Saga The story versus the story telling...

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by DarthPoppy, Dec 22, 2010.

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  1. DarthPoppy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    Used to be a regular poster here, back in the day, and was admittedly disappointed with the prequel trilogy. After reading many of the positive posters here, I gave it another chance and do see much of what they love in it. I recently watched the whole saga for the first time in years (second time I ever saw TPM and AotC) when they were showing them all on Spike TV a few weeks ago. What I have come to realize is this: I love the story-telling, visuals, dialog, etc. from the OT (particularly Star Wars and Empire), but have some trouble with the story itself (particularly the redemption of Vader, who I personally see as beyond redemption--but I am not a Christian, so I certainly understand that to many, no one is beyond redemption). Watching the PT, I largely feel the opposite: I think very highly of the story--a tragedy--the fall of a hero and political intrigue and how evil takes over, but have trouble with the story-telling (particularly in TPM and the second half of AotC).

    It is weird; I kind of think Lucas matured as thinker and political thinker at the same time he lost some of visual/emotional/character simplicity that makes for great storytelling. For me then,the OT is a not-very interesting story, very well told, while the PT is a fascinating story told not so well.

    Anyway, these are just some thoughts after an extended holiday from the saga and I was wondering what others thought about this dichotomy. And I am not saying that the OT is simple and the PT is complicated, I am talking more about the PT being a more original story and a harder task for a storyteller. However, at least for me, better storytelling involves emotion which I found somewhat buried in the PT. Anyhow I see merits in both trilogies, I just find it interesting that the strengths of one are the weakness of the other and vice versa.
  2. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    Wow. Completely agreed.
    I've been away from Star Wars for a while and have not been a frequent poster. I think this distinction explains my feelings (personally I love the original trilogy--more biased in favor of ANH and TESB and I don't hate the prequels but don't find them compelling movies to watch and re-watch.)

    Considering what you said:
    If you summed up the prequel story arc in a few paragraphs and then did the same for the first three movies---the more complex, exciting, and dynamic story is in the prequels (at least in some respects.) I'm all about politics, galactic intrigue, and a fall from grace. The prequels are told on a grander scale with more planets, characters, battles, etc. With that said it lacks the emotional intensity/core of the originals. There was something magic about the originals, likely sparked by on-screen chemistry with the cast. It was more real--and the audience could get more emotionally invested.

  3. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    The OT also had other things going for it: the sensibilities of 1970s filmmaking ( which have essentially passed from the earth, not just on Lucas' part but on everyone's ), Kershner, and the editing of Marcia Lucas.
  4. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    This was the dichotomy I was seeing with ANH/TESB and TPM/AOTC, (Episode II may very well be the most intriguing failure of the past two decades) but then came Revenge of the Sith. I haven't wavered in deeming it Lucas's most dynamic, emotionally involving work since THX-1138. As was the case with Woody Allen and Match Point, and William Friedkin and Bug, Uncle George miraculously got his groove back, and worked magic.
  5. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    Part of it might be that the OT was a fun adventure which didn't take itself too seriously. The gravity and consequence of the PT weighs it down to some degree. Despite all the antics of TPM--the PT seems more serious about itself.
  6. EHT New Films Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2007
    star 6
    This is a very interesting point. I think it touches on one of the only aspects of the Saga that I can see myself thinking is somewhat of a weakness; I generally disagree with notions that drive a stake between the PT and the OT and weaken the connectedness of the Saga. For myself, I would only alter the statement to soften the "not-very interesting" and "told not so well" parts.

    But I also agree with drg4 that ROTS totally redeemed the PT; great story and great story-telling came together very powerfully there.
  7. EHT New Films Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Sep 13, 2007
    star 6
    I said the following in the "Fun of the PT" thread... thought it seemed kind of relevant here too:

    The PT is not really intended to be as much fun as the OT, and if it were it wouldn't work as well. I love both the OT and the PT, and they both have a lot of fun parts in them. Of course, there are very dark parts in the OT too, but larger chunks of the PT need to be dark in order to tell their story. The main chunk of darkness in the PT is, of course, the second half of ROTS; excellent it is, fun it is not.
  8. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
    star 4
    When Mr. Lucas created A NEW HOPE, he was doing exactly what you suggest: enjoying himself
    and telling his story. After that, the process became a semi-open franchise with backstory and
    continuity issues to be addressed. Adding to the 'mess' were all the novels being written under licensing
    agreements, with their own continuities, timelines and genealogies. By the time THE PHANTOM MENACE
    was released, and Mr. Lucas tried telling his story again, he ended up pleasing far fewer fans, critics...
    you name it. It didn't help that the complexion of the scripts had darkened considerably and were far more serious.

    So much for creating the most popular franchise in film history... ranting critics and a shower of disgruntled fan
    letters, most of them obscene and anonymous.

    :(
  9. grimlockbedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 16, 2006
    star 2
    Darth Poppy,
    My feelings are very similiar on this...fascinating that they are 'reversed'...very well put...interesting topic...
  10. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    My point (and I didn't communicate it well) was that from just my personal view of it--I find the original films to be fun movies. There were charismatic actors on a crazy adventure. The plot was pretty simplistic--a heroes journey with the backdrop of a rebellion against an evil empire. Personally I have no trouble re-watching and enjoying. I'm not going to attack the prequels but that same appeal doesn't exist. I can appreciate the greater nuance of galactic politics and the far more compelling visuals and effects--but they just don't do it for me. At their core, there is something lacking. I think it gets to Poppy's point (but this is just my opinion and I really hope I'm not derailing this into OT v. PT. Not my intention.)
  11. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    DarthPoppy: What is meant in saying Lucas has lost a sense of "visual simplicity?"

    Although I would aver that TPM and particularly AOTC lack the tight scripting and disciplined editing of Star Wars and Empire, they do at times surpass their predecessors in directorial verve and evocative imagery. There was a great deal of nifty flourishes in those two films that made the hair on my neck stand on end (e.g., the unnerving pan that presents us with our first real look at Palpatine, standing alone on the Coruscant landing platform, focus square on the Queen's shuttle). There were plenty of passages more elegant in their simplicity than anything from the OT (e.g., the shadows of Anakin and Padme embracing against the Tatooine homestead).
  12. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    DarthPoppy, I am enjoying this thread and the points you make. I definitely agree with what you're getting at. Though I'm not sure I agree with the statement that the PT story is not told "well". I would say that the actual story (the exploitation of man's natural tendency toward fear in order to retain power - the story of THX-1138 hidden in multiple layers) is deliberately obscured in false war and false politics. The plot itself feels detached because it's all a smokescreen anyway, one that clears itself (and redeems itself as has been pointed out) by the time Revenge of the Sith comes around. In the original trilogy the war is heartfelt and human, and this is why the OT in my opinion is the only proper ending to the Saga.
  13. Arawn_Fenn Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2004
    star 7
    And both films end with the setting sun motif!
  14. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    So does Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I wouldn't attach too much significance.
  15. DarthPoppy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    I am very much enjoying everyone's thoughtful replies. Drg4, by simpler visuals I was referring to the stark, spare quality of much of the older trilogy, particularly the original '77 film--the desolation of both the backwater world of Tattoine and the Death Star--monotony contrasted with moments of intensity and beauty, from Luke looking at the two suns to the Ben and Vader's duel. There are amazing scenes in both trilogies for sure, but I always loved the contrasts between barrenness and intensity so well done in the original; every scene in the PT packs so much in. I did find Kamino in AotC captured a similar sense of desolation; I really liked that segment of that film.
  16. drg4 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2005
    star 4
    Ah, I see. One of my favorite passages from ROTS involves a hovering Mustafar droid, who momentarily watches Obi-Wan and Anakin duel on a beam, before nervously exiting the frame. I consider it a canny bit of commentary on the PT's superabundance (authorial intent be damned :p ).
  17. StampidHD280pro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2005
    star 4
    Speaking of a contrast between barrenness and intensity, my favorite wipe in the entire Saga is between a closeup of Yoda aboard the black and white Tantive 4 and a overhead shot of a red and yellow Mustafar.
  18. NZPoe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2001
    star 4
    I've been away from these boards for years and probably been away from 'Star Wars' for just as long. I remember clashing with DarthPoppy so many times in the past and I've always been a strong prequel defender. Interestingly enough with the passage of time, my waning interest in 'Star Wars' post-ROTS and starting to work in the actual film industry as a writer and director, I've changed my perspectives a LOT. My time away from it all and returning to watch the six films, back to back, over this past Christmas has really alerted me to how poor so much of the saga really is - particularly under Lucas's influence.

    Ultimately "ANH" is an amazing stand-alone film - so much so that you could almost wish no sequels were ever made. It's a vital and important artifact of its time and, like "Jaws" or "The Exorcist", is still watchable for modern audiences. "ESB" is an utterly remarkable movie, a veritable work of art and ambition that represents the finest of filmmaking craft which - sadly - is a little too different from ANH to have complete continuity and yet relies on "ANH" for the story and characters to work. "ANH" and "ESB" are like the first "Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". Both films barely resemble each other in look, feel, style, aesthetic or execution, but watched back-to-back they make for an organically exhilarating experience. "ANH/The Terminator" are classic originals while "ESB/T2" are sequels, but executed by absolute masters of the craft of filmmaking.

    "ROTJ" has what I call the "prequel stink" on it - a middle-of-the-road-esque feel where telling a good story is compromised by a greater agenda (i.e. wrap up 4 films into a single movie to end the saga and push for greater merchandising scope). It has some beautiful sequences - the dread and horror of Jabba's palace, the exotic locale of the Ewok village and the Speeder Bike chase, the superb character drama in the Emperor's throne room and a - almost too short - final space-battle that still drops jaws today. But none of it fits together, none of it meshes and its bogged down by paint-by-numbers directing and almost (modern) television-style lighting and cinematography that pales in comparison to "ESB" before it. For me, the film works because Luke and Vader's story has so much weight and there are hints of unrelenting darkness in the Throne Room and Jabba's Palace scenes, but ultimately the movie is wonky and visually a little simple and "ROTJ" feels like it needed ONE MORE sequel to spread its story across effectively and not cast aside so much character development that had happened in the films previous to it.

    Then we get to the prequels and - as Darth Poppy asserts - there is a feeling of watching the OT in reverse.

    "TPM" is a standalone film which I still think is pretty strong, comparable with "ROTJ" despite being bogged down with wall-to-wall fresh characters and a meandering, almost motiveless plot. "TPM" looks and feels like a 'Star Wars' film to me, albeit a bloated and ponderous episode. It has standout sequences that are worthy of the saga - Jar-Jar LOOKED great and was a fascinating experiment in visual effects, McGregor's young Obi-Wan and Darth Sidious and Maul were definitely (for me) holding up their end of classic saga characterizations, the final lightsaber battle is arguably the best in the saga hands down, the production values were great, the pod-race sequence IS superb, the opening sequence on the Trade Federation ship was quite good and so forth. The film, however, had an immensely weak script and a director/producer combination who failed to see it and rectify it. Like "ROTJ", the film sacrificed telling at tight story about well-written characters in order to fulfill the (supposedly) more important agenda of setting up plot-points, foreshadowing the OT, showing the downfall of the Republic (which to be honest I'm not sure anybody cared or needed to see) and the rise of the Empire (which practically only happens in the last few minutes of "ROTS" and I think people REALLY cared about seeing and experienc
  19. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    Wow, that is a great analysis NZPoe.
    I think I agree with everything you said.
    Well done.
  20. DarthPoppy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    Thanks for your kind words NZPoe. I think we have both moved to the center!
  21. Jedi_Keiran_Halcyon Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2000
    star 6
    This is a very good point. Lucas & co. have frequently mentioned the way Coruscant is meant to contrast with the remote worlds we're shown in the OT - it's the "bright center to the universe".

    I wonder if the reveal of Coruscant in TPM wouldn't have been more magnificent if Lucas had held back on the CGI earlier in the film. Even on supposed backwaters like Naboo and Tatooine (in contrast with the desolation of SW, the Tatooine of TPM is if not metropolitan than positively suburban), the frame is so full of digital artistry that I think by the time we get to Coruscant we're so used to seeing a screen full of animation that it's less impressive. The Trade Federation ship at the top is an impressive sight, as is the Gungan city, but by the time we reach Coruscant it's just more of the same.
  22. NZPoe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2001
    star 4
    Lucas could have avoided this by not showing Coruscant till Episode III....or possibly never returning to Coruscant after Ep I.

    In my mind, even back when I was more forgiving and excited about the prequels, I always found that the Coruscant scenes often contributed very little to almost nothing for the actual story or character development. You don't need to see the Senate in EpIV to understand what's going on (even if it was a bit of throwaway exposition).

    I guess that's another thing that the Prequels kinda don't work with me - the lack of restraint. As enjoyable as the sequence was in EpIII, you don't need to see Palpatine wield a lightsaber. In fact, given his reputation from EpVI (if you've seen it) or the buildup of how cunning the Sith are in EpI-II, you would expect that Palpatine is so damn powerful that he doesn't need to bother with lightsabers. I half-expected Mace Windu's Jedi team to turn against him and strike him down because they'd already been bought out by Palpatine or that they were no match for the Force powers he had up his sleeve.

    The over-crowding of "stuff" (I can't think of a better term at the moment) in all the things Palpatine has to do is emblematic (for me) of the overcrowding that hits the prequels, like the Coruscant-centric plot, or Chewbacca's cameo, or Boba/Jango's inclusion, etc.

    I'm GLAD that Lucas allowed us to see Coruscant since it's the one unseen planet in the SW universe (especially in the EE) that gets so much mention...though once was enough. And honestly I really wanted to see it during the height of the Empire with the Emperor's palace and corrupt government fuelled by the power of the Dark Side of the Force...the Old Republic held very little interest for me, especially since Ep I instantly paints it as "crumbling" and "boring" anyways.
  23. DarthPoppy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 4
    Last week I was at a lecture at the museum where I work where the speaker quoted the great modernist architect Mies van der Rohe saying:

    "I don't want my work to be 'interesting', I want it to be 'good'."

    This got me thinking about this topic again and thinking about a lot of the debates on this and other sites regarding the Star Wars saga and its development. Obviously, I do think that, at its best, Star Wars is both "interesting" and "good" but I do think this is an interesting dichotomy. Sometimes though, I think when the saga is most "interesting" and ambitious is when, for me, it is not so "good"--when it addresses huge, real world, problems, the Saturday morning serial style and format betrays the desired effect. When it is complete good guys vs. bad guys wish fulfillment fantasy is when it works best emotionally, visually and dramatically; the original Star Wars, now A New Hope is not in itself an "interesting" story, but it is a very "good" story, very well told. The PT story is intensely "interesting" it is the story of how evil grows and functions, and people with good intentions become warped and become the very opposite in actions to what they set out to do with noble intentions. It is indeed an allegory. However, many of these issues are far too complex to be easily resolved in the space and time they are given, and the result is one that many do not regard as "good" (though many do).

    More and more, despite the flaws of the PT, I do view them as much "better" if still not as "good" as the first two (I still view Return of the Jedi as the nadar of the series) largely out of an intense respect for what they tried to achieve--a much more "interesting" project than that of the original. I respect those who dare to fail--they usually have more success than those who do not, and that is pretty cool.
  24. halibut Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 27, 2000
    star 8
  25. ElevationNation Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 26, 2011
    star 1
    Maybe he is referring to Ralph Nader.
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