*Disclaimer: you are allowed to like movies I don’t like. I still respect you. One of my all-time favorite movies is Hudson Hawk, so I hope you can extend me the same courtesy.
The ninth core Star Wars movie is out, and it seems many people are unhappy. Arguments about weaponizing hyperdrives, reasonable means of acquiring of force powers, and what constitutes a Mary Sue rage on. Those of us that nerd out about these sorts of things are often trying to solve the problems with the films.
For my part, I am dumbfounded that in this post-Lord-of-the-Rings, post-MCU, post-OG-Star-Wars-trilogy world, that people are making blockbuster trilogies without a plan. Disney invested over four billion dollars
in acquiring Lucasfilm. What’s investing couple million in hiring a squadron of writers to properly plot out your new tentpole trilogy?
So there’s blood in the water and the armchair critics (and professionals too
) are shredding the corpse of The Rise of Skywalker. I’m not above wriggling in there like a hagfish
and tearing off a couple chunks. Because for all the plot holes and mistakes, and the decades of disappointment, most Star Wars fans and Star Wars critics seem to miss what’s actually been wrong with all the Star Wars films that aren’t numbered IV, V, or VI. There’s a simple thing that the OG trilogy had that none
of the Star Wars films that followed had: likable main characters with consistent, believable motivations and nice clean arcs.
- Han Solo – Selfish smuggler becomes a hero willing to lay down his life for his friends, and eventually the whole Rebel alliance by the third movie. Becomes worthy of a princess.
- Leia – Snooty princess becomes a top-ranking military commander and falls in love with the scruffy nerf-herder she once thought beneath her.
- Luke – Useless naive farmboy learns he has a great destiny of becoming a space wizard. Takes him all three movies to actually become a half-decent space wizard. Going to point out that he doesn’t actually use the force until the end of the first movie and isn’t it interesting how that made using the force seem special and difficult.
We know what each of them wants, why they’re doing what they’re doing, and why they change when they change. That’s what the OG trilogy did right that none of the films that followed have done.
All you need to make a good Star Wars movie that stands the test of time is cool space shit…AND solid characters with clean arcs.
What the heck have Rey, Poe, and Finn learned? How have they grown as people?
- Rey – already been thoroughly ripped apart by the internet, sometimes unfairly. She starts naive and becomes less naive, slowly letting go of the dream of reuniting with her family, so that’s something. Space wizard wise she starts OP and ends more OP.
- Poe – a rascal the flies spaceships who becomes…a rascal that flies spaceships.
- Finn – grows more and changes more in the first 10 minutes of the Force Awakens than any other character, and then stays the same for the rest of three movies. Maybe I’m being unfair. I guess he learns to not run away twice. First lesson didn’t take. Also, who decided the ex-stormtrooper, raised from childhood to be a soldier, should be the most frivolous character? Dude should be like Grey Worm from GoT. How did he get through their neural screening systems for so long. Wasn’t he shouting ‘WOO’ during every training exercise? There should have been no ‘WOO’s until the third film.
It’s frustrating when major studios with billions of dollars behind them mess up our favorite franchises, but writing stories is hard. Storytellers make thousands of decisions and balance innumerable variables on multiple axes. Make one mistake too many and your universe will be unstable, but unlike a real universe, yours won’t collapse until it’s inside another person’s head, like a psychic land mine, and then it will be too late to save them from the discomfort of shards of fragmented plot grating against one another, and the shrill ‘WOO’s of child soldiers that forgot their traumatic pasts too easily.
I’ll leave you with a warning:
Hyperfocus on the cool space shit and neglect the characters at your peril.
(or don’t, it’s not like these movies aren’t still making billions of dollars despite their flaws, because we can’t stop going to see them.)
PS: Shouts out to Jon Favreau for the Mandalorian. It’s not perfect, some episodes have been a bit bumpy, but it’s got cool space shit and a likable main character whose motivations I clearly understand, so I’ve been having a great time.
WARNING: I tried to be careful about spoilers. Nonetheless, I’m talking about Endgame and it’s three in the morning on opening night. If you haven’t seen it, I may have slipped up somewhere, so be careful.
The moment in question is a chaotic battle in which all the female characters, who were scattered across the battlefield, suddenly wind up in the same place and charge in unison. Some people on social media are decrying it for being forced social justice, others value it for being an awesome moment for women.
I feel it’s problematic, for feminist reasons. The characters featured in ‘the moment’ deserve a better moment, and they deserve more moments. The majority of the film is focused on male characters and the relationships between them. The female characters getting an immersion-breaking fifteen seconds is not a triumph for women. The problem is the female characters don’t know each other well enough to actually have a meaningful interaction, so instead they must all just charge together; the only way to give them a moment is to do it clumsily, because no time or effort has been spent on the relationships between them. The film is full of amazing ‘bro moments’ between the guys. Those moments are amazing because we have gotten to see those dudes connecting in like 5 movies now. Can’t say the same for the serendipitously gathered group of ladies in this particular battle.
What this moment indicates is that the problem is in the MCU’s bones. Endgame is paying off ten years of worldbuilding around male characters. It’s easy to have great moments between the guys, because the work has been done. Clearly the filmmakers recognized that the women have been underserved, but a ham-fisted moment was all they could muster because there were already too many guy-centric plot threads to wrap up from the twenty previous movies.
One positive thing ‘the moment’ does highlight is that the MCU is now host to a slew of excellent female characters. I’m hopeful this kind of immersion-breaking, forced feminist moment will give way to satisfying, earned feminist moments as the MCU builds off of films that devote screen time to forging connections between female characters. They’ve already started putting the work in, as Black Panther and Captain Marvel attest.
I have been neglecting Coldbridge and Imp in favor of working on a bunch of smaller projects. Also, I thought I had another artist lined up for Chapter 3, but things didn’t work out. The distance gave perspective, and I’m keeping this story on hiatus in favor of pursuing other things.
I still love these characters and this world, but I feel like they are best served by me ignoring them and working on smaller projects that I can complete and show I can execute a complete story effectively.
Hopefully one day I’ll have a larger audience willing to come with me into a Victorian fantasy about a necromancer and his dog, and we can pick things up again then.
Thanks for reading. More cool stuff is coming in 2019…
…In fact, here’s a little preview drawn by the very talented Josh Thompson, colored by the very talented Gabriel Roldan, and lettered and written by the supposedly talented Leland Bjerg:
In light of James Gunn’s firing, I rewatched Guardians of the Galaxy. This film has such good story structure: every section is a well wrought story circle that fits perfectly into the larger overall story circle. Guardians can be broken into four to six parts and consumed as sequential art, and each piece would be a satisfying on its own.
In light of that realization, I made a big graphic that shows the wheels within wheels of Guardians of the Galaxy’s superb structure. If you don’t know a lot about story structure, go here to learn the system my model is based on. Also, this graphic assumes you’ve seen the movie and remember the major plot points.
Zoomable hi-rez version here.
I agree with Marc Bernardin’s take on Gunn’s firing. It will be a huge loss to fans of the series if we don’t at least get a James Gunn screenplay for Guardians Vol. 3.
When this chapter ends next month, Coldbridge is going to take another break. I’ve got some other projects cooking, and only so much time. Peter and Imp taught me a lot about making comics. I hope I’ll be able to come back to their adventures soon. I have a lot of cool stuff planned for them.
So I did some pitches, got no bites, and decided I’ve got other ideas that’ll go over better with publishers anyhow, so it’s time to get back to posting Coldbridge online for free, as it should be!
Happy New Years! Things are great! Chapter 2 came out so well that I wanted to try pitching to publishers before posting online. Been working hard on that, which is what’s been delaying me releasing it digitally. Pitching process is slow. If no one bites, expect to see new Coldbridge with a new art style (Courtesy of the very talented Amelia Parris) in Spring.
I have found a new penciller/inker for chapter 2 and we are working hard to get a head start before I begin posting them online. Her name’s Amelia Parris, and you can check out her comic Maddy Scientist here. It’s fun, funny, character-driven sci-fi written and drawn by a rising talent!
Chapter 2’s going to be awesome. It’s got magical metallurgy, irresponsible roommates, demon eyeballs, flying squirrels, lost loves, adorable napping, and, of course, more irascible smooth fox terrier. All coming soon…ish
Went to the Kelowna Comics and Collectibles Expo last month and peddled print versions of chapter one. Got a great response. People were very nice and enthusiastic, and some of them were generous enough to give me their money in exchange for my ideas!
Thanks to everyone that stopped by my booth and checked out Coldbridge!
Andy and I have decided to amicably part ways. We’ll probably be seeing more of him in the future, but for now, I’m searching for a new artist. Until then, Coldbridge is on pause.