-New series by author Nic Brown-
Star Wars Episode VII: The Hope That It Doesn't Suck
announcement of the start of production for the newest “Star Wars” film -
Episode VII: “The Return of the Milkable Disney Cash Cow - has filled me
with mixed emotions. I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. I
remember my mom taking me to see the first film at a small movie theater in
Frankfort, Kentucky when I was just seven. I’d been particularly good and
she said that we could stay and watch it twice if I enjoyed it. Needless to
say my younger self didn’t just enjoy it, I was beside myself with glee from
it and looking back I appreciate her staying to see it again at the very
next show, even more now than I did then. The two subsequent parts of the
original trilogy proved to be just as magical for me as I matured, although
the darkness of “The Empire Strikes Back” was somewhat lost on me at the
time. I was even okay with the cuteness of the Ewoks; they weren’t exactly
my favorite alien race in the series, but they had their place.
Then came the next installment in the story - “Star
Wars” Episodes I-III. I really wanted to love these films. They had so much
promise: Jedi Knights at their prime, the origin of Darth Vader and, perhaps
most importantly, 22 years of special effects magic lined up to help make
the journey to a galaxy far, far away, even more magical…. What a letdown.
There are many reasons
why I was disappointed by the second in George Lucas’s trilogy of trilogies,
but perhaps the biggest reason was the special effects. Episode I: “The
Phantom Menace” took us to new and exotic worlds in amazing starships and
introduced us to new races of aliens to love and fear. Only, it didn’t. The
worlds felt flat and lifeless, the aliens too perfect. The spaceships -
there the effects didn’t disappoint. But at the same time, most of the film
occurred either on planets or in the spaceships so that saving grace was
The problem was that the film was shot primarily in
front of a green screen and all of the environments, the aliens and
everything else was added in later. While the effects themselves were state
of the art, there was something about them that just didn’t feel real. Don’t
get me wrong; when I watched the original trilogy I didn’t think it was CNN
footage of the action on the front. I knew the Deathstar was a model and
that Chewbacca was a tall guy in a furry suit. However, from the deserts of
Tatooine to the forests of Endor, I knew that the places were… well… places.
The environment the films were made in was real, the interactions with it
were real and the film was better for it.
I admire the way Lucas’s Industrial Light and Magic
has revolutionized the special effects used in film. I think the technology
is amazing. But somehow the interactions just don’t feel the same when the
whole world created is really just code in a machine.
Episodes I-III suffered from other issues as well:
poor acting by some, poorly written female characters, and cardboard
villains that gave no true feel of menace (except for Darth Maul who was
menacing as Hell, so they killed him right off). Those are just a few of the
drawbacks that “The Phantom Menace” and its sequels suffered from. But then
again, the original Star Wars trilogy didn’t break that much ground with its
cut-and-dry good guys and bad guys (up until the Vader switch hit at the end
of “Return of the Jedi” anyway) but the rest of the films’ elements made up
for that. With the second trilogy, nothing seemed to line up to make it all
Does that make them bad films in my opinion? Not
really. But whereas I could sit down right now and watch the original “Star
Wars” trilogy, I just don’t feel the same about the second set of films.
I should have seen that coming in 1997 when they
re-released the whole original trilogy with enhanced digital effects. The
enhancements generally did very little to improve the film and in some
cases, namely the infamous ‘Greedo shot first’ scene, they actually spoiled
the feel of the movies. But I didn’t think about that. I leapt into the
theater at the first chance I could get and settled back to watch the
spectacle. I’m still waiting.
Ultimately, I’m a grown man whose tastes and
interests have matured beyond those of a seven year old boy sitting through
a wonderful new sci-fi movie… twice. But, I guess I’m just feeling hopeful.
The gang is back together for the third trilogy installment with the return
of most of the original cast. There is also word that Disney, having
listened to what the audience was saying with the second trilogy, is
planning to use more practical effects, real sets, and actual locations for
this installment in what has become one of the most iconic stories ever
brought to the screen. So for me, my feelings are that “Star Wars Episode
IV” was incorrectly named. The “New Hope” is the next series of films.
There’s a seven year old boy inside of me who’d like to see magic once again
when the lights go down and we journey to that galaxy far, far away.
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-copyright ©2008 Nic Brown all rights reserved-