Tag Archive: George Lucas


A Heart Divided

Review by C.J. Bunce

How often do you read a series that makes it to four volumes and each entry gets progressively better?  That’s exactly what awaits you in Gigi Chang, Anna Holmwood, and Shelly Bryant’s landmark English translation of Jin Yong′s Legends of the Condor Heroes novels.  This series, originally a serialized novel written and first published by Yong aka Louis Cha between 1957 and 1959, is in fact the worldwide best selling novel of all time, with a billion copies in print.  A 38 volume manhua comic was issued in 1998, and countless film and TV adaptations followed, including my favorite in 2017 (reviewed here).  In the spirit of Homer, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R. Tolkien, Akira Kurosawa, and George Lucas, the series is among the world’s greatest fantasy novels and you should think of the fourth and final installment, A Heart Divided, as the Return of the King of the series.  Only it’s better than Tolkien’s finale–incredible subplots, powerful historical fantasy, dozens of major, important key characters, who, because of the stunning translation and Jin’s literary characterizations, will be easy for Western audiences to keep track of.  It doesn’t fall into the trap of many major fantasy series: losing the steam built up in the earlier installments.

Continue reading

Secrets of the Force

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you skip over the commentary from the critics and modern writers, and focus on the quotes from the past from the actual filmmakers and actors, you may find some new details behind the nine Star Wars movies in a book coming in July.  In their two volume treatise The Fifty-Year Mission, The Complete Uncensored Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek, authors Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman compiled quotes from dozens of people inside Gene Roddenberry’s creation, which meant a lot of what you’d expect by way of discussing the creation of the franchise, colliding with what you might not expect–speculation, ranting, gossip, and even anger among the crew.  With their new book the authors switch gears to compiling quotes from people behind the scenes of George Lucas’s creation, including many expected, nostalgic trips to the past coupled with equal parts speculation, ranting, gossip, and anger. Secrets of the Force: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Wars explores the Star Wars material in a single volume.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

In the hour-long second “season” of Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian–Making of Season 2, executive producer/director Jon Favreau says he hoped to bring all the kinds of Star Wars fans together for a special moment, and he seems to have done that in this year’s superb second season of The Mandalorian, although it’s difficult to compare Disney Gallery‘s eight-episode first season of behind the scenes glimpses to the single, albeit packed, episode fans got from Disney+ this year, released on Christmas Day.  As far as making all the groups of fans happy, expect that fans of the last episode’s special climactic scene won’t get to see a “making of” feature on that component yet.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

With the second season opener “The Marshall,” I thought the new season would be more of the same (see my review here).  A bit light on plot, and so similar to a few episodes from the first season, I figured Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, & Co. were going to deliver some more good entertainment, but not take too many risks.  Not one week later I had to take that back, as the episode “The Passenger” delivered a spectacular single-story episode reminiscent of Alien and The Thing.  The fourth episode of the season, “The Siege,” was a return of characters from season one and more of the single most important, far-reaching draw for any age group or other demographic, Baby Yoda, given the name Grogu in last week’s episode.  But if you take a look at this season, especially episodes 11, 13, and 14, what you may find is the third greatest Star Wars movie.  Or at least your third favorite.  I’ll avoid spoilers for yesterday’s new episode “The Tragedy” below except to mention the director and that the episode blew me away, but let’s dig into this season so far.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

It really is the ultimate holiday gift for your favorite Star Wars fan.  The nostalgia in the ideas for the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, as illustrated and explained in The Art of Star Wars: The Mandalorian, is exactly what fans were hoping for in their next Star Wars experience, probably dating all the way back to the anticipation of the release of Return of the Jedi back in 1983.  There’s a reason for the universal praise for the series, and why it’s one of the best television series of the past ten years, if not one of the best Westerns ever.  Jon Favreau, Doug Chiang, & Co. figured out how to please a diverse fandom.  By including the concept artwork in the end credits for each episode, they took us back to the Ralph McQuarrie paintings that inspired the first Star Wars film.  But those images are only the beginning.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

As the ninth and final film in the Skywalker Saga arrives in a home video release, the fifth volume from Abrams Books chronicling the entirety of the Disney-era Star Wars concept artwork is here.  The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker does not disappoint in showing readers the expansive designs for a film that stepped ahead of its predecessor with more ships, more action, more aliens, more weaponry, and more costume designs.  Our only hope is that Abrams obtains the rights to create a similar volume continuing this series of books, documenting the first season of The Mandalorian.  One thing every fan will notice who has watched all eleven movies in the franchise–more than ever readers can now clearly see elements from each prequel, each original trilogy episode, and each Star Wars Story film incorporated into the sets, ships, and characters in this final installment.

As with the first two books in the trilogy, this look at the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker shows paths taken and, more interestingly, paths not taken by production designer Rick Carter, franchise veteran Kevin Jenkins, and the rest of the art design team.  This includes alternate costumes for Rey, Finn, Poe, Lando, Zorii, and Jannah, new pilots, stormtroopers, droids, and new worlds of creature concepts.  Probably more than the past volumes in the series, this book has close-up detailed views at props, including lightsaber and other weaponry, all in search of that design element that says “Star Wars” to the movie audience.

Phil Szostak lets the artwork take center stage in this fourth book in the series (he also wrote The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and The Art of Solo: A Star Wars Story, all reviewed here at borg)–prior books had more textual commentary.  Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (reviewed here and available in all digital formats today), the ninth and final episode in the Skywalker family story in the universe George Lucas created, saw the return of director J.J. Abrams and his strategy of evoking the trilogy to maximum benefit, with many images inspired by original Ralph McQuarrie concepts.  So it may come as no surprise that The Art of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker feels like a book of original trilogy designs.  The artwork from dozens of contributors mirrors the iconography, the color patterns, the lighting, the costuming, and set pieces from The Return of the Jedi especially.

Continue reading

Review by C.J. Bunce

With the much anticipated ninth episode Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker here at last, writer/director J.J. Abrams has succeeded again at managing a major film franchise challenge and making the best of it.  With Star Trek in 2009, he took a waning property and shot new life into it, but came up short four years later when he tried again and delivered Star Trek Into Darkness, heavily milking the nostalgia of the fan base with its retread of Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.  In 2015 Abrams was handed the keys to the other big space franchise, where he revitalized a left-for-dead movie saga and delivered Star Wars: The Force Awakens, notable for the introduction of Daisy Ridley’s curious and mysterious desert scavenger Rey, arguably one of the most fleshed out characters in the entire franchise with this final installment.  Fortunately Abrams’s return to Star Wars will likely net better results for its fanbase with a movie that rises to become the best in the final trilogy, or at least as good as his The Force Awakens.  Is this still George Lucas’s Star Wars?  No, but that just shows the power and unique status of the original trilogy–even Lucas couldn’t capture the magic again with his prequels.  The Rise of Skywalker is the kind of movie that could be judged on its merits as a J.J. Abrams movie and separately as a Star Wars sequel.  Whether you as a viewer like this installment or not will depend on your own expectations.

Abrams may be at his best, with his unique style, lens flares and all, when he gives fans what they want.  Abram’s success this holiday season is a bit of a salvage effort, bringing Rey back as the focal hero/heroine of the story, incorporating some of the saga’s best “Jedi being Jedi” sequences, and tapping into the nostalgia for the 1977 original in bite-sized bits instead of leaning on it like he did so unapologetically with Star Trek Into Darkness.  If only Abrams had made all three Star Wars films, this third chapter could have been much tighter, and the whole trilogy would likely be better received by most of the fanbase.  As a viewer if you don’t (or can’t) just sit back and enjoy the cameo performances, throwbacks, and Easter eggs, you’ll get the feeling that using two directors instead of one over the three films is the crux of any problems in The Rise of Skywalker.  Upon its release, the previous installment The Last Jedi felt like it belonged to an entirely different story than The Force Awakens.  Plot threads created by Abrams were summarily abandoned.  Key characters were eliminated without explanation.  New plot threads came from out of nowhere.  In short, the director-flipping was the big mistake from a storytelling perspective.  Abrams has the extensive portfolio behind him to demonstrate he would have been the right choice to direct all three films.  So this time Abrams had a greater task than ever before, because he was stuck making major course corrections, all to get this tale back on track, re-focused again on Rey.  The necessary patchwork aside, The Rise of Skywalker will go down as one of Abrams’ best works.

Will Star Wars, or more specifically, the Skywalker saga with this three-part conclusion, endure the test of time?  If audiences continue to believe in its value as entertainment, there is no reason why studios can’t keep going back to this material repeatedly–think Shakespeare’s plays, Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dickens’s Ebenezer ScroogeRecall how even more recent stories like the Terminator, Predator, and Halloween (and Star Trek) film series have continued to make sequels and wholesale reboots, disregarding a film that doesn’t do as well and continuing like it was never made.  There’s no reason that can’t happen someday with Star Wars.  So those fans who still want to see the Expanded Universe on the big screen–the complexities and triumphs of both Timothy Zahn’s sequel trilogy and Dark Horse Comics’ many stories like Dark Empire that did so much more with heroes Luke and Leia–just wait.  Someday the right new visionary will step in and make it happen, but fans will need to accept new actors as their heroes, just like we saw with the latest Star Trek trilogy.

Want to dig in further?  Spoilers follow.

Continue reading

Is that Bossk?

The trailers look just like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story, which both reflected so much the original Star Wars from 1977 more than the other entries in the franchise.  It’s not so much that Disney and Lucasfilm put together a movie based on every kid in the 1980s’ favorite background character, because George Lucas already made a movie about that guy, his dad, and a whole army of lookalikes.  It’s hard to find a cooler character than Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back, until Lucas delivered on the fan service and inserted him into the original, special edition of Star Wars.  It’s not only that.  Or that, like Solo: A Star Wars Story, it’s clearly a full-fledged space Western.  Or that fans get to see familiar elements of the franchise again, like carbon freezing, speeder bikes, scout walkers, patrol dewbacks, familiar bounty hunters, and Imperial bunkers hidden in the forest.  And it’s not that the lead is played by its rising young actors known for badass characters, Pedro Pascal and co-star Gina Carano.  Or that the series features a story by genre favorite Jon Favreau, with a host of episode directors like Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi, or noted Star Wars animaster Dave Filoni, or Solo director Ron’s daughter, actor Bryce Dallas Howard.

Well, it’s that, but not only that.  It’s that added gravitas that Star Wars is better at than possibly any other franchise.  It’s adding those dynamic, major character actors in supporting roles who make the magic happen sometimes even from the corner of the screen, from the likes of Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Christopher Lee, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, Linda Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Max von Sydow.  Would Star Wars be Star Wars without the characters these actors brought to life?  Definitely not.

For the second trailer for the new streaming series The Mandalorian, that means more Carl Weathers–who we saw in August’s first public trailer and April’s “sizzle reel” at the annual Star Wars convention.  Along with Giancarlo Esposito and that toughest of older tough guys in movies, director and Jack Reacher villain Werner Herzog, we have plenty to look forward to.  As the norm these days, unfortunately to watch this series you’ll need to subscribe to another streaming platform, this time that’s the Disney+ streaming service (or… once the Blu-ray arrives should you not want to feed the Disney machine any further).

So check it out–your next look at The Mandalorian, plus five new official posters:

Continue reading

It’s not so much that Disney and Lucasfilm put together a movie based on every kid in the 1980s’ favorite background character, because George Lucas already made a movie about that guy, his dad, and a whole army of lookalikes.  It’s hard to find a cooler character than Boba Fett in The Empire Strikes Back, until Lucas delivered on the fan service and inserted him into the original, special edition of Star Wars.  It’s not only that.  Or that, like Solo: A Star Wars Story, it’s clearly a full-fledged space Western.  Or that fans get to see familiar elements of the franchise again, like carbon freezing, speeder bikes, scout walkers, patrol dewbacks, familiar bounty hunters, and Imperial bunkers hidden in the forest.  And it’s not that the lead is played by its rising young actors known for badass characters, Pedro Pascal and co-star Gina Carano.  Or that the series features a story by genre favorite Jon Favreau, with a host of episode directors like Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi, or noted Star Wars animaster Dave Filoni, or Solo director Ron’s daughter, actor Bryce Dallas Howard.

Well, it’s that, but not only that.

It’s that added gravitas that Star Wars is better at than possibly any other franchise.  It’s adding those dynamic, major character actors in supporting roles who make the magic happen sometimes even from the corner of the screen, from the likes of Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Christopher Lee, Terence Stamp, Brian Blessed, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, Linda Hunt, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Max von Sydow.  Would Star Wars be Star Wars without the characters these actors brought to life?  Definitely not.

For the latest trailer for the new streaming series The Mandalorian, that means Carl Weathers–who we saw in April’s “sizzle reel” at the annual Star Wars convention (yet to be posted by Lucasfilm, but check out a watchable version below), with a first look at Giancarlo Esposito, and that toughest of older tough guys in movies, director and Jack Reacher villain Werner Herzog.  Not seen in this trailer, but expected to be added to the list, is Nick Nolte, who we can imagine could get us to that similar kind of character as Woody Harrelson or Paul Bettany in Solo.

So check it out–your next look at The Mandalorian:

Continue reading

 

No one could have predicted when the original Star Wars won six of ten Academy Awards in 1978 that a new Star Wars film would be nominated 41 years later.  At the end of 2019 all will be known–with Episode IX to be released in December the entirety of George Lucas’s nine-part Star Wars saga will be complete.  Although the Skywalker family and its legacy is done, Disney and Lucasfilm will be sure that Star Wars is very far from over.  But expect this year to be full of nostalgic products looking back over the course of the four decades since we first saw the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away…”  Two movie souvenir compilation books will take Star Wars fans across the film franchise.  Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide presents interviews and photographs behind and in front of the camera from Ron Howard’s film.  And today Star Wars: The Saga Begins arrives in book stores, taking a rare look back at the Star Wars prequel trilogy.  We have previews of both books for you to check out below.

In Star Wars: The Saga Begins readers will find articles collected from Star Wars Insider, the magazine that has provided fans with the latest fandom and news since 1994.  In September 1997 with Issue #35, fans got their first glimpses at what would follow the original trilogy, as publisher and fan club president Dan Madsen provided updates in each issue with producer Rick McCallum.  Unfolding until 2005 and beyond, Star Wars Insider provided first looks at new prequel ships, characters, and locations.  Interviews explained what was happening behind the scenes of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith from the likes of director George Lucas, actors Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Temuera Morrison, Daniel Logan, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, and Brian Blessed, plus concept artists Ralph McQuarrie and Doug Chiang, composer John Williams, costume designer Trisha Biggar, sound designer Ben Burtt and many more.  Star Wars: The Saga Begins is packed with concept artwork and prototypes of creatures and props, plus storyboards and costume designs.  And it has hundreds of photographs.

A similarly designed look at Solo: A Star Wars Story can be found in Solo: A Star Wars Story Ultimate Guide Readers will find Star Wars Insider interviews and profiles from director Ron Howard, writers Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, actors Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, and Thandie Newton, plus composer John Powell, creature maker Neal Scanlan, and costume designers David Crossman and Glyn Dillon.  The Ultimate Guide is full of good detail shots of the Millennium Falcon and sections featuring the newly designed Imperial armor and ships created for the film.

Here are previews from each book, courtesy of Titan:

Continue reading