Darth Vader stands in the centre of Bristol

There’s been a genuine wave of affection after Dave Prowse’s sad death the other day, and in his hometown in Bristol there was erected a fitting tribute to him as the only, true Darth Vader.

It’d have been better to have The Green Cross Code Man because then the statue could have kept it’s Bristolian accent…

Dave Prowse has passed away…

Dave Prowse has sadly died and with that goes a large chunk of my childhood.

Of course his role as Darth Vader is what he’ll leave as his main legacy (no actor since has given that sense of physical power mixed with pain that Prowse did) but for a generation of kids we knew him as the Green Cross Code Man, who was a superhero created to teach British kids road safety.

Even then he was dubbed as his native Bristol accent was found ‘laughable’ by some.

Though they eventually let him speak in his own voice.

I first met Prowse when he visited my school as the Green Cross Code Man to do his thing, and I was in awe of how huge the guy was. He seemed 6 foot in every direction. This was just before Star Wars, so few knew what was coming for him but he’d been an actor for some time mainly in Hammer films and odds and sods playing the heavy, but imagine my confusion when I got older and saw him in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

As I got even older and started working in comics, I’d see him at conventions signing for hours and somewhere in a box I still have some Marvel Star Wars issues he signed around 92 or 93. By this point he’d spectacularly fallen out with George Lucas, and Prowse was shunned from official Star Wars conventions, so he made his wage from going to every other show out there around the world. I’d see him frequently in the 90s and 00s with a long queue waiting to for things to be signed.

I’d see Prowse everywhere during this time; at shows, or coming out the Empire Gym he owned when I lived in St. Paul’s in Bristol, or his picture hanging by the bar in the glorious late night eating and drinking den, Renato’s in the centre of Bristol.

Last time I saw him at a show he looked frail, so his convention appearences declined and he’d be working online sending out autographed pictures stating ‘DAVE PROWSE IS DARTH VADER’ because he was.He gave years of joy for generations and he’ll always be Darth Vader.

And the Green Cross Code Man of course…

What I thought of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker


The final Skywalker related Star Wars film (if you believe that, then I have a bridge or three to sell you), The Rise of Skywalker is not the worst film in the series. In fact, it manages to wrap everything up nicely in a bow literally, but it is a film that suffers from the problems of all this trilogy that came from a failure to sit down at the start of this and plot out three films in advance rather than make it up as they went along.

Director J.J Abrams returns to steady the ship after the fan mauling of The Last Jedi which was a Star Wars film which tried to be more than just a stepping stone to the next film. This takes things back to basics and panders wherever it can to fan service which at times is great, especially with the welcome return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, but often it’s there to rewrite the last film. Also the film moves at some pace trying to cram as much into 2 hours 20 minutes as possible so in fact this film could have done with another 10-20 minutes to allow characters to breathe and develop. The exception to this is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren/Ben Solo who lifts the film dramatically while working with an average script.

The problem with the film is the pacing. It is going through so much that the film doesn’t breathe; for example the new trilogy trio of Rey, Poe and Finn isn’t really formed til this film when it should have been done back in The Force Awakens. Then there’s the return of the Emperor (a gloriously over the top Ian McDiarmid channeling a similar look of Kenneth Cranham in Hellraiser 2) out of nowhere to give the film a grand villain after Snoke’s death in the last film, then there’s bringing back Billy Dee Williams which again should have been done sooner. A bit more room would have helped, so we’ve got what we have.

And what we have is a rushed, flawed ending (and if you expect there never to be another one with these characters at some point in the next 30 years you’re a tad naive) which is entertaining and fun which manages to tie everything up over the previous eight films. I do wish though the script had at least another six months work on it, and indeed, the film needed a longer time to develop as it does feel like an unfinished draft. For example, a legacy character’s death is teased twice but we don’t have any time to take it in before the characters are revealed to be just fine or the reveal of Rey’s parentage is changed from being insignificant to vitally important. That bit would have been more vital had it been built up in the previous film.

Which is a shame. A little bit more time would have helped, along with a plan akin to the Marvel films who plan a fucking decade in advance! So this aside it is fun, it is entertaining and you also get to see the Emperor ham it up, as well as Adam Driver show he’s an actor who is destined for very great things.

So go see Rise of Skywalker. Set your expectations and strap in for a ride that doesn’t stop for the entire running time.

The real effects of toxic fan culture

Twenty years ago there was a new Star Wars film; the first for 15 years. The Phantom Menace was eagerly anticipated, as you may well imagine and indeed, news programmes at the time focused on how much people were looking forward to it.

In the film was a character completely animated by computer based off the performance of Ahmed Best. Jar Jar Binks was going to be the character to bring in a generation of younger fans, as well as being the main provider of the film’s comic relief. It was at the time an amazing break.

Then the internet kicked in.

In 1999 the internet wasn’t as it was now. It was still in the Wild West phase as it was growing but still somewhat regulated as social media was years away so most people were either blogging, or posting on forums to give the world their opinions. There was also Angelfire sites, but we’ll move on swiftly from those.

The backlash against Jar Jar wasn’t instant from¬† what I remember. It was a slow burn as fans realised that actually, the film was pretty poor and a mess. It was more of a slow rumble as fans turned on Jar Jar, with some turning on Best himself as if it was his responsibility that George Lucas cocked it up. By the end of 99 as we entered a new millennium, Jar Jar, and Best, were figures of fun and mockery of a scale and ferocity all too asimilar to the fan outrages that happen almost daily today. Thing is there’s a real world consequence of this as Best makes clear in the following video.

That’s right, a man nearly killed himself because he acted in a film and fans (A section of them at least) tore him down bit by bit for shits and giggles. There’s a section of fans who could not give a fuck about the human consequences because the backlash became more than just a laugh as it turned into institutionalised bullying.

Fast forward to 2019. This sort of this is happening daily. on a scale that we couldn’t imagine in 1999 and we’re seeing it get worse as Comics/Gamergate types target people in order to destroy their careers, even lives. Words have real world consequences and perhaps in order to create a better, kinder world we should learn the lesson of Ahmed Best and try to make things better than worse?

Watch the ‘lost’ Star Wars documentary

The history of lost film goes back way to the very beginning of motion pictures, but by the 1980’s you’d expect companies and individuals would be archiving everything, especially if it’s anything to do with something as huge as Star Wars?

Michael Parbot was an acclaimed French cameraman/reporter who in 1980 made a film dealing with the making of The Empire Strikes Back, the eagerly awaited Star Wars sequel. For years it’s been one of those talked about lost bits of media that have teased fans for decades, and now it’s been found and placed online for everyone to see.

It shows never to completely give up on lost media, and as well the importance of archiving media for future generations, and with that crucial life lesson here’s the film to enjoy…

Fandom are arseholes

Rose Marie Tran is an actress who played the part of Rose in Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi. Ever since the film came out she has been the subject of sustained, often aggressive, often racist, often misogynist abuse which has caused her to give up her Instagram.

This isn’t the first time Star Wars fans have abused an actor in the series, and it probably isn’t the last. This though has shades of the abuse Leslie Jones got in the wake of the Ghostbusters reboot, not to mention Gamergate, and more recently, Comicsgate.It isn’t a shock to trawl through some of the abuse Tran has received and see some of the names involved with those particular examples of targeted abuse crop here so what’s the point of all this?

Well, those abusing Tran will whine about ‘SJW’s’ and virtue-signalling’ while telling us that film-makers shouldn’t ‘pander to feminism’ while spouting nonsense ripped from the lungs of people like Jordan Peterson, The rhetoric is sometimes dressed in the cod-intellectualism of the ‘alt-right’ but to normal people, it’s just racist, sexist shite from often sad, even unstable people who’ve been groomed and weaponised.

So Tran deletes her Intsagram and the abusers get another small victory. This frankly, is tiring to see people being turned into victims because a section of fandom don’t like them because of their sex or race. There’s a line between criticism and satire with what’s been happening to Tran but what’s so depressing is that these people will move on like locusts to their next victim.

40 years ago Stars Wars opened in the UK

On the 27th December 1977 Star Wars opened to a British audience who had spent months waiting for the film to hit British cinemas, but in those long months from the film opening in the USA in May of that year to the UK opening, fans had plenty to keep them going.

Today a big blockbuster opens wordwide generally at the same time, or even places like the UK get say, a Marvel film, a week or two before our American cousins. In the 70’s a film would take on average six months between American and British openings, and even then it’d likely be a limited release so London, Glasgow, Birmingham, and the larger cities before it opened in the smaller cities and towns.

For those of us who managed to get hold of American magazines like Famous Monsters, we were teased something we’d not see for months, but for many British SF fans the one thing we had was the novelisation by George Lucas.

Also one of the biggest effects the original Star Wars had on the UK was the launch of 2000AD in the February of 1977 so by the time of the film’s release that December, 2000AD was firmly established and its readership lapped up the comic’s publicity for the new film.

We also had the Marvel Comics adaptation. Not the black and white weekly which didn’t launch in the UK til February 1978, but the American issues, well, some of them at least as we never had the first issue distributed in the UK but we did have the second to the sixth issue distributed. The reason for this was that Marvel’s US style comics were restricted in distribution with only 15-20 titles per month deemed fit for UK distribution as Marvel UK’s reprints would be printing Spider-Man, Hulk, Avengers and other titles which mean large runs of US Marvel Comics in the 70’s and 80’s are ‘non-distributed’ so are scarcer in the UK than they may be in the US. We did however get the treasury editions (large over-sized comics) of the film adaptation.

Eventually though December rolled round and the film finally opened, well, for those of us living in cities like Glasgow or London , and we finally saw what the fuss was all about. Of course the film was a huge success as it had been in the US, but it took time to spread across the UK which is why Star Wars (later Episode IV: A New Hope) had incredibly long runs at cinemas in most of the UK’s big cities.

Upon the film’s release the floodgates opened as magazines like Dez Skinn’s Starburst tried to cash in on the film…

While Marvel UK finally released their black and white reprints of the comic adaptation…

I loved my little paper X-Wing Fighter!

Even the late Barry Norman liked it.

The rest is of course history. The film seeped its way across the UK and wherever it went it brought the huge queues that’d been part of the film’s history since it’d opened just after Christmas 1977. See this was the thing; you had to work to get most things Star Wars related. You had to search out the comics before Marvel UK released their version. You had to hunt out the few toys that sneaked over the Atlantic that Christmas. As for the film, in the few cinemas it was opening in they’d sold out tickets months prior, so like me you waited in the cold as wee child to see a film you’d waited to see for nearly a year, then you felt you’d earned it. Though to be honest I prefer popping online and booking tickets. Far easier…

So remember when you’re moaning that you have to wait a week for a Big American Blockbuster opening what it was like in the analogue days when seeing these films involved a lot of patience because if you didn’t have that then you’d go insane with the wait.

Ah, simpler times…

Why fan reaction to The Last Jedi shows we’re not allowed nice things

The latest Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, has been out now for a fortnight or so and the response has been polarising to say the very least. For every reasonable review of the film (and I’ve made it clear that although I like the film, I found it overlong among other things that hold the film back) there’s been a reaction such as this one from someone called”The Dishonoured Wolf”. Have a look.

Yeah, if you made it to ‘fat Asian bitch’ then you’ve done well. There’s another 35 minutes after that in a similar vein. Here’s another…

You can look online and find, hundreds, if not thousands of more videos like this many of which are variations of the ‘no true Scotsman‘ fallacy. For example;

 Person A: No Star Wars fan can like this film.

Person B: Actually I do and I’ve been a fan since 1977

PersonA: No true Star Wars fan can like this film because you’re a FUCKING SJW!! GRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

There’s an aggressive, almost violent reaction against the film because of the prominence it gives female and minority characters, and while there are fans disappointed by how the film plays out not to mention the message of the film which is to let go of the past, the sheer tsunami of toxic bile is overwhelming.Any review even remotely positive ends up with the sewage of comments suggesting they (see Kevin Smith’s review for example) were ‘paid off by Disney’ or just negative, frequently violently aggressive comments such as the response to Red Letter Media’s review.

That review resulted in Jay Bauman getting death threats…

Now The Last Jedi does show a healthy contempt for ‘canon’ and fan nostalgia but the biggest issue some fans have is the fact Rey (who was assumed to have a mysterious background) isn’t anyone. She’s the child of drunks who sold her to get even more pissed.She is essentially nobody in the Star Wars universe. This came as a surprise to everyone mainly because we know everyone knows everyone in the Star Wars universe, but all through The Force Awakens there’s hints that Rey is ‘nobody’, but the point here is that there’s no such thing as a ‘nobody’. Everyone is important in some way be it Rey as the last hope of the light side of the force, or Finn as the only Stormtrooper to rebel, or Rose as the nobody who helped inspire an underclass.

There’s a theme of collectivism running throughout The Last Jedi, and that seems to be one of the things that is sending people off the edge, but it really is how about how one person can make a difference, regardless of their heritage. This leftish ideology is partly sending people off the edge but its the fact the film puts women on an equal parity with men that drives some off the edge. For some, the idea of a woman being the hero is part of some ‘global conspiracy’ to neuter masculinity or some such bollocks people who are so insecure in themselves that the idea women are equal to women makes them aggressively, even violently reject or attack anyone with opposing views.

There are good criticisms of the film, though moaning about plot holes is pretty academic as Star Wars is a Swiss Cheese of plot holes, but the Trumpesque rage The Last Jedi has provoked because it actually tries to be different is at odds with the overwhelmingly positive message of hope the film sends out and it is this message people are raging at. People are well within their rights to dislike, even hate the film, but the film is clearly being used by a core of radicalised bigots to attack women, minorities and those that don’t fall in line and frankly, the attempt to spoil things for everyone else only draws a light to their own closed minded hatred which places them very firmly on the dark side…

What I thought of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

From the off there’s going to be SPOILERS, so you’ve been warned…

The Last Jedi has been getting some strange reactions from hardcore fans (this entitled rant sums up much of the negative response from some fans) as if the film they saw was not what they expected, which seems to have been a sort of retread of Empire Strikes Back with lots of lightsabre fights which is sort of is but it also does something different. It’s also about giving up on things and creating fresh beginnings from nothing.

Set just after the events of The Force Awakens, we find the resistance under threat of being wiped out by the First Order, while Rey has found Luke Skywalker in the hope of getting him to return to the resistance and help fight the First Order. At this point what you expect to happen, doesn’t as the First Order virtually wipe out the resistance, and Luke is unwilling to return as he’s wracked with guilt in regards what happened with Leia and Han Solo’s son, Ben, better known as Kylo Ren. In the first third of the film there’s a lot of Chekhov’s guns being cocked and they all go off in the second and third act and its how they go off that’ll shape how much you like this film.

A large chunk of The Last Jedi is about telling you that what you want in life isn’t what you’ll get so Luke doesn’t come sweeping back heroically (initially) but is tired, old and bitter about one fatal flaw he made that let down his sister, his best friend and their son while at the same time helped create a monster that threatens the weak and vulnerable across the galaxy. Luke’s redemption comes because he lets things go, destroys the things he’s collected (the remnants of the Jedi religion) and decides to sacrifice himself to spark people’s imagination to do something off their own back. The arc of Finn and new character, Rose, is essentially telling you the war is being fed by big business and there will always be people there to exploit as long as the war continues.Essentially he big thrust of the film is telling you hard truths about the world that you do have to move on, and that big corporations will exploit you and give you what you want if you let them. It is quite odd especially to see the latter in a Disney film and in the week where they’ve bought 20th Century Fox to become the sort of mega-corp Philip K Dick would have written about.

Problem is in the second act director Rian Johnson drifts. Scenes become overlong, tiresome and boring. There’s too many meaningful stares, padding and exposition not to mention at times one wonders just how crap the First Order are if they can’t work out how to destroy three resistance ships moving in what seems like first gear. The middle of the film is flabby and bloated, and really, 10-15 minutes could be lost from the film and it’ll be a better film.

Here’s a great video to show how the first Star Wars benefited from sharp editing.

Some hard decisions about cutting and rearranging scenes was needed to stop the middle from deflating because the film suffers. It isn’t til we get to Snoke’s death (and gloriously teased to be fair) that the film kicks back into gear and all the threads set up in the first act play out to ends in the third. Not all of them tidily (as after all, another film is coming after this in 2019 to wrap everything up) but that’s ow life sometimes is.

For a film that had to provide a weight to this new trilogy, set up the third film and add some character to the new characters, it pretty much succeeds. Oscar Issac’s Poe Dameron is equal parts brave and heroic pilot crossed with a lunatic who should be shot out an airlock. John Boyaga’s Finn doesn’t really do much and he feels underused in the film as his character is the only one of the new characters who isn’t that changed by the end of the film like Rey, Poe and Kylo are.. Daisy Ridley’s Rey comes into her own as she realises her place in the universe, and the fact she’s come from nothing rather than be the offspring of noble or ‘special’ blood makes her a more proletarian hero to lead a rebellion than a princess or the son of a lord…

Adam Driver steals the film though. His Kylo Ren is a mix of emotions and motivations as we realise it was Luke that pushed him towards Snoke with that shameful act that pushed Luke into hiding. We’re taken to think he’s turned back from the dark before realising he’s fully embracing it and becoming what looks like the grand villain of the films.His big showdown with Luke is gloriously shot and is an example of how to edit a film brilliantly.

The legacy cast do what they need to do, Mark Hamill does a fine job as a broken Luke who gradually becomes more like the Luke we know as he’s exposed to what’s familiar to us (the Millennium Falcon, Chewie, R2D2, Rey), and as for Carrie Fisher’s final (?) performance as Leia she has a weight of poignancy in some scenes that comes from not just her early death in 2016. Her meeting with Luke isn’t going to leave many dry eyes.

Overall The Last Jedi works. It needs to lose some of its running time, for sure but as a film that could have lazily just had Rey and Luke turn up, fight Snoke and Kylo as the resistance held on against the First Order before having everything wrap up in a big fight in the last film of this trilogy. Instead Rian Johnson pushed things out of the comfort zone while maintaining a familiar enough structure to not break the diehard fan’s head too much. As a film it also looks amazingly lush, with an eye for flair, colour & light that sets it apart from increasingly homogeneous blockbusters like the Marvel films.

The next test for the film is how it works as part of a trilogy overall and we won’t know that til 2019, so we’ll meet up back here in 2019 to see the final part of this set of films before Rian Johnson embarks on a new trilogy as Star Wars will never, ever end while there’s people out there like us to exploit…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…The Star Wars

Back in the 1970’s George Lucas was punting a weird little science fiction/space opera film to various studios titled The Star Wars. To help him sell the film he recruited artist Ralph McQuarrie to come up with some concept art for his idea, and much of it did end up in the final version which we all know as Star Wars when it came out in 1977. After that this early version vanished into What If? territory and perhaps somewhere out in the multiverse it got made…

Well, a group of student filmmakers from the DAVE School over in Florida made a short film positing what it might look like and it is indeed, a look at something we know so well from a slightly different angle.

So if you want to see what Han Solo would have looked like as a giant green alien, or Luke Skywalker as a teenage girl heroine enjoy this wonderful bit of work…