Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Star Wars

Welcome back to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my weekly look at one of the many, many films in my movie library.  Today, we get to the most difficult Fishing in the Discount Bin I've ever had to write...Star Wars.  Why is it so difficult?  There is literally nothing to say about Star Wars that hasn't already said.  But still, I try.  This entry is dated in my notes at November 3, 2012.  

OK, with the big announcement this week that Disney bought Star Wars and we're getting new films, I've got the urge to pop the original one, Episode IV: A New Hope, into the Blu-Ray player.  Besides, I loaned them to a friend and just got them back, and I should watch them to inspect for damage.

But here's the thing:  there's literally nothing new I can write about Star Wars that hasn't already been written, said, or blogged.  So I'm just gonna kind of live-blog my thoughts while I watch.  K?

The 20th Century Fox fanfare.  Written in 1935 by legendary film composer Alfred Newman.  It had fallen into disuse in the 1970s, but George Lucas really wanted to use it for Star Wars.  John Williams wrote the Star Wars theme to be in the same key so it wouldn't be jarring to the audience.

A friend once remarked, "Wow, peoples minds must have been blown in 1977 when they saw the words 'Episode IV: A New Hope' for the first time."  No.  No they weren't.  The addition of those words was the first special edition revision to Star Wars.  George Lucas added that title for the 1979 re-release to bring it in-line with "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back."  Now who's mind is blown?

Ever see the IMAX documentary "Special Effects"?  This legendary opening shot of the star destroyer was re-created in IMAX just for that film.  You should seek it out.  Why aren't you showing it at your IMAX theatre with Star Wars Identities playing, Telus World of Science?  Missed opportunity. 

Dude, is my upstairs neighbour banging on the floor/my ceiling?  Better turn down the surround sound.

Darth Vader's first appearance.  I remember in kindergarten, if I was really good, Mrs. Martin would hook up the record player and I could listen and read to the Star Wars record and book during free time.  Mrs. Martin told me stories about the making of Star Wars.  She said Darth Vader spoke using a large machine under his cape.  Now that I'm growed-up, I know it was James Earl Jones in a recording studio.  I learned a very important lesson from Mrs. Martin:  teachers don't know everything.

The escape pod commandeered by C-3P0 and R2-D2 was the first thing ever produced by ILM.

R2 and 3P0 wandering in the desert.  I remember reading a book on the making of Star Wars when I was in the second grade.  One of the facts I remember was that Anthony Daniels couldn't sit down in his 3P0 costume, so they had a board from him to lean against.

I never noticed the dragon skeleton in desert behind 3P0 until I saw the special edition in the theatre.  I always thought it was a bunch of rocks.

Ah, inside the Jawa Sandcrawler, we meet the beloved Gonk Droid.  I have one in my Star Wars action figure collection.  When I was a kid, my friend Rob Burton had all the Star Wars toys.  The Gonk Droid was interesting.  His feet made this wonderful clicking sound.

Speaking of the IMAX documentary "Special Effects," a good portion of the film details the making of the new stuff from the Special Editions.  We spend a day on the set when they film the new footage of the Stormtroopers looking for the droids.  Those were real USA Marines in that armor in Death Valley.

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.  I remember totally geeking out when I was kid when I learned that Luke Skywalker was played by Mark Hamill.  His name is Mark...just like me!

The Sand People.  Freaky as heck when I was a kid, and their attack on Luke was quite frightening. 

"Of course I know him.  He's me."  Ben Kenobi revealing his true identity as Obi-Wan.  Probably the most casual revelation of a true identity in films of this genre.

What did Obi-Wan do for a living in his years of exile on Tatooine?  I'm sure the Expanded Universe has an answer.

"Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough."  LIAR!  You took it off his father's corpse while he burned to death.  Apparently, when making Episode III, someone remembered that line of dialogue, and a scene of Obi-Wan taking Anakin's lightsaber was hastily added. 

First shot of the Darth Vader choke hold.  I just realized that's our first demonstration of the power of the Force.

The charred corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.  Again, one of those things I never really noticed until I saw it on the big screen.  And, it's always #1 on joke lists of most-requested Star Wars action figures.

Someday, I hope to get NPR's radio play adaptation of Star Wars.  In that adaptation, Vader's torture of Leia to try to get the Death Star plans is an actual scene, and apparently, it's quite harrowing.

The Cantina scene.  If I ever make a movie some day, I'm totally going to pay homage to this when a n00b goes to a con for the first time.

Han Solo appears.  I'll never forget how they spoofed it in the Family Guy spoof.  "I'm Han Solo, and the only who'll still have a career after these films."

Greedo shoots first.  Do I have to turn in my nerd card because I really don't have a dog in this fight?

The Jabba the Hutt scene.  I read an analysis of Star Wars once, that said Star Wars deserved its Oscar nomination for best editing back in 1977, and used this scene as an example.  This scene is pointless.  Everything we learn in this scene we just learned from Greedo.  It's repetitive.  And I still think Han "floating" over Jabba's tail is some of the worst FX work ILM has ever done.  But we get a cameo by Boba Fett.

OK, we're on the Death Star now, and they pop out of Han's secret compartments.  "I use these for smuggling.  Never thought I'd be smuggling myself."  I read the storybook adaptation quite a bit when I was a kid, and that line always stuck with me for some reason.

In some of the behind-the-scenes footage, we hear some of Peter Mayhew's scripted lines when Han refers to Obi-Wan as an old fossil.  It's very funny hearing this very British voice describe Obi-Wan as being off his rocker.

Han Solo commandeers the radio while Luke goes to rescue Leia.  Apparently, Harrison Ford ad-libbed his dialogue in this scene so it was sound more...made up on the spot.

The trash compactor scene.  Ladies and gentlemen, my first exposure to Star Wars!  This particular film, not the whole franchise.  In the early days of VCRs, when you had to rent both the machine and the movie, my friend Kirk Gartner rented a machine and invited me and my brother over to watch Star Wars.  This is where I came in.  Probably the most memorable scene in the whole film to me...the one that always sticks out the most in my mind.

In fact, I think this is where I always came in when I was watching the film as a kid.  I don't think I saw it from beginning to end until high school.

Ha!  The classic "Stormtrooper bonking his head on the door" scene.  It may have been an accident, but the fact that they added the sound effect and made it part of the scene just adds to it.

Man, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca really deserves a lot of credit for his work.  As he tells the story at conventions, all he had to do was stand up out of his chair, and Lucas gave him the part on the spot because of his size.  Lucas offered him the role of either Darth Vader or Chewbacca, and he chose Chewie because he wanted to play a good guy.

The laser gun sounds.  I remember my Dad once commented that they sounded like the noise a barbed wire fence would make when you hit the wire a special way.  Then i saw a "making of" TV special on Star Wars, and yup, that's exactly how they made the sound.

Obi-Wan and Darth Vader's lightsaber fight.  I've been reading for years that this scene is going to get "special editioned" some day.  Allegedly, they want to re-film it so it's more like the dynamic fights we saw in the prequels, and they want to add a brief image of the Spirit of Obi-Wan standing over Obi-Wan's robes.  I've been reading that for years, but it ain't happened yet.

Heh.  It's the nameless general in the briefing who first utters those immortal words "May the Force be with you."

I always wondered how Luke, who was always just a bush pilot, was able to pilot one of the most advanced starfighters in the galaxy in the climactic battle.  I was told once that the expanded universe explanation is that Luke's plane back home (the T-16 he bullseye's Wamprats in) and the X-Wing fighter were made by the same corporation, and therefore have the exact same cockpit layout. 

That reminds me of another bit from the Family Guy spoof:

Luke/Chris Griffin>>  Well, now that that's done, I'm going to to go bullseye some wamprats in my T-16.
3P0/Quagmire>>  Wait, you kill small animals for fun?  Isn't that one of the signs of a serial killer?
Luke/Christ Griffin>>  This planet has two suns and no chicks.  THERE'S NOTHING ELSE TO DO!

Ah, the Death Star trench run.  I had the PC port of the Star Wars Arcade Game, and I did that run thousands of times.

And that's it.  End credits are rolling.  Never saw Chewbacca off to the side during the medal ceremony in the final shot until I got a version in widescreen.

George Lucas was challenged by his friends to make "a big Hollywood movie."  Lucas responded by reading Joseph Campbell's works on the study of mythology, using that to deconstruct the Flash Gordon serials he saw on TV as a youth, and applying it all to the plot of one of his favourite samurai films.  And the end result is a movie that revolutionized Hollywood.

The Force will be with you.  Always. 

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