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Our Fault, Not George's?
xhonzi said:
Vaderisnothayden said:

And back in the old days I wanted new Star Wars films like most people. I didn't realize Lucas was going to (as I see it) go out of his way to make them bad movies. In retrospect I realize I should have been happy with just 3, but who knew? After the awfulnes of the SE we should have seen the writing on the wall, but before that?

As for ROTJ bashing, that will never fail to bewilder me. ROTJ is a great movie, the equal of the other two, and it has some of the best stuff in the trilogy.


 Some of the best of the trilogy and also some of the worst.  I don't need to go into detail here, but if the SE's were the writing on the wall, RotJ was George walking up to the wall, checking it for writability and considering just what he might put on it.

xhonzi - bravo on that last bit, very well-said.

ROTJ is not bad on the scale of the SEs or the PT, but you can see the beginnings of the infection beginning to fester.  Especially after the bleak, brutal ending of ESB, the way the whole Han/Jabba storyline is wrapped up in a very cartoonish fashion really grates.  Also, you can already see Lucas going back and redoing the bits of ANH that he was unsatisfied with, both with the "faster, more intense" space battle, and the overdone nature of Jabba's palace.  It just gets worse in the SEs and the PT.

VINH - you make a lot of good points in this thread, but I think you give ROTJ a pass it doesn't deserve.  It is, on balance, a decent movie, and it does wrap things up in a relatively satisfying (if too pat) way, but its flaws are major and definitely point the way to some of the major problems with the tone of the prequels.

A couple major issues:

1)  You've never noticed the belches and Tarzan yell? Really?  These are obvious precursors to JJB stepping in poodoo in TPM, and I honestly can't believe you didn't notice the obvious nods to what Lucas believes a 6-year-old will find funny, and his wrong-headed belief that they had any place in a Star Wars movie.

2)  Jabba's palace is not brilliant in any way beyond the design of the aliens and the environment.  It's supposed to feel threatening, but instead comes off as a big cartoon - the aliens (particularly the large ones - Ephant Mon, Hermi Odle) are nicely-designed, but they're totally anonymous in action, and never feel like a threat to the main characters.  Even though Luke's lightsaber mysteriously turns into a baseball bat when asked to slice through organic material, the denizens of Jabba's palace exist primarily so they can laugh cartoonishly and die in the explosion.

3)  The Ewoks - yes, they are more threatening than usually given credit for, but the character design (admittedly limited by the technology of the time) is clearly driven a bit too much by marketing considerations.  There's nothing about their physical appearance that denotes "fierceness" in any way, and again, the cartoonish nature of the combat in the movie undermines any impression of it, regardless.

It's been pretty firmly established that Lucas hated the lack of control he exercised over Kershner on ESB, going so far as to do a radical re-cut of the movie that everybody agreed was a major step backwards.  After ESB established "Star Wars" as a brand, however, and got Lucas out of the Hollywood wars, he did everything he could to control the brand in ROTJ and remove any potentially-objectionable elements that were allowed in the first two movies (more realistic violence, etc) in order to make the movie more palatable to the parents of younger children.

ROTJ may have had some of the successful elements of the earlier movies, but it also continues the "incredible shrinking galaxy" issue that began with "I am your father" in ESB, and cements it with its repeated lack of originality (back to Tatooine, redo the cantina, attack a new Death Star, etc).  More importantly for future developments, the way that Lucas chose to change the tone of the movie pointed to the further changes he would later make in the SEs, and the lamentable direction he would decide to go with the Prequels.  In my ranking of the episodes, it's clearly a poor third to ESB and ANH, but still far, far better than any of the prequels (the very definition of damning with faint praise, I'm afraid).

Abrams is Destroying Star Trek like Lucas has Destroyed Star Wars

Saw this yesterday with my fiancee, and we both loved it.  I never loved TOS - I was 10 when Star Wars came out, had never seen TOS at the time, and could just never get past the cheesiness of TOS (I was a kid, what can I say?).  Liked some of the movies (II, III, IV, VI), never a regular watcher of the other series, though I caught the occasional episode.

The beauty of a "reboot" is it allows them to utilize affection for the original characters and milieu, without being bound to them.  I loved the pause as Kirk came onto the bridge at the end of the movie - felt just like Shatner's character, but different at the same time, and free to go off in a different direction.  Would go see a sequel tomorrow, if possible.

Gads, I wish somebody had the ability to reboot Star Wars - it needs it desperately.

Crystall Skull has GL's fingerprints all over it
Personally, I enjoyed KotCS quite a bit, and didn't find it too jarringly different from the earlier movies (it's certainly better than ToD, which I re-watched a few days before seeing KotCS in the theater - that movie is just an abomination). While there is some CG in KotCS, I didn't find it too distracting. The only real disappointment for me is that we only saw a few cracks in Harrison's "made of stone" persona that's developed over the last 15 years, rather than a return to the lightness and humor he had when he was younger.

Also, I'd like to commend Octorox on his maturity, especially for his age - we could all learn a lot from his conciliatory, diplomatic, and well-reasoned reply to the rebuttals that followed his initial post in this thread. So, welcome to the board, Octorox - I look forward to seeing more posts from you.
opinions - how the release of the original to theatres was different than the new three films.
I was 10 years old in 1977, and my world was changing in many ways. In the summer of '77, my parents sold the house we'd lived in since before I learned to walk, and we moved a few miles to a different town (this was all in suburban Detroit). My paternal grandfather died that summer, and my parents were always occupied with the new house. I went to a new school in September, and it came equipped with My Own Personal Bully, so that was nice.

During this time, I kept hearing about this amazing movie that was in theaters called "Star Wars". Sometime during the summer, playing with my cousins at my great aunt and uncle's house, they told me the basic storyline, and we ran around playing "Star Wars" all evening. While it didn't feel like it at the time, the new house was really stretching our family budget, so we never went to the movies that summer. We actually waited until October, and my sister's birthday, when my parents offered her the option of dinner at a restaurant, or going to see "Star Wars". Thankfully, she chose the latter :)

Think about that for a minute - "Star Wars" was initially released on a few screens in late May, and I didn't see it until five months later. "Star Wars" was still playing in some theaters a year after it was first released. Five months after it was released, you still had to show up and get in a mammoth line to buy tickets, not knowing (in many cases) which showtime you'd get in for. Also, for almost a year after it was released, there just wasn't much *stuff* to buy if you were a "Star Wars"-mad kid. There were trading cards, and comic books, and the novelization, and cheap t-shirts, but there were NO TOYS. Nobody thought the movie would be anything special, so the toy license was sold, very late, to Kenner, and they weren't even able to get toys out for Christmas, leading to the famous "empty box" Early Bird kit, which had a display stand for the original 12 action figures, some stickers, and a certificate to send in for the first four figures (Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and Chewbacca - no bad guys!).

So, we finally saw "Star Wars" in October '77, and when the small ship and the REALLY, REALLY BIG ship passed overhead (nobody knew what they were called back then), the world changed again. Here was a fully-realized world, as big as my imagination, and it seemed so open and limitless. Given everything else that was going on in my life (taken away from school and friends, getting picked on at the new school, etc), I latched on hard to this galaxy "far, far away", and it remained a constant in my life for the next three decades.

When "Empire" came out in 1980, a group of friends and I were driven to the theater by somebody's parents, but we were unable to get in to the show we wanted, so we had to buy tickets for a later show. This happened again a couple weeks later! When "Jedi" came out in 1983, my mom actually called the school to say I was sick the day after it opened, and took me to see it on a Thursday morning, to avoid the crowds.

I won't dwell too much on the prequels. Like Anchorhead, I have very fond memories of being part of the original "Star Wars Generation", though my fondness for it extends a bit further, right up until Darth Vader reveals his identity in "Empire". From that point on, the limitless place that I fell in love with in '77 started to shrink, and has continued to do so ever since. What had seemed like a place that could contain unlimited stories has finally revealed itself to be unable to support the one story its creator decided to tell, and that's disappointing. However, there's no denying that the experience of being there 30 years ago was magical, and I'm glad I was there for it.
Further proof GL has lost his mind... Clone Wars
I could have been clearer, I suppose, and will admit that I'm not terribly current when it comes to games. On reflection, what I was trying to get at is the contrast between "The Force Unleashed" and something like "Dark Forces". The development of Force powers in this type of Star Wars game (either first person, or third) tracks very closely with the technological advancements in gaming.

In the original Dark Forces, the player isn't a Force user, so it's all running/shooting/solving puzzles. As that series progressed over the years, Force powers became more central to the game and story.

Now, with "The Force Unleashed", the Force powers are not only center-stage, but are exaggerated beyond anything seen before, even in the PT. I'm not saying that the story won't be compelling, but I think it's telling that the video that was released on the day that the game's release date was announced focuses overwhelmingly on how POWERFUL the player will feel, along with lots of video of the massively destructive powers the player will have.

I just think it's interesting that, much as with the Star Wars movies, the focus of the story shifts as the technology available to the creative team grows in capability. This also ties in with Zombie84's comment about "not being a Star Wars fan any more" because the feel of what is now considered "Star Wars" is so different from what we loved about the early days of the OT. I happen to agree very strongly with that viewpoint, and I have some additional thoughts on that, but need to chew on them a bit more before posting.

Further proof GL has lost his mind... Clone Wars
zombie84 said:

With the Clone Wars on Tatooine, and Anakin partaking in the mission, it seems he really does. Its not that its bad that its made up as they go, just that it never stays consistent or within the same series. As far as I'm concerned I'm not really a Star Wars fan anymore because what is currently considered "Star Wars" is an entirely different franchise from the one I fell in love with. Not in a metaphorica, philosophical sense, but in a literal sense, the story and characters are different and exist in this weird alternate universe that bears a vague resemblance to that older series but is really a seperate remake of sorts.

Just to expound on this them a bit more, has everybody seen the new "Force Unleashed" video from last week, where the developers talk about the different experiences on each "platform" (Wii, PS2, PS3, DS, PSP)? It's here:

They talk a lot about recreating scenes from the OT, but with the "Unleashed" powers, which are WAY over the top, even compared to what we saw in the PT. There are also a number of mentions of how "powerful" the player will feel, wielding the "Unleashed" powers. Now, I realise that the main character in "The Force Unleashed" is supposed to be Vader's "secret apprentice" from sometime before the OT, but all this talk of how powerful the player will feel sounds EXACTLY like Vader/Palpatine trying to tempt Luke to the Dark Side in the OT, except its being used to sell a video game. Doesn't anybody at LFL see the irony in this?

I have to say, all of this feels like just one more instance where real-world technology has simply overwhelmed the original idea of Star Wars, and turned it into a completely different thing. Much as technology (and unlimited resources) took away the limitations that shaped the early OT (everything before ROTJ) and allowed GL to follow his every whim down the rabbit hole (or up his own posterior, depending on your point of view) in the pT, technology in the video game industry is pushing the "quaint" OT into the background, as well.

Much like the movie industry, technology allows for more over the top, showy effects, which are then used to hype the product to power-hungry teenage boys. Whatever story might be involved is completely overshadowed by the awesome powers and physics simulation in the game.

And, just to keep the self-referential streak going, Vader finds his "secret apprentice" on Kashyyyk. The player also gets to play one level as Vader, force-choking Wookiees and flinging them about the forested landscape with abandon................
Splinter Of The Mind's Eye - review and thoughts.
Glad everybody seems to like "Big Galaxy" - that's always been the thing that differentiates "Star Wars" before Vader says those four little words from what came after, I think, and it's the thing that I continue to miss the most about the early days. The wide-open-ness of "Star Wars" was one of its most appealing traits back in the day - I felt like I had seen one story from "A Galaxy Far, Far Away", but that there could be almost limitless other stories set against that backdrop.

After those four words in ESB, the galaxy started shrinking like mad, a process that continued with every new chapter. What we are left with is a galaxy barely big enough to contain the one story that Lucas eventually decided to tell. Even the misnamed "Expanded Universe" has failed to make the galaxy feel big in any meaningful way, with the same group of heroes constantly saving the day, and secondary characters being identified solely by their pipe tobacco (a particularly ridiculous example from "Heir to the Empire").
Making of Star Wars (New Book) Discussion
I broke down and ordered the hardcover from B&N today - I bought a B&N membership to take advantage of a ridiculous coupon on the "Sculpting a Galaxy" boxed edition with all the extras, and member price is ~$47, but there's a 25% off coupon out there (Google "Barnes and Noble Coupon", you'll find it), which brought it down to just over $35 with tax, and free shipping. That's over 50% off the cover price, and less than I'd pay locally for the paperback.
Splinter Of The Mind's Eye - review and thoughts.
Anchorhead - seeing as you liked SOTME and are enjoying the Radio Drama, you should probably give the original "Han Solo" trilogy a shot. It only features Han and Chewie from the "known" characters, all three books came out before ESB hit theaters and, like the Radio Drama, was written by Brian Daley. I think he really captures Han's voice and the feel of the "Big Galaxy" era that ended with Vader's revelation at the end of ESB.
Anyone else totally disregard Leia being Luke's sister?
It's funny - this whole discussion, along with Zombie's outstanding work on the book, has really changed some of my perceptions of the first few years of Star Wars and SW fandom.

I'm one of those "saw Star Wars in a theater when I was 10" fans - turning 40 tomorrow (yikes!) - and had long believed there was really just one "split" among fans: OT vs PT. While there was usually some debate among OT fans about the relative merits of each movie, with ROTJ usually seen as a lesser work (unless the fan was quite young when they saw it and/or it was the first of the trilogy that they saw in a theater), I had long assumed that everybody that liked "Star Wars" loved "Empire", without reservation.

As I've read this discussion, along with Anchorhead's "first step into a larger world" thread, I've realized it isn't that simple and, more surprisingly, that my own feelings about the movies are more complicated than I had believed. The points that really hit home for me were:

1) While it's considered a classic now, "Empire" was not universally-loved when it came out; in fact, I think David Gerrold wrote a very luke-warm review for Starlog back in 1980, primarily complaining that too much is handed to Luke in his training and that, in the end, he basically proves that Yoda was right about him being too impatient and angry.

2) Following on from the above, there has always been a group of people who felt that everything after the original film changed/perverted the original feel/story - it's only because there was no internet back then for like-minded people to find each other and realize that they weren't alone that we forget that whole body of opinion existed.

After realizing the above, it dawned on me that, while I'm not quite the "absolutist" that Anchorhead is, I definitely know where he's coming from, and I agree with him in a lot of ways.

The quality of ESB seems to be the real problem - I think it's clear that it's the movie that appeals to us the most as we get older, and it occupies the "golden era" when Lucas had enough money to really "swing for the seats", but it wasn't yet clear that Star Wars was a license to print money, regardless of the quality of the movies. As Zombie points out in his book, Lucas believed, very strongly, that Empire was better than it needed to be for his purposes - he believed that the extra headaches of the schedule/cost overruns weren't worth the incremental increase in box office receipts. I think a lot of us have held out the hope for 25+ years, that Lucas would somehow make another movie as good as "Empire", while, in his mind, he would never allow another movie like "Empire" to be made - it was too painful an experience for him.

So, we have an absolutely fantastic movie, with everybody - the cast, the director, the writer, the composer, the SPFX crew, everybody - doing their absolute best work, and it's all up there on the screen. There's just no getting around how technically and artistically rich "Empire" is, and I just love it. However, I now realize that I only love it up to a point - specifically, the point when Vader utters four of the most famous words in movie history: "I am your father."

Now, I've been complaining for years about "The Incredible Shrinking Star Wars Galaxy" - that the place depicted in the original movie felt big enough for any fan to find room for his/her own ideas to fit into the larger whole. With Vader's famous utterance, that changes, and we never get it back - in fact, the rest of the "Saga" is an exercise in taking a place that felt like it could hold almost limitless stories, and turning it into a place that can barely sustain the one story Lucas decided to tell.

So, I now consider myself a "Star Wars and 90% of Empire" fan, to cover the parts of ESB that expand the SW galaxy, rather than limiting it. After that, as Zombie makes clear, it literally becomes a different universe, one that I don't find nearly as compelling.
Lucas's filmmaking rut
I think you're pretty close to the mark in most things.

Personally, I think the success of ESB was more critical that "Raiders", as ESB was the movie that funded Lucas' break from Hollywood and allowed him to move the whole operation up to Marin County. He was absolutely obsessed with the budget on ESB, and hated that it ran over budget and forced him to go to a bank to get the money he needed to get it finished (and thereby diminished his profits). Remember, this was a time when "sequel" meant "hastily-produced follow-up designed to cash in", not "continuation of a larger story", so there was no certainty that ESB would even approach the success of "Star Wars".

When ESB actually succeeded, it did nothing so much as tell the budding marketing genius (and former visionary film director) George Lucas that he had a franchise, a license to print money, and his primary goal seemed to shift from producing great films to making sure that he maximised the marketing possibilities of his properties. Lucas hated the "Hollywood system" so much, he wanted nothing more than to gain independence from it. In an irony so obvious we should all have seen it coming, he then became exactly like the Hollywood he hated - risk-averse, self-referential, massively egotistical - while pointing the way to the future for the entire movie business (blockbuster franchise pictures directed at teenagers).

With the "new" Lucas' primary objective shifting to running and growing his new "empire", we were first offered the vaguely dissatisfying ROTJ, then (eventually) the massively disappointing PT. I think we really need to treat ROTJ and the prequels as a unit of sorts, as the shortcomings of the 1983 chapter pointed the way to the failures of the entire prequel trilogy. Lucas, unhappy with Kershner's independence, hired Marquand in large part because he knew he could control the production through him without having to sit in the director's chair himself. ROTJ was, in essence, the condensation of four chapters of the earlier 9-chapter saga into one two-hour movie, and it suffered for it, with loose ends tying themselves up at a frantic pace with no regard for logic, need or pacing. It was Lucas' insistence on going down this path that led to the split with Gary Kurtz, an event that has loomed ever-larger as time has passed - it was this condensation of story elements and characters that increasingly "boxed-in" the PT as Lucas was writing it, forcing him to invent new loopholes in order to stretch the PT story out over 3 movies.

So, the prequels then offered the inverse of ROTJ - a thin skeleton of a story, spun out and expanded to cover too much time, too many eventualities, too many themes. On top of this, they were saddled with a director/writer/storyteller who insisted on complete control (there's that word again) of all aspects of the movies, and who surrounded himself with yes-men and artists who had grown up on the original movies and were (understandably) ecstatic to be working on real, live "Star Wars" movies. These were hardly people who were going to point out flaws along the way. Nothing about the prequels, and their inherent storytelling weakness, is as instructive as reading "The Art of ROTS" and noticing that very little of the actual story was firm in Lucas' mind even deep into pre-production - he was literally developing the storyline based on preproduction artwork. Astonishingly, though, Lucas will still insist that the story in its current form "always existed", it was "THE story" and it "had to be told this way" or he would be somehow "disloyal" to his original ideas.

Deep down, there's a pretty strong case to be made that the prequels should never have been made - Lucas has actually told us exactly WHY they should never have been made himself, in interviews leading up the release of ROTS. While he insists that the "whole story" has always existed, the fact is that, by his own admission, the prequel story existed only insofar as it supported the OT with the bare skeleton of a background, a shadowy pre-history that the OT characters could refer back to, a set of events meant only to tell the audience that they had come in in the middle of a larger story, a serial that they hadn't seen the earlier episodes of. Part of the charm of the OT is that it leaves so much unexplained, and this lack of explanation allowed viewers to fill in the background themselves, to invest something of their own imagination, combine it with what was on screen, and have a fun fictional universe to play in. That's why we're all still here talking about these movies and trying to preserve them in their original state.

So, in a way, it's true that we would probably have been unhappy, in some way, with just about anything that Lucas had chosen to throw up on the screen and call "Star Wars" after all these years. However, that's a situation of his own making - that shadowy, sketchy pre-history was an essential element of the success of the OT, and explicity filling in the blanks was always going to be problematic. That's in no way meant to excuse that the choices Lucas did make once he decided to go ahead with the PT resulted in about 7 hours of absolutely joyless, charm-less, corporate moviemaking, inside which is buried a pretty impressive ILM demo reel.

In the end, I'm simply thankful that Lucas was once young and idealistic enough to make "Star Wars", and brave enough to follow it with ESB. Honestly, it's all I can do to not let the disasters that followed effect my love for those two masterpieces.