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Author Topic: First time around: Return Of The Jedi
Kash
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Our views on movies can change over time; flicks we loved back in the day are now relegated to the archives or viewed for nostalgia purposes only, others stand the test of time as if immortal.

Your reaction to 'Retun Of The Jedi' the first time you saw it?

I was just relieved it all ended well, after the stunning unpredictability of Empire Strikes Back (the fist movie I'd seen where the heroes are comprehensively beaten come the end credits: one of the main characters frozen alive, another maimed in battle WTF?). George Lucas gets a lot of flack for his "comedy" characters but I recall with great fondness our first glimpse of Endor and those bumbling warrior teddy bears: The Ewoks. Who, despite holding the BJ (Before Jar-Jar) record for annoying shenanigans, proved highly proficient partisans of the Rebel Alliance.

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The Death Star assault was somewhat of a rehash but it was great to see Lando Calrissian on the right side and back in The Falcon. Vader's redemption / final scene re-appearance closed the circle and as the celebration song of Yub Nub (not numb nuts as I once thought) sounded out over Endor; all was well in the galaxy.

ROTJ is the SW movie most taken for granted IMO.

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Charlie Sheen
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First time I saw Return Of The Jedi was at a gala showing the night before its official UK release date (in a treble bill with the first and second films) at the Odeon Marble Arch in London (a huge screen at the time). We were near the back, but that worked out just fine when Anthony Daniels quietly slipped into the auditorium five minutes into ROTJ and plonked himself at the end of our row. Given the setting, given the whole evening, given the fact I was only twelve years old, I was completely blown away. I don't even remember having a problem with the Ewoks.

That vibe stayed with me for years; I eventually drifted away from Star Wars, and I don't think I really sat down to watch Jedi again until the (very first) widescreen VHS release (1992, I suppose). About five minutes into the film, I couldn't escape how heavy, how tired the whole thing felt. I imagine Richard Marquand had a hard time trying to wrest control of this mammoth production he'd been given to direct and, for me, he never really manages it. Harrison Ford, for one, just acts like he can't be bothered anymore.

Unfortunately, it's that later, 1992 impression of the film that's stayed with me in the years since.

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Earl Keese
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Great question Kash...now let's apply it to 80's movies ad nauseum. When Empire and Jedi both came out, there was not this internet based phenomenon of prying loose every detail about every movie in pre-production and walking through production day by day with film makers. About the best I could get at the time were some genre magazines like Starlog which would splash out big full color glossy pictures and articles on a monthly basis and I had certainly not seen any previews for the first time anywhere but up on that beautiful big screen!

The point being that it seemed like almost all movies at that time had this (obvious) larger than life quality and sense of mystery and adventure that I don't think can be recaptured in light of technology and an instant gratification society. When Jedi came out, there had just been months and months of quiet build up that when the lights dropped, the curtain opened and that them blared, the entire theatre literally cheered in unison...over a movie. When is the last time that even happened?

First impression was that it couldn't have been a more satisfying ending to an epic trilogy. I envisioned an all Start Wars themed night during the Oscar telecast back when the Oscars were relevant (and fun). It unfolded in ways that I my thirteen year old brain couldn't predict.

I agree with Sheen that Ford looked as though he just wanted to put his head down and get through this, possibly this being the precursor to the rest of his time in Hollywood...sorry Jackson Hole...but I digress. I do think Ford's idea to kill of Solo probably was the right call and would have elevated Jedi to semi-classic status.

I remember some of the first images of Vader and Luke in the lift with the red guards around them and it leaving such a sense of apprehension waiting for that scene and wanting to know so badly what it was all about. The three way split in the final act of the space battle, the lightsabre duel and the fight on the forest moon was almost more than my little brain could take in. I walked out dizzsy and loved every minute of that movie.

Over the years, it has diminished only slightly upon repeat viewings. I think a lot has changed in the world and how I look at it. That's why I say we could probably apply this question to any number of movies. What is more special than experiencing movies like Jedi, The Outsiders, First Blood or Splash for the first time? When you're a kid...and a whole world of mystery and adventure await you. [Smile]

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Logan 5
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I absolutely agree with Earl; back in the day, because it was so hard to get any info or see anything of a film, you had to really devote yourself to it when you did get the chance to watch it. The multimedia age has dulled the blade of what used to be a very sharp and powerful sword.

By the time of Jedi, movie marketing had started to become very good at targeting certain demographics, thanks partly to the ground laid by 'Star Wars', 'Empire' and 'E.T.'. Where Star Wars had been something of a word of mouth smash, Empire was built on the success of Star Wars, but Jedi was really heavily targeted at the time of release. The images Earl mentions (Luke and the red guards), the speeder bikes, and the barge scene were seen all over the place before the film even came out. Anticipation was at fever pitch. When the movie finally came out, it didn't disappoint (Lucas even expected it to beat E.T. - it didn't though).

Jedi has only been viewed as a disappointment in hindsight. At the time the reviews were very good (maybe even better than those for Empire), and nobody minded the Ewoks (not too much, anyway). In retrospect, the intro to the film is plodding and repetitive; the Ewoks are kind of irritating, and they're clearly designed to appeal to younger children - especially when you know that they released about 6 of them as toys; Harrison phones in his performance; and the space battle is a rehash. HOWEVER... the stuff about Luke, Darth and the Emperor is brilliant; the battle at the end is good, and there is a genuine ratcheting up of tension in the third act of the film. Finally, what we couldn't appreciate at the time (but can now)... the original cast are note-perfect as their characters, and even in a slightly weaker film, they make it great to watch. Luke's scene with Leia on the bridge, his scene with Anakin at the end... this was good stuff. And who doesn't still want to cheer when Vader picks up the Emperor? It's still powerful!

Finally; no CGI - everything has a tactile quality that makes it seem almost real.

If I could change the film, I'd sharpen up the opening, change the silly end song (George did that in the 'special' editions), and fix the complete mistreatment of Boba Fett in the film. I agree that having Han die might make for a deeper story, and I'd like to see Boba and Han's deaths tied together. Finally; wookies. I would go back to the original idea and have Wookies. Yes George, even the Viet Cong had guns.

The prequels were a wrecking ball of bad writing; gleamy effects (which didn't match the originals); poor casting choices; mythology re-writing, and wooden performances. Next to them, Jedi looks like perfection.

Interesting to note; Gary Kurtz (I think it was him) and Lucas had a bust-up over Jedi; Kurtz thought it should be dark, and Lucas thought it should be light and finish the trilogy the way he ended Star Wars (which is how he originally intended).

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kevdugp73
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I can't remember seeing the original Star Wars in theatres, but must have, as I knew the characters well when Empire came out...unless i had seen Star Wars on video? Anyway, by the time Jedi came out, I was a star crazed fan and vividly remember standing in a long line up at our old theatre with some friends. I think at the time, because the brand was so instilled in our brains, the cast of Jedi could have simply danced the romba for the entire movie and I still would have loved it. These were innocent years where I don't think kids would even think to be critical about a movie. Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood, and the memories created from each movie will never be repeated. As I watch Jedi as an adult, I prefer to simply remain non-critical...I could never bring myself to say anything bad about any of the three movies.

I am questioning when would be a good time to introduce the Star Wars movies to my three year old. Part of me wants him to experience the Star Wars phenomenon like I did, though I'm reasonably certain he will not. I wished Lucas would have capitalized on the momentum of the original trilogy and created three more chapters after Jedi...with the characters we knew and loved...could have had a stunt double for Han and killed him off at the first of the movie...I'm sure all of the others would have returned!

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Earl Keese
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Logan you touch on something very important not only about Jedi, but all 80's movies versus movies today and that is the use of CGI. Having characters go through a tactile experience as you put it perfectly is what makes the difference in believability. Sure they used special effects and miniatures, but there was always a sense that this was more real. Our brains are just wired that way to pick out what is and isn't real in nature and we invest oourselves or not based on that reality drivi0ng our emotions.

Whether it was Han hanging upside down from a sand barge or a Hamill stunt double swinging out over open space from a rope, we know that Obi-Wan hanging off the edge of a platform fighting Greivous is all just CGI and his hair isn't even blowing in the wind because there isn't any...anyways.

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Charlie Sheen
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Adding my bit regarding the "tactile" feel of pre-CGI films; for me, Attack of the Clones is well-nigh unwatchable just by virtue of the fact that so little of it was "real", with hardly any physical sets being built for the film. The very palpable sense that everyone is interacting in a green screen environment, with their surroundings added later by CGI, completely kills my ability to suspend disbelief (and once you lose that watching a Star Wars film, you're stuffed: you tend to spend the rest of the film wondering who Ewan McGregor based his performance on - Alec Guinness, or Noel Edmonds).

I read somewhere that the 1977-era Death Star corridors were just plyboard sheets with a liberal coating of metallic paint, but thirty years later, they're still brilliant. And thirty years later, a half-dozen extras dressed in plastic stormtrooper outfits still look miles better than 10,000 CGI clonetroopers...

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Kash
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Great responses so far, this is what it's all about IMO.


quote:
Originally posted by Earl Keese:
I do think Ford's idea to kill of Solo probably was the right call and would have elevated Jedi to semi-classic status.

Earl, that'd be too traumatic dude! The carbonite was bad enough...

I agree that you could apply this to any movie, and it's with that in mind that I now look upon the prequels with a little more sympathy. Perhaps a new generation enjoyed those as much as we did the orginals.

As for the CGI? I couldn't agree more: Yoda was THERE in V-VI you could see the being (albeit a puppet) his expressions and nuances were visible and real. Whereas in Episode II-III, as good as the lightsabre duels were; Yoda was such an intangible, impersonal entity that he may as well have been in a computer game

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Logan 5
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quote:
I agree that you could apply this to any movie, and it's with that in mind that I now look upon the prequels with a little more sympathy. Perhaps a new generation enjoyed those as much as we did the orginals.
It's debatable. The new generation is saturated in multimedia entertainment. When Jedi came out video and home computers were new and exciting, and there was nowhere near as much 'big' entertainment on TV (compare 'V' to Jedi for the difference in production values). Fact is; if you're a kid and you can only eat ice cream once every 6 months, it doesn't matter if it's your favourite flavour of ice cream or not - you'll never forget the experience. If you can have it 3 times a day every day, it will mean nothing to you. I went to KFC/McDonalds maybe 3 times total before being a teenager - I can still recall each trip and how the taste of the food affected me. Now, kids are still kids, and they're experiencing things for the first time, so they'll be drawn to what they're drawn to and they'll like what they'll like; they'll hold things to their hearts just like we did and just like the generations before us did. *BUT*... will the experience of going to the cinema have the same psychological impact on them as it did to us? Probably not. Will the visceral impact the first time they see a movie be as great as it was for us? Probably not. Will the experience of renting or buying a movie mean as much? No way.

Teenage girls now have 20,000 songs on their Ipods, but I can still recall when a teenage girl was exceptional if she owned more than a few albums. It's much harder to appreciate things if you have tons of them. Young people will love and appreciate things that manage to resonate and endure with them over time, much more than for the psychological impact they have on them when they first experience it. Fact is a kid today that likes Sci-Fi can watch Star Wars and enjoy it, or they can watch Stargate, or they can watch the new Battlestar, or the can watch... you get the picture. Back then all we had of any real quality was the Star Wars trilogy, so it holds a *big* place in our psyche. Nothing can hold that large a place in most young peoples psyche anymore, purely because of the amount of pretty good stuff there is out there. So now, many different things holds the same psychological space that used to be held by a few things. That's why anime has risen in popularity so much in recent years; it plays into younger peoples need for quantity to fill a particular psychological space.

In some ways things are better, in some ways they're worse. Something's always lost when something's gained. Does it matter? Not really. We have our likes/dislikes and our special memories, and young people today will have theirs. The world keeps going round.

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