A FUNNY THING HAPPENED TO STAR WARS, AND WHY J.J. ABRAMS MIGHT SAVE IT
A funny thing happened to Star Wars.....and why J.J. Abrams might save it.
I have just recently revisited the Star Wars films again with my 5 1/2-year-old son. I grew up on them and was very excited to share in the joy of these wonderful movies to him. On the first three (outside of those frigging Ewoks) I would have to say the magic is still there. I still remember the first time I saw Star Wars at the movies; a ten-year-old boy staring awestruck, at the theater screen, transported to a galaxy far, far away. There had never been a movie like Star Wars before. The special effects were groundbreaking, the story was simple but compelling, and the actors who portrayed the characters had a life and joy that was present throughout the first three films. They were a hell of a lot of fun! There were creativity and humor in these movies. There was a balance between the story and the effects. Dazzling as they were, the drama with these characters was never lost or overwhelmed by them. There was a beauty, and simplicity to the movies and they were frigging fun. Star Wars changed the movie industry. It made me love the movies.
When it was announced that the next three chapters of the Star Wars films were to be made, I was incredibly excited, like the rest of the world. The technology was there for George Lucas to make his next three films, aided by the tools that he and his company’s pioneering work in filmmaking had developed to bring the Star Wars experience to the next level. Then...(DA, DA... DUM!!!)... The Phantom Menace came out.
Let me say right off the bat, that the effects in all of the races, battles, and space scenes are breathtaking. They are brilliantly imaginative, and the innovation and touches of wit at times are top notch. The pod race, in Star Wars I, is at it’s best. The flying car chase in the city is thrilling. The water planet with the clones...wonderfully dark and mysterious. It is a technological marvel. But outside of the last half hour or so of the Revenge of the Sith, it has a surprising lack of drama for such an important part of the Star War’s myth; the birth of Darth Vader!
The biggest mistake George Lucas made in the next three films I think, is to have a large portion of them shot on green screen, and add the background effects afterward. I know this is a process that is done all the time, but in the case here, there is an undeniable stiffness to a majority of the actors in many of these scenes. I got the feeling that they were reading from cue cards for the first time. It really is at times truly a boring experience watching some of these moments in all the three films. There is so much convoluted speak of separatists and Senate votes, trade federation, trade dispute and they go on and on….I got lost at times trying to follow it. I felt like I was watching C-Span in space. Look, there are some really fine actors in these movies; really damn good actors: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman, Samuel Jackson, Christopher Lee and Ian McDiarmid. They all do their best and it’s not their fault though. It’s Lucas’s convoluted and at times boring script that is filler for the brilliant special effects. That’s not fun, and it sure isn’t the first Star Wars films.
I think the best thing Lucas could have done with this series, is to have done what he did with the last two films: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi; hand over the director’s reigns to someone else, and oversee his world like the father he is of this baby. Look, George Lucas can do what he wants: he made this wonderful world of characters. I just think that the thing that drove the first three films, was sacrificed for the effects and presentation for the next three installments. Star Wars is still good stuff; it just could have been much, much better. I will say that the last quarter of Revenge Of The Sith ramped up the drama and once again, you felt that flutter in your heart as the weight of what these characters were dealing with was there again. It was a very good recovery.
J.J. Abram's is a man who grew up on Star Wars. If you read anything on his early influences, you will see he is very passionate about the Star War's world. I know many have had problems with the fact that Abrahams was not a die-hard Star Trek fan, but in my opinion, he stayed true to the tone of the original series, of which I am a huge fan of and made two very entertaining films with his own stamp, full of witty dialog and wonderfully choreographed action scenes. There was drama and a high entertainment value. Face it, he did a great job, given the huge responsibility to take on this institution. The guy knows what he is doing, despite you plastic Spock ears. If you haven't seen (Super 8) yet, you should. It is the closest thing to older Spielberg, with a group of youngsters trying to save a town from an alien presence. The kids are all written well and Abrams get some really good performance from them in this nostalgic film about small-town America. Abrams co-created (Lost) and (Fringe) and directed Mission Impossible III. He created (Felicity) and (Alias) along with many other notable credits. Oh, by the way, he is also a composer. Watch an interview with him, and you will see that this guy is obviously excited about what he is doing and has true passion; the exact thing that the next Star Wars needs. The exact thing that the last three Star Wars was lacking.
My rant: Things that I think went wrong with Star Wars I, II, and III
The young boy who plays Anakin, is an adorable kid who delivers lines with zero emotion and sacrifices the drama and great significance of the tragedy of this story. It was terrible casting.
Hayden Christensen was another poor casting choice. I have seen him in other things where he did well...but he is totally wrong for this. He is neither a sympathetic character nor do I understand his slow descent into the dark side or his resentment to Obi-Wan. I am sorry, but he whines and pouts throughout like a petulant child. Update 2017...He still is a horrible choice and really hurts the films, although, I must amend, that in (Revenge of the Sith) his angry descent into the Dark Side is actually better than I remember.
Oh..my...GOD……..Jar Jar Binks!!!! I am sure even Lucas regrets this misfire.
What the hell is up with Natalie Portman’s costumes and her double in these films?? I kept waiting for the peasants to show up and start throwing fruit at her. Horrible over the top costume design and I love her as an actress.This is a stupid gripe, but it only added to the stiffness of it all.Still Portman is very good and is a plus in the casting.
The Battle Droids: Bad, bad idea. They fall over like dominos, get sliced in two by lightsabers like nothing and once again, there is no sense of drama to any scene they are in. They are comic, computer relief. At least the stormtroopers were people in suits. The perfect example of where technology sucks the life out of the drama, are these beautifully rendered computer bad guys who pose zero threat.
Killing Darth Maul. So, here we have a scary, mysterious Sith villain….and we kill him in the first movie? I am guessing they needed to move along and make room for you know who, but this was a cool bad guy that should have stuck around for a bit.
The romance: Here we have two very attractive people, and I could care less, nor do I buy that this is substantial. It added no drama to the films for me...and this sets up the tragedy of a good guy turning into Darth Vader! Again... huge mistake.(Once again, I will amend that Christensen is better at the darker stuff.
Stiff as boards characters throughout. This really does shock me this one, but it is true.
General Grievous…a robot bad guy.. who has a bad cough….no really....Really goofy bad guy. Battle Droids 1.5.
There are beautiful shots on planets with cityscapes and brilliant space scenes, where there are literally hundreds of ships moving in the background, while nothing is going on in the foreground.
I could go on and on and I am sure that many will disagree. That’s fine, because I truly love Star Wars and I can’t wait to take my seven-year-old in two years to see what J.J. Abrams can do with this wonderful world George Lucas created. I know one thing....we will have fun.
So far, so good...the trailers look wonderful!!