lazypadawan: (tesbhan&leia)
Aren't these Blu-Ray cut scenes fun? The latest one to surface is a cut scene with Han and Leia from TESB. If you've read Donald Glut's novelization, this is the scene with those lines about "you're as cold as this planet." Leia's "enjoy your trip, hot shot" at the end is funny but otherwise I think the scene was played with a little too much "rawr." The version that's in the film hits the right note: it shows the tension between the two of them but with the anger dialed down. They're frustrated with one another and can't really say why. In this scene, it looks like somebody did something wrong and there's genuine resentment because of it. A little too angsty for Han and Leia. The drama at Bespin is all of the angst they need.
lazypadawan: (tesbhan&leia)
I finally finished this behemoth of a book. Like its predecessor, it doesn't lend itself too well to speed reading. J.W. Rinzler recounts in meticulous detail, sometimes even to the point of tedium, every step of the process of making TESB a reality.

And what a process it was. It's a good thing that there was no internet or a nosy 24/7 news media back then because TESB was beset with problems from the get-go: a screenwriter who dies right after an unsatisfactory first draft, money problems, a shooting schedule that went on and on and on, injuries, illness, death, bad weather, you name it. I can't imagine what it would have been like if there were the same problems on the set of say, AOTC. Every headline and internet movie site would have screamed, "EPISODE II TROUBLED!!"

As a side note, I noticed on the starwars.com blog two recent items that gave away Luke's parentage up to two years prior to TESB's release. If you weren't reading those particular publications at the time, you never would have known and even if you had, you probably would have forgotten about it. Those were different times.

The book stands mostly as a testament to the late Irvin Kershner, who worked his butt off trying to get TESB right. The fascinating thing about watching ANH now is that you realize Star Wars could have gone in any number of different directions in a sequel. It could have gone toward hard science fiction, it could have become straightforward space opera, it could have become a comic book in space, a neo-Flash Gordon if you will. But Kershner recognized what Lucas had crafted was a mythology with philosophical overtones. That's what he was drawn to and ultimately, that was the movie he made.

The book also busts a lot of myths that had sprung up around the movie over the years. Leigh Brackett's contributions were minimal at best and to be honest, Lucas's draft was a heck of a lot better, though it took Lawrence Kasdan to refine it into its final form. Lucas was hardly a disinterested spectator, though he spent a lot of time on the organization of his burgeoning company and budget headaches.

Producer Gary Kurtz is treated somewhat diplomatically, but the elephant in the room is that he couldn't keep things moving along on schedule and on budget. Some of it wasn't his fault. But you can see that toward the end, Howard Kazanjian (who produced ROTJ) started stepping in and Kurtz was being scooted out. The book says Lucas and Kurtz came to a mutual agreement that Kurtz wouldn't be back on the next film, one being disappointed with how things were managed and the other sick of the whole thing.

The book also diplomatically dances around the implication that Carrie Fisher's extracurricular activities had something to do with some of her illnesses, with on-set mutterings about how she needed to take better care of herself. Harrison Ford got real cranky by the end of his run, but maybe that's because of the endless shooting schedule. Mark Hamill seemed to be a real trouper, having to stick out longer than everyone else and subject to more of a beating, along with having to be a dad for the first time. He also seemed to be the most honest about having bad days, heh heh.

It borrows quite a bit from the gossipy paperback of the same name, published years ago after the film came out, but with a whole lot more. Nothing is left unturned.

All in all, it's a dense read but a fascinating one. Yeah, some of it were details I didn't care about but from Rinzler's standpoint, somebody out there does and I guess on that account, he's right. It makes me quite anxious to see a similar book on ROTJ, which seems likely to come out in 2013. Get to work, Rinzler!

Will we see similar books on the prequel movies? There was a lot of information forthcoming about those films, though if you ask me, I'd love a much more detailed account of AOTC than what we got. We'll have to see.
lazypadawan: (tesbhan&leia)
The Library of Congress's National Film Registry has tapped among its many 2010 selections (All The Presidents' Men, Airplane) George Lucas's original student film version of THX-1138 and TESB:

http://www.theforce.net/latestnews/story/TESB_Enters_The_National_Film_Registry_135799.asp

What that means is the Library of Congress will keep for all eternity a copy of the film deep in its labyrinthine vaults. ANH was included several years ago. Two down, four to go!

For you trivia buffs, I helped write the promulgation back in 1994 for that year's list of films for the National Registry, which included Blade Runner. That's one of the fun things I got to do as an intern at the U.S. Copyright Office.

TESB @ 30

May. 21st, 2010 11:30 am
lazypadawan: (tesbhan&leia)
My first viewing of TESB was on May 27, 1980. "The sequel to Star Wars," as it was known then, opened on a Wednesday and it didn’t really occur to my folks to go opening day. Since it was almost Memorial Day weekend, they figured they would wait until then to see the movie. Our first attempt on Sunday was a bust; we could see from an overpass near the Dadeland Twin (R.I.P.) the lines extending far into the parking lot. The next day, my dad left town for a business trip. On Tuesday we were back in school but when my brother and I came home, my mom had decided she didn't want to wait any longer. So off the three of us went to catch the 5 p.m. show. My dad still hasn't forgiven us for that.

I remember covering my eyes a lot because I truly feared for the mortal well-being of our heroes. Watching the snowspeeders bob and dodge about in glorious 70MM on a massive screen made me nauseous. When Darth Vader dropped the bomb on Luke, I thought he was lying to trick Luke into joining the Dark Side. By the end of the movie, I figured Vader was telling the truth. I fell in puppy dog love with Han and when he was put in carbonite, I thought for sure he would be rescued by the end of the movie. Then he wasn't. The first thing I told my brother when we walked out of the theater was, "This has turned into a soap opera." Where else had I seen before cliffhanger endings, strange revelations about long-lost relatives, and kissing scenes other than episodes of "Dallas" (remember, this was the summer of Who Shot J.R.) and "As The World Turns?" ANH might have introduced us to the GFFA but TESB set the course for the rest of the saga.

TESB is widely respected in part because even today most sequels succumb to the sophomore slump, creatively and/or box office-wise, and this film took a gamble by going in a different direction from what most people would have expected. It wasn't "Star Wars 2," a formulaic repeat of the first film. The characters looked different, they had evolved in their place within the story, and the relationships among them had progressed. The film defied everything you thought you knew when you walked through the door. Leia ended up with Han, not with Luke. The good guys lose throughout the film. The only "triumph" in TESB was escaping the Empire's clutches. Han was left in peril. Luke lost his hand. Vader seemed angrier and more evil than ever…until he revealed himself as Luke's father, a scene that set the stage not only for his own redemption but also for Eps I-III. It also called into question the saintly image of Obi-Wan created in the first film. Nobody in Hollywood would have created a sequel like that to the most successful film in history. And maybe there was a small price to pay for it at the time. TESB became the second highest-grossing film of all time but it was far behind ANH and today it's the film with the smallest b.o. take in the series. Not all of the critics loved it, something I didn't know until years later. Most of the people I knew in my 10-year-old's world liked it, even though some of my schoolmates couldn't understand why it ended the way it did. One must wonder how TESB would have fared today. I can see the "movie assassins" roving the internet complaining that Lucas ruined SW, how that Irwin Kershner was a hack who didn't "get" the first movie, or how that stupid Yoda looked like a fake puppet and his dialogue was straight out of a fortune cookie. Maybe they would have ranted about the film's racism because Lando, the saga's sole black character thus far, was a betrayer. 1980 though was a different time. Everybody loved Yoda. Lando Calrissian became the biggest role in Billy Dee Williams' career (I think every Gen Xer found it very amusing to see "Lando" sell Colt 45 malt liquor on t.v.), and Boba Fett began his long career as a cult fanboy favorite.

Because that gamble ultimately paid off, TESB is now what moviemakers aspire to when they try to make a sequel (along with "Godfather II" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"). But TESB rarely gets credit for defining what Star Wars became. It could have gone in any direction after ANH. TESB could have shifted SW toward traditional science fiction or pure space opera. It could have shifted SW toward high fantasy. While SW kept some fantasy and space opera elements, TESB ultimately chose something outside of genre altogether: family drama. At its core, SW is pretty much along the lines of the Godfather flicks, only with spaceships, lightsabers, blasters, quasi-mysticism, and planet-hopping instead of Mafia politics and hit jobs. And that all happened because Lucas chose to establish a familial relationship between Luke and Vader.
lazypadawan: (han)
Some lucky bastards who managed to score tickets will be awash in geek celebrity at L.A.'s Arclight Theater tonight as TESB is screened in digital format along with a Q&A featuring Harrison Ford. There was so much demand for tix that a second theater with a simulcast of the Q&A was added. That sold out too.

Among the celebs besides Ford slated to attend: Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, Christopher Nolan, Jon Favreau, Ewan McGregor, James Arnold Taylor (DUDE, HE AND EWAN MUST MEET!!), and Matt Lanter. I'm sure we'll hear about more famous folks in the audience after the event.

Update: starwars.com has pictures and a write-up. Hamill was a no-show but just about everyone associated with Clone Wars was there (except for Ashley Eckstein, who is working on her gig as co-host of Star Wars Weekends in Orlando) along with Ewan McGregor.
lazypadawan: (tesbhan&leia)
Spike TV is running the first three SW flicks all day on Saturday in honor of the 30th anniversary of TESB. TESB will be broadcast on a big t.v. thingie in Times Square if you happen to be in NYC at 4 p.m. EST. Spike also has a bunch of special ads for the occasion here:

http://www.spike.com/show/37798
lazypadawan: (tesbhan&leia)
Apparently Papa George sent the cast and crew of "Lost" a letter congratulating them on the end of the series. Some fanboy blogs are making hay out of jokey comment Lucas made about not having the whole thing planned out in advance, but come on...I didn't think he had it all planned out in advance either. It's fans who think he said he did, but then decided he was worse than Pol Pot for not admitting he didn't.

Producer Damon Lindelof said, "I just want to apologize to Mr. George Lucas for everything I said about the prequels.” Uh huh. Just goes to show you who in this picture has a lot more class. Don't worry, Mr. Lindelof, your turn is coming. You won't please these losers forever.

Meanwhile, the original Leigh Brackett draft of the TESB screenplay has been making the rounds. I'd link to it but the server it's on is overloaded. It's unclear whether this coincidentally bubbled up from the ether or whether this is from the upcoming "The Making of The Empire Strikes Back." But you can read over the highlights posted here:

http://geeksofdoom.com/2010/05/15/early-draft-of-empire-strikes-back-reveals-alternate-star-wars-universe/

Some of it is stuff that got recycled in other movies, some of it stayed, and some of it was mercifully jettisoned in future drafts. Like the "tender love scene" with Luke and Leia o_0. The White Clan warriors sound like "Avatar" characters but they also seem a bit like proto-Kaminoans, at least in appearance. And Darth Vader has pet gargoyles! Just from that rundown, I'm glad the final version played up Leia falling in love with Han and played down the love triangle bit. It just made Leia look bad (why would she suddenly throw herself at Han after getting cozy with Luke?) and having Luke decide he doesn't love her the same way by the film's end would have made everyone question his orientation. Brackett apparently did not know Vader and Luke's father were one and the same, maybe because Lucas hadn't decided yet to merge the two characters. I know that was definitely the case with "Luke's sister" and Leia, because early drafts of ROTJ have them as separate characters.

I kind of agree with the Geeks of Doom post in that there are ideas in there that could be used in the expanded universe; the ideas could also make for great fan fiction fodder. *Rubs hands.*
lazypadawan: (tesbhan&leia)
It would be a lot easier to appreciate all of the festivities surrounding TESB's 30th anniversary if I were completely confident the 30th anniversaries of the subsequent SW films will be celebrated accordingly. Call me a pessimist, but somehow I just don't see the big to-dos on starwars.com, in every SW-related media from the t.v. shows to magazines to whatever, charity screenings, and even SW's most reclusive creatures to appear for--yikes--Q&A sessions happening for ROTJ. I really hope they prove me wrong. We'll see in 2013.

While ANH is the firstborn, TESB has reached mythic and nearly hagiographic status. It's the Marcia Brady of the Saga. In fact, I just read something a week or so ago that claims it is the best sequel evah, even better than the long-praised Godfather II. Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of things to love about TESB and I will get to all of that when I post my 30th anniversary retrospective on May 21. But have you ever had the uncomfortable experience of listening to a parent wax poetic about how one child is so smart, so pretty, so handsome, so popular, etc. but has little or no praise for that parent's other children? That's how it feels to listen to or read all of this stuff sometimes.

A few years ago, I posted elsewhere about keeping TESB in perspective and I got some "gasp, how can you say that" type of responses. One guy said something along the lines of, "You weren't there." Yes, I certainly was "there." I first saw TESB on May 27, 1980 and I recall that few people ran out of the theater proclaiming it the greatest sequel ever. Certainly a lot of people loved it but a much about it was, well, unexpected. I'll get to that in my May 21 post. It took a long time, in the context of seeing the whole first trilogy, for audiences to fully appreciate it. But it goes to show you how it's become groupthink to believe nothing less than TESB was the last truly worthwhile SW film and the best of the whole series.

Not only am I concerned about how this skewed view of TESB has diminished appreciation for the other SW films, I'm concerned that ultimately it will turn and bite TESB in the butt. How long will it be before fashion dictates TESB is "overrated," then it's just as trashy as the rest of those $@$#@# movies that ruined cinema forever?

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