Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Makes Star Wars So Different From Other Space Epics?

(Photo removed due to copyright reasons.)
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sorry about not checking in for the last two or three weeks.  There's been so much going on such as my parents visiting from Fresno and work at my day job. But I'm back on track so expect a post each week again.

Not only was this past Friday Geek Pride Day but it was also Towel Day for the ones who know Douglass Adams' satirical series of novels, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. On top of that, it was the 35th anniversary of the first Star Wars film, A New Hope. Strangely enough to some, the movie wasn't even given that secondary title until several years later. I'll always know it as just Star Wars, though; it's just so '70s that way. I guess you can blame that one on my era-centricity as I like to call it. Or better yet, my '70s geekism. 

Anyway, Friday was a day that many Adams' fans wore towels. I wore one off and on (with my clothes on, that is) but can't really say I demonstrated my geekdom since I hadn't left the house all that day; I was stuck inside working on my article in commemoration of the anniversary of the first Star Wars movie. Well, it was sort of a commemoration. The article is actually a short history of the movies inspired by the first Star Wars movie during those years that George Lucas's blockbuster space epic sparked an entire craze. Not only did Star Wars fandom hit everywhere and nearly everyone (even non geeks it seemed), but movie directors and studios of that time felt they could make big money off of their own "Star Wars" films. These films are all too often called rip-offs, but have also been referred to as knock-offs. I prefer calling them inspired movies, in this case Star Wars-inspired. Maybe that's just a nice way of saying rip-off, but when you think about it art inspires art.

We can't forget that Star Wars itself wasn't born within a vacuum. It was inspired by movies before it such as old space epic movie serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. But what makes a movie or story of any medium good is not always necessarily how new and unique it is but sometimes how new or unique it's told. George Lucas told his space epic setting it in a galaxy that has never come in contact with our own, an imaginary galaxy, hence the opening of each Star Wars film, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . . " and so gave his epic a fairy tale flavor. It is a story that makes us forget that our own world exists transporting us to a totally different world (or more like worlds).

This more overt fairy tale, legendary quality to a science fiction (or space fantasy as many like to call it) film is probably one of the things that made Star Wars so unique. Before that, most science fiction was centered in our own reality and so was always about Earthlings in conflict with beings of other planets. Of course, we can't forget that on top of this quality were the special effects that were like no others anyone had seen since Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. But Space Odyssey was a more hard science fiction film, whereas Star Wars was made to where the science and technology and did not matter.  Therefore Star Wars was made to be a mostly fun, entertaining movie rather than one that speculated on a future science so much. Also, by the time Star Wars came out, the special effects were already advanced to a more noticeable degree.

A great article that I read earlier this afternoon was one by a fellow Examiner and is about the monsters in the Star Wars films. If there's anything I've liked most in Star Wars it's been the monsters such as the humanoid ones in the first movie's cantina scene, the robotic At-Ats in the second film, and the rancor in the third. Not to mention, the beasts in the arena of the second prequel, Attack of the Clones.

Are you wondering what the best sci fi/fantasy movies to see on the big screen this summer are? My Examiner article from earlier last week makes some suggestions, so please take a look at it.

I'll leave you with that for now.

Until next time . . .

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How a Mexican Geek Celebrates Cinco de Mayo on a Free Comic Book Day

     (Photo removed for copyright reasons.)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This hasn’t been the best Cinco de Mayo or Free Comic Book Day for me.  I was supposed to attend a mini comic con at Empire Comics Vault in Sacramento but had to cancel all because a stupid glitch in the ATM at the bank in Woodland of No Return held me back.  So I drove over to the comic book store in Davis, Bizarro World, which is a lot closer to where I live. But I wasn’t able to get there until late in the afternoon so when I asked the owner, a really nice guy, if he had any free comics left he said he didn’t. That was both a good thing and a bad thing. It was a good thing because it drew a lot of people to read comic books who don’t often read them.  It was a bad thing in that some people didn’t get free comic books and yours truly was one of them. Actually, I didn’t even care that much. If I cared that much about the free comics I wouldn’t have planned to take an hour’s bus commute to Empire Comics; I would have just gone to Bizarro World to begin with. 

Empire Comics was the store that held the mini con that celebrated the day. (Free Comic Book Day that is, not Cinco de Mayo. But don’t think even us Mexican geeks don’t have a place in the Mexican holiday. More about that in a bit.) The real reason I go to Free Comic Book Day events is for the culture of it-- to be in an atmosphere of comic book fandom with fellow comic book fans who tend to be fans of other imaginative things too (for example, science fiction movies and literature, fantasy role playing games, horror, etc.) Such geeky culture is our culture that transcends race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and even politics in many ways.  (Although that last one does often overlap among us geeks, especially leftist ones such as myself.) It is a place for us to share our interests and passions and to converse without feeling like the person we’re talking with does not speak’a our language. In mainstream, non-geek culture you don’t feel that same bonding.

Now, many people might think that Free Comic Book Day falling on Cinco de Mayo is a contradiction. It’s not. Sure, two different events are being celebrated. But if you look at the two in a wider perspective, you’ll see the similarities. Comic book culture in Mexico and other parts of Latin America tend to be very big.  Traditionally, Mexico has had its own comic book characters like it has had many of its own B rated sci fi and fantasy movie characters.  One of these characters, who has been popular in the Mexican cinema, is El Santo. El Santo is a super hero-like masked wrestler who fights criminals who often tend to be fantastical villains such as aliens, Aztec mummies, zombies, vampires and even Frankenstein’s monster. Mexico and other parts of Latin America have a growing culture in science fiction and fantasy and this includes both A rated and B rated films. For a list of recommended Mexican sci fi/fantasy movies for viewing on Cinco de Mayo, or any time of the year for the matter, check out my most recent article at

Watching Mexican sci fi and horror movies, no matter how high quality or low quality or cheesy they may be, is how this film geek celebrates his Cinco de Mayo. Not to mention eating--at his favourite Mexican restaurant, Chipotle’s--a super beef burrito with natural meat and vegetables instead of the processed crap you get in too many other places, including other Mexican restaurants. Don’t even get me started on Taco Bell.

Until next time . . .