Star Wars: Return Of The Prequel

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Posted Thu, Apr 11, 2013

Critics are hoping Revenge of The Sith will be as strong as The Empire Strikes Back.

Critics are hoping “Revenge of The Sith” will be as strong as “The Empire Strikes Back.”

***See Editor’s Note at The Bottom.***

IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR, AWAY — The eagerly awaited “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith” arrives in theaters on May 19. That’s good news – unless you’re a Jedi – because this sixth and final installment punctuates “boy toy” Anikan Skywalker’s conversion to the Dark Side of the Force and his metamorphosis into the evil Darth Vader, scourge of the universe.

Just in case you’ve been living on the third moon of Tatooine for the past six years, George Lucas decided to connect the missing links of his popular “Star Wars” trilogy, which during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s rose to cult status and defined a generation of sci-fi geeks.

Lucas dove into the six-chapter saga beginning with chapter four, “Star Wars” (‘77).

The premise followed a young farmer who discovers he’s destined to become a Jedi Knight like his father and leader of a rebellion against the evil Empire.

The series attracted such a devoted following, that 16 years after the final film, “Return of the Jedi” (‘83), Lucas backtracked and made the three chapters leading up to the original “Star Wars” film.

Lucas, who has unprecedented total control of his films, including final cut, said he always wanted to complete the series. So he forged ahead despite harsh criticism from critics that it’s all about the Benjamins.

However, contrary to some reviewers, Radio KOA 850 film critic Reggie McDaniel believes Lucas isn’t after the money at all.

“I think he has a legacy to protect,” McDaniel says. “He has had his one shot, and he’s made the most of it.”

JAR JAR STINKS

A shade less sympathetic, “Rocky Mountain News” features editor and home video columnist Mike Pearson says clearly Lucas wants to sell tickets.

“But I think he also wants to prove that he’s still the master of the sci-fi genre. He also wants to be considered as someone on the cutting edge of new film technology.”

A desire, Pearson points out, that got Lucas into trouble with the obnoxious digital character, Jar Jar Binks.

Boy toy Anikan Skywalker converts to the Dark Side.

Boy toy Anikan Skywalker converts to the Dark Side.

“I think he miscalculated people’s desire for humanism, even in the sci-fi realm,” Pearson says.

McDaniel concurs. “He felt that it was ‘his’ story, and he could tell it like he wanted to, whether anyone approved or not, which explains Jar Jar Binks – in spite of being universally hated as a character.”

Like many fans, “Phoenix New Times” editor Rick Barrs, a “Star Wars” hard-liner, viewed the shufflin’ Jar Jar sidekick as an extraterrestrial Stepin Fetchit. Barrs had written years ago that he’d hope, “Massa George” would eventually kill off the goofball character.

No such luck. Jar Jar makes his third appearance in “Revenge of the Sith,” and plays a minor role in the decision where to hide the Skywalker twins from their father Vader.

“I think it’s good when the filmmaker realizes his audience,” McDaniel says, “however – and there’s always a however in life – it’s foolish to disregard them and make the movie to spite them or to show your superiority to them.”

EXPECT GREAT THINGS

With that said, “Star Wars” fans are expecting great things this summer, despite Lucas’ arrogance and the fact that many critics say “Mr. Industrial Light & Magic” has a lot of explaining to do in the film’s brief two hours.

How so?

Lucas has to silence his detractors and satisfy legions of true believers by successfully and seamlessly bridging the prequels together with the original trilogy.

Pearson admits he’s a fan of the series, however, he’s marginally looking forward to “Revenge of the Sith.”

“I was disappointed with the last two films,” Pearson says. “I’m curious as to how he’s [Lucas] going to pull this one off. The fact that it deals with Skywalker’s transformation to Darth Vader means there should be a stronger dramatic arc. I’m hoping it will be as strong as “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Industry insiders agree, and say the buzz around Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch is that the arc is so dramatic, that for the first time in the series history, Lucas is asking for a PG-13 rating – a fact he underlined in a recent “Vanity Fair” interview warning parents that “Revenge of the Sith” is a little tougher than your average “Star Wars” film. It’s scarier, more brutal and a lot darker than the others. Lucas suggests leaving the 5-and 6-year-olds at home this time.

CRITIC PROOF

Pearson says he hopes the insiders are correct, because Lucas has always been at his best (see Empire) when he’s being dark.

Master Yoda puts in major light saber duty.

Master Yoda puts in major lightsaber duty.

“That explains why the film with the Ewoks was such a joke,” Pearson says. “It was too kid friendly.”

No matter the end result on May 19, critics will have little impact on the film’s performance.

In fact, Lucas was considering whether or not to let critics see the film before the general public. Either way, itís going to make money again and again, as Lucas releases it in 3-D later this year for the IMAX, and all the DVD box sets yet to come.

“The Star War franchise is critic-proof,” McDaniels says. “But I view them as a fan, rather than as a critic.”

And McDaniels believes that because so many critics are also fans that may, in part, explain why the last two made a “billion gazillion” dollars in the opening weekends.

Pearson adds that most films with a strong audience base are critic-proof.

“That said, critics aren’t merely there to put asses in seats in theaters,” he explains. “The critics’ job is also to provide context, i.e., how well a movie stacks up when compared to others in the series. The first ‘Star Wars’ films were more than entertainment; they were cultural ‘phenomenons.’ Look at how they inspired a flood of imitators. So, should Lucas have gone back to the well for the last three films? Was he being exploitative – or does he truly have something new to say?”

WILL THERE EVER BE A DEFINITIVE VERSION OF THE “STAR WARS” TRILOGY?Star Wars Poster

If you own the ‘80s home video version of the “Star Wars” trilogy on VHS, or on the extinct Beta or LaserDisc formats, you may have a valuable collector’s item – someday.

“No way!”

“Yeah, way!”

Here’s why: George Lucas is forever tweaking the “Star Wars” series. With the exception of the “Indiana Jones” saga, Lucas is pretty much a one trick pony.

Admittedly, a “talented” one trick pony, but a one trick pony nonetheless. Lucas made enhancements on the original “Star Wars” trilogy during the late ‘90s by adding extra scenes and characters. Most recently, he tweaked the original again, when it was released last year on DVD.

During the scene when Anakin, Obi-Wan and Yoda return as spirits in “Return of the Jedi,” Lucas digitally masked Hayden Christensen’s face over the original Vader, David Prowse’s mug. As quite as it’s kept, the “Star Wars” films are actually an Indy production that Lucas releases through 20th Century Fox.

In other words, Lucas can do what he damn well pleases and doesn’t have to suck up to fans or know-it-all studio suits.

So as Lucas keeps adding to and subtracting familiar scenes, look for “Star Wars” purists and memorabilia geeks to want to experience the films the way they originally saw them in the theaters without all the after-market “bells and whistles.”

But for now, fasten your seat belts, because there are more bells and whistles coming down the pike.

And with Lucas’ reputation, he’ll keep releasing special editions upon special editions until the good Lord says, “Closing time Mr. Lucas, please.”

Beginning in 2007, Lucas will re-release all six episodes (one a year) in 3-D.

“Whoa! Don’t get excited!” Three-D films are nothing new. Sure, they were all the craze in the ‘50’s with “B” horror flicks, and have appeared briefly throughout the years as a shtick, but they have never been taken seriously.

Besides having to wear those kooky blue and red lens cardboard sunglasses, the downside to 3-D movies is the novelty wears off in about an hour. And in some cases, viewers receive a rather severe headache. Admittedly the “Star Wars” films will be a whole new experience since 3-D technology has improved. And in addition, Lucas could start a whole new trend of encore films being released in 3-D. However, the smart money says the original versions are a safe bet for collectors and purists to enjoy.

RANKING THE STAR WARS FILMS
Empire Strikes Back_
1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
George Lucas disciples would consider ranking “The Empire Strikes Back” No. 1 as sacrilege. Even though they know in their heart of hearts that “Empire” has the strongest storyline and character development. Let’s not forget that Darth Vader gets his own theme music and simonized helmet with tinted lenses. Grade: A+

2. Star Wars (1977)
Everybody loves an original. “Star Wars” became a groundbreaking masterpiece that recruited legions of loyal fans, and spawning dozens of imitators that never came close. “Star Wars” became a life affirming film whose imaginative characters, oneliners and adventures left an imprint on an entire generation. Grade: A

3. Attack of The Clones (2002)
Attack of The Clones, the fifth film in the “Star Wars” saga, has more bite than the Muppet-leden, godawful “Phantom Menace” and “Return of The Jedi.” “Clones” has a darker and more solidly constructed adult storyline. Grade: A-Clones_

4. Return of the Jedi (1983)
The major problem with “Jedi” is too many damn Muppets. There’s a few memorable lines between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, but what’s with the Teddy Bears saving the day? It’s hard to take this film seriously after “The Empire Strikes Back.” Grade: C+

5. The Phantom Menace (1999)
Like “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Phantom Menace” has too many damn Muppets and computer-animated characters that give the movie a Disneyland feel. “Star Wars” fans have to rely on rather dusty memories of the original films. Grade: C+

STAR WARS GEEK TEST
1. Darth Maul meets his demise at the hands of

a. Qui-Gon
b. Mace Windu
c. Obi-Wan Kenobi
d. Darth Vader

2. Billy Dee Williams plays
a. Darth Vader
b. Jar Jar Binks
c. Lando Calrissian
d. Gungans

3. Which character dies of old age?
a. Mace Windu
b. Anakin Skywalker
c. Yoda
d. Count Dooka

4. Which actor plays Jar Jar Binks?
a. James Earl Jones
b. Ahmed Best
c. Anthony Daniels
d. Christopher Lee

5. What was the one-liner Han Solo and Lando Calrissian kept repeating?
a. “Whassup up.”
b. “It’s not my fault.”
c. “Use the force, Luke.”
d. Lightsabers are no match against a good blaster, kid.”

6. Samuel L. Jackson’s lightsaber is his favorite color. What color is it?
a. Purple
b. Red
c. Green
d. Yellow

Answers:
1. Obi-Wan Kenobi
2. Lando Calrissian
3. Yoda
4. Ahmed Best
5. “It’s not my fault.”
6. Purple

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Star Wars: Return of The Prequel” was originally published in May 2002. George Lucas sold Lucasfilm Ltd., including the “Star Wars” franchise to Disney for $4.05 billion in October 2012. Disney plans to release a new “Star Wars” saga in 2015 beginning with “Episode 7.”

About Laurence Washington

Laurence Washington is an award-winning writer and journalism professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

View all posts by Laurence Washington

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