Standalone Films

Directing Star Wars

Reporting Star Wars news is not my thing, in large part because there are more than enough sites – official sites and fan sites alike – that deliver a near up-to-the-minute stream of happenings in the Star Wars franchise. Yet, I felt compelled to say something about the recent announcement from Lucasfilm that J.J. Abrams has accepted the offer to write/direct Star Wars Episode IX. While Episode IX was originally slated to be the brainchild of Jurassic World writer/director Colin Trevorrow, the studio parted ways with Trevorrow, thus paving the way for Abrams to return to the Sequel Trilogy he launched with The Force Awakens.

That Abrams is reentering the Star Wars universe is neither surprising or all that controversial. For the studio (and parent company Disney), bringing a known and successful variable back to the writers/directors chair makes perfect sense. Still, with the announcement I could not help but feel a pang of dismay, having hoped that the head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, would choose a woman to write/direct Episode IX in the wake of Trevorrow’s dismissal. Abrams may have been the safe and reasonable pick, but choosing a woman could have injected an entirely new and fresh perspective into the Sequel Trilogy, particularly to round out the heroine journey of Rey. But alas, that ship of possibility has sailed (unless, of course, Abrams crashes and burns, prompting a third writer/director to be named…a doubtful prospect).

And so, as we move forward, towards the end of the Sequel Trilogy and into a new era of storytelling that will certainly follow – not only with continued standalone films but also, perhaps, a fourth Star Wars trilogy – I am left wondering: when will Lucasfilm finally hand the writing/directorial reigns over to an accomplished woman? Certainly, there are an endless stream of successful women adding to the Star Wars universe already – authors, editors, producers, production managers, sound mixers, makeup artists, wardrobe and costume designers, artists, actresses, and more. Yet, the most coveted position, that of director, is yet to be filled. Will Ava DuVernay, Patty Jenkins, Kathryn Bigelow, or another accomplished woman ever be given the chance/opportunity to bring their experiences and worldviews into the Star Wars franchise? My hope is yes, my gut tells me yes, but my heart is tired of waiting.

You might, in turn, wonder: why do you care, Jeff? It will happen someday, so why not let bygones be bygones and just go with the Star Wars flow? I do not deny it, it will happen. I know it will happen, it is only a matter of time (and there is a prime opportunity to really mix things up with a woman directing the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone film). But I do care because I am frankly tired of people like me – translation: men – getting all of the g-damn credit for the Star Wars franchise’s pinnacle achievements. This is neither a slight towards Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy (whom deserves great respect for overseeing the franchise) or against those countless women behind the scenes (or literally in the scenes as actresses). Rather, it is a deeply held desire to sit in a theater and watch a Star Wars movie that does not simply present female characters (and male counterparts) adhering to philosophies that seek, and teach us as viewers, to dismantle normative and oppressive ideologies, but that does this most loudly when a woman’s name appears on the screen as writer/director.

Lest I be interpreted incorrectly, I do not simply desire to watch a Star Wars film (nay, MANY Star Wars films) directed by a woman, but also films directed by persons of color, men and women alike. The experiences and worldviews of women, people of color, persons of different religious backgrounds, sexual orientations, ethnicities and more WILL bring new, fresh perspectives to the films we experience in theater. I truly hope, nay I pray, that those Star Wars stories are not far, far away.

Star Wars Toy Giveaway Challenge

With the arrival of Force Friday II on September 1, 2017, “a global fan event celebrating the launch of Star Wars: The Last Jedi products,” I felt the desire to jump back into the Star Wars toy/collectible conversation once again by doing something special. For those of you who regularly read this site, you know that I don’t often discuss Star Wars products, having only done so a handful of times in previous posts (you can search the site for them if interested). Given the understandable excitement surrounding the new, soon-to-arrive Star Wars film, Force Friday II is a way and a day for fans of all ages to begin adding The Last Jedi merchandise – action figures and Black Series figures, Lego sets, Funko Pops, etc. – to their collections. And, in the spirit of Force Friday II, and as a way of adding to the excitement surrounding it, I thought I’d share the details of my very own Star Wars Toy Giveaway Challenge, a giveaway challenge that I plan to extend long after Force Friday II is over.

The Giveaway

For the past month, I’ve collected Star Wars toys with the sole intention of giving them away. Thanks to an over-abundance of toys associated with The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Star Wars Rebels being on store shelves, and the need for stores to clear their shelves for The Last Jedi merchandise, all of the toys I have purchased have been on clearance. As a personal rule, I never buy any Star Wars products at full price, and purchasing toys on clearance has actually maximized my ability to give away even more! 

So, all that being said, here is the moment of truth, the details about how my Star Wars Toy Giveaway Challenge will work. In short, I am giving all of those toys that are pictured above to Toys for Tots, a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children in families that struggle to purchase gifts at Christmas time. Once the Christmas season rolls around, I am taking all of the toys I have collected – the those pictured and others I’ll be purchasing –  to a local Toys for Tots drop-off location so I can, in a small way, help children from low-income families add to/create their own Star Wars collection.

And the Challenge is for you to do something similar.

The Challenge

Here’s the thing: I am blessed to live in comfort, with the ability and means to spend some of my disposable income adding Star Wars “stuff” to my already massive collection of, well, “stuff.” But the thing is I don’t need every item that is produced with a Star Wars label, and there are many children who come from families that struggle financially. While there is a tendency to judge these families, and particularly their parents, I refrain from it and have no time for it. Love and compassion are non-negotiable for me, especially when children are involved. In wanting to give away Star Wars toys to families in need, who struggle during the Christmas season to provide gifts for their children, it is my hope that I can bring some small bit of happiness to some of those kids. Star Wars has been, and will continue to be, a massive part of my life, of my self-identity and joy, but what I want to do – what I will continue to do in the future – is give away Star Wars toys so that children in need can experience that same joy.

My hope and challenge to you, my magnanimous reader, is that you will follow suit and do something similar. Whether you go out and buy one Star Wars toy, or ten, or twenty, or a hundred, I hope you will stand in the toy aisle at a store, pick up a Star Wars action figure or Lego set, and say “I don’t need this but there is a little girl or boy out there who deserves it.” Or maybe you will pull something out of your own collection to give away. Or perhaps you know a family in need and are willing to take them shopping, to buy the gifts – any gifts, not just toys! – for their kids at Christmas time or for a birthday.

Oh, and this needn’t be limited to Star Wars toys either. While I intend to give away Star Wars toys because they reflect something I love, there are so many other toys representing different franchises that kids would love to play with! The point of this challenge is, quite simply, to spread some love, and if you do that by giving away non-Star Wars toys to kids in need then I say more power to ya!

It is also my hope that other blogs and podcasts – be they Star Wars oriented or not – will challenge their readers/listeners to give away toys to children in need. And if you don’t have a blog or podcast, then I hope you’ll challenge people on social media, or in your non-online life, to participate. 

Lastly, if you do participate, tweet me a pic (@ImperialTalker) of the toys you plan to give away using the hashtag #TalkerToyChallenge. The more visible we are, the more we can encourage others to join in!

Tunesday: Jyn Erso

It was only recently that I discovered Wildwood Kin, an alt-folk trio from Exeter, England. Listening to a Spotify-suggested playlist, I suddenly found myself surprised and mesmerized by the three-part harmonies of the women and their beautifully blended instruments in the song “Warrior Daughter.” As the music washed over me like a wave, the lyrics to “Warrior Daughter” took root in my mind, intertwining as they did with Jyn Erso, the hero in the Star Wars film Rogue One. Art moves and affects us all in different ways, and in the case of “Warrior Daughter” the raw power and symbolism in the song about a daughter who has “been made warrior” led me back to Jyn Erso, to her relationship with her parents Lyra and Galen, and her selfless actions to steal the Death Star plans.

While I dare not set out to interpret every way I view Jyn Erso as the “Warrior Daughter” described in the song, wishing instead to allow you to create connections for yourself if you so choose, I am never-the-less motivated to share one association that captured me. In short, I could not help but imagine the song’s narrator being one, or even both, of Jyn’s parents describing the “strength and courage” that “lies within your [her] heart.” To this we can add the lyrics “you have been made warrior/for your heart belongs to me” which, to me, reinforce the notion that as Jyn grew up – after she had physically lost her parents as a child – they were never-the-less always a part of who she was, her heart belonging to the parents she loved.

On this point, I am reminded of Jyn’s declaration to Director Krennic on the Scarif Tower late in Rogue One. When Krennic emphatically inquires “Who are you?” our hero declares (with strength and courage) that “I am Jyn Erso, daughter of Galen and Lyra.” I am Jyn Erso; I am the warrior daughter of Galen and Lyra. Krennic might have been responsible for the pain of physically removing her parents from her life, but he never removed them from who she was, for her heart always belonged to them, and they have always resided within her. 

Listen to “Warrior Daughter,” check out the lyrics, and leave a comment either here (or on Twitter @ImperialTalker) with your thoughts on the song I chose for Jyn Erso and also to share songs you would choose for her.

Lyrics to “Warrior Daughter”

you are a warrior

they call to me and strike at night
clothe yourself with all the rough alikes
and though i made you gentle for a time
your spirit’s strong enough to fight

you are a warrior
strength and courage lies within your heart
daughter, can’t you see your power never fades
for my armour keeps you safe

ride ahead; you fight for what is yours
so take your sword; protector of them all
the heart may be a battle in its own
don’t hesitate; you’ll never be alone

you are a warrior
strength and courage lies within your heart
daughter, can’t you see your power never fades

you are a warrior
strength and courage lies within your heart
oh oh oh oh

you will not grow weary
you will never cease
you have been made warrior
for your heart belongs to me

for your heart belongs to me
for your heart belongs to me

oh oh oh oh oh
for your heart belong to me
for your heart belongs to
for your heart belongs to me

for your heart belongs to me
for your heart belongs to
for your heart belongs to me

**Lyrics taken from musixmatch.com**


Tunesday is a new series on The Imperial Talker where I present a song that I believe reflects a Star Wars character in some way, shape, or form. New Tunesday posts will arrive on Tuesdays with complete infrequency.

Haikuesday: The Battle of Scarif

Scene: Planet Scarif;
Imperial paradise
guarded by a shield.


Clearance codes approved
Rogue One descends to Scarif.
Hope and death await.


Patrolling the beach
Stormtroopers are caught off-guard
by stealthy Rebels.


Charges are planted.
“Light it up” Andor commands.
Explosions ensue.


Shocked look on his face,
Krennic takes charge and deploys
Scarif garrison.


Fighting on Scarif!
Private Weems informs Mothma.
Mobilization!


Yavin to Scarif
should be a long trip but there’s
a film plot to move.


Haiku Addendum:
Hyperspace travel times are
all over the place.


On Scarif beaches
Rebel troopers battle the
Empire’s soldiers.


In the Citadel
Erso, Andor, and K-2
search for Death Star plans.


Trapped on the beach by
AT-ACT Walkers.
Baze, Chirrut, Rebels.


Above Scarif base
the Alliance Fleet arrives,
Raddus in command.


“Those are Rebel ships!”
Imperials stunned and shocked.
“Get Admiral Gorin!”


Blue Squadron descends.
Red Squadron and Gold Squadron
will defend the Fleet.


Scarif shield gate closed.
Rogue One trapped but hope remains:
Bodhi’s time to shine.


ACT Attacked!
Look to yonder sky dear friends!
Blue Squadron arrives!


Outside of the vault,
K-2 defends his friends by
laying down his “life”


Raging space battle
TIE Fighters, X-Wings, Y-Wings.
Oh Look! There’s The Ghost!

Haiku Addendum:
General Syndulla kicks ass
and takes some Imp names!


Red Five in trouble…
…poor guy, he lived and he died
for A New Hope’s plot.


Down on Scarif beach
Bodhi Rook does IT work
and makes a phone call.


Led by Dutch Vander,
the Y-Wings of Gold Squadron
assault the shield gate.


U-Wings reinforce
Rogue One rebels with fresh troops.
Time to find a switch.


Director Krennic
orders his Death Trooper guards
into the battle.


Switch in sight but trapped.
Rebels falling left and right.
Arise, ye with faith!

“I’m one with the Force…”
All is as the Force wills it.
“…the Force is with me.”


Rebel Fleet contact!
Rook tells Raddus to destroy
the Scarif shield gate.


Armed with a grenade,
a Shoretrooper destroys the
shuttle and Bodhi.


Cradling his friend,
faith returns to Baze Malbus.
The Force is with him.


Attacked by Y-Wings,
Persecutor is crippled.
Raddus has a plan.


Rammed by a Corvette,
Persecutor pushed into
Intimidator.


Death Star plans in hand.
Jyn Erso climbs the tower.
Determined hero.


At Citadel’s top,
Jyn stares down a TIE Fighter.
Whoops, that scene was cut.


“Who are you,” he asks.
“I’m Jyn Erso,” she declares.
Neither see Andor.


The plans transmitted
just as the Death Star arrives.
The Fleet must retreat.


Single Reactor.
Tarkin targets Scarif base.
Two heroes embrace.


As Rebels retreat
the Devastator arrives.
Darth Vader hath come.


Abandoning ship,
Rebel soldiers desperately
attempt to flee Death.


Death Star plans on board,
the Tantive IV escapes with
royalty and hope.


Civil war rages.
Striking from a hidden base,
Rebels land a win.

During the battle
Rebel spies steal secret plans
of moon sized Death Star.

Empire pursues
the royal host who harbors
freedom-giving plans.


Haikuesday is a monthly series on The Imperial Talker, a new post with poetic creations coming on the first Tuesday of each month. The haiku topic is chosen by voters on Twitter so be sure to follow @ImperialTalker so you can participate in the voting. Now, check out these past Haikuesday posts:

Droids (February 2017)

Ahsoka Tano (March 2017)

Darth Vader (April 2017)

The Truce at Bakura (June 2017)

Queen Amidala (July 2017)

Ryloth (August 2017)

Star Wars Without End

I spend a lot of time pondering the internals of the Star Wars universe – the characters, events, factions, spaceships, philosophies, etc. – but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking about the Star Wars franchise in general. These days, it’s hard not to think about the trajectory of the franchise since Disney – which purchased the franchise from the original creator/owner George Lucas in 2012 – has been announcing and releasing new content left and right. Movies, TV shows, novels, comics, video games, and more are adding to the already rich trove of stories that populate the universe, while an endless line of new merchandise in every shape and form pops up on a seemingly daily basis. Plus, Disney is building two different Star Wars-themed lands where fans can enjoy “being in” the Star Wars universe.

As a lifelong fan of Star Wars, the fact that the franchise is going strong definitely makes me happy, but this also comes with a catch – too much of a good thing isn’t always great. While I am excited there are new Star Wars stories being told and merchandise being sold, there is also a certain amount of burn out that also comes with all of this. Admittedly, it is a bit odd for me to say this since I maintain this site devoted to Star Wars, but it is also the truth – at times, being a Star Wars fan can be utterly exhausting.

Some of this Star Wars exhaustion is a natural symptom of over-indulgence, a symptom which necessitates moving away from the franchise for a while so I can enjoy it more fully another day. Having a site like this where I write about Star Wars certainly adds to this particular form of burn out, and at times, I have to step away from the computer or notebook, giving myself time and permission to not even think about Star Wars.

star-wars-celebration-1140x502
I’ve never been to a Star Wars Celebration, the so-called “ultimate fan experience,” and have little desire to attend one. Perhaps someday I will if I’m feeling adventurous and want to put my crowd anxiety to the test.
Photo Credit : Lucasfilm/Disney

On the other hand, some of this burn out is just a general fatigue associated with having to maintain interest in such an expansive franchise, one that is not going to stop growing anytime soon. Just as I look up at the night sky and have difficulty processing the vastness of space, a similar feeling of being overwhelmed hits me when I think about the vastness of the Star Wars franchise, a vastness that encapsulates past, present, and future. While I can appreciate all that Star Wars has to offer, providing fans of every type with something they will love, on a personal level, the more Star Wars grows, the more exhausted I’ve become trying to keep up with it. 

And so, I have found myself trying to reconcile my lifelong exploration of the “galaxy far, far away” with the continued growth of the franchise and the gambit of ways it is making me feel: overwhelmed, exhausted, burnt out, and at times even uninspired and bored. In other words, I have found myself for some time now in the rather peculiar position of trying to decide how I will continue being a fan of the franchise (talk about first world problems). What do I mean by this? Well, it means I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my relationship with the franchise in general, and the content of the Star Wars universe in particular. It means that because I do not have an endless supply of time, energy, and money – especially money – to devote to a fictional universe that will probably still be growing when I am on my death bed that I have to decide which aspects of Star Wars I will continue to participate in/enjoy and which parts I am just uninterested in/do not feel are worth the effort.

daala
Most people know that I’m obsessed with Grand Admiral Thrawn, but I’m also a huge fan of Admiral Natasi Daala who first appeared in the Expanded Universe novel Jedi Search.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm/Del Rey

In truth, this isn’t an entirely new approach to the way I engage with Star Wars. We all have our personal preferences and gravitate towards certain things, and I have always been the type of person who likes parts of Star Wars more than others. Even before George Lucas sold the franchise to Disney I was selective about how I participated in the franchise, what merchandise I bought, and yes even which stories I gravitated towards. For example, I can honestly say that while I am well versed in the stories of the now Expanded Universe (EU; now officially called Legends…bleh), there are some Expanded Universe stories I have never touched and know almost nothing about. Case in point: The Old Republic online game. Perhaps one day I will get around to playing The Old Republic or checking out those EU stories I haven’t read, or maybe I won’t.

Like the Expanded Universe I am already treating the “new Expanded Universe,” the Disney Canon, the same way. While I have done my best to keep up with all of the stories being released, it became very apparent early on that it just wouldn’t be possible to do so. This hardly means I haven’t tried my best, but it does mean that I am well aware there are tales I have missed and probably will never experience. Since I have no interest in subscribing to Star Wars Insider magazine, I miss out on the short-stories that appear in each edition. I have certainly read a few here and there, but otherwise I’ve missed most of them and am not rushing out to read them. This is also true of the discontinued Star Wars Rebels magazine, each issue containing a story in the form of a comic. I’m sure those comics are quite fun, and perhaps I will check them out at some point, but for now I’m just not that interested in going out of my way to read them.

In turn, even of the new stories I have encountered in the Disney canon (and this goes for the EU as well), I’ve absolutely loved some, really disliked others, and have otherwise mixed emotions about a handful. I thought Kevin Hearne’s novel Heir to the Jedi was rather bland, have been underwhelmed by the novels in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath series, felt the Chewbacca comic series left a lot to be desired, and walked out of my first viewing of The Force Awakens asking myself what the hell I had just watched. On the flip side, I really enjoyed playing the now discontinued Star Wars: Uprising video game, absolutely love the Princess Leia and Lando comic series, was blown away by Christie Golden’s novel Dark Disciple and James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, and have really enjoyed the rich layers being added to the canon thanks to the animated show Star Wars Rebels.

Run2
The Grand Inquisitor, introduced in Star Wars Rebels, is now one of my absolute favorite characters. I am hoping he will get his own novel or comic series.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Rebels Season 1, Episode 14: “Fire Across the Galaxy”

But just because I love one particular story or dislike another doesn’t mean I find perfection/imperfection in everything. I might not love Heir to the Jedi but there are some very good moments in the novel, The Force Awakens has grown on me over time, the Uprising game was fun but also incredibly tedious, and even though I am really loving Star Wars Rebels I’ve been a vocal critic of the overuse of the Jedi and the Force in the series. For me, being a fan of Star Wars is not a zero sum game, a matter of either love or hate. Rather, more often than not it boils down to shades of gray, the acknowledgment that stories that I feel are wonderful still have flaws, and those I believe fall short do have some redeeming qualities. 

None of this is to say that my particular reactions/thoughts on each Star Wars story, or my moments of exhaustion, boredom and dispassion with the franchise as a whole, must be globally accepted. My personal fandom is no more or less important than any other fan, and my subjective experiences of Star Wars need not dictate the experiences others have. Besides, I can think of nothing more absurd than being a fan of Star Wars and lording my fandom over others. No, I am far more interested in sharing aspects of my fandom with others, engaging people in rich conversation about Star Wars. By maintaining this site, my hope is to always do just that: share aspects of Star Wars that stand out to me – the good and the bad, inspirational and discouraging – and open the floor for conversation. 

And that being the case, I have to ask: what are your feelings and opinions on the current state of the Star Wars franchise? Am I the only one who has moments of Star Wars fatigue and boredom, or are there others like me who are out there? If you care to share your thoughts and feelings, leave a comment.