Star Wars: Obi-Wan – Original Xbox Game Review

Star Wars games are like Star Trek movies – they’re either really good or monumentally bad. Occasionally, though, you get something like Star Trek: First Contact, an exception among the norm of polarising quality that is good in some ways and terrible in others. For Star Wars, undoubtedly that distinction goes to Star Wars: Obi-Wan. Released in 2001, this game has been brushed under the rug for the most part in the wake of the release of later Star Wars games like Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Star Wars: Battlefront and Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy that far outstripped it in terms of quality and fan reception. Nonetheless, there are still aspects of this game that are unique and it is perhaps not entirely deserved of its status as a really bad Star Wars game. But before elaborating on the aspects of this game that are good, the elephant in the room must first be addressed.

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The Controls and Mechanics

This game suffers from terrible controls and mechanics that, if corrected, would increase this game’s fun factor and replay-ability immensely. Some of the major issues include the fact that Obi-Wan himself injures far too easily, health is often hard to come by, many encounters leave the player overwhelmed and out of options, the lightsaber controls are awful (and were thankfully never repeated in any other Star Wars game on consoles), and the camera controls were prehistoric. Of these, one of the most important is the lightsaber controls – the idea of using a thumbstick to swing a lightsaber is interesting, and given more time and better execution the idea could have made the game something truly special. Unfortunately, the mechanic is implemented into this game without any real thought or care, and it often makes encounters far harder as that extra layer of precision needed to effectively block and swing often cause unnecessary damage to the player. Speaking of which, the health system in the game required the implementation of a ‘Force Heal’ ability – many levels are made far too difficult with the lack of flexibility and overly harsh punishment of bad strategy.

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The Level Design

Moving on from the obvious Achilles Heel that this game suffers from, the level design throughout is actually quite good. Aside from a few clunkers around the Naboo sections in which it can be difficult to easily see which is the correct path, often the levels are large and expansive enough that exploration is rewarded, something that is often valued in action-adventure games. The is also some great variation in the location and style of the various levels – one is set on a skyscraper and involves a lot of vertical gameplay, another is an expansive exploration of a sinister swamp, and of course the iconic locations of Naboo, Tatooine and Coruscant make an appearance. There are several instances of the level design showing considerable neglect, however, such as the the missions in the Trade Federation Control Ship that essentially amount to repeating corridors and the dozens of times you are catapulted back to Coruscant to face several functionally identical Jedi Masters in the same bland arena.

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The Story

Interestingly, Star Wars: Obi-Wan tries to expand on the story of The Phantom Menace, to the extent that it is several levels in before we reach the opening of the first Star Wars prequel. The game adds in a few interesting plot developments, such as how the Black Heth and the Jin’ha are in secret cohorts with both each other and the Trade Federation, how Queen Amidala was briefly kidnapped by Tusken Raiders whilst Qui-Gon first encountered Anakin, and how Obi-Wan and the others managed to sneak back into the Naboo city so easily. The game also adds other tantalising mouthfuls of pre-prequel lore in the form of Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s conflict with the Black Heth and later the Jin’ha. An odd quirk with this game is the voice acting – Obi-Wan has a Scottish accent and talks like he has a blocked nose for some reason, and many of the game’s NPCs sound as thought they are delivering their lines at gunpoint. Then again, it is that easy to accidentally kill NPCs that maybe they are right to be scared of this poorly-rendered Obi-Wan imposter.

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The Enemies

Star Wars: Obi-Wan has a vast variety of enemies spread across its various levels, from Battle Droids to Tusken Raiders. If this game does anything well, it’s keeping the encounters varied and interesting. The earlier levels see Obi-Wan go up against simple thugs, which later evolves into a conflict with the more advanced Jin’ha soldiers. By the time the player encounters the Trade Federation, they will already be veterans with the game’s unique combat system, and even after the game intersects with the story of The Phantom Menace it finds ways of introducing new enemy varieties – the Tatooine section that pits Obi-Wan against Tusken Raiders is a notable example of the game throwing a curve-ball at the player with its unique variety.

To Conclude

Maybe Star Wars: Obi-Wan isn’t as bad as everyone remembers. Whilst it does definitely suffer from poor mechanics, the game is enjoyable if it’s flaws can be overlooked. Although it is not among the best of the Star Wars games, it is still among the more interesting side of the Star Wars game pantheon.

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Star Wars – 5 Best and 5 Worst Changes to the Original Trilogy

An interesting quirk that Star Wars fans have to deal with in the re-releases of the Original Star Wars Trilogy is that, since the original film was released on VHS for the first time in 1985, George Lucas has been tweaking his creations by implementing changes to all aspects of the film – effects, dialogue, sometimes entire characters and scenes have been removed, added or altered in all three original films and even some of the prequels. The topic of the re-release changes has created some debate in the fandom, with some arguing that the changes improve the films and others preferring the original releases. It wouldn’t be as bad if there was a version of the original Star Wars film out there, but since the changes began with the original release, it is now impossible to watch the film in its original state, regardless of whether you like the changes or not. With that in mind, here is my list of the 5 Best and 5 Worst changes to the beloved series.

Best Changes:

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5 – Improved Effects

This is an obvious choice, but the re-releases do improve most of the effects in the film, with just a few exceptions. One might argue that the film’s original effects were part of what made it so good – after all, at the time of release the visuals were one of the major selling points of Star Wars. But most fans agree that there’s nothing wrong with bringing the original films up-to-date with modern special effects, and that certainly shows when you compare scenes like the Battle of Yavin where the older effects do somewhat break immersion, particularly if you are used to the newer releases. The improved laser blasts and lightsaber effects make the action scenes appear less scratchy, and improve continuity between this trilogy and the ones that come before and after it in the timeline. It would certainly be

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4 – Oola

It’s strange to consider when you watch it now, but in the original cut of Return of the Jedi Oola’s death scene was much more brief – she simply falls down the trap door into the Rancor pit in Jabba’s Palace, and the Rancor reveal is saved for later. Amazingly, the actress who played Oola filmed the extended death scene over a decade after first appearing in Jedi, with no difference to the visuals whatsoever. The Rancor isn’t revealed completely, meaning that the impact of its later appearance isn’t spoiled, but it does create a menacing scene showing more of the mercilessness of Jabba’s henchmen. Interestingly, Oola was allegedly supposed to have a much larger role in the film, but due to changes in the script her role was drastically reduced, so if anything this change simply provides a bit more screen-time for a fan-favourite character.

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3 – Victory Celebration

This one might be controversial, but the change to the music at the end of Return of the Jedi is, in my opinion, one of the best decisions George Lucas ever made. The original song that played during the celebrations on Endor was ‘Yub Nub’, a nonsensical and comically puerile ditty that doesn’t do the finale justice, but the replacement, John Williams’ aptly-titled ‘Victory Celebration’, seems a much more fitting tune to end the original trilogy. For comparison, one needs only to look at the ending of A New Hope – the tune used there fits the tone and gravitas of the scene, and ‘Yub Nub’ simply does not. Whilst it is a fan-favourite, that doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice for what is to some the conclusion of the Skywalker saga. But, then again, the dancing doesn’t sync up with the new tune as well.

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2 – The Real Palpatine

As important as  it is to remember Marjorie Eaton, the original actress who portrayed the Emperor – and yes, I said ‘actress’, as Clive Revill was merely dubbed over her performance – for the sake of continuity her original scenes as the Emperor no longer work. In heavy makeup with digitally inserted chimpanzee eyes, the 78 year old effectively filled in for the Emperor in the original 1980 release of The Empire Strikes Back but, after Ian McDiarmid was cast as Palpatine for Return of the Jedi and then again in the prequels, it only makes sense to retroactively insert him into Empire as well. Admittedly, as many have stated before, the original Emperor does appear more visually intimidating, with some criticizing the newer editions for making the Emperor look outright bored as he calmly drops the bombshell onto Vader that Luke is Anakin’s son, and sort of ruins the idea that Vader came to that conclusion himself. Nonetheless, A+ for effort.

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1 – Young Anakin

Okay, before I even explain the details of this change, I would like to get one thing out of the way first: I understand why people hate this change. In fact, for many years I too cringed in resentment at the awkward, out-of-place looking Hayden Christensen who had been clumsily imposed over the charming, warm smile of Sebastian Shaw that was in the original cut of Return of the Jedi. Upon reflection, however, I have also conceded that I understand why this change was made, and in many ways it is one of the most important changes to the Star Wars films because it establishes something interesting about the Force and about the character of Darth Vader that was only hinted at in the original films. By showing Anakin’s ghost as he looked in his youth, it firmly establishes the idea that the dark side corrupted and twisted Anakin to such an extent that by the time he had been burned alive on Mustafar he wasn’t even the same man anymore. Anakin being burned and chopped up and turned into a Cyberman is just a formality, Vader consumed him during the events of Revenge of the Sith meaning that, in returning to his former self in death, Anakin lives on through the Force in the way that he was before his turn. This brings a whole weight of validation onto the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi who, when you consider how he goes about relating the events of the prequels to Luke, comes across as a manipulative and downright inconsiderate arse-hole who attempts to warp Luke’s perception of reality to fit his worldview. If, however, we accept that the redeemed Anakin Skywalker appears to Luke in the form of his younger self, it not only metaphorically shows that the corruption of Vader has fallen away to reveal the man he once was, but it also shows that the nature of the Force itself backs Obi-Wan’s claim that Vader and Anakin are separate entities, and that is arguably far more important to the story than just seeing Vader as he would have looked if he hadn’t turned evil. From a technical standpoint, the change itself needs work (mostly to make Hayden look less creepy for no reason) but ultimately I believe it adds to the depth of the lore of the Force and I will gladly agree to disagree with anyone who says otherwise.

But now, let’s take a look at some of the really bad changes to the Star Wars films…

Worst Changes:

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5 – Jabba the Hutt in A New Hope

Although some like the inclusion of the unused ‘Jabba’ scene from A New Hope that digitally replaces the man who was originally going to be ‘Jabba’ with the slimy slug-like Hutt that we all know him as today, this change is fundamentally awful for a number of reasons. For one, when it was originally included in the 1997 re-release of A New Hope, the CGI Jabba looked absolutely horrendous – it would be hard to distinguish between it and the Globgogabgalab if the latter didn’t periodically break into song. In fact, if my previous list of terrible CGI characters had included a section on the original trilogy, this Jabba would have topped the list. Thankfully the 2004 re-release of A New Hope changed Jabba into something that looked a little bit more like what we remember from Return of the Jedi but that still doesn’t answer the question of why this scene is even necessary in the first place – for one, it spoils the reveal of Jabba from Jedi, and it doesn’t establish anything that we didn’t know from the previous Cantina scene. To add insult to injury, Han steps on Jabba’s tail, something he would probably have been killed for if this was the real Jabba instead of a CGI imposter.

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4 – Vader’s ‘Nooooo’

This change is a perfect example of how altering the tiniest detail can have a whole lot of impact. Adding in Vader screaming ‘No’ Revenge of the Sith-style into the climax of Return of the Jedi essentially threw any hope of subtlety in the scene out of the window, with the Emperor cackling maniacally like the pantomime villain that he is in Jedi. After all, wouldn’t the Emperor hear him say it and blast him with lightning instead? The point of his betrayal originally was that it was totally unexpected – the Emperor never had a chance to stop Vader by the time he had been lifted into the air and hurled over the balcony to plummet to his death, but now it just makes Palpatine look like an idiot. Speaking of treating people like idiots, surely the audience can basically figure out by his body language and actions that Vader is saving Luke without a clear statement from him? But according to Lucas, everything needs to be spelled out for us, it’s not like we’ve had over 30 years to figure out what Vader must have been thinking during the final scene.

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3 – CGI creatures everywhere

It’s almost comical when watching it back, but the iconic ‘These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ scene in A New Hope now begins with a really close up shot of a reptilian creature lumbering in the way of the camera, totally blocking the shot and obscuring all of the main characters for seemingly no reason whatsoever. But that’s not the only creature that was added in to the original trilogy, there are plenty – a Dug (one of Sebulba’s species, for anyone who wanted a grim reminder of The Phantom Menace) can now be seen in Jabba’s palace, the Wampa now gets a full reveal (spoiling the ambiguity of the creature) and that dance number in Return of the Jedi makes me want to burn everything in my house that links me to Star Wars. Seriously, it’s that bad. Heck, they may as well go and retroactively add Porgs into the films, scurrying around on the Millennium Falcon or screeching over the dialogue in Empire. In fact, it’s not just the addition of creatures that make this so bad – Lucas couldn’t even digitally insert a rock in front of R2-D2 whilst he hides from the Tusken Raiders without having it disappear between shots, and the gap when it is there be too small for R2-D2 to even fit through. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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2 – Greedo Shooting First

It may surprise some that this isn’t number one, because it has become the most infamous change to the Star Wars films with, the motto ‘Han Shot First’ seemingly encompassing the Star Wars fandom’s rejection of the majority of George Lucas’ changes to the films. After all, Greedo shooting first not only detracts from the firm establishment of Han Solo as a no-nonsense, quick-triggered badass, but it also devalues him as a character – what kind of bounty hunter can fire at that close a range whilst sitting down and having a totally clear shot and yet still miss? Is this another attempt by Lucas to add out-of-place slapstick humour to Star Wars that absolutely fails at every level? Ignoring the neck-breaking head motion that Han has been edited to perform in newer releases with this edit, the change just doesn’t look right. Everything happens so fast that it’s impossible to tell why Lucas felt this was necessary, aside from a vague excuse that ‘good guys don’t shoot people’. Well George, tell that to the dozens of Stormtroopers who are dispatched by Han throughout the movies, they’re people too.

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1 – Boba Fett’s voice

This is the change that I take most issue with, regardless of the whole ‘who shot first’ fiasco. In fairness, this change was obviously made with continuity in mind, rather than just a random desire to pollute the frame with more random CGI creations like the Stormtroopers on the Death Star or the Max Reebo band – for those not aware, Boba Fett is revealed to be a clone of Jango Fett who features in Attack of the Clones. Obviously by replacing James Wingreen’s voice from the original cut of Empire with the voice of Temura Morrison, who played Jango, Lucas was bridging the gap between Clones and Empire and admittedly, this change could have been done well under different circumstances. But the fact of the matter is that Wingreen’s performance was just so much better than Morrison’s, and even if you apply the logic that Boba is a clone, that wouldn’t necessarily mean that he had the exact same voice – after all, environmental factors have much more of an impact on accent than genetics, making this change ultimately pointless.

So that was my list of the Top 5 Best and Worst Changes to the Star Wars movies, I hope you enjoyed, if you did then you can always leave a like either here or on Facebook, and be sure to follow us if you want to read more content like this!

 

 

 

 

How to Fix – Attack of the Clones

Welcome to the first article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.

To introduce my new series, I will be focusing on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, a film that is considered by many to be among the worst of the Star Wars franchise alongside The Phantom Menace and (dare I say it?) The Last Jedi. This film is probably the Star Wars Prequel film that I have seen the most, and I adored it as a child, but it is not without its flaws. Some of the fixes here will also involve small alterations to The Phantom Menace, which I have purposely skipped as to attempt to correct the huge amount of plot holes in that film would require an entire rewrite of the script. So without further ado, lets start with the most obvious fix to Attack of the Clones:

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Change the Backstory of the film so that it is easier to Understand

A major criticism levied against the Prequels is the excessive use of political dialogue, particularly considering the film is supposed to be for children. This could work if it was done well, and in a way that was simple enough for children to at least grasp the basics whilst also not boring adults who don’t have a clue what the characters are talking about half of the time. Attack of the Clones commits the cardinal sin of having a tonne of political dialogue that not only has no preliminary explanation whatsoever, but also crosses in the realms of the ridiculous even from a political standpoint.

For a start, the film should make it clear who the main villain is from the beginning. Rather than hiding the reveal of Dooku until the very end, the film should demonstrate who Dooku is and why he is a threat as soon as possible in more than just dialogue between the Jedi and Senator Amidala. Realistically, Dooku should have been in The Phantom Menace as a member of the Jedi Council, that way we’d at least have a face to put to the name when we’re watching Attack of the Clones, and would also serve to demonstrate that not even the wisest and most powerful of the Jedi can resist the lure of the Dark Side entirely.

From the similar vein, the mysterious ‘Sifo Dyas’ should have at least made an appearance. Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Dyas as if we, the audience, are already aware of his existence – we are never given any explanation as to who Dyas was, when and how he died, why he would want to order the Clone army, and how he paid for it. We must assume that he was somehow a puppet for Sidious, and apparently in an earlier draft of the film ‘Sifo Dyas’ was a disguise that Sidious used to order the clones himself. Ultimately, the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace should have had both Dooku and Sifo Dyas as members in order for the backstory of Attack of the Clones to make sense, and the political dialogue should have been reduced or altered. On that point:

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Expand the role of  Padmé Amidala

For the prequel trilogy’s leading lady, Padmé Amidala is woefully underused and blatantly one-dimensional. To her credit, Natalie Portman does her best with the material, but she was essentially wasted on this character. The next step in fixing Attack of the Clones should therefore be to expand Padmé’s role and make her more important to the story outside of being the future mother of Anakin’s children. After her  monochromatic persona of Queen Amidala fell away in the final act of The Phantom Menace, Padmé proved herself to be quite an interesting character, capable of maintaining her deception to the extent that she fools the Jedi and still finding the time to befriend young Anakin, making her the most engaging character in The Phantom Menace, although that’s not saying much. In Attack of the Clones, however, her motives are less clear, and therein lies the problem.

In The Phantom Menace Padmé‘s role boiled down to essentially saving her planet – her motives were always clear, and even when she takes the time to dress up as a maid and follow Qui-Gon Jinn into a junk shop it definitely gives the impression that she is curious and wants to learn more about the world that they have found themselves stranded on, whilst also keeping an eye on the clearly drunk Jedi Master. In Attack of the Clones, however, Padmé bounces between roles and seemingly allows all of the major decisions regarding where she goes and what she does to be decided by other characters, be it the Jedi, Anakin, her Security Chief, and even Palpatine. Padmé should certainly have taken the reigns more, perhaps in the sense that she is the one who decides to leave Coruscant and visit other planets, perhaps with Anakin in tow. As far as the politics is concerned, it gets even more dire.

We know from the text in the opening crawl of the film that Padmé is opposed to the creation of a Republic Army, but this position is never once challenged even as the Clone War erupts around her. In the opening scene of the film, Padmé should witness a Separatist attack on an innocent planet that leads to the destruction of her ship, having kills her bodyguards die in a clear Separatist raid rather than a political assassination. This would challenge Padmé‘s view of the idea of an Army and might create some conflict down the line that was woefully absent, and might explain why she ends up falling for Anakin – after seeing all of her capable guards slaughtered, perhaps spending time with Anakin on missions and learning more about how the Jedi benevolently resolve disputes would appeal to her. But this brings us to the next major point:

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Completely change Anakin’s character

We all know that the guy who was destined to become Darth Vader was essentially portrayed in the Prequel Trilogy as a whiny, stroppy brat who hated not getting his own way, moaned incessantly about every tiny problem in his life and switched between any degree of cringey or creepy when chatting up his future wife. But it didn’t have to be this way, if you think about it. After all, Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Anakin in A New Hope as if he was a great and noble Jedi, as well as a ‘good friend’, and wouldn’t it be far more tragic if a level-headed and by-the-books Jedi Knight fell to the dark side as opposed to a stroppy teen with anger issues?

This would also greatly improve the on-screen romance between Anakin and Padmé. After all, nobody on planet Earth has ever been fooled by the pathetic excuse for a romance that we see in Attack of the Clones, mostly because Anakin is such a monumental arse that it seems totally impossible that Padmé would ever fall for him, even if her mind was being manipulated by the Dark Side or whatever the expanded universe material has conjured up to explain away this point.

Whilst it may seem that at this point the film would be completely different after these changes, it would still be possible to implement these changes whilst keeping the ideas that we see in the finished film. Ultimately, even if the actual story of the film was exactly the same, it would still be a monumental improvement to expand Padmé‘s role and change Anakin’s character to fit the story better, and it would also lend more credibility to Old Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. The other scenes in Attack of the Clones are actually quite good, especially the parts with Obi-Wan as he attempts to unravel the thinly-veiled mysteries of the Clone troopers. The final and most pressing issue with Attack of the Clones can be fixed with one final amendment, and that is:

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Show why the Separatists are doing what they are doing

One of the main reasons why the politics in Attack of the Clones falls flat is that we are only given one side of the story, namely, the Republic side. There are moments in the film in which we hear Separatists talking, like the scene in which Obi-Wan eavesdrops on Dooku’s council discussing tactics, but we are never given tangible explanations as to why the Republic is splintering – surely if the Separatists leaving the Republic is central to the political dialogue in the film, we should at least have an idea as to why this is the case? Are we expected to believe that the vague ‘trade disputes’ mentioned in The Phantom Menace, a film set ten years before this one, are to blame? I don’t think so.

By effectively conveying to the audience the motives of the main villains, the film opens the door for possible fan debate over the morality of each faction – after all, the Republic stands for democracy and peace but is also equatable to modern-day ‘mega-states’, the epitome of centralised government, an idea that does not appeal to everyone in this day and age. Likewise, we could learn more about the methods of each faction – the Separatists use droids in combat rather than living people, so could this be twisted to imply that they want to reduce loss of Separatist life? Star Wars is certainly a franchise of clear-cut heroes and villains, but for a trilogy that leans more heavily on political dialogue and storytelling, perhaps this would have been a better direction to take things.

So they were my thoughts on how to ‘fix’ Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like either here on on Facebook, and if you have any points to add on how Attack of the Clones could be improved, be sure to leave them down in the comments. Thanks for reading!

Star Wars – The Issue of Scope

The Star Wars universe is a vast and diverse place, with hundreds of species and galaxy-spanning governments that, throughout the course of the three trilogies, work either to do good or to serve the cause of evil. Despite the huge array of planets that we see in the Star Wars series, however, the films have never done a very good job of presenting the impacts that its various factions have on the Galaxy in which they live, for various reasons. To get an idea of the variety of creative ways in which Star Wars misses the mark when it comes to Galactic Politics, it is easiest to look at each individual trilogy separately and assess the degree of success it has in making the audience genuinely care about the Galaxy at large, and not just about a band of smugglers, monks and robots travelling around in an old spaceship.

The Prequels

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To get this right out of the way, Star Wars Episodes I to III do the best job at presenting a huge Galaxy with a wide variety of planets. One only needs to look at the Galactic Senate to get an idea of how many populated worlds there are in Star Wars, and thanks to the improved special effects and multiple plot threads going at once we get to visit many of these planets throughout the prequels – Utapau, Felucia, Kamino, Naboo, Mustafar, Mygeeto – the list goes on. But the central conflict to the Prequels – the Clone Wars – appears to stop short when we reach the Republic capital, Coruscant. Arguably the most important location in the prequels, Coruscant represents the heart of both the Republic and the Jedi, and is the primary setting of the finale, Revenge of the Sith. Despite this, the ever-present Clone Wars doesn’t seem to physically affect Coruscant in the slightest, even when a giant space battle occurs right above the planet, the city itself is totally undamaged. We see evidence of some lavish parties, mile-long traffic airborne traffic columns, and even operas going on even towards the end of the films, implying that the Clone Wars is an event that is detached from the everyday lives of Republic citizens, rather than the frightening and fate-deciding conflict that it is described as.

This is juxtaposed massively with the state of some of the planets that we see briefly throughout the film, such as Mygeeto which is portrayed as a ruin, with scarred bridges, destroyed buildings and constant combat – but this planet has never been seen before, and is never seen again after the one sequence in which it appears. How is the audience supposed to connect to a planet that we see so briefly? If it were a world like Naboo, which in The Phantom Menace is portrayed as an idyllic paradise, that was devastated by war in Revenge of the Sith, then perhaps this would provoke more of a response. As it stands, the Prequel trilogy doesn’t do a very good job of making its central conflict seem very real, pitting disposable CGI Clone Troopers against equally disposable Separatist droids on faraway planets that we never even knew existed.

The Original Trilogy

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The grandfather of the franchise, the Original Trilogy does no better a job at making its conflict seem real than the Prequels do, although it has a more concrete excuse. A New Hope was released in 1977, then simply titled Star Wars, and experienced crippling issues with budget, on-location filming, limitations of the special effects of the time, and the uncertainty at the time of whether it would be a success. Regardless, we get quite the spectacular space opera, that is lacking in just one area – scale. The environments in A New Hope are small, cramped and don’t convey the true size of the Star Wars universe as effectively as its successors, with just three main locations – Tatooine, the Death Star, and Yavin IV. That being said, we do see the destruction of another planet, Alderaan, but since we know absolutely nothing about that planet and are never shown its surface or population the effect is completely nullified. The Empire may as well have blown up a barren rock for all the emotional weight that is put into Alderaan’s destruction, especially since Princess Leia doesn’t even mention it again.

But surely Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi do better jobs? After all, they had higher hopes, higher budget and higher stakes, but again, the effect is lesser than it could have been. Only Empire actually, finally, shows the audience an innocent inhabited planet threatened by the Empire, and that is Cloud City – which is abandoned to its fate by the heroes, never to be heard from again. Like A New Hope, Empire shows barren, often inhospitable worlds like Hoth and Dagobah that could bounce between ownership of the Rebellion and the Empire with absolutely no consequence for anybody, which lessens the impact of the Rebellion’s struggle. If we do not know who the Rebels are actually fighting for, surely their struggle becomes pointless? Well, not exactly. We can infer from the original trilogy that the Empire are an oppressive and ruthless force ruled by an evil master of the Dark Side – after all, Alderaan may have been a planet we knew nothing about, but presumably it had a population roughly similar to that of Earth, and the Empire wipes it out without a second thought – and we see enough of the Rebels themselves to get a sense of why we should care for their struggle. It just would have made for a valuable bit of world-building if we got an idea of who the Rebels represent.

Ironically, the abominable Special Editions give us more of an idea of the state of the wider Galaxy after the Empire is defeated in the form of a few quick shots of Coruscant, Tatooine, Naboo and Bespin, all showing mass-partying and celebration upon the defeat of the Empire. But there is a problem here – you’d expect that after 20+ years of Imperial rule, the Galaxy would be in quite a state, but this isn’t the case. When we see Coruscant in Return of the Jedi, it looks identical to where we left it in Revenge of the Sith, which begs the question – did the Empire have any impact on the planet at all? So the Special Editions are a double-edged sword – they show us the wider Galaxy in a way that the original movie couldn’t, and yet it presents it in a way which derails the point of it being there in the first place.

The Sequels

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Now at last we reach the Sequel trilogy, which should have combined the best elements of the previous trilogies to deliver a conflict with depth and weight to it whilst also presenting the impact that said conflict has on the wider Galaxy. Sadly, we arguably get neither of these. The Force Awakens clearly tries its best to avoid any association with the Prequels, possibly based on the misguided assumption that anything that was in the Prequels is automatically bad, regardless of how it is portrayed. This essentially means that there is no politics in The Force Awakens whatsoever, which leaves fans stumped as to what the various factions in the movie actually stand for. Who are the ‘Resistance’? why are they ‘resisting’ the ‘First Order’ when there’s apparently a ‘New Republic’? None of this is ever explained, and despite how terribly it was handling the Prequels, a few scenes of Senate politics might have actually helped The Force Awakens audience members to get a grasp of the stakes. We have no idea how big the Republic is, we have no idea what it stands for. We have no idea how big the First Order is, and we have no idea where it came from. When the New Republic planet (is it Coruscant? Is it another planet? Again, we are never told) is destroyed, we see an attempt by the filmmakers to tug out our heartstrings by showing shots of various people screaming as they realise their fate, arguably something that would have been better placed in A New Hope alongside the fate of Alderaan. But without the emotional link that Princess Leia provided to Alderaan’s destruction, we find ourselves oddly desensitised to this mass-destruction, since the film never truly gives us the context we need to understand what its fate means. Ultimately, thanks to an attempt to distance itself from the sterile politics of the Prequels, the Sequel trilogy rejects any opportunities for wider world-building, instead relying on Expanded Universe media like books and comics to tell those stories in a manner similar to Halo 5: Guardians (A narrative strategy that nobody should emulate).

So where does this leave Star Wars? In a sense, right back where we started – a universe that is vast, diverse and creatively devoid of investment, especially thanks to Disney’s reset of the canon and the eradication of over 30 years of stories that filled the Star Wars universe with life. Whether or not you let this angle on the films affect your judgement of them is up to you, and one might argue that I am asking too much of Star Wars, and that the kind of world-building that I am looking for is best found in a franchise like Star Trek. But for a franchise with more planets in its Galaxy than Earth has countries, it seems smaller now than ever.

But what are your thoughts? Leave a like if you agree with my ideas, and if not, leave a comment explaining why. Be sure to Follow us or Like us on Facebook for more content like this, and you can read more below. Thanks for reading!

 

Star Wars Astromech Droid Collection – Part 4

As well as a Dalek Collection, I also maintain a collection of Star Wars Astromech Droids, and although this collection is significantly smaller than my Dalek collection, it still warrants its own four-part series. For the final part, I will be showcasing my custom Astromech Droids, many of which I painted using existing figures as a base and replicating colour schemes and designs from the movies.

R2-X2

R2-X2

For this custom figure I used an R2-B1 figure as a base and a combination of black paint, black detailing fine liner, white paint and white paint pen to represent R2-X2, the droid seen sat behind Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles (played by a different actor) in the tactical meeting that takes place before the Death Star attack. This droid design has always been one of my favourites, and it proved quite a challenge to get looking right – the stripes on the head required particular precision.

R5-A2

R5-A2

For this custom I used yellow humbrol paint and white paint pen with Sharpee for the detailing, in an attempt to create R5-A2, the droid that passes by right in front of the camera in A New Hope before Obi-Wan Kenobi mind-tricks the Stormtroopers. Unfortunately, due to the Humbrol paint’s finish, the end result appears quite scratchy, but that does fit in with the aesthetic of a droid trundling around a desert town.

R2-C4

R2-C4

I had to create a custom of this droid to complete the trio seen on promotional material for The Phantom Menance, of R2-D2, R2-M9 and R2-C4. This droid is essentially R2-D2 in yellow, and is one of the few astromech droids to actually survive The Phantom Menace, seen it is seen as one of the droids of the pilots escaping the destroyed Droid Control ship. For this custom I sued similar yellow Humbrol paint and white paint pen that I did for R5-A2.

R3-T2

R3-T2

A made this custom using a reject R4-P17 figure, it is a clearly inferior mold with no middle foot and was going cheap on eBay. With just a bit of blue Citadel paint, bronze Humbrol and white paint pen this droid now resembles R3-T2, a droid that appears briefly in A New Hope. It may seem hypocritical of me to paint an astromech droid design that barely appears in the film when I’ve spent this entire series complaining about the huge amount of figures out there, but I’d much prefer to make them myself rather than buy them as figures in the same way that I buy more common Daleks and paint them to look unique.

R5-M2

R5-M2

This custom is probably the best of my Astromech Droid customs, as I used more matte Citadel than glossy Humbrol and so the final effect is less scratchy. Unfortunately the silver Humbrol on the body is a bit messy, and perhaps more work with a white paint pen is required. Nonetheless, the figure is decent as it is. For the base I used a newer R5-D4 figure that lacks the motivator feature, but does include the ability to take the droid apart.

I hope you enjoyed this little series on my Star Wars Astromech Droid collection, if you want to read more content like this then be sure to like us on Facebook or follow us on WordPress, and be sure to leave a like on the article if you enjoyed!

Star Wars Astromech Droid Collection – Part 3

As well as a Dalek Collection, I also maintain a collection of Star Wars Astromech Droids, and although this collection is significantly smaller than my Dalek collection, it still warrants its own four-part series. Part 3 will cover a famous droid with a bad motivator, various Naboo units and another droid that looks like a Halloween special.

R2-A3

R2-A3

Created by Hasbro for a Wedge Antilles X-Wing, this droid is loosely based on Wedge’s red droid seen in A New Hope, although the colours on that droid are inverted (as in, it has a red head with silver detailing whereas this droid has a silver head with red detail.) Why Hasbro insists on making figures of Star Wars characters that either barely appear or don’t even exist at all is beyond me, but its a nice addition to the collection.

R5-D4

R5-D4

Of all the droids in Star Wars that aren’t R2-D2 and C-3PO, this is the one that is most deserving of its own figure since it at least has a scene in A New Hope. R5-D4 is the droid that Luke Skywalker originally buys instead of R2-D2, but due to a ‘bad motivator’ the droid malfunctions and internal explosions cause it to shut down. That effect can be replicated with this figure, as turning the head causes the little nodule at the top (which is presumably the aforementioned malfunctioning ‘motivator’) to emerge, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, the manufacturers did not find a way to make the figure spew smoke in the process, so the effect is somewhat underwhelming.

R2-N3

R2-N3

One of the many astromech droids seen in The Phantom Menace that use R2-D2’s base design just with different colours, R2-N3 is seen a few times throughout the movie, both in the Theed Hangar and on the Royal Starship, before being obliterated so that R2-D2 could take the spotlight. As a possible reference to his demise, this figure had be disassembled into its component parts – dome, body, legs and feet, in case children want to recreate this poor guy’s final moments.

R2-L3

R2-L3

When Hasbro had finished scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas for figures, they removed the barrel’s underside and started digging a hole. When that hole got about 6 feet deep, they found this guy. Not that this droid doesn’t look cool, because it does – in fact its design is one of the most unique astromech droid paint jobs, and perhaps that alone makes it worth having – it’s just that the droid appears in Episode II for less than a second.

R2-R9

R2-R9

Like poor R2-N3, R2-R9 bravely ventured out onto the hull of Queen Amidala’s Royal Starship and unfortunately forgot his plot armor. Thanks to terrible writing, the Trade Federation are somehow able to precisely pick off each and every astromech droid (except R2-D2, of course, whose plot armor was well intact at this point) without actually damaging the ship itself. But whilst he was born out of a terrible movie, R2-R9 is actualized in the form of this standard quality figure, which also features the ability to be torn limb from limb.

Stay tuned for Part 4, in which I will be showcasing my Custom Astromech Droids! Remember to leave a like if you enjoyed, follow us or like us on Facebook for more content like this.

 

 

Star Wars Astromech Droid Collection – Part 2

As well as a Dalek Collection, I also maintain a collection of Star Wars Astromech Droids, and although this collection is significantly smaller than my Dalek collection, it still warrants its own four-part series. Part 2 will cover both prequel droids and original trilogy droids, including some Tantive-IV occupants and Obi-Wan Kenobi’s second droid.

R4-M9

R4-M9

R4-M9 appears near the beginning of A New Hope, trundling down a corridor on the Tantive-IV. Depending on who you ask, R4-M9 is either a Rebel droid captured by the Imperials or an Imperial droid who is being assigned to slice into Rebel computers, either way, his appearance in the film is fleeting and his impact on the story is negligible, and yet like many of his brethren, he has a figure.

R2-Q2

R2-Q2

Like R4-M9, R2-Q2 appears in the opening act of A New Hope aboard the Tantive IV, and is never seen again. Most likely an Imperial Droid given his colour scheme, R2-Q2 apparently possesses the largest map of systems in the Galaxy within his database, so perhaps the First Order should have gone to him for the location of Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens.

R4-G9

R4-G9

After the death of R4-P17 that Obi-Wan seems to brush off with indignant indifference, he must eventually swallow his pride and ask for a replacement droid because for the middle section of Revenge of the Sith he is seen with this droid, R4-G9. This droid’s design is somewhat unique – it uses gold and bronze together on the dome, unlike most other droids which have colours that stand out from each other. R4-G9 is last seen piloting Obi-Wan’s ship away from Utapau, and so chances are he’s still flying around the Galaxy in it. This figure features a translucent eye, and if light is shone into the opening in the head the eye lights up, which is a nice feature.

 

R3-T7

This figure is weird, because is was released as part of the ‘sneak preview’ part of the toyline for Attack of the Clones, and so some people thought this droid would play a part in the movie. R3-T7 is in the film – for less than a second, and it passes by an alleyway in an extreme long shot, so its barely distinguishable from other people milling about. Regardless, a great deal of detail was added to this figure – everything from subtle scorch marks on the front to a transparent head with sculpted internal brain. The only downside to this figure is the body – it is far too long compared to other figures.

R4-C7

R4-C7

Despite not appearing in any movie at all, this droid still has its own figure, appearing in an exclusive box set of ARC-170 Elite Squadron. This figure has a great colour scheme, and the paint applications are excellent – particularly the red and yellow for the two squares just under the eye, that makes this the only astromech droid in my collection to have those as different colours. This figure is quite rare now I believe, and so it is one of the centerpieces of my collection despite having no origin movie.

Stay tuned for Part 3! Remember to leave a like if you enjoyed, follow us or like us on Facebook for more content like this.