Friday 20 December 2019

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

'Nuff said.

So began the opening sequence of the first (and every episode since) in the global pop culture phenomena that is Star Wars way back in 1977. The final chapter of what has been described as the 'Skywalker Sequence' - Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker goes on general release today and I for one am really looking forward to going to the cinema to watch it.

For many wargamers the Star Wars universe has been a constant companion and indeed, a source of inspiration in many ways as the background has transitioned into board games, role playing games, miniatures games, computer and arcade games. There have been countless novels and short stories that have really expanded the universe and provided the wargamer with a rich background to tap into for gaming purposes. On the table top one can battle with star fighters, star ships, squads of troops or individuals or even tackle the whole thing at a strategic level - the choices are really vast and are limited only by one's imagination (or wallet....).

I am a lifelong Star Wars fan and have gamed many elements of it at one time or another as well as dipping into the wider universe via the written word - I really enjoyed Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry as well as the Thrawn Trilogy - as well as for the original films. Then of course there is that magnificent soundtrack penned by John Williams which, to this day I will happily listen to and will acquire the latest release (his final so I believe) in due course.

The timeline of films and TV shows - including the animated series

At a personal level it feels as though Episode 9, despite the further films we are told are in the works as well as the TV tie ins (I have yet to see the Mandalorian but am really looking forward to Kenobi) is drawing a veil over a big chunk of my life and to be honest, it is a little sad really. The adventures of Luke, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Lando, Chewie and the droids R2D2 and C3PO, latterly joined by Finn, Rey, Poe, BB8 and all in opposition to Darth Vader, the Emperor and Kylo Ren have given me enormous pleasure over the years in an escapism, Saturday morning cinema  kind of way.

The original trilogy will always be my favourite although I have enjoyed all the others. I felt that he prequels were good overall but there were certain elements that felt as though they had been included 'because they could be' rather than for any logical reason that I could fathom. I enjoyed then anyway because the Star Wars universe is such a great place to set any kind of film in. Rogue 1 was outstanding in my opinion and much as I enjoyed Solo I felt as though it was an opportunity wasted in many ways. The Last Jedi, which has upset many die hard fans was not a bad film - I rather enjoyed it - but again, there were elements that were included that did not appear to offer anything. I also felt that Luke could have been used to far better effect.

There will always be those that will attack a film or films on the point of detail or, dare I say it, artistic interpretation. For me that kind of misses the point. The universe has been planted and the films are very much snapshots of events that have taken place in it. For sure there will be things that may not gel but let us just enjoy it for what it is offering. In doing so it will enable you to gloss over the oddities!

From a gaming perspective I truly believe Star Wars put Sci Fi - or rather Science Fantasy - gaming firmly on the map so to speak. There have been myriad sets of rules for all manner of games released since 1977 that in some way tap in to the universe that George Lucas gave us and many of these are thriving still. There are also some very good games currently available that use the original films as a background but that then bring them up to date to incorporate the latest films etc. X Wing, Armada, Imperial Assault and Legion all spring to mind.

I should also mention Lego as there is a huge amount of Star Wars material available and I have really enjoyed building some elements from it with my light sabre wielding 9 year old grandson as well as with my Wookie and Yoda impersonating 24 year old daughter. Truly this is a generational phenomena and watching the films with them is a real treat.

As I write this the a couple of well known quotes from the films come to mind that sum up the universe of Star Wars and how it has shaped so many things and in so many ways.

Of Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker - "The circle is now complete...."

Of the entire Star Wars universe: "Remember, the force will be with you....always."


Maudlin Jack Tar said...


Steve J. said...

I liked the first film as it was visually stunning and way ahead of anything at that time. The other films never really grabbed me to be honest (other than visually again) and some were down right awful IMHO. Heresy I know to many, but that's just me and I'm not really a Sci-Fi fan, so it shouldn't be too much of a surprise. We have recently watched Rogue One as it was on ITV and this was pretty good I must admit.

I did watch the Star Wars episode from The Toys That Made Us on Netflix and that was fascinating and I will watch the two Star Wars programmes on BBC about the making of the films. As a professional designer and modelmaker this stuff fascinates me. I remember a year or so after the original film was released in the '70's, the BBC showed a documentary on how they made the film as I was simply blown away by it and still am to be honest. Sadly CGI has taken away a lot of the skills used then, but they do appear in films now and then.

David Crook said...

Hello there, (did you see what I did there....?) Maudlin Jack Tar,

To this day when ever anything that is eaten in our house that is described as 'chewy' mu daughter will let out a log suffering Wookie type howl.

And she is 24....

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Steve J,

I probably would not go so far as to describe some of the films as awful although there were definitely elements that were questionable, to say the least! I will certainly look out for the 'Making of' documentaries as I enjoy that kind of stuff (although not with a professional perspective).

I have enjoyed them all but for me the it is the backdrop that is far more appealing as it really is bigger than the sum of the parts.

The original (and best) film trilogy was as you rightly say way ahead of its time and this is why I believe it had such a lasting impact - there was simply nothing like this at the time. CGI is a great thing but is so impersonal and when overused reduces films to video game proportions in my opinion.

For the record I tend to class Star Wars as Science Fantasy rather than Science Fiction.

Rogue 1 was excellent.

All the best,


Simon said...

The first three films released were excellent, the others not so. I thought Rogue One was great and I did not mind Solo, the others uuurrghhh.
This latest Trilogy fails to capture the imagination, look at all the toys on sale at a fraction of the RRP. The scripts needed to be better, it’s the same old, same old. Ren is a wannabe Vader, of look it’s another Death Star, some of the so called ‘stars’ are at best mediocre actors. The guy that plays Kylo Ren (Adam Driver?) is truly awful. Even Mark Hamil, well he has done a lot of work ‘not’ between Star Wars films. I have noticed that there has not been much of the usual sensation adverting of the new film. I can wait to watch it, none of us here will be rushing out to experience it.

David Crook said...

Hi Simon,

Before I go to see the final chapter I have revisiting the previous 8 films plus both the spin off movies - Rogue 1 and Solo. I have dome this put the final film into context and from 'a certain point of view.' The original trilogy is the best but even then contains a few flaws. The later offerings build on the story and add a degree of continuity leading us to where we are now. Are they perfect? Of course not - there are plot holes and discrepancies and some questionable acting for sure BUT it is what it is, no more and no less. From my perspective it offers a wonderful universe to set games in of a space opera nature and in the vein of a Saturday morning cinema style film.

There has not been the advertising frenzy but to be honest I believe that the phenomena has gotten so large that to a certain extent advertising is largely redundant - it is Star Wars and Star Wars sells. My grandson (who is 9) loves it and has enjoyed all the films with me and owns a modest collection of Star Wars Lego from the latest trilogy.

Is the latest trilogy any good? Well I would answer that by saying it is rather like the curate's egg - good in parts!

As for the acting well sprinkling the films with highly regarded actors alongside previously unknowns always presents some challenges but given the nature of the content - we are not talking Shakespeare here - I don't see that as much of an issue.

Much as I enjoyed the original trilogy I remember thinking that the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi smacked of running out of ideas but the film itself was stunning, Ewoks notwithstanding!

All the best,


Mark, Man of TIN said...

I saw the first film on the original cinema release as a child and was wowed by the grungy cowboy film ness of it all - I collected the action figures and the too large spaceships to the detriment of my Airfix budget and still have most of them

I followed the first three films. I liked the first two, IV and V . The middle three films I II and III were lacklustre and disappointing. The final three? So far film 7 and 8 are each overlong but better by having a more diverse cast and good in parts.

Rogue One is probably my favourite, after the original film. Not so much 'work' having to notice "trilogy significance" all the time ...

Interested to watch the short Palitoy documentary (how sad the British toy industry keeps dying off) and the longer BBC 4 one 'The Galaxy That Britain Built' on how lots of it was filmed and built in Britain. One Star Wars Uniform designer was John Mollo the military historian and there are interviews him with his costume sketchbooks, many of the uniforms inspired by / based on military / historical periods:

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

Completely agree with you David
The Circle is and will be complete my childhood fantasies of three LOTR films and 9 main Star Wars films are done
I am not mentioning the Hobbit
And I am resigned that Kate Bush fascination was "just a phase" I went through

Have a great Xmas and New Year and I am looking forward to the next time we meet up already!

Simon said...

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker opens lower than Force Awakens and Last Jedi at box office
Interest in the new trilogy has evidently waned.

Headline in the press

David Crook said...

Hi Mark, Man of Tin,

There are some telling pints there old chap and by and large I can see where you are coming from. For me the whole background was key and the films after the original trilogy seemed to expand this. I believe that had George Lucas had any say in the latest trilogy we may well have seen some very different films.

It is not high art but it is hugely entertaining.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Geordie,

Kate Bush eh?

And to you and yours old chap - see you on the other side!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Simon,

For me the new trilogy introduced some new ideas but the execution was patchy to say the least. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed both films and will do so with the finale but for sure there will be holes to be picked!

I genuinely believe that the Star wars phenomena is now too large to fail so even if the box office takings are a little lighter than expected I suspect that Disney will not be overly concerned.

I wonder how long before we see an original trilogy reboot!?

All the best,