23 December 2015

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and Happy New Year!

Well, it is that time again. I hope everyone out there that stops by FWS has a wonderful holiday season and a great new year. I want to extend a big thank you to everyone that makes FWS a part of your life and for those that help this little military science fiction blog. I could not do it without you. So, enjoy your family, drink some eggnog, go see The Force Awakens again, and play some video games...because that is what I going to do! Here is hoping that 2016 is a great year and a big one for Future War Stories!

21 December 2015

FWS Movie Review: STAR WARS VII: The Force Awakens (SPOILER FREE!)

Some mock science fiction and call it the bottom of entertainment, literature, and cinema. However, Star Wars proves that science fiction is not just a generational thing, or even a western world thing, but it is a global thing that crosses the gap between rich and poor, young and old, and male and female. Since 1977, Star Wars has altered common global culture, the world of cinema, and science fiction forever. The original holy trilogy ran from 1977 through 1983, and then there was the gap of decades until the prequel were announced in 1994 some eleven years after Jedi. From 1999 to 2005, the unholy, shitty Prequel films tarnished the world of Star Wars, and it was believed that this would be the way the Star Wars films ended...with a flaming bag of dogshit. As Lucas altered and raped our childhood with new elements to the holy trilogy, the deal with Disney was looming. In October of 2012, it was announced that Disney had bought LucasFilm and the mouse would be making more Star Wars films, starting with the sequel trilogy. In November of 2014, we finally got to see the first trailer for The Force Awakens and reaction was strong that these new films would be a return to good Star Wars films...so, is it? Here is my Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens SPOILER FREE review. I saw this film in Dallas on IMAX 3D at an 1000am showing on 12/21.

The Basic Plot (Maybe Minor Spoilers!)
It has been 30 years after the Battle of Endor, and in the First Order has arisen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. Siding against the First Order is the Republic. While the Republic and the First Order are not engaged directly, the Resistance is the insurgency to the First Order and is being supplied by the Republic. Now, there are forces at work to destabilize the situation in the galaxy...and that is where the film opens.

For the most part, Star Wars VII: the Force Awakens is a solid, very enjoyable Star Wars that ranks up there with The Empire Strikes Back, and is the second best sci-fi film behind The Martian this year. It has the soul, character, world of Star Wars all there with healthy doses of Star Wars IV: A New Hope to create a bridge between the classic films and this new generation of action figures...I mean...heroes. This is the film that we fans deserved in 1999 and it has redeemed the promise of Star Wars after the abortion that the prequels were.
While there are tons of SFX, they are a fusion of practical and CGI that makes The Force Awakens more real than the plastic prequels. The connection to the old characters is there, and it is more than just fan service. The new characters are real characters in their own right and I was excited to see the development on Kylo Ren as more of a real character than a set piece. The film manages to get the little element rights, along with the big ones. I laughed, I cried, and I marveled at the world of Star Wars again. For me, this movie was more "the fans awaken" than the Force awakens.

As I said above, The Force Awakens is strongly connected to the original 1977 film in more than just imagery. For those of us that have seen the ANH repeatedly, The Force Awakens can feel like a retread in both theme and plot points. You knew what was going to happen, and while the film is very good, it can feel very borrowed, and that some of the film's plot points are there just because of that. This is true of one of the only major thing I really disliked about the film.
The great looming menace that our heroes have to deal with is just a borrowing of ANH element, that it makes little sense on its own. Since this is spoiler-free, I cannot say more than that. Also, the movie moves very quickly from place to place, like most Star Wars films, and the scenes on planet Jakku are the longest. This jumpiness is even more apparent in order to make the combining of the new generation and the original, the film  needed to throw together characters, like the original film or The Phantom Menace, and that can also feel forced. and things being done because the script says so. Another thing I disliked was the lack of explanation over the current political situation in the galaxy and who these factions were. I personally think this was done on purpose due to the attention paid to the political situation in the prequels to death.
Also, I was surprised by the tacked on nature of the big central question in the background of the whole film, and then it is solved in the final few minutes and the ending feels rushed. I honestly thought the end scene in The Force Awaken should have been saved for episode VIII. Then that brings to my last "Bad" portion of The Force Awakens...the science. Star Wars has never been about being an ambassador for hard science fiction, and general it is soft science fiction. But, The Force Awakens takes to a new level of softness...like liquid. Several times, I was stunned at the lack of real-world elements and one element was so bad, it derailed the film for a few minutes for me.

Bottomline, The Force Awakens is a very good Star Wars movie that reminds us of how good this universe can be...and brings us to the ugly aspect...it reminds us how bad, crushingly bad, the Prequel films are. For decades, we fans have wanted to see the apex of the Jedi Order, the rise of the Sith, and the Clone Wars...and we got this flaming bag of dogshit. The Force Awakens does not acknowledge the prequels save for one comment, and it show how irrelevant those prequel films and how plastic they appear. This film generated feelings of remorse for ever investing anytime into the prequels and makes you also wish we could get them remade with the gusto of The Force Awakens. I can honestly saw that when it comes time to buy the Star Wars films on Blu-Ray, I am buying four of them now and not just the original three.

Should You see The Force Awakens....waitaminute...you already have.
Everyone is going to see this that is remotely interested in the film...maybe I should ask another question.

How Does The Force Awakens Fit into the World of Star Wars?
Because Star Wars is a saga that tells the story of the Light and Dark Sides of the Force along with the family history of the Skywalkers, how does this new film fit into the rest of the saga? I can say, very well. The Force Awakens feels like an organic piece of the puzzle and it is a brave start to a new trilogy storyline. It retains that favor of the original films and allows for a bridge from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens. My hope is that more of our questions about some of the events in the background are answered in the next two films.

My Big Worry...
To date, JJ Abrams has helmed two of the biggest franchises in the realm of science fiction: Trek and Wars. The excellent job paid to the new Star Wars proves to me that he has talent and can make a excellent film without ripping the original material to shreds...like he did with his "vision" of Star Trek. Honestly, I hate his Trek films and think they are simply pieces of shit that trade on the good and hallowed name of Trek. His Trek is related to the original Star Trek has much has was the World War Z film had in common with the World War Z book. My big worry is that JJ Abrams will not be able to replicate The Force Awakens and we will get films that tarnish the new hope we fans have for the sequel trilogy.

13 December 2015

News Feed: Independence Day: Resurgence Trailer!

We finally got to see the first trailer for the sequel of original 1996 sci-fi film, and what is the bottom line after waiting on the sequel to the original ID4 film?  I can say that the film looks like what we thought it would be...honestly. For better or worse, IDR looks like ID4 in tone, just with better CGI, new light-up assault rifles, and Liam Hemsworth as a pilot to the next-gen alien tech infused attack jet! Sorry, no Will Smith. He wanted $50 million...so...yeah. The film wisely sets this new Independence Day flick some 20 years after the War of 1996, and shows the use of reverse-engineered alien technology to prepare the Earth for the day that they would come back. And on June 24th, 2016, we will a much more combat-oriented sci-fi film with the new military forces of Earth vs. the big bad grey aliens. From the trailer, some of the film does take place on the Moon with Hemsworth and Jeff Goldblum in spacesuits, there is massive dogfights, and tons of directed energy weapons. While I was never a big fan of the original, this new film could be a trope mess or a good popcorn flick. I guess we'll have to wait until June to find out.
Anyone interested in this film?  

05 December 2015

FWS Top Ten: The Most Interesting Wars of Military Science Fiction

Being an history teacher in public school, I often only get to teach the larger conflicts, and even then, I have to follow the state guidelines. However, global history is populated with smaller conflicts or relatively unknown wars that always been interesting to me, like the Opium War,  the American-Filipino War, the Boer Wars, the Matabele Wars, and the French and Indian War. This is also true of the world of science fiction. In this Top Ten list, FWS will be exploring the most interesting fictional conflicts of the genre that are either little seen or explored for a narrow point-of-view.

1. The Cylon Wars from BSG
The Cylon Wars have been a founding event in both BSG series, and neither have been seen in any length until the 2012 web-only miniseries Blood & Chrome. In the 2004-2009 Reimagined Series, the rebellion of the intelligence machines, known as Cylons, was about fifty two years before the Cylon Holocaust (BCH), and lasted for 12 years. This war united the 12 Colonies of Kobol under the Articles of Colonization, and saw the construction of the Battlestars that we know and love. This conflict transformed the 12 Colonies and paved the way for its destruction decades later and the rise of our society here on Earth. But, we saw very little of the actually, despite the Caprica series.
In the original 1978 series, the Cylons were actually an reptilian alien race that used robotic soldiers to wages their wars after their own population was nearly exhausted to maintain their empire.
The Cylons of the original series waged an 1,000 year war with the 12 Colonies of Man, until finally achieving victory, and destroying the 12 Colonies of Man. Of course, both Cylons had help in destroying the 12 Colonies in the form of the Baltar characters. After the end of the SyFy Channel reimagined series in 2009, it was believed that a new series would be created around the Cylon War and William Adama's experiences in the war, along with the series Caprica. Again, the Galactica would be front-and-center. This would have allowed us to see the war that had been floating around science fiction since the 1970's. That promised series was not delivered in the form that we fans expected. BSG: Blood & Chrome was downgraded to an online miniseries of a 10 episodes. The show we thought we were going to get was just okay, and the Cylon Wars remains an unseen war. What is interesting about the Cylon War mentioned in both series, is that creators took two very different ideas on the war and the Cylons.

2. The Four Year War from Star Trek
There has been hints of an Klingon-Federation war for years in the early days of Trek with mentions in the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology and it wasn't until the FASA Star Trek role playing game that we got the story behind this mythical conflict. According the non-cannon sourcebook, the Four Years War started in the 2250's after the Klingons raided and killed 112 citizens on the Archanis IV colony. Most of the non-canon sources on the Four Years War use the canon Battle of Axanar and Garth of Lzar in the history of the conflict. It was surprising to me that the Four Years War was not an official event in Trek, after all, DC Comics, several novels, and the FASA RPG all discussed the Federation-Klingon War like it was fact. To me, it seems organic that there would have been Klingon-Federation at some point prior to the original Trek series. Recently, a crowd-funded Trek film is being filmed that is all about the Four Years War, and teased for it that gives background of the conflict in a documentary is nothing short of brilliant and inspiriting. It is the Trek film, Star Trek: Axanar, that most of us Trekkies have been waiting decades for.

3. The Bugboys/Bebops/Wantabes of the ALIENS Universe
There was hints in the legendary 1986 film that there was a large universe to Colonial Marines and the world of 2179. Certainly, the banter between the Marines over cornbread informed us that native species culling on colonial worlds was nothing new, and they falsely believed that the operation on LV426 would be another simple endangering species op. Boy, were they wrong. Anyways, it wasn't until the 1996 ALIENS: The Colonial Marine Technical Manual by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood that we took a glimpse into the world of 22nd century Marine Corps and their conflicts. Mentioned several times was a conflict with some enemy called either "the bug boys" or "the bebops". Sure, the Colonial Marines operate against Asian forces, some that they call Wantabes, but most of the battles mentioned were against these mysterious enemies. There is no hard information on who these Bugboys or BeBops are, but fans have speculated for nearly 20 years. Some believe that they are another alien species that some of the colonial rivals of the United States armed to oppose American colonization. Some believe that they are 22nd slang name for the the Chinese-Sino united government (CSUG), or another Terran rival power. Other think they are some sort of colonial insurgency or rebellion. Either way, I would like to see more of this world, and you know, fuck the xenomorphs! They had their films! We need an Colonial Marine movie!

4. The Clone Wars (Before the Prequels) from Star Wars

For the newer fans of the Star Wars universe, it is hard to imagine the fandom a long time ago, an galaxy before the internet. Back before we got the bullshit prequels, we fans lived on a few facts, many theories, and high hopes to see the mythical war that Obi-Kenobi spoke of in the first film. Back in those days, even mainstream magazines, like Starlog, were involved in exploring the Star Wars we had yet to see. For years, we fans collectively wondered and theorized about the word "clones" in the Clone Wars. We knew that Boba Fett's armor was somehow connected to the original stormtroopers, and somehow those troopers were involved in the Clone Wars. Many of us speculated that the "clones" in the Clone Wars were cloned Jedi created to overcome either an Mandalorian invasion or an Sith invasion (before the rule of two). These new cloned Jedi were somehow turned to the Dark Side by the Emperor or Vader and used against the Light Side Jedi. I actually think that one of the few bright spots in the Prequel films was reality of the clones and how Lucas weaved the origin story of Boba Fett into the Clonetroopers as well.   

5. The Jedi/Sith Wars from Star Wars 
The underlying theme of the Star Wars films is the struggle between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. At times, the Dark Lords of the Sith achieve the control over the destiny of the galaxy, while other times, the Jedi achieve control. For some time, Star Wars fans have known that their was an larger Jedi/Sith conflict in the distant past, and it was not until the 1990's, when Dark Horse Comics published The Tales of the Jedi and Bioware released The Knights of the Old Republic games. This all-out war of Sith vs. Jedi armies has lit the imagination of fans for decades, and maybe we could make movies out of the Great Sith War...maybe call it, Episode -1? There was a rumor running around the internet of an tie-in film that told the story of the origin of the Sith and their struggle against the Jedi. Of course, it was just a rumor. 

6. The War Against the Machines from the Terminator Universe
Anyone that reads FWS knows how big of a fan I am of the War against the Machines seen in the Terminator universe...especially in the first two (real) Terminator flicks. Those dark vision of ragtag humans waging urban warfare on new killing machine in the rubble of Los Angeles while plasma bolts danced around was nothing short of beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I wanted nothing more than to see this dark vision of 2029 played out on film in a 3rd Terminator film that chronicled the story of Reese and John Conner. However...that never really happened in the way it should have. Originally, back in the early 1990's, it was rumored that an prequel Terminator film was planned that would have been all set in 2029, showing the Resistance struggle in the ruins of our world.
It is odd to me that something so organic to the Terminator film universe should not have been made. Sure, the recent and stupid Terminator: Genysis did show the Resistance gaining access to the Time Displacement Equipment, but it lacked the power that those scenes should have had. Ugh. Anyways, to me, the promise of the War Against the Machines seen in T1 and T2 has not been fulfilled, and nor will it. Terminator: Genysis was successful enough to warrant more films, but they will lack what should have been the Terminator film franchise should have been. I have also wondered why does every fucking Terminator film have to deal with a time-traveling toaster? From the tv show, to the films, to the comics, the vast majority are all about those humanform cybernetic organisms coming back and attempting to alter the past. Oh, by the way, I am purposely ignoring Terminator: Salvation....that film had no balls and no story.

7. The Off-World Conflicts from BLADE RUNNER
BLADE RUNNER is one of those films that deeply layered with worlds within worlds, and for each of fans of the 1982 classic, we have different things that interest us about the Dystopian world of 2019. For me, the off-world conflicts that fueled the development of the Replicants was what I wanted to see more of, not the gumshoe hard-boiled detective of the film. I even went as far as writing an book and several short stories about those off-world conflicts to satisfy my urge. The only hints we've seen of those wars was the information during Decker's briefing scene, some of the good parts of Soldier, and the Marvel comic book. It is unlikely that the long-awaited sequel to BLADE RUNNER will not be showing us anything more of the off-world conflicts, but it totally should. Much like Terminator, the world of BLADE RUNNER seems to be stuck in hunt for skinjobs on the streets of failing megapolis cities via gumshoe assassins with badass revolvers. Given my exception that any future film or book will not show us the off-world conflicts, I have written three short stories and one novel detailing what I think those pocket conflicts would look like.

8. The Eternal War from The Forever War
This may seem like an odd choice...but hear me out. In one of the founding classics of military sci-fi literature, 1974's The Forever War, we see our main character William Mandella and his experiences in the Eternal War. However, it is mainly his experiences that we read about and experience. The Eternal War was nearly a thousand years long with thousands of Terrans involved, and we only have TWO accounts of the war: William Mandella's from The Forever War and Marygay Potter's from the 1999 short story "A Separate War". This war and the consequences of FTL travel due to time dilution has always been absorbing to me and I always feel there is more than we could explore than just these two soldier's experiences, and that could create the basis of other books set in The Forever War universe.

9. The Human/Forerunner War from HALO
For a time, HALO games could do no wrong, and each one seemed to build and build into a series that will be regarded as the best of its generation. However, has physics tells us, what goes up, must go down. Many felt that HALO 4 was the worst game of the series and the low point (I do not). However, whatever you feel about the fourth Master Chief game, it did add a whole new layer of explanation to the vast backstory to the HALO universe. It seems that the war between the Flood and the Forerunners was more complex than we originally thought.
Unknown to archaeology (but known to the Ancient Aliens crowd), prehistoric humans achieved spaceflight and formed an interstellar empire that was equal to the Forerunners around 150,000 years ago. Humans founded new planets and had an alliance with the San 'Shyuum race. 110,000 years ago, these humans discovered the Flood, and war erupted. However, they were losing, and it effort to get ahead of the infection, humans and their allies attacked unknown Forerunner worlds. This sparked the Forerunner/Human War. That means humans were engaged in two wars at the same time. Humans lost, and we forced back to their homeworld, and reduced in technology status to primitive species.
Maybe we could have a series of games based around this time period in the HALO universe? You could play as an prehistoric Greek Spartan-like super-soldier, but with a twist. Maybe the Greek Spartan warriors were inspirited by the ancient super-soldiers of the prehistoric advanced human culture, those were primarch of the concept. So, those ancient warriors inspirited the Greeks, and the Greek Spartans inspirited the SPARTAN II/III/IV warriors. I would love to play these games and explore of this interesting timeline.

10. The Butlerian Jihad from the DUNE Universe
For many of us fans of DUNE, the religious crusade against the thinking machines 10,000 before the events of the first book was one of the most intriguing events that was not heavily explored. It was not until the 1984 film adaptation that we fans were able to glimpse the known universe before the legendary novels. Those paintings that served has the introduction to the DUNE universe and colored my vision of what I thought the Butlerian Jihad were going to look like. When it was announced that Frank Herbert's son would be crafting an trilogy about the war against the thinking machines, I was extremely excited, and bought it only a few days after its release...and boy, I was disappointed. The magic of the world of DUNE was not present, and the new universe seemed completely separate from the world seen in DUNE. Even today, when I re-watch DUNE, I wonder about what the Butlerian Jihad what it would have been like in different hands, and those paintings are still something that interests me...can we get an Butlerian Jihad reboot?

Next Time on FWS...
Distance can be an friend of the soldier in combat, and the closer proximity of soldiers to their enemy, the increase in the danger. One of the most deadly, chaotic tactical environments is Close Quarters Warfare. Combat in tight spaces of office buildings, homes, cruise ships, space stations, or even starships is its own special breed of combat, and it is high time that FWS explored and explained Close Quarters Warfare.