Author’s Note: Your planet, welcome! Here’s the dealie. I watch a lot of TV and make a lot of observations about pop culture. Normally, I e-mail these observations to friends, but every once in a while, I compile these observations and rants into a column. And here’s the latest installment!
Wow! First midnight rambling from Japan! I’ve been trying to keep up to date on movie news and stuff while I’m over here, but for the most part, I’ve been distracted. My main distraction today has come from the classic video game Need For Speed II: SE. You know, I’ve had that game for at least two years, but today I finally figured out, “Hey! If I play this game on knockout mode and win, I unlock tracks! If I play this game in tournament mode and win, I unlock cars!” So, by sitting and playing it all afternoon, I’ve unlocked one track and two cars. I love the track I’ve unlocked. It takes you racing through a Hollywood back-lot. There’s something surreal about racing Ferraris down the Death Star Trench.
Speaking of the Death Star Trench, I’ve come to a startling realization. Mace Windu has a purple lightsaber. You’re probably reading that and thinking, “Yeah. I knew that.” But you know, I think that, for me, it finally sunk in. They were showing a clip of Episode II on TV, from that massive Jedi battle at the end, and that’s when I noticed that no other Jedi had a purple lightsaber. Mace Windu is the only purple lightsaber. He is the only one. No one else. Just Mace. Only Mace has a purple lightsaber. Mace Windu is the only Jedi Knight whose lightsaber is purple.
Did you hear the urban legend about how Mace Windu got a purple lightsaber? I read this at one of my movie gossip websites about a year ago or so. It was told straight from the mouth of Samuel L. Jackson. As the story goes, Samuel had just picked out Mace Windu’s lightsaber when George Lucas walked up to him and said, “So, what color do you want your lightsaber to be?” Samuel said, “Purple.” George was taken aback at this, and said, “Well, you know, it’s been established that the bad guys have red, and the good guys have blue or green. So, what color do you want your lightsaber to be?” Samuel again looked at George and said, “Purple.” George hummed and hawed and finally said, “I’ll think about it.” So, about six months later, Samuel got the first promotional shots of Mace Windu with his lightsaber, and lo and behold, Mace’s saber was purple.
So, I was in Tokyo today, and I finally got to the massive English bookstore. It wasn’t as massive as I was led to believe. Anyway, I was leafing through a copy of Star Wars Insider, and I read the news that Dark Horse Comics has gotten permission from Lucasfilm and Marvel Comics to reprint the old Marvel Comics Star Wars comics in trade paperback form. Dark Horse is reprinting every issue in a series of trade paperbacks under the banner of Star Wars: A Long Time Ago…. Marvel’s Star Wars comic, besides being the first Star Wars comic, ran for 107 regular issues and three annuals spread over nine years: 1977-1986. The article then went on to bring us some of the highlights from the Marvel series, such as:
– The wonderfully melodramatic tagline on the first issue: “Luke Skywalker. Will he save the galaxy…or destroy it?”
– The most in-depth look at the Mandalorians and Boba Fett’s origin, before we got to see the “official” origin in Attack of the Clones.
– The first appearance of Jabba the Hutt, looking…a lot like a fat man with stubble. Remember seeing that footage from Star Wars of Han talking to Jabba before they took out Jabba and put in the Jabba we all know and love? Well, Jabba looking like that.
– The first ever prequel story, featuring young Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi battling off some space pirates (the article says, “All though Anakin is no where to be seen, Obi-Wan’s dry wit is in abundant supply”).
– The second-last issue of the series was meant to kick-off a massive, 2-year long storyline. But, the cancellation of the series meant that 2 years worth of story had to be compressed into a single issue.
– Apparently, post-Return of the Jedi, we got to see Luke battle a female Sith Lord whose weapon of choice was a light-whip.
This just might be worth checking out. It’s even being “special editioned,” with Dark Horse going back and digitally re-coloring these 25-year old comics.
(As I think about this, I wonder if this includes the Ewoks and Droids comics that Marvel did under their Star Comics label.)
And in another bookstore in Tokyo, I saw something I would kill to get. Do you know what NPR is? That’s National Public Radio, the American counterpart to CBC radio. Anyway, back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they went and they made radio show adaptations of the original Star Wars trilogy. And there, in Tokyo, I found the radio show adaptations of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, all on CD. Starring Mark Hamil as the voice of Luke Skywalker (except in Jedi) and Anthony Daniels as the voice of C-3P0. Talk about great for a long road trip! I would have loved to get it, but each film was a 4-CD set, and each one cost about 6000 yen. Maybe with the next paycheque.
Speaking of radio shows, I have to ask you if you ever heard of Two Plays for Voices by Neil Gaiman. They’re advertised in the back of American Gods. “Not available in print! Only on CD and cassette!” The two plays are sold separately, and I had to go to Neilgaiman.com too find out more:
Snow Glass Apples – Neil Gaiman gives us a revisionist look at Snow White. Gaiman asks, “What if the Queen was the good one and Snow White the evil one?” So, in the Gaiman version, Snow White is actually some form of demon-child, and the Queen keeps trying to kill her in order to save her Queendom. And, if Harry Knowles is to be believed, Gaiman originally intended this to be a short film, and mark his directorial debut with it.
Murder Mysteries – This one I knew about before checking out Neilgaiman.com. It is shortly after the creation of the Garden of Eden, and an angel turns up dead in heaven. So, God dispatches the Angel of Vengeance to find the killer. It then turns into a riff on 1940s detective stories. I knew about this one because David Goyer, who wrote the Blade movies, is currently adapting it into a screenplay and hoping to mark his directorial debut with it.
And speaking of movie news, have you heard the latest on the DC Comics movie front? A few months ago, it was announced with much hype and fanfare that Warner Brothers would be producing a clash of the titans entitled Batman vs. Superman. Wolfgang Peterson, who brought us In the Line of Fire, Outbreak, and Air Force One was going to direct. Andrew Kevin Walker, the writer of Seven, had written the screenplay. Actors were being cast to play Batman and Superman. And then…the project was put on hold. Peterson decided to go make Troy instead, a Gladiator-style epic about the Trojan War. But still, people are scratching their heads going, “What happened?”
Well, rumour has it, that this is what happened. Besides Batman vs. Superman, Warner Brothers was also actively developing a Batman 5 and a Superman 5. The guy in charge of Superman 5 was McG, a music video director whose only movie credit so far is Charlie’s Angels. Superman 5 was being written by guy named J.J. Abrams. Now, what killed Batman vs. Superman? Well, J.J. Abrams’s latest script for Superman 5 apparently rocked so hard that Warner Brothers felt that Superman 5 would be a better direction to go in than Batman vs. Superman.
And things get better. It has also been revealed that helping to co-write this new Superman 5 script was so draining that McG no longer wants to direct it. He has left the project. So, the short list of new directors is: David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, and, most recently, Panic Room), Michael Mann (The Insider, Ali), Rob Bowman (Reign of Fire, The X-Files Movie) and Steven Soderburg (Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s 11). All good choices.
Anyway, since Spider-Man was such a big hit, Warner Brothers really wants to strike while the superhero iron is hot, so I’m hoping this can be made and that it will be good. Oh, and forget the long-rumoured Superman Lives and Superman Reborn titles. The current title is Superman: the Man of Steel.
Yeah, Spider-Man rocked, didn’t it? 2003 is going to be a great year for Marvel Comics movies. We’ve got Daredevil coming in February, X-Men 2 coming in May, and Hulk in July. I’ve seen the teaser for Daredevil and it actually looks pretty good, despite Ben Affleck playing the titular hero. The first teaser for X-Men 2 has just hit the ‘net, and it rocks hard! I love it! Oh, but I keep forgetting. Starting with the grand tradition that began with T2, X-Men 2 is actually named X2. And as for Hulk, well….
The man in charge of Hulk is Ang Lee, the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And from what I read online, he’s got some crazy ideas. Things like making Bruce Banner’s dual personality an affliction he was born with. Like making Bruce Banner’s father his arch-enemy, the Absorbing Man. And “Hulk dogs.” These are dogs that also turn big, green, and muscular when they get angry, and somewhere in the film, the Hulk has to fight off a pack of them. I don’t know about this one. I’m trying to remain…cautiously pessimistic.
But, since I am in Japan, I guess I should ramble on something specifically Japanese. Every morning when I wake up, I watch this kids show called The Rap Tones. Part of the show’s goal is to teach English, so the show is about 80% in English. The concept is simple. It’s the wacky misadventures of a family band. And, like a typical family, they’ve got a mom, a dad, a daughter, a giant worm, a little dinosaur, and a huge-ass furry bird thing. Now, I often watch this show, and wonder, “How does the huge-ass furry bird fit in to this family?” I mean, the worm and dinosaur are obviously pets. Every good family needs pets. But, for a little girl, I would probably go for a kitten or a puppy rather than a dinosaur and a giant worm. To each his own. But that bird thing…. He sings and dances and talks, so he’s obviously sentient. Now, this family wouldn’t be so cruel as to keep a sentient being as a pet. So, then, what is the origin of this bird thing? Was it left on their doorstep in the middle of the night, and they decided to raise it as their own? Or was it the result of a night of drunken experimentation in college, and they decided to love their little freak baby regardless? I don’t know.
Anyway, I think I’m about rambled out. Time for more Need for Speed II. You know, there’s this one video game I always wanted to try called American McGee’s Alice. Chuck has it. I wonder if he brought it to Japan, and if he’d part with it….