Archive for SWPAW

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.

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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 Planet

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , on 6 August 2015 by Megan

Day 6 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

Well, I sort of said Coruscant yesterday, so I’ll try to come up with something else. I’ll confess that I have never liked Naboo. Yeah, never liked it. Tatooine isn’t a PT planet. Kamino or Geonosis? Nope, I’ve got it.

Utapau and Kamino are certainly unique among the offerings of the PT: Naboo is just Italy in space; Tatooine we’ve seen before, and Geonosis is just red Tatooine. But these two offered the kind of CGI-enhanced vistas we long for in science fiction–vistas you won’t see from earth. One planet is nothing but ocean and the other is nothing but savanna. And while I love the Kaminoans as a race far more than I like either of the sentient species on Utapau, the planet Utapau really attracts me.

Even as I sat in the theater for the midnight showing of Episode III the first time, my first thought on seeing the savage beauty of Utapau was, This is a science fiction planet. This epitomizes what an imaginary scifi world should be.

An Outer Rim world with water making up only .9% of the planet’s surface, Utapau has nine moons, an arid temperate climate, and a 27-hour day. This planet covered with cave networks and sinkholes made an attractive hiding place for the Separatist General Grevious–and in 2005, I know I wasn’t the only one reminded of the ongoing search for Osama bin Ladin in the caves of Afghanistan. I’m sure this wasn’t accidental on Lucas’ part, either, though I can’t give you a citation of him saying Obi-Wan’s triumph over Grevious was meant to inspire Americans in the midst of a decade-long wait for justice.

The Utapauan visuals are dazzling, and I’m never going to forgive Disney for denying me the chance to see it in the retro-3D that made Episode I a fresh thrill. I felt as giddy as on a roller coaster watching Boga dive over the edge of the cliff just on a normal cinema screen! How much more incredible would it have been? (sad sigh)

Speaking of Boga, where would any discussion of this awesome planet be if I didn’t mention the amazingness that is the varactyl?

 

Not only does this hero remind me of a floppy Newfoundland dog we had when I was a teen — which we lost to cancer the same year as Episode III, actually — but she helps show us a side of the Jedi that is under-represented: connection with all life. Obi-Wan says in E4 that the Force binds all living things together and Luke repeatedly uses this power to dispel predators from flesh-eating grubs to mutant cthons and one yeti-like creature in The New Rebellion. Obi-Wan’s preference for a live animal mount over a mechanical speeder recalls Tolkien’s emphasis on nature over industry, and the book and a deleted scene further emphasize that Obi-Wan chose Boga specifically because of the connection between them.

Also, the cooing and yipping is another Ben Burtt masterpiece and I’m kind of really super excited to get a varactyl mount of my own in The Old Republic!

So, yes, all that cool stuff combined makes Utapau my favorite planet of the prequels, though Kamino is a narrow contender because I like Kaminoans and they also have flying giant manta rays.

Prequel Appreciation: Favorite Scene

Posted in Opinion, Questions with tags , , , , , on 5 August 2015 by Megan

Day 5 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.

I mentioned yesterday that Episode II wasn’t even “in the running” for favorite Prequel film, so it seems appropriate that I grant it my favorite scene.

There are so many things about this scene to love. First of all, like its twin Episode V, Episode II is weak on a lot of things from dialogue to continuity–but, like its twin Episode V, it never fails to disappoint on a visual. The lines, colors, framing are all top-notch.

Ever since I read about Luke Skywalker standing on the roof of the palace drinking hot chocolate and watching the traffic below, I have longed to see Coruscant. As the most significant planet birthed in the EU and fleshed out on screen, it should hold a special place in any fan’s heart, and certainly mine. I remember there was a preview pack of Episode I cards in my Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game–the design on the back of the cards was the Coruscant skyline and I used to stare at it in rapt attention.

I pored with the same attention over McQuarrie’s concept art in The Illustrated Star Wars Universe. What was life like in this city-planet, so unlike anything in my experience, the teenage girl living in rural Ohio, the nearest town consisting of 11,000 people twelve miles away? The Episode I glimpses were so brief, they were little more than tantalizing. I didn’t get to really find out until Episode II in 2002, four years after my first piqued curiosity.

From the speeder chase that dives from the skyline to the nightclubs, to the shipping lanes, Senate hall, and corridors of the Jedi Temple, Episode II delivers Coruscant visuals like no other. And of all those scenes, the best, the most amazing is Dex’s Diner in the commerce district (CoCo Town).

I’ve mentioned this a time or two before (1)(2). I mean, come on, I even baked a cake in honor of this scene! So how could I answer any differently?

In a deleted scene (and in the book), we see the Temple archive droids let Obi-Wan down. They can’t give him the information he needs, so, like his mentor Qui-Gon, he turns to the streets, to the common folk outside the Temple who know what’s what. He has a long relationship with this place, as Qui-Gon used to come here for help when it was Didi’s diner. As Qui-Gon had a non-Jedi confidant and assistant in Didi, Obi-Wan has Dexter.

I really love Dexter (as the previously linked post indicates). He’s a great character who just radiates cool backstory. This scene is one of the rare places of Episode II where the dialogue shines: all showing, no telling. There’s the added bonus that Dexter reminds me of the first college professor I ever had, an amazing naturalist who died in 2005 but whose class Local Flora changed my life. I may be importing a lot of Jaworski’s personality onto Dex, but they both had encyclopedic knowledge of anything you could ask about and an interesting story  to go along with. They also both preferred a wardrobe of holey shirts and baggy pants, though Jaworski’s shirts were black — seriously, Dex, it hides the dirt better! Get a clue ;)

So, in short, while there’s a lot in E2 I’ll fast forward out of frustration or boredom, this is a scene I could watch several times in a row and undoubtedly find something new and interesting every time. I love it.

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.