Reading: Star Wars – The Clone Wars Novelization

I have a confession to make. I didn’t rush out to the theater to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I hear you gasp. I hear you ask what has happened to my fandom. And no, I will not turn in my Jedi Knights membership card. Mind tricks are far too useful.

The characters are horrendously ugly to me. I always hated Thunderbirds. Just not my form of geekdom. Nothing against puppets. I love everything the Henson company has ever done. But the whole action/adventure marionette thing doesn’t work for me.

I’ll see it when it the TV show hits.

In the meantime, despite the fact that I have sworn off most Star Wars novels, I decided to pick up the novelization so I could get an idea of what the series was like. Add the fact that it’s written by Karen Traviss, and it didn’t seem so bad. She’s a great writer. I especially enjoyed her Republic Commando books. Her New Jedi Order (NJO) books are involving, but none of the NJO books really fit in my fan canon of Star Wars, so I can’t really bother to read them anymore.

The Clone Wars is really a pretty good story. It’s somewhere halfway between a kids book and an adult book. We get to listen to Anakin’s inner struggles about the war. We get to see a lot of the story from Clone Trooper Captain Rex’s perspective. We even get a little bit of insight into Assaj Ventris, while leaving some mystery. Bake that all in the cauldron of non-stop Star Wars action, and you get a great tasting Star Wars cookie.

I did find the character of Ahsoka, Anakin’s padawan, kind of annoying at first. She’s the whiny little kid who wants to play with the big kids. She’s the gateway character, who gives Anakin someone to talk to. She also provides Anakin a way to grow a bit. And I did grow to like her a bit by the end of the novel. But I still kind of feel like she’s way out of place in the story. I wanted to hear about Anakin and Obi-Wan’s adventures together. I didn’t so much want them always separated and meeting up at the end.

From what I hear, there’s a characterization of a Hutt character as Truman Capote in the movie that’s kind of annoying. Thankfully, you don’t get voice-acting in the book. And I think the characters are drawn a little more shallowly in the TV series. It’s a testament to Traviss as a writer that she can elevate a kid’s cartoon to something that feels like an adult story. I really did enjoy the book, and my suspicion is, I won’t like the toon as much. But maybe it will take some of the edge off the toon to have read the book first.

If you’re a fan of Karen Traviss’ Star Wars work, I recommend this one. If you haven’t read any Traviss, definitely do. If you’re a fan of Mandalorians, Clone Troopers, or Storm Troopers, you’ll really like her books. She gives them a depth and a military real-ness that gets you involved in their stories. And if you haven’t played Republic Commando, I highly recommend it. One of the most fun Star Wars games, ever.

Star Wars Weekends 2008, Weekend 2

Dave Prowse (Darth Vader) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) joined us at Star Wars Weekends this weekend. It was great to see Dave at weekends again after a very long absence. And it was great to have these two actors together, so they could tell the wonderful story of how Dave’s decision to play Darth Vader over Chewbacca forever changed movie history.

As Dave tells it, George Lucas let him choose between the roles of Chewbacca or Darth Vader. Dave chose Vader, because, as he explained to George, “You always remember the baddies.” When you think about it, that was a wonderful decision for Dave, since Vader is pretty obviously one of the most loved villains of all time. And it worked out great for Peter, because he was cast in a role he was absolutely perfect for. So on that one decision we got two of the greatest characters in movie history.

Pics are on Picasa:

There are also some great pics over at FieldsEdge.

LucasArts Layoffs?

So on Friday, evidently there was a fairly sizable layoff of folks from George Lucas’ game company LucasArts. I have kind of a strong interest in this for two reasons. One is, I have always been a huge fan of really getting to escape into the Star Wars Galaxy, and LucasArts games have pretty consistently been a way to immerse myself into that environment. The other is, I have a close friend that works there, and layoffs are really painful on people whether you get to stay or not.

I’ve seen some interesting theories on why the layoff happened, from Lucasfilm claiming it was just a scheduling thing, to people speculating that the departure of Jim Ward was actually a refocusing of the company to just sell the license to outside developers. (And hey, the replacement for Mr. Ward was a guy from EA, which now owns two of the best Star Wars development houses — Bioware and Pandemic.)

There’s one thing that is driving me nuts about some of the reports I was reading: the articles or the comments keep talking about how LucasArts was producing crappy games the last couple of years. Yet, if you recount the last couple of years of titles, they actually were really high-quality experiences. My personal favorite was “Republic Commando”, a superbly gritty look at the troops of the Republic, which went on to be adapted into novels. But the list could go on, “Battlefront I and II”, “Knights of the Old Republic”, “Lego Star Wars”, “Mercenaries” — there were quite a few good (and often underrated) titles. A lot of the titles were made by third parties, so I’m not sure how they can say LucasArts is refocusing on external development exactly?

It’s going to be interesting to see how this changes the company. One of the things that concerns me is that they might just be shipping all of their production support jobs out of the country.  I’m not protectionist, in that I think we have a global economy now. But I would rather hear companies start admitting that they’re moving in that direction. And it struck me funny yesterday that when they were talking about “The Clone Wars” feature/series yesterday at Star Wars Weekends, that the LucasArts rep said the series was being created at Big Rock Ranch. As far as I know, it’s being developed there, but the bulk of the animation is being done at Lucasfilm Animation in Singapore.