George Lucas on Star Wars: Chewbacca and the Ewoks

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: To aid in their final defeat of the Empire, the Rebel Alliance finds unlikely help on Endor in the form of the diminutive, fuzzy, primitive ewoks.

George Lucas Says (Via From Star Wars to Jedi): “In the original screenplay [the ewoks were] a society of wookiees who had this giant ground battle with the Empire at the end of the film. And also a space battle. They were trained to fly ships, and they were able to take over the Empire. Well, in the evolution of the script I realized I couldn’t do this giant battle. When I came to the third film and the battle was back in again … I couldn’t use wookiees, because I’d established Chewbacca as being a relatively sophisticated creature. … He [wasn’t] the primitive that he was in the original screenplay. So I had to develop a new kind of wookiee or a new kind of creature that was primitive … [what I decided to do was] instead of making them incredibly tall the way wookiees are, I’d make them incredibly short. And at the same time to make them look different from the wookiees I’d give them short fur instead of long fur. That’s really where the ewok evolved.”

George Lucas Also Says (Via the Return of the Jedi Commentary Track): “It was a wookiee planet. Since I had fallen in love with the wookiees so much when I made Episode IV, I decided to make [Han Solo’s] co-pilot a wookiee, which meant that he was technologically advanced. And the whole concept originally was that the people that overthrew the Empire were not technological. So I had to reinvent a half-sized wookiee.”

I Say: “Before Jar Jar and the gungans became as despised as they are, we had Wicket and the ewoks in Return of the Jedi. I don’t hate either group the way a lot of fans do. I actually enjoy the ewoks quite a bit. But I do reject the notion that a society of wookiees couldn’t have worked in Jedi. I’m fairly certain that even back then, Chewbacca’s backstory was that of a slave, freed and taken in by Han Solo. Given enough time, you can teach technology to a primitive. Chewie could have been unique among his people, and thus been that much more distinct.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Rob Watches Star Trek – Putting the “Captain” in Captain Kirk

***What happens when I, a 30-something-year-old fanboy, decide to look at the Star Trek franchise for the first time with an open heart? You get “Rob Watches Star Trek.”***

SERIES: Star Trek
EPISODE:
S1.E14, “Balance of Terror”
STARRING: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei
GUEST-STARRING: Mark Lenard, Paul Comi, Lawrence Montaigne
WRITER: Paul Schneider
DIRECTORS: Vincent McEveety
ORIGINAL AIR DATES: December 15, 1966
SYNOPSIS: A century after the Earth-Romulan war, the Romulans threaten to ignite another war by luring the Enterprise into a precious Neutral Zone.

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been waiting on an episode like this. A “heavy is the head that wears the crown” sort of episode about Kirk. I won’t say he’s been under-served in the episodes I’ve seen so far. But for yours truly, this is the episode that puts the “captain” in Captain Kirk.

What it all comes down to is Kirk being responsible for people’s lives. The decisions he makes impact those around him, both on a larger scale and a smaller one.

Obviously, this notion applies to the Enterprise at large. But it’s exemplified more poignantly in our would-be married couple. We open the episode with what’s supposed to be their wedding, and we end the episode with the revelation that the husband-to-be was killed in the fight against the Romulans. These are the things that happen, and these are the things a captain has to live with.

MEANWHILE, IN DECEMBER 1966: On December 15, Walt Disney dies of lung cancer at the age of 65. Flags on all government buildings in Los Angeles County are lowered in his honor.

So I was listening to the commentary track for Revenge of the Sith recently (because of course I was). At one point, the filmmakers started talking about the big space battle at the beginning, and how they wanted to show us how big ships like Star Destroyers get into fights. It’s more or less a pirate ship like scenario, where they just get up next to one another and start shooting.

It seems like space battles in the Star Trek universe are similar. Very 17th century in nature. The fight between the Enterprise and the Romulans is very slow by modern standards. That’s a shame. Not to say one style is better than another by nature, but fans who were raised on the fast-paced action of Star Wars would inevitably be turned off by something like this.

It seems like it wouldn’t be a Star Trek episode without Spock being disrespected. Apparently Romulans are genetically related to the Vulcans. So naturally, we have a racist asshole on board who says some crap to Spock.

It feels weird to be talking about racism in this forum, given everything we’re seeing on TV right now. George Floyd, etc. But suffice to say, Spock saves this guy’s ass during the episode. Just like he’s saved the whole damn ship time and again. And yet the poor bastard can’t get an ounce of respect from some people…

Even in the ’60s, human beings were not smart. Some things never change.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

George Lucas on Star Wars: Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn

***Think what you will about George Lucas, but in terms of Star Wars, it can all be traced back to him. That’s why I always find it so interesting to listen to him talk about it. His creative process, the reason certain decisions were made, and how these movies became pop cultural staples. This space is dedicated to just that. This is “George Lucas on Star Wars.”***

By Rob Siebert
Wisconsin Raider

The Scene: As Anakin Skywalker slaughters Tusken Raiders over the death of his mother, a meditating Yoda feels his pain and suffering. He also briefly hears Qui-Gon Jinn calling to the young padawan.

George Lucas Says (Via the Attack of the Clones Commentary Track): “… we cut to Yoda, who is meditating, who hears this off-screen, and we do hear a voice in there. That voice is the voice of Qui-Gon Jinn. So we very subtly establish … Yoda is feeling the pain and suffering of Anakin and the Tusken Raiders, [and] he’s also making a connection, unwittingly with Qui-Gon Jinn. Up to this point we haven’t really established that you can make a connection with the departed in this world. That will become a factor in [Episode III].”

I Say: If by factor he means “afterthought,” then  yes, it became a factor in Episode III.

This has always been one of the more frustrating aspects of Revenge of the Sith for me, as it would have done so much to justify Qui-Gon’s entire presence in The Phantom Menace. Plus, they just would have been cool scenes.

The novelizations of Episode II and III both touched on Yoda communicating with Qui-Gon. The latter even had a brief dialogue between the two. But somehow they didn’t make it into the films. So the whole “training I have for you” thing at the end of Sith seemed comically tacked on.

Even The Rise of Skywalker got this one right, with Rey hearing the voices of all the Jedi at the end. It’s not like it was an entirely separate plot thread or anything. It would have taken maybe five to 10 seconds in Clones, and maybe a minute in Sith. All you need is a few lines of audio from Liam Neeson.

All to establish that Yoda has not gone bonkers when he tells Obi-Wan to talk to his dead master.

Email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com, or check us out on Twitter.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: 10 Lingering Questions

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I might have been the last die-hard Star Wars geek to see The Rise of Skywalker. Such things are the case when you’ve got a six-month-old. You can’t very well bring an infant with you to a movie with this many pew-pews and explosions. Although you just know that somebody, somewhere, totally did.

At this juncture, a traditional review is essentially pointless. So I thought I’d try something a little different, and just ask some questions. Some you’ve probably heard by now. But certain others, perhaps not…

In case it needs to be said at this point, ***SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!***

1. Why so much?
The most common complaint I’ve heard about The Rise of Skywalker is how overstuffed it is. It seemed like J.J. Abrams and his co-writer Chris Terrio were trying to make up for lost time, i.e. The Last Jedi. They had to straighten everything out with Palpatine, Snoke, Kylo Ren, the Sith, etc. We had to send our heroes on a bunch of different quests, then deal with Rey’s parentage, have Leia die, and then have the biggest space battle ever you guyz.

As such, the pacing is way too fast. We barely have time to digest anything. You can call that a non-stop, rip roarin’ action adventure if you like. But those quieter character moments are every bit as important, if not more. Rey and Kylo had their share. C-3PO did too. But we didn’t have time for anyone else.

My question is, why overstuff it so much? For instance, going to the planets Kijmi and Pasana. For me, the most interesting planet in this movie was Kijmi, where we met Kerri Russell’s character. Why not just have Rey and the others take the Falcon straight there, find out where the Sith McGuffin thing is, and skip Pasana all together? Did we really need yet another desert planet in the Star Wars universe? They could have found Lando, done the TIE Fighter stunt, and faked Chewie’s death just as easily on Kijmi, and it would have saved us some time.

2. Has Disney learned its lesson about planning this stuff out in advance?
It’s amazing to me that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its dozens of movies featuring different characters and settings, exists under the same umbrella as this new Star Wars trilogy, which couldn’t stay consistent through three consecutive films.

We learned from The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson that by the time he signed on, the Disney/Lucasfilm brain trust hadn’t figured anything out beyond The Force Awakens. To this day, that’s staggering to me. They had access to Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Not to mention George Lucas himself. And yet they couldn’t be bothered to at least come up with some basic bullet points? If you need to change course at some point, then do so. But at least draw a friggin’ map before you start the trip…

3. Was Chewie really that upset over the whole medal thing? Both The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker go out of their way to “fix” something with Chewbacca.

In The Force Awakens, fans called foul when, upon their return from Starkiller Base, Rey got a hug from Leia, while Chewie seemingly walked by unnoticed. Remember, Han Solo, Leia’s former husband and Chewie’s BFF, had just been killed. By his own son no less. So in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson had Leia exclaim, “Chewie!” and then give him a big hug. A cute little wink. Harmless.

Since the original film, it’s been a running joke that while Luke and Han got medals for destroying the Death Star, Chewie was left empty-handed. Kind of funny, but again, harmless.

And yet in this movie, after the battle is won, Maz Kanata gives our fuzzy friend one of those Death Star medals. (Presumably Han’s?) I get the gesture. But in a movie that’s already so long…why? After more than three decades, was Chewie still sore that he didn’t get a trinket? It’s not like they made him sit in the audience. He was standing up there with them! He ain’t easy to miss, either.

Also, where does Maz Kanata get her original trilogy collectibles? We never did find out how she got her hands on Luke’s lightsaber…

4. Is there a “cutesy character quota” in every Star Wars project now?
Everybody seemed to like Babu Frik, the little puppet who worked on C-3PO. With a fanbase as divisive as this one can be, something universally praised is a pretty big deal.

Between Babu Frik and Baby Yoda in The Mandalorian, I’m starting to wonder if there’s going to be a “cutesy character quota” every Star Wars project has to meet from here on out.

“Well Mr. Feige, I like what you’ve turned in here. But let me ask you this: How would you feel about adding a baby Ewok?”

5. What’s the deal with Palpatine’s body?
I don’t have an issue with them bringing Palpatine back. They shouldn’t have needed to, but that’s another story. If the Jedi can come back as “Force Ghosts,” then there’s no reason Palpatine couldn’t have used some kind of Sith alchemy to preserve himself after death. It fits with all that talk about cheating death in Revenge of the Sith.

And yes, there is a comic book that uses a similar concept with Palpatine transferring his consciousness into different bodies. Dark Empire, circa 1992. There’s even a similar line that we hear in The Rise of Skywalker about how, “It was not the first time I died…Nor will it be the last.” (Shown above.)

However, the movie doesn’t get into specifics about what exactly is going on with Palpatine. Is it a cloning thing? Is that somehow his original body? I’m hoping the novelization clears up the specifics of what exactly it is.

6. Really? Palpatine’s entire throne room survived the second Death Star explosion?
Because this movie, like the prequels, relies way too heavily on original trilogy nostalgia, Rey and Kylo Ren wind up fighting inside the remains of the second Death Star, which crashed on Endor. Including the Emperor’s throne room.

Point blank: This was stupid. Not just that we had to go back to Endor, but that so much of the second Death Star survived at all, much less the Emperor’s damn chair. We were going to see Palpatine later on anyway. There was no reason to have it in there other than a lazy play at nostalgia. Ditto for when Wicket made that cameo for no real reason.

To quote Luke, “That was a cheap move.”

7. Couldn’t R2-D2 have gotten in on the fun? Artoo has never been a main character. But he always had a prominent supporting role in both the original and prequel trilogies. George Lucas had a soft spot for him. He could be an unlikely hero, while also providing some comic relief.

But in this sequel trilogy, Artoo really only serves one purpose: Plot convenience. In The Force Awakens, he completes the map to Luke. In The Last Jedi, he convinces Luke to talk to Rey about the Jedi. In The Rise of Skywalker, he’s there to restore Threepio’s memories. Yes, he flies in Poe’s X-Wing during the end battle. But that’s supposed to be BB-8’s job, isn’t it? What’s more, it really should have been Artoo at the Lars Homestead with Rey. Assuming she’s setting up her own little Jedi Academy there, he’d be a great source of information, having spent all those years with Anakin and Luke. Instead, she brings BB-8.

It is indeed BB-8 we have to thank for Artoo sitting on the sidelines like this. I like the little guy and all, but he essentially took Artoo’s job as the resident hero droid. With BB-8 around, Artoo had nothing to do. That’s a damn shame. As one of the more iconic Star Wars characters, he deserved better.

8. What was with all the dead Jedi voices Rey heard?
Yes, the prequels turned out pretty rough. Even so, hearing the voices of Liam Neeson (Qui-Gon Jinn), Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu), and yes, even Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) during Rey’s big crowning moment was awesome. Like much of the film, it was hard to digest it all. But apparently, in addition to Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, we also heard TV characters like Ahsoka Tano and Kanan Jarrus.

But while I loved it, I have to ask…how?

In the prequels, the first one to learn how to retain your consciousness in the Force, i.e. become a Force Ghost, was Qui-Gon. In the years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, a spectral Qui-Gon taught both Yoda and Obi-Wan how to do it. I think it’s fair to assume Luke learned how to do it at some point after the fall of the Empire. But what’s the story with everybody else? Presumably, none of those other characters had the chance to learn that ability.

And as long as we’re on the subject, how did Anakin appear as a Force Ghost in Return of the Jedi? It was less than a day after he died!

The only explanation I can come up with is that Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and the others are somehow able to reach out to whatever spectral trace remains of their fallen comrades, and allow them to briefly speak. Or in certain special cases, even grant them the ability in the moments after their death, i.e. Anakin in Jedi. Given this is the Star Wars Universe we’re talking about, it’s about as plausible as anything else…

Would this whole trilogy have been better if Poe had died in the The Force Awakens?
According to a documentary among the special features on The Force Awakens Blu-ray, the Poe Dameron character was originally supposed to be killed off. I can only assume it would have been in the TIE Fighter crash on Jakku. But Oscar Isaac had been killed off early in some other movies, and didn’t want to do that again. The filmmakers obliged.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the only reason Poe made it through the movie is because Oscar Isaac would have declined the role otherwise? Um…what? He’s a great actor, but did Star Wars really need Oscar Issac that badly? If he wasn’t up for the role, I’ve got a hunch there might have been other actors willing to step in. I mean, y’know, maybe a few?

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What could The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker have been like if they hadn’t had to balance Poe’s plotlines along with everyone else’s? Imagine how much more time they could have devoted to Finn’s development. We could have skipped all that Canto Bight stuff, and maybe had Finn be the one in conflict with Holdo. They might not have felt the need to cram so much stuff in. We could have gotten a little more breathing room…

10. What happens now?
The interesting thing about The Rise of Skywalker compared to both Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith, is that despite being the final chapter of the trilogy, there’s so much more meat on the bone from a storytelling perspective.

Just off the top of my head…

– Rey attempting to succeed where Luke failed, starting her own low key Jedi Academy based out of the Lars Homestead on Tatooine. She’s now in a position to redefine what it means to be a Jedi. There’s probably two or three movies worth of content there alone. Especially if Finn is Force sensitive, as the film seemed to suggest. Maybe weave in a potential romance between the two? That obviously contrasts with the old Jedi ways.

– Assuming the 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams is willing and able to do it, a follow-up on the question of Jannah’s lineage, and whether Lando is her father. Bring Threepio and Artoo along. Why the hell not?

– What happens with the government now? Is the New Republic gone? Do they have to start from scratch? If so, how? Almost everybody died when Starkiller Base blew up the Hosnian system. Maybe look at it from Poe’s perspective? As one of the de-facto leaders of the Resistance, he’d undoubtedly get looped into things. Finn too.

– After Order 66, Darth Vader, the Inquisitors, and the Empire at large hunted and killed the surviving Jedi. The Resistance can do the same thing here with surviving Palpatine loyalists and First Order figureheads. Is the First Order even completely gone?

Granted, much of this depends on whether they can get the actors back. Neither Daisy Ridley or John Boyega seem anxious to come back. I can’t imagine Oscar Isaac is, either.

In the end, I think the reason there’s so much uncharted territory here is because, sadly, there’ve been so many missed storytelling opportunities with these new movies. I didn’t necessarily dislike The Rise of Skywalker. I didn’t totally hate The Last Jedi either.

But by the Force, imagine what those movies could have been…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

“The Skywalker Saga”: Can We Please Shut Up About It?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I was one of the millions that saw the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife yesterday. For the uninitiated, this one is different from the 2016 film, in that it’s actually a sequel to the first two movies. The ones with Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, etc. The trailer hits you right in the feels. Especially you’ve got a special place in your heart for this story and these characters.

Another story with a special place in my heart? Star Wars. I’m doing my best to go into The Rise of Skywalker with my expectations tempered. But it’s tough, as they’re trying to pull you into the theater by your heartstrings. The footage of Carrie Fisher. Mark Hamill’s voiceover. Rey and Kylo Ren facing off one last time. C-3PO taking “one last look at my friends.” And the proclamation that, once and for all, “The saga will end”…

Pffft. Yeah, okay.

The movie itself actually looks pretty good. Given J.J. Abrams’ involvement, I think we all have reason to be hopeful. But all this “end of the Skywalker Saga” stuff grates on me.

They don’t mean the end of Star Wars, of course. They mean the end of this nine-part story that’s mainly about the Skywalker family. The tragedy of Darth Vader. Luke and Leia’s rebellion against the Empire. And finally, Leia and Han’s son Ben, and his role in the rise of the First Order. Supposedly, we’ve got other Star Wars movies coming down the pipeline. What they’re about is anybody’s guess.

But let me tell you a little something about this “Skywalker Saga,” a term they’ve only just started using in the promotion of this film.

It’s only the end until the next beginning.

See, the Skywalker Saga has actually already ended. Twice. The first time was way back in 1983, in a little movie called Return of the Jedi. Anakin Skywalker was redeemed by his son Luke, and ultimately died in the process. Also, the Rebel Alliance blew up yet another Death Star, leading to the fall of the Empire. Sure feels like an ending to me. Pretty cut and dry.

Only then, they decided to make the prequels. And in 2005, Revenge of the Sith closed the loop between Episode I and Episode XI. We now had six movies chronicling the rise and fall of Darth Vader. Honest to God, if I had a nickel for every ad I saw that said, “The circle is now complete.” But in any event, George Lucas’ magnum opus in space was finally finished!

Until he sold it to Disney in 2012, and they said, “But wait! There’s more!” Three movies later, and we’re at another ending.

Look, I love Star Wars, warts and all. So I’ve got no issue calling this “Skywalker Saga” out for what it is: A sleazy marketing gimmick.

Some die-hards will tell you about George Lucas giving Time a quote about there being plans for nine Star Wars movies. Three trilogies, Luke and the gang coming back in the third one, etc. He said that in 1978, two decades before he decided Star Wars was a six-film saga, and the prequels would be the last Star Wars movies. In a 2005 interview with 60 minutes, he said point blank, “There is no Episode VII.”

Until there was. As the story goes, Lucas was working on another three Star Wars movies before he opted to sell to Disney.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy the sequel trilogy was made, and I’m grateful Star Wars can continue on in the hands of other filmmakers. (Specifically ones that can write actual human dialogue.) But let’s not kid ourselves, folks. Call him brilliant, call him a visionary, call him a genius, call him whatever you want. But George Lucas was making it up as he went along. Just like Disney is making it up as they go along. That’s not even a bad thing, per se. I believe George had vague ideas about what might happen in a sequel trilogy. But there was no grand plan. No nine-film blueprint.

Which means, if these “non-Skywalker” films don’t work out, Disney can once again say, “But wait! There’s more!” Kylo Ren banged some chick on a Star Destroyer, and has a kid he never knew about! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Damian Skywalker! (Or would it be Damian Solo?) Learn all about him in Episodes X, XI, and XII!

Hey Disney? We love ya. But most of us have been through this before. We understand Star Wars movies come three to a pack. You don’t have to beat us over the head with this Skywalker Saga stuff. You’re being pretty presumptuous about the whole thing. Star Wars doesn’t need to be chained to this one messed up family that chops each other’s limbs off. But if somebody has a good idea for a next-gen “Skywalker” story down the line, why not go for it? Why write yourself into a corner?

Back on the subject of magazine interviews, Esquire recently asked Billy Dee Williams about the possibility of playing Lando Calrissian again someday. Williams replied…

[The Rise of Skywalker] is a conclusion —certainly it depends on how much money is generated. That’s when they determine where’s the conclusion. … The one thing about show business, you can resurrect anything.”

You can resurrect anything. Even a war against a space dictatorship that spans entire galaxies, and has a bunch of people in robes hitting each other with laser swords.

Smart man, that Billy Dee.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Astonishing Art: Star Wars by Eric Tan

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m a sucker for a good Star Wars poster. So when I came across this set from Disney artist/designer Eric Tan, I fell head-over-heels very quickly. For a time, the posters based on the original trilogy were actually sold at the Disney store for hundreds of dollars. While that places them firmly outside of my price range, from a quality perspective I understand it. These things are friggin’ gorgeous…

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

A Darth Vader, Vol. 1: Imperial Machine Review – Year One, Day One

TITLE: Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine
AUTHOR: 
Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Giuseppe Camuncoli. Cover by Jim Cheung and Matthew Wilson.
COLLECTS: Darth Vader #16
FORMAT: Softcover
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $17.99
RELEASED: 
November 22, 2017

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Can we talk about the lightsaber for a minute? Because to be honest, I’m getting sick of them. Specifically, their overblown importance.

I’ve talked previously about how I subscribe to what I’ll call the Red Letter Media theory on lightsaber use. Generally, the less we see of them, the more impactful it is when someone finally ignites one. This becomes apparent when watching the prequel trilogy. But in recent years, lightsabers have been getting a strange in-universe reverence. Not just as cool or dangerous weapons, but artifacts with an increasing amount of personal and spiritual symbolism. They’re almost characters unto themselves. I understand this from a marketing standpoint, as a lightsaber is a fanboy’s wet dream. But to me it makes little sense from an in-story perspective.

Mind you, there is a certain precedent for it. Lightsabers act as an instantly recognizable symbol for the Jedi Order. Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, which later plays a prominent role in The Force Awakens. Luke builds his own lightsaber, which we see in Return of the Jedi. General Grievous collected lightsabers like trophies from fallen Jedi. So let’s not go so far as to say they have no significance at all.

But while I appreciated the use of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens as a link to the past, and a sort of symbol of for the Skywalker family, the notion that the weapon itself “calls to” Rey was a little much for me. What the weapon symbolizes is one thing. Giving it special powers is another.

Rarely will you find a better example of this strange lightsaber reverence than in Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 1 – Imperial Machine. Immediately after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine sends Vader on a mission to obtain a new lightsaber for himself. “I have very high hopes for what we might achieve together,” the Emperor says. “But first…you will need your lightsaber.” Vader must take a lightsaber from a surviving Jedi and use the dark side to corrupt the kyber crystal inside. Make it “bleed.” Obtaining this new weapon won’t be easy. But it is the first trial the former Anakin Skywalker must now face as a dark lord of the Sith.

So because the kyber crystals are “alive” in their own way, Sith lords use their anger to make them “bleed,” thus the red lightsaber. The idea itself is actually pretty neat. But did it merit an entire story based around it? Did Darth Vader’s lightsaber really need an origin story?  I don’t think so.

This strikes me as the kind of thing they could have explained in a scene before Vader goes off on his first big mission. Or maybe a one-shot where Palpatine gives Vader a kyber crystal, and shows him how to corrupt it. At first Vader has trouble, but he conjures up images of Obi-Wan and Padme and gets the job done. It didn’t need to be the motivation for an entire story arc.

More interesting than Vader’s quest to steal a lightsaber is the surviving Jedi he’s tasked with taking it from. Kirak Infil’a has taken the “Barash Vow.” Under said vow, the individual in question must cut themselves off from Jedi affairs, living only for the Force. It sounds suspiciously like what Luke is doing when Rey finds him on Ahch-To. Kirak also has his hair pulled back in two braids, just as Rey’s is in the Last Jedi footage we’ve seen. Coincidence? Probably. But you never know…

It’s almost always interesting to see Vader’s agony at the loss of Padme, the state of his body, and all that’s come as a result of his actions. It’s a glimpse into the hellish reality his existence has become. We see surprisingly little of that in Imperial Machine, given how soon this is after Revenge of the Sith. It is touched on effectively, however, in issue #5. As Vader is trying to bend the crystal to his will, a scenario plays out in his mind in which he turns on Palpatine and re-unites with Obi-Wan. He’s fantasizing about making things right, and perhaps atoning for his actions. In theory, that’s a path he can take. But of course, he doesn’t. Not yet, at least.

I spent a good amount of time ragging on Salvador Larroca for some of the work he did on the previous Darth Vader book. Namely drawing certain characters based off still shots from the various movies. The upside to this approach, however, is that Larroca draws a picture-perfect Vader. For me, if you can get that mask right then half the battle is won.

Giuseppe Camuncoli gives us a different kind of Darth Vader. It’s hardly picture-perfect. For instance, I’m not a fan of the panel at left. But I nevertheless find Camuncoli’s version more artistically pure. He’s creating of his own mind, and at no point do I feel taken out of this book when I see a familiar image of Vader or Palpatine, pulled from a movie still. That’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Camuncoli, along with inker Cam Smith and colorist David Curiel, waste little time in ripping up Vader’s iconic suit. It’s already in tatters by issue #2. Things only get worse when we get into the fight with Kirak Infil’a. We end up with a partially skeletonized version of Vader’s suit, which he pieces together using droid parts after being incapacitated and effectively broken in combat. In the opening pages of issue #4 we see him using the Force to put all the little pieces into place so he can haul himself to his feet. It’s an awesome visual, and a fun callback to Anakin’s expertise with machines. It’s later followed up on in issue #6, when Vader gets to repair the suit to his liking.

Issue #6 takes us into the next arc, which will feature the Inquisitors we saw in Star Wars: Rebels. We get a confrontation between Vader and the Grand Inquisitor in the Jedi Temple, which is pretty decent. Fittingly, Vader’s next target will be someone Star Wars fans recognize as a face from the Jedi Temple…

I maintain there was no need to end the previous Darth Vader book. We all knew Marvel would come back to the character eventually. There’s no shortage of creators to work on the life and times of the dark lord. While I have a major gripe with a lightsaber being Vader’s motivation in this story, Imperial Machine is still a solid read with mostly good art. Star Wars fans who aren’t as finicky as I am will enjoy it.

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A Review of Darth Vader #24 – The End is Near

TITLE: Star Wars: Darth Vader #24Darth Vader #24, 2016, cover, Salvador Larroca
AUTHOR: 
Kieron Gillen
PENCILLER: Salvador Larroca
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 10, 2016

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The penultimate issue of Star Wars: Darth Vader invites Salvador Larroca to do something he does too much of for my taste: Draw stills from the movies. But in his defense, if there was ever an issue to do that, it’s this one.

The cybernetics in Darth Vader’s suit have been shut down by Cylo-V. His respirator having (presumably) been deactivated, Vader’s life flashes before him. His mind takes him back to Mustafar, and questions arise. What if Obi-Wan had killed him? What would Anakin Skywalker think of Darth Vader? What if he were to simply surrender and die…?

I’m a sucker for issues where Vader reminisces and agonizes about the events of the prequels. So I couldn’t help but be sucked in when Vader imagined an alternate Revenge of the Sith where Obi-Wan throws the amputee Anakin into the lava, and the man in the black suit emerges. From there, we go into pure fan service as we get an Anakin vs. Vader lightsaber fight. Larrocca gives us a striking near-full page shot of Anakin, and while brief, the fight is a thrill. Particularly poignant is the moment where Skywalker yells “I hate you!” at his future self. Less poignant, however, is the moment where Vader says he’s well-versed in killing children.

Darth Vader #24, 2016, PadmeWe then go into many a Star Wars fan’s worst nightmare: A Padme scene. Kieron Gillen keeps this one pretty simple, though. Anakin’s dead wife represents the temptation of surrender. A temptation I’d have thought would be greater. That relationship longed for depth and substance. But boy did Anakin love Padme. If the implication here is that they can be together in death, you’d think he’d just give in.

But Vader’s choice here is powerful, and telling as to just how far into the darkness he’s gone. Instead of going with his wife, Vader summons his anger and hatred to will himself into a comeback. To their credit, Gillen, Larroca, and the Darth Vader team made me believe Anakin Skywalker was dead.

HIs rendering of movie stills notwithstanding, Larroca does deliver some great imagery with Vader. Early the issue, as the dark lord is motionless and vulnerable, we get a shot of Cylo with his hand on Vader’s helmet. Someone being able to lay a hand on him like that is…unsettling. It’s certainly not something we’re used to seeing. Also, In the Mustafar sequence we see Darth Vader emerge from the lava like a black phoenix. Lightsaber in hand, of course.

This story also sets the stage for a confrontation in our final issue between Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra, which is what the ending should be. I maintain this series doesn’t have to end. For obvious reasons, a Darth Vader book will always have an audience. But 25 issues is a good run, and it’ll be good to see Gillen and Larroca finish what they started.

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Force Friday, and Confessions From A Recovered Star Wars Addict

B-88 , remote control toyBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Naturally, the geek community is buzzing today about “Force Friday,” as the first crop of Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys debut in stores. If you’re real quiet, you might even be able to hear the sounds of plastic lightsabers banging together…

But I will not be participating in the retail festivities.

I love Star Wars. I’ll always love Star Wars. It’s hard not to love Star Wars. I spend a decent amount of time writing about Star Wars. And I love Star Wars fans. It’s an immensely creative fandom, filled with people from all walks of life. No matter how old you are, that universe is a still fun place to be. But Star Wars and I have a weird relationship. When I was a tween and a teen, it was pretty much all I could talk about. Nowadays, it’s sometimes rather difficult for me to talk about.

I’ve been a Star Wars geek most of my life. In fact, you might even call me a recovered addict. When I was a kid, it was all Star Wars, all the time. Posters, books, school supplies, etc. I even had all those Pepsi cans with the Phantom Menace characters on them. And of course, the toys. Hundreds and hundreds of mom and dad’s dollars spent on action figures from all the movies. Even that first Princess Leia figure from original Power of the Force line. Remember that one? Totally looked like a dude. Power of the Force Leia was Caitlyn Jenner two decades before Bruce Jenner was…

Padme Amidala, pregnant action figureAs I got older, I stopped spending mom and dad’s money and started spending my own. I even attended a midnight madness sale myself. It was a little more than a decade ago, when the first Revenge of the Sith action figures came out.

Picture this: You’re 20 years old, standing outside a Wal-Mart with dozens of other Star Wars die hards, being told that once you enter the store at these special late hours, you may only shop in the toys section. Once you enter the store, the group starts off at a brisk pace, then speeds up into a full on run as amused store clerks look on. And once we hit the displays, we got grabby. Really grabby.

I’m pretty sure I still have most of those toys. In retrospect, the most notable one was a pregnant Padme Amidala. That might have been the world’s first pregnant action figure.

But as I got into my late twenties, the collecting, and my undying love for Star Wars started to wane. I attribute that to a lot of things. I grew up, of course, and money had to go elsewhere. But I also became more cynical about the franchise, largely thanks to my exposure to Red Letter Media’s reviews of the prequels. Like a lot of fans, I’d somehow convinced myself that the prequels were good movies. I had a terrible case of what I’ve come to refer to as “prequel denial.” But if you’re any kind of open-minded person, and you watch those reviews, it’s pretty tough to argue with what Mike Stoklasa (as Mr. Plinkett) lays out. Once that illusion was broken, I started to look at Star Wars as something entirely new: A business. And business was, and still is, booming. Gradually, I got so turned off by it that I swore off buying Star Wars merchandise of any kind.

I became one of those people who was really bitter about George Lucas, and how he wasn’t the person we all thought he was. Even after he sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney and donated most of the $4 billion to education, I couldn’t help but see him as a cold, calculating businessman whose artistic soul had been corroded. I wrote a scathing column about him on the old Primary Ignition, which resulted in me being taken to task in the comments section. And rightfully so. Ironically, the pendulum had swung to the opposite end of the spectrum. I’d gone from being overly devoted to Star Wars, to being overly critical.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Han Solo, ChewbaccaStar Wars was such a huge part of my childhood. It gave me an entire universe to escape to when my own universe got a little too dark. It held such a revered spot in my heart for so long that when I finally saw it for what it truly was, blemishes and all, there was a certain pain that came with it. I nearly rejected something I’d loved for so long. It’s almost like growing up and getting to know your parents as real people, and then being uncomfortable with the fact that they’ve got flaws just like anybody else.

This brings me to The Force Awakens. This is the first Star Wars movie I’m coming into without rose-colored glasses on. As such, it’s awkward for me to talk or speculate about it with anyone. I’m so passionate about it, but at the same time I’m keeping my distance. I’m not ranting or raving about anything I’ve seen, even when it comes the classic characters. I’m letting the movie speak for itself. Ergo, I’m not buying anything from The Force Awakens until I know if it’s worth investing my hard earned money in. They’re getting a movie ticket from me. But for now, that’s it. And if that’s all I give them, somehow I think Star Wars will survive.

Still, I will always have a special place in my heart for that galaxy far, far away. That’s why, about six months ago, I bought myself a Luke Skywalker action figure from “The Black Series.” I’ve since added Han Solo, Yoda, and even Obi-Wan Kenobi circa Episode III (Ewan McGregor was the best part of those damn prequels.).

What can I say? While it’s not quite the same as it used to be, The Force is still with me.

Image 1 from gizmodo.com. Image 2 from weddingbee.com. Image 3 from geeksmash.com.

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