Comment Stream

Search and bookmark options Close
Search for:
Search by:
Clear bookmark | How bookmarks work
Note: Bookmarks are ignored for all search results

Total Found: 3 (Showing 1-3)

Page 1 of 1
Set Bookmark
J.M.
Mon, Jul 20, 2020, 12:06pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

So, of all the “Special Editions,” for lack of a better term, Empire was the one with the fewest changes. Apart from touching up SFX, which I have no problem with, the one major change I can recall is the insertion of all the shots of Vader getting onto his shuttle after his duel with Luke, flying in his shuttle back to his Star Destroyer, leaving his shuttle after it’s landed on the Star Destroyer, etc., etc. Ugh.

Now, as I wrote in a comment to Jammer’s ROTJ review, I believe George Lucas has a rich and wonderful imagination, and I’ll be forever grateful for these stories and worlds that are products of his imagination. But a great filmmaker, Lucas ain’t — and the addition of these shots demonstrates everything that is wrong about Lucas as a filmmaker.

Clearly, the point of highest tension in Empire is when Vader tells Luke that he’s his father, and Luke must decide how to respond to that. After Luke chooses to let go and fall down into the shaft rather than join Vader, everything else is just wrap-up. And yet, if you watch the 1980 version, this denouement is handled masterfully. The pacing, especially the use of quick wipe-cuts between Luke and Vader, is wonderful, and the pace is underscored nicely by the John Williams music. In short, this sequence manages to deal with quite a lot of story/character material in incredibly economic fashion, all while keeping things moving and, ultimately, getting the hell out of Dodge before the shock of Vader’s revelation can wear off.

If you ask me, it’s positively Casablanca-esque, which is the highest compliment I can think of to pay a movie. When you think about it, all of Casablanca is basically people standing around talking. Yet if feels so much more exciting than that. This is partly because we actually care about the people who are standing around talking. But it’s also because the camera is always moving in a way that heightens the drama, and because of a fantastic job of editing. Casablanca is a stage drama, but because of the way it’s edited, it has the pace of an action movie. Put another way, there’s absolutely no fat here. Nothing unnecessary has been left in the final product, and there isn’t a single shot that lasts longer than it needs to last. For example, there are a number of very quick shots of various characters, a second or two each at most, that last just long enough to capture a character’s reaction and tell us everything we need to know about what that character’s thinking. It’s a remarkable specimens of lean, tight filmmaking.

The same can be said of the denouement in the 1980 version of Empire. In contrast, the Special Edition’s long, looong shots of Vader getting into his shuttle, being in the shuttle, getting off the shuttle, blah blah blah, which completely ruin that pacing. And to what end? Vader is wearing a mask, so it’s not like we’re learning or feeling anything about Vader’s character that we don’t already know or feel. So the entire point of these shots is....to show more Stormtroopers? To show that Vader already had the shuttle from ROTJ back in Empire days? Who cares?

I can just see Irvin Kershner, the editor, and the entire editing team working a 20-hour day to get this absolutely perfect back in 1980....and then, twenty years later, George Lucas sitting alone in front of a computer saying, “MORE STORMTROOPERZ! MORE SPACESHIPZ!”

Again, I say: Ugh.

Sorry, rant over.
Set Bookmark
J.M.
Mon, Jul 20, 2020, 11:21am (UTC -6)
Re: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

*Oops, I meant Irvin “Kershner,” not “Kushner.” Too much news intake for me — I must have Jared on the brain.
Set Bookmark
J.M.
Mon, Jul 20, 2020, 11:17am (UTC -6)
Re: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

I loved all three of the original trilogy movies growing up as a kid in the 80s, including ROTJ. But I find that ROTJ doesn’t quite hold up to adult-level scrutiny as well as Star Wars (as I will forever call it) and Empire continue to hold up. Which is not to say that I consider it a bad movie. It remains eminently watchable in a way that, IMHO, the prequels and (Force help us) Rise of Skywalker are not. In other words, I have a lot of fun whenever I watch ROTJ, but as storytelling-on-film, it has problems — which is also approximately how I feel about Force Awakens. For me, that comes out to either 2.5 or 3 stars, depending on my mood and what I happen to be focusing on during any given viewing.

For those, like me, who are geeky enough to care about these movies enough to read message boards like this one, I highly, highly recommend the in-depth interview that IGN did with Gary Kurtz, the producer of both Star Wars and Empire, back in 2002. It’s long, but extremely interesting. You should be able to find find it by Googling “Gary Kurtz IGN interview.” It belies a lot of George Lucas’s own myth-making concerning how the Star Wars movies were made — and, make no mistake, in George’s myth, he, and he alone, was responsible for making them. Well, that’s simply not true. Feature-length movies, particularly big ones like the Star Wars movies, are community efforts. And one very important part of that community, at least during the making of the first two, was Gary Kurtz.

The Kurtz interview, first of all, contains a lot of fascinating information about how the film industry worked in the late 70s and early 80s. But it also addresses Lucas-made myth about how he had the entire trilogy, or trilogy of trilogies, or whatever, planned out from the very beginning. And it explains the original vision for ROTJ, which included the details that Kid Marine discussed in the first comment on this thread. Most importantly, the Kurtz interview explains what happened to Lucas between Empire and ROTJ. In Kurtz’s telling, Lucas became convinced that the ticket-buying public didn’t care one whit about plot or character development — that all movie audiences wanted when they went to the movies was the “roller coaster.” This is why Lucas didn’t care that he was rehashing the plot of Star Wars by introducing the Death Star II — all he cared about was making the roller coaster climax as exciting as possible (and, yes, selling toys).

Anyway, seek out the IGN/Gary Kurtz interview. It’s illuminating. More than anything, it confirmed what I thought about George Lucas after watching the prequels: That he’s a man with a rich and wonderful imagination, but who just isn’t all that great of a filmmaker — by which I mean, he doesn’t really know how to tightly execute the craft of telling an emotionally resonant story through dialogue and moving images. Ironically, I think, Lucas is the exact opposite of J.J. Abrams, who lacks any imagination whatsoever, but actually can execute the craft of making a movie. Who knows? Maybe a sequel trilogy that had flowed from Lucas’s rich imagination, but which had been executed and committed to film by J.J., would have been as good as Empire, which came out of Lucas’s imagination but was committed to film by Irving Kushner.
Page 1 of 1
▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2021 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.