Wednesday, 7 October 2015


A time for action! STAR WARS REBELS begins! All Images: © 2015 & TM Lucasfilm Ltd. 

A sure-fire hit with the modern STAR WARS generation, and deliberately crafted to appeal to fans loving the colour, unique design, overall fun and spirited action of the Classic Trilogy universe of heroes and villains, that unique band of STAR WARS REBELS bring their fifteen-episode premiere year of excitement to Blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of LUCASFILM and DISNEY. Created by film writer/producer Simon Kinberg, alongside THE CLONE WARS top supervising animation director Dave Filoni, and producer Carrie Beck, REBELS tells the ROBIN HOOD meets FIREFLY-esque story/format of a mismatched "family" of resistance fighters, whom, with their latest recruit in street urchin Ezra Bridger- a boy gifted by the powers of that mysterious Force, bring all kinds of inventive means and plucky heroism towards their constant fight against the mighty Empire that has enslaved the galaxy and controls their particular spatial area in the Lothal system. Having ignited a spark of rebellion, they soon catch the attention of some of the Empire's most formidable and brutal enforcers, including spiteful special agent Kallus, the lightsaber wielding killer known as the Grand Inquisitor, and later on the gruesome visaged Grand Moff Tarkin, whose cruelty and ruthless service of the Emperor and his harsh doctrine has been known and feared since the end of the all-consuming Clone Wars.

Star Wars Rebels Extended Trailer (Official) - YouTube
Trailer: Star Wars: Rebels - Season 1 - YouTube

The heroes of STAR WARS REBELS.

With the series pilot episode, Ezra Bridger, an orphan who's had to survive on his own instincts and growing latent skills, is the launching point into this universe, set five years before the events of the original STAR WARS. Through him we soon meet his mentor in the youthfully bold rebel leader and father-figure that is Kanan Jarrus, a Jedi who, these past fourteen years, has had no choice but to keep his incredible abilities concealed and under the radar since the apocalyptic ORDER 66 destruction of the Jedi Knights. Until, that is, the arrival of Ezra- a kindred spirit whom he soon identifies with, another brother in the Force, together sharing their potential to truly fight back against the corruptive Sith and their legion forces. Keeping Kanan "honest" is his friend, lover and skilled pilot of their modified freighter, The Ghost, Twi-lek pilot Hera Syndulla (daughter of the famous resistance fighter Cham), dedicated to her man and the rebel cause, very much the mother-hen to their Spectre unit, and knowing much more about the state of the galaxy-wide battle against the Empire than most. Bringing beautiful-looking destruction to a new art form is the plucky graffiti artist from Mandalore, the colourful Sabine Wren, and the almost last of his kind, headstrong put passionate about busting Stormtrooper heads alien that is quirky Zeb Orrelios, who brings muscle and firepower to their against all odds missions. Finally, we can't forget that squat orange Astro Droid that is Chopper- definitely the crankiest and attitude-giving member of the crew, but nonetheless a vital player in his own right, often surprising, delighting and infuriating all at the same time!

Lando Calrissian and Chopper enjoy a quirky adventure in Idiot's Array.

As this family of heroes cements itself, there's run-ins with a shady arms dealer, Vizago, who'd likely sell his own mother to the Imperials were it profitable enough, a bid to liberate a group of enslaved Wookiees from the harsh mines of Kessel, and a tense battle to destroy the propaganda machine that is "Empire Day". Then there's welcome appearances from popular characters across the six live-action films, including charming smoothie Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), gold-plated C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and helpful R2-D2, and the important return of Frank Oz as the in-exile diminutive Yoda, offering help and encouragement to Ezra via long distance Force rapport. Plus a very special cameo from THE CLONE WARS version of Obi-Wan Kenobl (as inherited by James Arnold Taylor) for the series opener, truly helping to merge George Lucas's prior animated saga with DISNEY's new vision.

Kanan engages in lethal swordplay with the Grand Inquisitor.

Behind the scenes, the series main voice cast's passion and enthusiasm for STAR WARS is clearly evident (of which Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Vanessa Marshall are particular standouts), whilst further talent adding to the storytelling tapestry of the series includes THE CLONE WARS writer Henry Gilroy. Top visual effects artist Joel Aron and conceptual resident Killian Plunkett continue weaving their production magic, clearly have fun adapting important sections of the Classic Trilogy era into new animated life (including some of the classic toys, like the beloved seventies standout, the Imperial Troop Transport), and composer Kevin Kiner cleverly adapts and fuses sections of John Williams memorable music of the film series into his work, if sometimes feeling a little over gratuitous.

TIE fighters and Rebel vessels engage for the spectacular season finale.

Beyond the episodes, best seen in crisp and captivating Blu-ray form, the two-disc set's Special Features include all the brief but fun behind the scenes webseries instalments of REBELS RECON, a lively report of the cast and crew making an impression at COMIC CON, the four original shorts introducing the crew of The Ghost, and a near half-hour look back at the key events of Season One leading in to Season Two, and its well deserved and highly anticipated return of dark warrior, Darth Vader, plus a short but exciting featurette of Dave Filoni teasing the new season, with lots of key episode conceptual art and an extended trailer packed full of exciting moments (mysterious new Inquisitors, Captain Rex, and a prototype B-wing fighter!). Finally, there's an HD transfer of the second THE FORCE AWAKENS trailer, of which this series, in many ways, is a valuable set-up for.

AFICIONADO RATING (Episodes and Special Features). A promising start to the series run, very much the New Dawn to A New Hope, though we hope, unlike the much-loved, scrapped before its time THE CLONE WARS, that STAR WARS REBELS lasts long enough to get a full and satisfying through line into the Original Trilogy. Fine family entertainment. 7.5 out of 10

In an opening season whose storytelling and animation production improves over the duration, here's a look back at AFICIONADO's top five episodes.

SPARK OF REBELLION (Pilot episode- released on Blu-ray in its two-part "prologue" version, featuring James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader)

On the far-off Imperial-controlled world of Lothal, lone youth Ezra Bridger discovers his powers as a Jedi Padawan when helping a group of distinctive rebels steal a consignment of food and weapons, followed by a spirited mission that will liberate wookiee slaves from the dreaded spice mines of Kessel.


Caught between good and evil- the return of C-3PO and R2-D2.


Once more out of his depth, protocol droid Threepio, along with perky Artoo Detoo, find themselves unintentionally hooking up with our heroes in stealing a consignment of banned weaponry, of which old enemy Agent Kallus is on the trail and has scores to settle.

Did Jedi Knight Luminara Unduli survive the Clone Wars after all?


Our heroes undertake their boldest and most dangerous mission yet- travelling to the dark world of Stygeon Prime in an attempt to free the decade imprisoned Jedi, Luminara Unduli. But all is not what it seems, as the fearsome Grand Inquisitor initiates his trap...

Agent Kallus and Grand Moff Tarkin plot their next move to capture the Rebels.

CALL TO ACTION (Episode Eleven)

Now tasked with the extermination of this havoc-bringing Rebel cell, the cruel Grand Moff Tarkin brings his tactics of terror to Lothal, capturing Kanan just after he and his party have successfully procured an Imperial communications tower.

Kanan: captured by the Grand Inquisitor!


At the place where Jedi go to die, of which Kanan is being brutally tortured for information, Hera, Ezra and the Ghost team defy the odds, and a trio of Imperial Star Destroyers, in mounting a spectacular rescue mission for their friend above the volcanic world of Mustafar, gaining some unexpected allies in the process, yet also bringing in further enemy retribution in the form of the newly arrived Darth Vader...

The oncoming storm that is Darth Vader!

Star Wars Rebels [Blu-ray] [Region Free]: DVD & Blu-ray

Also available on DVD: Star Wars Rebels: Spark of Rebellion [DVD]: DVD & Blu-ray

Official Site: Star Wars Rebels |

With thanks to DISNEY UK for their continued support.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


The cowardly Jedi killer General Grievous makes for an intriguing and villainous cover star to a 2005 issue of the French LUCASFILM magazine.

“I was involved in the sound processing of Grievous’ voice, which we had to do before we even picked an actor. So myself and Chris Scarabosio were asked to come up with a process. Rick McCallum put out a casting package in L.A., Sydney, and London, and we were asked to apply the process to each candidate’s audition, which involved pitch and ring modulation.

So I had been processing theses voices involving the same scene-the one on the bridge with Anakin, Obi-Wan and R2-and Chris encouraged me to give it a shot myself. After I did one, I used an anonymous name and sent it with the rest of the auditions. George picked it.  I knew George would hear it (the accent) so I wanted it to be good. I had done some voice work at ACT, and I had just spent some time on vacation going to Prague and also Moscow and St. Petersburg, I liked that accent. George also mentioned when he was talking about the character that (he) was slightly vampiric, so I kind of went for that. There’s some Bela Lugosi in (there for good measure).


Monday, 5 October 2015


Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill have some fun in this great outtake posing for photographer Ralph Nelson, Jr. whilst getting ready to shoot one of RETURN OF THE JEDI's most memorable and widely used publicity images, taken atop the Sail Barge set/platform of Yuma, Arizona, from April 1982.

Sunday, 4 October 2015


In the heat and dust of Geonosis, the first conflict in the epic Clone Wars is initiated: batallions of Kamino-created Clone Troopers and technology soon engaged against the insectoid Geonosians and their equally legion droid armies, during the finale to EPISODE II.

Saturday, 3 October 2015


A fiery encounter with the Wampa ice creature.

No longer on the dinner menu, Luke Skywalker strikes back against the huge Wampa creature that has captured him, in this original sequence filmed but cut from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Note the insect-like Wampa mask used here- an early idea being that the creature saw via radar-like natural instincts. Because of the nature of the pyrotechnics, we assume stuntman Terry Richards, who played the creature in the scenes of a Wampa attacking the Rebel base, was inside the costume rather than Des Webb, who wore the immense Stuart Freeborn creation, albeit with a different head, during the Norway filming.

The early mask for the Wampa.
Luke strikes the Wampa...
...  and the sparks fly!

With the footage of the creature not looking effective on screen, much of this sequence was refilmed by producer Gary Kurtz and a second unit later in the production schedule, with the Wampa now wearing its cuddly-looking mask from Norway, with shots filmed and used in the finished movie showing the creature facially obscured and its body only partially revealed.

Gary Kurtz (far right) supervises the Wampa re-shoots.

The Empire Strikes Back - Original Wampa Scene - YouTube

Friday, 2 October 2015


On Naboo, the Jedi Council and that planet's distinguished members of both royalty and heroism gather to pay tribute and respect to the fallen Jedi Knight, Qui-Gon Jinn- his body now given a traditional baptism of fire, during a sombre and sad scene from EPISODE I.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


The droids make their escape attempt from the Jawas in this super conceptual art by Ralph McQuarrie.

Having been captured by those pesky Jawa scavengers, our droids C-3PO and R2-D2 make their bid for freedom when the creature's mighty Sandcrawler is damaged whilst traversing a outcrop, hit by falling rocks which knock it off track, in a sequence scripted for the Second Draft of the original STAR WARS in 1975, and likely staying as a filming idea for quite a while, until its disappearance later that year with George Lucas's Third Draft. It had also been planned as a lead-in to a scene featuring a Jawa encampment - which later was scene-rearranged to become a part of the Mos Eisley sequence of Tunisia instead- a Ksours location found by Production Designer John Barry eventually used in EPISODE I. Both Sandcrawler and encampment scenes were scrapped for reasons of time and money, as well as not enhancing the overall plot very much.

McQuarrie thumbnails of the droids escaping.
Joe Johnston's later, slight redesign of the Jawa Sandcrawler. Could that be the damaged front track?

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


The struggle for survival and rebellion, brought to life in STAR WARS REBELS: EPIC BATTLES. Images: DK BOOKS.

Our motley heroes leading a rebellious charge from their small sector of space in Lothal will soon look down into the darkest, deepest pool of hate and revenge when they encounter the fearsome Sith warrior, Darth Vader, as the all-new second season of Disney's hit animated adventure STAR WARS REBELS returns this October. And as we await the sounds of fury ahead- clashing lightsabers, screeching TIE fighters and zingingly connecting laser blasts- why not spend some quality catching up with the incredible conflicts, events, character meetings and alien environments uncovered within the first season of the acclaimed STAR WARS history-making series, as DORLING KINDERSLEY's info and picture-packed, all-new young readers edition Visual Guide, EPIC BATTLES, hits the book shops and online from 1st October, 2015.

A day in the life of Chopper the droid!
The mysteries of a long-abandoned Jedi Temple.

Going beyond the early minisodes and episodes covered in last year's opening series guidebook, EPIC BATTLES takes us up and away from the beleaguered Lothal, as our heroes lose some of the their early, erratic nature to become a firm fighting unit with the arrival of young Jedi-to-be Ezra Bridger, now being trained in the ways of the Force by his new mentor in Kanan Jarrus. Along the way, they'll fight the despicable and cruel servant of Vader, the corpse-faced Inquisitor and his unique mastery of a rotating lightsaber face, encounter mystery and enlightenment with the discovery of an old Jedi Temple and the vocal guidance of a certain frog-like wizard from far far away, make a fun alliance with that lovable rogue Lando Calrissian, have a memorable encounter with the always out of his depth C-3PO, once more partnered with the more rational and brave R2-D2, attempt to free a trapped Jedi from a seemingly escape-proof hellhole, and discover a new destiny and sense of unity joining forces with another section of the spirited, fledgling Rebel Alliance, along with the return of an old favourite from the modern animated STAR WARS universe, in their struggles against the cruel and despicable Grand Moff Tarkin, controller of the Outer Rim territories, above the deadly volcanic lava planet "where Jedi go to die": Mustafar!

Ahsoka lives!

Adam Bray, one of DK BOOKS finest STAR WARS historians, charts the adventures of the universe canon-concocted by the STAR WARS STORY GROUP with easy to read flair, giving us the lowdown on the many shocks and surprises (especially linked to young Ezra) now being revealed in the years set before A New Hope, whilst the selected imagery and inventive design work showcasing key action and story beats is as classy and gorgeous as ever.

The Empire's technological might strikes back!

But it isn't all just about Season One. There's a fine chunk of coverage for Season Two as well- its feature-length opener, The Siege of Lothal, with the return of the gracefully heroic, no longer undercover Ahsoka Tano, somehow survivor of the brutal ORDER 66, and the indomitable and foreboding Darth Vader- his unflinching, almost unstoppable attack on out heroes and their merging with the newly revealed rebel phalanx, being nicely represented, as is the first regular episode of the season after that- giving dedicated THE CLONE WARS fans more satisfaction with the return of the older but certainly not obsolete Captain Rex, alongside two of his equally cranky but cause renewed Clone Troopers, now living in deliberate isolation on the salty plains of Seelos. And if that wasn't enough, the book's chilling final spread gives us a fearsome up close and personal look at the next new formidable lightsaber-adept baddie bringing antagonism and danger to the REBELS universe: the Seventh Sister!

AFICIONADO RATING: The tension rises, the saga continues, with this super second book- colourful, striking and fun- just as the weekly series is to so many fans. 8 out of 10  

Get hold of STAR WARS REBELS: EPIC BATTLES here: Star Wars Rebels: The Epic Battle: The Visual Guide: DK: 9780241198247: Books

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


SPOILER ALERT: They've been separated from their beloved Millennium Falcon for quite a time- it having been prior ruthlessly appropriated by an overwhelming band of pirates, but now Han Solo and his loyal wookiee partner, Chewbacca, both aged but still with an adventurous and daring spring in their steps, are back aboard it. "Chewie, we're home!"

A solo shot of a blaster-ready Han within the Falcon, as seen at the recent COMIC-CON 2015 event.

A Galaxy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Books Coming December 18 - First Look! |

Monday, 28 September 2015


"Something out of a dream", made real! SECRET CINEMA: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. All images: SECRET CINEMA.

The four-month long immersion into the worlds of Classic STAR WARS may now be over, but Scott Weller recalls just what a good time over 100,000 fans (including a few disguised cast and crew from The Force Awakens) had during this highly ambitious, very special, and surely to be fondly remembered, recreation of George Lucas’ universe.

Opening night: June 4th, 2015

Arriving at the picturesque cuboid waterside of Canada Water at London’s Docklands around 5pm-ish, with only the local duck pond and other inhabitants oblivious to what was soon going on, my party of Rebel X initiates (where I was now officially in my new identity as “Galactic Explorer” Silas Krell!) were quickly herded by efficient stewards, our scarves up and in as incognito a fashion as possible into the main entry point through large tented sections, where we entered a hangar area and found ourselves taking part as maintenance workers shifting all manner of equipment around until boarding our Star Tours-esque simulator outbound Rebel Transport (but without the floor bouncing around beneath us!). The massive one side to the other screen graphic showed our departing Earth and swiftly jumping to Hyperspace for arrival on the desert world of Tatooine- where we had been pre-warned to prepare for possible sandstorms!

Imperial inspection. Image: Mike Massaro

The location chosen for SECRET CINEMA would be a converted former printing newspaper printing plant that had been so prevalent in that part of London back in the day, before pioneer Eddie Shah came along to transform everything- its length and size converted, its orienting middle section removed - perfect to house the worlds of STAR WARS.

Back to that place of sum and villainy.


Once out of the pod, where Imperial officers and Stormtroopers would do a flash inspection and take people away, we proceeded through the imperial checkpoint, where we had to show our credentials to an actress wearing a large domed alien head certainly giving lots of strict rudeness to all and sundry (especially children), and then we entered our first vista- a recreation of Tatooine and Mos Eisley, in front of a splendid twin suns painted backdrop, enthused attendees got to Luke’s igloo home and later his enormous landspeeder, Ben Kenobi’s pad, Aunt Beru’s dining area (with added blue milk!), a look at an decaying Imperial jail (bars perfect for crumbling!) with Stormtroopers patrolling on the lookout for potential rebels and troublemakers to arrest (Actor/singer Goldie was the secret prisoner of the day to watch out for-his face posted around various areas).

Watch out, Artoo!

That esteemed and feared bounty hunter Boba Fett coolly walked the sandy and packed streets, filled with additional Bedouins atmospherically set dressed (to doe Roger Christian proud) with exotic props, set decorations and exotic aromas- a giant plane wing in the middle of the set representing a spaceship crash. Plus a small used droid lot featuring the domed droid and the spider droid seen in and outside the Jawa Sandcrawler (sadly no sign of it that expansive vehicle here, though).

The odd Jedi roaming the place.

Two Jawas became swiftly obsessed with stealing or rifling through the contents of my man bag, and whom I had to swiftly move away and shout “utini” at. There was also petulant Luke being told off for childish behaviour by his stern Uncle Owen. A well-costumed Aunt Beru could also be seen navigating her way on all the floors. Sadly, no Biggs, Camie, or the Fixer.

People around me with equal cosplay enthusiasm, though some didn’t have the chance-literally coming straight from work. Additionally, some of the ladies were dressed in costumes that weren’t anything like Princess Leia’s but they were nonetheless very pleasing to this guy’s eyes! Though things would change later, this day wasn’t anything like the cosplaying you’d get at an official CELEBRATION event- you could see that there was more a collection of film fans mixed with the STAR WARS enthusiasts, just as happy to relax, booze up and take it all in whilst watching things all unfold.

Time for drinks and some close encounters at the Cantina. Image: Paul Cochrane/SECRET CINEMA.

The Cantina Bar interior recreation was excellent and much needed after thirty minutes in the smoke and incensed fuelled atmosphere, of which my throat was parched. I never saw the price of a single drink, paid via my Connectcard, but I know it was probably one of the priciest Cokes I’ve ever had. A Moroccan type band also played nearby. If only someone could have dressed up as Wuher. “No blasters, no blasters!”

Back into the main square, more shady characters were starting to emerge, though a few more villains would have been nice-perhaps an unsuspecting Sandpeople attack would have added some happy shocks. Then Han and Chewie made their first appearance, literally bursting out of the Imperial jail, of which the soon assembled crowd around them smiled and cheered.

More Imperial Stormtroopers and sneery officers walked around, with dealers talking with accents not unlike Wattoo. Plus selected Rebel infiltrators with secret messages, on the lookout for particular scarf-wearing in-character guests to interact with, giving them assignments and practical tasks to carry out.

Having visited and seen all I could of Tatooine, I discovered a shuttle was ready to go elsewhere, of which I climbed the metal clanging stairs to it, ready for what was to come, but not before I had to manoeuvre past the attendant, offering her some special seeds (pinched from my garden shed!) as a payment method to get onboard.

Into the Death Star!


Back into space, our shuttle- a more tense atmosphere than before, was soon intercepted by TIE fighters and the tractor beam of the fierce Death Star whose grip and nearby docking bay we were soon taken into, amongst red alert blares and klaxons.

Being an early arrival on the Death Star, captured by a Rebel posing as an Imperial Stormtrooper who had no choice but to take prisoners, I and a small party were escorted through the cell bay, which, at that time being quite empty, I have to say had a strong aura and atmosphere about it, effectively repressive, what with Stormtroopers roaming around separately or in pairs, Imperial commanders both male and female on alert for intruders or escapees. Having seen the captured Princess Leia, I immediately shouted out a promise to rescue her and found myself separated from my small party for doing this, locked up in an opposite cell with a cloaked Jedi. We soon broke out thanks to his latent abilities in the mysterious hocus-pocus that is the Force. On the way back to the docking level, we bumped into the ominous figure of Darth Vader, of which I go the Goosebumps in this darkened environment. Having vowed to rescue Princess Leia, my trip back to the upper levels saw rooms full of weird objects, security camera areas and other props well positioned, plus some weird and effective sound design emanating from the all-around speakers– a nice homage to Ben Burtt’s work. Soon after, on the main overhead walkways, some classic scenes from A New Hope would be enacted: Leia’s meeting with Vader on the Blockade Runner, and her being forced to watch the destruction of Alderaan in front of the Dark Lord and the ruthless Tarkin, plus the duel between Obi-Wan and Vader that was very well done and incorporated some new lightsaber clashing moves, including several Force pushes from both opponents, and ending with Obi-Wan disappearing into smoke filled nothingness.

A capacity crowd watches the classic Vader/Kenobi duel!

As Grand Moff Tarkin proudly and mindfully walked along the floor levels, proudly checking the grim militaristic might of his Empire, I proceeded to the end corridor bar, which was very militaristic- packed with patrons being happily taken away and arrested at varying points if the bartenders thought you were being rude. Imperial security was also monitoring from a glass covered cubicle station, too. A wall side huge monitor screen on the far left end of the environment showed Death Star computer graphics and schematics instrumentation readings, and the destruction of Alderaan as seen in the film.

Dark and atmospheric when empty. Image: Will Cooper.

My feet ready for more wandering, I saw Leia once more, the lovely actress playing her surely thinking I was quite mad when I enthusiastically shouted out at her, “Long live Alderaan!”

Around the huge floor level and two upper levels of grating plated walkways, other role playing scenarios were going on- the many selected actors clearly having a blast, with some detainees even becoming initiated as Stormtroopers- notably two small children in little outfits far too big for them- a true sight to see! - who soon became a part of one of the patrolling units. Great fun!

As the room finally filled to a weighty capacity, after about twenty minutes, the reenactments continued with the ceiling showing a recreated Millennium Falcon engine blasting away from the Death Star. Its a shame they couldn’t recreate the Death Star escape (more on this with visit two)- I would have like to have seen Luke and Leia preparing to swing across a chasm, then they could have cut to the footage from the film of the actual event. If that got added to any of the other days of this immersive event, please let me know.

Then, in the middle of the second floor, everyone gathered as Rebel X’s leader showed the technical schematics of the Death Star and ordered all pilots to their ships, emerging from side alcoves and determinedly rushing past to unseen destinations, as the sounds of fighters taking off carried across the venue.

The amazing X-wing fighter suspended from the ceiling, moving towards its target!

Then came the excellent sight from the left of the ceiling of an immense X-wing fighter prop moving, then suddenly dropping slightly, supported by strong wire, as it began its movement to the torpedo bay graphic on the far right side, as the sound effects of fighter squadrons, weapons fire and screeching power motors filled the air, alongside the voices of Red Flight, of which battles with TIE fighters played all around, with some fun use of special spotlights simulating proton torpedo launches as Luke’s X-wing delivered its payload. We celebrated with joy the destruction of the Death Star, of which the now fully packed area burst into applause. Then, at the far right end’s highest ceiling gantry we saw the Rebel pilot’s emerging victorious, the last to climb down one of the ladders being the congratulated Luke Skywalker!

A victorious Luke returns home! Image: Hanson Leatherby.

As the majestic and beautiful throne room music of John Williams played, sounding better than ever, we all stayed in the middle of the floor so as to celebrate our heroes gathering. Walking amongst us, coming to the far end stairs to collect their medals from the smiling and radiant Princess and her aides. By this point, the crowd was really stoked, their hearts certainly roused and enjoying their participation be it large or small into this galaxy far, far away, giving a huge round of applause as our heroes all turned round, the final scene made gloriously real!  

On that note, the second level walkway doors opened to a previously unrevealed section containing three immense segregated screening areas, where we brought in by Rebel Snow soldier geared extras, and given free seating reign to watch and enjoy The Empire Strikes Back with a great digital picture projector presentation and crisp sound as people walked back up and down each left aisle offering a wide variety of sweets and drinks. A genuine good time had by all.

The digital screening of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK Special Edition (2011) was superb.

Recreations playing alongside the film were great fun, brought to life on the ground and gantry above by three sets of actors in each cinema area, so no one missed out on anything. At certain points during lightsaber actions or battle scenes the lights would flare to add to the overall viewing effects-sometimes working better than others, the odd moment proving distracting. Leia walked up and down the room with Rebel pilots giving evacuation orders, whilst Luke said goodbye to Han and Chewie (who gave his warm hug to the youngster) on a right of us upper gantry. The arrival of Darth Vader and Stormtroopers came with the Imperial March intro and our first view of the Star Destroyer fleet.

As the Battle of Hoth reached a climax, Han, Leia and Threepio raced with the evacuation order to the Falcon.Unfortunately, poor "Golden Rod" almost fell over when he tripped up on unlevel carpeting that could have been quite truly dangerous. Imagine what Anthony Daniels went through every day on set!

Later, at Bespin, an excellent Lando look-a-like gave a tour with his newly arrived friends whilst the later carbon freezing “I know” scene played out directly beneath the screen, with Han disappearing into the smoke via a trap door.

Then, beneath the cinema screen, Luke fought Vader in the opening section of their lightsaber duel recreation (though Vader’s red blade light sadly went out half-way through), then the fight continued at the top far left gantry, where Luke lost his hand and hung, what looked to me quite precariously, over the edge before disappearing behind the projector screen, once hearing Vader’s revelation and deciding to commit suicide. Kudos to the SECRET CINEMA team for this great recreation that was much enjoyed by the fans, especially the younger ones in the audience.

A Rebel Transport above Canada Water.

As the film ended, everybody descended the lower levels and walked one last time through the Tatooine ground floor (where I was accosted once again by another of those pesky Jawas), taking in their last evocative gulps of George Lucas’s supreme universe before being person-signposted back to the underground station. The fairytale had come to an end and I was happy for the fans that we would all be discovering the adventure anew at Xmas!

Some incorrect spellings of Tatooine here and there not withstanding, there was only one minor niggle: despite there being there a shop in Shoreditch and what proved to be, for me anyway, a lousy online service, the event could have had an area where clothes/equipment could be purchased on the day beyond their selling of REBEL X shirts.

My second REBEL X identity!

July 24th, 2015

The second coming…

With thanks to the generosity of THE SECRET CINEMA, AFICIONADO was given a special invite to the event second time around. Whereas the first time I’d attended was in glorious sunshine and sticky heat, the reverse was true here as I prepared for my new identity as yet another Galactic Explorer, Olas Lendix. Amongst the hundred or so early-arrived fans, we were all well and truly soaked to the skin by the rain- the tents herding us to our secret destination at the point being thoroughly waterlogged. But trying as hard as it might, such foul weather, the stuff of British legend, did nothing to dampen the spirits, within an event that now felt much more streamlined and faster paced. It was also a far more packed with people affair than the first week. AFICIONADO contributor Ian Trussler and myself got to play a mind-bending game of sabaac cards with Lando Calrissian on Tatooine- the young actor playing him doing a very creditable job and a firm hit with the ladies- Billy Dee, watch out you’ve got competition; saw young Luke hassled by Stormtroopers then chased after giving one of them a force push of resistance; Uncle Owen stopped to chat to tell us to tell Luke to stop hanging around at Tosche Station, and we even got to see Luke, Ben and the droids travel in the landspeeder across a section of town.

"Move along!"

Arriving on the Death Star, and this time not captured and taken away by Stormtroopers for interrogation, there were some more noticeable changes. The far end right section near the bar and an imperial observation point had been partitioned off and bore some of John Barry’s classic and familiar Imperial production design, I don’t know if the Alderaan destruction scene was still being done, but the crowded lower area looking up to the gantry observed and booed a speech from Governor Tarkin, flanked by Vader, talking about the full power of their new battle station, and what it will achieve- backed up with lots of new CGI created computer graphics alongside some of the classics. Then came the classic Vader/Kenobi duel seen previously, plus a recreation of the classic Han and Chewie chasing Stormtoopers sequences before the Falcon flew off at the top of the ceiling. With so much of the lower area packed with people, though, it was impossible for pilots to rush to their ships again, but the ending and the ceiling bearing down fighter had everyone impressed anew firing its flame torpedo at the exhaust port, surrounded by classic movie dialogue coming out from the surrounding speakers.

As the film began, some of the previous interactions were sadly gone- like Han and Chewie saying goodbye to Luke, but there were some new ones added, in a side gantry glass window control room, Han and Leia argued as their onscreen counterparts did, whilst our Darth Vader imparted threats to Admiral Ozzel. Sadly, Lando’s tour of Bespin was no longer present, nor our heroes Hoth escape dash to the Falcon- I presume it was too dangerous for Threepio to do anymore, especially after the last time!

Once again, fans of all ages were spellbound throughout. The true, undisputed magic of the STAR WARS SAGA continues…

AFICIONADO RATING (both days): 8.5 out of 10
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