Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Monk's Lost Love for Star Wars' creator, part 4

The Monk and Monkette2B watched The Empire Strikes Back last night. I'd not watched it in a good bit -- at least five years or so -- although I've seen the movie about 25 times. Her Highness hadn't watched it in quite some time either.

But I wanted to see if my memory was correct and if the series had really taken a qualitative fall off a cliff with the making of the prequels -- in other words, is Empire only that good in retrospect?

Answer: Empire is simply that good.

Now there are some plot holes, of course, and the omnipresent "glaring omissions" such as: How could Luke get away so easily from Hoth when Vader was already in the Rebel camp? How could Vader not feel the presence of his daughter in the Millenium Falcon? Why did coming out of Hyperspace so close to Hoth cause the Rebels to notice the Imperial Fleet (my only thought is some kind of galactic backwash, like the snow that flies off your skis when you come to a hockey stop)? But this is really small beer.

Empire remains the best-acted and most interesting of all the Star Wars movies, with the greatest character development and, of course, the Plot Twist that became a part of our cultural movie history,

And it demonstrates just how little Lucas knows about his own Goliath. How? First, an anecdote: when filming the Freezing of Han Solo scene, Lucas (he was executive producer) urged Irvin Kirschner to have Han respond to Leia's "I love you" with "I love you too." The trite, shallow and completely forgettable response -- that's nice, and cute. That's Lucas -- trite, shallow, cutesy.

Kirschner held firm and the Leia-Han interaction is among the Great Moments in Movie History -- Leia: I love you; Han: I know. Most people interpret this as the cocksure bounty hunter-evader being oh-so-cool with a Princess, but look closely at the scene and you see that Han is embracing Leia's sentiment as a reassurance and a comfort as he faces death. It's among the best acting in the series.

Second, the Yoda moments. Yoda's speech patterns and comments in The Phantom Menace was the first clue that Lucas had lost control of his own creation; by Attack of the Clones, it was clear that Lucas didn't even know his own characters. Watch Yoda and Luke interact: about 75-80% of the time that Yoda is serious, his syntax is direct and not the Yodaspeak that everyone likes to mock. Only on intermittent occasions does Yoda speak in the fashion for which he became stereotyped. Yoda's discussion and description of the Force, especially his soliloquy before raising Luke's X-Wing out of the swamp, is straightforward, direct and virtually devoid of Yodaspeak. But nearly every statement Yoda makes in Episodes 1 and 2 are riddled with Yodasyntax.

A friend (and now former colleague) took an intensive screenwriting course in LA last year because her dream is to put her two (current) story ideas to paper and make them into feature-length films. What is most notable about the course is that before they allowed her to go to story development and dialogue, she had to write full character histories on each of her major and most of her minor characters to ensure that not only were they fully fleshed-out, but that she would not lose the integrity of the characters whilst hashing out the script. Lucas never adhered to that rule and it's all too easy to tell when you watch Episodes 1, 2 and 3.

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