Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition

Star Wars early logo

Every writer is told to ‘build a platform’ (get your audience started) before publishing. How do you do that? Well, they’ll tell you to be active on social media and have a blog —

Great, I can do both of those.

— and have fresh content regularly.

Oh. One thing that can be hard to do is come up with topics for a blog. Harder still is finding a topic that someone else hasn’t already done better. Continue reading “Finding blog topics – Star Wars Logo edition”

On Willful Suspension of Disbelief

Black Panther

I just saw Black Panther, and it got me thinking about willful suspension of disbelief. I?ve got no problem with Vibranium, or a hidden African nation that is superior to western nations in all ways. I don?t have a problem with clothing that defies the laws of physics. This is Marvel?s Comic Universe, I?ll suspend my disbelief for these. But there was one thing in this film that tweaked me, pushed me out of the film for just a moment. Continue reading “On Willful Suspension of Disbelief”

Getting the Gang Back Together

The usual suspects

When I was a kid, I was a model maker, and was absolutely obsessed with Star Wars. Of course those two paths crossed (to someone?s great profit, I’m sure).

Prior to Star Wars, my show piece was a WWII era Corsair done up as Pappy Boyington’s bird. There was a Spitfire, a P-38 Lightning and some others. Back then I built in 1/48 scale. Continue reading “Getting the Gang Back Together”

Useless Plotlines in Last Jedi, Force Awakens, Valerian

Valerian

I’ve noticed this trend lately in science fiction movies, and it’s bothering me. The movie’s going along at a nice clip, but all of the sudden something happens that’s completely unnecessary to the story, and the film goes off the rails. Continue reading “Useless Plotlines in Last Jedi, Force Awakens, Valerian”

Spice World – the seminal Dune story

Dune trilogy covers

Everyone knows Dune (you do, don’t you? If not, why are you here?), and if you’ve even given this blog a cursory glance, you know that lately I’ve been obsessing about Dune more than a little.

I happened to chance onto a book called The Road to Dune in a local second-hand book store (I live in Malaysia. English is not the first language here, so it was a find). Within this book, along with deleted or early draft scenes from Dune and Dune Messiah, was a novella called Spice World. Continue reading “Spice World – the seminal Dune story”

Star Trek Discovery is not the Star Trek We Need

STD(Assume that this post contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery and the first three episodes of The Orville)

1966 was a time of rebellion in America: The Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the Free Love movement, were all on the rise. People were pissed — at the government, at the establishment, at each other, and at the ‘other.’ Continue reading “Star Trek Discovery is not the Star Trek We Need”

Thoughts on Passengers and Arrival

Passengers? release here in Malaysia bumped Arrival to a later date, which bothered me immensely, as I was anticipating Arrival much more. I assume that the Malaysian film industry buyers saw Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence and thought ?gold?. But Passengers disappeared quickly, and Arrival, once it arrived, gain screens (more so after it started be nominated for awards).

But it?s not fair to force these two films to compete against each other, even though they are in the same genre, Science Fiction, and were released close together. One is Earthbound, one if spacebound. One is about solving a mystery, the other about making an ethical choice. One is a deep, serious movie, one is almost a romantic date film (almost).

Both are about loneliness, but take different approaches to exploring it.

Interestingly, according to Box Office Mojo, they?ve both made just under US$100 million (but Arrival was made for half the budget, Passengers hasn?t recouped its production budget yet).

I loved Arrival. I really liked Passengers. There?s room for both of them in my heart.

Arrival is the slow-moving film that doesn?t give you all the answers. The characters work hard for their victories, and there?s that twist (no spoiler) that makes you rethink what you?ve just been watching. Passengers starts with a bang and ends a bit too rosily, compactly.

Amy Adams, in Arrival, is cautious, intelligent, confused, subtle. Jennifer Lawrence is very emotive and engaging, but not challenging. Jeremy Renner didn?t make a big impression on me in Arrival. Chris Pratt is Chris Pratt. Seeing him in anything makes me long for the next Guardians of the Galaxy. Michael Sheen, as the android bartender Arthur, almost steals any scene he?s in. He does an amazing job of making the character not human.

Both are decent original science fiction stories (as opposed to franchises). Their existence should be embrace by fans everywhere, as they add to the spectrum of good original science fiction films being produced year-in year-out (often lost in the sea of Star Wars / Marvel / Transformer films that shout louder for your attention.

If you haven?t seen either, I?d recommend both: Arrival for when you want a patient, thinking film and Passengers when you want an evening of adventure/romance with stunning sets (even if it gets ethically challenging in the middle).

Are Stormtroopers Really Bad Shots?

Poor stormtroopers, forced to wear limiting armour (you try shooting when your eye slot is so small), relentlessly teased for the inability to shot straight.

What do people know about them? They were the successors to the clone army that defeated the Jedi, supposedly inheriting a peaceful situation. Their activities tended more towards policing than large scale military action. They can?t hit the broad side of a barn.

It?s not just the stormtroopers who are bad shots

We know that Lucas modelled much of the Star Wars military universe after World War II films. Maybe the weaponry inaccuracy was also a reflection of that source. It?s not just the stormtroopers who are bad shots. So are the heroes (although the heroes are all Hollywood Grade A good shots when the plot needs).

According to one source, the US military industrial complex (if you could call it that in the 1940s) made over 47 billion rounds of small arms ammunition to be used in World War II. Chrysler alone was manufacturing 12.5 million rounds of ammunition a month, according to a different source.

This ammo wasn?t just for American soldiers. It was distributed among many allies, and there is no evidence that it was all fired, but that number, 47 billion, also doesn?t include ammunition made by any other country either. Germany had a big industrial war machine, as did England and Japan.

I think we can reasonably assume that 50 billion rounds of ammunition were fired over the course of the war.

So, how many people were killed in the war? Obviously exact numbers are almost impossible to find, but most estimates put the number at around 60 million people, or about 3% of the world?s population at that time. Not all of those people were killed by munitions – death camps, civilian casualties, starvation and other privations would have added to the toll as well, but for simplicity, I?m using the 60 million number.

Using those two numbers, 50 billion rounds and 60 million deaths, we softball a figure of 834 rounds fired for every death caused. That number rises to 926 rounds per death if we take out the approximately 6 million people who died in death camps.

A World War II era soldier would fire between 834 and 926 rounds to make a single kill.

So on average, a World War II era soldier would fire between 834 and 926 rounds to make a single kill.These numbers don?t distinguish between bullets and bombs. The destruction of soft targets like Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed amazing rates of return on ammunition used, further skewering the numbers. Obviously, the bigger the weapon the larger the potential number of victims. It could easily have been that a foot soldier would need to fire on average 1,000 rounds to make a single kill.

Now do our stormtroopers look so bad?

Let’s compare the firefight from the first film — just after Vader kills Ben — to the ensuing spaceship battle. Using the blaster, and not hindered by stormtrooper armour or helmet, Luke and Han kill all their adversaries (Luke even managed to hit the door blast door controls.) The stormtroopers can?t even hit the slow moving droids.

Minutes later, on the Falcon, both Han and Luke miss far more often than they hit when shooting at the Tie fighters. In fact even the Tie fighters, with a big fat target lumbering in front of them, don?t score a great deal of hits.

In World War II air combat, again, a source for Lucas’ combat scenes, an estimated 459.7 billion rounds were fired from aircraft. The USAF estimates that it fired 12,700 rounds for every enemy plane destroyed. Being a bad shot when both the shooter and the target are moving was a given in World War II.

This raises the question of why doesn?t a galaxy-wide, multi-species, spacefaring civilization have better technology. Maybe there wasn?t the need. Jedi had been the guardians of peace for a thousand years before the Empire rose. Military budgets may have been cut, military research left underfunded.

The ground assault troopers in The Empire Strikes Back seem to be better shots

Remember that the Imperial ground assault troopers in The Empire Strikes Back seem to be better shots that the original stormtroopers. Perhaps once the rebellion had ?gotten real’ the empire started giving serious weapons training to it?s otherwise pedestrian police force. Perhaps they?d started investing in technology.

But what happens if the technology gets too good?

One of the least believable scenes in The Force Awakens is when Po flies his X-wing (in the atmosphere above Maz’s castle) and manages about ten kills in very quick succession. Finn, watching from the ground, cheers, but those in my theatre muttered, ?yeah, right?? We?d already gotten accustomed to the idea that Star Wars weaponry just isn?t that accurate. It’s the one thing in the whole Star Wars universe that seems real.