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PostSubject: SACRED (CASH) COW NO.1: STAR WARS   Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:35 am

(The first in an occasional series of articles exclusive to the Dinodisc Forum)

For many years, if anyone cared enough to ask me what my favourite movies were, I always cited 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY at the top of my own personal list. I’d never quite gotten over that first viewing back in 1969 at my local ABC cinema. Having never taken recreational drugs, I’m not sure I was quite prepared for Kubrick’s startling visuals but, after sitting mesmerised for 2 hours 20 minutes, I felt I would never need to. That movie was a “trip” enough.

Later, however, I made the mistake of telling friends and acquaintances how brilliant I thought it was, so off they all trooped to see it, ostensibly on my recommendation. And boy, did I get it in the neck afterwards!

“Hey, man,” they said (they all talked like that back then), “you said it was great! Whoa, it was the biggest load of tosh imaginable! Why, it was so BORING!” (Being boring was, as now, the greatest crime a movie could commit.) “There was no action, hardly any dialogue, weird classical music and, anyway, what was it all about? We couldn’t understand any of it!” and so on.

That taught me a lesson, namely, that just because some people think a thing is fantastic doesn’t mean that others will. The trouble is that if ENOUGH people go on about how brilliant it is, those with a contrary view will end up feeling intimidated and reluctant to voice their opinion. But come on, we’re all grown ups, aren’t we?

Which brings me to STAR WARS.

For me, that movie (and the rest of the ill-gotten franchise) is one of the most over-rated, over-hyped and totally pointless pieces of cinema of the last 50 years. SO WHY DOES EVERYONE THINK SO HIGHLY OF IT?

For years, film magazines like Empire and Total Film would run annual “Greatest Ever” polls and STAR WARS would always come out at No.1. It’s dipped a bit in recent times but it’s still spoken of in hushed tones as the greatest film in the universe. (Mind you, I used to work with a couple of people who thought UNCLE BUCK was the world’s greatest movie, so what do any of us know?)

But let’s look at STAR WARS more closely. It’s really not a good film. It’s certainly not good science fiction (like most SF movies, it breaks all the physical laws pertaining to real science out there). It’s essentially “space opera”, what Variety magazine would call an “oater”, basically a cowboy film set in space rather than Wyoming.

OK, it’s popular and populist. It doesn’t pretend to great intellectual heights “a la Kubrick” despite all the socio-political and pseudo-religious aspects that fans have read into it, and it does have one of the most impressive opening shots ever (much copied by “Star Wars” bandwaggoners afterwards), but the plot? What plot? I’ve seen the film several times (ever hopeful that THIS TIME it’ll seem better) and I still couldn’t tell you what it’s about. (There’s a plot “overview” on Wikipedia and it still amounts to nothing of any consequence.)

The characters are largely insipid. Luke is thoroughly wet behind the ears, Princess Leia is feisty but, with her Danish pastry hair, cannot be taken seriously. Actors Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford are both slumming for all they’re worth (which was quite a lot in Guinness’s case – hmmm, a case of Guinness, now that would be better!) and the only character with any lasting resonance is Darth Vader himself. He is the one iconic character to come from the franchise. (Please spare me Yoda, Jabba and Jar Jar Binks – I cannot cope!) Even the ever-reliable Peter Cushing fails to bring the much-needed gravitas that was surely the only reason for his casting! And as for that walking stair carpet, Chewbacca, the least said the better!

John William’s music is pedestrian, George Lucas’s direction is perfunctory, and the effects are so-so. (No wonder Lucas has had to keep returning to this film to ‘tweak’ it in the right direction.) For my money, only the miniatures and model work show any real artistry.

Now, by comparison, take that other blockbuster released that same year: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. I remember queuing in Sheffield to see both these movies on big screens at the time of their release, and – wait for it – I actually fell asleep during STAR WARS! Only the rebel attack on the Death Star at the end was exciting enough to wake me up! But as for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, I never blinked for one second…. It was totally involving, it had a proper plot, fantastic effects, a memorable John Williams score, inspiring direction, the lot. It moved me and it “meant something”. I went back twice to see it on the big screen, even taking a party of school children on one occasion. (I felt it would enhance their education!) But STAR WARS? No. Significantly, of the other five “Star Wars” movies, I’ve chosen to see none in a cinema and I’ve only seen Episodes V and VI as part of my laserdisc set.

Why do I have the laserdiscs at all, you might wonder? Well, these movies ARE part of cinema history, I have to admit. They DO seem to have had a big impact on some people so I cannot dismiss them altogether. But I simply cannot see their worth cinematically. Almost any other decent SF film from the 70s – SILENT RUNNING, ALIEN, STAR TREK THE MOVIE, even FLASH GORDON – steals a march on Lucas’s overblown marketing enterprise.

What do you think?
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PostSubject: Re: SACRED (CASH) COW NO.1: STAR WARS   Wed Sep 07, 2011 2:53 pm

See, on the whole I like the Star Wars films, though I agree with a lot of what you said.

It's hard to deny that the story is just a mash up of hundreds of other films, books and stories, but it's a well executed mash up.

I think the key reason why the series' popularity has endured is because even to a modern audience the films are enjoyable, which is quite something to say for an effects film that's over thirty years old. Hell, Phantom Menace is only 12 years old and it looks awful.

I certainly wouldn't put Star Wars in the same category as the likes of 2001, but even though the slow, plodding, thoughtful 1972 version of Solaris is my favourite film I still enjoy kicking back and switching my brain off to watch a good, fun, unchallenging space opera : )

Being of the inter-trilogy generation I can't say for certain, but I think for a lot of adults Star Wars will always have a special place in their hearts for being the first BIG cinema event of their lives, the film that everyone went to see. For my generation that would have to be Jurassic Park; probably even more mindless than Star Wars but still good fun : )

As you said in your post, it all comes down to what you enjoy and everyone has different tastes. I've never subscribed to film dogma that says you have to like this, that or another; you like what you like.
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PostSubject: Re: SACRED (CASH) COW NO.1: STAR WARS   Wed Sep 07, 2011 3:10 pm

I would agree that there are much better films out there to watch , I havent seen the star wars trilogy for many a year and I now seem to have out grown it but maybe in the future I will put it on just to relive some childhood memories. I last watched star wars when I was about 19 - 20 when I went out and bought the trilogy on VHS , now I know Star wars still has a huge following but for me this review on imdb sums it up

A kid's fantasy. An Adult's memory

In respect to the many kids of the seventies. I rated this movie as one of the greatest movies ever made. I was thirteen and enjoyed this fantasy getaway more than I could count. Like many other kids of the seventies you left reality before walking into the theatre and escaped into the adventure once the reels begin rolling. It provided the special effects and excitement a kid was looking for. Even today when I watch this movie on VHS I recall those times. Whenever I get the chance to watch it I feel like that eager thirteen year old over and over again.

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