It’s pretty quiet out there, so I figure it’s time for another round of Ask SWPAS. Ask whatever you like about the prequels and Star Wars in general, and I will answer in the comments below.
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January 31, 2017 marked an important but often overlooked anniversary in the long pop culture history of Star Wars. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Star Wars Special Editions, the first of which (ANH) was released in theaters January 31, 1997. TESB followed on February 21 and ROTJ on March 14. As is often the case with anything having to do with modern fandom and “geek” media, too much attention has been paid to the controversies and not enough on how really important those three months were in 1997. (For the record, I take the Harrison Ford position on the “who shot first” issue: I don’t care. I happen to think the 2004 DVD cut had the best version of the scene.)
1996’s “multimedia event” “Shadows Of The Empire” was a dress rehearsal for the Special Editions which in turn were a dress rehearsal for the prequels. Lucasfilm was riding a wave of resurgent popularity and this was to keep the momentum going while at the same time stretching muscles at everywhere from PR to licensing to ILM’s visual effects department that hadn’t been used for a long time, or at least not coordinated together since ROTJ’s release in 1983. But let me be clear: this wasn’t top-down manipulation. There had been a renaissance of interest in Star Wars beginning in the early ’90s. Moviegoers missed Star Wars. They missed the excitement those movies brought. Meanwhile, there was a younger generation of fans whose only experience with Star Wars was on the boob tube. They yearned to see Star Wars the way God and Lucas intended them, on the big screen. They wanted to camp out on the sidewalk like fans did in the early ‘80s and dress up in costumes. They wanted to cheer with a big audience. Some of the most memorable ads for the Special Editions were aimed directly at that audience. Remember the one that started with the tinny sound and the X-wings on a little t.v. before it burst out onto the screen? It was genius.
This is why I had no doubts at all about the Special Editions succeeding. To a lot of the media, it seemed “risky” and a “gamble.” Why would people go to the theaters to pay to see movies that had been out on cable, network television, and home video for years? It seemed absurd. But Star Wars was different and at that time in 1997, there was a perfect storm ready to break out and astonish the world.
ANH: SE had a shocking $35 million opening weekend, which set a record for a January opening and remains one of the biggest January openings even 20 years later. It sat at the top of the box office for three weeks, racking up $138.6 million in its entire run and passing “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” to become the top-grossing film of all time (domestic) until James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio ruined everything a year later. The three existing Star Wars film grossed a total of $447 million worldwide during their combined run. That’s right…movies that were 14-20 years old made as much money if not more than just about every newly made hit released in 1997.
As per usual, complaining fans didn’t see the trees for the forest, preferring to dither on what was changed and how that made Lucas a horrible person. It’s like your team wins the Super Bowl or the World Series and all you could do is complain about your team’s ugly uniforms and how much you hate the coach while everyone else around you is celebrating. It probably indicated what was coming with the prequels.
But the Special Editions were a triumph for Star Wars and for George Lucas. They proved that Star Wars was a permanent part of the cultural landscape and they introduced the theatrical experience to a new generation of fans. In fact, the experience of seeing the films on the big screen after so many years and noticing how much was lost watching them on a t.v. influenced this fan to see the prequels as many times in the theater as possible when they were released. The hype for new Star Wars films went into overdrive. In fact, one could say this was the beginning of the prequel era. I think TPM would’ve been a success even without the Special Editions but they probably would’ve had to have worked a lot harder to make the film an event. The Special Editions pre-sold that audience two years in advance and built the excitement to make TPM the movie event of the decade.
This article has all of the info on how the Special Editions performed, making the process of writing this a lot easier and faster.
The HerUniverse.com site relaunched two days ago (and if you sign up for their new mailing list, you get a 25% off coupon) and to commemorate the occasion, Ashley Eckstein did a live chat on Facebook. The video is available on the Her Universe Facebook page (with plans to eventually put it up on YouTube). It’s an hour long and lots of topics are discussed but to narrow it down–thanks to a summary from The Kessel Runway–here’s what is relevant to prequel fans:
*There’s a Naboo-themed cardigan and skirt coming out this summer. Woo hoo!
*More Ahsoka stuff is on the way. A sweatshirt for adults (plus and regular) and a long-sleeved tee for kids are available now. A new tee will debut for Celebration. They’d really like to do an entire Ahsoka collection.
This wasn’t mentioned in the video but the Naboo hoodie is due out in March; Midtown Comics’ web site had a placeholder for it.
There’s a new channel of pro-PT videos on YouTube called The Star Wars Prequels Channel. These are new, original videos discussing different aspects of the prequel films. There’s also a link on the blogroll.
Perhaps against my better judgment, here’s an open thread on the suddenly revealed title of Ep VIII, “The Last Jedi.” (I’m not linking this on the FB page because it’ll get too crazy there.)
My only thing is this, it’s obviously not Lucas’s style of nomenclature nor is there the same sense of rhyme as there was with his movies:
A New Hope <–> The Phantom Menace
The Empire Strikes Back <–> Attack Of The Clones
Return Of The Jedi <–> Revenge Of The Sith
I know this is nitpick theater but if I pay attention to those kinds of details, I don’t know why no one else can. But of course, what ultimately matters is how the film turns out…
Sergey found this video almost a month ago and it isn’t until now I remembered to post about it, heh heh. It’s a 2004 interview with the late Sir Christopher Lee and he talks about his old pal Peter Cushing and their involvement with Star Wars:
Not huge news but still nice to see (H/T Steve Bragg):
Whatever happened to Anakin’s young friend on Tatooine, Kitster? Here’s the guy who played him anyway, Dhruv Chanchani, now an adult as he appeared on this week’s Star Wars Show Holiday Special:
With the formal premiere of Rogue One tonight in Hollywood, with the film being screened for critics this weekend, with the embargo being lifted on Tuesday or Wednesday, with early birds in Europe getting to see the film around that time, and evening shows on Thursday in North America, stuff will start to come out about the film.
1. On Friday December 16, I will have an open thread set up by sometime in the morning PST. If you are not seeing the film on Thursday-Friday, avoid this thread until you do. I will not see the film until Sunday 12/18, so don’t expect my review in the comments until then.
2. There will be NO prequel bashing, taunting, baiting, or fighting in the comments. Any such comments will be deleted and trolls will be forever banished. If it gets out of hand, I will shut down the open thread and delete the whole thing.
3. Do NOT post spoilers on any other comment thread or post until after December 23. Some of you can’t or won’t see the film for a while and it’s just not realistic in this age of the internet to expect everyone to keep quiet about the movie for several weeks or months.
4. Any posts or discussion tying in themes, events, etc. of Rogue One with the saga as a whole are fair game after December 23.
5. The rules will be a little looser on the Facebook page. I’ve put a moratorium on spoilers until December 19. I’ll link to the open thread but any and all spoilers are fair game as of Monday December 19.
Mike Thorn posted a recent piece (Nov. 16) on Bright Lights Film Journal called “George Lucas’s Wildest Vision: Retrofuturist Auteurism in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”.
This is a real critique of art from the standpoint of someone who is serious about cinema as an art form:
Returning to the comparison between Attack of the Clones and *Corpus Callosum, I would also argue that both films are born to differing degrees from avant-garde traditions, given Lucas’s directorial background and origins (his early work in short films is largely comprised of formalist experimentation, and even his feature debut THX 1138  eschews many of the customary characteristics of its genre). What defines Attack of the Clones more than anything is its wild formal inventiveness, which remains unprecedented in mainstream cinema. And like Snow’s Callosum, Lucas’s film deals with the futuristic possibilities of digital filmmaking, in this case, resulting ultimately in the alteration of an entire art form.