Notes from the attic: Star Wars

January 16, 2012

We watched the original Star Wars Trilogy for the holidays in our movie club ("R2D2, we wish you a merry Christmas"). Which is the thing to do apparently: A certain dude-centric cable channel was having a Star Wars marathon New Year's Day.
Anyway, volumes have already been put forth about the adulteration of the Trilogy with new digital scenes and reworkings of originals (Han shot first, okay), so this is all I'll say: What the hell is this thing:

There's a new creature in Jabba's house! And it's a helluva dancer. They've also replaced the dumpy puppet singer with a sexy new CG model.

I hadn't seen these in a good long while--though I guess I did see the first one (A New Hope--does anyone actually call it that?) during the theatrical rerelease of the Trilogy in the late 90s--so I didn't know about all the new stuff in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I thought the new material was integrated fairly well in Empire and wasn't as obvious as in ANH and Jedi. The new stuff in Jedi is laughable, especially the dance number in Jabba's palace, which is thrown in for the kids, I guess. And the early-20s ghost-Vader from the new Trilogy there at the Ewok village in the end? I don't even know what to say about that. So, yeah, now with the added footage in the Trilogy, I'm with Dante from Clerks: my vote for best Star Wars movie goes to Empire (unless I'm misremembering that Clerks scene). Though, there will always be a soft spot in my heart for the Ewoks. When that little Ewok goes back after that explosion to find is friend dead, man, so sad...

We also watched the first one in the new Trilogy--The Phantom Menace--which, you know, is pretty bad. I mean, I was entertained for those two hours, but compared to the originals it's just a sad pointless mess. First of all, I realized while watching this that Harrison Ford carried those movies (for me anyway) and there's no equivalent in the new ones. Ford's I-don't-give-a-damn cynicism is what makes them so charming. It sure as hell ain't Luke Skywalker. The Menace takes itself too seriously. It's no fun. And on top of that, what's supposed to be fun (the near-racist (or maybe just straight-out racist) stereotypes?) is geared towards kids. And the exclusive use of CG effects instantly dates the film. They make video games that look better these days. There's something timeless about models and puppets (and well-used CGI).  I guess Patton Oswalt says it best: "There's a [expletive deleted] canoe in a Star Wars movie!"

We had half-planned on watching the other two new ones but after the Phantom Menace we called it quits.

Expect more tinkering in the Blu-ray editions (Darth is given a new line in Jedi), and coming up in February: The rerelease of everything in 3D, starting with the Menace. Woo-ha!

"People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society."
--George Lucas, 1988. Read all of it.