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Bill Mimbu
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 9:37am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

Makes me wonder what Kurosawa would have done if he had to do 2 sequels to HIDDEN FORTRESS...
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 11:16am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

These are all thoughts I have expressed before, but from the opposite direction. EMPIRE was such a letdown, and from virtually the opening frame. A weak title, followed by a crawl that gutted the original movie. And then, as I sat there in the theater, all I saw was a parade of new toys and dolls. Not just because of Leia's hair, either. Here was the "defeated" Empire trotting out a whole array of weapons we had not seen before -- and with no suggestion that they'd been pulled out of mothballs in a desperate effort to recover from the destruction of the Death Star.*

And, you know, one of the things that put me off the most was that hyper-inflated BUDGET. STAR WARS was The Little Movie That Could. In many ways, it felt like those gutsy, under equipped rebels, taking on forces much greater than themselves. EMPIRE was a giant Hollywood blockbuster, with every penny up on the screen shouting "Look at me! Look at me!!"

++++++++


Context is everything, I suppose.


Sequels are always tricky business. If you do too much of More of Same, it can seem repetitive and stale. Too much which is new and different can take things too far away from the first film's roots. I can't really hold the new "toys" against EMPIRE, because if feels to me more like upping the ante than marketing toys. After all, we never saw a full-scale ground battle in STAR WARS. So, seeing snowspeeders, walkers, and cold-weather Stormtroopers is not exactly a retcon, or something out of the blue.


It should also be noted that, while the low-budget and "Little Movie That Could" vibe are both part of STAR WARS' considerable charm, the movie was incredibly difficult and frustrating for Lucas to make. Nothing worked, and the movie really only came together by using lots of clever (and Oscar-winning) editing to hide its flaws and highlight its best attributes. I can't quite bring myself to count a bigger budget and a slicker, more refined feel against him (at least until we get into the prequels), since thet's really what he'd wanted to do, in the first place.



Edited by Greg Kirkman on 15 December 2016 at 11:25am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 11:19am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

think what's being taken as the "more" of EMPIRE -- meaning, what's superior to STAR WARS -- is really a matter of avoiding what EMPIRE lacks, because, unlike the original movie, it is so imbalanced. EMPIRE is being taken as possessing all those superior "mores" for no other reason than because it failed to achieve the wit, the whimsy, the charm, and the grace of the original movie. STAR WARS is not cinematic Tolstoy. But neither is EMPIRE, not by a long shot -- yet, that's also what seems to be the impression it's made on many, many people (the majority of fans and critics, maybe?!).
+++++++++

I can understand this criticism, even if I don't share it. Me, I have room in my heart for both the gee-whiz, fairy-tale style of STAR WARS and the brooding, more introspective style of EMPIRE. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 11:23am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Be sure to follow the release order, not the "episode" numbers. That way you will better understand what's being discussed here, and also avoid numberous WTF??? moments.
++++++++

I have a friend in his early 20s, to whom I introduced the films, last year. I made darn sure to begin with the original films--in their theatrical cuts--, then the prequels, and let him draw his own conclusions from there.

For the record, STAR WARS is unquestionably his favorite. In second place came JEDI, then EMPIRE (although he's swapped the positions of the latter two, upon subsequent viewings), then SITH, CLONES, FORCE AWAKENS, and PHANTOM MENACE in last place.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 11:49am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

Thing is, we left the theater back in 1977, knowing what the sequel would be. The Empire was vanquished, but Vader had escaped. That was a big ol' lack of resolution for Luke. How easy it was to picture him searching for Vader, while Vader gathered his own rag tag crew to become, effectively, the new rebellion!

Instead...

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 12:05pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply


 QUOTE:
Me, I have room in my heart for both the gee-whiz, fairy-tale style of STAR WARS and the brooding, more introspective style of EMPIRE.

Me too! 

But my criticism is that whereas STAR WARS has wit, whimsy, charm, and grace, it also clearly and vitally exhibits -- to use your words -- maturity, violence, introspection, characterization, and emotion in a marvelously balanced manner that is just as much a part of what made it strike a chord with audiences in 1977, spawning a desire that Lucas couldn't possibly have dreamed of to see decades worth of sequels and prequels and tangents... a balance that EMPIRE fundamentally fails to achieve in virtually any way, thus rendering it, to me, fundamentally lesser in all the ways you denoted it was superior to STAR WARS. There's nothing "deeper" about EMPIRE -- that contrast with the original movie is, to me, utterly facile and wrong.

But I'm saying this just to clarify my opinion. We can happily disagree!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 12:06pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

By the way, our old friend, Zaki Hasan, recently recorded an excellent audio commentary for EMPIRE, which touches on several of the topics mentioned here:

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Jason Larouse
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 2:23pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Thing is, we left the theater back in 1977, knowing what the sequel would be. The Empire was vanquished, but Vader had escaped. That was a big ol' lack of resolution for Luke. How easy it was to picture him searching for Vader, while Vader gathered his own rag tag crew to become, effectively, the new rebellion!

Instead...

**********

Ha, it makes me wonder what you thought when JEDI came out and the plot was "remember the Death Star? They are making another one!"

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Joe Boster
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 2:48pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

I was 7 when in the summer of 1977 all I wanted to do every day of summer vacation is watch star wars. No toys, (yet) no hype (in the small towns I grew up in), just a movie and imagination. Then came the comics, the toys, and the rest. I got the story book with the 45rpm record and read along every night.  Reading the cover off the treasury editions. destroying the comics.I was obsessed! It has forever shaped my destiny. 35mm Mono soundtrack only please! 

I got the paperback book sized version of Empire and read it a few times before I got a chance to see the movie a couple of times over summer break.Loved the movie. what's newer is always better. Talked with all my friends about if Vader was lying. Really, that is my biggest memory of the movie, shouting along with Luke, it not true! It's impossible! 

Loved em both. Growing older the cool thing to do was to like empire more. But looking at what I spent my money on it was always Star Wars (even if it was in empire packaging) 

Once Revenge of the Jedi became Return I just knew it was not going to be what I wanted it to be. 

So Star Wars will always be the best. 

I think it is in large part that I have seen it the most and seen it first. Many other things wind up that way for me Van Halen covering the kinks. Paul Smith as the 2nd best X-men artist ever. 
And terminator 2 and aliens over their origianals. 

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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 4:01pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Some of this echoes what I and others been saying recently over on the TFA thread. The original film is my favorite, and also, I feel, the best. Perhaps because it was "The Little Movie That Could."

Nicholas Meyer, discussing THE WRATH OF KHAN: "I have a theory that art thrives on restrictions. It’s when you haven’t the money or the facilities to pull off your project that you are obligated to be imaginative and creative.”

Look at JAWS: their supposed big gun was this mechanical shark, which just hardly ever worked. So, they changed up. Went with the shark's POV. Played hide and seek with it. Let John Williams music "be" the shark, at times. And it works. Phenomenally. The film was beset with complications. And yet, the finished product is amazing.

Same with STAR WARS. Not a lot of budget there. A ton of challenges to overcome. But wow, look at what we got!

EMPIRE, to me, is merely our first example (of so many, now) of a bigger budgeted Star Wars movie not necessarily meaning a better Star Wars movie.

I left the theater after my first viewing disappointed. And I thought Vader was lying. He was the bad guy. That's what they do, right?

EMPIRE seems like a very long movie, to me. I always figure it to be about a half hour longer than STAR WARS. In reality, it's about 3 minutes longer. STAR WARS pops. EMPIRE plods. Over 2 hours to get to the middle of the story...(I've long thought of EMPIRE/JEDI as an overlong, two-part sequel to STAR WARS...not as the three movies as 3 three parts of the same story...)

To me, the only thing that EMPIRE has that I feel is "missing" from STAR WARS is the Imperial March. What a great piece of music. Again, John Williams' work can help "make" a character...can you imagine hearing that when Vader boarded Leia's ship? Yikes.

(Looks like at least one creative YouTuber has addressed this...)


Edited by Brian Rhodes on 16 December 2016 at 11:51am
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 4:42pm | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Nicholas Meyer, discussing THE WRATH OF KHAN: "I have a theory that art thrives on restrictions. It’s when you haven’t the money or the facilities to pull off your project that you are obligated to be imaginative and creative.”

•••

Pretty much what I used to say about the Comics Code.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 4:53pm | IP Logged | 12 post reply


 QUOTE:
To me, the only thing that EMPIRE has that I feel is "missing" from STAR WARS is the Imperial March. What a great piece of music. Again, John Williams' work can help "make" a character...can you imagine hearing that when Vader boarded Leia's ship? Yikes.

Williams' "Imperial March" is rightly memorable and praiseworthy. But I don't miss it from STAR WARS because Darth simply didn't have a status elevated enough to merit a recurring motif.
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David Miller
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 7:32pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

 Jason Larouse wrote:
By the end of JEDI he's just another "misunderstood" villain.


Interestingly, while Lucas has blatantly lied about how much he had planned all along, the first screenplay draft of Star Wars had its fallen jedi character  turn against the Empire. That, at least, he appears to have actually had in mind from the beginning.
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Brian Miller
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 8:20pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

By the end of JEDI, he isn't a villain at all. 
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David Miller
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 8:41pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

I like to think had Vader survived to stand trial, he still would have been swiftly condemned to damnatio ad bestias via Ewok the way the rest of the Endor-based Imperial co-conspirators met their deserved end. I'm sure Luke shooed the ,locals away from what must have been a tempting barbecue.

It just occurred to me how toxic the smoke was from Vader's pyre. Luke basically set a 300 pound television on fire.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 8:52pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

...the first screenplay draft...

•••

Is it too cynical even for me to doubt those "early drafts"?

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 15 December 2016 at 11:22pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Is it too cynical even for me to doubt those "early drafts"?
+++++++

Probably. They've been around for a very long time, and they seem to check out with the established facts of the film's production history. At the very least, the gradual flow of changes and refinements from each draft to the next makes sense in terms of what ended up being in the final film. And the stilted dialogue is pure Lucas, before he had his friends come and and spice things up for the final draft.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 7:29am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

By the end of JEDI, [Vader] isn't a villain at all.

••

Easily the most ridiculous aspect of the whole STAR WARS "saga". Vader has a "moment of clarity" and doesn't kill Luke, and this alone is sufficient to counter-balance the relentless stream of mass murder he commits thru the series?

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Brian Miller
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 7:35am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Apparently 
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 7:53am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Redeemed Darth = bathetic bullsh*t.


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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 8:31am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

A big problem in the whole "saga" likes in the fact that Lucas was not only making it up as he went along, but was doing so OUT OF SEQUENCE. So he and his writers not only had to keep track of what was being retconned in, but the order in which it was happening in the overall timeline.

I'm reminded of when I inked a special issue of ELFQUEST. Wendy Pini finished her pages out of order, so I did not receive them as 1, 2, 3, 4 etc, but more like 1, 20, 11, 46... Since it was my job to beat up the principle characters in the big fight that was central to the issue, I had to keep track of which wounds appeared where -- and when!

I don't think this was much concern to Lucas and his crew. He was focused on providing a Big Surprise in each film after the first. So Darth is Luke's father, despite a complete lack of evidence to support this "reveal". Leia is Luke's sister, ditto.

Unfortunately for ol' George, as he set about transforming Luke's story into Darth's story, he had one insurmountable lump in the road: he had described the battle between Obi-Wan and young Vader in an interview.* So he had to steer his story in that direction, or admit he was making it up as he went.

_________

* A much better battle than the one we got.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 8:33am | IP Logged | 22 post reply

…the brooding, more introspective style of EMPIRE.

••

Brooding and introspective, or just mean?

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Warren Scott
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 9:15am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

I think Kirk has a point about the first "Star Wars" film you saw having an impact on your reaction to the others. But I am an exception to that. I saw the first one in a theater when I was 10 and loved it. At 12, I was still young enough (or at least my level of emotional maturity was) to be affected by "Empire" on that level. By the time I saw "Jedi" in a re-release to theaters, I was 15 (I think. My memory is a little fuzzy.)and had seen a lot of movies. I didn't like all elements of it but felt and still feel it is better paced and more character-centered than the original.
But I understand what JB is saying about Vader. The Darth in the various sequels isn't the same Darth who tortured Leia in the first one.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 9:34am | IP Logged | 24 post reply

It genuinely saddens me that it is virtually impossible, now, to have the real "STAR WARS Experience," as I had it in 1977. Even if one is somehow able to see the original film in isolation, without exposure to the others, it is not likely to be on the Big Screen and, let's face it, when it comes to STAR WARS seeing it "in isolation" is almost impossible. Our society has become steeped in the mythology.

It is no longer possible to really experience the "shock of the new" that STAR WARS (not yet "A New Hope") was in first release. And, thanks to Lucas' tinkering, it requires something of an effort to even see the original film as the world first did.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 December 2016 at 9:44am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

I return to the notion that EMPIRE was somehow "darker" than the original. This idea is, I think, a result of a fairly common phenomenon: we remember STAR WARS based on how we feel at the end. For the original movie, that was a clear cut happy ending. For EMPIRE, it was a grim cliffhanger.

Yet, in the first film we start with Leia's supporters being slaughtered by storm troopers, with Vader strangling her captain.* Vader orders the sending of a decoy distress signal, followed by a report that "all aboard were killed." He tortures Leia. Tarkin orders the destruction of Alderaan, population "millions". Ben is killed. A lot of rebels are killed attacking the Death Star. The entire crew of the Death Star is killed.

Not exactly light hearted froth!!

––––––––––––––––––––

* Over the years there have been a few critics who have pointed out my recurrent fondness for what they deem "sexual strangulation" in my drawings. Yet this moment in STAR WARS is exactly where I got the idea. Who knew what a deviated prevert George Lucas was!!

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