The Last Jedi in my opinion.

Because of what I do, every day I am being asked what are my thoughts about the movie… it often seem like an ambush; many time I am being straight up told what I should feel about it. The beauty about an opinion is that it is personal, however one can be fiercely protective. There will always be people who love unconditionally or hate as much; and that’s fine. However I get annoyed by those who characterize their negative opinion in 2 or 3 words…borderline trolling away; constructive criticism is in short supply and I do not believe any movie ( nor this one) can be wholly hated including music, acting, storytelling, efx, real fx, directing, photography etc… So this is my OWN opinion of what I liked and disliked about the movie … and I am no longer ashamed to admit I liked it a lot.

It brings me a smile when people complained they had to drive an hour to see a movie they described in one word… I flew 12 hours in economy to catch a movie. I have been a fan for 40 years and I was not going to wait for January release in China so I flew to back to Europe to catch the premiere on Dec 14th… that alone is commitment to the SWU. Funny enough a close friend and lifetime die hard fan had watched it before me and bombarded me with messages dissing the movie … and now after 3 screening actually enjoys it.  I believe Kevin Smith is right when he theorizes that some of the backlash is from people who invested 2 years of their lives in building complex theories … none of which played out at all (which I think it is brilliant). I can understand the anger, the sentiment of being cheated or the fact that no one comes out “winner” in the arguments about Snoke, Rey’s parents, Luke story… but that’s why we have books.

When I came out from my first screening I personally had a strange feeling; some parts of the movie did not feel in tune with either the classic Star Wars universe or the new trilogy introduced in TFA… I liked it and I felt guilty about it. Not everything resonated with me and there were parts I had a hard time reconcile with ( still do) but overall I genuinely liked it. The second screening was much better and I was able to say that yes I liked EP8. I justified it due to the lack of stress: I did not have to wait for every plot, I knew what was going to happen, no more surprises good or bad … I could relax and enjoy the movie.

Mirroring and Nostalgia
One argument I got over and over again was those who thought EP7 was great because it had so much of the OT embedded in it. Of course at time of the release a lot of people did not like this either. I was confronted with the nostalgia argument. I too liked EP7 for the many call backs and the mirroring of the story, it felt comfortable because I was in the known area of my fandom and had waited o long to feel “home” again. Somehow I knew this was going to come again in EP8 which worried me a bit; I would have hated a “Rey, I’m your brother” or anything remotely similar. So EP8 was refreshing because I got some call backs but I also felt a lot of novelties and in both cases it seemed to be in the right proportion to my taste. You can easily spot some ANH, ESB and ROTJ references which indicate that thanks to EP8 we are now potentially in uncharted territories and EP9 now has full potential to close a saga in totally novel ways. I like that. Interestingly the nostalgia arguments goes either as too much or not enough… I guess we are hard to please.

What’s wrong with a laugh?

Some have argued to me that Star Wars is not a comedy and that it should be taken seriously. First of, it is a space opera and that in itself is kind of a fun thing, most importantly it is meant to be enjoyed by a broad audience including kids so a dose of humor is necessary. Thirdly, the OT was filled with “funny” moments; humor has evolved over the years and may have to be a little less subtile than it was in the OT but I am ok with that and so is my daughter.I liked the humor injected in the movie, it felt fresh reminiscent to what Marvel has done and it did bring me closer to the characters.

Luke: Strength comes from weakness
Many have bombarded me with questions/statement about how Luke was misrepresented. Interestingly to back up their argument most of what I heard was “Mark said so himself”. Yes, Mark Hamill did say in interviews that he disagreed with everything about Luke in the script … and most people stopped there. He also said in the same pre-release interviews. that his personal vision of a Jedi was being challenged and that he had to work hard to re-interpret his role but that eventually he really liked what came out of it.

The second thing used to try to turn me, again from Mark Hamill interviews, was that a Jedi would never leave the world, would fight, would do its utmost to right a wrong. Of course that does not account for two things 1. We already knew about it in EP7 and it’s like like Obiwan or Yoda did not do the very same. I often find it sad that the argument stops then, the fact that Luke is portrayed as potentially one of the greatest Jedi ever is lost on people as if being able to summon the force to appear in a planet lightyears away and physically appear and interact with people and droids is just fine. Mo other Jedi or Sith has accomplish that feat in the official SW canon.
The final showdown with Kylo was also a great balance between beautiful photography, classic OT swordplay and display of amazing Jedi powers; clearly showing how much further Kylo has to achieve.

The big reveals

So Snoke is actually not that important and we know nothing more about him; he is a powerful and mighty Force user… did I really wanted to see another “Emperor” like character all along? I am not sure but I have no issue with his death. I am sure there will be plenty of books about Snoke but as a character in this saga I think his role as mentor to show that Kylo Ren has not master his gift was great but knowing he got played and slaughtered is even better. It leaves the main stage to Kylo ( Vader never had it) a broken, conflicted, impetuous, angry dude who just got dropped by a girl. Snoke’s Death was reminiscent of the Vader plot in ESB and much like back in those days when fan felt betrayed ( I was shocked then) a lot of those who invested 2 years trying to figure out what and who must have been stunned by the plot twist.

The second major reveal was about Rey’s parentage and again , shocker: everything that has been talked about for two years, all of it, down the drain into the trash compactor. Another twist that many fans may have not liked. Sadly a certain portion of people cannot admit it and already new theories are being made and discussed – we never seem to learn.

Rey’s is a natural and powerful at that.
So she is set to become a bad ass and ideally I would have love to see her undergoing a bit more training. That being said I can live with the rational that a. She is a very naturally powerful ( probably as powerful as DV) force user, more powerful than Luke was at her age and with a really deep connection to the force. She does not need battle training as evidenced in EP7 ( she fought all her life) she just need to understand her power and place which she clearly demonstrate at the end of the movie…and she has the sacred books to help her along. All in all I will wait for EP9 to make a final judgment on this.

Blast from the past

Yoda… I very much enjoyed Yoda being back in its full ESB glory. This is another example of a masterful call back. Yoda as a puppet is brilliant ( vs the CGI prequel disaster) at the same time the “young Skywalker” to an old man was reminiscent of Yoda being 900 when he died; the voice and the “crazy” talk were balanced with the same deep, thoughtful wisdom and there he laid the one about Master and Students … having been in educator myself it probably resonated much more than others… In any case I connected deeply with that sequence.

Damn Porgs

Before the release, I feared the porgs were going to be another jar-Jar / Ewok debacle; remember OT fans “hated” the Ewoks who were later rehabilitated because of Jar-Jar, but I digress. I was dead set on hating porgs before stepping in the theater. When I first saw them I was hoping for a lightsaber blast in the eyes (like in the conceptual drawing I later discovered) but I guess that was kept for better usage with the pretorian guards. I cheered when I saw Chewie roasting one and then I somehow changed my mind. They were not too distracting and actually a good “side kick” to Chewie which in turns gave him is own status as a character on it’s own, which he well deserves.

But there are still things that bothered me, some more than others… some maybe addressed in EP9 others will remain an annoyance for me.

Carrie Poppins

Don’t get me wrong, I was emotional seeing her on the screen for the last time…and personally I thought the scene when she is blown into space would have been a legitimate ending for Leia and a fitting good bye. I was not expecting the next part and really I felt robbed of a strong closure. She was amazing in the rest of the movie but I really cannot reconciliation with the space flight…and somehow the visual eft felt totally off; this is a huge downer for me.

Green Milk

I get that connection with EP4 and the blue milk but that scene weirded me out. The way the sirens was sitting down, the nipples, the squeezing action, the sound … it was just pure weird; I’ll survive but definitely not the most visually pleasant scene.

Admiral Ackbar

He is the Boba Fett of this trilogy, you do not see him that often but you kinda root for him and being blown into deep space was a big shocker. But then so was it when Boba felt into the saarlac in the most “stupid” way by all bounty hunter standards. Again a tear she for a beloved character but I guess a necessary step I the direction to clean up the stage for the new act.

Casino Follies

The only usefulness of this ark that I can think off is to introduce the code breaker masterfully played and which I am hoping to see more of in the future and press unto us that possible love story between Flyn and Rose which will presumably take the stage in EP9.  Aside of that I can say that was a big waste of time, and the aliens introduced in that part of the movie were just not interesting at all and once again ( at least in one particular frame) bordered dangerous stereotypes. As far as understanding that the galaxy is filled with soul less “business” vaulters selling to whoever wants ; I had no issue with that, this is what happens today in this world so why should it be different.

Hold the Holdo

The plan was masterful but why did she feel the need to keep it so secret? There was no indication that there was a need for such secrecy amongst ranking officers; that could have avoided unnecessary waste of time and conflicts. More importantly she is staying back to keep piloting the vessel ( and die) as if there was no autopilot or droid able to do just that. Finally if you are on a suicide mission and you realize that you have been found out why taking so long before the kamikaze hyperspace jump? First ship down you realize you’ve been made …execute plan instead of waiting for half the fleet to be destroyed one by one.

The crystal creatures

As much as I did not mind the porgs, these were totally useless and brought nothing to the story, action or otherwise.

Chem Chimney Chem Chimney …Potter?
I understand the idea of the renewal and that the Force does not need lineage…but did we really have to have the poor performance of broom boy at the end? The efx for the Force pull of the broom was really iffy at best, the facial expression was off and the broom in the hand looked more like a guitar than a light saber…and that nagging feeling of young Anakin in EP1; major let down for me and a dangerous trend you see in so many movies: unnecessary multiple endings …

 

To conclude , there is certainly more that could be discussed but these are the main points for me.

Again this is a personal opinion with no desire to change anybody’s mind but at least they are explained not just mindlessly expressed through verbal assault.

IMAX in China should be ashamed !

Every year they keep on doing this kind of cheap stunt in China.
They cannot be bothered to actually understand Star Wars or spend a bit of cash to organize something decent… no they have to take these clowns who have no respect for the movie /culture.

TLJ China Premiere

There has been a few moments of being proud to be a wookiee … see kids smile, getting misty eyes from fan meeting me, my daughter telling her friend “dad is a wookiee”… But this was priceless. RianCJonhson in the middle of stage interview at the China Premiere realizing a Wookiee was sitting first row and taking the picture ! Probably the closest thing from a SW Director to ever take an interest in me !

#LookAtMyWookiee #TheLastJedi #IlovePorgChops #PorgsTasteChewy

 

Shadow Trooper

Since I was approached to build a shadow trooper I decided to take pictures of the whole process. from unboxing the kit to lining up parts, trimming, cutting, snapping, prepping, lining, glueing and fitting.

One thing I like to do is to glue the inside of the parts with left over plastic parts I salvages from the trimming process. I feel it adds strength to the armor. For cosmetic purposes I cover the inner glue with soft velcro.

The other thing with the black armor is I did not feel confident using CA glue like I usually do, the zap kicker felt like it was going to potentially damage the surface so I went back to using PVC-U welding glue.

And of course I feel  having a shiny black armor will be a bitch to maintain; dust shows very fast, cannot use water to clean without leaving traces and scratches might be more evident than on a white armor… oh I love the Tank armor for it the more damaged it looks to more legit it is.

All that being said, it is a lovely piece and I feel confident the new owner will be happy with this build.

Xenomorph…because break time !

I’m all about Star Wars, this is all about Star Wars…except when it is not and I need to get working with new materials and challenge myself to a complete other kind of build: Introducing the Xenomorph. I was lucky enough to find an amazingly talented prop maker dedicated to the world of Alien and scored a fantastic kit allowing me to build my very own KiKi Ze Alienne. In retrospect there are a couple of things I’d do differently and there is definitely a v2 getting ready in my head !

Lots of gluing, cutting, painting, priming , fitting…but the final result is well worth it.

New satchel for my Wookiee

The first satchel I had is nice but after a few trooping I felt the need to make it even more screen accurate. I wanted the full round effect and the oversize d-ring holder. I wanted to make it look rough and I wanted to make a new bandolier  with EVA blocks. The screen accurate metal box are perfect but make the whole rig really heavy and “unsafe” when taking pictures with children…EVA is light and soft so I do not need to worry about bumping a kid’s head during events.

Some leatherworks fun

When I first started to work with leather it was very intimidating…I am far from being the best at this out there but I do really enjoy working with leather and making “simple” stuff. This time around two new styles of holsters.

Epic Madness – the return of the hair

Wookiees… a great species full of hair

A few years back it took me about 10 months to complete my first Wookiee costume. Since then I did at least 3 different leg extension system  and then I decided I wanted to make a new one… this is nuts. But eventually I had the new mesh suit and only needed to get a skull which I got at Celebration from Wookiee Workshop.. Awesome guys !!!

So here I am starting a new Wookiee…actually that was last May, we are August and the new silverback is completed.

Ground Crew- R1

Rogue One is a treasure throve of new costumes and they all show a lineage  a true legacy to what was the OT. The Ground Crew is one of these really beautiful one that can be worn by both Male/Female.

A fun build, not too complicated but enough to give you the challenge of putting the helmet together…sadly very little weathering on this build.

Design Evolution Part 01

After starting the third armour of the GAV Commander of Rogue One, I decided to make a patch. I wanted it to be in the striking and minimalist. So I used the three colours found on the Commander armour. It is reminiscent of the ranger patch in the US with the mention of the 71st Battalion which is the one that was station on Jedha ( wookiepedia !). There was also a desire to include the hammer shape since the GAV units are known as ” Imperial Hammer”. The toying started with position and included a *wink* at Pink Floyd ” Another Brick in the Wall” MV. but it did not gel properly. So the Hammer finally appears in the “ST” next to the 71 which left some room to add the Imperial Cog … now to production

Oh Glorious crap…

Yes China has copycats, bootlegs, replicas, shanzai… all of different degrees of quality and build. From toys to clothes to now badly designed and worn armors ! I’ve shown many in my previous posts and it does not stop !

I can’t really define the level of annoyance I have when I see that; is it the armour or the shoes, or the way it is worn… is it the attitude displayed or the fact that it not even in front of a relevant poster?

Propel … OMG

yes I used OMG and you will do too the day you get a propel Star Wars battle drone. These things are beautiful, fast, full of surprises and you can battle against others ( up to 12 players) for real ! They are extremely well designed, and the ergonomics is spot on. You can also upgrade with actual laser for battling …

… But the real jaw dropping part is not even the drone, it’s the package ! It is amazing and I have never seen anything like this. If you do not want/care to buy, go to a store and ask to open the box!

Sticky Business

I developed good skills for building X-wing helmet and making them looked distressed so it was but evident that I needed to work on making the stickers so I could have more options than Red5 when making a helmet.

The results many sticker sets for the original pilots. Now that Rogue one is out I guess that means even more work in making new stickers.

Imperial Tanker V2

I love this guy too much so I got myself another kit , ABS this time, and started building it with a few novelties. Magnetic closure, replaceable EVA foam the side, velcro removable neck collar… maximum flexibility for more compact packing when travelling.

more WTFake troopers in China and it’s getting annoying

Hey LFL/Disney

I know there is no such thing as bad publicity, that China can be quite uncontrollable, and that Star Wars needs exposure… but this is getting old very quickly. It’s now thing to see acceptable ( not screen accurate but ok) TFA troopers touring clubs and pole dancers wearing trooper helmet but when you start seeing this rubbish popping up on social media, something has gone wrong !

 

421 Limited

I was brought on board 1.5 years ago and how far have we come already thanks to the support of the community ! And what better to thank my two partners than having custom lightsaber engraved for each of us… Thank you guys Master + Jabba  

Rogue One Red Carpet Beijing

It was cold, damn polluted (as in her to see anything) and our plane was delayed 7 hours leaving from Shanghai… but at the end we were there to support Rogue One launch in China. The movie ( my second screening by then) was even better than when I saw it in HK. And despite the super hard seats and wearing an amor throughout the whole movie… what a treat.

Hover Tank Trooper

So I decided to get into Rogue One build and that means my all time favourite the Tank Trooper. Forget the Death Trooper, you cannot see Sh%$7 ; the tank trooper is rough, battled, dirty and full of grits and that’s what I love so much about it.

Redemption Team : first live meet-up

“Redemption” is a project that took place between Beijing and Shanghai. I was in Shanghai and Troy’s Team in Beijing, we had never met IRL and only communicated through email and WeChat. Comic Con Shanghai actually gave us the opportunity to have our first face-to-face meet which turned out to be quite fun, especially meeting the characters for the first time …

img_8391

Rebel Helmets

After my initial red5 x-wing helmet build I realised that I actually enjoyed making these helmets because of their paint job. I found it refreshingly fun to build and paint a helmet that had been “battle damaged”. So Came the Y-wing and the A-wing alongside other xWing …

“Redemption” fan film…

Last June at Beijing Comic Con quite a few people came to take pictures with Chewbacca. Then later in a WeChat group about Sci-fi someone posted their picture with Chewie and I mentioned that was me… private conversation ensued then the ever enthusiast Troy started to talk about making a SW fan film… 4 months later comes the announcement by Disney of their #GoRogue #Star Wars competition. Within 24 hours we decided to go ahead. I penned down a quick storyline and character background , thought of costumes and got East Hotel Beijing on board as shooting location and the local 501st joined in the fun.

Troy’s Team of action movie actors then kicked in and within 10 days costumes, location shooting and post-production were wrapped up.

Redemption is the story of a shamed elite black-ops stormtrooper exiled in a far aways forgotten outpost until the day where he encounters rebels… and finally show what stormtrooper can really do when fighting.

T-shirts…

The nice thing about mixing passion with skills is that you can create things for you. IN my cases a lot of design for T-shirt ( or polo in my case) . Here is a retrospective of what I have done so far . ..

Making a Pilot Part.02

After the built, the painting… and I made a few mistakes at first and kinda had to do a reset, as usual one step front 2 steps back…as it happens when you learn something new. That being said, the weathering technique I learned for this project turned out amazing !

 

X-wing helmet RAE

I was commissioned to do another two X-wing helmet; another “Red Five” Luke Skywalker and Raeh… the scavenged helmet Rey plays with on Jakku in The Force Awakens  ( side note RAEH / REY )

Quite happy with the final result, although I think it probably needs to be put under the sun for a few weeks to get that natural yellowish tan and roughened with some real sand.

Y-wing Rebel fighter Pilot helmet

I am an imperial at heart because their costumes really talk to the designer in me, the repetition, use of negative space, uniformity… all that is linked to who I am and what I do in life. That being said I must admit that building the Red five X-wing helmet talked to my inner artist; doing the paint job was awesome.

With that in mind I decided to make a Y-wing helmet and it was a trip! Granted I will not make the rest of the costume or planning on wearing the helmet per se, but the build and the paint job were a real blast.

Stormtrooper costume …

Following the post on Bad Star Wars in China and how costume are very loosely put together for commercial events, I decided to show new troopers what could not possibly work and how details are important using a picture of yet another ( albeit already “better”) stormtrooper wrongly put together 1262-pic_hd

What’s in a Jedi costume?

I’ve been asked that question many times and really it depends on the character. Some are more complex than others and if you talk about Luke Skywalker in ROTJ, well it really is different from Old Ben.

That being said there are “standard” components that one can use a a strong reference to create what we would call a generic Jedi. So find yourself a cool Jedi Name, go fabric shopping ( hint: the robe must be heavy and thick old military blanket style) while you want the pants and inner tunic in cotton for comfort; get someone to help you make the costume and head over the Rebel Legion for tons of info … like everything else you should first research and be patient.

Now follow Master obi-wan

screen-shot-2016-07-26-at-9-13-03-pm

Thanks Michelle

The downside of making so many costumes is that you get to a point where you need the make room for more. Actually in my case I simply like to press the reset button once in a while.

Couple of months ago I decided it was time to let go of some of my costumes including Vader. That’s right I sold my Darth Vader costume and I must admit I was a bit emotional when the courier company picked it up to ship to the new owner…in Canada !

However I got this email today and it made my day
Hi Vincent –
I wanted to let you know after a lot of work to pad me up and some tweaks to the costume, I received my SL designation. For my first troop as Vader, we raised several hundred dollars to help child victims of domestic violence.  Thanks for selling me your costume and for being a trustworthy person.”

And this is what the 501st is about, camaraderie without border, troopers helping troopers and sharing a passion to help others.

WAaronandTeresa

Beijing ComicCon: Chewbacca

Great two days, several sessions with the walking carpet. Unfortunately wearing Chewiee is not as easy as say a spiderman, batman, deadpool … it’s hot …damn hot inside , I literally sweat a small bucket wearing this! And of course the shoe lifts do not make it nearly as mobile as I would love it to be… MUST rework that part again ( hopefully third time will be a charm).

Star Wars in China … the ugly !

When fans around the world gathered in the 70’ies to celebrate Star Wars by making their own props and costume that was “beautiful” not because of the quality of craftsmanship ( in cases far from it) but because you could see a unification of people in something “greater”, there was emotion, there was a true bound being formed. Retrospectively it started a movement which became a sub-culture and now arguably a culture in its own right; one that transcend gender, age or race.

When Star Wars came to China with the prequels…it fared ok but failed to get the pull that the original trilogy had in the west. With EPVII launched there was “a new hope” for fandom in China and while it may not have yield all the results expected ( yet) there truly has been an “awakening”.

The local 501st has been highly active in supporting Disney in its bid to promote the movie ahead of its release and participated in major events around China. In the same time Disney did produce some amazing events, the Stormtroopers on the wall was an amazing stunt ! Some will argue ( rightly?) that it really played for the rest of the world more than intra-muros ( in China) but the fact is, it was awesome… Christmas time also had plenty of awesomeness with life size swings and tie fighter dropped around China … so yes the marketing worked.

On the branding side of things it may be another story. Back in September 2015 a studio in Guangzhou started producing knock off stormtrooper EPVII armours and sell them – unlicensed for 3800 US$ then started to rent troopers to bars etc.. for 300US$ per head per appearances which fared well during halloween period. Some bars and club had topless ( near enough) dancers with TK helmet on and a slew of other “non approvable” activities banking on Star Wars brand.

This is where I take the stance: strong Brand Guardian are needed. Of course Darth Vader walking the streets is some PR if the said Darth Vader is actually properly attired. Lucasfilm was extremely protective of the Star Wars brand in the west but it seems  China proved to be a huge challenge. You consistently see the Star Wars iconic brand ambassadors ( Vader and Troopers) being abused for commercial purposes. We are not talking about fans making costumes, we are talking about companies profiteering from the image; and by the look of it they have no idea of the actual brand, movie history or cultural impact. What is clear however is that each of these appearances could not care less about precision, quality of execution or show any indication of proper research … More alarming is the fact that we are not always talking about meaningless club in the north of China, or small commercial activities in a remote country side city’s supermarket. Some offense are quite major, attract reasonable visibility, obviously for profit and perpetrated by unlicensed companies.

Yes the only bad publicity is no publicity at all, and having these “things” happening maybe seen  as a promotional gain. I do argue that such gain comes at a greater brand cost which ultimately will not benefit Disney or its licensees.  Brand management here is ensuring that the most iconic “image” is displayed properly so that all may see it as something solid and uncompromising. Allowing these display without consequences mean that it’s ok to have stormtroopers with the wrong helmet, or geriatric Darth Vader. If it is ok for that kind of display then surely it is ok for toys and other merchandising…slippery slope.

 

Making a Pilot Part.01

I have stepped into the light(side) and started my first rebel helmet build. Of course it is an X-wing … but which one?
Outer shell built, stickers applied and ready for painting…

The Belt..

I really love working with leather, such a noble material although quite unforgiving. It is just a shame I need to reprint the belt buckle!

IMG_0210 2

 

DL-44

IMG_0089

3D printed DL-44 ESB Han Solo varian, this is much better than resin counterparts, way lighter and easier to build.

Halloween

IMG_0599

Took my daughter to school as Casual Friday Vader…major WTH face on that lady ! Also last time my daughter agreed that I’d go with her to school dressed as SW character !

food inspiration ?

IMG_1620

My daughter pointed out why I really like these cookies…look at the name!  That being said  blue, white, black… did Star Wars get inspiration from my preferred brand of butter cookies?