Chewbacca and the Plastic Chicken
There are no spoilers in this piece.
Except this: there's a Chewbacca and a Plastic Chicken gag. Yes, in a movie already over two and a half hours long - a bloated beast so mighty I was yawning and checking my watch during the final boss battle - the director sees fit to keep a gag involving a wookie getting guilty at roasting a bird.
It's symptomatic of a major Star Wars problem. Who is its audience? When Lucas tried reminding us all it was for kids in the prequels - you know which character I mean, folks - it was horrible. Why should it be any different now?
No-one in the cinema laughed. And it was a pretty full cinema. In part that's 'cos it's a crap gag. There were better. The "no-one's from nowhere" line was a rib-tickler, I admit, but that's because it's linguistic, not based on wide-eyed mini-penguins designed purely to shift mega-units of plastic tat.
I was twelve when Return of the Jedi came out. I loved it of course, but I remember even then a nagging sense that the Ewoks were rubbish. It begs the question: who are the mini-penguins and plastic chickens for? Not movie-savvie twelve year-olds, that's for sure.
So it's an OK instalment. Pretty good, even. But if you want to know why Rogue One stands head-and-shoulders above the rest of the franchise... well, among a thousand other reasons, I pick this one: no plastic chickens.
My Reading Year
Over at Pick My Y.A., a killer stateside reading recommendation website, I was interviewed following Lifers' release in the US. Apologies for the picture. The guys over there have got hold of my staff photograph from back when I was teaching - and I'm a gurning monster in a supermarket suit. Anyway, during the interview I recommended, as authors always do, reading reading reading to become a better writer. I aim for 40 books a year, I said. And I do.
This year, though, has made me plan a change of policy for 2018. Here's why. I started in January of 2017 with:
Fellside by M.R. Carey
Finders Keepers by Steven King and
Ways to See a Ghost by Emily Diamand.
In February I did:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and
Revelation by C J Sansom
The Trespasser by Tana French
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and
Different Seasons by Steven King (the first time I'd read four stories I know well together in sequence.)
Velocity by Chris Wooding
I Saw a Man by Owen Shears and
So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson.
You get the picture. It was clear I was falling behind schedule. I didn't want to miss my target. I started choosing shorter books. Thus November, which was:
The Adversary by Emmanuel Carriere
Thin Air by Michelle Paver
Star Wars Moving Target by Castelluci and Fry
Set in Stone by Robert Goddard.
Sitting on my shelf is The Fireman by Joe Hill. I'm desperate to get started, but I can't tackle it. It'll take me a month. I want to re-read The Stand too. I fancy some of Brandon Sanderson's epic fantasy. Chris Wooding's Ember Blade as well.
So 2018 is gonna be the year of BIG BOOKS. Reading target suspended temporarily while I tackle the longest stories I can find. Just FYI.
Oh, and my fave book this year? Paver's Thin Air, a wonderfully spooky spine-chiller set on the roof of the world. Stupendous stuff, sparsely written, vivid and frightening. You'll be pleased to hear its rating on Goodreads is 3.9, a score so important I've written a whole blog about it...