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Oct 31, 2016

Why does Luke Skywalker wear black in Return of the Jedi?


Luke Skywalker wears black clothes ROTJ

Did you ever notice in the last half of Return of the Jedi that Luke Skywalker is fully dressed in black clothing?


Why does he dress so costumed?

Black is a colour of mystery and mortality.

It's a lot of black like a certain Sith Lord who has turned to the Dark Side....

Yes, Luke is dressed in black in Jedi to deliberately show the watcher how close he is to letting his fear and hate overwhelm him.

He is surrounded by the dark side and he is basically on a razor's edge and could turn to the dark side of the Force with the slightest provocation.

And that of course was Emperor Palpatine's plan, to make him face Vader and try to turn him by forcing him to tap into his dark side to beat his father.

Luke suffers.

He suffers hate, for his father who cut his arm off

He suffers angst for Obi Wan who lied to him about his true heritage.

He suffers the fear that his sister Leia will be Palpatine's next target.

He is angry. You saw him Force choke two of Jabba's Guards right? Angry.

And most of all, he fears that all will be lost.

But all turns out well after Vader throws the Emperor down the shaft that's an inexplicable safety hazard in his throne room!

So if Luke wins his fight against Vader and then turns his back on the Emperor's offer to join him, how do we really know that Luke is not joining the dark side?

Take a look at his black tunic costume.

Look at the fold that is now unbuttoned post fight sequence, what is that colour?

It's white.

It's the yang to black's yin.

Underneath all Luke's stresses, he was always the good guy.

Always the boy who never got to Tosche Station to get his power converters.

He'd become a Jedi, like his Father was before him.

Nice symbolism George Lucas and director Richard Marquand.

This flap of white was a very subtle point and perhaps lost on many a viewer on first watching of the film.

This was indeed a subtle moment to demonstrate that on the inside, Luke was always the good guy.

In the long run it was not lost on many Star Wars fans, so when George Lucas got around to writing Revenge of the Sith with Johnathan Hales, he made an even better reference to light and dark:

light and dark star wars sith
Literal foreshadowing in Sith
Recall the scene where General Obi Wan Kenobi is about to go hunt down that dastardly Grievous General robot chap. Obi Wan and Anakin are making fond farewells and Obi says "Goodbye Old Friend".

It's the last time the two Jedi will indeed talk to each other as friends.

Look carefully at the lighting, Obi Wan is in the light and Anakin in the dark.

Yin and Yang. Good guys and Bad Guys. Jedi and Sith.

While everyone piles on the hate, Star Wars purists should remember how good Lucas really is. Sometimes it's not just about story, it's about great film making.

James finally reads and reviews 'Heir to the Empire' by Timothy Zahn

Heir to the Empire book cover
I recently finished reading the first of Timothy Zahn's Star Wars trilogy, Heir to the Empire.

It's a fun read, well crafted with a plot that makes a more sense than  dross like The Truce at Bukara.

Timothy Zahn's trilogy is much revered among the Star Wars fandom and I've read that some consider Heir to the Empire to be the novel that kick started the grand age of the Star Wars fan resurgence and renewed popularity.

This lead to a slew of Expanded Universe story telling in the form of books, graphic novels and video games  (for this lad it was the PC game X-Wing) and quite incredibly, something about a moon falling on top of Chewbacca.

That's right, George OKed the death of Chewbacca by way of moon crushing.

There's probably some spoilers that follow but really, the books were released in the early 1990's so there should not be any room for complaints.

Let's get the Blue Guy Stuff out of the way first

One of the key elements of that success is a fellow known to many as Grand Admiral Thrawn.

In terms of having read only one of the three novels thus far, I can see what the big deal is.

There got to be a reason this blue coloured chap is so popular, and at this stage I think it's because he's arguably the smartest Star Wars bad guy that has been committed to the novel format.

The first thing I loved

Other than the crisp and clear writing and the introduction of Thrawn, there's a moment when Luke Skywalker is dead in the water so to speak.

It's just him and R2D2 stuck in a dead X-wing in the middle of space, totally against the odds.

It's a great piece of writing that sees Luke place his life in the hands AND programming of his faithful tin can robot.

Even though you know Luke will survive his current predicament, it's a nice challenge for him.

The first thing I hated

That there's a fucking tree dwelling lizard which nulls Force abilities. Oh for craps sake, can you not just write a better plot device?

The universe is apparently rid of Jedi (and Sith) and yet suddenly there's this magical freaking lizard which no one has heard of until a few years after the Battle of Yavin?

Give me strength, you would would have thought such a tree dweller would have been well used in the 1000s of years that the Force has been used and abused...

So what's with the plot?

Zahn has this in hand.

While it's not immediately clear what Grand Admiral Thrawn is up to, we are well aware that it's about Thrawn smashing one back down the throat of the Rebel Alliance.

The novel ends with a whimper, not with a bang.

It's just the first novel of course, Thrawn is set to take back what Emperor Palpatine lost.

Han and the good old boys still need to figure out what just happened to them.

That title, it's pretty clever

So is Thrawn the heir to the Empire?

Or is it Luke?

Is it Leia?

Is it the twins that Leia and Han are having?

Yes, we get it's most likely a reference to Thrawn but Vader's lineage looms large...

Mara Jade

I keep seeing her name everywhere around the interwebs as being Luke's wife and bad ass in her own right so her forth coming flirtatious entanglement with Luke seems like an interesting plot to read in the second story, Dark Force Rising.

Her character was handy enough in this novel, it being a little obvious.

Legends

I think this is the first Star Wars novel I've read since The Force Awaken was released.

It did not come to my mind for one minute that this story was no longer canon and should just be considered a alternate time line of sorts.

It's a well written story about Star Wars characters and can be read for the sake of it's own enjoyment.

Those people that run around on the internet abusing anyone who writes a novel that fits into the official canon timeline may wish to stop, have a breather and maybe go play out in the sunshine.

Verdict

This novel was unsurprisingly an enjoyable read.

Given it's considered one of the best Star Wars books out there, I'll be surprised if the sequel, Dark Force Rising is able to match it.

If you are a casual Star Wars fan who has never read this book but are interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, I happily recommend this to you.

You can purchase Heir to the Empire from Amazon at this link.

Facts and trivia about Grand Admiral Thrawn, from the Zahn Trilogy and Rebels



Facts and trivia about Grand Admiral Thrawn, from the Zahn Trilogy and Rebels


I finished the Star Wars book 'Heir to the Empire' and immediately (and finally) understood what all the fuss was in terms of Grand Admiral Thrawn.

I mean like the internet bloody loves him.

More than Papa Smurf himself!

He's the chief antagonist of the book and it's quite clear from the first few paragraphs he feature in that he's the real deal.

Inspired by this belated introduction to the Big Blue Chiss, I thought I'd present some facts and trivia about him.
  1. Timothy Zahn, the author who created this beloved character described Thrawn as thus: "He’s a clever villain. People like reading about clever, interesting opponents to our heroes. People who are able to out think, outmaneuver as well as outfight. Ultimately the heroism of the hero is measured by the villainy or power of the villain and with Thrawn I wanted something different than Force using Vader or Palpatine. Somebody who doesn’t have Luke’s Force Powers, but can run him around in a maze whenever he really wants to."
  2. His real name is "Mitth'raw'nuruodo" - Thrawn is a shortening of his full name
  3. While he make's his debut in Timothy Zahn's 'Heir to the Empire' novel, Thrawn has actually appeared in 8 novels, several graphic novels and turned up in a few video games.
  4. His appearance in season 3 of Star Wars Rebels marks the first occasion that an extended universe character has been placed in the new formal Star Wars Canon. We believe that the second character to do get this kind of treatment was Saw in Rogue One going from Clones to the Big Screen. 
  5. Thrawn's species is 'Chiss'. All Chiss are human like in their physical appearance, save the blue skin and red eyes.
  6. The name "Coruscant" was originally used by Timothy Zahn. George Lucas was going to include the capital world of Had Abbadon in Return of the Jedi, but adopted Zahn's name for Imperial Center when presenting the planet in the Special Edition and prequel movies. 
  7. Zahn has said that Thrawn's character is a composite of various historical and fictional personalities, including Erwin Rommel, Robert E. Lee, Hannibal Barca, Alexander the Great, and Sherlock Holmes. Some of those names are the greatest military leaders of history.
  8. The Secret History of Star Wars by Michael Kaminski credits the Thrawn trilogy with reigniting the general public's interest with the Star Wars franchise. 

Oct 27, 2016

All the facts, trivia and quotes you need about Qui Gon Jinn, one of the greatest Jedi to grace the silver screen

Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn

The ability to speak does not make you smart 


When the Phantom Menace was announced, a big name actor was needed to give the film so called gravitas as there were no Hamils or Solos so Lucas came up with Liam Neeson to play the Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jin.

What a job he did!

It's this author's opinion that this Jedi was one of the best that has been on the silver screen and that is mostly due to Liam Neeson's acting.

Qui Gon's character was the epitome of a true Jedi - calm under pressure, wise and  diligent and a great fighter - the finale duel where he and a young Kenobi took on Darth Maul is considered on the best Star Wars saber fights.

Here's some facts, quotes and trivia about Qui Gon

  • A venerable if maverick Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn was a student of the living Force. Unlike other Jedi Masters, who often lose themselves in the meditation of the unifying Force, Qui-Gon Jinn lived for the moment, espousing a philosophy of "feel, don't think -- use your instincts."
  • The Phantom Menace's production sets were built only as high as the tops of the actors' heads and computer graphics filled in the rest. But it was realised that Liam Neeson was so tall that they needed to build things taller and this cost the production another $150,000 in construction costs.
  • The Jedi stands at a tall height of 1.93 meters.
  • Quote said to Jar Jar: The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here. 
  • Phantom Menace is the only film in the series in which the top-credited actor plays a non-recurring character, and in which the top-credited character dies. 
  • What's in a name? The name "Qui Gon" derives from an ancient Chinese system of alternative medicine called "Qigong". The  word "Jinn" refers to the "Djinn" o rthe so called genies of Arabian myth.
  • Qui-Gon was actually a padawan of Count Dooku.
  • Actor Liam Neeson described his character thus: "He's almost like a monk, an old-time warrior who is wise and quite philosophical, yet very skilled in martial arts. He has incredible confidence, as well as a magical quality that enables him to see into the future. He's not really a rebel, but he has his own code."

Oct 26, 2016

16 crazy facts about the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special. Did you know about the sex simulation scene?

Star Wars Holiday Special Facts

I have watched the Star Wars Holiday Special one-time only and that’s the way it will probably stay.

If I have two memories of the film, it’s Princess Leia and the gang singing a terrible song about ‘Life Day’. The other is the awesome cartoon contained within the movie that shows Boba Fett riding some kind of dinosaur.

That was awesome.

However, the film should really be named as ‘George Lucas’ Folly’ for it was huge misstep.

Legend has it that Lucas is quite embarrassed about it now and I think noted Star War novelist Kevin J. Anderson’s quote sums it up best:

"Well, I know that George Lucas doesn't like it at all—when I was working on The Illustrated Star Wars Universe, he told me that he would be happy if every copy could be tracked down and burned..."

So there we have it. The movie should be burned.

But hold on. There’s some gold in the TV’s most infamous Christmas Special, so let’s have a look a look at what glitters….

But first we have to get this piece of trivia out of the way:

Chewbacca has a son called Lumpy. He’s travelling to see him so they can celebrate ‘Life Day’ together.

Feel free to quit reading this article now as we cannot top this fact!

  • The show aired in the US on November 17, 1978, on CBS for the first and only time. 
  • Jefferson Starship, a very popular band at the time, released a single of "Light the Sky on Fire" that proclaimed "as seen and heard on the CBS-Star Wars Holiday Special. It’s bloody awful.
  • Given it's canon (!!!) the Special is the first time the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk for the first time. The next time we saw this was in Revenge of the Sith when Yoda visited to help with the Clone War.
  • Future Golden Girl  Bea Arthur played Ackmena a gruff bartender at the Mos Eisley Cantina. This was an opportunity for her to sing a song but frankly the best part of this moment is the chance to see some of the original bar flies that were visiting the Catina in ANH for a longer period.
  • If you’ve actually gone an watched the show, you’ll have noticed that the Wookies lived in giant wooden houses at built into trees. This idea originally came from the design work of the legendary Ralph McQuarrie – the guy that did all the original concept design work for A New Hope.
  • Future King of Comedy Richard Pryor has a part as a bar tender as well! From behind the bar he answers the phone in the manner as part of gag with some alien creatures.
Bea Arthur and her Cantina friends.

  • The show was probably the only variety special in American television history to feature a sex simulator scene. Chewbacca’s father engages in what could be described as holographic phone sex using a device called The Mind Evaporator. The sexy holographic lady was played by Diahann Carroll who at the time was well known for her Julia television series and the film Claudine. Watch from this moment and enjoy the trippy ride and ‘just relax, just relax’.
  • Lucas didn’t really have too much involvement in the project – he helped sketch out an initial story and the producers took it over and went nuts and turned it into a variety show. Well, they had to have been nuts right?
  • Chewbacca’s father is named Attichitcuk and his wife is called Mallatobuck. His son Lumpy’s proper name is Lumpawarrump.
  • The Happy Life Day song by Princess Leia is based on John William’s original Star Wars theme tune.
  • The special formally only aired one time in the United States in a date that will live in infamy, being 17 November 1978. To put that in historical context, the day after the horrific Jonestown Massacre occurred.
  • Film industry legend Stan Winston created the Wookiee family.
  • The Chewbacca family could wear their costumes for 45 about minutes due to the heat generated when wearing them. Then they’d have the heads taken off, and be given oxygen and fluid.
  • The Boba Fett cartoon sequence was nine minutes long as was intended to be used to introduce the character that would be making an appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. The animation is considered to be quite good and the only truly redeeming thing about the Holiday Special.
  • It’s called “The Faithful Wookie”. Watch it here.
  • The style of the sequence was modelled on the work of Jean “Mobieus” Geraud, a popular French artist. This was apparently at the request of George Lucas. This is where it gets interesting. If you think back to the Imperial Probe Droid that finds the Rebels on the Hoth planet in Empire, you might be surprised (or not!) to learn the droid’s look was inspired a small drawing of a droid from a scene in Mobieus’ ‘The Long Tomorrow’.
You might like to check out this sweet list of Star Wars trivia.

Why do Obi Wan and Vader fight so slowly in A New Hope compared to Revenge of the Sith?

obi wan fights vader on the Death Star


Why do Obi Wan and Vader fight so slowly in A New Hope compared to how they do in Revenge of the Sith?


Well, it's not because they are old!

This are two ways to answer this question.

The first relates to the effort of movie making.

The second is about the story telling.

In terms of movie making, Star Wars was produced in 1976 and featured an elderly Alec Guiness clashing swords with a muscle man in a big heavy black suit. No one expected the energetic acrobatics of Errol Flynn.

This was a sword fight using 'light swords' and on screen special effects that never ever been done before. No one ever knew Star Wars was going to become the biggest film in history.

No one knew it was going to be one of the most examined and discussed films in history.

If George Lucas had, he would have made it better. But he didn't and indeed, he swapped some points with Steven Spielberg!

There was simply no way that the sword fight between Darth and Kenobi was going to be as epic as what was eventually realised in Revenge of the Sith.

But in terms of story telling, this is where things get interesting. What you witnessed was not a sword battle between a Sith Lord and a famous Jedi Knight, it was a conversation (watch it here).

Forget about Revenge of the Sith for a moment, what we were presented with was two foes that had fought some 20 years earlier where one left the other for dead.

And now, Vader is one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy.

He could have killed Kenobi in an instant but he chose to play it out a bit, maybe so he could figure out what Obi Wan was up to (he already had a plan though to let the Millennium Falcon escape).

One could argue that Obi Wan toys with Vader somewhat as well. He certainly insults him with his sneering use of the word Darth. This repartee fine for Kenobi, he was trying to give Luke a chance to escape the Death Star. He also knew that his death would be a significant event.

The telling point is not this rope-a-dope of sorts, but Kenobi's line "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." that was important.

We didn't know how it was important but we were given enough to know that with this knowledge, Kenobi was not afraid to die.

He knew he was able to help Luke in another, more important way - and that came to be when Luke was doing the trench run on the Death Star and was able to give guidance.

It was a noble sacrifice and it set the path for Luke to become a Jedi and bring down the Emperor (Obi Wan had no idea Vader was still to actually fulfill The Prophecy).

vader kenobi battle
From my point of view the Jedi are evil...
By the time Revenge of the Sith came along, moving making had come a long long way.

Blockbusters were now giant spectacles filled with epic action and featured vast amounts of CGI animation.

George Lucas was able to take the current state of CGI and use it to make his duel between two heroes one of the fastest flowing there had ever been.

He needed to as well for it was the climax of the prequel trilogy and the moment every one had wanted to see since it was learned that Vader fell to the dark side. It had to be epic, anything less would have been a failure.

Extra for experts: Check out this theory about light sabers being used in the Star Wars movies.

Want to read some more sweet things about Darth Vader? 

7 tragic things about Darth Vader.
Why did Darth Vader turn to the dark side of The Force? (if you were living under a rock).
10 Darth Vader quotes that show he was the worst Sith Lord ever (but possibly the greatest Jedi)

Oct 24, 2016

Who is Nien Nunb?



Who is Nien Nunb ? Why does he look like a pile of pancakes?


With the cameo appearance of Nien in The Force Awakens as an X-Wing pilot, we thought it might be an opportune time to quickly visit the character.

Most fans will recognise Numb as Lando’s co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon in Return of the Jedi – but do they know his name? It's never said in Jedi! Or TFA!

Nien is almost like a Salcacious Crumb kind of character – seemingly fun and amusing but the view is left wondering about the fellow – what’s that language he speaks to Lando for example?

Numb’s back story is that of a smuggler so it perhaps makes sense he found himself on one of the most famous smuggling ships of all.

Expanded Universe tales suggests that he and Lando became friends well before the Jedi time frame and then when Lando was planning his assault on the Death Star II he recognised his old pal in a line up of pilots and selected him.

Nien Nunb was actually a puppet which was operated by two puppeteers, Mike Quinn and Richard Bonehill.

He was voiced by Kipsand Rotich who used his Kenyan language, Haya and also Kikuyu. This was for both Jedi and TFA - the later film required some serious tracking down of Rotich so he could record his part!

Billy Dee Williams nicked named Nien Nunb as 'The Pancake Kid' as his face looks like a pile of the breakfast food!

We hope that Nien gets to make another cameo in The Last Jedi!

With all the concern about the new Star Wars canon, we can confirm this Star Wars cannon is still canon.

Empire Strikes Back cannon

With all the concern about the new Star Wars canon, we can confirm this Star Wars cannon is still Star Wars canon.

We're not sorry....

Oct 22, 2016

How long are the Star Wars movies if you add them all up?

how many minutes is star wars run time

Here's a list of the running times of the Star Wars films. 

The timings are in minutes.

The Phantom Menace – 133 minutes

Attack of the Clones – 142 minutes

Revenge of the Sith – 140 minutes

A New Hope – 121 minutes

The Empire Strikes Back – 124 minutes

Return of the Jedi – 131 minutes

The Force Awakens – 138 minutes

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - 133 minutes

Extra for Experts:

Caravan of Courage - 96 minutes

Battle for Enor - 94 minutes

Star Wars Holiday Special - 98 minutes

So based on the above, Attack of the Clones is the longest running Star Wars movie and A New Hope is the shortest (excluding the Ewok movies and the Holiday Special).

If you counted all the Star Wars movies released so far, their total running time is 1062 minutes with an average of 132 and a half minutes.

If you add in the Ewok spin off movies and the infamous Holiday Special you get a combined running time of 1350 minutes with an average film running time of 122 minutes.

That's a lot of Star Wars to watch!

I debated about adding The Clone Wars movie to these numbers but decided against it as I just suck at maths.

-

Who long does The Last Jedi run for? Scuttle but suggests 150 minutes which would make it the longest Star Wars movie. 

Who else gets the feeling a lot of characters are going to die in Rogue One?


Who else gets the feeling a lot of characters are going to die in Rogue One?


Update - we called it, everyone died. Even Jyn!

Unless Disney is saving up their Rebels for Rogue Two, we’re pretty sure that a LOT of Rebel characters are going to die in Rogue One.

Here's our reasoning.

It’s not quite the Han Solo route, but it’s up there.

This is a heist movie.

It thus needs suspense.

Will the heroes live or die? They need to because we know they get their hands on the Death Star plans and place them in Princess Leia's care.

We’ve complained before that with big budget films, too many good guys win at the end of the day (as no one likes a downer ending right? Wrong).

But we get tired of that.

We want to see things get REAL. As real as the Death of Han solo. 

Wil this Death Squad be will certain er.... death. 
And just like Harrison Ford agreeing to do just one more Star Wars film, this Rogue One prequel gives the filmmakers a massive opportunity to raise the ‘will they survive’ ante.

They can afford to do it as this particular movie does not tie into the original trilogy in the sense that this film’s characters turn up in (Mon Mothma and Darth Vader excluded). 

That means it doesn’t matter if Jyn or Chirrut or K-250 die as it will be of no consequence to the Star Wars franchise going forward.

It will merely add to the drama and viewer's enjoyment of Rogue One.

It's my dear hope that Rogue One can have an epic ending where it really is life or death for the characters and viewers can go along for that ride in the cinema.

As the Death Star’s plans get closer and closer to being Leia’s grasp, the stakes can be raised. There should be glory on all sides!

All it will take is for one character to survive.

If that’s the case, we’d put good money on Jyn surviving and everyone else to die trying.

Hope fully Lord Vader’s saber gets to play a bit of a hand in that but we suspect he will be very under used in the film. 

Oct 21, 2016

10 of the most obscure Star Wars facts. Number 3 is out of this world!


10 of the most obscure Star Wars facts. Number 3 is out of this world!


Star Wars fans love a good bit of trivia and there's plenty of it to around - here's 10 bits that you might not have come across before.
  1. The Bantha milk drank by Luke and Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru in A New Hope is blue. Coincidentally or not, the code name for Return of the Jedi was Blue Harvest.
  2. The planet name of 'Coruscant' was created by Star Wars author Timothy Zahn for his book Heir to The Empire. George Lucas liked the name and included shots of Coruscant, the Imperial Capital at the end of the Return of the Jedi movie. It then featured in the prequels.
  3. Han Solo’s space ship the Millennium Falcon has a very small blink and you'll miss it cameo appearance in Revenge of the Sith. It is seen landing on Coruscant.
  4. It was Return of the Jedi’s director Richard Marquand who came up with the idea of having Leia turn up to Jabba’s Palace disguised as a bounty hunter.
  5. When Luke claims Chewbacca is a prisoner transfer from cell block he mentions the number 1138, this is a direct reference to George Lucas’s first film, THX 1138. That film was about a dystopian future where a authoritarian regime was in control – a not to dissimilar state of affairs in Star Wars. 
  6. Han Solo’s “I know” line in response to Leia’s declaration of love as ad libbed by Harrison Ford. It’s become an iconic Star Wars quote.
  7. "I've got a bad feeling about this" or a variation of it is spoken in every movie.
  8. R2D2 is taller than the Ewok 'Wicket' from ROTJ. Kenny Baker who played was originally going to play Wicket however illness prevented him from doing so, thus giving Warwick Davis a chance to stake a claim in Star Wars lore.  
  9. Mace Windu is the only Jedi in any film to wield a purple colored lightsaber. Here's some of his quotes from the prequels
  10. None of the Star Wars films have credits at the beginning of them. This actually became a really big deal and meant Lucas quit various film institutions such as the Director's Guild and Stars Wars films were considered independent movies as result.
What's that you say? You loved this trivia and you want more Star Wars facts?






Oct 20, 2016

E.T. made a cameo appearance in The Phantom Menace

e.t. revenge of the sith easter egg

E.T. clearly phoned home

Three E.T. can be found in The Phantom Menace!


George Lucas and Steven Spielberg share a special friendship, indeed Speilberg has directed all four of the Lucas produced Indiana Jones films and Lucas even tried to get him to direct Return of the Jedi.

So was it a surprise for any one to see three E.T. Chancellors cameo in The Phantom Menace?

Probably not

That's them at the bottom left of the picture.

It was a nice little nod for George Lucas to put in and a pretty sweet easter egg.

I think I also saw one in Attack of the Clones too...

What does Toto and Star Wars have in common?

john williams with son joseph williams from the band toto


The lead singer of Toto is the son of one of the great players of Star Wars


This is probably one of the coolest points of Star Wars trivia you could come across if you were both a Toto and Star Wars fan - Toto's current lead singer Joseph Williams is the son of John Williams, the famous composer of all 6 Star Wars movies!

Musical talent clearly runs deep in that family!

So next time you hear 'Africa'* as you're driving along on a lazy Sunday morning you can follow up by humming a few bars of the Imperial March!

* Not that Joseph sang on the original version of the song...

19 sneaky actor cameos found in The Force Awakens

James Bond cameo in The Force Awakens

19 cameos in The Force Awakens


The Star Wars films are no strangers to featuring cameo roles. Richard Marquand, the director of Return of the Jedi snuck his voice in on a robot, George Lucas and several of his children could be seen in the prequel films and Treat Williams had a quick turn as a Stormtrooper in the Hoth scenes in Empire. You get the gist!

The Force Awakens features plenty of cameos, both transparent and wholly hidden from the viewer in plain site. J

J Abram's is well known for his use of cameos and putting Easter egg like references in his films so why not for TFA?

Here's the list of cameos that we've found thus far:
  • Let's start with what we think is the biggest cameo. Both Ewan Macgregor and Alec Guiness each feature in the same single line that can be heard during Rey's encounter with Luke's lightsaber. Alec does the 'Rey' part and Macgregor does the 'there are your first steps'. Here's how they managed this trick.
  • The second one is what we consider the coolest cameo ever in the Star Wars films. Daniel Craig who is better known to a gabillion movie fans as James Bond was the Stormtrooper that fell under Rey's spell when she tried her Jedi mind trick on him to request her release. It's a very funny and quotable exchange between the two.
  • JJ Abram cast his good friend Greg Grunberg in the film as Snap Wexley. He had a line at the resistance base and featured in the X-wing attack on the Star Killer Base. Grunberg did a cameo for JJ in the first episode of the TV show Lost as the pilot of the plane that crashed and had a quick turn in Mission Impossible III. He's of course best known for his role in Heroes
  • JJ cast his father Gerry in a very small cameo as Captain Cypress. Gerry has played bit parts in several of JJ's productions.
  • The doctor that tends to Chewbacca's arm wound would have been well known to British Star Wars fans as she was played by Dame Harriet Walter, a renowned stage and screen actress. Her character was called Dr. Kalonia. There's a nice piece of symmetry here in that her uncle was Christoper Lee who played Count Dooku in two Star Wars films.
  • Simon Pegg plays Unkar Plutt. You wouldn't know it by looking at him or even listening to him! Pegg previously played a role in JJ Abram's Mission Impossible film and formed such a strong working relationship that JJ cast him as Scottie in the Star Trek movies. 
  • Do you remember the Ewok known as Wicket? Famously played by a very young Warwick Davis, he returns as an alien called Wollivan that can be spied having a drink at Maz Kanata's bar. Davis charmed Lucas so much that he later featured in Lucas' Willow film. He also had a wee cameo in The Phantom Menace as well!
  • Nigel Godrich, a well known music producer famous for his work with the band Radiohead, had a quick turn as a Stormtrooper. He Stormtrooper number is FN-9330.
  • Yoda puppeter Frank Oz (and the voice of Miss Piggy!) recorded new lines of dialog for the flashback sequence but ultimately pre-recorded Yoda material was used. 
  • Billie Lourd, who is Carrie Fisher's daughter was seen wearing Princess Leia style buns as Lieutenant Connix.
  • JJ Abrams has a long term working relationship with music composer Michael Giacchino. Given that John Williams has a firm hand on the teller when it comes to creating Star Wars music, Giacchino had to make do donning a Stormtrooper suit as FN-3181. He's the trooper who puts the captured Poe Dameron before Kylo Ren at the film's start.
  • Judah Friedlander can be briefly spied as a bar patron at Maz's Castle. 
  • If you think back to the Han solo frieghter scene, Kanjaklub leader Tasu Leech is played by Yayan Ruhian, and Iko Uwais plays Razoo Quin-Fee. They are well known for their athletic roles in the two Raid films.
  • There's a strong run of actors who performed roles in the Game of Thrones, this is because the casting director for that show also did the casting for The Force Awakens. Gwendoline Christie is the major player as Captain Phasma but did you spot Thomas Brodie-Sangster of The Maze Runner and Game of Thrones plays a First Order officer. Jessica Henwick who was featured in season 6 of Game of Thrones played X-Wing pilot Jess Testor. Mark Stanley was a Knight of Ren. Miltos Yerolemou who played Arya’s doomed fencing instructor Syrio Forel, is a bar fly in Maz Kanata’s bar and Emun Elliott had a crack as well as an X-wing pilot.
  • Morgan Dameron who's last name was part of the inspiration for the name of Poe Dameron's character has a turn as a Resistance officer named Commodore Meta. That's a pretty clever in joke!

Oct 19, 2016

10 things you might not know about Luke Skywalker or Mark Hamill




Here's a list of 10 things you might not know about Luke Skywalker who was portrayed wonderfully well by Mark Hamill
    mark hamill as luke skywalker
  1. The original drafts for Star Wars show that the Skywalker family was actually called Starkiller. Indeed the drafts featured a General Starkiller and didn’t focus on the young moisture farmer from Tatooine.
  2. Does the name “Annikin Starkiller” sound familiar? That's the character's original name. The Force Awakens used the name Starkiller for the First Order's planetary based weapon.
  3. As the Rebels make their escape from their base on Hoth, it is Hamill who speaks the line, “the first transport is away!”. This line is later used as a reference to Star Wars in Mass Effect 3.
  4. Everyone assumes Luke only appeared in the three original Star Wars films. Think about if for a moment and you’ll realise Skywalker appears as a baby at the end of Revenge of the Sith following Padme Amidala giving birth to him and Leia at the medical facility on Poliss Massa. The character of course had a cameo in TFA.
  5. In the extended universe books, Luke falls in love with Mara Jade and has a child called Ben, named in honour of Obi Wan Kenobi. This concept was nicked for The Force Awakens and Kylo Ren bears the Ben name.
  6. Luke Skywalker is 1.72 meters tall which means he is 63 cm taller than the little droid that could, R2D2.
  7. Our favoure 3 favourite Luke quotes:
    1. But I was going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!
    2. Threepio, tell them if they don't do as you wish, you'll become angry and use your magic!
    3. I'll not leave you here. I've got to save you.
  8. Mark Hamill never really set the film world alive post Star Wars, perhaps due to the strong association as him being Skywalker however in the last twenty years he has made a name for himself as a voice actor for many cartoons, most notably as Batman's nemesis, The Joker.
  9. While Luke Skywalker is right handed, Mark is actually a lefty.
  10. The way Mark Hamill got the part of Luke Skywalker is classic Hollywood. Robert Englund, who eventually became famous as dream killer Freddy Kruger, was auditioning for a part in Francis Coppala’s Apocalypse Now when he noticed auditions for Star Wars were also happening at the same time and he suggested to his young friend Hamill to audition. The rest is history.
As an aside, it's interesting to note that even though Hamill never became as big as Harrison Ford in the box office earnings stakes, he's a much loved actor - and in that sense is very similar to Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy - he was never able to escape that character and like Hamill, so embraced his identity as being Spock.

Both have parlayed the close association to their characters into long term careers with a hint of 'knowing' about them.

Check out Hamill taking the mickey out of himself in Silent Bob and Jay Strike Back for instance. 

What are the key influences on Star Wars?

A New Hope concept art by Ralph McQuarrie
Ralph McQaurrie's design work was a key influence on George Lucas; vision

The Key Influences on Star Wars 


If you think George Lucas simply sat down at his desk with a pencil and a yellow legal pad and wrote down the script for Star Wars, you’ll believe they’ve recently added an extra letter to the word gullible in the dictionary.

No, George was inspired by many things as he went about making his film. From Gandalf to Japanese cinema, he cribbed and borrowed ideas from everywhere.

Here’s some of the key influences that went into the original Star Wars film and the ones that followed. 

Please note, this is not an exhaustive investigation just a summary of the more obvious things that Lucas has discussed in the past or are so obvious, they should be mentioned!



Let’s get the movies done first and the big one that everyone talks about first


The Hidden Fortress


hidden fortress poster
The Hidden Fortress was released in 1958 and became popular in the United States with the ‘film crowd’.

The movie tells story of a general and a princess, fighting their way home through enemy lines in feudal Japan with the help of a pair of bumbling peasants.  

Does that sound similar? 

What if you replaced the pair of peasants with R2D2 and C3PO? 

Yep, Lucas took the two bickering peasants and swapped them out for what became one of the most famous cinematic pairings in history.

George Lucas relates:

 “I remember the one thing that really struck me about The Hidden Fortress,” he said, “the one thing I was really intrigued by, was the fact that the story was told from the two lowest characters. I decided that would be a nice way to tell the Star Wars story.

Take the two lowliest characters, as Kurosawa did, and tell the story from their point of view. Which, in the Star Wars case is the two droids, and that was the strongest influence."

Keen eyed fans may notice the way the film swipes from one shot to another. 

This was an idea that Lucas borrowed directly from the film.

Several other movies are said to have served as inspiration for Lucas as well. We’ll touch on these very lightly.

The Searchers


Recall the scene in which Luke approaches the burned-out farm and finds Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen left murdered and burning by the Storm Troopers.

This scene is shot in such a way that it echoes a similar scene in The Searchers, in which the young hero (not the Wayne character) also returns to his family’s farm to find the buildings burned and his own aunt and uncle murdered. 

The lift is direct and obvious.

The Searchers also features a young man drawn into a relationship with a relentless father figure, who seems made of evil as he hates the Comanche (but he's really just after revenge for they murdered his mother)...

Sound familiar to Luke and Darth’s travails? 


Ben Hur


That pod race in The Phantom Menace?

It was bigger than Ben Hur but Ben inspired it.

The fateful moment when Sebulba's own pod racer connects with young Anakin's pod is nearly a shot for shot remake of Ben Hurs’ climactic moment when Messala accidentally locks wheels with the Ben Hur character.


The Dambusters


The short version is that this movie’s famous attack on the dam is the last twenty minutes of A New Hope

The torpedoes needing to hit the exact spot on the Death Star is taken directly from the need for the Dambusters to bounce the bomb to the exact part of the Dam.  

That said, the famous trench run on the Death Star was actually a lift from 633 Squadron.


Lawrence of Arabia


If you’ve seen this film, you’ll remember it features a lot of sand. As does a planet called Tattoine. 

Stars Wars blog notes:

“Many moves from David Lean’s epic were cribbed for sequences on Tatooine. The shot of Mos Eisley from the distance as Luke and Obi-Wan look from on high reminds one instantly of shots looking down at Damascus.

Shots of Tusken snipers looking down at speeders moving below echo the same sorts of shots in Lawrence of Arabia”.

Sir Alec Guinness also has a role in that film too…..

Attack of the Clones makes a very deliberate nod to Arabia in Attack of the Clones. 

Remember this scene to the right where Padme and Annakin have a chat about politics? 

Clones was shot in the exact same location and mimics a conversation the characters Dryden, Brighton and Allenby have.


Flash Gordon


Legend has it that George Lucas sought to make a film version of Flash Gordon following American Graffitti. 

He had no sway getting the rights to do so and set upon writing his own film, Star Wars.

Flash Gordon was full of sci-fi adventures where the hero travelled to space with a laser holstered to his side a mission to rescue a princess from a very very bad man. 

And Star Was has plenty of that indeed but what Star Wars really borrows from is the concept of a fairytale in which futuristic technology stands in for the traditional role of magic (think Merlin’s role in many stories). 

Which in sense may be true but what about the Force?

Lucas enjoyed Flash Gordon so much it was inevitable other elements crept into the movie. 

While the ‘swipe’ scene transitions were stolen from The Hidden Fortress, that famous Star Wars title amble marching up the screen in yellow was taken directly from the Flash Gordon serials. Lucas also borrowed the concept of a Cloud City


Edgar Rice Burrough’s and his Princess of Mars novels


John Carter of Mars book cover
Mr Carter
Burrough’s series of novels about Princess Dejah from Mars and a soldier from Earth called John Carter were written over one hundred years ago. 

 But resonated so long and strongly with their influence on other writers that Lucas eventually found out about them when he learned they were the inspiration for Flash Gordon. 

Lucas lifted all kinds of elements from Burrough’s works.

Ralph McQuarrie


Ralph is the man that turned Lucas’s ideas and conceptions into the pictures that would serve as the basis for the production design and look of the original Star War trilogy. 

If Lucas said, I have an idea that there will be two robots it was McQuarrie who gave them their look

Without McQuarrie someone else’s drawings and design would have made Star Wars a completely different movie – so much to say without McQuarrie, there would not have been the Star Wars we all know and love. 


Spock


You know when Alderaan gets smashed to a million tiny pieces by the Death Star and Obi Wan gets some really tough ‘feels’ and says "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced." 

Yeah, Spock did that first.



Gandalf



JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings has influenced just about a million book writes and even Led Zeppelin so why not George Lucas? 

At one point the third draft of Stars featured Obi Wan Kenobi paraphrase direct passages from Tolkien’s writings.

While that was cut from the film, it served to show that Lucas had been thinking about the White Wizard so it can be argued that there is a bit of Gandalf in the foundations of the character of Ben Kenobi.


Fan boys and fan girls and mum and dads with fat wallets


There is no doubt fans influenced the series. 

Some are obvious, some not so. 

Let’s start with Bobba Fett. He had very minor parts in Empire and Jedi but he built up a massive fan base. 

So much so Jeremy Bulloch (and co) is a cult star of the Star Wars universe.

This love for Boba meant that Lucas put the character into Attack of the Clones. This gave an origin for Fett. Some loved it, some hated.

Either way, it was pretty cool to see Mace Windu cut off Jango’s head with his saber.

Jar Jar. By and large, most ‘adults’ hate Jar Jar Binks. Kids love him, but that’s not the point. Fan venom feedback meant Jar Jar’s role was significantly reduced in Attack of the Clones and he barely made an appearance in Revenge of the Sith.

Fans also spend money. And there was a lot of money to be made from Star War merchandise. 

So much so that by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around, it was said to be funded by sales of merchandise from Empire. 

The cynics have suggested that to make even more money, the intended presence of Wookie was changed to the Ewoks so toys and the like would be more marketable to children.

Timothy Zahn’s Coruscant


In the last 20 years there has been a massive written word extension of the Star Wars universe. Lots of stories about new and classic characters have been lapped up by the fans. 

Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Throne novels created the world of Coruscant – you may know this planet as it’s where a huge amount of the action in the prequel trilogies occur.

Zahn’s novels are credited with making Star Wars popular again in the early 1990s and may have had an influence on George Lucas’s decision to make the prequel movies.

A key take way from Zahn's work is the creation of the character Grand Admiral Thrawn - he now has entered the new Star Wars cannon by virtue of having a key role in season three of Star Wars Rebels. 

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These were just some of the more major influences on the Star Wars films. There is probably a hundred other things that inspired Lucas as the 6 films were made. 

Certainly we haven’t mentioned Frank Capra and Yoda’s death in Jedi!

Snips and Anakin chillin' make a very sweet cosplay duo

Ashoka cosplay

Snips and Anakin chillin' make a very sweet cosplay duo


Here's a really fantastic cosplay duo - Ashoka and Annakin in happier times! It looks like they have captured the dynamic magic between the two quite well!

Do you miss the Clone Wars?

Oct 18, 2016

What are the 'working title' names of the Star Wars movies?

blue harvest logo from Jedi

What's a working title and what were they for the Star Wars movies?


A working title is the name of a film production - it could even be the name of the film.

Where film producers desire some secrecy around a project or they simply don't want to announce the name of a film yet, they choose a working title so it can be referred to without giving anything away.

For example the Titantic's working title was Planet Ice, which totally would mean nothing to the average dude on the street if they heard about it. 

Productions also used meaningless names to prevent price gouging on locations and services. If a supplier knows that the filming is for the new Batman movie, they might up their price.

The Return of the Jedi featured a very famous working title, Blue Harvest.

This had an elaborate back story of being a horror movie. The whole product featured uniforms and hats with the movies logo and title all over.

Many fans hope that George Lucas will one day make this so called horror and release it with it's supposed tag line "horror beyond imagination".

The Family Guy TV show used the Blue Harvest as the title of their first Star Wars DVD.

Here's the working and or shipping titles of the various Star Wars movies:

  • Star Wars - Adventures of the Starkiller: Episode 1 - The Star Wars
  • The Empire Strikes Back - There was no working title
  • Return of the Jedi - Blue Harvest
  • The Phantom Menace - The Beginning The Doll House
  • Attack of the Clones - Jar-Jar's Big Adventure or Jar-Jar's Great Adventure.
  • Revenge of the Sith - The Bridge
  • The Force Awakens - Foodles and also Avco. Also potentially was named 'The Ancient Fear' but this was never confirmed by the product.
  • The Last Jedi - 'Space Bear'
  • Rogue One - 'Los Alamos'
  • Han Solo movie - 'Red Cup'. 
We understand that the Avco working title has two inspirations - Avco was the name of the theatre where The Force Awakens' director JJ Abrams first saw Star Wars and the venue was also one of the first places to install the THX sound system on the release of Star Wars.

Red Cup is a play on the plastic cups that American like to drink hoppy beer out of at parties - which are known as 'Solo' cups....

Oct 17, 2016

Doug Chiang's Star Wars Prequel concept art designs

doug chiang concept art star wars

Doug Chiang's Star Wars Prequel concept art designs


When Ralph McQuarrie retired and opted not to do the design work for The Phantom Menace, George Lucas turned to Doug Chiang and said, "pick up your pencil, Mate, I need some drawings".

And draw he did.

Here's some of the design concepts he came up with for The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

phantom menace concept art
Gungan Style

Star Wars requel parade concept design

Oct 16, 2016

Who is Jenny Cresswell and why was her scene cut from A New Hope?


Jenny Cresswell cut from Star Wars with Han Solo
Cute Couple?

This is Jenny Cresswell in ANH with Han Solo.


In the now infamous Cantina scene of A New Hope, Han Solo was filmed as flirting with a human like character now known as Jenny after the actress who played the part, Jennifer Cresswell.

This brief moment was cut from the final version of the movie however the part was recovered as an extra for the Blu Ray edition of Star Wars.




Jenny Cresswell in Space:1999
Jenny Cresswell in Space:1999

The moment was cut as part of sharpening up the Cantina scene.

Given her moment of fame is missing from ANH, Cresswell is perhaps more well known as playing several parts in the television series, Space:1999.

One wonders how if everyone had first met Han Solo chatting up space chicks rather than being simply introduced as a space pirate to Luke and Ben?

The character of Jenny wasn't the only female that could be found in Chalmun's Cantina, the Tonnika Twins were briefly glimpsed as well!

Oct 14, 2016

Rogue One trailer 3

The Final Rogue One trailer is out:



The film looks pretty, I'm a bit dubious as to the plot. The ending will be critical...