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Re: Star Wars Odyssey: Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Shadows
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• Posted by: Steven P.
• Date: Sunday, February 6, 2022, at 9:51 a.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: Re: Star Wars Odyssey: Star Wars, Empire Strik... (Solaris)
• Now Playing: Big Fish - Elfman

> Alright, I'll bite. I havent written a whole lot the last months and if a
> post about what is probably my favouite Movie/Score-Trilogy of all times
> (barring, perhaps, LotR) doesn't inspire me to write something a little
> more substantial, nothing will.

> Infact, when you posted your first entry in this Odyssey, I was intitally
> going to pen a 'In defense of the Prequels'-response, but when I
> discovered your post, I didn't have the time to write. When I had the
> time, I was not in the mood. When I had the time *and* was in the mood,
> the Thread was so far down that I figured it won't make any difference.
> But anyway, I digress...

> Its a miracle how well this movie has turned out in the end. Lucas'
> talents at a worldbuilder and his imagination were and are surely
> something but it sure was a long and rocky road getting from his early
> story-treatments to the finished product which hit the theatres in May
> 1977. I've read summaries of the early attepts at this Story he wrote from
> about 1972 to 1975 and I recently read a Comic based on an earlier version
> of the Script and while I can apprechiate his efforts at creating a new,
> unique but yet familar world even at this early stage and, more
> importantly, the amount of imagination put into everything, a Movie based
> on this Story would not have worked: Too much exposition, too many
> Characters, a Story that is too complicated and goes off on too many
> tangents. It would have been an interesting Series of
> Sci-Fi/Fantasy-Novels but a fully-fledged Movie made out of this would
> have been a disaster. Long story short, the story was simplified,
> Characters and locations changed and eliminated and the Movie went into
> production. And from what I've heard, the Version that ended up getting a
> test-screening, the 'Lost Cut' as it is called today, proved to have
> serious issues, including an awkward pace, Scenes that slowed the story
> down and out-of-place attempts at humor... some of the same issues the
> Prequels were often plagued by two decades later. I would still like to
> watch 'The Lost Cut', out of curiousity, but I'm still thankful that Lucas
> had a bunch of friends and peers, people he was willing to listen to, who
> saw the raw potential of this Movie and were willing to help out reworking
> the footage into something more palpable. The revolutionary Effects work
> made by the Company later called ILM, the iconic Sound Effects by Ben
> Burtt and (most importantly to this discussion) John Williams' abolutely
> iconic Score did the rest.

> Now, if I were to go on about every positive thing I can say about this
> movie (and the Trilogy as a whole), if I were to go into detail about how
> much of a positive impact these movies and their Scores had on me as a
> person, I would be writing for hours. Suffice to say, that I grew up with
> them and my love has not diminished over time. Some of my earliest
> memories were of watching these Films on VHS and I was, from my earlier
> years, inspired by how 'fun' they are, how inspiring and how aspirational.
> This is especially true for 'A New Hope'. 'The Empire strikes back'
> improved on nearly every aspect and is technically the better Movie, but
> ANH is simply the more 'fun' watch. What I especially like is how Lucas
> has practically created a perfect narrative snowball which gathers
> Characters like lint ó two fugitive robots run into a dead-end farmboy and
> are found by an aging general who leads them to a mercenary who takes them
> to a princess who gets them sucked into an entire resistance movement. And
> the stakes escalate relentlessly: Luke sets out one morning to find a
> runaway robot; seemingly by day's end, he's blowing up a space station
> that destroys entire planets. There is never a dull moment in this movie,
> it remains interesting and intriguing and plain fun (a word I keep using
> over and over in this post) from start to end and is perfectly paced. Some
> wonky bits of dialogue and acting and a few moments which betray the films
> rather limited budget only add to its charme. Finally, the
> post-1997-changes have not significatly lessened my enjoyment of the
> movie, despite some of them (the strange-looking CGI-rock pasted in front
> of R2 in one Scene and the Changes they KEEP making to the Han-shot-first
> Scene) being a bit Cringeworthy. Other changes (like some replaced effects
> shots during the Final Battle) have always worked for me and they still
> do.

> As for the Score... c'mon, what else can I say that hasn't already been
> said a million times already? Its fun (here I go again!), its iconic, its
> filled with memorable Themes (although, in this care, my favourite Themes
> of the Saga were yet to come) and is intriguing even in its slower
> passages. There are so many fantastic Cues here, I don't even know where
> to begin, but 'Rebel Blockade Runner', 'Imperial Attack', 'Binary Sunset',
> 'Imperial Cruiser Pursuit', 'The Death Star', 'Tie Fighter Attack' and
> ESPECIALLY 'The Battle of Yavin' deserve special mention (but slower
> moments such as 'Tales Of A Jedi Knight/ Learn About The Force' shouldnt
> be slept on, either. There is nothing really negative I can say about this
> work, the only (minor) thing that comes to mind is that the early Imperial
> Theme (used as a leitmotif for Vader and the Empire in this movie only
> (outside of a Cameo in 'Rogue One')), despite numerous statements in
> different guises, it a bit vague and lacks presence. Also, when compared
> to the next two entries in the franchise, ANH sounds a bit rough around
> the edges, a bit small-scale in parts, which might be because of a smaller
> group of performers, a recordig-issue, something to do with *where* they
> recorded it? It doesn't sound bad, just different, and thus its something
> I can't really consider a negative.

> Overall, a near perfect movie and a near perfect Score. It was probably
> hard to imagine that a Sequel would be able to improve on both.
> Unbelievably, 'The Empire strikes back' did just that.

> So, I just went on and on about how great ANH is. TESB is better. Its
> predecessor, through its pace and sense of adventure, is probably the more
> enjoyable watch and more suitable for rewatches. The Sequel improved on
> everyting else. As a kid, it was actually my least favourite of the
> Trilogy, probably due to its much more suspenseful, darker tone and rather
> slower pace with less emphasis on action but, today, I consider its pace
> one of its greatest assets. TESB ebbs and flows like a Symphony, having
> its biggest Battle Scene happen inside the first third and being a slow,
> steady buildup to one of the best-structured, most dramatic final Acts in
> Film History. In short: This is one of the greatest of of all time,
> period. And the same goes for the Score, which actually *is* a Symphony,
> as far as I am concerned.
> Again, there is nothing new I can add: Three New Themes which, for me,
> constitute much of the heart and soul of this Franchise as a whole,
> fantastic set-pieces ('The Asteroid Field' in particular) and especially
> two lenghty, epic sequences I consider some of the best bits of Film
> Music... nah, MUSIC ever composed: 'The Battle of Hoth' and *everything*
> from 'Carbon Freeze' onwards. Also, it should be mentioned that, as
> befitting the Film, a lot of this Score constitutes Suspense-Music, even
> verging on Horror at times (most of the Hoth- and Dagobah-related Cues
> fall into this category) without ever becoming boring. Overall, a
> masterpiece all around.

> Strangely, most of 'Shadows of the Empire' went by me at the time it
> orginally came out. I listened to the Score, of course (often, as it was
> the first new SW-Score to come out in a long time) and read the Comic Book
> Adaptation... but I didn't play the actual Game until years later (and by
> that time, I had already played 'Jedi Knight' (released a year later) and
> unfavourably compared it to that one) and didn't check out the Novel until
> the late 00s (I remember it being okay enough and think it fills the gap
> between TESB and ROTJ quite nicely but is nothing spectacular either).

> In short, the Score is fantastic and has a lot to offer. It manages to
> strike a certain balance between sounding like it belongs in this Universe
> while also having its own unique voice, too. Of the other
> non-Williams-composed SW-Scores, 'Solo' is the only one which truly
> manages to accomplish the same feat. It has great new Themes, exiting
> Action-Cues, a lot of mystery and an exhilarating, gargantuan Finale in
> the Form of 'The Destruction of Xizorís Palace' which, in a perfect world,
> would be accompanying the Final Scenes to an actual big-budget SW-entry.
> The relative absense of Williams-composed Themes is only a minor quibble.

> In contrast to TESB, 'Return of the Jedi' was my favourite as a Kid -
> probably my favourite Movie *ever*. Now its my least favourite of the
> three. Not that I think its a bad flick by any stretch, but when compared
> to the heights reached by its predecessor (and this becomes especially
> appearant when watching both back-to-back), ROTJ just falls a little bit
> short: For much of its running time, the main three Actors really don't
> seem to provide their A-game, due to its cinematography (I think) it looks
> just slightly low-budget in parts, some of the emotional beats don't hit
> as hard as they should, Leia turning out to be Lukes' sister seems to be a
> wee bit awkward after what happened in the previous two movies and the
> first Act looks and feels like it belongs to an entirely different movie
> and almost seems as like they needed to tie up the loose ends from the
> previous movie quickly in order to get to the Main Story as soon as
> possible (although, in hindsight, other movies also did this and worse
> ('Thor: Ragnarok'!). But honestly, I don't mind all that much. Most of it
> is still great and works for me (and, frankly, I never actually minded
> Ewoks). And the Final Act, the Battle of Endor (especially the
> Space-related parts) really bring the Movie together. In a way, this movie
> was to TESB what, decades later, 'Avengers: Endgame' is to 'Infinity
> Wars': A somewhat flawed but still satisfying followup/conclusion.

> The Score is almost as great as its predecessor, even though it does
> contain a bigger percentage of less intriguing/interesting Underscore
> during some of the Jabba- and Endor-related Cues. Also, the tapestry woven
> out of the already existing Themes is already so dense at this point that
> the New Themes don't have all that much time to breathe, 'Luke and Leia'
> in particular: Probably my favourite Theme of the Franchise but only heard
> twice in the actual Movie. On the other hand, there is the absolutely
> heartbreaking 'The Death of Yoda', the eerie and mysterious Theme for the
> Emperor and an completely epic Four-Part-Sequence of Action Cues totalling
> about 30 Minutes of some of the greatest Music Williams has ever written.
> And 'Leia's News/Light Of The Force' provides a perfect, poignant way to
> cap of this Trilogy with a hugely emotionally satisfying finale with 'End
> Title' offering a neat Suite to wrap things up (and you know what?
> 'Victory Celebration' has really grown on me).

> ---

> And because no one asked for it, in short, my view on the
> Prequels/Spinoffs:

> The Prequels:

> In hindsight, in 1999, I was probably exactly the wrong age for 'Episode
> I'. Since, I have seen kids (my nieces in particular) react well to young
> Anakin and Jar Jar but as a fifteen year-old, I was likely too old to
> identify with the former and also too old to find the latter funny. On the
> other hand, I was likely too young to really apprechiate what George Lucas
> was trying to do. By that time, I have already seen the OT-Films so often
> that I knew them front to back and I just wanted something that pushed the
> same buttons, hit the same emotional beats and had a similar sense of
> fun/kind of humor. And I got something completely different. There was a
> lot of cool stuff, to be sure, but I was not interested in the Political
> Aspect, found some parts embarrasing, others annoying and what I concieved
> as an overuse of CGI also put me off slightly. And while I won't attempt
> to defend either Jar Jar (who shouldn't have been there in the first place
> (unless the rumors that it was initally planned that he would have turned
> out to be a Sith in disguise are actually true)) or young Anakin (who
> simply should have been older in order to make his Scenes with Padme
> less... weird), the Political Parts and the provided backstory and related
> Worldbuilding have actually turned out to be some of this movies' most
> interesting aspects. In other words, Lucas' instincts to go into another
> direction for these movies, provide something different were exactly
> right. But I didn't like this movie for the longest time, outside of Darth
> Maul, the Lightsaber Battle and Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine.

> When 'Attack of the Clones' came out, I initally liked it a lot more but
> it gradually has become my least favourite of the Trilogy. It has strong
> bookends but everything in-between is very uneven (I like Obi Wans
> Detective Story, but the Love Story, while worthy in theory is just
> clumsily written. And the movie is really let down by some awkward pacing,
> with the two main Stories hugely contrasting with one another. And the
> less said about the 'Comedic' Bits with C3PO near the end, the better
> (seriously, these are more painful than every Jar Jar-Scene put together).
> But still, I like the Opening Chase-Scene, I like Chistopher Lee, I like
> the Clones and Jango Fett, Ewan McGregor is perfect casting as Obi Wan
> and, honestly, Hayden Christensen aquits himself well considering the
> dialogue he has to deal with. But it took me the longest time to at least
> apprechiate AotC.
> And then there is 'Revenge of the Sith', which I more or less 'forced'
> myself to like at the time. I could see its weaknesses even in 2005 but I
> said to myself 'I won't let the last six years be in vain!' and 'LET ME
> HAVE SOMETHING, DAMN IT!' So ROTS, in the long run, provided me with an
> Gateway, of sorts, to approach the other Prequels and a start in my
> mission to apprechiate them, which, in the end, I did accomplish.
> I can sum up the negatives of ROTS in only a few sentences: There still is
> some cringeworthy dialogue and the pace is extremely fast: Enough story
> for two movies in crammed into its running time and as a result, some
> things are given not nearly as much time as they should (chiefly Anakins'
> turn to the dark side). On the other hand, its simply, for the lack of a
> better word, 'Epic'. The sense of size and scale is astounding, the
> dramatic stakes are palpable and its just a sight to behold how just about
> everything goes south in the latter half, culminating in a dramatic Light
> Saber Duel and a couple of final Scenes which neatly wrap up the story in
> such a way that the finale of this movie runs smoothly into the start of
> what is (chronologically) the next one. And, man, you gotta love Ian
> McDiarmid just having a freakin' ball playing Palpatine/Sidious in this
> movie. Not to mention a couple of surprisingly effective quieter moments
> (the Opera Scene, Anakin wordlessly making the Decision to follow Mace
> Windu to Palpatine, thus changing everything foreger) which honestly
> caught me by surprise. I didn't believe Lucas had this in him. Overall,
> ROTS is on about the same level as ROTJ for me: Its far from perfect, its
> kind of a mess, but the positives far outweigh the negatives for me.

> To sum up these Films: They are hugely flawed, but these flaws mostly can
> be summed up in a few points related to pace & dialogue and, in
> theory, could be corrected with a rewrite (changing the words said without
> changing the message) and with reediting some scenes. In other words: The
> Flaws of these movies are fixable and mostly related to execution. Its
> biggest Strength is the solid foundation provided by its underlying story,
> which is unique, its own thing and absolutely fascinating: The Fall of the
> Jedi and the Republic, the rise of Palpatine and the Empire, the Clone
> Wars and how/why it happened, Anakins eventual fall and transformation
> into Darth Vader... its hugely intriguing stuff. Besides, I love the
> Worldbuilding (presenting a colorful, lived-in Galaxy that has a LOT of
> History behind it), I love the genuine Ambition of these movies and, as I
> have already stated, its sense of size and scale as well as the Cast. And
> I should mention that I think 'The Clone Wars' did an overall fantastic
> job expanding upon this story, providing background and context. In sum:
> Episodes I-III are far from perfect, but worthy additions to the lore.

> As for the Scores, I think 'The Phantom Menace' is the best structured
> Score of the three, 'Attack of the Clones' has the Trilogies' greatest
> Theme ('Across the Stars') and 'Revenge of the Sith' has the best
> stand-alone Setpieces. Themes are their biggest flaw; TPM introducing a
> worthy Theme for Anakin and an Epic Anthem for the Sith (the iconic 'Duel
> of the Fates') but the two Sequels barely doing anything with either;
> 'Across the Stars' playing a huge part in AOTC but only making
> Cameo-apperances in ROTS; while that Movie simply lacks an overall,
> defining Main Theme ('Battle of the Heroes' is great but I would have
> preferred an overarching Theme for Obi Wan and Anakin getting gradually
> twisted and destroyed as the Movie progresses. The Secondary Themes in
> AOTC barely make an impression and ROTS was composed with an emphasis on
> Stand-alone Cues in mind at the expense of the already existing Themes
> (disappointingly, the Themes for Yoda and the Emperor barely appear,
> despite the huge role they play). A negative about the AOTC-Score I also
> need to mention is how almost the entire final battle is underscored by
> reused material from TPM, which is very disappointing. Still, these three
> Scores are all great both on their own terms, as Williams-Scores AND as
> entries into this franchise and the impact of 'Duel of the Fates', the
> beauty of 'Across the Stars' and the absolute Orchestral/Choral epicness
> of half a dozen Cues from ROTS cannot be understated.

> (heh, so much for 'in short')

> The Spin-offs:

> As for the two new Star Wars-Movies produced under Disneys' tenure, I like
> them both although I am not sure where to place them. I probably like
> 'Rogue One' a bit more, mostly because of a fantastic final act but it is
> plagued by a bit too much Planet-hopping near the start and rather thin
> (but sufficient) Characters. As a Movie, I don't like 'Solo' as much as R1
> but its certainly the more 'fun' of the two (whereas R1 belongs to the
> same morally grey, darker and more 'realistic' breed of Star Wars as the
> Alexander Freed-penned Novels and the two recent Live Action-Series). The
> cast is uniformly great, it has some great setpieces and is a enjoyable
> romp overall. The only thing I really don't like is the new Droid
> Character of L3.

> I really like Michael Giacchinos' Score for R1 although I have to agree
> that it sounds strangely unfinished in parts, at least when compared to
> Giacchinos' best Scores (like 'Jupiter Ascending'). There are a few Cues
> of kickass Action, satisfying Thematic Depth (although I also have to
> question why Giacchino felt the need to provide a new Theme for the
> Empire) and an emotional Finale. On the other hand, some of the
> Underscore-Cues in the middle seem to wander aimlessly and the overall
> recording seems to lack depth in parts.
> 'Solo' on the other hand is a masterpiece. As I said earlier, Powell
> managed the feat of writing a Score that feels like it belongs in the same
> Universe as Williams' originals while remaining its own thing at the same
> time. It does a fantastic Job integrating Williams' Themes (old and new)
> but also goes off into different, new directions that still feel fresh and
> *right*. 'Kessel Run in Less Than 12 Parsecs' and 'Deluxe Train Heist' are
> damn near perfect Action-Cues and the Love Theme for Han and Qi'ra is one
> of the greatest themes yet composed for this Franchise. I ranked 'Solo' at
> #2 of my favourite Scores of 2018 back then but the Deluxe Edition truly
> made me realize how great it truly is.

> ---

> Phew, thats all I've to to say right now (and I'm seriously beginning to
> run out of steam). I wrote this down 'stream-of-conciousness'-style in one
> go, with no fine tuning whatsoever. I hope I made at least a modicum of
> sense. big grin

You put a lot of time and passion into this post, so I wanted to make sure at least one person responded. It was great reading your thoughts, and I agree with a lot of what you wrote. The original Star Wars trilogy, despite coming out before I was born, had a huge impact on my childhood when they we re-released in the 90's, and along with Lord of the Rings remains an achievement in film making and story telling that I don't think will be reached again. I knew everything there was to know about those original 3 films, the characters, the ship and planet names, back stories covered in some of the expanded universe material, etc.

I was at the right age to appreciate the prequels when they came to theaters. Like you, I can overlook some of the script and pacing issues and look towards the larger story Lucas was trying to tell, which is really impressive. The world building was phenomenal, and one of the biggest differences between the prequels and the Disney films and shows are that I genuinely thought that Lucas tried to expand upon Star Wars, whereas Disney seems content to revisit it. Those prequels were event films as big as anything released before or after them.

For me Revenge of the Sith is the best and the best Star Wars film outside of the original trilogy. It takes a bold approach with the story and tone that sadly few blockbuster films even attempt these days.

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