Xander 2

But I was going to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!

We watched Star Wars on Bluray last night. We'll probably watch Empire tonight. There is, inexplicably, a third movie in the box set, which I don't understand. Also there was some mysterious second boxed set they tried to sell me, containing three movies I'd never heard of. A joke, I suppose, a reference to the longer storyline George Lucas always mentioned in interviews before his life was cut short so tragically young. A pity he only ever got to make the two movies.

The guy who shot him made those wild claims about being a time traveler come from the future to right a terrible wrong, but he was clearly just crazy. If you had a time machine and a gun, you'd obviously just go kill Hitler.

So we watched it. It's probably the movie I have watched the most times of any. I say that and it's true: I saw it five times in the theater when it was on its first run, and that's enough to make it #1 even without the adult rewatchings. But it's odd that I don't feel any particularly deep love for it in the fannish sense. It's an artifact of my childhood, a fun experience I'm fond of. I hadn't seen it in a long time, because I refused for a long time to give Lucas any money for a screwed-up version of the film. But I finally gave in & we watched the bluray edition last night.

The backstory behind Star Wars as hinted at in the first movie is about a million times better than what Lucas gave us in that utterly horrible screenplay for the fourth movie. It's almost heartbreaking. Maybe it's just how Alec Guinness delivers the lines. You feel the lingering sorrow of the story of a great betrayal, his pupil Vader turning on him and killing his long-time friend and comrade in arms Anakin Skywalker. And then we get… what we got all those years later instead of that.

Imagine the alternative history version of that screenplay, with Anakin Skywalker played by Liam Neeson. Imagine the great slashy friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin, ended horribly in the 3rd movie at the climax of the Clone War by Vader's long-brewing bitterness and his fall to the dark side. Yeah. So not what we got.

Lucas has no taste. Every single one of his edits for the later edition stood out like a swollen throbbing thumb. Every one. The rendered bits looked wrong and rendered. Even the rendered ships looked out of place; just using the original shots of models would have looked better in context. Jamming in that deleted scene with Jabba the Hut was just bad filmmaking: he'd already covered the same plot ground in the scene with Greedo, which did a better job at building Han's character. Well, in the original version it did. Even Mr Pedia, who doesn't particularly care one way or the other about Star Wars, commented every single time something new was on the screen.

The other thing I noticed is that all of Lucas's flaws as a filmmaker are there, lurking. They're just under control in this film. They're even better controlled in Empire, where he's got help from a pair of good screenwriters and a good director. Later, of course, there was nobody to control him and his idiot impulses Ewoked and Jarjared themselves all over the place.

Upsides: Well, the young Harrison Ford. Of course. The young Mark Hamill is entertaining as well. Carrie Fisher as an in-charge woman. The banter between Han & Leia. The story itself, which is solid space opera fare. Vader, who chokes a man to death as his introductory act. Peter Cushing as the face of the evil empire. Danger and derring-do. A lightsaber battle between Vader and Kenobi that uses no stunt doubles or wire-work, just two men stage-fencing. World War II fighter plane tropes. The desert scenes on Tatooine. The cantina scene start to finish. The sound effects work. The sound track, which after so many hearings is part of the fabric of my brain.

I enjoyed it. I'd have enjoyed the original version even more, because the original version was a better film.

So, you know, I'd be okay with a reboot of this franchise. Just so long as a good writer is involved and is armed with a crowbar.
George Lucas had such potential, but he did need someone to guide him. I will never forgive him for what he did after those first two films. Gruined the whole series.

That said, I have enjoyed bits and pieces of The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network. Maybe because George's hands aren't all over it.
When did he and Marcia split? I'm wondering if it was Marcia's lack of influence that led to the 'dumbing down' of the movies.
If I remember correctly, she was either working on another film when Jedi was being shot and then edited or at that point was home with their adopted daughter. I think they split up before the second Indiana Jones film.

There was a fascinating article about her and how she's practically erased from film history these days, but I forgot to bookmark it. But the article really brought home how she not only the first two Star Wars movies, but kept George on focus about the story. (She also, it is said, in the first Indiana Jones movie, reminded Lucas and Spielberg, not to forget what happened to Marion at the end.)
She's the only editor who ever made his films coherent. I was thinking this in the theater as I watched The Phantom Menace, the one time I saw it (my apologies to my Master/Apprentice friends). The only thing in the movie that made sense was the speeder race, which was the only sequence Lucas cared enough about to get the editing right.
That's what the article pretty much said. She made his films coherent because she could tell him up front what worked and what didn't. I don't think any of the later editors could. Looking at her filmography, she worked on some amazing films of the 70's. It really is a shame that after the divorce she just withdrew from film work.

And Lucas, he won't even talk about her contributions to the first two films.
Oh oh oh! YES! What I loved about the first two movies is that they were mature. Kids and adults loved it alike, and for different reasons. They were smart. After the first two movies, George dumbed it down, changing his target audience entirely to that of six year olds. And we end up being victims of his Peter Pan complex. Noble sacrifices were not made, genocide on a grand scale can be forgiven for one act of mercy when the father saves the son. Off to Jedi heaven with you Darth Vader (oops I now mean Annikan Skywalker), because we've burned the outer trappings of your evilness in your funeral pyre.

Oh I could go on. But... we're in violent agreement. I refuse to believe anything else was made after Empire and as far as I am concerned, that's the best one of the two. Oh, and only the original versions. Stop tinkering, Lucas!
He flinched. I have no idea why, or if he ever had it in him in the first place, but he completely flinched with Vader's story. That ending for him was strange. His beginning was ... implausible. The Jedi mythos ended up being stupid instead of interesting.

I conclude that Lucas was never a good writer. Sigh.
The third movie George didn't have anyone to hold him back and say "No, this isn't good storytelling." It really was all about the cute toys to sell.

I don't quibble that Jedi had to be the "Happily Ever After" chapter of the first three movies, considering that Empire was the dark fairy tale of the trilogy, looking back, it still was a piss poor "Happily Ever After". He could have given us epic space battles or an epic forest battle along with our Father/Son/Emperor light saber duel and we got...Ewoks.

Furry little Ewoks.

And Han Shot First, damn it.

Still bitter about that. Still.
God, the idea that it was about the merchandising tie-ins steams me more than anything. Bad writing can happen to anybody, particularly somebody who's been so successful that he's now hard to edit. But the idea of crassly making such horrible story decisions? Ugh. UGH.

HAN SHOT FIRST.