War in the Heavens
War in the Heavens is an extremely successful moving picture series produced in the NAL but popular the world over. They were clearly inspired by Jacques Cartier of Mars but also draw upon classic myth and film genres. They have also been milestones in the history of special effects. Five films of a projected seven have been produced to date. The director and creator of the WITH is George Lukas, but after the fourth film he has increasingly served as a producer, supervising the franchise rather that personally directing it.
In essence the films tell an epic fantasy, in some ways akin to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or perhaps Wagner's Ring cycle. Some critics dismiss the films as mindless escapism while others praise it as a return to mythic storytelling. Certainly the films have introduced a new icongraphy into modern culture. Phrases such as "Darkness, the holy twin of light" and "You ARE the weapon we seek" and "Far from the memories of men..." have become commonplace. Likewise political cartoons often use images from the films, including the distinctive costuming of the main villain, Ro Azell (just as adding "Ro" to someone's name has become a codeword for calling someone evil).
Originally, the first film of the series was simply called Wars in the Heavens but during production of the third film, its title was changed for any future releases, including any on video. Currently the titles and storylines are:
- Second Son (1981) Moze is a hard-working young man who lives on an idyllic world, tending the gardens which are his people's pride. Unlike most, however, he is fascinated by the legends of the Serefs--a winged race who once ruled the galaxy with peace and wisdom. His best friend Paer makes fun of him for this, until strange soldiers invade the garden-world of Florea. A strange young woman named Lijah shows up, able to combat the invaders with powers of her own, and she says the soldiers (and herself) are Nafeels, the hybrid offspring of the long-vanished Serefs. Many Nafeels have united under an Emperor and seek to conquer all of known space. But her biggest news is that young Paer is adopted and is a Nafeel himself. Only by unlocking his powers can he hope to defend his home. Yet that is only the beginning...
(Note: The title "Second Son" is not explained until the third movie)
- Dark Imperium (1984) The second film of the franchise continued the adventures of Moze, Paer and Lijah but now introduced for the first time a recurring villain, a figure merely mentioned in the first. This was Ro Azell, possibly the last Seref still living and a deadly fighter with enormous powers at his disposal. He is not the Emperor of the Nafeels seeking to create an empire, however, but a servant. Much of the action takes place on a frigid realm called Boreala, where rebel Nafeels the Imperium means to wipe out are in hiding. Much was made at the time of how Azell's robes, his staff and his wings harkened to SNOR imagery.
- Bright Revenge (1988) shows the confrontation between Moze and his brother, Ro Darm the young Emperor upon the wind-swept deserts of the planet Ofar. Because in the end Moze refuses to kill his brother, who is instead slain by Ro Azell, the Imperial Guards proclaim Moze Emperor. However, Ro Azell escapes. Meanwhile, Lijah and Paer finally admit they love one another.
- Shadow Rising (1992) deals with the search for Ro Azell, who has found a powerful apprentice in Moze's foster brother Saim. In the end, a full scale civil war breaks out as Ro Saim kills and steals the powers of a young Nafeel. Much of the action in this film takes place on the eerie ocean world of Thanatir.
- Burning Darkness (1997) While Emperor Moze seeks to reform the Empire from the city-world of Darlysia, he is unaware that his foster brother is now Ro Saim and is helping the rebels led by Ro Azell. Paer discovers a prophecy that seems to be coming true about a "dance of light and darkness" bringing to an end this age of time.
- Winter White is scheduled to premiere for Summer, 2008. According to press releases, it features a return to the ice world Broeala. rumored to be the homeworld of Ro Azell himself. The part of Lijah will no longer be played by Natalia Potter but instead by Keisha Knight.
- Dance of Light and Darkness (projected title)
WITH has proven immensely popular, so that even the least successful films qualify as mega-blockbusters. The merchandising based on the films--shirts, toys, collectibles of all kinds--is a billion-pound industry and made George Lukas a millionaire as well as filling the bank accounts of Metropolitan Moving Pictures.
Because the copyright for WITH is jointly owned by both Lukas and MMP, the two have had to agree on any official offshoots from the movies. These have been several, including three ongoing titles with Chicago Press and over twenty novels set in the WITH universe.
Lukas has taken the "official" view that such authorized novels are in fact historical fiction set in the WITH cosmos, essentially correct in outline but not "canon."
During the long wait between Burning Darkness and Winter White, the original cast reprised their roles in an expanded radio miniseries also titled War in the Heavens, which essentially retold the first three films in a new medium.
An animated television series is rumored to be in development, a kind of "prequel" (expected to debut sometime in 2007) has been announced as The Remnant Zone.