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Thom Price
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 8:40am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Which was nearly two decades ago.  :)
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 10:11am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I think that perhaps the greatest testament to the notion that STAR WARS has been often imitated and never duplicated is that a generation or two of nerds has been chasing that initial high for decades. Everyone wants to have (or produce, in the case of the studios) that same sort of game-changing, mind-blowing experience. 

There's been one big-budget, hype-driven summer film after another, trying to chase that high. Remember when STARGATE was promoted as "STAR WARS for the 90s" in its TV spots? Have you noticed all of the genre film trilogies that have popped up, trying to emulate the structure of the original STAR WARS trilogy (with many second installments being billed as "THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" of Franchise X"?

I'd argue that none of them have quite managed to do it. Oh sure, there's been a lot of major financial success, and many of these films have become much-loved (LORD OF THE RINGS, the Marvel Studios stuff), etc. But, none of them have quite been the sort of game-changers or had the sort of insanely massive, mass-market, cross-generational saturation and impact that STAR WARS has.

Of course, STAR WARS got there first, because it was from out of nowhere. No hype, no precedent. Right time, right place. Nowadays, all of these other movies are trying to do what STAR WARS first did accidentally, and you can't break the mold after it's already been broken, y'know?


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 27 May 2016 at 10:11am
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Eric Ladd
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 10:51am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

It is very hard to fly under the radar in today's world. The radar system is freaking crazy now. Ignorance WAS bliss. I saw my first promo photo for Star Wars while I was in line to a Godzilla movie, (vs. Megalon I think) and when I finally saw it when it opened at 8 years old I was completely blown away.
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Jim Lynch
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 11:31am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I was reflecting on the original film the other day (when it was still "Star Wars", none'a this "New Hope" crap). I don't remember when I first heard of it, but somehow, back in the neolithic 1970s, 9 year old me knew all the characters, what they were (it would be, what, 22 years later before they actually used the word 'Sith' in a Star Wars film). I knew it all before I ever saw it. And to this day I stand behind nobody in my love for that film, the old scratchy 70 MM print where Darth Vader's eyes were orange...
And if I may be maudlin, I even remember when I saw it the first time. It was showing in the best theater in town, along with The Deep (for which they had a big water tank out front). My mom took us, and we stood in line about an hour for tickets. But what an experience!
Recently I watched Smokey and The Bandit, and Close Encounters in a short time frame, and told my kids "See the clothes they're wearing? That's the kind of thing I was wearing the first half dozen times I saw Star Wars." I thought it was humorous, they didn't.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 11:34am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

The "no hype" aspect of the original release of STAR WARS is mostly
forgotten. My first awareness that it even existed was when I saw a
lobby card of what I would later learn was Mark Hamill on the trench
run. And it looked cheesy as hell. When people from Marvel started
raving about it I thought they were kidding -- or that it was some aspect
of the way so many of them loved Chinese Kung Fu movies, and the
cheesier the better.

Finally I dragged myself over to the theater and....
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 12:31pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

It is very hard to fly under the radar in today's world. 
-------------------------------------
One of the best ways to fly under the radar nowadays (or even back then) is to get bad press in production and then suddenly turn it around into an 'all-came-good-in-the-end' type story.

I remember this happening for Dances with Wolves, Titanic, Avatar...

And back in the late nineties (I think), Empire magazine published a little booklet with articles on Star Wars at the time of its original release. I remember there was one where the journalist described getting different stories from everyone on set about what they thought ther were making (I think Carrie Fisher said it was like the Wizard of Oz) and expressing his sympathy in particular for Harrison Ford. The journalist wrote that Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were still young and would be able to have another bite of the cherry, but Harrison Ford in his mid thirties was in last chance saloon territory...

Edited to add: might have been another article in Empire, but I remember reading Mark Hamill saying how tough and cynical the English crew were. They would refer to Chewbacca as 'the dog' and would mutter 'wanker' under their breath as Hamill walked past.


Edited by Peter Martin on 27 May 2016 at 12:34pm
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 1:38pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply


Three main points that can't be stressed enough, as to why the general public (and not just sci-fi fans) embraced the original STAR WARS at the time:

-Instantly recognizable and likable protagonists... if you didn't want to be them, you at least wanted to hang out with them. Plus, the human characters bickered and argued and acted like real human beings, a far cry from the robotic astronauts of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, or the pseudo-profundity of characters in such sci-fi TV shows as "The Starlost" or "Space: 1999"

-Instantly iconic film score... I don't care who you were in 1977, or what age, you WERE humming that theme music as you left the theater! How many film soundtracks were as instantly-classic as John Williams' STAR WARS?

-The "wow factor" and game-changing aspect of the special effects can't be underscored enough... as an exercise, I submit to any younger fans that they go over to YouTube and watch a bunch of special effects clips (for roughly 10 to 20 minutes) of such then-relatively-recent sci-fi films like 2001, SILENT RUNNING, BARBARELLA, or LOGAN'S RUN; or TV series like the original STAR TREK, THE STARLOST, SPACE: 1999 or '70s-era DOCTOR WHO... then immediately pop-in your copy of STAR WARS with the sound blasting and you MIGHT get a general idea of how mind-blowing that opening shot was, or how viscerally exciting the Death Star trench battle was, to the average filmgoer in the summer of '77!


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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 3:14pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

The repeat business is certainly a testament of the mind-blowing aspect of it all. People couldn't process it all with only one viewing, so they got back in line to see it again and again. It was too fast, too much to handle.

Nowadays, exciting space battles, complex world-building, and fast pacing are all ho-hum, par for the course, standard procedure. And kinda boring, a lot of the time.

STAR WARS got there first. When you stop and look back, there had never really been such a believable and fully-realized fictional universe presented on film, before. That is, a universe with its own specific rules, and which felt like a real (albeit fantastical) place. The whole "used future" aesthetic. Patched-together, hot-rod and fighter-jet spaceships. Alien watering holes. Droids, countless alien races, and space wizards. All glued together into a cohesive and entertaining whole. Lucas created a fully-realized universe, and made it seem effortless.

It really was a perfect distillation of so MANY disparate influences and elements--serials, Westerns, WW II movies, samurai movies, comic strips, etc. So much was brought together in one place at one time, and the impact was staggering, in terms of opening up what was possible for sci-fi on film. I wasn't even there, but I find myself in awe, just thinking about it.

That sort of filmic world-building seems so commonplace, today. Yet, no other film has ever ever gotten it quite so perfect as STAR WARS. I can only imagine how limitless the possibilities seemed, back in '77. So MUCH potential to explore in that universe. Unfortunately, Lucas pigeonholed himself into turning the series into a more and more narrowly-focused soap-opera, but just imagine if he'd stuck with initial post-release, non-linear, 12-film plan. We could have had a droid movie, a Wookiee movie, a young Ben Kenobi movie, etc. So much potential!

I find it more than a little frustrating that Disney is playing the safe route with the new films by rehashing familiar ideas and characters, rather than trying to live up to that longstanding potential to go anywhere and do anything in the SW Galaxy. We'll see how it goes.
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 3:17pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

One thing I also remember is that I first heard the theme as the MECO version. When I heard an orchestral version I was like 'What is this?'. Back and forth with my older brother about which was best (I WAS SEVEN!!!!!!!!).

And then the first time I saw the clip of the shoot out at the chasm and it has the orchestral score. My brother was so smug.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 3:23pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Y'know, the American Film Institute voted STAR WARS to be the single greatest movie score of all time, and I'm hard-pressed to disagree with that assessment.

Personally, I think THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has a richer and more polished score, but, of course, that score relies heavily on themes from STAR WARS. It's painful for me to choose between them!


Here's a question--just how much of the film's success boils down to that incredible music? As I have often noted, STAR WARS could easily have been a disaster if just one post-production element was "off" or lacking. It just so happened that, at the 11th hour, the music, editing, sound effects, and visual effects came in and turned a film few had faith in into an honest-to-gosh masterpiece.

But, what if the film had, say, a pop or synth soundtrack? Or more generic/stock sound effects? Or editing that didn't disguise the production's shortcomings, and kept the pacing moving at a rapid clip?


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 27 May 2016 at 3:24pm
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 3:37pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply


John Williams' score, I feel, helped knocked that film into the proverbial stratosphere.

Without it, I think we'd still be talking about STAR WARS, but only as that little sci-fi '70s cult hit, with the fun performances and cool special effects.

John Williams helped make it bigger. And more grand.



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Peter Martin
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 5:14pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I think it's a stone cold classic score, one of the very best. It definitely enhances the greatness of the film.

But I think the film would have been great even with a different score. I appreciate the argument that the film might have floundered if certain key elements were different, but (and though this might be heresy) I think the score might not be one of them. It would be interesting to hear what temp score was used by Lucas to guide JW. It almost certainly would have included this by Erich Korngold: LINK

I also think it's hard to say that Star Wars is the single greatest score ever. I can't even definitively say it's the best JW score of all. Jaws, Superman, Raiders, ET and Schindler's List all seem just as perfectly-suited to their respective films.
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Steve Coates
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 5:52pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Confession Time...


I did not see Star Wars in the theatre. I was 16 in 1977 and was a prime target demographic for the movie.

To be fair I didn't see any other new release movie in the theatre that year.

as it developed, I knew enough of the movie and the characters from the talk around school to accurately guess plot developments for the sequel.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 8:48pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

But I think the film would have been great even with a different score. I appreciate the argument that the film might have floundered if certain key elements were different, but (and though this might be heresy) I think the score might not be one of them. 
++++++++

It should be noted that I am by no mean dissing the story, acting, etc. it's just that the film really needed everything calibrated correctly in order to work. The story and script--which Lucas spent some three years refining and perfecting (with notable input from his group of filmmaking-powerhouse friends, including Spielberg and Coppola)--is legitimately brilliant, and is an excellent example of classic mythical-storytelling structure and narrative clarity. 

The editing is lean and mean, and plays up the inherent strengths of the story and the performances. The original edit was an unmitigated disaster, so much so that Lucas had to fire the editor, and bring in three editors (including his then-wife, who is one of the big unsung heroes of the movie) to salvage the film and make it work.

And, of course, the actors are all pitch-perfect for their roles, and the editing played to this. Hamill and Fisher were young and hungry, and Ford's disdain for the clunky dialogue fit perfectly with Solo's sarcastic and cynical personality. Guinness and Cushing--the big name stars of the film--brought the proper gravitas and credibility to the project (with Guinness receiving that Best Supporting Actor nod, come Oscar time).

The movie would probably still have worked with a synth score, or maybe some sort of avante-garde score (perhaps by someone like Jerry Goldsmith), but Williams' score gets right into the heart of the movie. 

However, it can certainly be said that, if the visual effects had sucked, the movie probably would have been sunk. Or, at least, its impact--and repeat business--would have likely been greatly diminished.
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Thom Price
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 9:19pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

But I think the film would have been great even with a different score

***

I think would depend on what that different score would be.  An equally good, or even 'neutral' (i.e., less memorable) score might not have undermined the film, but a bad score certainly could have.  Greg's mention of a theoretical synth score reminded me of LADYHAWKE, a movie I always want to like and that I think is utterly ruined by its atrocious synth score.

Personally though I'm inclined to a think a good chunk of STAR WARS' effectiveness comes from that Williams score; without it, I think SW would still have been an enjoyable, nifty film but no where near as powerful or epic.



Edited by Thom Price on 27 May 2016 at 9:19pm
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 9:34pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Come to think of it, Williams' original, unused cue for the scene where Luke watches the twin suns set is nowhere near as effective as the final version (which made great use of Ben's theme). 

A lot of what makes STAR WARS work is the music serving to ground the fantastic elements with a sweeping sense of classical romanticism and real emotion.
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 27 May 2016 at 9:57pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Regarding John Williams` score,would Jaws have been such a success without THAT riff? 
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James Woodcock
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Posted: 28 May 2016 at 1:00am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

The thing that made STAR WARS such a success is that every aspect was perfect - story, direction, acting, editing, sound, special effects, music.

It was the perfect storm where nothing could be dismissed.

And the score specifically? Really enhanced the emotional journey.

Looking at the post above that talks about how the special effects were a quantum leap from the usual fare of the time, this also applies to the music. Most of the stuff set in space at the time had 'futuristic' music and the return to an orchestral score set a standard going forward.
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 28 May 2016 at 1:13am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Yes,'Space' type music would have dated awfully.
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 28 May 2016 at 10:44am | IP Logged | 20 post reply


39 years and counting down! Don't forget, this little piece of intriguing artwork was starting to make the rounds, 40 years ago this summer, at sci-fi and comic conventions:



By the one & only Howard Chaykin!


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Rick Senger
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Posted: 28 May 2016 at 12:15pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Star Wars was going to find an audience no matter what.  It's a fundamentally sound movie with relateable characters and a compelling story, plus then-astonishing eye candy and innovative effects that were sure to get a lot of attention. 

That said, the music (and sound effects) of Star Wars were for me probably 49% of its brilliance.  The score heightened every scene and allowed the audience and critics to take this space opera seriously at a time when such genre movies were almost all dismissed by critics and rarely commercially successful (2001: A Space Odyssey was an unusual contemporary exception, and it was a decade earlier and itself rather polarizing, if respected.) 

JW has had a remarkably consistent career but for me it's hard to think of a sweeter spot than his run from about 1974 to the early 80s and SW lies smack in the middle of that fertile period.  In that time he turned something incredible out basically every year from his music on The Cowboys tv series to The Towering Inferno and Jaws to Black Sunday, Star Wars, Close Encounters, Dracula, The Fury, Superman, The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET.  All iconic, memorable and unique scores, 3 of which won him an Oscar. 
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 28 May 2016 at 2:17pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply


Rick, anything from 1975 to 1984 (from JAWS to INDIANA JONES & THE TEMPLE OF DOOM) is pretty much the soundtrack to my entire childhood!


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Rick Senger
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Posted: 31 May 2016 at 5:09pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

Shaun, me too.  Amazingly, I didn't put together JW's connection to all of those movies (along with Lost In Space, Land of the Giants, Poseidon Adventure, his Gilligan's Island incidentals and a host of others) until probably around RAIDERS.   There is definitely a "John Williams sound" in many of his scores that is instantly recognizable when you hear it, but he's also a chameleon who has created many diverse and unique sonic palettes far less obviously JW but memorable nonetheless. 
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 01 June 2016 at 12:46pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply

Just reading some stuff Lucas said about the wider Star Wars universe in 1977 (after the release of the film and looking forward to potential sequels). Amazingly, he mentions midichlorians... (and I'm not kidding).
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 01 June 2016 at 3:37pm | IP Logged | 25 post reply

Just reading some stuff Lucas said about the wider Star Wars universe in 1977 (after the release of the film and looking forward to potential sequels). Amazingly, he mentions midichlorians... (and I'm not kidding).
++++++++

Yep.


I have perverse fascination in the notion that the fanbase embraced and enshrined certain aspects of STAR WARS and took them for granted...and then they ended up being at odds with ideas that Lucas had legitimately intended from the start, but only got around to exploring many years later, in the prequels.

I find myself wondering if people would have bashed the midichlorians so hard if the idea had first appeared in EMPIRE or JEDI. Is it the idea itself that people hate, or is it the fact that they had nearly 20 years to interpret things as they saw them, only to then have the rug pulled out from under them when Lucas finally had a chance to realize his early concepts onscreen?


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 01 June 2016 at 3:37pm
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