There is a great disturbance in the force. The Star Wars The Last Jedi rating is 12 in the UK, PG-13 in the US. Does this mean that Star Wars Episode VIII is not suitable for young kids?
Lightsabers have vastly improved from the Force Beams of my youth.
These were translucent plastic tubes fixed on the end of a red plastic torch with a piece of coloured plastic over the bulb. They only came in Green and Red (despite there being no green sabers until Return of the Jedi), and weren’t even licensed – yet they were so brazen that they not only mentioned Star Wars in their advertising – this ad was on the back of UK Star Wars comics.
Modern lightsaber toys are a much improved product. They have authentic hilts, retractable blades, and flashing lights with saber crackling sounds.
The simple pleasures of these toys are not enough for Hasbro (these toys are also properly licensed now), who have introduced the Blade Builders range, where saber toys can be joined together in increasingly complex and unwieldily forms.
This is the Star Wars BladeBuilders Spin-Action Lightsaber set.
It features a full sized lightsaber toy, a ‘dagger’, two ‘elbow’ joints, and a spinning hilt.
The aim is to basically enable the owner to create their own bizarre Lightsaber configurations. Our daughter is lucky enough to have a few saber toys with the required ‘Blade Builder’ joints, so she put them together. The results were rather difficult for her to manage.
Still, she had fun putting it together and trying to use it. But to be honest, nothing really compares to the joy of staging lightsaber fights of crashing blades with the basic interactive sabers – and trying to do that with one of these contraptions is difficult at best.
As a set, it’s good to have for the extra saber toy, and the light up dagger is nice to. The spinning hilt connector (as seen on Star Wars Rebels) is tricky for a kid to use without the potential for smashed ornaments (well, in a house as compact as ours) but perhaps in a bigger space it would be ok.
Disclosure: Hasbro sent us this product for the purposes of this review
Star Wars Day – May the 4th (be with you) – has become an annual celebration of all things Star Wars. It has also become a day for many of the licensees to promote their own Star Wars products – and we were fortunate enough to receive from Hallmark UK & Ireland a substantial haul of what seems to amount to pretty much every Star Wars product they make!
As a greetings card company, many of these were cards – but like many manufacturers in the gift business they also had some plush toys as well – both little and large. Very large…
Here’s a rundown of the highlights of our haul.
Star Wars Itty Bitty (standard size)
Hallmark Itty Bittys are cute little plush toys, and their Star Wars ones have lots of different characters – from cute Ewoks to fierce bounty hunters. All the main characters are there too. Especially cute was the Han and Leia double pack, on a Millennium Falcon cockpit card backing.
Darth Vader Itty Bitty (Jumbo)
Hallmark told me they were going to include a jumbo Itty Bitty of Darth Vader. We have a few other large Itty Bittys (of Batman and Superman) that are just shy of a foot high, so I figured this would be the same. It isn’t.
This Darth Vader so-called ‘Itty Bitty’ is huge – 2 1/2 feet tall! It has an elasticated ‘belt’ with spaces to hold 6 normal sized Itty Bittys – which looks quite sinister, as if Vader is collecting people as trophies.
Jumbo Vader is now (much to my wife’s displeasure) an established addition to our daughter’s room. She says Vader is standing guard, protecting her against monsters.
Star Wars Greetings cards
We got dozens of different Star Wars greetings cards, which will keep us in good stead for many birthdays of friends and families to come. My favourite is this Yoda one, which has a push out Yoda for the recipient to assemble.
Star Wars Gift Bags
There were also a variety of gift bags, which again will come in handy come gift giving times ahead. However, my favourite was this one featuring classic imagery from the Star Wars Marvel comics of my youth – so I may hang onto this one.
This was a curious one – a Darth Vader bottle shroud. It’s a cardboard cutout to turn your bottle of booze into the Sith lord.
Disclosure: As this article details, we were sent these items free of charge by Hallmark UK & Ireland.
Was Star Wars a book before it was a movie? Yes it was.
Well, kind of. Star Wars, a book by George Lucas, was published in America in 1976. The movie was released in 1977.
But as I’m sure you know, the movie was not based on this book – it was a novelisation of the movie. In fact, it was not even written by Lucas, but ghost written by Alan Dean Foster. He was also the author (credited this time) of the very first Star Wars sequel, Splinter of the Minds Eye.
When I was a child, these novelisations were one of the key ways I engaged with Star Wars movies after seeing them at the cinema. As I look back, it seems amazing that I managed to remain interested in the movies. I’m pretty sure my daughter has seen the original Star Wars trilogy more times at age 5 than I did in my entire childhood. There was no way to watch at home on TV (although there were some 8 minute super-8 film versions for those few who had a projector). We saw the movies at the cinema. That was it.
But that wasn’t enough. So we found other ways to revisit the galaxy far, far away. I played with the toys. I read the comics. And I poured over the novelisations of the movies, which have all been re-published.
Reading them is to remember a time when my fandom was born. The exciting thing about the first book – which I read years after the movie came out – were expanded elements of the story that were ultimately cut like Luke and Biggs friendship and Solo meeting Jabba. Elements of these were reinstated in the special editions.
The Empire Strikes Back novelisation was written by Donald F. Glut, a fellow former film school student like George Lucas. He was a writer who’s credit I saw a few more times in my childhood, on some Spider-Man cartoons and various comics. As these Star Wars books were based on screenplays, and not finished movies, even differences in classic dialogue stands out. For instance, no “I love you,”, “I know.” exchange here, as that was ad-libbed by Ford on set.
Return of the Jedi (by James Kahn) was a book I clearly recall reading before I saw the movie. So, the big revelation of Luke and Leia’s relationship was one I experienced not in the movies, but with my nose in a book at home. This book was also the first time I read how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader – here there is mention of a duel between Obi Wan and Anakin, which ended with Luke’s father falling into lava. My 11-year-old self was pleased that this was later reflected in Revenge of the Sith twenty years later.
These books are now available in a paperback omnibus, and in addition the adaptation of Star Wars has also been re-released in a hardback 40th anniversary edition, featuring the best and most iconic Star Wars poster of all by the Brothers Hillderbrant.
Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope: Official 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition has an RRP of £16.99. Star Wars: Original Trilogy has an RRP of £12.99.
I was sent copies of these books for the purposes of this review.