10/27/2006

Star Wars

Posted in Side Topics at 12:00 pm by Sam

By popular request, I’m opening up a Star Wars thread. It’s funny — the Star Wars movies, especially since the Special Editions and the prequels, are among the most discussed movies of all time. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are the most discussed movies of all time. But that’s what I’m asked to open a thread for.

I’m sure what will be said in this thread has all been said before. Not that I don’t think we can’t potentially devise interesting variations on familiar perspectives. But these conversations do tend to devolve into checklists of opinions on a stock set of issues. Is Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back the best of the series? Is Darth Maul cooler or less cool than Boba Fett? Are the prequels horrible, or completely horrible? Would you rather be handcuffed to Jar Jar or thrown into the Sarlaac pit?

My answers to these sorts of questions tend to land me squarely between two fervent camps, thereby making me an enemy to both. But I’m not an enemy. I’m an island to myself.

For starters, I don’t hate the prequels. They aren’t the equals of the original trilogy either, but hey, they’re fast and colorful. Jar Jar Binks mostly doesn’t annoy me. I like the Ewoks. Darth Maul and Boba Fett are equally cool. Star Wars is the best movie, Empire Strikes Back is the best chapter of the full saga, and Return of the Jedi is the most exciting. I’m critical of Lucas’s recent decisions, but I still accord him respect for his early work, and if he’s lost his edge over the decades, well, most directors do. Buddy Buddy ain’t no Sunset Boulevard, but Billy Wilder is still a great director. Sidney Lumet remade Gloria, but that’s still his name on Dog Day Afternoon.

I do take an extreme side with the special editions: They’re grossly inferior to the theatrical releases. It’s more than the idiocy of Greedo shooting first — a great scene made stupid, for even stupider reasons — it’s mucking with millions of childhoods and burying the memories. If you want to do a Special Edition, do it like Spielberg did with E.T. and sell both versions together.

But when all is said and done, those memories are fixed for life. I saw all three movies in the theater. I still remember the first time I saw Darth Vader’s bent-wing TIE Fighter spiral out of control and my astonishment that he got away. I remember how I marvelled, slackjawed and unblinking, at how those landspeeders wove between the trees in the forests of Endor. I remember seeing Darth Vader lift a man by the neck and being unable to imagine a more terrible display of evil. I remember gazing into his fearsome black eye sockets as the Emperor tortured Luke and how in that moment I could see the buried good in his soul as surely as Luke did.

I saw them at an age when things like movies could be perfect. The Star Wars trilogy was perfect. It still is. Don’t whine to me about Ewoks. Especially don’t whine to me about Ewoks if you weren’t there in 1983, sitting in the darkened theater right when I was, at those same impressionable years when one could be wholly receptive to a grand, fantastic adventure through worlds we could only wish to inhabit.

I miss those days. I don’t think I’d want to return to them, though. I’d never know the joy of Casablanca, the power of Schindler’s List, or the wit of The Player if I hadn’t grown up. But I wish I could visit them now and again. I wish I could immerse myself in something grand like that and not have the occasional rough edge push me back. I love The Lord of the Rings movies, in some ways more than Star Wars, but I wish “Lean forward!” were a line first heard in childhood so it doesn’t strike me as such a silly line now. There isn’t a single second of the original trilogy, pre-SE, that I hadn’t taken into myself to stay before the filters maturity brings showed up between my senses and my soul.

So those stock questions I listed earlier? You know, I just don’t care what the answers are. I got those memories.

15 Comments »

  1. Stephen (221) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    I’m a bit younger than Sam, so I missed SW in the theaters, but the very first movie I remember seeing is “Return of the Jedi” on VHS. The Jabba’s Palace scene scared the heck out of me — especially the Rancor — but I was blown away and made my parents rent the others. It’s one of my strongest memories of early childhood as I must have been only 3 or 4 at the time.

    This is why I’m so bummed that Lucas seems pretty cavalier with the original trilogy. Star Wars isn’t just any old movie; to many of us it’s a key part of our childhood. My mom talks about how exciting it was every year in the days before home video when “Wizard of Oz” would air, and that movie remains a favorite. I would say that movies were the most culturally significant medium of the 20th Century, and it really gets to me that Lucas will not let me have that part of my culture in a format that I and many others want (this is a good reason we need to drastically rework copyright law).

    Heck, I even liked the Ewoks when I was a kid. But I still think I would have liked Wookies even more.

    As for the newer movies, I’m with Sam. I think the prequels are all pretty good, and yes I include “Phantom Menace.” Some of the acting is spotty and the story seems sort of poorly realized, but have any of you seen “Star Wars?” It’s a great movie, though hardly flawless.

  2. Dave (130) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    I’m sort of less interested in discussing Star Wars as cultural icons and more interested in talking about them as movies, and what makes them work despite a lot of roughness that would doom many other movies.

    But before I get into that, hey, let’s talk about the Star Wars films as cultural icons! For me, my first Star Wars film in the theater was Return of the Jedi in 1983. I was nine, and the movie was 100% ruling. I loved the ewoks. I loved the speeder chase. I loved Jabba getting strangled. I loved it *all*, no reservations. It was an amazing spectacle, and it sucked me in and kept me enthralled despite my 9-year-old attention span. And even though I’d never seen the other two movies, I recall somehow knowing most of the story anyway. I’m not sure how. I know one of my cousins filled me in on the “Vader is Luke’s father” thing on the way to the theather, but other than that, I really can’t say how I knew the basic storyline leading up to Jedi. I just did, because I think *everybody* did back then. I don’t remember the first time I saw Empire or A New Hope (and I know the first and only time I got to see those movies in the theater was during the Special Edition releases in 1997) but I sure remember that first viewing of Jedi. It’s part of the reason that although I recognize Empire as a better entry in the saga (and often claim Empire is my favorite of all the Star Wars movies) I still have a huge soft spot for Jedi. Like Sam, I don’t hate the ewoks. I don’t particularly *like* them anymore, but they certainly don’t detract from my enjoyment of Jedi and I don’t have that knee-jerk reaction of “Jedi sucks because of EWOKS” that so many other people have. Jedi doesn’t suck, first of all. It’s a really good movie and a fitting ending to the original trilogy. Ewoks don’t suck, either. I often find myself wishing they were eight foot tall wookies instead, but I’m not so cynical yet that I can’t appreciate the ewoks for what they are–fun little teddy-bear men who bring a little levity to the film and yet manage not suck all the tension and feeling out of the battle they participate in. In fact there’s one scene that still sort of gets me everytime I see it, where two ewoks are running away from some Storm Troopers, and suddenly a laser blast causes them both to fly into the air and tumble to the ground. One of the ewoks pops up soon after, dusts himself off, and goes over to his pal to help him up and encourage him to keep running away. Only the other ewok never gets up, and there’s about a three or four second shot of the first ewok slowly realizing his pal isn’t going to get up. The scene works so amazingly well despite the fact that both actors are covered head to toe in little furry costumes making it impossible to see anything other than big body movements. I believe it’s the only time in Jedi we see an ewok actually get killed, but it’s a great scene precisely because it reminds you that yeah, this is a sort of campy kids movie battle, but people *are* dying, even cute furry ewoks. I remember the scene *really* affecting me when I saw it when I was nine, and it made me see the whole battle in a different light afterwards. And I think, really, that was point.

    Anyway, I have no idea how long of a comment this thing will let me write, so I’m gonna go ahead and stop here and continue with a few other points I want to make in another post.

  3. wintermute (157) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    Just to quote Simon Pegg in Spaced:

    “Jar-Jar makes the Ewoks look like F***ing Shaft!”

    (Simon Pegg is, among his other talents, a massive geek who flew from London to New York with the sole purpose of seeing The Phantom Menace on opening night. Shortly after, in an interview with SFX magazine (I think), he said that the best thing that ever happened to him as a science fiction fan was seeing the TPM trailer, and the worst thing was seeing TPM.)

    Oh, and:

    fun little teddy-bear men who bring a little levity to the film

    Ewoks are evil, vicious, dead-eyed little killers. The rebels arrive on the Forest Moon of Endor, and say to the Ewoks “hey, would you like to help us kill a bunch of people who’ve never done you any harm?”, and the Ewoks are all “Sure, it’d be nice to try out all our deathtraps on someone over 2 feet tall.”

    And Lucas always cut away from the fight scenes just before they sink they sharpened teeth into a semi-conscious stormtrooper…

    Sure, they’re “cute”, in the same way a hungry lion is.

  4. Grishny (156) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    Like Dave, the only one of the original trilogy I saw in a theater was ROTJ. And it’s one of the first films I remember seeing in a theater. I would have been eight years old in 1983, and I think my reactions were pretty much the same as Sam’s. I’m fairly sure I had already seen episode IV, but it was at least four or five years later before I finally got to see Empire.

    My six-year old son is gung-ho crazy over the Star Wars movies, and he’s never seen any of them on the big screen. It really takes me back in time though, when I see how it has captured his imagination. Last weekend he and I watched a movie together, and he got to pick what he wanted… he chose Return of the Jedi, which is his (current) favorite. And after the movie, I told him about how much I had enjoyed the movie when I was a kid, and how I used to ride my bicycle down the steep hills of our neighborhood as fast as I could, and weave back and forth between the manhole covers in the street, pretending they were trees in the forests of Endor and that I was on a speeder bike.

    No, episodes 1-3 aren’t nearly as effective as 4-6. But for me, the “wicked awesome coolness factor” carries over to them from the original films, and I’ve enjoyed them all.

    Now, here’s a question: who is your “coolest character” from the original trilogy versus the new? I’d say Han Solo versus Palpatine.

  5. Dave (130) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Ok, so what really interests me about Star Wars is why the movies work so well (especially the first movie) and why the that original movie caught on like it did despite the fact that it’s essentially nothing more than a fun kids sci-fi romp.

    One thing I found out recently that I didn’t know (being only three in 1977) is that Star Wars was basically an instant hit. I had always assumed for one reason or another that the movie slowly built up by word of mouth over time, and probably took it several weeks to really gain momentum. But it turns out that’s not the case at *all*. Although Star Wars had a small release (even by the standards of the day) it set records right from the start. It was released in 37 theaters for Memorial Day weekend 1977 and it set 36 house records. Although clearly nobody in Hollywood realized it, people wanted to see this movie right from the start, and many many people wanted to see it again and again.

    There’s lots of reasons for this, and I could go on and on about different theories I’ve heard about why people were so attracted to the film, but the two things that I think really made the most difference were that the film was just very different from everything else being made at the time, and Lucas just *knows* how to market and create a “buzz” about a film.

    Students of film history (such as Stephen and Sam) can probably delve deeper into what made Star Wars such a phenomenon initially, but I think perhaps more interesting is why it continued to grow after the initial “buzz” had worn off. Snakes on a Plane had a huge initial “buzz” going for it, but that didn’t sustain it for long and the movie ended up fizzling and dying rather quickly after its initial release. Star Wars didn’t. Why?

    Well, Star Wars had a few things going for it. One was sheer spectacle. Lucas did things in Star Wars that people had never seen before in a movie. His epic space battles, laser gun fights, lightsaber duels, and special effects in general, while slightly cheesy and outdated by today’s standards in some ways, still mostly hold up even in today’s world of CGI effects and completely computer generated characters. I don’t think anything in the three original movies demonstrates the power of what this did for Star Wars better than the opening scene. After the stirring orchestral theme music (more on *that* later) and the opening crawl, the camera pans down to a shot of a planet in space, and a big spaceship flies overhead, while lasers from a still-unseen persuing ship blast at it from behind. This alone was a big deal in 1977, but what happens immediately afterwards is what really grabbed people by the gonads and really hooked them. The front of the persuing ship comes into view, and just gets bigger and bigger until the ship fills the entire top of the screen. And it just keeps coming and coming and you think “Holy *CRAP* that thing is *HUGE*, those other dudes have ZERO chance!” The ship just seems to go on forever, and suddenly you realize that the first ship that you *thought* was pretty big turns out to be *nothing* compared to this thing. By the time the Imperial Star Destroyer passes completely overhead and into the frame, you’re hooked. This is WAY larger-than-life stuff, stuff people had really never seen before in a movie.

    Of course, you don’t get the same effect seeing it on TV. This is one place where I completely agree with Stephen about seeing movies on the big screen, and I really think that when the movie first came out, this scene alone was enough to hook many people into being lifelong Star Wars fans. Even if you were to see it for the first time on the big screen today, I don’t know that it would have the same impact as it had in 1977. First, most people, even if they’ve never seen it, have heard about this famous opening. And even if you could go into it completely cold, and sit in the dark theater and see that thing come overhead without having any idea what was going to happen, I’m still not sure it’d have quite the same effect. Those of us who are adults today have seen a big T-Rex rampaging around in three Jurrasic Park movies, we’ve seen huge UFOs in Independence Day (and there’s a scene in ID4 that is absolutely a direct homage to the famous Star Wars intro scene), we’ve seen any number of huge larger-than-life scenes in tons of blockbuster action adventure movies. But nobody in 1977 had ever seen anything like it before, and the only thing I think I have experienced that *might* compare to what it must have been like was seeing Jurassic Park for the first time. I remember being absolutely stunned by the first shot of the huge dinosaurs roaming around when I first saw that movie, and although Jurassic Park certainly didn’t become quite the cultural icon that Star Wars has, it’s still remembered for groundbreaking special effects and huge “sense of wonder” moments like Star Wars is.

    But special effects only do so much, as I’m sure all of us with our modern sensibilities can tell you. You can draw people in and impress them with special effects, but after people stop talking about the spectacle of it all, if they don’t remember the story and the characters, they’ll soon forget about the movie. Films like Independence Day ultimately fail because I can’t name a single character in them or tell you how I felt about any of them. But if I say Han, Luke, and Leia, you know who I’m talking about instantly–proof that those characters ended up being memorable.

    What makes the characters memorable isn’t so much what they do or what they say (although certainly everybody can quote famous lines from the movies and can recall vividly certain pivotal scenes) but how they interact with each other. And for my money, the character of Han Solo and the acting performance turned in by Harrison Ford in that role is perhaps the glue that holds the entire trilogy together in many respects. In fact, the biggest problem with the prequel trilogy is the complete *lack* of an analogous character. Luke and Leia are both very serious characters. They both are very earnest and very much believe in what they’re doing. Two characters like these have a hard time interacting in interesting and stimulating ways because they just end up being so serious and earnest and mostly would just end up agreeing with each other all the time, and like much of the prequel trilogy, the dialogue would probably feel wooden and uninteresting. But when you throw the Han Solo character into the mix, you get a foil for the serious, earnest Luke and Leia. You have a character who is initially in it only for himself and for the money, and doesn’t much care about anything else. He’s hardly ever serious about anything, he wisecracks constantly, he brags, he boasts, he quips, and basically is everything Luke and Leia are *not*. But it’s wrong to think of Han as just a “comic relief” character–the droids are very much “comic relief” characters, and they act in that capacity very well in the original trilogy. Han is very much a main character who brings some levity to the otherwise serious situations they find themselves in, and who acts as a sparring partner for both Luke and Leia, resulting in interesting character interactions and development we just wouldn’t get otherwise. The tensions between Luke and Han in the first movie over the affections of Leia, the tension between Han and Leia as their romance develops later on in Empire and Jedi, the interplay between the three of them, that is what serves to develop the characters more than anything else. We learn the most about the main characters from seeing them interact with Han Solo.

    More important to me than the Han character himself, though, is perhaps the job Harrison Ford does in portraying him effectively in the movies. It’s fairly well known that Ford often refused to perform whatever dialogue Lucas had written up for him and instead ad-libbed his own lines. His famous quip “George, you can write this s$#@, but you can’t say it!” is trotted out whenever people want to bash Lucas for his poor dialogue writing skills. But it’s pretty clear at least to me that Ford got a feel for who Han was and how he should be portrayed and ran with that. Another actor just mindlessly performing whatever was written for him wouldn’t have brought the Han character to life in the same way.

    The last thing that I think really made Star Wars into the cultural icon it is today is the music. I argued with Stephen in another thread that art is best when it’s subtle, but I’ll be the first to admit that the music in Star Wars is anything but subtle, and yet is a big part of what makes the movie and the series work so well. The soundtrack tells you *exactly* how you’re supposed to feel at every given point in the film. But the music is so well done and so memorable, you never really think about that until it’s over. You suddenly realize you were being totally manipulated by the score to react in the “proper” fashion–just think about the final bit of the Battle of Yavin without the score, if you can. It’s just Luke flying down a trench. Vader is on his butt, firing away, and it keeps cutting between Luke and Vader and the rebels back at the base. This would get old pretty quick I think, without the musical cues. The music is building to a harsh, pounding climax all the way through this scene, and just as it reaches a huge climax, it suddenly breaks down to a quiet, almost calm bit and the voice of Obi-Wan is heard imploring Luke to use the Force. This isn’t even the climax of the scene–Luke doesn’t fire his torpedoes for another ten or twenty seconds or so. But just as Obi-Wan seeks to focus Luke and calm him down enough to trust his abilities, so too does the music seek to focus the audience on what is about to happen. It’s a riveting scene not just for what is going on onscreen storywise, but also because the music continually serves to direct your emotions. Some might consider this cheap manipulation, but my opinion is that the score is just so memorably good just by itself (what Star Wars fan *can’t* hum the main theme, or the Imperial March?) and stupidly good at what it was intended to do, so I certainly can’t fault it for succeeding in manipulating my emotions.

    I certainly have other thoughts about the movies, and could probably go on all day, but I think I’ve said enough about this topic for now. These things (sheer spectacle, Han Solo/characters in general, musical score) are what I think had the most to do with the the lasting popularity of Star Wars, and what helped make what could have easily been a huge bomb and a forgotton “kids picture” into the massive success story it is today.

  6. Dave (130) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 4:20 pm

    Here’s a realization I had while watching Jedi again the other night. There’s a few scenes on Endor where Han and Leia are talking in the Ewok village. One scene in particular I remember they are having a serious discussion while one Ewok continually crawls over Han’s legs and gets in the way.

    I watched that, and realized it didn’t distract me from the scene at all. Then I thought “Hey, most of the reason I hated Jar Jar in Episode I was because I felt his silly antics distracted from the seriousness of the other stuff that was going on. I wonder if I watched it again if I’d feel differently now somehow?”

    I only saw Phantom Menace once, I think. I’ve seen Jedi probably a dozen times at least. It could be that Jar-Jar really IS just that much more annoying and distracting than any Ewok could be, but I now want to rewatch Phantom Menace and see if I am less distracted by his silliness in light of this somewhat new realization that the Ewoks really weren’t so bad afterall…

  7. Sam (405) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    I can’t believe I didn’t mention the opening to Star Wars in my post. Definitely that was one of the things — well, the first, obviously — that impressed me about the movie. That spaceship just went ON and ON and ON and ON. Seconds into the movie, it’s already inspiring me and showing me things I’d never seen before.

    I agree with everything you said about how the special effects, while spectacular in and of themselves, wouldn’t have made the movie a cultural icon without the sheer fun behind the interplay of the characters. But while we’re on the subject of that opening shot of the Star Destroyer, let me make a distinction here between the simple fact of the great special effects and their use in the movie.

    Because it’s one thing to have great special effects. That’s a technical exercise that sometimes requires some resourcefulness (like using a shoe for an asteroid, because you don’t have enough models), but giving them impact beyond the spectacle requires something more. Imagine the opening of Star Wars as it would have been if it had panned down from the opening crawl and shown the Star Destroyer all at once. We’d have been impressed, sure. It still would have been unlike anything moviegoing audiences had ever seen. It still would have captured people’s imaginations. But once the effect wears off, it’s over.

    Now I refer back to your detailed description of how the scene actually plays out. Some ships come into view that seem big, and then the Star Destroyer inches into the frame, and we realize that THIS is the big ship. And it goes on…and on…and my goodness, does this thing ever end? It’s huge!

    The absolutely brilliant filmmaking skills on display here take the spectacle of the special effects and infuse them with dramatic weight. The movie toys with our expectations, showing us one impressive thing and THEN laying down the ace in the hole. Moreover, we’re already being kicked into the narrative. The Star Destroyer isn’t just an effect, but an important part of the telling of this story.

    And that’s why we really remember that opening. An effect for the sake of an effect just would have been a historical curiosity, but the effects in Star Wars have the dramatic impact behind them to make them truly memorable.

  8. Dave (130) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    Grishny: I think you bring up something that so many people miss these days–these movies were made for kids to enjoy. If adults enjoy them too, then that’s a big plus for Lucas, but he very specifically set out to make a neato science fiction film for kids. Too many of the fans today approached the sequels somehow thinking the original trilogy was more mature and less kidsy than it really was, and were somehow surprised to see Lucas putting “kid stuff” like Jar-Jar into Star Wars.

    I can’t remember where, but I read a comment once about the prequels that said something like “When Lucas said ‘Every generation has a legend’ in the tagline to The Phantom Menace, he wasn’t talking about generation X!” He made those movies for the new generation of kids, and from what I can tell, every one of them who had any prediliction towards liking such movies in the first place *loves* them. So while yes, they could have been stronger in many ways and appealed more to adults while still appealing to children, I always find it strange when people complain that they’re too “kiddy.” They’re KID’S MOVIES for crying out loud. It’s like saying the Harry Potter books or movies are too kiddy. Sheesh.

    And my favorite character from the original trilogy was definitely Darth Vader. I was way bummed out when he died at the end of Jedi, and not because he was Luke’s dad either. I was sad that such a great character obviously wasn’t going to come back for any subsequent movies. Of course, little did I know then that I’d have to wait almost 20 years for any new Star Wars movies anyway.

  9. Nyperold (116) said,

    October 27, 2006 at 9:45 pm

    Gimme Jar-Jar anyday. He may be annoying, but meesa thinks being slowly digested alive would be much more unpleasant. :-)

    So. Yes. My first time seeing the movies through was when they released the box set on DVD. So it was small screen (widescreen version, of course, but still small screen), and had Greedo shooting first, and the lightsaber flubs, and that one Jabba scene, and the Twi’lek song-and-dance number, and the Hayden C. force ghost, and, and, and. And I’m satisfied with that. Unless (maybe even if) these things actually break, I don’t think I’ll be spending money on any new versions that come out, even if they make an edition which lets you decide which “enhancements” to play and which to not.

    Of course, I’m the one who will come out and say that reports of Jar-Jar’s badness are greatly exaggerated. (Exaggerated disdain? On the internet?!? What is this world coming to?!? ;-) )

    As I said in chat, one of the most effective scenes from I-III was when Anakin breathed through his helmet’s respirator for the first time. Ooh, chills. (Of course, his “NOOOOOOO!” scene comes not long after…)

  10. Stephen (221) said,

    October 28, 2006 at 12:33 am

    I was with Lucas on his “They’re for kids!” argument except that it doesn’t really hold for the storyline of the new trilogy.

    How many people can actually explain what the heck is going on Phantom Menace? I can, but I’m also a huge nerd who saw the movie three times in its first 72 hours. There’s a fairly complicated political storyline at work that’s all about how a minor taxation and trade dispute leads to the downfall of the Republic. The entire new trilogy is peppered with serious political allegory that is clearly aimed at a more mature audience. Sith is rated PG-13, for instance, and is significantly darker than even Empire.

    I’m not one of those people who thinks kids can’t handle dark storylines, but the plot of the prequels feels a lot more mature than the plot of the originals. In fact, I think that’s a real problem in the prequels: the Ewoks work OK in the silly world of Jedi, but Jar-Jar does not work in the more serious world of the new trilogy.

    Dave mentions the lack of a Han Solo character in the prequels, and I think it’s a symptom of this generally more serious world view. In Star Wars and Jedi (a little less so in Empire) most of the silliness seems to come naturally from the universe, with its fantastic locales and strange characters. There’s no real nuance to the story: even Vader’s evil/redemption act is very surface level. It feels to me like the prequels try to treat everything more seriously, but then Lucas tries to inject silliness just to lighten the mood and the juxtaposition hurts everything.

    On a somewhat related note, the author Neal Stephenson wrote a great piece on the Op/Ed page of the NYT when Sith was released, asking if anybody really understood what was happening at the beginning of the movie (basically wondering if anyone really knew who had “captured” Palpatine). He said he knew, but that was because he had The Clone Wars cartoons and read a bunch of supplementary materials, but most people never really understood who Count Dooku or General Grievous or the Trade Federation were or what the separatist movement is all about, because the movies never really explain it.

    In the late ’70s/early ’80s of the original trilogy, there was (almost) no supplementary materal and so everything was in the films. The market for expanded material — one Lucas pretty much created — has harmed more than one big franchise (if you want any hope of understanding the Matrix trilogy, you have to also watch the Animatrix shorts and play the crappy Enter The Matrix videogame).

  11. Darien (88) said,

    October 28, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Like Stephen, Return of the Jedi is the first movie I remember seeing, and I loved it. Even after all these years, the ewoks have never once bothered me - they’re cute and cuddly and silly, sure, but the whole of all three movies (okay, not the last half of Empire, but everything *else*) has always struck me as a bit on the cute-cuddly-silly side. I guess they always just seemed to belong.

    My favourite character is and always has been Lando Calrissian. He’s just so shady and sleazy and clearly survives on wits and charisma more often than because he has right *or* might on his side.

    I think one of the things that always impressed me about Star Wars is that it’s not just a tale of a handful of superheroes fighting each other - these are genuine armies with tons and tons of grunts and conscripts, and we actually see those people performing their duties. The Emperor is a big bad evil voodoo hoodoo nutjob, sure. But he couldn’t perform his planet-destroying hijinks without all the clerical workers and technicians and stormtroopers and whatnot, and they’re not just implied. We see them. And more than that, we see them actually *doing* things - whenever the Death Star fires its giant evil space laser, it’s not just a cut from the Emperor or Vader looking evil to the laser firing. We get shots in the middle of all the dudes on the Death Star working at their consoles preparing the thing to fire. It’s a very complete and believable picture of how something like this could be.

  12. Darien (88) said,

    October 28, 2006 at 1:47 am

    Related note - tangent really - is that, when the Death Star is destroyed, a *lot* of people are killed as a result. The movie totally shies away from dealing with this (sensible, since it’s an adventure flick for kids and not a weighty morality play), just treating it as “the Death Star would have killed way more people if we didn’t blow it up, so it was justified.” But all those people we see - all the clerks and technicians and whatnot, along with plenty of people who are definitely there but unseen, like janitors - they all die. And the movie doesn’t shy away from that; no escape pods are seen or detected or anything, no lame speeches about how they destroyed it but “I’m sure the dudes are okay.”

    Interestingly, Timothy McVeigh rather famously related the Oklahoma City bombing to the destruction of the Death Star - lots of people lost their lives who weren’t really evil, but they were all working for the Evil Empire, and so their deaths were justified.

  13. Dave (130) said,

    October 28, 2006 at 2:55 am

    Stephen: You could be right about the prequels being (or attempting to be) more weighty than the originals. I think I’ve already said I haven’t watched the prequels nearly as many times as I have the original trilogy, so I’m not really in much of a position to talk about them. All I know is the over-abundance of seriousness is *definitely* a problem with the movies, and I think a Han Solo type character would have helped with that. But honestly, everything is just so dang serious in those movies, I’m not sure where a Solo-like character would even fit in. I said something to Sam earlier today about thinking that Samuel L Jackson would have been much better suited to a Han or Lando type character than the stoic Jedi character he plays (I love Mace Windu, but I always felt SLJ was almost wasted in that role). But as I said, I just don’t see where one fits into the storyline. The story centers around the Jedi, and there’s like fixty billion Jedi in the movies, and they’re all super serious and stodgy and rigid–the only one who *isn’t* is Anakin, and of course we all know what happens to him.

    As for not understanding what’s going on in the beginning of Sith without the supplementary materials–I never really saw that as a problem. I’m not sure I really understood who Grievous was and how he captured Palpatine, but I wasn’t sure it mattered, either. It’s Star Wars. The crawl tells you what happened, and you go with it. And what’s not to undestand about separatists? They want to leave the Republic. That seems pretty self explanatory to me.

    There may not have been much Expanded Universe stuff back in the day, but you remember how Jedi opens, right? Luke shows up at Jabba’s palace with inexplicable new force powers, proceeds to bust out a green lightsaber we’ve never seen before and kick ass. Where’d he learn those new powers? Did he go back to Yoda? Where’d that new lightsaber come from? It’s not until almost the very END of the movie that we find out the answer to that one. Lucas just kind of skipped over a lot of stuff there, clearly.

  14. Darien (88) said,

    October 28, 2006 at 2:55 am

    Dave’s pointed out that, due to poor wording on my part, I sound like I’m contradicting myself. What I mean is that the movie doesn’t try to back away from all those people getting killed or pretend like it doesn’t happen, but that the movie DOES ignore any ethical considerations that would raise.

  15. Darien (88) said,

    October 29, 2006 at 1:09 am

    While we’re on the subject of the prequels seeming more “mature” than the original series, I wonder if that’s perhaps because of the CG. A lot of stuff in the original trilogy is hard to take seriously because, frankly, it’s muppets, and muppets are just silly by default. The CG in the new films probably has less of the “cute cuddly kiddie” feel to it than muppets do.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.