How the PT Enriches The Saga

May 22, 2015

Live The Force, a Star Wars/lifestyle and fitness blog, had a post about the prequels enriching the other films:

The entire original trilogy benefits from the things we learned in the prequel’s. When Yoda is referred to as a great warrior we now know why. Obi-Wan Kenobi is no longer some strange old guy watching over Luke. We now know the great man that he was. Not only that, but we also now understand the sacrifice he makes for 20 years to safeguard Anakin’s son. The Emperor is no longer the “final boss” figure that appears at the end, but now we know how truly an absolutely evil he is. The satisfaction of watching him be thrown down the chasm is so much more gratifying now.

As Though You Need Six Reasons…

May 21, 2015 posted yesterday 6 Reasons To Watch The Star Wars prequels, a nice breakdown of things to appreciate about the films:

The Jedi were the peacekeepers of the galaxy, and they were many. Hundreds of Jedi served the Republic, and the prequels provide a glimpse into that world and life inside the Jedi Temple. It’s an opportunity to get to know Jedi other than Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi and to experience their wisdom, their fighting skills, and their blindness. When watching the new trilogy, you learn both how powerful and foolish the Jedi were.

Essay “Revisiting The Prequels”

May 20, 2015

Anthony Parisi has a well-written essay called Revisiting The Prequels, which asks for people to give the films another look:

The six films form one larger epic that is constructed like a piece of music. The narratives are light on plot and characterization, instead built on archetypal themes and psychological motifs that reverberate throughout the six episodes. Lucas often talks of approaching Star Wars like a silent film where the sound and the effects “are just a part of the musical composition to tell the story visually rather than through a lot of heavy dialogue.” This becomes more refined in his work on the prequels, where everything from mirrored plot points to spaceship designs are carefully placed to echo and build into the original trilogy. Lucas is a firm believer in “pure cinema.” His story is in the images and every image tells a story.

Prequel Appreciation Day ROTS Memories!

May 19, 2015

Thanks to all who participated! I will only use screen names and/or first names in deference to privacy.

Eric: Went to Celebration 3 in April, watched film in May, countless rewatches since, 10th anniversary party tomorrow night.

Nelson: it is to date the only star wars movie ive seen on the big screen, in Gresham there was a place called mt.hood theater which played movies a few weeks before they came out on DVD (this was 2005 before blu ray i feel old now) it was September, i saw the 3d re release of phantom menace but i dont think that counts. watching the bonus material on how they made episode 3 was what inspired me to want to be involved in movies

Scott: saw ROTS with my wife, who had given birth to our son just a few weeks before. We went with my father(who took me to see ROTJ in 1983) my Mom stayed home to watch the baby! It was a midnight screening at our local “cineplex” which had been converted from an old medium size home improvement store. It boasted “stadium seating” which was really a very low rise stair step arrangement at the approximate angle of a conventional movie theater. The picture quality was ok except the film stopped in the middle of the “Duel of the Heroes!” It was a melancholy experience due to the subject matter but also because I thought it was the “last” Star Wars film. Was proud to be born in 1977 and liked that my son was born in 2005.

Raymond: It was awesome seeing Revenge Of The Sith in 3D last month at Star Wars Celebration !!!

Candy: I saw Revenge of the Sith at the Irvine Spectrum midnight showing. The fan costumes were plentiful and incredible. It was a rowdy crowd (the best kind) and the fans provided scads of unofficial preshow entertainment. There were at least two lightsaber duels going on (one with a VERY convincing Masked Vader), and when one optimistic Jedi wannabe got up to remark on how much love he felt from the audience because the Light Side of the Force was so strong, he was (playfully) booed, and the whole theater chanted “SITH! SITH! SITH!”

There were cheers and laughs during the start of the rescue on the Invisible Hand, and at least a dozen ‘whoas’ when Dooku lost his head. Many audible gasps sounded over THAT SCENE with the younglings, and applause broke out when Yoda slammed those Royal Guards against the wall. And I know I wasn’t the only one crying at the end of the movie – several of us were doing that awkward sadness-clapping combination after Vader’s first mechanical breath.

It was hands-down the best movie screening I’d ever attended, although the 3D screening at Celebration came damn close. The Digital Stage hall was packed, and we got to see Dennis Muren and Ian McDiarmid before the screening. The Muren-supervised 3D was breathtaking, like the movie had always been in 3D. But the best part was, the audience was TOTALLY into it, cheering and joking and crying, just as it had at that midnight showing 10 years ago. Simply put, we love this movie.

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Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Opera House Scene

May 19, 2015

Not only is this one of the great scenes of the prequel trilogy, I think it rivals the “ruminations” scene as the single greatest scene of the saga so far.

There are no space battles, no lightsaber duels, no explosions, or chases happening, just two guys sitting in a theater talking. It’s a scene that could’ve been in “The Godfather” or “The Departed” or some other “adult” movie film critics and trophy committees love and serious students of cinema go back to again and again. But no, it’s in Star Wars, mainstream pop culture “popcorn” fare and it’s perfect. Everything works in this scene: the cinematography, sound, acting, dialogue, you name it.

There’s a strange “ballet” going on at the opera house but the real drama is up in Palpatine’s box. Palpatine has been grooming Anakin little by little for years and now he is going to spring open the trap. He starts talking about the Jedi, power, and equivalence which intrigues Anakin even as he starts out by answering Palpatine’s assertions with memorized Jedi lessons. Then Palpatine goes in for the kill…he brings up Darth Plagueis and the Sith Lord’s quest for eternal life. NOW he’s got Anakin’s attention, because Anakin is desperate for a way to prevent his visions about Padme from coming true. “The dark side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural,” Palpatine intones. He goes on about the fate of Plagueis, but all Anakin wants to know is, “Is it possible to learn this power?” “Not from a Jedi,” Palpatine says, leaving it hanging in the air for Anakin to snatch. All Palpatine needs to do next is set events into motion that will compel Anakin to act.

Ian McDiarmid is at his absolute best in this scene. He’s still playing the Chancellor: calm, smooth, and understated. The only thing that gives away “Sidious” in this scene is when he tells his flunkies sitting there with him to scram. Palpatine knows the key to bringing Anakin to the Dark Side isn’t promising of money or fame or anything like that but telling Anakin what he wants to hear and a way to save Padme is what Anakin at this point wants to hear the most. McDiarmid is so engrossing to listen to, Hayden Christensen admitted to occasionally losing where he was because he’d been so captivated by McDiarmid’s performance.

Speaking of which, Hayden does a great job playing off of his co-star. Anakin is at first answering Palpatine with what’s been instilled in him as a Jedi, but I always got the impression that this is just deflection, like the guy who’s about to cheat on his wife but keeps protesting he still loves her to the other woman ready to tear off his clothes. Anakin says it because he knows that’s what he’s supposed to say, though he’s not really sure if he believes it anymore. It’s also clear Anakin is hooked, like a little boy listening to a campfire story. He even says, “What happened to him?” in almost a child-like way.

The whole cadence of both actors’ dialogue is hypnotic, matched with the odd deep sounds coming from the ballet, which remind me of recordings I’ve heard of Tibetan Buddhist chants.

The framing is perfect and the lighting is perfect. It’s appropriate that this secret exchange about the Dark Side occurs in a darkened theater. The visual effects of the performers floating around and through the bubble create the sense of not being in Kansas anymore.

Wired’s Article on ILM’s 40th

May 19, 2015

Featuring all of your favorite film people and ILM alumni, Wired takes a look at ILM’s 40 years in existence. Grab your popcorn as you read about the near fist-fight that occurred between ILM’s digital team and Phil Tippett over “Jurassic Park!” See Lucas insist that “Howard The Duck” could be remade today with a digital duck! And John Knoll defends digital effects work in the prequels! Mwahahaha!

Great Stuff From Clone Corridor

May 19, 2015

Whatever they’re drinking over there, send it here, because they keep coming up with great articles!

First, check out this analysis of the “ruminations” scene from ROTS.

Here’s a fan’s memories of ROTS.

And a look at how the Clone Wars episode Bombad Jedi bucks stereotypes.

SW Prequel Appreciation Day: What I Thought Of ROTS…10 Years Ago

May 19, 2015

From my LiveJournal entries in 2005:

A long time ago, 28 years to be exact, a seven-year-old girl who loved sci-fi t.v. and movies cut out of school to see the huge sensation that was A New Hope play at the Valley Circle theater in San Diego, CA. After waiting hours in line, back when there were no multiplexes and ANH was playing on only 32 screens in the entire country, this seven-year-old girl experienced an epiphany and embarked upon a journey of sorts that lasted many, many years.

This was a journey that led her to return to a different theater, the Dadeland Twin in Miami, FL, three years later to see The Empire Strikes Back. Then she came back to Dadeland Twin in 1983 for Return of the Jedi, this time a teenager.

Sixteen years later, she found herself, an alleged adult, returning to new adventures in her beloved Galaxy Far, Far Away, this time at the Fairfax Square multiplex in Tysons Corner, VA. Three years hence, she cut out of work, for a few hours at least, to revel in the next chapter at Washington, D.C.’s Uptown Theater.

Now the journey has come to an end, and weirdly enough, the 35-year-old woman who had once been that seven-year-old girl has returned to the same city where it began. The Valley Circle is gone, but in its stead, there’s a 20-screen multiplex not too far from where it once stood. And that is where I first experienced ROTS.

This is not going to be a typical review where I assess what I liked and what I didn’t or about the acting or so forth. There are thousands of those types of reviews on the internet and in print. Suffice to say I loved the movie and it gets better and even more interesting with each viewing, but I’m not going to say that it “redeemed” or “saved” the saga. I loved TPM and AOTC unapologetically and still do. As excellent as ROTS is, it would not have meant as much if we hadn’t seen TPM or AOTC. By now we’ve come to care about Obi-Wan, Anakin, Padmé, etc. and frankly, Anakin’s fall is damn painful to watch even if we had known it was inevitable. You may or may not cry at the tragic parts but they stick in your gut nonetheless. It’s a truly powerful film and very atypical of summertime entertainment.

Certainly the effects are the most ambitious to date and Lucas has crafted a dream universe that is visually spectacular. The action scenes are the most dynamic of the saga. The first 20 minutes of the film are full of derring-do and sharp banter.

Yet its tragedy is what makes it so haunting. You are watching your friends fail, their flaws exposed. The characters of the first set of SW movies had their flaws and shortcomings but the difference is they overcome those flaws and shortcomings. The prequel heroes are overwhelmed by them. Palpatine uses those flaws in both the characters and in the Republic’s political structure to cleverly manipulate events in his favor.

The film is a morality tale, filled with ethical questions, the primary one being how far would you go to save a loved one? While the cognosceti might disdain the so-called black-and-white way it deals with good and evil, it’s admirable that it does not shrink from universal truths of what’s right or wrong. It is an utter rejection of moral relativism (relativism is what sells the Dark Side to Anakin in the first place, but that will be discussed later) yet it tempers its morality with mercy. Through careful narrative and Hayden’s splendid performance, the audience realizes that despite the atrocities at the Jedi Temple and turning against those he loves, Anakin is nonetheless filled with remorse. Deep down he must hate himself for what he does. It doesn’t absolve his crimes. But there’s a conscience present in him that never was present in Darth Maul or Sidious or Count Dooku. It evokes pity for his character, at least it did from me.

Anakin is of course a very proud young man, a strong sense of pride that must have been cultivated in a child (“I’m a person and my name is Anakin!”) who otherwise had little dignity. His pride can’t handle being put on the Council without being treated as an equal. He cannot tolerate the thought of losing Padmé because he thinks his powers ought to be able to protect her. He had a particular hatred for Dooku for the way Dooku maimed him in their last encounter.

The Jedi Council was flawed in the way it handled Anakin from the beginning. There was suspicion and fear of him from the start. Is it any wonder Anakin felt no loyalty whatsoever to Mace Windu? Just moments beforehand Windu tells Anakin that if he’s right about Palpatine, he’s earned Windu’s trust again. Then the Jedi Council forces him into spying on his “mentor.” Palpatine cleverly exacerbates the tension between Anakin and the Council by playing into Anakin’s ambitions and placing him on the Council, creating resentment on the part of the other Jedi so that they won’t grant him the title of “Master.” Obi-Wan is the only Jedi who genuinely loves Anakin but with him it was often too little, too late until he finally turns his back on Anakin. Yoda tried to be helpful but his advice fell flat on a young man who never found any comfort in what was really incomplete Jedi theology.

Padmé’s greatest strength and weakness was believing in Anakin’s goodness. Ultimately, she was right about him but she also chose to ignore her suspicions (when she dismisses Obi-Wan’s allegations that Anakin killed children in the Temple, she sort of forgot about Anakin’s confession in AOTC). I don’t blame her, really. She is in many ways as dangerously attached to him as he is to her and for that, she pays with her life.

Yet love is also a powerful force for good in the story. The essay “The Force Is With Us” by James Lawler in the new book The Philosophy of Star Wars reminds us of what the saga is truly about: “[W]e finally come to appreciate why Luke recognizes the good in his father. It’s because Anakin doesn’t fear where love takes him, both when his love of Padmé takes him into the darkness and when his love of Luke brings him back again. We understand that his destiny, subtly and beautifully orchestrated by the will of the Force and the magic of George Lucas’s art, has all along been to love.”

One of the most tragic aspects of ROTS is the disintegration of the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The two have more than overcome the adolescent vs. parent power struggle bickering in AOTC…they are now comrades, best friends, brothers. According to one of these interviews I’ve read somewhere, Hayden and Ewan had to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to get an idea for what Lucas was looking for in their ROTS relationship. It also helps that in real life, these guys like each other a lot (see their little smooch at the London premiere, heh heh). You can see that even though Anakin does address Obi-Wan as “master” a couple of times, it’s an honorific, not out of subservience. The two are equals in battle, watching each other’s backs, and true to Anakin’s character, he saves Obi-Wan twice in the film’s opening action sequence. As the novelization says, Anakin’s specialty is saving people. Throughout the sequence they trade the sort of easy banter not seen in a SW film since ROTJ.

Their confrontation with Count Dooku is a 180 from their first encounter in AOTC; they take Dooku on as a team. After Dooku is killed and Palpidious is freed, Anakin refuses to leave an unconscious Obi-Wan behind, even when Palpatine orders him to do so. “His fate will be the same as ours,” Anakin insists, which is perhaps one of the few times he ever challenges Palpatine. You can read on Palpie’s face that he knows he has his work cut out for him trying to drive a wedge between Anakin and Obi-Wan now.

Both men have matured and grown since AOTC. You can see some of Anakin has rubbed off on Obi-Wan. The once uptight Jedi has more daring, dash, and a devil-may-care attitude such as when he leaps right into the middle of General Grievous’s band of minions on Utapau and announces, “Hello there!” He’s not afraid to smile and express his snarky sense of humor more. The book says simply, “Obi-Wan learned to relax.” Conversely, Anakin may still have his issues with the Council but he still respects Obi-Wan and apologizes for his outbursts.

Their farewells before leaving Utapau is poignant because it’s the last time they address each other as friends. Anakin acknowledges his gratitude for Obi-Wan’s training, Obi-Wan praises Anakin for his wisdom and tells him he’s a great knight. But neither knew the conversation came too late and with too little said.

What undercuts their friendship are secrets and conflicting loyalties. By the time they’re saying goodbye, Anakin is already fearing for Padmé’s death. He’s already intrigued by what Palpatine has been telling him. He’s still upset with the Council for the way they treated him and he’s still torn by the skulduggery of having to report on the guy who seems to be his only other true friend. Anakin’s ultimate loyalty lies with people, individuals. Obi-Wan’s ultimate loyalty, despite his feelings for Anakin, is to the Jedi.

It is out of those feelings for Anakin that Yoda initially tries to keep Obi-Wan from watching the holo footage of Anakin’s rampage through the Temple. Yoda knew it would affect him emotionally and keep him from what must be his mission, to kill Anakin. Indeed, Obi-Wan objects to killing Anakin, arguing that they are brothers. But Yoda is convinced Anakin is irredeemable and Obi-Wan is not powerful enough to fight Sidious. So Yoda pitches the idea that Anakin is “gone” and Vader is in his stead. Obi-Wan doesn’t really believe this until he confronts Anakin on Mustafar.

Nevertheless, Obi-Wan is still a man who puts duty first. It is out of this sense of duty that he uses Padmé to find Anakin, putting her in even greater danger. It is his timing that causes Anakin to explode in rage and take that rage out on Padmé. Anakin on his part never seemed to understand people weren’t “turning against him” out of hatred or anything personal, it was because of his actions.

When Obi-Wan and Anakin duel, again Obi-Wan says too little, too late, finally explaining to Anakin the value of democracy and the evil of the Sith. But Anakin has been blinded to the Sith’s evil and never truly saw the value of democracy in the first place.

At the end of their relationship, until their confrontation decades later in ANH, Obi-Wan finally expresses his love for Anakin. One must wonder why this wasn’t said 10 years beforehand, before Palpatine could get his hooks into Anakin. If Anakin had known all along he had been loved, perhaps things might have been different. Anakin shockingly responds with a bitter, angry “I hate you!” As Anakin is immolated, Obi-Wan walks away and one can see this as the moment he shuts his heart out to Anakin for the rest of his life. He buys Yoda’s pitch that Anakin was gone and all there is left is Vader. Even Padmé’s last words fall on deaf ears.

It is only in the end, once Anakin is redeemed, that the two finally meet again as comrades, not enemies, in what had to be the most awkward encounter since St. Paul meeting St. Stephen in heaven. But that’s another story ;).

Happy Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Day!

May 18, 2015

SW Prequel Appreciation Day 2015

10 Years of ROTS: Burger King Ad

May 18, 2015

Not one of the ads with the creepy Burger King, but one that promoted the toys.

I remember going nuts trying to find them all, even resorting to eBay to fill in the gaps.

I also remember gaining 10 pounds from eating all of that BK. Bleah! Thank God Disney does its tie-ins with Subway.


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