Star Wars Goes Cyberpunk

Action figure maven Sillof has given the Galaxy Far, Far Away steampunk and Western treatments. Now, he’s tossed the cast of the original trilogy in the Cyberpunk Nineties.

In this never-was era, Luna and Link Sourcecoder wage an information war against the tentacle-caped Darth Vector with the aid of veteran hackers Hak Slicer, Cyberhacka, and utopian tech guru Zen. Seeing these figures makes me wish he built a Jabba the Hutt as the bloodthirsty CEO of a pizza delivery franchise. Explains Sillof of these groovy custom figurines:

‘This line was actually one of the first redesign idea I had almost 15 years ago, in the 99, when I first started to redesign characters. The line is intended to have a 90s scifi aesthetic. It has some elements of Cyberpunk, The Matrix, Akira, Ghost in the Shell, etc. I envisioned the movie as a struggle by a group of rebel hackers struggling to break free from the oppressive system of control by a mega technological corporation that controlled all aspects of society.’

‘I really hope Rod₂ communicates solely through Crystal Method songs, Chip³ shills Pepsi in his off hours, and the villainous Bolt Volo has a gun powered by Compuserve.

Be sure to check out these gee-whiz sculptures with further detail and back story at Sillof’s site. And for more of his nifty creations, see the Steampunk and Western Star Wars, and the steampunk Legion of Doom and Justice League.’

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The Lost Jedi: Jedi Master Ca De Nas

Ca De Nas (Cristian Cadenas) is a master of arms for the Jedi. One of the foremost trainers of Lightsabre technique in the galaxy, Ca De Nas is based on Coruscant at the time of Order 66. A trainer of Anakin Skywalker in the years prior to the Clone Wars, Ca De Nas tried to impart the wisdom of open hand techniques in battle and introduce mercy, guile and non-fatal attacks. Anakin struggles to fight his teacher for a time, until fury takes hold. Ca De Nas instinctively held back some of the techniques taught to all Padawans at Master Yoda’s request and Obi Wan’s agreement until he had demonstrated greater control of his temper. Ca De Nas’ capacity for guile and adaptability make him a difficult opponent and a respected warrior in the Jedi ranks.

BTB Awards: Best TV Show

We’ll admit we don’t watch much TV at Beyond the Bunker (we tend to catch this stuff on DVD – which this year would’ve led to reviews of Firefly and Battlestar Galatica) but we’ll try to make sure we keep up next year as best we can. Or review DVDs we’ve seen. Or get rid of it completely. Never-the-less here’s an attempt at the Best series of the year awards 2011 based on the buzz and our own personal choices.

Denied Winner – Game of Thrones (Season 1)

According to popular buzz surrounding HBO’s blood and thunder epic Game of Thrones, featuring LOTR’s Sean Bean, Conan’s Jason Momoa and Tesco’s ad’s Mark Addy in various roles we know nothing about, it’s an absolute corker and the best thing out this year. However, because of delays in releasing the DVD – causing online bloggers all over the web to declare that they’ve been left with no choice but to pirate it to get their fix in spite of wanting to support their favourite TV programme – we haven’t seen it. But we hope to. Oh yeah.

Based on George R.R. Martin’s epic series of novels the series has an enormous following and from what we’ve heard – rightfully so. As seven families fight to control the mythical land of Westeros, political and sexual intrigue is pervasive. In all of this chaos, clear and entertaining characters are struggling to gain increasing amounts of power – through savagery, skullduggery and sexual manipulation. Sounds great.

Winner – Sherlock (Season 1)

In spite of the fact that the decision by the BBC to produce a modern day turn for the world’s most famous detective, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the titular detective and his now unwilling partner, Watson generated some concern regarding the dumbing down of a British classic, Sherlock proved to be one of the best series released in recent years for a number of reasons.

It proved itself so slick, challenging and interesting that even die hard fans of the original Sherlock were brought on board. Initially, a three episode series, Cumberbatch’s depiction of an ostrasised and maligned genius detective being followed by a beleagured and bemused hobbled war veteran turned journalist through his first set of cases wooed audiences and made Cumberbatch a household name, previously restricted to period costume and theatre performances that while no doubt engaging failed to reach so wide an audience.

Combining assured and intelligent scriptwriting by Dr Who and (in one one case) League of Gentlemen scribes Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss, BBC’s primetime production values and an award baiting turn from relative unknown Andrew Scott as Sherlock’s new found nemesis Moriarty – the game is very much afoot for Series 2.

With Season 2 starting on New Years Day on BBC1, now would be a good time to familiarise yourself with the return of the great detective in this assured, intelligent and gripping series.

Best Current Series – Walking Dead (Season 2)

Frank Darabont’s translation of Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead serialisation has been happily consistent with it’s source material. The bravery of focussing on the assembled survivors allows such a series to be created but the sense of scale that is realised – particularly in the devastation of Atlanta in the opening episode of Season 1 – gave the feel of the piece a much bigger scale than most American series. This was continued in Season 2 from the very first episode, featuring a debilitatingly tense scene involving ‘a herd’ and a plot point unexpectedly introduced from further through the comic book series.

It is a careful adaptation, using large swathes of detail from the original series – both following Sheriff Rick Grimes, his wife, child, best friend and a host of disparate survivors through a world now overrun by Zombies. But it darts and diverts from the original, allowing any devotees of the books guessing as to what is happening next an excellent and original experience. Developing its own storylines it remains rewarding both when it diverges from and converges on moments from the popular series.

The effects work is fantastic, easily on par – or beyond – work previously seen in various Zombie Movies. The presence of the Zombies is never lost, keeping tension in scenes where otherwise there may be none. This is also fuelled by the camerwork as the stark cinematography is deliberately sparse and simple, constantly making the viewer aware that empty space has the possibility of being occupied but most poignantly emphasising the isolation the central figures have found themselves in.

Effectively a survivors epic it has the added joy of the wandering undead to liven things up should the action become too leaden as it can at times in other long running series. Season 1 was only 6 Episodes long but with season 2 considerably longer it will allow central characters to develop in a way that will make the inevitable loss of them even more effective.

Epic scale narrowed to engaging character plots and the possibility of Zombies at every corner. The promise of this series based on events in the original books is potentially phenomenal and this series has to be seen.

Best Non-geek Series – Fresh Meat (Series 1)

The series follows a group of six students about to embark on the most exciting period of their lives thus far University (yawn, right?)! Away from home for the first time, on the brink of adult life, they are about to discover who they really are. From the moment they ship up as freshers at their shared house, their lives are destined to collide, overlap and run the whole gamut of appalling behaviour and terrible errors of judgement.

Sounds like every coming-of-age college series there is but this one proves itself different. The assembled characters move well out of their archetypal characteristics like students at their first university stand-up gig. Where similar series have relied on stereotypes and presumed reactions to arriving at university this one takes each individual and offers them realistic and familiar situations which they deal with in the way anyone else would. Quite badly.

The expected central figure Kingsley (Inbetweeners Joe Thomas) is sidelined pretty swiftly to share room with all his fellow housemates, in spite of a fantastic central plot involving a burdgeoning mutual attraction to fellow housemate Josie (Kimberley Nixon) which somehow always ends with them discovering the other has slept with someone else – sometimes hilariously audibly through their shared partition wall (while drunkenly arguing with each other at one point). Add to that the socially awkward Howard (Greg McHugh) who is pursued by a borderline psychotic classmate he developed a brief friendship with, straight talking hard-living Vod (the incredible Zawe Ashton) and Oregon (Charlotte Richie), desperate to be cool and terrified of being boring and you have a great mix.

But bizarrely, it’s Jack Whitehall’s character JP that walks away with the crown. A public school boy with an over inflated sense of entitlement, Whitehall manages to instill enough humanity into the prat that you do understand why the rest put up with him.

The jaunty and intelligent script bounds away through numerous scenarios, both realistic enough to be occuring but wild enough to be entertaining and the incredible cast bring it both harmoniously and raucously to life. An excellent series and well worth a look.

Most anticipated DVD – Star Wars: The Clone Wars Seasons 3 and 4

Unseen as yet and as I understand it ongoing at present – Clone Wars Season 4 is the continued influence of Star Wars on kids TV channels. Less engaging than the original 2 Dimensional seasons directed by Genndy Tartakovsky but offer more plot and development to the whole saga. With each season the CGI improves and more worlds are revealed in higher detail. Still 2 seasons behind at present however I (Steve P) have to put this on my guilty pleasures list because it expands the Star Wars Universe and is occasionally noticably created by true die hard fans who jump at the chance to develop part of the SW universe.

Most Cause for Concern – Dr Who (Season 6)

Matt Smith is an excellent Doctor, Karen Gillian is a great sidekick and we know that Steven Moffat is a great writer. However, somehow, indiscernably, the last series of Dr Who has lacked the pathos and light hearted touch that previously won it so many fans. No doubt a deliberate intention by Moffat to darken and broaden the Who, it appears to be beginning to lose it’s grip on plot this season. In spite of an introduction of The Silence, the scale and adventure wasn’t as bedded down in character and engaging emotional situations as it has been in previous seasons.

Upping the sci-fi quota, scripts have become slightly convoluted and less involving as a result. Matt Smith, while entertaining as the lithe and slightly dotty Doctor lacks the strength that the more seasoned Doctors had and while, initially, the scripts played with this they have now put perhaps too much emphasis on a young actor to imbue wonder and concern at every turn every time a ‘tree whispers’. Somehow less surprising than previous series, the science babble has gone up, the lunatic and dastardly alien beings have gone down and the geek wish fulfilment is beginning to become too visible.

I have loved Doctor Who but I am concerned that continuity is beginning to fray and that it needs a rest between seasons before it collapses under it’s own weight of expectation. Still excellent, it is however less excellent than it was, seemingly relying overly on emotional resolutions to tie up convoluted plots and slightly unoriginal concepts.

However, still excellent. Hopefully Moffat et al will see the slight error in their ways and get behind an excellent Season 7. God knows the BBC wants it!!

Star Wars Auditions: A Casting Couch far, far away

Lucas shared a joint-casting session with long-time friend Brian De Palma, who was casting his own film Carrie. As a result, Carrie Fisher and Sissy Spacek auditioned for both films in each other’s respective roles. Lucas favored casting young actors without long-time experience. While reading for Luke Skywalker (then known as “Luke Starkiller”), Hamill found the dialogue to be extremely weird because of its universe-embedded concepts. He chose to simply read it sincerely and was selected instead of William Katt, who was subsequently cast in Carrie.
Lucas initially rejected the idea of using Harrison Ford, as he had previously worked with him on American Graffiti, and instead asked Ford to help out in the auditions by reading lines with the other actors and explaining the concepts and history behind the scenes that they were reading. Lucas was eventually won over by Ford’s portrayal and cast him instead of Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken, Billy Dee Williams (who would play Lando Calrissian in the sequels), and Perry King, who wound up playing Solo in the radio plays.
Many young actresses in Hollywood auditioned for the role of Princess Leia, including Cindy Williams. Carrie Fisher was cast under the condition that she lose 10 pounds for the role. Aware that the studio disagreed with his refusal to cast big-name stars, Lucas signed veteran stage and screen actor Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Additional casting took place in London, where Mayhew was cast as Chewbacca after he stood up to greet Lucas. Lucas immediately turned to Gary Kurtz, and requested that Mayhew be cast. Daniels auditioned for and was cast as C-3PO; he has said that he wanted the role after he saw a McQuarrie drawing of the character and was struck by the vulnerability in the robot’s face. Awww.

Check out Kurt Russell’s audition for Star Wars below. Poor. Little too relaxed there Mr Russell. Not sure who the other guy is but I’ll pretty sure there’s a McDonalds somewhere in California that is very well run as a result of this audition.

Star Wars IV: A New Hope : How it all Started

Hard to know what was going into George Lucas’ head when the Star Wars trailer went out in Cinema Screens throughout the US. In the time it had taken him to create Star Wars Pinewood studios employees had been openly laughing at the the weird menagerie of creatures parading between the sound stages. A young director with a decent success under his belt, Lucas was dealing with dissent and boredom from his actors, most prominently the seasoned actor Alec Guinness. If you credit Lucas with nothing else it has to be vision and tenacity as he stuck resolutely to his lasers. Luck is in there somewhere but in 1977 something kicked off in cinemas throughout the world that literally changed the shape of popular culture for the remaining final fifth of the Twentieth Century.

Introducing in the first three minutes, characters that would become cultural icons, Darth Vader (voted No.1 Villain of all time in an Empire poll), C-3PO, R2-D2 (later to get their own series) and Princess Leia. The assured nature of what new audiences saw on that screen was due to Lucas’ faultless vision and willingness to experiment.

On a reportedly shoe string budget of (equivilent) $1 Million (a pittance for a sprawling space saga) for special effects some of the effects footage was filmed using a truck, firecrackers and a moving truck.

Produced with a budget of $11 million and released on May 25, 1977, the film went on to earn $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, surpassing Jaws as the highest-grossing film of all time at the time. Among the many awards the film received, it gained ten Academy Award nominations, winning six; the nominations included Best Supporting Actor for Alec Guinness and Best Picture. Lucas has re-released the film on several occasions, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions are the 1997 Special Edition and the 2004 DVD release, which have modified computer-generated effects, altered dialogue, and added scenes. As if you didn’t know that already.

But more than that – it has become part of a tiny canon of cultural flagships – markers of culture throughout history – culturally equivalent (at least thus far though history’ll tell) as the Odyssey, Macbeth and (incredibly) with the effect of a religious text. If you are in doubt attend the same conventions I do and keep your eyes open for Stormtroopers.

What was presented to an excited public was this and still to this day, those who attended the premier screenings across the US, UK and ultimately the globe still talk about the awe inspiring moment the star destroyer flew overhead. From that moment on, with hindsight, it seems obvious now that Star Wars was a revolution that would spawn a million more stories and an entire universe of possibilities for a multitude of fans.

George Lucas; we salute you.

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away….: BTB enters the Star Wars Universe!!

Welcome to the new Beyond the Bunker Star Wars zone. Every Wednesday there will be something from the enormously expansive Star Wars Universe. Be it from the core films I-III or the classic IV-VI, the expanded universe – Clone Wars, Droids, Ewoks – even the Holiday Special if we can find it. And the funnies too.

Interspersed among the existing material will be my little fanboy creation. The Lost Jedi was a title I developed in a fanboy fever while serving as a Jedi/Rebel Trooper at the Star Wars Exhibition in London. Working with a host of exceptional actors, performers, fight trainers and technicians we performed 8 or more Jedi Schools in the central chamber of County Hall, Westminster, in the heart of London. Still the greatest job I’ve ever done – I spent the day training younglings to fight like a Jedi, die like a Rebel Trooper. In my time there, surrounded by the sights and sounds of Lucas and John Williams it was difficult not to be completely overwhelmed by it all.

In a central chamber lay the shining corvette, spitfiresque frame of a Naboo Fighter. To the side of that Wookee costumes and a speeder like that which was ridden by the Skywalkers on Endor. In a darkened room at the back of the exhibition stood a solitary figure. A 7 foot tall goliath in a glass cage. Darth Vader’s suit loomed in the darkness and captured everyone’s imagination that entered. There was never noise in that room, only an eerie and awed hush as tourists stood and basked in a character that is now utterly synonomous with evil and tragedy. And cool.

Expanding so much further beyond mere cinema, Star Wars is an ideology nowadays. A universe that has influenced popular and scientific culture. Star Wars, perhaps more than any other cultural phenomenon of the late twentieth century has the capacity to move into historical lore and take a place in mythology. At its most challenging and insistent, the material developed by the films (even with the less impressive prequels) the cultural and ideological impact of Star Wars gives us insight into the breeding of myths of Gods and Monsters from ancient times. A modern day Odyssey perhaps, it shows us the way religious texts expand and are embraced, whether originally intended by their creators or not. If anything it shows how once a cultural phenomenon is formed it can be expanded upon and used to generate enormous monies for the creator.

Naboo N1-Fighter, parked in landing bay 1, Westminster, 2007

Offering ideologies, an alternative global religion (?!), expansion in gaming, cinema and digital technologies – both in sound and light (and magic), universal themes and characters and having been embraced by effectively billions globally noone should underestimate the width of influence a Dark Lord of the Sith might have.

Jedis unite. For Star Wars has arrived on Beyond the Bunker. Featuring articles, fan films, reviews and the Lost Jedi fan material we are planning to fill the next six months with insight and delight associated with the Star Wars Universe. I’ve got a bad feeling about this….

Next Week: The Lost Jedi. Part One.

Gone a bit Dark Side…. Ahsoka turns in new Clone Wars series 3 (5).

Star Wars: Clone Wars is the story of the Jedi led Clone army (later to be turned into the Imperials) and the technological industrial complex (no really) led by clanking cyborg reptilian Jedi Hunter General Grievous and Sith Lord Count Dooku. The latest (third in the CGI series and fifth overall) seems to be offering a long awaited character twist for Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan, Ahsoka Tano (see base of post).

Genndy Tartovsky’s (Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack) take on the Clone Wars was a kick-ass, near-dialogueless set to between Clone Troopers and Droid armies with incredibly effective battle sequences thrown in. Genndy’s genius is his simple design work, allowing for cinematic sequences to be created by concentrating on movement, pacing and composition in every sequence. Its telling that the visually far more superior CGI series that arrived later is notably less exciting or interesting but it has its plus side – mainly that I was hooked by the 25 episodes of Genndy’s time on the project.

But the hooks are three fold. George Lucas skipped out the part we wanted to see in the films – namely the Clone Wars themselves as Episode II sees the beginning of the conflict and then dropped Skywalker and Obi Wan into the final days of the war at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith so it offers up the battles themselves. The second is the development of the design work – as these new series are continuing to push the boundaries of TV animation. But the third is the question as to why Anakin Skywalker, the central character fell to the Dark Side. The new series follows him as a Knight and has introduced a character notably absent in Revenge of the Sith. Ahsoka Tano; Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan. Anybody confused by Anakin Skywalker’s plummet into the Dark Side in the course of Revenge are watching this situation closely. And series 3 of the CGI series seems to be offering up the answer….

We’re just going to have to see what happens when it arrives on UK shores. But the development of design and detail are very welcome.