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Archived News
April 2005
Week 1

Friday April 01, 2005
Homing Beacon #132

The latest issue of the Homing Beacon has arrived and in this issue we get to talk about the planets of Episode III part 3! You can see the first part from Homing Beacon #129 here and the second part from Homing Beacon #131 here. Revenge of the Sith showcases more planets than any Star Wars film that has come previously, more planets than all the previous Star Wars films combined. The scale of the Star Wars finale is so enormous that it stretches from the heart of the Republic to the wispiest reaches of the Outer Rim. To better orient yourself in galaxy far, far away, here's a brief introduction to some of the planets to be found in Episode III.

Polis Massa. It's a sign of desperate times if a chaotic asteroid field must become a refuge. Han Solo was forced to hide in the tumbling rocks next to the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. In Revenge of the Sith, it's Jedi fugitives that come to hide at the Polis Massa colony, a remote outpost based in an asteroid field.

More sedate than the deadly storm of debris seen in Episode V, the Polis Massa field serves as a backdrop, not an ingredient in an action set piece. The scenes that take place there are set within a sealed and modern facility, realized as both a practical set during principal photography and a miniature observation dome. Here, we'll meet the Polis Massans, oddly faceless aliens created as computer-generated characters.

Saleucami. During the early development of Episode III, a Clone Wars montage of alien worlds was to start the movie, as seven different battles on seven different planets dissolved from one to another. This direction was abandoned early, but the concept art that explored these planets was re-used for another part of the film.

The arid world of Saleucami, marked by scattered oases of verdant growth, has just fallen to the Republic. Jedi General Stass Allie still patrols the wilderness, looking for pockets of Separatists forces that may be in hiding. In Episode III, we'll see her leading a team of clone troopers on BARC speeder bikes.

Tatooine. No Star Wars fan should need an introduction to this world. Tatooine is at the heart of the saga, being the cradle of the Skywalker family. As is to be expected, the twin-sunned desert planet will once again appear, as will the Lars Homestead moisture farm, as the foundation of the original Star Wars trilogy is laid by the final acts of Episode III.

A trip to Tunisia was not part of the Episode III production itinerary. Plate photography of the Tunisian environment was gathered during the production of Episode II, and was combined with greenscreen footage of the actors involved to bring to saga to a close.

Utapau. The name Utapau has been lurking in the early draft scripts of Star Wars since the mid-1970s. It was first going to be the name of Tatooine in Episode IV. It was then almost the name used for Naboo in Episode I. Now, finally, Writer/Director George Lucas gets to use that name to describe a planet, a new sinkhole world in Episode III.

From the surface, Utapau looks like a flat, windswept world, but get closer, and you soon see that it is riddled with enormous sinkholes. Lining the inner edge of these huge pits are cities. It is in one of these sinkhole cities that General Grievous and the Separatist Council keep their secret headquarters. Obi-Wan Kenobi voyages to Utapau in a mission to seek out and stop the General, to bring an end to the Clone Wars.

Utapau is an entirely synthetic environment. It is a mixture of huge miniatures depicting the sinkhole, walls and building-lined avenues, as well as digital matte paintings. Utapau is home to two native sentient species, as well as a host of loyal and helpful lizard creatures -- like the wall-climbing varactyls and flying dactillions that are both used as mounts.

Posted by: Jedi Power