An Update AND Free Books!

In case you missed it, my interview with STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS author ALAN DEAN FOSTER went live yesterday. Catch it HERE.

I have a number of free titles available this weekend. Have a browse through my catalog and see if any of them take your fancy. Find them at my Author Page.

Some of you are asking about Black Nova, still. It is coming. So is the sequel to Operation Chimera. So is the sequel to The Bloody North. So is the . . . you get my point. I am one man. I’m fast, but I ain’t THAT fast! Hahaha.

However, I’m doing my best. My latest novel, IN HER SKIN, is being read. I’m really pleased with it. No idea yet on what I’m doing with that one, so stay tuned.

Next up I am writing the first 6 parts of a new series, something a little different to Far From Home. It’s called COLONIAL WARS. I will have those 6 written by the end of August, and they will be out every couple of weeks over the summer. Here’s the cover to the first one:

Colonial Wars 1

To repeat, it is not connected to Far From Home in any way. Why am I writing these and not Black Nova? Because the story came alive for me, and I’ve learned that when that happens you have to go with the flow. I promise my readers will enjoy it. It’s a fresh spin on something I’ve been doing a little while. I wanted to tell the story of a war that was humanity v humanity, instead humans v aliens. I also wanted to follow several different characters, and have different plots intersecting with one another. That’s been really fun, and liberating. I do believe that the maximum I feel comfortable with (as a reader) is 3, so that’s what I’ve stuck with.

All 6 of these will be available on the Kindle for 99c, and will be FREE to Kindle to Amazon Prime users. At the end of the summer I will bring them all out in one package, so you have the choice of reading it as it develops, or waiting for the whole shebang.

I have projects tumbling from my ears right now, but I do intend on tackling my half of Operation Chimera 2 (that’s a working title, btw), and then writing the other 4 parts of Black Nova. As always, take care. I hope to do another update at the end of July, so you know where I am with Colonial Wars.

Trust me, you’re gonna like it.

********************************************************

Tony Healey’s Author Page

The Broken Stars Book 1 Cover Blank

My interview with STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS author ALAN DEAN FOSTER

This is not the first time that I’ve interviewed Mr. Foster. Click HERE to read one, and HERE to read the other. In those older interviews, Alan touches on not only his work in the Star Wars universe, but Star Trek too. We also discuss his experiences with the legendary Harlan Ellison.

Please be sure to Pre-Order your Kindle copy of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS by clicking HERE.

Well Alan, it’s been awhile since we last spoke. I understand you have a new Flinx & Pip novel called BY THE THROAT which will be released the year after next. How did that come about? Were there always plans to revisit such great characters?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: I wasn’t sure if I was going to let Flinx (and Pip) retire or not.  One problem was: what do you have your characters do after they’ve saved the galaxy?  Fans kept asking for more, and I didn’t quite know what to give them.  Then something occurred to me in re Flinx’s particular, peculiar abilities, and that combined with a method of communication that I love, and together they became the impetus for the new book.

 

For readers who maybe haven’t had a chance to read the Flinx & Pip books, what’s your suggested reading order?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: There is a chronology of the P&F books on my website http://www.alandeanfoster.com The same chronology is also viewable within a chronology of all the Commonwealth books, so readers can see where the F&P books fit, time-wise, in relation to all the other Commonwealth novels and short stories.

 

I saw on your site they are all due to be released in ebook editions. Looking on Amazon, I noticed that some are available as ebooks and some aren’t. I assume this big re-release will finally see the entire series readily available as ebooks in its entirety?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Yes.  That’s a major reason for the delay in publishing.  The intent is to release all the F&P books as ebooks over the course of one year, probably with several titles packaged together in a very affordable, uniform price, and to conclude the re-releasing with the new book.

 

I make sure to check your site the first of every month and have done for about twelve/thirteen years now. One of the things that always amazes me is how much you get about. You wrote an account of some of your travels, PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN. Where have you got to recently?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Due to progressive health issues, my wife can get out of the house only rarely.  I am her caregiver, so I haven’t been anywhere in a couple of years.  The last trip was to Dubai and Oman in 2013.

 

If you had access to unlimited funds, the means to go anywhere in the world, is there anywhere you’d like to visit that you might never get a chance to? I’m thinking locations that fall within the “I wish I could . . .” category.

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Not anymore.  If you have the time, funds, and inclination, you can get anywhere on the surface of the planet, or under its waters.  Time and good health are more important than the funds.  If you’re not physically fit, spending a couple of weeks in a tent in the Amazon, for example, probably would not be a viable travel option.

 

Will you ever write another account of your travels? I’m sure your readers would love to learn more about your experiences across the globe. I would, at least. I’m sure you’ve found yourself in one or two amusing/alarming situations over the years . . .

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: A fan who read PREDATORS I HAVE KNOWN said, “Now you need to do the bunny edition”.  Meaning encounters with non-predators.  Or just a general travel book.  But there are so many of the latter, it’s hard to get inspired to do still another one.  On the other hand, there are tales of such things as eating barbecued cui in Peru, searching for birds-of-paradise in Papua New Guinea, getting ants out of a five-star hotel in Borneo, doing 140mph on the autobahn in a Ford station wagon, discussing Stalinist architecture in Russia…I suppose there is enough material.  It’s all a matter of organizing what are basically anecdotes into a book, and finding a publisher.

 

Do you manage to write much when you travel? Or do you treat it as much deserved downtime?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: A lot of it is being a sponge.  Soaking up material for future projects.  This includes everything from observing people to just noting your surroundings.  For example, I once wrote an entire travel article on the wrought iron work visible in St. Petersburg (Russia).  Not in any guidebooks.

 

There are several of your projects I’ve been following with great interest. One of those is MADRENGA. Will that be coming out in the near future?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: MADRENGA is still in search of a publisher.  But there are five other novels coming out.

 

I know you self-published your novella, BOX OF OXEN. Would you consider self-pubbing again?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER:  Sure.  It’s a great way to get out material (like BOX OF OXEN) that you as an author feel very strongly about, but that doesn’t fit comfortably into publishers’ niches.  Especially for material of an awkward length, like a short novella.

 

I’m excited to see another foray into original scifi with RELIQUARY, due in 2018. Can you tell us much about the novel, and what readers can expect?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER:  It’s about the (presumably) last human being in the galaxy, who has been raised by aliens.  More than that I’d rather not give away.

 

Open Road are publishing THE DEAVYS later this year – is it a departure from your other work, writing for a YA audience? Was that a conscious decision on your part, or did it just develop as YA fiction?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: It wasn’t a conscious decision.  The main characters just happened to be teens (and a cat).  Not like Flinx, who was always conceived as a teen.

 

The other project I am extremely pleased is going to make an appearance is OSHENERTH. Am I correct in saying it is a trilogy, with one of the volumes called Blue Magic? Or has that changed in the interim following your initial announcement?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: In the interim between writing and finding a publisher, another book with the title Blue Magic has appeared.  So that’s out as a title, even though I could use it.  At the moment, it’s just OSHENERTH.  It’s written as a stand-alone.  Right now, possible sequels/trilogy are only a glimmer on the water’s surface.

 

I know from reading your site that you have a busy life. Do you find much time for reading?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: For the past thirty years or so, my eyes have grown very bad for reading.  From a foot out, they’re fine, but close-in….  It’s very ironic, when you think of it.  Even reading with enlarged fonts and the correct prescription lenses gives me a headache after twenty minutes or so.  But I’ll rest, and then go back to the material I’m perusing.  I don’t have the time, either.  But I still delve into history and biography and science whenever I can manage it.

 

I remember some years ago you shared some shots of your writing space. How important is it that you have a stable environment in which to write? I know several writers who do the majority of their work in coffee shops. I could never do that. I’d be wondering if anyone was looking over my shoulder. Do you view writing as a solitary act?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: I’m always put in mind of the film THE FRONT PAGE, set in the world of ‘30’s newspaper work.  People writing amid the most incredible cacophony.  I could never do that.  I need quiet.  No music, no nothing. Sometimes I’ll put on heavy earphones to shut out every bit of surrounding noise.

 

Is there anything in the realm of writing fiction that you’ve not tried yet? Any genre or style you’d like to give a shot one day?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER:  I wrote a straightforward mystery, RAW ON THE ROW, set in my hometown of Prescott, AZ (no publisher yet).  It probably needs a do-over.  Other than that, I love writing articles on nature and (obviously) travel, but I don’t have the time to pursue the appropriate markets.  Or they’re not interested.  I have done a fair number of articles on scuba diving for assorted publications.  I also like writing poetry, but I’m not very good at it.

 

A writer friend of mine emailed the other day, and in the email he wondered if a writer can ever run out of ideas as he or she gets older. We were talking about projects, and he was saying how many different projects he has cooking at any one time. He sort of hoped that would always be the case. I’ve often pondered that notion myself. When you see writers hit their late seventies, early eighties, and they’re no longer putting out new work. Is that because they’re simply worn out, tired, ill . . . or do you think the well really does run dry one day?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: It depends entirely on the writer.  Look at Jack Williamson, still selling SF novels into his early 90’s.  Other writers get burned out early, and many just get tired of the time it takes out of what remains of their days.  It never gets easier.

 

Before we move on to the last part of this interview, I wouldn’t live with myself if I didn’t mention a pretty big project of yours out in December. That would be THE FORCE AWAKENS. I know you cannot say anything with regards to the story itself, but you’re in a uniquely privileged position in that you know the whole story. Have you seen any of the movie, or did you work from the screenplay alone in writing the novelisation?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Just the screenplay, plus some concept art and production visuals.  I really wanted to have access to the latter so that if I describe something, or someone, in the book, it matches what actually appears on the screen.  You know how fans are.  If I give someone sideburns and in the film that character appears without them, it will give rise to 468 blog entries.

 

You adapted both Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness. I did hope you’d do the novelisation of THE FORCE AWAKENS, and was over the moon that that was the case. I understand Lucasfilm have AFTERMATH by Chuck Wendig coming out this winter, and that they’re really trying to ensure everything forms a cohesive whole in terms of canon. Did you have any contact with the Lucasfilm story group during the process of writing the novel?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Yes.  I of course had to have some leeway, but the group certainly made their opinion(s) known.

 

It must seem a lifetime ago that you wrote STAR WARS and SPLINTER OF THE MIND’S EYE (I have a copy of both sitting on my shelf right now). How does it feel to be adapting Star Wars again? To quote a certain Dark Lord, is the circle now complete?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Depending on one’s age, it was a lifetime ago.  And yet I can see the interior of the original Industrial Light & Magic warehouse, on Kester St. in Van Nuys, CA, with the Death Star run models out in the parking lot, as clearly as if it was yesterday. 

The circle will never be complete as long as fans continue to enjoy the Star Wars universe.

 

What is it, do you think, keeps people going back to Star Wars? Generation after generation, it seems to connect with people like no other property I can think of.

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: It reduces storytelling to enjoyable basics.  Good guys vs bad guys, with a few variants to keep things interesting.  Not unlike WWII tales.  You sit back and enjoy.  It’s cinematic/literary comfort food, like a good hamburger or grilled cheese sandwich.

 

When I think of the Star Wars universe, there’s infinite storytelling potential there. In my opinion the same could be said of your Commonwealth books. Would you welcome an adaptation of your stories? And I suppose the flip side of that question is, “Where do they begin?”

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Commonwealth adaptations would have to begin with NOR CRYSTAL TEARS.  Which would be a story Hollywood has never really told; i.e., an entire film shot and told from the alien’s point-of-view.  As to the Flinx & Pip books, that’s a related matter, and those books have been under option for filming for several years now.

 

There is an art to novelisations, and I’ve read quite a few over the years. Some of those have been excellent. Some have been dire, just a word for word rehash of the screenplay. Yours are never like that. Whenever I read one of your novelisations, they seem to add to the original material. Often you find a new angle to scenes from the movie, and it really embellishes what is already there. In my opinion it’s what makes your work stand out. Is that a conscious choice on your part?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: My feeling is that if the reader doesn’t get a good deal of original material in a novelization, the publisher might as well print the screenplay and let it go at that.  When I do a novelization, I get to be the complete fan and do my own fuller version of the film; my own Director’s cut.  Every fan does that.

 

So to wrap this up, a little something I do from time to time. I am totally stealing from James Lipton here, so forgive me.

These are the classic ten questions from the French “Bouillon de Culture,” hosted by Bernard Pivot. I’d like you to answer with the first thing that comes to mind, as honestly as possible.

If you’d rather not answer a specific question, that’s fine too.

 

What is your favourite word?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: thersitical (In German, it’s “allgegenvartig”.  Eng. Translation: omnipresent)

 

What is your least favourite word?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: don’t have one.  They all work for me.

 

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: great music, an unblemished night sky, drifting in clear water, the rainforest.

 

What turns you off?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: my tribe/nation is better than yours.  Bullies.  Brussels’ sprouts.

 

What is your favourite curse word?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: fucker

 

What sound or noise do you love?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: waves on a beach.  Distant thunder.  My wife’s laugh.  Any bird.  Lions bellowing.  Cheetahs (or any cat) purring.  Pan pipes.  A grand orchestral crescendo.

 

What sound or noise do you hate?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: People in the film industry cursing because they think it makes them appear macho.  Any animal in distress.  Twelve country music songs in a row that all sound the same.

 

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Composer (classical).  Sculpture.  Travel guide (no, wait…I already do that).

 

What profession would you not like to do?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Anything that requires sitting in a small office.

 

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

 

ALAN DEAN FOSTER: “Have you heard the one about the human race…?” or… “Sam Clemens was right.”

Everyone, you can find out more about Alan Dean Foster at his site, which is appropriately named http://www.alandeanfoster.com Be sure to check there every month for updates, and have a look around. You’ll find pictures and video from his numerous trips around the world, and a wealth of other information concerning his many series and media tie-ins. Of all the authors I have had contact with over the years, Alan is by far the most gracious and humble. You can drop him a line via the message board on his site, by email, or tweet him at @thranx1

********************************************************

Tony Healey’s Author Page

The Broken Stars Book 1 Cover Blank

THE 10 BEST SPACESHIP DESIGNS, EVER

What follows is my own opinion. But it is my site, so I can put here what I like. So these truly are THE 10 BEST SPACESHIP DESIGNS, EVER!!!

I list them, counting down to what I think is THE best, and give my reasons for why I like them.

I encourage you to disagree with me and perhaps build your own list. Do it! Killed an hour out of my afternoon that’s for sure!

10.
THE ICARUS II
This gigantic ship from ‘Sunshine’ starts the list off. Highly impressive, with its big wide disc at the front and long, thin body, it truly is a design made for star cruising only. It really gives you the sense of being brittle, and susceptible to breaking easily.

9.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
How can you have a list for the best spaceship designs and not have Galactica? I’ve included both versions here for you to drool over.

8.
THE RODGER YOUNG
As much as I love Galactica, I think I prefer this design of a space battleship from Starship Troopers. It has beautiful lines to it that I think Galactica is missing.

7.
THE PAN-AM SHIP/THE DISCOVERY
Yes I chose two. But I’m allowed to. I couldn’t choose. These are from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

6.
THE CYGNUS
Who doesn’t love Disney’s ‘The Black Hole’? Oh you don’t? Oh… Well I love it. I love everything about it, for all of its cheese and cheapness. And who can’t respect The Cygnus for being the most bizarre space ship design for a big budget movie that has ever been seen?

5.
COUNT DOOKU’S SOLAR-SAIL SHIP
A weird choice, I know. And you’re probably thinking “No X-Wing? No TIE Fighter?” Well, Dooku’s ship from Attack of the Clones gets my vote because it shows that Star Wars could be a little different in where it took designs (see the Falcon below). The audacity of Dooku to have a ship that could ‘sail’ through space, instead of relying upon engines alone is something that I find endearing. And the ship is a beautiful design.

4.
SERENITY
Looking like a bee, or some kind of flying lizard, the Serenity proves that the beauty in a ship’s design doesn’t always come from the way it looks, but by the way it performs in its role. Both a home and a hardy vessel of the stars, Serenity is one of the better modern space ship designs to grace the small screen in recent years.

3.
THE NOSTROMO
What makes the Nostromo, from ALIEN so appealing is the fact that it has almost no aerodynamic qualities to it at all. And I’d even go so far as to say it barely has a ‘design’, or meaning to its shape. Floating through space like a giant metal cathedral, the Nostromo acts as the perfect setting for a futuristic horror story and sets the tone for a film about design as much as it is about the cold, unknown horror of deep space.

2.
THE MILLENNIUM FALCON
There’s no denying the shear brilliance behind the design of the Falcon, with its flying saucer aesthetic. When you see this baby twist and turn through a volatile asteroid field, you can’t help but fall in love with her.

1.
THE ENTERPRISE
When it comes to number one, there can only be Kirk’s Enterprise. And I love the design so much that I simply can’t decide on which variant is better. So here’s all of ’em! Even the Abrams-prise, which I think is a brilliant reinvention of an old design.


What have I missed out here? What should have made the list? What would make YOUR list?

#STARWARSDAY REVENGE OF THE SITH

STAR WARS: EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH

FYI, previous #StarWarsDay posts:

EPISODE I THE PHANTOM MENACE
EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES
EPISODE IV A NEW HOPE
EPISODE V THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
EPISODE VI RETURN OF THE JEDI

And so we come to the end! All of the Star Wars films, and my opinion on them. I haven’t been thorough, and I haven’t covered everything about them. Heaven knows they’ve been picked plenty over the years. I’ve just given you my take. If it’s what you’ve heard before, then sorry. But it’s what I think. My favourite scenes, what I thought worked and what didn’t… all my opinion.

So this is the last one. Revenge of the Sith, the title obviously a mirror and reversal of Return of the Jedi – and of course, Jedi was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi until Lucas posited that a Jedi wouldn’t exact revenge and changed the title to Return.

Anyway, on with the film. I didn’t mind Revenge of the Sith. As I stated previously, I think that the direction as a whole Lucas took with the prequels might not have been the right one. Of course, once he started he had to see it all through. But, as it stands, it is not a bad ending to one trilogy, and it does do what it says on the tin and offer a transition into the next trilogy. We see the end of the Republic, the beginning of the Empire, the formation of the Rebellion movement, the birth of Luke and Leia, the ‘becoming’ of Darth Vader, the revelation that Chancellor Palpatine is in fact Darth Sidious, Obi-Wan and Yoda going into hiding on backwater planets… you know, the whole shabang. It’s a lot to handle with one film, and Lucas doesn’t do a bad job. Obviously, I have problems with how Anakin transitions from being a ‘mostly’ good guy to an evil one, but I talked about that before. No need for me to harp on again.

I think what fans have to remember, is that the films are over and done with. What is done is done. Good and Bad decisions on behalf of Lucas and company are set in concrete now and that is that. You either like these films or you don’t. I like them all. I have problems with some of them, but I still like them. That is what makes you a Star Wars fan, afterall. It’s something that all Star Wars fans have, that weird thing inside that can jump with excitement when you see or hear anything new to do with Star Wars. That’s what makes us keep revisiting both trilogies.

It is what made me do these posts, looking at what I like and don’t like for each film.

What I thought worked:

The opening battle sequence.

Anakin taking out Dooku.

Yoda and Anakin talking privately.

Obi-Wan and Anakin talking with each other, for the last time as friends, before departing on separate matters.

The revelation that Palpatine is the dark lord, and the Jedi confronting him.

Anakin deciding to side with Palpatine rather than the Jedi, allowing Palpatine to kill Mace Windu.

Anakin butchering Jedi, and as Code 66 goes out, the troops turning on Jedi all over the Galaxy.

Yoda v Palpatine – which I thought was a better sabre fight than Obi-Wan has with Anakin.

The final scenes, when Lucas sets up much of the original trilogy.

I think the Padme and Anakin scenes in this film weren’t as bad as they were in the previous two, and perhaps it was a sign that Lucas was getting used to writing their characters. When you see the scenes between Palpatine and Yoda (Ian McDermid vs Green Screen) you get genuine tingles down your spine as the pure essence of good takes on the might of pure evil. When you get to the Anakin and Obi-Wan final scenes, they’re a bit of a let-down. When Obi-Wan is pleading with Anakin to not go down the path he is about to, you get a sense of the genuine emotion in the scene. But when they start clashing swords, the emotion leaves the room so to speak. In Empire Strikes Back, you really got the sense that Luke was out of his depth, and that one wrong move could result in certain death. In Return of the Jedi, it was Father vs Son, with all of the emotional baggage that that entails. The final confrontation between Obi-Wan and Anakin should have been about Obi-Wan’s disgust at what Anakin had become, his guilt at perhaps falling down on the job of keeping him on the straight and narrow. Obi-Wan should have been more unwilling to take on Anakin, and perhaps a bit more back-and-forth banter would have helped to relay some of that to the audience.

But it’s all swings and roundabouts really isn’t it?

A little part of the film that always stuck with me. In Return of the Jedi, Yoda had to rest, and seemed totally at peace with the fact that he would be dying. Then as he died, his body became the force, much as Obi-Wan’s had. You had to ask yourself how this could be possible. Well, it is revealed in Revenge of the Sith and in the strip below. In Revenge, Yoda tells Obi-Wan that he will teach him how to commune with Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon has managed to become one with the force. The image of Yoda fading into the force always stuck in my mind. In A New Hope, Obi-Wan became the force but he sort of just blinked into nothingness. You didn’t see the transition. In Return, Yoda visibly faded into energy, leaving the physical plane entirely. I always thought that it was neat, Lucas showing you a glimpse of what the force is in a visual way.

Revenge of the Sith is a good film, and a good final act. There are bits of all of the prequels that are fantastic. There are some bits that are good… and there are some bits that are terrible. But everyone’s opinion on what constitutes good or bad is different.

Revenge of the Sith is good. Star Wars is good. I’ll keep watching….that’s all that matters.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!

Before we go, wouldn’t this have made a great poster? The knighting of a dark lord…

#STARWARSDAY ATTACK OF THE CLONES

STAR WARS: EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES

I like Attack of the Clones, even if it is a bit… well…. blah. You know what I mean?

The trailers for it were fantastically put together, riffing on themes and moments from the original trilogy, including the use of original trilogy music.

There are some great sequences here that are quite memorable after-the-fact:

The chase through Coruscant between Obi-Wan, Anakin and an assassin.

Kamino, the homeworld of the cloners responsible for the Republic (and soon to be Empires) clone army and Kenobi’s encounter with mysterious bounty hunter Jango Fett.

Kenobi and Jango’s little skirmish in the asteroid field outside of Geonosis, riffing on the Millenium Falcon’s iconic chase in Empire Strikes Back

The large scale land battle between Seperatist forces and the Republic, and the ensuing lightsabre duel between not one, not two, but three Jedi and Count Dooku – or Darth Tyrannus – a former Jedi Master turned Sith played by Christopher Lee.

Sure, the writing is a little clunky (isn’t it in nearly all of the films?), the acting at times terrible, the direction and cinematrography uninspired and the compulsory romantic scenes between Anakin and Padme do feel forced and contrived. But there is something about Attack of the Clones that keeps you going back. It gives a different flavour as to what a Star Wars film can be. Whereas Empire Strikes Back showed us that pulp-adventure-science-fiction could also have a heart, and have adults dealing with real adults problems (who is my Father, why is that person my Father, I love this person but does he/she know it, does he/she feel the same way?), Attack of the Clones shows us the more pulpy, light-hearted side of the characters. There is no area in this film that is especially dark. People said that Attack of the Clones was the prequel trilogy’s Empire, and I disagree. Revenge of the Sith is the prequels Empire, because the bad guys win. In Attack of the Clones, the good guys still win the fight.

The problem is, the battle has just begun. And that, we know, they won’t win…

#STARWARSDAY THE PHANTOM MENACE

STAR WARS: EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE

For me, it was an exciting time. Born in 1985, I’d missed the whole Star Wars saga; so when they were re-released as special editions in 1997, I saw them fresh and new. Over the course of a few months, I went to see each one as it was released a little bit apart from one another. I saw A New Hope with my Dad, who after all those years of not seeing it found himself watching it like it was a brand new release. I saw The Empire Strikes Back with one friend, who fell asleep halfway through and was oblivious to me sitting next to him, close to tears, as Han was encased in Carbonite and Chewie yelled out in pain. And I saw Return of the Jedi with another friend who, unlike me, had grown up watching the films on VHS and loved them anyway.

Soon after, I got the gold and black VHS boxset for Christmas, and soon after that there were the first talks of a prequel film set thirty years before A New Hope, dealing with a young Darth Vader and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi…. I was thrilled.

I remember seeing the teaser poster (above) and being amazed that they had decided to take the story back that far. When you thought of them detailing the early life of a young Darth Vader, you imagined a Jedi Knight. You didn’t expect them to start off with him as a young kid, like eight or nine years old sort of kid. That surprised me.

At some point I remember the theatrical trailer coming out, showing a very cleverly edited version of the film which made it appear to be an action-filled extravaganza promising to top all of the films that had come before it. I was really excited to see it, as were so many millions of other Star Wars fans.

Now, everyone turns a lot of hate on The Phantom Menace, but I don’t think it was an actual failure. It had a lot to offer, and it had obviously gestated in Lucas’s mind for a long time. As he pointed out, he didn’t think that even ILM had the capability to film what he had in his mind until he saw Jurassic Park and realized that motion picture special effects were at the point where they could realistically portray a living being. I think it has some stand-out sequences.

The opening scene on the Trade Federation Battleship.

Freeing the Queen, in a flurry of lightsabres, and R2’s moment of heroism as they’re flying away from Naboo.

The Pod Race.

The little lightsabre skirmish with Darth Maul in the desert.

The space battle at the end.

The lightsabre battle between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul.

In actual fact, I feel that the sabre fight between Kenobi, Jinn and Maul has to be up there with the sabre battle from Empire and Jedi as it deals with genuine emotion and real consequence. In Episode II, Lucas delivers an aesthetically pleasing battle, but it does not offer much in personal stakes or emotional content, and seems more an excuse to bring in Yoda and show ‘what the little frog can do.’ In Episode III, we get what is meant to be a fight between brothers, seemingly come out of nowhere. It has no proper build-up, and seems to just happen. That might just be my take on it, but I think he could have done so much more with it. Had it a real epic battle. But anyway, this is Episode I, so I’ll save that one for later!

This might be the most hated of the prequels, for its silly Jar Jar character, and comedic leanings (aiming for the younger audience) but of all of them I feel it’s the most thought-out. Lucas had given the themes and motifs of the film genuine thought as they’d batted about in his head over the years, and to me it shows. It is almost a mirror to A New Hope, in the way that the plot unfolds, and especially apparent in the end scene (what I jokingly referred to for my A New Hope post as the ‘wedding scene’).

I think that the real mistake Lucas made was not starting with Anakin as a teenage, and already undergoing his training, or just about to start it. By having him be a kid, he didn’t give himself enough room to tell the story he needed to, rushing the revelations in Episode III. Perhaps he should have started with Qui-Gon tutoring Anakin and Yoda tutoring Kenobi (he stated in Jedi that Yoda had instructed him). Qui-Gon dies, Obi-Wan is given the challenge of completing Anakin’s training. This could have happened in Episode I, with Palpatine and his apprentice behind it all. I would not have killed off Maul, either. I’d have kept him about for II and III. All of this should have taken place to the backdrop of a giant inter-galactic war. The Clone Wars. Instead of building up to the Clone Wars, why not throw us in (much like he did in A New Hope) and slowly reveal the intricacies and details of the conflict as he went along?

In Episode II, I would have had Anakin courting Padme (but not getting married – it’s too neat – they should’ve just been in love) and the ascension of Palpatine to ruling the Galaxy as supreme ruler and Emperor, much to the disgust of the Jedi’s who denounce him. Palpatine might then have declared the Jedi’s enemies of the Galaxy, and the real hands behind the Seperatist movement. His slight friendship with Anakin might have strained Kenobi and Anakin’s friendship, but not to the point of breaking. I’d have had Kenobi told about their love for each other, and possibly Kenobi or Yoda sensing that Padme was pregnant.

Then in Episode III, I would have had Anakin take on Maul, killing him without mercy, against the Jedi code. Kenobi would see this, and share his concern with Anakin and later Yoda. Then, it would be revealed that Padme is due to give birth and I’d have Padme give birth in secret, for fear of Anakin behind dispelled from the Jedi order. Later, she and the children would be captured by Palpatine (really bringing a sense of circular repetition to the story, with Palpatine encountering the children at such a young age) and Palpatine. Later, when Kenobi and Skywalker confront the Emperor to rescue Padme and the children, Palpatine would twist it that Kenobi is the Father of the children, and how Kenobi has wanted Padme for himself the whole time. This would result in the already frayed relationship between the two coming to a head, in front of Palpatine (much like the end of Jedi) but this time with Anakin choosing to strike down Kenobi – making the turn to the dark side by indulging in his rage and anger. Remember Yoda’s words: “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”
Somehow, though, Kenobi would manage to outwit Anakin and rescue the children. Something would happen whereby Padme died, seemingly as a result of Kenobi’s deception, and him stealing the children. Perhaps Padme would reveal that they ARE Anakin’s and not Kenobi’s. Kenobi and Yoda would hide the children, as the rest of the Jedi order is shown being hunted down and slain by Darth Vader.

Then I would have shown an aged Kenobi (though younger than he appeared in A New Hope) watching over a young Luke from afar, on Tatooine.

That’s my own take on how I would have handled the story. Everyone has their own opinion.

For me Episode I is Lucas showing he is still an adept film maker, and a thoughtful one. It has some fine sequences, and he does a pretty good job in kicking off the saga. In Episode II and III he got a little lazy. But then, with The Phantom Menace making for one of the top grossing films of all time, perhaps at that point he could afford to be.

#STARWARSDAY RETURN OF THE JEDI

STAR WARS: EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI

And so we come to Return of the Jedi. It opens with Vader inspecting the new Death Star, and announcing the impending arrival of the Emperor himself. This will be the first time we have met Palpatine in the flesh. Then we go to Tatooine (the films going full circle, returning to the homeworld of the first film) where Luke springs a rescue for Han, thawing him from his Carbonite prison. Luke then heads for Dagobah once again, whilst Han and Leia rejoin with the rest of the rebellion.

Luke asks a dying Yoda whether Vader was telling the truth or not. Yoda confirms it, and drops another little bombshell which the ghost of Kenobi later confirms: Leia is his sister. They were born twins.

Kenobi reveals to Luke how he tried to train Anakin in the ways of the Force, and failed in the process. Anakin turned to the dark side, and in so doing took the rest of the Galaxy with him. He warns Luke of following in his Father’s footsteps.

“Your insight serves you well. Bury your feelings deep down, Luke. They do you credit, but they could be made to serve the Emperor,” he tells Luke.

Whereas A New Hope started things off, and set-out so much of the mythology for the films, and Empire created a deeper study of the main characters and their private and cosmic dilemma’s, Return of the Jedi is about endings and retribution. In Empire, Vader offered Luke the chance of joining him and allying against the Emperor. In Jedi, Vader appears to be consigned to the fact that he will never be anything but the Emperor’s servant. There is the reversal of Luke asking Vader to join HIM this time, to turn back to the light. But Vader has existed in the shadows far too long. “It’s took late for me, my son,” he says before leading Luke to the Emperor.

Everyone hates the Ewoks, and the battle on Endor, and in a way I agree. The whole Endor sequence is quite unnecessary. Surely the rebellion could have de-activated the shield surrounding the Death Star without the help of 2-foot teddy bears. But then, even though the concept is silly, you have to respect Lucas’s balls for sticking to his guns and putting that in there. Either that or the guy truly is a little nutty. Or… he just wanted to sell Star Wars Teddy Bears…. I think that the film would have been stronger, had Leia and Han been involved in the space battle. I understand that the battle on Endor’s surface is really a way of giving them something to do – because really the end of the film focuses on Luke and Vader.

The ending of Return of the Jedi is the real highlight of the film, with Son facing off against Father, under the deathly gaze and influence of the evil Emperor. Luke turns for a moment – only a moment – and nearly kills Vader. Then he comes to his senses and throws his weapon down, defying the Emperor. To kill Vader and join Palpatine is what he wants. Palpatine turns on Luke, crippling him with force lightning, as Vader rises to stand by his side. In a moment of decision, Vader looks silently from one to the other. He looks at the Emperor, his Master, killing his Son and acts. Lifting the Emperor up, he throws him down a shaft and then collapses in his son’s arms.

As the Death Star is rocked by the space battle going on outside, Luke drags Vader to a shuttle to make their escape before the Death Star blows. Vader won’t last much longer and asks Luke to remove his helmet so that he can look at him with own eyes. He tells him he was right about him. It seems that, after all, Luke asking Vader to join him had touched him. When he’s said “I feel the good in you” he had been right. Vader had been in denial of the small flickering light of goodness that still existed within his chest, fanned and made whole again by the love of a son.

Vader dies in Luke’s arms and Luke takes his body to Endor, where he burns it (in what we will see in Episode I) in the Jedi tradition of cremation. The only problem with the ending is the scenes showing the celebrations taking place around the Galaxy at the Empire’s defeat. The Empire would not have been vanquished so suddenly, there would no doubt be fighting continuing on for many years to come, between those holding onto yesterday, and those reaching for tomorrow. But for the purpose of Star Wars, and in wrapping things up nicely, Lucas shows it as ENDED and we accept it.

Vader is dead, and Luke is finally a man – and after confronting the dark side and remaining true against it – a GOOD man. Han and Leia are together, even C3PO and R2 are still in one piece. The galaxy is as it should be. The hero’s gaze across at the ghostly apparitions of Ben Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin.

In a galaxy far, far away… there is a happy ending.

#STARWARSDAY THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

STAR WARS: EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Like so many Star Wars fans, this is my personal favourite installment. Everyone cites the fact that it’s ‘darker’ as their reason for liking it better. But I think Return of the Jedi was pretty dark in places, so I don’t think it comes into it much. For me, it was the fact that the Empire was winning in this film. In A New Hope, it was all about the rebels scoring one against the Empire; in this film, it’s about how much damage the Empire and Vader, its supreme sinister agent, can inflict on the rebellion. The group of friends we have come to know previously (Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie) is split, both in a physical and emotional sense. Luke jets off to Dagobah to find Yoda, whilst Han, Leia and Chewie are chased from one corner of the cosmos to the other by Vader himself. Han grows closer to Leia, and Luke in a way becomes more emotionally detached from the group as he focuses on his training and upon the burden of confronting Vader which lays so heavily upon him. When Vader reveals to Luke that he is in fact his Father, Luke screams and you feel that as much as he screams through sheer horror at the revelation, he must also be distressed because he knows that he is even more different than the rest of the group. He is a Jedi, sure – but now he is the evil henchmans son. As much as the uprising against the Empire is a matter of life and death to them all, the fight has got that little bit more personal considering it has now turned into a battle of Father Versus Son.

This is the first time we meet Yoda, and Frank Oz does a brilliant job of creating a sagely, but slightly senile mentor for Luke. In his most lucid moments, Yoda is capable of conveying the sheer importance to Luke of his training, of his destiny.

“That place… a domain of evil it is… in you must go…” he tells Luke at one point, shortly before Luke fights a vision of Vader. When he decapitates Vader, the helmet blows apart and we see it is in fact Luke Skywalker inside. I never suspected that Vader was Luke’s Father, so seeing this scene it felt as though it was a message to Luke saying ‘THIS is the dark side. HE is the dark side. YOU could become THIS.’ No-one watching this film for the first-time has an inkling that whilst the scene serves as a warning to Luke about the dangers of the dark side, it is also a pointer to the fact that he and Vader are related.

As for stand-out scenes, this whole film is an endless array of them. I have to admit I always found the battle of Hoth a bit superfluous. However I love the character stuff going on in the first part of the film, so for me that compensates.

The chase through the asteroid field is fab, as is Han’s ingenious method of evading capture by clamping onto the back of a Star Destroyer. Boba Fett makes his entrance in this film, and he proves to be a much better mercenary than his Father Jango. Lando’s deception and subsequent change of heart. Han and Leia’s blossoming affection and love for one another, culminating in that famous moment:

Leia: “Han… I love you…”

Han: “I know.”

Luke and Vader’s epic lightsabre battle – my favourite sabre fight overall of all the films – and the open ending where the Empire has effectively gotten rid of Han, Luke has lost a hand and had his mind totally blown, and the Rebellion is left out in space, headed who knows where, its direction and eventual destination possibly in doubt…

Irvin Kershner proves to be the best Director of all of the films for the way in which he balances action with quieter moments, and manages to pull a truly brilliant performance out of all the actors, even C3PO and R2. This film is Star Wars at its very best. This is what, to me, Star Wars is about. It’s about a small band of people standing up against the mighty Empire, against the odds, and it’s about keeping going even though you have less now than you did before.

#STARWARSDAY A NEW HOPE

STAR WARS: EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE

Following on from celebrating May the 4th (May the Force – get it?) with about a billion other Star Wars fans across the globes, I thought about doing some posts and having my say on each film.

I’m no film critic. But I can tell you what I thought worked and didn’t work in each film. And I thought I’d start in the order that I saw them, so the original trilogy and then the prequels. The argument over whether to watch the prequels first or not, will be a moot point in years to come when future generations only know to watch Episode I first.

Sigh… So it goes.

Anyway, thoughts on A New Hope. I first saw this in 1997 when it was re-released as a Special Edition. This film has been so over-analysed over the years, not to mention the dumb ‘Han Shoots First’ argument that doesn’t quite make sense to me. Having seen the Special Edition’s first, I have no opinion on whether the Original Version is better than the version George tinkered with. How can I? It is as it is.

You all know the story. In a nutshell: Droids land on Tatooine with plans to the Death Star. They fall in with Luke Skywalker, who in turn falls in with Ben Kenobi – Jedi Knight. They go to Mos Eisley space-port, where they employ Han Solo and Chewbacca to fly them to Alderran. Trouble is when they get to Alderran it’s already been destroyed by the Death Star. They then get pulled in by the Death Star (That’s no moon… that’s a space station!) and two things happen. First, Luke, Han and Chewie go and save Princess Leia. Secondly, Kenobi takes on Darth Vader and sacrifices himself to allow Luke et al to escape the Death Star. Our little band of heroes flee to the secret headquarters of the rebellion and deliver the plans to the Death Star. A strike-force of rebellion fighters takes off to intercept the incoming Death Star. Lots of the guys die (including a fat pilot call – appropriatley enough – ‘Porkins’) apart from Luke and Wedge. Luke fires the lucky shot, the remaining fighters pull away from the massive Death Star moments before it explodes. Darth Vader is seen spinning away into space. Then we end with a weird wedding scene (haha).

Obviously don’t take my account of the story for granted. And for the record, there’s no way you are reading this without having seen A New Hope. Surely everyone has?

I always like the opening of the film, the droids going their seperate ways yet finding themselves thrown back together again. When you watch Hidden Fortress, you see how much Lucas took from Kurosawa. Anyway, the introduction of Kenobi is great, and Guinness in my eyes is the real star of the film. Who doesn’t love Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie? But Kenobi is the powerful, sabre-wielding granddad you always wanted, isn’t he? And bless Alec Guinness for putting so much into his performance, in a film where he gets killed off 2/3’s of the way through.

I was never really fond of the prison escape stuff, and the trash compactor (it was much better executed in Temple of Doom when the room with the spikes is coming down on Indy and Short Round) but the back-and-forth between Vader and Tarkin is great, as is the moment when Kenobi willingly allows Vader to ‘Strike Me Down’ and disappears, seemingly, into thin air.

And who couldn’t love the final sequence against the Death Star itself with the clock ticking down before it can fire at the rebel hide-away, destroying with it any chance the Galaxy has at survival?

I love all of the Star Wars films, I really do. But I have to admit that A New Hope isn’t my favourite. To me, it suffers a little bit from the same emotional detachment and stilted dialogue that was present in the prequels. Perhaps that is how Lucas really sees the films, as wooden serial flicks. I don’t know. I think if A New Hope had had a bit of the gut and heart that Empire would have, several years later, it would be a much better instalment.

A New Hope is the best entry-point for the series, since it was the first film to come out and lays out so much of the mythology… but in my opinion it’s not the best entry – despite some great moments.