Welcome To The New Normal

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Welcome to the new normal
It’s a bit like the old normal
But with a smidgen less freedom
A tiny bit less choice
And quite a lot less fun

On the plus side though
There are more queues
And more joggers
A lot more joggers
And there is more than enough fear for everyone

And there are more rules
Although the rules don’t apply to everyone
And they can be quite confusing
And most people just ignore them

It’s not all change though
Much like the old normal
If you’re not sure what to do
Or even what to think
Then the Internet can help

It’s still full of the advice and opinions
Of people who are a bit famous
And therefore better than you
And they are more than happy
To tell you how to live your life
And what you should believe

Lately though
A lot of them seem to keep going on
And on and on and on
About something called
‘The New Normal’
Whatever that is

Teams Spirit

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There is no ‘i’ in Teams
Although there is an ‘i’ in time
And when I am in Teams
I often feel like I am stuck in time
Sometimes I’m literally frozen in time
At least that is the impression
I give to others
I wish I were more like ‘i’
And not in Teams
So I could be free
Perchance to Zoom

My Toddler Thinks I’m An Idiot

James Proclaims (4)

teddy-2012851_640I think I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but wife and I are attempting to bring our daughter up to be bilingual.

This stems from our own love of languages – both of us have an undergraduate degree in French Studies. Indeed, that is how we met in the first place.

Having said that, there is little comparison between Mrs Proclaims and I in terms of our mastery of other languages. I scraped through my undergrad course, with what many people refer to as ‘the drinkers degree’. Which, in my case, would be a fair summary. Mrs Proclaims not only secured a First on that particular course (and quite comfortably as I recall) but very quickly obtained an MA in eighteenth century French Literature and is currently working on PhD on nineteenth century French Literature. She’s completely fluent in French, highly competent in Spanish  and a few years back studied Latin, in her spare time, for fun.

Of course I can speak French perfectly well, and were we in a bar in Paris, I could competently order a round of beers. That’s mostly what I spent my time in Paris doing. But my French was never as good as that of my wife and in the ensuing years (and it’s been more years than I care to admit) since we left our undergraduate days behind us, though I have occasionally dabbled as a French teacher, I have mostly pursued occupations which have had very little to do with the language and consequently the gap in our ability has increased.

Nonetheless, I have been very much a part of developing my daughter’s vocabulary in French and as well as speaking to her in French, I frequently read her books in French and watch cartoons with her in French.

In these corona times, she has been deprived of access to toddler groups and the like and consequently has probably been exposed to more French than English, given that we do use the language a lot at home. We’ve noticed that she has a definite preference for speaking the former. Which is pretty positive as I have no doubt that once the ‘new normal’ kicks in and she’s exposed to more English through the medium of ‘just living in England’ that things will balance out.

But had I any fears that Little Proclaims was developing her French at the expense of her English, I need not have worried.

Because my daughter has clearly noticed the difference in competence between my wife and I. Just the other day, Little Proclaims and I were out for a walk and an aeroplane flew overhead.

She looked up in wonder and excitedly exclaimed “Avion!”

Then she looked at me, with pity in her eyes and calmly translated for me.

“Plane.”

 

 

James Interrogates ‘The Science’

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Like many people I’ve been slightly perplexed by the way the British government has handled the ongoing pandemic. It’s not that I fundamentally disagree with anything the government is doing. I would like to disagree, but while I lack any remote understanding of what they are doing, I’m not sure I can disagree.

Because to my, possibly untrained, eye, it’s not so much that they are employing ‘the wrong strategy’ as much as they seem to be employing absolutely no strategy at all.

From the outside looking in, it appears that Boris and co have been winging this from day one and that every action seems to be in direct contradiction to something else they have said previously. They don’t always even seem to agree with each other.

But one of the more troubling aspects has always been the fact that they keep telling us that they are guided by ‘the science’. And while that seems relatively easy to refute, given that all along this journey a large number of eminent scientists have spoken out against government strategy, it seems even more in doubt since a number of scientists on the government’s own advisory team have also contradicted some of the more recent hyperbole.

And to me ‘guided by the science’ is quite a troubling phrase, because surely, given the limited scope of human knowledge and the diversity of views within the scientific community, you could, at best, only ever claim to be guided by ‘some science’.

But, after much digging, I have been able to establish the truth behind this seemingly chimerical claim.

Because when Johnson, Raab et al. refer to being guided by ‘The Science’ they are actually referring to former semi-professional wrestler Tommy ‘The Science’ McVitie.

I was able to catch up with Mr McVitie, or as he prefers to be known ‘The Science’ earlier this week, via one of those video conferencing apps that everyone seems to enjoy using at the moment. I’m pleased to be able to share some of that interview with you now:

Me: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me, Mr McVitie.

The Science: Please, call me ‘The Science’.

Me: Erm…ok. Well let’s start there then. Why exactly do you call yourself ‘The Science’?

The Science: I don’t. Other people do. Boris does. Govey does. Both of the Dominics do.

Me: Matt Hancock?

The Science: Who?

Me: The Health Secretary?

The Science: Never heard of him.

Me: Ok… erm…so why do people call you ‘The Science’.

The Science: It’s my wrestling name. It was a sort of ironic nickname, because I didn’t actually manage to get any GCSEs.

Me: What, none at all?

The Science: Not a single one mate.

Me: Why focus on science then? I mean if you failed everything…

The Science: Dunno. Just seemed funny at the time.

Me: It’s not funny though is it?

The Science: With the benefit of hindsight, no it isn’t. But the name stuck so what you gonna do?

Me: I can’t help you there. Anyway, it does seem quite a leap to go from being a, fairly unsuccessful semi-professional wrestler, by which I mean no offense obviously…

The Science: None taken, I was rubbish.

Me: Right, yeah, so it seems quite a stretch to go from there to being what seems like quite an influential advisory figure within the British government.

The Science: Well you know Dominic Cummings yeah?

Me: I’m aware of him.

The Science: Yeah well you might be aware that earlier in the year he was trying to recruit weirdos and misfits to work in number ten.

Me: I had come across that notion, yes.

The Science: Yeah, well I’m one of them.

Me: Ok, it’s starting to make a bit of sense now, but I still don’t get how you have become such an influential figure.

The Science: Neither do I. But it’s a bit of a laugh isn’t it?

Me: Not really. I mean we are now one of the countries that has been the worst hit by this pandemic and that seems to be largely down to your advice.

The Science: Hardly seems plausible does it?

Me: And yet it weirdly makes more sense that any other explanation.

The Science: Even I’m not always comfortable with it to be honest. But they keep asking me what they should do, and I’m not even remotely qualified, so I just ask Dominic and he tells me what to say. He’s nice like that .

Me: Cummings or Raab?

The Science: One of them yeah. The one that’s in charge.

Me: Raab then? The man that stood in for Boris when he was sick.

The Science: No, it’s definitely the other one.

Me: Ok, but Mr Cummings is just a special advisor surely? He’s not in charge of the whole country?

The Science: If that’s what helps you sleep at night mate.

Me: Right, well speaking of Mr Cummings, what did you make of the recent controversy surrounding his behaviour in lockdown?

The Science: No problem with it. He behaved completely within the rules.

Me: I think that’s a generous interpretation of events. At the very best you could argue he manipulated a rule surrounding childcare to suit his own ends.

The Science: No, I’m not talking about that rule. I did find it strange when he kept banging on about childcare. No the rule I’m talking about is the rule that says you can do whatever you want if you’re an overprivileged t*** who thinks he’s better than everyone else.

Me: I wasn’t aware of that rule.

The Science: Well you wouldn’t be would you. It wasn’t written for you.

Me: What about the trip to Barnard Castle?

The Science: Yeah he was definitely taking the p*** there.

Me: So what are your views on face masks?

The Science: Not for me mate. Some wrestlers like them but I prefer the punters to see my ugly mug.

Me: No I didn’t mean…never mind. I think we’ll leave it there. Thanks for your time Mr McVitie.

The Science: Call me ‘The Science’.

Me: I’m not sure I feel comfortable doing that.

The Science: Call me ‘The Science’ or I’ll show you just how bad a wrestler I really was…

Me: I’m not being funny, but I’ve seen the footage. Even in your day you were average at best, and frankly you look like you’ve seen better days, so I don’t think threatening me is as intimidating as you think it is.

The Science: Fair enough mate. Always works on Govey though.

Me: I can imagine…

 

 

 

James Explains The Easing Of Lockdown

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There were one or two suggestions after my post on Tuesday that I was somehow advocating irresponsible drinking with large numbers of other people in the park. So, I should probably clarify that that is not in line with current government advice.

Current government advice is that you can get drunk anywhere you like, as long as you are outside. So don’t feel restricted to the parks. The seaside is just as appropriate.

But it’s important to remember, that if you are going to mingle with others from outside your household, you should restrict the number of people to six. But obviously if someone else from your household comes along, they don’t count, so you could have seven people really. And that person can bring five other people too, so there could be twelve of you. Throw in a third or fourth person from your household and their allocation of friends and you can have quite the party.

And you can have that party in your garden, but not in your house. Obviously with all that government mandated drinking, some people will need the toilet, and that is not allowed. But you are allowed to use common sense. And common sense would dictate that if someone does need the toilet, they should probably be allowed to go. If you have enough toilet roll obviously. And if you’re going to let people into the house to use the toilet, then common sense would suggest that they might as well be permitted to use other rooms in the house. So, rather than restricting your gathering of (however many people live in your house multiplied by six) to just the garden, you may as well make full use of the facilities.

But remember to stay two metres apart. Unless you don’t want to. They’re probably going to scrap that advice soon anyway so it doesn’t really matter.

And there’s absolutely no need to wear a face mask unless you are a masked vigilante. But you should wear one if you are a masked vigilante because otherwise it would be false advertising and we don’t need that level of confusion in our lives right now.

Essentially though, you can go where you like and do what you want. Although I can’t take my daughter to the swings, because that isn’t yet permitted. But schools are open again, except where they aren’t, because all children, across the board and without exception, are completely 100% immune to the virus and so are all adults who work with children. Also people who are related to children or related to people who work with children are immune so schools are perfectly safe. And park benches are safe, for people to sit and drink in the sunshine. But swings, slides, climbing frames and seesaws are not safe.

Unless they are in a school. Then they are safe.

Anyway if you are concerned about the easing of lockdown then don’t worry, because the five conditions that needed to be met before lockdown could be eased have now been met. Apart from the ones that haven’t. But they more or less have all been met if you just ignore some of the facts.

I hope I have cleared up any misconceptions but please do ask Facebook or Twitter if you need further clarification.

 

 

 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow?

James Proclaims (4)

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As is the case for most people, it has been a while since I had a haircut.

Not that this is anything new, I’m more than a little familiar with the ‘unkempt’ look. It’s kind of my style really.

Still, even by my standards I’m looking less kempt than usual. It doesn’t bother me, I don’t see anyone anyway. And I have a hat for the occasions I need to venture out.

And Mrs Proclaims says she likes my hair longer, so there’s no problem on the marital front.

Except that she wants to cut my hair.

Not because she thinks I really need a haircut, but because she just wants to play at being a hairdresser.

Now my wife has many talents, she is an exceptionally gifted linguist, a high-achieving academic and a wonderful mother to our daughter.

But she is not a hairdresser. And her claims that she wanted to be a hairdresser when she was a little girl don’t, in my eyes, qualify her for the job.

After all, I had dreams of being a rock star, but I won’t be headlining Glastonbury any time soon. And not just because the festival has been cancelled this year.

So I am refusing to let her cut my hair.

Some might call me belligerent, others may call me vain. And I’m fine with either of those labels – they both are fairly true.

But I’d still prefer to hang on a bit longer.

If nothing else, growing my hair a bit might help to establish more of a ‘rock star’ look, which could, in turn,  secure me that headline slot at Glastonbury for 2021.

 

 

 

As Per Our Policy…

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There has to be a policy
For people to be able to adhere to the policy
But it’s a theoretical exercise
And no-one reads the policy
So no-one adheres to the policy
But it’s important that they could if they wanted to
For some reason

Frankly it’s annoying when anyone actually does read the policy
And then points out all the ways that people aren’t adhering to the policy
Because that was never really the point of the policy
And no-one likes the person who points out
When people aren’t sticking to the rules
As laid out in the policy
So, don’t be that person

Just let people do what they want
Regardless of the policy
Because the policy is only there
So that we all know there is a policy
And can confidently claim that
The policy does exist
If anyone ever asks
But no-one ever will

Even the person who wrote the policy
Doesn’t know what it says
Because they just copied and pasted
A different policy
Which in turn was copied and pasted
From another policy
And so it goes
Although presumably there was once a policy
That was written by someone who actually thought about it
But that has never been confirmed
And it may just be a legend

In any case
You don’t need to adhere to the policy
And you don’t need to actually read the policy
But we would appreciate it nonetheless
If you would just sign this form claiming that you have
Read and understood
The policy
As that is our policy on all policies

James Explains ‘Common Sense’

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As lockdown restrictions ease in England, despite an apparent lack of clear guidance on…well anything much, the British government has made it clear, on multiple occasions that people should use their ‘Common Sense’.

But what it this thing they call ‘Common Sense’?

And do we all have it?

Or is it a bit like ‘The Force’ off of Star Wars?

Or is it nothing like ‘The Force’ off of Star Wars, but having spent the entirety of May watching and writing about Star Wars, I’ve started to confuse Star Wars with reality?

It’s more than possible.

But I don’t think ‘Common Sense’ is like ‘The Force’.

So we might all have it.

But, in case you’re not sure, why not try this multiple choice quiz to see if you have ‘Common Sense’?

Question 1:

You’re the Prime Minister of a country, a bit like the UK, and you hear there is a pandemic on the way. One of the key pieces of advice is that you avoid unnecessary contact with people and you wash your hands thoroughly. Do you:

a) Adhere to the guidelines and encourage others to do so?

b) Just shake hands with anyone you meet, including people who currently have COVID 19 and then brag about it to the media, before becoming the only world leader to contract the virus, which ultimately incapacitates you at a time when your country needs leadership more than ever?

 

Question 2:

You’re the Health Secretary of a country, a bit like the UK, and there isn’t enough equipment to support the frontline workers in the health service, or enough testing kits to adhere to advice about testing, as given out by the World Health Organisation. Do you:

a) Admit there is a problem and work with skilled and competent people to try and solve the problem.

b) Just lie about it and hope no-one really notices.

 

Question 3:

You’re the special adviser to the Prime Minister of a country, a bit like the UK and you’ve helped come up with the very regulations, which are guiding the country through this crisis. Do you:

a) Follow your own guidelines religiously, knowing that, during such difficult times, some people will probably only be able to follow the rules if they perceive that they really do apply to everyone.

b) Break the rules, then pretend that what you did was actually within the rules all along and if people didn’t realise that, it was their own stupid fault. Idiots!

 

Question 4:

You’ve been quite ill, and you think it might have affected your eyesight. You were about to embark on a fairly long journey, but you’re not sure if it’s really safe to drive. Do you:

a) Not drive, knowing that the only safe course of action here is to wait until you are sure that your eyesight is fine.

b) Go on a shorter, but still quite long, drive to a popular tourist attraction, with your wife and small child in the car, knowing that if you don’t have a road traffic accident on this shorter (but not actually short) drive, then you’re probably safe to attempt the much longer drive that you were worried about.

 

Question 5:

You’re the Prime Minister of a country, a bit like the UK and your special advisor has been caught breaking the rules. It’s a sensitive time, public morale is already quite low and people are understandably angry about the situation. Do you:

a) Insist on the special advisor resigning. Ultimately, even if there is some justification for his actions (and there obviously isn’t) it would be better to appease the general public and ensure that some kind of adherence to government guidance (such as it is) continues until this crisis has abated.

b) Just pretend that what he did was fine, allow him to keep his job and stick two fingers up to the public.

 

Results

If you answered mostly ‘a’ then I’m afraid you don’t have one iota of ‘Common Sense’ and you can’t be trusted to make your own decisions. So you will need to continue to follow all government advice quite rigorously. Although most of that advice appears to be to use your ‘Common Sense’. Which is going to be quite difficult for you. Probably best to just get drunk in the park with some friends until further notice.

If you answered mostly ‘b’ then you do have ‘Common Sense’ so, according to the latest government advice, you can do whatever you want. I’d recommend getting drunk in the park with some friends. What harm can come from that?

 

If you have any questions regarding any of the above then feel free to ask for clarification from someone.

Obviously not me though.

 

 

 

 

 

Que Sera Sera

James Proclaims (4)

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Having been largely dormant for much of 2019, my blog has enjoyed something of a resurgence of late.

This may be a natural consequence of all that is going on in the world.

Then again, although it is abundantly clear, even to an introvert like me, that social norms appear to have changed for most of us (or at least those of us who don’t work as special advisors to the prime minister) aside from having to queue to get into supermarkets, not much has really changed for me.

Because I am the father of a very small person. A toddler if you will. So I never got to see anyone or do anything anyway.

Obviously I’m being slightly glib. I think. I’m not actually sure what ‘glib’ means, but it seems appropriate to use it here.

Yep, I’ve just looked it up and it was the right word.

I’m being as glib as a politician who tells you that they are being guided by the science.

Obviously life has changed for me in the last few months, but not as profoundly, I don’t think, as it probably has for people who like spending time with, y’know, other people. And who don’t have an adorable yet demanding small person in their lives.

But, even though I have mostly still been at work (and yes, I actually have been ‘at work’ rather than working from home, for quite a few weeks now, since I established that, as no-one else was there, it was as easy to social distance in my office as at home and far far easier to pretend to be working hard there), my job has changed quite a lot. Because I work in a secondary school, not strictly speaking as a teacher (though I could if I wanted to, I have the relevant pieces of paper that permit me to teach children how to not fail exams, which has, essentially been the main focus of the British education system for many a year now, not least since, fairly early in the decade just gone, when Mr Gove and his special advisor, a certain Mr Cummings, decided that anything resembling a holistic education for children was a massive waste of time), but as someone who attends lots of meetings in which many things are discussed but nothing is ever resolved. And though I have had to attend a lot of the same meetings ‘virtually’ and complete lots of unnecessary paperwork that no-one will ever read, the absence of any actual children in school has been different to say the least.

I’ve still been busy, but there have been fewer distractions and so I may have had a little more time to blog. On the other hand, for the last two months I’ve been blogging predominantly about music and Star Wars, and I’d been planning on doing that regardless of ‘you know what’. The birth of my daughter in August 2018 resulted in the latter part of 2018 and most of 2019 being quite unproductive in blogging terms. Because it turns out that being a new parent is both time-consuming and exhausting. Who knew? Roughly 65% of the posts I wrote between June 2018 and March 2020 were the Christmas-Adjacent movie reviews I write in the build-up to Christmas. And no-one ever reads those. So I’d pretty much decided that I needed to have a couple of ‘blog projects’ that didn’t rely on me writing about movies that may have a tenuous link to Christmas. And I’d planned my April ‘A-Z of albums’  some time in advance of writing the posts. I planned the Star Wars thing a little less well, but notionally I thought it might be fun to do a long time before May arrived. And I was right, it was fun to do.

There’s no doubt that having slightly more time, due to world events, has helped my blog stumble back into existence, but I like to think I would have written most of what I have written without the need for a global pandemic.

But now we’re in June.

And I haven’t planned anything for June.

Except to write the same sort of stuff as I was writing before my extended paternity leave from the blogosphere.

And I can’t quite remember what that was.

I have vague recollections of writing something about soup once.

And I’m pretty certain there was something about the etiquette of waving on a boat.

And I expect I moaned about Brexit a few times.

And there was definitely a lot of bad poetry.

And some stuff was just plain weird.

Anyway, the point, if indeed there is a point, is that I’ve definitely re-discovered my love of blogging, which should mean that there will be a fair amount of content on these pages in the coming months.

But I offer no guarantees as to the quality of that content.

 

 

 

May The Thirty-First Be With You: Impossible To See The Future Is

James Proclaims (4)

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And so we arrive at day 31 of May 2020, which means that my month long homage to Star Wars can finally end.

Which is something of a relief because, aside from vaguely thinking it might be quite funny to extrapolate the flimsy premise that the 4th of May is ‘Star Wars Day’ into the completely ridiculous premise that the whole of May could be ‘Star Wars Month’ I didn’t really think this through at all.

So, although I’ve watched most of the movies to the point where I could probably recite them word for word, I had no idea how I would fill a whole month of posts with Star Wars related content.

I’ve been pretty much winging it since day 10, but somehow I appear to have achieved my goal. It’s not much of an achievement, all things considered, but I am strangely proud of it nonetheless.

But what of the future?

“Impossible to see the future is,” according to Yoda, but given that he utters that line in ‘Attack of the Clones‘ then it’s not even true, because you can definitely ‘see the future’ from his perspective if you watch the original trilogy.

But will there be enough new Star Wars stuff for me to be able to do another month-long tribute to Star Wars next year?

Arguably there already is.

I didn’t watch all of the animated shows in their entirety, so there’s every chance I could write more about those next year. Whether anyone would want to read about them is another matter…

Series 2 of ‘The Mandalorian‘ is also due to come out before May 2021 rolls around so I’d be able to write about that.

There are also quite a few Lego Star Wars series that I haven’t seen yet.

And I didn’t even come close to writing about the various parodies of Star Wars that are out there, such as Family Guy and Robot Chicken and…erm…well definitely those two anyway.

And there’s the 1987 Mel Brooks spoof, ‘Spaceballs’.

And given that Star Wars was originally a kind of homage to ‘Flash Gordon’ then 1980’s ‘Flash Gordon’ movie would surely be deserving of a post. Not least because Ming the Merciless turned up in ‘The Force Awakens‘.

And lest we forget, there is a Star Wars reference in the second Indiana Jones film, when he pops into Club Obi Wan to get poisoned and have a fight. Surely that would be reason enough to write about all of the Indiana Jones movies?

And, although I had a few cheat posts this time around when I wrote about mugs, T-shirts, Mr Potato Head and a towel, I still have plenty of Star Wars merchandise on hand to produce a whole range of filler posts. And way too many action figures for a man of my age.

So even though I appear to have already scraped the Star Wars barrel, I can sink to even murkier depths and it is more than possible that ‘May the 2021’ will be with me. I’m not sure if that would be wise. I’ve always struggled with the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Probably because I’m not a Jedi.

But what of the future of Star Wars in more general terms.

In spite of the box office failure of ‘Solo‘, the general antipathy towards ‘The Rise of Skywalker‘ and the fairly polarised views surrounding ‘The Last Jedi‘ (all of which were films that I liked anyway), there appears to be quite a lot to be optimistic about.

The Mandalorian‘ and ‘Rogue One‘ are obvious templates for future projects – new stories in the Star Wars universe that aren’t bogged down by the weight of expectation surrounding anyone called Skywalker. Or Palpatine. Or Solo. Or Organa. Or Calrissian. Well ok probably not Calrissian.

Also, ‘The Mandalorian’ proved that Star Wars could work on the small screen. Provided it has a big screen budget…

And there are at least two Star Wars shows that seem almost certain to happen. The first is going to centre around the character of Cassian Andor (and perhaps more importantly K2SO) from ‘Rogue One‘. I’d watch that. The second is potentially more exciting, as Ewan McGregor is set to reprise his role as Obi Wan Kenobi. I can’t wait for that.

There are also potentially more movies on the horizon, with Taika Waititi apparently confirmed to be directing a stand-alone movie, which is definitely exciting.

And, depending on how you feel about ‘The Last Jedi’ (which I loved) the fact that Rian Johnson is still seemingly due to make an entirely new Star Wars trilogy is either going to be something to look forward to or something to dread. But I’m definitely looking forward to it.

I’m looking forward to all of it.

If, of course, any of it happens.

But it’s hard to be certain.

Impossible to see the future is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May The Thirtieth Be With You: The Mandalorian

James Proclaims (4)

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‘The Mandalorian’ arrived late to the UK, given that Disney Plus didn’t launch here until March, having been available elsewhere as early as November. However, the hype arrived a long time before that and, consequently, this show had a lot to live up to by the time I got around to watching it.

Probably more so for me, given that I’ve just re-watched all of the movies and quite a lot of other Star Wars related stuff in order to be able to spend this entire month writing about the franchise, in what, I began to realise some weeks ago, was quite an ill-conceived and fairly pointless project.

But we’ve all had to get through lockdown in our own way haven’t we? I couldn’t escape to a farm in Durham, so I had to escape to ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far far away’. Which was probably the more ethical choice really.

Anyway, I saved writing about ‘The Mandalorian’ until last (I know there is one more day of May, but I thought I’d use that to craft some kind of ‘conclusion’ to this madness), because, based on everything I’d read, looking at who was involved and considering its astronomical budget, I pretty much expected it to be excellent.

And, having just watched the last episode of series one, I can confirm that it ticked all the right boxes for me. I can’t wait until series two.

But before I go any further, I should, for the sake of completion if nothing else, issue my final spoiler alert of the month:

Spoiler alert: I’m going to write about ‘The Mandalorian’ now. I doubt I’ll give too much of the plot away, but there may still be one or two spoilers in the text that follows. Because this is the way.

The first live-action Star Wars ‘TV show’ was always going to be a bit of a risk given the notoriously difficult to meet expectations of Star Wars fans, but ‘The Mandalorian’ is almost a masterclass in expectation management.

Firstly, it’s set between ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Force Awakens’ but much closer to the former, which is pretty much a blank canvas in terms of the Star Wars chronology. Perhaps that period has been covered in some of the novels, but there are no existing movies or cartoons set in the time period. Also, the sequel trilogy rendered a lot of the novels non-canon, so it’s fairly likely that there won’t be any existing Star Wars material that massively contradicts the events covered within the show.

Secondly, ‘The Mandalorian’ is deliberately set in the outer reaches of the galaxy, pretty far away from any likely era-defining events, and certainly far away from any Skywalkers. There’s not even a cameo for C3PO. And he normally turns up in everything, whether you want him to or not.

Thirdly, it centres around the coolest looking characters in the Star Wars universe – the Mandalorians. They’re cool because they all dress like Boba Fett, who was pretty much everyone’s favourite action figure. But, Boba Fett never really did anything in the movies and wasn’t even a proper Mandalorian, so the first live-action incarnation of the Mandalorians was also a fairly blank canvas. They did turn up in the various cartoon series a bit, but there was still plenty of room for interpretation in this show. As long as they looked a bit like Boba Fett. Which they did.

‘The Mandalorian’ manages to strike the (not always easy) balance of providing lots of references for die-hard Star Wars fans, while trying to be accessible to anyone who is coming to this without any knowledge of the movies. It’s hard to be objective, I am obviously a massive Star Wars fan, but I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy this show even if it wasn’t based on Star Wars. It looks and feels like Star Wars a lot of the time, but it is also very much its own thing and there were times when it reminded me a bit of the brilliant and short-lived 2002 show ‘Firefly’, which is probably not that surprising given that it would be reasonable to describe both shows as ‘Space Westerns’.

‘The Mandalorian’ is definitely a Star Wars show, but its greatest strength in many respects, is that it isn’t too ‘Star-Wars-y’. There are stormtroopers, X-Wings, and Tie-Fighters but there isn’t a Jedi in sight. Apart from ‘Baby Yoda’. But he isn’t technically a Jedi. Oh and there are no lightsabers. There is a darksaber. Which is a bit like a lightsaber. But it definitely isn’t a lightsaber. Although I couldn’t really tell you the difference.

The Force is strong with ‘The Mandalorian’ but it’s quite possibly because the Force isn’t in it very much.

Best character  – The Child (AKA Baby Yoda)

Baby-Yoda-in-The-Mandalorian-Chapter-4

Having been bombarded with ‘Baby Yoda’ memes for months before actually getting to see the character on-screen, I was apprehensive to say the least. But, while he has no dialogue, and is played, essentially, by a puppet, it’s hard to see past this little fella as the best thing about the show. Which is harsh on the titular character  who is pretty fantastic too. Although, if I hadn’t gone with ‘Baby Yoda’ I’d probably have gone with Taika Waititi’s IG11 rather than The Mandalorian, so he wouldn’t have got a look-in anyway. 

Worst character – Toro Calican

toro

I didn’t hate him or anything, but the show was mostly full of eminently likeable (if admittedly fairly two-dimensional) characters and this guy was pretty much the one exception. Being a bounty hunter without any of the requisite skills makes him one of the least cool characters anyway but then he kills off a character who had the potential to be genuinely pretty cool in Fennec Shand, before she got a chance to actually do anything cool. Which makes Toro even less cool.

Unsung hero – Paz Visla

Paz_Vizla

This honour could have gone to more significant characters, such as the aforementioned IG11, or the Nick-Nolte-voiced Kuiil, both of who sacrifice themselves to save ‘The Child’. However, Paz Visla gets the nod, because he’s a Mandalorian, in a show called ‘The Mandalorian’ and he’s barely in it.  Also, when he is in it, he goes out of his way to save the life of the titular Mandalorian, even though it’s been established in an earlier scene that he doesn’t really like him.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘The Mandalorian’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be attempting to write some sort of conclusion to my month long tribute to Star Wars in an effort to justify what has, almost certainly, been a colossal waste of time.

I have spoken.

 

May The Twenty-Ninth Be With You: Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales

James Proclaims (4)

lego

When I was a kid, Lego was essentially a load of plastic bricks that you tried (and generally failed) to build stuff out of. Even back then you could buy kits that had particular themes, I remember having a space themed set, but by and large most new packs of Lego were just dumped in with any you already owned, you built what you could out of what you had and your imagination did the rest. It was pretty good fun, everyone had a set, but hardly anyone would have said it was their favourite toy. Even if it was their favourite toy. It was ok to like Lego, but it wasn’t especially cool.

At some point that changed and these days you can get Lego in all kinds of different themes, and many of them are linked in some way, shape or form to major movie franchises. The likes DC and Marvel, Disney, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Ninja Turtles and countless others have been represented in small plastic brick form at one point or another.

And obviously Star Wars is no exception.

But Lego has become more than just small plastic bricks in recent years and most people would be familiar with 2014’s ‘Lego Movie’ and it’s subsequent sequels and spinoffs. Cynical marketing ploys or not, they are definitely entertaining and frankly hardly any animated feature film isn’t a little bit about selling lots of toys, so I’m not going to hold it against Lego – at least they had the decency to make their movie enjoyable.

People might be less familiar with the various Lego short films, and TV specials which are also available for consumption on various platforms. But there are a lot of them.

And again, Star Wars is quite well represented.

And given that some of them are on Disney Plus, which has been something of a facilitator in my making my month-long tribute to Star Wars possible, I thought I might watch one of them.

There were a few to choose from, including a proper full length TV series called ‘The Freemaker Adventures’. But that was too long, given how much other content I’ve been trying to cram in.

So instead I went for a shorter series, called ‘Droid Tales’, which consisted of five twenty-minute episodes.

And I’m going to write about it now.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: Are you really planning on watching a Lego Star Wars cartoon? Really? And you’ve decided, out of all the various options available, you’re going to watch the one I’m writing about here? Ok, well then I might spoil it for you if you read on. But probably not, because it is, after all, a Lego Star Wars cartoon and it’s probably not worth being that precious about plot details.

I actually did really enjoy this and not in a ‘it was slightly better than I thought it would be’ way but in a ‘that was really funny and very well made’ kind of way.

It’s genuinely really good. It’s not really Star Wars as you know it, but it’s not trying to be. It’s a parody more than anything. Made of Lego.

I suppose, having seen the Lego movie and 2017’s ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ I should been expecting this to be quite tongue-in-cheek, but it really is laugh out loud funny.

In essence, ‘Droid Tales’ is a recap of the first six movies, as told by C3PO (who is, as always, voiced by Anthony Daniels). But it’s also a complete send-up of the movies. It’s all in good taste and it’s done very affectionately, but it doesn’t take any prisoners and ‘The Phantom Menace’ is mocked pretty mercilessly.

I’ve pretty much enjoyed everything Star Wars related I’ve watched in the last month, but, given that I really only watched this on a bit of a whim, I’d have to say it was a surprising highlight and I’ll now definitely be watching all of the other Lego Star Wars cartoons at some point in the near future.

Best character – Palpatine

palpy 3

Most of the characters are pretty funny, but Palpatine made me laugh more than most. Probably because he is still, even as Lego, completely evil, although somewhat less competent in small plastic brick form.

Worst character – Admiral Ackbar

acky

The characters tend to be funnier when they are exaggerations of their movie personas and Admiral Ackbar, possibly because he is essentially a minor character in the films, is less based on source material and the joke seems to be mainly about him having a spaceship called Daisy-Mae. Which isn’t all that funny really.

Unsung Heroes – Chewbacca and Nien Nunb

chewy

Because they cut short their holiday to help C3PO find R2D2 and also because they are wearing Hawaiian shirts. Which is pretty funny.

 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Droid Tales’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be writing about ‘The Mandalorian’. And about time too…

May The Twenty-Eighth Be With You: Star Wars: Resistance

James Proclaims (4)

star-wars-resistance

As with ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’and ‘Star Wars: Rebels‘ I can’t claim to have seen every episode of this animated show. At the time of writing I have seen series one in its entirety but I’ve yet to see any of the second (and as it turns out final) series.

In fairness to me, although time was a factor, series two is not yet available on Disney Plus in the UK. I’m pretty sure I could have found it in other, less legal, corners of the internet, but, given that I’ve been operating on a pretty tight viewing schedule for most of this month, I thought series one would suffice for this post.

And I think it just about does, although I’m glad I did watch the first series to the end because frankly my views on the show after watching a few of the early episodes were very different to my views now I’ve seen twenty-one episodes.

But before all that, please enjoy this spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert – If you haven’t seen series one of this show, then the following may contain spoilers. But it’s highly unlikely to contain spoilers for series two, because I obviously have no idea what happens in that. 

Up until about halfway through this series (roughly around episode ten) I was pretty convinced I was going to be writing a pretty scathing post about this show. The animation, though stylistically very different to either ‘The Clone Wars’ or ‘Rebels’ is obviously of a high standard. But that was about all I could say that was remotely positive.

Just as ‘The Clone Wars’ is clearly linked with the prequel trilogy and ‘Rebels’ has some pretty obvious links with the original trilogy, this series is very much tied in with the sequel trilogy.

Except that it doesn’t seem like it really is in the early episodes. In fact it doesn’t much feel like it’s got anything to do with Star Wars at all.

Poe Dameron (voiced by Oscar Isaac no less) is in a few episodes, and ‘R2D2 wannabe’, BB8, is a regular up until episode 17 but that’s more or less it. OK, ‘Galactic Empire wannabes’ The First Order are also in it a fair bit, but mainly in the background – Gwendoline Christie voices Captain Phasma in a few early episodes but she’s barely in it really. The main antagonists early on are pirates. Pirates! And a lot of the early action seems to focus on racing. Not exactly pod racing like in ‘The Phantom Menace’, but not a million miles away either. 

The premise is that the main character, Kaz, is working undercover for The Resistance on an aircraft refuelling station, which isn’t all that enthralling as concepts go. Most of the early episodes are less about him spying on the First Order and more about him trying to fit in with his new surroundings. Which is as dull as it sounds. And frankly he’s a bit of an idiot. I’m not quite sure why the Resistance have recruited him.

Anyway, it’s all a bit silly and lightweight and not really much to do with Star Wars and most of the characters are quite hard to like.

And then all of a sudden it gets a lot darker and The First Order suddenly become quite prominent and Kaz stops being quite so much of an idiot and seems to be a vaguely competent spy after all.

And even though I thought I was quite indifferent to it all, I actually found myself quite enjoying the last few episodes.

And I’m now actually quite looking forward to watching series 2.

Best character – Neeku Vozo

Neeku_Vozo

Takes everything he hears literally which mostly results in the show’s funniest moments. Can be hit and miss as a source of comic relief and does have the potential to be an irritating character, but is generally too endearing to ever be truly annoying.

Worst Character – Jarek Yeager

See the source image

Meant to be a world-weary but ultimately wise and caring mentor for Kaz. Mostly comes across as grumpy and a bit of a killjoy. Has a bit more about him in the later episodes but will need to put in more of shift in series two for me not to regard him as a rubbish character.

Unsung hero – CB23

CB-23.JPG

BB8 is with Kaz in the first 17 episodes and in the few episodes we see Poe he is accompanied by CB23. Then Poe decides he wants BB8 back and swaps him for CB23, who is then with Kaz in the final four episodes of the series. And clearly is just as good as BB8. So why does Poe feel the need to swap? Harsh.

And that’s all I currently have to say about ‘Star Wars: Resistance’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be writing about something else to do with Star Wars.

May The Twenty-Seventh Be With You: Star Wars: Rebels

James Proclaims (4)

rebels

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I have been somewhat unsuccessful in my attempts to watch every episode of every show in the Star Wars canon before the end of this month (although I’ve given it a pretty good go).

Unfortunately this 2014 successor to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ is one of the shows I haven’t been able to view in it’s entirety.

But I’ve watched a few episodes and I’d never let a little thing like ‘not really knowing my subject matter’ stop me from writing a blog post about it.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: I’m only up to about a third of the way through series 2 of this, so please don’t ruin it for me. Although if you haven’t seen any episodes, I suppose there’s still a small chance I could spoil it for you in the rest of this post.

I really like this cartoon. It’s very different in tone and style to ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and some might say it suffers by comparison.

I haven’t seen enough to fully inform my views but I’d say that what I’ve seen so far holds up pretty well and there are definitely elements about this that I prefer.

The main things I like are probably nostalgia driven, because this show is chronologically much closer to the original trilogy. Which means that we get proper Stormtroopers, Imperial Officers and Star Destroyers.

Oh and we get Darth Vader. He’s not in every episode, but he shows up a few times and he’s voiced by James Earl Jones and everything.

And so far in the episodes I’ve watched, we’ve also had Lando (voiced by Billy Dee Williams) and C3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels but that’s less of a novelty because C3PO is in all the Star Wars cartoons and he’s always voiced by Anthony Daniels). Grand Moff Tarkin has also been in some episodes although obviously not voiced by the original actor. But it was still nice to see him feature.

There are also recurrent characters from ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’, notably Ahsoka Tano and Captain Rex, who were two of my favourites from that show and who are voiced in this by the same actors.

And while they haven’t yet shown up, I’m fairly certain from the marketing I’ve seen around this show that Obi Wan Kenobi (the older version from the original trilogy) and Darth Maul (who seems to be making the most of his implausible resurrection) are both going to show up too.

But the show really hinges on its central characters. I don’t really know how I feel about them yet, but so far I’m fairly optimistic. There’s no-one I actively dislike and potentially by the time I’ve got through all of the episodes there’ll be a few who’ll be up there with my favourites.

All the core characters in this were essentially new to Star Wars when this show first aired, which means they had no existing capital with fans (which seemingly can be a problem for some Star Wars fans). It does, however, leave a lot more room for character development, which, even though I’m still not that far into it, is already apparent in the episodes I have seen.

Aside from trying to win over the fans, the main problem with introducing new characters, particularly in a show that is set a few years before the original trilogy, is the difficulty in explaining why these characters aren’t around in those movies.

Particularly as, so far, we’ve got two Jedi in Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger, as well as the aforementioned Ahsoka, who isn’t technically a Jedi anymore but who still knows how to wield a lightsaber like the best of them. And there are no shortage of bad guys with red lightsabers called the inquisitors who are also not in the movies. Although at the stage I’m at with my viewing, one of those is already dead, so maybe the others will follow suit.

But will the good guys also die?

And if not, how will the show resolve itself to explain their absence from the movies, given that they are very much part of the Rebel Alliance?

Obviously I’ve done a lot of reading about Star Wars in recent weeks so, unfortunately, I have subjected myself to some spoilers and my understanding is that the show will have answered my questions by the time I get to the final episode.

To be fair, I’m not too precious about such things really, as long as the show is entertaining.

And on the evidence I’ve seen so far, ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ is a pretty good watch.

Best character (so far) – Ezra Bridger

ezra

The force is strong with this one. He’s a bit of an archetype, but I quite like him because in many ways he represents what I always imagined the young Anakin Skywalker should have been in ‘The Phantom Menace’. Rather than the Anakin we actually got in ‘The Phantom Menace’…

Worst Character (so far)  – Chopper

chopper

He’s like R2D2 but with a bad attitude. Sometimes he’s funny but he’s often quite annoying and frankly he’s a liability. Given the general disposability of droids in the rest of Star Wars, it’s a wonder the other characters in this bother to keep him around.

Unsung hero – Minister Tua

tua

Initially presented as a fairly unsympathetic official working for the Empire, not exactly evil but not especially nice. But with the arrival of Darth Vader things take a darker turn and she realises she’s out of her depth. Tries to defect to the Rebels and gets blown up for her troubles. 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Star Wars: Rebels’. Which is actually quite a lot given how few episodes I’ve seen. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be attempting to write about another show I haven’t seen in its entirety.

 

 

May The Twenty-Sixth Be With You: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Series)

James Proclaims (4)

Star_Wars_The_Clone_Wars

In all honesty, when I started this month long homage to Star Wars, I wasn’t actually planning on doing much more than writing about the nine movies of the ‘Skywalker Saga’ in episode order over the first nine days of the month. Then I thought, given that I’d seen both ‘Solo‘ and ‘Rogue One‘, I might as well write about those. Then it occurred to me that as I had, in the past, sat through the appalling ‘Holiday Special‘ I should probably write about that too. And once I’d committed to that, it seemed a shame not to include the Ewok movies, especially as the first of those was the very first movie I ever saw in the cinema.

Throw in a few posts with pictures of the various Star Wars merchandise that I own, and I probably had enough material to write about Star Wars for quite a few days.

But to write about it for the whole month?

To achieve that I’d have to watch the various TV series. And, aside from the Ewok cartoon of the eighties and the 2003 show ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars‘, I hadn’t seen a great deal of the animated shows really. And I hadn’t seen the Ewok cartoon since the eighties, so I’d definitely have to re-watch that in order to be able to write about it.

So, as well as writing a lot about Star Wars, I have spent most of this month (and quite a lot of the previous month) watching Star Wars in its various guises.

Which has been made easier, thanks to the UK launch, in March, of Disney Plus, which has made a lot Star Wars content available in one place. Although my quest has still meant some foraging around elsewhere on the internet. Particularly for Ewoks.

But still, it has been quite an undertaking and I have rather failed in my bid to watch everything.

Obviously if I was experiencing the kind of lockdown that the media would have us believe is the norm, I would have had plenty of time, but I have mostly still been working and when not working I have my little girl to look after. And she isn’t a massive Star Wars fan.

Yet.

I’m working on it but she still prefers Peppa Pig.

I have made a pretty good effort to cover the whole Star Wars back catalogue.

And I’ve watched enough episodes of enough of the series to be able to post something about most of them.

Which is a relief, because if I’m going to undertake a pointless month-long project, I’d hate to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Like the Empire frequently does.

But it would be lying to claim I’ve watched every episode of every show.

Part of the reason I’ve struggled to watch everything in it’s entirety is the series I’m writing about today. Because there are a lot of episodes of ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’.

I have managed to get through most of them, but at the time of writing I’ve yet to see series six and seven. I will watch both of them (because I am now a big fan of this cartoon) but as the show essentially wrapped up at the end of series five in 2014, with series six almost being viewed as bonus material (it’s subtitled ‘The Lost Missions’) and series seven essentially a short revival of the series made this year specifically for Disney Plus, it’s fair to say I’ve probably got a relatively good handle on the show, having watched the first 108 episodes (and of course the movie, which I’ve already written about).

But before I go any further, I will issue my now customary spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: This is a brilliant show and you should definitely watch it, but I am potentially going to reveal some plot details from this point onwards. Although there are a lot of episodes and consequently there are also a lot of intersecting plotlines and there’s no way I could cover them all, so it’ll probably be fine.

Not to be confused with the excellent, but very brief, 2003 cartoon, ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’, which is only a definite article away from having the same name, ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ essentially renders that earlier cartoon null and void in the sense that both tell the story of what happened between ‘Attack of the Clones‘ and ‘Revenge of the Sith‘ but they tell very different stories.

Nonetheless the 2008 cartoon is arguably even more brilliant than its shorter predecessor.

It didn’t have the most auspicious of beginnings.  The movie which introduced the series was not beloved by critics. I can understand some of the animosity directed towards that particular cinematic release, not least when viewed as a stand-alone movie, but I still think the critics were overly harsh. And when viewed as part of the series as a whole, the movie does work quite well. However, it’s nowhere near as strong as the series would go on to be.

Obviously a lot of the action is centred around Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi, with the former being easily the best incarnation of that particular character. This is an Anakin Skywalker that is played by someone who can act, which really helps, but he also benefits from some well written storylines and some actual character development (as opposed to just having different hairstyles). It’s easy to believe that this Anakin was a genuine hero, but equally, his darker traits, though often subtle, are also there to see and once in a while he really loses it and is not a million miles away from the Darth Vader we know and love from the original movies. The dialogue is also well written, with this version of Anakin quite often adopting a turn of phrase that we hear Darth Vader say in the movies. Which as writing goes, is impressive. Most impressive.

However, one of the strengths of ‘The Clone Wars’ is the way it brings the other characters to life. We see a lot of Jedi in the prequel movies but we never get to know very much about them and in this cartoon we’re able to explore that world in greater depth. And although there are definitely good guys and bad guys, a lot of the time it’s more nuanced and very few of the good guys are completely good and very few of the bad guys are totally bad. Apart from Palpatine, who is palpably evil. And Count Dooku is pretty much always bad too. And General Grievous doesn’t have any redeeming features. But everyone else is more nuanced.

While it’s the characters from the movies that you start out invested in, it’s other characters who come to the fore. Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan learner, was initially disliked by many, but, possibly because she is not weighed down by any preconceived expectations, her character has one of the most interesting journeys throughout the series. The same is also true for villain turned antihero Asajj Ventress, who’s only prior on-screen appearance was in the 2003 cartoon.

The other standout characters from the show are the clone troopers. I had huge misgivings about the clones in the movies, but in the cartoon, although they all look the same (although are distinguishable by having differing hairstyles, facial hair, tattoos, etc) and they are all voiced by the same actor (who is frankly incredible), they all have distinct personalities and some individual troopers (notably Rex, but there are others) have the most interesting narrative arks. There a several episodes that focus exclusively on a group of clones and they are some of the best.

A lot of the promotional material surrounding the later series did focus on the resurrection of Darth Maul, who absolutely and conclusively died in ‘The Phantom Menace‘. I was apprehensive about this particular storyline, but it’s done really well, and far from dominating the later series, he’s really only in a few episodes. They are some of the best episodes though, which confirms that killing him off in ‘The Phantom Menace’ was a stupid decision. Although that movie is full of stupid decisions…

‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ is by no means perfect. At times it gets bogged down by some of the same problems as the prequel trilogy, and any episode that focuses on ‘the politics’ tends to be a bit dull. Jar Jar Binks, although not a prominent character, does pop up a few times and is generally as annoying as he was in the films.  But there are far more good episodes than bad ones and in many ways this series serves as a far more satisfying prequel to the original Star Wars Trilogy than the actual prequel trilogy ever did.

Best character – Ahsoka Tano

ahsoka

When I was still on series one, Anakin was my favourite character, but as the show develops, Ahsoka comes more and more to the fore and you could make a convincing case to say that she, rather than Anakin, is the central character in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’. 

Worst character – Tan Divo

tan di

Despite it’s brilliance, there are quite a few annoying characters who pop up from time to time. The aforementioned Jar Jar Binks obviously and Ziro the Hutt, who irritated me in the film version of this show. But I think Tan Divo, who is a pompous, yet fairly inept, police officer is the one that probably annoyed me the most. Fortunately, like all the other annoying characters, he wasn’t in that many episodes.

Unsung hero – Riff Tamson

riff

OK, he was absolutely a bad guy. But he was also a shark. And he was hard as nails. He was only in three episodes. If you look like a shark, you should be in more episodes. 

 

Frankly I could I write about this series for days on end and still only scratch the surface. It’s utterly brilliant. But I must stop writing now, so I can cram in a few more episodes of the show I’m planning to write about tomorrow before my daughter wakes up from her nap.

May The Twenty-Fifth Be With You: Do Or Do Not, There Is No Dry

James Proclaims (4)

Today is Towel Day, an annual celebration in honour of the late great Douglas Adams, and in particular ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, which is celebrating it’s 42nd anniversary this year. As fans of that particular guide will know, this is especially pertinent, what with ’42’ being the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

I love ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, I’ve read all the books multiple times and consumed it in many of its other various guises (radio show, TV show and movie), so I feel it’s only right that I join in the fun of Towel Day this year.

But I’m currently (for reasons I can’t quite remember) committed to writing about Star Wars for the entirety of this month, which presents something of a conflict of interests.

To be fair, there are some links between the two; both are set in space and although both are frequently mistaken for science fiction, there isn’t much in the way of actual science in either (a bit like current government policy surrounding ‘you know what’, which frequently claims to be guided by ‘the science’ but might as well be guided by ‘the force’ for all it has made any actual sense, and certainly ‘knowing where your towel is’ seems infinitely wiser advice than anything that has come out of the mouth of Mr Johnson of late, although his recent defence of Dominic Cummings was a new low even by his standards).

Also they’re fairly contemporaneous, with Star Wars coming into our lives in 1977 and the first incarnation (the radio version) of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ popping up in 1978.

Oh and there were 42 years between the first Star Wars movie and ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, and while the latter seems unlikely to be the last Star Wars movie, it did notionally wrap up the story started by the first movie,  a story now commonly referred to as the ‘Skywalker Saga’. So I think ’42’ has some pertinence to Star Wars.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to justify writing a post about ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ and ‘Star Wars’ without a more forensic, detailed look at the parallels and differences between the two.

Unless you happen to own a Star Wars themed towel. Then you can cheat and just post a picture of that…

 

Thanks to Pedantry at Wibble for blogging fairly regularly about this year’s Towel Day, otherwise I might have missed it and today you could be reading about some obscure Star Wars cartoon that you have never seen and have no intention of ever watching….

May The Twenty-Fourth Be With You: Solo: A Star Wars Story

James Proclaims (4)

solo-a-star-wars-story-poster

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ has the dubious claim to fame of being the first Star Wars movie to make a loss at the box office and it’s perhaps the main reason that the focus for future Star Wars projects, after the release of ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ has been more geared towards content for Disney Plus, rather than cinematic releases. There are still numerous big screen projects allegedly in the pipeline, but at one stage there were ambitions for an annual Star Wars movie, and that seems to have been somewhat dialled down since the relative failure of this film.

Whether there really is an ‘audience fatigue’ for new Star Wars movies or whether this film failed to achieve box office success because it was fundamentally flawed from the outset is up for debate, but it’s clear, with the benefit of hindsight, that this movie was always going to struggle to live up to expectations.

It is a shame, because, while it would be a stretch to describe this as a great movie, it’s a perfectly entertaining couple of hours and I did enjoy it.

But before I get into all that, here is my customary spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: As quite a lot of people didn’t bother to watch this movie, then there’s a more than reasonable chance that you haven’t seen it. But if you like Star Wars then there is a lot to like about this film. I doubt you’ll love it all, and some bits might actually irritate you, but overall you probably won’t hate it. I’m going to write about it now and I may include some details of the plot so consider yourself warned.

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ was always a gamble. Han Solo is one of the most iconic characters in the whole franchise, but a big part of the reason for that is that he is played by Harrison Ford. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill.

And to be fair to Alden Ehrenreich, he does a pretty good job. The failings of the movie cannot be levelled at his door. But, while I’m glad they didn’t go down the ‘Rogue One’ route of CGI(ing) a young Harrison Ford into the movie, I’d question the wisdom of making a movie about a young Han Solo, with a new actor, so soon after Harrison Ford had recently reprised the role in ‘The Force Awakens’. Maybe this one should have been given a few years.

Or perhaps, if a Han Solo back story was necessary (and of course it really wasn’t) then it might have been better suited to a TV format. The success of ‘The Mandalorian’ suggests that this is a pretty feasible outlet for Star Wars and the recasting of such an iconic character would be less likely to be an issue in a TV show.

But Alden Ehrenreich is not the problem. He’s better than anyone could realistically expect him to be and I didn’t find it too hard to accept him as Han. Donald Glover also does a more than credible version of Lando Calrissian, although to be fair, much as I love Billy Dee Williams in the original trilogy, you’d have to say his shoes aren’t quite as hard to fill as Harrison Ford’s.

The problem with ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is that it doesn’t seem to have much of a story to tell and instead seems to be a series of attempts at ‘fan-pleasing’ moments, strung together by the most prosaic of narratives.

The attempt at a love story between Han and Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra is particularly perplexing because, as we all know, Han loves Leia. So I can’t possibly be invested in a love story between Han and someone else.

Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos would also have to be in contention for ‘least interesting bad guy’ in the whole of Star Wars.

And while Darth Maul’s brief cameo at the end of the movie might mean something to those of us who have watched ‘The Clone Wars’ cartoon series, it would be quite jarring for anyone that only watches the movies. And only watching the movies is a perfectly acceptable position for a Star Wars fan to take. It’s a position I was in myself prior to undertaking this month-long homage to Star Wars. I love the cartoons but they shouldn’t be essential viewing in order to understand the movies.

Plus the Darth Maul cameo hinted at a sequel, which we now know is not going to happen and I hate it when movies make promises they can’t fulfil.

To be fair, the film can’t have been helped by a change of director six months into filming and while Ron Howard has a perfectly credible filmography, he wasn’t an especially exciting choice and seemed like a ‘safe pair of hands’ to replace the apparently more maverick Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who were not, seemingly, playing by the rules. I think, on balance, I’d quite like to see the version of this they were trying to make though.

But Ron Howard does as well as can be expected under the circumstances and though ultimately ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ is a film that takes very few risks (beyond the original risk of trying to re-invent a character that didn’t need any re-invention) it’s enjoyable enough all the same.

Best character – Han

Han Solo, Alden Ehrenheich

Ok he’s not the Han we know and love from the original trilogy, but he’s still eminently likeable in this and if you can set aside your preconceptions, he’s definitely the best character in the movie.

Worst character – L337

null

Generally Phoebe Waller-Bridge can do no wrong in my eyes, but the first time I saw this I didn’t know that she was playing this particular CGI character. And I found L337 quite irritating and it’s quite hard to revise that opinion just because I’m a usually fan of the actor playing the role. In fairness the droids-rights activist was, in many respects, the most innovative character in the movie and in a different sort of film (perhaps the version that the original directors were trying to make) I might even be on board with L337. But I didn’t feel the character worked especially well in this film.

Unsung heroes – Val and Rio

nullRio_Durant_Databank

Part of the ‘crew’ that Han joins fairly early on in the movie. Both killed on a ‘heist that goes wrong’ and essentially never mentioned again, even though Beckett, one of the principal characters in the movie, was married to Val. 

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’. Tune in tomorrow for something else Star Wars related.

May The Twenty-Third Be With You: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

James Proclaims (4)

Day 23 of me writing exclusively about Star Wars, purely on the basis that it’s currently May and I can entitle each post ‘May the (whatever date it actually is) be with you’. Which possibly was never that funny. Or if it ever was funny, the joke is wearing thin now. Surely the end is in sight? And yet, for me not to have given up after 23 days would suggest that I am determined to see this through to the end of the month, in spite of the fact that my blogging stats, fairly resurgent only a few weeks ago, now seem to be in sharp decline. Fortunately if I were motivated by such things as blogging stats, I would long ago have retreated from the blogosphere with my head hanging in shame.

However, today I am at least writing about a Star Wars film that most people have actually heard of, which is something of a concession to those intrepid readers who have stuck with me throughout this particular ‘blog project’.

For today I am writing about ‘Rogue One’, a movie that is oft thought of as the first Star Wars spin off. But as several of the preceding twenty-two posts will attest, it isn’t the first Star Wars spin off.

But it probably is the best.

Before I write about it I should issue a spoiler alert.

Spoiler Alert: This is quite a good film and if you haven’t seen it you probably should. But I’m going to write about it now and that might ruin it for you. So, if you haven’t seen it, go and watch it now and then come back and read this later.

Riding very much on the coattails of ‘The Force Awakens’, 2016’s ‘Rogue One’ appeared to confirm the return to form of Star Wars after the much maligned prequel trilogy. Not only that, but this was the first cinematic release that wasn’t either part of the main saga, predominantly about Ewoks or a cartoon.

‘Rogue One’ also offered up the tantalizing possibility that we could be getting a new Star Wars movie every year and that stories set outside of the main ‘Skywalker Saga’ could not only work well, but had the possibility of being even better than the movies in the aforementioned saga.

Obviously, a few years later, we know better. While the Star Wars franchise is very much alive and well, it’s fair to say that not every cinematic release since 2016 has met with universal acclaim.

But people did really love ‘Rogue One’, with some people mistakenly going as far as to claim that this was the best Star Wars movie ever.

Which it isn’t.

Not least because it relies quite heavily on the existence of other Star Wars movies to work. Prior knowledge of the Death Star, the Empire, the Rebellion, the Force, certain major characters, certain minor characters and the entire plot of the original 1977 movie all help you to enjoy ‘Rogue One’ a lot more than I think would be possible if this were the first Star Wars movie you’d ever seen.

In spite of that, it does dare to be different. There is no shortage of carnage in most Star Wars movies, but it’s generally minor characters who meet their end. Certainly if a main character dies, it’s a pretty big deal. So to kill off pretty much every central character at the end of this movie was a definite departure.

That said, I did find it hard to care too much about many of the characters and frankly, when the most emotional death is a droid, it probably hints at a slight lack of character development.

Equally, entertaining though the movie undoubtedly is, for two cameos by Darth Vader to steal the show, would suggest the rest of it maybe isn’t as compelling as it could be. Then again, Darth Vader is a very hard act to top.

If Vader was the most memorable, there were plenty of other cameos throughout the movie, from C3PO and R2D2, to Bail Organa, to the two barflies that attack Luke in the original movie. The most notable, and most controversial, was the CGI enabled return of Grand Moff Tarkin. Because at first glance it looks very much like the late great Peter Cushing is playing the role. Which would be impossible given that he died in 1994 . So obviously it’s not Peter Cushing, and when you pay closer attention you can clearly see the CGI at work. It’s an impressive technological feat nonetheless. As to whether it should have been done, given that the particular story that is being told deals with events that take place immediately prior to the original movie and heavily features Tarkin’s place of work, the Death Star, it would have been hard not to include the character. And to have a different actor play the role could have brought its own protests (I mean obviously a different actor does play the role, the CGI is not the whole story, but you get what I mean). So it was a no win situation in some respects and as Peter Cushing’s estate had approved the use of his image, it was perhaps worth the gamble. It mostly pays off.

Perhaps this predicament could have been avoided entirely if the character of Tarkin wasn’t so completely absent (aside from a token CGI background appearance at the end of ‘Revenge of the Sith‘) from the prequel trilogy. I always thought this omission was quite strange given his prominence in the original movie. If there had been a young Cushing-a-like cast in one or more of the prequels it would have been reasonable for that actor to reappear here without any need for CGI wizardry.

As things stand, I’d rather have the CGI Tarkin than no Tarkin at all.

A young CGI Leia also manages to appear at the end of the movie, but it’s the briefest cameos really. Unlike Tarkin, the movie doesn’t really hinge on Leia, but the scene does make narrative sense. It all depends on how you feel about this particular use of CGI really. I didn’t hate it.

Ultimately, ‘Rogue One’ is an easy movie to like. It doesn’t add a great deal to the overall mythology of Star Wars, but it’s a compelling enough tale set against a familiar Star Wars backdrop.

And the original stormtroopers are in it, and pretty much confirm that they are better than the versions that appear in either the prequels or the sequels. 

Although I was less sure about the black-suited death troopers that turn up in this, because they look a bit like Darth Vader wannabes.

Best character – K2SO

k2so 

Aside from Darth Vader’s cameos, K2SO is hands down the best thing about the movie. He looks fantastic, it’s genuinely hard to believe he is CGI, but it’s the voice performance by Alan Tudyk that makes him stand out from virtually every other droid that has ever been in Star Wars. Indeed I’d go as far as to say he’s one of the greatest characters in any Star Wars movie. Arguably the movie’s only concession to comic relief, it’s nonetheless K2SO’s ‘death’ that is by far the most moving scene in the whole film. Which is particularly noteworthy given that every character dies…

Worst Character – Baze Malbus

Baze-Malbus_Big_6

Possibly the biggest failing of ‘Rogue One’ is that a lot of the characters really aren’t all that memorable, but Baze is probably the least memorable of the lot. Which I think makes him the worst. I’m not sure. I don’t remember that much about him other than he has quite a big gun.

Unsung hero – Bohdi Rook

bohdi

In many ways, the bravest character in the movie. Gives up a presumably secure career in the Galactic Empire to join the rebels, providing them with some much needed intel and gets tortured for his efforts. No-one ever really says thank you and yet he still gives his life for the cause at the end. 

And that’s it for ‘Rogue One’. Tune in tomorrow to see if I write about the one Star Wars movie I’ve yet to deal with.

Or something more obscure.

 

 

 

May The Twenty-Second Be With You: Star Wars: Forces Of Destiny

James Proclaims (4)

forces-of-destiny-logo

I’m not sure too many Star Wars movies would pass the Bechdel test, but there’s no denying that there have been some great female characters throughout the franchise.

Having said that, I approached ‘Star Wars: Forces of Destiny’, which is a series of short animated stories, predominently centred around the aforementioned female characters, with some trepidation.

The concept is fine, but it was heavily linked with a new line of Star Wars toys that seemed to be marketed specifically towards girls. I find the notion of ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys toys’ a bit outdated given that this series first aired in 2017.

Then again, Star Wars has always been intrinsically linked with the selling of toys and frankly my nephew and niece mix and match each others’ action figures/dolls all the time so I suppose it doesn’t matter whether there was an archaic marketing policy with regards the actual product, so long as fun is had by the children who own them, and no-one felt they couldn’t watch the cartoon because it wasn’t ‘aimed’ at them.

And as it happens the cartoon itself is pretty good. It lacks some of the energy of the 2003 series of animated shorts, Star Wars: Clone Wars, but it has plenty going for it nonetheless.

But first a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: This series is made up of a lot of unrelated, very short, episodes, centering on different characters within the Star Wars universe. So it’s unlikely I’ll be able to spoil it for you. But I am likely to reveal some minor details, so it’s up to you if you want to read any further. It’ll probably be fine, but don’t come crying to me if I ruin this cartoon for you.

This is definitely a cartoon aimed at children, rather than adults. Which is obviously true of a lot of Star Wars stuff, but it’s probably more apparent with this one.

That said, I’m a fully grown adult and I did enjoy it. And actually, if you’d spent the last month or so watching nothing but Star Wars, including some of the more obsure spin-offs, then you’d enjoy it too.

Because there are actually one or two little references in there that you could only get if you watched the Ewoks cartoon. And the Ewoks movie. Which I have. So I did get them.

One of those references is the appearence of an Ewok wearing a pink hood, for this is none-other than Kneesaa, one of the principal characters of the aforementioned cartoon series. She’s never been featured in any other Star Wars movie of TV show outside of that long forgotten cartoon, but she turns up in this. Which I found genuinely quite exciting.

Another episode deals with Leia and Luke getting attacked on the forest moon of Endor by a gorax. And that was only ever featured in the first Ewok movie, Caravan of Courage. So if, like me, you have sat through that ‘not very good’ movie, then you can smile smugly when the gorax pops up in this.

I like things like that. It’s like a little reward for those of us who really should use their free time more wisely.

Although most of the episodes predominently center around one or sometimes several female characters, there are some exceptions. At least one is about Luke and Yoda and another is mainly about Chewbacca and R2D2. But these episodes are the exception. All the episodes are stand-alone, but if you’ve seen the movies, it’s generally pretty clear where they fit into the wider Star Wars universe.

The voice cast is actually quite exceptional, the characters from other animated shows like ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ and ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ are voiced by the same actors who played them in those shows, but quite a few of the actors from the movies lend their voices to their animated characters too, including Daisy Ridley, Felicity Jones (for some of the episodes), John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran. Obviously Anthony Daniels does C3PO. Oh and some bloke called Mark Hammill does the voice for Luke Skywalker too.

I really liked this cartoon. It was pretty fun and it covers the whole of Star Wars in easily digestable bite-sized chunks.

Best character – Leia

leia

I was torn on this one. It was pretty much between Rey, Ahsoka Tano and Leia. And Leia, for obvious reasons, is the only one of the three that isn’t voiced by the original actor that played her. But she’s still Leia and when all is said and done, that’s enough to make her the best.

Worst character – Qi’ra

qu

If you haven’t seen ‘Solo’ you wouldn’t know who she was. And a lot of people haven’t seen ‘Solo’. She only merited one episode of this, she wasn’t even voiced by Emilia Clarke who portrayed her in the movie.  It’s not a bad episode but the other characters are more memorable.

Unsung hero – Kneesaa

kneesa

Because her appearance in this made me smile but also because she shot down a tie-fighter in one episode and was instrumental in stopping the gorax in her other appearance.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about a cartoon that really wasn’t aimed at me, but which I enjoyed in spite of that fact. Tune in tomorrow when I will once again be writing about Star Wars in some capacity.

 

 

 

May The 21st Be With You: I Have A Bad Peeling About This…

James Proclaims (4)

There are still quite a few days left of May.

Which is surprising because it feels like I’ve been writing about Star Wars forever.

Although there remains plenty within the Star Wars back catalogue for me to write about. Which is good news. From a certain point of view…

But today I’m going to have to go with the slightly lazier option of posting a picture of something Star-Wars-y that I own.

Fortunately I have plenty of stuff that ticks that particular box.

Today I thought I’d go with this little guy:

He’s one of my favourite things.

Indeed if I was to update that famous song from ‘The Sound of Music’ I’d change it to:

Cadbury’s Roses and memes of cute kittens
A functioning kettle and droid oven mittens
Amazon packages when the doorbell rings
But Darth Tater is my most favourite thing

Obviously some of the above is not really true. I like a Cadbury’s Rose, but I’m just as partial to a Quality Street. I have no interest in kitten memes, and you can’t prove otherwise. But if you’re going to do a rubbish parody of a verse of a well-known song, it’s important to keep a hint of the original elements in it I think.

I do actually own some R2D2 oven mittens, but they’ve seen better days (because they are functional as well as fun) so I won’t include a picture of them.

Darth Tater is brilliant though. Few things can make me smile like this fella.

You can get other Star Wars themed ‘Mr Potato Heads’. I believe there is a Spud-Trooper, a Luke Frywalker, an Artoo Potatoo and most recently a Frylo Ren.

I don’t own any of those.

Darth Tater more than meets my ‘Mr Potato Head’ needs.

 

 

May The Twentieth Be With You: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (The Movie)

James Proclaims (4)

clone wars movie

So, what’s the worst Star Wars movie in existence?

Many people will have their views. A lot will tell you it’s ‘The Phantom Menace‘ and they might have a point. Others will tell you it’s ‘The Last Jedi’ and, although they are entitled to their opinions, they would be wrong, because ‘The Last Jedi’ is great.

Some of us, those of us who count the two stand-alone Ewok movies as Star Wars movies, would point out that they aren’t great.

And if you include 1978’s ‘Star Wars: Holiday Special’ then one would imagine that you would have to believe that is the worst of the worst.

Fortunately we no longer need to rely on our own opinions because there are websites that tell us what to think.

Probably the best known of these websites is Rotten Tomatoes and although they don’t have a score for the 1986 Droids feature length special ‘The Great Heep’ (presumably because no-one ever actually watched it in the first place, let alone reviewed it), they do have scores for every other Star Wars ‘movie’. And I’ve collated them into a handy little table below:

Star Wars Movie Rotten Tomatoes Score
The Empire Strikes Back 94%
The Force Awakens 93%
A New Hope 92%
The Last Jedi 90%
Rogue One 84%
Return of the Jedi 82%
Revenge of the Sith 80%
Solo 70%
Attack of the Clones 65%
The Phantom Menace 53%
The Rise of Skywalker 52%
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor 51%
Star Wars: Holiday Special 27%
Ewoks: Caravan of Courage 23%
Star Wars : The Clone Wars 18%

Which should leave us in no doubt that 2008’s ‘The Clone Wars’ is officially the worst Star Wars movie ever.

Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t necessarily agree with the Rotten Tomatoes scores, but that is because opinion is subjective, and frankly if websites could think, there’d be none of here…

Nonetheless, Rotten Tomatoes is an attempt to be objective by collating lots of reviews and extrapolating ‘meta’ scores from those reviews. In that context, although my favourite Star Wars movie is the original, I’m not surprised to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ topping the list. And while I personally feel that ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ was ultimately a better movie than some that are listed above it, I know it wasn’t well-received by a lot of critics and so it’s not a huge surprise to see it score as low as it did.

But to see ‘The Clone Wars’ score below ‘The Holiday Special’ and both Ewok movies is definitely a surprise.

Because it is in no way as bad as any of those.

And I actually quite like it.

Before I get into that though, here is a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen this then you might be put off watching it based on the ‘data’ I’ve shared with you. And frankly this is only something you should watch if you are a completist (as I apparently am) because it isn’t a brilliant movie. But it’s not the worst thing ever made by any stretch of the imagination and it is definitely better than the ‘Star Wars: Holiday Special’. By some distance…

This movie has nothing to do with the similarly named 2003 TV show that I wrote about yesterday, but it was a forerunner for the identically-named  2008 TV show and could be viewed as an extended episode of that series.

But this movie did come out before the TV show and it was released in cinemas so it’s reasonable to view it as a separate entity too.

Indeed, until recently, I hadn’t seen the TV show, but I did see this movie quite soon after it was released. I don’t think I saw it in the cinema, but I’m pretty sure I rented it on DVD, because I think renting DVDs was still a thing back in 2008.

And I definitely didn’t hate it.

But obviously I didn’t love it enough to bother with the subsequent TV series.

Which was my mistake, because the TV show is excellent. Or what I’ve seen of it is, because I’m watching it on Disney Plus at the moment. Well not at this exact moment because I’m writing this. But when I’m not writing blog posts and not working and not looking after a toddler, I’m watching ‘The Clone Wars’ series. It’s slow going. I don’t know if I’ll finish watching it in time to write about it because there are a lot of episodes.

But what I’ve seen of the TV show is really good.

So why is the movie so hated?

I think there are a few reasons.

One reason would have to be that, when viewed as an extended episode of the TV show, this is one of the weaker episodes. The storyline is about the kidnapping of Jabba the Hutt’s son. Who even knew Jabba had a son? But the underlying rationale behind the kidnapping is that the bad guys want Jabba to agree to give them access to his ‘trade routes’ and the good guys try and rescue Jabba’s son because they also want access to those ‘trade routes’. And there is something about ‘trade routes’ that makes any Star Wars offering seem a bit more boring than it should be. It was the curse of the prequel trilogy and it’s here again too.

Also ‘The Clone Wars’ TV show, and by extension this movie, are all about what happens between two of the prequel movies. So it’s heavily linked with the prequel trilogy and, as we all know, people didn’t really love those movies. And even though the subsequent TV series is generally beloved by fans, when this movie came out there was still a fair bit of animosity towards those movies, so it would have needed to be excellent to overcome the negative preconceptions. And it isn’t excellent, it’s only OK.

The main thing would probably be that, because this came before the TV show, it asked a lot of its audience. The character of Ahsoka Tano was introduced for the first time in this film and, although she is now fairly firmly established as a fan favourite, she was an unknown quantity in this movie and for a major character to be introduced (as Anakin Skywalker’s padawan learner no less) was a bit of a stretch for audiences. You were either going to hate her (in which case you would have to hate the movie because she’s in it a lot) or you’re going to quite like her but be constantly troubled by the fact that, given her absence from ‘Revenge of the Sith’ she’s probably going to die at some point.

And while (double-spoiler alert) she doesn’t die and indeed pops up in subsequent Star Wars shows (and is due, I believe, to make her live-action debut in series 2 of ‘The Mandalorian’) back in 2008 her inevitable death was the only reasonable conclusion you could reach.

Also, if you were unfamiliar with the unrelated 2003 Clone Wars cartoon, then Asajj Ventress, one of the principal antagonists in this movie, would also be a character that you’d never met before. Because she also isn’t in the movies (although to be fair [triple spoiler alert] she does die prior to ‘Revenge of the Sith’), and while, again, she is now very much a fan favourite, to give her so much weight in this film when no-one really knew who she was, perhaps didn’t help people warm to this movie.

Ultimately it is not a great stand alone movie. It’s an ok episode of a TV show that no-one had seen yet.

It’s still way better than the ‘Holiday Special’ though.

Best character – Anakin Skywalker

anakin

Finally an Anakin that is actually pretty good. Every inch the hero, but with subtle hints of the darkness that would eventually lead to him becoming everyone’s favourite Sith Lord.

ziro_the_hutt_sw_2518

Inexplicable. Doesn’t get better in the TV show. Fortunately he’s only in a few episodes and then he gets killed off.

Unsung hero – Captain Rex

rex

If you’re unfamiliar with the TV show then he might seem like just another clone trooper. Which he is. But despite the regular and somewhat unceremonious deaths of lots of clones throughout the series, the clones do have their own distinct personalities and none more so than Captain Rex. But even though a lot of that character development hasn’t taken place at this point in the narrative, he is still, hands down, the hardest clone out there and single-handedly takes on a lot of the bad guys.

And that’s in for the most critically panned (but definitely not the worst) movie in the Star Wars back catalogue. Why not come back tomorrow and see if I’ve written about something else Star Wars related?

 

 

 

May The Nineteenth Be With You: Star Wars: Clone Wars

James Proclaims (4)

Star_Wars_Clone_Wars

Not to be confused (but very easily confused) with ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’, which is a different cartoon (and movie), this series of animated shorts aired between 2003 and 2005 and aimed to ‘fill in the gaps’ between Episodes II and III of the prequel trilogy.

And it’s as bonkers as it is brilliant.

Before I get into it though, please enjoy this spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: Nothing I could write would spoil this animated series for you. There aren’t too many surprises in terms of plot and, actually, there really isn’t a lot of plot full stop. It’s just a lot of spaceships, lightsabers and violence. Which is a good thing.

I’m not sure there is much to say about this series beyond the fact that I loved it. After the disappointment of ‘The Phantom Menace’ and ‘Attack of the Clones’, this series was a breath of fresh air.

Technically it’s no longer considered ‘canon’ as the similarly named 2008 series also deals with the same time period and tells a different (and much more in-depth) story, but during the build-up to ‘Revenge of the Sith’ this series was the definitive version of the clone wars.

And the only negative I can really offer about this iteration is that everyone is just way too cool.

Which is no criticism at all.

But, alongside an Anakin Skywalker we can all finally get on board with, we see all of the Jedi doing incredible things. Mace Windu and Yoda are particularly impressive, with the former probably getting my vote for ‘most awesome’. Samuel L Jackson is the definition of cool, but his version of Mace Windu is essentially a librarian (who are also cool in a different way) in comparison to the depiction in this cartoon.

The clone troopers look like a well-oiled military machine, and even the battle droids have a more menacing air in this than they ever managed to convey in any other on-screen depiction.

Alongside Count Dooku and Palpatine, there are three main bad guys, only one of whom made it to Episode III. The one is General Grievous and he’s so much better in this than he was in the movie.

The other two are General Durge, who to be fair, would have been a nightmare to try and recreate for a live-action movie (but he’s very cool in this) and a nameless assassin, who would go on to appear in the subsequent Clone Wars cartoon and be known as Asajj Ventress, and who is the closest thing we get to a Darth Maul type (given that at this point in the continuity he was still officially dead and wouldn’t be resurrected until the fourth series of the later cartoon).

The early episodes were bite-sized at under 4 minutes each. Later episodes were longer, but still only 12 minutes. This really was a series for people with limited attention spans, but the brevity meant the focus was far more on the action and far less on ponderous dialogue.

And after the first two prequel movies, this was exactly what we needed from Star Wars.

Best character – Mace Windu

mace

It’s really a toss of a coin between him and Yoda, but as Yoda is cool in quite a lot of other Star Wars stuff and Mace is often not as cool as we’d like him to be, he gets the nod. He’s basically superman in this. But with a purple lightsaber.

Worst character – Anakin Skywalker

anakin clone

It’s a sign of how much I loved this cartoon that I couldn’t think of a bad character. Anakin is actually fantastic in this, but he still has a slightly winey voice. And when the competition is as fierce as this, he still ends up bottom of the pile.

Unsung hero – The Jedi who looks like a wolf

wolf

Because he looks like a wolf! And he’s a Jedi! He’s only in two episodes of this, but that’s two more appearances than he’s made in any other Star Wars movie or TV show. Which seems like a huge oversight if you ask me.

 

And that’s it for ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be writing about something else Star Wars related. Which might also be a cartoon.

 

 

 

 

 

May The Eighteenth Be With You: The All New Ewoks

James Proclaims (4)

EwoksS2intro

Eighteen days into my month-long homage to Star Wars and I appear to have lost all reason.

Not that I had much of that at the start of all this.

I could have just stopped when I’d written about Episodes I – IX, though I’m sure no-one would have begrudged me writing about ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Solo’ as well.

But that would still only have been eleven posts.

That’s not excessive.

And had I done that, I’m sure most people would have agreed that I’d completed a pretty thorough retrospective on Star Wars.

Instead, here I am, on day 18 of this madness and I haven’t even touched on the aforementioned spin-off movies.

Because I’ve been writing quite a lot about Ewoks.

Some might say too much.

But it ends here.

The Ewok stuff I mean.

Obviously I’m going to carry on writing about Star Wars.

However, I assure you that this is my last post about the bloody Ewoks.

But it is still probably a post too far.

Because I’m writing about series 2 of the 80s cartoon.

I wrote about series 1 yesterday.

But I irrationally felt the two series deserved separate posts.

Because, they were, essentially two different shows.

But before I go on, here is today’s redundant spoiler alert:

Spoiler alert: On the off chance you were planning on watching this long forgotten cartoon, then I would implore you to reconsider. It is not good. It is bad. Series 1 wasn’t great, but series 2 was abysmal. Nonetheless, if you insist on putting yourself through the horrors of this, then I may reveal some plot details in the text below. If I can find any to reveal. I don’t remember there being too much in the way of plot though. 

So, 1985’s ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ was renewed for another series. But it was also ‘revamped’ and made into something different.

The new version was called ‘The All New Ewoks”.

And it was ‘all new’.

Rather than each episode being dedicated to one 20-minute story, they were split into two 10-minute stories.

Although the first series also concentrated on the exploits of the four main characters of Wicket, Kneesaa, Teebo and Latarra, there were a few other Ewoks who featured quite regularly. Most of those characters, while notionally still in this series are very much in the background.

And, aside from Kneesaa, who is, in fairness, largely the same character, the others are all completely different. And not just because they’ve been drawn differently and they are being voiced by different actors (both of which are true) but because they have entirely different personalities. And they’re much less likeable. Oh and bizarrely, whereas it used to be Latarra who had an unrequited crush on Teebo, it’s now Teebo that has an unrequited crush on Latarra.

Series 1 had recurring villains, and some sort of continuity across the episodes, but each of the mini-stories in series 2 has a new villain and there is no continuity at all. There are so many new characters and species introduced in this series that it appears that the forest moon of Endor (which we’ve established across the two stand-alone movies and the first iteration of this cartoon, is only partially forest at best) is incredibly densely populated with creatures who all possess varying degrees of magical powers. And the Ewoks are the most magical of all because they possess the Sunstar, which is a kind of magical stone, that everyone else wants to steal. I don’t remember the Sunstar from ‘Return of the Jedi’. Or the two Ewok movies for that matter. It is in series 1 of the cartoon, but it’s only central to a couple of episodes. In series 2, virtually every story is about someone trying to steal the Sunstar. And failing obviously.

The two main antagonists in series 1 were Morag the witch, who was killed in that series, and the inept Duloks. The Duloks are back for series 2, but only in a couple of episodes. They mostly have to make way for the plethora of new antagonists, who mostly show up for ten minutes and then are never seen again.

It is rubbish, but it is a kids cartoon. And I didn’t notice any of the changes when I was young and I still watched it so I shouldn’t be too annoyed. But I am a bit annoyed because series 1 was better and I don’t know why anyone would go out of their way to make an ‘ok but not great’ cartoon into a really bad cartoon.

Both versions of the cartoon were extremely far removed from anything resembling Star Wars. But series 2 is the one when any pretence that these are the same Ewoks that helped the rebels defeat the Empire has finally been eroded. ‘The All New Ewoks’ was a cartoon about some bears who live in a magical land and have magical powers. It was a bit like another 80s cartoon, Disney’s ‘Gummi Bears’, but nowhere near as good.

So when, in the penultimate episode, the Empire turns up in a Star Destroyer, complete with stormtroopers, it really is quite a surprise.

Particularly as Emperor Palpatine is referenced a few times and is sort of, but not quite, in the actual episode (he’s notionally in a shuttle that we see a few times on screen).

And you kind of remember at this point that the Ewoks did originate in ‘Return of the Jedi’, but it’s all been so different to Star Wars for so long that it’s actually quite weird when Star Wars appears. It just doesn’t feel right.

I can’t bring myself to fully hate this cartoon, because I did watch it and love it as a child. But I do wish I had only watched the first series as kid, because then I could dismiss ‘The All New Ewoks’ as utterly worthless.

Sadly, however, I know I loved both series equally, so nostalgia does help to redeem this abomination a little bit.

Best character – Kneesaa

kneesa

She was one of the more likable characters in series 1 anyway and as she’s pretty much the same character in this, she is the best by default, because the others have all become so much worse.

Worst character – Teebo

Teebo

Was pretty cool in series 1 and really isn’t at all cool in series 2. Seems to by a hybrid of some different characters from series 1 that were subsequently written out. Possibly the most irritating of all the irritating changes that were made.

Unsung Heroes – The Duloks

duloks

As antagonists, the Duloks were the most fun in series 1 and they’re severely underused in series 2. But when they do appear they are still pretty good value and those rare appearances are definitely the best episodes.

And that really is all I have to say about the Ewoks. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll probably still be writing about a cartoon, but it will be a much better cartoon than this was.

 

 

 

May The Seventeenth Be With You: Star Wars: Ewoks

James Proclaims (4)

Ewoks-promo

Alongside ‘Star Wars: Droids – The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO’, another Star Wars inspired cartoon was made in 1985. It was about the Ewoks. It was, appropriately enough, known as ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’. The two shows ran alongside each other, though aside from the fact they both notionally stemmed from the same source material, there was nothing much to link the two. Apart from the fact they were both fairly underwhelming.

Whereas ‘Droids’ lasted for only one series, the Ewoks were granted a second go, in 1986. This time around the show was called ‘The All New Ewoks’.

Unlike ‘Droids’, I did regularly watch ‘Ewoks’ as a child, and I remember really liking it.

But I was a small child, so it’s not that surprising really. Ewoks were always aimed at small children from their initial appearance in ‘Return of the Jedi’, and certainly throughout the two spin-off Ewok movies, Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor. So a cartoon series was, in many ways, the natural home for the little bears.

What I didn’t realise at the time, but what is abundantly clear from re-watching these cartoons as an adult, is that ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ and ‘The All New Ewoks’ were completely different shows.

When doing my ‘research’ (for I do research these bizarre posts about long forgotten cartoons) the latter is often described as ‘Series 2’ of the Ewoks cartoon, but, even though the narrative ark through both series is fairly weak for the most part, there is even less continuity between the two series. The characters look different, they sound different and they have quite different characteristics. Characters that were prevalent in the first show virtually disappear in the second.

So really, although I’ve already spent far too much time this month writing about Ewoks, it seems only fair to give each series its own post.

And, in the spirit of doing this in chronological order (which isn’t necessarily the ‘Star Wars way’) the rest of this post will be about the 1985 iteration of the show.

But first, the stupid, pointless spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: You aren’t going to watch this so it’s probably not worth me warning you that plot details may follow. But they may and you can still find this show on YouTube so you might be inclined to waste your time, as I recently did, re-watching these. In which case, this series is better than ‘The All New Ewoks’. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. It’s just not as bad as the one that followed. 

‘Star Wars: Ewoks’ has absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars. Whereas ‘Droids’ featured two prominent characters from the movies in C3PO and R2D2, and also had ‘cameos’ from Boba Fett, Stormtroopers and other minor characters, there is absolutely nothing to link the first series of Ewoks to the original trilogy, other than the Ewoks themselves. And frankly they are barely recognisable as the little primitive bear-like creatures that turn up in ‘Return of the Jedi’.

But taken in the context that the two spin-off movies had already moved quite a long way from the Star Wars universe, particularly the second of those movies, portraying the ‘forest moon’ of Endor as a magical place (and also, quite clearly, not exclusively a forest) with lots of different creatures, the majority of which would have been very hard for the Empire not to notice when they set up camp there, then the Ewoks cartoon does make some kind of sense.

In some ways it was slightly disingenuous to promote this as a ‘Star Wars cartoon’. But that’s probably why most kids watched it.

If you can accept it on its own terms though, it’s fine. Not great, not ground-breaking, but not the worst animated show of the 1980s by some way.

The Ewoks can all speak ‘English’, which doesn’t necessarily jar with the movies where they couldn’t, because they don’t ever interact with any of the characters from the films, so we just assume that they’re actually speaking ‘Ewok’ and we can just understand them through the magic of this being a cartoon.

Wicket, who was in all the movies, is essentially the principal character, but he is joined by three friends for most of his adventures called Teebo (who apparently was one of the Ewoks in ‘Return of the Jedi’), Kneesaa and Latarra (who weren’t in any of the movies but there were lots of nameless Ewoks in those so it’s fine). There are other Ewok characters who pop up quite regularly, but those four are supposedly the principal Ewoks for the show.

There is a vague hint of a romantic connection between Wicket and Kneesaa. Latarra has something of an unrequited crush on Teebo. Teebo also has magical powers and is the apprentice of Logray (who was the Ewok that wanted to cook and eat Han, Luke et al. in ‘Return of the Jedi’ but who, by the time we get to the cartoon, is quite a wise and powerful wizard. He doesn’t seem to want to eat people any more. Which would be progress but apparently this series was set before ‘Return of the Jedi’ so one can only imagine what developments led to his desire to eat people later on).

The Ewoks are led by Chief Chirpa who was also in ‘Return of the Jedi’.

There are a host of other creatures, and some recurring antagonists, notably the Duloks, who are largely inept but occasionally get it together sufficiently well to pose a threat. The main antagonist is a witch called Morag who really has it in for the Ewoks and is genuinely competent and, as 80s cartoon characters go, quite scary.

Some episodes are quite dark for a kids cartoon and Morag is particularly nasty, until she is killed off towards the end of the series. And it was pretty unusual for a villain to die in a cartoon back in the 80s, particularly a recurring character. The final episode of the series is about the discovery of Kneesa’s long lost sister who has been living alone, in the wilderness, presumed dead. Again, not exactly the sort of storyline that you’d expect to find in a kids cartoon in 1985.

Series one of ‘Ewoks’ was flawed, but it had the potential to become something better, particularly if it could establish a stronger narrative ark between the individual episodes. And the decision to keep Star Wars out of it, seemed quite clever, because it gave the cartoon the freedom to become its own thing.

Certainly on the evidence of those first 13 episodes it’s pretty clear why this was the show, rather than ‘Droids’ that was commissioned for another run.

But, for whatever reason, they decided to take the show in a ‘different’ direction for the follow-up series.

Best character – Logray

Logray_Cartoons

Nothing like the man-eating Ewok in ‘Return of the Jedi’, Logray is a wizard of some significant power. And he’s wise. He’s basically a cross between Dumbledore and Gandalf. But he’s an Ewok.

Worst character – Bozzie

Bozzie_scolding

Always telling the Ewoks off for no good reason. Doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities. One of the few characters whose omission from the subsequent series was a good thing.

Unsung hero – Paploo

Paploo_(Cartoon)

Viewed as a bit of a bad influence on the younger Ewoks but often involved in the adventures of the ‘main four’ and generally quite heroic for the most part, yet somehow completely ignored for series 2.

And that’s it for ‘Star Wars: Ewoks’. Join me tomorrow when I’ll be concluding my dealings with the little fur balls by writing about ‘The All New Ewoks’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May The Sixteenth Be With You: Who’s Scruffy Lookin’?

James Proclaims (4)

Much like when I decided to dedicate a post to my collection of Star Wars mugs, I’m not feeling quite up to writing a review of an 80s cartoon that no-one remembers today. Which may come as a relief, in many respects, to those of you who loyally read my posts regardless of their content (and although that is quite a small collective, you have no idea how grateful I am that you exist…).

We are, today, over halfway through May, so even if I keep this nonsense up for the rest of the month, we will soon be back to a world in which I no longer blog exclusively about Star Wars.

I don’t know what June has in store for this blog. Perhaps I’ll go back to blogging about the worldwide pandemic, or maybe I’ll focus on my usual mundane offerings.

Or maybe I’ll come up with a new theme. I toyed with the idea of another George Lucas inspired project. I was going to call it Indiana June…

Anyway, back to today and rather than writing about some obscure spin-off in the Star Wars universe, I’ve decided to post some pictures of some Star Wars attire that I own.

It should be noted though, that although I do love Star Wars, if the garments below imply some kind of obsession then rest assured I own at least the same number of tops proclaiming my love for the Welsh rugby team. And a surprising amount of t-shirts which might indicate my support for several football teams that I don’t, in fact, support.

And Superman, Batman and Spiderman are also well represented in my wardrobe.

Essentially I own too many t-shirts.

But these are the Star Wars ones:

img_6032
An Adidas/Star Wars mash-up that has resulted in more than one person stopping me to tell me that I’m wearing a cool t-shirt. Because Star Wars is cool…

 

img_6029
A gift from my lovely wife and quite probably my favourite t-shirt out of all the t-shirts I’ve ever owned.

 

img_6033
Another gift from my wife who frankly knows me too well…

 

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Sometimes it’s too cold for a t-shirt, and on those days, I can still proclaim my love for Star Wars by wearing this.

 

And because sometimes it’s Christmas, I also own the following:

 

Anyway, I’m off to watch more Star Wars cartoons so I can write about them in the near future.

I might even write about one of them tomorrow.

May The Fifteenth Be With You: The Great Heep

James Proclaims (4)

star_wars_droids_the_great_heep_tv-765688000-large

‘The Great Heep’ is a bizarre entry into the Star Wars ‘back catalogue’. A feature length special of an already cancelled TV show, which very few people actually watched.

It would be easy enough to have viewed this as just an extended episode of the aforementioned show, which I wrote about yesterday, as it seems to take place between episodes 9 & 10 of that show.

But it was released separately from the series and it is a little different in some respects.

So maybe it deserves its own post.

Even if all I’m going to tell you is that it wasn’t worth the 50 minutes of my life that I spent watching it last night and it definitely wouldn’t be worth you watching it either.

But before we get to that, I should issue a spoiler alert.

Spoiler alert – Don’t watch this. But if you do intend to watch this and you’re worried that plot details will ruin it for you then I may reveal some of those in the ensuing text. But what little plot I could discern was largely uninspiring stuff and to be honest, it didn’t make a massive amount of sense.

You don’t really need to have seen the preceding series to be able to watch this. Which is a bonus because although the series was a perfectly acceptable 80s cartoon, it hasn’t stood the test of time and you’ve got better things to do than watch that.

But you’ve also got better things to do than watch ‘The Great Heep’. In terms of characters, obviously C3PO and R2D2 are in it, and there are also some Stormtroopers and an imperial officer called Admiral Screed, who was also in some of the episodes of the TV show, but they were set chronologically after this and in any case he didn’t do much in those and he doesn’t do much in this.

The droids’ ‘master’ is someone called Mungo Baobab and he was also in the series but only in the same episodes as Admiral Screed. And he was fairly indistinguishable from the ‘masters’ in the other episodes. Except that he had a beard.

The main baddie, and titular character, is a giant droid called ‘The Great Heep’. And he’s rubbish. He eats R2 units though, so we’re vaguely aware that R2D2 might be in some danger. But he’s not an especially interesting character.

Ultimately it’s R2D2’s girlfriend who actually gets eaten. Because R2D2 has a girlfriend in this.

‘She’ looks like this:

Kt-10

Apparently she is called KT10, but I don’t remember her ‘name’ being mentioned in the cartoon, it’s just something I found out on the internet.

I don’t think KT10 would be an acceptable addition to a cartoon these days. But this sort of thing was apparently fine in 1986.

Although, to be fair, no-one watched this, so it would’ve been hard for anyone to be offended.

Anyway she gets eaten by The Great Heep. But no-one really cares. Except R2D2. And she’s miraculously brought back to life at the end. Although it presumably doesn’t work out between her and R2D2, unless they’re in some kind of long distance relationship during the events of, y’know, Star Wars.

There are other anomalies. We see a droid listening to a walkman, for example. Which is a bit weird.

Anyway, some stuff happens. I was quite tired when I watched this so it’s possible I’m not giving it due credit but none of that stuff seemed particularly exciting. The good guys win and the bad guys lose. But given that the bad guys are ultimately the Empire, the celebrations by the good guys at the end seem a little premature, because one imagines the Empire will be back shortly to crush them.

I didn’t see this when I was the ‘target audience’. I might have quite liked it back then. But, as I missed it, it holds no nostalgia for me now and that is the only value this cartoon could hold for anyone.

Best character – C3PO

c3po

More by default than anything else. Anthony Daniels does his voice (because of course he does) which gives the whole thing a bit of Star Wars ‘authenticity’. I wouldn’t say I loved C3PO in this so much as the times he was on screen corresponded quite strongly with when I was the least bored.

Worst character – The Big Heep

heep

If you’re going to be the titular villain, you need to be either scary, or charismatic, but ‘The Big Heep’ is neither. So he’s rubbish.

Unsung Hero – KT10

Kt-10

Objectified by the other droids, having to fend off unwanted advances in a male-dominated sector and then ultimately eaten by her boss, KT10 does not have an easy time of it. And, then she’s supposed to be grateful because all the ‘male’ droids club together to save her life at the end. Frankly it’s the least they could do…

 

And that’s it for one 1980s animated Star Wars spinoff. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll be dealing with the other one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May The Fourteenth Be With You: Star Wars: Droids – The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO

James Proclaims (4)

droids

I remember this cartoon from the eighties but I can’t really say I was ever that big a fan as a child.

Which is strange because I loved Star Wars and I also loved cartoons. I suppose I just didn’t find a cartoon about C3PO and R2D2 that inspiring.

But it wasn’t bad. No worse than a lot of cartoons I did like.

And I did quite like the Ewok cartoon that was made around the same time. Which wasn’t really any better.

But more of that another day.

Anyway, in the spirit of trying to write about all things ‘Star Wars’ I watched all 13 episodes of the only series of this recently.

There was a subsequent one-off special. I haven’t seen that yet. I might watch it later and write about it tomorrow. Who knows.

In a misguided attempt at humour, I’ve been issuing spoiler alerts on all my Star Wars posts. Except the one about mugs. So, for no good reason, I’m going to issue another spoiler alert now.

Spoiler alert – there is no point worrying about spoilers. This cartoon was made in 1985. It’s not the worst example of an 80s cartoon but it’s not worth watching now. You can find all the episodes on YouTube if you really want to watch it, but only someone who has decided, for no good reason, to spend the whole month writing about Star Wars would need to bother. And frankly that person needs to take a good long look at his current life choices. And make better decisions.

‘Star Wars: Droids – The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO’ unsurprisingly is about the adventures of R2D2 and C3PO. I don’t know if the hyphens were necessary but I’ve never bothered with them before, so I see no reason to use them now, just because a long forgotten cartoon chose to use them.

There are other characters, but the premise is really about how, prior to the events of the original Star Wars movie, they were quite itinerant and had lots of masters.

Which seems to have been largely debunked by the prequel movies.

So these stories have no bearing on anything that happens in the movies at all.

But every four episodes or so, the cast of characters changes and the only constants are our two droid friends.

For the duration of the episodes that they are with any given master, there is generally an overarching storyline of sorts, but most of the episodes work as stand-alone stories as well. Or don’t work depending on your point of view.

Certainly the plots are all fairly forgettable and most of the characters are archetypes. It doesn’t always feel like it’s really in the Star Wars universe but there are some minor characters from the movies that pop up from time to time, like Boba Fett (who, like his appearance in the dreadful ‘Holiday Special’ is way better in cartoon form than he ever was in the movies) and IG88, (who was even less of a presence than Boba Fett in ‘The Empire Stikes Back’).

There are also a few Stormtroopers in about four episodes.

As an 80s cartoon it’s OK. Maybe it deserved a second series. But it’s also fine that it didn’t get a second series.

None of the characters are really that memorable. Anthony Daniels does the voice of C3PO, but he does the voice of C3PO in everything so it’s no guarantee of quality. His presence helps make an ordinary cartoon slightly more memorable though.

Really, though, the main ‘take home’  from this is also something that I’ve found problematic in the movies. Which is the question of whether the droids are sentient beings or not. Because they always seem to be. And if they are, then they are essentially slaves. And I don’t think I’m OK with that.

Best character – Thall Joben

thall

One of the ‘masters’ of the droids for four episodes. They’re all archetypes really and Thall is no better or worse. But he does have quite a hairstyle and for that alone, he’s the most memorable character in the whole series.

Worst character – Coby

Coby_swenc

He’s only in two episodes and only a prominent character in one, but he’s so annoying in that episode that, in a cast of largely forgettable characters, he sticks in the memory for all the wrong reasons.

Unsung hero – Kybo Ren

kybo

When you’re already a forgetable villain in a pretty forgettable cartoon, the last thing you need is to have a name that is almost the same as the main villain in a much more memorable trilogy of movies. Not that anyone would ever claim that Kybo Ren was their favourite Star Wars character, but if such a person does exisit, they’ll now find themselves being contantly challenged. “Surely you mean Kylo Ren?” I’m not the sort of person who dresses up as Star Wars characters and goes to conventions but if I ever do, I’ll definitely go as Kybo Ren. Which, given my dietry choices during lockdown, will be quite an easy look for me to pull off.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about ‘Star Wars: Droids – The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO’. And some people might argue that even that is too much.

Tune in tomorrow to see if I’ve got the audacity to base another whole post around the 1986 ‘one-off special’…

 

 

May The Thirteenth Be With You: Ewoks: The Battle For Endor

James Proclaims (4)

Ilm-ewok2

Following on from 1984’s ‘Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure’, 1985’s ‘Ewoks, The Battle For Endor’ was another TV movie that somehow found itself in cinemas in the UK.

But you wouldn’t have found me in any of those cinemas. Because unlike the first Ewok film, which is firmly established as a seminal moment in my childhood, I had no idea this one even existed until a few years ago.

And I’m glad I didn’t in many ways because it just might have left me a little disturbed had I been exposed to it in my youth.

But before we get into the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of all that, I should issue a spoiler alert:

Spoiler Alert: You probably have no intention of ever watching this, but if, like me, you did enjoy the first Ewok movie as a child, then you might be interested in seeing the sequel. So you should know that I’m going to discuss some plot points from here on in and frankly, although spoilers may not ruin your enjoyment of a movie that is about as complex as a two-piece jigsaw puzzle, there are some plot points you may find upsetting. And indeed deeply deeply traumatising…

So, the first Ewok movie ends with the Towani family happily reunited after the events of that story, in which the parents were kidnapped by a giant creature that apparently lives on the forest moon of Endor alongside the Ewoks. And that creature, the Gorax, died, which, assuming there was only one of him, would explain why there were no goraxes in ‘Return of the Jedi’.

So we re-join the family at the beginning of the second movie, and it’s about six months later and they’re still on Endor, but the dad, who in the intervening time appears to have turned into Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson from ‘Die Hard’ has nearly fixed their spaceship. Which is particularly impressive because there can’t have been too many available spare parts on the forest moon of Endor.

So far, so good. Cindel appear to be really good friends with Wicket, who by now has learned to speak English to a fairly proficient standard, (which begs the question, why didn’t he ever talk to Princess Leia? Because this movie is supposedly set before ‘Return of the Jedi’. Maybe Wicket is a bit of a ‘scoundrel’. Which would actually explain why he gets on so well with Leia. Because there aren’t enough scoundrels in her life…) The Towani family appear to have made no effort to learn the Ewok dialect though.

Anyway, it’s all good. The ship is ready to depart and the family will soon be able to get back to their normal lives after their unscheduled sabbatical on Endor. And while they’ve obviously struck up a bit of a bond with the Ewoks, it’ll be nice to get back to life under the Evil Galactic Empire, which is presumably where they normally live.

But, lo and behold, some other people apparently live on Endor. They’re called the Sanyassan Marauders. And, like many a marauder, they aren’t the loveliest of people. Somehow, even though they’ve definitely been on Endor for several years (long enough to have built a castle no less) the Towani family have managed to avoid them to date. Yet, just hours away from leaving Endor forever, they’re unlucky enough to be caught up in a raid.

Which is really very unfortunate.

Particularly as the marauders kill both parents and older brother Mace.

Yes, that’s right, 75% of the family whose entire reunion was the premise for the last movie are brutally murdered at the beginning of this one.

It’s not generally what you expect of a sequel. Particularly of a movie aimed at kids.

Mace was essentially the main character in the first movie and he gets about two lines in this one before he is blown up. The mum literally gets no lines. She’s already dead by the time she appears on screen. We see her corpse being dragged into a hut by Mace, shortly before the hut is blown up.

Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson lasts a bit longer but he too meets his end pretty quickly.

Cindel and all of the Ewoks are captured by the marauders but she and Wicket manage to escape. And so the entire narrative rests on the shoulders of a six year old girl and a talking Ewok.

And if you pitched that to me as a movie I might like to watch, I would laugh in your face.

But I didn’t hate this.

Even though it is, objectively, awful.

But somehow Cindel manages to not annoy me at all. She’s actually quite likeable. The actress who played her went on to star in literally nothing else and I can’t help but feel that a genuine talent was overlooked here, because she’s absolutely not the worst thing about this movie. And neither is Wicket. Although it is unsettling that he can talk.

Anyway, Cindel and Wicket hook up with some bloke called Noa who has also apparently lived on Endor for ages. And he’s a bit mean but it turns out that he’s quite kind really and they all bond and Cindel manages to get over the horrifying violent deaths of her family quite quickly.

But then she gets kidnapped by the witch. Because there is a witch. In a Star Wars spin-off. Which is a bit weird. Also the witch looks nothing like any of the marauders so I’m not sure why she’s hanging out with them. But she is.

The leader of the marauders is called Terek and even though he looks exactly the same as all of the marauders, he’s apparently more powerful. Somehow. It’s never really explained why he is powerful. And even though the marauders all use weapons that seem quite technologically advanced, they are also a bit naïve about technology because it turns out that they killed the Towani family and also killed Noa’s friend many years earlier, because they believed they had access to an unknown power. But it turns out that what the marauders think is a source of unlimited power is essentially a car battery. Except it’s a battery for, y’know, a spaceship.

So it’s really all a lot of senseless death over a misunderstanding.

But it turns out the the car battery from the Towani spaceship is exactly the same as Noa would need for his spaceship, even though they are clearly different models of spaceship. So that’s quite fortunate.

Anyway there’s a bit of a fight and somehow, I’m not sure how, Terek turns to stone and the witch, who can turn into a bird, is now stuck being a bird.

And Noa and Cindel fly off in Noa’s spaceship, to return to life under the Evil Galactic Empire. And Cindel’s family are still dead.

Most of the marauders survive but apparently are all hiding during ‘Return of the Jedi’.

There were no further live-action Ewok adventures after this one and I personally feel that was a missed opportunity.

Best character – Cindel

cindel

She wasn’t especially annoying in the first Ewok movie, which is all you can expect of a child this young but she’s actually by far the best thing in this one. And there were some pretty accomplished actors playing some of the other parts. Although they do have to work with some dreadful dialogue, which in some ways may be easier for a small child to carry off. 

Worst character – Noa

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He’s not that bad, but honestly when the entire family are killed off at the beginning, including Mace, who was pretty much the hero of the last movie, I wasn’t expecting someone like this guy to step into the breach. It’s not like he’s a even a Jedi or anything…

Unsung hero – Teek

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Another native of Endor that we never saw in ‘Return of the Jedi’. But that’s probably because he was so quick. Because he is really fast. Which, had I seen this is a child, I would have thought was really cool. His speed is definitely the only advantage the good guys have over the bad guys, but he often seems to be overlooked by the others. And he seems like a really nice guy too.

And that’s it for the standalone Ewok movies. But there are plenty more entries in the Star Wars Universe for me to write about. And write about them I will.

May The Twelfth Be With You: Caravan Of Courage: An Ewok Adventure

James Proclaims (4)

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Originally a TV movie for American audiences simply called ‘The Ewok Adventure’ this 1984 Star Wars spinoff was retitled ‘Caravan Of Courage: An Ewok Adventure’ when it was released in cinemas internationally.

I saw it in the UK.

Which is where I lived in 1984.

Indeed it is where I live now.

And I saw it in a cinema.

In fact this film was the first thing I ever saw in a cinema.

I was five years old at the time. I already loved Star Wars, but at that point in my life I had never seen ‘Return of the Jedi’. I knew all about the Ewoks, of course, and by then I may even have had some Ewoks in my collection of Star Wars action figures. But I’d never seen an Ewok on screen.

So I was very excited about seeing this film.

I was also excited about going to the cinema, but I had no idea, really, what a cinema was.

My mind was officially blown by the whole experience.

But before we go on, I must of course, issue a spoiler alert.

Spoiler Alert: In the highly unlikely event that you are someone who has never seen this movie, but would actually like to see this movie, then I probably will be revealing some plot details after this point. But don’t worry, the plot is so derivative and predictable that it’s highly unlikely that a prior knowledge of the story will ruin this movie for you. What may, of course, ruin it is not being five years old…

Of course I loved this film when I first saw it. I was five and I’d never been to the cinema before. If nothing else, I fell in love with the big screen. I’m still in love with the big screen but we have a somewhat fractious relationship these days (or we would if it weren’t for that whole pandemic thing that’s going on at the moment) because I would prefer ‘the big screen’ and I to be alone for the cinematic experience, but ‘the big screen’ seems to enjoy large gatherings of people, many of whom fail to observe even the tiniest bit of etiquette when the movie is playing. So I tend to spend more time with the small screen these days.

But I really did think that seeing a movie about Ewoks on the big screen was the best thing ever when I was five.

Until recently, I hadn’t seen ‘Caravan of Courage’ since I was a small child. I’m certain that first time in the cinema wasn’t the only time I saw this, I think I probably watched a rented VHS copy at some point too, some years later.

But I would still have been very young even on that second viewing.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as an adult.

It’s not the most appealing of concepts – a film about Ewoks but without any of the rest of Star Wars…

But I did actually quite like this even as an adult. It helped having low expectations to begin with and the added bonus of nostalgia certainly didn’t hurt, but it’s really not that bad.

OK, it is quite bad, but in the most inoffensive of ways.

The story centres around a family of space travellers who crash on the forest moon of Endor, some time before the Galactic Empire decided to settle there to construct the second Death Star.

A giant creature called the Gorax kidnaps the parents for some unknown reason. Maybe he wants to eat them, or maybe he thinks they’re cute (they are very small from his perspective) and he wants them as his pets. His motivation is never clear really. He doesn’t eat them, he just keeps them in a cage. Maybe he’s going to eat them later, but, although the exact amount of time he keeps them imprisoned isn’t clear, it’s at least a few days and could well be weeks or months. I’m not sure if he feeds them during this time but they seem relatively well looked after when they’re rescued at the end of the movie. Because of course, in this most conventional of stories, they are rescued.

The Gorax is massive. He’s exactly the kind of creature that you would notice if you were the Galactic Empire and looking for a suitable moon on which to build a shield generator to protect your Death Star and I’d imagine that gigantic carnivorous monsters (assuming he was carnivorous) would be the kind of thing you’d want to avoid. Then again, the Gorax does die at the end of this, and maybe there are no other goraxes around. Maybe he was the only one of his kind. Which might mean he kidnapped the parents because he was lonely. Although I do have some questions about how, biologically speaking, the Gorax came to exist in the first place if he was genuinely the only one.

But lets suspend our disbelief regarding our friend the Gorax. Because the sequel to ‘Caravan of Courage’ is going to raise lots more questions regarding the many inhabitants of Endor that would seem inconceivable to anyone who’s seen ‘Return of the Jedi’. So we don’t want to get hung up on those questions today, because we’ll be dealing with those tomorrow.

Anyway, the parents are kidnapped by the Gorax, leaving the two children to fend for themselves. One of these is Mace, who is a teenage Luke Skywalker wannabe, (he dresses in the orange jumpsuit of rebel x-wing pilot, but I’m pretty sure he’s not got any military credentials). The other is Cindel who is a very small child. Given that the actress is only three months older than me, then she was definitely no older than five when this was made and maybe even younger. So you’d imagine she would be really irritating. But she’s not too bad. Way less irritating than Anakin in ‘The Phantom Menace’ for a start.

But it’s Mace who does all the heavy lifting, dialogue-wise. And aside from a very small child, the only other characters he gets to speak to for the vast majority of the movie are Ewoks. And a ‘wistie’ called Izrina, who seems to be a kind of fairy, made of light or something. But she doesn’t speak and the Ewoks obviously don’t speak English, so poor Mace doesn’t have many coherent conversations.

Indeed the dialogue would be highly problematic from a narrative perspective, so we also have an omniscient narrator to guide us through the action. Although he doesn’t seem to be aware of the Gorax’s motivations either.

Mace and Cindel hook up with a family of Ewoks, and not just any family but Wicket’s family. Wicket does get top-billing for this movie, although he doesn’t really do much. But he’s there and he’s the one we remember from ‘Return of the Jedi’ so I suppose it’s fair enough really.

Anyway, the Ewoks help the children to track down their parents and save them. And they have a few minor adventures on the way, but essentially that’s it in a nutshell.

It all ends well. Except for the Gorax. Who dies. And one Ewok, who also dies.

The family are reunited and there is absolutely no reason to believe that they won’t all live happily ever after.

Until you watch the sequel…

Best character – Mace

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To be fair he was fairly close to being a candidate for ‘worst character’ early on in the movie, because he is a bit of a whinger and he makes some perplexingly stupid choices, which put him and his sister in unnecessary danger more than once. But he gets his act together in the second half of the movie and it’s a pretty cool-headed hurling of an axe by Mace, which finally dispatches the Gorax.

Worst Character – Both of the parents

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They’re just a bit rubbish really. I mean who gets themselves kidnapped by a Gorax?

Usung Hero – Chukha-Trok

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He’s the Ewok who dies. He single-handedly takes on the Gorax in a fight. Even though the Gorax is huge and Chukha-Trok is the size of…well…an Ewok. Plus his dying act is to give his axe to Mace. And it’s this same axe that Mace subsequently uses to send the Gorax to its death.

And that just about sums up the first of the spin-off Ewok movies. Tune in tomorrow when I’ll probably be writing about the second one.