Tuesday, 30 September 2014

REBEL GENESIS: THE ARCHITECTS OF EVIL...


From the moment he first heard about his incredible skills in the Force at such an early age, ably demonstrated during the final battle in the stars above Naboo against the Trade Federation, the evil Darth Sidious, in his disguise as Senator later Supreme Chancellor Palaptine, would follow young Anakin Skywalker's career "with great interest". From a unique vantage point in those years after, acting almost like the father figure to the often lonely and out of place feeling Anakin, what with his initiation into the Jedi Oder and its often harsh disciplines, additionally burdened with the separation he had from the mother he loved so dearly, Sidious knew that the boy would eventually prove ripe for manipulation and control, eventually turning him to the Dark Side in which he would betray, later murder, his family in the Jedi Temple, and across the galaxy.

It would take thirteen years to turn Anakin away from the light, but the final result ultimately proved worth Sidious's playing of the long game, even if the boys powers would later be fragmented after suffering horrific injuries in battle against his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the volcanic world of Mustafar. Now encapsulated into the more intimidating and threatening dark visage of the breathing mask clad Darth Vader, Anakin's taking a rightful place at his master's side soon ensured a new reign of dominance and terror across the galaxy not only for the Galactic Empire but for the Dark Side of the Force, too. It would be no surprise, with such rising, soon established malevolence, repression, fear and tyranny, that a small group of freedom fighters, under resourced, undermanned and under equipped, would nonetheless eventually coalesce to take a stand against them, and their hated ambitions...





Monday, 29 September 2014

REBEL GENESIS: JEDI APOCALYPSE!

The Jedi - marked for death! Art by Roberto Campos @ Udon

As a lead in to STAR WARS REBELS, AFICIONADO presents a series of images featuring characters, events and history linked to the ultimate creation of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire.

The Jedi, spread out across the universe in battle against the Separatists, have now never been more vulnerable. Fully revealed as the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, the creature of hate and the Dark Side, previously disguised as the once "benevolent" Palpatine, initiates his secret ORDER 66 campaign via the Clone Troops, the supposed protectors of the galaxy, who quickly turn on their Jedi generals. The majority of the Jedi are soon slain in the most horrific of circumstances, but some have the fortitude and luck to escape the carnage, including venerable Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, who, with Master Yoda, returns to Coruscant and its pitted Jedi Temple to send a frequency message into the galaxy, warning those friends and comrades that have survived, be they young or old, experienced or Padawan, to go into hiding. Now cursed and hated by the galaxy's populace, disappearing into legend and history, some Jedi will continue to be hunted down by the emerging presence of the vengeance fuelled Darth Vader. Others will never be found again, or cease the use of their natural powers temporarily or completely.

But the candle of light and heroism hasn't been fully extinguished. Certain individuals, in the years to come unhappy with the transmogrified state of the universe, will eventually return at the right time and place to challenge the might and menace of the newly formed Empire...


Sunday, 28 September 2014

STAR WARS REBELS: AFICIONADO's FIRST REACTIONS...

A new "Rebel cell" makes its mark. STAR WARS REBELS comes to television! Image: DISNEY XD.

This bright and warm September Sunday morning, STAR WARS AFICIONADO was kindly invited by DISNEY UK to an exclusive advance family screening of the opening, extended episode of STAR WARS REBELS- Spark of Rebellion. I'm happy to report that it was a success with the targeted young audience of six to nine year old's whom I was seated amongst (which included a couple of endearing costumed Princess Leia's very definitely ready to fight Darth Vader!) - all of whom had their eyes and ears quietly glued to the big screen (the colourful nature, action and the mixture of characters) and looked like they were enjoying every minute of it. Simon Kinberg's script moved pacily along in this fusion of STAR WARS meets ROBIN HOOD, of which the series characters have the potential to further develop across the season. The overall animation production design, working to the strengths previously pioneered by the LUCASFILM production team from their THE CLONE WARS days, looked great, whilst the many visual tributes to Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston were lovely to behold. Nice to once more hear the screams of TIE fighters flying past cinema speakers, too! Amidst further nostalgic referencing to both Trilogies (though Kevin Kiner's incidental music has too many similarities to John Williams EPISODE IV score), James Arnold Taylor's voice cameo as the hologram Obi-Wan proves a subtle and poignant highlight, whilst the soon arrival of the dark-hearted Imperial Agent, The Inquisitor, bodes well for some hopefully tougher, depthful stories and conflicts down the road.

▶ Star Wars Rebels: Extended Trailer (Official) - YouTube

AFICIONADO RATING: All in all, a confident, efficient and polished start to DISNEY's new STAR WARS era- this particular entry very definitely geared towards the family audiences. 3.5 out of 5

With thanks to DISNEY UK for their support and invite to the screening.

STAR WARS REBELS launches on the UK's DISNEY XD Channel this Friday 3rd October.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

REBEL GENESIS: THE DEATH OF LIBERTY...


As a lead-in to STAR WARS REBELS, AFICIONADO presents a series of images featuring characters, events and history linked to the ultimate creation of the Rebel Alliance against the Empire.

A stunned and now powerless Senator Amidala, alongside Bail Organa and her bodyguard servant Motee, watch incredulously as the newly inaugurated Emperor Palpatine, without any kind of political retaliation or resistance from the rest of the gullible members of the senate, and with her own friends in the Delegation of 2000 now subdued, proudly declaring the Republic's turn to the First Galactic Empire. A new Dark Age of fear and technological terror for the galaxy has begun, of which Padme will soon discover just how used and manipulated she has been these last thirteen years by her former adjutant, and supposed friend, from Naboo...


CLASSIC INDY: ATARI's 'ARK'!

Original promo art for the RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK Atari 2600 game.

Many classic computer games are back in playing fashion these days, but some are just too basic in their original conception and execution to revisit- the march of progress is a cruel mistress, I suppose. The Atari 2600 game of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is one such example, but it nonetheless brings lots of nostalgic joy to those who can recall playing it back in those early midst's of Rom and Ram. And the box had some great artwork, too!

Cover of the Atari VCS Owners Club Bulletin magazine from 1983.

Friday, 26 September 2014

'THE CLONE WARS LEGACY' ARRIVES ON STARWARS.COM


Before the debut of the all-new REBELS next week, and in a welcome gesture to the devoted worldwide fanbase previously established for the milestone animated series that was George Lucas's THE CLONE WARS, stopped far too short of its planed eight-year run, LUCASFILM have released onto their official STARWARS.COM site the storyreel animatics for a never before seen four-part adventure from Season Six/Seven - Crystal Crisis on Utapau, set after the departure of Ahsoka Tano and before the events of EPISODE III, alongside an introduction from Producer/Animation Director Dave Filoni, plus a look at THE CLONE WARS present and future in book and comic book form, and previously unseen concept art.

The Clone Wars Legacy | StarWars.com

Star Wars: The Clone Wars Legacy - YouTube

Hopefully it won't be too long now before UK and European viewers also, finally, get news on a LOST MISSIONS Blu-ray/DVD release date from DISNEY. And as to what we could see next from the series? Well, what about that Cad Bane/Boba Fett arc? And, if Season Seven and Eight were voice recorded with the cast (Season Six was apparently written as far back as 2011/2012), why not adapt them into audio dramas?




Thursday, 25 September 2014

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARK HAMILL!


The heart of a hero, the innocence of youth, the spirit of adventure- all of these qualities brilliantly brought to life by Mark Hamill in the Classic Trilogy as Luke Skywalker- now caught in a web of darkness and danger like never before, beyond the ultimate redemption of his once evil father, in the upcoming EPISODE VII. I join fans around the world in wishing Mark Hamill the very happiest of bearded birthdays today, whilst we eagerly await his well deserved return to cinema screens next December, as modern fantasy's most enduring custodian of good.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

BEHIND THE SCENES: RAINDROPS KEEP FALLING...


Ewan McGregor endures another soggy day against green screen at the FOX STUDIOS, Australia, during 2000's filming of ATTACK OF THE CLONES, for a key scene on Kamino talking to Master's Yoda and Mace Windu. Still, at least he's got Third Assistant Director Gordon Westman to keep him company, and hold the umbrella!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

CLASSIC IMAGE: THE COLD CLIMES OF WARFARE!


Their mission to delay the Imperials in order for their forces to retreat Hoth, a core group of brave Rebel soldiers begin a sterling defence of their base and its key power generators, during THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK's epic beginning...

Saturday, 20 September 2014

AFICIONADO REVIEW: 'A NEW DAWN' (NOVEL)



STAR WARS: A NEW DAWN


Written by John Jackson Miller

Foreword by Dave Filoni

UK hardback from CENTURY PUBLISHING (Available September 25th, 2014)


Reviewed by Scott Weller


Ever since its arrival into our collective consciousness in 1977, the STAR WARS saga’s immense backstory prior to the onscreen events of EPISODE IV- the so called “Dark Times”, and the Empire’s takeover of the galaxy- mentioned to a young and innocent Luke Skywalker with gloomy remembrance by Obi-Wan Kenobi, would peak the fascinations and imaginations of the worldwide fan base. It would be a nineteen-year period of mystery, violence, chaos and destruction savoured by the returned Sith, and their creation of a technological war machine industry that would conquer the stars with seemingly little opposition- at least at its start. Now, a fraction of that important part of STAR WARS folklore has become ripe for exploration and storytelling, before the arrival of Luke Skywalker- with the fan anticipated, new animated series REBELS, coming this October to Disney XD cannels worldwide. Fresh from critical success with his prior story building bridges between trilogies: Kenobi, fan favourite John Jackson Miller is back in the LUCAS BOOKS fold again, once more in the right place at the right time to helm the launcher into this new phase of its publishing history, as A New Dawn arrives in UK bookstores to give us a glimpse of just how evil’s triumphant rein is starting to show cracks in its wall of control, revealing an all-new band of heroes emerging to challenge the greed and tyranny of Emperor Palpatine and his dark minions.

Crucially, before their animated appearances in the opening episode of the series, or even their minisode Ghost in the Machine, A New Dawn outlines the important first meeting and pulling of respective talents and interests of former Jedi Padawan now adult fugitive Kanan Jarrus, formerly Caleb Dume, and Twi’lek pilot and action heroine Hera Syndula (presumably related to that famed Ryloth rebel warrior Cham, first seen in THE CLONE WARS animated series). A survivor of the dreaded day of doom that was ORDER 66- though how exactly he got away from the Jedi massacre is not fully explained- Kanan has abandoned the ways of his sect now that he’s an outcast from the Jedi hunting machinations of Palpatine and his galaxy-spanning spies. Yet his severed ties have also been a deliberate choice in many respects, believing that the mystical energy field surrounding the universe, which the Jedi had previously so rigidly served, had seemingly abandoned them, abandoned Kanan, in their darkest hour of need, ultimately a major catalyst to the order’s ultimate destruction.

Determined not to suffer the same fate as his brethren, Kanan has disappeared from the radar, going from system to system, working in a variety of jobs but making sure never to reveal his talents, or get noticed- not staying long enough at any one place to make too much of an impression. Yet in the process he’s uniquely found himself first hand witnessing the Empire’s stranglehold over everything. Recent events, though, alongside pulling nexus strands of fate, will eventually conspire against him in his current period as a cargo freighter runner between the the Thorilide mining worlds of Gorse and its sister planetoid Cynda, both rich in mineral wealth to be plundered by the Empire. Soon, despite being unwilling to use his Jedi gifts, Kanan will genuinely have no choice but to fight back against the sheer injustice around him, especially when one of his friends and associates is murdered.

Thankfully, he won’t be alone in his struggle for long, soon crossing paths with the mysterious but beautiful presence of the aforementioned top pilot and spy Hera Syndulla- whose backstory isn’t yet revealed, presumably saved for an episode of the series or a future character book?- sent by mysterious colleagues on a dual mission linked to Imperial surveillance across the two planets and observing the arrival of a dangerous and ambitious servant to the Emperor, the cyborg Count Vidian, and the building actions and atrocities he/it brings in his wake; events that will also take her out of the shadows and into conflict- wanting to even the score against the galaxy’s oppressors wherever she can.

Heartless and power insatiable, Vidian, despite parallels to previous half-man/half machines like Vader and Grievous, proves an interesting and creepy opponent within the story, what with his drive to stretch the efficiency of the subjugated galaxy to breaking point. He’s the multi-tasking manager from hell, and no stranger to committing murder to advance his own personal interests and pockets. Allied with an ambitious young female Star Destroyer commander, Vidian seemingly has all the cards stacked in his favour, with a plan so big in scale, and fallout, that its results will have catastrophic impact on the peoples of the two moons, unless it can be stopped in time. This is one baptism of fire into rebellion that Kanan and Hera will surely never forget…

Set about six years before the events of the REBELS season premiere, this first book of “the new era” in officially licensed storytelling, planned, as of 2014, to bring the STAR WARS saga into history-making cohesion- something never before attempted in the franchise’s past thirty-seven years- is more a case of starting things on a slow but sure footing rather than launching spiritedly out of the starting gate. A more adult interpretation of what will likely be a younger audience geared animated series, Miller’s book does the kind of work that Karen Traviss did when adapting THE CLONE WARS animated movie into adventurous prose back in 2008. Miller’s book, I think, will ultimately prove more popular.

Enjoying bringing back the wild frontier/western flavour of STAR WARS seen with A New Hope (as viewed with his Kenobi novel), and building up the harshnesss of life within the all-controlling Empire, Miller ultimately chooses to stage this book’s action, especially in its sluggish first half, within too small a section of the Outer Rim than I’d personally expected and hoped for, and pretty much avoiding any of the Classic/Prequel films and characters apart from specific important references to The Emperor and his overall presence/influence. Though I understand Miller and LUCAS BOOKS creative decisions to start afresh in many respects, it nonetheless sees a reduction in storytelling ambition that hampers certain areas of this all-important first book.

Happily, A New Dawn improves by its mid-point- the villains motivations are sharpened, the action set-pieces get bigger, and the show’s important two characters start to gel and win the reader over, ultimately succeeding in making us want to find out more about them.  Miller, working from what will be established in the animated series, gives Kanan and Hera the same kind of relatable tone that our icons from the Original Trilogy had, though they have a long way to go yet before they become anywhere near as deservedly striking and popular. The same overall positive vibes can’t quite be said about the books supporting characters, though- an explosives expert with a grudge, a crotchety but likable cantina owner, a Sullustan former intelligence officer and a Besalisk overseer- all of whom prove far less interesting than the main pair.

A precursor not only to REBELS but also subtly to the upcoming EPISODE VII (what with its preview of male and female stormtroopers in battle), its up to the new custodians of the LUCASFILM torch to make their mark (of which producers Simon Kinberg and Dave Filoni provide creative contributions to this first book to make it as an effective a lead-in as possible to the DISNEY XD series), with endeavours they hope will prove as successful and commercially lucrative as those originally conceived by the sadly retired George Lucas. A New Dawn leaves me cautiously optimistic for the future, but, in all honesty, it’s not the groundbreaker I expected and wanted it to be- ultimately feeling more like same old, same old Expanded Universe storytelling, albeit with a few new bells and whistles attached.

AFICIONADO RATING: John Jackson Miller’s fan-favourite abilities are once more effectively showcased. A respectable, if mildly underwhelming, start to the new franchise spin-off, and the overall STAR WARS PHASE THREE plan by LUCASFILM/DISNEY. 3 out of 5


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