The Mandalorian lands on Disney+

There’s a scene in The Mandalorian when our titular anti-hero walks past a Kowakian monkey-lizard being spit-roasted as his compatriot watches in horror from the confines of a cage, knowing he’s next. We’re reminded that the Galaxy Far Far Away is a cruel and dangerous place, and the fun of a good Star Wars romp is following the small handful of people who manage to stay alive while everyone else is falling in endless pits, getting eaten by monsters and meeting all kinds of brutally hilarious deaths. Now every time I see that annoying Salacious Crumb cackle away in Return of the Jedi, it will make me smile. Another great thing about Star Wars is that it is constantly expanding self-reflexively, so that the new content — even the bad stuff — only enhances your enjoyment of the original.


There’s been talk of a live-action Star Wars for years, even before the Disney buy-out, and now the pilot for The Mandalorian has finally dropped on Disney+, with a slew of other series slated to follow. Now seems as good a time as any for Star Wars to stretch its legs on TV.

I don’t buy into this bullshit about a “Golden Age of Television.” Most people can’t afford HBO and are stuck watching Young Sheldon and NCIS. So in reality, TV has been on a downward spiral since Cheers and Magnum PI were cancelled. All this “prestige TV” really represents a return to the Serial Films of the pre-television era — the same stuff that inspired Star Wars in the first place. Everyone has observed that TV shows have become more movies and movie franchises are more like TV shows. Average the two out and you’ve got a return to the days of Republic Pictures.

That’s why Martin Scorsese’s  argument that Marvel movies aren’t “cinema” is a bunch of bantha poodoo. Scorsese’s idea of cinema as art house is largely a construct of his “film school generation,” when a bunch of glassy-eyed NYU and USC graduates wandered the ruins of the studio system telling each other that Vertigo was better than Citizen Kane so they’d sound smart. Of course, by elevating film into an art form, those guys brought us some of the best movies of all time. But their run of 1970s art house classics is the exception to cinematic output, not the rule. The cinema has always been a place for kids to eat candy and watch guys swing around in capes and tights. The people trying to convince you Marvel flicks aren’t “real” movies are the same assholes telling single mothers working a double shift that McDonald’s isn’t “real” food. Maybe you’re right, but get off your high horse.

Okay back to The Mandalorian. Is the show any good? Of course. I know it’s popular to bash new Star Wars, but despite the Disney Corporation representing everything that will lead to the downfall of humanity, their Star Wars content has been pretty good, and The Mandalorian is probably the truest to the source material since Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars micro-series. That being said, the members of the press who were tweeting about experiencing tearful orgasms after watching a half-hour sizzle reel a couple weeks ago need to get a hold of themselves. It’s just a fucking TV show. It’s not going to “save” Star Wars because there’s nothing to save.

The glut of Star Wars content that has flooded the landscape since the buyout can be overwhelming, but it does offer some great variety, ensuring there is something for every type of fan. The kids have those boring Star Wars cartoons, the virtue-signalling “saga” films are fun for the whole family, and The Mandalorian is for us “serious” Star Wars fans — childless elder-millennials like me and nostalgic Gen X’rs talking about how “metal” it was when Darth Vader strangled all those guys in Rogue One.

Speaking of Gen X, they say Mandalorian showrunner Jon Favreau consulted Star Wars creator George Lucas on set, and if that’s true I think it’s a good sign for the rest of the series. One of the lost opportunities of the prequel trilogy is that Lucas didn’t collaborate on the story with younger writers of Favreau’s generation. Conversely, a major failing of Force Awakens is that JJ Abrams effectively shut Lucas out of the creative process. Star Wars has always been about generational torch-passing, with wizened mentors passing on the ways of the Force to their young apprentices. It’s why The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars, because young Lucas collaborated so well with his mentor Irvin Kershner.

I think The Mandalorian is poised to serve an important function in the Star Wars universe by filling out the gaps between the Original Trilogy and the current run of films. Set five years after the Battle of Endor, it takes place during a time period many Star Wars fans wanted the new films to cover. Maybe we’ll finally learn how the remnants of the Empire transformed into the First Order without having to read some dumbass book. Even if we don’t, the show looks cool, has a great cast and some badass action sequences. Will it usher in a “Golden Age” of Star Wars? Probably not, but it’s a worthy entry in the “Movie Serial Renaissance.”

My recommendation? Wait until the whole series is available, get a free trial and binge watch it. If you’re interested in this show, odds are you’ve already given enough money to Bob Iger. Watch a few hours of content on the House (of Mouse). Viva la Rebellion.

Fear and Loathing in Batuu

Everyone Comes to Oga’s

I’m two drinks in by the time I get into line at Oga’s Cantina. My mom is shitfaced, I’m just a bit punchy. Something pokes me in the back and I spin to see a a couple of First Order Stormtroopers pointing blaster rifles at my gut. In my head, I know that this is “part of the fun.” Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge isn’t just another area of Disneyland, it’s an immersive storytelling experience.


The Black Spire Outpost on the Planet of Batuu is a galactic Casablanca, Oga’s Cantina the Rick’s Café American. Spies lurk on every corner as tourists drown their sorrows in Dagobah Slug-Slingers. For drama nerds on grad night and anyone off their meds this place is a paradise. But my visceral reaction at being forced into an improv class exercise with a couple of outer-rim concentration camp commandants is to be pissed off. If you read my post Life and Near-Death on Hollywood and Vine you know I have a reason to be “triggered” by a couple of guys in uniform pointing guns at me around tourist attractions. I react accordingly.

“Get your hands off me, Space NAZI!”

I yell it. Like, really loudly. In front of a bunch of tourists. It’s common knowledge that Star Wars Imperial chic is inspired by the wardrobe of the Third Reich, but it’s not exactly something you need to yell at some poor Disneyland cast member sweating under fifty pounds of plastic beneath the Anaheim Summer sun. And yet, there is something unmistakably eerie about these bumbling goose-steppers marching around my favorite theme park. Sure, tourists have been mugging with Captain Hook and Cruella Deville for half a century at Disneyland, but with the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, the resort has taken a bizarre turn that threatens to expose the dark underbelly of the Happiest Place on Earth.


You’ve always been able to buy Stormtrooper costumes and Darth Vader masks, but all the First Order-themed merchandise at Galaxy’s Edge seems a bit perverse in light of White Nationalism’s recent resurgence in the United States. The gift shop features well-pressed uniforms that would make Goebbels proud and little caps that would look at home on the head of Ernest Rohm. You can even purchase a kit of specific First Order rank insignia to track your own rise through the ranks of this Neo-Imperial genocidal galactic power. Why not pick up a recruitment propaganda poster, challenging kids to “protect” and “defend” the galaxy? Perhaps most sickening, is the blood red banner with the stark black cross emblazoned across a white circle. Close your eyes a bit and baby, you’re in Berlin. In a time when White Nationalists chant “Jews will not replace us!” in the streets, the Disney corporation is gleefully rolling in the reichsmarks as they help normalize the fetishization of the Nazi aesthetic.


But hey, aren’t the Space Nazis the bad guys?

Sure, but the strangest thing about Galaxy’s Edge is the supposed antidote to the First Order’s reign of terror. On the opposite end of Batuu is a gift shop for the Resistance, offering an array of sartorial homages to Mid-Century Communist Chic. Blink for a moment and you’d think you were in a military surplus store out in Burbank rustling around for Salvador Allende cosplay accouterments. Purchase yourself a Che Guevara-like fatigue jacket or a Fidel Castro-inspired military cap. Family fun for everyone.

So this is Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. One side is a Sieg Heil to Haute Couture, the other a pret-a-porter Politburo. In the middle? A food court. I hate to say it, but Batuu is the perfect expression of our nation’s current political polarization. Nationalists on one end of the spectrum, Socialists on the other, and the vast majority of people mindlessly gnawing on kettle corn in the center.

Stop Yelling at Me!

Earlier that afternoon I’m sitting around the Millennium Falcon Holochess table while a kid explains to me everything I’ve missed in the Star Wars universe since the Disney takeover — some shit about how Darth Maul got robot legs and why Ahsoka Tano has white light-sabers or whatever. Meanwhile, I elucidate the parallels between Palpatine’s ascension from Chancellor to Emperor and Hitler’s rise from Chancellor to Fuhrer.

A “cast member” calls out for the Red Group and we assemble with the rest of our flight crew. She delivers a well-rehearsed instructional monologue “in character” and I channel the power of the Force to prevent my eyes from rolling into the back of my skull. We clamber into the cockpit of the Falcon, I’m assigned an engineer slot, the kid is a gunner and a middle-aged couple are the pilots. The ride begins and I dutifully push the flashing buttons while the kid fires volley after volley of blaster fire. Meanwhile, the two pilots flail miserably about the controls and the Falcon careens against rocky walls as our shields falter. The squeaky-voiced kid suddenly turns into a seasoned Rebel officer, barking commands at the pilots.

“Pull up!” he shouts. The pilots shake their heads in confusion. “Push the lever!” he yells desperately.

“I’m trying!” the lady howls.

We seem to smash into every obstacle imaginable as the Falcon wobbles towards destruction. “PULL UP!” the kid tries again.

“Stop yelling at me!” the adult woman whines at the top of her lungs, like a sullen baby being scolded at.

I cackle with glee. So far this is my favorite part of the new attraction. The ride is whatever but watching a grown-up lose her mind from getting yelled at by a child is the most entertaining shit I’ve seen in years. Talk about immersive. The ride lurches to a stop and we all file out, the pilots storming off grumbling in embarrassment. I turn to the kid and admit, “I think you were the captain of that ship dude.”

The kid shrugs. “I guess. That lady didn’t need to be so mean though.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I assure him, “the Force will be with you, always.”

“And may the Force be with you,” the kid nods.


The Lonely Debutante

It’s been a strange summer in Anaheim. Analysts and insiders had predicted huge crowds and agonizing congestion around the resort thanks to the highly-anticipated opening of the Galaxy’s Edge attraction. In fact, Disney did such a good job hyping up what a mob scene the ribbon-cutting season would be, that everyone took the hint and stayed away. Annual pass-holders were blacked out, locals were warned away and many tourists decided to hold off on visiting until the supposed frenzy died down. Galaxy’s Edge is far far away from a failure but somehow managed not to live up to everyone’s expectations of mass chaos.

Disneyland is like the haughty debutante who was so selective about whom she invited to her coming out party, that when the big day arrived, no one came. So Bob Iger sits alone into the empty ballroom, softly weeping into his tax returns.

Underlying the underwhelming opening Galaxy’s Edge are the ridiculous price-hikes made in anticipation of the new attraction. Normal families aren’t just turned off from visiting the resort, they’re priced out. This isn’t consumer frustration. It’s theme park gentrification. The result? The park has been a ghost town all summer. Hours-long rides have become walk-ons, normally congested walkways are near-empty and the park finally feels like the promised land of Walt’s delusional nostalgia-induced hallucinations.

I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the House of Mouse: That price-gouging the imagination of children has a limit. That monopolizing the memories of whole families has a breaking point. I dream of a Disneyland dark age. Roaming scavengers wandering the wasteland of the Happiest Place on Earth while stale popcorn kernels roll across the pavement like so many tumbleweeds. I smile at the thought of riding empty train cars in circles around Thunder Mountain ’till the sun sets. But before you label a crazed communist, some anti-capitalist crypto-currency counter-insurgent, let me make one thing abundantly explicit. Allow me to clear the air:

I am a Disney shareholder

Yes, I invested in a business I pray will fail. Not for financial gain, but to exercise a modicum of control over a company that has quickly and quietly gobbled our entire childhood, threatening to own the exclusive streaming rights to our collective imagination. I have Force visions of majority shareholders’ vast fortunes crumbling into oblivion like Malibu mansions gobbled up in climate-induced global catastrophe. Meanwhile I cackle in my ivory nonprofit tower as I use my worthless Disney stock for beverage coasters. Some investors expect a reasonable rate of return. Others want an opportunity to poke holes in executive golden parachutes with sharpened Churros. I yearn for Project Mayhem and Operation Goldeneye wrapped into one exclusive all-expenses-paid vacation to a day of reckoning for the ruling class.

The outlet mall at the edge of the galaxy

Opinions have been split among Disneyland fans and Star Wars buffs since Galaxy’s Edge was announced. To some Disney purists, adding a new section of the park is blasphemy. Many Star Wars fans cynically complain that the new attraction is a sickening display of Disney’s efforts to squeeze every last cent out of the franchise. I’m somewhere in between. I’m always interested to see new advancements in Imagineering, but often chafe at changes to my beloved park. I once called the Disneyland smoking section the “last bastion of freedom in America” before they turned it into a walkway to Galaxy’s Edge. When I found out you could no longer buy toy guns in Frontierland, I poured out a Dasani bottle in disgust and declared “this is the day Disneyland died.”

Yes, I will always miss Uncle Bruce chain-smoking cigarettes in front of the Rivers of America, smiling while my cousin and I pistol-whipped each other with orange-tipped Colt Peacemakers. But as Kylo Ren once wisely said: “Let the past die, kill it if you have to.”

The good news is, wherever your opinions lie, Galaxy’s Edge is good for Disneyland. The expansion has greatly improved the entire flow of the park, clearing up the usual congestion by allowing guests a way to take larger laps around the resort. This means fewer people clogging up the lines and walkways of the old attractions. If you are pissing your pants in anticipation of exploring Batuu, the attraction’s location at the back of the resort and the pissed-offedness of the park purists leaves Galaxy’s Edge honestly less crowded than the Citadel Outlet mall you see on the way to the park. If you’re a Disneyland fundamentalist, Galaxy’s Edge will clear out the rest of the park for your enjoyment. As the Master Qui-Gon once said: “Either way, you win.”

But what’s it like?

Honestly, Galaxy’s Edge is pretty cool. The Bisti Badland-like spires of Batuu blend beautifully with the Bryce Canyon-inspired hoodoos of Thunder Mountain. The skillful use of forced perspective makes the relatively contained area seem like it spans for miles. I’m not the first to say that the sight of a full-sized Millennium Falcon made me tear up a bit. And the fact that you can’t even catch a glimpse of the rest of the park, let alone the outside world, makes Galaxy’s Edge feel as immersive as advertised. It doesn’t quite feel like you’ve landed on another planet, but it does feel like you’ve been loaded into a hub-world level of the Knights of the Old Republic video game. At the end of the day, the Millennium Falcon is the best place to watch the fireworks in the whole park and Oga’s Cantina is the only place in the where you can grab a drink. Galaxy’s Edge isn’t the first place I head to in the park these days, but it’s usually where I end up.

A galaxy of stars sparkle above my head as I stroll the streets of Batuu waiting for the fireworks to start. I see a familiar figure lumbering toward me. The Mighty Chewbacca. It’s funny, I know he’s just an off-season college basketball player in a furry suit, but I feel the same way I do when I used to see a friend in the hall at school.

“Hey Chewie,” I tilt my hat.

“Narf narf narf narf narf,” Chewie nods with recognition and pats me on the shoulder as if to say “good to see you!”

It’s a simple illusion in a park filled with smoke and mirrors, but it’s an effective one. I’ve “known” Chewie all my life so naturally he “knows” me too. So when he greets me as an old friend, everything around me turns stunningly real.

I’d love to stay and play a round of Holochess, but Chewie is a busy beast. He waves goodbye and walks over to a young boy in a wheelchair. The mighty Wookie leans to one knee, and the starstruck boy beams with happiness from the confines of his chair. My liberal guilt glands go into overdrive seeing someone with different abilities than the other children treated with dignity and respect. I find myself weeping openly on the outskirts the Black Spire Outpost. Those Strormtroopers may not have be real bad guys, but this dude in the Chewbacca getup is a real good guy. America may continue goosestepping towards corporate-sponsored authoritarianism until Disney owns the rights to the Constitution itself. But if all this Resistance bullshit tells us anything, it’s that no entity is powerful enough to control us all. Disney may own the rights to Star Wars, but the Force belongs to us.

See you at the park.

The Last Jedi: An Honest Trailer Totally Destroys How Everything Wrong with an Epic Take-down Should Have Ended

It is a magical moment at the movies. Sitting with my sister, my best friend, the Leia to my Luke, the person who I saw Star Wars for the first time with, seeing something we had waited our whole lives to see. The return of Luke Skywalker. The Jedi Master takes his sister’s hand and my sister takes mine. I am one with the movie and the movie is one with me. As a jaded “older” Star Wars fan in my thirties, it’s harder and harder for me to suspend my disbelief these days. And yet there I am, fully transported to a galaxy far far away. It’s not a perfect movie. With the exception of The Empire Strikes Back there is no such thing. And yet opening night of The Last Jedi is about as close to a perfect movie-going experience as I can imagine.


On the way home I check Twitter and am truly shocked. Some hard-core fans hated it. The Last Jedi has a lower audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes than The Phantom Menace. There’s a petition on to have it removed from Star Wars canon. Some douche on Instagram burnt his own Star Wars t-shirt and declared that Star Wars is dead. I don’t think these guys represent all fans or even a majority of them. They are simply the loudest voices, the “alt-fans” of geekdom, the “Make Star Wars Great Again” contingent of whiners. And it’s time to shut them the fuck up.

I’m sick of hearing about how Return of the Jedi  “should have ended” or listening to some wannabe without a single IMDB credit “totally destroy” The Force Awakens. If I wanted to hear “everything wrong” with Rogue One I would have asked and the next time an “honest trailer” pops up in my feed promising an “epic takedown” of The Ewok Adventure I’m honestly going to lose my mind. There is a toxic obsession with trying to ruin other people’s enjoyment of popular films and with the intense “fan” backlash over Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’ve finally had it.

The guys raging on Reddit and Rotten Tomatoes about The Last Jedi being worse than The Phantom Menace are not really fans of anything except their own sanctimonious opinions. I don’t think they’re even Star Wars fans. The overwhelming fan backlash over the prequels was understandable. There was some fairly thoughtful criticism of The Force Awakens, much of which I agreed with. But this snarling anger over The Last Jedi is nothing but a frothing frenzy of self-aggrandizing madness. This mean-spirited side of Star Wars fandom is not a sudden development and even the beloved original trilogy of films are starting to feel its rage.

It used to be the general consensus that the prequels were crap and the originals were unimpeachable. But then Return of the Jedi started getting hate among hard-core fans. The opening act is slow, Han Solo’s character is weak, the Ewoks are stupid and how is the Empire defeated by a bunch of teddy bears? Okay, valid points but I still love this movie. Then the original Star Wars started getting a brow-beating! The film slows down on Tatooine, there are pacing issues in act two, Mark Hamill is a bad actor, there are two climaxes, blah blah blah. Well, at least we have The Empire Strikes Back. Not only the best film in the series but one of the best movies period. Surely that classic is safe from the wrath of fandom, right? Well apparently there’s a huge “plot hole” regarding Luke being trained by Yoda in only a couple of days, the Millenium Falcon wouldn’t be able to get to Cloud City so quickly, and C3PO’s whining “ruins” the film. So when all is said and done, according to hard-core fans, there are really only about 47 minutes of Star Wars that’s actually any good. I honestly think that the average person likes Star Wars more than the average superfan. I don’t know what these guys want. They long for the old Star Wars yet hammer those films for their weaknesses. The Force Awakens was too much like the old movies but The Last Jedi is too different. Disney has been desperately trying to figure out how to please these idiots and I think it’s time to just ignore their bullshit. These fucks would probably complain about getting a backrub from Slave Leia while Yoda tickled their balls.

The Last Jedi is a bold attempt to move on from what we expect from a Star Wars movie. It’s weird, it’s different, and it’s occasionally jarring. But guess what? So was Star Wars. As conventional as the original trilogy seems, that’s because they established those conventions. In reality, the original Star Wars was an extremely bizarre, experimental and daring picture in its day. The best moment in the otherwise very safe The Force Awakens was the vision Rey had when she touched Luke’s lightsaber. The scene was unlike anything we had ever seen in a Star Wars film. The Last Jedi is a whole movie of that scene. It is the end of everything we thought Star Wars was and a promise of everything it can be. In that way it captures the revolutionary spirit of Star Wars by being unlike any Star Wars film in the past. Our villain Kylo Ren spells it out. “Let the past die,” he tells Rey and the audience, “kill it if you have to.” Our hero Luke Skywalker literally casts aside the past by tossing his own lightsaber away like Prospero’s staff.

The Last Jedi succeeds by challenging our assumptions about a universe we thought we knew so well. As the second entry in the new trilogy, we all assumed the film would contain a shocker as epic as “I am your Father” and Star Wars fans became obsessed with “calling” what the twist would be. Most of the theories revolved around our new protagonist Rey. We all assumed she had to be related to someone we already knew — a Skywalker, a Kenobi, a Palpatine, hell even a Binks! But the real “twist” of The Last Jedi is that we were all wrong. Rey isn’t a Skywalker, she’s nobody. The legendary Skywalker lightsaber is nothing. The Star Wars universe is much larger than we ever thought we knew. After decades of cloying “fan service” it was a huge “fan fuck you” and I loved it. Everyone obsessed with “calling it,” everyone who thought they were so smart that they figured it out was dead wrong. But, like, isn’t that what a twist is all about?

And what a twist indeed.  It deserves a place in the pantheon of “Rosebud is a sled,” “it was Earth all along,” and “Tyler Durden is the narrator.” It is a colossal meta-mash to the balls of fandom like we’ve never seen and it had me laughing with glee as I clutched my own crotch. What a fucking ride. What a risk. What a moment in cinema history.

But that doesn’t seem to be the biggest cause of rage directed at The Last Jedi. The true coup de gras behind the hate was the portrayal of Luke Skywalker, whose appearance has been awaited since before I was born. Yes I was brought into a world desperate to see the return of the great Luke Skywalker. We got glimpses of it in comics, novels and video games. Luke Skywalker finally wearing the traditional robes of the Jedi of yore. Master Skywalker overseeing the glorious return of the Jedi Order. The mighty Luke toppling AT-AT walkers with the flick of his wrist. Luke Skywalker, savior of the Galaxy in his clean white robes, lightsaber at his side, standing toe-to-toe with entire armies, defending the New Republic. We sat on the floor of our bedrooms, carpet strewn with action figures playing it out again and again. We knew this was the destiny of Luke Skywalker.

We were wrong. He’s a sad old man living on milk and fish in a crumbling ruin with a bunch of frog babushkas, spacecows and fuzzy penguins. Everything we knew Skywalker would accomplish, he failed at. He failed to re-establish the Jedi Order, he failed to protect the New Republic, he failed his own family and the entire Galaxy. No! No! That’s not true!  That’s impossible!!!! Nooooooo! Nooooooooooooooooo!

And then relief! Another twist! Luke has arrived! A glorious Deus Ex Machina for the history books. Clad in the Jedi Robes, beard and hair trimmed to perfection, lightsaber at the ready, defying the armies of evil! YES! SEE! We were right! This is what became of the great Luke Skywalker. He looked just as he did on the covers of all those books and comics. It was happening just like we played it out on that carpet with our toys. We were wrong about Rey but we were right about this!

And yet, the real twist was it wasn’t the return of Skywalker at all. It was what everyone thought his return would be — both in the audience and the Star Wars Universe itself. It was an illusion. He was a galaxy away, manipulating the minds of everyone. Moving himself across the battlefield like a kid playing with his action figure. And then he disappeared. After over 30 years of waiting to see the return of Luke Skywalker, we learned that he would never return at all. Eat your heart out Citizen Kane. This is a twist for the ages.

The fans took to Twitter. “This isn’t Star Wars! This isn’t Luke Skywalker! Star Wars belongs to us! You don’t understand Star Wars! We do!” But here’s the thing. No one owns Star Wars. Not us, not George Lucas, not even Disney. No one truly understands it either. The lasting appeal of Star Wars is as mysterious as the Force itself. Luke spells it out for us. The Jedi were hubristic. They thought the Force belonged to them. They thought only they understood it. As the old Star Wars fans we were the Jedi. We thought it belonged to us. We thought we understood it. We were wrong. If anything, it belongs to the children now. The young padawans in the audience. It’s hard for us old fans to pass on the series to the younglings like a treasured heirloom and in some ways The Last Jedi is a beautiful pang of that heartache. The ghost of Yoda tells Luke that the hardest part of having students is that “we are what they leave behind.” I think that a lot of the rage against The Last Jedi is from those who feel as though they are being left behind by their favorite franchise. In the end of The Last Jedi we see a young boy playing Star Wars on the floor with his friends, telling the story we just saw with a crudely-made Luke Skywalker “action figure.” It’s a bit on the nose but it’s a genius moment. He is both the old and the new generation of fans. He knows what happened to Luke Skywalker and so do we. Now it’s time to find out what happens to him. The biggest Galaxy in the Universe just got a little bigger and I’m excited to explore it with the old generation of fans, my own generation and the next. Luke Skywalker is dead. Long live Luke Skywalker.


The Battle for Battlefront

It’s a watershed moment in the history of gaming. The night before a hotly anticipated launch, Andrew Wilson, CEO of Electronic Arts, takes a call from Bob Iger, head of Disney. The exact interchange is unclear but one can assume it was along the lines of this:

“Drew, what the fuck are you doing with my brand?”

The brand is the multi-billion dollar Star Wars universe and the fuck-up is Star Wars Battlefront II. The game is gorgeous, fun to play and a love letter to the most beloved cinematic universe in history. The problem? Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t fair.


The game is structured so the more money you spend on in-app purchases, the easier it is to dominate other players in the brutally competitive multiplayer slaughter-fests that make up the core of the game.

Until that call from Bob Iger.

The Battlefront II launch is like being stuck on a Spirit airlines flight while adults in diapers scream about continuity errors in The Land Before Time series.

News of rampant Reddit rage had reached the head desk of the House of Mouse and Iger told Wilson to fix it. So hours before the launch, the in-app purchases were removed from the game indefinitely.

The battle over Battlefront is noisy clash of two toxic elements of our culture. Angry nerds and capitalist pigs. The Battlefront II launch is like being stuck on a Spirit airlines flight while adults in diapers scream about continuity errors in The Land Before Time series. It’s is ruining something that is supposed to be fun.

Andrew Wilson has learned his lesson. I only hope that Bob Iger learned his. This is what happens when you farm out your most important property to a company like EA.

It’s clear what a short-sighted blunder it was for Iger to shut down Disney’s in-house game development arm last year. It makes me pine for the days of LucasArts, who put out not only some of the best Star Wars games but some of the best games period.

Unsurprisingly Disney shut them down too.

The game’s gender diverse portrayal of the Star Wars universe means much of the game depicts our heroine slaughtering droves of fellow women.

Star Wars Battlefront II is in many ways the most reactionary game ever made. Most of the changes between I and II are reactions to fan outrage rather than creative ways to improve on the formula. Fans demanded a story campaign so EA crafted a single-player experience that throws every Star Wars cliché into Aunt Beru’s blender. The game’s gender diverse portrayal of the Star Wars universe means much of the game depicts our heroine slaughtering droves of fellow women. The whole experience unwittingly serves as a bizarre metaphor for the toxic masculinity of the crusty outer edges of nerdom.

As Leia leads her soldiers into battle, smoke and debris cast a cloud over the broad promenade that once served as the path of her mother’s funeral procession.

Ultimately a game should be fair and fun. Star Wars Battlefront II is fairly fun. The game requires you to charge boldly into battle, in more ways than one. I’m therefore surprised that my instinct while playing the game has been to hang back and just look around while my fellow players dash towards death. The portrayal of my favorite film universe is so accurate, so beautiful despite all of its brutality, that all I really want to do is wander and wonder in awe. I don’t really care about killing people, I just want to be in Star Wars for a little while.

So far my favorite part of the game is playing as Princess Leia on the planet of Naboo. Leia doesn’t mention it, but Naboo is the homeworld of her mother, a woman she never knew but whose legacy lives on in Leia’s own bravery. As Leia leads her soldiers into battle, smoke and debris cast a cloud over the broad promenade that once served as the path of her mother’s funeral procession. She gives the orders to fall back and I dash into Theed Palace as blaster fire echos through the halls that her mother once walked as the young queen of this world. As I wander through the halls, I find myself absorbed in this world that never was. I stop at a painting on the wall. It’s a painting of Leia’s mother. I stand and stare for a moment until an explosion jolts me from my reverie. I fire blindly into the fog of war and fight for my life. Despite all of the game’s flaw and the frustrations over the launch, everything suddenly seems worth the price of admission. I’m there, I’m in Star Wars. I only hope that next time I’m there, everyone is having as much fun as me.

Star Wars Battlefront: Bantha Poodoo in a Galaxy Far Far Away…

The Star Wars Universe is a dangerous place. Whether you’re a moisture farmer on Tatooine, a Rebel Soldier defending Echo Base or a Stormtrooper landing on a hostile world, you can die quickly and brutally and no one will care. When people fantasise about living in a galaxy far far away, most imagine themselves as Jedi Knights or Sith Lords, gunslinging smugglers or badass warrior princesses. But let’s face it, if any of us were dropped off in the middle of pop culture’s favorite intergalactic civil war, we’d be piece of shit grunt cannon fire at best and clueless collateral damage at worst. The newest version of Star Wars Battlefront, one of the franchise’s best video game series, reminds you of that reality almost immediately.


The first time you join one of the game’s massive multiplayer battles, you’ll be taken aback by how photo-realistic it all looks and sounds. From the crunch of snow under your boots on Hoth to the dense foliage of the Forest Moon of Endor, Battlefront truly transports you to a galaxy far far away. It’s the first time we’ve seen a fully realized interactive version of the Star Wars Universe on the high-powered current generation of consoles and it’s truly breathtaking in the way it represents both the beauty and terror of living in the war-torn landscape of an epic space opera. But don’t stand around gawking too long or you’ll be bantha poodoo within seconds. Remember all those dudes eating shit in the background of the iconic Star Wars battles? Well that’s going to be you. Over and over again. I’ve been playing multiplayer first person shooters since Doom and it even took me a couple of deaths before I started racking up kills. If you haven’t played an FPS for a while or at all, it’s going to be a steep learning curve and you’ll have to log some serious time to be halfway decent. There are modes where you get to play as popular “hero” characters like Luke Skwyalker or Darth Vader but that’s not the main attraction here.


The gameplay is pretty standard fare if you’re familiar with Call of Duty or Battlefield but that’s precisely the point. Battlefront has always been more or a less your standard military shooter with a Star Wars skin on it and honestly that’s what people want. If they had ever tried to do something original with the core mechanic of Battlefront  it wouldn’t had been as successful. People just wanted to play Battlefield 1942 with Star Wars shit. This time Electronic Arts went to the source and had Battlefield’s developer create Battlefront. Why not? That’s exactly what fans have asked for and in a sense Star Wars Battlefront represents the ultimate fan service. Of course, diehards will still find a reason to complain because this is Star Wars fandom, where opinions are like assholes — everyone has one and they’re all full of shit.


A major complaint is the lack of a single player campaign. Sure, you can play single player against the AI in a variety of modes but there isn’t an overarching story that people can play on their own. This confounds me, because no one ever gave a shit about the single player campaign when the series had one. In fact it was kind of a joke. Of course, now that there’s no single player people are pissed that it’s gone. In fact, some people seem so desperate for any sort of story that they’re trying to shoehorn them into the gameplay. As this reviewer from the LA Times stated:

“In Star Wars Battlefront players can rewrite Star Wars history. The arcade-like action allows for the narratives of battle to change at a moment’s notice.”

Um no. First of all the action isn’t “arcade-like” in fact it’s entirely the opposite. Disney Infinity Star Wars  has arcade-like action, Battlefront is a brutal and difficult game for advanced players. Secondly, Luke Skywalker dying in a video game isn’t “rewriting Star Wars history” or “changing the narrative.” It’s just shit that happens in a video game because it’s fun. No one screams that there’s been a rift in the space time continuum of the Marioverse every time Waluigi loses a round of Wii bowling.

Then this reviewer talked about how easily he died even while playing as Luke, one of the most powerful characters in the game. Why the LA Times hired someone to review games who not only can’t play them but thinks they are the intergalactic interactive equivalent of Harry Turtledove novels  is beyond me. Next they’ll tell me that Kenneth Turan thinks movies are real life. At the end of the day Battlefront is a multiplayer shooter, if you want a story-based shooter in space, go play Halo or Mass Effect. If you want alternate history, go read Man in the High Castle.


The second major complaint with Battlefront is that there aren’t enough planets to choose from and the only thing really worth playing is the Battle of Hoth. This is also kindof a joke because anyone who’s played a Battlefront game knows that Hoth is pretty much the only level people want to play. It’s a long-time tradition of Star Wars gamers. Shadows of the Empire was horrible but everyone loved that Hoth level at the beginning so the game was a big hit. So the fact that Battlefront is essentially the world’s best Hoth simulator probably won’t hurt it. That being said, I am quite disappointed that two of my favorite locations from the previous games, Bespin and Naboo are not represented here at all.


The lack of planetary variety is inextricably linked to the third complaint, and the one that has the most validity: the price tag is too high for the amount of content offered. The base game is $60. Pretty standard. Then there is a “season” pass that unlocks additional content which will put you back another $50. That is unfortunately also the way of the world these days. So in order to really play the entire game, you’re already over a bill in the hole. The hidden cost of Downloadable Content (DLC) is a big complaint among gamers but it really feels like EA is taking advantage of people’s loyalty to Star Wars and Battlefront. The fact that Battlefront is essentially half a game is fine. The fact that it costs the same as two games is a major disappointment.

You’ll forget about all that shit once you get in the groove of this game. There is something truly invigorating about joining forty fellow Star Wars fans in an epic battle. At this point I’ve basically tithed my income to Disney and Lucasfilm for the foreseeable future. Between Disney Infinity collecting, opening  night tickets, this game and my new Poe Dameron action figure, I’m already a couple bills in the hole so fuck it. So should you buy it? If you’re a Star Wars fan with decent FPS skills or at least a willingness to get better at it, Star Wars Battlefront  is worth the money. If you’re a Star Wars fan who sucks ass at shooters or wants something with more variety or replay value pick up Disney Infinity 3.0 on black Friday or sign up for The Old Republic. At the end of the day, Battlefront delivers exactly what it promised, just be willing to feel the burn in your pocketbook and spend most of your time in snow shoes on Hoth.


“Real” Actors

Disneyland could have spelled death for theater in America if it hadn’t been for four little letters: C-A-M-P. When Walt Disney’s “Imagineers” unveiled the first “cast” of computer-controlled animatronic performers at Disneyland over fifty years ago, the human actor must have seemed an outmoded relic indeed. The terrifying sneer of pirates, the ghoulish gasps of ghosts, and the insipid dialogue of the Carousel of Progress filled the park’s first guests with wonder and excitement. Now the whole thing seems, well…campy. And Disney doesn’t want you laughing at its shit, unless it’s in the form of Pumba farts. So now there are as many real actors performing in the Magic Kingdom as electronic ones, and they coexist together in an awkward post-modern wasteland of ironic meta-awareness. I suppose the old Disney corporation realized it was even easier to control actors with health care plans and paid vacation than it was with robotics. But what is a robot? Something that is programmed to automatically perform an action or series of actions without further intervention from the programmer.

Yesterday, while watching one of Disneyland’s human performers—a robed and lightsaber-toting Jedi Master—teach the same fight choreography to kids over and over again “Strike left, strike right, duck! Strike, left, strike right, duck!” I began to notice a robotic sameness to his performance. Compare this to the various Johnny Depp robots that have been added to the Pirates of the Caribbean, which sparkle with the understated exuberance of Depp’s now-iconic character Cap’n Jack Sparrow. Even when he’s made out of latex, Johnny Depp can act any other performer off the stage! This is an age-old strategy for demoralizing your labor force: prove to your workers that they are completely unnecessary, and then hire them anyway.

And what a world for the actor who goes into debt getting his Masters at Juliard so he can wave a plastic sword at Darth Vader on Tomorrowland Terrace five days a week! Frighteningly, this gig is not too far from Broadway if you think about who’s producing those shows these days. Indeed the stars of Broadway’s biggest hits are on the same payroll as the poor schmuke narrating the Jungle Cruise day in and day out.

In the end, the fact that robotic and flesh/blood actors can coexist relatively peacefully in one Magic Kingdom is proof that technology will never really be the “actor killer.” The fear isn’t that actors will be replaced by technology, it’s that they will be used as indiscriminately as all the other non-human actors that Disney “employs.” Disney has no preference for what type of “actor” performs in their various productions—animated, computer animated, animatronic, vocal, puppeteered, or human—as long as they can control that actor’s performance. Disney’s audience is also similarly devoid of prejudice towards these various types of performers, as long as they provide entertainment that is up to Disney’s usual high standards. Furthermore, it seems that the more the line is blurred between these types of actors the better.

The proof is in the pudding. When human actors portraying various Disney Princesses, Monsters and Spirits came out to play during the nightly parade I overheard a small child ask her mother with wonder “Are those real people?”