Monday, October 10, 2011

The Legendary Star Wars Heroes


The Acklay

I feel like I’m betraying geeks the world over by putting anything from the prequel films at #1, but the Acklay – largest of several vicious arena beasts from Episode II – was created when George Lucas specifically requested a cross between “a praying mantis and a velociraptor.” If you can conceive of a more impressive predator without your head exploding, you’re probably an alien yourself.

The Sarlacc

Jabba the Hutt is understandably pissed when his Rancor gets put down, but luckily he’s such a bad mofo that he knows an even BIGGER hole with an even WORSE monster to throw people into. Chew on that, Jedi! No, wait, Get chewed on BY that, JERKI! Haha! That’s totally what I’d say if I were Jabba.

So like…anyway…the Sarlacc is a huge, slimy, tooth-lined, freudian orifice out in the desert, lined with squirming tentacles and a snapping CGI beak it spontaneously evolved one day. If that’s not grotesque enough, it supposedly takes over a thousand years to digest its prey and somehow keeps them alive the entire time, an adaptation that makes absolutely zero biological sense but sounds pretty damn ominous. Peripheral Star Wars literature delves into all the disturbing details, with victims going steadily insane as tentacles drill through their flesh in a literal living hell. You have to wonder, though, if Jabba had even MORE back-up monster-holes to execute his prisoners. Increasingly horrible ones. Would you ever even want to see a worse hole than the sarlacc pit? I sure would, but I’m just like that I guess.

The Rancor

Slimy crime boss Jabba the Hutt lives every man’s dream; alien bounty hunters taking his orders, half-naked alien women on leashes and a giant button to drop anyone he doesn’t like down a hole. A hole inhabited by a slobbering, hulking, ravenous flesh-eating beast. With its toothy pug face, reptilian skin and creepy oversized hands, the Rancor is as elegantly simple as a monster can get…the sort of nondescript scaly whatsit we all knew crept out of the closet and watched us sleep when we were five. Luke Skywalker’s encounter with the Rancor is one of the original trilogy’s most suspenseful battle scenes, but best remembered for its almost comical finale – once the beast is crushed under a falling gate, his portly human keeper breaks down sobbing like he just lost a puppy.

The Wampa

Appearing in The Empire Strikes back in only brief glimpses, the Wampa is the dominant predator of the frozen planet Hoth, a huge and hungry cross between a polar bear, a yeti and a mountain goat. What makes this shaggy brute an especially abominable snowman is its habit of hanging prey upside down and still alive from the ceiling of its icy lair, apparently keeping a larder of the freshest meat possible.

Space Slug

When Han and Chewie open fire on the troublemaking Mynocks, the entire slimy “cave” begins to tremble. Leia already notes that the ground is awfully squishy, and you know that nothing good is ever squishy in outer space. The cave is, of course, a living thing – an impossibly vast organism originally referred to only as the “space slug.” The scene is a brief diversion with no impact on the storyline, but the imagery of a spaceship narrowly escaping a gargantuan set of alien jaws is one of the most memorable moments in science fiction cinema, even if it was rather obviously a hand puppet. According to a 2007 Star Wars comic, these monstrosities are properly known as “Exogorths.” Could there possibly be a more suitable name? That thing is PRECISELY what the word “Exogorth” brings to mind.

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