Friday, 17 April 2015

Star Wars

Star Wars - Can't Wait

After the release of the 2nd teaser trailer for 'The Force Awakens', like the first, has resulted in near universal excitement and anticipation, I stopped to think about why I'm so excited about this film.

I honestly can't remember when I've ever been so excited, hyped and generally going loopy over a film. The teaser yesterday left me, like many others, struggling to put my feelings into words and I wonder why that is, after all it's only a film, isn't it?

The answer to that has to be no, it isn't.

Star Wars changed cinema and movies for ever. I was 9 when Star Wars came out in the UK, it had been in the news for months as it broke record after record in the U.S.A. and the anticipation, for everyone was building to fever levels, for a 9 year old the wait was almost unbearable. Finally the release date came around, as it was just after Christmas we couldn't go straight away, having to wait for a few more days before we could go and see it. Our local cinema had announced they were sold out for days, something that just never happened, so we had to go to a bigger cinema, further away that had several screens with Star Wars showing on every screen. We went early and queued for quite some time before being able to get in, but that just built our anticipation. We weren't disappointed. It changed everything.

Since then, I have seen Star Wars more times than any other film, I've owned every version released to buy in the UK apart from the Laser Disc version, and how I wished we had a laser disc player to be able to get that, and would always watch it when it was on TV (I still do). It changed the way movies were made and promoted, it influenced everything that followed for decades and impacted on our culture like nothing before or since. When the special editions were released at the Cinema for the 20th Anniversary, I couldn't wait to go and see them, and it was like greeting an old friend, but with added pzazz. This just served to build the anticipation for the upcoming first prequel. The first trailer was greeted with perhaps more anticipation than the first teaser for The Force Awakens but, though it certainly generated excitement, it left some concerns for many, it didn't look like Star Wars and somehow you felt that you weren't as excited about it as you should have been. Of course, once it came out and it became clear how disappointing it was for the true fans that served to dampen the excitement further. Still though I hoped that actually it would be amazing. I can't remember watching it at the Cinema, not like the first Trilogy where I can remember each 'experience' clearly still though do remember coming out and thinking 'Is that it, what happened'

Looking back, it is perhaps easier now to identify why the prequels were so 'bad' compared to expectations and what they might have been. 

They are 'cartoons' clearly aimed at young children, rather than a gritty adventure aimed at all. The technology probably wasn't ready to match Lucas' vision and what resulted though probably the best they could do at the time, wasn't really good enough. The space ships didn't really look real, nor did the environments or 'aliens' but the key thing was that there just wasn't any sense of real danger. The 'robot' troops weren't scary or menacing in any sense and you just never connected with any of the characters in the way you did with Star Wars.

In Star Wars, characters died and even if they'd only had minimal screen time, as for some of the X-wing pilots, you genuinely felt the impact of their deaths. The whole 'Universe' was dark, dingy and dangerous. Though Darth Maul was a great character, he had none of the real menace that Vader had and though there was a key character 'death' at the end, it didn't have anything of the impact that Obi Wan's 'death' had.

As the other prequels came out, things didn't really improve. The whole plot/story felt convoluted and didn't really fit with the vision that you had of how it should have been. The Jedi Academy felt like an ordinary school when in reality Jedi Training should be dangerous and difficult, nothing really felt like it belonged in the same Universe that Star Wars existed in but hey, at least we had some new Star Wars films hey.

This time around, the Universe feels in safe hands, it seems clear from the first two teasers, the way they have gone back to physical sets and models and even shooting on film, not digital that the film makers understand what it is that 'made' Star Wars what it was- there is clearly a sense of menace, of things spiraling out of control, of danger and fighting against the odds and of course we have our beloved characters back, at least for this first film.

The Force Awakens is never going to impact on culture and movie making in the same way that Star Wars did, but it could have a similar short term impact. It easily has the capacity to become the biggest movie in history. Everyone who saw Star Wars as a child wants to see this, children today who have grown up with Star Wars everywhere want to see it as well, but it will always be 'Mine' and not 'theirs' - I saw it first and can't wait for 'The Force Awakens' - I just know it's going to be amazing, the way I feel when watching the teasers is like nothing I've experienced since the original trilogy. The Force has awakened and will be with us always - Yeehah!!


Friday, 10 April 2015

Big Guests at Cons

Big Guests, a good thing or bad thing?

Showmasters' latest forum post about a 'Big' guest announcement next week for this years London Film & Comic Con has prompted some thoughts.

Showmasters have something of a track record for over hyping guest announcements for their events, once or twice 'for fun' they have hyped up an announcement leading people to expect a huge guest leaving many people disappointed when the announcement is finally made. This means that many now take any such 'announcement' with a pinch of salt. This time though I suspect, as for Stan Lee last year, that this really will be an incredible guest. Of course no matter who it is, there will always be people who argue that they are not in fact a 'big guest' and that they are disappointed with the announcement and there will be others who will be overjoyed.

However, there are some 'warnings' within the post that are worthy of discussion. It is clear that this is genuinely an 'A list' guest. Although LFCC has a track record of 'big' guests, they have not had many genuine A listers over the years, nor many really BIG Hollywood stars. I suspect that this guest will tick both of those boxes, it is the 'biggest, rarest guest announcement' showmasters have ever had. 

Is this a good thing though?

It is clear that the only way to get an autograph from this guest is to purchase a Diamond Pass, which will be available in very limited numbers. They will also likely be far more expensive than anything Showmasters have ever had before. Comments on various forums are speculating that something above £400 is likely and I don't disagree with that, it might be much more, though it won't stray into 4 figures. Also with a very limited number of passes available for this guest, only a very few people who can afford that price will get to get an autograph. Who ever it is there will be many people left disappointed as they simply won't be able to afford the cost of this pass.

This guest is almost certainly going to be tucked away behind 'closed doors' with a heavy security team so it won't be someone that everyone can see simply by wandering around the event so for many, if not most people attending, all this guest means is more crowds, more queuing and inflated entrance prices. 

For the traders it means that although there are more people at the event, they have less money to spend on buying stuff, this was noticeable last year where though incredibly crowded, you literally couldn't move on the Saturday, many people were simply trying to make their way past the stalls to the signing areas, not even bothering to browse. As stall pitch fees have also increased substantially the nature of this event is fundamentally changing.

So, there are certainly downsides to getting 'BIG' guests. They increase prices overall, they increase crowding and inconvenience, only a select few are actually going to be able to meet/see the guest etc. etc. The LFCC events have changed over the last few years as they get bigger, it's now something of an 'ordeal' to attend on the Saturday, no longer quite as much 'fun' (for some) as it used to be. Many traders report lower takes, not higher, and some traders are abandoning the event (though equally some also do very well) - of those stalls there are, there are less of the quirky, small independent stalls and more stalls stocking essentially the same thing as everyone else. Many are upset at this and, after last years queuing disaster have said enough is enough and are not going to go this year.

HOWEVER, there are so many cons and events now in the UK that there are plenty of alternative events. If you want a relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere with space to enjoy the cosplay and browse the stalls then there are plenty of other events that offer that. LSCC in particular comes to mind. BUT what LFCC is now beginning to offer is unique in the UK and potentially in Europe, it is beginning to approach the standard of the big US cons in terms of the guests and 'exclusives' they are getting. The attendance is increasing and hence the big studios are more likely to oblige with 'panels' and screenings, you can now see 'guests' in the UK that might only otherwise appear at US events and the number of guests now at LFCC means that there will be someone for everyone. 

So although as a fan and as a trader I do have some negative thoughts about the way LFCC is changing, the crowding, queuing, change of atmosphere, lack of money in people's pockets to spend on stalls etc. I do think overall that the direction that LFCC is going can only be a good thing for UK con goers, it offers something that no other UK event offers and more choice and the ability to go to such an event in the UK rather than having to travel to the US, can only be positive.

So I wait with interest for this 'announcement' - I do have my own thoughts as to who it might be, but I'll probably be wrong, and people will be both amazed and disappointed by the announcement, but I do think it might be a bit special.. time will tell.