Well, it’s an off-week for Star Wars, what with Return of the Jedi being moved from its originally scheduled March 7th opening presumably to give moviegoers more time to see the first two Wars flicks but more likely to give Howard Stern’s PP some room to suck up the number one box office slot. So, I thought I’d take this time to review the biggest non-event of 1996 which was the much-hyped Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire.
What? You say you’ve never heard of it? Well, I’ll fill you in: SOTE is Lucas’ attempt to expand the license of Star Wars by creating lots of new Star Wars stuff to buy. The story for SOTE takes place between Empire and Jedi and involves the underworlds’ attempt to assasinate Luke Skywalker. The main nemesis is a baddy named Xizor (prounouned Shee-zor), a lizard-being. The hero of the tale is the unshaven Dash Rendar, kind of a low-rent Han Solo hired as Luke’s bodyguard. The SOTE tale is told through every medium known to man except, well, the obvious-A MOVIE!!! Which is real confusing since they even published a “Making of” book. Here’s the lowdown on the SOTE multimedia experience thingy:
[ SOTE The Novel: ] Written by Steve Perry, the story is neither epic in scope or even in execution and since we already know how it ends, with Luke and the gang on Tatooine ready to kick Jabba’s a*s, it’s kinda dumb. Our heroes do travel to Coruscant and Xizor’s palace for the big showdown, but the events seem so TV-movie-ish that I had to force myself to read every chapter. It didn’t flow like the incredibly well-written Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels.
[ SOTE The Audio Book: ] Read by Anthony Heald who attempts to imitate each character’s voice (it’s soooooo bad) it seems more like a cheesy radio drama for kids with music and sound effects. This abbreviation of the novel may be the best way to experience the abysmal story.
[ SOTE The Soundtrack: ] The score by Joel McNeely adds a few new themes and is actually quite good but, uh, hate to ask, what is it exactly a soundtrack to? Am I supposed to listen to it while reading the book? The music is great since it really does fit very well into the sweeping score we are familiar with. The CD is enhanced with extras like beautiful Ralph McQuarrie art interrupted by annoying pictures of all the SOTE stuff you can buy.
[ SOTE The Comic Book: ] The comic book follows the trail of Boba Fett as he struggles to travel the galaxy and cash in on his Solo cargo. It adds nothing to the most under-used character in the saga but the art sure is nice.
[ SOTE The Secrets of Book: ] I’ve got a bad feeling about this. This book is like one of those “Making of” books with behind the scenes production art, designs for vehicles, early conceptual drawings, etc… Except that it’s basically documenting the “making of” all the Shadows merchandise that you bought. This only serves to further confuse the public into thinking a new Star Wars movie is on the horizon. George, c’mon, s**t or get off the pot on the new movies already.
[ SOTE The Video Game for Nintendo 64: ] This would be a really weak game if it didn’t have the familiar theme music throughout or the level where you get to destroy TIE Fighters. This 3-D shoot ’em up has one HUGE fault in its premise: players follow the game as Dash Rendar which nobody gives a s**t about since he wasn’t even in the movies. I’d rather play as Han Solo, or Luke with a lightsaber, anybody but some milque toast lame-O we’ve never seen in the films.
[ SOTE The Action Figures/Toys: ] They are all really bad when compared to the new Wars toys. But George didn’t do the special editions to make money. Or, wait a minute…. hey, are those Swoop bike vehicles worked into one of those fancy new computer-generated shots in the Star Wars Special Edition? Were they put there to help boost toy sales? Hmmmm…..
[ SOTE The Movie: ] Hah! Got ya! There is no movie. And that’s the pathetic thing. To put all this energy into a non-event has simply confused fans who are expecting a new movie to support all this extra Star Wars crap. Ultimately, SOTE feels a bit like how Star Wars may have devolved had it ever been produced as a television series.
Anyone wishing to gauge the success of Shadows of the Empire need look no further than the action figure rack of any toy store. There you’ll discover about a thousand Xizor and Dash Rendar figures littering the rack with only the occasional rare Darth Vader, Yoda or Obi-Wan. Need I say more? Okay, here’s more: expect Shadows toys/books/crap to be found with bright orange stickers and really cheap price tags very, very soon.