Friday, November 8, 2013

My Favorite Era: The Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)

It's post #250!  To celebrate, let's go to a galaxy far, far away.

The Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)

Needless to say, these three films speak for themselves so relating the plots is an exercise in wasted time.  I love all three movies and agree with all the accolades they have received over the years.  So, for this mega review we'll be sticking to favorite moments, jokes and odd little tidbits that probably only I find funny.

We've got the original theatrical cuts and six and a quarter hours of stuff to wade through, let's take an affectionate, irreverent closer look.

Star Wars (1977)

  • To date, I think the total kill count for Imperial Stormtroopers is still around the six in the first five minutes of this movie and maybe about ten or so over the course of the rest of the trilogy.
  • The thing I love about all of these films is the realization that between the two droids, R2-D2 is the real brains of the operation, held back only by the back he can't frigging talk.
  • I like to think that the Jawas capturing C-3PO went something like this: They drive up and begin to get out but he just gets into their sandcrawler as they all just look at each other in shock, probably muttering something along the lines of "Jesus, why can't they all be this easy?"
  • I don't know why but for some reason I've always gotten a chuckle out of there being just one really tall Jawa wandering around.
  • I love how this film retroactively makes some of the stuff in the prequels make sense.  Darth Vader started out a whiny little bitch?  Guess what?  It's in the genes!  Christ, Luke is the kind of kid I would have mercilessly mocked in school, and I was one of the nice kids!  Come to think of it, R2 kind of screws with Luke to begin with if you think about it.
  • Not sure why everyone makes a big deal out of the blue milk.  You get a carton of the regular and leave it out for a few  months, same thing.  Though to be fair, I would hate to see what Luke's aunt had to milk to get that stuff.
  • Thanks to the version of the movie I had recorded off of TV, every time I see the first scene with the sand people I think of the song "Looking out for Number One".  I think it was in a car commercial or something.
  • Interesting to note that in the first half hour, we see three indigenous sets on Tattooine: farmers, tall scavengers and short scavengers.  Hmm, maybe Lucas has always been sort of a twit.
  • Alec Guinness displays the prototypical motto for English performers: No matter how much you think the script stinks, do your best.  If nothing else, he makes the inherently goofy Jedi philosophical stuff sound at least halfway reasonable.
  • Not sure which is easier to break into several pieces, the old Kenner C-3PO action figure or the character in the movies.
  • Not for nothing, but it has to be said that Mark Hamill plays grief more subtly and effectively than Hayden Christiansen.
  • Ever wonder how many kids tried the Jedi mind trick on their parents as a way to get out of trouble?
  • Gotta love the Stuart Freeborn creature designs, along with early Rick Baker stuff.
  • Always loved how Harrison Ford goes bug-eyed at the sight of danger.  Just one of the many things that makes him so great.
  • Peter Cushing: when you need pure evil in the most gaunt, skinny package imaginable.  God, he was awesome!
  • Naturally, the score by John Williams is great, as it is in the other movies.
  • Always got a laugh out of Chewbacca roaring at the little droid in the hallway.  It's the shrug and exhaling afterwards that makes it.  Sort of a "Well, I needed that.  Let's get moving" sort of thing.
  • I like to think the real name of the thing in the garbage chute was "Plot Element" before Lucas put in one of his patented names that sounds cool when you're a kid, and then is just silly later on.
  • Based on the performance of the average Stormtrooper, and given that a slightly fey droid can outwit them, I'd say you don't even need to use a Jedi mind trick on them.  Pointing in one direction and running in the other should do just fine.
  • Related to that, not sure Obi Wan really needed to use The Force to distract from his shutting down the tractor beam.
  • The powers of quality filmmaking: when I was a kid, the brief bit where the blade of Ben's lightsaber is suddenly just the dowel they were using while shooting the scene was interpreted by my young brain as the guy's sword shorting out.  Of course, the MAD Magazine parody also helped in that regard.
  • Sometimes grief counseling takes the form of blowing the living shit out of enemy starships.  Beats paying a shrink.
  • The Death Star and the Millennium Falcon: Two of the coolest things from my childhood and also two toys I was never able to afford.  It's a wonder this didn't start me swearing at age eight.
  • Based on this film, would it be fair to say that the Y-Wing fighter is sort of the Joe Estevez of the Rebel fleet?  Memorable, but you really prefer the X-Wing because it's cooler.
  • The story of Wedge: Denis Lawson probably owes quite a bit to this series.  Sort of funny how a relatively minor character can become one of the more popular ones just by sheer virtue of not getting his ship blown up in every single major battle.  No wonder there are entire novels dedicated to the guy.
  • Funny thing to me about the medal scene at the end is how it's shot so that you never notice just how damn short Carrie Fisher is.  Oh, and I'm pretty sure Chewbacca is roaring "What about my damn medal, you jerks?" at the end.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

  • Add the Tauntaun to the list of cool things I was never able to get the toy for.  There was a huge one in a Toys r Us that practically made me drool like a St. Bernard.  Granted in the film they seem about as unable to survive on the planet as the rebels but still!
  • Same goes for the Imperial Walkers.
  • The Wampa always was a cool thing to me when I was a kid.  One of the things Lucas did right with the special editions of these films was to let us see the damn thing in all its glory.
  • Gotta say that as great the entire movie is, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher really steal the show.  Their chemistry is really entertaining.  Han's reactions to the constant issues with his ship are great too.
  • The Imperial March: the unofficial theme song for lousy bosses and supervisors for 33 years.
  • The Force Choke is great for multitasking, apparently.
  • This is really where the series turned into an action franchise.  The snow battle is one of the best action sequences I've ever seen, as is the later stuff in the asteroid field.
  • I've come to believe the one thing worse than rush hour traffic in Los Angeles is trying to land on Dagobah.
  • Sure it's really a test of patience (sort of like the chores in The Karate Kid being the guy;s first lesson), but you have to wonder how the hell Yoda arrived at "Crazy little scavenging asshole" as a means of testing Luke's patience.  Granted, he did have plenty of time to think up stuff.  I sort of want to know the ideas he rejected.
  • And just for the sake of covering everything, yeah, Frank Oz is frigging brilliant.
  • I love that Yoda is apparently a lousy cook if Luke's reaction to his efforts are anything to go by.
  • Based on the logistics of it all, I'm really glad we never saw just how Han and company got into that space slug thing.
  • I've always loved how the stuff with Luke and Yoda is essentially the first half of every single kung fu movie.
  • Is it weird that these days Boba Fett reminds me a lot of Dwight Howard's run with the Lakers last season?  Lots of hype but in the end sort of a letdown.  Although in all fairness, I'm pretty sure Mr. Howard would be able to take a blind guy with a stick.
  • Love Yoda's wide-eyed look as Luke begins to lift the ship.  It's like he's thinking "Holy crap, the dolt is gonna do it first time out!"
  • Another great thing about this movie is the ability of the actors to have great chemistry with inanimate objects.  Luke and R2; Luke and Yoda, Chewbacca and C-3PO after he;ls been shot to pieces.  The last one is even more impressive as it's a guy in a suit doing mime while a puppeteer operates a  dismembered droid.
  • Always thought it was cool that the lighting for the final shot of Yoda in this film is nearly identical to the lighting for him in the next one.
  • Always enjoyed Billy Dee Williams as Lando.
  • As always, James Earl Jones is the voice of Darth Vader.  Having heard original production audio with David Prowse delivering the lines, I can say that it doesn't really work.
  • The carbon freezing scene still manages to have an emotional effect on me.
  • The epic duel with Vader and Luke is still one of my favorite sword fights of all time.  It's just great how each segment is a little different.  The stuff in the freezing chamber is sort of a feeling out period, the stuff in the middle is a little more lopsided as Vader gets more shots in and the last stage is basically Vader (love the huge scale difference when he leaps in front of Luke) hammering Luke with our hero trying like hell to just survive.  It's a real showstopper.
  • I used to have those audio storybooks where a popular film would be turned into a record/storybook combo and of course, the Star Wars films were among the ones I had.  I bring this up here because the guy doing Vader in the Empire Strikes Back one must have had a throat infection if his line readings were anything to go by.
  • The escape from Cloud City is a lot of fun, it gives a rather dark movie a nice rousing ending while still retaining the cliffhanger aspect that makes it so memorable.
  • Vader's reaction to the escape is nice too.
  • Always found it funny that Lando is wearing Han's vest in the last scene.
Return of the Jedi (1983)

  • The re-release of this film in 1985 is the first time I ever saw a movie in the theater.  Needless to say, this got me hoked on the action figures and it was just a snowball effect from there on in.
  • Of all the Darth Vader entrances, I think the one here might be my favorite.  Just the image of him coming through the steam is utterly cool to me.
  • The first forty minutes or so of the film are possibly my favorite in the entire franchise.
  • The stuff in Jabba's palace is a gift from above for a creature feature fan like me.  Jabba is fantastic as are all the other creatures infesting the palace.
  • Still have no idea what the point of torturing a droid with hot steel is.  Makes a nice segue to the musical number though.
  • That musical number is still quite the catchy tune.  Great way to foreshadow the Rancor as well.
  • I always found it amusing just how little of the plan C-3PO was let in on.  Outside of going to the palace and getting in it seems like Luke thought "I don't have time to argue with this guy, got other stuff to do."  It carries through to the rest of the movie as well which makes it even better.
  • How can you hate a movie that has some sort of frog monster snapping up a terrified creature as a transition between interior scenes?
  • Always found it funny how the translation for "Jedi mind trick" in Jabba's native tongue is... "Jedi mind trick."  Well, Lawrence Kasdan can't do everything, I guess.  Maybe that was a Lucas idea.
  • The most impressive thing about that brass bikini Leia is sporting?  They managed somehow to make 5'1 Carrie Fisher look leggy.  That's damn impressive costume design in my book!
  • I still think the Rancor is one of the coolest creatures designs of the 80's is not all time.  The little bit with the keeper weeping over it is also great.
  • The transition from the palace to outside has always been something I enjoyed.  If you're in a dark enough room, the change should be enough to actually make you wince and back up a little.  Not to come off as a masochist or anything.
  • The Sarlacc sequence is a great action beat.  We learn that a blind Harrison Ford can still kick your ass, even in other galaxies a garroting is a valid way to off a gangster and of course, the best way to escape trouble is to just blow it up real good.
  • Ian McDiarmid is fantastic as The Emperor, as one would expect.  It takes quite a bit to out-evil Darth Vader but he does it.
  •  I like to imagine that after learning Leia is his sister, Luke thought about that kiss she gave him in the last movie and just threw up in the bog for about five minutes.
  • I can also see him muttering to himself about being a Jedi but still not being able to land on Dagobah without breaking his damn ship.
  • Have to mention the record/storybook thing again because there is a version (just the sound from the film without a storybook) where Yoda's voice is slowed down to the point where I thought something was wrong with my record player when I listened to it as a kid.
  • That record was pretty good though, nice sound with the audio taken directly from the film.
  • Not sure how anyone can be shocked at the names Lucas threw out in the prequels when this one has the Mon Calamari. Jesus, the design is cool but the name is a real sort of "We're pressed for time damn it, think of something" decision.
  • Always dug the interiors of the second Death Star.  Like the first one only better.
  • I've always gotten a kick out of the loud grunts of exertion Harrison Ford lets out whenever he;s in a fist fight.  It's right up there with Roger Moore's groaning in some of his James Bond films and Arnold Schwarzenegger's grunting.  Always felt it added a little something to his Everyman action guy persona and here it makes sense as he's trying to toss around guys in heavy armor.
  • Love the speeder bike chase, just utterly cool and still looks pretty good today.
  • Of all the vehicle toys out there when I  was a kid, I had the speeder bike, the Tie Fighter Vader used in the first film and the B-Wing fighter.  In spite of all this, I had a relatively happy childhood.  First two were cool though (the B-Wing is cool looking and the toy was big but it doesn't do a hell of a lot in the film).  Is it obvious I'm still bummed I never got an X-Wing?
  • I'm not afraid to say it, I don't really mind the Ewoks that much.  Are there one or two moments with them that don't work?  Yeah, but they work in the context of the story the filmmakers are trying to tell.  Yeah, they are kind of childish and a fairly obvious shot at an easy action figure.  Guess what?  The whole franchise was always marketed towards kids!  And as far as the action figure thing goes, pretty much every movie had them.  Alien had them for crying out loud!
  • Apparently The Force must be used for knowledge, defense and levitating your droid when just having him talk you out of being eaten by a bunch of three foot tall bear creatures doesn't work.
  • Nice dramatic beat with Luke and Leia.  Hamill and Fisher are actually pretty decent actors.  Odd that they can rise above the rather bad Lucas dialogue and yet Ewan MacGregor and Natalie Portman struggled.
  • I always loved the green lightsaber, it just seemed so much cooler than the blue one Luke was using before.
  • The space battle stuff is simply mind blowing, even today.  The sight of all those Tie fighters flying at the screen is still one of the best visual effects in cinema.  I'd say it even tops the stuff in Revenge of the Sith's first twenty minutes.
  • The fighting down on Endor is fun as well, gotta love seeing the bad guys get theirs from basic technology.  I also get a kick out of Chewbacca getting behind the cont5rols of a walker and just blasting everything in his path.
  • The filmmakers were very smart to not try and top the lightsaber duel from the first one, instead making it more of an emotional duel than a physical one.  The finale where Luke loses it is a wonderfully done bit of filmmaking.
  • I also have to give a ton of credit to the performers in the Ewok suits.  Couldn't have been an easy day at work and you actually get a few really, really good bits of acting here and there, especially from Warwick Davis as Wicket and Debbie Lee Carrington as the one Ewok grieving over the dead one.  Both have had pretty solid careers since.
  • Really, the last thirty minutes of the film are just pure, concentrated awesome.
  • The only true fault I can find is that a few of the actors (Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams to be specific) don't have a hell of a lot to do.  Still, it's not that big a thing as Ford has some fun moments and Williams gets to be the one to blow up the frigging Death Star after all!
  • Oddly enough, the bit where The Emperor blasts Luke with the Force lightning reminds of me of an old appliance store called The Federated Group that was around in the 80's.  Probably because one time in there I was distracted by that scene in one of the many TV demo models on display.
  • The filmmakers do find a way to top the trench battle though, the race through the innards of the Death Star is just fantastic.
This was quite the epic article so I'll keep the wrap up short.  The original trilogy is just fantastic and iconic.  Forget whatever the prequels did right or wrong, forget the incessant changes Lucas liked to indulge in, the first three are still fantastic movies.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.