Star Wars

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FauxOwl
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Star Wars

Postby FauxOwl » Thu Oct 22, 2015 7:46 pm

It's hard to avoid all the hoopla of late, and I've got to admit I'm starting to get caught up in it. Part of it is because I decided to introduce my niece and nephew to the original trilogy after I acquired the "de specialized" HD transfers (I figured if they were going to see it they should see those). Well that turned them into fanatics and I'm vicariously reliving the excitement through them. But I do have a lot of nostalgic feelings about the first two films.

I was thinking about the parallels between Twin Peaks and Star Wars returning, and the differences, and Twin Peaks fans should be way more excited, given its revival is being spearheaded by the original creators. George Lucas gets lots of crap for the prequels, and I agree with most of the criticisms (Revenge of the Sith had moments, but too little too late), but they were his movies to make and he made the films he wanted. There doesn't seem to be any one lead creator spearheading the Star Wars revival. That seems to be the wrong lesson learned from distancing the new trilogy from the prequels and I have a hard time believing that's going to lead to anything that truly trancends the atypical Hollywood popcorn flick. If this new trilogy is harkening back to the original they missed that ingredient because like it or not Lucas spearheaded those too.

I do dig the controversy surrounding casting a black guy as the new lead. I think it's great the issue is in the spotlight and the people who don't like it are exposing themselves. I'd love it if it made Hollywood realize they've been catering to that demographic their entire history, and if the movie grosses a trillion dollars it's one more reason to stop, but I'll have to see it to believe it.

All in all I can't see much logical reason to be excited, but somehow, I am. Probably nothing less than J.J. Abrams finest film would be a disappointment. And that doesn't make any sense.
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LostInTheMovies
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Re: Star Wars

Postby LostInTheMovies » Thu Oct 22, 2015 11:05 pm

I agree completely with your sentiments in the second paragraph. It honestly grosses me out how thrilled many Star Wars fans are that a corporate committee has taken over a franchise that was up till now owned by George Lucas. The most exciting thing about Star Wars for me is that it this worldwide phenomenon has its source in the imagination of one person. It's an increasingly romantic notion in a Hollywood where the "hot young directors" (who aren't that young, btw) are snapped into place on an assembly line rebooting earlier films or, even more often, adapting material from other mediums while making sure they aren't upsetting the crowds at ComicCon. It's such a sad degradation of what cinema could be, and sometimes was - the seventh art reduced to a recycling bin. Ironically, many would blame Lucas for starting the trends that led this way but from today's standpoint he appears to belong more to the old world than the new. Honestly my only hope now is for TV and the internet to provide the innovation and richness of experience that used to be found at the movie theater.

I'm not a big fan of the prequels but I've grown more appreciative of the idea of them at least, even if the execution still doesn't work for me. It was kind of ballsy for Lucas to make Anakin a petulant brat, for his approach to romance and adventure to be fairly naive and straightforward in an age of snarky pop culture references, and for him to focus more on creating new worlds and images than reviving old ones. Did it succeed? Not entirely, or even mostly, in my book (although the parts where it succeeds least are often when it's relying too much on the other films - like Anakin being from Tatooine). But no prequel really would have and increasingly I realize that a lot of fans just wanted to relive some over-mythologized version of their own childhood. Hence all the excitement over the fanservice in the new movie. Ugh.

Anyway, if that rant isn't enough for you, here's what I wrote back when Disney bought up Lucasfilm, a moment of celebration for many, but of melancholy for me: http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2012/10/lucasfilm-lost.html
FauxOwl
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Re: Star Wars

Postby FauxOwl » Fri Oct 23, 2015 9:15 am

Good write up there... I agree with many of your points.

Initially when Rian Johnson's involvement was announced, I thought it was a good sign. His career has been distinctly independent, his work has been varied, and he's an inspired choice to put together a genre picture. He will be the solo writer of his film in the series, and he's writing the treatment for the follow up... but the more I think about it the more it seems obvious that he's just as much cashing in on the Star Wars phenomenon as anyone else. If this was something he was passionate about, wouldn't he want to direct the final installment that he's writing the treatment for? Now they've hired Colin Trevorrow to close the thing out which is not so inspiring.

I don't really get what they are doing... they seem to be picking "fan" filmmakers, filmmakers of the generation that grew up on the original films, and giving them a chapter each. Is this like that game where one person starts a story and they go down the line which each person contributing to the progression of the story? I'm pretty sure that game never resulted in any good stories. They also seem to be pushing the idea that they're making it for fans of the original trilogy. It's interesting how much they've commented on how the CGI will be de-emphasized... clearly speaking to those who didn't jive with the blue screen approach of the prequels.

But I've never been enthusiastic about the notion of making a film for fans. This goes for Twin Peaks as well, and I have trust that David Lynch and Mark Frost have a lot more vested in this revival than simply doing something for the fans. Not so much with Star Wars. Breaking Bad actually provides a pretty good illustration of the pitfalls of this approach... in interviews Vince Gilligan commented how concerned he was with making a series finale that the fans would appreciate. He probably succeeded as most fans were happy with it, but I personally didn't think the finale reached the creative heights that the show set (which were quite high). Vince Gilligan deserved to end that show however he wanted to end it, and if pleasing fans was what was important to him, so be it, but I'd have preferred an approach where wasn't concerned about what the fans would think. I don't really know what this term "fans" means when one talks about pleasing them... as if they are some kind of hive mind entity. I'm not sure such a thing exists... we are all ultimately individuals having separate experiences with these works of fiction.
Last edited by FauxOwl on Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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LostInTheMovies
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Re: Star Wars

Postby LostInTheMovies » Fri Oct 23, 2015 9:51 am

I agree. If fans want a film like the original Star Wars...why not just watch the original Star Wars? It's this chasing of the dream, trying to relive a feeling that makes me queasy. I'm looking forward to the new Twin Peaks because I think it's going to give us something new, not simply try to relive the magic of the original.

Thanks for spoiler-tagging the Breaking Bad thing btw! I'm one of the few people left who hasn't watched the show yet (aside from a few episodes) but it's coming up for me soon. I can't wait much longer anyway because I feel like I've already heard people allude to various things and just barely skirted around finding out too much...
FauxOwl
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Re: Star Wars

Postby FauxOwl » Fri Oct 23, 2015 11:25 am

Whoops... the spoiler tag did not work the way I anticipated... hope you didn't see anything. I deleted it
.
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LostInTheMovies
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Re: Star Wars

Postby LostInTheMovies » Fri Oct 23, 2015 3:32 pm

FauxOwl wrote:Whoops... the spoiler tag did not work the way I anticipated... hope you didn't see anything. I deleted it
.


Just one very vague thing (like a few words)! Which was sort of along the lines of what I've gathered so far. I'll probably end up getting spoiled anyway, it's inevitable haha. Maybe it will encourage me to get to/through it faster.
FauxOwl
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Re: Star Wars

Postby FauxOwl » Wed Nov 18, 2015 2:11 pm

http://www.wired.com/2015/11/george-lucas-jar-jar-video/


Here's a short but somewhat interesting video about George Lucas explaining where he is now in his career, and his reluctance to deal with audience expectations. I definitely get that sense just from gauging reactions to various works of visual media fiction, that a good chunk of audiences have too flighty expectations and seem to get angry when a work of fiction doesn't meet them (as if the only reason these things exist is to meet every need they have of it).

I for one would be interested in seeing any further experimental work George Lucas does... I can't say I've seen much of that in any of his work since THX-1138 (Lucas is a bit wrong that no one appreciates that film... I wonder if his perspective is skewed by the appreciation people have for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises.)

Gary Kurtz, the producer on the first two (and IMO easily the best) Star Wars films has said that toy sales began driving George Lucas' creative vision by the time Return of the Jedi rolled around. Lucas himself has said he was interested in making films for kids... and frankly he was probably successful on that end as I think kids largely did enjoy the prequels. I can see Kurtz' point and if it's the case I don't think toy sales are a good driving force creatively... but the folks celebrating Lucas' departure from the franchise might well do to remind themselves that Disney did not spend billions to buy Lucas' company because they weren't interested in making money off of toys.
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LostInTheMovies
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Re: Star Wars

Postby LostInTheMovies » Wed Nov 18, 2015 3:43 pm

I heard someone say the other day that Disney would probably "be better stewards of the brand" than Lucas and was appalled. a) that those are the terms Star Wars fans are talking about the films in, b) that the nostaglia-sweet-spot fanservice of JJ Abrams (a man whose career has largely been built on rebooting existing properties rather than creating something iconic himself, aside from Lost - and wasn't that more Lindelof's doing?) is considered superior to someone who spawned the entire universe to begin with, and c) that if you DO want to limit the conversation to these terms, Lucas' prequels made billions of dollars, won a generation of new fans, and spun off lots of new media - the fact that it pissed off a bunch of bitter Gen-Xers gets blown way out of proportion and the larger context is lost.

Increasingly I find myself much more sympathetic with prequel fans than prequel critics, even though I'm not a huge fan of them myself and much prefer the original film to ANY of the follow-ups (even Empire).
FauxOwl
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Re: Star Wars

Postby FauxOwl » Wed Nov 18, 2015 7:38 pm

I hold Empire in higher regard but yeah I agree intellectually... but as I said in the first post I can't help but feel a excited about seeing Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill reprise there roles and I even geeked about a TV spot that seems to feature a new theme by John Williams. But it still boils down to the fact that this is now a headless Disney corp operation. I would never dream of supporting a Twin Peaks without Lynch or Frost heading it up and obviously I don't hold Lucas in as high regard since I'm still going to watch this film and probably all the other installments, but the headless Disney thing does feel wrong, no matter how you spin it.

Regarding Lost... basically JJ Abrams came up with a premise from a directive from an ABC exec who wanted a show about plane crash survivors set in Hawaii. Abrams was more or less responsible for turning that concept into a sci-fi mystery premise, and he worked on the pilot with Lindelof and turned it over to Lindelof and Carton Cuse after the pilot. He basically had nothing to do with the show after the pilot. And that seems to be what they are doing here. He starts something and hands it off to Rian Johnson, who is admittedly the most intriguing creative person involved... but then he's also handing it off... I'd feel a lot better about it if Rian Johnson were directing the last two films.
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Gabriel
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Re: Star Wars

Postby Gabriel » Tue Dec 15, 2015 11:18 am

I'm afraid Lucas, who is a terrific technical guy and who expertly blended RKO/Republic serials and Joseph Campbell into a franchise, is not a particularly good filmmaker. It's significant that the film from the six pre-Disney movies with which he had the least involvement – The Empire Strikes Back – is the best liked, but is also disliked by the man himself. Richard Marquand, nominally the director of Return of the Jedi, had a nightmare task because, after Empire, Lucas stayed on set and constantly contradicted and overruled Marquand.

Significantly, Gendy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars, the original version of Star Wars: the Clone Wars, started a trend where people felt 'licensed creators' were able to make a better job of the Star Wars universe than its creator. Indeed, it's felt that The Clone Wars made the prequels seem better than they were. Besides, Star Wars, with its merchandise-heavy marketing, basically created the modern corporate movie.

Lucas managed to disappoint many of the fans of the original films with his second trilogy and Disney's handling of the Marvel franchise means that there's a lot of trust among fans in the Disney/Lucasfilm team. Let's not forget either that Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy has been part of Lucasfilm practically since its inception.

JJ Abrams is a real talent, whether it's his company being a very successful ideas house who produce a lot of terrific and successful programming and movies, or his constantly trying new things in the cinema. From what everyone is saying about his script rewrite and his direction, this new Star Wars film looks like something special and it appears the people involved are more than just 'selling cars' too. There's a buzz around this film I've not seen in years.

It's worth remembering that Lucas isn't David Lynch. Not every director is an auteur. Lucas is a talented thinker and has made tremendous technical contributions, particularly in the realms of effects and digital cinema.

But as a writer he has a tin ear for dialogue, the performances he gets from his actors are so wooden you want to break out the teak oil and, by the time of the prequels, he'd lost all sense of pace.

It's significant how unusual it is for fans of a franchise to celebrate its creator moving on, but Lucas locked himself away in the Skywalker Ranch for decades and the youngsters whose imaginations he captured in the 70s and 80s are hungry to play in the sandpit.

Lucas made the decision to sell and he made $4 billion out of it, so really he's not going to worry.
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Re: Star Wars

Postby LostInTheMovies » Tue Dec 15, 2015 4:28 pm

I can agree that Lucas is not a very good screenwriter or director of actors but the man behind THX 1138 is a born filmmaker. JJ Abrams strikes me as an ideas guy, and recycled ideas at that, not at all someone with a command of film form. What are the new things you feel he tries in movies? I'm not familiar enough with his work to say you're wrong, but someone did some side by side comparisons of Lucas' compositions and Abrams' from the trailer and the latter seemed completely bland by comparison. Lucas genuinely arose from a culture that appreciated cinema as cinema and it shows in his work. Phantom Menace is visually disappointing but Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are genuinely well-directed on the micro scale.

And personally, though I'll see at least some of the new films and hopefully enjoy tem I don't get WHY we need new Star Wars. Let the old ones be. The whole affair just stinks of sucking up to Gen X nostalgia to me. Sorry to be a downer! ;)
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FauxOwl
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Re: Star Wars

Postby FauxOwl » Tue Dec 15, 2015 5:14 pm

I am going to see the new movie and I hope I enjoy it, and frankly I anticipate enjoying it more than the prequels. I'm not necessarily of the opinion that no one should make a Star Wars movie other than George Lucas, and actually I think Empire benefited greatly from having Irvin Kershner direct it, and the prequels probably would have benefited greatly from having a similar approach. There are some aspects of the story Lucas wanted to tell with the prequels that I don't jive with... but that's okay. That's always going to be the case with fiction. He also didn't write good dialogue and wasn't good with the actors, and I enjoyed those movies less for it. Again, it happens. I still rather have a storyteller having control of these stories than a committee of studio execs, or having them undercut the people who are trying to tell the story, and like it or not that never happened with the previous Star Wars movies. And I'll never agree with anyone wishing a studio exec has hovering over Lucas' shoulder with the prequels second guessing his decisions. I wish he had made different choices, but they are his choices to make, and he was under no obligation to make those films for me.

Why more Star Wars? Besides obviously, a crapload of money to be made? Well that's pretty much it isn't it? I'm more than willing to be entertained though by new Star Wars stories, so that isn't necessarily an issue for me.

The story surrounding the new film SEEMS to be that J.J. Abrams is the lead creator of the film and this is not necessarily a case of the Disney, or perhaps more specifically the new Lucasfilm heads making creative decrees ala Marvel Studios... but I have my doubts. By all accounts Lucasfilm had a general direction in mind when J.J. was hired. And then there is this musical chairs approach. J.J. gets the first film, Rian Johnson gets the 2nd (and J.J. will essentially be not involved), and Colin Trevorrow, Jurassic Park sequel auteur, finishes it off from a treatment by Rian Johnson. I'll say it again that Rian Johnson carries some clout in my mind, and he's largely to this point been a quality filmmaker. But why not have one person overseeing the entire trilogy? My guess was they can't get anyone who wants to make that kind of commitment for three whole films... because this is a franchise born of Lucas and now adopted by Disney. How plausible is it that three different filmmakers are going to want to treat each of these stories like it's their own baby? Isn't it more likely that they are interested in being a hired gun and cashing in, then passing it on so they can move on to stories they really care about?

Lucas definitely is not David Lynch. And David Lynch is not Stanley Kubrick. Or Steven Spielberg, or Michael Bay, or Kurosawa or Tarantino or Bunuel. No one of these men is less entitled to create films their way than anyone else. I personally, as a viewer, enjoy some of their films much more than others, and everyone will have a different list. But it is ALWAYS better when these people have more control than a studio exec. I will live with the films I don't like to have greater opportunities to see films I do like, and that will happen more often when writers and directors have control of their own work.

My skepticism is primarily directed towards Disney, not so much at J.J. Abrams. If J.J., Rian Johnson and co knock it out of the park and I enjoy the films, I'm not going to try and downplay my enjoyment... I absolutely want to be entertained. But that doesn't mean I'll say that in some cases, it's a good situation for studio bosses to dictate a creative direction for a film. They do not care about stories, period. They care about making money. That drives too much creative decision making in Hollywood and if I happen to enjoy one of those films it's a fluke.
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Re: Star Wars

Postby FauxOwl » Mon Dec 21, 2015 6:55 pm

The film was more or less what I expected... it was entertaining with a talented and charismatic new cast and characters, but at its worst it was certainly derivative fan service. The thing that J.J. Abrams didn't do was ask "what more does the Star Wars universe have to offer that I can bring to this project" and come up with an answer other than "make a crapload of money for myself Disney corp"... not a very realistic hope but none the less I did hope... and I hope Rian Johnson asked that same question and came up with a different answer. But that would be naive.

And it's not naive to hope for something different from Twin Peaks. I have no doubt Lynch and Frost have a good answer to the question "why are we going back"?
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Re: Star Wars

Postby Gabriel » Wed Dec 23, 2015 6:52 pm

DUPLICATE POST
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Re: Star Wars

Postby Gabriel » Wed Dec 23, 2015 7:01 pm

LostInTheMovies wrote:I can agree that Lucas is not a very good screenwriter or director of actors but the man behind THX 1138 is a born filmmaker.


Given he's from the film school crowd from that era, rather than being 'born,' he's a trained filmmaker – we could do with a few more of those! Lynch is another trained art college graduate. There's a lot to be said for proper schooling. I'm not properly trained and have learned my job by doing. It gives me some advantages – thinking outside the box – but I've missed out on a lot and a real talent, properly trained, would be a master of orthodox thinking and be able to apply those skills to unorthodox thinking. I'm not saying Lucas was untalented, but THX-1138 is a 44-year-old film. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Walter Murch and had David Myers as his cinematographer, not to mention Lalo Schifrin on scoring duties. For a young director, surrounding yourself with a lot of experience, plus the talented young Murch is a surefire way to keep a picture running safely. Of course, THX 1138 was also heavily special-edition-ised eventually, although people seem to feel it was to better effect than the Lucas-instigated vandalism of the original Star Wars films since the 1990s, while refusing to keep the earlier versions in circulation.

JJ Abrams strikes me as an ideas guy, and recycled ideas at that, not at all someone with a command of film form.


I'd say he's got as much 'command' as anyone out there. How do you define 'command of film form?' I'm not sure what that means. I mean, he can get someone to point a camera and shoot. He knows how to put a film together. He runs a company called Bad Robot, essentially an ideas house in the vein of the likes of Desliu in the 1960s. Plus, talent borrows and genius steals. Lucas in mashing up every matinee serial ever made created Star Wars and Indiana Jones: examples of derivative filmmaking as an art form!

What are the new things you feel he tries in movies?


I meant he tries things he hasn't personally done before. He gets bored doing the same thing over and over.

I'm not familiar enough with his work to say you're wrong, but someone did some side by side comparisons of Lucas' compositions and Abrams' from the trailer and the latter seemed completely bland by comparison.


The look of Abram's film is mostly superior to anything in the previous six films. No, there's no 'wow' shot of the scale of the opening of Star Wars, but I don't think any Wars film since has achieved that. The are numerous moments of utter beauty in TFA, though, and the film as a whole is better looking than any of its predecessors. In fact that's one of the things that captivated me most in the film. The shot of the TIE fighters in the blazing sunset is a particular joy to behold. And if the compositions are lacking, then the cinematographer is really to blame.

Lucas genuinely arose from a culture that appreciated cinema as cinema and it shows in his work.


Absolutely it's there in the first Star Wars film but his other four Wars films (he directed Jedi by proxy, basically having Richard Marquand give instructions, only to countermand them) lack any of the impact. The strongest film of the originals is Empire, when he stepped back and let his film school teacher direct. But I don't think you'll find that the likes of Abrams aren't just as immersed and in love with cinema. Indeed, it's in the present that so many great works of cinema are being restored because the respect continues through the generations. The home video generation has better access to movies than any before.

Phantom Menace is visually disappointing but Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are genuinely well-directed on the micro scale.


Phantom is a disgrace: a complete waste of a movie. The second one was ok and leads into the very good Clone Wars TV series. The third one is the dullest, most sterile film I've ever sat through. Truly, I would have found reading a two-page plot synopsis more exciting. As a massive fan of digital cinema, its one film I would duck if it was used to challenge me over my enthusiasm for it. At least I can now use the excuse that the film's a decade old, was bad in the first place and digital acquisition got better. Revenge of the Sith ticks every negative box for digital cinema. It's a frustrating watch, especially since all the characters, especially Anakin, are better acted and more likeable in the Clone Wars cartoons. If Haydn Christensen is indeed back in Episode VIII, I'm intrigued to see what sort of performance Rian Johnson will get from him. It's easy to blame Christensen for the 'plankness' of Anakin, but, given the awful performances across the board from great and experienced actors, it seems to be more down to the man in charge.

And personally, though I'll see at least some of the new films and hopefully enjoy tem I don't get WHY we need new Star Wars. Let the old ones be. The whole affair just stinks of sucking up to Gen X nostalgia to me. Sorry to be a downer! ;)


Not a downer. I understand your point. But films like this make money. ;) Also, Lucas created a vast universe that he's happily exploited with hundreds of comic books, novels and loads of cartoon episodes. So making more movies (especially anthology movies) makes sense.

TFA is the first committee film and, while I would agree there are too many callbacks to the past – TFA is a kind of intertextual mashup of the original trilogy – it does kind of draw a line in the sand and allow the future films to do something new. Plus, the new characters and the actors playing them are terrific.

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