Kylo Ren, the villain you hate to love but you love him anyway. He has already made it into the hearts of many Star Wars fans, has spawned memes and parodies and is in short a firmly entrenched part of Star Wars canon and geek/pop culture now.
While he was the main active antagonist in The Force Awakens, he came across as a far more nuanced and conflicted character than any of his predecessors except for his grandfather at the very end of Return of the Jedi.
Kylo Ren also makes some remarks during The Force Awakens and acts in certain ways that makes me think he is not quite as much on the Dark Side as you might expect. I also think he is not quite on the Dark Side on purpose.
Let me elaborate:
In the first trailer already, Kylo Ren says „I will finish, what you started“
In the same scene he also asks his grandfather for help. His grandfather is Anakin Skywalker, who was Darth Vader right up to minutes before he died. Darth Vader was redeemed by Luke Skywalker and became Anakin Skywalker again who upon bodily death became one with the Force and turned into a Force Ghost can be seen clearly in this (original and unaltered) still from Return of the Jedi:
There is no way I can imagine that Kylo Ren would not have been aware of the final fate of Anakin Skywalker. Luke surely shared it at one point with Leia and either or both of them must have told Ben Organa-Solo / Kylo Ren at some later occasion.
Also, it has to be noted that it was Anakin Skywalker, not Darth Vader, who sired Luke and Leia.
Anakin Skywalker was, believed to be the one chosen to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force, see this clip:
Again: „I will finish, what you started“
Anakin Skywalker (redeemed) actually destroyed the Sith by killing the last Sith, Darth Sidious. He managed to fulfill one part of the prophecy concerning „The Chosen One“ but he did not manage to bring balance to the Force. Kylo Ren has set out to achieve this. If he would truely be on the path to the Dark Side, why would he ask his redeemed grandfather for help who became a force ghost and joined Master Yoda and his teacher Obi Wan Kenobi? It only makes sense if he wants guidance to bring balance to the Force. Also, Kylo Ren is not a Sith, he is a Knight of Ren (from what we know now, anyway). The Sith are still destroyed.
Further, I am under the impression he has still more Light Side in him than he wants to. He has to become darker to be balanced. This is why he killed his father, but later sucks when he fights Rey. He needed to kill Han Solo to get closer to the Dark Side but never wanted to kill unless it is necessary for his plan.I think he does not really want to kill Rey, because he realises she is his „emergency off-switch“. Should he fail and be consumed by the Dark Side, she will still be capable of stopping him. Alternatively, he could see her as a deciple for later. She is a Force user and has shown both noble heroism and rage. She is not a Jedi yet. She could still become a balance Force user, capable of weilding both sides.
It is also noteworthy that Kylo does not Force-choke people who failed him and his rages seem almost comical. He is not that evil and has to act out his rages forcefully in order to become properly enraged as one would expect from someone strong in the Dark Side. There is still more good in Kylo than is good for his plan.
If this is all true, why was he looking for Luke? I guess it was not to kill him. I speculate he wanted to win him over andor capture him in order to share some insights he gained from the Dark Side, also, let him in on his plan and maybe team up with him in order to kill Snoke. Or he simply wanted to check wether Luke was dead or not. Maybe his plan was to first kill Luke and then Snoke, leaving only him, the only one remaining with training in the Light and the Dark Side. Here opens another venue of speculation: Maybe Rey’s entry messed up Kylo’s plan because he did not factor in another Force user who would oppose him. Maybe this will be a major driver in the upcoming movies.
So, I think Kylo Ren is a double agent, not for the Jedi, but for his own agenda, which is to bring balance to The Force.
Here it is, the long-awaited first sequel to the original trilogy which ended with Return of the Jedi. I was a whole week late and had to do my best to avoid spoilers on various channels.
I was really jittery when I bought the ticket and then sat down in the cinema. I had heard good things but was still unsure. The memory of The Phantom Menace was still clinging to my mind like Mynok snot.
My worries were completely unfounded.
The short review: The Force is strong with this one!
Now for the longer one:
Right from the beginning, The Force Awakens, feels right. A clandestine meeting where important information is traded and then the action starts: Stormtroopers arrive and actually prove themselves to be able to hit something.
From this point forward, tension and action never leave the movie, you always get at least one of the two. The new main characters, Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Renn and BB-8 are each introduced in their own way and very fittingly and they fill their roles perfectly. The only time they get eclipsed as the main characters of the story is when Han Solo and Chewbacca make their entrance. After all, who could steal the show from those two living legends?
The new locations introduced are reminiscent of places well known to fans but are only a reminder, a view that touches a memory. They are not cheap copies of something that worked once before. One thing that is unique about The Force Awakens is how it handles the Force and how people who are strong in the Force experience the universe, especially when other things connected to the Force are involved.
The Force Awakens adds a lot of depth to the Star Wars Universe. We now not only get a female lead that is actually vital in driving the plot, we have a non-white lead and we have female combat personel on both sides. We also get a look into how the Empire used to and now the First Order recruits Stormtroopers.
The whole movie also feels more real than any of the prequel trilogy did, which had an almost plasticy feel too it. The old grit of the original trilogy is back. J J Abrams said on a number of occasions that he would go back to animatronics, masks etc. instead of using (and abusing) CGI. He was true to his word and the movie is all the better for it.
The Force Awakens is also full of little details, winks and nods to its predecessors, I caught a few but trying to find them all the first time I watched the movie would have been too distracting, so I guess I have to watch it again (and again, and again!)
Coming back to the characters, although Rey clearly takes center stage and is one great character and destined to [redacted] I thought Finn was more interesting. A reformed Stormtrooper with absolutely no social skills trying to do what his conscience tells him is the right thing. He is the accidental hero, and he gets to play with all the things (literally) the great ones of the first trilogy got to play with. The same is true for Rey, but she is [redacted]. I really love Rey, she is strong, independend, [redacted] and quite obviously a great person with a destiny, but Finn is something new, a character with no parallel in neither of the two previous trilogies.
And then there is Kylo Ren… The villain you hate to love but trust me, you will love him. He is everything Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy should have been but failed to be. Kylo Ren brings more nuances to the Dark Side than either Vader, Dooku, Sidious, or Maul did. I am really looking foreward to seeing him in Star Wars VIII.
One thing I found lacking, though: The plot is far from original. The parallels to [redacted] are too obvious. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens. I have already pre-ordered the DVD. J. J. Abrams has successfully ressourected the franchise from the ashes of the Prequels.
Disney keeps the excitement high and all of us glued to the screen with yet another teaser being dropped while the time to the grand reveal of Star Wars – The Force Awakens shrinks down to just over a month. Much of the footage in this one is known from previous trailers and teasers, but a few new tantalizing scenes to fuel speculation are also in there.
A while ago I featured the horror short film Love is a Grave. Now the company behind this movie is up to something new:
The year is 1868. In a swamp near the Louisiana Line, a man goes to the Crossroads to resurrect his lover.
And that is already everything known up to this point. The teaser trailer already looks promising, take a look:
There is an upcoming Indigogo campaign, starting at the 17th of August, I keep you posted and will follow this closely myself. It is not quite Herbert West, but hey, you can’t have Cthulhu and his Mythos everywhere, can you?
This is another gem that came in through the ætherbox.
Long after the last great cities have crumbled, Eugene is the last botanist on the planet,
in fact he may very well be the last of our ill-fated species.
Trapped indoors by an endless winter storm since he was a child, Eugene has but one friend:
OLIVE – his undersized, undernourished tree that is overborne with pesky flies. Together, inside of their ramshackle cottage built of spare parts, apocalyptic debris, and plain ol’ rubbish, their companionship has stood the test of time and decay.
But, as Olive’s sparse leaves begin to dry up and fall, this bond is in peril. As their only source of water, an intricate mechanical aqueduct clogs up and grinds to a stop, Eugene must meticulously clean and rebuild the aqueduct – racing to save life on Earth as we know it.
What an interesting and postapocalyptic-steampunk idea. I also like the quasi-ice-age setting. I added my own thoughts and story to a German steampunk universe set during an ice age on earth.
The story is intriguing, as is the concept artwork:
And this is the pitch, some background and the story behind the story and the movie:
Also, this is a very different take on the postapocalyptic and Steampunk settings, because Steampunk is rather optimistic in general but this project is set against a pretty harsh background and it is set in the distant future without any postapocalyptic or steampunk high-tech. From the information taht is available at the Kickstarter page, the aqueduct and the whole cottage is made from debris and junk. Ancient material and if there is any high tech somewhere, it has long since stopped functioning.
So, Olive promises to be a very uniqque and different movie experience, and, if you check their site, it is backed by an amazing array of talented people from the business. I am looking forward to seeing it completed. If you are interested, lend your support here: Olive – Kicktarter.
2015 is not a good year for living legends, it seems. Christopher Lee has passed on at the venerable age of 93.
Christopher Lee was one of those actors that do not need an introduction and he has very likely played more iconic roles over a greater period of time than any other actor in living memory, if ever.
Hammer Films‘ Dracula, Saruman, Count Dooku, to just name a few. On top of that, he had his own heavy metal project and was with British Intelligence during World War 2.
Rest in Peace, Sir, your memory will live on, you will be sorely missed. Send my best regards to your friend Peter Cushing.
When this blog was young, I featured a short piece called Lightning in the Bottle in two separate postings. Now, almost five years later, the creative head of Lightning in the Bottle, Drew Hall, has contacted me again.
He has teamed up with some amazing talent such as Alex Funke, Oscar winner for VFX on Lord of the Rings, to create an original Steampunk universe for the movie Aether: Rise of Specter.
The movie is not based on an alternate version of Earth but some other place entirely, with no connection to Earth at all. As Drew says:
Aether is a steampunk inspired science fiction film set in a world of flying cities, massive airships, and ghost towns. On the tiny island of Deos, the citizens in the small town of Specter struggle to survive, as the wealthy floating city of Wavelinde looms overhead serving as a constant reminder of oppression. Meanwhile, a storm is building in the savage mines held by the Bruewen. War is coming.
I have seen the trailers, outtakes and behind the scenes you can find at Drew’s Vimeo Channel, and I must say, they look amazing, the artwork, too!
I am talking about this (it’s just an appetiser!):
And here is a gallery with concept art and stills:
And now, make your way to their website and find out more, there is so much more! Let yourselves be amazed, this looks like the kind of indie Steampunk movie I have been waiting for, an original setting, stunning costumes and FX, mystery, adventure… Can’t wait to see the final product!
As I mentioned in the podcast two days ago, there is a Space 1889 movie in the making in Viernheim, Germany and there is a Kickstarter project for the movie, please lend your support!
Here is some more info on what the project and the movie are all about:
Space 1889 is THE original Steampunk roleplaying game, created bei Frank Chadwick in 1988. Or rather: it’s „Steampunk light“ the way you might know it from the works of Jules Verne, which makes it easier to turn into a movie than typical Steampunk stories. In the world of Space 1889 the colonial powers of Earth – thanks to Thomas Edison’s invention, the Ether Propeller – were able to conquer other planets of our solar system and make contact with the lords of the Mars channels and Lizardmen on Venus. The new edition of Space 1889 was funded thanks to a Kickstarter campaign by Clockwork Publishing some time ago. It’s the ideal setting for adventurous stories in a streampunky sci-fi setting.
In „Secret of Phobos“ you will, of course, get a short introduction to the world of Space 1889 in which Thomas Edison and Jack Armstron reached Mars with the help of their spaceship prototype nearly 20 years before the main story-arc begins. These two iconic characters will be important to the plot, but the main story is about a young female adventurer, Armstrong’s niece. Together with her Martian butler and a young writer she gets caught in a huge conspiracy: her uncle’s and Edison’s mistakes from the past make her a target for a dark cult and the last hope for a Martian princess. Our heroes‘ journey leads them from Venus back to Earth, to Mars and finally to Mars‘ eerie moon Phobos. It features ancient secrets, wild chases, dinosaurs, drama and and a well dosed portion of humor – as we are fully aware that this is a very low budget project and those shouldn’t take themselves too serious.
Of course, there is more info available at the Kickstarter webpage.
Now, I am really excited about this movie, I have played the role playing game and have also been involved with the Space 1889 & Beyond series of novels. During this involvement, I had the opportunity to interview Frank Chadwick, the original inventor and author of Space 1889.
So, I decided to ask the people responsible for the movie for an interview to help promote it, they reacted enthusiastically to my request and it is with great pleasure I now give you the interview with Mháire Stritter and Nico Mendrek:
Please tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Mháire: I’m a freelance journalist and translator, studied Sinology (Chinese) for 6 years and have been fascinated by anything out of the ordinary for all my life. I love fantasy and science fiction worlds, costumes, writing story-telling – and for about six years now I’ve been on camera nearly every day. My hobbies are roleplaying, both tabletop and live, reading, collecting and painting (and very occasionally playing with) miniatures, building costumes and PC-Gaming.
Nico: I’m a video journalist (simultaneously editor/cameraman/video editor) who tried to study biology once. I’ve been working for many German TV networks as a freelancer, then I was in charge of the online video department of pcgames.de for a couple of years … and now I am making a lot of videos for the German pen and paper „industry“. I’ve been into filmmaking since school, produced and directed a number of very cheap films and webseries and was lucky enough to even do so as part of my regular job!
Since the film is set in an RPG universe, when did you start role playing / life role playing?
Mháire: I started tabletop-roleplaying when I was about 12. My brother and I found a box for the German roleplaying game The Dark Eye and simply tried it out. And then I kind of never quit – I also played a lot of Shadowrun in my teenage years, several editions of DnD, a few systems written by friends or by me and the occasional session of Cthulhu, The One Ring, Apocalypse World, Dark Heresy and more. I first tried LARP when I was 15 and the first game was simply awesome (I ran with a pack of other teenage girls with ugly home-crafted weapons and improvised costumes, but it was GREAT) and the second was terrible and then it took years before I tried it again in my early twen-years. I’m not too much into the fighting anymore, but love to sew and craft costumes and really immerse myself in a fantasy world.
Nico: My story is quite similar. Just add 3 years to the age and skip the sewing and crafting part. The bit with a pack of teenage girls is true, though.
Did you know about steampunk before you came into contact with Space: 1889?
Mháire: Definitely. I do have a love for Victorian fashion – originally without gears 😉 – since my mother runs a small costume studio and used me as a model for some very lovely gowns. You’re probably going to see at least one of those in the movie. And then I gradually got to know about Steampunk – thanks to webcomics, friends and cosplayers on conventions. For myself I still prefer a simpler, more realistic version of Victorian fashion, but I’m totally in love with and amazed by the attention for detail and the simple joy of playing around with ideas that are part of this community.
Nico: I knew about it, but I didn’t really come in touch with the steampunk scene until recently. You can only be at home in so many scenes and there was already The Dark Eye, Star Wars, Discworld … But Jules Verne will always be among my top three favourite authors, if that counts.
Have you been in touch with Space: 1889 fans worldwide concerning this project?
Mháire: Since we work closely with Clockwork publishing who did the reboot of Space 1889, we do have connections to fans abroad. Nico can probably say something more precise about it 😉
Nico: Well … there is of course the creator Frank Chadwick who had to approve of the project (and luckily did). Recently we met Timothy Brown who also worked on Space 1889 back then and is a backer now. Furthermore there are some Steampunk fans in England who will appear as actors in the film.
When did you first have the idea for the movie?
Mháire: I can’t quite remember when we first talked about it. I think it was around when the German version of the new Space 1889 was published. We’re friends with the people from Clockwork and it was simply like: „Hey, that’s a great setting for a film what do you think?“ Again, Nico probably has a loooot more details since he’s the actual filmmaker.
Nico: Actually back then I said to Patric of Clockwork: I’ll help you with the videos for the Space 1889 crowdfunding – but the next Kickstarter will be a movie in that setting. So the idea is close to two years old and we’ve been working on the script, effects and the teaser since then.
Has any sort of production other than the trailer already happened?
Mháire: Mostly work on the script and tests for effects. Some of them are the few CGI-effects we will have to use, to pin a convincing Mars over the landscape of Iceland for instance. Others are works on miniatures and tiny Martian landscapes.
And this is the trailer:
And here are two behind the scenes photos from the trailer:
Have you done similar projects (maybe on a smaller scale) in the past?
Mháire: We made a fan-film for the German roleplaying game The Dark Eye: Leuenklinge. From the first day of shooting to the final version it took us … four years? I think. We shot on a lot of different locations with a lot of people who gathered for a weekend on a castle or in some woodland area in the boondocks of Germany. Everyone brought their own costume, we often had to improvise practically everything and it only worked out because everyone spent a lot of time and enthusiasm on the project. There was NO budget …but we made it. And it’s actually not quite bad! It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle with very different kinds of effects (or no effects), music by at least three different people and if you pay attention you’ll notice the dwarf is a different person behind the beard every second scene – but it’s finished. It’s even got fans. A few hundred. Just imagine what we could do with a bit of money 😉
Nico: And then there were two even cheaper discworld fan films for which we even had a contract with Terry Pratchett, a recent horror parody shot in under twelve hours and a Star Wars: The Old Republic webseries we made for pcgames.de ..
Was it hard to recruit actors (or did you have to drive aplicants away with a big stick)?
Mháire: Thanks to Leuenklinge we already have a handful of people who can act on camera. It’s a bit harder to find actor’s outside of Germany for the Brits and French characters in the film. So, it’s neither that we’re swamped with actors nor that we’re desperate to find someone.
What locations are used in the movie?
Mháire: That depends on the success of the Kickstarter. We plan to use the Azores for Venusian jungles – there’s beautiful rainforest on the islands and during off-season flights are very cheap, while the weather stays mild. The Martian drylands will be shot on locations in former Yugoslavia where several European „Western“-movies were made, but we will probably also use the Taklamakan and the Gobi since we plan to take the Silkroad to China for another project. And while we’re there (and brought along some actors) …
Nico: Of course the interiors of space ships will have to be build – but we have already chosen which attic to use for that – unless we reach the stretchgoal that enables us to build that set into a mobile home. And then there are many Victorian-looking environments in which we want to shoot scenes on Earth. One very generous person even offered us his home for a couple of scenes: A large country house with its own park that was used for tv movies a lot of times.
Have you promoted the movie anywhere before you started the Kickstarter?
Mháire: We did have the trailer up and promoted it on conventions and online before we decided on the Kickstarter campaign. So, yes, we did, but not at the level of the campaign.
Have you tried to find out the chances of success (perhaps based on the responses of people you shared the idea with) before you started the campaign?
Mháire: Well, we tried, but you never know. Crowdfunding is basically testing the chance of success in a make-or-brake kind of way.
In case you really overshoot your target by a lot, would you consider subtitles in more languages?
Mháire: Of course! That is probably going to be the first stretchgoal after the ones we currently offer.
Nico: I think it’s already possible if we reach the second or third stretchgoal, to add at least French and Spanish subtitles as well.
And the final one:
Are you planning on showing the finished movie in an actual cinema, too?
Mháire: Yes, we are. As part of the premiere – the plan is to rent a cinema for a private showing. So yes, it will be in an actual cinema. No, it probably won’t be shown there regularly ;).
Thank you so much for your time, Mháire and Nico, and the efforts you are putting into this project.