Star Wars: the Force Awakens review

SWTFA_reyYeah.

So, not that I’m qualified to mind meld with Abrams, or Lucas, let alone the Imagineers of Disney, but here goes, my own take of the world class phenom that is this film.

First: really enjoyed it. Looked great. Felt great. Man, I love the new characters.

Second: read 75 thoughts, because this is neatly much of my experience in watching the movie. SPOILERS, seriously.

Third: While this is a good film, with class actors, and a great future for the franchise… I hope some of the things I expected from Star Wars find their way into the next two films (let alone the next 12 years or so of the franchise.) With a running time of over two hours, there were plenty of important things left out. More on that later.

In context, you may have already read folks slotting this film into the appreciation of  SW films that have come before, (y’know, better than 1, 2, and 3, not as good as 4, 5, or 6. That kind of thing,) but I’m going to make the case that we’ve seen an adroit storyteller’s illusion in 7, setting us up for the whole future of the franchise, not really a film that was intended to give us a great stand alone story.

Movies and stories have changed a lot since the 70’s in no small part because of Star Wars.

Just think about the Lord of the Rings movies. No one much even thinks of them separately, as they know the story being told is too big for one movie. That’s what we just saw with this film. SW:TFA is not a story we can evaluate yet, as it just put the pieces on the board and a passel of questions to be answered. The next two films are intrinsic in really evaluating this film.

So if you accept that unusual premise, the rest hopefully follows. OK?

So my review in short is: good film, clunky plot. Great performances. I found Rey to be a riveting character, and the actress (Daisy Ridley) totally hooked me in every scene I can think of.

All that said, there are enough weaknesses in the film that jumped out at me in the showing that I don’t even want to entertain how long it will be picked apart before SW8 comes around. So I won’t really. I’ll just point out that the transitions between plot points were more awkward than they had to be and the film’s end doesn’t even qualify as an end. (As I pointed out above, it is a cliffhanger pointing to the next film.)

So why did we get a cliffhanger? And is it the right move?

Well, yes, I think it is. Not so much because the films up to now are structured that way but because audiences can handle cliffhangers like this due to other media exposures and more importantly, Disney decided to make the franchise films on a schedule that everyone thought was amazingly fast.

Point of fact, Abrams has now admitted that several plot outlines for this movie were discarded leading up to ‘go time’ and that the script they were going to film was discarded because the author did not have time to finish it. Last minute, literally, Abrams started from ‘scratch’ with Kasdan to script the film we saw.

So, polished story? Not so much. Which leads again to the idea of telling a bigger story across three films. This is something that Lucas could never have pulled off before SW came out.

What about turning the ‘no time’ problem into an opportunity?

My working premise right now is that they sat down at one point (Disney may have insisted on a Opportunity Assessment Session) and looked at all the places that George got himself into trouble with the Star Wars fans/franchise. Then they looked at the aggressive time schedule of shooting the films. And then they said, “Where the prequels introduced more details that contradicted the first three movies, we should be introducing more mystery so that we have time to really figure out how the next trilogy ends.”

If you look at SW:TFA as a movie that almost did not have a story ready, it is clear to me that they needed to give themselves ‘story slack’, and mysteries to solve in the next two unwritten scripts, and that they knew they would be smarter to give themselves holes to work with. I think they have ideas, but actually bet they chopped things out of this movie, to make things more ambiguous. Some of that could be cutting room floor and pacing, but I think much of it (omg, LUKE does not even have a line of dialog), is giving themselves another year to get a smarter sharper story line.

Not only that, but think about how many mysteries are in SW4. Even with exposition, there is a tremendous amount of story detail breezed past to spend time with characters. We don’t know about the Clone Wars, we don’t understand the Jedi, we don’t get a feeling for the Dark Side, we don’t know that Ben is only present to make sure Luke isn’t killed off, and etc.

This is the thing SW:TFA gets right for me: they spend time letting you love and discover these new characters. They don’t explain what the holes are there for.

They don’t know exactly what the holes mean yet. But unlike Lucas in the 70s, this is the opportunity to reveal a better story, a bigger story, that can take the franchise to a new level of cool.

Here’s some food for thought, because I’m a big fan of Ahsoka Tano. Wouldn’t you like to see the earliest parts of the timeline show up in the next future bits of story? Would it not be very cool if Qui-Gon Jinn was right? That Anakin was going to be essential in balancing the Force? Perhaps because his apprentice was going to be essential?

Would you not pay good money to see the Jedi get their shit together in the next two franchise movies? The Jedi Council failures of the past are obvious at this point. And SW: Return of the Jedi does not address those failures.

What if Luke’s journey off to find a better Jedi path crossed with Ahsoka’s own journey to find a better path? She teaches Luke some things and the next movies reveal a new path for the Jedi.

Hey, you read it here first.

 

Do Rebmans have cats?

Well, you had to poke and prod.  Consider that you brought this on yourselves.
soft

softs

 

As you land dwellers do not call your familiars and domestics ‘air dog’ or ‘air cow’, please do not refer to the Softs of Rebma as ‘aqua cats’.
Generally, the cats of Amber are deficient of voices and do not sing. They have territorial manners similar to Softs, but a cat’s claws can always be found on its paws and Amber cats do not walk in and out of mirrors.
In Amber, misunderstandings with cats are said to lead to bad luck or scratches. Indeed, in the shadows there are reflected some serious supernatural powers associated with Amber cats, including in some parts that women need not marry a husband, or might fly a broom if a cat is so inclined.
In Rebma, speaking to a Soft often precludes any misunderstandings. Befriending a Soft, can lead to a life-long drinking companion and you may be invited to sing-a-longs, for which Softs gather on almost a weekly basis. Whales often swim in to add their voices to the Soft Choir, especially those holiday times of year. Softs do not fly, but they are excellent swimmers, of course. Softs do not marry, and honestly why should they? Brooms are stupid and no Soft would tolerate one in the house.
While you can never find a Soft’s claws, they are extremely potent, and capable of rending all metal, except for gold and silver. A Soft in a fury may actually manifest hidden claws larger than the entire size of the Soft. There is no truth to the folklore that Softs can become invisible or wield magic (though again, in the shadows the rules are very different) but Softs are known to read futures, and drag the occasional dead guisel home from a mirror adventure.
Best information on Softs, including the care and friendship of, can be found in consultation with the Navigator Guild of Rebma, which history informs, was founded by the Soft Klepto, once beloved of Lir.

all of your ‘game sparks’ belong to us

So for my own brainstorm, I’m collecting all unrealized Game Sparks from the 15 years of this blog to see if I’m going to run a new game in slots at Ambercon US. For many of these ideas, they became ACUS games, so they will not appear on this list.

Please consult your Doctor before using Game Sparks.

 

Asskickers of the Fantastic

Once you were a mortal. Not anymore. Not since you died. The world however is becoming overrun with Fantastic Abberations like the one that killed you. Isis doesn’t like the direction things are taking. She’s pulled strings. Now you’re back in the land of the living, your one geas: kick ass! Your only comrades: Asskickers of the Fantastic!

 

the League of Extraordinary GentleMonsters

The darkness in the world was almost gone.

A few noble souls around the globe toiled for decades and succeeded in cutting low the masterminds of evil. Now a new generation inherits a better world…. until an improbable series of events starts a war that engulfs all of civilization. France and Germany are the center of the battlefield. Most of the world is taking sides. Weapons of this new war are taking lives at unimagined levels—What single event triggered it? Brought the darkness roaring up out of the trenches of the Bloody World War? Now France is a wasteland with a few scattered souls hiding from the dark. Germany is largely uninhabited except by the undead. Holmes is an old man now, but he knows many things. From his wheelchair, he telegrams to distant corners of the globe for those few Gentle Monsters that were never trusted enough to join the side of Good.

He has sent for you.

 

The Dire Tower

Up they go. It is a climb after a night’s search, but they are close to goal and quick up the height of the tower. Above now, they see beyond the railings not just the castle laid out below, but an overlay of colored mist that soon shows them a figure in battle. The mist rolls rapidly and the scene moves in slippery jumps until the figure dies, bravely tossing off a curse to his enemies.

This mist changes into a different figure, another man. In a narrow lane of a dark city, he fights like a dervish and dies speaking a vigorous curse upon his foes.

Again, the mist becomes a woman on an orange horse surrounded by a hundred foes. She cuts into them like wheat, but is dragged down in slippery moments, her mouth silently screaming their doom.

Again.
Again.
Again.

As our cousins realize they are seeing the complete roster of the Blood of Oberon gone down into death. Men and women not even remembered now.

Time to leave, perhaps.

 

Pawn to Queen’s One

What do you get the fellow who has everything? Who takes the throne of Chaos by surviving assassinations? Who wears a spikard and keeps another one nearby in a vault?

The Chaos Elders get King Merlin a bride.

Merlin makes it through his ‘gauntlet’ fifty-years as Heir and becomes King of Chaos. Now he has to guide some poor gal through the same process. He needs a queen.

The PCs are the best candidates from every House of Chaos. The assassins are primed. The fifty-year period of courting has begun.

Ready.
Set.
Go.

 

The Lessima Protocols

Forms of ceremony and etiquette observed by House leaders are called House Protocols. This also means the code of correct conduct—including the secret methods by which Chaosi Houses handle their internal justice, resources, and ecology.

There is nothing more sacred than the House Protocol. It is the accumulated secrets of success for a House. It is worth your life and/or career to leak protocol secrets to another House. An anonymous offer has reached a few Chaosi Houses of a complete set of House Protocols that are available for barter.

Unthinkable.

And the exchange desired is even more unthinkable. The Protocols are for the vanished House Lessima. And the asking barter is one of the two known spikards held by the Houses of Chaos.

PCs are Chaosi who are asked to find and recover the Lessima Protocols before someone takes the awful step of trying to steal a spikard from Thelbane. If any of your team are caught or killed, your House will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

May the Serpent watch over your soul.

 

Ambassador ExtraOrdinary

The other PCs notice the Ambassador-Extraordinary to the Fae Court is much distracted of late. Sometimes the A-E seems to be in a fog, or tired, or generally not themselves. Food is being ignored—always a bad sign with amberite appetites.

Perhaps the A-E is looking a bit pale.

The Khan of the Zhan Zi is known as Shi-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. Shi has taken a shine to the A-E and there are long ‘diplomatic’ sessions in the Black Palace of the Zhan Zi through the prolonged nights there.

Direct questions to the A-E often only garner an enigmatic smile. A very good friend of the PC may find in confidence that there is an affair in progress between Shi and the PC.

Any actions here need to move carefully. The Fae are very different than Amber and have strange magics. One certainly cannot forget that some of the Fae are worshipped by the warrior culture of Ghenesh. The King would not be pleased to be confronted with diplomatic fury as a result from actions of the PCs.

Is some sort of tax being charged of your Cousin? Does the A-E know about it or is she/he fogged by glamour?

 

A Farewell to Spikards

And how do you verify that weapons put down are really gone? When does a forbidden tactic become viable again? Who watches the watchmen? When the consequences are so far in the past that the present needs to re-learn the lesson, those weapons come back.

IMC, the spikards are forgotten and forbidden. There are very good reasons for not opening the vault and bringing them back into use.

But they are used. In canon.

Would Chaos continue to restrain itself if Corwin and Merlin and Rinaldo use spikards routinely? Would Darrheabarr? Would Glantri?

Is there no way to put the terror of spikard misuse to bed once and for all?

The Lords of the Living Void invite the PCs to go on a surreal journey to un-make the spikards and remove this threat against the future of civilization once and for all.

Volunteers take one step forward.

 

Chaosi Pilgrammage

Six Chaosi arrive in Amber. They are secret cabalists who (despite Swayville’s outlawing the cult celebration of amberites centuries ago) have made their way, at great cost, to Amber. Now they have a chance to see the Worthies and perhaps take home some exalted experiences.

 

the Demmed Few!
Restrictions: PC’s must be from Chaos built for 70 pts. Characters submitted to GM prior to convention can be built for 100 pts. No Logrus, no Pattern. Note special costs for powers at web site.

Before your eyes your Chaos Elders incandesced in Logrus-spun fires as the Wavefront passed. Now younger cousins gather your remaining troops and beasts. The Black Road remains yet, but sorcery fails and your flyers have fallen sickened from the horrid blue skies above. Trump does not work. All your Chaser and Guardian demons are black bones but a few Chine survive.Scouting suggests you outnumber the remaining enemy eleven to one. Your allied House commanders confirm none of their Logrus wielders survived the Wavefront. What foul weapons have the Amber madmen loosed? Can you rally before they strike so again?

It falls to you! For your fallen blood! For your House! For Fidelis!

Gerard and his skirmish forces are all that remain between the ragged strength of Chaos and the castle on Kolvir. Your honor demands the enemy shall surrender or perish. What are your orders? Will inexperienced allied officers support you? Can you convince Amber to surrender? The Black Road War shall be won or lost by the Demmed Few.

Broken Logrus is…. what?

You could take the hints of Logrus failures, imperfect Logrus, and various strangenesses of the Abyss and mash them together.LoGaS
Add tobasco sauce…  sorry, copying from Dworkin’s notes here.
We already know there is a pile of skulls outside the entry to the Logrus (I blame Zelazny) and so we can imagine that most forms of imperfect Logrus are even more lethal than Logrus itself. (Red wire? NO BLUE!) After all, even successful Logrus initiates deal with insanity for a long time afterwards.
So cross the streams a bit, look at Umbra from the Lords of Gossamer and Shadows… a power that is guaranteed to make you insane, reveal the flaws in everthing, rewrite you if you receive a near fatal injury, and lose control of your shapeshifting.  That sounds like screwed up Logrus to me.
And also, it is so weak that while it looks powerful to all those shadowfolks, it can be dismissed by Logrus or Pattern.
And it cannot even bring you a pizza.
Of course, if you can find a pizza shop, Broken Logrus Masters never have to PAY for pizza.

LoGaS the powers of gossamer, control of contents

LoGaS

From the community google+
Control of Contents is narrative driven.
Changes follow the flow of powers or disruption results.
Order powers require more context support.
Chaos/Sorcery powers require less context support.
Deletion or Cosmic changes disrupt context.
Context disruption leans to Entropy.
Context is crucial to Order changes and scale requires:

* small changes happen using world pieces in place already
* medium changes build from many small changes or may require the addition of a new world components that facilitate the change–else most folks will know something unique changed. Unless the world is full of unobservant folk (gossamer for dummies).
* large changes build from many medium changes or may require the addition of many new components to facilitate the change.
* cosmic changes guarantee some confusion and chaos. The world may be unrecognizable.

I think each GM would then handle where on the scale the PC proposed change would be.

Netflix Premieres “Daredevil” to Superhero Junkies Everywhere

Watched episode one and it is very good.

The Collective

20078539

I opened my email to the glorious news that all 13 episodes of Daredevil are available to watch now on Netflix and suddenly, I have my weekend all planned out.

Marvel’s Daredevil is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and is the first in a series of shows that will lead up to a Defenders crossover miniseries. The series stars Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock / Daredevil, a lawyer-by-day who fights crime at night, Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk as well as Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Rosario Dawson, Ayelet Zurer, Bob Gunton, Toby Leonard Moore, and Vondie Curtis-Hall.

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