Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

Obligatory Star Wars Post

Happy Birthday

Hey, listen, I may have been annoyed by the revisions to the original trilogy in 1997 and 2004 and disgusted by the prequels, but the original film remains a fantastic piece of entertainment. Brashly dorky and great fun, the movie became a classic five years ago, and it does remain one still. Between budgetary and technological limitations, George Lucas was forced to concentrate on making a lean, fast-paced film that was visually striking for its time. What makes that first film work is that there is no wasted time in it; every scene is about telling the story.

In many ways, part of the problem I have with the Special Editions of the trilogy is that the final dogfight over the Death Star was such a groundbreaking piece of filmmaking that replacing it in this era where CGI makes such a thing commonplace seemed... well... intellectually dishonest, as ridiculous as that sounds. I also feel that it was disrespectful to the original special effects crew that worked so hard on what was one of the most ambitious effects sequences ever concieved. I admit, save for a few reservations, that the new sequence looks great (I much prefer the more disciplined "Lock S-Foils in attack position" shot better in the original version than its staggered counterpart in the special edition, for example), but while the original sequence was movie magic, the redo is something that has become de riguer (the year before the theatrical release of the Star Wars special edition, a similar sequence was featured at the conclusion of Independence Day, for example).

Strangely enough, one of the reasons I think that most people reacted so negatively to the revelation about the midi-chlorians in The Phantom Menace was because this was an attempt to try to take the magical element out of the films and give it some sort of basis in science. I feel this was a very unsuccessful move mostly because it doesn't jibe with the established genre conventions set up in the previous two films (it also doesn't make enough sense to be good science fiction, either). As I've noted before, the original Star Wars trilogy has the semantics of science fiction but the syntax of a fantasy film. Yes, there are starships and laser guns and robots and other trappings of sci-fi, but there are princesses and monsters and swords and absent parent issues, all tropes of the fantasy genre. Of course, the movies touch on other genres as well, including the war picture and the 時代劇 (jidaigeki) film, but ultimately, the drama and appeal stem from the fantasy elements. The Force is a form of magic, whether the source is midi-chorians, telekinesis/psionics or manna.* Trying to shoehorn it into the sci-fi genre never worked, but worse, was dramatically unneccesary. Psionics and telekinesis are also terms that are used to allow for magical actions to occur in science fiction, a practice we're all used to by now but doesn't really make much sense; telekinesis is a term used by paranormalists, and is pseudoscientific nonsense. It is far from the worst writing in the prequel trilogy, of course, but it is annoying nonetheless.

Midi-chorians come from planet Zeist. Maybe, if George Lucas has a moment of clarity, he will treat them accordingly.

Nah, that's too much to expect. Next I might strongly hint that he should restore the original versions of the first trilogy, and that's just... pointless.

I was listening to my refurbished Star Wars trilogy mix on the way to work today (which I had unwittingly made available to myself in time for the 30th anniversary), and a thought occurred to me. I never came up with a title for this disc or its successor, simply referring to them as "The Star Wars Trilogy" and "The Star Wars Prequel Trilogy" on both the CD Text of the album and on my mix list. The cover art for the original version of the mix had the legend "The Star Wars Trilogy," but the new layout for both discs simply have the Star Wars logo and the legend underneath, "Music from the Original Trilogy Soundtracks" and "Music from the Prequel Trilogy Soundtracks" (with "John Williams" in big letters on the very top, of course).

Most of my mixes, even the ones from other film series, have titles. My X-Men mix is called The Uncanny X-Men after the original comic title; my John Williams Harry Potter mix is called Lumos Musica after the "Lumos" spell. Other times, I take a notable track title from the album, such as "No Escape," the title from my Planet of the Apes mix and "The Face of the AntiChrist," which is the title of Jerry Goldsmith Omen mix. But I never bothered for the Star Wars mixes. But for some reason, now that I think about it, I am loathe to name them. Why? I couldn't tell you. Maybe I was trying to be definitive or something.

How to scar a generation with five words.

I also had a minor revelation as to why the opening part of original version of "Aboard the Executor" was replaced by the concert recording of the Imperial March, and it has a lot to do with the positive feedback I got for my edit "The Executor", which both recreates what appears in the film and presents what was originally written. It's just too goddamn intense for the film! With Darth Vader such a prominent character (it is, in fact, the only film in which he is the primary villain; the big bad in Star Wars is the Grand Moff Tarkin, while in Return of the Jedi it is Emperor Palpatine), the Imperial March dominates the score. However... the most dramatic reading of it in The Empire Strikes Back has to be Vader's revelation to Luke. That is the culmination of the score, and I think it was the right decision to replace it in the film because once you hear such a high octane reading "Aboard the Executor," there's nowhere to go. There's no "eleven," so to speak.

Ironically, it works on my mix for this very reason. If I set the original trilogy mix up as a conflict between good (the Force theme) and evil (the Imperial March), then the mix opens with evil prevailing. Over the course of the album, the Imperial March, while a constant presence, is overtaken by the Force theme, climaxing with the ethereal "The Light of the Force" and the triumphant "The Throne Room and End Title." Something of the opposite occurs in the prequel trilogy mix, where the Imperial March appears subtely at first, but the climax of that disc is the powerful reading of it heard at the conclusion of Attack of the Clones. In some ways, I think that the need to present the Imperial March in a more definitive form towards the beginning of the original trilogy mix is a reaction to the structure of the revised prequel trilogy mix, and having listened to both in recent days in succession, I have to admit that I'm pretty happy with how they fit together, even if I dislike the prequel films.

* Manna was the source of magic in a short story by Larry Niven - the only fantasy of his I've ever read, though I know he's written more - I found in a collection of his called The Flight of the Horse. Getting access to enough of it was the Achilles' heel of any wizard, and it was an approach to the concept I liked very much.
Tags: cinema, john williams, mix workshop, star wars
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