Tag Archives: The Force

Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Since episodes I through VI are universally known by the fans who read these reviews I thought it best to avoid reviewing their respective stories and instead discuss my feelings on the films in general and my overall impressions of them. However, since The Force Awakens is more recent I am going to review it in a more traditional manner by going over the plot in more detail. Obviously this means there are going to be spoilers in this review and if you haven’t seen the film yet (which I kinda doubt by this point) it may be best to turn away.

For the rest of you who have seen the film or at the very least those of you who don’t give a womp rat’s butt about spoilers here goes:

The Force Awakens is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi in a galaxy so far away that there are no Yuuzhan Vong around, Chewbacca is still alive, and the Solo family only had one child. And there is not a sign of any Mara Jades, Kyp Durrons, or Jaxxon the Green Rodents to be found. If Disney’s axing Jaxxon from the canon infuriates you then avert your eyes from The Force Awakens.

The story opens with the opening crawl declaring that Luke Skywalker is missing and General Leia, who is leading a Resistance against an evil organisation called The First Order, has dispatched her best pilot Poe Dameron to find him.

On the desert planet, Jakku, Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) receives from an old man named Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow of Ingmar Bergman fame) a star map which will reveal the location of Luke Skywalker when combined with additional maps. The other maps are thankfully all stored in R2-D2’s memory banks so the Resistance doesn’t need to go looking for them, but getting this final piece to R2 may be harder than it sounds.
Their meeting is interrupted by a sudden attack of First Order Stormtroopers led by a Dark Side user (he’s not a Sith, remember that) named Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver). With Kylo is a chrome plated stormtrooper named Captain Phasma (played by Brienne of Tarth herself, Gwendoline Christie).
To prevent the First Order from getting the star map to Skywalker Poe gives the it to BB-8, his ball-shaped astromech side kick. He tells the droid to get as far away as possible and find a way to get the map to the Leia.
Lor San Tekka is soon killed and Poe Dameron is captured and taken to Kylo’s Star Destroyer. Kylo Ren orders Captain Phasma to have all the villagers from where Lor San Tekka resided to be executed, but one of the Stormtroopers named FN-2187 (played by John Boyega) is too horrified by the carnage to take action and watches in silence.
Meanwhile, BB-8 wanders the desert when he is nearly captured by a junk dealing alien named Teedo before he is rescued by a young woman named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley). She, who can understand astromech language, reluctantly lets the droid follow her, but resists at first only giving in when the little robot tugs at her heart strings by making wimpering sounds. Why she didn’t want BB-8 following her in the first place is beyond me since the droid took up little space and it wasn’t like she needed to feed it.
Rey lives by herself in an abandoned ruin that was once an AT-AT and she makes a living scavenging parts which she sells to a dealer named Unkar Plutt who gives her meager payment which she spends on food. She has lived on Jakku since she was a little girl and she hopes some day that her family will come back for her. Spoiler: They don’t.

Elsewhere, Poe Dameron is being interrogated and tortured by Kylo Ren until he is forced to reveal the location of the map. When he finds out that the map is located in a BB unit he informs his colleague and rival, General Hux (played by Domhnall Gleeson). While preparations are made to return to Jakku, FN-2187 finds Poe Dameron and busts him out of his cell. FN, whom Poe nicknames Finn, decides he wants nothing to do with the First Order and he defects. But, lacking the training to pilot a TIE Fighter being an obstacle he recruits Poe Dameron to help him.
How a low ranking stormtrooper whose specialty is sanitation knows the high-profile prisoner aboard is a pilot for the Resistance is beyond me. Either the First Order is fairly open with their intel or some water cooler gossipers are overdue for a good Force choking.

They steal an X-Wing, but they are almost instantaneously shot down and crash on Jakku. Finn survives, but Poe Dameron is nowhere to be found and Finn assumes his new friend is dead. He treads through the desert until he reaches Niima Outpost where BB-8 and Rey happen to be at the time. BB-8 spots Finn and recognises the jacket he is wearing which he scavenged from the crash. BB-8 tells Rey that this is Poe’s jacket and she charges at Finn with her big stick and knocks him over. She demands to know where he got the jacket and he tells her that he is with the Resistance and the jacket belonged to Poe Dameron who gave it to him.

Before any introductions can be made they get attacked by low flying TIE Fighters hellbent on retrieving BB-8 and the map.
Rey, Finn, and the droid escape inside the Millennium Falcon which happened to be in the possession of Unkar Plutt and take off. Just moments after going into hyperspace they get caught and are tractor-beamed into a large cargo freighter. The Falcon is boarded by none other than Han and Chewie themselves who are pleased to have their old ship back. Apparently in the past several years the ship had passed hands from thief to thief and having tracked it down, Han is intent on claiming it back. When Han sees that Rey, Finn, and BB-8 are not hostile he decides not to lock them in the brig. When he learns that the droid is carrying a partial map to Luke Skywalker he tells Rey that years ago Luke had tried to start a Jedi academy, but a young student rebelled, turned to the Dark Side, and destroyed it all. Luke felt responsible and he fled in search of the first Jedi temple. Kylo Ren, the boy who rebelled, who we learn is and Han and Leia’s son had venerated Darth Vader and sought to mimic him. He joined a Dark Side cult called the Knights of Ren and changed his name from Ben Solo to Kylo Ren. Han became devastated over his son’s betrayal and left Leia to return to a life of smuggling. Leia continued leading the Resistance against the First Order which is being led by an evil being called Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced by Andy Serkis of Gollum fame). The origins of Snoke, the First Order, and the Knights of Ren are not elaborated on in this movie and barring reading the new canon material I feel that most of the information that is missing is going to be expanded upon in The Last Jedi.

After Han discusses the state of the Galaxy they are suddenly boarded by pirates who are bent on collecting a bounty on Solo’s head. This goes poorly for the pirates, however, when Rey accidentally opens all the cell doors containing Han’s cargo. The cargo happens to be giant man-eating rathtars which are basically huge tentacled monstrosities that make the dianoga in the trash compactor in A New Hope look like a kitten. While the unfortunate pirates are getting devoured by the rathtars our heroes escape in the Falcon and leave the cargo ship behind.
They head to Takodana to meet a thousand-year old alien woman named Maz Kanata who runs a bar that hosts a variety of unsavoury patrons, but is a good and friendly source for information. Like Lor San Tekka she venerates the Force while not being a Force-sensitive herself. When the main characters arrive she detects Han’s presence almost immediately and shouts his name across the bar.
Because that is what friends do. They loudly and obnoxiously declare the presence of their friends with bounties on their heads in a seedy bar. This goes exactly as expected and while Maz and Han converse several patrons secretly dispatch messages to the First Order notifying them that BB-8 and by extension the map to Luke are here.
Maz tells Rey that she has the power of the Force within her and that she can use it to fight the First Order. Rey refuses as she still believes her family will come for her on Jakku. She storms off but starts to hear a child crying in the bar’s cellar. She goes down to investigate and finds that the sound is emanating from a wooden trunk in a closet. She opens the trunk and finds inside an old lightsaber. When she grabs it she is suddenly plunged into a Force vision in which she sees her younger self dropped off on Jakku crying for those who abandoned her to come back. This is followed by images of Luke sitting by R2, Kylo killing students at the Jedi academy, and visions of locations such as Bespin. When the vision ends she is accosted by Maz Kanata who tells her to take the lightsaber which once belonged to Anakin and later Luke Skywalker. But Rey refuses despite Maz’s pleas that Rey’s future is ahead and not back on Jakku waiting for someone who isn’t gonna come back. I am not sure why Rey is so upset. I would have been relieved. If I was in a seedy backwater bar and heard a child crying in the cellar my first assumption would not be Force vision.

Rey runs off into the woods and around this time the First Order arrives and attacks Takodana. But before doing so they demonstrate the full power of their new super-weapon, Starkiller Base. This weapon is a moon whose core has been converted into a device that can annihilate several planets at once. With this weapon the entire Hosnian Prime system (It’s not Coruscant so you can stop saying that!) which is the current seat of the New Republic is wiped out.
Han, Chewie, and Finn manage to get out of Maz’s bar and the old woman gives Finn the lightsaber Rey wouldn’t take. Finn who is trained in melee as well as blaster combat proves effective with the blade and takes out several stormtroopers with it (TRAITOR!).
However, in the end Han, Finn, and Chewie are captured by the overwhelming forces and Rey is abducted in the woods by Kylo Ren who takes her to his Star Destroyer; though Han and his gang are soon rescued by the Resistance who fly in with a squadron of TIE Fighters led by Poe Dameron who is alive and well. After the First Order flee a Resistance shuttle lands and out comes General Leia and C-3PO who is sporting a red arm. Don’t ask; the canon explanation is really quite stupid.
After a brief bonding moment Han tells Leia he saw their son carrying Rey away. The heroes all head to the Resistance base on D’Qar and discuss plans to destroy Starkiller Base. Finn who has fessed up to being a former Stormtrooper by now claims that he knows the inner workings of the facility and can help them not only rescue Rey, but also destroy the base. The base is heavily shielded which protects it from attack, but Han and his friends devise a plan to infiltrate the base and plant explosives that would shut down the shielding system.
They take the Falcon to the base and get to the surface of the moon by taking advantage of the shield’s refresh rate. The Falcon has a rough landing but they all make it in one piece. Inside the base they find Rey who had already escaped by herself using a Jedi Mind Trick on one of the guards (fun fact: he’s played Daniel Craig in an uncredited cameo!). After Maz told her she could use the Force Rey apparently decided to try it by using her guard as a test subject.
After Han and Chewie plant the explosives Solo sees his son Ben walking along a catwalk. Han calls out to him and tries to convince him to come home and leave the First Order and the Knights of Ren. Kylo feigns remorse and offers to let his father take his lightsaber. Unfortunately, when Han make a grab for it Kylo Ren ignites it and the blade penetrates through Han Solo’s chest. The wounds are fatal and the last thing Han Solo does before he dies is take his hand and gently touches his son’s face before falling off the catwalk to his death. While I am not the biggest fan of how Han is killed off for reasons I will get into later, I do like this scene as it shows how Han feels about his son. Touching his son affectionately was his way of showing Ben that he forgave him and still loved him at the end. We see Han Solo grow in the Star Wars films from a cynical self-serving scoundrel to a loving father who firmly believed in the good of the Jedi and the Light Side of the Force.
Chewie roars in grief and immediately ignites the bombs effectively shutting down the shielding network for Starkiller Base. The Resistance then attacks and destroys crucial segments of the base causing it to begin to explode and fall apart. As the forests of the moon begin to quake and come apart Rey and Finn encounter Kylo Ren for one last time on their way to the Falcon. Finn tries to take him out in lightsaber combat but is easily overcome by Kylo’s superior skills and he is wounded and rendered unconscious. Rey draws upon the Force a second time and Force pulls the lightsaber to herself. She then fights Kylo Ren in a duel that is both raw and rough demonstrating both of their need for further training. Rey eventually gets the upper hand and slashes upward and strikes her enemy in the face. He survives but is badly injured and she and Chewbacca take Finn back to the Falcon to escape the base that is falling to pieces around them. As they leave Snoke tells General Hux to retrieve Kylo Ren so he can finish his training.

While Chewbacca is aboard the Falcon weeping for his lost friend Rey pilots the Millennium Falcon back to D’Qar. At the base R2 takes the map and adds it to a larger map revealing that Luke Skywalker is on a water planet consisting of small islands called Ahch-To. There Rey takes the Falcon with just herself and R2-D2 and finds the ruins of an old temple. She climbs the steps and after several hours she finds an old man in a Jedi robe standing looking over a cliff. He turns around and looks at her revealing himself to be the long lost Luke Skywalker. Rey opens her pack and takes out his lightsaber. The same lightsaber he lost on Bespin thirty years ago. She holds it out to him with a look that is almost pleading in its intensity and he looks at her with a quizzical and somewhat sad expression as she holds the weapon toward him. Before Luke utters a word the film ends cutting to credits leaving its audience two years to wait to to hear him say anything.

Now what did I think of The Force Awakens? Well, I liked it a lot. I think it is a step in the right direction for the Star Wars films which had hitherto degenerated into convoluted plots with little to no character development and an overabundance of CGI and green and blue screen photography. Episode VII uses more practical effects and actual sets, balancing state-of-the-art special effects with old methods that have withstood the test of time.
The story is very reminiscent of the original trilogy and the characters have colour and interesting characteristics unlike the Prequels which tended to ignore the characters in favour of expanding the backstory. Some have complained that The Force Awakens borrowed too heavily from A New Hope and while I can see what they are referring to I never saw it as an issue. The Phantom Menace does the same thing if you really think about and I think at this point it should be realised that Star Wars is like a musical composition or an epic narrative poem that repeats and rimes themes, motifs, and ideas to form a rhythmic symphony.
I do, however, have reservations about Starkiller base. It seems a bit cheap to add another super weapon to the mix. The Death Star II was an unoriginal and unimaginative bit of overkill itself and Starkiller Base is no better. The fact that it is bigger, can destroy more than one planet at a time, and is built inside of a moon is not a major difference to me. I only wish Ben Kenobi was there. I know what he would have said: “That’s no moon. It’s a space station….and also a moon.”

Speaking of Ben Kenobi I find it a bit odd that Han and Leia decided to name their son after him. Leia never knew the man and Han only met him briefly and Han spent the entire time mocking him. It was Luke who connected with the old man, not Han and Leia. I think the old EU made the smarter choice in having it be Luke who named a child Ben and not Han. They might as well have had Han name his son Owen or something. It makes no sense.
I also seriously dislike the way Han is killed off. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Han Solo’s character dying. Done correctly it would have added a dimension to the story that would have been both meaningful and emotional for the viewers and the characters. But, this is not the case though. There is no sacrifice and Han seems to achieve no end that benefits his friends. He is simply tricked by a false redemption and killed for it. Han didn’t die saving anyone. He didn’t die doing something that benefited the heroes or the Resistance. He just died. And the revelation that he had not been with Leia at this time also negatively affects the impact this scene could have had. I am not sure why the writers even thought we wanted to see this. Why would they think we, the fans, wanted to find out the love story between Han and Leia fell apart? It would have been better if Han had remained with Leia and stayed with the Resistance. That would have added a stronger meaning to his death a deeper sense of loss. Han Solo’s death was a missed opportunity and I was disappointed.

For the most part, though, I have had no issues with the story and I found it a welcome addition to the Star Wars saga. I like the characters, new creatures, and space ships; and I like how Kylo Ren contrasts Luke in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In those films Luke struggled with the temptation to turn to the Dark Side and resisted until he made a final resolution to be a Jedi by tossing his lightsaber aside. Here, Kylo does the opposite. Ben Solo is tempted to the Light Side of the Force and resists its pull. This is a concept we have never seen in Star Wars before and I find it a unique take on an individual’s relationship with the Force. And like Luke he makes a decision to demonstrate his final resolve. In this case, by slaying his own father.

There is another complaint that I have with this film that I also share with Attack of the Clones. The music.
John Williams is a master composer and all of his Star Wars soundtracks are masterpieces. However, some of them are less good than others and Episode II and Episode VII’s soundtracks are the black sheep of the bunch. The music in both of these films are not that memorable and only a few tracks stick out to me.
Also I am not sure if I am the only who noticed this, but the first note that plays when the words STAR WARS appear on the screen doesn’t sound the same as it does in the other six episodes. Listen and compare next time. It’s a little different.

Another thing I have noticed that few others did is relating to Kylo Ren’s name. When I first heard the announcement that his name was going to be Kylo Ren I was appalled. The reason for this was that I had watched some of the old 1980’s Droids cartoons when I was a kid and I distinctly remember there being a villain named Kybo Ren. He was a portly, mustache-twirling, midriff-showing pirate who always referred to himself in the third person. In a word, he was ridiculous! The fact that the villain in The Force Awakens is called Kylo Ren cannot be a coincidence and the decision baffles me. That would be like making a movie about a badass action hero and then naming him Dorrest Gump! It’s such an odd thing to do.

If The Force Awakens seems to lack something to the viewer; whether it be the lack of memorable music, unique planets, or a story that expands on the lore in a major way, I understand where you are coming from. I have similar gripes. Episode VII takes too few risks. The planets are mundane and are not much different than anything else we have seen before. The music sounds tame and standard. And the plot feels small and less epic than the last few Star Wars films we have seen. There is a certain characteristic dullness to The Force Awakens’s aesthetic and the more I watch the movie the more I become aware of it. It hasn’t led me to hate the movie or even put it on a par with the Prequels, but I do think it had some lacklustre aspects that did hurt it inevitably.
However, I am truly expecting more from The Last Jedi and I am excited to see where we are taken next in this galaxy far, far away. Despite its imperfections The Force Awakens is a refreshing revival of the Star Wars films and it is an awakening we have all felt. I believe Episode VII is only our first step into a larger world.

This review series and other Star Wars related blogs can be found at my own blog Star Wars EU Reviews.

Star Wars 40th Anniversary Review: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is no where near as bad as people claim it is, but it also isn’t the misunderstood masterpiece that its apologists say it is either. There is a fine line between defending a film that is maligned by the majority and refusing to acknowledge the very real flaws that it has.

What the film has in its favour is usage of practical effects such as puppetry and miniatures while not overusing CGI and blue screen photography. Episodes II and III suffer visually from this and Episode I is the last of the original six Star Wars films to contain an aesthetic somewhat similar to that of the originals.
It also contains many tropes familiar to Star Wars fans such as memorable dialogue, 1930’s styled b-movie acting, and new and unique worlds and wildlife. A New Hope had Tatooine, The Empire Strikes Back had Hoth and Dagobah, Return of the Jedi had Endor, and this film has Naboo and Coruscant. Afterward the Star Wars saga seemed to stop feeling special in the new worlds department. The planets in Attack of the Clones are bland and visually unappealing, the planets of Revenge of the Sith are so varied and all over the place that we barely get to see any of them, and The Force Awakens has a desert planet that is not Tatooine, a lush moderate planet that is not Naboo, and a snowy forested world that is neither Hoth nor Endor. The Phantom Menace is the last film to get any sizeable merit points for originality. I am hoping The Last Jedi will save us from the current trend of mundanity.

The Phantom Menace’s weakness lies mostly in its characters. The story is not the chief issue here even though that does have its flaws. Jar Jar Binks is excruciating and he has failed to grow on me in the 18 years since the film’s release. Jake Lloyd’s performance as Anakin Skywalker is nightmarishly bad and it bothers me that George Lucas and Rick McCallum had looked at thousands of young actors before selecting him for the part. Were they all that bad?
Liam Neeson is decent as Qui-Gon Jinn, but the character needed way more development and chemistry, and the lack thereof made his death less impactful than Lucas clearly wanted it to come across. Obi-Wan Kenobi is fairly bland in this movie too and, to be honest, it seems like the majority of the Jedi Council characters share this blandness. Yoda has that one great line about fear leading to anger and that is pretty much all that makes him stand out. Mace Windu’s only memorable characteristic is being arrogant; otherwise he is completely boring. I give kudos to George Lucas for making Samuel L. Jackson boring. That takes a significant level of writing talent to achieve that.
Padme and Senator Palpatine are really the only characters who are wholly interesting. The Phantom Menace is really more Padme’s story than it is Anakin’s or Obi-Wan’s. I am not saying they are not important, but Episode I feels like it is Padme and her quest to save her people that is the main focus of the story while Anakin’s future with the Jedi and Obi-Wan’s growth are only resultant effects of the plot. Palpatine is portrayed as an expert manipulator and Ian McDiarmid’s performance is amazing. He showcases how prior to his rise to Emperor, Palpatine was more than just a cackling over the top Dark Lord. He was once a seductive, smooth, manipulator and strategiser who used people around him to casually and almost unobservedly obtain greater and greater power within the Galactic government.

What The Phantom Menace does right is set things in motion. We see the seeds of Anakin’s eventual fall to the Dark Side planted, we see Obi-Wan mature into a man who will eventually become the old wizened mentor to Luke in the originals, and we get a taste of the subtle machinations that will inevitably birth a tyrannical empire. It’s all laid out here and for the most part it is done well. The real problem lies in their execution in the following films which I cannot fault The Phantom Menace for. Episode I’s chief issues lie in its annoying characters, wooden and banal performances, forgettable main cast, bad pacing, and some rather juvenile scenes. Jar Jar stepping in poop is not funny and Watto and Nute Gunray’s speech patterns come across as more racist than amusing.

All in all The Phantom Menace is more imbalanced rather than bad outright. It has many enjoyable scenes and visuals and it has one of the best soundtracks of the entire saga. Duel of the Fates is amazing and proves that John Williams can make any movie, even mediocre ones, great with his touch. The lightsaber fight with Darth Maul and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon is well choreographed and exciting. Its only fatal flaw is the lack of emotional connection between the audience and the characters on screen which renders the drama in this scene and scenes throughout the movie somewhat inert. In fact, there are a ton of scenes like this in which I find action sequencess less interesting in connection to the story because they feature characters and plot points which are not properly invested in emotionally for the viewer. The podrace scene to me is more long and tedious than interesting and the battles in space and on Naboo make for a great visual feast for the first viewing, but lose any interest for me afterward. If the characters didn’t lack the colour of characters like Han, Luke, Leia, Lando, Chewie, etc. than these scenes would lose none of their charm with repeated viewings.

What makes The Phantom Menace less than great is not Jar Jar Binks; it’s not bad dialogue, and it is not midichlorians. Its problem is dullness. Pure, sterile, phoned in dullness. If George Lucas tried less hard at pioneering special effects development and spent more time writing a good script The Phantom Menace would have been just as good as any one of the Original Trilogy. Alas, what we got instead was a weak, but still underrated movie that could have been much more. It had a few enjoyable moments within a not so enjoyable film.

Check tomorrow for a review of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and may the Force be with you.

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.

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.

What Would Living in the Star Wars Galaxy Be Like?

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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If it turned out that the Star Wars universe was real and you could go live there would you do it? There are a lot of people who would probably scream YES!!!
But the question I would like answered first is what would living in a Galaxy far, far away actually be like? It’s easy to say yes to things when we don’t think about them. But sometimes when we fully appreciate the complexities of accomplishing something we feel less enthused about it. Now I am not saying that if people knew what living in the Star Wars Galaxy would be like they would all say no. I am just saying that perhaps a brief little tour might be in order before we start looking at real estate on Coruscant.

Unfortunately before we begin a lot of arbitrary assumptions have to be made about one’s life in the Galaxy since it is a very diverse universe of species, planets,  employment, and time periods. A Jedi’s experience on Coruscant during the Clone Wars won’t be the same as that of a Czerka contract miner working on Tatooine during the Jedi Civil War. So before I begin describing life in the Galaxy I am going to take the liberty of presenting the reader with a basic profile of who you are, where you are, and when you are so there are less extreme variables that would pose severe flaws for this essay. I shall try to be as general as possible to give full freedom of exploration and movement, but some background is still needed.

So for the sake of this argument you are a human living somewhere in the Core Worlds like Coruscant, Alderaan, or Corellia about ten or twenty years before the events of The Phantom Menace. You are neither poor nor rich, but rather a middle-class university student who hasn’t decided on a career yet. And from there we shall go on.

Now we must start looking at the things you are going to need to know and be ready to deal with now that you live in the Star Wars Galaxy and no longer have our real life world as a frame of reference. I am going to divide these things in categories for convenience and will be operating under the assumption that the Legends continuity holds true for the Galaxy I am describing. As much as I like the new Canon there is too little detail in it to make this sort of post work.

LANGUAGE

You will still be speaking English, but now it is not called English. It is now called Galactic Basic and it is the common speech of the Galaxy.
Sadly this doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about having to learn a new language in the Star Wars Galaxy. Almost every citizen of the Republic also knows Huttese as a second language. Huttese is commonly spoken by Hutts, Twi’leks, and other species and it is not uncommon for humans and those species to interact in their own languages while understanding each other perfectly. Learning new languages isn’t too difficult, but it is time consuming and requires discipline to avoid getting lazy. But if you persist at it you should do fine, especially if you are immersed among speakers of the language you are trying to learn.
Also another major inconvenience is that you are going to need to relearn the alphabet. The Latin alphabet we use is also used there, but it is rare and is a very formal high-class writing method not favoured by common people. Most writing in all the signs and books you will see in the Galaxy will be written in Aurebesh which is the standard alphabet of the Republic.

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Memorise that and you should be good. There is also a Mandalorian alphabet, but I think you could survive without knowing it for awhile.

HISTORY

With the real world no longer a viable frame of reference a lot of reeducation is going to be needed. One thing you are going to need to relearn drastically is history. Knowing about the Crusades, the World Wars, and the Columbus voyages won’t help you because those things didn’t happen here.
You have new wars, new events, and new dates to learn and memorise all over again!
And 35, 000 years of Galactic history is nothing to scoff at either. In the real world human history is only about 10,000 years old and only about 6000 or 4000 years of that is even required learning to live in our world. The Star Wars Galaxy covers a wider span of history that involves hundreds of worlds and species. You will need to learn of the Rakatan Infinite Empire, the Fall of the Sith Empire, The Sith War, The Mandalorian Wars, The Jedi Civil War, the Sith Triumvirate, the Ruusan Reformation, and a bunch of other things that will make all the homework you need to catch up on a major headache. And that is nothing compared to the local history you are going to need to learn. If you live on Alderaan, for instance, you are going to need to study the Organa-Ulgo feud in addition to the expansive Galactic history you already have on your plate. Good luck. You’re gonna need it.

DATING AND CALENDARS AND UNITS OF MEASUREMENT

So what day is your birthday? What days of the week do you need to go to work? What time is it? These questions may be difficult to answer now that you are in a new environment that does not use the same calendar we do.
The Standard Week in the Republic has 5 instead of 7 days which are as follows:

  1. Primeday
  2. Centaxday
  3. Taungsday
  4. Zhellday
  5. Benduday

Seven weeks make a month and 10 months, 3 festival weeks, and 3 holidays form a standard year consisting of 368 days.
And for years you can forget the BC/AD dating system since the events that system marks aren’t relevant in the Galaxy. After the destruction of the second Death Star and the formation of the New Republic a system using BBY/ABY (Before Battle of Yavin and After Battle of Yavin) will be employed but since we are in the pre-Clone Wars era a different system that was not specified to my knowledge in the EU is used.
Most standard units of measurement are the same, but if you are an American you are gonna need to learn the Metric system and Celsius since those are used in the Republic rather than the Imperial and Fahrenheit systems.

GEOGRAPHY, ASTROGATION, FLORA, AND FAUNA

If you plan on traveling the Galaxy much you are gonna need to learn Hyperspace routes and what the different planets are. The frequent stops for a traveler doing business of any kind will be places like Coruscant, Alderaan, Corellia, Manaan, Nar Shaddaa, Naboo, Bespin, etc. You will need to learn where they are on the Galactic map, what sort of terrain they have, local customs, what cities, mountains, forests, rivers, and nations are on them, and you will obviously have to learn about traveling expenses, visas, and other arrangements. And if you don’t have a good droid or Wookiee to help you, you might want to learn how to pilot a ship.
And each planet has its own variety of plants and animals. There are dogs, cats, and horses in the Galaxy, but they seem to be a rarity. Instead you are going to have to contend mostly with such oddities as firaxa sharks, bomas, drexl, Eopies, Kaadus, kath hounds, kinrath, mynocks, and nerfs. And it is the same thing with plants too. All of this points to how alien the Star Wars Galaxy is to us. However, one of the apparent advantages is that new advanced medicines have been designed that can heal injuries that we cannot heal in our world. Bacta and kolto are medicinal products of the unique ecosystems that exist within this Galaxy and have worked wonders from severe plasma burns to wampa attacks.

NEWS, ENTERTAINMENT, AND FOOD

Do you wanna watch TV? Or a movie? Well the closest equivalent in the Star Wars Galaxy is the HoloNet which broadcasts news reports and programmes regularly via hologram. As for movies there are Holovids which are fairly popular in the Galaxy. Some well known classics are Quest for Quasar, Rodian Kisses, Zeltrons in Love, and Easy Spacer. Just know that if you love Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Supernatural, or DC and Marvel comics you are going to live without them since they don’t exist in the Galaxy.
Also if you are craving pizza you are gonna face a sad reality that such a delicacy was never invented in the Republic or the Outer Rim. But if you like bantha steak or blue milk you are in luck! And while there is no coffee there are the equivalents caf and coffeine. And thanks to Timothy Zahn hot chocolate exists in this Galaxy.
In the mood for a game? Well we don’t have any Monopoly, Poker, or Skyrim. But the Galaxy does have the holographic chess game Dejarik. And there are card games like Pazaak and Sabacc you can play. And if you like NASCAR perhaps Swoop Racing or Pod Racing will be an apt replacement for you.
Like music? Well Figrin Da’an and the Modal Nodes are a popular Bith jazz band that frequents cantinas around the outer rim. You might be able to catch them on HoloNet one of these days.
Do you like social drinking? There is no Budweiser, but there is Juma Juice and Corellian whiskey.For a few credits you may find some in any local cantina. But if anyone offers you death sticks just say no.

ECONOMICS AND GOVERNMENT

Now that you are living in this Galaxy you are going to need to adjust to the new government of which you are now a citizen. In the Pre-Clone Wars era The Galactic Republic is an ancient edifice that has stood the test of time; surviving a history of wars, inner conflicts, and the differing political philosophies of the many cultures claiming membership. If you have ever taken a civics class you will undoubtably be aware that you will need to learn how the Galactic Senate functions, what the Senators and Chancellors do, what the Constitution contains, and who is in office at the time.
You will also need to learn the value of Republic money. The standard currency of the Republic is the Republic Credit which is acceptable throughout the Core Worlds and the Mid Rim. Out in the Outer Rim Territories and Unknown Regions you may run into trouble using Republic credits but for regular usage you should be fine.

ALIENS, DROIDS, AND THE FORCE

Most of the things I have mentioned are more or less replacements or equivalents to things we have here. But there are some things in the Star Wars Galaxy completely unique to itself.
In our world we do not (as far as we know) interact with aliens, but in the Star Wars Galaxy alien species are commonplace and to be seen everywhere. In addition to all the humans there are Rodians, Wookiees, Ithorians, Bith, Twi’leks, Quarren, Zabrak, and other denizens who enrich the Galaxy with a wide range of cultures, traditions, and beliefs. They also have unique anatomies which you would no doubt learn of in your travels. For instance, Wookiees have long life spans. Chadra-fans have two hearts which they can donate the way we do kidneys. Gand can drink dangerous toxins like alcohol. All these new creatures will create a fun, new learning experience. Just try to avoid prejudice and racial bias. Don’t call a Quarren “squid-head” and never refer to Tusken Raiders as “Sand People.”
You will also become acquainted with droids which are a controversial topic for many in the Galaxy. Some hate them, some are annoyed by them, some can take or leave them, and others form strong bonds with them and regard them as friends. Whatever stance you may take be prepared for the very harsh reality that droids have no rights in the Republic. But if you wish to buy one and make friends with it you certainly may do so if you have the credits. Just don’t expect to be able to bring them into a cantina. They won’t be welcome.
But, probably the most unique part of the Galaxy is the Force. You will find some in the Galaxy who are skeptical as to the reality of the Force citing it as nothing more than simple tricks and nonsense, but the fact remains that there is a mystical energy field that permeates all life in the Star Wars universe that is created by life and connects all living things together. Those especially attuned to the Force can manipulate its energies to lift objects, achieve otherwise impossible physical feats, influence others, and even generate lightning and storms.
Even if you are not a Force-sensitive yourself studying Jedi philosophy (or Sith philosophy if you are into that sort of thing) might be worth your while. There aren’t many Baptists or Catholics in the Galaxy, but there is a large number of Republic citizens who respect and venerate the Force and being aware of it and respectful toward it may gain you some respect and prestige among Republic citizens and Jedi. At least for the next 20 years anyway. When the Jedi Purge hits you may want to pipe down a bit. And on that topic you might want to move away from Alderaan in a few years. Trust me.

If you manage to get all these things down you may have a fighting chance of being successful in the Star Wars Galaxy. With time, patience, and energy living there might be doable. That is if it was real of course. Either way only you know if it is worth it. If it is then you have taken your first steps into a larger world.

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

Contributor: Rick McGimpsey

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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.