Saturday, 12 February 2011

Feel the Force (minus midichlorians)

Okay, so, I just finished watching The Empire Strikes Back on TV. I didn’t know it was on and just stumbled across it right as it was starting.

I hadn’t intended to watch a Star Wars movie today, but darn it, Irvin Kershner’s classic drew me in immediately. Those stunning FX, that incredible score, that smart, snappy script, that gorgeous Peter Suschitzky cinematography, and most of all those brilliant characters played to the hilt by the pitch perfect ensemble. Films don’t get much better than this. And when they do they tend to have Harrison Ford in them again, only brandishing a bullwhip instead of a blaster.

I haven’t watched The Empire Strikes Back for a few years now. Watching it again today it struck me just what a timeless, gripping, beautiful, character driven adventure it is from first to final frame. It is the best of the Star Wars saga. And if you disagree then you are just plain wrong. What Kershner and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan did was to make Empire a darker film and more adult in tone and theme, and to push the characters to the forefront. And all without sacrificing any of the escapist fun of the original. They also introduced a rather old fashioned sense of character interplay – especially with the Han/Leia relationship with 3P0 as the clueless gooseberry. It kinda feels like a zippy, witty 1940’s romantic comedy…only set in a galaxy far, far away. Wonderful stuff. And of course this relationship culminates in the famous “I love you”, “I know,” moment - one of the greatest and most perfect moments in cinema history. The entire cast is great but it is Harrison Ford who truly leaps off the screen at you. The guy is a charisma explosion. Han Solo rocks!

Now, one major gripe.

The version shown was the latest messed up special edition version. Along with the 1997 added shots of the Wampa chewing on bloody meat (nice but totally pointless) and some amended shots opening out Cloud City (lovely and adds more scope), Lucas also latterly added in Ian McDairmid as the Emperor and Temuera Morrison’s voice for Boba Fett. Okay, now both of these things I can live with as they make sense in the overall saga.

But now here’s the kicker.

What I can’t abide nor forgive is Lucas hacking away at the editing of the final escape from Cloud City. For some utterly incomprehensible reason George insisted on dropping in two long sequences of Vader getting on board his shuttle on Bespin, then a few seconds later, his shuttle landing on the Star Destroyer and him disembarking. This is utterly pointless. Vader already tells an officer earlier to prepare his shuttle. In the original movie we next see him walking on to the Star Destroyer’s bridge, which works perfectly. C’mon George, the audience aren’t idiots. You already told us what was happening. We can add one plus one and make two. You didn’t have to spoil the razor sharp editing/pacing of the final escape by dropping in two utterly redundant sequences of someone getting on and then off a ship. Ah, but I forgot, you love those shots, don’t you George? The prequels are littered with them. Ships landing and taking off, landing and taking off, landing and…oh, you get the picture.


Okay, rant over.

New rant.

Despite the lousy tinkering mentioned above, Empire shows up just how shite the prequels are.

I rewatched Revenge of the Sith for the first time in ages a couple of weeks back and was shocked at how shit it actually is. And it’s the best of the prequels. Now, I still do enjoy them as they are still Star Wars films and do have some great individual moments and some mighty cool action sequences, but artistically and dramatically they are almost entirely dead weight. They are flashy but hollow, lifeless cartoons based on what feel like first draft screenplays that needed a ton of work to whip them in to any kind of shape. Look, if you don’t believe me just rewatch Empire and witness how to make a sleek, smart, exciting, funny, touching, character driven sci fi fantasy adventure. Then watch The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith and laugh for all the wrong reasons and then have a good cry at the right royal butt fucking George gave his own classic myth. And if you still don’t believe me go watch the infamous Plinkett reviews where he dissects each prequel and forces you to understand just how cack they really are. Great looking cack for sure. But cack all the same. Give me Luke, Han and Leia any day over the characterless mannequins of Episodes 1,2 & 3.

Anyway, I dread to think what has now been done to the original films for their Bluray release, or what is being planned for their eventual 3D upgrade. Please, just stop screwing around with the original trilogy, George. They are pretty much perfect…or at least they were until you started ‘prequelising’ them. And please put the Bespin escape in Empire back to how it originally was. And if for some reason you do feel the need to further tinker with your Star Wars films, then go tinker away with the prequels. Better still, dump them entirely and get in some other talented writers and directors to remake them from scratch, the kind of people who still have a grasp of character, drama and theme, who know how to make smart, compelling, emotional sci fi space operas that leap off of the screen. Kinda like what Joss Whedon did with Firefly, or what Ron Moore did with BSG. Just an idea.

May the force be with you. (Minus midichlorians)

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more. I like most of the update in Empire, including the WAmpa stuff, but the inclusion of Vader's shuttle in what is one of the most exciting and relentless climaxes in movie history is inept to say the least.

    Next time I watch the prequels, and I will...I will, I think there needs to be a drinking game:-
    One point if people converse while walking down a corridor.
    Three points if life or death conversation happen while sat on a sofa.
    Five points if a ship is seen to take off or land.