Category: Legends

Review – The Lando Calrissian Adventures: “Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu” (1983)

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Lando-Calrissian-And-The-Mindharp-of-Sharu-Cover“My Millennium Falcon’s only a small converted freighter, and a rather elderly one at that, I’m afraid.” – Lando Calrissian


 

I had no expectations when I started reading L. Neil Smith’s Lando Calrissian Adventures trilogy. Though I had yet to read a Star Wars Expanded Universe novel that I didn’t like, with something like 200 novels in the Expanded Universe library, I knew it was bound to happen eventually.

But it didn’t happen with this book.

Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu is probably the goofiest Star Wars book I’ve ever read. I mean, just look at that title. Look at the titles of all three books in the series. “Mindharp of Sharu,” “Flamewind of Oseon,” “Starcave of Lonboka.” Just two random nouns smashed together with a place name attached at the end. Based on the titles alone, I assumed these books were going to be different than any other Star Wars book I’d read. And I was right!

The book is just very campy. It sort of downplays the science fiction aspect of Star Wars and really upscales the fantasy aspect. Sometimes it felt like I was reading the plot of a Legend of Zelda game instead of a Star Wars novel. Lando is on a quest for an ancient instrument that has magical powers? Sounds… familiar…

Mindharp

It’s a fun adventure that doesn’t take itself too seriously and isn’t afraid to really push the limits of “believable” fantasy within the context of the Star Wars universe. In some ways, I love the book for that. If nothing else, it was a very entertaining read, and in the end that’s what you want out of a book, right? On the other hand, sometimes it felt too out-there. Just a little bit too ridiculous, even for Star Wars. This book takes place a few years before the original Star Wars trilogy. I find myself having a hard time believing that the Lando Calrissian I saw in The Empire Strikes Back and in Return of the Jedi would have a backstory like the one I read in this book.

The book definitely does still have a Star Wars feel to it. First off (and probably most importantly) Smith writes Lando very well. His characterization is great, and it truly feels like the same character we love from the movies. Obviously having Lando in the starring role is going to make the story at least a little bit Star Warsy. There’s the Millennium Falcon, space travel, and even a fun new droid companion. And honestly, the things that didn’t feel like Star Wars are mostly excusable because the story takes place in a new solar system that we haven’t seen on-screen before. Obviously things are going to be a little bit different on new worlds, with new alien races and different cultures and technology. So, the “weirdness” of this story actually might not be that weird if we remember that it actually makes sense that things are super different in different parts of the galaxy.

The story starts off a short time after Lando won the Millennium Falcon in a game of sabacc. He’s not very familiar with the ship yet, and he’s a pretty terrible pilot. That was one thing that annoyed me from the beginning. This doesn’t take place very long before the original movies, and I very clearly remember Lando expertly piloting the Falcon through the insides of the Death Star, which would, y’know, be basically impossible to do. So the fact that he is a terrible pilot in this story was kind of hard to accept. Though, I assume over the course of the three books that is going to change.

Sabacc-Idiots-Array-RebelsLando is once again playing sabacc. We get to see a lot of sabacc in this trilogy, and the books do a pretty good job of explaining the rules of the game to us. Star Wars Rebels has given us our first on-screen look at sabacc (and at Lando playing the game) in the season one episode Idiot’s Array (which is named after a winning move in sabacc, as revealed in this novel). During this particular game of sabacc, Lando is told about a treasure called the Mindharp of Sharu. This intrigues him. He wins a droid in the game, but he has to go pick the droid up in the Rafa system, which just so happens to be where the Mindharp is located. He goes to the system and gets the droid, a meter-high, starfish-shaped robot (though he looks more like R2-D2 on the book’s cover) named Vuffi Raa. This little guy sort of fills the same role that Bollux and Blue Max filled in Brian Daley’s Han Solo Adventures trilogy. Though I didn’t love the character quite as much as I did Bollux and Max, Vuffi Raa was still a fun character whose presence I enjoyed throughout the story.

Lando gets arrested, on stupid charges, and is brought to the governor’s office. He is given a strange key, that is said to unlock the Mindharp, and is forced to go retrieve the instrument by a sorcerer named Rokur Gepta. Lando has no choice, and goes off to find the Mindharp.

Along with his new partner, Vuffi Raa, Lando meets a humanoid native of the Toka species, named Mohs. Mohs’ people know the legends of the Sharu (the now-extinct ancient race who created the Mindharp and all of the colossal architecture in the Rafa system) and Lando decides to let the him come along to help find the treasure. The Toka, however, are not a very advanced race, and Mohs seems kind of crazy throughout the story. Still, Lando thinks he’ll be a valuable asset to his quest, since Mohs knows more about the Mindharp of Sharu than anyone else he’s met.

Vuffi-RaaThroughout the story Lando has the worst of luck, with seemingly everything working against him to prevent him for retrieving the treasure and finally getting back to his normal way of life. It’s almost frustrating to read at times because the guy just can’t get a break. He’s always getting attacked, arrested, betrayed, or whatever else that could possibly prevent him from getting the harp.

Being one of the earliest Star Wars books ever written, there were a few things that stood out to me as feeling out-of-place in a Star Wars story. Cigarettes abound in this book. Everyone, including Lando, smokes cigarettes. Now, I’ve watched every Star Wars movie there is–including the spin-off movies–and I don’t remember ever seeing a cigarette. Another funny thing is that Lando’s drink of choice is something called “coffeine.” That’s pretty creative, I have to say. Honestly, it’s no worse than “caf,” which is what became the more commonly accepted fake coffee ripoff in Star Wars literature as the years went on.

Also, apparently jackalopes exist in the Star Wars universe. On the planet “Douglas III” in fact. I don’t know what I think is funnier. The fact that jackalopes are real in Star Wars, or the fact that a planet is called Douglas III. They don’t even appear in the story. They are just mentioned one time. It was such a pointless inclusion in the story that it makes me laugh.

The story ends pretty abruptly, and it became clear to me that this is not meant to be a standalone book, and should be followed up by reading the other two books in the trilogy to get the full story. I haven’t read them yet–at the time I’m writing this–but the story didn’t feel finished, and it definitely left you on a cliffhanger. It caught me a little off guard, but it’s not really a bad thing. I am looking forward to reading the next book.

Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu isn’t an amazing book, but it is a fun story despite being so goofy. It left me excited to read the sequel, which is always a good thing. Plus it’s just nice to have Lando take the lead role for once. Outside of this trilogy, and Marvel’s new Lando comic mini-series, we don’t see him at the center of the action very often. I can’t say I’d recommend the book to all Star Wars fans, but I think if you enjoy the other early Expanded Universe novels like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye or The Han Solo Adventures trilogy, you’ll probably enjoy this book too.

Score: 6.5/10

 

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Review – “Return of the Jedi” – Novelization (1983)

Return-Of-The-Jedi-Cover“The Rebel fleet has gathered all its forces into a single giant armada. The time is at hand when we can crush them, without mercy, in a single blow.” – Darth Vader


 

Two weeks before Return of the Jedi premiered in theaters, it was released as a novel written by James Kahn. Can you imagine having read the final chapter of the Star Wars trilogy before actually having seen the movie? I guess some people did that. What a strange thought. This novel is Kahn’s first and only contribution to the Star Wars universe.

Being a novelization of the movie, this book is pretty much what you’d expect. It’s the same story, and there isn’t much added to it. What little extra bits of information the book does give us are pretty great though, and they really made this novelization worth reading.

One thing I noticed right off the bat when I started reading was that I really liked Kahn’s writing style. I’m afraid I can’t really describe what exactly I liked about it. There’s just something about it that intrigued me and held my interest even though I already knew the entire story I was reading.

A few scenes that were deleted from the movie still appear in this book, to my delight. Most notably, we get to see Luke building his new lightsaber at the beginning of the story. It doesn’t flat-out say “Luke is building a lightsaber” but, he totally is. He assembles his lightsaber in a cave, and gives it to Artoo. Then, like in the movie, R2-D2 and C-3PO make their way off to Jabba the Hutt’s palace.

Luke-Building-Lightsaber-Deleted-Scene

Speaking of Jabba, this book is, to my knowledge, the first time “Hutt” was ever spelled with two T’s instead of one. And, finally, he appears as we know him from the movies. He’s a big ol’ giant ol’ ugly ol’ slug. Not a human. Not a… yellow… guy… He’s normal Jabba the Hutt. However, when describing Jabba in the first chapter of the book, Kahn writes: “He had no hair–it had fallen out from a combination of diseases.” So, apparently, Jabba the Hutt had hair once. I can’t picture him looking anything but ridiculous with hair on his head, which is why I kind of love this random detail.

For me, the best parts of the book were parts where we got to get into the heads of the characters a little more. Through the narration we get to know and understand the characters better than we do in the film. For example, it is pretty obvious right away that Leia is in-tune with the Force (though she doesn’t know it), as there are many times throughout the entire story where she connects with the Force unknowingly. These are things that cannot be shown in a movie. We only learn about them through reading.

Another thing that this book did great that the film couldn’t do was describe to us Luke’s struggle with the dark side of the Force. The dark side is really starting to creep into Luke’s life here, and not just at the end of the book during his confrontation with Vader and the Emperor, but there are hints of darkness from the very beginning. Here’s an example:

Dark-Empire-Luke-Skywalker.jpg“[Luke] found Jabba despicable–a leech of the galaxy, sucking the life from whatever he touched. Luke wanted to burn the villain, and so was actually rather glad Jabba had refused to bargain–for now Luke would get his wish precisely. Of course, his primary objective was to free his friends, whom he loved dearly; it was this concern that guided him now, above all else. But in the process, to free the universe from this gangster slug–this was a prospect that tinted Luke’s purpose with an ever-so-slightly dark satisfaction.”

And then, a few pages later:

“The deck gunners were lining up . . . their shots for the coup de grace, when Luke stepped in front of them, laughing like a pirate king. He lit his lightsaber before they could squeeze off a shot; a moment later they were smoking corpses.”

Though still the clear hero and protagonist of the story, darkness is beginning to overtake the light, and Luke is enjoying it. Towards the end of the story this becomes much worse, as we realize how close Luke almost came to actually turning to the dark side while in the Emperor’s presence, like his father did at the end of the Clone War. “In this bleak and livid moment, the dark side was much with him.”

In the Expanded Universe, in a comic series set a few years after Return of the Jedi called Dark Empire, Luke actually does fall to the dark side for a short time before turning back to the light. I guess his struggle wasn’t over after the Death Star blew up.

This novelization includes another deleted scene from the movie of when Luke, Han, Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO are all walking back from Jabba’s palace to their ships through a sandstorm (and in the words of nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker: “Sandstorms are very, very dangerous!”). It doesn’t add much to the story, and it’s easy to see why it was cut from the movie, but it did offer some great moments and good dialogue. It was a welcome addition to the book for sure.

Return-Of-The-Jedi-Sandstorm-Deleted-Scene

Many moments are expanded upon and leave us with some great new insights about the story. Early on in the book we learn more about Darth Vader’s desire to kill Emperor Palpatine and rule the galaxy in his stead, with his son at his side.

We learn that Obi-wan never told Luke about his real father because Yoda forbade him from revealing the truth to him.

When Obi-wan appears to Luke, he says “If I was wrong in what I did, it certainly wouldn’t have been for the first time. You see, what happened to your father was my fault.” Obi-wan blames himself for Anakin’s fall to the dark side. Like in the movie, Obi-wan tells Luke that he believed he could train Anakin as well as Master Yoda. He then says “My pride had terrible consequences for the galaxy.”

He regrets training Anakin. He was told not to train Anakin in The Phantom Menace, but he still did, against his own better judgment, because he promised Qui-Gon that he would. He trained the boy anyway, taught him about the Force and how to be a Jedi knight, and then Anakin became a Sith Lord. Obi-wan thinks this is all his fault. Man, he’s being pretty hard on himself.

The scene goes on, and it is one of my favorite scenes in the novel, because Obi-wan tells Luke more about Anakin than what he told in the movie:

You should not think of that machine as your father. When I saw what had become of him, I tried to dissuade him, to draw him back from the dark side. We fought . . . your father fell into a molten pit. When your father clawed his way out of that fiery pool, the change had been burned into him forever–he was Darth Vader, without a trace of Anakin Skywalker. Irredeemably dark. Scarred. Kept alive by machinery and his own black will . . .

Revenge-Of-The-Sith-Burning-Anakin

Sound familiar? Like how the novelization of A New Hope basically summarized the entire prequel trilogy in its prologue, this novelization of Return of the Jedi once again shows us just how much of the prequel trilogy George Lucas already had in mind when making the original trilogy. It’s pretty fascinating to me. And reading this really made the two trilogies feel more connected. Having old Ben Kenobi describe a scene to Luke from Revenge of the Sith is kind of awesome, especially since the book came out more than 20 years before Revenge of the Sith premiered in theaters.

One of my favorite things about reading these old novelizations of the original Star Wars trilogy is trying to pick out the differences between the films and the novels. Luke flew in Blue Squadron in the A New Hope novelization, Yoda was blue in The Empire Strikes Back novelization. Something had to be blue in this book that wasn’t blue in the movies, right?

Sadly, no.

But there were still a bunch of things that didn’t quite match up with what we see in the movie.

I’m gonna jump right to the biggest, most well-known difference: Obi-wan Kenobi and Owen Lars are brothers. Uncle Owen is Obi-wan’s brother, instead of Anakin’s stepbrother. There’s not much else to say about this. Obi-wan simply says “I took you to live with my brother Owen, on Tatooine.” That’s all that is said about it. Obi-wan and Owen are brothers in this version of the story.

padme-naberrieWhich leads into the next big difference that I noticed: not only does Leia remember her mother, but Luke does too. Luke and Leia both somehow remember Padmé even though she was only alive for like the first five minutes of their lives. Apparently Padmé lived for much longer in this version of the story. When Obi-wan appears to Luke on Dagobah, he tells Luke a little about his mother. He says “When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both as safe as possible, for as long as possible. So I took you to live with my brother Owen, on Tatooine . . . and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa, on Alderaan.” Leia has many memories of her real mother. In this book it makes more sense than it does in the movies, now that we’ve seen the prequels.

One thing I praised the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back for was how it depicted Vader’s relationship with the Emperor. In that book, Darth Vader was terrified of Emperor Palpatine. I loved that detail and hoped to see it expanded upon in this book. But, Vader doesn’t seem afraid of Palpatine in the slightest in this novelization. He respects him, but it doesn’t seem like he fears him. Though this is more true to the movies, I was hoping it would be different. I liked the idea that Darth Vader lived in constant fear of his Master.

During the confrontation between Luke and Vader on the Death Star, Luke tells Vader “You could not bring yourself to kill me before–and you won’t destroy me now.” This happens in the movie. It is a line most people would be familiar with. What is different, however, is that afterward the author goes to write “Twice before, in fact–to Luke’s recollection–Vader could have killed him, but didn’t. In the dogfight over the first Death Star, and later in the lightsaber duel on Bespin.” Seems accurate, right? Well, this one line shows that the Star Wars Expanded Universe was still not being acknowledged by official media at this point. If we take the Star Wars Expanded Universe into consideration, there was a third confrontation where Vader did not kill Luke in a duel on the planet Mimban, in the book Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.

Another thing that stuck out to me while reading was that the name “Palpatine” was used many times in this book, both in the narration, and in character dialogue. Despite the name also appearing in the novelization of A New Hope, the Emperor’s name is never once uttered in any of the three movies in the original Star Wars trilogy. For this reason, little-kid-me who was young Ani Skywalker’s age when The Phantom Menace was released had no idea that Senator Palpatine was the man who would become the Emperor. I don’t think I knew this until the trailer for Revenge of the Sith made it clear. Now it seems so obvious, but I was a kid at the time and the name “Palpatine” meant nothing to me. I find it interesting how often his name was used in this book.

I could keep going on, and mention every little thing I liked about this book, and talk about every little detail that I found interesting. I think I’ve already done that enough. But, I do want to say that my favorite part of the entire book is at the end, after Vader threw the Emperor to his death, when he asks Luke to take his mask off. This scene was written so beautifully, and was really enhanced by allowing us to get inside Anakin Skywalker’s head as he looks at his son for the first time with his own eyes.

Darth-Vader-No-Helmet

Tears fall down Luke’s face when he see’s his father’s real face for the first time. Anakin feels very self-conscious, and thinks Luke is crying in horror at the sight of his horribly scarred and sickly pale appearance. His mind starts to wander. He remembers what he used to look like: “striking, and grand, with a wry tilt to his brow that hinted of invincibility and took in all of life with a wink. Yes, that was how he looked once.” Ah, yes, just like Hayden Christensen!

These memories lead to more memories. Anakin thinks back to his time as a Jedi. He thinks about Padmé, and he thinks about Obi-wan. Then, he thinks about molten lava crawling up his back, and at that moment he stops, not allowing himself to think of such terrible things.

Anakin looks back up at Luke, and the scene is described like this:

“The boy was good, and the boy had come from him–so there must have been good in him, too. He smiled up again at his son, and for the first time, loved him. And for the first time in many long years, loved himself again, as well.”

Still believing that look is disgusted by his physical appearance, Anakin echos the words of Yoda, saying “Luminous beings are we, Luke–not this crude matter.”

The rest of the scene plays out like it does in the movie. But these extra details really made this scene so much more powerful. Knowing exactly what Anakin was thinking in these last moments of his life, knowing the memories that were coming to his mind and the emotions that he was feeling before he died made reading this small section of the novel a real treat. These are things we can’t be shown on film, and it is one of the rare moments where the novel really outshines the movie.

For whatever reason, I really enjoyed this novelization. I complained that the novelization of Empire Strikes Back didn’t really add anything new to the story, and this novel is guilty of the same thing in most instances, but there’s something about Kahn’s writing style that did a great job of pulling me in, even though I already knew the story. That, combined with the moments I’ve pointed out that let us get into the heads of the characters, which are the few moments that do provide us with extra details that the movies do not, makes for a genuinely entertaining read.

If you’re really just interested in getting “new” information, then this review is probably all you need to read, but if you’re just looking for a well-written novelization of a movie you like, then yes, definitely read this one. I certainly enjoyed it.

Score: 7.5/10

Review – “Ewoks: The Battle For Endor” (1985)

ewoks-battle-for-endor-poster“The star cruiser’s almost fixed. We’re gonna have to say goodbye.” – Cindel Towani


 

Well, I’ve been putting this one off. I had the goal of watching and reviewing all existing Star Wars spin-off movies before Rogue One opens in theaters, but turns out I really didn’t want to watch this one. I had seen it once before, and I only remembered two things about it. First, I didn’t like it. Second, there’s some weird witch lady in the movie who can turn into a crow. So, I wasn’t thrilled about sitting through the movie again, but I finally got myself to do it.

Ewoks: The Battle For Endor is the sequel to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure that had come out a year earlier. Like the first film, this was made-for-TV. It aired on ABC on November 24th, 1985.

For not wanting to watch this as much as I did, this movie caught me off guard. This movie is actually far better than the first Ewok movie. I don’t know why I remembered hating this one specifically so much, but it is actually a much more entertaining film than the first one. Maybe I had the two movies confused in my memory. Who knows. When I watched the first movie a few weeks ago I realized that it actually wasn’t that bad, and this one is even better. Does that mean it’s a good movie? No, not really, but it was enjoyable for what it is: an ’80s fantasy movie made for children.

This movie is a direct sequel to Caravan of Courage, so let’s recap what happened in that movie a little bit. In Caravan of Courage, the Towani family star cruiser crash lands on the forest moon of Endor. The Towani family consists of two children, Mace and Cindel, and their parents. Their parents go missing shortly after the crash, and Mace and Cindel take it upon themselves to go find them. They befriend some Ewoks–including Wicket, the Ewok who befriends Leia in Return of the Jedi–who tag along to help them get their parents back. They eventually find and rescue their parents from the evil Gorax. They have a happy reunion, and the movie ends.

Ewoks: The Battle For Endor picks up right where the first movie left off. The family is back together, and the childrens’ father, Jeremitt, is doing some last-minute repairs to their ship so that they can finally leave the forest moon. Cindel is walking through the forest with Wicket, who can apparently have entire conversations speaking semi-fluent English now. Suddenly, an army of strange alien creatures (called “Sanyassans” apparently. Thanks, Wookieepedia!) raids the Ewok village and starts burning the dwellings and attacking those who live there. The Sanyassans, along with a creepy witch named Charal, find Jeremitt and insist that he gives them the “power of the stars.” Jeremitt has no idea what they are talking about. They pull apart the ship until they find a power cell, which is apparently what they were looking for.

Then, THE SANYASSANS KILL CINDEL’S ENTIRE FAMILY.

What?!?

Cindel is a five-year-old little girl, and her whole family is killed at the very beginning of this movie, including her brother, Mace, who was one of the protagonists of the last film! Whose idea was this?! The whole plot of the last movie was that Cindel and Mace were trying to reunite their family, and they finally succeed at the end of that movie, only for everyone but Cindel to get murdered at the beginning of the next movie. Are you kidding me? This is brutal! This is basically the same thing that happened in Alien 3. In Aliens, Ellen Ripley risks everything to save a little girl named Newt from the Queen Xenomorph, the biggest and baddest alien out there. They barely escape, along with Corpral Hicks, a U.S. Marine who helped fight the aliens in the movie. Ripley, Hicks, and Newt all make a safe escape off-planet, and enter hypersleep on their ship as they fly to safety. The movie ends on a happy note. Then, Alien 3 starts with their ship crash-landing and Hicks and Newt die in their sleep, off-screen. What the hell?! Who thinks immediately killing off the heroes of the previous movie is a good way to start the sequel? Cindel doesn’t seem that sad about her entire family being dead though, so I guess it’s okay.

Anyway, Cindel is now on her own, and she is captured by the Sanyassans. The Sanyassans look like a cross between the Yuuzhan Vong, the goombas from the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie, and Sarris, from Galaxy Quest. In other words, they look weird. Cindel is reunited with Wicket, who was also captured, and the two escape into the forest.

yuuzhan-vong-goomba-sarris-sanyassan

Cindel and Wicket find a strange rodent creature named Teek, who can run super fast. They follow Teek to a house in the middle of the forest. The house appears to be abandoned, so Cindel and Wicket decide to clean it up and live there themselves. They’re wrong though, and the owner of the home–an old man named Noa–returns and angrily tells them to get lost.

noa-cindel-wicketIs Noa the only person in Star Wars to wear glasses? Are glasses canon? Who knows!

Noa eventually feels bad and lets the two of them stay with him. Noa crash landed on the moon of Endor a very long time ago, and has never been able to leave because his ship’s power cell is broken.

One day, Cindel hears a strange voice calling her name. She wanders off into the forest to find whoever’s calling to her. She finds a pretty woman in a long white dress and with a white horse. This woman reminds me of Mombi from Return to Oz, the first time Dorothy meets her when she still has her nice head on (if you haven’t seen it, don’t ask…). Then the woman transforms into the witch, Charal. Now she reminds me of  Mombi when she puts her angry head on becomes super evil. Charal kidnaps Cindel and brings her to the fortress of the Sanyassans.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Charal has the ability to transform into a crow? Y’know, because she’s a witch. Wait, are crows canon?!?!

…are horses canon?!

Oh wait, the last movie had horses…

The moon of Endor is just full of Earth animals.

star-wars-crow

Charal takes Cindel to who I assume is the king of the Sanyassans. He tells Cindel to activate the “power of the stars” (the power cell they stole from Cindel’s family’s ship) for them with magic, but she’s a five-year-old and she doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about, so they lock her up. They also lock up Charal, and take her magic ring that allows her to turn into a crow.

Noa, Wicket, and Teek find their way to the fortress and are able to unlock Cindel’s cell and break her out. Wicket is about to open Charal’s cell too, but Cindel takes the keys from him and throws them down a drain, saying he can’t free her because she’s evil. Yeah! Take that!

So they take the power cell and escape the fortress, and then suddenly this movie becomes The Lord of the Rings. A huge army of Sanyassans, with their swords and armor, gathers together and rides off on horseback to find the Cindel and her friends. They chase them into the forest and a battle breaks out between the Sanyassans and the Ewoks. This really does feel like a low-budget Lords of the Rings battle scene mixed with the Ewok vs Stormtrooper battle from Return of the Jedi. It’s actually kind of cool! And it’s extra fun, because in this movie, the Ewoks use guns instead of rocks! Ewoks with blasters. So good! When are we going to get Battlefront DLC of this??

sanyassan-army

Noa and Cindel run inside Noa’s crashed ship. They start shooting the Sanyassans with the ships turrets and it’s great because who wouldn’t want to see a Lord of the Rings movie where halfway through the battle a spaceship starts shooting up the battlefield?

Long story short, eventually the plug the power cell into the ship, and Noa and Cindel are finally able to leave the moon of Endor. They all say their goodbyes to their friends. Cindel and Wicket have become best friends and Cindel is way sadder about saying goodbye to him than she ever is about the deaths of her entire family. The ship flies off, and Wicket and Teek run after it, with Wicket shouting “Cindel! Bye Cindel!” It’s actually very touching and kind of sad and I hate that a movie like this can make me feel sad.

The ship flies off into the distance, and the movie ends.

There are some cool things about the movie. The special effects are pretty great for a low-budget made-for-TV movie from the ’80s. Obviously they aren’t anywhere near as good as the effects in an actual Star Wars movie, but they’re still pretty good. There are more alien species and creatures than there were in the first movie, and they all look pretty cool. I was especially impressed with Teek, the little rodent character. The costume and effects used to bring that character to life looked really good.

charal-endor-witchI still can’t get over all the Earth animals that are on Endor. We’ve now seen llamas, horses, crows (well, at least one crow who is actually a witch), chickens, and more on Endor. It’s kind of like if Noah’s ark was actually a spaceship, and that spaceship flew to a galaxy far, far away, and landed on the moon of Endor.

Wait a minute… Could the Noa in this movie actually be the Biblical Noah? Both stories take place a long time ago. Wow, it makes so much sense!

And, wait a minute! In the Bible, in the 28th chapter of Samuel, Saul goes to meet “the Witch of Endor.” Witch of Endor?… you mean like the witch on Endor who is in this movie??

Wow! Turns out Ewoks: The Battle For Endor is actually a sequel to the Holy Bible!

One interesting thing that was apparently later clarified is that Charal, the witch, is actually a Nightsister from the planet Dathomir. The Nightsisters are a group of female witches who practice dark magic using the Force. Asajj Ventress is the most well-known of the Nightsisters. The Clone Wars taught us that the Nightsisters actually raised Darth Maul. The Nightsisters were first introduced in 1994, in Dave Wolverton’s novel The Courtship of Princess Leia. Obviously, that was almost a decade after this movie was released, so calling Charal a Nightsister is just a big ol’ retcon, but it’s still kind of a cool detail.

dathomir-nightsisters.jpg

This movie has more going on than the last one did. It’s faster-paced, which for me makes it more entertaining to watch. Though I wouldn’t ever choose to watch this on my own, I could definitely see myself watching it with younger children, and I think it is something that most kids would enjoy watching if they enjoy fantasy stories or big teddy bears.

You know what really bugs me though? Why can Wicket speak English?! Why?! This movie supposedly takes place before Return of the Jedi, but Wicket can’t speak English in that movie! Why couldn’t he have a conversation with Leia? How did he forget English? Why does this bother me so much?! It’s a kid’s movie! I DON’T CARE I WANT EVERYTHING TO MAKE SENSE.

wicket-leia-english

This actually isn’t the only time this happens in Star Wars. In one episode of The Clone Wars, our favorite shooting-first-friend Greedo makes an appearance, and he speaks in fluent English the entire episode. Okay, if Greedo can speak English, they why doesn’t he speak English with Han in A New Hope, instead of having the weird two-language conversation that they have in the movie?

The easy answer to both of these questions is that this movie and that show are made for kids, and kids don’t want to read subtitles. But still, the continuity-conscious part of me really hates this stuff. Wicket and Greedo both speak English, but they don’t speak English in the regular Star Wars movies. Okay. Weird.

cindel-wicket-fireOverall, this is a pretty good movie, all things considered. It’s made for kids, and the acting is poor, and the story is weird, but it’s still pretty entertaining for what it is. This is the better of the two Ewok movies, for sure. This is a good movie to watch with your kids. If I had seen this movie as a kid I’m sure I would have loved it. Seeing it for the first time as an adult is kind of weird, but it reminds me of the kinds of movies I used to love when I was growing up.

This movie adds nothing important to the Star Wars universe as a whole, but it’s still a cute movie. If you want your Star Wars movies to “matter” in the overall story of Star Wars, then the only spin-off movie you should watch is The Clone Wars. With that said, I actually think Ewoks: The Battle For Endor is a better movie than The Clone Wars, even though The Clone Wars is actually a somewhat important chapter in the story of Star Wars as a whole, especially since it acts as an introduction to Ahsoka Tano.

This movie’s not great, but it’s not bad, especially if you’re going to be watching it with younger kids.

Score: 6/10

Review – “Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure” (1984)

caravan-of-courage-ewok-poster“We came on a star cruiser and we crashed . . . Don’t you have a star cruiser?” – Cindel Towani


 

Well, I committed to reviewing the rest of the Star Wars spin-off movies, so here goes. The thing I never realize when I decide to do something like this, is that reviewing them means that I have to actually watch them! I haven’t seen this movie in a very long time, and I wasn’t particularly excited to sit down and watch it again.

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure came out in 1984, just one year after Return of the Jedi. It was a made-for-TV movie that was aimed at children, though it was eventually released on home video as well (however the last time it was released was in 2004 on DVD, so there is no blu-ray version available).

The story takes place a few years before Return of the Jedi. Wookieepedia places the movie in the year “3 ABY” so I’m just gonna go with that. This means it takes place around the same time as The Empire Strikes Back. This is all pointless information though, because there is no real connection between this movie and the main-saga Star Wars movies other than the shared setting of the Forest Moon of Endor, and a few Ewok characters who appeared both in this and Return of the Jedi.

The movie starts up with no opening crawl, just like every other Star Wars spin-off movie, apparently including the soon-to-be-released Rogue One. This movie is interesting though because it is narrated by the snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives). A narrator in a Star Wars movie seemed like a weird choice at first, until I realized that this is a movie about Ewoks, who don’t speak English, and nobody wants a repeat of The Star Wars Holiday Special where you just have to sit through scenes of unintelligible Wookiee noises for ten minutes.

crashed-starcruiser

The Towani family star cruiser has crash-landed on the moon of Endor. A boy named Mace and his much younger sister, Cindel, end up alone when their parents go missing after the crash. These two kids are the main characters in the movie. It gives me some serious Anakin Skywalker Phantom Menace flashbacks. At first, the kids really annoyed me, especially Cindel, who is about five years old. The bad acting stopped bothering me as much when I just sat back and took this movie for what it is: a made-for-TV kids movie. (Sorry, that exact same realization was still not enough to save the Holiday Special.)

The two kids are found by a group of Ewoks. Warwick Davis reprises his role of Wicket, the little Ewok who finds Leia in Return of the Jedi. The kids follow the ewoks to their village, which is on the ground instead of in the trees. These Ewoks raise animals, including horses, goats, rabbits, chickens, llamas, and more, so it kind of makes sense for them to live on the ground. Seeing all of these animals in a Star Wars movie was a little bit jarring, but Obi-wan talks about ducks in the novelization of A New Hope, so who cares! (“What’s a duck?” – Luke Skywalker)

star-wars-llama

The kids are eventually able to explain to the Ewoks that their parents are missing, and the Ewoks decide to help the kids find them. Though the Ewoks don’t speak English, they eventually learn some English words from the children, including “star cruiser,” “crash,” “dad,” and a more. Why didn’t the Ewoks know any English words in Return of the Jedi then? Especially since these are the same Ewoks. Apparently when the crew was making this movie, they assumed that it took place 150 years after Return of the Jedi. Sometime after that, they changed the date, because it didn’t really make sense to have Wicket the Ewok still so young 150 years after we first met him.

boar-wolfThere is some pretty cool (albeit, very fake-looking) stop-motion animation in this movie. The group gets chased through this forest by this pretty terrifying creature who makes really creepy noises. I feel like this would have seriously scared me as a kid. Even today, there’s something about stop-motion that just kind of creeps me out. Take the stop-motion Terminator at the end of the first Terminator movie, and compare it to the CGI Terminators from the later movies. The original stop-motion one is waaayyy creepier. It is truly a thing of nightmares. The CGI ones? Not so much. Am I the only one who thinks that? Okay, I’m getting off-topic.

The group eventually does go to an Ewok village up in the trees, just like what we remember from Return of the Jedi. Here, the group receives some magic items that are supposed to help them on their quest. Oh yeah, there’s magic in this movie. My first reaction to this is “that’s stupid,” until I remember that Star Wars isn’t actually science-fiction, and is really much more of a fantasy story. Plus, there are a lot of other instances of magic in Star Wars, including very prominent uses of magic in The Clone Wars TV series. It doesn’t make that much sense to complain about magic in a universe that has things like The Force, which is, you know, basically magic.

Though, this does leave me with one question. If the Ewoks are able to use magic, why are they so amazed by a flying C-3PO in Return of the Jedi? And why don’t they use magic in the battle against the Empire? Am I overthinking this? I don’t care!

Another interesting thing is that apparently the Forest Moon of Endor isn’t just a forest. Our group of Ewoks travels across plains, deserts, and mountains in this movie. “Forest Moon” is a bit of a misleading description I guess.

endor-desert

Eventually the group makes it to the cave of the evil Gorax, a giant Wookiee-like creature who trapped the childrens’ parents in a cage that is hanging from the ceiling. With the help of the Ewoks, Mace is able to jump up to the cage and climb inside it. Well, great, now isn’t he stuck in there too? Apparently not, because I guess there was a super-long rope in there! So Mace and his parents climb out of the cage with the rope. Why couldn’t his parents have climbed down on their own if they had a rope in there the whole time?? I actually rewatched this part of the movie just to make sure that Mace didn’t bring the rope up there with him. He didn’t. It was already in the cage. I DON’T GET IT.

cindel-ewoksThe kids are eventually reunited with their parents and everyone seems happy and then the movie just ends. They never fix their ship and they never get off the moon of Endor.

Apparently this movie was successful enough for a sequel to be made, so one year later, Ewoks: The Battle of Endor was released. I have seen it before, but I really don’t remember what happens. Something about a witch who can turn into a crow or whatever. Sounds weird to me. But I’ll review the sequel next time!

This movie isn’t that bad. I mean, it’s not good, but for a kids movie it’s pretty decent. I honestly think I enjoyed this more than The Clone Wars movie. Maybe it’s my nostalgia for ’80s movies (almost all of my favorite movies are from the ’80s), but there is a certain charm to this movie. This is definitely something that young children would enjoy, and that adults can at least tolerate. This is a movie I would recommend to parents of young children. Other than that, I think most people wouldn’t get much out of this, as it doesn’t have much to offer, and it really has nothing at all to do with Star Wars.

Score: 5/10

Review – “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Movie (2008)

the-clone-wars-movie-poster“Ready he is, to teach an apprentice. To let go of his pupil, a greater challenge it will be. Master this, Skywalker must.” – Yoda


 

With the imminent release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story next month, I thought now would be a fun time to look back at the other Star Wars spin-off movies that came before.

The internet is going crazy making all kinds of incorrect assumptions about Rogue One, labeling it “the first Star wars spin-off” and writing articles with headlines like “Rogue One to be the First Star Wars Film Without an Opening Crawl” (not to mention the false assumption that many bothans are going to die in the movie. Wrong Death Star, guys). So let’s just set the record straight. Rogue One is not the first Star Wars spin-off movie. It is the fifth one. We’ve had two live-action Ewok movies, The Clone Wars animated movie, and of course everyone’s favorite; The Star Wars Holiday Special. None of these movies had opening crawls either, just in case the idea of a Star Wars movie without one seems sacrilegious to you. Sure, Rogue One is the first high-budget Disney-made Star Wars spin-off, but it’s far from the first spin-off movie. I’ve already written a long post about the Holiday Special, but I thought I’d take a look at the other three spin-off movies before we all go see Rogue One in a few short weeks.

As a huge fan of The Clone Wars TV series that came after this movie, I thought it would be interesting to go back to where it all started, with the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars on August 15th, 2008. This was three years after Revenge of the Sith had come out, so this was a time when Star Wars was pretty much finished, as far as the main saga went. We still had our Expanded Universe novels, comics, and video games, but we were done getting new Star Wars movies for all we knew, so the fact that this movie even existed was exciting for some.

clone-wars-anakinI remember seeing the trailer for this movie and being excited at the idea of being able to watch a Star Wars movie in the theater one more time, even though the movie didn’t look particularly good. But, the movie came and went, and I never saw it in the theater. I don’t remember there being much promotion for the movie, and even though I was a massive Star Wars fan, I somehow let the theatrical run of this movie slip by me (a mistake I certainly did not repeat when The Force Awakens came out, which I waited hours in line for on opening night, and then saw seven more times in the theater before the movie came out on Blu-ray). So, I didn’t see this movie until it was out on DVD. I had a friend come over who I had previously seen Revenge of the Sith with in the theater so we could watch the movie together. We didn’t really know what to expect. I’m going to give you two points of view in this review: My first impression of the movie after that first time I watched it, and how I feel about the movie today after repeat viewings.

Well, this movie left a terrible first impression on me. I couldn’t believe I had just seen a Star Wars movie that was so awful (keep in mind, I hadn’t yet watched The Holiday Special or the Ewok movies). I pretty much hated it. The story was bad, the acting (or voice acting, I guess) was bad, the dialogue was terrible, the attempts at comic-relief made Jar Jar Binks look like comedy gold, and I really hated Ahsoka Tano and couldn’t understand why they would give Anakin a padawan who was never mentioned in the main movies. I just didn’t like the movie it at all. Because of this movie I avoided watching The Clone Wars TV series for almost three years.

Here’s what I think of the movie now, after having grown to love the TV series and having watched the entire series twice: it’s still bad.

Okay, maybe it was pointless to give you both points of view when they’re basically the same. But, I don’t hate the movie as much after having watched the entire TV series. It’s kind of fun to go back and see how it all stared, even if it makes you cringe.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars introduces us to Anakin Skywalker’s padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano. What?? Anakin had a padawan in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith? Why did we never hear about her before? Well, eight years later, there’s still no good answer to that question. Ahsoka is an annoying young girl who is quite whiny and snippy. I hated her in this movie, and was not excited about her being a main character in the TV series that came after. Anakin is not happy about having to train a padawan, and the two don’t get along for a while.

rotta-the-huttletJabba the Hutt’s son (apparently he has one of those) is kidnapped by bounty hunters, and Jabba asks the Jedi to help find him. Anakin and Ahsoka are assigned by the Jedi Council to find and return Jabba’s son, in hopes that Jabba will allow the Clone army to pass through Hutt Space for doing so. Meanwhile, Count Dooku (with the help of Asajj Ventress) is doing what he can to prevent the safe return of Jabba’s son and to frame the Jedi for the abduction and murder of the little guy. It’s a pretty unexciting story that might have worked as a few episodes of a TV show, but definitely is not worthy of being a feature film.

The first big problem with this movie is the fact that it was never even supposed to be a movie. It was just supposed to be a few episodes of the TV series, but somewhere along the line they decided to mash a few of the episodes together and release it as a movie. The thing it, it feels like a bunch of TV show episodes mashed together. It doesn’t flow well as a feature film and it is pretty obvious that it was never meant to be one.

Weirdly, this movie actually takes place after a few of the epidoes of the TV show. For some reason, The Clone Wars TV series did not air in chronological order. After the series was finished, starwars.com put out a list of all Clone Wars episodes (including this movie) in the correct viewing order, which occasionally requires you to jump back and forth between seasons.

battle-droidThe attempts at comic relief really rubbed me the wrong way when I first saw this movie. The prime offenders are the battle droids. I hate the battle droids in this movie, and it’s not because they’re the bad guys. It’s because they’re constantly used for comedic purposes that just aren’t funny at all. I think the show writers realized this, because as the TV series goes on, the droids are used less and less as comic relief, thank goodness. There are other failed attempts at humor scattered throughout the movie, but none as bad as the battle droids.

I don’t remember what I thought about the animation when I first saw the movie, but watching it now is kind of painful. The TV series looked better and better with each passing season, until it eventually became what I consider the most beautifully-animated TV show I’ve ever seen. The later seasons look gorgeous. This movie, in comparison, looks pretty terrible. There are even some shots of the movie that are clearly unfinished, with very rough animation. Since this movie was their first try, and since the animation got so much better as the TV series progressed, I can give this a pass. But still, it looks bad. Animations are awkward and unnatural, the environments are extra bland, and the textures used on many of the characters just do not look good.

The music is also bad. Okay, Star Wars set the bar pretty high for great musical scores, so it’s no surprise that a lower-budget spin-off film doesn’t hit that standard. The problem isn’t that the music sounds like “less good” Star Wars music; the problem is that it doesn’t sound like Star Wars at all. I kept getting pulled out of the movie because the music felt so out of place. Bringing heavily-distorted electric guitars into the mix was probably the worst part, but even when the score stuck to more traditional instruments, it still sounded nothing like Star Wars. This is another thing that they must have realized was a mistake, because the TV series had music that sounded a lot more like Star Wars.

captain-rexThis movie introduces us to a few important new characters. Aside from Ahsoka, we get to meet Asajj Ventress, Captain Rex, and Ziro the Hutt. Ventress actually appeared in other Expanded Universe stories before making her appearance in this movie, and the movie seems to assume that you’re familiar with at least some of them, because the movie doesn’t bother explaining who she is or where she came from. Captain Rex is Anakin’s Clone Commander, the leader of the 501st Clone Battalion (the 501st Legion eventually becomes Darth Vader’s personal legion of stormtroopers), and he is probably the clone that we get to know best over the course of the TV series (and, eventually in Star Wars Rebels as well). We don’t see much of him in this movie though, and so we don’t really get a good feel for his character. And then, there’s Ziro the Hutt…

Ugh…ziro-the-hutt

Ziro the Hutt is literally my least favorite Star Wars character of all time. I hate this guy. I would watch a trilogy of Jar Jar movies before having to sit through any more Ziro the Hutt stories. I’d rather watch a TV series about the guy who pours drinks into his volcano head from the Holiday Special. Ziro just annoys me to no end. The way he acts is annoying, but mostly, it’s his voice. His accent combined with the way the he talks drives me insane (by the way, he speaks English for some reason, unlike his nephew, Jabba). Whenever this guy pops up on-screen, I’m in misery. His character design isn’t bad though. He looks kind of cool for a Hutt. But I hate him.

One cool thing about this movie is that Christopher Lee and Samuel L. Jackson reprised their roles of Count Dooku and Mace Windu. This is notable because they did not continue to voice the characters in the TV series. But at least we get them for this one movie.

Anakin isn’t my favorite in this movie, but this Clone Wars version of Anakin eventually becomes my favorite version of Anakin, bar none. He’s still kind of annoying in this movie, but over the course of the show this version of Anakin becomes so much more likable than the live-action version, and his fall to the dark side feels much more gradual and realistic.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Was there anything about this movie that I actually liked though? If you take this movie as a standalone–ignoring the TV series and other stories that came after it–then no. This movie is bad. Am I being a little harsh towards a movie that was clearly aimed at a younger audience than the main-series Star Wars films? Maybe, a little bit. But good kids’ movies are still enjoyable for adults too. While I can easily see young children enjoying this movie, I can’t really see anyone else having a fun time watching this.

But here’s the one huge positive that I can sort of take from this movie: Though I complained about her in this review, and I truly can’t stand her in this movie, Ahsoka Tano went on to become a great character in the TV show. I hated her when I first saw this movie, and it took me a long time to warm up to her in the show, but as she grew as a Jedi she became more mature, less annoying, and eventually ended up being a total badass. I’m being completely honest when I say that Ahsoka Tano is one of my favorite Star Wars characters of all time. And looking back, it’s kind of fun to see how an annoying teenage girl evolved over time into the character that I enjoy so much today. Her last appearance in The Clone Wars TV series is not only one of the best parts of the entire show, but one of my favorite moments in all of Star Wars. And I was thrilled when she came back years later in Star Wars Rebels. I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this movie, but I’m definitely glad that it introduced us to such a great character, even if I didn’t think she was so great at the time. The only reason I would recommend this movie to anyone is because it introduces us to Ahoska Tano.

ahsoka-vader-rebels

Score: 4/10

Review – “The Empire Strikes Back” – Novelization (1980)

Empire_Strikes_Back_Cover“You are the last Jedi, Luke. You are our only hope. Be patient. – Ben Kenobi


 

The novelization of The Empire Strikes Back was released April 12, 1980, a month before the film itself came out in theaters. The novelizations of the first six Star Wars films all came out before the films themselves did, though it looks like that trend has stopped, as last year’s The Force Awakens novelization was released the same day as the movie. Though it is the second movie novelization, it is the fifth Star Wars novel to be released, after the novelization of the first movieSplinter of the Mind’s Eye, Han Solo at Stars’ End, and Han Solo’s RevengeThe final book in Brian Daley’s Han Solo trilogy, Han Solo and the Lost Legacywas released four months after this. The Star Wars Expanded Universe was young, but growing.

This one was written by Donald F. Glut, and it is the only Star Wars novel he ever wrote, though he had previously written some issues of Marvel’s Star Wars comic series.

There’s not a whole lot to say about this one. It’s good. Not great. Not bad. Good. It is written well. No complaints with the writing style, or choice of words or anything like that. It’s just that there’s not much more to the novel than what we see in the movie. Like The Force Awakens novelization, this one is pretty much a straight retelling of what we see on-screen in the movie itself. There are, however, a few differences between the book and the movie. Nothing major, but it was fun to try picking all the differences out. For one, C-3PO is fluent in ten times more forms of communication than in the movies! “I’m fluent in over sixty million forms of communication!” Wow. What an upgrade!

Yoda_McQuarrie_ConceptOne of the more obvious differences was the physical description of Yoda. From what I understand, Yoda’s appearance was kept tight under wraps even from those who were working on the novelization and comic book adaptations of the movie, so the Yoda we meet in the book isn’t quite the same Yoda we see on-screen. The book describes Yoda as a being whose “long white hair was parted down the middle and hung down on either side of the blue-skinned head. The being was bipedal, and stood on short legs that terminated in tridactyl, almost reptilian feet.” He was also described as having “bulbous eyes.” Though not drastically different than the green-skinned creature we know so well, it is still different enough to be noteworthy. Shortly after meeting Yoda, we get a fun peek inside Luke’s head as he thinks to himself “How could an elf like this know anything about a great teacher of the Jedi Knights?”

Luke’s training with Yoda is also expanded upon. We get to see more of Luke training, and we get to hear more of Yoda’s wisdom and teachings. These were some of my favorite parts of the novel, because they were some of the only “extra” scenes the book provided that the movie didn’t have. We get to see Luke actually training in lightsaber combat, which was fun. Yoda also has Luke make them dinner, and while Luke is busy trying to cook in Yoda’s tiny kitchen, Yoda ambushes him with training droids. It is fun to see this stuff, and it makes Luke’s training feel more real, because we hardly see any of it in the actual movie. The narrator tells us that “Yoda spent long hours lecturing his student about the ways of the Jedi. As they sat under the trees near Yoda’s little house, Luke listened intently to all the master’s tales and lessons.”

The Dagobah cave scene is also expanded upon slightly, and like in Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the first Star Wars movie, Darth Vader is wielding a blue lightsaber. I’m not sure when it was officially made clear that his sword is supposed to be red. Today it is obvious to everyone that he has a red sword, but back then the coloring of the lightsabers was so bad that they all just looked white.

In the beginning of the book, after Luke is rescued from the wampa and put in the bacta tank, he starts mumbling to himself in his unconscious state. He says “Yoda . . . Go to Yoda.” Han and Chewbacca are in the room and the narrator points out that neither one of them has any idea what Luke is talking about. Uhh… Chewbacca would totally know what Luke is talking about. We all know that Chewie and Yoda were buddies 25 years back. Stupid narrator, unable to predict future pointless movie twists! It actually makes me wonder how the story would have turned out differently if Luke would have mentioned Yoda to Chewie, given what we now know about their past.

Chewbacca-Yoda-Tarfful

One thing that caught my attention was during the Battle of Hoth. There was a moment right before Luke and Han went separate ways where the author writes “The two friends, Luke and Han, stood looking at each other, perhaps for the last time.” This was interesting to me because I just recently read The Force Awakens novelization, where the author wrote similar things about Han and Leia, and Han and Chewbacca. The book made it much more obvious than the movie did that Han was saying goodbye to Leia and Chewie for the last time in both instances. Of course, here in The Empire Strikes Back, Han and Luke do get to see each other again. I just found it interesting because The Force Awakens novelization had two nearly identical moments, though in both cases, it really was the last time Han would see those characters.

There were moments of the book that left me wanting to know more. When Boba Fett makes an appearance we are told that “He was dressed in a weapon-covered, armored spacesuit, the kind worn by a group of evil warriors defeated by the Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars.” What? I want to hear more about that Clone Wars battle! Fett is wearing traditional Mandalorian armor, but I’ve watched all six seasons of The Clone Wars TV series, and the two seasons of the earlier 2d Clone Wars show, and I never got to see the Jedi Knights defeat a group of evil Mandalorian warriors. Somebody, make this story happen!

The Empire Strikes Back is the first time we ever get to see Emperor Palpatine. The prologue of the novelization of A New Hope does mention him, but other than that, this is Palpatine’s first appearance in Star Wars. One thing I loved about the Emperor in this novel is that Donald F. Glut really made the Emperor seem terrifying. Possibly my favorite parts of the entire book were just the descriptions of the Emperor. Here is an example:

Only one being in the entire universe could instill fear in the dark spirit of Darth Vader. As he stood, silent and alone in his dim chamber, the Dark Lord of the Sith waited for a visit from his own dreaded master.

As he waited, his Imperial Star Destroyer floated through a vast ocean of stars. No one on his ship would have dared disturb Darth Vader in his private cubicle. But if they had, they might have detected a slight trembling in that black-cloaked frame. And there might even have been a hint of terror to be seen upon his visage, had anyone been able to see through his concealing black breath mask.

. . .

The Emperor’s presence was awesome enough, but the sound of his voice sent a thrill of terror coursing through Vader’s powerful frame.

Emperor_Palpatine

Even Darth Vader is terrified of Emperor Palpatine in this adaptation. I love this. The Emperor didn’t seem all that scary in the movie, but in this book you realize just how frightening the man really is. With all the backstory we now have about Palpatine and Anakin, it makes this description even more disturbing. Anakin and Palpatine were friends at one point. Now Anakin serves Palpatine, and he is terrified of him. Vader isn’t completely fearless. His own master is his worst nightmare.

Darth-Vader-LightsaberIt is interesting to note that when Luke fights Vader in Cloud City, it is not the first time they have fought in either the Legends continuity or in the new canon. In Legends, Luke first fights Vader in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye on the planet Circarpous V (also known as “Mimban”). In the new canon, Luke fights Vader (or at least attempts to) in the second issue of Marvel’s rebooted Star Wars comic book series. In the comic version, this is where Vader realizes that Luke is carrying his old lightsaber, and after learning from Boba Fett that Luke’s name is “Skywalker” he puts the pieces together and realizes exactly who Luke is; his son. In any case, Vader and Luke’s confrontation in The Empire Strikes Back is not their first confrontation in any version of Star Wars continuity at this point.

This book was an entertaining read, but like I said before, there isn’t much to it. I mentioned my main points of interest already in this review. I enjoyed the book, but will probably never read it again. There just isn’t a reason to come back to it. On the other hand, The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie of all time. I could watch it a thousand times and still love it. I’d say stick with the movie for this one, unless of course you’re like me and you just want to read everything Star Wars.

I’ll end this review with one of the more jarring differences between the book and the movie. The famous lines “I love you” “I know” are not uttered in this novelization. Instead, when Han is about to be dropped into the carbon freezing chamber, Leia says to him “I love you . . . I couldn’t tell you before, but it’s true.”

Han then replies, “Just remember that, because I’ll be back.”

Score: 6.5/10

Review – Marvel: “Star Wars” #1-6 (1977)

Classic-Marvel-Star-Wars-1“General Obi-Wan Kenobi–I present myself in the name of my father, Bail Antillies, Viceroy of Alderaan. Years ago, Commander, you served the Old Republic in the Clone Wars; now my father begs you to aid us again in our most desperate hour . . . You are our last hope…” – Princess Leia Organa


 

The first six issues of Marvel’s original Star Wars comic book series make up the first ever comic adaptation of the original Star Wars movie. The first issue was released in April of 1977 (despite it saying “July” on the cover), a month before Star Wars made its premiere in theaters. This first issue was simply titled Star Wars, while all subsequent issues of the series had titles of their own.

The first six issues of the series were titled as follows:

  1. Star Wars (Apr 12, 1977)
  2. Six Against the Galaxy (May 10, 1977)
  3. Death Star! (Jun 7, 1977)
  4. In Battle with Darth Vader (Jul 12, 1977)
  5. Lo, The Moons of Yavin! (Aug 10, 1977)
  6. Is This the Final Chapter? (Sep 13, 1977)

Over the years these issues have been released over and over again in various omnibuses and trade paperback collections published by both Marvel and Dark Horse Comics. I have always been curious to go back and read these old comics, as it is something I had never done before, so I picked up the first few of Dark Horse Comics’ Classic Star Wars: A Long Time Ago… omnibuses so I could finally take a crack at this classic series.

The series ran for nearly a decade, spanning 107 issues. As mentioned above, the first six issues of the series are an adaptation of the original Star Wars movie. Apart from these six issues–and issues 39-44, which adapt The Empire Strikes Back–the series tells its own original stories starring our heroes from the original Star Wars Trilogy.

For now, I’m just going to talk about the first six issues; the adaptation of what came to be known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. After reading Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the film, and enjoying the extra tidbits of information the book provided that the film didn’t, I was curious to see if the comic adaptation would likewise bring something new to the table.

Just looking at the front cover of the first issue, the first thing that really sticks out to me about this series is the artwork. I confess I have never been a big fan of comic books, and I haven’t read very many of them in my days, but the few I have read have for the most part been published within the last 15 years. So, in my extremely limited experience with comic books, I’m used to art that looks a little bit more, uhh… modern?… than this (see Shattered Empirefor example).

Lo-The-Moons-Of-YavinWith that said, I love the artwork in these books. I don’t think I can say that “it breathes new life into Star Wars” because it came out nearly four decades ago, but in a way I really feel it does. The comic doesn’t try to be an exact replica of the films. The characters all look quite different than their on-screen counterparts.

The colors are fantastic, and at times are wonderfully inappropriate. When did Han Solo paint the inside of the Millenium Falcon neon green? Why is Darth Vader green on the cover? Why are all the lightsabers pink? All the locations, settings, and characters are so vibrantly colored. Even the dogfights in space are full of color. Some images, like Obi-Wan’s death by the hand of Darth Vader, look absolutely ridiculous. Frankly, this all adds to the charm of the book, and I love it.

The covers of some of the issues are totally misleading. The cover of Issue #5, depicts our heroes on the surface of Yavin IV running desperately while the Death Star fires lasers at them from orbit. The cover of Issue #6 shows Luke and Vader having a lightsaber duel. Neither of those things ever happened in the movie, and they don’t even happen in the comic! They just looked nice on the cover I guess.

One thing that I noticed was that a lot of the panels in these comics felt really text-heavy. Some panels felt like they were just crammed with text boxes. Usually they were narration boxes, but sometimes speech bubbles did the same thing. You know that scene in the Special Edition of A New Hope where a big ol’ CGI alien walks right in front of the camera and literally blocks the entire screen for a couple seconds? Sometimes I felt like the text boxes were getting in the way like that. For the most part, this wasn’t an issue. But there were a few specific panels, or even specific pages where I noticed I sure was reading a lot.

As far as the story goes, these six issues are more-or-less a direct scene-for-scene adaptation of the movie. There are a few scenes in the comic that we don’t see in the movie, but they are the same extra scenes that appeared in Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of the film. We get to see Luke on Tatooine earlier than we do in the movie. His “friends” like to make fun of him and call him “Wormie” (this is actually referenced in the 2015 Marvel Star Wars series, which made me smile). We get to meet Biggs here on Tatooine, before he joins the Rebellion.

Jabba-The-Hut-ComicWe also get to see Jabba the Hut (still spelled with just one “T”). In the movie Jabba is a giant slug. In the novelization Jabba was a human. In the comic, Jabba is… some silly-looking yellow humanoid alien. Apparently back then nobody had any idea who or what Jabba the Hutt actually was, so we have all these different versions of this scene spread across the various adaptations of the story.

There are little things that I found odd. Whenever the Force is mentioned it is always mentioned in quotation marks. Use “the Force!” Lightsaber is always spelled “lightsabre” with the “re” ending instead of “er.” Artoo Detoo is referred to as an “android” at least once. These are all very little things, but things that stuck out to me as they are not the norm in Star Wars literature.

What else is different? Leia says that her father is “Bail Antillies” when it should be “Bail Organa.” The funny thing is, Bail Antilles is actually a different character in Star Wars. Actually, there are two other characters in Star Wars named Bail Antilles, and neither of them are Leia’s father, Bail Organa. Is that sufficiently confusing?

Greedo speaks English. Luke says a line or two that Han actually says in the movie. Certain lines differ from what is said in the movie in a goofy way: “The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the Cosmic Force!” Obi-Wan straight-up murders the aliens in the cantina who are giving Luke a hard time.

In-Battle-With-Darth-VaderLike in the novelization, Luke flies with Blue Squadron instead of Red Squadron. One of my favorite scenes from the book is repeated in the comic, where Blue Leader talks to Luke about knowing his father, Anakin Skywalker. Blue Leader knew that Anakin was a great pilot, and a Jedi. “The galaxy will be a lot better off when the sons of the original Jedi Knights are back on the scene!”

One thing I thought was funny was the overuse of the word “space.” After the Battle of Yavin is over, Luke finds Han and says “Han, you old space-devil! I knew you’d come back in time to keep me from winding up space-dust!” It’s a great space-quote, and it made me laugh. The word “space” is slapped in front of basically any word, and I just love it. This trend still continues in Star Wars literature today (though far, far less frequently). One of my favorite instances was actually in Chuck Wendig’s 2015 novel, Aftermathin which fan-favorite bounty hunter Dengar says “I was putting away bounties while you were still in your space diapers.” I wonder how space diapers compare to regular diapers.

One detail that I appreciated was that the comic actually goes out of its way to explain why Chewbacca didn’t receive a medal at the end of the story. The explanation is simple; Leia is just way too short to put a medal around Chewbacca’s neck. The narrator points out that Chewbacca will receive a medal of his own after the ceremony, but he will have to put it on himself.

The comic book adaptation doesn’t bring a lot of new information to the story. If that’s what you’re looking for, you may be disappointed. But it is very fun to read and look at the great artwork from the late 70s. This is probably the goofiest adaptation of Star Wars I’ve seen yet, but that’s part of its charm. I’m definitely glad I picked this up, and I’m looking forward to continue reading the series and seeing the other original (and even weirder) stories that Marvel came up with.

“What the future holds for these six daring souls, only time and the space-winds know. But, for today… For now… They are content.”

Medal-Ceremony.jpg

Score: 7.5/10