Here we are again. THE LAST JEDI is now in theaters winning box office records as usual. I thought I would re-share this post from the last installment from the series. Enjoy.
Of course I have to write about Star Wars today. With every media outlet fanatically covering the camping out of fan boys and girls to see the movie, it’s a must.
Whether any of us were into Star Wars in the first place – we’ve been forced to awaken to THE FORCE AWAKENS. Rather than fight The Force I decided to watch the three original films: STAR WARS, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and RETURN OF THE JEDI. I wanted to look at them through my adult – been to film school – wrote a few movie scripts – eyes to explore the magic that has sprinkled upon the world.
It’s been 35+ years since I saw the first installment. When the movie premiered in May of 1977 I was an eighth-grader with an average interest in movies. At that time in my life the movies I went to were usually seen in our family station wagon at a cheaper-by-the-carload drive-in theater. Special movies were seen at a walk-in theatre, and there were a handful of venues that set themselves apart in terms of décor, screen size and overall allure.
One such theater was The Cinedome theatre in Orange County, CA located approximately 5 minutes from Disneyland. Sadly, the theatre is no longer there. However, the memories are completely intact for me and for so many others who relished the dome-shaped theatre with huge screens, awesome cutting-edge sound systems, tiered seating, and real buttered popcorn. This place was so special they charged a bit more for tickets – another reason I wasn’t a frequent patron.
As the now-famous opening sequence rolled the backstory on the screen in a way none of us had ever seen, it caught everyone’s attention. Then, when the ultra-close-up underbelly of the spaceship appeared to fly over the audience’s heads you could hear gasps of amazement and everyone’s head exploding from awesomeness.
From beginning to end there were so many “firsts” we had never seen in terms of special effects. The explosions were incredible, taken to the next level by a heavy base speaker rumble everyone could feel in their chests. It truly was a visceral experience which was evident by the number of times my friend and I looked at each other with our mouths wide open in amazement.
The movie struck a chord with many kids who became life-long fans. For some reason, I wasn’t one of them. Aside from the impressive special effects I didn’t really connect with the story. Perhaps I was distracted by the special effects and was merely waiting for the next set piece to blow me away. Something was deterring me from paying attention to the story.
All these years later it was difficult to remember the story at all. I knew who the good guys and the bad guys were, but that’s a pretty lame synopsis of an internationally appealing, history-making film. So, I pulled out the 1997 Special Edition 20-year anniversary, digitally enhanced VHS boxed set sitting in my archives and decided to visit the galaxy far, far away.
I accessed all of my script-structuring experience and paid close attention to the story. I was compelled to analyze the hell out of it to see what elements worked really well, and to determine once and for all why people formed such a galvanized connection to the movie. Here’s what I discovered:
- The special effects are still awesome!
- The story began like the best coming of age movies with the parents or guardians dead or dying. This is usually a Disney trick to elicit the biggest fear a kid could have. When Luke returned to see his aunt and uncle dead it motivated him to change his circumstance.
- The movies do a great job of pacing, ratcheting the tension, and moving the story along. There are no dead spots or boring moments in any of the three movies. In recent years the movie, ARGO used the same techniques to pace the movie and it won an Academy Award for best picture.
- It hits the developmental stage young kids traverse when they want to be independent of their parents and forge out on their own to learn the hard way about life. A young audience relates to this really well.
- Luke and Han develop a relationship that they both need. They are like brothers and that relationship is very strong and built upon them having each other’s backs and fighting for the other.
- The movie demonstrates friendship, teamwork, and doing good above all other things, which appeals to parents who allow their kids to see movies.
- The pain felt by the main characters isn’t very deep. For example, although Luke lost his hand, he made it back to the ship and got a new bionic hand and stitched it up himself. The pain that they experience doesn’t seem to go too deep, which allows the audience to quickly move on – except for those henchmen in the wings who always seem to get killed.
- There is a lot of shooting AND a lot of missed shots that allows Luke, Han, Leia and the gang to escape from a lot of things.
- Princess Leia didn’t have many lines in the movies, which appears to add to her allure. There are a lot of boys and men who fantasized about her and I think her silence left them wondering if she was secretly thinking about them.
- The musical scores were incredible and I believe they are some of the main reasons for success. Somehow the music kept the story from tipping over into the “Oh brother, that was dumb” area on a few occasions. John Williams knows how to elicit emotional responses from the audience and he was a master of it in these movies.
- The use of life-or-death moments peppered throughout, and placing them with precision ensured audience-pleasing conflict in every scene.
- Establishing the human qualities of droids and then putting them in peril or having them lose an appendage works really well at pulling the heart strings.
Six or so hours later, and a whole lot Star Wars wiser, I’m prepared to have my force awakened. I’ll wait until the crowds thin, if they ever do, and appreciate being transported to a galaxy far, far away. I could use the change of scenery.