How Far Can You Stretch a Brand?

This question has been on my mind for a while, and it came to a head yesterday when I took my kids to see “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”. Now, I have to add a disclaimer first: Going into the theater, I had very low expectations of this movie…I knew it would be lame because it looked lame. I was just totally unprepared for how lame it really was.

Let me give you a run down of the movie:

1 hour and 3 minutes of robots and clones shooting lasers at each other, some from point-blank range.

35 minutes of totally unenlightening conversation that either a) has little to do with plot or character development or b) does little FOR plot or character development

15 minutes of unenlightening conversation WHILE clones and robots shoot lasers at each other.

5 minutes of jedi dueling (featuring no more than 3 acrobatic stunts usually characteristic of jedi dueling)

5 minutes of real plot development

Yep, that makes about 2 hours of completely mind-numbing emptiness, that will have you checking your watch from the 20 minute point, onward.

And what’s more, I’ve seen better CGI animation on PBS Kids TV Shows…we’re talking a range of 3 expressions on people’s faces, and movements that couldn’t be more stiff if they were on a classic Hannah-Barbara cartoon.

But I digress…to my first point.

How far can you stretch a brand? It seems George Lucas is intent on keeping the Star Wars brand alive, and he’ll do just about anything to keep it current, even if that means throwing a stupid plotless story together and completely destroying what Star Wars meant to us first generationers for our kids. How many more stories can you really drag out of this trilogy Georgie? And why are you so intent on building the brand around characters that 1) don’t have as much draw as the original Han, Leiah, and Luke trio, and 2) are fundamentally tragic: Anakin turns to the dark side, Obi-Wan dies at the hand of his Paduan, and Yoda never really sees the fulfillment of the prophecy he talks about for hundreds of years.

Frankly, you can only go so far with a brand before you start killing it, and Friday, George Lucas broke ground for the grave-site soon to be labeled “Star Wars”.

Living la Vida Indie in Chicago

Ok, so it’s been about a week since I blogged last. Well, I have a good excuse: I spent the week in Chicago speaking at a conference on journalism and mass communication (for which one of my presentations will be on YouTube soon…I’ll post later).

When I go to conferences, I like to take a break and sightsee…looking for fun, lesser-known places to enjoy. It’s part of the indie lifestyle, I guess. This time, however, someone living the Indie lifestyle found me. As I was walking down “Magnificent Mile” a young woman with a pen and a pad of paper stopped me and blurted out, “I’m writing a poem and I need a line–What are you waiting for?” Stunned by this, the only thing I could say was “I’m waiting to go home.” Her response, “Perfect!” and she walked off…

Reflecting on it the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but think: that was the most random thing I have ever seen. Kudos to the pedestrian-accosting, poem-girl.

A Boy and His Tiger

And so it goes with God. These words will now haunt me. The last words that Pi Patel utters in Yann Martel’s triumph: Life of Pi. I was enraptured by Martel’s story-telling, his thought-provoking philosophy wrapped into the most beautiful language I have EVER read in novel. But the ending…the ending, that’s what will keep me awake at night. I won’t tell you the ending, but I will say this: Life of Pi is a must-read. And if you want the real experience, listen to it on your Ipod–Jeff Woodman (the narrator) is nothing short of brilliant. Martel’s book–a thoughtful and riveting adventure about a shipwrecked boy stuck on a boat with a Bengal Tiger–is a never-ending stream of up and down, tragedy, triumph, chaos and order. I have never read such a beautiful fictional story in my life–in fact, I couldn’t help but wonder if it were true. I’d like to believe it’s true, after all, I think that’s how Pi Patel would want it. That is the brilliance of this book. You feel like you know Pi. You feel like it was real.

And that’s all I’ll say about this boy and his tiger. You’ll have to read it to experience it.

Ok, maybe I’ll say just one more thing, Martel’s boy and tiger made me reminisce about another wonderful story about a boy and his tiger: