The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ian McDairmid, Sam Witwer, Episodes III & IV in 3D… and FOUR Star Wars TV shows!?...

I attended Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando this weekend (I'll be mixing the worlds of entertainment and travel a lot through 2013, including covering the premier of The Hobbit in New Zealand). This was my first Star Wars convention and it gave all the attendees a bountiful supply of information on Lucasfilm’s upcoming film and tv projects.

First and foremost was the Season 5 premier of the 3D-animated television series, Clone Wars, which takes place between Episodes II and III of the film franchise.

The premier showed the last two episodes of Season IV, followed by the first of Season V, thus competing a three-episode story arc of the return of Darth Maul, who it turns out didn’t really die at the end of The Phantom Menace. The character, now voiced by Sam Witwer (Being Human), has brought intensified interest in the series from fans. Warning, SPOILER ALERT in the next paragraph:

Actor Sam Witwer, voicing a character in a 'radio drama' 
created for the convention, titled 'Smuggler's Gambit.'

In Season V, Episode 1, we find Darth Maul and ‘brother’ Savage Opress haphazardly raising an army of pirates to take on Obi-wan Kenobi and the Jedi Order. Opress however doesn’t like Maul’s assertion of dominance and tests Maul, who puts Opress in his place and, as actor Sam Witwer explained, Maul would henceforth refer to Opress as ‘apprentice’ rather than ‘brother.’ In an early scene we see an appearance by a Kenner-style ‘Blue Snaggletooth’ character. Director David Filoni said that fans of the original action figure line will be happy to find other Kenner-style characters making appearances this season. The fighting in this episode was far more intense than in previous seasons, and the stakes much higher. Late in the episode Opress head-butts and kills a well-known jedi before Kenobi cuts off the left arm of Opress. Maul too loses a mechanical foot before the two barely escape. Filoni indicated it would be later in the season before we see Maul and Opress again. Likewise, he noted that while the night sisters have been diminished, they would return in force later on.

Following the premier was an extended new trailer for the season, featuring a Mandalorian civil war enflamed by Maul and Opress. Darth Sideous himself arrives to take on Maul and Opress in a light saber duel, reminding them that ‘there can only be two, and you [Maul] are no longer my apprentice.’ We see a darker Anakin, driven by jealousy and anger. Assage Ventress returns masked, though her new role unclear now that she has left the Sith. There were vague hints regarding the anticipated demise of Anakin’s Padawan Ahsoka. Indeed, Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, and Dave Filoni all indicated that the two had voiced top-secret scenes between Anakin and Ahsoka regarding her fate, which the other actors were not privy. Whether she is killed by Ventress (which could tie up the much-anticipated fate of both characters), or Maul, or Count Duku (which would go a long way in explaining Anakin’s new brutality in Revenge of the Sith), is yet to be revealed... or maybe she merely goes into hiding like Yoda?... not likely.

In other trailers we see Darth Maul wearing special red Mandalorian armour, as well as fighting green-skinned Falleen of the Black Sun (think Prince Xizor from Shadows of the Empire). This all happens in the midst of growing anti-Jedi sentiment within the republic. We see a battle on the planet Onderon and a female rebel leader, Steela, who features prominently in previews. Could she fill the niche left by a likely demise of Ahsoka?

Ian McDairmid, in his first US convention appearance.

Actor Ian Abercrombie, who voices Palpatine in Clone Wars, passed away earlier this year. When asked if Ian McDairmid would replace him, Dave Filoni declined to answer out of respect for Abercrombie, however he said that Abercrombie had voiced most of Season 5 already and that he would announce the replacement closer to the time new scenes are recorded.

Coincidentally (or perhaps not), McDairmid was asked by a fan if he would be voicing Palpatine in the hotly anticipated Star Wars live-action tv series tentatively titled ‘Underworld.’ McDairmid’s reply:

“What do you think?” he laughed, concluding “I would hate it if I was alive and someone else got the part.” This may suggest he is also open to resuming the part for the 3D animate Clone Wars. Though whether there will be a Sixth Season has not been announced.

However, McDairmid confirmed that ‘Star Wars Underworld’ had been shelved for the time being, do to overwhelming costs and time needed to produce the level of computer effects desired by George Lucas. According to sources connected with the series, as many as 50 scripts had already been written for the series, some casting had begun, and concept art had been approved by George Lucas.

In a separate screening announced for families, Lucasfilm showed a 3-episode story arc from Season 5 of Clone Wars, titled ‘Young Jedi,’ and cut as a short movie. It followed the training of a group of new padawans, including building their first light sabers, and eventually taking on the dreaded General Grievous.

Clone Wars Season 5 premiers September 29 on the Cartoon Network.

A new 3D animated, slap-stick comedy series entitled Star Wars: Detours was also announced by Seth Green and the team behind ‘Robot Chicken’ at the convention. The series features characters from the movies in whimsical forms and settings, reminding me of a cross between family guy, the Muppets and… Robot Chicken.

George Lucas himself made a surprise appearance at a morning panel with Dave Filoni. He talked about what appeared to be yet another Star Wars tv series in development and aimed at young children, which was neither Young Jedi, nor Star Wars: Detours. What exactly this series is remains to be seen.

The convention concluded with the announcement of the release of Episode II and Episode III in 3D for September and October 2013.

Photos copyright 2012 Adam Bray. Videos are the property of Lucasfilm via YouTube.

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