Tag Archives: Star Wars

Game Review: LEGO Star Wars (Xbox)

LEGO Star Wars (Xbox)

LEGO Star Wars (Xbox)

I was on the fence about picking up LEGO Star Wars because it covers Episodes I – III of the movie trilogy, and I’m not a big fan of the prequels. However, I’d heard some pretty good things about the game and I was curious to give it a shot. Then two things happened: the game moved to the “Platinum” series—which essentially means a new box, a twenty dollar price tag and (I believe) compatibility with the Xbox 360—and I found out that the game features cooperative multiplayer capability, which is almost enough to get me to buy any Xbox game.

Miscellaneous G™ and I played LEGO Star Wars for about five hours one evening, completing both Episode I and Episode II. A week or so later, it only took us a couple of hours to finish Episode III after which we started running through the game in “Free Play” mode, playing whichever characters we liked (G avoids playing Jar-Jar Binks, for some reason) and trying to find all of the hidden mini-kit parts. Successfully collecting these parts doesn’t affect gameplay, but the parts are assembled into various vehicles from the Star Wars universe that can be viewed outside of Dexter’s cantina (the LEGO Star Wars equivalent to Cheers).

LEGO Star Wars is geared toward the younger gamer, but has proven to be quite enjoyable for the more “mature” player as well. The total absence of clumsy dialog and wooden performances (can little plastic people emote?) made the prequel trilogy a bit more enjoyable for me, and “accidentally” killing Anakin Skywalker from time to time is quite cathartic.

Most of the story focuses on tromping through various familiar settings armed with a lightsaber or blaster, but each episode throws one vehicle-based mission into the mix (e.g., the Episode I podrace). The Episode II vehicle mission, which takes place on the surface of the planet Geonosis, reminded both Miscellaneous G™ and I of the classic arcade space-shooter, Zaxxon.

Whether traipsing through the Kashyyyk forest as Chewbacca or fighting a space battle as Obi-Wan Kenobi, points are scored by collecting LEGO “studs” of varying colors. Studs are used as currency at Dexter’s cantina to purchase game cheats and hints or unlock new characters. Characters are also unlocked in the course of regular gameplay, and there are more than thirty playable characters in all, good and bad guys alike.

Levels are designed in such a way that it is impossible to collect all the secret mini-kits during “Story Mode,” thus requiring that the level be replayed in “Free Mode” with different characters. This isn’t as annoying as one might expect, as there are a lot of characters to choose from, each with his or her own interesting ability. Blaster-wielding characters, for example, have the ability to rappel at certain points, while Jedi and Sith characters can use the Force on various objects. Young Anakin can slip into spaces larger characters cannot access, droids can open doors, and Jar-Jar Binks can jump higher than almost anyone else. Then there’s Yoda, who hobbles along at a snail’s pace until the Jump button is pressed, at which point he zips along on his personal repulsor craft. Once the aged Jedi Master activates his lightsaber he is a barely-contained, highly dangerous Super Bounce Ball. With the lightsaber in hand, Yodo jumps everywhere. It makes him a formidable opponent, but it also makes him rather difficult to control.

The biggest problem with LEGO Star Wars is the camera. All too often in multiplayer mode a misstep by one character can lead to a chain of unstoppable deaths for one or both players. If one player moves toward the edge of the screen, he may drag the other player along with him, often resulting in the other character falling to his or her death. As some of the levels are very platform-heavy (with bottomless chasms abound), this can become a major problem. If the character is not dragged to his death he may disappear, only to reappear in a very inconvenient location that will ultimately lead to his death anyway.

Despite the poorly-implemented camera and drag mechanic, LEGO Star Wars remains a light-hearted, enjoyable and often challenging (in a good way) game, and thanks to the wide array of playable characters, replayability is high. I give LEGO Star Wars three dismembered limbs out of four.

Welcome to Parenthood: Too young to begin the training.

At seven weeks old, my son Kyle isn’t quite ready to watch Star Wars yet, but I have given the matter of his first exposure to George Lucas’ space opera some serious thought. The core question is this: which episode should be Kyle’s introduction to the Star Wars films? The idea of my own flesh and blood watching the prequels before the original trilogy gives me the willies.

I was four years old in 1977, so I didn’t see Star Wars in a movie theater. In fact, Return of the Jedi was the first of the original trilogy that I saw on the big screen. My first viewing of Star Wars was on HBO. We didn’t have a television, much less cable, so the whole family piled into the car and drove twenty-five miles to Hancock, Michigan, where my aunt and uncle lived. We watched Star Wars on a big, old, cabinet-style television and the movie completely blew my pre-adolescent mind. It must have been at least 1980, because I do recall asking my aunt to let me know the minute The Empire Strikes Back was on HBO so we could all come over and watch it.

I seriously doubt The Phantom Menace would have had that effect on me, and that’s part of why I am loath to begin my son’s Star Wars indoctrination with Episode I.

Then there’s the fact that the prequel trilogy utterly ruins what is arguably the single biggest reveal in the history of film. What kind of a Star Wars fan would I be if I just trotted out the series in numerical order, thus transforming what should be the ultimate “Oh… my… God!” moment into a “Well, duh!” moment? To say the idea rubs me the wrong way is something of an understatement.

So, we should begin where it began for me: Star Wars. Call it Episode IV or A New Hope, but to some of us it will always be simply Star Wars. Laura and I have a pre-THX, pre-Special Edition copy of the original trilogy on VHS tape; a copy that was rescued at the last minute from the pile of VHS tapes we were bringing to Half Price Books. This version is as close as I can get to what I saw on HBO twenty-odd years ago.

Of course, it’s not as simple as sitting Kyle down in front of the television and pressing “Play” on the VCR, is it? The world is full of people just waiting to talk to my young apprentice and ruin everything. In order to protect him from the prequel trilogy, I’ll have to lock him away until he is of sufficient age to appreciate Star Wars. This idea is attractive because I would be protecting him from any number of dangers that the outside world holds; attractive and most likely illegal (or, at the very least, frowned upon by Children’s Services). I guess I’ll just have to accept that there are factors outside of my control. Kyle will one day go to school, and what he learns about the Star Wars universe there may not be to my liking. It’s a risk that simply cannot be mitigated.

External influences aside, I’ll do my best to ensure that my young apprentice’s first Star Wars experience is as memorable and awe-inspiring as my own was. I think I’ll go home and burn my copy of The Phantom Menace, for starters.

Podcast: Misfit Brew

Mick Bradley was able to salvage a little bit of the conversation he, Chris Miller and I recorded for The Round Table last week, and he included it in his other podcast, Misfit Brew. It’s very geeky stuff, with Chris talking about the motivation of villains and how three-dimensional villains can make for better fiction and role-playing, then me rambling a bit about Star Wars from the Imperial point-of-view. If that sounds interesting to you, get over to the Misfit Brew and download the episode. Even better, subscribe to the podcast.

We’re supposed to record a new episode of The Round Table this evening. I’ll post more about that later in the week.

EDIT: As of this writing (28 Feb, 2006 @ 2:07PM EST), The Harping Monkey and Misfit Brew websites are apparently down. I’ll update once they’re up and running again.

EDIT: The Harping Monkey and Misfit Brew sites are up and running. Go download some episodes of The Round Table and Misfit Brew!

GameDrool: Star Wars: Empire at War

Star Wars: Empire at War

Star Wars: Empire at War (PC)

Remember the Star Wars RTS game Rebellion? Probably not. I think I was one of maybe eight people who actually bought and/or enjoyed that one. Rebellion hewed closer to the Civilization model of gameplay more than the Age of Empires model, which is probably why it wasn’t a terribly popular game. Instead of concentrating on how individual units move on the battlefield, Rebellion tasked the player with coordinating the production and movement of entire fleets across the galaxy. Though there was a mode that allowed skirmish-level interaction in space battles, there was no such option for ground battles. In other words, the player wasn’t pitting snowspeeders against AT-ATs and Rebel foot soldiers against Imperial stormtroopers; the player simply ensured that ground-based defenses were built and troops deployed, then the computer determined the outcome the battles.

Galactic Battlegrounds and Force Commander, on the other hand, were both solely concerned with playing out those ground battles. Unfortunately, Galactic Battlegrounds is merely Age of Empires II with a thin Star Wars patina slapped on the game engine. The facade wore especially thin in the areas of resource collecting and utilization of key Star Wars characters. The resource collection mechanics from Age of Empires (food, ore, gold) do not translate well into the Star Wars universe, even when gold is replaced with “nova crystals.” Likewise, the special abilities of the monk unit in Age of Empires are mapped almost directly to Darth Vader in Galactic Battlegrounds. To make matters worse, the sight of Darth Vader hacking away at a building with his lightsaber is enough to totally dissipate any remaining sense that the game is taking place in the Star Wars universe.

Then there’s Force Commander, which is a prime example of how not to implement a video game: it won’t even run on my system, despite my best efforts to find patches and workarounds to the various technical issues I’ve encountered.

Enter Empire at War, which was either released last Friday (10 February 2006) or will be released this Thursday (16 February 2006); GameStop says the 10th, Amazon.com says the 16th. Empire at War combines the galaxy-wide strategy of Rebellion with the skirmish-level combat of Galactic Battlegrounds, and it appears to do a very good job with both.

A few months ago, Miscellaneous G™ and I were discussing the various shortcomings of Galactic Battlegrounds and I put forth an “if I ran the zoo” scenario describing in particular how resources ought to be handled in games that take place in the Star Wars universe. My primary assertion was that the Imperials would, like most governments, acquire resources through taxation. The rebels, on the other hand, would have to use less overt means. While a certain percentage might come from wealthy members of the Rebellion, a significant portion would be gained by smuggling and/or stealing directly from the Imperials. To simplify things, available resources should be measured in currency (rather than carbon, ore, nova crystals, etc.) and the ability to build or acquire different units would be dependent upon the amount of available currency.

This is pretty much how Empire at War handles resources, but the concept is taken a step further: the Empire spends currency to develop new technologies, while the Rebellion must spend currency to recruit spies who will steal those technologies. Additionally, the Rebels hire smugglers (such as Han Solo and Chewbacca) to siphon resources from the Empire. Should Imperial bean counters discover an accounting discrepancy, they can hire bounty hunters to eliminate the smugglers.

The resource management mechanics I just described are largely a part of the galactic-level scope of Empire at War, as are planetary defenses, mining (which can supplement income), fleet and infantry production, and military deployment. When actions taken on the galactic level result in combat, however, the game switches to what I call “skirmish mode.” In this mode, the game operates like Galactic Battlegrounds, but without all the unfortunate artifacts from Age of Empires II. These skirmishes, which can actually be quite involved and large, take place on the surface of the planet or in space. In the heat of battle, it is possible to switch to a “cinematic view,” which strips out all control interfaces and displays the battle in a manner that resembles a movie.

I have not played the full Empire at War game yet; everything I’ve gleaned about the gameplay thus far is from playing the five tutorials and single mission included in the downloadable demo. It’s pretty safe to assume that I liked what I saw, since the game has been added to my Amazon Wish List. I’m not going to run out and buy it right away, though. I’m going to try to finish several games I currently own, including the crop that I recently acquired. Call it a test of resolve, to see if I can keep Mr. Instant Gratification under control.

Christmas in June

More new stuff!

Rebel Trucker: Cajun Blood MoneyRebel Trucker: Cajun Blood Money (PC)

Rebel Trucker is, according to the GameSpot review, a “… huge mess of a game that is riddled with grievous bugs, badly designed in every measurable capacity, and completely lacking in any conceivable dimension of fun.” GameSpot rates it a 1.8: abysmal. I picked it up for $6.98 from Half Price Books because I have an unexplainable compulsion to drive big rigs in video games. I should probably be ashamed of myself.

Iron MonkeyIron Monkey (Siunin Wong Fei-hung tsi titmalau) (DVD/1993)

Iron Monkey is a very fun movie with a Robin Hood hero and some excellent wire-fu. The action is a cross between The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is the U.S. version (presented by Quentin Tarantino), which is rumored to be superior to the original release in some respects, yet inferior in others. I was surprised to find it at Half Price Books for the low, low price of $4.98. Worth every penny.

Star Wars: Rebel StormStar Wars Miniatures: Rebel Storm starter set

This one was a gift from co-worker Chuck (AKA gator). It’s an assortment of miniature Star Wars figures and rules for engaging them in skirmishes. The set also includes maps and blank grids, and the figures can be used with the Star Wars roleplaying game. This last will likely come in handy when my Star Wars role-playing group starts getting together this summer. Thanks, Chuck!

We love the stuff!

Recently added to my DVD collection:

Daredevil: Director’s CutDaredevil: The Director’s Cut

I wasn’t aware that there was a director’s cut of Daredevil until I saw it in the used bin at GameStop. Though it certainly doesn’t measure up to some other recent superhero movies (Spider-Man, X-Men), I’m comfortable saying that Daredevil is still leaps and bounds better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in the darker past (Captain America), not to mention the horrid television version of the Man Without Fear that some of us remember from The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, which featured Rex Smith (who’s he?) as Matt Murdock/Daredevil and John “Sallah” Rhys-Davies as The Kingpin.

The ShadowThe Shadow

The Shadow and The Phantom (starring Billy Zane) top my list of underappreciated superhero movies. Next to his turn as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October, this is my favorite Alec Baldwin performance to date. Baldwin’s voice is excellent and the special effects that transform Lamont Cranston into The Shadow are top-notch. Throw in folks like John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Ian McKellan (yes, that Ian McKellan) and you’ve got a fantastic, fun popcorn movie.

Tetris and Star Wars: Clone WarsI also picked up a used copy of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars/Tetris Worlds disc that used to be included in the Xbox system bundle. GameStop was selling this for $8.99 used, but their sticker price on a used copy of the standalone version of The Clone Wars is $12.99. Go figure.

In other news, Bob is turning into a damn cycling nut. Not only did he ride our route again Sunday, but he alleges to have ridden six miles this morning, too. And me? I planned to go out for a while yesterday evening but wimped out. I need to see if I can fix the head and tail lights that Laura bought me. They no workee, and I don’t want to cycle after dark (when it’s no longer 90+ degrees) without ’em.

Movie Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the SIth (DVD)Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Starring Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Ahmed Best, Jimmy Smits, Christpher Lee and Boba Fett

Directed by George Lucas

I know how you feel, I thought as I watched Anakin Skywalker struggle against the tempation to turn to the Dark Side. I feel it, too. Luckily for the family of five seated behind Laura and me, I am stronger than Anakin was. I was able to find patience within me and resist the siren call. I did not take the easier, more seductive path. Lucky for them I was able to calm the molten hot rage building inside me, rage fueled by the jostling of the back of my chair, popcorn thrown at the back of my head, and the general unruliness of the children. In the final moments of Revenge of the Sith, I was a paragon of restraint as behind me an argument over whether someone did or did not have to use the restroom completely distracted me from the scene laid out before me, in which Yoda was imparting some final bit of wisdom upon Obi-Wan Kenobi. A lesser man would have taken up his weapon and struck them down with all of his hatred. It is fortunate for them, then, that I am not a lesser man.

Revenge of the Sith isn’t about a man who triumphs over temptation, but one who succumbs to it. Anakin Skywalker’s ultimate triumph over anger, fear and hatred is another story, one that is old and familiar. The story of his downfall has — until now — been merely speculation built on vague references. But is the latter worthy of the former?

(Caution: Spoilers follow.)
Continue reading Movie Review: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Star Wars Trilogy DVD

Star Wars TrilogyI’ve had a little time to recover from the emotional upheaval brought on by my little revisionist fiction rant last week. I’ve also had time to watch the entire original Star Wars trilogy in the manner dictated by its creator.

First, the good. Everything looks brilliant. The entire trilogy looks as though it could have been released in theaters yesterday. There is nary a speck or scratch to be seen. The folks over at LucasFilm did a fantastic job of restoring the films. Every image is crisp and clear, and some of the less-than-pristine effects have been cleaned up quite a bit. In Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker’s battle with the rancor looks much less blue-screen-y than it did in previous releases. Also in Jedi, the evil black floating blob on the left (screen right) side of the Emperor’s face that was present in some scenes has been completely eliminated. Viva la technology!

The sound is equally impressive. Yes, there are a couple of oddities in A New Hope, but it’s far from disastrous. The revamped THX sequence that plays before each of the three films was mighty mighty on my surround sound system, and almost everything that followed was aurally satisfying.

And guess what? The magic isn’t gone. A New Hope still has the same effect on me that it did when I first saw it so many yesterdays ago. Yeah, Greedo shoots first. In the DVD version, it’s pretty much simultaneous. I can live with it, really. It doesn’t make Han any less bad ass. Also, the DVD version of Jabba the Hutt is far superior to that seen in the Special Edition. It’s still not quite there, but it’s a huge improvement. All in all, the first of the trilogy suffers least from Lucas’ most recent meddling tweaking. I watched it on the 21st and was fully prepared to watch it again on the 22nd, when Miscellaneous G™ came over to watch The Empire Strikes Back.

Ah, Empire. Of the three original films, it has always been my favorite, for several reasons. First, Vader was at his nastiest. Second, it introduced Yoda (who seems far more alive as a puppet than as a computer-generated image) and Boba Fett. Throw in AT-ATs, snowspeeders, Cloud City, Lobot (hell yeah!) and a cliffhanger ending, and you’ve got the best of the best.

Alas, it is my beloved Empire that suffers most in the DVD release. The changes Lucas introduced with the Special Edition were largely benign: an expanded Wampa ice creature scene (good), an extended Cloud City landing for the Millennium Falcon (bad; the computer-generated Falcon looks far too flat), a more open, airy Cloud City (good), Luke’s scream as he falls (bad, bad, bad; this greatly diminishes Luke’s bravery in choosing death over the Dark Side) and an extra line from Vader (bad; clearly not James Earl Jones). Lucas actually removed the aforementioned Special Edition scream, for which I applaud him. Unfortunately, he also completely emasculated Boba Fett.

Boba Fett has a mere three lines in The Empire Strikes Back. The first is on board an Imperial Star Destroyer. Darth Vader instructs a group of bounty hunters that they may use any methods necessary to apprehend Solo and his companions, but the fugitives are to be delivered alive. Addressing Boba Fett, he says, “No disintegrations.” Fett responds, “As you wish.” Three little words, and the manner in which they were delivered in pre-DVD releases was an acquiescence, but not a submission. To maintain continuity, Lucas opted to dub over Fett’s original voice. What we now hear is Temuera Morrison, the actor who portrays Jango Fett in the prequels. Morrison’s delivery of the line is entirely devoid of menace. No longer is there a sense that Fett is dangerous, formidable and respected. Instead, he is obedient and submissive. In Vader’s presence he has no spine whatsoever.

That’s a lot to read into three little words, isn’t it? It’s an entirely subjective debate, of course. To me, Fett is transformed from mysterious, edgy bounty hunter into just another of Vader’s whipping boys. His second line doesn’t really improve the situation. “What about Solo?” he asks on learning that Han is to be frozen in carbonite. “He’s worth a lot to me.” Maybe it’s the accent. Maybe it’s that the emphasis has moved from “lot” to “me.” Whatever the case, it simply grates on me. Whether or not I’m able to grow accustomed to this change after further viewings is unknown.

Thankfully, Fett’s final utterance is Morrison’s best attempt at capturing the bounty hunter’s previously menacing, gravelly voice. “Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold,” he says, as he stands guard outside Slave I, ensuring that no one will snatch his long-sought prize at the last minute.

Boba Fett comes out of this new Empire with some of what made him cool chipped away by Lucas’ revisionist hand. While it could be argued that Fett’s dying (or not) scream in Return of the Jedi certainly didn’t help his badass image, that is an entirely different film. Within the confines of The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett’s badassedness was matched only by Darth Vader’s; but that was a long time ago, before the technology was available to tell the story right.

Still, not all of the changes in Empire are bad. I was quite pleased (despite my initial trepidation) with Ian McDiarmid’s recreation of the Emperor. The dialogue was changed a bit, but not enough to incite outrage, and the overall effect was quite good. Here, at least, I can appreciate the new continuity.

Finally, we move to The Return of the Jedi. Long recognized as the weakest of the original trilogy, even at its worst Jedi doesn’t approach the levels of decrepitude achieved by The Phantom Menace and its even feebler successor, Attack of the Clones. With the Special Edition, it came pretty darn close, though.

Of the original trilogy, Jedi got the most Special Edition attention. Unfortunately, that attention was realized in the form of a musical number in Jabba’s palace that was, in simplest terms, awful. To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, it was more cartoon than CG, wretched and horrifying. The original song, Lapti Nek wasn’t exactly a high point in the Star Wars saga, but it was at least passable.

Still, that’s Special Edition. That’s old news. It isn’t until the very end that the far-reaching hand of Lucas twists Jedi, replacing the ghostly image of Sebastian Shaw with that of Hayden Christensen, who looks as though he’s trying out for the Jack Nicholson role in a remake of The Shining. Seriously, there’s nothing in his gaze that says, “I’m at peace now, thank you, son. Thank you for freeing me from the grip of the Emperor and redeeming me.” No, it’s more along the lines of, “As soon as you look away, I’m going to kill and eat the little green fellow and the old man. Now go, my son, leave me.” I suppose it could have been worse. It could have been Hayden’s scarred head Luke revealed when he removed Vader’s mask.

In the end, this is Star Wars. None of the changes Lucas made – whether they be Special Edition or new to the DVD – can truly negate the fact that this trilogy has finally made it to DVD. Yes, it would have been nice to see the original versions. No, I don’t think Lucas is going to reconsider. So I’ll take what I can get, and I will enjoy it. The magic, as I said, is still there, even if the magician seems quite mad at times.

He hurts me so bad, yet I keep coming back for more…

George Lucas
George Lucas, Inveterate Tinkerer

Despite the fact that George Lucas has repeatedly beaten my inner fanboy like piñata at a birthday party, I still take my place in line every time he releases something new. I did it for The Phantom Menace, I did it again for Attack of the Clones, and today I’ve forked over still more of my money for the DVD release of the “original” Star Wars trilogy.

It all started with Greedo. The slimy Rodian has always been a troublemaker, but the extent of his ability to vex wasn’t evident until the Special Edition in 1997. Suddenly, his trigger finger was slightly more itchy, and it was this that began (though we didn’t yet realize it) Lucas’ descent into madness. Not content to take this plunge alone, the man opted to drag my beloved trilogy along with him.

Perhaps we should have seen it even earlier. Perhaps even in 1983, when we first witnessed this exchange on Endor’s forest moon:

LEIA: Luke, don’t talk that way! You have a power I … I don’t understand… and could never have.

LUKE: You’re wrong, Leia. You have that power, too. In time you’ll learn to use it as I have. The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it, and … my sister has it… Yes. It’s you, Leia.

LEIA: I know. Somehow … I’ve always known.

If that wasn’t warning enough, the following scene with Leia and Han should have driven it home. But I was ten, then. It wasn’t until later that I recognized just how bad the acting in those two scenes was, and I wrote it off as a fluke.

Then came The Phantom Menace. I had convinced myself in the year leading up to its release that cute little Jake Lloyd could act. I had assured myself that the prequel would manage to capture the magic of the originals … magic that I still see when I watch them today. I did such a good job that I talked myself into a year of denial after Episode I was released. I saw it in the theater three times, not recognizing that each consecutive viewing chipped away at the fine, delicate and oh-so-fragile construct of faith I’d created. Then, I bought the DVD and it all crumbled, the shards of my deception repeatedly lacerating my psyche like a shower of razor blades.

Still, I saw Attack of the Clones on opening day. By now, though, the veil had been lifted. I watched in horror as Lucas’ pawns played out his demented game. Anakin and Amidala were like zombies, loving one another not because of any magnetism or attraction, but because their wicked houngan master commanded them to. When the characters opened their mouths, it was as though they spoke the words of a crazed abductor, pasting words and letters cut from a newspaper onto the script. Special effects were at one turn impressive and another dismal. Each passing moment saw Lucas grind his bootheel viciously into the small of my inner fanboy’s back. My disillusionment was complete, utter, and irreversible. Or so I thought.

In days gone by, I shook my fist with impotent ire when Mr. Lucas declared that the original trilogy would not be made available on DVD until after the prequels were complete. Then my heart was lit with a piercing ray of hope when he announced that the trilogy would, in fact, be available much sooner. I longed to see each frame of The Three rendered in flawless, digital brilliance. The promise of this buoyed my faith once more, faith I had thought crushed and broken, lying in ruins beneath a sea of injustice and callous disregard.

I remain forever weak and easily manipulated. George rings the bell of promise and my mouth is filled to overflowing with the saliva of blind, eager hope. I kneel before him in humble supplication to his will, and once more taste the bitter steel toe of his boot as he delivers yet another punishing blow. Rumors trickle in, whispers of changes beyond those made in the Special Edition. Greedo will forever shoot first. The ghostly visage of Sebastian Shaw’s Anakin Skywalker will be replaced with that of Hayden Christensen. Boba Fett’s voice has been redubbed by Temuera Morrison. In the name of continuity, of course.

Lucas argues that the completed saga will be more cohesive with these changes in place. A fair assertion, but would it be so difficult to include the “alternative version” of the original trilogy? These three films, six hours all told, have integrated themselves so thoroughly into my life over the past twenty-seven years that I daresay I’d not be myself were their influence somehow expurgated. This statement is not mere hyperbole, it is reality. It is also an inescapable fact that there are those whose lives have been even more influenced by the phenomenon that is Star Wars than my own. It is at once sad and reassuring to recognize this, for whatever the length and depth of my own fandom, I am comforted to know that I am—at the very least—not as bad as that guy.

In the end, I will always do as I have done today. I curse myself under my breath as I lay my money down and take this latest offering from Lucas and his band of rogues. The attraction of experiencing these three movies in DVD format far outweighs the disappointment I feel in witnessing further changes to what I feel ought not have been so sullied in the first place.

You win, George Lucas. I have taken yet another step on the path to the Dark Side.

Lucas Struggles to Release Heart, Imagination

George Lucas
George Lucas

With the release of Star Wars in 1977, George Lucas captured the heart and the imagination of the world. After 22 years, Lucas began the slow and difficult process of returning both with the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 1999.

“I guess it was about 1995 or so when I decided that I’d held onto these things long enough,” Lucas admitted recently during an interview at Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California. “So I’m giving them back.”

The process has been more involved than Lucas anticipated. “I thought the first prequel would do the trick. Jar Jar Binks. Jake Lloyd. I was sure that would be the end of it.”

The world, it seems, is not so eager for the freedom Lucas offers. “I was sure the second one would finish the job,” he said. “Hayden Christensen is the perfect choice to free the world’s captive heart. I hadn’t counted on Ewan McGregor, though. He’s exactly what everyone envisioned a young Obi-Wan Kenobi would be like.” McGregor’s portrayal of the Jedi Knight is, some say, the string that ties the prequels to the original trilogy.

McGregor’s acting ability isn’t the only thing that has stymied Lucas’ attempt. “The boys over at ILM did one heck of a job with the Yoda/Dooku…” Lucas chuckled. “Come on. Dooku. My kid made that up. That’s funny. Anyway, the whole lightsaber battle was much better than I anticipated. I thought that one would be the ultimate imagination liberator. Boy, was I wrong.”

“Fans of Star Wars are simply too used to this type of captivity,” says noted psychologist Bernard Shenck. “It happens all the time in hostage situations. The victims begin to sympathize with and even love their captors. That’s exactly what’s going on here. And it’s been going on for over twenty years. Those behavior patterns are extremely difficult to break.”

Avid Star Wars fan Elmer Gibbin reinforces Shenck’s theory. “Lucas is going to blow us all away with Episode III,” Gibbin insists. “He’ll wrap everything up nicely. The showdown between Anakin (Christensen) and Obi-Wan (McGregor) is going to be awesome!” Gibbin continued with his glowing predictions for another twenty minutes until asked about midi-chlorians, at which point he became withdrawn and hostile.

Shenck predicts that Lucas may have a bumpy road ahead of him. “If he’s not able to completely release the world’s heart and imagination from captivity with the third prequel, he may have to make sequels to the original trilogy.”

“No,” says Lucas. “That simply will not happen. Once Episode III: Invasion of the Return of the Revenge of the Son of the Phantom Clone wraps up, I’m finished.”

When asked about rumors that Steven Spielberg would be directing the sequels, Lucas shook his head emphatically. “Absolutely not. Steven is a great friend, but I have to be honest: he’s the sort of director that would re-capture all the hearts and imaginations I’ve worked so hard to set free over the past few years. I can’t risk that.”