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Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Return of the Jedi, while being the weakest film in the original trilogy, is still a masterpiece. Luke’s own Hero’s Journey reaches it’s culmination in this movie and it is beautifully and artfully done in such a way that is both moving and exciting.
People have tons of fun making fun of Luke for how much he whines, needs his friends to rescue him, and is brash to the point of being a liability. But, in all fairness close examination of this movie in comparison to the previous two reveals how admirable a man Luke Skywalker actually becomes.
Disillusionment with one’s ideals is not uncommon in the growth of any adult especially when we see those whom we admired and imitated show their own flaws and imperfections to us. Luke Skywalker was a young dreamer who wanted to become a Jedi Knight like his own father and never stopped to consider how hard a life that would be for him. One can only imagine the bitter blow it would be to discover that the man he admired and made a role model was not who he thought he was. We all discover eventually that our own parents are human and imperfect, but rarely do we discover that they are evil! I truly admire and give credit to Luke’s character because a lesser man would have become cynical at the revelation that his role model was nothing more than a lie. Luke, on the other hand, stuck to the principle of his ideals and reacted to the truth of his father’s identity by attempting to turn his father back to the ideals that he had rejected decades ago. And when failure seemed inevitable Luke stuck to his guns in the face of certain death. He stood there even to the point of tossing his weapon aside and declared himself “a Jedi like my father before me.” If Darth Vader had ignored his son’s pleas for help Luke would not have given up and turned to the Dark Side to survive. Death was an option. Turning to the Dark Side was not. After truly considering all that I dare anyone to seriously call Luke a pansy.

And Darth Vader’s conversion to the Light Side of the Force and his final moments with his son is my absolute favourite scene in the entire Star Wars franchise. It’s a beautiful, moving, and meaningful finale that puts George Lucas high up on the list of great storytellers.

Sadly this film is rife with imperfections and flaws in its other parts. The epic final showdown with the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire is disappointing and drags more than it excites. The chemistry between Han, Leia, Chewie, the droids, and other characters is no where near as good as it was in The Empire Strikes Back and much of it falls flat and is overshadowed by Luke and Vader’s story.

The second Death Star is a very lame mcguffin to threaten the Rebels with since we already seen one of those in A New Hope. The lack of originality is a gaping problem with Return of the Jedi and as fantastic as the space battle is it doesn’t make up for the utterly absurd manner in which the Empire is taken down. The Ewoks are clearly a marketing gimmick to sell toys and make the film appeal to very little children, but for the rest of us who wanted an epic and believable conclusion to the Rebellion against the Empire we are disappointed with seeing care bears with stone age spears and slingshots take out a battle-hardened, heavily armed, and thoroughly trained Imperial military. It’s stupid, pure and simple, and the only commendable thing to come of the Ewoks was Warwick Davis’s future career which I have enjoyed immensely.

I also feel that the first half hour of Return of the Jedi really drags. The Jabba’s Palace sequence feels like a failed attempt to recapture the novelty of the Cantina scene in A New Hope, but the music the band plays sucks in both the original version and the Special Edition (although the Special Edition is admittedly worse) and I find myself thinking the scene would have been better if Jabba had booked Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes rather than Sy Snootles and her crew. It also would have spared us the excruciating Special Edition scene in which Boba Fett flirts with some of the female singers. Boba Fett is such an overrated chump as it is we really don’t need to mess with him more by having him getting distracted by a pair of legs and flashing eyelashes at a dingy party.

And if I am jumping on the Boba Fett is overrated bandwagon it is only because I sincerely sit in that camp. He had Han Solo handed over to him by a Sith Lord in a frozen block of carbonite before he could be bothered to take him in and after Han woke up feverish and blind as a bat he still managed to overcome the heavily armed bounty hunter with a stick. I wouldn’t hire Boba Fett to win an Easter egg hunt!

Also what the hell is up with Leia at Jabba’s Palace? She was tortured, drugged, and imprisoned by a Dark Lord of the Sith and yet still remained the independent spitfire we all know and love. But, now she gets captured and put in a degrading slave outfit by a fat gangster who needs help moving to the bathroom and suddenly that shuts her up? Whatever happened to telling Grand Moffs they smell bad, accusing Darth Vader of being on a leash, and calling the coolest man in the Galaxy a laserbrain and a nerfherder? After enduring physical torture and seeing her homeworld annihilated you would think a perverted slug would be just another day at the office; but, no, she is now broken, tamed, and needs Luke and Han Solo to rescue her. I am calling bull!
And don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining about the slave outfit itself. That puberty-inducing getup suits the straight male in me just fine. I just don’t like seeing Leia rendered inert by it. Her strength should not have been sapped by humiliation and I wholeheartedly object to it.

It’s the Jabba’s Palace and Endor stuff that really keeps this film from being perfect. But, the epic conclusion of Luke Skywalker’s path to being a Jedi and Anakin Skywalker’s redemption more than makes up for those imperfections and combining that with the groundbreaking special effects, John Williams’s score, Ben Burtt’s sound design, and all the other talents who put their innovative mark on Return of the Jedi are what make this movie a masterpiece. Adding it to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and The Original Star Wars Trilogy is to this day one of the greatest screen epics ever made along side with Coppola’s Godfather films (which also had a weak third entry), Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and cinematic treasures like Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and Ben-Hur. If people ask me why I love Star Wars so much and need a short answer I won’t point to all the multi-media, comics, games, books, and fan conventions. I will point to these three films by themselves as a whole and let them know that these films are what make me love Star Wars.
I have seen some hardcore EU lovers who have admitted that if the EU had not existed they probably would not care for the Star Wars movies all that much and that seriously bothers me. I have even heard one guy comment that by themselves the Original Trilogy movies were merely quaint and it was the EU that truly made Star Wars meaningful to him. While far be it from me to dispute one’s right to a subjective opinion, I do wonder at how someone could look at these films and see something quaint or uninteresting.
The Original Star Wars trilogy is enough for me. As much as I love the EU, I could live with just A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Boil it down to its purest essence and it is these three masterpieces that are what Star Wars truly is and I, for one, hold them in highest honour.

Check tomorrow for a review of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and may the Force be with you.

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Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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The Empire Strikes Back is my favourite of the entire Star Wars saga and I think it is no surprise that so many other people feel the same way. Having the best pacing of all the films, a complex and engaging story, great writing and character development, a thorough exploration of the nature of the Force, some of the best music, and a darker and maturer tone are all ingredients that make a near perfect film.

The chemistry between Han Solo and Princess Leia is perfectly written and handled resulting in a romance somewhat reminiscent of Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh in Gone With the Wind which I believe is far superior to the cringe-inducing and unconvincing romance between Anakin and Padme in the Prequels. More on that in a later review.

The droids are at the top of their form in this one and the separation from each other throughout the majority of the movie allows both of their characters to shine brighter. Threepio is still hilarious as always and his frustration and confusion in dealing with the volatile and irritable Han Solo provides some of the best comedy in the film.
In fact, the entire sequence involving Leia, Han, Chewie, and Threepio is one of the best demonstrations of how character development and character interaction is properly done.

Luke’s training on Dagobah is still to this day the best exploration of the Force seen in the films. Even the highly Jedi-centric Prequels never gave us as much depth and thought-provoking material on the philosophy behind the Force than the scenes with Luke and Yoda on Dagobah.

In A New Hope the bad guys had much less screen time, but here we get almost as much of them as we do the good guys. Darth Vader is amazingly bad ass in The Empire Strikes Back compared to A New Hope and Return of the Jedi in which he is treated more as if he was on someone’s leash rather than the commanding Dark Lord of the Sith who in this movie absolutely rules every scene he is in. His looming figure, shiny helmet, and epic theme music that plays every time he enters a room is enough to terrify any Imperial officer and with good reason. He doesn’t accept apologies for failure and if your clumsiness is proportionally equal to your stupidity then you better be ready to get Force choked.

The Empire Strikes Back has such great dialogue that it is readily the most quotable Star Wars film ever made. Darth Vader’s “Apology accepted, Captain Needa” is just fantastic and “Take the professor back and plug him into the hyperdrive” is still my favourite Han Solo quip of all time.
And when we talk about dialogue we cannot forget the wisdom of Yoda. “Do or do not. There is no try” is so classic that seeing Star Wars is unnecessary to recognising it. And adding to the mix “Always in motion is the future”, “Wars don’t make one great”, and “Luminous beings are we; not this crude matter” it soon becomes apparent that alien muppets make the best spiritual gurus.

John Williams’ score for The Empire Strikes back has turned up some of the saga’s best pieces such as The Imperial March, The Battle in the Snow, Yoda and the Force, and The Asteroid Field which are iconic and prove that Williams will always be the master unlikely to be paralleled or rivaled. Kevin Kiner and Michael Giacchino are good, but they can only be padawans to the Jedi Maestro that is John Williams.

While I said earlier that the pacing in this film was the best of the saga I would mention that some people have griped about how badly synced up the timeline is with Luke’s training and the Falcon crew’s time in Cloud City. It’s said that the training that Luke went through must have taken a period of weeks (maybe even months) while the Falcon’s journey seems to only take maybe a few days at the most. However, I really do not think this is a big deal and even if it was we should consider that Luke had successfully used the Force on Hoth to retrieve his lightsaber and we already know that three years ago he used the Force to destroy the Death Star. Three years of practising using the Force unaided by a master is nothing to scoff at and it would not be surprising me if Luke’s training on Dagobah was only about a week long before he left for Bespin. He is naturally talented and one should bear in mind that Yoda told Luke he was not ready to face Vader yet which means we know he didn’t even complete his training before leaving. I think the timeline is just fine.

All in all what have packaged in The Empire Strikes Back is a near perfect film that continues to impress me every time I rewatch it.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s review of Return of the Jedi and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Today is the 40th anniversary of the movie I am reviewing. This is a momentous occasion for the millions of fans; many of which who are going to celebrate in their own way. Some will go cosplaying, digging out and dusting off old Star Wars books, comics, and video games; others will talk about Star Wars with friends, and some like myself are going to spend the next few days marathoning the series.

In the 40 years since its inception Star Wars has been unrivaled in the impact it has had on popular culture. Special effects films were never the same again since its release when it shook Hollywood at the core and completely reshaped the trends of filmmaking at the time. With the popularity of Jaws, American Graffiti, and the Planet of the Apes franchise helping pave the way before it, Star Wars had suddenly given birth to the summer blockbuster. It is thanks to Star Wars that cinema has given us Indiana Jones, Alien, Terminator, Back to the Future, The Lord of the Rings films, and the immensely popular multitude of DC and Marvel movies that get released once or twice a year.

And not only was cinema affected. I could go on and on about how Star Wars changed the future of merchandising, created an unparalleled multimedia franchise involving books, games, comics, TV shows, etc.; engendered a fandom so massive that millions of people including celebrities turn up at conventions once a year; and I could even go on about people I have seen who made Star Wars a career. For example, there are Youtubers who work hard daily producing content on nothing but Star Wars. There are even people who make it a hobby and don’t even get paid for it. These are types of people who collect Star Wars toys, dress up as their favourite characters, and even spend a couple hours a day writing blogs and reviews about Star Wars. Get a life, right?

But seriously, as I said, I really could go on forever. But what I am here to do is review the movie that started it at all and changed everything for the next 40 years.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope came out in theatres on 25 May 1977. The film, which at the time was only titled Star Wars, was a smash hit and before the year was over a sequel was being discussed, the main actors became instantaneous household names, and Hollywood producers were scrambling fast to cash in on and imitate its success. In the wake of Star Wars films like Alien and Star Trek: The Motion Picture were made which spawn blockbuster sequels of their own.

There are many people who remember first going to see Star Wars back in 1977 and will wax nostalgic about the entire 40 year ride of fandom since then. Alas, I am not one of them. Having been born in 1992 I was first introduced to Star Wars when the film was just old enough to get a drivers license. I was of the last generation to first see Star Wars prior to the 1997 Special Editions having had them on VHS when I was very young. I am half tempted to delve into anecdotes of my obsession with Star Wars when I was a 5 year old, but, as I write what is already becoming an overlong intro I realise that would address Star Wars as a whole and not this particular film that I am reviewing.
But, to be perfectly honest, do I really need to even bother? I mean it’s Star Wars! If you are the sort of person who needs to read a review of Star Wars then, frankly, you really have no reason following this blog.
And to be perfectly honest I am not even entirely sure what to say. I have went on about how it affected everything and changed the landscape of pop culture and fandom, but to me that is just trivia. That’s not personal. I wasn’t even alive when the original trilogy was released and I certainly wasn’t old enough to appreciate its affect on the future of cinema when I first saw them.

So what should a review of this subject consist of then? We already know the story. It would be insulting to the reader for me to review it the same I review the comics. We all know about the farm boy Luke Skywalker and his meeting with Threepio and Artoo which led him to Obi-Wan Kenobi. We know about Darth Vader and the Death Star. We know Senator Princess Leia of Alderaan is secretly a rebel leader. We know the secret base is on Yavin 4. We know how the Death Star solved Alderaan’s overpopulation problem. And we know how Luke blew up the Death Star after the rebellion ingeniously decided to give the controls of an expensive X-Wing over to an unknown 19 year old hillbilly from Tatooine who likes to turn their ships’ vital targeting systems off because the voices in his head tell him to. We know all that stuff. And we know it’s a great story. It has all the mythological and epic tropes of a classic fairy tale or fantasy. And it has all the fanciful space operatic worldbuilding found in great stories like Asimov’s Foundation or Dune. It has robots, wild western saloons with aliens for riffraff, space ships, princesses, smugglers, giant furry dogmen who hate losing chess, and weird old men waving shiny sticks around raving about invisible powers. In essence, it has everything we love.

Of all the seven currently released Star Wars movies A New Hope is the one that feels the most like a traditional fairy tell. It has all the colourful characters who tag along bit by bit, the evil sorcerers, the good sorcerers, the weird creatures, storming an enemy’s fortress, and it has a clear beginning and ending. It’s very much a classic yarn about a faraway place in a distant time that entertains both young and old. It’s a modern fairy tale in space.

While it is not my personal favourite of the Star Wars films it is arguably still its best. It does everything perfectly: telling a complete easy-to-follow story which loses none of its charm or rewatchability as the decades go by.

The only thing that can mitigate perhaps the film’s greatness is the fact that we may be too familiar with it. Knowing the story, the dialogue, the characters, and even the pacing of A New Hope so well it is hard to approach it any more without it starting to feel like white noise. Approaching it with new and fresh eyes becomes harder and harder and this makes it easier for us to miss any hidden gems the film has to offer that we had never noticed before. When a sight, layout, or image remains constant after awhile we stop really seeing it and it bothers me when I become conscious that this has happened to Star Wars. That is why tonight when I watch Star Wars in celebration of its 40th birthday I am going to cut out all distractions. The computer gets logged off and turned off, no fiddling with phones or tablets, no running back and forth from the kitchen for snacks, pure unadulterated attention, no heavy sluggishness-inducing foods like pizza to make me more docile, and no growth acceleration.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am going to watch Star Wars closely and soak it all in. See if I might just catch something new. I think the best birthday gift I can give A New Hope on it’s 40th anniversary is my full and complete attention. Just because we have had it for so long it doesn’t mean it needs to become white noise. All those years ago Star Wars was our first step into a larger world and however you choose to celebrate this special occasion we would be remiss to not pay our respects.

Before I go I would like to address the bantha in the room which are the 1997 Special Editions and the subsequent edits made since. Even though most fans seem to agree that the original theatrical editions were the superior versions the Special Editions have still succeeded in generating controversy. Many fans, myself included, feel that tampering with the movies was unnecessary and nigh to vandalism; and many have taken particular exception to certain changes that were made. Greedo shooting first is a notorious example, and there are also the extra content of Jabba the Hutt, adding obnoxious aliens to Mos Eisley, and other offences.
George Lucas’s reasoning for having Greedo shoot first makes no sense to me. He believes that having Han shoot Greedo in cold blood was too brutal for a future hero and he cites John Wayne as a proper frontier hero who displays unflinching honour and decorum during gunplay. Having seen The Searchers I know that to be utter nonsense. John Wayne has played absolutely despicable characters before and, besides, having Han Solo start off soft utterly lessens his transformation from a self-absorbed criminal to a sympathiser and patriot of the Rebellion. Character transformation is vital to good storytelling and the best stories make heavy use of it. Just watch Breaking Bad and you’ll know what I mean.
The Jabba the Hutt sequence was just unnecessary as most of his dialogue is just repeated from what Greedo was saying to Han in the cantina. The CGI in this scene is horrendous and subsequent attempts to fix it in later releases have only improved it marginally.
The only change that feels like a genuine improvement is the destruction of the Death Star which enhances what originally was nothing more than a glorified handful of sparks.
You know what would have been a good change? The lightsabers. You can’t sit there and tell me the lightsabers could not have been improved with CGI. The scene with Luke training against the remote aboard the Millennium Falcon still looks horrible. The blue blade is so washed out that it looks almost white. The lightsabers in this movie lack the vibrancy of colour that we will see in later films. Instead of fixing that George Lucas got too busy making Ewoks blink, adding aliens where they are not wanted, and reinserting scenes that were deleted for a reason.
I really hope one of these days Lucasfilm and Disney gets the right idea and releases the unaltered versions of the trilogy on Blu-ray. With the VHS, Laserdisc, and Betamax players no longer readily available there are no decent versions of the original trilogy to watch. There were Limited Edition DVD’s that contained them as a bonus discs, however those were direct transfers of the Laserdiscs and they look awful, sound awful, and are virtually unwatchable if you are using a large screen TV.
Oh well, no matter what stains and blemishes that may have been added to A New Hope it doesn’t cease to be a great movie and an immensely entertaining experience.

Check tomorrow for a review of The Empire Strikes Back and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Marvel #11-15

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

11

Before Kamino the first water planet in the EU was a little world in the Outer Rim called Drexel. Instead of high-tech cloners we have seafaring brigands who use a sonic transmitter to cause approaching ships to crash and unlike the Kaminoans these pirates don’t care how well your manners are or how big your pocket book is. All they want is to take your ship for scrap and kill you in the process.
Unfortunately, for Luke Skywalker this happens to be the planet that he investigates during his search for a new Rebel base. After losing contact with Luke shortly Princess Leia takes it upon herself to look for him when she is suddenly captured by none other than the speedo-wearing space pirate Crimson Jack himself who is now the captain of a stolen Star Destroyer! Hoping to get a sizeable ransom from the Rebel Alliance for her safe return Captain Jack is frustrated when the Princess refuses to tell him where the secret base is. Hoping to find another way to persuade her he additionally captures Han Solo and Chewbacca using a tracer he installed on the Millennium Falcon after their previous encounter. Not realising that Leia is the same woman who saw an entire planet annihilated to protect the secret of the rebel base he seems to think threatening Han and Chewie would get him results. When this plan goes poorly Han Solo makes a counter-proposal by claiming that the reward that was stolen from them was only a small portion of a Rebel-owned treasure in the Drexel system. Leia and Han, hoping to find Luke and survive the pirate’s plans at the same time, agree to guide him the the Drexel system in exchange for their lives.
Meanwhile, Luke and the two droids Artoo and Threepio crash on planet Drexel thanks to the transmitter used by the local brigands. The band of robbers is led by an obese pirate named Captain Quarg who has an obsession with hanging anyone who happens to displease him. His group has had a longstanding feud with another group of locals called the Dragon Lords who ride the local Drexelian sea monsters across the planet’s ocean. Luke convinces Captain Quarg not to kill him by assuring the pirate that the mechanical skills of himself and the droids would be a greater asset to him in his war with the Dragon Lords than hanging him.
During this time Quarg reveals to Luke that his father was a former governor of an asteroid belt during the days of the Republic. However, the governor was deposed after butting heads with the Jedi Order who were informed that he was sharing profits in a business of wrecking space vessels to cannibalise scrap parts. The embittered governor escaped with his family and associates to Drexel and began the life of a pirate. A few years later a schism broke out among some of the technicians who were banished and later became the Dragon Lords.
Soon after this Crimson Jack’s ship arrives and is immediately assaulted by the transmitter. Han, Leia, and Chewie escape in the Millennium Falcon amid the chaos on the Star Destroyer and land on the planet in the middle of a battle between Quarg’s men and the Dragon Lords. The Millennium Falcon is hit and Han who was on the surface of the ship falls in the water enraging Chewbacca who sees Luke tinkering with the engines of one the vessels that attacked the Falcon. Chewie assumes Luke betrayed them and attacks him and the droids. Artoo, however, successfully knocks the Wookie out by smothering him with a fire extinguisher. Meanwhile Leia is captured by Quarg’s men and Han is rescued by the Dragon Lords who tell him that the Drexelian sea creatures they ride are actually sentient alien life forms who are helping them fight Quarg. With help from the Dragon Lords Han rescues his friends and the war against Quarg is ended in a great sea battle.
This leaves only the unfinished business with Captain Jack whose ship survived the attack from the transmitter thanks to its mass size being too much for the sonic device to bring down. The heroes take the Millennium Falcon for one final showdown against the space pirates eventually leading to a space duel between Han and Jack using only blasters and oxygen helmets in the zero-g environment of space. Apparently Correllian smugglers and speedo-wearing pirates can survive the intense pressure of space without spacesuits. To make a long and tedious story short Han wins the duel, Crimson Jack dies, and the formerly man-hating Jolli has a change of heart toward Han Solo and sacrifices herself by betraying the pirate captain out of love for him. Cue vomiting.

This story was weak. It’s a weird mess with two factions of good guys and two factions of bad guys having it out in a convoluted plot that makes no sense. We see pirates who are smart enough to commandeer an Imperial Star Destroyer act stupid enough to believe an enemy who tells them they know where some treasure is. That’s a classic trick more worthy of the Loony Tunes than Star Wars! We also witness two men fighting in space without suits and an important political figure of the Rebellion and last surviving member of the Alderaan royal family be allowed to take off just to find a friend who is missing in action out in the Outer Rim. Did General Dodonna have his back turned or something? There are so many things in this story that don’t work and are just plain stupid that even without green rabbits and Roy Thomas’s writing I found this arc much less enjoyable than the previous one. The last arc was at least entertaining in its absurdity. This one was a pain and a bore to read. Oh, and apparently Leia can swim now even though in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye she revealed she couldn’t!

Check in for my next review of Issue #16: The Hunter in the Star Wars Marvel line and may the Force be with you.

Star Wars EU Reviews: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

Book 2

I have to be honest; I was not expecting much from this book going in. The Post-90’s EU era is what most EU fans are referring to when they praise it while the late 70’s/early 80’s was a different story. This was when the Star Wars comics Marvel was producing were going for a more Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon feel and the books were not taking any continuity with the comics and other media very seriously. This was the era that gave us the Holiday Special, had Luke having the hots for his sister big time, a six-foot green bunny rabbit joining forces with Han Solo, and blue and green skinned aliens with wings believing Luke was their messiah. It was a bizarre era where the EU was campy, kitschy, and in extreme conflict with the generally accepted canon of Star Wars lore.
So I must confess my surprise when Alan Dean Foster’s 1978 novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was actually good. If you remember what I said in my last review I was not a big fan of Foster’s prose. Here it is vastly improved and even better, the story is pretty damn good.

Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was a project assigned to Foster to write what would become the official sequel to A New Hope – when it was still just called Star Wars – if the original film performed only modestly at the box office. Obviously Star Wars was a big hit and this book was never adapted into film. Instead we got The Empire Strikes Back which is in my opinion (and a lot of other people’s) the best of the Saga.
But, before all that Splinter of the Mind’s Eye was intended to be a low-budget sequel with no space battles, limited sets, and only the contractually obligated actors returning. Harrison Ford never signed on for three films opting instead to renegotiate his contract for each individual film in the trilogy which means Han Solo is no where to be found in this book. The only returning characters from A New Hope are Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, and the two droids C3PO and R2-D2.

The story is fairly simple. Luke and Leia are traveling to planet Circarpous IV intending to negotiate the currently neutral world to side with the Rebel Alliance rather than the evil Galactic Empire. Unfortunately, mining on Circarpous V – known locally as Mimban – causes atmospheric anomalies resulting in Luke, Leia, and the droids to crash on Mimban.
Mimban is a swampy tropical planet which I pictured in my head as sort of a combination of Dagobah and Yavin 4. After Luke and Leia meet up again after the crash they disguise themselves as miners and discover the Empire is running an illegal mining operation on the planet.
At a cantina Luke and Leia are approached by an old woman named Halla – who kind of reminds of Maz Kanata from The Force Awakens – who is a non-Jedi Force-sensitive who is seeking a powerful relic called the Kaiburr crystal which amplifies the abilities of a Force-sensitive who comes in contact with it. Halla owns a small shard of it, but desires the whole thing. In exchange for helping her find it she promises to help Luke and Leia get offworld so they can make to Circarpous IV to continue their negotiations.
During this time Luke had been pretending Leia was his servant to disguise her identity, however the way he treats her to make the effect convincing angers her and they get into a physical altercation outside of the cantina after making the deal with the Halla. This unfortunately draws the attention of other miners who interfere causing Luke to draw his lightsaber inevitably leading Luke and Leia to be arrested and brought before the sadistic Captain-Supervisor Grammel. This Imperial officer is small, petty man who gloats in what little power he has over those under him. He has Luke and Leia thrown into a cell just prior to receiving a report that an Imperial governor named Essada is interested in the prisoners for undisclosed reasons. Hoping to earn himself a promotion and higher esteem within the Empire he tried to interrogate the prisoners to learn what Essada could possibly want with them. When they do not cooperate he leaves them in their cell in frustration.
Their cell is shared with two large furry sentient aliens called Yuzzem who had been arrested for public drunkenness. Luke who has experience with this species befriends them. Halla ends up coming to their rescue and the group, including the two Yuzzem – named Kee and Hin – hijack a speeder and steal back the two droids. After a few misadventures involving a giant worm trying to eat them in the forest the group is divided after Luke and Leia fall into a pit.
Journeying on hoping to meet back up with their comrades the pair are captured by a species indigenous to the planet known as the Coway. They are a highly superstitious, tribal culture that hates humans believing them all alike after previous run-ins with Stormtroopers and Imperial officers. Luke and Leia find their companions also captured and Luke is told the only way to free himself and his friends is to battle in hand-to-hand combat one the Coway warriors. Luke reluctantly does so and defeats the Coway by using the Force to hurl a rock at his enemy’s head immobilising him. The Coways honour their agreement and free the captives and offer them hospitality.
The pace of the story quickens up after this with the Coways befriending the group and defeating a force of Stormtroopers after the Empire discovers their location. The Kaiburr crystal is found in an ancient temple devoted to a deity called Pomojema and there Luke battles Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel. The power of the Kaiburr crystal makes Luke a match for Vader and Luke ends up defeating the Dark Lord who falls into a pit. Luke, however, senses in the Force that Vader is still alive.
Halla claims she no longer desires the crystal and says it would be better in the hands of the Jedi rather than an untrained Force-sensitive who would only use it for parlour tricks and personal gain. Luke and Leia agree to take Halla with them offworld where she will be left to decide if she wishes to join the Rebellion or go where she will.

     Splinter of the Mind’s Eye is a much better story than anything in the contemporary Marvel comics had to offer. It was not campy, it respected the idea of the Force where the comics mostly tried to ignore it, and the old characters felt true to themselves and the new characters were interesting. It took me only about a couple days to read and it never bored me. It was fun and exciting being everything you would expect from one of the Star Wars movies. One notable detail is that this is the first instance of the word Force-sensitive being used in the EU or canon which is another example of concepts I thought were more recent existing further back in the Star Wars mythology.
Some things that may put some readers off is, of course, the many passages where Luke thinks about his feelings toward Leia. Modern Star Wars fans all know that Leia is his sister and some may find these emotions creepy. However, to be fair, Luke was not aware Leia was his sister and the attraction he has to her is apparent in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and not just the early EU. It is not entirely unreasonable he would be attracted to a girl his own age if he was not aware that they were relatives. And remember this is 1978. I doubt even George Lucas even knew they were siblings at this point!
Another thing that is a bit bothersome for modern readers is that Darth Vader addresses Luke Skywalker by name during their fight. This would of course reveal that Vader already knows that he is Luke’s father. The only explanation I can think of for Vader’s silence on the issue is that he may not have considered converting Luke to the Dark Side yet and so had no reason to tell him. At this point the Dark Lord was so steeped in the Dark Side of the Force that I doubt he was above killing his own son if he felt the need. It was feelings of emotional conflict later on that led him to try to bring Luke to the Dark Side and tell him who he was. This all goes to show that most issues with continuity are manageable if the reader is imaginative enough to provide an explanatory background to ostensible contradictions that crop up here and there.
But there was one thing in this book I really disliked and I shall point it out briefly here. I really did not care for the scene where Luke and Leia brawl outside of the cantina. As I said above the book kept their characters faithful for the most part, but here is where I question their acting like themselves. Leia trying to humiliate Luke by kicking him in the mud leading to a fight I thought was stupid and I would have rather seen them get arrested a different way in the story.
Otherwise, this was a fun read and an excellent story set in the Star Wars universe. I highly recommend it and I hope fellow EU newcomers like myself enjoy it as much as I have.

Check in next time for my review of the Marvel Comics adaptation of A New Hope (Issues #1-6 of the Marvel line) and may the Force be with you.

How to Watch Star Wars

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

Star Wars is arguably the most influential pop culture phenomenon in the world. Everyone knows what it is and recognises the characters as household names that only living under a rock would allow you to be ignorant of. Love it or hate it, everyone must agree that Star Wars is a major influence on our culture with six films spawning TV shows, spin-off films, books, comics, toys, and various merchandise.
However, what many people do not agree on is how Star Wars should be viewed. People have various opinions on what order the films should be watched and there has been no consensus.
In this post, I am going to present five different ways the series can be approached and I will explain the merits for each, but shall provide no argument as to which ones are better. To each their own, I say. Let the reader decide which suits them best.

I. The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of Anakin Skywalker

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This is the viewing order that George Lucas regards as the closest to his vision. Here we approach Star Wars as the story of Anakin Skywalker’s destiny to bring balance to the Force over a period of two generations of the Skywalker family. We see Anakin’s humble beginnings as a poor slave on Tatooine and his rise to a trainee of the Jedi. The seductive nature of the Dark Side grows too strong as he grows and he succumbs to the temptations of Darth Sidious leading to the rise of the evil Galactic Empire and his transformation into Darth Vader. A rebel alliance led by heroes such as Anakin’s own son, Luke Skywalker successfully defeats this Empire, returning democracy to the people and accomplishing Vader’s redemption where he completes his destiny by destroying the Emperor Sidious and bringing balance to the Force.
The upcoming sequel trilogy will undoubtably act as a continuation or epilogue to this saga.

The order:
1. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
2. Star Wars: Episode II: The Attack of the Clones
3. Star Wars: Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith
4. Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope
5. Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
6. Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
7. Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
8. Star Wars: Episode VIII
9. Star Wars: Episode IX

II. The Legacy of the Skywalker Family

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This is the preferred viewing order of most people (including myself) you meet on internet forums and other residences of geek culture.
This method shows Star Wars as an epic adventure about a Rebel Alliance battling an evil despotic Empire. The youth, Luke Skywalker, discovers his destiny to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi Knight as his father was. In a heroic journey he learns that Lord Vader is none other than his father, Anakin Skywalker corrupted to the Dark Side. As he and his friends strive to defeat the Empire he leads his father to redemption and bringing back balance to the Force.
After this is over, we take a glance nearly 35 years in the past where we see the events prior to Anakin’s downfall and the birth of the twins Luke and Leia Skywalker.

The order:
1. Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope
2. Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
3. Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
4. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace
5. Star Wars: Episode II: The Attack of the Clones
6. Star Wars: Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith
7. Star Wars; Episode VII: The Force Awakens
8. Star Wars: Episode VIII
9. Star Wars: Episode IX

III.  The Star Wars Trilogy

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This method of approaching Star Wars is the pinnacle of hardcore purism. People who watch Star Wars this way angrily dismiss the Prequels as a slap in the face to the “only good trilogy”, sticking to the original edits without the special edition alterations that Lucas had insisted on incorporating in 1997 and continued to do so in 2006 and again in 2011.

The order:
1. Star Wars (1977 edit)
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980 edit)
3. Return of the Jedi (1983 edit)

IV. A Hero’s Journey

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For those of you have seen The Godfather Trilogy, you know that in the second film we witness a series of flashbacks to the rise of Vito Corleone as the Don mixed in throughout the story. This order of viewing Star Wars I am gonna discuss is similar to how that narrative structure.
We begin with A New Hope and move on through The Empire Strikes Back as the second and third methods above did.
At the end of Empire we get the startling revelation that Darth Vader is none other than Luke’s father. However, in this method, before we unveil the climactic finale, we shall take a look back at Anakin Skywalker as a young man being trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi before his eventual turn to the Dark Side. In a shocking flashback sequence we see the truth that Darth Vader is indeed Luke’s father as well as Leia’s. We see the origins of the Empire, the Death Star, and the apparent annihilation of the Jedi Order.
After this dark revelation we witness the triumphant conclusion of this epic saga about love, betrayal, and loyalty.

The order:
1. A New Hope
2. The Empire Strikes Back
3. The Attack of the Clones
4. The Revenge of the Sith
5. Return of the Jedi
6. The Force Awakens
7. VIII
8. IX

Note: The Phantom Menace is completely excised from this viewing order which means if you are a fan this is not for you.

V. The Star Wars Saga

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This method incorporates every element of the Star Wars canon as well as the expanded universe. The viewer lets it play out in chronological order seeing the amazing wealth of history in the Star Wars Galaxy.
Obviously I cannot produce an exhaustive list, but I shall make a list showing what I personally view as the essential stuff for hardcore Star Wars fans interested in the expanded universe.

The order:
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
3. Star Wars: The Old Republic
4. Star Wars: Cloak of Deception
5. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
6. Star Wars: The Approaching Storm
7. Star Wars: The Attack of the Clones
8. Star Wars; The Clone Wars (this includes the movie, and two TV series)
9. Star Wars: Labyrinth of Evil
10. Star Wars: The Revenge of the Sith
11. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
12. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II
13. Star Wars: A New Dawn
14. Star Wars: Rebels
15. Star Wars: A New Hope
16. Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
17. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
18. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
19. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
20. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
21. Star Wars: VIII
22. Star Wars: IX
23. Star Wars: Legends: Heir to the Empire
24. Star Wars: Legends: Dark Force Rising
25. Star Wars: Legends: The Last Command
26+: Star Wars: Legends: The Rest of the E.U.

This is of course an imperfect list, but it’s the stuff I would make use of personally. The list is more flexible than the others, and can be altered at the ease of the reader.

And there you have it. Choose which of these five methods work best for you, and enjoy. May the Force (with or without Midi-Chlorians) be with you!