star wars card game

My first published piece of film criticism came on May 20, 1999, two weeks shy of my fifteenth birthday. The night before, a group of my friends had spent the entire day camped out in front of the local movie theater waiting to purchase tickets for George Lucas’ long-awaited Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. After the movie ended, a reporter from our local newspaper was there to capture everyone’s first impressions and managed to jot down my breathless praise of the film for posterity’s sake: “I don’t think I can wait two years for the next one,” this naïve young Star Wars fan gushed, noting that the movie “threw open so many doors” and “left us hanging in a big way.” It goes without saying that it took me years to live these words down within my circle of friends.

It’s easy to remember the number of breathless articles written about Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and how many fans were excited to finally experience a Star Wars movie on the big screen, but it had only been a decade since Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith hit theaters; for Star Wars fans in 1999, it had been nearly twice as long since Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was released in 1983. I had lived an entire life up to that point without a Star Wars movie to call my own, and looking back, the most formative Star Wars experience of my adolescence wasn’t waiting in line to see the prequels: it was any one of a hundred nights spent with friends playing the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, the strategy collectible series that did more to galvanize my Star Wars fandom than anything else from my childhood.

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starship troopers

Depending on how cute you get with your math, there are no less than four separate universes focused upon Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. First, of course, came the original novel itself, then the 1997 blockbuster film by Paul Verhoeven. From there, things get a little dicier. There was Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles, an animated television series based on Verhoeven’s film that ran for two seasons back in 1999 and 2000. Then there’s Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation and Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, the live-action and direct-to-video sequels to the 1997 release. Finally, there’s Starship Troopers: Invasion, a 2012 release that rebooted the cinematic universe and refusesd to acknowledge the second and third movies. For one of Hollywood’s most notorious flops, Starship Troopers has had some pretty long legs in its theatrical afterlife.

Of course, that’s not all. This Monday marks the one-night release of Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, the latest animated adaption of the original movie. And since some diehard Starship Troopers fans out there might be in desperate need of a franchise refresher, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to revisit the first four movies – canonical or otherwise — in the Starship Troopers universe.

Some of these films are good, some are not, but their willingness to deconstruct the source material and find a narrative (and genre) that works for them is what makes the Starship Troopers franchise the gift that keeps on giving.

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in defense of prometheus 7

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: a defense of Ridley Scott’s controversial Alien prequel Prometheus.)

Like most of you, I walked out of my first screening of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus in some combination of confused and angry. That was the Alien prequel we’d spent the past two-plus years anxiously anticipating? The film that absolutely wasted Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, featured some of the worst character beats I’ve ever seen in a science fiction narrative, and bled all over the memory of Scott’s original Alien film? No matter how I approached the film – how charitable I tried to be in my interpretation of its story – all I saw was a barren wasteland where a promising Alien franchise might’ve stood. My hatred of Prometheus ran deep and pure.

And then a funny thing happened. A few months ago, as 20th Century Fox began to roll out new footage from Alien: Covenant and people in my social network started talking about Prometheus as if it wasn’t the worst thing since death and taxes. A few friends even argued passionately on the film’s behalf, suggesting that Prometheus, despite its flaws, was one of the boldest science fiction films to hit theaters in a good long while. This put me in an awkward position. I had spent more than four years nursing my grudge towards Scott’s film, and while I remained convinced that the film would only get worse on a re-watch, I knew it would be disingenuous of me to argue against the film without at least giving a second shot.

So I popped Prometheus into my Blu-ray player again, and wouldn’t you know it? That movie grew up a helluva lot in our four years apart.

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