Saga Aesthetic evolution between the trilogies

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by bstnsx704, May 5, 2014.

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  1. bstnsx704 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2013
    star 3
    No Earth-shattering revelations here, unfortunately. Just a topic that I like talking about, so I wanted to kick things off to a bit of a simple start and see how the discussion carries on. :)



    One of the things that I find to be the most fascinating about viewing the two trilogies of Star Wars films together is the friction and seeming discrepancies that form in the art design of between the two bunches of films. You'd have to be blind to not see some of it.

    [IMG][IMG]

    Just look at the above pictures. Jango with his sleek and stylish armor and a rather elegant looking blaster in his hand, and his “son” Boba, years later, with his much more cobbled together look: his dented and scratched armor, his rusty blaster, and the bits of cloth and other decorative pieces on his suit are all part of what make him so iconic and identifiable. Jango’s look seems almost rooted is the “flying saucer” era of imaginative and adventurous fifties science-fiction, while Boba is quite obviously a throwback to the western genre of film.

    [IMG][IMG]

    On the internet supposed discrepancies like these are often analyzed in debates about continuity (people complaining that the prequels seem too technologically advanced in comparison to the originals, which are set 19 years later) or special effects (the classic CGI vs practical effects debate), but I want to look at the artistic discrepancies and alterations between the trilogies from a bit of a different perspective.

    The design of the Star Wars universe, be it on the minute level of a single movie or the grand scale of the entire six film saga, is not about realistic technological evolution or practicality. That type of stuff belongs in Star Trek or any other speculative science fiction story, not a space fantasy/western/jidaigeki movie series like Star Wars. In the world of Star Wars the “rule of cool” trumps functionality (what does that panel on Darth Vader’s chest do again?), though that in no way means that the designs in Star Wars are cobbled together without any thought or motivation.

    The prequel trilogy obviously has a very different look and feel to it than the original trilogy has. For the most part, the designs and art styles present in each trilogy are displayed in the above images of Jango and Boba Fett. The prequel films are much more slick and intricate, while the original films portray what George Lucas refers to as a “used future.” The designs are much more blocky and angular than those of the prequels. In the years since the release of the prequels, the more organic and smooth look of Episodes I, II, and III have become associated with the grand old Republic that had been in charge of maintaining peace and order in the galaxy for a millennia, while the worn-down style of Episodes IV, V, and VI is clearly a representation of the evil Empire and the restraining hold that it has over the galaxy.

    The prequel films predominantly feature Palpatine’s rise through the political ranks as he quickly escalates from mere Senator to Chancellor to self-dubbed Emperor over the course of three films. As Palpatine moves closer to his ultimate goal of universal domination, the Republic follows him and begins a transformation of its very own. Over the course of the three films the sleek and lavish details of the prequels begin to wane as the more angular and rigid look of the Empire takes over.

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    Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are all about the collapse of the Republic and the formation of the Empire, and the more idealized, artistic look of the old era is essentially washed away by Palpatine as the Republic’s impending doom draws ever closer.

    [IMG][IMG]
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    Perhaps the most interesting thing about the way the design of the prequel films gradually begins to shift over to the design of the originals is that is explicitly shows the audience in an easy-to-understand visual form the progression that the once-good Republic undergoes as it transforms into the evil Empire. During the Clone Wars the Jedi fought alongside the Clone Troopers that would go on to one day gun them down without question or remorse. The Jedi flew through space in starfighters that would go on to serve as the very basis for the Imperial TIE fighter.

    [IMG][IMG]

    A lot of the designs of prequels have a bit of an over-the-top look and feel to them. The best example of this is, perhaps, General Grievous. Grievous comes into play during the stylized events that make up the Clone Wars, but he also serves another purpose as a sort of reminder of what will eventually happen at the end of Revenge of the Sith when Anakin Skywalker completes his transformation into Darth Vader. Grievous is sleek and agile like so many other designs and characters that inhabit the prequel films, but he is essentially a precursor to the robotic shell that will eventually imprison Anakin for the rest of his live. Even his robotic cough seems to be evocative of Vader’s iconic heavy breathing.

    [IMG]

    [IMG]
  2. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    Love the visuals and interesting take on the explanation. I can't agree with it though, sorry. The OT is is simply more broken in because that's what GL wanted and they are older despite representing something newer in the time line. I don't buy the Empire is strangling uniformity and the Republic is the expression of idealism. Though I know many do see it that way. I will always prefer the OT. It's more real.
    Last edited by Cushing's Admirer, May 5, 2014
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  3. bstnsx704 Jedi Grand Master

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    @Cushing's Admirer thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

    The original trilogy does indeed feel more real than the prequel does, but I don't exactly see that as a bad thing for the prequels. As it stands, I don't have a preference of one or the other. I appreciate the the way the differences work in harmony with one another (heh, that sounded really ironic).
  4. bstnsx704 Jedi Grand Master

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    -double post-
    Last edited by bstnsx704, May 5, 2014
  5. Cushing's Admirer Force Ghost

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    Thank you for sharing yours. :) Thanks for listening to a differing stance. It can be rare. I'm glad it's harmonious for you. It's not to me. I find the differences due to the earlier pieces of the story done later plus the tinkering of the OT that does not even blend real effects and props with CGI well quite jarring. I find the more modern CGI in the 'older' set history very incongruous. It doesn't mesh right. Your thoughts were presented well and I do see how you drew them. I simply don't agree. I actually thought the whole Empire using Republic designs thing forced and cheap. Glad it works for some.
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  6. thejeditraitor Force Ghost

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    every pt design was done with this evolution in mind. the pt tries to reflect a golden age in design. sleek shapes. careful, thoughtful pieces of art. less military and less factory made.

    if they wanted the dirty, lived in feel the ot had they just would have done that.
    Last edited by thejeditraitor, May 6, 2014
  7. Han Burgundy Jedi Grand Master

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    Jan 28, 2013
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    Good post. It's also worth mentioning that these films are very much the product of their time periods. AOTC especially has so much of that sleek, bold, vibrant, "new Millenium" feel that was so prevalent in the design world during the early 2000's.

    By the same token, so much of ANH's look is the 1970's. The Stormtroopers, with their toad-like helmet shapes and obvious real-world military allusions, or Han Solo's deep cut v-neck, or the tadpole helmets of the rebels on the Tantive.
  8. Antlers Jedi Master

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    Oct 30, 2012
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    My imagination matters little to those other than myself, but I have always had the idea that the Empire buckled down to design things quickly and efficiently. The designers no longer wished to associate themselves with the era before and instead wanted thick buttons that you could feel under gloved fingers and coldly efficient interiors that could be squeezed out of a factory tube in under an hour. Instead of filtering power to slim liquid screens with crystalline displays and luminous lighting fixtures, it goes to feed those monstrous engines that allowed ships to become larger than ever.

    But yes, it's still a pretty big jump between the trilogies.
  9. SteveMcgrath Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 6, 2014
    Yeah it is a pretty big jump in-between trilogies, everything looks more sterile, if you know what I mean. And that not necessarily is a problem, I mean N1 Starfighters look awesome, [IMG] but it doesn't feel like a world a lot of people have lived in. Like the Lucrehulk class ships used by the Trade federation doesn't look like a ship people can live in.But I could legitimately see the planets, like Naboo, as hospitable to living things. You could say that about the OT too, but I can see Han using the MF as his home, or Jabba using the barge thing he uses.
    But yeah, they both look great, but the OT looks more like a living world.
    (The PT is still great though)
    Last edited by SteveMcgrath, May 6, 2014
  10. The_Phantom_Calamari Force Ghost

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    Nov 10, 2011
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    I think Episode III does a good job of finally making the transition from PT-era design into OT-era design. There's still some sleek, artistic remnants from the time periods represented by Episodes I and II, but for the most part everything is now gritty and utilitarian. Even Padme's sleek Naboo starship has big exposed engines now.
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  11. Cryogenic Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2005
    star 4
    Nice thread!!!

    Almost too humble!

    Some of your observations -- maybe not Earth-shattering, but close!

    This one, for instance...

    "Flying saucer" era.....

    Yes, exactly!!!! I see that.

    That observation is quite poetic -- it has meanings and resonances far beyond the surface.

    Of course, Jango Fett is revealed in his gleaming, metallic glory on Kamino, right after Obi-Wan's tete-a-tete with classic 50s "grey" aliens.


    While you probably didn't mean it, the above juxtaposition is interesting in terms of basic geometry.

    See it? TIE Fighter wing spokes ..... and Grievous' diagonal arms.

    While the extant trilogies do differ in tone and texture, they are remarkably alike on a more elemental, Platonic level.

    The Vader example slightly countermands the dilemma you've posited between curved and sharper, rectilinear forms, supposedly demarcating the two trilogies. Vader's basic shape is more organic, even down to a flowing cape, which he never detaches, unlike Grievous, while Grievous is an exotic extrusion of polygons in full attack. "Lock S-foils in attack position".

    Overall, it's perhaps more accurate to say there's something more baroque about the PT, from its locales, to its creatures, to its music, to its psychological and thematic dilemmas, and this might be why some disdain it so vigorously. The original trilogy, I think, presents more of a plausible, physically-congruent reality (Vader -- mirroring his "true" nature -- really is a man in a costume, while Grievous is a CG abstraction, backgrounded by dozens more CG abstractions), even down to the main villain wearing a control box with conspicuously-large switches. The sound of Vader's breathing, like his immovable face, also brings a certain constancy and centeredness to the original trilogy, comparatively absent in the prequel trilogy.

    What the PT shows, in addition -- or even contradiction -- to its "Golden Age" quality, is a galaxy in turmoil and transition. The curvaceousness of some of the forms (e.g., the yellow N-1 starfighters) helps suggest the organic nature of the transitioning. The OT universe is static or quasi-static (even Ewoks are realized, externally, through fuzzy bear costumes; and Artoo and Threepio are pure bric-a-brac), while the PT presents or experiments with a more plastic approach (e.g., Jar Jar and his water-land dwelling fluidic brethren). Points come to imply or signal murder. Think of the Venator-class destroyer floating in the tenuous membrane of Coruscant at the start of ROTS. "Is this a dagger which I see before me?"

    The idea of things having a more organic quality in the PT is nothing shocking. If you look at the classic opening shot of ANH, for example, the rebel blockade runner is clearly heterogeneous in comparison to the monolithic wedge behemoth pursuing it; its front is even a strongly organic shape (a sphere). The latter is trying to snuff out the former; or at least disable it as prelude to consuming it. Yet robots aping bioforms (in design and "personality") manage to escape the maw. We're watching a trilogy (the OT) that is a kind of elaborate overture for the "real story" (the PT) -- where complexity is yet to appear and will then eat itself to oblivion.

    This is kind of why I like Jar Jar and TPM a lot. These creations almost don't fit -- but they do. It's the brazenness of their anti-fitting nature that, paradoxically, allows them to fit. The lush, the diversionary, and the preliminary, in a challenge to the spartan, the pragmatic, and the paradigmatic. Designs either mutate (N-1s to X-Wings) or undergo a certain erosion and augmentation (Jango to Boba). There is less chance for contemplation in the galaxy (all those times that Anakin and Amidala are staring out of windows or onto vistas from private balconies). The galaxy loses Jar Jar, gains Han Solo. Many fans would call that a good trade. I just see it as part of the endlessly compelling symphony that is STAR WARS.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, May 7, 2014
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  12. bstnsx704 Jedi Grand Master

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    Wonderful observations guys!

    As I sit here wondering what the future of Disney's Star Wars holds, I find myself hoping that they don't retread the designs of the original trilogy because "it's better and more popular." With stuff like this, Star Wars is about evolution. It has to be. Not legitimate real-world technological evolution (except in the way that @Han Burgundy said where the real-world time reflects the film), but rather a specific look and design that continuously evolves with and reflects (or, even, is reflected by) the story.
  13. thejeditraitor Force Ghost

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    cryo's at it again.
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  14. Alexrd Force Ghost

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    I think there is a common misconception (that's present on this very topic as well) between "used/lived in" universe which is a trademark of all six movies, and "curved/sleek vs blocky/industrial" design that illustrates the PT and OT respectively (similar to the classical era and middle ages).
  15. bstnsx704 Jedi Grand Master

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    Yeah, I know that there's a lot of crossover, I was just kind of speaking in general terms since that's how most people seem to identify/characterize the styles.
  16. thejeditraitor Force Ghost

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    same here.
  17. Cryogenic Force Ghost

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    LOL. Thank you! Thank you, very much. [face_clown]
  18. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    Interesting. I'd say it's a bi, or rather tri-product of intentional in-universe design progressions, planet Earthly design trends of the respective periods and the impact of film making technology of the times'.
    Last edited by MOC Yak Face, May 8, 2014
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  19. DRush76 Force Ghost

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    Jan 25, 2008
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    I don't understand this comment in reference to the Fetts. Did you expect Jango's armor to be exactly like Boba's . . . not taking into account the differences of the time periods for the two trilogies?



    What are you saying?
    Last edited by DRush76, May 8, 2014
  20. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Other Saga Moderator

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    If I may: For many, it's easier to 'get into' the classic trilogy partially because the costumes and objects are actual costumes and objects, and that comes across in the way they are presented (the way they move, the way they reflect light, the way they interact with other things in the shot, the way the shots themselves are framed). In the prequels, there is a lot of CGI used to depict, well, all sorts of things - and it doesn't always behave the way a physical object would (visually or in its movements). The CGI also allows for camera movement and placement that might be impossible if filming took place on a real location. Even a lot of the model and miniature work has that same kind of intentionally over-the-top look, so much so that many people mistake it for CGI as well. Saying something is 'baroque' is a way of describing it as ornate in the extreme, packed with detailed elements, and the PT visual style definitely has that.
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, May 8, 2014
  21. bstnsx704 Jedi Grand Master

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    No, I meant that the Fett armor is one of many examples in the films that highlight the difference in style between the two trilogies. Jango's armor is silver and shiny and looks almost new, just as many things in the prequels do. Boba's armor, on the other hand, is tattered and rusty and fits in perfectly with most of what is seen in the original films. Jango's armor would probably look out of place in the original trilogy just as Boba's would look out of place in the prequels, but when you watch the six films in order and see the style and designs of the films undergo such transitions over time it all fits.
  22. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    When I saw the OT on the big screen again recently I have to say I was in awe of the films' (particularly ANH's) aesthetic. A lot is made of the way in which SW, an old fashioned goodies v baddies movie, departed from the downbeat, gritty realism which was the prevalent style of the time, demonstrated in films like Chinatown and Taxi Driver. However, a recent viewing brought it home to me just how much ANH, in particular, is characterised by a similar aesthetic feel, albeit dealing with very different subject matter. The sparseness of space and the vast barren landscape of Tatooine, punctuated only by the odd space ship, droid or ramshackle settlement, evokes a similar feel of desolation and 'starvation'. Zooming in to see R2 and 3PO, stumbling across the landscape, and I could almost reach out and touch their battered armour and feel the roughness of its imperfections. Inside the Tantive everything has a feel of solidness and reality. The clattering of the stormtroopers' armour, the rasp of Vader's breathing apparatus etc. It's all so very, very real and so easy to become immersed in.
    Last edited by MOC Yak Face, May 9, 2014
  23. Cryogenic Force Ghost

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    Jul 20, 2005
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    Well, just my personal take here...

    I think the different time periods of the trilogies are a contrivance, of sorts, used by the artist, George Lucas, to explore two rival (but interlocking) aesthetics. There are different ways of looking at these things, of course, and this is still only one man's opinion, but Lucas once deemed the prequel trilogy a "a character study and an exhibition piece about politics", and other comments by Lucas also stress that there is an inherent design and tonal difference between the extant trilogies: one placed there, on purpose, by the artist, in order to create a sort of friction wherein the two trilogies are like the different chambers of a single heart beating as one unit.

    Consider, for example, the stark dissonance, in terms of look, feel, and tone, between ROTS and ANH: two films pushed up against each other (in "episode" order) which are radically different in scope and delivery, but quite similar in basic film grammar and deeper-seated thematic concerns. There are these stark, clashing differences, but there are consistent threads between the films, too. Interpreting them as you might, perhaps, on the level of "different (in-universe) timeframes", is totally valid, but it's not the only way to look at them. Apprehension and manifestation of rhythm and meaning encompass more than one tier; a different interpretative lens gives you a different picture.



    I'll pay you a million bucks if you can work it out. :p

    But just to keep that (non-existent) million bucks safe...

    I'm saying, at root, that the prequel trilogy is "epic" and visually and thematically dense in ways than the original trilogy could only dream of being. A stated aim of Lucas' in "From Star Wars To Jedi: The Making Of A Saga" (an excellent documentary if you've never seen it) was to add greater and greater visual complexity, using ever-smaller increments of film-time, in each installment: an experiment with viewer perception and comprehension. Maybe I've sexed up his remarks a bit, maybe not. You can experience them here:




    Time Index: 35:22

    *George Lucas begins...*

    "Society has definitely sped up in its perception of visual material. Primarily it developed with television: television commercials. Younger people are more and more able to discern and understand the visual language, and I think part of that process -- experimenting with Star Wars and also Raiders Of The Lost Ark -- is (my edit: based on?) that ability for people to perceive and digest information rapidly."

    *a clip of the trench run from ANH, the first Star Wars movie is shown, where Luke commands his wingman to "watch yourself" and "increase speed: full throttle", followed by more comments from Lucas ("There's A LOT going on..."), and then narration by Mark Hamill, about the metaphorical nature of the conflicts and imagery in Star Wars, with the trench run again being shown as Luke gears up for his critical shot on the exhaust port; up to and including the final shot of the Death Star exploding*

    *Lucas resumes...*

    "I've noticed as I continue to experiment, to see how fast I can get things before they're incomprehensible, that it sort of coincides with my personal life. My personal life, as I've become more and more successful, and the hectic pace of my life has sped up, it seems that the films have sped up, too."
    Last edited by Cryogenic, May 11, 2014
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  24. MOC Yak Face Moderator, Classic Trilogy

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    I'm saying, at root, that the prequel trilogy is "epic" and visually and thematically dense in ways than the original trilogy could only dream of being.

    I'm particularly interested in this line from your post, Cryo. When you refer to the 'dream' of the OT, do you mean Lucas's wishes at the time at which he made the OT, or at some subsequent time? Do you contend that the OT is, in Lucas's view, a failed attempt at creating something in the nature of the PT?
    Last edited by MOC Yak Face, May 11, 2014
  25. Cryogenic Force Ghost

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    Jul 20, 2005
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    I meant to suggest that Lucas was crippled by the technology available to him at the time (when making the OT). His imagination was only allowed to blossom on film when digital technology matured to the point that he was able to create all manner of creatures and entire worlds by utilizing it.

    The OT is not a failed attempt at anything, really, because Lucas set different parameters for the OT storyline, and worked within the limitations of the technology, bringing that story to life in a way not more or less convincing -- in my opinion -- than the story of the PT.

    However, in an interview with Leonard Maltin, originally released on VHS in 1995, Lucas laughs and says, "The real story hasn't even been told yet!" in reference to the upcoming PT; implying that the PT, in some senses, was and is the greater undertaking, and further supporting the idea, in my opinion, that the PT is much more dense in its trappings than the trilogy which spawned it into being.




    (Part 3 by manner of upload)

    Time Index: 4:00

    "Hopefully, we'll have one finished for '98..."

    "We're doing all three at once, I'm writing all three at once..."

    "The first three are based on the backstory that relates to where everybody came from..."

    "The whole arc of the story, in the three that are out there now, is really the redemption of Anakin Skywalker. And so the first three are really about Anakin Skywalker. So now you have a redemption of someone you don't really even know, he's just always in a black suit. But you don't know how he fell from grace and the trauma that went through to get him to there, and then his son brings him back. But it's, erm, y'know -- the real story hasn't even been told yet."
    Last edited by Cryogenic, May 11, 2014
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