Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SW Musings: Goofy Fun

Or not...spent yesterday baking gingerbread cookies. Even though it's over 90 degrees outside, my goal was to get this place smelling a little bit more like Christmas. Or, at least, burnt cookie. Mission (more or less) accomplished!

No...they didn't look like this.
My child wanted some of the gingerbread men to resemble characters from Star Wars...specifically Darth Maul, Yoda, R2, and Qui-Gon (we've been watching a lot of Phantom Menace the last couple days). Thanks to being a journeyman Play-Doh mason these days, I was able to get some reasonable silhouettes (I think)...certainly D was pleased with the end result.

I won't discuss the myriad difficulties associated with the task of baking in a country where people don't cook or really know how to do anything more than grill meat and starchy root vegetables. Instead I want to muse a little bit about modeling Star Wars in an RPG...a topic I realize I've visited more than a few times over the life of this blog (with little success).

Once upon a time, I had hit upon an idea for a way to "do Star Wars" as a knock-off of an existing game. Actually, there were couple four systems that would make good "hacks" for a SW-type game. B/X was one. Trollbabe was another. Dogs in the Vinyard a third...though having just purchased the last one and read it over the last few days, I see exactly how mistaken I was: DitV works well for a number of genres, but it is one that really needs to be tied in tight with religion, and there's just not enough theology to the pseudo-religion of the Jedi.

Oh, yeah...I should probably mention that I mean these are good hacks for a Jedi-centric game, not an overall "galactic space opera adventure" game. If you want something akin to the original trilogy (or, at least, the original film)...well, there are other systems to hack for that style. Systems that will allow for goofy fun in more than just a few passing ways. Star Wars, like that other 80s space opera film series (Star Trek) was all about the goofy fun.

There's a part of space opera that really cries out for goofy fun...and by this I mean a "not taking itself too seriously" approach. Probably because it IS "space opera." The technology isn't based on "hard science" (laser guns/swords, FTL travel, AI robots that "feel," psychic powers, etc.). It's fantasy, and melodramatic fantasy of world-shattering destruction (literally). That's why Guardians of the Galaxy, with its goofy cast, is such good space opera.

Despite the fancy special effects and (yes, really) heart that is injected into Episodes I, II, and III, there's very little real humor instilled in the films...especially the kind of self-deprecating type of the original trilogy. Han Solo, for all his bad-assedness at piloting and shooting, often comes off as a lovable buffoon. Leia ends up humbled by Solo's wit more often than any other "princess" I remember seeing on celluloid (and what does it say that she ends up with the buffoon by the end?). And while Luke is certainly a force to be reckoned with by RotJ (no pun intended), he had a lot of ground to make up from being wet-behind-the-ears kid of the first movie...but of course, his story evolves along a significantly different path from the others through Empire and Return of the Jedi.

Very little humor or silliness is found in the prequel fact, the one with the most might be The Phantom Menace and, no, I'm not talking about Jar-Jar. Here we have Qui-Gon failing to influence Watoo with his mind-tricks. Here we have Anakin admitting he's never actually managed to finish a pod race. Here we have Obi-Wan referring to their own party as rather "pathetic life-forms."

Not taking oneself too seriously means allowing yourself to be admit that you aren't the invincible action hero but a person with flaws and foibles and ability to laugh (or at least grudgingly smirk) at your own failings.

As a related aside: I realize I never did get back to what I thought about the Star Wars VII trailer. My overall impression was that what I saw was interesting...and that I would be interested in seeing more. I found J.J. Abrams's interpretation of Star Trek was full of contrasts between the seriousness of the situation and the playfulness/humor of the other words, pretty good space opera. This gives me quite a bit of optimism for a good Star Wars flick.

Hmmm...more on this later (perhaps).


  1. I thought the post was going to be about Swords & Wizardry. I watched the three original Star Wars as a kid (I'm 41). I watched the Phantom Menace but couldn't get into it. Never bothered to watch the next two movies. I loved the original Star Trek series but was never enthused about the newer versions.

    1. @ Darn:

      Funny enough, I only heard about the SWVII trailer from my 68 year old father, who was most enthused. He, too, has never seen the prequel trilogy (he was a big fan of the original films) and I advised him not to bother...if you somehow managed to miss them, there's not much you're really missing by not having them in your brain.

      That being said, I found many things to like in those films.

  2. I would enjoy your post about living in an area that you do. Sounds like my kind of post.

    I baked chicken men for the dogs. Like gingerbread shapes.

    1. @ Whisk:

      Ha! I thought a baking post might bring you over to my neck o the woods.
      ; )

      I could post a whole series on living in Paraguay, but I'm afraid it would sound like a bunch of bitching and a lifelong American I've gotten spoiled by things the Paraguayans probably don't even miss (seeing as how they've never had 'em). I'm whiny enough as it is without subjecting the readers to too much of that!

    2. Hey JB - This is Whisk. I'm on Tim's account. I didn't know you weren't on my list. Fixing things now.

      Yes, I understand what you're saying. And it makes sense. Okay, I'm still on Tim's account clearing out his dead blogs but will be back to get you on my page as well.

      Happy Christmas. And I do agree with you about having Tim as a camera man. It does help to have that person there.

      Thanks for those comments.

      Okay .. back to deleting dead blogs on his account. Catch ya' a bit later.

    3. Now I'm back to me. Everything in order. Hubby should be home for supper. You have a great weekend and I'll catch you again soon.

      Cheers and boogie boogie.

  3. Last summer, we used a Christmas bell cookie cutter and some chocolate sauce decoration to make Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmet cookies. Bet your son would like that.

    And I agree about the humor/goofiness being necessary for good space opera. It needs to be comedy (in the Ancient Greek dramatic sense), rather than tragedy.

    And the people MAKING the movie need to take it seriously, so that when the characters don't take their situation seriously it feels genuine. Avengers and GotG both hit that sweet spot there, and I'm glad they did. If they'd tried to mimic Nolan's Dark Knight in style/tone with Avengers, if would have bombed, IMO.

    1. @ Lord Gwyd:

      Well, humor is a vital part of any film, really...I mean, unless you want to make something really dark and dreary (though even the darkest films will often have some dark humor in 'em).

      But, yeah, superhero and space opera genres need to take themselves a little less seriously if they want to succeed. I think even the Nolan trilogy poked some fun at the genre ("And yes, Mr. Wayne, it comes in black [color], too.") while still taking the subject matter seriously.

      The only cut-out shape we could find was a fat humanoid-type...but we managed to make it work. Back in Seattle we have more cut-outs, including a bell I'm sure, and we'll try your stormtrooper improv at some future date.
      : )

  4. What, no pictures of the gingerbread jedi?