Open Forum

Where you can't be off-topic because there IS no topic.

The floor is yours.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Kit says:

    You are repeating yourself, James. Just where is my Patron money going if not for you to come up with unique ways of opening each forum?!

  2. Sleeping Dog says:


    Jeeze, give poor James a break, he probably posted that before he finished his first cup of coffee.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Game of Thrones finally ended last night in what seems to have been a rather meh episode and a lot of “well, you COULD write it that way…..but that makes little sense either from a plot view or a does-this-character-act-this-way view…” (Why didn’t the dragon fry Jon Snow, for instance?)

    GOT turned into a classic example of what is known in genre literature as “the trilogy-ending problem.” First book: great, new adventure, exploration, lots of world building. Second book, more plot complications, more exploration of world, more mysterious new characters. Third book: ohmigod how do I get all these pieces back in the box and get the plot wrapped up with a nice neat bow? ….which is why unless the author is very, very, VERY good, the third book of any trilogy ends up with the characters getting shoved around/killed off for the sake of the plot….and it invariably shows.

    The same problem occurred in GOT, just on a bigger scale.

  4. @grumpy realist:

    I tend to agree with you that it was a good finale. Not great — although the visuals certainly were but that’s been true of GoT from the start — but nonetheless very good. It wrapped up all the plot lines that have been developing from the start of the series and brought an end to the story that makes sense. One wonders if the writers talked to GRRM about the ending or not, but then I also wonder if GRRM had any idea how he would end his story, assuming that he ever actually does.

    As an aside, if people are going to talk about GoT you might want to alert people to potential spoilers.

  5. Kit says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    You are implying that James leaves these things until the last minute. I disagree. But obviously the pressure has been growing with each open forum. I suspect that his sleep has been suffering, along with his personal and professional life. I predict a crack up, a meltdown. It’s really just a question of time.

  6. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist: I’ve personally never seen a long-running story-show end in a satisfying manner. What makes GoT a unique case is how it began as a fairly faithful adaptation of a series of books–and then the author of the books got stuck and the show (despite Martin’s involvement) had to continue on its own. A lot of the show’s problems in its later seasons cropped up when it began moving past the books. The first big problem came in Season 6 when they put Sansa into the role of a different character in the book, which made Littlefinger’s motivations not make sense. But it was Season 7 when things got really out of hand. The show did what Roger Ebert used to call an Idiot Plot, where characters act inexplicably stupidly just for the convenience of moving the plot forward. The once-brilliant Tyrion made one dumb blunder after the next, often in ways that seemed totally out of character. There was a fan theory going around that it would all be later revealed as him playing the long game, but that obviously did not happen.

    Besides the problem of finding a viable resolution to the story, it was a big mistake to compress the final season into six episodes–not exactly an ideal situation for showing the final battle with three different antagonists. I’ve seen worse, and the show must get some credit for remaining basically enjoyable to the end. Maybe I’m just so jaded about show endings that my expectations are sufficiently low when it comes to these things.

    Whenever I hear fans complain about how the show ruined Martin’s story, my reaction is: Yes, to some degree. But at least the show did something. Before the show even began, the book series had already entered a rut, with the meandering fourth and fifth books. Beyond a smattering of chapters he hasn’t released a new book in eight years–the entire run of the show. And that’s only supposed to be the penultimate book in the series. My sense is that he painted himself into a corner. Say what you will about the show, at least it did the work of trying to finish up the story, not just sitting on its ass for nearly a decade.

  7. Kathy says:

    I finished “Logan’s Run.”

    I wanted to say something sarcastic like “Wasn’t this called “The Odyssey” at some point?”, but I actually thought the book was mostly ok. Oh, I was bothered that Jessica seems to be in the book only as a love interest(*), and Logan’s decision to actually run is hurried and is not fully backed up in the narrative.

    As many dystopians do, this one gives a history lesson on how it came to be. In Brave New World this comes near the beginning, and gets fleshed out near the end. In 1984 it’s nearer the end when O’Brien gives Winston Goldstein’s book. Here it’s near the end, though events are referenced earlier. What’s notable is that it’s given in narrative between scenes, without a device like a lecture or a book within the story.

    It does clear up a few things I hadn’t quite understood in the movie, like what is the Cathedral, and why there are no “adult” outlaws. I’d like to see the movie again, and decide which setup makes better sense.

    The one odd thing is that about all the action in the movie takes place in a little over one day. Given the number of places Logan and Jessica visit, the adventures they get into, the dangers they face, the activity they engage in, the rest they take, that is completely fantastic.

    it’s also perfectly made clear. At the outset, Logan’s “flower” is blinking red-black, and we learn this marks the last day of his life.

    Overall I give it a 7.5

    Next I need to decide whether to read the sequels.

    (*)Because when you’re fighting for your life at each turn, and when escaping a dangerous situation merely sends you to an even more dangerous one, what you need at your side is a generic love interest.

  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    Maybe it was just low expectations after the last three episodes, which I thought were hot garbage, but I was actually happy with last night’s conclusion.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    what is known in genre literature as “the trilogy-ending problem

    Joanna Robinson has an interest take on this. She feels that as readers/viewers become more invested in a story they spend more time imaging their own plot devices and character arcs and become resentful and critical when the actual story inevitably goes in a different direction. And this effect is hugely magnified if you engage in the online community or listen to podcasts.

    I’m with Doug on GoT. I think they wound up the various stories in pretty satisfying ways that were true to the characters. YMMV. But for years now I’ve made a conscious effort to step back and evaluate a story on the creators terms rather than compare it to the story I write in my head. So, for example, I actually think that the ending of Lost was satisfying. (Just in case this becomes a topic for discussion I have one request to the moderators: anyone who espouses a strong opinion on the ending but thinks that “they were all dead all along” should be perma-banned)

  10. Kylopod says:


    She feels that as readers/viewers become more invested in a story they spend more time imaging their own plot devices and character arcs and become resentful and critical when the actual story inevitably goes in a different direction.

    I like to call that “the Misery problem,” after the book by Stephen King. It points to one of the paradoxes of fanhood: you want the writers you like to surprise you with their own imaginations, but when they begin bringing the stories in directions you don’t like, you want to be able to control them so they only write the story the way you like. You don’t want to write the story yourself, but at times you feel like you want the author to become a marionette to your desires.

    It’s not the only time a King work has explored this paradox. In the movie Stand By Me (and I can’t remember whether this was in the book or not–it’s been decades since I read it), there’s a scene where the boys are sitting around a campfire and they ask Gordy to tell them a story (Gordy is the King avatar in the book–the child protagonist who grows up to be an author), so he does, and they’re all loving it until he reaches the end. Then they start complaining about how he ended it and they attempt to “rewrite” it with their own preferred endings.

  11. Kathy says:


    Joanna Robinson has an interest take on this. She feels that as readers/viewers become more invested in a story they spend more time imaging their own plot devices and character arcs and become resentful and critical when the actual story inevitably goes in a different direction.

    You also must take fan theories into account. Some of them come up with far better stories or plot devices than the finished product does.

    Take Star Wars. There was tremendous speculation of who exactly Rey was. Partly this was a result of Lucas’ original trilogy tying everyone into one family (Vader, Luke and Leia).

    In “The Last Jedi” we learn she’s nobody from nowhere (well, Jakku), which BTW she does say so herself in the first movie. I’m fine with that, but I have to admit it it’s not quite as cool as being the reincarnation of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, or Luke’s bastard child with Mara Jade, or a female clone of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, or any of a number of other fan theories.

    Back in the early 90s, Star Trek The Next Generation ended a season in a cliffhanger involving the Borg acting in a very odd, very murderous manner. Fan theories flew far and wide on the budding internet. I think the episode, and it’s conclusion in the next season, might best be remembered for the scene where Data is in the Holodeck playing poker with Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking(*), because there was no way the actual conclusion could live up to expectations.

    (*) Hawking played himself in that scene.

  12. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: My own feeling is that people who complain that the finale wasn’t the appropriate ending for the story didn’t understand what the story was about in the first place.

    I’m also really enjoying the comments (not here) from “fans” who scream because all the characters didn’t act or end up in the ways they wanted — and then bitch about other scenes as “fan service.”

    For those who can only complain that the ending is “wrong,” I can only suggest that you spend a little less time being outraged and a little more asking “why is this the ending?”

  13. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: ” And this effect is hugely magnified if you engage in the online community or listen to podcasts.”

    For some reason, when a best-selling novelist releases a new book, people don’t rush to evaluate it chapter by chapter. But every new episode must be debated on its own, as if it’s a singular creation and not part of a larger, ongoing work.

    The last season of GoT lasted six weeks… somehow the thought of withholding judgment until we understood why certain choices were made never occurred to any of the “fans” who devote large chunks of their lives to whining about how things would be different if they were in charge…

  14. grumpy realist says:

    (Spoilers below)

    I was poking around on the Web this morning looking for analyses of what happened to send GOT off-track (considering the present uproar from a lot of the fans.) Two that I found interesting:

    1. GOT got into the habit of “let’s do something really surprising!”, and stopped worrying about whether such surprises made sense or had a decent backstory. We have expectations as to how stories should be told…and about the only place where continual yanking-viewers-expectations-out-from-under-them works is….screwball comedy.

    2. GOT moved from a “this is how people act under these pressures (economic, religious, nationalistic….) storytelling mode to “these are the good guys/bad guys and you need to identify with them/not identify with them.” Typical Hollywood tropes.

    ….and I think everyone agrees that the pacing of this last season just did not work. If you’re going to have Daenerys go all “I am queen everything I do is right burn down town” in the penultimate episode don’t you want to have at least some sort of hints earlier that this would be a possibility? As it was, this came off as “what’s the craziest thing we can have Daenerys do? Oops no real backstory we’ll pretend Hur Genetix Made Hur Dooit”.

  15. wr says:

    @Kathy: “You also must take fan theories into account”


  16. MarkedMan says:


    it’s not quite as cool as being the reincarnation of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, or Luke’s bastard child with Mara Jade, or a female clone of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, or any of a number of other fan theories.

    I think Lucas changed directions from the first (calendar) trilogy to the second: In the first Leia was a princess and her legitimacy came from her royal blood. But in the second trilogy he seemed to become uncomfortable with where that was taking him and so made Anakin the ultimate peasant (which was fine) and made the Queenship into a an elected and temporary position, i.e. not a Queen at all. To me, that second change had the feel of a very awkward retcon. In this final trilogy, the Rey character built upon that change in tone, making her another Anakin. If they make her a Skywalker or other Royalty, I suspect I’ll be disappointed unless they come up with a really creative way to handle it and stay true to that “anyone can have the Force” spirit.

  17. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Third book: ohmigod how do I get all these pieces back in the box and get the plot wrapped up with a nice neat bow?

    Isaac Asimov advised having an ending figured out before setting pixel to screen (no one sets pen to paper anymore). This may be harder to do over three books, each of which also requires an ending.

    Unless the ending of each book is a cliffhanger, maybe? Or an open ending? I’m trying to do that with an idea I had. The first book won’t really end so much as pause at a moment of dramatic discovery (one, too, where I hope the readers will know more than the characters about what it is they discovered). The second ends the day after a climactic battle. The third finally wraps up character stories and the narrative.

    Note: some people often criticize Asimov for not having an ending figured out when he wrote the original Foundation Trilogy. But the fact is he wrote a series of short stories, which grew to novella-length, about the fall of the Galactic Empire, not a coherent trilogy. It was packaged as a trilogy in the 50s, when Science Fiction publishing took off.

  18. Teve says:

    Lindsey Graham

    Verified account

    1h1 hour ago
    The fault lies with the Iranians, not the United States or any other nation.

    If the Iranian threats against American personnel and interests are activated we must deliver an overwhelming military response.

    Stand firm Mr. President.

    967 replies 1,271 retweets 4,533 likes
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    Show this thread

    Lindsey Graham

    Verified account

    1h1 hour ago
    Just received a briefing from National Security Advisor Bolton about escalating tensions with Iran.

    It is clear that over the last several weeks Iran has attacked pipelines and ships of other nations and created threat streams against American interests in Iraq.

    1,246 replies 1,401 retweets 3,859 likes
    Reply 1.2K Retweet 1.4K Like 3.9K Direct message
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  19. MarkedMan says:

    GoT Spoilers below @grumpy realist:

    But every new episode must be debated on its own, as if it’s a singular creation and not part of a larger, ongoing work

    I actually stopped listening to the podcasts after the Battle of Winterfell because there was so much “X should have died” discussion. You had to take a step back and just consider the practicalities. If more major characters had died, who would have been left for the last three episodes? They could not possibly have introduced new characters and got us to care about them in such a short time, so they had to keep a significant number of them alive.

    And, FWIW, I think that it is unfair to say that Dany went “mad” like her father, or that the writers didn’t adequately show her journey to her end. Yes, her father attempted to burn Kings Landing, but when he did so he was gibbering lunatic trying to commit suicide and bring his own people along with him. Dany was ruthless but not mad. Kings Landing was an enemy city and she made the decision to take it off the chess board. As for her journey, she very obviously served as the “good king” in this story, but with a GRRM twist. The good king trope is that if a ruler truly has the interests of the oppressed at heart, they are justified in being ruthless against the evil ones. And the GRRM twist was to look at that as if it was a real thing and ask “What are the metrics for deciding who the evil ones are? And by the way, shouldn’t we apply those metrics to you?” At every step since late in the first season Dany’s instinct was to identify who she felt was evil and ruthlessly destroy them. For example, when she crucified the slavers she didn’t try to identify the worst of the lot. To her all the slavers were evil and every one of them deserved a hideous death. At every step of the way she wanted to strike out in the most overwhelming and vicious way possible, while her advisors argued against it. But she always chafed, she always felt she was being held back. And what happened in this season? One by one her advisors were killed or sidelined until all she had left was Greyworm, who never advised her on anything other than the purely military, and the Dothraki who were only interested in conquest. There were only two ways this could turn out: Either Dany took it all and became a despot, or she died.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    Here’s a good analysis of what’s been going wrong with GOT.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I’m a huge fan of the Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin series and one of the things that I liked about it was that if the story was served by having the pair in, say, Portugal for one part and then later on thousands of miles away that would take four months to journey too, he would often just end a chapter in one place and pick up the narrative at the next, without bothering to come up with so much as a segue. And even though each book ended with a conclusion to all major plot threads, the tone was more like a chapter ending, not like it was tied up with a bow and complete. I know it sounds awkward, but it was actually really effective.

  22. Kathy says:


    If they make her a Skywalker or other Royalty, I suspect I’ll be disappointed unless they come up with a really creative way to handle it and stay true to that “anyone can have the Force” spirit.

    As I said, I’m fine that Rey is a nobody without connections or a head start (unlike Ben Solo?), even if it’s not as cool as some fan theories. But the fan theories tell you what the hardcore public wants, and they want to connect Rey to the First Family of the Force.

  23. Sleeping Dog says:



    Maybe it’s writers block. He’s at that age keyboard and the only thought that enters his mind is __________.

  24. wr says:

    @MarkedMan: ” At every step since late in the first season Dany’s instinct was to identify who she felt was evil and ruthlessly destroy them.”

    Yes. And in a brilliant bit of audience manipulation, we were always led to cheer for her when she committed these atrocities — because she was committing them against “bad guys.” And some people get so caught up in that they’re pissed that Dany “suddenly” became evil in the war against King’s Landing, when in fact she was merely doing exactly the same thing she’d been doing all along — only this time she was doing it to people we didn’t hate.

    It’s the same thing with all the whining about how “suddenly Jon Snow is making all sorts of terrible mistakes” and “Tyrion who was supposed to be so smart keeps screwing up.” Jon Snow ALWAYS made mistakes and for the same reason — because he is a good guy in his heart, he is always convinced that deep down people on all sides are good… basically the Joe Biden position. And that means he believes that an irrational person will see reason if it’s simply explained well enough.

  25. Teve says:
  26. wr says:

    @grumpy realist: “Here’s a good analysis of what’s been going wrong with GOT.”

    Seriously? This writer bases the argument on the notion that after the material in the books ran out, the series was “taken-over” by big-shot Hollywood showrunners.

    In fact, Benioff and Weiss wrote and produced the pilot (both versions) and have been responsible for every word of the series ever since. You may like the way they took their show or not, but it was them making it when it was “good” — that is, according to this writer, when it rode his particular hobby horse.

    I can’t help but be reminded of a time many years ago when I was running a horror/comedy show that shot its first 14 episodes in England, then had to be brought back to LA for its last six for many unexpected business reasons. Our lead actress spent weeks complaining that the American writers weren’t nearly as talented as the British ones and that it was outrageous that she was expected to speak words scribbled by such hacks. She demanded we bring back the British writers. So my partner and I brought her into our office and laid out all the scripts… all of which after the third (which is where we were hired) were entirely written by us… as evidenced by the names on the covers, which she’d apparently never bothered to look at.

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist:

    the trilogy-ending problem

    I’d also see it as a prequel problem. It ruined the Star Wars series for me. Enjoyed the first three movies (episodes 4, 5, and 6). But you can’t help but imagine context and backstories. My version was never remotely well developed, but it made more sense than the over the top nonsense Lucas came up with. Tolkein and Peter Jackson had the same problem.

  28. MarkedMan says:


    Jon Snow ALWAYS made mistakes and for the same reason — because he is a good guy in his heart, he is always convinced that deep down people on all sides are good… basically the Joe Biden position.

    Heh. I always complained that Jon was “more Ned than Ned” and that was not a compliment. I think I’ll use it whenever I hear Joe talking about working with Republicans.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Back in the dark ages, the generic love interest was seen to be the “reason to keep on.” In more modern times, the reason to keep on comes from one’s self. (This may explain suicide rates going up.)

  30. The abyss that is the soul of cracker says:

    @Teve: So let me see if I’ve got this. The United States broke a perfectly cromulent treaty with Iran and started trying to destabilize the nation again with renewed sanctions, but somehow Iran is to blame for the fact that relations between Iran and the US are deteriorating. Have I got this? (And, BTW, the usual toadies seem to be piling on.)

    “War is nothing but a heart breaker/It’s only friend is the undertaker.” FTA (ATHTRIO).

  31. Kathy says:


    The problem with prequels is that you’re constrained by what can happen, because the audience already knows what else will happen. You can’t have Anakin not join the emperor, because by the first movie he had already done so. You can’t not have a Clone Wars, either, even if it was just a throwaway line.

  32. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Kathy: This is good advice, except when the story takes control of itself. In my recently-published first novel, as originally written, the protagonist ends the story as a mentor to a young boy. When I went back to revise it pre-publication, the protagonist died, which was his real desire all along. I don’t envy any screenwriter trying to bring a close to something as sprawling as the GRRM novels.

  33. Teve says:

    @The abyss that is the soul of cracker: I am strongly averse to any conspiracy theory. There’s no Sekrit Carburetor that will make a ’57 chevy get 200 MPG, the Mayo Clinic is not recommending vaccines so they can make money off you when you get sick, Hillary’s not running a cannibalistic pedophile pizza joint by email, and the extraterrestrial equivalent of a VW Microbus isn’t parked at Area 51.

    That said, if the US government claims absolutely anything is an attack by Iran in the next 6 months I will be automatically certain it is a False Flag.

  34. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: The thing is, I’ve encountered good prequels before. One example is Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, the fourth published novel in a series but which takes place earlier than the three that preceded it. It’s not only good, it’s by far the best installment in the series.

    I think prequels have gotten a bad rap in part because the Star Wars ones fell into just about every trap for a prequel, and since those are some of the best-known prequels in our culture, it has led people to think those pitfalls are inevitable. The biggest problem is not just that the audience knows what will happen (which isn’t always the case–I’ve met people who never saw the original Star Wars trilogy and came to the prequels as babes in the woods), it’s that it tends to inspire stale, flaccid storytelling because the writer is stuck within the parameters of the preexisting narrative, and there’s a tendency in that situation for the writer to get bogged down in the task of simply bringing the story from point A to point B rather than bringing the events to life. That’s not to say it can’t be done. But it’s a challenge the Star Wars prequels failed at spectacularly.

    Those films are filled with “events that have to happen” in order for the original trilogy to be explained. Anakin has to fall to the dark side of the force; he has to fall in love with Padme; she has to die at some point; the Old Republic has to fall to a fascist takeover. There’s an obligatory element hovering over the entire trilogy, and Lucas handles it mostly by telling rather than showing. When Qui-Gon describes Obi-Wan as “headstrong,” we pretty much have to take his word for it. And the romance between Anakin and Padme is handled basically by having the two declare their undying love for each other in the most banal and straightforward way.

    Showing a character transition from hero to villain is always a tricky matter. That’s why we’re still arguing whether what happened with Dany in GoT made sense. And that’s from a series known for its moral ambiguity. Lucas, whose notion of good and evil is basically black-and-white, didn’t stand a chance. I had to laugh at the following exchange from Revenge of the Sith:

    ANAKIN: If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.

    OBI-WAN: Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes.

    This was obviously a swipe at Bush’s “You’re either with us or you’re against us,” but Star Wars films just don’t have the credibility to make that criticism. Based on what we see, all the characters deal in absolutes, including the Jedi.

  35. michael reynolds says:

    @grumpy realist:

    which is why unless the author is very, very, VERY good, the third book of any trilogy ends up with the characters getting shoved around/killed off for the sake of the plot….and it invariably shows.

    Why, thank you. It can be done. When we ended Animorphs everyone screamed. Ten years later the consensus is that the ending was great. But I learned my lesson and determined I’d never let that happen again. Gone, BZRK and Front Lines all ended on books better-reviewed than the lead-ins. (In fact each book outscored the previous one). Endings that were farmed out to ghostwriters (Everworld) which is in effect what D&D were, sucked.

    Weiss and Benioff are very good writers. But this wasn’t their story, it wasn’t their world, it was Martin’s. The first three books were excellent. The next two were not, and I suspect what happened is that Martin no longer needed to make a living, he lost motivation and felt a loss of control over his story because of the TV series. I don’t know the guy but that seems likely.

    Writers insist on trying to explain writing to non-writers, but it’s a bit like when someone tries to explain physics to me with the proviso that there can’t be any math. It doesn’t work. The story doesn’t live in the conscious part of your brain, the part that can explain things, it’s all being handled by the inarticulate crazy person who hides in the back of your brain.

    That said, a lot of the fault is Martin’s. He suffered from bloat. When I sat down to write Gone I explicitly took Martin as my cautionary tale. I’d seen the bloat and I was determined not to let that happen. You can’t just keep spinning off new characters every time you need some story or it becomes impossibly unwieldy. Deadwood had the same problem – Mr. Milch fell in love with the sound of his dialog and forgot about narrative. By the middle of season two it was down to random couples haranguing each other in endless sidebars as he tried to find a story.

    Book people who’ve done one-and-dones don’t recognize that a series isn’t just a sequence of standalones. Incidentally, lest I be accused of runaway ego, series are all I can do. I can’t write a standalone worth a damn, my brain doesn’t go there. My worst-reviewed book (3.5 stars) is Eve and Adam, a standalone I co-authored with my wife.

  36. Kathy says:


    I’ve read good prequels, too. Offhand, Asimov’s “Prelude to Foundation” is some of his best character work, and he had several constraints involving knitting together other novels (and he made some factual errors).

    But you know what I really hated from the prequels? That Padme dies of literally nothing at all. Not from injuries Anakin gave her, which would have made perfect sense, but from something the writer himself didn’t even know what. It feels like “Well, she has to die now because she’s not in the sequels.”

    Aside from that, they were terribly written. I had some hope after the first movie, which wasn’t terrible, but these weren’t realized.

    If you consider “Rogue One” as a Star Wars prequel, while not a great movie, it’s better than the three Lucas prequels combined, IMO. Although I can’t help but mention something incredibly terrible happened to Darth Vader between “Rogue One” and “A New Hope.” Just look at how he fights at one movie, and then the other. It hardly seems possible it’s the same man in both.

  37. dazedandconfused says:

    On the subject of out-of-control fire breathing dragons….ahem…HBO’s “Chernobyl” starts slow but the second episode sets the hook big time. Check it out.

  38. Mister Bluster says:

    “…I have been the most transparent president and administration in the history of the country by far.” President Pud April 24, 2019

    White House directs former counsel Don McGahn not to testify before House panel Today

  39. DrDaveT says:


    I think prequels have gotten a bad rap in part because the Star Wars ones fell into just about every trap for a prequel, and since those are some of the best-known prequels in our culture, it has led people to think those pitfalls are inevitable.

    “Best-known” is an understatement; I’m having trouble coming up with many other prequels that are known at all. (I would cite Patriot Games, which was published after The Hunt for Red October, but I’m pretty sure it was a trunk novel that was written first but unsaleable until THfRO was a huge success. The same is probably true of some of Dan Brown’s drivel.)

    A couple of my favorite SF series involve prequels — Lois McMaster Bujold’s Barrayar is a big leap back in time from where the Vorkosigan series was at that point, and Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe(tm) has featured at least half a dozen prequels, some of which are excellent. Talking to Dragons, the ‘fourth’ book of Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, was actually written and published first — the ‘first’ three books of the series are prequels to it.

    In C. S. Forester’s “Horatio Hornblower” novels, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower was the sixth novel published.

    An Asimov prequel was cited above… That’s about all I’m coming up with. Am I forgetting something famous?

  40. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That said, a lot of the fault is Martin’s. He suffered from bloat.

    Could be worse; he could be David Weber. Weber was already prone to bloat from the beginning, but then got (1) too successful to edit, and (2) carpal tunnel syndrome. There’s nothing worse than an already-too-verbose author who starts dictating his novels instead of having to type them…

  41. grumpy realist says:

    @DrDaveT: The other thing I’ve noticed David Weber does a lot is random internal monologues which go on for pages and PAGES….I’d put up with it (hell, I read Victorian novels for fun!) except that Weber does this between two lines of a conversation. No no no no. Have your character walking in the woods by his lonesome and ruminating. Or staring into a fire while drinking mead. But NOT, for gossakes, between two lines of a conversation with someone else!

    P.S. Isn’t the Silmarillion a prequel?

  42. Kathy says:


    That’s about all I’m coming up with. Am I forgetting something famous?

    I don’t know if “famous” applies. After Babylon 5 finished its five year run, Straczynski did a TV movie prequel called “In The Beginning.”

    It was good. But let me back up: the series, which followed a story arc, had a lot of backstory regarding the rise of the Earth Alliance, the enmity between Narn and Centauri, the peculiarities of the Vorlons, etc. Also a fair deal of character backstories, like John Sheridan being “the only human captain ever to defeat a Minibari vessel in battle,” Delenn having been present at Dukhat’s death (complete with soul hunters!), Jeffrey Sinclair’s actions on the Battle of the Line, and more. All of that got packed into the prequel (ok, a few scenes had aslready appeared in the show).

    So not only the author knows how things have to go, the audience knows a fair bit of why things have to go that way. And the movie was still good.

  43. Kathy says:

    Maybe authors should begin with the prequels? 😉

    I get that having done a story, with some implied backstory, one might think then more about what happened earlier, and thus a prequel is born.

    Other times, the implied prequel seems much more interesting. For example, in the recent Justice League movie, when Diana explains about the last time Stepenwolf and his boxes were on Earth, there is a short scene showing the alliance of gods, Atlanteans, Amazons, “all the tribes of man,” and a Green Lantern (look closely, you see a GL ring fly away). That looked far more interesting than the movie we got.

  44. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: I had Prelude to Foundation in mind too as a good prequel, though it’s not as good as the first book–at least in my opinion.

    I agree about Padme dying of “literally nothing at all”; that was just bad writing. It’s also connected to one of the biggest plot holes between the prequels and the first trilogy: the following conversation from Return of the Jedi:

    LUKE: Do you remember your mother? Your real mother?

    LEIA: Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.

    LUKE: What do you remember?

    LEIA: Just…images, really. Feelings.

    LUKE: Tell me.

    LEIA: She was very beautiful. Kind, but…sad.

    Of course fans have come up with a gazillion ways of trying to explain this conversation in light of what the prequels reveal. Maybe Leia’s latent Jedi powers give her the ability to remember all the way back to birth. (A lot of the plot holes in the series can be explained in terms of the characters’ Force abilities–for instance, how did Luke know where on Dagobah to find Yoda? Obi-Wan never specified.) Maybe she sensed what her mother was like without having ever really met her. Maybe she was having false memories (which may be psychologically realistic, but still a copout when explaining this inconsistency).

    This is actually one of several clues from the original trilogy that Lucas initially envisioned the back story differently than how he ended up developing it when he worked on the prequels. One of the most blatant but least-talked about examples concerns the ages of the characters. When Luke removes Vader’s mask at the end of the first trilogy, the man beneath the mask was played by a 75-year-old actor named Sebastian Shaw. Alec Guinness for that matter was in his 60s and could easily have passed for someone even older. If you do the math, this would all seem to imply that the events of the prequels–at the very least Luke and Leia’s birth–happened when Anakin and Obi-Wan were well into middle age, not their 20s and 30s!

    One thing that drives Star Wars fans up the wall about Lucas is his long-time habit of misleadingly claiming that everything he did was part of some grand plan he had from the start. In fact much of it was developed on the fly. When A New Hope first hit theaters in 1977, it was not even called A New Hope–it was simply Star Wars, and there was no mention in the opening crawl of it being “Episode IV.” That was all added later, after he began working on Empire. (Yes, he began altering prints of the film long before the Special Editions in the ’90s.) He may have had some vague idea of a back story, but nothing really fleshed out. He didn’t decide on making Vader Luke’s father until well into the production for Empire. He didn’t decide on making Luke and Leia siblings until he started working on ROTJ. Yet he’s repeatedly made it sound like he conceived everything from the start as a 9-chapter saga and then decided for some reason to first release Chapter 4. The fact is that when he made the 1977 film nobody had any idea it was going to be successful, let alone the massive record-breaking hit it would become. Beyond the fact that it leaves Vader alive at the end, leaving the door open to sequels, it’s essentially a standalone film (the only one in the entire series) that never implies it’s a chapter in an ongoing story.

  45. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Isn’t the Silmarillion a prequel?

    Not really. In Tolkien’s mind, the material that was later collected by his son into The Silmarillion was the original, the core of the body of work that he really cared about. It was written over many decades, much of it after The Hobbit but nearly all of it before The Lord of the Rings, and revised over and over.

    The commercial success of The Hobbit took everyone by surprise. The request that Tolkien write something else about hobbits dragged Tolkien away from the material he liked best to struggle with trying to produce something like an adult novel. The behind-the-scenes tales of the creation of TLotR are hilarious — Tolkien literally had no idea what story he was telling, or even who the main characters were, until quite late in the writing. (The character who would eventually become Aragorn son of Arathorn, heir to the thrones of Gondor and Arnor, was in early drafts a hobbit called Trotter.)

  46. Kylopod says:


    “Best-known” is an understatement; I’m having trouble coming up with many other prequels that are known at all.

    One film that greatly helped popularize the concept of the prequel was The Godfather Part II, which is both a sequel and prequel to the original film. (Coppola was a close friend of Lucas and had a strong influence on him as a filmmaker.) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is technically a prequel to Raiders (it takes place a year earlier), though unlike these other examples it’s not really an origin story. It’s true the Star Wars prequels are by far the most famous “pure” prequels, though those came to be more common in the 21st century, especially in these large sci-fi, horror, or comic-book franchises: Prometheus in the Alien series, the new Fantastic Beasts trilogy, some of the entries in X-Men, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and so on. Movies like Red Dragon and Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy are also sometimes called prequels even though they’re based on books that were in fact written chronologically.

  47. Gustopher says:

    @grumpy realist:

    (Why didn’t the dragon fry Jon Snow, for instance?)

    Because the dragon was a complex, sentient being who understood that Daneiris wasn’t killed by John Snow as much as she was killed by her own ambitions, and that the entirety of the Westeros system of government was inherently flawed — Danny was right that the shell had to be broken, but was herself unable to destroy the wheel as she was enslaved to it.

    It was a very complex dragon. It’s just racism (or, speciesism) that we never realized this before that moment. Dragons aren’t just fire-breathing, flying dogs,

    If that wasn’t the point of the scene, they would have put John Snow in front of the throne. He would survive the fire, because of his Targaryen blood, and the symbolic destruction of the Iron Throne would have still happened.

    Overall, I was happy enough with the events of Season 8, but not the execution. Stretch it out over two seasons, and it could have been great.

    I understand that everyone involved wants to get on with their lives, though. We could have lived without most of the season with the Sand Snakes, had they known how much they had to shovel to this season. But they didn’t.

  48. Gustopher says:


    I think Lucas changed directions from the first (calendar) trilogy to the second: In the first Leia was a princess and her legitimacy came from her royal blood.

    I’m not going to guess what was in Lucas ‘ head, but Liea’s Legitimacy came from her being a badass. She took the damsel in distress motif and turned it on its head in the first movie. Yeah, she needed help opening a door, but after that, she led them off the Death Star. It took a farmboy blessed with god powers to retake control of the narrative.

    Lucas diminished her by making her a Skywalker.


    In “The Last Jedi” we learn…

    I think the Last Jedi would have made a perfect end to the Star Wars movies. Everything was brought to its thematic conclusion.

    How will they survive? It doesn’t matter if they do. There’s always broom boy and probably countless others.

    What happens next? More of the same. Evil cannot be defeated, but it’s worth fighting anyway.

    My quibbles with the movie are about the weird trench warfare in space, while tiny ships can go off and have adventures, and someone should have created better technobabble… maybe they’re in a dark matter nebula, and the heavier ships are more because of their mass — it’s bullshit, but it’s bullshit that keeps the suspension of disbelief going.

    I have no need to see the next movie. It just seems redundant. Oh, we’ll defeat evil again? Sure, whatever, it will resurface. First Order falls? There’s always a Second Order…

  49. Gustopher says:


    The problem with prequels is that you’re constrained by what can happen, because the audience already knows what else will happen.

    The audience knows he starting state of the first movie/story, but most in most episodic fiction you know the main character isn’t going to die. The six million dollar man will not be replaced mid season with the seven million dollar enby (non-binary person, for those who don’t know, but it’s such a cute word I want to weasel it in wherever, clarity be damned). That wasn’t what made the six million dollar man a bad show.

    The problem with prequels is the same problems sequels have — straddling the line between offering something new and something that fits the existing world. It’s either jarring, or it’s just there.

    You can’t have Anakin not join the emperor, because by the first movie he had already done so. You can’t not have a Clone Wars, either, even if it was just a throwaway line.

    Why is more interesting than what.

    The Star Wars prequels were just not good movies. I look forward to the new Disney live action remakes. (Are you sure Hayden Christianson wasn’t CGI?)

  50. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Kathy: I fear that too many authors get driven to write a prerequel because they want to tell “the whole story.” Much of my writing has suffered from that delusion. In my current work-in-progress, I’m writing the backstory first. When I get to writing the tale, I’ll have a much better idea of where and when to feed the backstory into the story arc.

  51. Kathy says:


    Time never works out in myths. If you follow the full arc of the Trojan War from the Apple of Discord to the birth of Achilles to the judgment of Paris to the abduction of Helen and finally to the Siege of Troy, you’re talking about thirty years. The story doesn’t read as though that’s the case.

    Much of the discrepancy is due to there being prequels and sequels, so to speak. that is, some elements were added later, some myths were mixed in as well. So it’s an old story.

    I recall the crawl for a New Hope did not say “Episode IV.” It’s clear when Kenobi says “Darth Vader betrayed and murdered your father,” he meant just that, not some hidden truth from a certain point of view. It’s also clear if Lucas had thought Luke and Leia were siblings, the incestuous kiss in Empire wouldn’t have taken place.

    When Kenobi tells Luke he has a sister, though, I assumed her to be Leia in the split second before Luke says so. Why? She was the only woman in the movie, who else would it be?

    And, yeah, the Force went from feature to plot device quickly. Just about any question, plot hole, inconsistency, etc. can be explained by “The Force did it.”

    Lastly, the quality of the dialogue has never been great in Star Wars, even when its trying to be deep, or rather especially when it’s trying to be deep. I’d say the only such deep thought worth anything was in The Last Jedi when Yoda, of all people, speaks about failure.

  52. Kathy says:


    My own work in progress started with a simple idea without much backstory. It could have proceeded that way, except it’s my conviction that that the author must know everything relevant in their story(*), even if it doesn’t get put down on paper.

    Therefore I thought about it and made up a backstory that, fortunately, wouldn’t be of much interest to most people. But if anyone asks me what Antiope is and where she came from, I can say I do know.

    (*)I’ve a very strong feeling that Clarke had no fixed idea of what Rama really was in his “Rendezvous With Rama” novel, and that he didn’t much care. I get that he wanted it to be beyond human comprehension, and that Rama came and went for reasons of its own having nothing to do with humanity. Fair enough. But the author should know.

  53. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: I did come across a DVD set which claims to include the original theatrical films as they first appeared–and indeed, the opening crawl to the first film on that DVD only says “Star Wars,” not “Episode IV” or “A New Hope.” However, the VHS copy I remember from the ’80s did include those subtitles. Lucas had already started to tinker with the films by then, more than a decade before the Special Editions, and even longer before the notorious Blu-ray edit where he inserts Hayden Christensen into the films.

    On the commentary to these DVDs, Lucas claims that he had wanted from the beginning to call it “Episode IV: A New Hope” but that the studio nixed the idea. I don’t believe him. Lucas has a documented habit of rewriting history when it comes to these things. I don’t know if it’s deliberate lying or some form of the Mandela effect. In any case, there’s substantial evidence that he did not come up with the idea of the first film being a fourth chapter until he began working on Empire, and then he went back and modified the prints of the original film for later VHS and theatrical rereleases.

  54. Kathy says:


    I actually thought some of the changes to the special editions were good ones. Like windows on Cloud City, or the extra fighters in the first movie. But the best part was having the movies in the big screen again. The worst part was making poor Greedo the worst shot in the known universe. He has Han at point blank, gun held level and aimed squarely, and he misses? Unless Greedo was a former Stormtrooper, there’s no excuse.

    Part of the Lucas myth is that he put off making the prequels until the technology caught up with his vision, or so the story goes. If so, I could understand the auteur perfecting his vision and story over many years. But then we should have gotten a decent story out of the wait, not things like Kenobi leaving Anakin crippled and mortally wounded to die alone.

    That’s the third thing that bugged me most, after Padme’s death of nothing. The second was that Yoda decides to go after Palpatine alone, while he sends Obi Wan to deal with Anakin. Come on. at that moment, Anakin was nothing. He had no plan, no army, no clue, and wasn’t a danger to the Republic or to anyone not in his vicinity. Palpatine was the threat, and the most formidable foe. Take him out, then deal with his lackey.

    And not only did they not kill Palpatine, they also left Anakin alive.

    Good job.

  55. Teve says:
  56. Teve says:
  57. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: I think the majority of changes he made in the Special Editions were unnecessary at best and in some cases seriously detracted from the film. Even things that seemed on the surface to be improvements were problematic. For example, in the original it’s never clear what Luke does to the Hoth monster when he escapes from the cave; we see him flash his light saber and then something white and furry plops to the ground. I always thought it meant he killed the monster, but apparently it was supposed to imply he’d simply cut its arm off (perhaps foreshadowing what he would experience later in the film). The Special Edition made all this absolutely unmistakable, so you might consider it an improvement. But personally I think they went overboard; the new shots with the monster in the cave look cheesy (typical B-movie man-in-monster-suit) and distract from the focal point of the scene, which is Luke’s struggles with his Force powers.

    Throughout the Special Editions Lucas inserted tons of new things into the background that weren’t in the original–various creatures, spaceships, and more. It was kind of fun to see, but on another level it was extremely distracting, and it used the kind of ’90s CGI that’s still reminiscent of old video games.

    And those are the changes that were at least okay. Some of the things he added were really bad: the cartoony CGI Jabba who meets Han in the first film; the scene in Jabba’s palace in ROTJ, where they replaced the original funky song with an amazingly bad muppet-rock number; and, of course, Greedo Shoots First. The latter is a perfect example of the way Lucas rewrites history. First of all, the idea that what Han did in the original made him somehow a darker character is absurd. Greedo tells Han “I’ve been looking forward to killing you for a long time” right before Han shoots him. That’s clearly enough of a provocation that Han’s action should be considered self-defense regardless of whether Greedo managed to get a shot at him. As if that weren’t bad enough, the way Lucas edits the scene to make it look like Greedo shoots first is somewhere between confusing and fake. But what really irritated fans was that Lucas kept insisting he’d always intended Greedo to shoot first and only failed to make this clear due to the technological constraints.

    Now, I admit that at the time the Special Editions came out, I wasn’t particularly angry about any of this. I was excited about getting to see the films in the theater for basically the first time in my life. (My parents did take me to see A New Hope when I was six months old. I’m not sure whether they took me to see Empire, but I certainly can’t remember it. I do remember my mom taking me and my brother to see ROTJ when I was 6, but the line was tapering around the block and it was raining, so she finally just gave up and took us home.) Even stuff I’m complaining about like that Jabba scene, I was just thrilled to see the old footage of Harrison Ford. This was before the era of deleted scenes on DVDs, so it was a genuine novelty. While I had criticisms of many of the changes from the moment I spotted them, watching the Special Editions in the theaters was overall a happy and satisfying experience for me, quite unlike the prequels a few years later.

    Still, I continue to maintain that Lucas should have left well enough alone. I would say that even if all the changes had been improvements. My general philosophy is that artists shouldn’t try to tinker with their original works, and if they feel there are flaws in them, then they should just make new stuff. I don’t have any problem with Hitchcock remaking The Man Who Knew Too Much (especially because it’s markedly better than the original), and even that may be the exception that proves the rule. The original Star Wars films, flaws and all, are products of their era, and that’s part of how I’m able to enjoy them. I like the fact that I’m seeing exactly what ’70s audiences saw. For me, it’s part of the experience. So even the “improvements” are, to my mind, a form of tampering–not because the originals were perfect, but because they were what they were, and that’s how I prefer to receive them.

  58. grumpy realist says:

    Hmmm! Looks like the problem of Northern Ireland in Brexit may be resolved by the reunification of Ireland. (Especially if the U.K. keeps asking for extensions, heh.)

  59. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: Well, if there’s anyone who tinkers like mad, it’s opera composers. Sometimes because [backstory]….which is how we get the Ring Cycle (Wagner wrote THREE EXTRA OPERAS to explain his Gotterdammerung, which has to be the ultimate in backtracking). Then there’s the “no no opera is too short/long we need it longer/shorter” (La Belle Helene by Offenbach, Boris Godunov). Sometimes it’s the censor who has a fit and insists on a complete revamp (several operas by Verdi). And quite a few times it’s been the composer’s “I’m not happy with this, let’s rewrite this several times (Verdi’s Simone Boccanegra, Wagner again, Schumann….)

    And I never have understood George Lucas’s insistence on “oh, I MEANT to do that from the beginning…” Actually, he didn’t. I watched a documentary on the making of Star Wars and if it hadn’t been for the genius editing provided by George’s first wife the damn thing would have never gotten off the ground. I forget exactly how much of what George shot actually made it to the final screen but it was certainly ruthlessly purged of a considerable portion.

  60. Kathy says:


    Count your blessings. Lucas might have redone the whole scene where the Hoth cave monsters invade the rebel base.

    The Jabba and Han scene at the spaceport was laughable. Just that. It’s ok, in a bad dialogue sort of way, until Han walks behind Jabba and steps on his tail. the quality of the effects, with Han popping up briefly, looks terrible.

    BTW, Jabba never worked well for me as a villain. He’s more disgusting than imposing, and even had the evil laugh. You know who works perfectly well? Dryden Vos in the Solo movie. He’s not imposing at all. But the way he calmly and coolly asks Tobias and co why he shouldn’t kill them, and then reasonably talks the matter over, is chilling.

    Anyway, I agree many add-ons in the trilogy were not necessary, and some are terrible. But I don’t much care. I don’t disagree with your argument, but also an artist can do what they want with their work. Besides, Lucas just doesn’t fare too well with his other works, except Indiana Jones.

    All this talk of Star Wars reminded me of a small detail. In many movies, the characters set out to do something, but that gets derailed somehow. Had they done what they intended to do, there’d be no movie.

    Consider the first Star Wars film. Suppose Han had delivered Luke, Obi Wan, R2-D2, and C-3PO to Alderaan. What then? Well, Han leaves with Chewie to pay off Jabba. Luke, Kenobi, and the droids meet Bail Organa, presumably, and make plans to get R2 or the plans to the hidden rebel base, when suddenly there’s a flash in the sky as Alderaan gets blown to bits, along with our valiant heroes and C-3PO.

    I suppose if they managed to transmit the plans to their base, the rebels might get a fleet together and launch an attack on the Death Star. But without a Jedi pilot, their attack would most likely have failed.

  61. Kylopod says:

    @grumpy realist: 19th-century writers definitely wrote revised editions of their books. One example I remember is Oliver Twist–Dickens in his later years tried to edit the novel to tone down the crass anti-Semitism, though the standard edition today is still the original.

  62. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: I liked Jabba in the original ROTJ, and I like pretty much anything Lucas did using practical effects; CGI was his big weakness. In a sense he was a true visionary, as he recognized the potential with CGI before a lot of other people did. The problem lies in that word “potential.” He never got CGI up to the point to justify using it as broadly as he did. It still looked cartoony and fake and, most of all, insubstantial: when he used puppets and animotronics and even stop-motion, say what you will, at least you were looking at something that took up physical space in the real world.

    One thing Lucas has never appreciated is the positive effect of the constraints he was forced to work within when filming the originals. It pushed him to work harder, to find solutions using the limited resources he had. Listening to him in interviews, it’s clear he hated the constraints and felt they kept him from fulfilling his full vision. I saw an old Rolling Stone interview with him from 1977 just a few months after the original film came out, and at one point he commented that his new film Star Wars wasn’t perfect. I thought to myself “Duh,” and wondered what he was going to say was wrong with it. The acting? The writing? The plot? He explained that Artoo looked too much like a vacuum cleaner.

    One of the paradoxes of the CGI revolution is that it was in many ways a step backwards. Look at the classic spectacle films of the ’70s, and you often find the effects looked more convincing than what came later, in part because the filmmakers were less ambitious, and they tended to take a less-is-more approach. So in Jaws, for example, Spielberg avoided showing the shark for the entire first hour, and then he only let us see it gradually in brief glimpses. In the famous chest-bursting sequence from Alien, it’s striking how little we actually see of the creature.

    CGI, on the other hand, convinced filmmakers that it gave them the ability to literally draw whatever they imagined, and while the technical work used to attempt to make it all look real was impressive, there was a failure to acknowledge that it was often less than successful. How much role Lucas played in that process, I don’t know; maybe it would have happened without him. But he’s definitely one of the most prominent examples of this mindset.

  63. Kathy says:


    The first big film I recall that used CGI, or as known back then “computer effects,” was Terminator 2. As I recall these were confined to the liquid metal terminator’s metamorphoses.

    Babylon 5 (here we go again) made extensive use of early CGI. Pretty much all effects were CGI, from the ships to the weapons to some creatures. I still think it looks good, but I’ve no eye for fine detail at all.

    But let’s back up. What about TRON? The explanation, from the 20th anniversary edition DVD, is that some effects were animated computer wire graphics, then hand-painted with watercolors. All scenes in the virtual world (inside the computer back then) were filmed in B&W and hand-painted with watercolors. The technique produced a unique look no one has repeated, especially not the sequel.

    the thing about CGI is that we wouldn’t have so many visual effect extravaganzas without it. Babylon 5 would simply have been impossible without it.

  64. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: According to what I’ve read, the earliest feature film to use any sort of computer-graphics effects was Westworld (1973).

    But it wasn’t until the 1990s with Jurassic Park (another Michael Crichton story about a sci-fi theme park run amok) that it began to approach photo-realism.

  65. Kathy says:


    My mistake saying “first.”

    Anyway, yes, Jurassic Park was an early notable film using tons of CGI, though also more than a few practical effects.

    IMO, one should also mention Toy Story. Essentially it, and the myriad animated films that followed, are all-CGI affairs.

    Which leads to a bit of irony. Disney’s Aladdin was mostly drawn animation with some CGI effects. Very soon the live-action Disney version of Aladdin will premier, and will feature extensive CGI.

  66. MarkedMan says:


    So in Jaws, for example

    You are more right then you know. The shark was a huge part of Spielberg’s special effects budget and he envisioned it as a huge and terrifying part of the film. And then he got… Bruce. (Bruce is what they called the shark.) So he got very creative on minimal changes to substitute some other scare for the shark. Originally the famous head shot was supposed to be the shark coming around the corner. I saw Jaws in a theater and when that head bobbed out of the boat people literally screamed in terror. No shark would have done that.

  67. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy: Toy Story and other fully CGI animated films are really a different category. They don’t try to fool audiences into thinking they’re looking at live action (at least not until the new Lion King). So they don’t run into the same problems as CGI as a special-effects technique in live-action films. (That’s also why there are still stop-motion animated films to this day even though stop-motion as a special-effects technique was pretty much killed off with the CGI revolution in the ’90s.) Because they’re not burdened with trying to create photo-realism, they don’t suffer from not looking 100% real. Nobody complains about “bad CGI” in a CGI cartoon; that’s just not what they’re for.

  68. DrDaveT says:


    According to what I’ve read, the earliest feature film to use any sort of computer-graphics effects was Westworld (1973).

    I was told that the first film to feature fully CGI scenes was The Last Starfighter, an otherwise pretty bad film memorable only for being Robert Preston’s last movie role, and for the idea that some arcade video games were actually recruiting stations for aliens who needed pilots for their war…