Saga Aesthetic evolution between the trilogies

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

  1. bstnsx704 Force Ghost

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    Very interesting comparison of the artistic/thematic styles and Lucas' intentions with each trilogy, Cryo.

    Not sure if I've seen "From Star Wars to Jedi" before, so now I'm going to have to watch it! :)
    Last edited by bstnsx704, May 12, 2014
  2. Darth_Nub Manager Emeritus

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  3. Cryogenic Chosen One

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    Thanks.

    On the one hand, Lucas set out to give the PT a different quality.

    This comment, for instance, is also crucial:

    "Well, the next trilogy -- the first one -- since it's about Ben Kenobi as a young man, is the same character, just a different actor. And it's the same thing with all the characters. Luke ends up in the third film of the first trilogy just three-and-a-half years old. There is a continuity with characters, in other words, but not with actors -- and the look of the films will be different.

    The first trilogy will not be as much of an action adventure kind of thing. Maybe we'll make it have some humor, but right now, it's much more humorless than this one. This one is where all the excitement is, which is why I started with it. The other ones are (sic) a little more Machiavellian -- it's all plotting -- more of a mystery."

    Lucas then adds, in a manner consistent with the Leonard Maltin interview, which was recorded more than a decade later:

    "I think we'll try, on the next one, to write all three scripts at once. Then they can come out every other year, instead of every three years. Doing it the way we do it now, we race through one, and as soon as we finish one we race into the next one, and we go as fast as we can. We just barely get it done in time, and we race right into the next one. At ILM, they get six-month breaks between the movies, but it's a non-stop race for me and for the main production people."

    Note: These snippets come from an interview conducted by Kerry O'Quinn in 1981, originally published in three installments to "Starlog" magazine in its July, August, and September issues of that year. I've transcribed the above from a book called "George Lucas Interviews", edited by Sally Kline, published in 1999 by the University Press of Mississippi. I recently got a second-hand copy from Amazon. The book is an excellent resource.

    * * *

    I realize that fans may try and split hairs about certain things said above (like Luke being "three-and-a-half years old"), but I think Lucas was fairly consistent all the way through to completion. That is, barring his one-film-every-year plan, which it seemed he was still intending to put into action in the mid-90s (again, per the Leonard Maltin interview), but changed his mind on shortly after that.


    And on the other hand, he was also trying to evolve his style with every film, craning the viewer's consciousness up to ever-increasing visual complexity and the absorption and comprehension thereof. Rick McCallum's observation that "it's so dense, every single image has so many things going on", has turned into a sort of anti-prequel meme, but it's congruent with what Lucas says in "From Star Wars To Jedi", and really has little or nothing to do with technology per se.

    * * *

    Incidentally, from the same documentary, "From Star Wars To Jedi", Lucas pontificates on the nature or interrelationship of special effects and storytelling, in a comment that has also since turned into a bit of a bashing meme:



    Time Index: 59:15

    "Special effects are just a tool, a means of telling a story. People have a tendency to confuse them as an end to themselves. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing."

    The visual density of the Star Wars films is a key aspect of the storytelling enterprise; by design, there are multiple world details, and multiple plot threads, happening at once.

    Lucas is something of a "global" filmmaker in this and other regards. He has described himself as an "architect"; he likes designing (and making) things. His films come to life not just in the broad strokes, but in the subtle details, and in the intricate, even esoteric, embellishments and meanderings.

    * * *

    The prequel trilogy is more ornate by dint of Lucas having greater technology at his disposal. Again, in "From Star Wars To Jedi", Lucas describes the leap in technological prowess as imbuing him with a wider palette:

    Time Index: 57:18

    "In the first film, we took special effects from a kind of 'zero' point, and got it up and running to the point where I could tell the story that I wanted to tell -- space battle, fast-moving -- and get the point across, just barely. A lot of it was done editorially, a lot of it was done, sorta tricks, sleight of hand. But we had gone so far in realizing a concept of special effects, just moving spaceships, I mean, being able to pan with spaceships, and be able to have a certain cinematic freedom, in shooting those kinds of effects; that had a very powerful impact on the storytelling, a dramatic impact.

    It's just learning to use the medium more effectively. In the first film, we had maybe twenty colours to paint with, and this time, we've had forty colours to paint with. Well, that doesn't mean it's going to be a better painting, by any stretch of the imagination. But it does give the artist more area to roam around in, and to advance that art and the technology to the point where we can express ourselves in special effects much more articulately."

    * * *

    So, by implication, the PT is much more colourful and articulate in what it depicts -- though not, necessarily, more effective.

    It's two ways of saying the same stuff. The added complexity and extremes of the PT, however, do contribute, in my estimation, to a much greater sense of scope. To me, the newer films are more baroque, and even have a weird sort of existentialism only hinted at in the OT.

    But I do greatly enjoy both trilogies; and I didn't mean to derail your thread by making this into any kind of "versus" contest. The two trilogies are complementary, not necessarily at odds. The release of a book like "Star Wars: Frames" is, arguably, an attempt at expressing the underlying symmetries and beauty of both, both whole and apart.

    It's a terrific documentary. I saw it for the first time a couple of years ago, or maybe just last year -- can't rightly remember right now.

    It's very well-edited, has a decent volume of behind-the-scenes footage, great interview segments from a relaxed and distinguished-looking George Lucas, and excellent narration by Mark Hamill.

    It's one of those things that every Star Wars fan should watch.

    Nice. I honestly had no idea about that thread (I tend to only visit the CT forum every once in a while).

    One thing I will say; well, two things...

    1) It's a shame that that upload isn't in better quality; and I find it odd, not to mention a little silly, that they chose to break it up into multiple parts. Personally, I'd stick with my link (until it's inevitably removed by YouTube due to a "DMCA" report).

    2) It's a travesty that the doc wasn't included on the Blu-ray boxset; especially when other contemporary documentaries, like "The Making Of Star Wars", "SP FX: The Empire Strikes Back", and "Classic Creatures: Return Of The Jedi" all were. A baffling omission.
    Last edited by Cryogenic, May 12, 2014
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  4. bstnsx704 Force Ghost

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    Nah, don't feel like you derailed the thread. This is the kind of discussion I was hoping would arise when I made it. I barely scratched the surface with a few simple comparisons; you brought the discussion to a whole new level!

    Star Wars Frames is something that I would love to get my hands on and sit down with for hours on end. Not sure if I can justify spending $100 on a book at the moment, but it is definitely something that I fully intend to purchase, hopefully very soon.
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  5. Cryogenic Chosen One

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    Thank you! Just giving my perspective on this.

    Me, too.

    In the meantime...

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  6. bstnsx704 Force Ghost

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    Forgot to reply to this earlier, but I agree completely. Sure, some details definitely changed as time went on, but that's standard when making any film, so it should go without saying that something as immense as Star Wars would not be an exception. From the beginning Lucas clearly knew the broad strokes of what he wanted to do, and like you said there is plenty of evidence for it.

    I'm sure you're already familiar with it, but another great source that helps to prove that point and reinforce just how much of Lucas' original plans for the prequels made it on screen is the prologue to the original film's novelization:

    The thing that really seems radically different in there, when compared to the film, is the nature of Palpatine's term as Emperor. In that prologue he seems more like someone controlled by his Empire, but by the time Lucas reached RotJ and the prequels he quite obviously spun the character in a different direction. The build-up to his declaration of Emperor is pretty much beat for beat the same, however.
  7. thejeditraitor Chosen One

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    in another interview with leonard maltin part 2 or 3 gl openly states that the forest in rotj was one of the last new environments he could shoot..
    then he said, "we have to shoot it somewhere on this planet, unfortunately." clearly we can see gl's imagination was being stifled by the tech available. so people who complain about cg vs real have no argument. gl wants to do things so far out there they can't be realized WITHOUT cg.
    Last edited by thejeditraitor, May 12, 2014
  8. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Another Saga & CT Manager

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    A. There are lots of different ways to do CG, though - a lot of what you see on Hoth is matte paintings, and CG can be used like that, too (as opposed to more 'in-your-face' ways, for example).

    B. There do exist weird and/or unique places on earth, beyond the environments of the OT. Socotra Island, Iceland (as used in Prometheus), etc. The palace at Theed included the use of real locations that fit some of what Lucas wanted.

    C. Many of the environments in the prequels were actually miniatures anyway (Mustafar, Utapau, interior Kamino, Trade Federation battleships, Geonosis arena, etc etc etc). I think whatever objections people tend to have don't have to do with what is being shown, but how it's being shown. For example, the model work for Mustafar looks really cool - once they added lots of effects and additional explosions and things to make the finished shots, it's almost an overload, to many eyes. Additionally, having a lot of a set being blank walls can make it difficult for the actors to relate to what's going on (imagine if Dagobah were greenscreened instead of being a huge swamp set). It also reduces the possibilities for 'happy accidents' in framing shots, etc. Plus, if you can get everything 'in-camera,' it can hang together visually in ways that are difficult to achieve when adding things in postproduction.

    That's not to say that GL is 'wrong' for using CGI. Only that CGI as a tool doesn't dictate the only ways it can be used, and that CGI is not the only option for going beyond the OT - and that the prequels themselves demonstrate some of those other options.
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, May 12, 2014
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  9. thejeditraitor Chosen One

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    i know all about the real sets and miniatures used.

    my point is that the tools are now available for these things where they weren't before. gl had a lot more options with cgi being perfected. i just can't understand why people bad-mouth cg as much as they do when it's done so much for film. jurassic park, avatar, lotr and harry potter would have been impossible to make pre-cgi. the list is endless and like it or not george was the one pushing the limits.
    Last edited by thejeditraitor, May 12, 2014
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  10. Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn The Another Saga & CT Manager

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    Like I said, I think the objections - at least the ones I can understand - have mostly to do with the way CG (or the addition of masses of composited elements) affects the visual style. Using CGI allows for movement through space, and for character animations, that would be impossible in real life, and I think the brain has the potential to notice stuff like that; it can affect 'suspension of disbelief.' It's the green/white house thing. Yes, GL was pushing limits, and that's what he wanted to do, deliberately. But that doesn't mean it does, or even should, appeal to everyone, especially when it differs from the look of the already-extant films and became more intense as more films were released.

    Comparing Jurassic Park with the PT films - the CGI in Jurassic Park was used only in situations where no full-size model or costume was going to work. TPM kind of works like this. It's been awhile since I saw Avatar, but I bet that the difference between that and AOTC or ROTS is the camera movement, the coloration (despite the out-there designs of phosphorescent forest creatures in Avatar), and the character movements. I'm not saying that the other films are perfect. I'm saying that, as you noted, Lucas was pushing boundaries. But I don't think they were solely technological boundaries - don't you think Jar Jar (for example) has visual style in common with, say, Roger Rabbit? It changes, somehow, the way the mind sees the world of the film, I think. Maybe.

    On LotR, one of the things done/developed for those movies was a (digital?) color-timing/color-correction (whatever the proper term is) method, which I think made the films a bit too monochromatic for me. Plus, now every movie is 'teal and orange,' and I bet those things are related.
    Last edited by Lt.Cmdr.Thrawn, May 13, 2014
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  11. thejeditraitor Chosen One

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    well i dig it.
    there are a ton of movies that use cgi badly but the ones that get it right enrich are viewing experience. i feel that people don't appreciate the good that we do get from this and are quick to bitch about it instead. but of course this is the internet.
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  12. bstnsx704 Force Ghost

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    One thing that I find to be very interesting that actually, in a way, kind of subverts the "industrial" evolution between trilogies, is the presentation of some of the more metaphysical elements of the Force. Sure, in the prequels we see a lot of extravagant flips and telekinetic abilities that look very much in line with some of the more grand visuals of the films, but what we don't see is many hints of is the "other" side of the Force, for lack of a better term. The more supposedly grounded originals, however, go all out with the Force ghosts and do some really interesting things with Force-induced "visions" in the form of the Dagobah cave.

    As we know from the ending of Revenge of the Sith (ironically, the bit that looks, feels, and sounds the most like the original trilogy) Qui-Gon was able to (re?)discover how to transcend death, which serves as a nice parallel to and bit of irony against the Sith's quest for eternal life; where Plagueis, Sidious, and Vader sought to cheat death and achieve immortality in the tangible physical world, Qui-Gon was able to shed all ties to his own being and this plane of existence and, as a result, learned the path towards true immortality. One of my favorite moments in the films comes right after Anakin's slaughter of the Tusken Raiders, when Yoda hears Qui-Gon's voice yell "No Anakin no!" before transitioning into the iconic Vader breathing. This is subtle, however, and something that I certainly did not pick up on completely the first time I watched the film.

    The originals are much more explicit in their presentation of the Jedi and their life after death. At the end of A New Hope there is no question that Obi-Wan is telling Luke to "use the Force," and we actually see him, Yoda, and Anakin appear as ghosts in the next two films. The nature of this life beyond death and the training at the hands of Qui-Gon that Obi-Wan and Yoda underwent in the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope are some of the most exciting and enduring mysteries present in the saga. I heard that the recent Yoda arc in The Clone Wars tackles some of these mysteries, and I am very curious about that. Given how involved George himself was with the show, I think that I am going to finally watch it in its entirety this summer. From what I head, the show seems to be a great key in helping to unlock and explore some of the themes and ideas of the films.

    [IMG]

    Vader looking out at Obi-Wan, the man that he believes to be in the way of him achieving these abilities that are almost nowhere to be found in this trilogy, despite being the focus of Vader's motivation.

    [IMG]

    Luke reaching out for Obi-Wan, the man that is granting him access to these abilities that become more and more prominent and intriguing as the films continue, even though they are not the direct focus of the films.

    [IMG]
    [IMG]

    The murky cave on Dagobah seems to be a better place to learn the mysterious ways of the Force than the construct built for that purpose on Corusant. In a way, the Jedi Temple itself even seems to represent the failing of the prequel-era Jedi. It is artificial and able to be penetrated by the Empire (it is interesting to note that the temple itself is still present on Coruscant at the end of the special edition of Return of the Jedi, meanig that the Sith and Empire must have had some use for it). I want to give a shout out to @thejeditraitor for pointing out just how evocative the spires on the Death Star II the ones on the Jedi Temple are.

    [IMG]
    [IMG]
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  13. Han Burgundy Force Ghost

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    It is interesting how the Original Trilogy, despite using older special effects, still manages to "up" the visual stakes in their own way over the PT, lending to a sense of progression that's there if you look for it. For example, despite all the visually intricate ground battles we get in the PT, there's nothing that happens in those films that's quite as massive in concept as an entire planet blowing up. If you're watching the saga for the first time 1-6, I have a feeling that's one of the few OT action beats that would still surprise even a modern viewer, because after the 3 previous films, who would even think that could happen?

    Even the lightsaber duels, despite their lack of modern spectacle, become bigger "events" in the story than they were in the PT (the exception being the final duel in ROTS). The father-meets-son clash in ESB remains one of the all time high intensity points of the entire saga, with the cinematography and the pacing elevating it to a truly mythical yet intensely personal event of a different nature than, say, the duel of the fates.

    And part of me still wonders if the real reason GL didn't give us a massive, "main attraction" space battle in the PT is that, when you go through the saga and get to Return of the Jedi, the Battle of the Death Star II still feels like a sufficiently big finish.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, May 19, 2014
  14. EternalHero Jedi Grand Master

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    What I find most interesting is that GL went from a minimalist to a maximalist between trilogies. For me it worked because most classical epics refer to an earlier, wilder time when everything was bigger, brighter and generally crazier and GL put that on screen, so the PT really feels like another era, a gilt age that is more overtly mythological than the OT.
  15. DRush76 Force Ghost

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    I don't think it happened. In fact, I don't understand what you're trying to say.
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  16. MOC Yak Face Manager

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    I'm not sure how much of George Lucas's minimalism was the result of necessity and how much was the result of preference. I wonder what ANH would've looked like had he been gifted with the technology to match his imagination.
  17. thejeditraitor Chosen One

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    i do. he means nothing from the pt goes out of its way to make the ot look small potatoes. the hoth battle is STILL massive and awesome. the endor space battle isn't overshadowed by ep 3's space battle as awesome as it was. the ot still has the power to awe.
    Last edited by thejeditraitor, May 22, 2014
  18. Darth Vader's Chest Plate Jedi Grand Master

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    Unfortunately, I think it may have become a Michael Bay style action driven film with to much happening at once. We saw with the SE that there was excessive amounts jammed in. In many ways the limited technology of the day was probably a blessing.
  19. Darth_Nub Manager Emeritus

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    Leia would have been rescued from the Imperial prison in the clouds, rather than the DS, for a start. Beyond SW/ANH, we would have seen Had Abbadon (Coruscant) in ROTJ.

    The rough/first draft of SW is probably the best glimpse of what GL really had in mind - the recent Dark Horse comic adaptation of The Star Wars allows us to see what it might have looked like, but it also shows what a mess this sprawling story was when trying to jam it all into one film. It was never 'six films divided into two trilogies', or even 'one huge film divided into three films', it was originally one film with way too many ideas going on.

    IMHO, the technological limitations worked perfectly - SW blew everyone away in 1977, no one knew of the more ambitious vision GL had, ESB and ROTJ kept making it bigger and better as the story intensified, then the PT was able to show the galaxy in a much larger frame from the start, which suited its storyline.
  20. AndyLGR Force Ghost

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    Although Hamill suggested it will be an 8 year old Luke in this interview at approx 2 mins in........



    I wonder what changed Lucas's mind about having older twins in the prequels
    Last edited by AndyLGR, May 22, 2014
  21. bstnsx704 Force Ghost

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    It was probably just general altering of the story long before even concretely putting it to page in the script. Playing around with how long events would lost (the Clone Wars and the gap between the trilogies, for example). Based on the interviews Lucas seemed to know the broad strokes of what he wanted his prequels to be and what beats he wanted them to hit, but things like specific dates and ages could always be altered in order to give him the room to properly tell the story that he wanted to tell.
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  22. DRush76 Force Ghost

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    And what am I supposed to conclude? That the OT was better? Well, I don't agree. The only thing awesome about the Hoth battle was Han and Leia's escape from the planet.
    Last edited by DRush76, May 24, 2014
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  23. thejeditraitor Chosen One

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    you're completely missing the point. the point is the pt doesn't make the ot look limited in scope. the ot has the death star blowing up whole planets and threatening to destroy the rebellion completely in one battle in rotj. the stakes are much, much higher.
    Last edited by thejeditraitor, May 24, 2014
  24. DRush76 Force Ghost

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    Again, I disagree. The stakes in Palpatine's machinations and the future of the galaxy were just as high, as far as I'm concerned. Okay, I now realize that you have your opinion on the matter. And I have mine. And I also see that we'll never agree.
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  25. Han Burgundy Force Ghost

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    As the person who wrote the post that initiated this disagreement, let me just step in and say that we aren't bashing the PT, not in the slightest. The PT is massive in scope and intricacy, no one is denying that. But George Lucas did a smart thing making the prequels just big and intense enough to work as sucsessors to the OT, while also creating an arc that progresses in intensity as you go from TPM to ROTJ. Seeing the Death Star destroy Alderaan still works in the context of the saga, despite being visually plain compared to similar sequences in the PT, because it is in concept a much larger work of destruction than anything that had happened in the PT. When Luke ignites his saber against Vader in ESB, it's a much more intense and nail biting moment than the duel in TPM, not because one scene is worse than the other, but because George Lucas, in creating the PT, gave that duel in ESB 4 previous films worth of build up and anticipation, the climactic moment where father finally meets son. Even if the Duel of the Fates was the most cinematically perfect scene of all time, it wouldn't be able to hold the same weight as the duel in ESB, because it was never meant to. It's all by design.
    Last edited by Han Burgundy, Jun 2, 2014
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