Troopers of the Empire

Star Wars TroopersIn a series full of famous figures, Stormtroopers stand out as one of the more memorable looks. With full-white armor over a black jumpsuit, a helmet with a one-of-a-kind design, and their immediate introduction as tireless and unbeatable hand of the Empire, they are both Halloween mainstays and easy symbols of Star Wars. Can you name the differences the troopers have? Why do Snowtroopers have a skirt? Let us take you through the differences:

Super Troopers

First off, standard Stormtrooper equipment is distinctive and memorable because the Empire wants to make them a symbol of fear a power. The armor also provides users an extended range of survival equipment and temperature controls; the helmet provides filtered air, enhanced vision, and communication systems. A color-coded pauldron on the left shoulder indicates rank. They have a utility belt, which included a grappling hook. However, the plates are heavy and difficult to run with. The helmet also obstructs vision.

How do the Scout troopers differ? Well, most importantly, their armor is lighter, allowing for greater mobility and stealth. The optics in their helmets are also better, which leads to faster reaction times on speeder bikes. Expert marksmen and trained in reconnaissance and infiltration as well as independent action, scout troopers were much more adaptable than most Imperial troops.

Snowtroopers
Stylish and functional

Snowtroopers were well insulated from the tremendous cold they would face. In fact, the empire hand-picked snowtroopers from planets with cold climates. The battery pack their suits have can last up to two weeks, providing a heated breather mask. They have ice boots, polarized goggles, grappling hooks, iron flares, and homing beacons. The skirt is for added insulation, and to keep snow from going down their pants. Really.

Bonus Troopers

There are other types without as much information available: Sandtroopers had augmented cooling fans for survival in hot climates, as well as a backpack stocked with extra rations and water.  Shadow troopers are equipped with cloaking devices. Magma troopers — units deployed to volcanic areas — have their own air supply and heat-resistant armor. Spacetroopers had rebreathers, and can operate in zero-G. Shocktroopers had heavy firepower such as a rocket launcher, and could resist blaster fire even better than normal armor.

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Funerals in Star Wars

Funerals comparisonFans have leveled criticism at The Force Awakens for similarities to A New Hope. While many may not care overly, a few deem it lesser for copying the original. Did J.J. Abrams want to relive the glory of the original trilogy, or was it just the best choice? As a third option, could artistry be involved? A theory is rolling around noting how strange similarities in the prequels and original series line up. The funerals are one example.

Both trilogies end in a funeral, in very different circumstances, and bringing the trilogies to different emotional ends. The two dead—Padme and Anakin Skywalker—are two halves of a couple. The dark side kills both (Anakin kills Padme, Darth Sidious kills Anakin), the public mourns both deaths, and both died trying to protect someone from the Dark Side. In Anakin’s case it was his son Luke; in Padme’s case Anakin himself. Both scenes carry the importance of an ending era, and John William’s beautiful soundtrack highlights both.

There are plenty of differences, however, highlighting the different circumstances of their deaths. Anakin was burned in a funeral pyre in his Darth Vader suit. The western world used the funeral pyre as a common way to dispose of the deceased—often chieftains and notable warriors. On the other hand, Padme’s rested on a bed of flowers during her funeral—common symbols of love for the deceased. She nearly glows in the Naboo twilight.

A cycle of funerals

Scenes of the world they ushered in surround both funerals. Padme’s body proceeds down the capital of Naboo as Darth Vader and his master inspect the growing Death Star. While Darth Vader’s body burns his son sees the approval of the Jedi he once knew. Padme’s funeral comes with rebellion, civil war, and tyranny, even though it presents as peaceful, quiet, and beauty. Darth Vader’s comes with celebration, victory, and happiness, despite his loud, fiery, and sparsely-attended end.

This mix of notable similarities and differences bringing each trilogy to a close add even greater power to the Ring Theory (linked above). They further work to change our perception of George Lucas as a filmmaker, even after his distance from the movies.

More proof?
Qui-Gon Jinn's funeral
Qui-Gon Jinn’s funeral

There are two parts to the Ring Theory: first, both trilogies follow a pattern. Second, the trilogies mirror each other. We see Darth Vader’s funeral pyre at the end of Return of the Jedi, and a similar scene for Qui-Gon Jinn at the end of The Phantom Menace. Padme’s funeral is not mirrored, yet Luke and the other characters mourn Obi-Wan Kenobi, whom Anakin also kills.

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Score Episode VII

Score the Star Wars moviesA few months ago we ranked the Star Wars movies, taking from fan polls and lists online. But how do the critics agree? We looked at Rotten Tomatoes, score the movies in chronological order, and also included the latest installment to see where it falls!

Episode IV

A legendary beginning to a legendary series, the original Star Wars is regarded as one of the silver screen’s enduring legends. Based on the classic hero’s journey and set in a unique and imaginative world. Movies changed after “A New Hope” came out, but how does it stand up to the critics?

“Star Wars is nothing short of pure unadulterated entertainment, something that has been sorely lacking in a great majority of recent films.” – Vern Perry

“It’s a near timeless milestone in cinema that lives up to its legacy as a simple, exciting, and fun science fiction fantasy.” – Felix Vasquez Jr.

Almost universal acclaim. Critical reviews call it childish and nothing more but a toy creation system – though their voices are covered by positive reviews. And the audience? Seeing even a three-star review out of five is surprising (allowing for the knee-jerk ½ star reactions).

Scores: Tomatometer 93%, Audience 96%

Episode V

Regarded as the prime cut among the Star Wars series, “The Empire Strikes Back” is the series’ highest point. Bearing even higher scores than the original, this movie is fraught with emotion, danger, and one of the greatest twist endings in movie history (albeit one everyone knows of by now). What have the critics said?

“The Empire Strikes Back is the ultimate in fantasies, a visual wonder and a movie that should be recommended highly if only because it makes you feel good.” – Rena Andrews

“Has any movie sequel ever so thoroughly surpassed impossible expectations as The Empire Strikes Back?” – Tim Brayton

Again, nearly universal. The audience as well loves this movie to the ends of the earth, and their scores reflect it.

Score: Tomatometer 94%, Audience 97%

Episode VI

Finally we get a movie a bit more contentious. Known as the weakest of the original trilogy, “The Empire Strikes Back” is still very well-liked by critics and audience.

“It’s everything it ought to be — glorious, exhilarating, exciting, absorbing, technically wondrous. But there also is something bittersweet in the knowledge that, with Jedi, we are bidding a fond farewell to all of the characters we got to know so well.” – Rena Andrews

“[A] capper to a solid trilogy that’s nevertheless not quite the flawless work its reputation would seem to indicate.” – David Nusair

Audiences seem to enjoy it at a higher rate, even though some might not like the Ewoks.

Score: Tomatometer 80%, Audience 94%

Episode I

And thus we begin the lean months. The first of the prequel movies began at the top of the box office, but the shine quickly wore off. Dense sections of special effects bookend boring trade, politics, and the beginning of the worst movie romance in twenty years.

“Mr. Lucas is not without a certain technocratic sagacity, but I don’t think he’s communicating even with the young as astutely as he once did.” – Andrew Sarris

“The Force may not be strong in this episode, but it’s there.” John Hanlon

There are some bright spots – Darth Maul was a compelling if underused character, and the podracing sequence, while too long, was at least exciting – but George Lucas’ iron-fisted control of the entire production brought it down. Audience reception has been better but nowhere near as good as even Episode VI.

Score: Tomatometer 55%, Audience 60%

Episode II

Better? Worse? The debate rages on whether or not this one or Episode I is the worst of the Star Wars films. While better received by critics, audiences were not as kind. The aforementioned romance, terrible dialogue, and more overpowering special effects equal the movie’s redeeming qualities.

“In lieu of a proper climax, Attack Of The Clones ends with a tantalizing cliffhanger for the next episode, but Lucas’ lumbering series is presenting fewer and fewer reasons to tune in.” – Scott Tobias

“Attack of the Clones is the best Star Wars installment since The Empire Strikes Back, hurtling along so quickly that you hardly notice the many moments when the story fails to make sense — even on its own fantastical terms.” – David Sterritt

The battle scene at the end was exciting, as was the lightsaber fight against Count Dooku, but as the movie ages it proves its lack of quality.

Score: Tomatometer 65%, Audience 58%

Episode III

Seen as a dramatic improvement on Attack of the Clones, “Revenge of the Sith,” but this installment brings much more dramatic tension and real emotion to the table. Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side is the crux of the entire series, and manages to get the on-screen respect it deserves.

“Special effects have greatly advanced since 1978, but technology needs imagination after it has made an initial impression. Imagination is not the strong suit of Revenge of the Sith.” – Philip French

“Revenge of the Sith is far from a great film but it easily trumps its two predecessors.” – Jeff Meyers

Audience scores make rising and falling mountain range of reception. Some like the close of the trilogy for its emotional weight. Others find the acting and dialogue enough to bring it down.

Score: Tomatometer 79%, Audience 65%

Episode VII

J.J. Abrams gives us another taste of delicious Star Wars pie, and the consensus is it brought back the magic of the original trilogy. One of the common criticisms is the film is a modern copy of “A New Hope.” So?

“I’m happy to tell you that, despite some minor fumbles, this is definitely the Star Wars film we’ve been looking for.” – Kanin Srimaneekulroj

“That’s what’s so impressive about the tricky balancing act Abrams has pulled off with The Force Awakens: He’s made a movie that’s simultaneously gripping and a huge release. We are in good hands, at last.” – Christy Lemire

Audience reaction is joyful, exuberant, and full of the happiness the last ten years has lacked. It has more humor, solid characters, and better special effects.

Score: Tomatometer 92%, Audience 89%

Thanks for reading! Do you agree with Episode VII’s place? Where does it fall for you? Come back next week for more fun fan information!

Qui-Gon Jinn Character Corner

Qui-Gon JinnThe man who got everything started for the Star Wars saga was Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn. It was he who first found young Anakin Skywalker, and took him to see the Jedi Council. Even though the Council saw a great deal of hate and anger, Qui-Gon encouraged them to admit the boy. Jinn was a maverick Jedi, one who was often in conflict with both the Jedi code and the high council, yet played a vital role in the legacy of the Jedi.

Born 92 years before the Battle of Yavin, Qui-Gon Jinn was from an unidentified planet and taken as an infant to train as a Jedi, as almost all are. Count Dooku took him as his apprentice at age ten thanks to a display of lightsaber skills. At the end of his apprenticeship, Dooku told Qui-Gon his one weakness: compassion for all life. He warned Qui-Gon betrayal was inevitable.

After becoming a Jedi Knight, Qui-Gon resisted taking a Padawan learner, stating he didn’t think he was ready. He discovered a boy named Xanatos who later became his Padawan. Years later, Qui-Gon, Xanatos, Qui-Gon’s longtime friend Tahl, and another Jedi traveled back to Xanatos’ homeworld, where his father, Crion, had become an evil tyrant. Crion tempted Xanatos, but Qui-Gon killed his student’s father to protect the life of another. Xanatos, enraged, attacked Qui-Gon, branding himself, and falling to the dark side. Xanatos escaped, and Qui-Gon, dismayed at his failure, announced he would take no more Padawans as apprentices.

Nine years later, Jedi Master Yoda encouraged him to find another padawan. Obi-Wan Kenobi was weeks away from his thirteenth birthday. He would become part of the Agricultural Corps unless a Jedi took his as a Padawan. Qui-Gon considered this a waste of talent, and Kenobi was quick to help their troubled transport. Qui-Gon’s mission took him to Bandomeer, where he found out Xanatos ruled. Though he tried to send Kenobi to his intended destination, Kenobi arrived in the nick of time to save Qui-Gon from his old student. Now master and apprentice, the two would battle Xanatos several more times before Xanatos committing suicide.

In 41 BBY (Before the battle of Yavin) Qui-Gon and the Jedi Tahl realized a mutual attraction for each other. They decided to obey the Jedi code and not act on their feelings, however. Qui-Gon began to have visions of Tahl in potentially fatal circumstances, and he offered to accompany her on her next mission, which she turned down. When the council lost contact with her, he and Obi-Wan decided to look for her. They found her trying to infiltrate a group responsible for kidnapping and ransoming leaders’ children, and her cover was swiftly blown. Tahl was kidnapped, and the leader of the group, Balog, paralyzed her inside a sensory deprivation device to deter the Jedi. Though he defeated Balog, Tahl passed away with Qui-Gon at her side.

His friend’s death prompted a terrifying change in Qui-Gon Jinn. He swore revenge on Balog, and stopped at nothing to him and the rest of his group down. It was only when he heard the voice of Tahl telling him to stop did he realize the destructive path he was taking. Though he remained on the light side of the force, his personality changed dramatically after Tahl’s death. He and the Jedi council clashed during this period leading up to the battle of Naboo and the events of Episode I. This prompted his adoption of Anakin Skywalker as an apprentice against their wishes.

Behind the Scenes

Liam Neeson portrays the character in Episode I, though George Lucas had toyed with the idea of making him younger. Neeson’s voice is used in Episode II, and was going to be in Episode III before the scene was cut. A rumor among Star Wars fans is a piece of fabric draped across a piece of furniture in Episode IV is meant to be the same gray poncho his master wears in Episode I, though it is unconfirmed.

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