Kurosawa's influence on SW

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Darth-Stryphe, Feb 3, 2003.

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  1. bad radio Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 1999
    star 4
    I posted the following in another thread (warning? link takes you to the spoilers forum) but thought that it might be appropriate in this thread too:

    Just thought I would up this thread with some screen comparisons between some Kurosawa films and A New Hope.

    The Hidden Fortress

    The Hidden Fortress starts out with the two bickering peasants, who everybody knows was in the inspiration for the droids. The two of them are fleeing the ravages of civil war when all the sudden they are confronted with a horrific sight. Coming into the shot we see a wounded samurai and he appears to be running from someone or something.
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF055.JPG]
    Then entering into the shot we see what he?s running from; a group of samurai on horseback from the Yamana clan ride through the shot and kill the wounded samurai.
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF056.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF057.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF058.JPG]
    The horsemen turn around and then glance momentarily at the peasants. They look at the two men like animals?the peasants aren?t worth killing and then the samurai ride out of the shot.
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    This opening scene is similar to the bantering that goes on between Artoo and Threepio on Tatooine, not to mention that when they jumped in the escape pod the Imperial soldiers didn?t blast the pod.
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH027.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH034.JPG]
    Just like the samurai thought the peasants weren?t worth killing, the Imperial soldiers also think that the pod isn?t worth blasting.

    After a pretty funny argument between the two of them, the peasants split up and go their separate ways just like Artoo and Threepio. However, they can?t stay out of the Yamanas? sights forever, and eventually both of them are picked up by Yamana troops and are made into slaves.
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF063.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF064.JPG]
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH028.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH029.JPG]
    In time they are reunited with one another when the Yamanas put them to work tearing apart a castle in an effort to find 200 bars of gold that are supposed to be hidden there.
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF065.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF066.JPG]
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    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH033.JPG]

    Later, the peasants escape and end up wandering around the wilderness. One day while they?re cooking some rice, they notice that the firewood they?re using isn?t working too well; the firewood will not burn because hidden inside of it is a bar of gold. Moreover, this is one of the 200 bars of gold that the Yamanas were looking for in the aforementioned castle. The two peasants realize this, and so begins their hunt for more sticks with gold bars in them?the gold becomes the McGuffin of the film (just like the Death Star plans).
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    Their search ultimately puts them in contact with General Rokurota.
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF070.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/THF071.JPG]

    Similarly, Luke finds Princess Leia?s message inside Artoo. This discovery ultimately puts him in contact with General Kenobi.
    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH030.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH031.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/ANH032.JPG]

    It turns out that General Rokurota is guarding Princess Yuki, heir to the Akizuki clan, and the 200 bars of />
  2. Vanthorne_OX Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Nov 11, 2002
    star 3
    Excellent work bad radio.

    Also, as DarthAttorney alluded to, Kurosawa sometimes looked to Western Culture for inspiration; which wasn't very common for Japanese directors at the time. He especially liked Shakespeare, and was also interested in the works of Ed McBain, creator of police thrillers. In the postwar period when Kurosawa was gearing up and beginning to get recognized, there were four main Japanese genres: the Jidai-Geki (Historical) films, the Chambara (swordfight) films, the Gendai-Geki (contemporary) films, and the Shomin-Geki (ordinary/daily life i.e. family meldorama) films. I've heard that Lucas got Jedi from "Jidai" of the Jidai-Geki films. Has anyone else heard that, or is it a coincidence?

    I think the SW saga would fit heavily in the Jidai-Geki and Chambara film categories. Add some Shomin-Geki (family melodrama) and the circle is complete.

  3. TheFury Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2003
    star 3
    Yes, Lucas got the word 'Jedi' from the Japanese phrase for 'period film'.



    ANH isn't that similar to The Hidden Fortress. Both films have completly different plots.

    The only part that is similar is at the beginning when the two thieves(droids) argue, split up, get captured and meet up again. That's it. Lucas first few Star Wars drafts are very like the Hidden Fortress but the film that eventually became Star Wars is very different.

    The Hidden Fortress is much more like the plot to TPM.


    The Princess isn't at all like Padme or Leia. She is much more passive. She whines a lot and is bossed around by the Samurai. Padme and Leia are much bolder and stronger characters.

    Lucas used the Hidden Fortress for inspiration rather than borrow the story. As I said, his first SW drafts have the same plot and here is an example.

    The Hidden Fortress synopsis from a Kurosawa biography -
    The Hidden Fortress:
    ?It is the sixteenth century, a period of civil wars. A princess, with her family, her retainers, and the clan treasure is being pursued. If they can cross enemy territory and reach a friendly province they will be saved. The enemy knows this and posts a reward for the capture of the princess.?


    Lucas Star Wars Synopsis from his first draft -
    The Star Wars:
    ?It is the thirty-third century, a period of civil wars in the galaxy. A rebel princess, with her family, her retainers, and the clan treasure, is being pursued. If they can cross territory controlled by the Empire and reach a friendly planet, they will be saved. The Sovereign knows this, and posts a reward for the capture of the princess.?



    By the way, how did you get all those sceen captures?


  4. bad radio Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 1999
    star 4
    >>>> ANH isn't that similar to The Hidden Fortress. Both films have completly different plots.

    I disagree. The plot for The Hidden Fortress is exactly the way I described it above, which is not all that different from ANH. And where you don?t find THF embedded in ANH, that is where you?ll find the plots from other Kurosawa films like Yojimbo and Sanjuro filling in the blanks.

    >>>> The Hidden Fortress is much more like the plot to TPM.

    I would say that The Hidden Fortress is also like the plot of TPM. Actually, I would say that TPM takes elements from THF and another of Kurosawa?s films, They Who Step on the Tiger?s Tail. (Jar Jar is based on the character of the porter from They Who Step on the Tiger?s Tail.)

    >>>> The Princess isn't at all like Padme or Leia. She is much more passive. She whines a lot and is bossed around by the Samurai. Padme and Leia are much bolder and stronger characters.

    You know, that?s just what George says in his interview on THF?s DVD, and I disagree yet again (surprise!). She plays a mute for most of the film and is resigned to follow Rokurota?s orders because she isn?t supposed to reveal her identity, just like Padmé during her excursion on Tatooine. She is a strong character, though, whenever she?s doesn?t have to keep up her disguise. For example, she orders General Rokurota to free the peasant girl that they meet on the road, and he complies despite that he wants nothing to do with the girl.
  5. TheFury Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2003
    star 3
    I don't agree with a lot of what you said but I think that comes down to how you interprate The Hidden Fortress.

    I'll post how I see it tommorrow when I have more time.
  6. JediHunterCommand Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2003
    star 1
    Basically, what this looks like to me is that Lucas took a lot of Kurosawa stuff as the "seed" for his film, Star Wars (no A New Hope stuff at this point). He developed it a bit, and made it into what we now know as ANH. Then it took off and he developed it a LOT more in ESB, making the saga what it is today.

    This isn't very different from what I do in my own writing. If you read any of my stories, it's very plain who influenced me: Tolkien and Bradbury. I have my own ideas, but much of my style comes from them.


    Oh, and by the way, I'd think that the hidden fortress would be more analagous to the "hidden Rebel base," but obviously it's not a straight comparison. There really aren't any *straight* comparisons. For example, both peasants are idiots, but Artoo's really quite bright. The influence is very obvious, but it's not a one-to-one thing.
  7. TheFury Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2003
    star 3
    I agree with that. I was going to make a big post about all the differences in the ANH and THF plots but I don't have time.

    But I still repeat what I said above. The only real thing Lucas took from the Hidden Fortress plot is the opening with the droids/peasants.


    For one thing, in THF, the General is already hiding Princess Yuki when we meet him.
    In ANH the good guys stumble on the captured Princess by accident and Leia never actually meets Obi-Wan.
  8. bad radio Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 1999
    star 4
    I posted the following in another thread (warning? link takes you to the spoilers forum) but thought that it might be appropriate in this thread too:



    As promised, here is a breakdown, with screen comparisons, of similarities between The Empire Strike Back and some of Kurosawa?s films:

    Dersu Uzala

    In 1975, Akira Kurosawa?s film Dersu Uzala won an Oscar for best Foreign Language Film. Just four years earlier Akira Kurosawa had attempted suicide.

    Try to imagine someone that you idolize, someone that you have a profound respect for, someone that you?ve built up in your mind as being your ultimate model for success. Now imagine that person trying to kill himself, and perhaps you can get an inkling of how George Lucas might have felt about his hero, Akira Kurosawa.

    Although Kurosawa never said why he attempted suicide, people have come up with their own guesses as to what might have drove him to that end. Having come from a samurai family and because of his Buddhist (Zen) sensibilities, some perceived it as Kurosawa?s homage to his art. As Donald Richie said, it was Kurosawa?s ?acknowledgement that with the diminution of his creative gifts, life should end as well since his art and his existence have been all but inseparable.? Others saw Kurosawa?s attempted suicide as a result of the hardships he endured with his involvement with the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!, with his failed film company startup, and with his film Dodesukaden bombing at the box office. These three events made it hard, if not absolutely impossible for Kurosawa to make films in Japan?no Japanese film company wanted to hire Kurosawa to make his movies. This had to be pretty devastating for Kurosawa since he lived to make films and is credited with introducing Japanese Cinema to the rest of the world, and here he couldn?t even make a film in his own country anymore. But by August 1975, Kurosawa?s attempted suicide and all the events leading up to that were in the past.

    Kurosawa went outside of his country to Russia and made Dersu Uzala. When it was released it was an absolute success by any measurable standard. I mention all this because George Lucas really took notice of this film?his mentor that had reached the ultimate low had come back to prove everybody wrong. Accordingly, much of Empire takes its inspiration from Dersu Uzala. The most glaring similarity is the character of Dersu Uzala himself, and his relationship with the Russian soldier-explorer Vladimir Arseniev. It seems Dersu was the inspiration for Yoda and many of Arseniev?s characteristics were transferred down to Luke.

    [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/DER005.JPG] [image=http://members.cox.net/badradio/DER032.JPG]
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    Here?s what Donald Richie had to about Dersu:

    />
  9. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    While the comparisons are interesting, I think some of the shot by shot comparisions are really stretching things as the context of many of the events are completely different.

    And saying this like, "This is exactly like what happens in ANH." doesn't lend the argument any credibility when the events are actually only loosely related at best.

    (For instance, the peasants finding the gold is only loosely related to Luke discovering the message in R2 in that R2 specifically chose to reveal the information in order to trick Luke into removing the restraining bolt. There's also the fact that the hidden treasure and the peasent was rolled into a single character making direct comparisons difficult at best.)
  10. DrEvazan Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2002
    star 4
    again, the fact that Lucas aknowledges the Kurosawa influence makes any similarities all the more significant.
  11. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    He was influenced, no doubt, but it seems some people are all but accusing Lucas of making a shot by shot remake of Kurosawa's films. Certainly some similiarities are intentional, but some of the examples given in this thread are really stretching things.
  12. DrEvazan Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2002
    star 4
    well considering the incredibly large number of similarities between Lucas's films and Kurosawa's i think it would be pretty easy to put together a solid case for plagiarism. they are alike in theme, dialogue, performance, story, shot composition, and characterization... im not sure what part of that is stretching things.

    if anything Lucas's films seem to be more similar to Kurosawa's than different. to me it seems the only major difference is the star wars films are shot in color and are set in space with special effects... that's just my opinion of course.
  13. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    But that's just it, I think people are begging the question by finding similiarities where none actually exist. For example, the three shot comparison of the spear duel and the Ben/Vader duel. Yes, it looks similiar, but once you realize that over the shoulder shots are common in every film ever made, the similiarities lose all their significance, especially when you could take literally any film that depicts a sword fight and find shots with the exact same composition. Does this mean that every director who has ever filmed a sword fight is ripping off Kurosawa? I'm certain you appreciate the absurdity of this.
  14. a. block Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 1999
    star 1
    In a documentary I saw a few years ago, I believe it said that Kurosawa's western idol and influence was John Ford, his westerns mostly.
  15. DrEvazan Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2002
    star 4
    similar/identical themes, philosophies, characters, situations, plot points, dialogue, and shot composition are clear evidence to me that Lucas basically stole from Kurosawa for his films. i choose to look at the facts, and the facts are:

    1. Lucas is a fan of the films of Kurosawa.
    2. Lucas is well-versed in the films and has seen them all multiple times.
    3. there are a plethora of similarities between the films of the Star Wars saga and the films of Kurosawa.

    its hardly a stretch to imagine that Lucas watched these films and imitated, borrowed, copied and outright stole from these films. the films of Kurosawa may be similar to other films in some small ways here and there, but the overwhelming amount of consistent similarities between the Star Wars films and Kurosawa's film makes it clear as day that Lucas got his ideas from those films.

    "Yes, it looks similiar, but once you realize that over the shoulder shots are common in every film ever made, the similiarities lose all their significance, especially when you could take literally any film that depicts a sword fight and find shots with the exact same composition. Does this mean that every director who has ever filmed a sword fight is ripping off Kurosawa? I'm certain you appreciate the absurdity of this."

    Durwood, your assertion that alot of sword fights are shot the same way is just plain wrong. there is a distinct style to the way Lucas and Kurosawa shoot their films... more in the style of David Lean, Sergio Leone and John Ford than directors like Ridley Scott in Gladiator or Peter Jackson in the LOTR films. Kurosawa and Lucas use extremely wide master shots for the sword/lightsaber fights, often distancing the camera a great way from the action then move to tight singles, and back out again. they also often use deep focus - one character large and full in the foreground, the other small in the distance... not at all like other directors. add to this the FACT that Lucas knows these films and this style of filmmaking well makes the idea he is ripping off Kurosawa anything but absurd... it makes it crystal clear. the proof is all over this thread right in front of everyones eyes.

  16. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    similar/identical themes, philosophies, characters, situations, plot points, dialogue, and shot composition are clear evidence to me that Lucas basically stole from Kurosawa for his films.

    No offense, but I'm surprised you consider yourself a STAR WARS fan seeing how little respect you have for Lucas or his films.
  17. DrEvazan Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2002
    star 4
    thanks for the personal attack... now do you want to adress the topic, or just continue evading the issue by questioning the depth of my fandom?

    i love star wars (OT) in full knowledge of the idea that Lucas lifted almost everything in the films from somehwere else. i hope that doesnt blow your mind too much.

    as ive said before, i am a huge fan of the films of Roman Polanski, but i think the man has done some questionable things in his personal life.

  18. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    i love star wars (OT) in full knowledge of the idea that Lucas lifted almost everything in the films from somehwere else.

    This is where our opinions diverge. Lucas is no more guilty of "lifting" his stories from other sources than is Tolkien, or C.S. Lewis, or Frank Herbert, or the other great storytellers of our time. He's taken basic concepts and ideals, ones that have been common in stories for hundreds and thousands of years, and created an entirely original and unique work. I mean, should the Wachowski Bros. be condemned because THE MATRIX shares much in common with the plot and philosophy of A NEW HOPE? Are they then guilty of ripping off STAR WARS?

    (By way of example, Neo following the clues left by Trinity to find Morpheous who shows him a larger world is very similiar to R2 revealing clues that lead Luke to Obi-Wan who shows him a larger world. Morpheus using philosophy to help Neo realize his potential is a almost identical to the scenes in ESB when Yoda uses philosophy to help Luke realize his potential. Neo was brought back from the brink of death by someone who loved him just as Luke was brought back from the brink of death by someone who loved him. When Neo finally believes and realizes that he has the power to control the matrix is a direct parallel to the scene in A NEW HOPE when Luke finally believes and realizes that he doesn't need the targeting computer to hit the exhaust port. There are dozens of other examples.)

    Point being, every time you find a similarity with another story is not indicitive that one is a rip off of the other. Certainly, you can trace the lines of inspiration that guided Lucas in the creation of STAR WARS, but to deny that his films are original and unique works is a disservice the man.
  19. bad radio Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 1999
    star 4
    Durwood, I take it you haven?t seen The Hidden Fortress?
  20. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    I have, but where some see plagerism, I see nothing more than passing similarities.
  21. DrEvazan Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jun 19, 2002
    star 4
    "Point being, every time you find a similarity with another story is not indicitive that one is a rip off of the other. Certainly, you can trace the lines of inspiration that guided Lucas in the creation of STAR WARS, but to deny that his films are original and unique works is a disservice the man."

    point being, Lucas watched Kurosawa's films and made Star Wars afterward. its not like there is only a similarity here and there, unless of course you choose to ignore the mountain of evidence in this very thread.

    theme after theme, plot point after plot point, set piece after set piece the films of Star Wars either directly replicate or closely imitate the films of Akira Kurosawa. Star Wars is Akira Kurosawa in slighty different clothes.

    if you need to believe that Lucas did not steal generously from Akira Kurosawa in order to still like the films, hey whatever floats your boat. im glad i have the ability to enjoy the films yet still see them objectivley. Triumph of the Will is an amazing piece of filmmaking... i can feel perfectly comfortable saying that, without becoming a nazi or supporting the ideals of the film. this whole idea that you have to love everything about a film to be a fan of it, or defend it to the death even if it makes you look completely disingenuous, is utter nonsense, and quite frankly makes the people who do it look silly and completley lacking in credibility.

  22. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    I have no problem admitting that Lucas drew inspiration from a variety of sources. What I'm taking you to task on is your accusation that Lucas is a guilty of stealing every good idea he ever had. It's your inability to give credit where it's due that I have a problem with.
  23. Shelley Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 9, 2001
    star 5
    Oh, cool! The internal structure of the Death Star is similar to the internal structures in Kurosawa's films. I hadn't noticed that before.

    Thanks for posting the images. I find them interesting, though for a different reason than bad radio and DrEvazan do. :)
  24. bad radio Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 26, 1999
    star 4
    >>>> I have, but where some see plagerism, I see nothing more than passing similarities.

    I have a hard time believing that you have seen THF. You previously said that Lucas came up with ?an entirely original and unique work? (FYI, ?unique? and ?original? mean the same thing), but changing bars of gold into Death Star plans, and having the heroes ride in a spaceship instead of on a horse doesn?t convey originality. If you look carefully you will see the glaring similarities in the characters, in the story, and in the pacing of the two films. Not to mention composition and editing. Star Wars is to The Hidden Fortress what A Fistful of Dollars is to Yojimbo. Movies like The Outrage and The Magnificent Seven give credit to Kurosawa?s films Rashomon and Seven Samurai, respectfully, so why doesn?t George do the same with SW? What?s more, this is shameful considering the hardships Kurosawa endured while Lucas prospered.
  25. Durwood Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 18, 2002
    star 5
    First of all, "unique" and "original" are semantically different enough that using each word to enhance the meaning of the other is perfectly acceptable.

    ...but changing bars of gold into Death Star plans, and having the heroes ride in a spaceship instead of on a horse doesn?t convey originality.

    Now see, this is where I speak again of stretching things to find similarities where none exist. The bars of gold and the Death Star plans are similiar only in that they are a McGuffin, so their use in each film as a means to an end is hardly grounds to accuse Lucas of being a thief. So should I say that the movie SNEAKERS is rip off of Kurosawa's since it employed the decryption device as a McGuffin used to move the story forward?

    In other words, finding a common story telling device in each film is hardly proof of anything since every film uses the same technique in one form or another.

    And saying that Lucas merely "turned horses into spaceships" is absurd. The heroes of the story needed some sort of a conveyence, and STAR WARS being a space fantasy, what exactly did you expect them to travel in?

    Movies like The Outrage and The Magnificent Seven give credit to Kurosawa?s films Rashomon and Seven Samurai, respectfully, so why doesn?t George do the same with SW?

    As far as I know, Lucas has always freely admited that he used Kurosawa's work as one of the many inspirations for STAR WARS. He has worked with the man on several projects and he, along with his friend Spielberg, presented Kurosawa with a lifetime achievement award, as I understand it. Honestly, what other honors do you expect Lucas to pay to the man?

    It seems you will not be happy until Lucas owns up to a crime he never committed.
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