Category Archives: Geek Movie Review

Really Weird West: Plot Hooks and Inspirational Media

Since there’s certainly no full published adventure support for the Really Weird West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, I thought it might be useful to both provide some adventure seeds, and provide a list of inspirational media. That said, a GM interested in running a Really Weird West campaign need not feel like every adventure needs to be custom-crafted from scratch. Most adventures appropriate to the Starfinder Roleplaying Game can be reskinned to run in Really Weird West (with space stations becoming port towns, starships becoming zepplins, hyperspace travel becoming riverboat or airship travel, other planets being other states and/or islands, and so on). Similarly, adapting adventures designed for related fantasy RPGs is easy by changing lost dungeons into lost mines or ancient civilization cities, and adding guns to most foes.

But if you do want to create your own adventures, or add introductions, side-quests, and major revisions to existing adventures, the adventure seeds below and inspirational media lists that follow should provide numerous appropriate jumping-off points.

Adventure Seeds

1. You come across a dead, masked Texas Ranger, with a gunbelt full of silver bullets. He was clearly mauled by a giant wolf. This leads to an adventure tracking down a group of werewolf bandits.

2. A madman named Robur, operating in unincorporated territories, has nearly completed the Death Cloud, an airship with a rebuilt Martian heat ray so powerful it can destroy an entire city in a single shot. He’d see an entire army coming and wipe them out, but a small group might be able to sneak past his defenses and blow up the Death Cloud from within.

3. Someone has been stealing hegesistrati (a “hegesistratus” being a gearjack prosthetic), knocking out veterans of the War of the Worlds and ripping the most advanced gearjack technology from their bodies. At the same time, rumor is a new mad genius will sell you gearjack armor cheap…

4. A dragon is terrorizing the small town of Walnut Grove. It’s smart enough not to appear when the cavalry is around, and no one has found its lair, somewhere in the badlands…

5. The PC with the best pistol attack bonus receives a letter. The infamous killer and quickdraw artist Doc Valentine has heard people claim the PC is better with a pistol than valentine, and is coming to town on the noonday train tomorrow to call the PC out to a shootout.

6. The PCs order new gear from a major town, to arrive by train. The train is hit by bandits, and their gear stolen.

7. An unscrupulous lawyer has stolen the designs for a local ally genius’s rainmaking machine, which will save entire counties of farmers from a serious drought. He has a head start, but the PCs know he’ll be on a moving train for a specific leg of his journey, so if they can just rob the train and get the design back…

8. A young man in strange clothes claims to be a time traveler, and he needs to find his elder friend and repair his time machine before he does major damage to the timeline…

9. There’s a new addictive drug in the territory, premade black cigarettes called Coffin Nails. If the gang pushing it isn’t stopped, they may gain enough power to challenge the US government.

10. One Martian tripod, alone in the desert, is still active.

11. The Mole People are kidnapping singers, for some reason, and some of the singers that have taken are important high society folks that need to be rescued from their underground kingdom.

12. Someone has desecrated a Civil War battlefield, and the dead from both sides are rising up to punish the living until the desecration is made right.

13. There’s something in The Mist.

14. The lost city of El Dorado offers vast treasures… if you can survive the traps, guardian constructs, rival explorers, and Olmec lizardfolk who have taken over.

15. The Hatfields have turned to necromancy. The McCoys have turned to diabolry. Everyone else has turned and run.

(Though in fairness, I have been informed “We McCoys would never turn to diabolry. Unstable alchemical explosives, maybe. Ninjitsu, probably. Mentally unstable deities that are still good-natured even if they cause far more problems than they should, definitely. Gigantic robots that can flatten a town without noticing, oh you bet we will.”)

16. The Illuminati hid a vast treasure in a long-abandoned mine, and a series of obscure clues will allow the PCs to get to it before a cult that wishes to use it to summon an ancient, elder god.

17. It’s snowing in the desert, and only one person has the cold-weather gear everyone needs survive. And he’s selling it at a huge mark-up. And whenever he runs out, white wolves bring him more.

18. A mad military genius has built a rolling fortress, and plans to use it to destroy a group he dislikes, be that a native tribe, a pioneer town, or the PCs’ base of operation.

19. Characters with advanced melee combat skills are being kidnapped and forced to fight in a tournament of Bullfighters, who face off against minotaurs in a labyrinth arena.

20. A villager from a small, unarmed town begs the PCs to come protect them from bandits. The bandits number in the hundreds, and the villagers can only pay in food and a place to stay, but without the PCs help, the village will be driven to the brink of starvation.

Inspirational Media
Taking a broad view of “Weird West” as a setting to include any strongly-Western setting (even if located somewhere other than the American Old West) that adds elements of the supernatural, or advanced technology (steampunk or not), or visitors (from monsters to aliens to time travelers), there’s a lot of media that can act as inspirations to create your own adventures, characters, and themes. I’ve excluded things that transport Western plots and sensibilities into other settings (so no Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers or Dark Tower or Firefly, all of which might well also spark ideas), not because they are in any way inferior, but because they tend to be better known and I wanted to keep this list manageable.

It’s worth noting that while these are great sources of Weird West inspiration… that doesn’t mean they’re great as forms of entertainment. Many are quite good, but some are truly awful. That doesn’t mean they aren’t worth skimming through (or reading summaries of them) if you can’t sit through them the regular way, in order to get inspired to riff new ideas and characters and plots from the bad stories. Myself, I sometimes fin terrible books and movies are actually better sources of inspiration, as when they do something really dumb I find myself thinking “It would have been cooler if they’d done X,” and whatever X is, that’s my new, cool idea.

It’s also worth noting that nearly any western, fantasy, or cyberpunk plot can be easily adapted to a Really Wild West campaign. It’s easy to add some half-orcs to a bandit gang, have long-dead sorcerers wear black cowboy hats, and turn megacorporations into railways and cattle barons. If that doesn’t feel natural to you, try describing the driving force of a plot as generically as possible. The Fellowship of the Ring can simplify to “a local boy is convinced my a mysterious wanderer to take something dangerous to the big city for advice, then decides to throw it into a volcano which requires him and friends to pass through an abandoned mine, all while hunted by the original owner’s forces and elite generals.” One you have it reduced to that level, it’s easy to replace the local boy, mysterious wanderer, something dangerous, big city, and abandoned mine to seem more Weird Western. So if a pioneer has to take a Crimson Spike, which turns any railway into demon-summoning railroad line, to New Holt City where the Elven Preservation Society convinces him that to keep it from senator “Boss” Morghul he must take it through the old Brimstone Double-Y Mine to a volcano hidden in the Rockies… THAT’s Weird West.

COMICS
Billy the Kid’s Old Timey Oddities, publisher Dark Horse Books
Black Jack Ketchum, publisher Image Comics
Bouncer: The One-Armed Gunslinger, publisher Humanoids, Inc.
East of West, publisher Image Comics
High Moon, publisher Super Genius
Iron West, publisher Image Comics
Jonah Hex, publisher DC Comics
The Justice Riders, publisher DC Comics
Kingaway West, publisher Dark Horse Books
Lazarus Lane (El Diablo), publisher DC Comics
Magic Wind, publisher Epicenter Comics (English language publisher)
Pretty Deadly, publisher Image Comics
The Sixth Gun, publisher Oni Press
Trailblazer, publisher Image Comics
Zagor, publisher Epicenter Comics (English language publisher)

BOOKS
Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel, author Paul Guinan
Boneshaker, author Cherie Priest
The Buntline Special and sequels, author Mike Resnick
Dead In The West, author Joe R Lansdale
Dead Man’s Hand, anthology, ed. by John Joseph Adams
Dead Man’s Hand: Five Tales of the Weird West, author Nancy Collins
The Dead Remember and other “Weird West” stories, author Robert E. Howard
Deadman’s Road, author Joe R Lansdale
Devil’s Tower and Devil’s Engine, author Mark Sumner.
The Encyclopedia Of Weird Westerns, author Paul Green
FRANK READE: Adventures in the Age of Invention, authors Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett
The Golgotha Series, author R.S. Belcher.
The Hexslinger Series, author Gemma Files
Karen Memory, author Elizabeth Bear
Low Moon, anthology, ed. David A. Riley
“Mad Amos” stories, author Alan Dean Foster
A Road Paved In Iron, author Don Corcoran
The Shadow series, author Lila Bowen
Shadow on the Sun, author author Richard Matheson
Stagecoach Mary, author Jess Nevins
Straight Outta Tombstone, anthology, ed. By David Boop
The Sundowners Series, author James Swallow
Tales of the Far West short story collection, authors Gareth Skarka, Matt Forbeck, and others
Vermillion, author Molly Tanzer
Wax and Wayne series, author Brandon Sanderson
Zepplins West, author Joe R Lansdale

GAMES
Deadlands Classic, published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Deadlands Reloaded, published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Devil’s Gulch, for BRP, published by Chaosium
Down Dark Trails, for Call of Cthulhu, published by Chaosium
Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, for Red Dead Redemption, published by Rockstar Games
Shadows of Brimstone, published by Flying Frog Games
Sixguns and Sorcery, for Castle Falkenstein, published by R. Talsorian
Werewolf: The Wild West, published by White Wolf Publishing

MOVIES
Back to the Future Part III, directed by Robert Zemeckis
Billy the Kid vs Dracula, directed by William Beaudine
Blood Moon, directed by Jeremy Wooding
Blood Rayne II Deliverance, directed by William Beaudine
Bone Tomahawk, directed by S. Craig Zahler
Bunraku, directed by Guy Moshe
The Burrowers, directed by J.T. Petty
Cowboys & Aliens, directed by Jon Favreau
Curse of the Undead, directed by Edward Dein
Dead Man, directed by Jim Jarmusch
El Charro de las Calaveras, directed by Alfredo Salazar
From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter, directed by P.J. Pesce
Gallowwalkers, directed by Andrew Goth
Ghost Brigade aka The Killing Box, directed by George Hickenlooper
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, directed by Grant Harvey
The Good the Bad the Weird, directed by Kim Jee-woon
High Plains Invaders, directed by K. T. Donaldson
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, directed by William Beaudine
Jonah Hex, directed by Jimmy Hayward
High Planes Drifter, directed by Clint Eastwood
Ned Kelley, directed by Gregor Jordan
Pale Rider, directed by Clint Eastwood
The Phantom Empire (1935 serial), directed by Otto Brower and Breezy Easton
Purgatory, directed by Uli Edel
Ravenous, directed by Antonia Bird
Red Sun, directed by Terence Young
Sukiyaki Western Django, directed by Takashi Miike
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, directed by S.S. Wilson
Undead or Alive, directed by Glasgow Phillips
The Valley of Gwangi, directed by James O’Connolly
The Warrior’s Way, directed by Sngmoo Lee
The White Buffalo, directed by J. Lee Thompson
Wild Wild West, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

TELEVISION
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., created by Jeffrey Boam and Carlton Cuse
Kung Fu, created by Herman Miller and Ed Spielman
The Lazarus Man, created by Dick Beebe, Colleen O’Dwyer, and Michael Ogiens
Legend, created by Bill Dial and Michael Piller
Wild West C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, created by Ryan Brown and Bob Carrau
The Wild Wild West, created by Michael Garrison

Patreon
And, of course, the really Wild West setting is an example of weird west, and it’s made available by the supports of my Patreon! If you’re a fan, please consider offering a few dollars a month for support!

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100% Spoiler-Free Thoughts on The Last Jedi.

I think one of the things that made the original Trilogy very successful (and makes everything sine much more divisive), is that the original somehow manages to be wildly different things to different viewers. And depending on what lens we view those movies through, we want very different things from one another for expansions or continuations of our version of Star Wars.

The Last Jedi was not a perfect film, but I enjoyed it very much.

It means that for the people who made it, they have narrowed down how they see the original films, and that’s fine. I can see what they see, and be really happy with it.

It also means that there are different movies in my head, which are the 8th movie for different Star Wars original trilogies that, realistically, may also have only ever existed in my head.

And I’m okay with that.

(For those who want to support my posting my thoughts on geekery when i have them, check out my Patreon.)

Space Politics

One of the things more industrialized settings sometimes do for an rpg campaign is open up new avenues of adventure. While there is nothing at all wrong with tuning an abandoned mall into a dungeon, or a wrecked spaceship into a haunted house, or treating an alien progenator as a dragon in its layer, sometimes it’s fun to play with new possibilities as well.

And if you have a setting with multiple homeworlds drawing together in a confederation with representative officials from different worlds, each with its own method of selecting said officials, that means politics.

While in some games PCs might actually be candidates, and some system of determining who wins an election might be useful as a subsystem, the idea of political action adventures can be introduced without going nearly that far. Much as you don’t need a subsystem on fighting epidemics in order to rush antidotes to a plague-ridden city and don’t need rules on the impact of an alpha predator on an ecology not designed for it to hunt down the bullette destroying a forest, you can do a lot with politics as a motivator without ever getting into voting, caucuses, poll taxes, or even issues.

As with many RPG-related adventure ideas, you can borrow heavily from fiction for inspiration. While these are by no means an exhaustive list of movies with politics-driven action plots, and it’s certainly not a commentary on the quality of any of these movies, they are things that a good GM should be able to easily borrow from to throw some political adventure into a modern or science-fiction campaign. All of these have at least some elements where it’s easy to envision PCs of any level getting involved, either accidentally, as catspaws, or as a politically appropriate measured response. While it might be important in some cases to downgrade the action from centering around a chief executive to simply a minor representative who’ll cast a decisive vote on something, the core ideas are still easily lifted.

And obviously, I leaned towards those movies with cool ideas and set-pieces over those with believable politics.

Air Force One
Argo
Bridge of Spies
Dreamscape
Enemy of the State
Escape from New York
Fatherland
Godzilla: Resurgence
The Hunger Games tilogy
In the Line of Fire
The Kingdom
The Manchurian Candidate
Munich
Olympus Has Fallen
The Pelican Brief
The Purge: Election Year

Speaking of Politics

Well only sort of. But politicians need supporters… and so do I! I have a Patreon, where I have set up pledge levels to explain how much you’ll actually be charged (within a few cents) even under Patreon’s weird new pricing scheme. Check it out!

The Cinematic Sci-Fi Timeline

This is a cinematic sci-fi timeline, and effort to create a rich history of advancing technology and the issues, heroes, and morality tales that lead to a moment rich for player character involvement. That moment might be at the end of this progression, or at any point along the way the GM finds interesting.

This isn’t an effort to actually jam all these differing stories into a single continuity, and I am not claiming RUNAWAY is actually the precursor to RoboCop. I am also aware that some of these do have official crossovers (half of then through Dark Horse comics), and I don’t care if I invalidate those either.

Nor am I trying to fit ever science-fiction movie in existence into a single reality. Just a specific subset I feel have some themes and throughlines in common that make for an interesting potential universe.

This is just a thought experiment, designed to place actual inspirations into slots where a pastiche of each *could* form a logical continuous timeline with just a little tweaking.

Each movie includes the year the movie was released, for clarity. No specific set time is suggested for when these movies should occur, but I assume the timeline runs roughly 200 years from 1970 to 2170. The timeline movies forward with each italicized breakdown of how the listed movies represent the events of that point in the timeline.

The Timeline (1970-2070)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
The governments of the world come to accept that alien life is real and travelling the stars, but keep the information from the general public.

Terminator (1984)
Crucial moments in the development of the world are impacted by a very small number of time travelers, resulting in multiple, overlapping alternate timelines, proof of some variant of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.

Carrie (1976)
Firestarter (1984)
The Fury (1978)
Perhaps as a step in evolution, perhaps as a response to the first cases of time travel and alien contact, verifiable psychic phenomenon begin to sporadically manifest. The governments of the world alternate between exploiting and just killing such talents, but needless to say thigns often go poorly.

Predator (1987)
Aliens continue to visit Earth in small numbers and without the public learning, but such visits are not always friendly.

Looker (1981)
As technology advances, the wealthy and powerful begin to realize it can be used to control the lower classes, to focus even more power in the hands of the few.

Runaway (1984)
As society groans under the need to provide for an expanding population and worsening natural resources, autonomous robots become increasingly common in advanced societies. Something they go rouge, and must be put down. Sometimes an increasingly tech-savvy criminal class makes use of them.

Push (2009)
Scanners (1981)
Suspect Zero (2004)
The number of individuals with psychic powers grows, and organizations begin to form to deal with them exclusively.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Predator II (1990)
The pressure on society begins to lead to the collapse of institutions and social norms. As the middle class ceases to exist, the underclass becomes increasingly violent and hard to control. The tiny sliver of the wealthy and powerful, and their increasingly independent corporations, seek to control the masses through any means. This is a rich environment for a small number of alien visitors to exploit conditions for their own amusement or gain.

Red Lights (2012)
Slowly, the scientific community begins to publicly study psychic powers, though skepticism remains high.

RoboCop (1987)
Governments begin to collapse and corporations gain more power. This leads to efforts to have corporate-controlled paramilitary forces, and to use cybernetic technologies to enforce obedience on a soldier-servant class.

Event Horizon (1997)
The strain humanity is putting on Earth is clearly unsustainable. The oligarchs and mega-corporations experiment with ways to spread to other worlds, though their reckless willingness to attempt anything that might succeed leads to horrific failures.

Outland (1981)
Total Recall (1990)
Thanks to advanced in space travel, humanity begin to move to new worlds, though all still within the solar system.

Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972)
The need for cheap labor leads to attempts to uplift other simians. But if we made apes intelligent and independent enough to serve as slave labor, they are intelligent and independent enough to rebel. Such efforts are outlawed.

Furtureworld (1976)
Rollerball (1975)
Solent Green (1973)
Westworld (1973)
The world is in near collapse. The upper classes have literally fantasy worlds to play in with their nearly unlimited wealth, while everyone else fights for scraps and is distracted by death sports. Early cyborg technology begins to advance to primitive androids, though these require fairly regular maintenance and human-augmented control.

(If society does totally collapse, a new timeline forms here, with Damnation Alley, Mad Max, A Boy and His Dog, and so on, eventually reaching Thundarr. Our timeline doesn’t go that route.)

Minority Report (2002)
The existence of psychics is publicly accepted, and they begin to be integrated into the government and corporate efforts to control a growing population that is increasingly dissatisfied and dangerous.

Blade Runner (1982)
The total collapse of human civilization is prevented by creating autonomous androids to serve as the ultimate slave labor force, while humanity begins to truly move to the stars. But only those who are healthy and talented are chosen my megacorporations to be shipped off Earth, and it turns out intelligent and independent android slaves have many of the same issues intelligent and independent ape slaves did.

Alien (1979)
Silent Running (1972)
Robots begin to be replaced by androids in most tasks, though simpler robot technology is more stable. Though some governments have gone to the stars, it is the corporations who have the money and resources to push the boundary of the final frontier. What they find doesn’t always go well for the corporate employees who find it.

Blade Runner 2049
Back on Earth, things still boil (details left out as spoilers for the movie)

Aliens (1986)
Colonization becomes standard, and most android behavior issues are solved. But as humanity’s sphere of influence spreads, so does its interactions with other alien life.

This Post Brought to you By: The Open Gaming Store

What this post is really about is inspiration. If you need yet more inspiration for your games, check out the thousands of products available at the Open Gaming Store, who made this post possible through their support of my Patreon!

Spoiler-Free Blade Runner 2049 Thoughts

I saw Blade Runner 2049 with some friends.

I think it does a wonderful job matching the style and world and storytelling style of Blade runner.

This despite doing some things I normally think of as terrible ideas for sequels. But in this case, they were good calls.

I also think it was full of thematic and philosophical nuggets that are more interesting in conjunction and contrast with the original than they would be alone, but going into detail would be spoilers, so I’m not doing that yet.

In any case, I’d be happy to watch Blade Runner 2079 when it’s released in 2052.

Blade Jogger

Blade Jogger

In preparation for seeing Blade Runner 2049, Lj and I opted to watch a version of the original.

I’d like to claim it inspired me to write a post about how the only innocent character isn’t the protagonist or antagonist, or thoughts on what we owe our inheritors, an essay on the value of a life lived for a single moment, or my analysis on why the universe itself cries throughout the entire film, or something classy like that.

But that just wouldn’t be me.

Instead you get:

Ten Mash-Ups I’d Watch But Have Never Heard Anyone Suggest

(and their advertising tag lines).

Blade Runner vs. Predator
Who hunts the hunter?

Robocop V – Chucky Cop
When the police are demonic dolls, who do you turn to for help?

Christine: Transformer
Evil is changing.

Dungeons and Dagon
You are not high enough level.

Men in Black Mirror
Whatever’s going on, it’s weird and depressing.

Doctor Clue
Master Mustard, in the 11th century, with the lead pipe.

G.I Joe vs the Volcano
Amercia’s Best can Get the Job, but can they Do the Job?

Gremlinbusters
Who You Gonna Feed After Midnight?

The Last Star Writer
A fanfiction forum is a test from an alien alliance to pick the one geek who can think of ideas awesome enough to save the galaxy.

Guardians of the Galaxy Quest
They’re going to need Guy’s leg.

Honorable Mentions
The Fhtagn Four
Mr. Fhtagn. His mind can bend into any shape!
Invisible and Insane Woman. Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
Eldritch Thing. It’s Cthulhuing Time!
Human Torch. We set a guy on fire. He… doesn’t do much.

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Geek Movie Review: The Dark Tower

This is a spoiler-free review.

Where I am Coming from: I have read, and enjoyed, the Dark Tower books, but I’m not invested in them, their characters, or the story elements. I have no primal need to see any of it in a specific form, so I can’t be disappointed the way I could be by Lensman or other formative stories of my life. To me the ideas are the best part of the Dark Tower, and I am most interesting in seeing those ideas on the screen, rather than any specific character or event.

My Reaction: I enjoyed this movie very much.  I found it to be well written, well acted, and well directed. The ideas I am most interested in from the Dark Tower began to be presented (obviously you can’t fit all the neat ideas from a multi-book series into a single movie), and the movie developed some of its own neat stuff, which I think is important for an adaptation.

It also gave me tons of ideas for stories and game elements, which is also a big bonus for me with a movie. There were a very few Easter Eggs I noticed that I enjoyed.

The Audience’s Reaction: The crowd at the theater I was at seemed to like the movie a lot, and their was applause when it ended. On the one hand I was at a super-cheap 11am Saturday matinee (less than $6 tickets) so people might have lowered the bar, but on the other hand the sound cut out briefly a couple of times at the beginning so a lot of people began the experience annoyed.

Of the people around me, I heard one person who specified they loved the books, and one person who said they’d never read the books, and one person who said they normally hated Stephen King all mentioned they enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t hear anyone have anything negative to say, though obviously the majority of folks didn’t share any opinion at all where I would hear it.

My Entirely Anecdotal and Subjective Verdict: I thought this movie did a great job of a very difficult task, and I hope the plans to related tv series and sequels are carried out. Most of the changes made from the source material seemed to be to have been made for reasonable goals, even if I might have gone a different direction with them.

This is particularly good as a source or inspiration for certain kinds of RPG settings, though I can’t say what without adding a spoiler. If you watch the reviews, it should be clear.

In my binary digit-based rating system, it gets a thumbs up.

 

Geek Movie MiniReview: Kong: Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island was, for me, a delight. It knows it’s a giant monster movie with roots in grindhouse and pulp, and it isn’t embarrassed about that at all. But it also sees the benefit in things like characterization, story, pacing, and development.

I clapped with childhood glee, laughed, cried, and gasped. I am exactly the target audience for this.

In my binary digit-based review system, it gets a thumbs up.

Star Wars Spoilers… for Force Awakens

Back when I watched The Force Awakens I noted that I enjoyed it, and that I’d post more thoughts about it when I thought the statute of limitations on spoilers was up.

Now that there’s a NEWER Star Wars movie in theaters, I feel pretty free talking about The Force Awakens without feeling bad if I spoil anything.

That said… spoilers!

Overall I felt this movie had a near-impossible task. It had to get people excited about a whole new generation of Star Wars, from a whole new company. Yes, many fans were… I’ll go with “unimpressed” with the prequels… but they were nevertheless huge financial successes. And they were the definitive Star Wars films to millions of fans who saw them as their introduction to the series — and hated travesties to millions of other fans.

Many of the original actors are still around, and nostalgia creates a strong call to see Leia run a Republic, Solo try to go straight, and Luke train a new order of Jedi. But given those actor’s ages, a new set of adventures really had to introduce new characters.

And, let us not forget, the last new Star Wars film was Revenge of the Sith in 2005. It was a decade old by the time Force Awakens came out, which means the coveted 12-17-year-old crowd were 2 to 7 at the END of the prequel trilogy runs. And that’s just looking at the US market. The size of some overseas film markets grew enormously in this time. The Asia pacific went from $9 billion in 2011 to $14.1 billion just from 2011 to 2015. Many of the worldwide audience you want to draw into a new ongoing series of movies will never have seen the original on the big screen, and may not have seen it at all.

So this movie had to be better than the prequels without denigrating them, give us new characters, give us the original characters, reintroduce the entire Star wars universe to a new audience, and tell a great story. It did some of these things better than others.

For my own take, I loved the new characters. Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB8 were all interesting, great SW characters to me. I even like Kylo Ren, because he is such a winy emo Sith. He’s struggling in a different way than Anakin or Vader ever did, and if Darth maul or Palpatine ever had second thoughts they didn’t make it into the big screen. I am excited to see more of Rey and Finn and their adventures.

I mostly didn’t enjoy the return of existing characters… though the “We’re home!” line choked me up because I am a giant sap, and the love between an adventurers and an old starship is one of my sappiest sap buttons. But Han never felt quite right, Leia wasn’t given much to do, and while Chewie’s grief moved me, it was spoiled by the fact Leia didn’t go to him first when the Falcon returned after Han’s death.

The story itself was workmanlike, which isn’t a compliment when it comes to Star Wars. A lot of the things WITHIN the story I loved, dialog was snappy, combat sequences were awesome, and there was no long, boring podracing equivalent. But a reboot Super Death Star (now with 32% more Death! tm) didn’t interest me, and even lampshading it with Han noting there was always a way to do this didn’t keep it from feeling like a retread.

I FORGAVE the retread parts, because I saw what I felt were efforts to reintroduce this series to a new audience, and I accept that’s a reasonable thing for the first Star Wars movie in a decade to do. And, I loved the dialog, action, and relationships of the rest of the movie. I dislike sill giant cgi monsters getting out of the hold, but adore Rey and Finn having separate, interesting character development arcs. I don’t enjoy R2-D2 being mysteriously “asleep” apparently for years, but I love Luke as the wise but failed elder warrior and teacher.

Yes, a lot of it was watching a reboot of A new Hope. But that story still resonates with me, and I (at least at the moment) don’t think Episode VIII is going to be a reboot of Empire.

Not a perfect film, but one that gave me a lot of good stuff. When I compare that to any of the prequels, I can feel only gratitude and relief. And hope for what is to come. The foundation was laid differently than I would have laid it, but it looks to me to be a strong foundation

And I look forward to seeing what is to be built on it.

At this point, I figure I’ll discuss my thoughts on rogue One sometime in December 2017. 🙂

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Haunted House Review: The Harvest

Lj, Jessie, and I went to “The Harvest” at the Seattle Interactive Theater. It’s a haunted house performance, in our case with champagne service.

There was no photography, which was both awesome (everyone focused on being in the moment, rather than taking selfies) and kind of a shame (the set dressing was the best part of the experience). There were also multiple full front nudity scenes (of both genders) you could stumble upon or be invited into, which I suspect impacted the decision to not allow pictures.

The set up is you have been invited to a party by The Doctor, and you spend time in his lounge at first. Then you gain access to the rest of the facility, and can wander at your own pace through different set-ups. This was less about jump scares (though there was at least one), and more about finding the story in the runes, mad scawlings, set-pieces, actors (who I thought of as NPCs) and out-of-view sound effects.

The production values were similar to what I have experienced at high-end LARP events, with the theater space divided into corridors of biohazard plastic and rooms and nooks at odd angles. As is often the case with such things I wish it was longer (I was just getting into it when the climax hit), but better too short and having it drag on.

There was some seating, which was nice, but not much since you barely have time to view everything at any reasonable pace in the performance time allotted.

I don’t think I’ll get in the habit of doing this every year, but it does do a nice job of immersing you in a foreign space, physically and mentally, and that’s a nice change of pace from a movie or book.

I give it four out of five severed heads.

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