Archive for prequel trilogy

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.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Book

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , on 8 August 2015 by Megan

Day 8 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

I know a week consists of seven days. (I also know the names of those seven days in A Galaxy Far, Far Away.) But first of all, this month started weird on a Saturday and I wanted the challenge to run Sunday-Saturday. And second of all, this is a librarian’s blog and the focus is always going to be on books.

The original challenge didn’t include books, because the SWPAS site focuses exclusively on the films. It’s not a choice I would make, but I’m weird because I can’t/don’t separate the films from the books anyway. There’s no difference in my mind between Cloak of Deception and Attack of the Clones. Deal with it.

That being said — what is my favorite prequel-era book? Well, a prequel-era book has to be one set during the decade the prequels actually cover — books set between 1108-1118. The highest rating I’ve given during that era is four stars and tied between Outbound Flight and Shadow Hunter.

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Honestly, I’m going to go with Shadow Hunter. Michael Reaves’ Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is an underrated favorite I’ve loved since I first read it almost fifteen years ago. I can remember stumbling breathlessly through it, adrenaline and teary eyes only adding to the thrill ride.

In 1999, with Vision of the Future complete, a brand-new Star Wars era had been opened for exploration, and this way my first foray into it. No longer would the pre-ANH years be shrouded in mystery.

This is what happened before The Phantom Menace. This is who and what the phantom menace is. We had only just been shown the Old Republic for the first time, but already, this book ripped away illusions: corruption and weakness, even the Jedi choked by the weeds of hypocrisy and evil. (Yes, the Jedi were evil — they kidnapped children! If that’s not evil, what is?)

Lorn Pavan catapulted to near the top of my favorite Star Wars character lists, a tragic man with a lost son and a grudge against the Jedi. Darth Maul’s quest filled me with horror. And while the end of the book was inevitable, the ride was no less awesome.

I really need to reread this thing.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Ship

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , on 7 August 2015 by Megan

Day 7 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Now, I was simultaneously surprised and yet not surprised to discover that this meant romantic. I still don’t like fangirls, I detest “feels,” and even if The X-Files is what gave us the concept, I really do not like or approve of “shipping.” There actually is a prequel-era relationship I “headcanon,” which I believe is the correct “shipping” terminology, but I’ve already done a post on it. See here for my detailed rave about Shmi-Gon.

But since I don’t believe in romance in any other capacity, we’re going to abandon the challenge-writer’s intention here and move on to far more interesting territory. If you want romance shipping, go read about Shmi-Gon. Because this post . . . this post is about the J-type 327 Nubian royal starship.

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I love this ship. I have been in love with it since the first time I ever saw it, the first time I turned to that page in the Episode I Visual Dictionary and learned all the minute trivia about it.

One of the undeniable highlights of the PT is its glittering design. Things are softer, more organic, more colorful, and filled with light. This ship looks like it congealed out of mercury, and remains surely one of the most beautiful starships in scifi. I used to imagine having one called The Seven Sins, because how prosaic is it the Naboo didn’t name their royal starship? They did polish it by hand, though.

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The first I saw of the ship was in the Visual Dictionary I carried around with me for months in 1999, until it fell apart. I also eventually picked up the Complete Cross Sections and memorized the ship’s schematics in that.

Spaceships have rarely terribly interested me; they remind me of that “science” part of science fiction that I find boring and frustrating. But this elegant bit of quicksilver had my mind at once. It’s exactly what I could see myself traveling in if I lived then. Aerodynamic, sleek, beautiful, yes, it’s very flashy, but at the same time, it’s extremely practical.

I love everything about it, and it’s only one of the many reasons Episode I is such an awesome movie. So there!

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Film

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , on 4 August 2015 by Megan

Day 4 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Well, you know this. There’s only three of them. And as much as I love Episode I, Episode III still claims the title. (Sorry, II is not and has never been in the running.)

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I don’t know what to say. It’s barely been over a year since I posted about “Favorite PT Movie.” What can I tell you?

Most anticipated film of my life, check.

Most epic lightsaber duel ever committed to film, check.

Most hilarious Chinese bootleg? Double check . . .

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I don’t love Episode III the most because it has the least sketchy material of the PT. Actually, it has some of the stuff I hate most — for having the most lightsaber duels of any of the six films, most of those don’t count because either people who should be stunning duelists get taken out like punks, or they’re visually absurd Yoda stupidity.

It’s all about subtext. Episode III is a great object lesson for why “show, don’t tell” is important, because an aging George Lucas became all about telling instead of showing. “We’re best friends,” says Obi-Wan. “The Sith are bad!” says the Council. “I don’t want you to die,” says Anakin. Nothing in the film backs up the statements; you have to import it on your own. But I like importing things on my own.

Episode III made A New Hope worth watching. Right before going to see E3 at midnight, I watched I and II back to back. The next day, I watched A New Hope and actually saw it for the first time. Episode III came out just over eight years since I first saw ANH, but with the context of III, I suddenly noticed every long look, every hesitant pause, every flicker in the eyes of Obi-Wan, Owen, Beru. I’m with Mark Hamill: I don’t know how Alec Guinness was able to do that, knowing less than we know now, but it was masterful.

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Visually stunning, Episode III is almost so beautiful, I can’t stand it. That sweeping view of the Battle of Coruscant is etched on my memory. The blaze of blue sabers against red lava was straight out of the dreams I’d been having for eight years. Anakin, matured and handsome after three years of war, is a tormented creature you want to pull out of the cage before he’s destroyed by people who only pretend to be friends so they can use him.

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And Obi-Wan is a warhorse, a general, but one so blinded and in thrall to the Jedi Council that he can’t see the big picture, can’t see the threads of deceit and betrayal from both Jedi and Sith.

The whole thing is heartbreakingly Greek tragedy. It’s the perfect center to the saga, and well deserves its place as my #2 favorite film of all time.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Side Character

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , on 3 August 2015 by Megan

Day 3 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Which has immediately launched me into trying to determine what constitutes main characters, side characters, and background characters . . . I am instantly thinking of a lot of background characters I love. Aayla Secura, Eeth Koth, Twi’leks, people with no lines. Those have to be background and they can’t possibly count.

So a side character is a non-protagonist who has lines. That narrows it down. I love Dexter Jettster so much, but I’m really not wanting to do another post about him. I know it’s been like three years and I said it’s not redundant but there are so many characters . . . surely there’s someone else.

You know who is cool? Captain Panaka is cool.

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I tend to forget how much I like him because I get distracted by how much I dislike his stupid nephew Typho. But Panaka is great. Out of place, an oddity, he is a real warrior and a patriot on a pacifist planet. He understands that pacifism is all well and good, but it can’t be practiced without soldiers — a contradiction his contradictory soul can be at peace with.

He wants what’s best for Naboo and is willing to do anything for the Queen. I don’t know what kind of seedy underbelly stuff is going on where pacifist Naboo trains body double guards for its ruler and keeps handguns in the throne, but Panaka is definitely no rent-a-cop. He’s one of the few people in the movie who has a backbone, and he’s not awed by Jedi reputation into accepting their word as law. Hugh Quarshie, who played Panaka, gave this telling insight into his character portrayal:

“I figured the tougher I was, the tougher it would make the Jedi seem to be. Obviously nobody out-toughed the Jedi, but Captain Panaka was going to give them a run for their money!”

Qui-Gon earns his respect, or he never would have let his charge wander off with him alone into a gangster-controlled slaver world.

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In a lot of ways, he reminds me of General Veers. He lost his sister and became dedicated to soldiering as a result. He later turned more to politics, becoming a sector Moff. His loyalty and dedication to Palpatine never wavered, and he considered that his compatriot held the galaxy together and brought order from Separatist chaos.

So you see, in the end, while he was wrong about Palpatine, Panaka becomes one of those near and dear to my heart — EMPIRE FOREVER!

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Main Character

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , on 2 August 2015 by Megan

Day 2 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Let’s just accept that 1) favorites generally don’t fluctuate; 2) challenges focus on favorites; 3) there is going to be a certain degree of redundancy; 4) it is OK to talk about the same person more than once; 5) when it’s been two years since I posted about something, it’s not redundant, not really.

That’s more for my benefit than yours because I guarantee you don’t care. My apology stated, let’s move on to the fun stuff.

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And what could be more fun than the legendary Qui-Gon Jinn? I listed some points in this post from 2013 — mostly, that I was entraced by this guy the moment I first saw him on the movie poster and was not disappointed by his appearance. Liam Neeson’s own personal core of awesomeness helps keep Qui-Gon a sustainable favorite even as we near the two decade mark.

Yes, he’s only in one of the three prequel films, but his shadow is over them all. Qui-Gon Jinn, like another favorite of mine, Cadfael, is a warrior/monk/teacher/detective/all around amazing and awesome guy. He’s been a role model to me since I was 14, which was made even cooler by the fact that Obi-Wan was 14 as his apprentice. I could basically step into Obi-Wan’s shoes and be mentored by this great man.

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It’s because of Qui-Gon Jinn that I think stubbornness is a virtue. He never accepts what authority tells him because, even if Yoda is 800 years old, Qui-Gon is confident enough in his own experience and knowledge to believe he just might know better than the little goblin. He tests each situation for himself and draws his own conclusions. Nothing shakes him from his beliefs. He’ll take rebuke, shame, even physical assault, but he will not change his position and he will not compromise on what he knows is right: “I will do what I must.”

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Which is not to say he’s never known failure, even deep, biting failure. He never stopped blaming himself for the fall of his second apprentice, Xanatos; nor did he ever recover from the death of the love of his life, Tahl. He held himself responsible for that, too. But he was tough in the face of his mistakes; they never introduced self-doubt, and he carries the entire plot of Episode I, and, arguably, the prequel trilogy, on his shoulder as he charges ahead. The Force could not be clearer: he has found the “Chosen One” and the Jedi must train him.

While some of his in-film behavior is inexplicable — I simply can’t believe a man who has been betrayed in the past, even betrayed by Obi-Wan, would ever backstab his apprentice before the Council the way Lucas’ Qui-Gon does. But there are times I genuinely believe George Lucas doesn’t know as much about his own characters as I do.

Qui-Gon is proud and stubborn but also gentle. He has an innate knowledge of what people need, what people will respond to, what will cause them to stretch and grow. Obstacles don’t ruffle him as long as he knows he’s in control — watch his temper flare when Watto shoos him out of the shop, for example — and while he doesn’t believe the Council could find the will of the Force with both hands and a flashlight, his trust in what he calls “the Living Force” (the Force of right now, this minute, not the dusty past or the shifting future) doesn’t waver at any point.

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In 1999, when I carried the Visual Dictionary everywhere for months because I couldn’t see the movie until a month after it came out, I drew the inevitable conclusion that Qui-Gon had to die in Episode I. There was no getting around it. I still cried when it happened. Actually, it just made me like him more; I was really infatuated with dead people back then. Sometimes I still am, as long as the death is pointful (not profitable), in character, and, most important of all, not Pyrrhic. Sidebar.

Qui-Gon’s life and background remains shrouded in mystery to me; honestly I have never been able to bring myself to believe that Dooku was his master. His death also has some mystery, in my opinion, because I find it a little overly convenient that when he falls in love a second time, he instantly dies. I’m inclined to think he faked his death so he could run away with Shmi, not allowing the Jedi to derail his heart a second time; but that’s a conspiracy for a different day (1)(2). He’s cool and he’s awesome and that’s all there is to say.

Prequel Appreciation Week

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , , , on 1 August 2015 by Megan

Turns out somebody out there decided to have a Prequel Appreciation Week! I found out via somebody in “the” Star Wars group, and with a bit of searching found the information from the friends over at SWPAS. The original idea, though, belongs to this Tumblr, and you’ll be able to find more posts and, as Tumblr-always, gifs by checking them out.

This sounded like something I should seriously get in on and do, so here we go, amid all the new construction sawdust etc., it’s time to talk Prequels!

Day 1 of the Prequel Appreciation Week. Your favorite prequels actor.

All too easy, as Darth Vader once said.

There is almost no other way to answer this question than by saying Ewan McGregor. In many respects, Ewan McGregor made the Prequel Trilogy.

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I mean, yeah, the first time I saw the Episode I poster, I didn’t care about Obi-Wan. I didn’t like Ben Kenobi, and didn’t care about who he was going to be in the movies. He was the guy who ruined Vader and who was old and annoying — “Where did you dig up that old fossil?” So all I cared about as Episode I rolled around was Qui-Gon. Man, that guy looked cool!

I don’t remember when exactly I first noticed that young Obi-Wan was hot. I was 14, so it probably didn’t take long. It did take me a long time to think Ewan was hot in non-Obi-Wan roles, and I signed a petition in 2000 begging George Lucas to put off the beard until distant “Episode III.”

But as it gets toward 17 years since I first watched The Phantom Menace, as I mature and my relationship with Star Wars matures, . . . oh, do I see stuff in his performance that justifies my opinion that Ewan makes the prequel trilogy worth watching.

He isn’t given much to work with in Episode I, I’ll grant you that. I remember a ’99 interview where he said he just stands around and scowls. But Ewan still manages to express Obi-Wan’s fundamental personality, the dazzling skills and rule-bound hesitations of a man destined to become one of the Order’s greatest generals.

Hey, old buddy!

Like everything else in the Prequel Trilogy, Obi-Wan gets the short stick in Attack of the Clones, and some of his best moments are in Revenge of the Sith. Pause for a shout-out to my beloved Dex and the Dex’s diner scene — Obi-Wan is a man who cultivates relationships, friendships, and allies anywhere and everywhere, because you never know. Surely this is something he learned from his master, whose unusual liaisons  throughout the Jedi Apprentice books showed Obi-Wan that support could always be found somewhere outside the Temple if not in it.

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But for emotional roller coasting, Ewan gets the full gamut in E3, from pride to disappointment, shock and betrayal, self-assurance, victory and defeat. It’s all in there. If “You were the chosen one!” doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, you might not be human. And if I’m being honest, it was Ewan’s performance in Revenge of the Sith that finally made me enjoy A New Hope. He flawlessly channeled Alec Guinness and made a character I never cared much about (cf.) into someone I’m essentially in love with.

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There is no disconnect whatsoever, I really believe the guy in Episode I is the same as the guy in Episode IV, and no matter how frustrating, no matter what shortcomings, that’s pure acting genius right there. Ewan McGregor  has it. And holds it. He’s the man.