Tag Archive: Ian McDiarmid


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.

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The end is near.  At Star Wars Celebration in Chicago today, director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy revealed the title and first teaser for Star Wars Episode IX in a panel hosted by late night TV host Stephen Colbert.  The past returns in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, confirming for many that Abrams is taking a turn from Star Wars: The Last Jedi, including literally mending some of the changes from occurred in that episode of the Star Wars saga.

And this last chapter in the Skywalker family story has plenty of surprises, even in a short teaser.

Check it out, and the seven notable moments we see:

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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:

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Coming in at about the same price as the actor’s screen-used prop blaster from Return of the Jedi this summer (discussed here at borg), Harrison Ford proved again he is #1 among pop culture and entertainment memorabilia collectors.  At Prop Store‘s entertainment memorabilia live auction in London yesterday, called Treasures from Film and Television (which we previewed from San Diego Comic-Con here in July), one of the fedoras worn by ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark brought record bids for a prop from the franchise, taking in an estimate of between $522,500 and $558,000, including fees and taxes.  Ford’s Han Solo blaster sold in June for $550,000 (before tax).  The hammer price for the hat was £320,000 when the winning bid was placed and the hammer struck, or about $424,755.  Provenance for this hat was not provided by Prop Store in its catalog, but the company said it could be screen-matched through identifying marks to several key scenes in the movie.  An Indy bullwhip from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom sold for $74,460, including buyer’s premium, at the auction.

One of the other auction lots worn by Ford was supposed to be the crown jewel of the auction, a simple stylized blue jacket worn in The Empire Strikes Back said to have been screen-matched to the film’s Cloud City scenes.  Although it was expected to garner $660,000 to $1.3 million, bidders were just not willing to push bids past the $600,000 mark and the seller’s minimum reserve price.  The jacket was one of the only hero costume pieces from the original trilogy to be offered at public auction.

This week’s big star prop of the Prop Store auction was crowded among other Hollywood props on display at San Diego Comic-Con this past July.

Several other key props from the four corners of genredom sold in excess of six figures (including buyer’s premium and net of taxes) in yesterday’s auction.  A light-up T-800 endoskeleton from Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991) fetched a massive price of $326,500.  A Christopher Reeve costume from Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) sold for $212,200.  A Hayden Christensen Anakin Skywalker lightsaber from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) sold for $180,000 and an Ian McDiarmid Emperor lightsaber from the film sold for $114,000.  A background First Order Stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars: The Last Jedi surprised everyone, selling for a whopping $180,000.  A Johnny Depp costume from Edward Scissorhands (1990) sold for $106,100.  Of several original comic book art pages that sold, the star was Page 15 from The Amazing Spider-Man (1966), Issue #32, by artist Steve Ditko, which fetched $155,000.

More than two dozen other memorable props and costumes from sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, and horror classics fared well (prices quoted include pre-tax conversion from British pound, including buyer’s premium):
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Not likely to be the last we see of Star Wars animated television series from Disney, the successful four season run of Star Wars Rebels will wrap with its final episode March 5, 2018.  As each season has peppered fans with the official return of actors from the original George Lucas trilogy and prequels, as well as 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, at least one more major character will return in the series’ final seven episodes beginning next month.

Emperor Palpatine himself, Ian McDiarmid, joins original film cast members James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Forest Whitaker, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz, Warwick Davis, and Genevieve O’ Reilly, and an ultimate mash-up of actors from literally every major genre franchise, including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gina Torres, Tom Baker, Brent Spiner, Jason Isaacs, Katee Sackhoff, Clancy Brown, Peter MacNicol, Sam Witwer, and Freddie Prinze, Jr.  McDiarmid reprises his role as the franchise’s top bad guy seen in the re-edit of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith.  Although other original characters were voiced by new actors for characters like Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Bail Organa, Darth Maul, Wedge Antilles, and General Dodonna, this is a rare treat in any franchise to see the return of an actor to an iconic role so many years later (that is, except the Doctor Who franchise, which has seen 7 of the original 13 actors who played Doctors return along with nearly every companion in the series’ 50 year history as part of Big Finish Productions’ 17 years of audioplays).

Sam Witwer provided the voice of Palpatine earlier in the series, but Lucasfilm pulled in McDiarmid for one last curtain call.  What will be the ultimate fate of Lothal, another loss like Scarif and Alderaan?  Will Ahsoka return?  Why didn’t we see Grand Admiral Thrawn in Rogue One?  Does Captain Rex live to fight at Endor in Return of the Jedi?  Fans of the series are waiting to see what happens to the key characters, the crew of The Ghost.  We know from Rogue One that Hera and Chopper survive.  Will Kanan, Ezra, Zeb, or Sabine make it out of Star Wars Rebels, too?

The end, and the answers to these questions are almost here.  Check out this new trailer for the final episodes of Star Wars Rebels:

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