I had just turned seven when the original Star Wars came out in 1977. I don’t remember what channel of advertising made it through to me, but I was completely obsessed with Star Wars. I was counting the days until the movie came out and made my mom take me to the theater to see it on opening weekend.
Happy Rancor explores hidden gems in and around the orbit of Star Wars — from old video games to comics to underrated novels — that have maybe been forgotten, but deserve a little more consideration. In this installment, we look at the book adaptation of the last (for now) Star Wars film.
Star Wars novelizations are almost a genre unto themselves. They offer fans a slightly alternate, and often times, deeper look into the Star Wars films with extra dialogue and scenes that expand the scope of what’s in the finished film. At the same time, they have their work cut out for them: they’re competing with the film on which they’re based as well as original Star Wars novels, which can make it difficult for readers to know exactly how to view them. Among all the Star Wars novelizations, Matthew Stover’s adaptation of Revenge of the Sith is a particular favorite. It delves into characters and their motivations more than one would expect, it’s beautifully written, and it enriches the experience of watching the movie in surprising ways.
I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since my dad took me to see Return of the Jedi. It was the first Star Wars film I’d ever seen, as I was a bit too young for the others. Now I’ve got tons of action figures and collectables — and a costume, which I wear proudly as a member of the 501st. My wife introduced me to Disneyland and I became hooked; I ended up getting an annual pass and we still go often. Now we have two kids (one and three years old) that will be future Star Wars and Disney geeks. So from my point of view, the he pairing of Star Wars and Disneyland seems a natural fit.
During Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, my friend Britt (a photographer and lifelong Star Wars fan) and I were talking about the lack of Star Wars offerings at Disneyland compared to Walt Disney World; back then, Disney’s California park only had Star Tours, and The Jedi Training Academy hadn’t even opened yet. So taking a tip from Bats Day and other unofficial days at the resort, we decided to start a special day for Star Wars fans at Disneyland.
The influence of Star Wars on a generation of filmmakers is well-documented. But George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away has also inspired creators in other arts, including music. In Guitars and Lightsabers, a new series on the Star Wars Blog, musicians discuss the impact that Star Wars has had on their lives and their work. In today’s installment, Jason Shaw and Garrett Leister of HRVRD discuss what Star Wars means to them.
Jason Shaw: Few words have lasted as long in my life as “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” The first time I ever saw The Empire Strikes Back I couldn’t have been more than four or five years old and to this day, at the age of 29, I think I can close my eyes and recount every minute of that movie. As a child it impacted me with immense enchantment, yet as I carried that enchantment through my adolescence and teenage years I began to evaluate the huge weight that this movie carried with me. That one simple line of dialogue, “There is no try,” spoken by a small green “alien” with pointy ears probably rings in my ears every day of my life. I could literally apply those words to every worry, frustration, anxiety, or challenge I’ve ever had in my life. I’m actually certain that with every challenge I’ve had, the first image that popped into my head was Yoda looking at me with a blank gaze just waiting for me to do something productive and positive to better my situation.
The Dark Times of the mid to late ’80s had passed and as we entered the 1990s brighter times lay ahead for Star Wars fans — but at the turn of the decade, that was yet to become evident to the wider Star Wars public. While rumors continued to float around about the prequel trilogy there was little movement from Lucasfilm on the Star Wars front. Indeded, Lucasfilm had recently completed their Indiana Jones trilogy and were in a busy period, releasing Willow, Howard the Duck, and Tucker: The Man and His Dream. ILM had worked on a number of special effects smashes in the late ’80s including Star Trek IV, Ghostbusters 2, The Witches of Eastwick, and Back to the Future II and III, and LucasArts was fast building a solid reputation in the computer gaming industry via such smashes as Labyrinth, Maniac Mansion, and Secret of Monkey Island. It would appear that Lucasfilm had outgrown its reliance on the galaxy far, far away and developed an identity free of Jedi, Wookiees, and Wampas.
However, in the late ’80s artist Cam Kennedy and writer Tom Veitch pitched an idea to Lucasfilm, who in turn was offered it to Marvel Comics, the longtime publishers of Star Wars comics who had let the license lapse in 1987. Marvel turned it down, despite going so far as to releasing a print ad for the series and the project – Dark Empire – found its way into the hands of Milwaukee comics publishers Dark Horse, a relatively new face on the comics scene who had proven to be adept at handling movie licenses. The title would go on to be a smash hit for Dark Horse, coming out in late 1991 after another dipping of the toes into the Star Wars pool proved to be equally as successful.
During its five seasons, The Clone Wars jumped around both the regions of the galaxy and the timeline of the galactic conflict it chronicled, taking us from Anakin and Obi-Wan’s adventures on the front lines to Padmé Amidala’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the war in the Senate. We saw clone troopers and battle droids in combat, but we also learned about the ambitions of Mandalorians and Sith and were brought into the plots and schemes of pirates and bounty hunters.
For DK’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars Episode Guide, released earlier this month, Lucasfilm wanted to present the episodes in chronological order for the first time, starting with “Cat and Mouse,” Anakin’s duel with Admiral Trench, and ending with “The Wrong Jedi,” in which Ahsoka Tano leaves the Jedi Order, seeking her own path. In all, we chronicled 108 episodes and the 2008 theatrical release, which was originally four standalone episodes.
When Episode I came out a few people were upset by the role midi-chlorians played in the Force — particularly when a drop of Anakin’s blood revealed an unusually high number of them in his system. As Lucas explained in a talk with author Terry Brooks, who was about to start writing the novelization of the film, “In Anakin’s case, there are, instead of one or two or three midi-chlorians in each cell, there’s like a thousand. It’s unbelievable how many midi-chlorians are in there.”
So…what are they? Lucas expounded: “I’m assuming that the midi-chlorians are a race that everybody knows about [in the world of Star Wars]. The way you interact and interface with this larger energy field [the Force] is through the midi-chlorians, which are sensitive to the energy. They are at the core of your life, which is the cell, the living cell. They are in a symbiotic relationship with the cell. And then, because they’re all interconnected as one, they can communicate with the larger Force field. That’s how you deal with the Force.”
We’ve talked in the past the influence of Akira Kurosawa’s films on Star Wars, but I think the one that’s had the most consistent influence has been Seven Samurai. Seven Samurai, released in 1954, tells the story of a group of peasant rice farmers terrorized by bandits. When the bandits come too early in the season, they inform the impoverished farmers of their plans to return soon to loot their food. Instead of yielding, as they had every time in the past, they decide to hire samurai to protect them and find a misfit band of masterless samurai to defend them.