It’s a Star Wars New Years

I received the Star Wars Trilogy DVD for Christmas and watched Empire Strikes Back while in Kansas and right now we’re watching Return of the Jedi as we ring in the new year. Let’s just be thankful it’s not a Star Wars Holiday Special (shudder).

Since watching Star Wars as a little kid (I remember watching Obi-wan confront Darth Vader during A New Hope in the theater with my eyes covered) the saga has a special place in my heart. The new prequels are weak in comparison, but watching the old ones again shows their many flaws. But I still love ’em.

Mark Hamill’s acting is so great. It’s no wonder he didn’t go on to anything else. Bits of the story here and there are pretty goofy, but overall it’s pretty amazing. The chemistry between Han Solo and Leia is awesome (especially in Empire Strikes Back). I really think Harrison Ford carried these movies.

And I think it’s hilarious that R2-D2 and C-3PO were the comic relief in the originals. I hadn’t realized that was their role, which makes Episode II a little more understandable. Too bad George Lucas had to resort to Jar-Jar Binks in Episode I.

Watching Return of the Jedi it’s also sad to see Boba Fett meet such a pathetic demise. He’s built up so mightily in Episode II. What a waste. Though Lucas repeated the same mistake by killing off Darth Maul in Episode I.

The most painful part of watching the originals again is seeing all the changes Lucas made. The guy is addicted to CGI and most of it sucks. As fake as some of the models, miniatures and matte paintings look in the originals, they look better than the computer animation in the prequels. I only hope Lucas learned that lesson from Lord of the Rings for Episode III.

Most of the time Lucas’ so called improvements are CGI embellishments that don’t fit. The worst is the worm-like creature added to the pit of Sarlac. The pit was much creepier when it just looked like a gaping mouth in the sand. Lucas had to add in the giant worm mouth that appears in every sci-fi flick (not to mention the asteriod in Empire Strikes Back). He did the same thing in Empire letting you see the CGI snow monster creeping up on Luke instead of the original where you could only hear the monster coming. Much scarrier in the original. It’s basic lesson in fear, and you’d think Lucas would have picked it up.

With the prequels and the changes to the originals, it’s almost as if Lucas is getting crazy in his old age. Though I suppose the Star Wars Holiday Special confirms that there was always a bit of crazy in there.

Watching the originals again reminds me what didn’t work in the prequels. They felt like video games, hopping from one end of the galaxy to another like an ADD video game. The originals did their fair share of jumping around, but it wasn’t quite as insane.

Most of all Star Wars has that extra bit of camp that makes it great. I wonder if Lucas instructed some of the extras to deliver their lines with such over-stated drama. It’s great. I can’t wait to dive into the DVD extras.

4 thoughts on “It’s a Star Wars New Years”

  1. Yeah, the extras are quite fun to watch. Lucas… is a very visceral guy: I have the VHS for the special editions where just about all of the “new” things on the DVDs come from. When talking about the changes to the snow monster, he admits that there is an argument for the original way he had it, with less shots of the monster: letting the audience’s imagination and fear build on it, etc.

    But he STILL wanted to change it: he just wants to see the thing more. The original version of Empire went for an effect similar to what Spielberg uses in the first 3/4 of Jaws (equaling a better movie, approach, and director, imo). It explains a lot of his work with the prequels: instead of sticking with the well known idea of “less is more” he just wants to show us more. Lucas with CGI is like a kid: he loves fiddling with it and showing what he can do: rather than using it more artistically like Jackson, Spielberg, and others have usually done.

  2. I’ve heard Fisher was so drugged up by Jedi that all they could really do with her was put her in a bikini, prop her up against a big puppet, and hope she wouldn’t fall over.

    I still wish Lucas hadn’t added that Jabba scene in EP4, but at least Jabba looks a little less like clay than he did in the theatrical release of the special editions. I’m sure they’ll probably refine it even more for the HD DVD editions that come out in a few years.

    As for the new trilogy vs. old trilogy, I don’t think the problem is so much that Lucas is visceral. If anything, I think the problem with the prequels thus far is that they are much less visceral than the first trilogy.

    Consider the opening crawls:

    EP4: There’s a civil war going on. Rebels have stolen plans to a weapon powerful enough to destroy an entire planet. Princess Leia has the plans, but the empire is in hot pursuit.

    EP1: “The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute” The Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.

    Wow, George, that’s really compelling. EP4 was influenced by Kirosawa, and apparently EP1 was influenced by C-SPAN.

  3. Peter Jackson was very influenced by the “dirtiness” of the original trilogy. People’s clothes got dirty, etc. and he felt it made the movies more real and visceral: which you can see in the LOTR trilogy.

    Lucas just feels a need to see things, and unfortunately, this means he wants do see everything via CGI plastered on the screen: he’s left behind the subtle touches in the original that made it great, imo.

    And you’re right Dave, Ep 1’s opening storyline is not super grandiose or space opera-ish, a stark contrast to the original. Probably makes it a bit less compelling.

  4. Yeah, Neal, you really hit on something there. Both the original trilogy and Jackson’s epic treatment of LotR featured “lived-in” worlds. That, by the way, was something that I think the original trilogy always had over Star Trek. There’s something unrealistic (or at least unhuman) about such a stark, antiseptic world, whether it’s meant to be 400 years in the future or a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

    I know part of Lucas’ decision with the look of the prequels came from the idea that everthing was nice and shiny and futuristic in the Old Republic, but then things began to decay and wear down during the oppressive rule of the Empire.

    I could forgive him for the overall look of the prequels if he had never cast Jake Lloyd or created Jar Jar Binks and the Gungans. I think the prequels ultimately show that Lucas is a very mediocre (and that’s being generous) director.

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