Sci-Fi Life: "From the Archives"

(all articles written by T. Rob Brown)

Sci-Fi Life
Originally published Wednesday, March 3, 1999, in the Branson (Mo.) Tri-Lakes Daily News

New Star Wars films coming to life

By T. Rob Brown

Evil has a new name,” reported Star Wars Insider magazine – Darth Maul, Dark Lord of the Sith.

The (or one of ) predecessor to Darth Vader, from the original Star Wars trilogy, has been revealed in the official magazine of the Star Wars Fan Club. He will be the main villain in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace which is slated for a May 21, 1999, release date. One thought comes to mind upon looking at this utterly-evil being – Satan.

Of course, if you’re religious, you’ve been taught Satan is really a fallen angel, and is not the red, pointy-tailed, pitch-fork-wielding, horned devil he is often depicted to be.

But Darth Maul best epitomizes that mythological view of Satan. He has red skin with black jagged marks on his face, wears the traditional black Dark Jedi cloak, has multiple horns on his head, yellow and red eyes, yellow and black teeth and could never be mistaken as a good guy.

His weapon of choice? A Sith blade. “What is a Sith blade?” you might ask. It’s a different style of lightsaber – more deadly and more difficult to wield. It can either be used traditionally as one blade or can be double-bladed with one on either end of the saber’s hilt. It’s quite a formidable weapon.

Want to know something else that’s pretty cool?

I’m sure most action/adventure fans are familiar with Jackie Chan films. One of the special things about him is he does all his own stunts.

The actor who portrays Darth Maul, Ray Park, is a martial arts and gymnastics expert and will be performing his own stunts. In my opinion, that is outstanding and should add some nice moves, stunts and real feel instead of “reel feel” to the fight scenes.

Matter of fact, Park said he has all of Jackie Chan’s movies on video tape, in addition to being a big Bruce Lee and Jet Li fan. Each of these martial artists used Wu Shu style.

Park holds a second-degree black belt and has racked up competition championships and medals in England using Wu Shu style, in addition to his fourth-place finish in the 1995 world championships. He also has experience as a stunt double.

He has told media Wu Shu style is much like gymnastics with a sequence of moves. It’s explosive and has lots of leaps and somersaults and high kicks.

Other interesting Episode I news includes the fact it will be only in theaters which support the new THX sound standard. THX and Dolby recently hooked up to launch a new era in surround sound technology. This new system is called Dolby Digital-Surround EX.

This new sound technology will debut with the new Star Wars film. Unfortunately, I doubt our local cinema will be able to get the new Star Wars films, unless some advances are made.

In the near future, I plan to talk to some IMAX officials and find out if they plan to be geared up for the new technology. My guess is, they will.

For the Star Wars fans of yesteryear, like myself, we are happy to know the same actors and characters portraying R2D2 (Kenny Baker), C3P0 (Anthony Daniels) and Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid, in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) will be featured in the new film. Of course, Palpatine will be a senator instead of an emperor – he has not yet risen to power.

Once again, Frank Oz, the mastermind behind much of the Jim Henson’s Muppets work, will bring a slightly-younger version of Jedi Master Yoda to life.

Of course, the younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, portrayed by Ewan McGregor, will be a slightly-familiar face.

Some well-known actors have landed themselves in the new Star Wars trilogy, including Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction) as Jedi Master Mace Windu and Liam Neeson (Rob Roy) as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Jinn will be Obi-Wan’s master.

I’ve seen shots of the new character animation, which is even much improved over that used in the Special Editions of the original trilogy.

Rumors indicate Boba Fett may play a role in Episodes II or III, but nothing has been revealed on that at this time. After all, he is one of the most-popular characters from the first trilogy. Many Boba Fett fans were quite unhappy with the way he died in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Burp! This is Lucas’ chance to redeem that error.

Who knows what the future may bring? Only George Lucas.

Hasta la vista.

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