Celebrating The 40th Anniversary Of The Empire Strikes Back

Today marks the 40th anniversary of what is widely considered to be one of the best if not the best film sequels of all time, The Empire Strikes Back. What was known as the second Star Wars movie before it was released and is now Episode V of the Skywalker Saga. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back it should be noted this film is iconic and highly regarded both as a followup to George Lucas’ wildly successful first Star Wars film and also, on its own. a sci-fi classic. It also demonstrated, both in its story and ideas, how to make a successful follow up in contrast to other “part 2s” that merely regurgitated what came before.

The story picks up three years after the destruction of the Death Star in the first film and has the Rebels hiding on the ice world of Hoth, and Luke Skywalker continuing his training as a Jedi Knight. The epic ground battle that ensued between the Rebels and the Galactic Empire on Hoth was a highlight and something unique in action films where a climactic battle happened near the beginning of a movie. This is something that sets The Empire Strikes Back apart from other films, and also lets the audience know that Lucas was doing something different.

Rather than just make a carbon copy of A New Hope, George Lucas was building a universe and telling a long-form story; The Empire Strikes Back was the second act or a larger tale, not just your typical sequel. This was shown further when our heroes Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca escaped to the cloud world of Bespin and meeting Han’s old smuggling buddy Lando Calrissian. They then encountered danger and despair at the hands of legendary villain Darth Vader, who carried out his search for Luke and showcased his sinister dark side powers to the extreme. Meanwhile, Luke journeys to the swamp world of Dagobah and meets the now-famous Jedi Master Yoda, who deepened Luke’s training and understanding of the Force. Eventually the protagonists met up on Bespin, but still found defeat and uncertainty at the film’s conclusion.

This is another unique aspect of The Empire Strikes Back, in that it concluded with a cliffhanger ending and a shocking plot twist with Vader revealing that he was Luke’s father, all of which is well known now, but at the time was very risky for Lucas to do. Sequels usually just retell the same story but add a few extra things. This Star Wars sequel really changed all of that and broadened the scope of the mythology of Star Wars and led to pretty much everything that Star Wars is known for. From John Williams’ iconic Imperial March theme, to the towering AT-AT walkers on Hoth, to Master Yoda, as well as other fan favorites like bounty hunter Boba Fett and the aforementioned Lando.

All of these events and people in this film now define the franchise and continue to influence Star Wars films and TV shows. Rey’s journey to Jedi Knighthood in the sequel trilogy echoes Luke’s which really jumped into high gear in The Empire Strikes Back. The success of The Mandalorian TV series obviously is due to the big appeal of Boba Fett and his mysterious nature, which again got started in The Empire Strikes Back. Also, Lando’s return in The Rise of Skywalker was a treat to see, since it harkened back to his introduction in the very first Star Wars sequel.

Overall, the appeal and influence of The Empire Strikes Back is massive and long lasting seeing as how it is just as beloved now 40 years later as ever. It is now commonly considered as the best Star Wars film and will probably continue to claim that mantle for the foreseeable future. There are many reasons why the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back is being commemorated. This is a character driven film that also has exciting set pieces, as well as interesting and thoughtful ideas. The Empire Strikes Back paved the way for other Star Wars and genre films, and set the bar incredibly high for all sequels to follow.

C.S. Link

Top Ten Sci-Fi Vacation Spots

Sigh, the summer is almost here and we cannot enjoy it, much less think about a vacation. One thing for sure is that after this crisis is over the last thing anyone will want to do with time off from work is have a staycation! While most vacation hotspots are unavailable right now it’s always fun to dream of an ideal place to visit. But nevermind places like Aruba or Disney World or cruises, think big, out-of-this-world big. Let your imaginations and dreams go wild as you consider these sci-fi vacation spots. Sure, they’re not without problems; ahem, like out-of-control androids, malfunctioning cruise ships or rampaging dinosaurs. However, these prime vacation spots will ease tired minds or excite anyone seeking a vigorous adventure.

10. Carillon (Battlestar Galactica “Saga Of A Star World”):

Imagine you’re a weary war refugee and need a resort planet with people to welcome you with open arms, food, drink and great chances to win fortunes. Look no further than Carillon and don’t mind the fact that the indigenous Ovions only want to wine and dine you in order to fatten you up for their children’s menu.

9. The Avenue Five (Avenue Five“): 

Want to book a voyage on an interplanetary cruise ship with five-star amenities and breathtaking views of Jupiter? Be sure to book passage onboard the Avenue Five. Commanded by the famously heroic Ryan Clark, this is the ship for you. It’s posh, elegant and can get you back to Earth after a rugged adventure in just three years…more or less.

8. The Fhloston Paradise (The Fifth Element):

So the Avenue Five with its faulty equipment may not be your thing. How about a magnificent, state-of-the-art space cruise ship that takes leisurely anti-g sails on alien oceans? For entertainment the ship features charismatic blue aliens that sing opera! And hey, you may get a chance to help Korben Dallas save the universe!

7. Naboo (Star Wars Episode I and II):

Forget about that so-called vacation world Canto Bight with its morally ambiguous entertainment. Now, this a planet of royal luxury! Verdant plains, magnificent waterfalls, and majestic Mediterranean-like architecture are just some of the highlights in your trip to Naboo. Just don’t mind those pesky Trade Federation android armies or those underwater Gungans.

6. The Axiom (WALL-E):

Ahh, gluttony, hedonism and instant robotic service at your fingertips are on board the Axiom. Make sure to run a few laps around the giant vessel’s jogging track or you’ll wind up looking like its permanent residents. Otherwise enjoy the advanced resort and spa, take in spectacular galactic sights and lend a hand to a certain beat-up little garbage robot, who’s out to save humanity.

5. Time Safari (A Sound Of Thunder):

Go anywhere in time with the Time Safari. The most popular temporal destination is the prehistoric past where guides on marked above-ground trails help you hunt down a vicious tyrannosaurus rex just before its natural death. Please make sure not to leave anything behind, not even footprints, and don’t step on any butterflies.

4. Westworld (Westworld):

The Delos Corporation’s amusement park also features Medievalworld and Romanworld, but Westworld is the most memorable spot to visit. For a mere $1,000 per day, you can indulge yourself in your most primal desires. Have a shootout (and win!) with gunslingers, do some hard drinking and bar fighting or spend time with a lovely partner. Don’t let those recent glitch with the human-looking androids to keep you from visiting. Cowboys aren’t your thing? There are plenty of other time periods and locales like Shogunworld, WarWorld, Fantasy World, and more.

3. Jurassic World (Jurassic World):

Located on Isla Nublar, this is a must-visit theme park that blows away all the others. For anyone tired of fake-looking audio-animatronics, Jurassic World has actual, living dinosaurs! Resurrected after millions of years of extinction thanks to genetic engineering, these gigantic beasts are a wonder to behold for the young and old. Visitors can view them in their natural habitats from the safety of perimeter fences and rugged jeep vehicles. Back at the park’s facility take a behind-the-scenes tour of how these reptilian giants were recreated. Or indulge yourself with top-notch amenities, petting zoos, and be sure to visit the gift shops and restaurants.

2. The Amusement Park Planet (Star Trek “Shore Leave”):

Located in the Omicron Delta system, this planet’s highly advanced facilities can literally create your ideal dreams just by scanning your thoughts. Want to get even with the school bully? Here’s your chance to find him and give him a beat down! You can also be a part of imaginative fairy tales, fight a samurai, evade dangerous wildlife, or spend time with the person of your dreams. Just be mindful of your thoughts.

1. Risa (Star Trek: The Next Generation “Captain’s Holiday”, and other Star Trek shows):

This is the resort planet that everyone talks about and visits. No wonder Risa is the most relaxing of sci-fi vacation spots. From Captain Archer in the 22nd century to Captain Picard and the Deep Space Nine crew in the 24th century. Why would so many people visit Risa? Well, imagine a planet with a plethora of white-sand beaches, luxurious resorts, rich gardens, outdoor activities, nightclubs, perfectly controlled weather and unforgettable twin sunset views. Risa is the best spot in the galaxy for couples wanting to get away from it all and for amorous singles. Here’s a travel hint for vacationing singles looking for romance: be sure to have a Horga’hn statue ready.

Here is a bonus. If these sci-fi vacation spots are out of your price range or you are unable to travel, why not visit a local Rekall and live out the wildest adventure in the comfort of a lounge chair through Rekall’s innovative memory implants? You don’t have to leave your locale and can have your pick of the ideal vacation spot on Earth, Mars or anyplace else.

Any of these places and options would be ideal vacations for all of us.

The Final Season Of Star Wars: The Clone Wars Concludes

Star Wars: The Clone Wars has had many homes from Cartoon Network to Netflix and now Disney+. Focusing on the adventures of the Jedi Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), his apprentice Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor) and assorted characters from the Republic Era, The Clone Wars was widely acclaimed for its enriching storylines that fleshed out the prequel films. They added much needed context to the films and in some ways improved them and fully realized George Lucas’ vision for the prequel era. The show was canceled shortly after Disney acquired the Star Wars property and apparently wanted everyone to forget the prequels and anything related to them existed. However, the love for Star Wars: The Clone Wars refused to go away and finally, a new season was produced and began streaming earlier this year on Disney+. The seventh and sadly final season of the animated classic series concluded on May the 4th. Yes, it probably was timed to stream on the unofficial Star Wars Day, and it was a grand way to celebrate the day.

Essentially, the season is broken up into three story arcs. The first one told the story of a platoon of clone troopers that are sort of misfits from the clone army in that they have distinctive characteristics. These troops nicknamed the Bad Batch prove themselves in battle as clone commander Rex (Dee Bradley Baker) searches behind enemy lines for his lost comrade Echo. The second arc follows Ahsoka after she left the Jedi order in season six and how she falls in with two sisters who run into trouble with the underworld of Coruscant. This allowed Ahsoka to see a different way of how the Jedi are seen by the downtrodden. This arc directly leads to the final one which was the best of the three.

While not a perfect season, it does wrap up many lingering plot threads from the previous seasons and leads up succintly with the final Star Wars prequel film, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The standout episode of the final arc was the penultimate episode “Shattered”, which takes place at the same time with Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. In the episode and the finale, we get to see another side of the infamous Order 66 and how Ahsoka escaped from being killed when the order was given.

As thrilling as the final episodes were, they took on a distinctly ominous tone that differed from the rest of the show. Even the opening intro departed from the norm by eschewing the triumphant score of The Clone Wars, its opening opening pseudo quotes and bombastic opening narrator. Instead, the final four episodes flow seamlessly together as if they were an actual feature-length film. Throughout the final episodes there was a sense of disquieting unease and dread which paid off as Order 66 was executed and everything Ahsoka believed in fell apart. The final arc elevated the season and made it stand up there with the best of what the previous seasons offered.

As can be guessed, Ahsoka was the true main character in this season while Anakin and Obi-Wan were mostly guest characters. The only other characters who had important roles in this season were Rex and Maul (Sam Witwer), who displayed an impressive range as a villain. He demonstrated in the episodes that he is not only a complete powerhouse of a villain (and one of the best Star Wars foes) but a tortured and complex character as he too, was betrayed by his beliefs as Ahsoka was.

While the stories in these final episodes were fine, it is too bad, the showrunners did not finish the Utapau-based episodes that were never completed the original sixth season of The Clone Wars. Yes, we can see them on StarWars.com, but it is puzzling why they were not finished. On another note, the seventh season episodes were so well-made it boggles the mind why Disney did not commission more episodes to be produced. More of them would have fleshed out the season, which felt a bit abrupt.

It is a bit odd seeing this final season come to life. The original run of Star Wars: The Clone Wars opened with a story about Yoda and ended with the diminutive Jedi Master Yoda and ended with him in the classic episode “Sacrifice”. For the longest time, “Sacrifice” was the series finale and a fitting one, as Yoda realized that the Clone Wars were irrelevant as opposed to bringing balance to the Force and the hope for the galaxy was in the future. Now that has to be discarded with the more downbeat “Victory and Death” episode that focused on Ahsoka and her disillusionment with her former mentor and all that she stood for. In many ways, “Shattered” and “Victory and Death” served as complementary pieces to Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and its pessimistic outlook. However, unlike that film, which provided in its final moments a sliver of hope for the future and in “Sacrifice”, “Victory and Death” is missing these types of optimistic scraps. That would have to come later with Star Wars: Rebels.

All in all, it was great to watch these final stories of Star Wars: The Clone Wars; they will certainly please fans as they embellished and elevated the Star Wars prequels.

Ranking The Star Wars Planets, Part II

Continuing our look at the Star Wars planet from the worst to the best, here are the most memorable worlds a galaxy far, far away. The planets on the  list are scored on a scale of 30 points in three categories.

Plot Significance: so, out of these three categories, this the most straightforward; how important is the planet to the plot of the movie it’s featured in, or to the overarching story. In this way, the perfect planet is one that couldn’t be replaced by any other.

Design: Usually related to visuals, but design can go down to the characters, the ships, the animals, and anything related to the planet. The worst type of design is one that is easily forgettable, while the best is one that is visually striking as well as thematically relevant.

The hardest of the three categories to explain is Plausibility, which scores how believable the planet is, usually in a sociological and ecological way. (In theory, none of the planets are really that plausible; no habitable planet would be all desert, all snow, or even all urban sprawl.) So, plausibility is especially relative. In order to be plausible, a planet should have an ecosystem, a society, an economy, and whatever else it needs to feel lived-in. Worlds that change across the movies feel plausible and well-developed. Since plausibility is difficult to gauge, the average plausibility score is about 6. Below that indicates that the planet is not very believable, and above that means it is rather believable.

20. Dagobah

Appearances: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 6.5  Plausibility: 5.5   Total: 20

You might be surprised to see Dagobah this far down on the list, and frankly, so am I. It loses some points for plausibility – is this whole planet just jungle with one hut and magic cave? It makes sense to have Yoda hide out here, because it’s isolated and lonely, but that puts it a little further down this ranking.

Also, an important design detail: outside of the creature in the water that momentarily attacks R2D2, all of the creatures we see on Dagobah are just regular Earth creatures. That might have gone unnoticed when Empire first debuted, but with the standards of design post-prequel trilogy, that feels lazy.

Yoda’s hut is neat, but obviously the point of interest here is the cave. Luke goes in there, against the advice of Yoda, and is confronted by an image of Darth Vader. It’s such an exciting and intriguing element of Dagobah that I wished had been a little more developed; what’s this place’s connection to the Force?

There’s nothing wrong with Dagobah, but it all blends together. As a setting, it just feels empty.

19. Kamino

Appearance: Attack of the Clones

Plot Significance: 7   Design: 8   Plausibility: 5   Total: 20

Kamino is very eerie, and that makes me love it. The obvious significance to the plot is that it is where the clones, and later, the Stormtroopers come from.

I think that storms in fiction can kind of be used as an overdone trope; when a character looks out the window and notes “there’s a storm coming,” and it’s supposed to be a brilliant device that symbolizes the upcoming turbulence. But on Kamino, this is done seamlessly, because the entire planet is a storm. It’s subtle enough not to be noticed. Having the clones made on a planet where it’s always raining gives the whole thing a very creepy vibe.

Speaking of creepy, how about the Kaminoans? They look slightly angelic in an incredibly unsettling kind of way. This is some excellent creature design

But also, is Kamino a planet of exclusively water, with a manufacturing plant built on top of it? Sure, Earth at one point was covered in water, but if you found a planet of entirely water, would you build a manufacturing plant there? I do find the whole thing a little difficult to believe, but Kamino is one of my favorite planets in Kamino.

18. Takodana

Appearances: The Force Awakens

Plot Significance: 7    Design: 7   Plausibility: 7   Total: 21

“I didn’t know there was this much green in the galaxy.” – Rey

Let’s go over everything that happens on Takodana; the Millennium Falcon, flown by Han/Chewie/Finn/Rey, they stop by Maz Kanata’s bar, the First Order attacks, there’s an exciting battle, “TRAITOR!” Rey gets taken hostage, Han and Finn leave with Leia.

We get a decent look at this planet; when Rey is being chased by Kylo Ren, we get to see the jungle. The space battle and land-battle which breaks out uses the area’s terrain to a pretty exciting degree, and I really leave this planet with a good impression of it.

17. Kessel

Appearances: Solo

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7   Total: 21

So, the Kessel Run has been mentioned constantly through Star Wars, so it makes sense that we’d get to see Kessel and the Kessel Run in Solo. I’m still not sold on the Kessel Run and why exactly we needed to see it, but Kessel itself is so awesome! The mine is well-designed, and feels lived-in. Watching the characters interact with the environment, and the environment change in response feels like a real-life situation. The uprising started by L3-37 is a bit silly, but again, it feels authentic.

16. Pasaana

Appearances: Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7   Total: 21

I saw Pasaana in the early Rise of Skywalker trailers and groaned. “Oh no, another desert planet. Great.” But Pasaana manages to set itself apart with its Life Day Celebration Festival of the Ancestors. My absolute favorite shot from Rise of Skywalker is the one used in the trailer, where our heroes round a corner and see the Festival. It’s visually exciting and feels real. The population celebrating the Festival and the interlude with the quicksand and the snake monster is just icing on this pretty good cake.

15. Scarif

Appearances: Rogue One

Plot Significance: 7   Design: 7    Plausibility: 8   Total: 22

This beach planet makes for an interesting battleground during the most interesting part of Rogue One. It makes for a refreshing change of pace, much in the same way the action in Rogue One is a change of pace from the action in other Star Wars movies. We get to see a battle from the perspective of infantrymen in a way that feels more visceral than similar scenes from the Original Trilogy. Similar to Lah’mu, having the violence of the Empire set against a verdant, green planet only highlights how villainous and destructive they can be.

14. Forest Moon of Endor

Appearances: Return of the Jedi

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 7   Plausibility: 7   Total: 22

Endor! Who doesn’t love Endor? And again, if the scenes on the Ocean Moon took place on the Forest Moon, I’d probably rate this a little bit higher.

But Endor is great. The Ewok village is intricate and fun, and while the Ewoks might be tonally at odds with the end of the trilogy, they’re undeniably cute. And they facilitate the change on Endor during the course of the movie – we watch as the Ewoks and the Rebels band together to fight the Empire. It puts another perspective on the struggle against the Empire; even primitive teddy bears will come together to take down a regime.

13. Exegol

Appearances: Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 9   Design: 8   Plausibility 5   Total: 22

All right, let me get the negatives out of the way first: do you mean to tell me that this entire planet is perpetually stormy and perpetually evil? Introducing Sith as a planetary culture rather than an order raises more questions than it answers.

That being said; the Sith temple is dramatic and over-the-top, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s sinister and creepy, and it’s a fitting place for the end of the Skywalker Saga. The Temple is huge and feels overwhelmingly empty, and the introduction with the Knights of Ren and Palpatine’s chambers properly set the tone on the most sinister planet in the galaxy.

12. Alderaan

Appearances: Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 8  Plausibility: 8 Total: 22

“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” – Obi-Wan

I considered saying that Alderaan’s destruction is the only planet whose destruction actually carries any weight but also… it doesn’t really. I don’t think the rebellion would have been any less motivated, and the Death Star likely would have been destroyed. Leia is upset for one scene and then goes back to normal. Alderaan is not mentioned in A New Hope after its destroyed. I get that mentioning the fact that millions of people were destroyed in a fiery explosion kind of doesn’t jive with the light tone these movies have but like… give me one pilot saying “we have to do it for Alderaan,” or anything.

That aside, I have a lot to praise about the planet’s design and plausibility. What little we see of it is really cool, and most resembles Earth. Revenge of the Sith makes me wish we saw more of Alderaan in any of the movies.

11. Corellia

Appearances: Solo

Plot Significance: 7   Design: 8   Plausibility: 8   Total: 23

I like Corellia!

We don’t see too much of it, but it’s a good place to start the action in Solo. It’s shabby, and grimy, and perfectly sets the tone for the type of movie you’re going to watch. All in all, Corellia seems like a pretty terrible place to be, so the chase scene with Han and Qi’ra trying to escape is thrilling, and you really root for the two of them. The speeder moving through the streets make for a great action sequence that shows a different kind of economic disparity. This is Han’s Tatooine, and I think getting to see it is an important part of his storyThis planet gave us both Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon (a Corellian freighter). I’d certainly say this planet has earned its place this high on the list.

10. Kashyyyk

Appearances: Revenge of the Sith

Plot Significance: 6   Design: 9   Plausibility 8   Total: 23

“But what about the droid attack on the Wookies?!” – Ki-Adi-Mundi

It’s hard to qualify why I like Kashyyyk as much as I do. It’s visually stunning (design), isn’t just one type of terrain (plausibility), and is significant enough (but, compared to the other planets in Revenge of the Sith most feels like a side quest). One thing that does make Kashyyyk feel a little more plausible is knowing how the Empire exploits it for their own gain, enslaving many Wookies. Almost a little too true to life.

Kashyyyk has all of my favorite qualities from Endor – intricate treehouse settlements and a conflict which shows the struggle between technology and nature.

9. Hoth

Appearances: Empire Strikes Back

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 8  Plausibility: 7.5   Total: 23.5

Hoth is spectacular, even though we see relatively little of it. We get little glimpses into its Ecosystem; tauntauns and wampas show a fair amount of how this planet operates, and how difficult it can be to survive. How desperate must the Rebels be if they decided to move their base from Yavin to Hoth?

And the AT-AT attack on the Rebel Base is iconic. When the first one is taken down, it feels like a huge victory, but ultimately, the AT-ATs win the battle. This properly sets the tone for what ultimately ends up being the original tonally darker sequel.

8. Bespin

Appearances: Empire Strikes Back

Plot Significance: 9   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7  Total: 24

“You truly belong with us among the clouds.” – Lando

This is where Star Wars’ biggest moments happen. Bespin’s Cloud City is where Empire’s climax takes place. Lando sells out his friends, Han gets frozen in carbonite, Darth Vader reveals himself to be Luke’s father.

Bespin as a settlement is fine, I appreciate how they have their own little economy of mining, and we get to see the junk traders who want to scrap C3PO. And that economy facilitates the biggest choice in that movie: Lando’s betrayal is motivated by his interest in bolstering Bespin’s economy.

I had thought to take away some plausibility points from Bespin just on the basis that we only see Cloud City and never get to see the planet’s surface, but then I did a little more research and found that Bespin is a gas planet, so there likely is no surface.

But Bespin’s greatest strength is in its set design; the carbon-freezing room is visually amazing. Contrast that with the sterile, stuffy hallways our characters are seen walking through. And the duel between Vader and Luke shows us the interior of the mining facility, which is the only place where such an intense confrontation could possibly take place.

7. Crait

Appearances: The Last Jedi

Plot Significance: 8   Design: 10   Plausibility: 6   Total: 24

Perhaps the most cinematically enchanting planet in all of Star Wars, the battle on Crait gave the studio its color scheme for The Last Jedi poster. This planet easily wins 10 points in the design category. Yes, the color schematic of white salt that turns red when disrupted is a simple gimmick, but it is a gimmick used to a brilliant effect, especially in the “duel” between Kylo Ren and Luke – notice how Luke doesn’t leave footsteps, indicating that he’s not really there. What a clever use of setting!

As far as plot significance, the climax of the movie is set here, and Luke makes his last stand. It’s really tremendous. As far as plausibility, Crait is plausible enough; it’s a salt mining planet that has since been abandoned, and thus makes sense as a hideout for the Resistance.

Crait is possibly the finest examples of the sequel trilogy’s attempts to show us worlds that are new and captivating.

6. Jakku

Appearances: The Force Awakens

Plot Significance: 7  Design: 8  Plausibility: 10  Total: 25

“All right, that is pretty much nowhere.” – Luke

“Why does it always have to be a desert planet?” I grumbled, watching the opening scenes of The Force Awakens. I assumed that just because the trailers showed a desert, that we’d get Tatooine, or worse, a Tatooine knock-off.

But in its small differences, Jakku manages to set itself apart. Jakku was the location of a battle shortly after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, which led to a community of scavengers and junk traders. It’s a logical cause-and-effect relationship that gives the planet some verisimilitude that other planets don’t have.

Another small but highly amusing touch is that people constantly comment that the Millennium Falcon is a piece of junk, so to have it in the hands of junk traders is really just exceedingly fitting. This world feels lived-in and thought-out.

And I love all of the design elements, like seeing how Rey lives in an AT-AT and tallies the days she’s been there. It ends up feeling like Tatooine, but more thematically desperate.

5. Tatooine

Appearances: Really, are you going to make me list all of them? Fine. Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 10   Design: 8   Plausibility: 7    Total: 25

“If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that it’s farthest from.” – Luke

The OG! Tatooine is the planet the saga keeps coming back to. I haven’t done a full count, but I’m sure Tatooine has the most screen time by a pretty wide margin – I’d bet Coruscant is the only planet that almost comes close.

There’s a lot that happens here – Podracing, the attack of the Tusken Raiders, the beginning of Luke’s quest, Jabba the Hutt gets taken down, and Rey becomes a Skywalker. There’s no way this planet couldn’t get a 10 in the Plot Significance category.

Design here is pretty neat; the real-life Tunisian architecture is used to show us Mos Eisley. But then, in light of Mos Eisley, Mos Espa (where Anakin grew up) is mostly forgettable, with the Podracing stadium being the one point of interest there. Jabba’s palace and the Sarlacc Pit are other standout locations.

Plausibility is adequate – we see different societies like the Tusken Raiders and the Jawas, and we see different occupations like droid sellers and moisture farmers, which actually makes a lot of sense in a desert. The only non-plausible thing about Tatooine is why that many people want to live there. Were the property taxes on Alderaan too high?

(Also, I know I said I would stay out of The Mandalorian, but episode 5 of the show gives us some great details about the local economy. After the fall of the Empire, the droids from Jabba’s Palace were out of work, so they went to Mos Eisley where they got work as bartenders, and the cantina which didn’t allow droids in New Hope. I just like to see locations change over time.)

4. Coruscant

Appearances: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith

Plot Significance: 10   Design: 10   Plausibility: 5   Total: 25

Is it an exaggeration to say that this planet carried the prequels? I don’t think so.

After the OT, getting to see the Galactic Senate feels like a crucial part of seeing the rise of the Empire. And no matter how boring you think the politics of the prequels are, Coruscant is an important part of the trilogy and the Saga as a whole. It is where the Jedi Council thrived, and let the Empire rise right under their noses.

I like getting to see the different locations, with the Senate Chamber and the Council Room are the obvious things. But the other local spots show more of the planet’s nuance; the theater, the skyhighways, the library, the bar where Obi-Wan does not buy Death Sticks, Palpatine’s office, the Jedi meditation rooms… Coruscant feels like a real city, like the galaxy’s equivalent of Washington, D.C.

Coruscant loses plausibility from only being urban sprawl. The movies only show us locations that are in this intensely clustered city area. Are there any public parks or bodies of water or anything?! If the planet were even slightly less crowded, I’d find it more believable.

3. Mustafar

Appearances: Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One, Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 9.5   Design: 9.5   Plausibility: 7    Total: 27

Mustafar is a planet I like more every time I see it. Rogue One showed us that after his defeat by Obi-Wan, Darth Vader built a castle, which makes the planet and the character both a little bit more interesting. And then, in the opening of Rise of Skywalker, we see Kylo Ren’s attack in the forest, showing us that that planet was more than just lava and manufacturing. (Though to be fair, it’s understandable if you didn’t immediately recognize it as Mustafar, I certainly didn’t.) It doesn’t really gain or lose any plausibility points, it’s a planet that seems to be mostly volcanic, but I’m glad to see it wasn’t the same all around.

But Mustafar is best known for Obi-Wan and Anakin’s duel, and it is a planet that really reflects the conflict that takes place there. The landscape is fiery and violent and is the only fitting place for the end of Anakin’s prequel arc. Revenge of the Sith is a violent and dramatic movie, and this is perhaps the only place violent and dramatic enough for the conclusion of the movie.

2. Ahch-To

Appearances: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 9.5   Design: 9.5   Plausibility: 7   Total: 27

“You think that I came to the most unfindable place in the galaxy for no reason at all? Go away.”-Luke

I considered having an additional category for thematic relevance, and if I had, both Ahch-To and Mustafar would have gotten an additional 10 points. Serving as the ancient birthplace of the Jedi, Ahch-To represents something important in the sequel trilogy; it’s an obstacle for the characters to overcome. First, in Last Jedi, Luke has resolved that he plans to die there (without doing anything else) and spends most of the movie reaching the decision to overcome that. In Rise of Skywalker, Rey resolves to do the same thing, but Luke helps her overcome that. The fact that we are only shown the one island helps solidify the theme of isolation that both characters are looking for.

Somewhat obviously, this world loses societal and environmental plausibility because we see so little of it. Sure, like Earth, it’s a world that seems to be made up mostly of water, which makes it fairly believable. It has a small society of the fish-like nuns and an ecosystem that includes porgs and other animals. For me, that certainly puts it above average on the plausibility scale.

But again, we only see the temple island and its features by design. Ahch-To represents isolation, meditation, and despair. Thematically, the most important thing a character can do on Ahch-To is to leave, thereby overcoming despair.

1. Naboo

Appearances: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones

Plot Significance: 10   Design: 9   Plausibility: 10   Total: 29

“PEACE!” – Boss Nass

While I don’t think there’s an inverse relationship between the movies that put a greater emphasis on the planets, I do think it’s ironic that the best planet on this ranking is from what many viewers and critics consider to be the two worst movies in the franchise. And yet, Naboo is the best-developed planet across all eleven movies.

While Naboo isn’t crucial to the plot of the Skywalker Saga beyond Phantom Menace, the planet has an entire arc across that first movie: the reconciling of two distinct people groups on the same planet.

And that goes to another thing that Naboo does better than the other planets: Plausibility. There are different locations on this planet that feel unique, like a true, biodiverse planet. We see the royal palace, we see the swampy forests, we see the fields, but we also see an underwater city. Love them or hate them (probably hate them), the Gungans are a crucial part of what makes Naboo such an excellent setting.

Naboo’s story in The Phantom Menace is one of two symbiotic societies learning to cooperate with each other to fight an outside threat – the Gungans from underwater and the above-ground natives of Naboo uniting to fight the Trade Federation droids. The movie starts with the Federation’s tanks moving across the forests of Naboo and ends with Boss Nass and Amidala’s peace parade.

It’s almost unsurprising since we spend such a significant amount of time here, but Naboo is highly plausible, carries its own story, changes over time, has different societies and ecosystems, and manages to be beautifully designed. The prequels did not do everything perfectly, but their attention and ambition in the design of planets shines brightest with Naboo.

Of course, this ranking is subjective, and what I look for in the design of a planet. Maybe you look for something else, so I’m interested to hear: what do you look for in a Star Wars setting, and which planet is your favorite?

Special thanks to Andrew Rainaldi at Pop Cultural Studies for providing this guest post.

Andrew writes about Star Wars and a variety of other topics on: popculturalstudies.wordpress.com

Ranking the Star Wars Planets, Part I

When director George Lucas and concept artist Ralph McQuarrie brought us into a galaxy far, far away in the original Star Wars trilogy, they showed us a variety of unique worlds. As the series continued from there and evolved into being one of the biggest franchises in the world, the design of planets became a complex art that some films succeeded at, and others did not.

This raises the question; which Star Wars planet is the worst, and which is the best? If these were all to be ranked, what order would they come in?

First, let me explain my scale for ranking these planets; I’ll be scoring on a scale of 30 points in three categories.

Plot Significance: so, out of these three categories, this the most straightforward; how important is the planet to the plot of the movie it’s featured in, or to the overarching story. In this way, the perfect planet is one that couldn’t be replaced by any other.

Design: Usually related to visuals, but design can go down to the characters, the ships, the animals, and anything related to the planet. The worst type of design is one that is easily forgettable, while the best is one that is visually striking as well as thematically relevant.

The hardest of the three categories to explain is Plausibility, which scores how believable the planet is, usually in a sociological and ecological way. (In theory, none of the planets are really that plausible; no habitable planet would be all desert, all snow, or even all urban sprawl.) So, plausibility is especially relative. In order to be plausible, a planet should have an ecosystem, a society, an economy, and whatever else it needs to feel lived-in. Worlds that change across the movies feel plausible and well-developed. Since plausibility is difficult to gauge, the average plausibility score is about 6. Below that indicates that the planet is not very believable, and above that means it is rather believable.

Also, it’s worth noting that for this post, I’ll only be including the live-action theatrical releases; namely, the Skywalker Saga and the two Anthology films. If I were to include The Mandalorian or The Clone Wars series, this post would be much longer than it already is.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the planets of the galaxy!

37. Eadu

Appearances: Rogue One

Plot Significance: 3    Design: 4    Plausibility: 6  Total: 13

Before ranking this list, I went movie by movie, trying to list all of the planets I could think of. Some of them, I couldn’t recall by name, but I could still think of – like “Oh, yeah, that’s where Maz Kanata’s place in Force Awakens is!” And I could still recall what the planet looked like, and what happened there.

After checking against Wookieepedia, this was the only planet I remembered nothing about. It’s from the middle of Rogue One, which, let’s be honest, is the weakest part of the film. For me, this planet fittingly finds its place at the bottom of the list.

36. Numidian Prime

Appearances: Solo

Plot Significance: 2   Design: 5   Plausibility: 6    Total: 13

I’ll always hate this planet on principle alone. This is where the little epilogue of Solo takes place, Han finds Lando and challenges him to a card game to win the Falcon back. My dislike for this planet comes from A: the movie should have ended one scene earlier, B: we’re barely there for long enough to appreciate the design, and C: Solo, more than any other Star Wars movie has too many planets – Numidian Prime comes last and ends up feeling like the most tedious because of it.

35. D’Qar

Appearances: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi

Plot Significance: 4  Design: 5   Plausibility: 5   Total: 14

This planet is just diet Yavin. It’s not particularly interesting. This is just a planet for the Resistance to have a base on. Initially, I forgot that this was a separate planet from Takodana, where Maz Kanata’s establishment is.

34. Mimban

Appearances: Solo

Plot Significance: 4    Design: 5    Plausibility: 6   Total: 15

Like much of the visual aesthetic in Solo, Mimban is pretty bland. It’s an Empire-occupied planet where Han is fighting while in the Infantry and meets Beckett’s (Woody Harrelson’s) crew. It’s also where he meets Chewbacca.

Mimban’s gloomy design likely comes as a consequence of one of the main characters fighting in a war here. Much of Solo’s color pallet is dark and bland, but this is probably the one planet where that feels fitting. Mimban isn’t memorable or ground-breaking, but it does everything it needs to.

33. Vandor

Appearances: Solo

Plot Significance: 4   Design: 5   Plausibility 6   Total: 15

This is another one from Solo that is fine but forgettable. This is where the first heist in Solo takes place. The heist is exciting enough, even if the planet isn’t exceedingly interesting. Then, there’s the lodge where they meet with Lando, which is a microcosm of a lot of the movie’s problems, like L3 and the poor lighting.

Neither good or bad; I just don’t have much to say about Vandor.

32. Hosnian Prime

Appearances: The Force Awakens

Plot Significance: 4   Design: 6   Plausibility 5   Total: 15

I really can’t undersell my dislike for Hosnian Prime. A recurring theme on this list is going to be my contempt for planets that get destroyed by the bad guys because usually they are far less significant than the plot tries to tell us. What consequences are there from Hosnian Prime being blown up? None. It doesn’t change how the lead characters go about attacking the First Order, no one seems upset about it, and perhaps worst of all, in the next film, when they put out a distress call to summon potential allies, no one comes to fight the genocidal fascist regime. That makes me doubt Hosnian Prime’s importance. It’s difficult for me to believe that the legislative capital of the galaxy gets blown up and there’s no impact on the plot of Force Awakens or its sequels – that certainly takes away from Prime’s plausibility score.

That being said, the one shot we get of the planet is neat; it looks like a less clustered Coruscant.

31. Kef Bir (The Ocean Moon of Endor)

Appearances: The Rise of Skywalker

Plot Significance: 5   Design: 7   Plausibility: 5   Total: 17

Yeah, I bet you didn’t realize that this was actually supposed to be different from the planet in Return of the Jedi, did you? Honestly, if the scenes set on Kef Bir had been set on the Forest Moon of Endor, that planet would be higher on this list.

For Plausibility, Kef Bir loses some points. Why is there one large piece of Death Star wreckage? Wouldn’t it show more signs of erosion or animal habitation? We get that Jannah and the other former stormtroopers are supposed to be scavengers, but why does the place look like there isn’t any other wreckage? Why is the Sith dagger designed as a map on this planet despite the fact that you’d need to be standing in the exact right spot to use it?

But that being said, I do love the way they utilize the Death Star wreckage. It provides tension when trying to get there and makes for an incredible and dramatic setting for the duel between Rey and Kylo Ren as the waves crash around them. Then, fittingly, the waters calm down when Kylo is confronted by the ghost (memory?) of his father, and the evil in him is stilled.

Again, I think I would rate this higher if we were just seeing another part of the same planet from Return, but it’s still a fitting place for this film’s second act. This planet isn’t perfect, but it is memorable.

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