LUKE SKYWALKER RETURNS TO THE GALAXY, FROM DECEMBER 15TH, 2017

ARRIVING IN LONDON, FROM 18TH NOVEMBER, 2016. BOOK NOW FOR THE ULTIMATE 'STAR WARS' EXHIBITION

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

REBEL GENESIS: THE ARCHITECTS OF EVIL...


As a lead in to STAR WARS REBELS, AFICIONADO presents a series of images featuring characters, events and history linked to the ultimate creation of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire.

From the moment he first heard about his incredible skills in the Force at such an early age, ably demonstrated during the final battle in the stars above Naboo against the Trade Federation, the evil Darth Sidious, in his disguise as Senator later Supreme Chancellor Palaptine, would follow young Anakin Skywalker's career "with great interest". From a unique vantage point in those years after, acting almost like the father figure to the often lonely and out of place feeling Anakin, what with his initiation into the Jedi Oder and its often harsh disciplines, additionally burdened with the separation he had from the mother he loved so dearly, Sidious knew that the boy would eventually prove ripe for manipulation and control, eventually turning him to the Dark Side in which he would betray, later murder, his family in the Jedi Temple, and across the galaxy.

It would take thirteen years to turn Anakin away from the light, but the final result ultimately proved worth Sidious's playing of the long game, even if the boys powers would later be fragmented after suffering horrific injuries in battle against his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the volcanic world of Mustafar. Now encapsulated into the more intimidating and threatening dark visage of the breathing mask clad Darth Vader, Anakin's taking a rightful place at his master's side soon ensured a new reign of dominance and terror across the galaxy not only for the Galactic Empire but for the Dark Side of the Force, too. It would be no surprise, with such rising, soon established malevolence, repression, fear and tyranny, that a small group of freedom fighters, under resourced, undermanned and under equipped, would nonetheless eventually coalesce to take a stand against them, and their hated ambitions...





Monday, 29 September 2014

REBEL GENESIS: JEDI APOCALYPSE!

The Jedi - marked for death! Art by Roberto Campos @ Udon

As a lead in to STAR WARS REBELS, AFICIONADO presents a series of images featuring characters, events and history linked to the ultimate creation of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire.

The Jedi, spread out across the universe in battle against the Separatists, have now never been more vulnerable. Fully revealed as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, the creature of hate and the Dark Side, previously disguised as the once "benevolent" Palpatine, initiates his secret ORDER 66 campaign via the Clone Troops, the supposed protectors of the galaxy, who quickly turn on their Jedi generals. The majority of the Jedi are soon slain in the most horrific of circumstances, but some have the fortitude and luck to escape the carnage, including venerable Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who, with Master Yoda, returns to Coruscant and its pitted Jedi Temple to send a frequency message into the galaxy, warning those friends and comrades that have survived, be they young or old, experienced or Padawan, to go into hiding. Now cursed and hated by the galaxy's populace, disappearing into legend and history, some Jedi will continue to be hunted down by the emerging presence of the vengeance fuelled Darth Vader. Others will never be found again, or cease the use of their natural powers temporarily or completely.

But the candle of light and heroism hasn't been fully extinguished. Certain individuals, in the years to come unhappy with the transmogrified state of the universe, will eventually return at the right time and place to challenge the might and menace of the newly formed Empire...


Sunday, 28 September 2014

STAR WARS REBELS: AFICIONADO's FIRST REACTIONS...

A new "Rebel cell" makes its mark. STAR WARS REBELS comes to television! Image: DISNEY XD.

This bright and warm September Sunday morning, STAR WARS AFICIONADO was kindly invited by DISNEY UK to an exclusive advance family screening of the opening, extended episode of STAR WARS REBELS- Spark of Rebellion. I'm happy to report that it was a success with the targeted young audience of six to nine year old's whom I was seated amongst (which included a couple of endearing costumed Princess Leia's very definitely ready to fight Darth Vader!) - all of whom had their eyes and ears quietly glued to the big screen (the colourful nature, action and the mixture of characters) and looked like they were enjoying every minute of it. Simon Kinberg's script moved pacily along in this fusion of STAR WARS meets ROBIN HOOD, of which the series characters have the potential to further develop across the season. The overall animation production design, working to the strengths previously pioneered by the LUCASFILM production team from their THE CLONE WARS days, looked great, whilst the many visual tributes to Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston were lovely to behold. Nice to once more hear the screams of TIE fighters flying past cinema speakers, too! Amidst further nostalgic referencing to both Trilogies (though Kevin Kiner's incidental music has too many similarities to John Williams EPISODE IV score), James Arnold Taylor's voice cameo as the hologram Obi-Wan proves a subtle and poignant highlight, whilst the soon arrival of the dark-hearted Imperial Agent, The Inquisitor, bodes well for some hopefully tougher, depthful stories and conflicts down the road.

▶ Star Wars Rebels: Extended Trailer (Official) - YouTube

AFICIONADO RATING: All in all, a confident, efficient and polished start to DISNEY's new STAR WARS era- this particular entry very definitely geared towards the family audiences. 3.5 out of 5

With thanks to DISNEY UK for their support and invite to the screening.

STAR WARS REBELS launches on the UK's DISNEY XD Channel this Friday 3rd October.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

REBEL GENESIS: THE DEATH OF LIBERTY...


As a lead-in to STAR WARS REBELS, AFICIONADO presents a series of images featuring characters, events and history linked to the ultimate creation of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire.

A stunned and now powerless Senator Amidala, alongside Bail Organa and her bodyguard servant Motee, watch incredulously as the newly inaugurated Emperor Palpatine, without any kind of political retaliation or resistance from the rest of the gullible members of the senate, and with her own friends in the Delegation of 2000 now subdued, proudly declaring the Republic's turn to the First Galactic Empire. A new Dark Age of fear and technological terror for the galaxy has begun, of which Padme will soon discover just how used and manipulated she has been these last thirteen years by her former adjutant, and supposed friend, from Naboo...


CLASSIC INDY: ATARI's 'ARK'!

Original promo art for the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Atari 2600 game.

Many classic computer games are back in playing fashion these days, but some are just too basic in their original conception and execution to revisit- the march of progress is a cruel mistress, I suppose. The Atari 2600 game of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is one such example, but it nonetheless brings lots of nostalgic joy to those who can recall playing it back in those early midst's of Rom and Ram. And the box had some great artwork, too!

Cover of the Atari VCS Owners Club Bulletin magazine from 1983.

Friday, 26 September 2014

'THE CLONE WARS LEGACY' ARRIVES ON STARWARS.COM


Before the debut of the all-new REBELS next week, and in a welcome gesture to the devoted worldwide fanbase previously established for the milestone animated series that was George Lucas's THE CLONE WARS, stopped far too short of its planed eight-year run, LUCASFILM have released onto their official STARWARS.COM site the storyreel animatics for a never before seen four-part adventure from Season Six/Seven - Crystal Crisis on Utapau, set after the departure of Ahsoka Tano and before the events of EPISODE III (featuring a petulant but heroic Anakin Skywalker once more paired with Obi-Wan Kenobi), alongside an introduction from Producer/Animation Director Dave Filoni, plus a look at THE CLONE WARS present and future in book and comic book form, and previously unseen concept art.

The Clone Wars Legacy | StarWars.com

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Legacy - YouTube

Hopefully it won't be too long now before UK and European viewers also, finally, get news on a LOST MISSIONS Blu-ray/DVD release date from DISNEY. And as to what we could see next from the series? Well, what about that Cad Bane/Boba Fett arc? And, if Season Seven and Eight were voice recorded with the cast (Season Six was apparently written as far back as 2011/2012), why not adapt them into audio dramas?




Thursday, 25 September 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARK HAMILL!


The heart of a hero, the innocence of youth, the spirit of adventure- all of these qualities brilliantly brought to life by Mark Hamill in the Classic Trilogy as Luke Skywalker- now caught in a web of darkness and danger like never before, beyond the ultimate redemption of his once evil father, in the upcoming EPISODE VII. I join fans around the world in wishing Mark Hamill the very happiest of bearded birthdays today, whilst we eagerly await his well deserved return to cinema screens next December, as modern fantasy's most enduring custodian of good.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING...


Ewan McGregor endures another soggy day against green screen at the FOX STUDIOS, Australia, during 2000's filming of ATTACK OF THE CLONES, for a key scene on Kamino talking to Master's Yoda and Mace Windu. Still, at least he's got Third Assistant Director Gordon Westman to keep him company, and hold the umbrella!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

CLASSIC IMAGE: THE COLD CLIMES OF WARFARE!


Their mission to delay the Imperials in order for their forces to retreat Hoth, a core group of brave Rebel soldiers begin a sterling defence of their base and its key power generators, during THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK's epic beginning...

Rare behind the scenes images that have recently emerged from the STAR WARS team's visit to Norway in early 1979: Previously unpublished «Star Wars» Hoth pictures from the production in Norway surfaces | Filter

Saturday, 20 September 2014

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'A NEW DAWN' (NOVEL)



STAR WARS: A NEW DAWN


Written by John Jackson Miller

Foreword by Dave Filoni

UK hardback from CENTURY PUBLISHING (Available September 25th, 2014)


Reviewed by Scott Weller


Ever since its arrival into our collective consciousness in 1977, the STAR WARS saga’s immense backstory prior to the onscreen events of EPISODE IV- the so called “Dark Times”, and the Empire’s takeover of the galaxy- mentioned to a young and innocent Luke Skywalker with gloomy remembrance by Obi-Wan Kenobi, would peak the fascinations and imaginations of the worldwide fan base. It would be a nineteen-year period of mystery, violence, chaos and destruction savoured by the returned Sith, and their creation of a technological war machine industry that would conquer the stars with seemingly little opposition- at least at its start. Now, a fraction of that important part of STAR WARS folklore has become ripe for exploration and storytelling, before the arrival of Luke Skywalker- with the fan anticipated, new animated series REBELS, coming this October to Disney XD cannels worldwide. Fresh from critical success with his prior story building bridges between trilogies: Kenobi, fan favourite John Jackson Miller is back in the LUCAS BOOKS fold again, once more in the right place at the right time to helm the launcher into this new phase of its publishing history, as A New Dawn arrives in UK bookstores to give us a glimpse of just how evil’s triumphant rein is starting to show cracks in its wall of control, revealing an all-new band of heroes emerging to challenge the greed and tyranny of Emperor Palpatine and his dark minions.

Crucially, before their animated appearances in the opening episode of the series, or even their minisode Ghost in the Machine, A New Dawn outlines the important first meeting and pulling of respective talents and interests of former Jedi Padawan now adult fugitive Kanan Jarrus, formerly Caleb Dume, and Twi’lek pilot and action heroine Hera Syndula (presumably related to that famed Ryloth rebel warrior Cham, first seen in THE CLONE WARS animated series). A survivor of the dreaded day of doom that was ORDER 66- though how exactly he got away from the Jedi massacre is not fully explained- Kanan has abandoned the ways of his sect now that he’s an outcast from the Jedi hunting machinations of Palpatine and his galaxy-spanning spies. Yet his severed ties have also been a deliberate choice in many respects, believing that the mystical energy field surrounding the universe, which the Jedi had previously so rigidly served, had seemingly abandoned them, abandoned Kanan, in their darkest hour of need, ultimately a major catalyst to the order’s ultimate destruction.

Determined not to suffer the same fate as his brethren, Kanan has disappeared from the radar, going from system to system, working in a variety of jobs but making sure never to reveal his talents, or get noticed- not staying long enough at any one place to make too much of an impression. Yet in the process he’s uniquely found himself first hand witnessing the Empire’s stranglehold over everything. Recent events, though, alongside pulling nexus strands of fate, will eventually conspire against him in his current period as a cargo freighter runner between the the Thorilide mining worlds of Gorse and its sister planetoid Cynda, both rich in mineral wealth to be plundered by the Empire. Soon, despite being unwilling to use his Jedi gifts, Kanan will genuinely have no choice but to fight back against the sheer injustice around him, especially when one of his friends and associates is murdered.

Thankfully, he won’t be alone in his struggle for long, soon crossing paths with the mysterious but beautiful presence of the aforementioned top pilot and spy Hera Syndulla- whose backstory isn’t yet revealed, presumably saved for an episode of the series or a future character book?- sent by mysterious colleagues on a dual mission linked to Imperial surveillance across the two planets and observing the arrival of a dangerous and ambitious servant to the Emperor, the cyborg Count Vidian, and the building actions and atrocities he/it brings in his wake; events that will also take her out of the shadows and into conflict- wanting to even the score against the galaxy’s oppressors wherever she can.

Heartless and power insatiable, Vidian, despite parallels to previous half-man/half machines like Vader and Grievous, proves an interesting and creepy opponent within the story, what with his drive to stretch the efficiency of the subjugated galaxy to breaking point. He’s the multi-tasking manager from hell, and no stranger to committing murder to advance his own personal interests and pockets. Allied with an ambitious young female Star Destroyer commander, Vidian seemingly has all the cards stacked in his favour, with a plan so big in scale, and fallout, that its results will have catastrophic impact on the peoples of the two moons, unless it can be stopped in time. This is one baptism of fire into rebellion that Kanan and Hera will surely never forget…

Set about six years before the events of the REBELS season premiere, this first book of “the new era” in officially licensed storytelling, planned, as of 2014, to bring the STAR WARS saga into history-making cohesion- something never before attempted in the franchise’s past thirty-seven years- is more a case of starting things on a slow but sure footing rather than launching spiritedly out of the starting gate. A more adult interpretation of what will likely be a younger audience geared animated series, Miller’s book does the kind of work that Karen Traviss did when adapting THE CLONE WARS animated movie into adventurous prose back in 2008. Miller’s book, I think, will ultimately prove more popular.

Enjoying bringing back the wild frontier/western flavour of STAR WARS seen with A New Hope (as viewed with his Kenobi novel), and building up the harshnesss of life within the all-controlling Empire, Miller ultimately chooses to stage this book’s action, especially in its sluggish first half, within too small a section of the Outer Rim than I’d personally expected and hoped for, and pretty much avoiding any of the Classic/Prequel films and characters apart from specific important references to The Emperor and his overall presence/influence. Though I understand Miller and LUCAS BOOKS creative decisions to start afresh in many respects, it nonetheless sees a reduction in storytelling ambition that hampers certain areas of this all-important first book.

Happily, A New Dawn improves by its mid-point- the villains motivations are sharpened, the action set-pieces get bigger, and the show’s important two characters start to gel and win the reader over, ultimately succeeding in making us want to find out more about them.  Miller, working from what will be established in the animated series, gives Kanan and Hera the same kind of relatable tone that our icons from the Original Trilogy had, though they have a long way to go yet before they become anywhere near as deservedly striking and popular. The same overall positive vibes can’t quite be said about the books supporting characters, though- an explosives expert with a grudge, a crotchety but likable cantina owner, a Sullustan former intelligence officer and a Besalisk overseer- all of whom prove far less interesting than the main pair.

A precursor not only to REBELS but also subtly to the upcoming EPISODE VII (what with its preview of male and female stormtroopers in battle), its up to the new custodians of the LUCASFILM torch to make their mark (of which producers Simon Kinberg and Dave Filoni provide creative contributions to this first book to make it as an effective a lead-in as possible to the DISNEY XD series), with endeavours they hope will prove as successful and commercially lucrative as those originally conceived by the sadly retired George Lucas. A New Dawn leaves me cautiously optimistic for the future, but, in all honesty, it’s not the groundbreaker I expected and wanted it to be- ultimately feeling more like same old, same old Expanded Universe storytelling, albeit with a few new bells and whistles attached.

AFICIONADO RATING: John Jackson Miller’s fan-favourite abilities are once more effectively showcased. A respectable, if mildly underwhelming, start to the new franchise spin-off, and the overall STAR WARS PHASE THREE plan by LUCASFILM/DISNEY. 3 out of 5


Friday, 19 September 2014

EPISODE I AT FIFTEEN: A DROID IS BORN!


For several months in the Summer of 1997 he'd been quiet about his involvement, but fans were nostalgically thrilled and delighted when the official news eventually, ultimately came through confirming that Anthony Daniels would return to the STAR WARS universe to play fussy but lovable droid C-3PO, if only at first in a vocal role, and additionally in all-new and surprising origins, for the upcoming EPISODE I.

Anthony Daniels talks Threepio past, present and future in a new interview: Anthony Daniels definitive 'Star Wars' interview | Inside TV | EW.com

Thursday, 18 September 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: A VIEW TO A KILL!


Peter Cushing's Governor Tarkin stands in front of one of several pre-filmed graphics images projected onto the Death Star War Room screen, only a few of which made it into the finished film. Below are a few examples...

"And you call yourselves human!" A devastated Princess Leia is led away after having seen Alderaan destroyed in this deleted scene.
Following Vader's plan, Tarkin, Motti and Tagge track the movements of our Rebel heroes within the Death Star, during this deleted scene.
Preparing to fire on Yavin IV.
With Chief Bast as countdown firing procedures continue.

With thanks to Chris Baker for selected images.



Wednesday, 17 September 2014

CLASSIC IMAGE: BLAST DOOR SHOWDOWN!


Han Solo doesn't really know the meaning of the words "run away", briefly standing fast to shoot at rapidly approaching Stormtroopers, in this tense Death Star interior scene from the original STAR WARS.



Monday, 15 September 2014

EPISODE VII NEWS: "ALL PILOTS, MAN YOUR STATIONS!"

Greenham Common joins the elite list of UK locations for EPISODE VII.

X-wing fighters- they looked great in red, and now they're available in blue, black and orange! But which to choose...?

Star Wars Episode 7 News | UPDATE 8: New Footage With John Boyega and Extras from the Episode VII Set at Greenham Common. Harrison Ford Expected on Set on Monday.
STAR WARS: Exclusive First Look, New X-Cellent X-Wing — Latino-Review.com
Jedi News - Latest: New Episode VII Costumes, Vehicle & Footage From Greenham Common Set
Another Photo from Greenham Common Episode VII Set | The Star Wars Underworld
New Photo of Millennium Falcon and X-Wing Outside at Greenham Common | The Star Wars Underworld

Other EPISODE VII and SPIN-OFFs news:

BBC News - Game of Thrones swordsman joins Star Wars film
These are not the 'Star Wars' details you're looking for ... | Inside Movies | EW.com
'Star Wars': First look at 'Episode VII' elements might be in 'Rebels' | Inside TV | EW.com
Jedi News - Latest: Star Wars Episode VII: Rumour Alert: Greg Grunberg in Episode VII?
Star Wars Episode 7: Daniel Craig begged JJ Abrams for part, got mystery role | Metro News
Star Wars Episode 7: Is an Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off film on the cards? | Metro News

Saturday, 13 September 2014

THE NEW HOPES! THE 'JEDI ACADEMY' TRILOGY CONCLUDES WITH 'CHAMPIONS OF THE FORCE'


Moving at lightspeed pace, the concluding part of Kevin J. Anderson's STAR WARS adventure-fest, now celebrating a landmark twentieth anniversary, gets off to a memorable and fiery start. One week on from Book Two's cliffhanger, the Sith-influenced, revenge-fuelled Kyp Durron uses his fearsomely powerful Sun Crusher weapon to destroy the Imperial Training facility world of Carida, though his rescue attempt of his brother, now a Stormtrooper, proves tragically doomed to failure, sending him into a firestorm of pain and anguish. As Kyp threatens further intergalactic annihilation, can his friends Han Solo and Lando Calrissian win him back from evildom's grip?

Meanwhile, back on Yavin Four, our Jedi icon Luke Skywalker's body is now in a cadaverous state- his mind and spirit trapped in a Force limbo controlled by the feared Exar Kun, determined to extinguish his heart of good forever by using Luke's now dispirited and unsure what to do trainees against him. Arriving at the Academy, its here that Princess Leia, despite her pain at Luke's condition, gives one of her finest moral-boosting speeches, ending his disciples continued state of quiet disarray, pulling them together in this difficult time, in a way that will see them ultimately taking the fight, with a little help from the Jedi-sensitive babies Jacen and Jaina Solo (finally getting some good moments in the trilogy), to the Dark Spectre plaguing the Massassi temples. Unfortunately, Leia's inner strength isn't available to them for long, soon making a desperate journey to Anoth, the secret location of her third baby-Anakin, in order to stop him from being kidnapped by the remaining Imperial fractions of Carida, intent on grooming him as their new Dark Side leader- a memorable sequence for Timothy Zahn's created character of minder/nursemaid Winter, gamely holding off the advancing firepower of Anderson's new Imperial creations, the Spider Walkers, thanks to a little technological help, nicknamed FIDO, created by Admiral Ackbar...

Finally, lovable Falcon first-mate Chewbacca, intent on freeing his Wookiee slave brethren at Kessel, brings Threepio, and assists General Antilles and his assault team, as they make their bid to capture the no longer Imperial protected Maw installation. But time and courage ultimately prove not on their side, as the Maw's protective Death Star prototype soon escapes the conflict, now fully armed and operational, ready to cause destructive turmoil to the New Republic, of which Imperial Admiral Daala, having previously cheated death from Kyp Durron's attack in book two, additionally brings further chaos. How can they be stopped?

Ending on a huge space battle, and a lone act of almost self-sacrifice, the ending of the Jedi Academy trilogy reminds us of those nostalgic days when the Expanded Universe had lots of future potential, not yet a bloated, continuity trapped beast. Champions of the Force wraps things up with fast paced enthusiasm and efficiency, of which all prior plot/character strands are generally, satisfyingly tied up. Only the lack of really memorable material for Luke and Leia in the drama stakes proves disappointing.

AFICIONADO RATING: Genuinely keeping the spirit of the post ROTJ era alive and well,  forging new characters and new scenarios for future books to exploit, Champions of the Force may not boast the sophisticated writing style of Timothy Zahn,  but Kevin J. Anderson's enthusiasm for telling a good yarn shines through. IMHO, it's certainly worthy of reprinting within the new LEGENDS branding of the STAR WARS book publishing program. 3.5 out of 5




'TEMPLE OF DOOM' AT 30: THE INDY ELEMENTS!


Another intriguing marketing piece for TEMPLE OF DOOM- the Japanese potpourri poster for the film's 1984 release, primarily focusing on the scary elements of the Thuggee cult's underground lair at the top, with Indy (whom they like to see without his famous hat!) and Willie underneath, and the classic finale rope bridge scene also included.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

STAR WARS REBELS: PASSING THE TORCH...


Fighting the Empire is a 24/7 thing for the unique band comprising DISNEY XD's upcoming STAR WARS REBELS, posing for a lovely piece of premiere celebratory artwork by Brian Snook- a wonderful tribute to the original supreme poster concept by Ralph McQuarrie, for The Star Wars, from 1975.

The next REBELS short before the October arrival of the weekly series, Property of Ezra Bridger (also known as Not What You Think), makes its TV debut, across varying am and pm times, on DISNEY XD UK this September 18th.


Wednesday, 10 September 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: A FEW SCREWS LOOSE...


At the make-up/effects workshops at FOX STUDIOS, Australia, a trio of control assisted, lobotomised Neimoidian heads await their call to eventual filming, and demise via Anakin Skywalker, in this behind the scenes image from EPISODE III.

Monday, 8 September 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: JUST ANOTHER DAY AT THE SKIFF!



Mark Hamill and Peter Mayhew watch as Harrison Ford gets to have a sunbathe whilst conferring with director Richard Marquand. Meanwhile, the alien baddies on Jabba's execution skiff are tended to or get ready for filming. A great image that recently surfaced in J.W. Rinzler's excellent book THE MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI, published by AURUM PRESS.

Meeting the very cool stuntman/actor Julius LeFlore, who played one of the Weequays (seen in this picture turning to face a costume/wardrobe assistant) at the London Film and Comic Con of 12th July 2014, Ian Trussler gathered some more behind the scenes info on the classic sequence. Le Flore confirmed the following stunt actors that appeared on the "Hero" skiff. Beyond the principles, these guards were: Peter Diamond as the Weequay who pushes Luke, Julius LeFlore - other Weequay, Dickey Beer - most fans refer to him as Barada, but actually it's Kithaba, as Barada is on the villain skiff, Paul Weston - Nikto, and Larry Holt - the masked human looking guard. Ian also cleared up the whole "who dived head first into the pit" filming mystery, which proved an interesting story. Apparently, Peter Diamond did NOT do any head-first dives into the pit- only LeFlore did those due to some problems that arose between the British and American stunt coordinators, arising from numerous injuries in the action sequences around the Sarlaac Pit. Le Flore did so on request from Glenn Randall, who directly asked him to do the dives. LeFlore was also the one who landed on Weston's leg, accidentally breaking it. 

Cheers for the info, Ian. LeFlore gave me (Scott Weller) similar BTS details when I also met him at the event, additionally telling me that he worked at ILM for around a month on JEDI's blue screen shooting, playing a Biker Scout. A really nice, laid back guy, LeFlore, in his first major event signing, was disappointed that he didn't get to see any Ewok actors at the LFCC, saying humorously that he had some "history" with them!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

OUT THIS MONTH IN UK PAPERBACK: 'THE STAR WARS'

STAR WARS as you've never seen it before - 1974 style!  Images: DARK HORSE COMICS/TITAN BOOKS.

DARK HORSE COMICS may now have lost the license to publish all-new STAR WARS adventures (an inevitable decision to hand the reins back to MARVEL COMICS by LUCASFILM, since Stan Lee's former empire is owned by DISNEY), but its pool of talented writers and artists can at least sit back and cherish the incredible accomplishments they brought to the Expanded Universe of four-colour SW storytelling these past twenty-three years, of which I think its highly unlikely that their successors will carve out a universe quite so diverse and as interesting as what they have previously produced. And when MARVEL abandoned the original comic back in 1986, lets not forget the important role DH played in taking up the franchise reins a few years later, helping to bring in its miraculous return with their action-packed and visually spectacular post Return of the Jedi continuance, DARK EMPIRE, which is still delighting readers old and new today. Zipping forward to this final year, LUCASFILM Editor J.W. Rinzler's symbiotic work with the company adapting the original storyline for George Lucas's 1974 behind the scenes mythic version of Star Wars: A New Hope, originally known as The Star Wars, realised alongside Mike Mayhew's stunning, cinematic-style artwork, brings this unique chapter of DARK HORSE's publishing history to a distinguished, innovative and exciting close, genuinely giving readers one of the brightest jewels in its crown. Garnering huge publicity and well deserved critical acclaim, the eight-issue series has now been compiled into one complete, impressive package for the UK, courtesy of TITAN BOOKS- available from September 18th, 2014.

Annikin Starkiller and General Skywalker go into battle with their lazer swords!

US trailer for the original mini-series: ▶ The Star Wars Book Trailer Dark Horse Comics - YouTube

Its original trappings spawned more from the fifties and sixties sci-fi universe - the kind pioneered by the impressive likes of Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and other literary giants, whilst also taking side root homages from the pulp science fiction of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon (if planned to be realised to higher sophistication), together with a more influential cinematic style pioneered by Japanese cinema legend Akira Kurosawa, this version of Star Wars is in many ways an intriguing, if also pleasantly distorted, reflection not only to the eventual 1977 launcher but also to Lucas's years later re-developed variation of action and political intrigue that would become The Phantom Menace, the latter possessing so many ideas taken from it and reshaped - ambitions for a universe previously excised and now restored thanks to pioneering CGI. The known, and some not so well known, building blocks of characters, planets, locations and creatures soon so vital and indelible to the saga's success are all there in The Star Wars genesis blueprint, but their shaping and realisation is a lot different in comparison to how we've been previously accustomed. And that's also the key to this adaptation's success.

A dark encounter on Utapau's fourth moon.
The genesis of Vader: Kane Starkiller reveals his hidden pain.

It's a genuine thrill to see the STAR WARS universe that might have been now made so incredibly real by Rinzler and Mayhew- a realm where the legendary Jedi Bendu, exemplified by the Starkiller and Skywalker dynasties, showed their incredible skills in The Force of Others long before Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan learner Obi-Wan Kenobi did first battling Trade Federation killers, where squat electronic hero Artoo Detoo miraculously talked to his far more human-looking golden protocol buddy See-Threepio, smuggling legend Han Solo was a green-skinned reptilian alien, and Imperial Stormtroopers had their own lazer swords. A universe of wonder and danger showing gleaming Y-wing fighters ruling the skies, where the desert world of Tatooine was originally Utapau, the oft-mentioned, hitherto unseen world of Aquilae is finally realised as a majestic setting, and a Wookiee world of dense jungle and hidden mystery reveals furry inhabitants not so technically savvy as their later film successors, but soon crucially learning the vital techniques of space piloting needed to attack a devastating space fortress, one yet to be christened the Death Star. All of this is skillfully composed within this visual symphony. Alongside some occasional nice visual tributes to EPISODEs I and IV (special mention should also go out to colourist Rain Beredo for his stunning contributions heightening the galactic scale of it all), further fun comes from seeing many dazzling early unrefined or abandoned production art and conceptual ideas incorporated by Mayhew, like Colin Cantwell's early ship model prototypes (the Millennium Falcon before it became a flying pizza!), notable and not so well recognised elements from Ralph McQuarrie's conceptual paintings/thumbnail sketches of 1975 (as well as Joe Johnston's singular work from that period), plus other early storyboards, gelling within the kind of story that would truly have been unfilmable at that time, even if the money-lacking FOX had been willing to give Lucas and co. a budget of $20 million dollars!

A different, but no less feisty, version of Princess Leia.

As the ultimate curiosity finally made real in comic book form, The Star Wars is indeed a page-turning winner. But, if that 1974 ideas-packed version of the film had been made back in the day, say released in early 1976, would it ultimately have have been as successful as 1977's first entry into The Adventures of Luke Skywalker? It's a question that genuinely makes for lively debate. Personally speaking, I think this original story would have needed better structuring/editing and character development reappraisal were it to have succeeded on the celluloid level (the two young royal children - Biggs and Windy - would surely have been early candidates for erasure in my book- far more irritating than anything later contributed by EPISODE I's Anakin Skywalker!). The characters of '74 are not quite as pitch perfect as they would be by '77- the way the villains are used here is one such example - ignoring the legions of stormtroopers chasing/fighting our fugitive heroes in several memorable sequences, the almost Palpatine-ish Governor Hoedaack and the alternate human version of Vader, a helmeted, one red-eyed general in the enemy forces, don't really contribute enough to the story until its near conclusion. On the plus side, though, Rinzler and Mayhew's chance to show readers Lucas's script to film evolution of Vader, into what he will eventually become onscreen, proves interesting, literally pulled together from three characters: the part human/part robot suffering inflicted by hero Kane Starkiller, the cunning tactical skills of General Vader in this human general persona, and the masked, lazer sword-wielding Sith Lord Knight/warrior Prince Valorum, who turns against his brethren to become a hero- echoing what Vader/Anakin will do for his son by the conclusion of Return of the Jedi.

The fearsome space fortress!

Lucas's well-known depression of the time at being hampered by a low budget and what he thought were too restrictive special effects limitations should not be overlooked as being a huge factor in the films ultimate successful transformation- these apparent weaknesses soon turned into eventual strengths- the final screenplay and characters of Star Wars, by early 1976, now more clearly defined, with characters and story baggage jettisoned. The analogy of the beautiful butterfly emerging from its raw but potent pupae has never been more apt to this first film, now that the franchise has entered pop culture history...

The climactic fighter attack on the space fortress.

AFICIONADO RATING: An ambitious, often stunning, thrill-ride of imagination and invention, showing us the very best ingredients of an altogether very different, but no less exciting, STAR WARS dish. Now then, Mister Rinzler, how's about you and your creative team adapting Lucas and Leigh Brackett's original 1978 script for The Empire Strikes Back? 4 out of 5

Get THE STAR WARS trade paperback from Titan Books here: The Star Wars: Amazon.co.uk: J. W. Rinzler, Mike Mayhew, George Lucas: Books

J.W. Rinzler's blog site: J. W. Rinzler - Home

EXCLUSIVE: J.W. Rinzler Explores Lucas' Original Concept In "The Star Wars" - Comic Book Resources

Friday, 5 September 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: SLEEP DISORDER!


As Natalie Portman gets ready to film a scene in her bedchamber, top effects guru John Knoll brings out the ILM ball, primarily used for post production lighting reference, in this behind the scenes image for EPISODE II.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

CLASSIC ART: BROKEN HOPES!


With Chewie also breaking the glass of a nearby window, and watched by a powerless Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia shoots out at the departing Slave One but is unable to hinder its flight or damage it, in this intriguing conceptual art on Bespin by Ralph McQuarrie. Note that, in this early stage of the film's story development, Threepio, seen peaking out from an alcove (elevator entrance?) of some kind, isn't shot to pieces by Stormtroopers.


Its nice to see some eventual mild referencing to this painted scene in the 1997 Special Edition of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, as one of the Bespin interior corridors leading to the outside docking platform is opened up to include a nice shot showing Slave One in the distance. An example of a new visual effects addition to the film that works well.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

OUT THIS MONTH: 'STAR WARS REBELS - A NEW DAWN'



The relaunch of the STAR WARS publishing universe into an all-new, more cohesive whole begins today in the US (and the 25th in the UK, via CENTURY PUBLISHING), with the LUCAS BOOKS release of STAR WARS REBELS primer A New Dawn, authored by popular Kenobi scribe John Jackson Miller, introducing new hero characters Kanan and Hera within a story set several years before October's animated series launcher.

Here's the story blurb:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .
 
“The war is over. The Separatists have been defeated, and the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. We stand on the threshold of a new beginning.”—Emperor Palpatine
 
For a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights brought peace and order to the Galactic Republic, aided by their connection to the mystical energy field known as the Force. But they were betrayed—and the entire galaxy has paid the price. It is the Age of the Empire.
 
Now Emperor Palpatine, once Chancellor of the Republic and secretly a Sith follower of the dark side of the Force, has brought his own peace and order to the galaxy. Peace through brutal repression, and order through increasing control of his subjects’ lives.
 
But even as the Emperor tightens his iron grip, others have begun to question his means and motives. And still others, whose lives were destroyed by Palpatine’s machinations, lay scattered about the galaxy like unexploded bombs, waiting to go off. . . .
 
The first Star Wars novel created in collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, Star Wars: A New Dawn is set during the legendary “Dark Times” between Episodes III and IV and tells the story of how two of the lead characters from the animated series Star Wars Rebels first came to cross paths. Featuring a foreword by Dave Filoni.

Check out the first 50 pages of the book here: 50 Page Fridays: John Jackson Miller | Suvudu

In the UK, get it here in hardback or ebook: Star Wars: A New Dawn: Amazon.co.uk: John Jackson Miller: Books

And look out for AFICIONADO's review in the not too distant future...


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