujinkan teaches that while Togakure-ryu contains some “historical kata,” which are similar to the training in judo and aikido in that they require an attacker to attack to initiate the movements. Much of the “formality” that other styles contain is not present in modern Togakure-ryu. Stephen K. Hayes explained that it is likely this “freer, more flexible structure” that makes it different, as the style has an atmosphere where “questions are encouraged, but there isn’t one part answer for every question.”

Star Wars, from the perspective of C-3PO, is a relentless nightmare

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2017

Just before The Force Awakens came out two years ago, Alexandra Petri wrote a piece about how Star Wars looks from the perspective of C-3PO. Spoiler: not good.

Your master goes into a bar, where they refuse to serve you. Instead of leaving the bar in solidarity, he makes you wait outside.

Then you wind up in a giant space station. Your master leaves you behind with your eccentric colleague, who turns out to be carrying Very Important Information. You have no weapons. “What should he and I do if we’re discovered here?” you ask.

“Lock the door,” your new boss says, leaving nonchalantly.

“And hope they don’t have blasters,” adds his new friend, a jerk.

Reminds me of A People’s History of Tattooine, Howard Zinn-like take on Star Wars:

What if Mos Eisley wasn’t really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?

What do you mean these blaster marks are too precise to be made by Sand People? Who talks like that?

Also Sand People is not the preferred nomenclature.

Both are good reminders that it matters from whose perspective stories are told. One of my favorite moments in The Last Jedi (spoilers!) is when Finn and Rose are warned that they’re traveling to a dangerous and terrible place — if I recall correctly, the exact wording was a riff on Obi Wan’s opinion of Mos Eisley: a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” — but then they cut to a luxe casino full of ultra-rich people. That felt like an explicit reference to current events as well as a sly nod to A People’s History of Tattooine (which director Rian Johnson may have come across in his internet travels).

Would you rather be “smart and sad” or “dumb and happy”?

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2017

National political opinion polls are usually fairly staid affairs involving Presidential approval ratings, healthcare, and religious beliefs. Over the course of a year in partnership with a professional research firm, Cards Against Humanity is running a different sort of opinion poll with more unusual questions. The early results are at Pulse of the Nation.

They asked people if they’re rather be “dumb and happy” or “smart and sad”. The “dumb and happy” respondents were more likely to say human-caused climate change is not real:

Pulse Nation Poll

The majority of black people surveyed believe a second civil war is likely within the next decade:

Pulse Nation Poll

65% of Democrats surveyed would rather have Darth Vader as President than Donald Trump:

Pulse Nation Poll

And one’s approval of Donald Trump correlates to a belief that rap is not music:

Pulse Nation Poll

And farts. They asked people about farting. Jokes aside, the results of this poll bummed me out. Many of the responses were irrational — Darth Vader would be much worse than Trump and Democrats believe that the top 1% of richest Americans own 75% of the wealth (it’s actually 39%)…and people with more formal education guessed worse on that question. The divide on rap music is racial and generational but also points to a lack of curiosity from many Americans about what is perhaps the defining art form of the past 30 years. But the worst is what Americans thought of each other…Democrats think Republicans are racist and Republicans don’t think Democrats love America. The polarization of the American public continues.

How extensive editing rescued Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2017

The first version of Star Wars that George Lucas showed publicly (to Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma) was, as Spielberg later related, a mess. This video from RocketJump shows how Lucas and the film’s team of editors, particularly George’s then-wife Marcia Lucas, recut the film into the classic it is today. The beginning of the film was extensively reworked — some scenes were cut and others moved around to give the story more clarity. In other spots, small cutaway scenes were added to improve the flow, to explain plot details without expositional dialogue, and to smooth over rough transitions. And the drama of the end of the film was totally constructed in the editing phase by using off-screen dialogue and spliced-in scenes from earlier in the film.

There are greater examples of editing in other films, but Star Wars is such a known entity that this is a particularly persuasive take on just how important editing is in filmmaking. (via fairly interesting)

The Fear Box (with John Boyega & Gwendoline Christie)

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 14, 2017

Vanity Fair does this thing where they get people to put their hands into a box to touch an unknown object. They call it The Fear Box. The latest installment features John Boyega & Gwendoline Christie from Star Wars: The Last Jedi confronting their fear of snakes, lizards, BB-8s, and plush Chewie toys. If you need a pick-me-up today, this should do the trick.

The undersung middle act of the first Star Wars

posted by Tim Carmody   Oct 24, 2017

Speaking of digging up weird old stories from the pulps — I don’t know if we always appreciate how good the middle of 1977’s Star Wars is. “Middle” is a vague concept, so let’s nail it down to all the parts where Luke, Han, Obi-Wan, R2-D2 and C-Threepio are sneaking around on the Death Star.

The beginning and end of Star Wars are much more straightforward. You have a series of handoffs, from Leia to the droids to Luke. Luke then meets up with Obi-Wan, then Han Solo and Chewbacca, and sets off to find his destiny. That’s the Joseph Campbell part of the movie. The end, where Luke and the rebels attack the Death Star, is a straight-up war movie action sequence that pays off all the threads you’ve set up in the beginning.

The middle is much trickier. Lucas gets all the characters we’ve met so far into very deep trouble, and splits them up. Scenes float from one set of characters to the next before eventually converging back together again. Then he strings together a series of set pieces, largely ripped off from old serials. Han, Luke, and Chewie have to break into one room. Then they have to break into another. Then they have to break out. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan is quietly skulking around, and Threepio bluffing his way out of danger. And it’s all tied together by dialogue taken straight from 1930s-1940s screwball comedy.

Everything slows down, but because there’s a mood that anything can happen, it sustains its tension. The only recent movie I can think of that really does something similar is The Incredibles, as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl sneak around Syndrome’s base. I think for most contemporary movies, they’d find it too slow or too hard to follow. But pound for pound, it’s the best part of the movie.

I asked my friend Gavin Craig, writer of one of my favorite Star Wars essays ever [PDF], to tell me what he loves about the first Star Wars.

The best thing about the original Star Wars film is that it’s still a bit weird. The aliens that populate the Mos Eisley cantina are still compelling and inexplicable. Darth Vader comports himself with the sense of honor of a samurai serving an evil master without question. Obi-Wan Kenobi is not an old soldier, but a hermit and a wizard, with a trickster’s secret knowledge and impish grin. And for every attempt to recapture its magic, no Star Wars film has yet framed a shot as beautiful as Luke Skywalker standing outside his home while Tatooine’s twin suns set, staring at a horizon that he thinks he’ll never reach.

There are the raw materials for a universe ready to explode into being, but everything is still fresh and raw, not yet sure of what it wants to become.

For all this, it’s the droids that stay with me. C-3PO and R2-D2 have appeared in every Star Wars film to date, and have even starred in their own Saturday morning animated series. Still, their point of view has never been treated as worthy of consideration as it was in their first adventure.

In interviews, Lucas has said that he considers the Star Wars films to be a story narrated long after the fact by R2-D2, and there are fan theories that posit Artoo as a secret rebel agent guiding the action of the war. But in 1977, Threepio and Artoo are… almost human. They fret and squabble. They run from and into danger. They perform acts of sacrifice and bravery, but at least one of them would be happier with a kind word and the comfort of a warm bath. One of them nearly dies, and while the heroes aren’t terribly concerned, the film understands that we are. We are shown that they are restored and reunited. While the heroes are rewarded with a fanfare and medals, the droids find a home, together, and that is the true happy ending.

Trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 09, 2017

Now we know: the Last Jedi is us. Did not see that coming. (jk jk, it’s Kylo Ren. Or Rey. Or Luke. Or some combination of the three of them. Or Leia? Or maybe Joe from Blade Runner 2049?) See also the teaser trailer from back in April.

Update: Kylo Ren reacts to the new trailer for The Last Jedi. The Auralnauts are so gooood.

Who is the last Jedi? What is the phantom menace?

posted by Jason Kottke   May 31, 2017

Vanity Fair’s David Kamp recently tried to get Kathleen Kennedy and Rian Johnson to tell him the meaning behind The Last Jedi, the title of the upcoming Star Wars movie. LOL. Hopeless move, right? Why would he even ask such a question? Oh, because George Lucas told him who the The Phantom Menace referred to before that movie came out.

Vanity Fair: So, do we know what the words The Last Jedi allude to?

Kathleen Kennedy: Why in the world do you think I would tell you that?

VF: I’ll tell you why. Back in 1998, I interviewed George Lucas for V.F. ahead of The Phantom Menace, and I asked, “Who or what is the phantom menace?” And he nonchalantly said, “Oh, it’s Darth Sidious.”

KK: Did he really?

VF: Just like that.

KK: I’m not going to do that.

VF: So, does the word “Jedi” work in the singular or the plural?

KK: That’s actually what’s interesting about the title, and very intentionally ambiguous.

VF: As you’re being right now.

KK: Yes.

Here’s the relevant passage from a piece written by Kamp and published in 1999:

Given that The Phantom Menace is a Vader- and Emperor-free movie, the role of evil string-puller falls to someone we’ve never heard of. “The phantom menace is a character named Darth Sidious,” Lucas says, “who is the last of the Sith” (“An ancient people… conquered by powerful dark-side Jedi magic”-page 268, Star Wars Encyclopedia, by Stephen J. Sansweet). Actually, Lucas goes on to explain, the “menace” honorific should be broadened to include Sidious’s apprentice, Darth Maul, a terrifyingly fierce-looking character played by the martial-arts expert Ray Park. Maul gets to fight a lightsaber battle with Obi-Wan, but Sidious remains a shadowy figure. “Nobody knows Darth Sidious exists,” says Lucas. “Well, he’s seen to the audience, but not to the players.”

Lucas appears to be firmly in the spoilers are fine camp.

Exploring the sound design of Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2017

When considering the massive success of Star Wars, special effects and the Jospeh Campbell-inspired story always get their due. But the sound design of the film was just as important and revolutionary as the visual effects. From Darth Farmer’s overdubbing with James Earl Jones’ voice and the now-famous breathing noise (created using a SCUBA apparatus) to the lightsaber battles (the lightsaber noise comes from the hum of film projectors plus the buzz from a CRT TV set), the sounds added to the film hold everything together, creating the illusion of reality where none actually exists.

Notorious B.I.G.: Life After Death Star

posted by Jason Kottke   May 04, 2017

Otaku Gang took more than a dozen tracks by Notorious B.I.G. and remixed them with music and sounds from Star Wars. The cantina band version of Party N’ Bullshit is kinda delightful. You can download the entire album (or just the instrumentals) here.

See also the Star Wars / Beatles mashup and Gnarls Biggie. (via @naveen)

Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans

posted by Jason Kottke   May 02, 2017

A duo called Palette-Swap Ninja has produced a mashup of Star Wars and the entirety of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Each song on the album is paired chronologically with a scene from the movie:

Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
Luke Is In The Desert (Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds)
Being From The Spaceport Of Mos Eisley (Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!)

The effort here is amazing, particularly when this whole thing is going to get yanked at some point soon — it’s a race between Disney and Sony for quickest takedown notice. The whole video playlist is here and you can download the full album on their website or stream it on Soundcloud. (thx, tim)

The hand-painted background scenes of the original Star Wars trilogy

posted by Jason Kottke   May 01, 2017

Star Wars Matte Art

Star Wars Matte Art

Star Wars Matte Art

Back in the 70s and 80s, before photorealistic computer graphics became commonplace, elaborate background sets in movies were hand-painted. Sploid’s Jesus Diaz took at look at the background art featured in the original Star Wars trilogy and the artists who painted them.

Matte paintings are fake sets that-most of the times-used to be made with plexiglass and oil paint. The artists used oversized panels to create the necessary detail that the camera needed to fool the audiences when the film was projected over the large surface of the theater screen. The paintings were combined with live action filmed to match the perspective of the painting. If done well, the public would totally buy into the shot.

Robert Bechtle has nothing on these guys. Bonus painting: the warehouse scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Star Wars Matte Art

They had to use a painting because the filmmakers were unaware of Ikea at the time.

Teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2017

YAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSS. I will never not be excited for more Star Wars and I don’t care what this says about me as a person.

A touching Star Wars video tribute to Carrie Fisher

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2017

Next month is the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars and at Star Wars Celebration this year, there was a 40 Years of Star Wars panel with George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Harrison Ford. At the end of the panel, after some personal thoughts from Lucas and the other panelists about Carrie Fisher, they played this video tribute to Fisher.

The end of Rogue One + the beginning of Star Wars

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 22, 2017

The ending of Rogue One — spoilers! — shows an unconvincing CG clone of Princess Leia receiving the plans for the Death Star just before her ship jumps into hyperspace. The beginning of Star Wars takes place just a few minutes (or hours?) after the final scene in Rogue One. Vader’s ship has caught the Rebel ship. He boards it and captures Leia, but not before she hands off the plans to R2-D2, who escapes to Tatooine with C-3PO. Watching them cut together like this, the whole narrative makes a lot more sense. BTW, on March 24, you’ll be able to watch both movies back-to-back in the comfort of your home when Rogue One is available for digital download.

Update: This video is even better…it includes a deleted scene from the original Star Wars inserted between the two movies. (You also get to hear Luke’s original nickname: “Wormy”.)

The tools ILM built to make Rogue One are super interesting

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 01, 2017

Every time I watch or read something about how Rogue One was made, I come away more intrigued. And it’s not about how they made the film…it’s about the tools they built to help them make the film. A few weeks ago, I posted about the full-length story reel they made from bits of old movies so that director Gareth Edwards could determine the pacing:

There was no screenplay, there was just a story breakdown at that point, scene by scene. He got me to rip hundreds of movies and basically make ‘Rogue One’ using other films so that they could work out how much dialogue they actually needed in the film.

It’s very simple to have a line [in the script] that reads “Krennic’s shuttle descends to the planet”, now that takes maybe 2-3 seconds in other films, but if you look at any other ‘Star Wars’ film you realise that takes 45 seconds or a minute of screen time. So by making the whole film that way — I used a lot of the ‘Star Wars’ films — but also hundreds of other films too, it gave us a good idea of the timing.

In this video, we see a couple more tools the team used to facilitate the making of the film. The first is a VR video game of sorts that ILM built so that Edwards could move a virtual camera around in a virtual set to find just the right camera angles to capture the action, resulting in a process that was more flexible than traditional storyboarding.

The second tool jumped around a virtual set — a complete digital model of Jedha City — and rendered hundreds of street views from it at random. Then the filmmakers would look through the scenes for interesting shots and found scenes that looked more “natural” than something a digital effects artist might have come up with on purpose — basically massively parallel location scouting.

Both are attempts to introduce more serendipity and possibility into a digital filmmaking process that sometimes feels a little stilted. I think animation studios like Pixar have been using these techniques for years, but it’s interesting to see them applied to live-action films like Rogue One.

Update: The Verge’s Bryan Bishop talked to Edwards and visual effects supervisor John Knoll and came away with more interesting details about how they used technology in filming Rogue One.

Typically, you’d have to storyboard these things, and that means you’re pulling from some default, subconscious idea in your head, probably based on another film you’ve seen, where you feel like it should be this shot. I find you get much better, more unique, shots when you are in a real environment, trying to find something that’s unfolding in front of you. You get inspired because of the light and shapes and things. It was like being in the real world more, and like the way we shot a lot of the rest of the movie.

I think if I ever do a big film again, and there’s a big digital set piece in it, whatever that is, I would definitely want to pre-animate it and then go in with a camera and try and film it like it was real.

Read the whole thing…the bit about the LED screens is fascinating. Prior to the 1980s, aside from some relatively minor editing tricks, effects in movies were mainly done during shooting. More recently, most of the production happens after the cameras stop rolling: extensively green-screened footage of the actors is combined with entire sets and worlds that are completely digital. With Rogue One, they tried to move some of that production back into the shooting phase in order to give the director more control over the scenes and the actors a more immersive environment in which to act. (via @sippey)

Rogue One’s unique storyboard, remixed from 100s of films

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2017

In an interview with Yahoo Movies UK, Rogue One editor Colin Goudie shares how he made a full-length story reel for director Gareth Edwards from similar scenes from 100s of other movies so that Edwards could work out the pacing for the action and dialogue.

There was no screenplay, there was just a story breakdown at that point, scene by scene. He got me to rip hundreds of movies and basically make ‘Rogue One’ using other films so that they could work out how much dialogue they actually needed in the film.

It’s very simple to have a line [in the script] that reads “Krennic’s shuttle descends to the planet”, now that takes maybe 2-3 seconds in other films, but if you look at any other ‘Star Wars’ film you realise that takes 45 seconds or a minute of screen time. So by making the whole film that way — I used a lot of the ‘Star Wars’ films — but also hundreds of other films too, it gave us a good idea of the timing.

For example the sequence of them breaking into the vault I was ripping the big door closing in ‘Wargames’ to work out how long does a vault door take to close.

So that’s what I did and that was three months work to do that and that had captions at the bottom which explained the action that was going to be taking place, and two thirds of the screen was filled with the concept art that had already been done and one quarter, the bottom corner, was the little movie clip to give you how long that scene would actually take.

Then I used dialogue from other movies to give you a sense of how long it would take in other films for someone to be interrogated. So for instance, when Jyn gets interrogated at the beginning of the film by the Rebel council, I used the scene where Ripley gets interrogated in ‘Aliens’.

So you get an idea of what movies usually do.

That’s super interesting! Like a moving Pinterest mood board or something. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see that story reel.

The UI design of Rogue One

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2016

Rogue One UI

Rogue One UI

Rogue One UI

From design firm Blind Ltd, the user interface graphics they did for Rogue One. They had some graphics from the original Star Wars to play off of, but this is still really nice work. Blind also did onscreen interfaces for The Force Awakens, the Batman films, and some recent Bond films. (via @pieratt)

Rogue One, engineering ethics, and types of resistance

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2016

Scifi Policy reviews Rogue One as an engineering ethics case study (spoilers!).

The film also makes its engineering ethics explicit. Before the opening scene, Galen Erso had escaped the Death Star project because of his moral objections, likely against the Empire as well as the concept of making such a terrifying weapon at all. After Krennic captures him, Galen later tells his daughter Jyn that he had a choice: he could have continued abstaining, and let someone else build the Death Star, or he could dive deep into the project, become indispensable to it, and find a way to stop it. He chooses to dive deep, and succeeds in building a subtle flaw in the Death Star design. Then 15 years later, he sends a messenger to the Rebellion informing them of the weapon’s existence, power and most importantly, its fatal flaw.

Part of the point of the review is that resistance can take many forms. Erso resists by working within the system to help bring about a better outcome. The problem, for the outside observer, is that for such resistance to be effective, it needs to be indistinguishable from collaboration. Something to think about in relation to the incoming Trump administration and how best to work against it, particularly in the area of technology. (via mr)