As I mentioned in my last post a few months ago I changed jobs. Part of my duties in my new employment is to look through archives – which currently includes documents from the 1920s. How is this relevant? Well in Ireland between 1916 and about 1923 you get a particularly exciting period of Irish history. The Easter Rising is followed by the War of Independence, which in turn is followed by the Irish Civil War. Having grown up in England I would describe my knowledge of the period as being fairly basic but the rough flow of events was this. In 1916 there was in Dublin an attempted rebellion. Lacking widespread support it failed. Following the rising the British authorities cracked down on those involved or judged to be sympathetic. Several of those captured were shot as traitors. Legally the British Authorities were on solid ground the rebels having received arms from Imperial Germany, that Britain was in the middle of a bloody war with at the time. However politically – combined with the round ups – it was a horrible mistake as in doing so they changed the perception of the rebels from terrorists and failures into heroes and martyrs. Those uninvolved who were rounded up were put into jails with committed republicans and in many cases, converted to the cause. After the end of WW1 the Republicans started again. This time with what would now be called an insurgency. The republicans targeted barracks, police stations and other instruments of state, to make Ireland ungovernable. The British responded with additional troops and auxiliary police, the best remembered of which were nicknamed the Black and Tans. In most cases these were ex-soldiers who had fought in the Great War – a conflict with clearly defined sides in terms of a front line and uniformed enemy. In Ireland there were neither of these things, these forces were often poorly trained, weakly disciplined and in lot of cases I would guess frightened. My grandmother who was a child at that time and living in County Kerry remembered being told if she heard a lorry it was likely the Black and Tan and she wasn’t to run because they would likely shoot. Files I’ve seen indicate that this was good advice. Their actions during the War of Independence caused grievances that remain to this day and are the reason the Irish tend not to react well to calling anything ‘black and tan’.
In Manchester about a week ago a suicide bomber blew himself to the four winds. At time of writing twenty-two people were killed or have died of their injuries with a another fifty plus injured. It would appear the bomber motivation was Islamic extremism. It’s not the first terrorist attack by such individuals and unfortunately, probably won’t be the last.
His target and this is worth making note of wasn’t an army base, power station, government building or even a police station. Nothing that you could say would materially affect the functionality of Great Britain. His target was a music concert. One by a singer who’s primary fan base is teenagers and young girls. In other words the softest possible target. What was he hoping to achieve?
I don’t think the Irish Republicans of the War of Independence foresaw the creation of the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans but their actions which included reprisals, murders, beatings and mock executions did much to turn the population against the British Authorities. For the Islamic terrorists the ideal response would retaliations, restrictions, internment or best of all – as one foolish radio presenter put it – a ‘Final Solution’. Because each one would push more people into their arms.
There are individuals, some dishonest, some merely hysterical that claim that Islamic terrorism is a threat to the western world. They are wrong. Islamic terrorists are a threat to individuals but to be a threat to the western world they world need tanks, jet fighters, nuclear subs and ICBM. They do not have these things. They have weak minded individuals who are willing to commit suicide and the hope that we will overreact.
There is unfortunately no easy road against terrorism. We must stand the line and above all else, not do the terrorist’s work for them.
About a dozen years ago I discovered webcomics, a few of which I follow to the day. Some I gradually lost interest in, other came to a natural end, a lot though a faded out as the creator’s attentions shifted and eventually even the website shuts down. The reason I mention this is that I’m painfully aware this blog has all but faded away, with this I only its third entry in 2017 . In fact when I logged in this even to write this entry, it was the first log in since March. One of the problems with any kind of creative endeavors is they’re hard to monetize – even you’re good. Added to that life has a tendency to drop other things in your lap that demand time, energy and frequently money. In short you have to pick where your efforts are going to be focused.
In the last twelve months I’ve changed job, started a new education course, had to do a lot of DIY work at home and last and by no means least got engaged. In short my free time took a bit of a paddling and something had to give. My writing slowed down, but where the axe really fell ended up being this blog. I will be attempting to resurrect it during the summer, but for the moment, I hope you’ll all accept this short place holder.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Wolverine character, not because of Jackman but because most of the X-men films were little more than Wolverine and his cheerleaders. I’ve only seen the first of his of his stand lone films and on the strength of it didn’t bother with the rest. So I went in with expectations low.
I came out impressed.
Jackman and Steward were handed a cracking script which is both dark and deep, with the relationship between the aging Logan and elderly Xavier showed in a way that’s both sensitive and convincing. It shows both the indignity of old age as well as both the love and resentment the can build up between the aged and their carer.
On the action front, Logan is vastly more brutal than any of the previous films and make very clear that when dealing with a man who has knives in his hands, things are going to get… splashy.
Frankly this is the last Wolverine film the world needs. Granted it won’t be, even if Jackman doesn’t do any more they’ll eventually re-cast the role but it would be nice to leave it for at least a decade.
A few months ago I received from a friend print a 3D print of a file I’d given him. Finally I’ve gotten around to painting it all up and so time to show it to the world. Readers of the Nameless War might recognize this as Dauntless from the first book of the series.
from the three quarters view.
This was based on this design:
and finally this is a screen shot of the printing file in sketchup:
I’ve learned from experience that it is best not to attempt to modify a model intended for pictures into one for printing. Instead better to start from scratch with printing very much in mind. Because it is effectively built up in layers there needs to be a flat base and you have to avoid overhang that lack any kind of support. For that reason I chose to remove the engine pods and have them printed separately. Once I had the model I decided to print Dauntless in her Nameless War colours. An in universe history of the ship can be found here.
This post is going talking a bit about Rogue One and will be veering a bit into spoiler territory but since it has now been out for a few weeks I’m assuming you’ve either seen it or aren’t interested in seeing it.
What I’m going to be talking about is the appearance of dead actors in new films, something that has become topical with the sad passing of Carrie Fisher. As well as appearing in 2015s The Force Awakens, Fisher had apparently signed up to appear in two more Star Wars films, I’ve heard that her filming for the next film was already done but according to media reports Disney – the owner of the franchise – is now in line to receive an insurance payout of perhaps $50 million. Which rather hints that she was due to have at least a reasonably significant presence in the third of this series. The question is will Disney write her character out or will Fisher appear anyway because recently we’ve seen there are options. Now those of you who have seen Rogue One will be aware that the film has seen the return of the character of a young Princess Leia and much more significantly Grand Moff Tarkin, as originally played by Peter Cushing. Since Cushing passed away more than twenty years ago and Fisher was no longer a teenager, these roles were fill by CGI ‘actors’, which has raised a few eyebrows.
Now in some respects Rogue One brings nothing new, in others it breaks very new ground. There is a long record of deceased actors appearing in new works via clever editing, smoke, mirrors and body doubles. If an actor dies during the course of a shoot – like say Oliver Reed during Gladiator – it is pretty reasonable that directors use what they have to fill in the blanks. Equally it doesn’t seem wrong reuse and modify clips of older work to do something new with an older actor/character combination – an example of this was a Doctor Who episode of a couple of years ago where with some careful editing the then current Companion was shown interacting with the Doctor’s various incarnations, the actors being in many cases being long dead.
Where Rogue One breaks new ground is with Grand Moff Tarkin, who supporting character with a significant speaking role. This is not old material being reused or a double being used to fill in few seconds of film, but instead new material wearing the mask of a diseased actor. Now in my opinion the digital Tarkin did not look entirely convincing but that’s just a question of technology and sooner or later we are going to get CGI character indistinguishable from flesh and blood. What will happen then. Will we see old favorites digitally rise from the grave to act again? In the case of Tarkin, I would imagine Cushing’s original contract allowed for his image to be used (pretty much the reason all those thousands of Star Wars toys could be produced) although I doubt anyone in the late seventies was thinking terms of digital actors.
I’d be really curious to know what the legalities of using someone’s appearance actually are. I know there have been court cases in regards merchandising, so I assume that if someone decided to make a new John Wayne film, agreement with his estate would have to be reached. As I write this the thought crosses my mind that I’ve been focused on actors and actresses but there are biopic films – there’s one on Jackie Kennedy this year – could movie studios choose to not to use an actor at all and instead have the image of the actual historical personage? Could we see digital actors that were never real people star in what are at least nominally live action films – an idea which know films have at least brushed against already.
The answer I suspect will, as if is so often the case boil down to this stuff:
Certain actors are inherently ‘bankable’, their appearance in a film guarantees a certain return. There is an entire secondary industry revolving around the private(ish) lives of celebrities. Would audiences be as attached to a collection ones and zeroes? Ultimately the entertainment industry will follow the money. If it makes sense on the profit and loss account it will happen. If it does not, then no matter how good the technology gets it will not. In end it will be tastes of the majority that make the decision.
I didn’t go into this one with high expectations, actually that’s a bit of a lie – my expectations were limbo pole low. This is mainly because I though The Force Awakens was a banquet of mediocrity written by an accountant who measured the worthiness of each line according how much merchandising it was estimated it would generate, so I really expected more of the same from Rogue One.
So let us cut to the chase is Rogue One good? Yes
Is Rogue One great? No.
Now in the name of full disclosure I’ll say this: I love the original Star Wars films. They were a huge part of my childhood, I got the a Millennium Falcon toy for Christmas one year – my late Grandfather apparently searched most of Belfast for. I know that I look at the originals through full on rose tinted glasses. The prequels on the other hand the glasses came off and I gave up on them after the second film. The old Expanded Universe I never got into so I am mostly ignorant of what it covered.
The very short summary is that this is the tale of how the rebellion found out about the Death Star and how the data plans reached Princess Leia at very the start of New Hope.
Now in my own opinion where Star Wars films have been weak is the sense that this is a galactic level civilization stretching across tens of thousands of worlds where everything of importance revolves around the same half dozen or so people. By having such an extreme focus on the Jedi and the Skywalker clan, a setting of thousands of worlds ended up being boiled down to a collection of people could fit into a single room. Rogue One redresses this, certainly there are some familiar faces but they are supporting acts. In fact the world building as a whole is where Rogue One really shines, with the Star Wars universe coming out this film a good deal richer than it went it. The whole worlds looks more grubby and lived in. In particular I think it is worth mentioning the politics. There is somewhere between five and ten minutes of dialogue spread across the entire film covering political matters, it gives us an Alliance that is shown to be a good deal more tenuous than seen before while the Empire is still having to step with some care around the Galactic Senate. In short it has done something very impressive – it has managed to fill in some of the logic gaps of the first film and dovetail in very smoothly.
The other thing that I think worth noting is the character of Jyn played by Felicity Jones, she is the first leading Star Wars character who isn’t hyper competent. Luke Skywalker flew the setting’s equivalent to a high performance fighter with no training while the Force Awaken’s Rey demonstrates similar levels of hyper competence. Here there are pauses when characters of faced with new equipment and situations which makes them a good deal more human and relatable.
That said there are negatives and without heading into spoiler territory there is a limit to what I can say about them. The opening twenty minutes is very choppy. The cameos were a bit of a mixed bag. Some were good, some not so good due to limits of technology, only one was a complete waste of six seconds. More seriously character arcs as the film went along became increasingly predictable and there were one or two gaps in the internal logic, including one of my bugbears – irresponsible use of FTL.
Overall I view Rogue One as a positive viewing experience both as a single film and for the franchise as a whole. A bit of life has been breathed into a franchise that has been sleepwalking for thirty years and hopefully we can hope to see more of this setting without the stupefying shadow of the Jedi.
Just in time for Christmas the Omnibus edition of the Nameless War is now out!
This also includes a sample of my next book – Out of Era, due out in 2017