I am a big fan of Star Wars, but I have never ever liked RETURN OF THE JEDI. Having just watched the Blu Ray, I'm gonna spout off a little about this. As I have said numerous times, I'm a much bigger fan of the MAKING OF these movies than I am of the movies themselves, so I will reference many things from various sources such as DVD (and obscure Laserdisc) commentaries, documentaries, out of print books (like John Preecher's THE MAKING OF RETURN OF THE JEDI from 1983), older screenplay drafts, and more.
10. LACK OF DRAMATIC TENSION PART 1 -In the scene with Leia and Han, right after Luke says, "Hey, you're my sister, even though we played tongue twister in the last movie", and the dramatic tension lasts almost 3 whole seconds before Han Solo, a well known scoundrel, gives up and apologizes right away. No waiting until they're in the battle and she gets shot to make up, thus creating some much needed drama. No consistency with character.
9. MATTE PAINTINGS - Okay, having just watched all 6 movies on Blu Ray, why are the matte paintings so blaringly obvious in this movie? In 1920x1080 High Definition video on a 42" monitor, the matte paintings of things like the Millenium Falcon in a hangar show way too much of the paint strokes and look incredibly fake.
8. BAD EFFECTS - In many ways the effects work in Return of the Jedi are STILL some of the best. Then why is some of the worst effects also in the same movie? There are several really poor blue screen shots, like when Han Solo and Lando are talking about permission to take the Millenium Falcon into battle, those shots are so terribly done, complete with the exact same horrendous matte paintings already mentioned. Throughout the movie, several of the blue screen composites rip me out of the movie because of how fake they looked. Sometimes followed immediately by some of the best of the 1980's FX work. See also the shot of Mongo's look alike mourning his dead Rancor, or Luke and Han on the skiff on Tatooine. There isn't a single shot in iV or V that compare to these 7-8 terrible FX debacles in JEDI.
7. DARTH VADER - Okay, even in the context of all 6 movies, When, where, and how did Luke sense some good in Vader? What actions were taken that demonstrate this innate sense of good? The hand cutting and torture in Empire Strikes Back? The killing of a few dozen defenseless children in Revenge of the Sith? Looking at just the original trilogy, there is absolutely NOTHING redeemable about Darth Vader. His newfound good side and thoughts, we have nothing but crappy dialogue to tell us about, is all we have to suddenly empathize with a character who has done terrible things. It rings quite hollow to me, and I am a big fan.
6. KILL LANDO - Also from Lawrence Kasden's draft, Lando was supposed to die and the Millenium Falcon did not actually make it out of the Deathstar II. There is no sense of sacrifice for the good guys in this film. With no sacrifice, there is a lot less honor. Since we the audience start to feel that the good guys aren't going to die, there isn't a lot of concern, or DRAMATIC TENSION. There it is again.
5. DEATH STAR, or LACK OF IMAGINATION - Why another Deathstar? I understand that in 1977's A NEW HOPE, George Lucas did not intend to do the whole Deathstar blowing up and trench run, but did because of studio pressure and thinking he would never get to play that card later. Still, come up with something NEW. Something imaginative. Rehashing a visual and just the exact same thing was kind of lame. Early drafts had not 1, but 2 Deathstars. That was twice as boring to me.
4. RELATIONSHIPS UNRESOLVED - This too plays into a lack of DRAMATIC TENSION, because when last Luke and Leia were seen together in Empire, she was taking care of her favorite idealist, but confessed to loving his best friend. By going back to a completely unused draft of Episode iV (the 2nd draft) where Luke and Leia were siblings, something OBVIOUSLY not adhered to in the previous 2 films. There was dramatic tension in a LOVE TRIANGLE. If Luke and Han are both suitors for Leia, then there might be a tear in their friendship. Even with the sibling reveal, there was an opportunity to play on this, but it gets dropped in favor of.... no tension.
3. HARRISON FORD - Harrison did not want to do this movie. He has repeatedly stated he did not want to play Han Solo again. Of all the principal actors, he was the only one NOT signed for this sequel. In the end he got a substantially better deal than the rest, but even monetary compensation did not inspire a watchable performance. Han Solo in this movie is unmotivated, poorly acted, and completely inconsistent with anything ever this guy has done in the 2 previous movies. Harrison weighed at least 20-25 pounds heavier and his hair looked like the stylist was Ray Charles in a dark closet. Sadly, Harrison was right in saying Han Solo should have died at the end of the first act to show some sacrifice and also to add some dramatic tension. Even Carrie Fisher, so blatantly coke'd out of her mind on every type of narcotic that existed in 1982, delivered a better performance than Harrison Ford in this movie.
2. EWOKS - No, I never liked the Ewoks. As I was all of 11 years old when Return of the Jedi came out and I found the pandering to be insulting to my age group. Having known for years this was intended to be Wookiees like Chewbacca, how on the hell are we supposed to accept these half sized, product placements as a substitute? I will say there was a single shot where two Ewoks get hit by laserfire, and one of them stays dead and the other one mourns him - that was deep. Now on Blu Ray, these things have iris' and they blink. Creepy, but more realistic. But way creepy. Seeing REVENGE OF THE SITH with a full on Wookiee battle, imagine what this COULD have been like...
1. LACK OF DRAMATIC TENSION PART II : FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW - Even as an 11 year old, I felt the Obi Wan Kenobi scene from Return of the Jedi to be a series low point. "What I told you was true... from a certain point of view"? Come on, that sucks. Why isn't Luke emotional? Why isn't he yelling at Obi Wan about NOT telling him who his father was? How does the moral ambiguity work for THIS, but not the Emperor or all the people who are drafted into the Imperial forces who die in the fight against the rebellion? The worst thing about this one is having read Lawrence Kasden's draft of this scene that George Lucas re-wrote. In Kasden's draft, Luke IS belligerent, asks angrily, "Why didn't you tell me Vader was my father?" and Obi Wan responds with, "We wanted to finish your training and prepare you for the burden but you left in such a hurry." Luke responds with "But I had to save my friends! They were in danger" and Obi Wan wisely retorts, "and in the end, didn't they end up saving YOU?" and that shuts Luke up and they have a civil conversation. DRAMA of the best kind. Never to be seen in this freakin' movie.
I am a fan of Star Wars. The original 1977 version was the first film I ever saw on the big screen in my life when I was 5 years old. It opened my imagination because everything this fantastical existed only as animation, so this movie just widened the limitation of what could be done with a movie.
Now I just got the Blu Rays and we’ve been watching them one a night for the last week.
Strangely, Phantom Menace wasn’t as bad as I remember it. For the first time ever, I was thoroughly annoyed with the whole JarJar Binks thing. It was never good, but it never BOTHERED me until now. The kid was terrible, but then again the ‘direction’ of the script was all over the place. Whose point of view are we with here? Who is the main character and what are their themes? Overall, it looks great but the emotion wasn’t all there. In context of 6 movies, this one still sets up some story.
Attack of the Clones looked, sounded, and was a lot better than I recall. Memory has a funny way of shaping how things might have been, plus people (meaning myself) change over time. I liked it and it looked amazing on Blu.
Revenge of the Sith it turns out, I have only seen maybe 3-4 times before, the least by a large margin of any Star Wars movie, excluding ridiculous Ewok movies or animated stuff. Again, there was some horrendous dialogue at times, like the previous two movies, but this was much more enjoyable than I expected.
I have seen, what is now referred to as A New Hope, in the theater probably 100 times alone. I know it was over 30 times in 1977. Then again in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, and even made it out to few rare print screenings in the 1990’s. Then the 1997 special edition screenings, including a private only screening a friend of mine did the night before a press screening, where for my birthday, she arranged this for me all by myself without telling me what it was.
I guess I’m not too worried about ‘changes’. I kind of like having something new to see or hear in a movie I have seen literally over 100 times in my life. Still, A New Hope n Blu Ray was not nearly as impressive as the Star Wars Re-Revisited fan edit where some guys did way more than 1,000 changes and ‘fixes’. Having seen this Blu Ray of George’s changes, maybe he should have hired this team of unknowns because they did a lot more and better changes. Funny how ‘fans’ like this guy making 1,000 changes then complain when George Lucas makes 10-20. I think people like the underdog.
I don’t care of George Lucas changes the movies forever. It’s not really that important, at least not to me. As much as I like the movies, I’m far more interested in the MAKING OF and BEHIND THE SCENES. What moved me was less that actual movies themselves, but rather the idea that whatever George Lucas saw in his head, he could put on a movie screen.
I’ve got several Laserdisc sets, not to covet the unaltered versions of the movies, but because they contain a lot of documentaries, commentaries, and amazing amounts of detail on HOW the movies were made. I don’t own a single novelization of Star Wars, but I have an extensive library of books on the behind the scenes.
We’ll get through EMPIRE and JEDI soon enough. It’s amazing how much I’m liking these movies now that I have no expectations and don’t really care about them as anything more than a movie.
Putting the final touches on my next article for a print issue of VIDEOMAKER MAGAZINE tonight, shortly after finalizing the next two Sonnyboo short films that will premiere next month at the COLONY FILM FESTIVAL. Your narrator feels substantially more "up" of late, although not at the lofty heights of days past, but still...
Next month I will be the keynote speaker at this film festival where I attended in 2006, screening HORRORS OF WAR when their name was the "River City Film Festival". Five years later, and I am doing a seminar on big shoots, little shoots. I'm going to show ACCIDENTAL ART along with some behind the scenes footage, showing the bigger crew and comparing it to the new CELL PHONE MONOLOGUES, where the crews maxed out at 4 people. I have no behind the scenes for these shoots because there was no room or time for extra people. My point will be to use the amount of crew you need for the project at hand, not small just to make it small and not big just to have more people to boss around.
I'm pretty happy with the outcome of these two shorts, one of which has taken over a year to complete. I wish I could lay blame on the 2 FX heavy shots, but alas that would be untrue. Procrastination and a changing attitude about HOW to complete movies. I am something more of a perfectionist than I was before. The last 5 years have greatly transformed my attitudes about quality over quantity. My process has proven to be more about watching and re-watching an edit and making changes. Rather than demo this in the public eye, I am more selective about who sees my edits and when.
I let ideas fester and grow before making decisions. This takes a lot longer, but the results are more polished and I am less likely to release something, then make George Lucasian re-edits for years to come.
Not only has your faithful narrator been busy, even more has happened in spite of his self. Several announcements to be made here. First and foremost, The Ohio Channel begins airing FRAMELINES on Monday, and 6 times a week no less. The Ohio Channel reaches every PBS station in the state of Ohio, over the air and on cable! The 2nd cousin to FRAMELINES, the cable show CLIP FRAMES, with short films and extra content from FRAMELINES started airing 7 times a week on Educable in Columbus for the last two weeks.
Oh, and I just got asked to be the keynote speaker at the Colony Theater Film Festival in October, where I will world premiere 2 new Sonnyboo short films!
FRAMELINES might actually start getting seen in Columbus (as well as other big cities in Ohio). The show now has a fighting chance. Getting some primetime slots means more eyeballs. 8 Episodes completed with show 9 in the pipe; FRAMELINES will end its first season with a bang methinks.
CLIP FRAMES is not nearly as polished a show. It's mostly material 5 years or even older, as in some 11 year old material is also included. Now that I've been teaching at an accredited college level for several months, I qualify to submit to Educable, and the material has a great deal of educational or student level content.
I still very much believe that at the moment, television is still the best way to reach an audience. The Internet has been very good to me, but TV and cable should not be underestimated. It's still the single most dominant source of audio/visual programming. Yes, it is starting to lose to the World Wide Web, but it ain't gone yet.
So a PBS show statewide and a cable show locally means I am providing over 7 hours of content on TV every week for a while! Granted, it's really 1 hour of content repeated 6 more times, but still that just means more chances for people to catch it.
I got a great call from the festival organizers and I'm going to world premiere the Cell Phone Monologues I and II at this festival, out of competition. Audio post production is in high gear. Scoring and final tweaks aside, I should have no problem meeting the deadline.
I needed this barrage of good news. I am a lot less depressed!