6 Dumb Aspects Of The Original Star Wars Trilogy You Forgot
If you're a human being, you were probably as excited as we were about Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- or as we call it, Star Wars 4: George Lucas Was Doing His Dishes Thousands Of Miles Away. As fans, we demand that Disney give us the same fuzzy-feeling, space operatic awesomeness of the original trilogy, and less of the brain-numbing, toy-shilling, candy-colored fever dream that was the prequels. Give us art, not a lollipop that forces you to French-kiss Jar Jar Binks.
The weird thing about this is that George Lucas' beloved OT was never meant to be seen as a great artistic achievement. Not until our collective nostalgic hive mind decided it had to be, anyway. In all of our fervor and excitement over Episode VII, we've forgotten that ...
Star Wars Has Always Chosen Children Over Plot
Almost everyone agrees that booting Lucas from the new movies is a good thing, because the guy who created Star Wars no longer knows what Star Wars is all about. He sold out, man.
With the prequels, he traded the integrity of the original trilogy for lowest-common-denominator crap that the kidlets would clap their Popsicle-stained mitts for. When the guy in charge says shit like "Jar Jar is the key to all of this," you can sadly conclude that the visionary has lost his vision, like so many other kindly old grandpas.
Except he didn't lose it, because that vision was always "keep children happy above all else."
Except the ones who got this empty box for Christmas. They can go to hell.
Remember: The first (fourth) film wasn't intended as the opening (middle) of a grand epic. It was simply Not Flash Gordon, Wink Wink, a straight-ahead, good-over-evil standalone sci-fi flick meant to "give kids a sense of values." Lucas couldn't give less of a shit if 40-year-olds considered Yoda a great philosopher of the ages. And speaking of Yoda: He was never supposed to be in Return Of The Jedi. The only reason Lucas wrote him in was because he thought of the goddamn children. He regularly consulted child psychologists, one of whom strongly advised that an outside character confirm to Luke, "Yes, that dickhead who Lannister'd your hand really did sire you. Have fun at the reunion." Why? Because without the thumbs-up from a character they trust, kids under 12 would very likely have dismissed the plot twist as the bad guy being a lying asshole to the good guy.
Then there are these furry fucks:
Do not Google "these furry fucks." You might get more Ewoks.
Go on, stare. Stare some more. MORE. AND REMEMBER FOREVER. Also, remember that Lucas had those guys close out his epic saga with a silly dance party because kids would like it. See, Jedi once had a much darker and more bittersweet finale. The Rebels win a pyrrhic victory, with the war destroying them almost beyond recognition. Leia's their new queen and barely knows what she's doing. Luke skulks off alone into the sunset, like Mad Max, if Max whined about everything. Han Solo gets off easy, because he's dead.
Then Lucas realized that kids hate death, love Han, love happy endings, and love fluffy things. So he gave them all those things, even going so far as to decree that no main characters bite it, because kids would be happier that way. And remember that even Empire, the darkest of the series, had a robotic Laurel and Hardy getting into hijinks, a groaning bear-man who pilots a spaceship, and Leia's ridiculous hairdo. If the new movies don't have something for your 10-year-old nephew to go nuts about, then you'll know Star Wars has truly sold out.
The Original Trilogy Had More Blue Screens And Tricky Effects Than You Realize
One of the biggest promises of the new movies is that they'll return Star Wars to the practical effects greatness of the original trilogy, as opposed to the lazy CGI dumps that were the prequels. The behind-the-scenes video makes it crystal clear that CGI shortcuts will be minimal, while practical, human artistry will rule the land with an iron fist (one made from real iron, probably). We mean, look at all the hard work they're putting into it:
They were using a real Harrison Ford, too, but it got damaged and had to be retired.
Oh, those pics are all from the prequels, by the way.
Yep, those abominations featured way more models and practical sets than the OT. Revenge Of The Sith, for example, spent more money on miniature props than A New Hope spent on A New Hope. Conversely, the old movies had way more special effects, blue-screen character insertion, and disco-era computer manipulation than people tend to remember. Basically, if puppets and miniature models were best for the scene, Lucas used them ... but if they needed to paint a picture of the goddamn Death Star and later superimpose Alec Guinness so he could pull off the greatest performance he ever hated, he would do that. It was never a grand statement on the power of practicality -- it was always about getting the damn film done.
Yes, they didn't even shoot this in the real Endor.
Just look at the Millennium Falcon. As the original trilogy progressed, the Falcon became less and less of a practical set, and more of a hodgepodge of unpractical bullshit. After destroying the first Falcon (a half-finished prop built into a wall, by the way), they made a second one, which ultimately cost too damn much to move around. So for many scenes (especially in Return Of The Jedi), what we saw was a matte painting of the Falcon, blue-screened into whatever scene they needed her to fly around in. If they had to choose between building a spaceship or going home early, home won.
J.J. Abrams probably feels silly as shit for inventing warp travel just for the teaser.
Finally, we'll leave you with this: You know that story about how Ian McKellen cried while making The Hobbit because he was the only human actor on set? Mark Hamill felt similarly while stuck on a swamp set for Empire Strikes Back -- a movie he described as "nine months of torture." Turns out working with Muppets is about as soul-killing as working with digital dwarves.
Lucas Was Changing These Films From The Very Start
Further proof that Lucas hast lost all respect for his all creation is that, since the special editions in 1997, he's been tinkering with perfection. He added superfluous droids everywhere, slapped a goddamn CGI Jabba into the first movie for no reason, and turned Han Solo into a shot-second dinkus. The old Lucas would have never done any dramatic changes like that to his own creation ... except for changing the name of the whole movie four years after it came out. Behold, the original 1977 crawl your parents saw when not necking one another in the dark:
The first Star Wars was (bafflingly) called Star Wars until 1981, when Lucas realized this was a damn saga and retconned the title crawl to signify as such. And since he was re-releasing the movie and all, he took the opportunity to give give Chewbacca more growls and the stormtroopers more lines, and to make some changes to the dialogue -- something he started messing with as soon as the movie came out, when he changed Luke's essential line "Blast it, Biggs, where are you?" to "Blast it, Wedge, where are you?" for the mono release in 1977. Yes, this was the original "Han Shot First." Never forget.
The answer, of course, is "in our hearts."
But at least those changes added unimportant stuff, instead of doing the opposite. The Super 8 versions, on the other hand, were shamelessly edited down to 15 minutes or so to fit onto one reel. If your ideal version of Empire Strikes Back involves no Hoth, no carbonite, no explanation of Yoda, and no "I am your father," then sit back and enjoy the shitshow:
If we listed every moment of Lucasian micromanagement magic, you'd be reading this article until Episode IX: Psych, Anakin Drank Blue Milk And Hallucinated All This Shit. So if Abrams suddenly decides that the cross-shaped lightsaber was dumb and changes it on the Blu-ray, it'll be tradition.
Original Trilogy Spoilers Were Abundant (And Nobody Cared)
Since spoilers are now officially worse than mass murder, all we want to know about The Force Awakens is that it exists, Han and Chewie are home, and there's suddenly more than one black person and one woman in this universe. The trailers are either vague teasers or mysterious teasers. We know virtually nothing about the plot, the heroes, the villains, or how quickly Jar Jar gets tossed into the Sarlacc Pit. And that's how we like it. We want the next chapter of the greatest saga in history to unfold before our very eyes, not spoiled by some bored voiceover asshole.
... you know, like what happened with the original films. It turns out that the '70s and '80s were magical times in which movie people gave absolutely no fucks about ruining the story if it meant selling viewers on a film. Take a look at the official Jedi trailer, which straight-up showed an unfrozen Han Solo running around and shooting shit like Jabba never got his slime-paws on him. "Han's not an ice cube anymore!" you can almost hear the cheeseball announcer gleefully crow. "He's back, he's healthy, and he's fun! Give us your money and have fun too!"
But at least the Empire trailers didn't ruin the big "I am your father" reveal. No, that honor went to Darth Vader himself. In 1978, the guy in the suit, David Prowse, hosted a fan meet-and-greet where he told everybody what would happen in future Star Wars films. These were minor, insignificant details like "Luke learns that Darth is, in fact, his long-lost father. Father can't kill son, son can't kill father. So they live again to star in Star Wars IV."
"And for fans of Luke and Leia as a couple: Let's just say you're rooting for deformed children."
OK, so he got the sequel sequence wrong (Star Wars IV ended up being Star Wars I, Star Wars I is really Star Wars IV but took 20 years to show up, and Vader dies in Star Wars III which is actually Star Wars VI, and ow our brains), but otherwise, he totally spoiled the biggest shock of the whole saga. And got "wild cheers" for it, because back then, all that mattered was the action and how much butter the counter guy slathered on your popcorn. And on that note ...
Nobody Took These Films Seriously (Not Even The Filmmakers)
Re-watch the Force Awakens trailers. Listen to the eerie music. The dramatic, concerned narration. The panicked, fearful stormtrooper. Vader's charred and semi-melted helmet. For a movie about what happens after the Light Side won, Episode VII looks fucking dark.
Now, contrast this to the trailers for the original trilogy, such as the one that sold A New Hope with taglines like "In danger. In love. In Star Wars."
Or how about the trailer for Empire Strikes Back, the "depressing" one in which the bad guys win, Han gets left for dead, Luke gets mutilated, and even poor C-3PO ends up in far more pieces than he ought to be. How did they sell the movie? As silly, loud, raucous FUN:
Yep, according to Mr. Coming Soon, Empire was nothing but a big, dumb space romp, perfect for turning off your brain and indulging in two crazy hours of pew-pew boom-boom vruhmm-vruhmm hwooooooo haaaa. A good chunk of the trailer is some carnival barker yelling all your favorite characters' names, plus some new ones you're SURE TO LOVE. The whole thing's about as serious as a farting baby.
Which was Jabba's original design.
But goofy trailers or not, people saw the films and immediately realized their perfection, right? Please. Audiences ate the OT up, certainly, but critics trashed them. At best, they dismissed the films as harmless kiddie fluff, featuring fake violence and charmingly dumb dialogue. Here's Roger Fucking Ebert:
What makes the "Star Wars" experience unique ... is that it happens on such an innocent and often funny level ... entertainment so direct and simple that all of the complications of the modern movie seem to vaporize.
Even Empire got reviews which focused on how "nice" and "silly" it was. Of course, this isn't so surprising, considering that not even the people making the films took them seriously. We've mentioned that Guinness and Ford found the whole thing dopey as hell, but pretty much the whole crew shooting the first movie thought it was "a children's film that would never see the light of day and treated it that way."
"When do we get to the neighborhood scenes? Mister Rogers is looking beat up."
Compare the lack of fucks given in the above photo to the "Holy shit, we're making Star Wars!" reverence in the Force Awakens backstage video. We can only conclude that Episode VII will end up being the most unintentionally slapstick sequel so far.
The Original Trilogy Was A Marketing Free-For-All
To celebrate the Phantom Menace (which, in hindsight, was like celebrating a brand-new plague), Lucasfilm went batshit with the marketing. Toys, fast food, magazine covers, soft drinks, THIS:
In short, Earth once contained more Episode I than it did water, and look where it got us. By Episode II: Attack Of The Rat-Tails, Lucas had learned his lesson and dialed back the Jedisploitation significantly. It's a lesson you see Disney applying today -- The Force Awakens is being marketed extremely carefully, giving us just enough exposure to wet our pantaloons, but not throwing so much Skywalker shit against the wall that we puke up our Happy Meals in disgust. The chances of a Fu Manchu Turtle Guy Pez Dispenser are slim indeed.
It's a tragedy that this face will never decorate a Pepsi limited edition cup.
And yet, if Episode VII truly wants to channel the spirit of the OT, then market away! Hope and Empire pulled in over two billion Carter-era dollars in merchandising, so for Return Of The Jedi, Lucas saturated the market with enough Star Wars to last all of Yoda's 900 years. Cookies, wastebaskets, bubble bath, pajamas, belt buckles, toys upon toys upon toys upon endless goddamn toys -- even "Adventure Centers," which you could pay gobs of money to call and gossip about boys with Vader or C-3PO.
Then there were the magazines, which often had nothing to do with movies, space, science fiction, or big black CPAP masks, and everything to do with, well, everything else:
That doesn't look like a regulation helmet.
All in all, the beloved OT (and Jedi in particular) was a way more shameless stampede of cash cows than the reviled prequels or the new trilogy could ever hope to be. You want serious, respectful, non-exploited cinema that can stand on its own two reels without transmogrifying into a glorified infomercial for itself? Go watch a Daniel Day-Lewis arthouse flick.
Or, you know, Attack Of The Clones.
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