McQuarrie’s designs recycled

What common element is shared between Star Wars and Star Trek? Well, the title spells it already. With the Star Trek Discovery test footage revealed, the first reaction to many was Is that the Enterprise from Planet of the Titans? Those who are into Trek at least asked, and for a good reason. The title ship does indeed look like it was lifted from McQuarrie’s concept design for the refitted Enterprise.

McQuarryprise uss disco

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Comparing the two X-Wings

With the new Star Wars movies coming up, I’ve been waiting to see a glimpse or two of the new and old designs we’d eventually see in the movies. This is mostly because Star Wars’ designs make little to no sense when it comes to progression, as we’ve seen with the Prequel Trilogy. I hope that the upcoming Sequel Trilogy will do better in this regards, but it can be argued that it is easier to take an existing product and refine it further to meet the modern standard.

Just recently we got a full body view of the new X-Wing Starfighter, and it’s an interesting piece by all means. Let’s put it against the good ol’ Incom T-95 X-Wing Starfighter.

The newer, sleeker design fives hopes for practical effects, but only a little bit
The newer, sleeker design fives hopes for practical effects, but only a little bit
The old X-Wing is iconic and well loved everybody expect the Imps
The old X-Wing is iconic and well loved everybody expect the Imps

First of all, the overall size of the new X-Wing is smaller. The dimensions compared to the pilot and the director are more compact than what the original legends had. However, compact is not the right word to describe the overall look of the new fighter. It’s smaller, more sporty but also sleeker, and in some regards, more tactically aggressive and nimbler. It’s not as long as its predecessor and has more slopes and curves, which gives an impression of a smaller bird of prey, but just as deadly as its older brother.

The smallness also brings in some in-universe problems, as it loses space to hold more proton torpedoes and luggage as well as other things. It could be that this fighter has been made to rely on carriers more, but it’s still a good sized ship to have a hyperdrive. Of course, a lot of things could have been miniaturised further, thus leaving more space for other things. Because of the length being shorter, the proton torpedo chutes are directly under the cockpit rather than starting directly under where the original’s cockpit glass ended.

I’m glad to see the aforementioned slopes and curves, to be honest. The Original Trilogy had a very industrial feel to its designs with daily grit etched to them. This spirit is carried by the ship designs as well, where the Y-Wing is most likely the most prominent example with exposed parts everywhere. This new X-Wing carries a familiar taste, but because of the more softer shapes applied to the design, it gives off a bit more younger, fresher breath. Something like stepping outside the workshop after a long day, where you still have that smell of steel and snoot, but with the fresh air. The wingtips actually have a curved design, where they curl up to the laser cannons.

The curves have been applied to make the overall silhouette of the fighter smaller, as the aft of the fighter curves inside to the centre. The nose has that familiar X-Wing design, and you can even see the same extra tidbits alongside the fuselage. The intakes are the largest step away from the original X-Wing, but are true to Ralp McQuarrie’s concept design. You could say that the new fighter is a cross-bred between the original movie fighter and McQuarrie’s concept. The engine nozzles at the back don’t seem to be completely well thought out; they’re just sticking out in an able from the main construction. It would have been nice to see them grow from the form naturally, but they do give that slight industrial taste to an extent.

Do note the difference in the Tie-Fighter as well. The dimensions are slightly different
Do note the difference in the Tie-Fighter as well; The dimensions are slightly different

The wings are the most different from the original or the concept. At first I thought that the wings wouldn’t separate, which would have meant that this fighter would have continued to follow Z-95 Headhunter’s way of thinking. This is because the wings themselves are thin and do not hold any seam that two separate wings would make. It would have been an interesting twist, but luckily my old friend informed me that the wings do indeed open, but in a different manner. Rather than splitting alongside the wings’ length, the wings open in from the middle, splitting the wings’ depth. If you look closely to the left wing’s top, you can see a line going in the middle. Another point is the curled wingtips, as you can see the back wing going behind the front wing and leaving a distinct seam. This is the seam where the wings split. The front part of the wing turns downwards and the aft turns up.

Speaking of the laser cannons, they have a slight redesign as well. The new X-Wing share’s the same basic design with the original. In the new fighter the half-pipe shaped protectors (or something like that) are slightly thinner and have a blob design in the middle to conform with the barrel of the cannon. The overall design is the same otherwise with similar minor adjustments or additions.

I’m not all that good with colours, but the X-Wing line has always had subdued colours, from the original’s earthly red to some Expanded Universe ships. The choice of blue is a safe bet and the applied decals look as they should. The overall image of the colouring is very controlled. Giving this X-Wing a new, attacking colour scheme could make it look more eye catching as well as far more threatening. I hope this is one of the things that looks small, but packs a punch. I’m already expecting to see one in outrageous yellow with falcon design, or a royal paintjob of reds and gold.

There’s also one possibly positive side on this X-Wing; it seems to be easier to draw. This is because the design is simpler and doesn’t require the drawer to align four different spherical engines properly with each other and maintain their relation to each other and to the main body. However, when the wings open this might go out of the window depending on the geometry they introduce with it. From what we’ve seen, the changes don’t seem to mass to anything worth noting, but it wouldn’t be the first time something with variable form capability could surprise everybody.

I’m eager to see this one the big screen, or more of its builds. Concept illustrations would be a great thing to see in the near future. Perhaps they’ll release a lot of concept illustrations before the release of the movie, like they did with Phantom Menace.

Warring Stars

There are very few things that we can actually say about the seventh movie. We know the director and some other stuff, and I have to admit that hearing the involvement of J.J. Abrams didn’t light a spark of hope in my mind. Abrams’ style in directing and forceful inclusion of his trademarks have [both] always been very hamfisted and ultimately have done more disservice than anything else. For example, the nu-Star Trek films are far too action oriented for their namesake and they carry all the markings of Abrams from the floaty texts to the immense amounts of lensflare. I have to admit, that the action Abrams’ directs would work better in Star Wars than in Trek.

As you might’ve gathered, this post will be more about what I personally think of the current state of Star Wars films than looking from any other point of view.

What we know is that Lucas is not completely out from the picture, as he is a creative consultant on the new trilogy, which basically means that they’re asking if the whole things fits into the mythos, but Lucas doesn’t have any power. Basically he is there to get his name on the credits and be a  part of the films somehow. I find this good, as Lucas’ prequel trilogy was somewhat disappointing. It’s been ages since I saw Episodes I-III, and I think the last time I saw Episode III was at a theater. It was actually the last film I saw in my all-time favourite theater Aallotar, which went down due to many reasons surrounding the building and the owners’ age. Hmm, I need to get a female blogger on this site, who would be willing to take on that name. 

Comparing Star Wars (IV) to the original drafts of Lucas, there’s a huge change between their tone, emphasize, style and story. I read it some ten years ago or so, and I read it again just to see how different it was. I had forgotten how much stuff that was cut out from it appeared in Episode I, stuff like Imperial Hovertanks and pretty much everything being chrome. Annikin’s father, Kane Starkiller, is also a cyborg and at one point has a line about how he is just a head and an arm or something along those lines. There’s a lot of silly stuff like that, but I can’t really recommend to read any of the earlier drafts. As mentioned, a lot of these parts appeared in Episode I, and were something that pretty much everybody called stupid or problematic.

At my younger age I regarded Episode VI as the best one. There was something about it that kept me more entertained, but I’ve found myself appreciating Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope a lot more nowadays, especially Empire… which is very funny when you remember than Lucas had very little to do with that movie at all in the end.

We’ve seen with Lucas that the more freedom he had, the worse product he put out. Irving Kershner on the other hand had a huge responsibility to make a better movie than Star Wars IV. That’s the key in any business; to make something that could replace the previous one in every possible way.  Empire did just that. Return of the Jedi on the other hand didn’t try to outdo Empire, and neither did Episodes I-III.

In this sense, we can be very hopeful with Episode VII. The staff that works on Episode VII will be having an extremely heavy burden to deal with. Episode I was the biggest damn fiasco ever, and the hype for it was immense. The hype we see for Episode VII is nothing compared to it, and that’s good. I’m sure that the first time we hear the title or see concept art and all that, the hype will go up exponentially.

And through all this, Abrams is like Lucas; he doesn’t care what the audience wants and expects. He just does his own thing and that troubles me. I’m dreadfully expecting Episode VII to look like another Apple store with sleek surfaces with clean cuts and computer controlled curves with humongous amounts of unnecessary lensflare and shaky cams everywhere. Episode I’s design basis was to have Naboo’s ships to be more handcrafted, and we all can say that they were far away from looking handcrafted; they looked like a damn 3DCG models. There’s also the issue how CGI is outdated faster than good actual physical models. Imagine if Lucas had actual artisans designing and crafting models for him. The largest difference between the models and CGI is that the stuff we saw in Episode I-III looked newer and more modern than what Episodes IV-VI had. That’s a natural progression when you don’t give a damn how things look. There have been a lot of explanations and retcons why things look like they do, but it all ends in the fashion of the current moment. 70’s naturally was more low-tech than 00’s, but that’s why it would have been good for the Lucasfilm staff to take a look at the earlier styles, which were not sleek and clean cut. The only things that have always been sleek and clean cut in the human history are diamonds and blades. At least now they have a proper reason to make the new trilogy look technically superior with the 00’s inspired crap Abrams loves so much. I’d hate to think that the upcoming trilogy would lay groundwork to which the 2010’s design would take cues from, at least when it comes to films. That, and Kaplan, the costume designer for the nu-Trek, is going to work on Episode VII, which is a complete mixed bags. On other hand some of the nu-Trek’s costume designs were good, but on the other hand they were just bad and very damn generic. Star Wars needs something more than simple bodycondom.

The thing that makes me worry the most is is Michael Arndt, the screenwriter for Episode VII. His track record is very short and doesn’t give enough clues if he will be able to write a screenplay that follows in the lead of Episodes IV-VI rather than I-III. But he can write a plot, that much is true. Now we have to see if he is able to create a story for Star Wars, and that takes some work and research. Then again, he is working with Abrams, and he didn’t even know what Star Trek was about. Sometimes I wish I could punch these people just as much people wish they could punch me.

Whatever first proper piece of illustration or leaked photos we’re going to see about Episode VII will give some insight. If it’s going to be anything like with the new Robocop movie, I will need a storeful of booze. Episode VII is a large questionmark of which there is no real reason to guess what it will be like, but seeing the people involved, we can make these slight assumptions on the visual direction it will go.