Tag Archives: J. J. Abrams Star Wars VII

The Knights of Ren

So we now have some captivating new information concerning the main villain in Star Wars: The Force Awakens that was teased by J.J Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. They’ve said Kylo Ren, who is played by Adam Driver isn’t his real, but instead he’s named in the same way in which Vader is called a Darth like many other Darth names in the Star Wars universe. The Darth name is often thought to be a combination of letters from the title Dark Lord of the Sith, a theory which is only officially alluded to in Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, but many other theories exist like, Darth may also be a portmanteau of dark and death. Instead for Kylo he’s now part of The Knights of the Ren.

So what is this group called Ren’s and what does it stand for? Is it Knights of the Renegade?  Is he linked to Luke? Who knows?

But whilst talking to EW, director Abrams confirmed that Ren is someone who’s aware of the events that took place during the original Star Wars trilogy and that his appeal is Ren’s intentional nod to Darth Vader.

Kylo The Knights of the Ren

“The movie explains the origins of the mask and where it’s from, but the design was meant to be a nod to the Vader mask. [Ren] is well aware of what’s come before, and that’s very much a part of the story of the film.”

Abrams also revealed that Kylo’s weapon of choice, the infamous crossguard lightsaber that he wields is something he built himself, and “is as dangerous and as fierce and as ragged as the character.” Not only that, but apparently the character sees himself as the hero of the story. The director explained

The famous crossguard lightsaber The Force Awakens

“As you see in the best of storytelling, and no doubt the best of Star Wars, these are tales in which an every person has to step up. And I think that what makes Ren so unique is that he isn’t as fully formed as when we meet a character such as Darth Vader. And I think that there are two sides to the Force. Both sides, arguably, would see themselves as the hero of their story, and I think that applies here.”

“Kylo Ren won’t be the only “Ren.” The title of “Ren” is something that someone has to earn.” Abrams said,

“He is a character who came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren. He is not your prototypical mustache-twirling bad guy. He is a little bit more complex than that, and it was a great joy to work with Adam Driver on this role, because he threw himself into it in a deep and remarkable way.”

Lawrence Kasdan also waded in with his input on the character and also talked about Driver’s performance in the movie:

JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasden discuss Kylon Ren on the set of the Starkiller Base

“I’ve written four Star Wars movies now, and there’s never been a character quite like the one that Adam plays. I think you’re going to see something that’s brand new to the saga.  He’s full of emotion. No matter how we express ourselves in the world, whether we hide it and act very calm or whether we’re very out there and demonstrative, everybody’s roiling with emotion. And you want your characters to be that way, too. Then they have to deal with their emotions as best they can, with what they are. (Kasdan pauses as if he is on the verge of saying too much)…  I’d say that is as far as I’d go”.

So after learning all this ‘new’ information, how does this character fits into the saga? Is Ren in some way related to the Skywalker family. With his knowledge of the events that took place in the original trilogy and his obsession with Darth Vader.  Is he this inverse of Luke? Is Ren perhaps not the villain but the hero  who comes from no means, who rises from obscurity and yet still manages to cause tremendous upheaval in the force…is he the new chosen one?

 “Noooo! I’ll never join you!” That’s what Luke Skywalker cried out when Darth Vader asked him to cross over to the Dark Side and rule the galaxy alongside him, and J.J Abrams basically said the same thing to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy when she first reached out to ask if he’d sign on to help launch the first in a new assemblage of Star Wars films.

Kennedy persuaded him to helm the film by asking him one simple question, one with the potential to upend our core beliefs about the galaxy far, far away. “In the context of talking about story and laying out what we were thinking, I said one thing to him,” Kennedy recalls. “‘Who is Luke Skywalker?’”

Abrams, decided he needed to know the answer, even if he had to devise it himself. “He said, ‘Oh my God, I just got the chills. I’m in,’” Kennedy says. “I mean, it really was almost that quickly.”

It would definitely make The Force Awakens a more dramatic film if Kylo Ren was related to the Skywalker family.

One last ’put it out there idea’ like with the Sith, “Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.” Who is Ren’s master …Luke?

One final final bit…The latest released image which shows Kylo flanked by First Order stormtroopers, striding with intense purpose through the smoldering ruins of a once peaceful village on Jakku..

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Feeling the Force

I’m a bit late stepping up to the plate with this review of The Force Awakens, as by now, everyone and their grandmother will have seen the second teaser trailer for the next Star Wars movie at least twenty times…I have, so I’ll keep what I have to say about it short.

…actually that’s just a Star Wars pun, as I really loved the teaser. I felt something when I watched that teaser. Although we can all be tricked into being excited about a film or TV show these days, even someone as cynical as me, but this is what JJ Abrams is really good at — He knows how to work those inner feelings in us. When you hack apart many of the shows and movies JJ has done, you can see he always jams his work full of things that immediately resonate emotionally with his audience.

The first teaser was full of stuff that resembled things we loved from the original Star Wars movie. Visual analogs were offered that called back to something we had good feelings about. The classic X-Wing, Stormtroopers and ‘that’ Lightsaber…all tweaked, instead of being the same as they once were, they echo like a ‘Borg-like’ collective feeling of ‘good’ Déjà vu. The first teaser even gave us good feelings of positivity, although it didn’t show any of the actors from the original film series, we knew that they was involved.

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Now this new teaser has gone further with that ‘calling back’ to the original series of films. Again, many things are slightly altered to be different, but yet the same. It’s as if JJ is winking and nodding at the audience with this teaser. “Hey, geek-boy, remember those good times we had? Remember that Tie Fighter?” It’s as if every frame has been composed to expressly tie elements with the previous stories of the original trilogy, including that voiceover from Luke Skywalker, and that awesome appearance of Han and Chewie that harked back to that “classic PR” shot from A New Hope.

As for me, I am truly moved by it, in the most honest sense. There are many things this teaser trailer does to mitigate the “bad PR” of the prequels, and although the giant corporate entity of Disney, that’s running it as a movie franchise, much in the same way they have done with Marvel. They’ve cheered us up, and even teared up this fan after seeing familiar things that have triggered fond childhood almost ‘pavlovian’ memories.

Can this film really deliver, and not be distracted by all JJ’s nods and winks that come through in this teaser…I do hope so, as I want to be in the geek zone with this movie, and don’t want to be knocked out by remembering the other films. Thankfully this is my only slightly ‘optimistic’ concern about this film, as it seems better suited to JJ than Star Trek, and I can only assume that means this film will be as good as 2009’s Star Trek was at playing with our feelings, if not better…“I’ve a ‘good’ feeling about this”

Collect ‘Em, Trade ‘Em

The Force Awakens Trading Cards

Do you remember Topps trading cards? The ones that came with a stick of really hard dry chewing gum? I certainly do, and still have my treasured “1st” series of collectible cards featuring scenes and characters from around the galaxy for the original 1977 Star Wars movie. The top of my deck is No:1 Luke Skywalker, although it’s little tatty, but I prefer to consider it ‘well-loved’ after over 30 years ago of “Collect ‘Em, Trade ‘Em” which was the catchphrase of the Topps trading card company in those early days. There was five rounds of the Topps cards for that movie, each one designated by a different colour.

Now 34 years later, they return “surprisingly” via J.J. Abrams who is well-known for his “mystery box” approach to movies; he lets as little information out as possible before the film’s release, but he has benevolently buckled to Disney’s open approach to marketing and cracked open this Star Wars mystery box and put some names to the faces we saw in the first teaser for The Force Awakens. And in the charming retro style nod to the original “first fans” with a digital set of trading cards, cementing their long-running tradition of Star Wars Merchandising tie-in with Topps Trading Card Company.

As you can see for yourself below, the cards finally put some names with the faces, the card captions also give a hint about the state of mind of the characters. Abrams was also asked if there was significance to the numbering, Abrams replied: “YES.” …Time to get some of those Bothan spies to figure that one out. 🙂

His final retro homage on the subject was “I’m only sorry we couldn’t give everyone a stick of gum,”

At last we no longer have to call that adorable, rolling robot “football ball droid.” that character now has its own R2 D2 style alphanumeric moniker: BB-8.

Next were introduced to Finn, but we don’t know the last name of John Boyega’s character, so that could also be an important omission. But the extra three words of description—”on the run”—explains a little bit why he is seen jumping into frame and gasping in the opening moments of that trailer. Although he’s in a Stormtrooper uniform, we don’t know for sure if he is an actual trooper or if, like Han and Luke in A New Hope, he’s just using it as a disguise.

The most interesting reveal is Daisy Ridley’s character, who we now know is called Rey. For some time, it was rumoured that she was going to be called Kira, the so-called daughter of Han & Leia from the Expanded Universe…Well, this just goes to prove we can’t believe everything we read on the web.

That short guy in the middle, is that Finn before he goes “On the Run”… I think Princess Leia said it best, once upon a time in a galaxy far far away: “Aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper?”

Poe Dameron! now there’s a name weighted with significance. Some fans have already gleaned an intense, not necessarily welcoming vibe off of Oscar Isaac’s X-Wing pilot, and a first name taken from a writer who chronicled the sinister side of human nature would suggest that this is a character who is on the edge of the light/dark divide. His name is almost identical to Cameron Poe, the character Nicolas Cage played in Con Air. Coincidence?…Oh yeah, but in reverse…light to dark?

The original Ralph McQuarrie designed X-Wings skidding along the surface of a lake rather than screaming through the void of space is joy to see.

And that shadowy figure who’s clearly the Sith villain, mentioned in the trailer as the dark side of the awakening that has taken place. As he stumbles through the snow with his modified cross guard or claymore lightsaber is now called Kylo Ren which I’m guessing is Adam Driver.

There’s certainly much more to reveal. We haven’t yet seen Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, or Max von Sydow—let alone any of the veteran stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, or Carrie Fisher. And we’ve heard, but not seen, Andy Serkis. Will we get more someday or see similar reveals with the yellow, green, and orange borders? Fingers crossed…

R.I.P. Ralph McQuarrie

R.I.P Ralph McQuarrie 2012 Main Image
Ralph McQuarrie passed away this weekend away on Saturday March 3rd at the age of 82, this is very sad news for me because his conceptual art inspired me in so many ways; even while I was at Art College a limited edition print adorned the wall at my desk. It think the beauty of Ralph’s early work was the fact it was from an era when conceptual paintings and sketches were so fundamental in the pre-visualising of movies, his work moulded the early development of Star Wars in so many ways, unlike today when hundreds of soulless digital paintings and 3D animatics help shape a films early development.
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It was McQuarrie genius that partly made Star Wars what it looks like. Born in 1923, he began working as an illustrator for Boeing and for my other love…@NASA. Later George Lucas asked him to work on his fledgling Star Wars project. McQuarrie then singled handily designed Chewbacca and Vader, and drew countless pictures that would finally create the visual universe of Star Wars, from the costumes, spaceships, worlds and characters… One thing is for sure, without this brilliant and inspirational illustrator Star Wars would have not been what it is today. And more importantly, maybe Star Wars would have not existed at all, because this is mainly thanks to his concepts and drawings that Lucas succeeded into involving Fox into the project… Ralph McQuarrie continued his conceptual work on Empire and later Jedi, but his work on Jedi was more of a ‘after the fact’ kind of roll, painting the already completed scenes for use in marketing. He also worked on several other classic films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T.
R.I.P Ralph McQuarrie 2012
We may have lost an incredibly talented and imaginative artist, but hopefully his memory will never die, but live on forever in the amazing films that he’s helped create throughout the years, some of which are my most treasured and favourite movies off all.

So long Ralph, and May The Force Be With You.

The Funeral Service for Ralph McQuarrie will be held on Sunday, March 25 2012 at 2:00 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, California. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to Odyssey Hospice, 6140 Stoneridge Mall Rd, Pleasanton, CA 94588, or to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Sunset View Mortuary 510-525-5111
R.I.P Ralph McQuarrie 2012

UPDATE

One of Ralph’s early painting for Return of the Jedi is the Entrance to Jabba’s Palace, which now seems to have been revived for the ‘New’ Star Wars Episode VII film which J. J. Abrams is directing. Leaked on-line photo’s show the resemblance to McQuarrie’s early painting to what appears to be a desert location scene … possibly on Tatooine.

Ralph McQuarrie Jabbas Palace Gate Star Wars Episode VII
Ralph McQuarrie Jabbas Palace Gate Star Wars Episode VII ©Lucasfilm / Disney
Leaked Star Wars Episode VII onset photos Jabbas Palace Gate
Leaked Star Wars Episode VII onset photos Jabbas Palace Gate ? ©TMZ.com /Splash News

 

A small collection of his stunning work (all ©Lucasfilm / Disney)

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A tribute can also be found on www.ralphmcquarrie.com