Star Wars

Keep the engines running

I remember the first time I watched Star Trek: the Next Generation on a television with a halfway decent sound system. Until that moment, I'd never known that every scene aboard the ship had been Foley edited to include a subtle underlying audio track: the constant thrumming of the ship's engines. 

Now you can listen to the Enterprise's engines in your own sleeping quarters, idling uninterupted for a full twelve hours.

If's that's not your ship of choice, you can fall asleep to the gentle engines of Deep Space Nine, the Nostromo, and the Millennium Falcon.

Stay Awake

I forgot to mention this about Star Wars. 

My sister and I went to see the first film (Episode 4) together as kids. We were pretty independent, in a way that isn't well tolerated these days. My mom was in law school, and we enjoyed a degree of self-determination due to her complete immersion in her studies. At age 10 and 7, we thought nothing of walking a mile or so down to a nearby shopping center to catch a movie. 

We convinced mom to take us back for a second viewing. To our mixed horror and amusement, she fell asleep halfway through the movie. We teased her endlessly about that, for years. The fact that she could slumber through the most exciting thing we'd seen in our young lives was our proof of her immunity to everything that was cool.

But of course, it wasn't proof of that at all. She was a single mother of two, taking care of her kids while balancing the punishing demands of law school. She didn't fall asleep during a loud space battle because she was uncool. She dozed off due to exhaustion. It was proof of her commitment and sacrifice. 

So when my entire family came to town for the holidays, we naturally took her to see The Force Awakens. She liked it (and remained awake for all of it). And I liked going with her, in these better (and better rested) days.

Torch, passed

My initial reaction to The Force Awakens was that it was a much better Star Wars Film than J.J. Abrams' Star Trek films worked as Star Trek films. 

[Note: I won't be saying anything here that I believe will ruin your experience if you haven't seen it yet.] 

I've been thinking about why this was the case. For starters, Star Wars was born on the big screen. Its storytelling DNA comes from film- themes, story structure, character development, even its visuals - all were all designed to illuminate a darkened theater. Even the primary struggle, light and dark, with generally clear delineation, works in the 2-3 hour context of a big budget movie. Star Trek's episodic nature, its ensemble cast, and its willingness to embrace some moral ambiguity have always made it a challenge to bring to the big screen. 

That said, the new Star Wars is as much about developing an interesting cast of characters as it is about a novel plot. And its bag guy, while perhaps less outright badass as Vader was, is such a better villain precisely because we see some moral ambiguity in him. 

Also, reboot vs. continuation. You would think rebooting would allow you to harness all the vitality and essence of its preceding version, fixing the wrongs and accentuating the positives, but it's so seldom the case. {Exceptions apply} Continuing an existing story line, however flawed, is often the choice with more richness of possibility. Sometimes, working within the constraints of a world builds a better story than disabling the safeties and starting over.

I suspect this may make me enemies on both sides, but if you think about it, the old Star Wars is to Force Awakens as Star Trek (The Original Series) is to Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

In standardized testing parlance:

Star Wars canon : Force Awakens :: TOS : TNG


Pew pew pew

Laser weapons, long the staple of sci-fi movies, are getting closer to becoming military reality. This article in Nature discusses where we stand in the quest to destroy more shit with light. 

The "problem," apparently, is that light doesn't make enough noise:

“The engagements happen quickly, and unless you're staring at a screen 24–7 you'll never see them,” Blount says. “So we've built sound in for whenever we fire the laser. We plan on taking advantage of lots of Star Trek and Star Wars sound bites.”

This was the bit that media picked up on, much more so than "hey, before long we might be able to incinerate anything we can get a line of sight on." 

So, hmmm.

  1. I assume Boeing will have to pay licensing fees to the trademark holders for the respective franchises. I'd love to see the contract that specifies how much money each gets paid for the funny noise produced when people get killed. And BTW I have to believe that "rolling over in his grave" doesn't even begin to describe how Gene Roddenberry would greet this news. 
  2. I'll leave it to others to explore the obvious, but still extremely troubling observation that this is another milestone in the progress toward the gamification of warfare - or "war by wire" as I just decided to call it. 
  3. There is a failure of creativity here. Come up with your own distinctive power-chord of hellfire, Boeing.