Archive for original trilogy

My First Marathon

Posted in Fun, Spotlight with tags , , , on 23 February 2017 by Megan

In my last two posts, I told you all about how Star Wars and I met. Yesterday was twenty years since Return of the Jedi blew my mind and became my favorite movie of all time. Today is twenty years since I first watched the original trilogy in a marathon.

Star Wars Marathons are a sacred tradition that, I’m sure, go all the way back to 1983, though I wasn’t around and can’t personally vouch for that. Three movies though they may be, they are simply parts of a whole, and to do the story justice, they must be watched one after the other.

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My first marathon was mismatched and a matter of sheer pragmatism: we only owned A New Hope and V and VI were due to return to the video store the next day. It was a Sunday, and back then a marathon only took about six hours. I had no idea when I would ever get to see E5 or E6 again, so I can tell you I was rapt for the whole thing.

That evening, my diary was bursting with six Star Wars-packed entries in a row; determined not to take up more than one page per entry (for some reason), I turned to the second string — the Lisa Frank diary from the year before that had exactly one empty page left. So February 23 has two separate entries about Star Wars . . . and a rather embarrassingly bad crayon drawing of “Good vs. Evil.”

February 23 also marks the date I heard my first prequel rumor: sure, Star Wars fans had been bandying the idea of a new trilogy for years, but two weeks before, I’d never even heard of Star Wars at all! “Mom said that Corey said that they are coming out with episode I (one) II (two) and III (three) When they were kids!!!”

There’s a tremendous irony to the fact that even though February of 1997 is crammed with diary entries featuring the words “Star Wars,” the same diary goes absolutely silent until October on the subject. I watched A New Hope four times in two weeks (and E5 + E6 twice in two days), had to write sideways in the margins of my diary to cover all my thoughts about it, and yet for all intents and purposes, utterly forgot the movie existed for the next six months.

It’s interesting that just as I had to have Return of the Jedi to really care about the trilogy, I didn’t really care about Star Wars until . . . the Expanded Universe.

And I guess you’ll just have to wait until December for that story. But don’t worry, I’ll post again in October to tell you all about the next big event in my Star Wars life ;)

Twenty Years, Part 2

Posted in Fun, Spotlight with tags , , , , , on 22 February 2017 by Megan

It’s amazing what things stick with you and how clearly they stick. As I said in the last post, I remember with absolute clarity the first time I saw Star Wars: A New Hope. I even remember when I saw E4 for the second time and, with similar exact clarity, when I saw The Phantom Menace in the theater two years later. Ditto Revenge of the Sith. Yet for all that, I don’t remember the first time I saw Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, even though E6 is my favorite and the most important of the six.

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The first Star Wars I ever saw!

As I said last time, the first time I ever saw E4 was February 12, 1997. We watched it again the next day — 10 AM on a Thursday, my older sister grabbed me and said, “Hey, see if Mom will let us watch that movie from last night again.” A third, but partial, rewatch occurred again on February 18th, so already there was something major and significant about this movie.

Then, nine days after I saw A New Hope for the first time, Mom rented The Empire Strikes Back. I must have been after her to see it; I’d been watching anniversary interviews with the cast on Rosie and Oprah, not knowing who Billy Dee Williams was as he described angry kids yelling at him for betraying Han Solo. Han Solo got betrayed?! Was he killed?! I had to see this movie! Kroger — which did video rentals back then, if you can believe it — didn’t have any, so I remember Dad pulling a few doors down to the West Coast Video where Mom ran inside. It was raining. Can you believe I remember rain from 20 years ago? Yet I don’t remember the actual moment we sat down to watch the movie.

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I didn’t have much to say about it in my diary that night, either. The most significant thing was “It was almost 70 degrees!!!!” followed by how much I hated doing English (ironic given that I later majored in English…)

Then the bombshell. Then Return of the Jedi.

1983 ROTJ Poster

It was partly a bombshell because of how clever my mom is. She went into the video store alone because it was raining and we had groceries in the car. She let me hold the E5 VHS on the way home and put it on top of the TV for viewing. I absolutely took for granted that it would be at least one week before we could get E6. (“Town” was 18 miles away and going in for groceries was a weekly thing.) So I was pretty nonchalant about the cliffhanger ending.

The next day was February 22, a Saturday, and I was replaying The Island of Doctor Brain on our Windows 3.0 Compaq in Dad’s office.

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Even though that picture was taken in 2003, Dad’s office pretty much never changed the entire 16 years they lived there. Same computer! So the point is that’s where I was sitting sometime after lunch when I got to this screen:

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I’d played the game before, so I knew where all the Easter eggs were — the best thing about Sierra computer games was that you could right-click for jokes. And I called for Mom, always my first response upon a new discovery, and said, “LOOK! I never got that before!!” Right-clicking on the hut at the top left of the screen produced a box of text reading Don’t mess with Jabba the Hut.

We laughed and then Mom got a mischievous glint in her eye. “You want to see what he looks like?” she asked. I was like, Huh? and followed her out of the office, which was right next to their room, and she opened their closet and pulled out the opaque rental case for Return of the Jedi. My mind was absolutely blown that she’d rented both at once and kept it a secret.

So late in the afternoon, before dinner, I tore around the house rounding up Dad and my sister and we started to watch Return of the Jedi as the sun was going down. Huh, guess I remember more than I thought about the moment I first saw E6!

My diary couldn’t even handle all the information I had to unload:

Dear Pal,

We saw return of the Jedi. Lai is Luke’s sister! And Darth Vader is Luke’s father. But the Emperor was killed and Darth became good, only he was killed.

Love Megan

I like Luke, Leia, C3Po R2D2 Ham Solo best.

The clearest thing I remember is that when it was over, I passed by the front door to go upstairs and I stopped to watch the moon rising through the cut glass windows. It was nearly full, huge, and felt closer than ever. No movie had ever made me feel that way before. I loved stories, I loved reading and telling stories, but not even any of them had ever made me feel like that.

I wrote that Han Solo was my favorite, but even then, even before I bothered to notice Luke, he was the reason my imagination caught fire — the hero whose journey was the reason Star Wars changed my life.

Star Wars’ Holy Month

Posted in Announcements with tags , , , , on 9 May 2016 by Megan

What’s up, Wars Fans? I’ll tell you what’s up — the month of May. Or as I’ve decided to call it, Maul. (Jadeuary, Fettuary, Marr, Aaypril, Maul, see?) The month of all months as far as any self-respecting Star Wars fan is concerned. Yes, yes, there’s that greeting card holiday business with May 4, and if you really want Sitho de Mayo or Revenge of the Sixth or whatever the next two days are, you’re welcome to them.

But there are bigger and better holidays afoot, my friends! Star Wars Day is May 25, the date that gave us Star Wars back in 1977 as well as my personal favorite Return of the Jedi in ’83. May 16 gives us Episode II’s birthday; May 19 is for Episode I and Episode III. Empire Strikes Back gets its day on the 21st. And there’s a cornucopia of Star Wars actors’ birthdays this month, too, not least of all Peter Cushing (May 26) and Christopher Lee (May 27).

George Lucas

And then there’s the patriarch. George Lucas. The literal Maker as far as the Wars is concerned. His birthday is May 14.

Now, I legitimately don’t care what you think of George Lucas. My own feelings and opinions are as complicated as they can be about someone who amounts to a complete stranger who created a thing that takes up roughly 40% of my entire life. I don’t like him, but I respect him. I don’t have a high opinion of him, yet I admire him, his imagination, his creations, his tenacity. This guy was barely older than I am now when he was catapulted to the top of an unforgiving industry. And like me, he seems like someone with severe social anxieties, someone ill-equipped for such massive fame on such an abrupt scale. Yes, I think he let his ego get in the way of smart choices when it came to filming the prequel trilogy — but if I’m honest, I could look at Paradise Lost and say “I wouldn’t have done it that way.” The point is not “how would you have done it” — the point is, “Is what was done great?”

The answer is yes. Yes, it is great. All six Star Wars films are great. The Indiana Jones films and TV series are great. If his other contributions — Willow, Howard the Duck— are not great, they are not terrible, either, but are unfortunate mediocre younger siblings of geniuses who would stand just fine on their own if they weren’t constantly compared to their elders. I’ll level with you: I was far more entertained by Howard the Duck than I was by THX-1138. But here, the point is not “do you like it” — the point is, “Is it great?

And the answer is still, yes! George Lucas’ visions have not shaped one generation — they will shape many. By using Joseph Campbell’s themes on mythology, by combining and rearranging the best that the best filmmakers of his lifetime had to offer, Lucas created something no one ever had nor ever will again create. Space mythology, space opera — a Casablanca of science fiction, where a hundred cliches expertly linked can move us to tears. And the life that George Lucas breathed into it came from something else, from having a heart and passion for the fans. Once in an interview, Lucas drew an analogy of Star Wars being a sort of “trinity,” himself the “father” (in control), the works themselves “the son” (physical form), and the fans being the “holy spirit” that breathes life and vision into the works. On the back of Star Wars Through the Years, there’s a quote from him that he was trying to recreate scifi as he remembered it, those “free and fun” old serials — he achieved it and then some.

Fanaticism, by definition, knows no bounds or control. Despite the negative opinions I do have about George Lucas, I more than freely acknowledge he has not deserved the treatment he’s gotten. Fans essentially appropriated his brainchild and pushed him out; it is burning insult to that injury that Disney has treated his legacy with as much care as they’d treat a bag of garbage. Childish disappointment in films that could never live up to 25 years of mental hyping caused some of the fanbase to behave abusively toward the man they literally owe their entire fanaticism to.

So the stance I would urge people to take is one of fairness: acknowledge that the man, like any human, has innumerable faults and has made bad choices. Guess what, so have you, and at least your faults and bad choices are generally protected by privacy and anonymity, luxuries he has not had. At the same time, acknowledge his greatness: he created something no one else ever could have. He had the vision and the crew to produce this amazing thing that hit the public in the right way at the right time. We owe him for that.

If you love Star Wars, you owe Mr. Lucas your thanks. That’s basic. That’s human decency. You don’t have to love him; you don’t have to pretend he doesn’t have faults. Just acknowledge “Here is a human being who is responsible for creating something I think is so great that I spend most of my life thinking about it.”

And if you’re really hardcore, how about you send those words his way?

See, friends, what I’m introducing in this post is the concept of a new holiday: Thanksgeorging. This holiday is for Star Wars fans to celebrate on the last Thursday of May (the 26th this year). Although I encourage fans to send Mr. Lucas a note for his birthday, which is Saturday, I know that may be pretty short notice for you. So let’s get together, coordinate our efforts, and send Mr. Lucas a thank you note for our new holiday. Here’s a handy stock guide, if you don’t word good — just be sure to adjust it so it fits your personality!

And lastly, a shout-out to my new favorite blog/store: George Shot First. I invite you to dress the part on the first Thanksgeorging Day, and send me a picture of yourself rocking one of these awesome shirts. I’ll be doing a post on May 26 to showcase pictures of your shirts, letters, and anything else you happen to send me that has to do with thanking the Maker!

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And if you don’t send me anything, I’ll do a much lonelier version of me celebrating my new holiday by myself . . . *cue sad music* So, come on, let’s show George Lucas what his work means to us!

I’m trying to get the word count to 1138. Can you tell? I’m so close and it’s so fitting! More details will follow, but for now — get your shirt, write your letter, send me some pics. George Lucas deserves some thanking. For more, see also this post.

Review: Shadows of the Empire

Posted in Reviews, Spotlight with tags , , , on 2 April 2016 by Megan

It is a dark time in Star Wars. A time of silence, uncertain hope. A beloved friend is frozen, return certain and yet so far away.

And then . . .

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Yes, I’m talking about the state of Star Wars in 1996: Timothy Zahn’s trilogy had revitalized the fanbase and sparked a flood of novels and comics. But what had teased fans for over a decade was still uncertain — where were the first three episodes?

George Lucas said a lot of things over the years. That Star Wars was going to be a 12-episode film saga — that it was going to be nine episodes — that he’d only ever always planned six episodes. But only three existed in the mid-90s. He’d seen Jurassic Park. He felt the technology was ready to put the Clone Wars on film. Zahn had proved people wanted more stories. But the budget of three special effects blockbusters was dazzling, and the question of the hour was, were people interested in supporting a multimedia franchise again?

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Enter Steve Perry’s Shadows of the Empire, not a novel but a multimedia event across the face of 1996. A New York Times bestseller, but also a computer game, a roleplaying game, a series of actions figures, comics, even its own soundtrack and junior novelization. George Lucas asked and the public answered YES — we are ready to give you so much more money for new films!

Set between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Perry’s novel turns to a mysterious blank spot — one of the shortest blanks on the timeline — that had tormented fans since 1980. What happened in those months Han was in carbonite? Why did it take months to rescue him? How could Luke’s Jedi training be complete?

While Luke pores over Jedi relics in Obi-Wan’s abandoned home, building a new lightsaber and studying that which Yoda didn’t have time to teach him, a galactic conspiracy is going on. The Falleen Prince Xizor is more than just an imperial courtier; he is the head of the Black Sun, a galaxy-spanning criminal organization, an underground empire nearly able to go toe-to-toe with Palpatine’s own. Nearly able — and so Xizor must play the game with Palpatine, which sets him into a rivalry with Darth Vader.

This rivalry incites him to attempt to kill that which Vader would most have brought in alive — Luke Skywalker. Realizing far more than anyone else, the century-old Falleen prince knows Luke and Anakin both and sees his opportunity to seize total control if he plays right. And Leia, never the damsel in distress, is nevertheless trapped in a very uncomfortable web as Xizor attempts to make her one of his conquests. The Falleen prince is definitely one of the creepier and more memorable villains of the franchise — and unlike Thrawn, who is only a villain because he happens to be opposed to the Republic, Xizor is a creature of evil.

This book gave us more insight into the lost Bothans and cemented Lando Calrissian as a major character. It also gave us Guri, the female assassin bot, and Dash Rendar, a Corellian smuggler who shows us how Han is definitely not the norm. Oh, yeah, and my vote for the incorrigible Dash:

Fun fact, Dash Rendar made such an impression on George Lucas that he made sure to edit Rendar’s ship Outlander into the Mos Eisley scene of A New Hope in the 1997 edition of Star Wars (aka the definitive edition) — just a wink and a nod there to show that Mr. Lucas has always considered the EU to be just as canon as his own films!

In every possible way, Steve Perry’s first foray into the EU stands on its own feet and as one of the most important foundational books in realcanon.

Review: lolwut?

Posted in Fun, Reviews with tags , , , on 31 December 2015 by Megan

Instead of April Fools, I’m going to introduce New Year Fools. Because I got this book for Christmas and just have to share how outrageously kooktastic it is. Also, what else does anyone have to do on New Years Eve at 20 to midnight? Oh, yeah, play Star Wars The Old Republic . . . which is why this is a scheduled post XD

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The ultimate thing to have mixed feelings about. First of all, it’s extremely visually appealing — that’s the best thing I can say about it. It’s got truly beautiful artwork. It’s also truly insane. On the one hand, I think it’s a very interesting concept, but on the other hand, especially given its copyright date, I feel like it was partly created just to lampoon George Lucas and further undermine his work. “Look, look what kind of stuff he’d give you. But the great Disney will give you better Star Wars.” I’m probably importing a great deal of subtext to even have that thought, but the comic itself doesn’t acknowledge just how much creative license it inevitably took. “This was George’s vision!” they insist — when Lucas himself insisted that his vision was pretty fluid and ended up having little to do with either this comic or the 1977 theatrical release the fanboys crave so much.

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Anyway, when I got it for Christmas, it was something I had never heard of at all. And I remain the most impressed by the really amazing artwork. Since I don’t get anything else out of comics, I do require them to look good, and it looks very good. I really enjoy the style although I don’t know why they used Jay of Jay and Silent Bob as the model for the protagonist.

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You thought I was exaggerating? I wasn’t. That is clearly the model.

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On the other hand, Vader as the non-Force-sensitive military commander with a cyborg eye is some definite eye-candy. So’s Valorum, the Sith prince who is not Vader. But I’ll get to that in a second.

Anyway, the plot does its job by being an early draft version of the movie we’re all familiar with. Jay Annikin Starkiller is the son of a former Jedi-Bendu; his younger brother has been slain by the evil empire. His father apprentices him to General Skywalker, who is seeking a war with the empire because they’re evil and must be stopped. Princess Leia wants to be heading off to college, but since the Empire has attacked her peaceful homeworld and her father has been killed, that option is off the table. Starkiller and Skywalker escape the planet with Leia’s younger brothers with the aid of the reptilian Han Solo, and they all go to the Wookiee homeworld for some reason. Leia has been captured by Darth Vader and a Sith, so of course Starkiller comes to rescue her. Valorum decides to help Starkiller escape, and then Queen Leia gives Starkiller accolades or whatever.

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Apart from the sheer novelty, the only thing I liked about the story was the Sith Prince fighting alongside the Jedi Padawan to free the princess. That part was actually really cool and I’m sorry no element of it made it into any of the six films. A lot of their dialogue was really charming and it made the villains a little more complex than they ultimately end up being in the movies themselves.

The comic actually manages to have even fewer women than the original trilogy, by virtue of adding nearly 20 men to the character roster but leaving Leia as the only female with any lines. (Her mother and an instantly-abandoned handmaiden appear only briefly.) Normally I prefer my literature light on the ladies, but there was something pretty tired about it in this one. Maybe because the “love story” kicks off with Annikin Starkiller literally beating his love interest unconscious the first time he meets her.

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This is so wrong on so many levels, I was left speechless. First of all, Starkiller is established as a young soldier who has led men into battle, so he’s not some kid. Princess Leia on the other hand is literally departing for her first semester of college — so, a fresh high school graduate is punched unconscious by a war veteran. The real kicker is that he beats her unconscious because she’s insisting he also bring her teenage handmaiden with her to safety. He refuses because his orders didn’t explicitly mention bringing anyone else. So he beats her unconscious. This is NOT okay and I don’t know whose idea it was. Horrifying.

The comic also features some other fun instances of abuse — the senior Starkiller is a hilariously unbalanced half cyborg who whips his son with a whip for being distracted at the news that they are under attack.

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Our heroes! Woo!

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So, yes, a novelty, very entertaining, which I have given a place of honor among all the Star Wars apocrypha that I own. Still more canon than Disney! *ba dum tiss*

Review: Vader’s Quest

Posted in Reviews with tags , , on 7 December 2015 by Megan

vadersquestHere’s a confession my regular readers are probably sick of hearing: I’m not in to comic books. I’m not. If you’re a regular, you’ve heard me say they’re hard to read, they’re unappealing, they’re confusing. I spent a lot of my realcanon years trying to ignore them and pretend they didn’t exist in the canon, unless the novels forced me to accept them like Dark Empire.

The Disney reboot has given me some good things, though. It’s caused me to explore and accept parts of realcanon I never would’ve dreamed of before. It’s even gotten me to the point where I purchased this without even reading it, taking for granted it would fit as canon between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.

And it’s got some great stuff going for it. The story of How did Vader find out who Luke was? has almost certainly been on fans’ minds since 1980 and the memorable crawl that states that Vader is obsessed with finding young Skywalker.

In short, this is the story of how Vader discovers Luke’s name. It provides a strong background for the fateful holocall in ESB, especially after the 2004 edits made it sound like Vader didn’t know who he was hunting in spite of the fact that the crawl explicitly identified it only 20 minutes previously.

The parts with Luke were not anywhere near as strong as the ones with Vader as Vader scrambles to learn Skywalker’s name. There’s also a sub plot with the rebel pilot who had to sit the Battle of Yavin out (explaining how Luke got an x-wing to begin with) — and how badly he resents Skywalker and the lengths his resentment takes him to.

However, the bits with Luke . . . well, they might have been okay, but I was overwhelmingly distracted by why the artist chose to have Luke in his moisture farmer clothes, as if Luke only maintains one outfit (or a dozen of the same-looking outfits) for three years. He was even shown in a different suit at the end of ANH! I’m sorry, you might think it’s petty, but if anyone ever asks me what I remember about this comic, it’s going to be the fact that Luke is shown cartoonishly wearing the same thing he wore at the beginning of ANH.

Otherwise, the Luke segments just miss the mark. Some cool bits about him being blind and hints about sight being deceiving, but they’re either hastily done or not well developed, and I’m sure it’s not just the fact that I can’t track comic books very well that led to me not having a clear idea of what the point of most of this was.

I’d give it a positive-neutral rating if Goodreads let me. Two seems harsh, but 3 stars is too generous. Interesting story, poor execution. Vital curiosity satisfied, but in a curiously confusing fashion. Decent, but not great.

Review: The Original Storyboards

Posted in Reviews, Spotlight with tags , , , , , on 27 July 2014 by Megan
10:20 AM, not 12, Lilly! Get your head in the game!

10:20 AM, July 25!

Friday was my birthday! (*is quiet a moment to facilitate well-wishes*) Why, thank you! And I finally had a nice one, which is a nice change. Amongst the serious highlights of the weekend, though, were these Star Wars themed gifts:

Birthday the RebeLibrarian way

Birthday the RebeLibrarian way

That’s right, my very own Commadore Librarian mug and the original storyboards for the OT. You can’t have the mug, because it was made for me♪e♫e♪ — so it is the latter item that concerns us today. J. W. Rinzler, the man who gave us The Making of the Empire Strikes Back and The Sounds of Star Wars (just to name two of the veritable empire of coffee table books he’s been producing for grown-up Star Warriors), has absolutely done it again. With “unprecedented access” to the Lucasfilm archival vaults, and an impeccable taste for the sort of history we crave, Rinzler has given us the Star Wars Storyboards: The Original Trilogy.

And so color coordinated, too.

And so color coordinated, too.

This huge and hugely delightful book reproduces the original storyboards from the trilogy, interspersed with the reminiscences of the artists. It showcases alternative early versions as well as the earliest visions of scenes that have become iconic. Did you know in one early draft, Vader ripped Captain Antilles’ arm off instead of strangling him? There’s discussion of technique (they used tempera paint on toothbrushes to create starfields), materials, and crew, plus the artists’ memories of work and their hijnks — such as the time Mark Hamill wandered in and commented that Han in carbonite would make a great coffee table.

Some of these sketches have not been seen since 1977, and all of them are recreated in (presumably) faithful colors, expanded and enhanced so you can actually see the indentations on the paper from the pens and such. Just really impressive, high quality images expertly edited. As usual, the most detail is paid to ANH, particularly early and alternate versions (such as when Luke was a girl with a brother named Deak).

The history in this volume is just incredible, and it’s also just a really lovely book. Any film buff would love it, and a Star Wars fan must definitely treasure it. Good stuff.