Friday, May 20, 2005

Star Wars (finally) does it!

Special Message From George Lucas
May 18, 2005

“In a few short hours, many of you will have the greatest cinematic experience of your lives. This movie has been over 28 years in the making. When Star Wars first became a glimmer in my eye, I knew that the final episode of the prequels would be one of the defining moments in the history of motion pictures.

Shadow and I have slaved for nearly three years on this one. Revenge of the Sith has all the darkness and foreboding of The Empire Strikes Back. It has all the escapism and excitement of Return of the Jedi and it has all the wonder and magic of the very first Star Wars film."

I have to agree there - Star Wars Episode 3 rocks. And I say this despite not being a 'true fan'. I saw the original Star Wars series years after it was released - on the small screen. And when you view a movie a decade after its time it can never have quite the same impact.

George Lucas decided to film the prequels to the sacred trilogy because in the late 90s he felt that CGI technology had finally made it possible to make a Star Wars film which fully recreated his original vision, without artistic compromises.

No doubt Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were spectacular in terms of their graphics, special effects, action sequences - all that jazz. But they simply lacked the emotional involvement viewers felt with Luke, Hans Solo, r2d2, Yoda.

There was an array of new and some old characters but the connection with the original films was tenuous at best.

Episode 3 however changes all that. Finally you get to see how and why Anakin succumbs to the 'Dark Side'. Why he needs to wear that horrendous Darth Vader outfit with the 'Stephen Hawking' voicebox. And so on and so forth.

Old vs the new
Of course, the accompanying visual spectacle is also a treat. Yoda in a light-sabre sequence is the kind of action you could never have seen in the pre-computer era. Yet, the other night I was watching a special on 'Star Wars' on the History channel and I think perhaps the untechnological Yoda has a lot more class.

Incidentally, the person who created the 'Yoda' puppet back then used Albert Einstein's wrinkled face as a reference.

Because there were so many limitations, because there was no technology, Lucas and his team had to rely on extreme inventiveness and ingenuity in the original series. They had a will - and found the way. And that added something special to the whole effort.

That's why the film blew the socks off the world when it was first launched. It was a timeless good vs evil; father vs son story. And it created a new genre of films and a whole new way of filmmaking.

As an article in the Guardian notes:
Lucas was painstaking in his attention to special effects, and insisted the film be made in the then newly-developed Dolby Sound, giving its battles a thunderous resonance. With its opening scene, as a giant Empire battle-cruiser swooped over the audience's heads after Princess Leia's tiny spaceship, filmgoers were hooked. As one critic put it: 'No make-believe time and place had ever been created with such magnificence or microscopic attention to detail. It was mind-blowing.'

At the end of Episode 3 you really want to go back and watch the original series again in the theatres. But I don't know - they might seem tacky in the special effects department to an audience now used to better.

The only way to take care of that would be to refilm episoded 4,5 and 6 but that really makes no sense. There are some rumours about sequels being filmed though - but could be just the wish-projection of rabid fans.

Passion Pays
Star Wars is also the story of how one man who believed in what he was doing successfully rebelled against the rules of film making in Hollywood.

As one fan website recalls
Every single studio in Hollywood passed on the project except for 20th Century Fox. Fox gave Lucas $ 10 million to make what is perhaps the most influential film in the history of cinema. Fox released Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope in May 1977... By the end of its first theatrical run, Star Wars was the most successful film in North American history with a gross in excess of $ 290 million.

The amazing thing is - Lucas never doubted what HE was doing. That's why instead of money upfront he negotiated for control.

He asked for the right to the final cut of the film, 40% of the net box-office gross, all rights to future sequels and ownership of all the merchandising rights associated with Star Wars... At the time, science fiction films were not very profitable. Hence, Fox thought they were ripping Lucas off... In the end, this deal would eventually make Lucas a billionaire and cost Fox an untold fortune in lost revenues.

There's a lesson in there for all of us!

The Man behind the Magic
Not to say one must Lucas is THE ultimate in film making. He has his human weaknesses. An article in Salon magazine calls him "a man who prefers working with special effects to working with human beings".

In the past he has chosen to work with unknown actors, whom he can then fill with his own ideas... While Hollywood's other creative geniuses stake their success on writing and directing talents, Lucas' brilliance is due at least in part to his wizardry as a film editor.

Like many such genuises he paid a heavy price in his personal life. Immediately after 'Return of the Jedi' released he also went through a painful divorce. It appears that he poured all his energy and passion into his work - and his wife could not take it.

With his fortune Lucas decided to build his own Xanadu, 6,000 acres of Skywalker ranch, in Marin County, north of San Francisco, which would have its own studios and editing suites, and began development in the mid-Eighties, expecting his wife Marcia, an accomplished film editor who had worked on Star Wars, to take over its running. She rebelled. 'He was all work and no play,' she complained.

She wanted trips to Europe, he wanted to build an empire. As Biskind says: 'Success was winding Lucas tighter and tighter into a workaholic, control-driven person.' Marcia had an affair. They filed for divorce, and she took $50m of his fortune (now reckoned to be worth around $2 billion). He was crushed. Divorce was for Hollywood, not the scion of small-town America.

Behind every great work of art/ labour of love/ magnificent passion is an incredible story of success, and small and great sacrifice!

May the Force be with us all!


  1. I'm just surprised that Star Wars released in India so soon! WOW

  2. Anonymous4:51 PM

    It made $50 mil just yesterday that is opening day in the US and i am happy to say i contributed $10 bucks to that, and got to sit next to a princess leia.

  3. I haven't seen Episode III yet, which is surprising. When Episode I came out I stood in line for 21 hours with some friends to get tickets to opening night.

    I don't know what happened to that enthusiasm.

  4. The movies urely was great and its proved by the record earnings and the gross sales over the weekend as the movie broke all previous records but what does this editor have to comment about the protest in America over the lines which means that the Dark side wins, reiterating one of bush's statements as one of my friend pointed. Would love to hear about ur views.

  5. For some one who was rebelling against an establishment. Lucas did a great job, who else could get away starting a movie off with "In a galaxy far far away" and not giving any of the actors credits.

    AS for the CGI Yoda and the muppet Yoda... U've nailed it there. There was a passion component, which no amount of cgi can maek up for...

    $11 million Episode IV, was truly a gamble in terms of film production... and should be acknowledged for it's cult status.

    $115 million Episode III, is a lame marketting ploy. plastered on the face of every pepsi bottle, mnms, and burger king ad out there... the dark side has green washed it's way thru...

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