TIME movies

This is Who Andy Serkis Will Play in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

andy serkis avengers london
Anthony Harvey—Getty Images Andy Serkis attends "The Avengers: Age Of Ultron" European premiere at Westfield London on April 21, 2015 in London.

But it opens up even more questions

Andy Serkis is finally connecting some dots for Star Wars fans.

Ever since he was announced as part of The Force Awakens cast, no one has been sure which character would be brought to life by the performance-capture trailblazer, who breathed humanity into inhuman characters such as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes among many others.

Would he be acting via remote control, as he has in his most famous performances, or turning up in the flesh as he did in Avengers: Age of Ultron as the arms dealer who loses an arm, Ulysses Klaue?

Now, by way of a StarWars.com interview with iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz about her recent Vanity Fair shoot for the film, we’ve learned Serkis will portray a being known as Supreme Leader Snoke.

This opens up even more questions. Who – or what – is Supreme Leader Snoke?

The interview offered nothing more beyond his name, alongside an image of Serkis in motion-capture gear.

The only Star Wars reference to anyone named “Snoke” is a background character named Snoke Loroan from the 1992 novel The Lost City of the Jedi, who was a Corellian pilot serving the Rebels. He also apparently died during Return of the Jedi’s Battle of Endor. So basically, not the same guy. (What kind of Supreme Leader would go by his first name anyway?)

Although we haven’t seen Snoke yet, we have heard him as the narrator of the first teaser trailer last November. “There has been an awakening … Have you felt it? The dark side. And the light…”

The voice is ragged and deep, leading some to speculate that it had been warped and altered. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly in December, Serkis said this wasn’t the case. The voice of Supreme Leader Snoke is all organic. “That is the character,” Serkis says. “There’s no digital manipulation. That’s just me.”

Obviously, those few lines from the previous trailer suggest that Snoke is Force sensitive. If he picks up on a disturbance, an awakening, he has ties to a power that goes far beyond military strength. All Serkis could say in his earlier interview was that his character has witnessed and participated in some harsh things during his time in the galaxy. “He’s been through some stuff,” Serkis says.

Speculation time: Has there ever been a “Supreme Leader” who has been a good guy? Sounds like a tyrant, the kind of person whose hobbies include wearing shapeless suits and running North Korea. In the recent trailer, is this Snoke at center stage, off in the distance, surrounded by a battalion of stormtroopers?

Military entourage. Ominous banners. Flattering, loose-fitting attire …

We can’t know for sure just yet, but that’s how a Supreme Leader rolls.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME space

Watch a Superfast Jet of Gas Burst from a Massive Black Hole

It's traveling at 98% the speed of light, from a galaxy 260 million light years away

If you thought the destructive laserlike beams from Star Wars’ Death Star were just a figment of George Lucas’s imagination, think again– beams of energy powerful enough to cross galaxies are real, and the Hubble Space Station just got a video of one.

You’re watching an extragalactic jet of gas traveling at 98% the speed of light, launched from a massive black hole that could weigh a billion times the mass of the sun. The gaseous stream formed by the magnetic fields of the enormous black hole looks almost like a laser, but photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the jet is actually made of multiple globes of material strung together like pearls.

MORE: See The Trailer For TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

When Eileen Meyer of the Space Telescope Science Institute put these images together into a time lapse, she discovered that each globe was rear-ending the one in front of it, creating a shock collision that further accelerates the particles into a beam of radiation, and causes them to brighten.

“Something like this has never been seen before in an extragalactic jet,” Meyer said in a statement. “This will allow us a very rare opportunity to see how the kinetic energy of the collision is dissipated into radiation.”

But this beam of radiation is coming from a host galaxy 260 million light-years away, which means we’re seeing it as it looked before the dinosaurs existed.

TIME movies

Star Wars to Screen in China for First Time Ever

The Shanghai International Film Festival will screen the original six films

Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t open until the end of this year, but moviegoers in China will travel to a galaxy far, far away next month. The country will have its first-ever screening of the six original Star Wars movies.

The 18th Shanghai International Film Festival and Walt Disney Pictures have announced that all six Star Wars films will screen over the course of the festival. Although Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith all debuted in Chinese theaters, this will be the first ever theatrical screening of the original trilogy in China. In a release, SIFF organizers called the series “the greatest sci-fi masterpiece in film history,” saying that they hoped to generate discussion and Chinese interest ahead of the upcoming Force Awakens premiere.

The festival will be held June 13 through June 21.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME viral

This Father-Son Duo Has the Star Wars Cantina Song Down

Relive the theme from the 1977 film

Pianist Brian Lockard and his son teamed up to play an original arrangement of “Cantina Band” from Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), which they posted online Sunday.

Lockard appeared on America’s Got Talent with his brother, Anthony, back in 2009, and has posted several other piano arrangements on his YouTube channel. The cantina theme video is the first to feature his son, who clearly has no problem keeping up with the fast-paced tune.

Watch it below.

TIME Apple

How Apple Influenced the New ‘Star Wars’ Films


Galactic fashion features a dash of Cupertino

Apple seems to have had a hand in dressing the Galactic Empire—at least from a design perspective.

We’re not talking Levi 501s and black mock turtlenecks, as was the signature style of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Rather, Star Wars costume designer, Michael Kaplan, tells Vanity Fair in a Q&A that he channeled the tech giant’s minimalist taste in creating the uniforms worn by characters in the next installment of the blockbuster series.

Kaplan cites a number of inspirations ranging from the Third Reich to the sci-fi classic Blade Runner to Sam Spade, the fictional detective in The Maltese Falcon. But he also gives a nod to Apple. Here’s the relevant bit:

Q. Did you invent some kind of fashion back-story in your head to explain how the look of this galaxy might have evolved?

Maybe subconsciously, but with the stormtroopers it was more of a simplification, almost like, “What would Apple do?” J.J. wanted them to look like stormtroopers at a glance but also be different enough to kind of wow people and get them excited about the new design.

That’s right, stormtroopers.

Earlier this year, a New Yorker profile of Apple’s chief designer Jony Ive mentioned that he had some minor input on the look of a new lightsaber. “Ive once sat next to J. J. Abrams at a boozy dinner party in New York, and made what Abrams recalled as ‘very specific’ suggestions about the design of lightsabres,” journalist Ian Parker writes.

Later, Parker reports that Ive backed off from claiming he had any substantial impact—especially on the subject of the weapon’s contentious cross-guard, the part just above the handle for protecting the hand.

I asked Ive about his contribution. “It was just a conversation,” he said, then explained that, although he’d said nothing about cross guards, he had made a case for unevenness: “I thought it would be interesting if it were less precise, and just a little bit more spitty.” A redesigned weapon could be “more analog and more primitive, and I think, in that way, somehow more ominous.”

It’s worth noting that the influences between Apple and Disney work both ways. One of the faces on the new Apple Watch features Mickey Mouse, after all.

It’s unclear what Apple CEO Tim Cook thinks about his company inspiring the stormtrooper uniforms. For more on the shared influences between Apple and Disney, read Fortune senior writer Michal Lev-Ram’s recent cover story in the magazine: “Disney CEO Bob Iger’s Empire of Tech”.

For everyone else, here’s a gif from Apple’s notorious 1984-style commercial that hints at the Empire’s boys in white.

Courtesy of YouTube.
TIME movies

Madame Tussauds Recreates Famous Star Wars Scenes With Wax Figures

Members of staff put the finishing touches to the wax figure of Star Wars character Chewbacca at the Star Wars At Madame Tussauds attraction in London on May 12, 2015.
Justin Tallis—AFP/Getty Images Members of staff put the finishing touches to the wax figure of Star Wars character Chewbacca at the Star Wars At Madame Tussauds attraction in London on May 12, 2015.

The new exhibit opens May 16

It takes about four months for the Madame Tussauds crew to create life-like wax figures of people. But when you’re recreating entire scenes from Star Wars, including characters like Jabba the Hutt and Chewbacca, it’s a completely different story.

Around 180 wax sculptors, hair stylists and set and prop designers spent more than a year designing the 11 scenes that make up the new Star Wars exhibit, opening May 16 in London, The Guardian reports. The museum says the figures are worth close to $4 million U.S. (or £2.5 million). It took 10 people 1,000 hours to make Chewbacca with yak hair, while Jabba the Hutt’s massive size meant the team had to build the 485-pound alien sculpture in a warehouse. Sculptors even traveled to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch to measure Princess Leia’s iconic bikini.

“We approached Lucas[film] to say we want to create an experience that’s never been done before,” general manager Ben Sweet said.

[The Guardian]

TIME A Year In Space

Star Wars, Tacos and Mice: Life Aboard the Space Station

A quiet evening at home: NASA Tweeted this picture of movie night aboard the space station with the caption "Just watching @starwars. In space. No big deal."
NASA A quiet evening at home: NASA Tweeted this picture of movie night aboard the space station with the caption "Just watching @starwars. In space. No big deal."

You can do a lot of hard science in space—but you need your Earthly luxuries too

Think you’re cool because you hosted a Star Wars-watching party on May 4, a date that is recognized as Star Wars Day? Well, you’re not as cool as you think. Watching Star Wars on May 4 when you’re 250 miles above Earth, orbiting the planet aboard the International Space Station (ISS), now that’s cool. That’s how year-long space travelers Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko, along with the other member of the ISS crew, spent a few hours of downtime on Monday.

The ISS is not without these Earthly grace notes. There were tacos—or the closest approximation of them when you’re using rehydrated food—the next day, in honor of Cinco de Mayo. And there was espresso, thanks to a just-delivered machine—dubbed the ISSpresso—which Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti set up and tried.

“Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised,” she tweeted. “Fresh espresso in the new Zero-G cup! To boldly brew…”

But there’s a lot more than good food and good films happening on the station this week—and, as with every week, much of it involves good science. Take the mouse studies, which are routinely conducted in orbit but take on special importance in the context of the extensive biomedical research that is at the heart of Kelly’s and Kornienko’s marathon stay.

Mice don’t care for being in space—at least it stands to reason they wouldn’t since zero-g can be as hard to manage for them as it is for human beings and they spend a lot of time in their enclosures just trying to gain purchase on something that’s standing still. Conducting experiments on them is harder too, since the last thing you want to do is open a habitat just anywhere and have an escapee drift free and get lost. So mouse enclosures must be anchored on an experimental rack, lights, fans and power connectors have to be engaged, and food bars have to be provided to keep the mice distracted as the work gets underway.

The research focuses on the animals’ skeletal, muscular, immune and cardiovascular systems—all of which can go awry in humans exposed to extended periods in zero-g. But unlike human subjects, mice can be, well, sacrificed and dissected to provide more detailed looks at what’s going on inside them. Other, less lethal sampling like blood draws can also be conducted. Sample extraction is a big part of what the ISS crew-members working on the mouse studies are doing this week, preparing the tissue to be brought home aboard the SpaceX cargo vehicle when it returns to Earth later this month.

Cristoforetti is spending part of her week working on the straightforwardly if unartfully named Skin-B study, which involves analyzing cells and tissue samples to determine why human skin ages so much faster in zero-g than it does on Earth. That should not happen, since much of what causes the ordinary stretching and breakdown of skin is gravity, which is not a factor in space. But what should happen and what does happen are often two different things in science, and Cristoforetti is working to learn why.

The purpose of the work has nothing to do with human appearance. Skin is the body’s largest organ and it pays to know why it suffers so much in zero-g before sending astronauts on missions to Mars that could last more than two years. Both in space and on the ground, what’s learned from Skin-B could also provide insight into the functioning—and malfunctioning—of the body’s other organs, especially the ones lined with epithelial cells, the type of cell that makes up the skin.

American astronaut Terry Virts, the current commander of the ISS, is busying himself in the Japan-built Kibo module, getting ready for the next round of Robot Refueling Mission-2 (RRM-2) exercises. RRM-2 explores ways to repair, upgrade, and refuel satellites in orbit, using robots instead of astronauts to do the dangerous work. Satellite servicing was one of the big selling points of the space shuttle, and while the program as a whole never made that kind of on-call repair visit routine, some of the most impressive of the shuttles’ missions were the maintenance trips astronauts made to the Hubble Space Telescope. This week, Virts will be configuring the Kibo airlock so that the RRM-2 slide table and task boards can be positioned outside by the ISS’s Canada-built robot arm.

Least important to the station’s science objectives perhaps, but most important to its crew, are preparations Kelly and Virts are making to replace the filters that scrub carbon dioxide from the ISS atmosphere. Remember the scene in Apollo 13 in which the astronauts had to figure out how to make a replacement filter from cardboard, plastic bags and duct tape or they would suffocate on their own exhalations? The station crew doesn’t want to have to do that—so Kelly and Virts kind of have to get things right.

That’s the rub about any given week on the space station: the maintenance jobs can be routine—but only until they’re critical. The science can seem arcane—but only until it revolutionizes our knowledge of human biology. Kelly and Kornienko have 52 such weeks to do their otherworldly work, and the other crewmembers have up to six months each. The rest of us have forever to use the knowledge they bring home.

TIME Video Games

Star Wars Is Coming to Disney Infinity

Even characters from The Force Awakens will make it to the game

Toy-game wonks, listen up: Disney’s Infinity video game series will, as rumored, mark its third outing by packing Luke, Han, Leia, Darth Vader and many more into all new Star Wars-themed play sets when version 3.0 arrives for all the current and last-gen consoles, PC and mobile (iOS, Android) platforms this fall. With Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuting this December, I’m sure you’re totally surprised!

Disney, which harbors some of the world’s most iconic entertainment franchises (Star Wars, The Muppets, Marvel, and of course all the core Disney IP), announced Tuesday that Disney Infinity 3.0 will hit this fall. The Star Wars: The Clone Wars-focused starter pack, which includes a “Twilight of the Republic” play set, Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano, will set you back $64.99. That’s a little lower than its typical asking price, says Disney, and all of the 1.0 and 2.0 figures and power discs will be compatible with 3.0.

Disney says it plans to release three Star Wars play sets, the first (above) set during Episodes I-III, the second during the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) and the third, available a bit later this winter, based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In addition to those, expect new 3.0 play sets that tie into Infinity‘s previous Pixar- and Marvel-angled installments, a few tweaks to Toy Box mode (new gameplay types, including racing, platforming and farming) and new characters, including Ultron (The Avengers: Age of Ultron), Sam Flynn and Quorra (Tron: Legacy), Mulan (Mulan) and Olaf (Frozen).

Back to Star Wars, because that’s why you’re here, Disney says that in addition to the Clone Wars-themed “Twilight of the Republic” play set, another dubbed “Rise of the Empire” will check various original trilogy boxes, letting you play as Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca and Vader, pilot X-Wings or the Millennium Falcon in space battles, or poke around planets like Tatooine, Hoth and–wait, sorry, not a planet–Endor.

And that’s just for starters. Disney says to expect more figure and play set announcements in the lead up to the game’s release.

TIME viral

Watch This Giant Star Wars LEGO Super Star Destroyer Crumble in Slow Motion

Witness all the destruction in slow motion

Ever wondered what a Super Star Destroyer looks like as it shatters in slow-motion? Wonder no more. The team at Wired spent 16 hours and $800 building a Super Star Destroyer out of LEGO only to drop it and film it shattering into little pieces. The resulting video—shot at 1,000 frames per second—allows you to experience the destruction in all its brutal detail.

Check out the video above.

MORE Why I’m Giving Into My Feelings This Star Wars Day



TIME movies

This Is Who Lupita Nyong’o Will Play in The New Star Wars

2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals
Anthony Harvey—Getty Images Lupita Nyong'o arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills on Feb. 22, 2015.

That Nyong’o is playing a digital character has long been rumored online

As revealed in the June issue of Vanity Fair, Lupita Nyong’o will play a motion-capture character named Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Per the magazine, Kanata is a pirate with no allegiances to either the Resistance (the new name for the Rebel Alliance) or the First Order (the new Empire).

That Nyong’o is playing a digital character has long been rumored online. As far back as October of last year, sites were reporting that the Oscar-winning star’s secret role might be of the performance-capture variety. After the most recent Force Awakens trailer was released, Uproxx senior writer Mike Ryan also speculated that Nyong’o’s character was in possession of Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber.

The other bits of news confirmed by Vanity Fair:Adam Driver is indeed playing Kylo Ren, the film’s villain, while Gwendoline Christie stars as Captain Phasma, aka the chrome Stromtrooper. New photos of Driver, Nyong’o and co-star Oscar Isaac are available over at Vanity Fair’s website. There’s also a behind-the-scenes video of the magazine’s photo shoot which can be watched below.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

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