Fellow fans of the original Star Tours at Disney’s MGM Studios, rejoice! Our favorite old motion simulator got a big, big shout-out in an episode that continues Clone Wars’ impressive winning streak. For my Republic credits, every single episode this season has been a hit. No narrative flab, no filler, just good old solid storytelling. But “A Sunny Day in the Void,” scripted by yarnmaster Brent Friedman, went beyond just entertaining us. This was a truly experimental installment, with supervising director Dave Filoni paying tribute to one of his artistic inspirations, French comics artist Jean Giraud, a.k.a Mœbius.
Other than Tintin creator Hergé, Mœbius, who died this March at the age of 73, may be the best known artist of French/Belgian comics, or bandes dessinées (literally “drawn strips”). He got his start primarily drawing Westerns, like the classic Blueberry series, which serves as a kind of comic strip analogue to Sergio Leone and Sam Peckinpah’s gritty meta-Westerns. Later on he’d branch out into sci-fi and his series The Incal, co-authored with El Topo director Alejandro Jodorowski, is a foundation text of what we’ve come to know as the dystopian future cityscape, elements of which made their way into concept art he drew and painted for the films Alien and Tron. He was also tapped by George Lucas to contribute designs to Willow and The Empire Strikes Back, where his concept for the Imperial probe droid made it into the film. Mœbius recognized that hyper-detail can be a stepping stone toward surrealism, and though there’s often a stark minimalism in his compositions, his is a textured world simultaneously familiar and alien. Those contrasts are exactly what Filoni & Co. captured in “A Sunny Day in the Void,” with their realization of a bleakly sunny—or sunnily bleak—desert wasteland planet.
But the droids had to get there first! Our heroic, though height-challenged, Col. Gascon (voice magnificently by Stephen Stanton) was puffing out his chest in pride over his successful mission to recover the Separatist encryption module from that Seppie dreadnaught. All that was left was to fly back to the Republic. What little respect he did decide to grant the droids at the conclusion of “Secret Weapons” had seemed to evaporate, however. “How long until my command center is operational again?” he asked, blithely ignoring the fact that his command center, BZ, had been pretty well fried. Gascon just can’t seem to recognize the droids as more than hardware. When Artoo tootled in BZ’s defense, I assume he said, “His name is BZ and he’s a person!”
Giraud, who was also known by the name Moebius, passed away in Paris, France on Friday night (09Mar12) after a battle with cancer.
He began his career as an illustrator in the advertising industry, but went on to create a number of famous comic book characters, including French creation Lieutenant Blueberry and a collaboration with Marvel boss Stan Lee on the Silver Surfer.
Giraud also worked on storyboards for a number of science fiction films and helped create the look of Sir Ridley Scott's Alien and 1982's Tron, as well as The Abyss, The Fifth Element, Willow and Masters of the Universe.
When Alien was released almost a quarter of a century ago moviegoers lapped it up to the tune of $78.9 million--enough to make it the second highest grossing film of that year. Renowned film critic Pauline Kael who wrote about the Alien phenomenon in The New Yorker noted: "It was more gripping than entertaining but a lot of people didn't mind. They thought it was terrific because at least they'd felt something; they'd been brutalized." Now in an era utterly saturated with the genre the film still assaults audiences on a level that has yet to be matched. The story in Alien: The Director's Cut remains the same: seven crewmembers of the commercial ship Nostromo are awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate an S.O.S. distress call from an alien vessel. Unbeknownst to crew the distress call is actually a warning. When three crewmembers leave to investigate the abandoned ship they unsuspectingly allow an alien life to board the Nostromo a galactic horror that begins to kill the crew one by one--leaving only one exceptionally tough woman.
Ellen Ripley (a very young Sigourney Weaver) who leads the fight for survival against the alien has to date returned for three sequels: James Cameron's 1986 Aliens which earned Weaver an Oscar nomination for Best Actress David Fincher's 1992 Alien3 and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's 1997 Alien Resurrection. For fans who have followed Ripley's evolution from a by-the-book crewmember to a hybrid half-alien half-human clone it's exciting to revisit the roots of her character and understand what fuels her revenge. The rest of the ensemble including Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas Veronica Cartwright as Lambert Harry Dean Stanton as Brett John Hurt as Kane Ian Holm as Ash and Yaphet Kotto as Parker seems just as appropriately cast today as it probably did then and even 25 years later the crew of the Nostromo doesn't look like a '70s interpretation of futuristic space workers.
To revisit the set of Alien's Nostromo director Ridley Scott (Matchstick Men) and his team of archivists sifted through hundreds of boxes of film footage discovered in a London vault. From this material unseen in almost 25 years Scott selected new footage which then underwent digital restoration matching it to Alien's newly polished negative. The result is six minutes of additional footage which goes to show how little improving the original film needed. The most palpable addition is a scene in which Ripley stumbles upon "the nest " where she discovers that her crewmates have been cocooned by the alien. But the rest of Scott's additional footage is so subtle that even diehard Alien fans will have a difficult time pinpointing the new material which consists mainly of new shots of the slimy and metallic alien. The Director's Cut also features a brand-new six-track digital stereo mix which strengthens the film's slow but intense cadence with its pulsating beats. But remastered or not the film remains as gripping today as it was when it was first released in 1979.