May 1, 2016

Star Wars posters and who Drew them. Sorry for the dad joke.

There are many iconic things about Star Wars. Vader, X-Wings, “I know” and “So be it, Jedi” quickly come to mind. Those things are movie moments themselves. But out side the film reel, the original Star Wars poster itself has become an cultural icon and those posters that have followed have also slipped into pop culture.

Here's a brief look at some of the official and teaser posters for the Star Wars films - it's not a full and comprehensive look by any means but the classic shots of Luke and the game are there.....

A New Hope 

Original Star Wars theatrical posters

Transcending the film itself, the original postee (on the left) has become the gold standard for how a movie poster can be designed. What most people won’t realise was that the poster itself was inspired by classic film posters from the Hollywood era of the 1930s.

Tom Yung had design duties on the original poster. A seasoned designer prior to his Star Wars gig, he’d done some high profile poster design work for films such as Papillion, The Towering Inferno and The Omen. Tasked with the Star Wars work, he was given access to stills of the film and photos taken during product and given a brief of coming up with a design that demonstrated ‘good over evil’. The rest is history.

While two of the posters portray Leia and Luke as sexed up heroes, the drama and fear of the movie is clear in the work.

The Empire Strikes Back

Empire Strikes Back Posters

Yung’s success meant he was chosen to carry on for the sequel The Empire Strikes Back. This time Yung took a trick from his 1967 re-release poster of Gone with the Wind. Again Vader looms large, this time over Leia and Han – which is fitting given their story in the film.

Yung also designed a 'b' poster - a classic vista of Darth Vader in a more action adventure pose suggesting that Vader was weighing into the story even further this time around. Buy it here on Amazon.

Several other posters were also published. The one of Vader on the top left was sent as a teaser poster to movie theatres. By the time Empire's released date was rolling around, Darth Vader was a big enough character to be used to entice people back for the sequel.

The Revenge and Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi movie posters

Return of the Jedi saw Drew Struzan get a chance a doing a Return of the Jedi poster. This was an interesting time as Stuzan’s poster has become the stuff of legend because Lucas decided to change the name of the movie very late in the piece. Return of the Jedi was originally going to be called Revenge of the Jedi and so Struzan had prepared the now legendary teaser poster for the film of that name. As is now customary for a Star War poster, the shadow of Vader looms large (well why not, by this time Star Wars is actually the story of Darth Vader).

The poster was recalled after George Lucas decided that a Jedi would not seek let alone feel the need for revenge.

Special Edition posters of the Original Trilogy by Struzan
Special Edition posters of the Original Trilogy
The teaser poster on the top left featuring the blue saber was by Tim Reamer. Legend has it that hands on the saber are those of George Lucas. We doubt it….

That poster of Leia featuring her golden bikini was by Kazuhiko Sano.  

The ‘Return to a galaxy, far, far, away’ poster was by Tom Yung once more. Note the spoiler of the Death Star II blowing up, not cool poster from the 1980s.

Struzan was called back to do brand new posters for all three original trilogy films when they were re-released as the special editions in the mid 1990s. 

The Prequels Posters 

The Star Wars prequel posters

The teaser poster for The Attack of the Clones was quite the brilliant design effort. Featuring the young Anakin Skywalker on the planet of Tattooine, the shadow he caused was unmistakably that of Darth Vader, the figure he was to become. This poster succinctly gave the prospective viewer all the information they needed to know about this movie. 

Drew Struzan was now a favoured artist of Lucasfilm and he did the official poster which was used in over 60 countries. He managed to complete the trifecta as his work was used again for Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

TPM and AOTC were the only official posters to not feature an image of Darth Vader (same for The Force Awakens), he of course returned for Revenge of the Sith. 

The Force Awakens

The official The Force Awakens promotional poster was produced by Bryan Morton. It has the classic elements of Star Wars – being Han and Leia at the centre, X-wings and Tie Fighters having a go at each other (check the above posters, the ships are everywhere) and drawn light sabers. The posts obviously also introduces the three new main characters – and sets up the battle between Rey and Kyo Ren quite nicely as their weapons of choice parallel one another.

You can purchase The Force Awakens poster from Amazon here.

International Posters

The beauty of Star Wars being a universally loved film is that the film's posters also get the chance to have a 'foreign' touch in the sense that individual countries got to product their own posters. Here's three great ones - see if you can work out which is the Japanese one....

Apr 19, 2016

A bit of a day dream about Luke Skywalker's blue and green lightsabers

Luke turns on green saber - deleted ROJT scene

A bit of a day dream about Luke Skywalker's blue and green lightsabers

I was randomly thinking if I could boil Star Wars down into one thing, what would it be. My first thought was an X-Wing, particularly one in flight, flying away from me with 4 red orange engine exhausts leaving me in their wake. Because those things are awesome. And then flashed up Vader gesticulating wildly at some rebelling princess. All good things, but no, for this writer, it all boils down to Luke’s lightsaber.

So what of it? There’s two key Star Wars moments for me that relate to Luke’s weapon of choice. The first, and by far the coolest part for me as a kid, was watching Luke give some kind of salute to Jabba’s sail barge which turned out to be a signal for R2D2 to fire Luke’s hidden saber into the air so Luke could do a Jedi flip, grab it in mid air and then wreak the worst kind of havoc over Jabba’s henchmen. That green light slicing across the silver screen was burned into my retina.

The second is the moment Obi-Wan handed Luke his father’s old saber and turned it on. That sound, that flash of light blue, that awe that suddenly struck Luke was mirrored on myself. That gentle wave of the sword around as Luke starred into its light. This was not just a cool space movie, this was now a cool space movie with blue swords!

Something borrowed, something blue

So much happened to Luke’s blue saber both before he actually got his farmer boy hands on it.the saber has already seen a LOT of violence. In the Revenge of the Sith film it was used to kill Count Dooku and to fight against Obi-Wan Kenobi, oh and lest we forget, it was used to massacre the younglings. This weapon has some really history and blood of innocents on it's hand before it gets to Luke.

When it’s first handed to Luke by Obi-Wan, it’s both an introduction to him and the viewer of such things as Jedi Knights, the Force and a big hint as to what is to come. But Luke doesn’t use the saber for violence in A New Hope. That’s saved up for Empire.

There was no lying when Obi Wan told Luke that the saber he handed to him was his father’s Anakin Skywalker. You’ll note that Obi-Wan picks it up just as he’s leaving Anakin for dead, so he had in his possession the whole time he was keeping an eye out for Luke on Tattoinne. Luke then used the saber until he lost it down the shaft on Cloud City. It was not seen again until Maz Kanata laid it out for young Rey to find in the catacombe of her castle. We do not know the tale of what happened to the lightsaber between those two moments.

We finally got to see Luke use his saber for realszies in The Empire Strikes back when his duel Darth Vader results him becoming just another Star Wars statistic. The loss of one’s arm must be pretty traumatic. It must be even more so when you’ve lost it at the er.. hand of someone who has just told you that they are in fact your father.  And it’s a key moment in the story of Luke’s saber – as Luke’s hand arm is cut off it two things occur. The first is that it's simply great drama and the second is also serves as a personal representation of the Empire striking back (along with the Hoth battle of course).

The saber was also used in Empire to show that Luke's powers as a Jedi were improving. When he was stuck in the ice came by the Wampa, Luke showed his control over the Force by drawing it from the ice to him to use it set him free. It shouldn't be lost on anyone that when Rey called with the Force to the same saber, this was an homage to that moment in the cave.

With The Force Awakens we get to Rey returning the saber to Luke at the top of her climb to him on planet Ahch-to. Will he accept the sword from her? We imagine he will ruefully take it, ponder some of moments in his life when it was in his possession and give it back to Rey, signalling the beginning of her training as a Jedi.

A small aside is to remember Luke’s saber also serves as means for Han to get Luke into his dead Taun Taun which meant we got the best joke ever made in a Star Wars film, “and I thought they smelled bad on the outside..”

It ain't easy being green - Luke's second saber

I alluded to earlier in this piece at just how cool I thought the green saber was. I think it's mostly because it was an unexpected surprise to see it suddenly slice and dicing the bad guys. Refer the photo at the top - it's a cut scene from Return of the Jedi. Luke is in a cave on Tattooine and he appears to have found the required crystal to make his newly fashioned saber complete. The shot of him with the saber turned, while cool, would have reduced the excitement of Luke's surprise attack at the Sarlacc Pit. 

Even Darth Vader was moved to comment on this new green saber in ROTJ: "I see you have constructed a new lightsaber. Your skills are complete. Indeed you are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen." 

Luke and his dad eventually battle it out in a great duel before the Emperor. The clash of red and green was awesome and the set itself was dark and evil, conjuring thoughts of the dark side of the Force and just how close Luke was to succumbing to it.

Shortly after Luke returns the favour of chopping off his dad's arm the Emperor invites him to join him and rule the galaxy. Luke rejects this grand gesture  and throws the saber to the floor. It's just as a telling moment in Luke’s path to becoming a Jedi as any. He is now one and in becoming so has turned away from the lure of dark side of the Force and the attempted seductions of Palpatine.

So there we go, a complete rambling noodle of a thought piece on Luke's weapon of choice. What do you think? What's your favourite Star Wars lightsaber moment?

Apr 11, 2016

So are the prequels really worth apologizing for in the first minute of The Force Awakens?

The first spoken line in The Force Awakens is said by Lor San Tekka to Poe Dameron. Tekka's voice is of a grandfatherly tone but one that demands utter attention because the message is very, very important.

"This will help make things right again"

Oh, really JJ Abrams. What needed to be made right?

If we’re going to read into things (and let’s face it, that’s what Star Wars fanboys and girls do) then this line appears to be a message to Star Wars fans from JJ Abrams. It’s like he’s saying, “Hey, we know you guys hated the prequels so I’mmma let you finish this movie but want you to know right now, that I’ve fixed everything. I’ve loaded it up with practical effects and alien monsters, you’re gonna love it!”

It’s like a deliberate psychological trick to frame the view’s perception of the movie as being better than the prequels. Or perhaps less charitably, not as bad...

It actually goes hand in hand with the fantastic marketing campaign that played so clearly on anti-prequel nerves and anguish by demonstrating that there were a googillion practical effects, sets and creatures in the movie. If you don’t understand this point, just understand that every Stormtrooper you saw in Revenge of the Sith was actually CGI generated and not a single practical uniform costume was made. 

It could be considered an OK device if the prequels did totally suck, or at least if they were universally hated. But that’s not the case. A gabillion dollars raised at the box office, another gabillion in home rental and DVD / Blu Ray purchases suggest they are loved and a whole generation who were kids when they first saw them, totally LOVE the prequel movies, even now. JJ said so himself.  Indeed, Revenge of the Sith in particular is actually critically assessed as being better than Return of the Jedi.

So are the prequels really worth apologizing for in the first minute of The Force Awakens?

So what JJ is doing here is responding to the hate and derision that was poured onto the prequels and George Lucas. And let’s not quibble here, some people do hate the movies. OK, a lot of people. But I venture an opinion that there are more people that love the prequels than people that hate the prequels. The Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Society certainly love them! There’s probably a large middle ground too, people that think they are just OK, as in they were decent trip to the movies with your mates and that's that. Well, more than OK if Blu Ray sales are anything to go buy by. Speaking of, here's a shameless plug to buy The Force Awakens on Blu-Rey from Amazon. 

So let’s assume than that 1/5* of Star Wars fans do indeed do not like the movies and they hate them (despite watching them countless times so as able to discuss why they hate every particular part of every particular scene). Is that a large enough percentage for the TFA to offer an apology of sorts just before we jump into the action? (The action was awesome, nice job there JJ!)

The risk of making a new Star Wars movie was that it would not be accepted by fans and dismissed as the prequels have so vocally. It’s thus very reasonable for Disney to do as much as it could to make the movie a hit and produce financial returns sufficient to justify their massive investment in Lucasfilm and set themselves up for the long haul success of the franchise.

But is it worth annoying the 80 percent of fans that either love or are 'OK with' the prequels (assuming of course, they all reacted the same as this author to the line)? Yes, it actually is because we are going to enjoy the rest of the movie by sharing in the laughs with BB-8 and shedding a wee tear for Han Solo. JJ and scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan actually can totally get away with it! They did deliver a pretty good movie after all. Imagine if it was a terrible movie and they left that line it! Much egg over much face.

Is it necessary at all though, as those that hate the prequels seem to be pretty vocal about how much they love the OT - and thus they would have seen TFA regardless....

If you have got this far, thanks for persevering on a pretty inane point. 

*I'd run the same argument if the number was 1/4 or even 1/3.

Apr 10, 2016

What did Yoda and Obi-Wan say to Rey in her flashback sequence in TFA?

You may recall the collective 'Wow!' the collective internet made when it realised that Obi-Wan had a line in The Force Awaken's flask back sequence. There wasn’t just one line from a Star Wars alumni to feature though, Yoda chipped in and even Sith Lord Palpatine was snuck in as well. Listen very carefully and it’s all there.

Here’s the quotes from the three characters that were placed in the flash back sequence:

The numbers represent the second they occur.

[00:08] Yoda: It’s energy…

[00:14] Yoda: …surrounds us… and binds us.

[00:14] Luke: No! No!

[00:21] Obi-Wan: You will be tempted…

[00:23] Obi-Wan: But you cannot control it.

[00:25] Yoda again “surrounds us…“

[00:25] Obi-Wan: The Force will be… –

[00:35] Palpatine speaks to Anakin “…any Jedi!”

[00:38] Obi-Wan: You will do it…

[00:48] Obi-Wan: Rey…

[00:53] Obi-Wan: These are your first steps.

If a picture means a thousand words...

A picture means a thousand words right?   Here's a photo of the great Mark Hamill and a certain Rey of Light recreating the scene from Empire where Yoda instructs Luke in the ways of the Force.

Is this confirmation that Like will train Rey to become a Jedi!? Of course not, it's just some light hearted fun !