The Force Awakens…to a Khan job (SPOILERS)


J. J. Abrams is on my shit list.

That statement alone should tell you everything you need to know about my experience with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Ep. VII).

As background: I am old enough to have seen Star Wars: A New Hope (Ep. IV) in theatres as a young teenager. And I was so impressed by the film that I immediately came home from the theatre and wrote a sequel…400 hand-written pages of a screenplay. My first screenplay, in fact, at the ripe maturity of 13 years.

Star Wars is my birthright. I will defend it tooth and nail.

Thus, J. J. Abrams is on my shit list.

After the underwhelming prequels (Ep. I-III), I looked forward to Abrams’ take on the saga. I was a big fan of his reboot of Star Trek, although I had a bit of a nagging doubt after the reboot sequel Into Darkness. But if anyone had a sense of the epic, almost operatic scale of the Star Wars universe, it should have been Abrams.


And to some extent, he fulfilled his end of the bargain.

Shivers went down my spine when we scaled across the vast deserts of Tatooine…I mean Jakku.

I worried when R2…I mean BB-8, was captured by the Jawas…I mean scrap metal scavengers.

I bounced happily with the music of the Mos Eisley cantina…I mean the Takodana cantina.

I cheered when R2 successfully arrived at the Rebel base…I mean BB-8 arrived at the Resistance base with the vital information.

I sat back in awe as I saw the might of the Death Star…I mean Starkiller Base, for the first time.

J. J. Abrams is on my shit list.

To get back to Star Trek: Into Darkness, briefly, we all knew that Abrams was rewriting the story of Kirk’s greatest nemesis Khan Noonien Singh. And the movie didn’t disappoint in its grand opening flourishes and early Starfleet intrigue.

But then, at some point, it was like Abrams had run out of ideas and so simply inserted the last 20 pages or so of the original Wrath of Khan screenplay, hoping we wouldn’t notice.

The least tweaked moment of overlap between the two movies was the scene between Spock and Kirk across the glass as one dies from radiation sickness. Abrams simply swapped the positions of the two characters.


Some might consider this an homage to the original. A friend of mine, in discussing The Force Awakens, called it alt-universe mirroring. I call it bullshit, and lazy bullshit at that.

Now, Into Darkness was not intended to be a prequel to any of the older Star Trek movies, so I can buy into the alt-universe idea a bit. But The Force Awakens is Ep VII of a saga. It is not an alt-universe but the same freaking universe 30 years later.

An homage is the holographic chess set. An homage is NOT a beat-for-beat repetition of Ep IV, even if jumbled up a little bit and with a few scenes from Ep V and Ep VI thrown in.

The spell of childhood memories faded rapidly as The Force Awakens played out on the screen, and I spent much of movie sitting with an attitude of “Really?”

And as I walked home from the theatre…a 40-minute walk…I just got angrier and angrier as the volume and sheer audacity of the parallels continued to sink in.

J. J. Abrams is on my shit list.

Droid capture

“You’re pretty bang on, but it’s what I was expecting,” explained a friend whose ear I bent. “It’s the old ‘the same, but different’.”

“I saw it more as a mirroring of the previous six films; a device to draw in new fans and satiate old fans,” another friend said.

I call bullshit…not of my friends, you understand, but of the idea that The Force Awakens needed to remind us of the saga up to now or reinvigorate fans.

Please, how could anything from the Star Wars saga fail to draw box office records?

I know I’m in the minority here. Most fans won’t clue into any of the parallels but instead simply wrap themselves in the old familiar or marvel at the new spectacle. Cool, I am glad they enjoyed the film.

Even I will likely see it again as my first viewing was in regular 3D—strange to think of that as a thing—and not in IMAX or AVX.

And as much as I would buy Henry IV, Part Three if Shakespeare wrote a sequel to his first two Henry IVs, I will eventually add this movie to my Star Wars collections.

But J. J. Abrams is on my shit list, and I will approach any of his future movies with suspicion and cynicism.

And that, more than anything, I am saddest about.



On Toronto's Bay Street, the streets are paved with souls

On Toronto’s Bay Street, the streets are paved with souls

A thousand spires of concrete and glass

Etch their signatures into the clouds,

Holiest of shrines to commerce and wealth.

A soulless furnace of misspent energy

Or engines of tomorrow’s successes?

Streets bathed in shadow that hides

The scurrying shells of men and women,

Wan caricatures of the human spirit,

Decorated and dedicated to jobs

That pay their bills but rob their souls.

Where are the sounds of Life

In this chthonic chamber of horrors?

Who sings the songs of individuality?

Originality and free thought flit

From corner to corner, shadow to shadow,

Fearful of the crushing boots of conformity;

Chirruping into the noisy silence in hope

They are not alone.

Weekend plans (re: boots)

Superscript You will believe that a screenwriter can try.


Tonight, I go to see The Man of Steel, the latest reboot of the Superman origin story…but unlike most nights when I go to a movie with friends, tonight I shall take notes, because tomorrow it’s back to the keyboard.

Tomorrow, I will write a screenplay for the next reboot of the Superman origin story.

And then next weekend, I will write a screenplay for the subsequent reboot of the Superman origin story.

And perhaps every weekend after that, I shall write screenplays for subsequent reboots of the Superman origin story.

For, having lately seen Batsmen, Stars Trek and now Supersmen, it would appear that Hollywood only wants what they already know or more importantly, what they already know sells. Originality, it would appear, is anathema in Lotus Land.

In the meantime, I throw my head back and yell: ZOD!!!!!!!!

Sloppy Seconds™

Do you have trouble coming up with original ideas? Do you think you suck because your ideas blow?

Well, worry no more. Let me introduce you to Sloppy Seconds™, the concept that’ll put spunk back into your body.

Sloppy Seconds™ is all about taking what somebody else started and going one step further for a bigger finish. It’s about taking the worry out of satisfying those opening urges and putting all of your focus on the climax. Ideas that will send a chill down everyone’s spine and get them crying out for more.

How can I enjoy Sloppy Seconds™, you ask? Well, let’s get the ball rolling.

You know that feeling when something is on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite put your finger on it? Well, let somebody else swallow the responsibility of getting things started. Let them put it out there and once it’s on display, grab hold of it, take it all the way in, and make it yours by adding that special little something you have inside you.

If you do that, you’ll find everyone leaves satisfied, and if you go at it long enough, perhaps even sated.

And who knows? When you’re done with it, someone else may come along and make it theirs with a sloppy third. The more people who pile on, typically, the better it gets and the more fun everyone has.

So, the next time you find yourself frustrated, blocked, unable to get things started, give Sloppy Seconds™ a try. Your hands may get tired, but you’ll have a smile on your face.

Sloppy Seconds™: Coming to a location near you.


BTW: This is talking about brainstorming…you know, starting with someone else’s creative idea and then adding your own personal spin to get a story started. I’m not sure what you were thinking about.

No “new”s

Where do you get your ideas? It’s a common question and my answer tends to stun people, if only for its honesty. I steal them.

I don’t plagiarize. That would be wrong. But I seriously doubt that I could tell a truly original story if I tried. It’s not that I lack faith in my abilities, but rather that I simply don’t think there are any truly original stories to tell.

Every story I develop in the future is, on some level, based on one or more stories I have read, heard or seen throughout my life. And I’m okay with that, because what makes my story mine and not those is me, my unique spin on the age-old tales.

I was in a screenwriting workshop years ago and the instructor had us do an exercise where we all watched the same scene from the movie After Hours (a brilliant piece of psychotic filmmaking if ever there was one). When the scene was over—maybe 3 minutes of Griffen Dunne and Rosana Arquette in a coffee shop at night—he had each of us write what happened next.

When we read our scenes to the class what we quickly discovered was that we had 8 different movies, one from each workshopper. Eight people working from the same starting point, 8 movies.

Everybody steals. Always have.

Shakespeare stole his plotlines. Romeo & Juliet was a total rip-off of West Side Story.

20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Finding Nemo? Same lead character name and they were underwater.

These are not coincidences, my friends.

So cut yourself some slack. You will bring something of yourself to your re-interpretation of other stories and you will mix and match them in ways that no one else would.

Hell, Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh and Mel Gibson each filmed Hamlet and none of them truly matches the play that Shakespeare wrote. They may be the same starting point, but they are not the same movie. (The links are all to the To Be or Not To Be speech)

And if you’ve given your work to someone else to critique, and the first thing they give back to you is “This is a little too much like…”, STOP READING THEIR ADVICE because most of the rest of it is likely ill-conceived or just plain stupid.

Other people have taken photos of bees on flowers, but no one took the photo I took of that particular bee on that particular flower.

If you wrote a story when you were 20 and then wrote a story with the same plot when you were 40, I can pretty much guarantee that those would end up being two very different stories.

So relax. Tell your story, no matter where it comes from. Because in the end, you will make it your story.

PS. If you want a great book that further proves this point, check out Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis’s Show Me The Funny. More on this book in a future post.

PPS. After Hours was a rip-off–sorry, modern day interpretation–of Homer’s The Odyssey, which was also the premise of Oh Brother, Where Are’t Thou.