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Saturday, 21 September 2019

EPISODE VII: FLIGHT AND FIGHT!


Surface skimming one of the lakes of Takodana, Poe Dameron's brave men and women in their Resistance X-wing fighters prepare to face up to the bullies of the First Order, in this terrific shot from The Force Awakens which only appeared in an early trailer.

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: A STATE OF JEDI!


Luke Skywalker thinks of them as the root of all problems for the galaxy by the time of The Last Jedi, but back in the days of the Old Republic and the start of the Prequel saga, the Jedi Knights did their best to maintain peace and order, including the prominent figures of Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan learner, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and whose esteemed ranks soon gained the addition of the mysterious 'vergance' in young Anakin Skywalker. A great posed publicity of the main male cast, and trusty R2-D2, from EPISODE I.

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: WHEN PADAWANS MEET!


In the hold of the departing Naboo cruiser, Anakin Skywalker locks greetings with a new friend, and another Jedi in Obi-Wan Kenobi, after both rush to aid the winded Qui-Gon Jinn after his brief but physical battle with the mysterious dark assassin.


A small dialogue exchange was filmed but cut.

Anakin (to Qui-Gon): Are you alright?
Qui-Gon: I think so... that was a surprise I won't soon forget.

Friday, 20 September 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: REPELLING A SITH!

The deleted scene duel as realized in the Dark Horse comic adaptation of EPISODE I. Art by Rodolfo Damaggio and Al Williamson.

Qui-Gon Jinn thinks his daring leap onto the flying low Naboo Cruiser has seen him escape from the danger of the unknown Sith Lord, but Darth Maul has many tricks and physical abilities up his sleeves, leaping up to continue the fight against the Jedi in a deleted moment.

The battle continues as Qui-Gon barely fends off Maul's new attack.

Ray Park on wires for the scene where he drops down from the speeding away Naboo cruiser.

The brief scene filled in with animatics.

"They (Qui-Gon and Maul) have a fight as the ship's flying along. A very short one on the ramp, and Qui-Gon kind of gets the better of him, and he knocks him off. And there was a fantastic shot where he (Maul) lands in the desert from 40 feet, and the spaceship rockets above him."

Nick Gillard on the deleted scene - Empire magazine - August 1999

Only the end of Maul's earthbound return made the finished film, watching the Naboo cruiser escape.

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: CRAFTING EVIL!

Keeping Maul under shade between fighting moves, as Ray Park confers with Nick Gillard.

Making sure that the evil and intimidating threat of Sith assassin Darth Maul gets the action introduction he needs, and shows the might of the Dark Side to his opponent in the surprised but ready to fight Qui-Gon Jinn, Stunt coordinator Nick Gillard's presence guarantees high-caliber action to be captured on film in Tunisia

Ray Park gets a view to a kill.

"Getting into the character was fun. It's like someone said, 'Here, let yourself go.' From my martial arts background, you have to have a certain arrogance about yourself because you can't be intimidated by your competitors. Maybe I have a bit of the Dark Side in me as well."

Ray Park - USA Today interview - 1999

Maul gets a small but effective flying leap, watched by Nick Gillard.

"He's nasty, and he's got no remorse, no compassion for anything. I couldn't imagine at first (how to play him) because it didn't seem real. I always thought someone would say, 'We're only joking. You're not playing the character any more."

Ray Park - unknown internet interview - 1999

Ray Park poses for a batch of publicity images during the desert filming.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: HOLDING BACK THE INTRUDER!


In the desert beyond Mos Espa, Qui-Gon Jinn faces the skilled attack play of a deadly intruder, and a foe from the darkest past linked to the Jedi Order, in this great non-lightsaber retouched image of Liam Neeson and Ray Park in posed character action for EPISODE I. Note the close proximity of the Mos Espa set to the Naboo Cruiser landing area in this Tunisian location shot.

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: SNEAK ATTACK!

Darth Maul leaps into action in this specially posed image taken during location fight staging rehearsals.

"Anakin, DROP!"

Almost at the ready-to-depart Naboo Cruiser, Qui-Gon and Anakin are soon attacked by a mysterious speeder bike pilot, leaping into battle and ferociously displaying his lightsaber skills against the Jedi, whilst his young Padawan-to-be races to get help.

Though Liam Neeson played Qui-Gon for most of the first conflict between Jinn and Maul on location in Tunisia, certain aspects and fight moves linked to his character necessitated the help of stand-in duellist/stuntman Rob Inch, who'd continue his association with the franchise as the Stunt coordinator to Episodes VII, VIII and Rogue One.



Qui-Gon prepares to counter the attacker's flying leap lightsaber moves.

Several moves from the action sequence never made the final cut, as seen in the two images below.

Qui-Gon makes a low level attack in a deleted moment from the duel.



Wednesday, 18 September 2019

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'THRAWN - TREASON'

Loyalties tested and warfare emergent for Grand Admiral Thrawn in Thrawn - Treason, out now from Century.

The eagerly awaited finale to the presumed second trilogy of the world famous SW Expanded Universe Uber villain Grand Admiral Thrawn is here, and once again his creator Timothy Zahn delivers a page-turning adventure with Thrawn - Treason, UK published by Century, that fans will be delighted by.

We last encountered Thrawn aligned with the formidable powers of his true rival Darth Vader, the infamous Dark Lord of the Sith and right hand man to the Emperor himself, the results of which, whilst keeping at bay a determinedly growing alien force emergent from the Outlying Regions of the galaxy, the alien leader would ultimately piece together Vader's true past identity as the once greatest Jedi, Anakin Skywalker. Now, in the aftermath of that stand firm conflict against the Grysk Hegemony, armed with the knowledge that the militaristic manipulators will undoubtedly cross into the Empire's territory sooner rather than later, the Grand Admiral returns back to Imperial Centre only to find himself mired in all-new conflicts with rivals old and new, at a critical time in the development of the Emperor's vision and stranglehold of the galaxy via the birth of a unique and powerful construction project nearing completion: code-named 'Stardust'. A development that, if successfully realized, may threaten Thrawn's own unique plans to aid the Empire, to whom he has allied his past and future ambitions so intrinsically in ways beyond anything from his past history and dedication as an esteemed warrior for his own species- the warriors of the Chiss Ascendancy.

The Grand Moff Tarkin will stop at nothing to achieve his own goals for power.

And Thrawn couldn't be more caught in a nest of viper's like the one established in Treason, primarily the pawn of a much larger game orchestrated by the infamous Grand Moff Tarkin, carving his own powerplay strategy against the ambitious, lower down the Imperial elite chain (but nonetheless rising up) determination of Director Orson Krennic, whose caretaker/orchestration of Stardust and its powerful and prestigious potential, though dogged by years of delays and production problems, has nonetheless gained him considerable grace and favour with the Emperor- a project he personally wishes complete whatever it takes. Tarkin, wanting Stardust and its power all to himself, is determined to unseat Krennic, even if means sacrificing Thrawn as part of that scheme. Krennic is already aware of Tarkin's underhand scheming, but Thrawn himself has no choice but to follow the undercurrents of battle between the two rivals- a mysterious scenario now affecting Stardust potentially threatening the go-ahead by the Emperor to the successful creation/production pipeline of his unique TIE Defender fighter program, rendering it forfeit and extinct through lack of funding.

Eli Vanto returns, alongside the efficient Chiss officer Admiral Ar'alani. Art by Darren Tan.

Entering into the Stardust problem, a certainly unique mystery is revealed- a seemingly natural and unusual situation nicely linked to The Empire Strikes Back, though its ultimate solving leads to even greater danger with the return of the Grysk threat, acting in ways more cunning, bigger in ambition than we discovered in book two, and whose powers in control of other races remain cruelly effective. As Treason carefully unspools the threat, plot strands and characters from book one return to provide an effective closing symmetry to this trilogy finale. We discover just what happened to Thrawn's friend Eli Vanto, the Imperial officer with whom he developed a strong early rapport with, and who disappeared under a cloud a year earlier, seemingly never to return to the Star Destroyer Chimera. Under mysterious orders and a shroud of secrecy, Vanto now acts as the ultimate race relations liaison of sorts with the Chiss, of which his reemergence during a critical point sees him uncomfortably caught between worlds just like Thrawn has been over the decade since his 'discovery'. Cleverly, Vanto is our window into the world of Thrawn and his unique gifts, though he too now understands what it's like to be a stranger in a strange but fascinating land.

Zahn adds further intriguing facets to the alien Chiss, notably introducing a female warrior the equivalent to Thrawn, Admiral Ar'alani, unhappy with his seeming defection to the enemy side with the Empire and always probing where his true loyalties lie. The Chiss have a sense of honour and clan power basing not unlike the Klingons of the modern Star Trek series, it seems- a unique race with more secrets about their personal nature and technology to be revealed in future media-related tales, for sure.

With Death Troopers at his side, Director Orson Krennic remains steadfast to the 'Stardust' project.

Despite lots of advance publicity, the only real disappointment to the book is the true lack of Director Orson Krennic within the story. He was such an interesting baddie, not an elitist but an angry man with a grudge who had had to work hard to join the ranks, within the core of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I'd hoped he would properly lock horns with the Grand Admiral throughout the entire story. Sadly, despite one Imperial meeting chapter early on, they share little time together, the potential character clashing of the story instead relayed via one of Krennic's less interesting yet key lackeys. A genuine wasted opportunity - perhaps the author was restricted in using the character for some reason on the Lucasfilm creative side?

But Zahn, whose writing style is never less than subtly depthful and efficient, instinctively knows how to give the Expanded Universe lovers more of what they want, and what that 'more' is is Thrawn. With his strategic and tactical genius, he continues to shine under his creator's storytelling, always able to out-think, out-anticipate and jump three steps ahead of all his rivals, leading his taskforce to an ending that pulls out all the stops via a forty-page finale space battle split in two, as opponents lock horns and laser cannons in conflicts that will surely blow the minds of Imperial Navy fans and those SW readers who appreciate battle tactics in both history and the franchise's history. The battles not just showcasing Thrawn but the book's other core characters most effectively too, including his efficient and capable female second-in-command, Faro.

Will Thrawn's post Star Wars Rebels fate be revealed in a later trilogy?

So, a satisfying end to this already acclaimed new trilogy featuring the complex and enigmatic alien warrior who serves the Empire with thoughtful distinction. But will there will be more of Thrawn? I'm more than certain there will be- some interesting little plot strands are resolved, but most can be reopened and expanded. Just as Harrison Ford is Han Solo, I'm sure there's a lot of Thrawn (in a good way, of course) is buried within Timothy Zahn's DNA. And where there's intrigue and warfare to come, from whichever side of the galaxy he may end up, the Grand Admiral will be centred at the bridge of the Chimera, ready and waiting to serve in the Emperor's name and legacy...

AFICIONADO RATING: It's Thrawn. It's Zahn. It's a must-have! 4 out of 5

A trilogy now complete, available from Century UK.

Get Thrawn - Treason here:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thrawn-Treason-Star-Timothy-Zahn/dp/1529124018/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=thrawn+treason&qid=1568807241&sr=8-1

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: PROBE DROID ENCOUNTER!


Qui-Gon Jinn and the young Anakin Skywalker (who has just said goodbye to the kindly Jira at her fruit stand, giving her money to buy a cooling unit- a deleted scene) make their way to the outskirts of Mos Espa, though the seasoned Jedi is soon aware that eyes of the most unusual and disturbing kind are watching them, in this eerie moment from EPISODE I, shot on location in Tunisia, that ultimately made its way to DVD in 2001.

A disturbance sends Qui-Gon into swift action.

The Sith Probe Droid is revealed.

A discovery that must hasten our heroes departure.

Lucas and his team prepare the scene for filming.

A filming break and a time for liquid refreshment for Jake Lloyd.

"The (location filming) heat was draining. I tried to be conscious of how everyone was holding up - especially Jake. He would never tell me if he was having a problem. So I'd check with his mother; and there were a few times when he really needed a rest."

George Lucas - The Making of EPISODE I book - 1999

THE 'PHANTOM' AT TWENTY: ON A NEW PATH!


With the strong presence of the Force inside him, and with the dutiful and loving support of his mother, Anakin Skywalker has survived a harsh existence on Tatooine that would normally break the spirit of most adults. Now he goes off to an incredible future, but at the expense of losing Shmi, in this memorable and emotional scene from EPISODE I

A couple of lines were lost between Shmi and Anakin before his final departure:

SHMI hugs ANAKIN. QUI-GON watches from the distance. She kneels down and looks him in the face.

Shmi's filmed but deleted line: "No matter where you are, my love will be with you."

SHMI: Annie, remember when you climbed the great dune in order to chase the Banthas away when they wouldn't be shot... Remember how you collapsed several times, exhausted thinking you couldn't do it?

ANAKIN shakes his head.

SHMI: (Cont'd) This is one of those times when you have to do something you don't think you can do. I know how strong you are, Annie. I know you can do this...



"There was a scene where he (Jake Lloyd as Anakin) had to say goodbye to his mother (Pernilla August as Shmi). I didn't want him bursting into tears and carrying on, but I wanted to portray that he was emotionally upset without going over the top. That was a difficult scene."

George Lucas - Premiere magazine - May 1999

Prior to saying goodbye to his mother, Anakin also said goodbye to his friend Kitster in a filmed but deleted scene:

KITSTER runs up to ANAKIN as he and QUI-GON  exit Anakn's hovel. SHMI stands in the doorway. ANAKIN pulls a handful of coins out of his pocket and gives them to KITSTER.

KITSTER: There are so many of us who want you to stay, Annie... You're a hero.

ANAKIN: I... (looks to SHMI) I... have to go.

QUI-GON has moved a short way down the street.

KITSTER: Well.

ANAKIN: Well.

KITSTER: Thanks for every moment you've been here. You're my best friend.

ANAKIN: I won't forget...

ANAKIN hugs KITSTER and runs towards QUI-GON, then stops to look back at his mother standing in the doorway. He turns back to QUI-GON, then turns and runs back to his mother.

The scene continues as in the film...


Shmi gives her son the love and confidence he needs to pursue his destiny.