Star Wars News: Vader WASN’T Luke’s Father Originally

SW7You know, it’s been awhile since I spoke about anything related to one of the greatest science fiction franchises in history. I am of course referring to Star Wars. Lucky for me, a series of stories have popped up on the news lately, so I thought now would be the perfect time to remedy all that. And this story is quite interesting, as it has to do with Lucas’ original plan for a major plot element in the series.

In short, Lucas’ original draft for The Empire Strikes Back, which was recently leaked to the public, and in that version, Darth Vader was NOT intended to be Luke’s father. That major plot twist, which proved intrinsic to the series’ story arc, was introduced by another writer, Leigh Brackett. As a veteran Hollywood writer, and given the success of the first movie, Lucas wanted her help in making sure the script for the sequel was up to par.

starwarstheempirestrikesback2Working from Lucas’ original plan, Brackett turned in an initial draft where Luke travels to Dagobah to receive instruction from Yoda, the ghosts of Obi-Wan AND his father. As for the major confrontation between Vader and Luke aboard Cloud City, the entire scene has no major twist, and instead consists of Vader offering Luke the chance to rule the Galaxy with him. Not “as father and son” mind you, just as two bad guys!

Sounds pretty weak doesn’t it? Well, turns out it gets better. In addition to there being no major twist, the original draft also had Han Solo showing Luke the basics of how to use a lightsaber (what WHAT?), featured a boatload of Wampas with the ability to freeze people, and had Han Solo spending part of the movie trying to recruit his stepfather into the Rebel Alliance.

Empire strikes back_338858Tragically, Brackett died shortly after sending in this first draft which was worked from Lucas’ notes, so she never got a chance to rework it. That task fell to Lawrence Kasdan and Lucas, who eventually worked from Brackett’s draft to create the film we all know and love. Alas, it was a good thing Lucas brought in some outside talent to help him with his script, or he would have had a Phantom Menace situation on his hands two decades too soon!

Going from the original story, as Lucas had it, the story not only loses most of its intrigue, but it’s also becomes bogged down in superfluousness and one-dimensionality. Part of what made Luke’s character so interesting was the inner turmoil he faced – being torn between stopping his father and wanting to help him, but also knowing that by killing him, he would risk becoming him.

empire strikes back_duelWhat’s more, in this version Vader loses all depth and becomes a cardboard-cutout bad guy. By learning that he was in fact a once-great man who “fell from grace”, his character became far more interesting and involved. And of course, knowing that he was once good presented Luke with a third option and a resolution to his quandary – redeem his father rather than kill him, thus ending the war in a way that would not damn his own soul.

And sure, Obi-Wan did tell Luke point blank in the original movie that Vader betrayed and murdered his father, but that was what was so cool about it looking back. In that film, Alec Guinness’ abilities as an actor really made it seem like he was holding something back with Luke. Knowing that his tale was meant symbolically rather than literally just made sense. I mean, he is a warrior-mystic after all. He’s supposed to be all meta!

empire_strike_back_endshotAnd really, this twist was what made the Star Wars trilogy work on so many levels. The idea of a son having to face his father, a fallen angel, in a titanic struggle of good and evil with immense personal implications and the fate of the universe hinging on the whole thing. It’s like Judea-Christian and classical mythology, Jung, Freud, and Existentialism all rolled into one!

To know that Lucas never intended it to be such, well that kind of puts a damper on the whole thing doesn’t it? But then again, it also answers a lot of nagging questions: like how the man who created the original saga could have created such fluff just twenty years later. Good thing he knew how to accept help back then, otherwise we’d have all missed out on a massive sci-fi pop cultural phenomena!

And in the meantime, enjoy some of these outtakes from the original movie which also recently emerged. Apparently, these come from the movie archives of the original film, which strangely, Lucas claimed had been destroyed. Wasn’t that the reason he couldn’t release the originals alongside the heavily CGI’d versions on DVD? Ah, who cares! Enjoy the clip:


Sources: blastr.com, uproxx.com

Tatooine to be Reclaimed by the Desert

Mos_Espa_2All across North and Sub-Saharan Africa, desertification threatens farm land, pastures, townships and even cities, triggering food and water shortages and threatening wildlife. But in a startling twist, it now seems that this ecological phenomena is threatening an iconic movie set, one which science fictions fans should instantly recognize.

Yes, in the deserts of Tunisia, the town of Mos Espa is about to be reclaimed by the desert. This set was first constructed by George Lucas and his crews to act as the skyline for Tatooine in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Serving as the fictional home of Anakin Skywalker, it was here that Qui-Gon Jinn and Padme first met the cloyingly sweet blonde kid that would one day become the most evil man in the universe

mos_espa

And in a new study, lead by Ralph Lorenz of John Hopkins University, researchers have found that sand dunes are swiftly encroaching on the old Star Wars set and threatening to consume it. Since Mos Espa was first constructed in 1997, some sixteen years ago, Lorenz and his researchers have calculated that the sand dunes have moved a total of 130 meters.

mos_espa_dunesNote the satellite images to the left, which display the Mos Espa set in 2004 and 2009 as seen from Google Earth. Between the two, one can see how the large dune wall to the right of the compound is weakened over time, and dust and sand blowing in from the desert is able to make its way into the town proper.

You can also see how the buildings are harder to make out in the 2009 image, a result of them being slowly covered by airborne sand. In time, this will reach the point where the huts are no longer visible, and will likely collapse under the weight of the desert.

The aim of this study, far from inciting Star Wars fandom to mount a campaign, was to track the progress of desertification in the Maghreb nation. One of the benefits of the Mos Espa construction,  as far as Lorenz and his geomorphologists were concerned, was that it gave them a steady frame of reference. Since their interest is in understanding how sand dunes move, the Star Wars set gave them a good way to see changes in dune location.

Mos Espa layout
Mos Espa layout

The report outlined the likely consequences of the approaching dunes, and what they would mean for future generations of Tatooine-tourists:

Should the barchan that forms the focus of this paper overrun the Mos Espa set, many buildings will be temporarily buried.

Their rather flimsy construction will mean roofs will likely collapse, degrading the attraction of the site when the dune moves on. This has already been seen at a smaller film set (‘Repro Haddada’…sometimes referred to online as the ‘slave quarters’)

…This structure was overrun by a barchan around 2004, and has been substantially demolished, although it is still an object of pilgrimage by Star Wars fans, who also admire the barchans a few hundred meters to the south, which are prominent in several scenes of the movie.

They were also sure to point out that even if Mos Espa survives the swiftly advancing dune, the town is still likely doomed, as other patches of desert are encroaching from other directions as well:

In the long run, Mos Espa is still threatened: the large barchan (big enough to totally submerge the site) looms about 500 m to the east. In fact this dune is often driven over en route to the Mos Espa site, reportedly by ~80% of the visiting vehicles. Although the imminent threatening barchan and other effects may degrade the site on this timescale anyway, at the observed migration rate of ~6 m/yr, this large barchan will begin overrunning the site in about 80 years.

Sad news for fandom and sci-fi geeks. But I guess it just goes to show you, nothing lasts forever. But more importantly, it demonstrates one of the principle issues of Climate Change and the planets rapidly-changing ecology. So perhaps this will have the positive effect of making more people sit up and notice, and maybe even mobilize a few to action.

After Climate Change is an issue that effects, and threatens, us all. And against enemies like world hunger, displacement, drought, famine, and flooding, we need all the help we can get! So at the risk of sounding cliche, let me just say: May the Force be with us!

Source: blogs.smithsonianmag.com

March Madness: Star Wars Style!

star-wars-prequelsDon’t worry, that’s not the tagline for (yet) another Gangnam Style parody. It’s actually a concept for a March Madness style betting game involving Star Wars characters. Known as “This Is Madness!”, named after a favorite quote by C3P0, and designed to look like a bracket-style tournament between all of Lucasfilm’s classic characters… and the ones from the prequels too.

The tournament kicked off this past Monday, March 19th, and will continue until a winner is picked. The point of it all? To determine who is the biggest, baddest and most beloved fan favorite Star Wars character of all time! Daily matchups will take place, for which fans will get to vote by simply going to Starwars.com.

Each bracket will be for a different class of character (Jedis, Sith, Bounty Hunters, etc) until a final matchup between the light side and the dark. The winner will be announced on April 9th, and will presumably have bragging rights until Star Wars is no longer relevant… whenever that will be!

And of course, there’s a promotional video with the Dark Lord of the Sith explaining the rules of the tournament and encouraging us to vote Vader! Personally, I don’t much care who wins, so long as it isn’t that annoyingly racist caricature who’s name means container. Get it? That bloody bastard better not win anything, or I’m moving to Argentina!

Ahem, may the best character win…

How “The Empire Strikes Back” Should Have Ended…

In keeping with their usual sarcastic wit and keen observations, the folks at HISHE have released another Star Wars spoof. And as usual, you have to admit, it does present a few inconvenient plot holes, contrived twists and continuity errors that didn’t quite make sense. Especially when one considers the problems arising out of them Star Wars prequels…

Basically, if Anakin didn’t know he had kids in the first place, why didn’t he react more angrily when the Emperor told him? Wouldn’t he have been like, “You don’t me I killed my wife? How did she have kids?” And why did Yoda and Obi-Wan let Luke risk his life to go face Vader? And why didn’t Vader using that little thing known as the Force to keep his son from attempting to fall to his death?

That’s what makes these videos funny. Enjoy!

Star Wars News!

at_at_cloudThat look like an AT-AT to you? The Star Wars geek in me earns to think that this sort of manifestation is some kind of indication that there is good news, vis a vis Star Wars upcoming sequels. But the realist in me thinks it’s just photoshop. Who knows? The important thing is, in the weeks leading up to the end of 2012, there were some rather interesting flashes on the news circuit regarding Disney’s recent acquisition.

For starters, there was one development with regards to all the talk about who would direct the next installment in the Star Wars saga. J.J. Abrams, who was rumored to be a top contender, recently admitted in an interview with Empire Magazine that the rumors were true. It seemed that Disney approached him shortly after the merger took place, but he was quick to turn them down:

“There were the very early conversations and I quickly said that because of my loyalty to Star Trek, and also just being a fan, I wouldn’t even want to be involved in the next version of those things. I declined any involvement very early on. I’d rather be in the audience not knowing what was coming, rather than being involved in the minutiae of making them.”

Makes sense. Star Wars and Star Trek are two distinct franchises, and never are the twain supposed to meet, except at ComicCon and tributes to George Lucas (apparently).

starwarsIn addition, there has been some news as to who is slated to write it. And in this respect, it seems that Michael Arndt, the writer who brought us Little Miss Sunshine, will be taking the helm. Yeah, you might say what do stories about family, dysfunction, and coming together in spite of it all have to do with Star Wars?

Hello, people! Look at Luke and Vader! A father who turned evil and then tried to convert/kill his own son. And let’s not forget Han, Chewy Leia, Lando and the droids. Han and Leia used to hate each other, then they had a weird triangle involving her brother! Ick! But then, in spite of that, they fell in love. Oh, and Han hates C3P0, Lando betrayed Han, and Chewy tried to pull Lando’s head off on more than one occasion. On top of all that, they’ve been arrested numerous times, and Han and Lando clearly have a gambling problem.

Throw in some alcoholism and a visit to the Jerry Springer show, and you’ve got the perfect dysfunctional family! And yet, the family works, and even wins wars! And on a more serious note, Arndt is a great writer, as anyone who has seen Little Miss Sunshine can certainly attest. And great writers are great writers, regardless of the genre. And since it seems he harbors a serious love for Star Wars, I’m sure he can be counted on to bring give A game and inject it with some serious passion.

No word yet on who will be cast in the roles of the main characters, but rumors abound. Mark Hamil was an early signee, but whether or not he will be reprising the role of Luke Skywalker is unclear at this time. There’s no telling how far into the future the sequels will be, and depending on that, Hamil may need to be recast in order to avoid any questions of aging poorly! However, some more creative suggestions were made, particularly by the good folks at Geek Tyrant.

Luke-Skywalker-Hamill-YelchinFor example, it was said that if Hamil wouldn’t be cast as Luke this time around, that the role would be ably filled by Anton Yelchin – the 23 year old who rose to fame playing the young Kyle Reese in Terminator: Salvation and Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams Star Trek.

Captain-MalSuggestions for Han Solo range from Chris Pine – Captain Kirk in (again) Abrams Star Trek – to Garrett Hedlund from Tron: Legacy and Nathan Fillion from Firely, Serenity and Castle. Do I even need to say it? Fillion for the win, people! He’s already played Solo in the form of Mal, the scoundrel Captain and smuggler with a heart of gold. He would be perfect for the role with his characteristic mix of wit, charm, occasionally seriousness, and general badassery.

anne-hathaway_17Mae Whitman and Anne Hathaway have both been suggested for the role of Princess Leia Organa Solo (yes, they eventually get married), who at this point in the story has gone from Rebel agent to a Senator of the New Republic. Personally, I think Hathaway would be the better choice for the role, for she has some experience capturing Leia’s combination of regality and ass-kicker. She’s also had plenty of experience playing the love interest of many a man in Hollywood cinema.

As for the rest, speculation certainly abounds and will continue to abound for some time. Depending again on when the new movies are to take place, relative to the original storyline, there’s any number of spots they need to cast for. Stay tuned, as I plan to be in the know when things begin to break!

Source: Geek Tyrant, IO9, (2),

Star Wars VII, What’s it Going to Be?

The news that Disney has purchased LucasArts for a cool 4 billion has certainly been making the rounds of late! Even more interesting is the release that they will be releasing the sequel trilogy sometime in 2015. This news has once again fueled a great deal of speculation as to what direction the new movies will take. Regardless of who is at the helm, it is generally agreed that there are only so many story arcs that the new movies could take…

The following list comes from AMOG‘s (Alpha Male Of the Group) online magazine, courtesy of Keith Veronese. The list is pretty comprehensive, and covers all the likely candidates for potential sequel and spinoff story lines. And lets face it, with the course of the prequels took, we all would like something new to rehabilitate the series! And with Lucas no longer at the helm, we all might just get what we want!

Immediate Pick-Up:
The first possible story arc for the new trilogy would be to pick up where the last movie left off. As it stood, the Empire was dealt a significant blow, but was far from finished. Granted, the Death Star was destroyed and both the Emperor and Darth Vader were dead, but the majority of the Imperial Fleet was still intact, as was its infrastructure and network of allied planets. As evil and rotten as it was, the Empire still commanded a great deal of loyalty and support within the Core Worlds, and the Rebel Alliance was likely to have its hands full dealing with all of them.

The benefits of this story are pretty clear. It’s a blank canvass in terms of plot, into which a new generation of writers can hurl all kinds of ideas. In addition, it’s a chance to bring back the old gang for another run, albeit with new actors and actresses.

The Thrawn Trilogy:
Written by noted sci-fi author Timothy Zhan, the Thrawn Trilogy are perhaps the most famous novelization in the franchise. Set five years after events in Return of the Jedi, the trilogy centers on the enigmatic character of Grand Admiral Thrawn, the last of the Empire’s senior officers who has assumed control of the Imperial fleet. Intrinsic to these plans are a lost fleet that disappeared prior to the Clone Wars, a secret cache of cloning vats the Emperor established during his reign, and an insane Jedi Master living on a remote world.

Meanwhile, Senator Leia Organa Solo (that’s right, they tied the knot!) is pregnant and expecting twins. While she has become a member of the New Republic government, Han has continued in his role as a fleet General and is using his old contacts in the smuggling world to try and drum up shipping for the new government. His efforts bring him into contact with a group of privateers who will one day go from being self-interested sorts to the same kind of heroes Han had become.

And finally, there are the adventures of Luke, who is drawn to Jedi Master C’boath and seeks to learn from him. However, they quickly become enemies as Luke realizes he is insane and seeks to capture Leia’s twins for his own purposes. He also comes into contact with Mara Jade, a Force-sensitive woman who once served the Emperor. She plans to kill Luke, but circumstances have thrown them to work together and cooperate.

Needless to say, this would be a good story arc for the series, and would be convenient since it’s already been written in full. All the old characters are reprized and fleshed out, and some new, decidedly Star Wars-esque characters are also introduced. And given that much time has passed since the originals, it would be a good opportunity for some new actors to tackle the roles of all our favorites. I’m sure Disney would be willing to spring for some cameos from the original cast as well!

Darth Vader Spinoff:
True, we got more than enough of his origin story with the prequel trilogy, but there’s still plenty of room for Darth Vader to grow! In fact, there is a twenty year gap between the prequels and the original movies, during which time Vader essentially did his best work. This included hunting down the remaining Jedi, rooting out dissent and resistance to the Emperor’s rule, and just generally cementing his reputation as an evil cybernetic menace!

The benefits here are pretty obvious, at least as far as a single movie are concerned. Plenty of lightsaber fights, stalking from planet to planet looking for Jedi, and lots of that creepy respirator and James Earl Jones-esque dialogue. However, it might be difficult to maintain a three-movie story arc from this. But that might not be a problem, given the next option:

Boba Fett Spinoff:
Boba Fett is arguably the most popular member of the supporting cast, and there are plenty who believe that he deserves his own moment in the spotlight. And after the prequels gave him a passing intro, there might be some merit to giving him a more complete origin story. Imagine Boba Fett as a young man, going about the known universe and establishing himself as the most notorious bounty hunter.

Aside from being action-packed and full of plenty of the seedier stuff of Star Wars, this film could be paired with a Vader movie as a potential second installment. And perhaps a third could be opened involving Obi-Wan, focusing on his adventures as he travelled from place to place on Tatooine, hoping to stay off the Empire’s radar while keeping an eye on Luke.

The Sith Wars:
Finally, there is an area of the franchise which has become rather popular of late, and that is the rather fertile period in the Star Wars timeline known as the Sith Wars. What began with the Knights Of The Old Republic series has now evolved into a MMOG with Star Wars: The Old Republic. And even though the reception was not as extreme as LucasArts might have hoped, the stage has certainly been set for a possible second prequel series.

Taking place thousands of years before the events in the first Star Wars trilogy, the Sith Wars chronicles the titanic war which took place between the Old Republic and the Sith Empire. And although there have been several installments in the franchise that carry the name “Sith War”, the expanded universe now claims that the greatest confrontation took place 3681 years before the fall of the Old Republic and lasted until 3653. This war was in turn the result of over 1300 years of preparations and buildup by the Sith, who never forgot the crushing defeat they had suffered at the hands of the Republic during the Great Hyperspace War.

The benefits of this story are also quite obvious. In addition to being a very established story arc, there are plenty of interesting characters, developments and battles in this period which, if properly developed, would result in cinematic gold! What’s more, people do enjoy origins stories which are well told, and after the mixed reviews of the last prequels, a deep-origins story could be just the thing to rehabilitate the franchise. And it’s got all the right elements; Jedi, Sith, lightsaber fights, and a titanic war between good and evil, similar in tone to the war between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire.

What’s more, this story will have no sense of duty to suffer from. Unlike episodes I, II, and III which were burdened by having to explain where all the original characters came from, how Anakin fell to the Dark Side and how the Empire came to be, a Sith War trilogy would be able to tell a story where the details are not entirely pre-written. What’s more, the massive war does not suffer from the ambiguity or the Clone Wars, which seemed like little more than background for the prequels main focus – which was the fall of Anakin Skywalker. This time around, we’d be able to see lots of fighting and not be distracting by a whining Hayden Kristensen complaining about how much his life sucks!

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So what’s it going to be? Personally, my money is on options two and five. Having read the Thrawn Trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed it, I would certainly pay money to see it adapted to the big screen. At the same time, I’m itching to see some of that Sith War swashbuckling and fleet battles! Man, tough choice, and the studio hasn’t even announced what they might be planning yet…

Epic Rap Battles of History

You know what I learned recently? I am ALL about Epic Rap Battles of History! It was months ago when a fellow blogger (Thanks Dave DeMar) put me onto them with their Darth Vader vs. Hitler rap. Admittedly, that one had some humor which could be a little hard to take, especially if you mind such things as thinly veiled references to Hitler’s genocide. However, I’ve found they do just about everyone, from beloved historical figures to pop-culture icons. And there confrontation between the Master Chief and Leonidas was damn near hysterical! Check it out: