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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:13 am 
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I am making a special update to my regular ranking posts for a set of films that deserve their own post.

WARNING: This post will contain controversial opinions. Those who are very sensitive or who have small children may want to leave the room.

Are you sure you wanna keep reading?

Okay, here goes....don't say I didn't warn you!

*ahem*

I have watched the original Star Wars trilogy. I think they are kind of crappy movies don't hurt me!! :scarey: :scarey: :scarey:

Some context.

I have never been a Star Wars guy. Even as a kid when they should've been 100% up my alley, somehow they never interested me at all. I suppose that's why (prepare yourself....) I had never watched the original trilogy don't hurt me!! :scarey: :scarey: :scarey:

I feel like I probably watched ANH at some point when I was young if only because it all feels so familiar but I can't actually remember sitting down and watching it. I did watch ESB when it got it's 90s theater re-release cuz my brother took me. I had definitely never watched ROTJ.

(Oddly, I did watch the prequels in theaters. No idea why.)

So I was coming into these with a pretty darn clear mind and, well, truth is I'm really surprised by how lame they are.

First off, the good: there is no denying the movie is filled with amazing sights and sounds. Without a doubt, the absolute heroes behind the movie are the art designers who came up with one fantastically cool design after another after another. Lightsabers, x-wings, the death star, Darth Vader's costume, on and on and on, so many of these designs are gorgeous, ultra-cool, and rightfully iconic. And of course, the music is just as rightfully iconic with several of the themes easily being amongst the greatest in movie history. And finally, Harrison Ford is great as usual. Great job, folks! 8)

Now, the bad: OMG this has got to be the thinnest, lamest, simplest, dullest, meaninglessiest story I've ever seen!! Seeeeriously! Like, okay, I get having a simple "good vs bad" story - I'm an LOTR fan, after all! - but this takes the simplicity to such an extreme level that the story practically disappears. It's just "Here are some guys labelled bad. Here are some guys labelled good. Watch them fight in several action sequences for three movies. PS - some of them have vaguely defined magic powers." That's it! Okay, I know anyone can be silly and try to make any story look this absurdly simple - "Some little people walk a few months to throw a ring in a volcano", ect - but in SW there really is almost no context, no framework, no purpose, no meaning behind any of it. You just get thrown into the middle of a conflict between two groups pre-labelled good and bad and then watch them fight over and over. There's almost nothing else there.

But yov, you're likely saying, what about Luke's journey and his encounters with his father? Oh wait, you mean there are supposed to be characters in this thing?? Oops, sorry, I must've missed them! Probably because they were as thin as the story so they were hard to see. The biggest, most iconic "character" moment in the trilogy is when Vader tells Luke he is his father and my reaction is.......so? Like, seriously, so what? Why am I supposed to care who Luke's dad is or his mom or sister or aunt or step-brother or whoever? Hell, I don't know why I'm supposed to care who Luke is, much less his relatives. The movie doesn't ever even seem to try to make me care about Luke as a character. Asides from having mildly useful magic powers, I guess, but that certainly isn't enough.

I could go on - say, about my hatred of all the ugly rubber alien things - but it's enough to say that with it's extremely thin story and characters, it all ends up feeling totally hollow and pointless. Three movies worth of meaningless spectacle.

Oh, also C3PO - Is annoying as F**K. God I hate that thing. :nono:

*ahem*


Now to my ratings which may be higher than you'd expect based on all that. Reason is that at least the first two, while being fairly empty spectacle, are a decent enough ride that I wouldn't call them dull. Also, Empire - goodness this movie is beautifully directed! I can't recall any movie where so much artfullness went into something so trite. I may not care in the slightest who Luke's dad is but I can't deny how amazing that scene looks and sounds and feels and it is not the only such moment. So Empire, almost despite itself, I gotta give a solidly good score.

So with no further ado:
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope B-
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back B+
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi C-

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:35 am 
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Yov, i haven't seen Star Wars either.

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 1:41 am 
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I still love you, yovi, especially because, well, I don't necessarily disagree. I watched the first one as a little girl in the movie theatre, and it did captivate me. But I remember being much less impressed, really, with the other two. I was a Star Trek girl first and foremost, I guess. I haven't watched them all in so long that I don't know how I'd feel about them now. I utterly despised the 3 prequels. I thought the new movie was pretty good. So there you go.

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:22 am 
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I don't disagree either. These movies transcend their many limitations mostly because of how incredibly groundbreaking they were. They're tied to our psyche and our childhood imaginings in a way that completely overshadows their actual artistic merit. But hell, you just have to give me that twin sunset theme and I'm 8 years old again. (Don't underestimate the contribution of John Williams to the Star Wars legacy)

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:42 am 
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I think those are really good points, Al. The music really makes the movie, in fact. I may not have been as enthralled by ESP and RoJ, but I didn't need to be. The first one did capture my imagination, and, while I ultimately loved Star Trek a bit more, I spent my childhood pretending to be Princess Leia not Lt. Uhura.

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:55 pm 
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That's it?? Jeez, what a disappointing reaction that got. :P

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:57 am 
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That's right, guys. Keep him calm. Let him think we're all cool with his heresy. I'll sneak out and get the tar and feathers ready. *Grabs pitchfork*

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 10:33 am 
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I am a Star Wars fan and I have been for a long time, although that fandom is based pretty much entirely on ANH and ESB. I am one of those fans who thinks that RotJ is a pretty weak film, more on the level of the prequels than the other two (side note, there’s an interesting analysis here by a fan who argues that Return of the Jedi is significantly worse than the Phantom Menace – I wouldn’t go anywhere near that far but I think his criticisms are mostly on-point).

And there is quite a bit to criticise in the two ‘good’ Star Wars films. The Dark Side of the Force doesn’t actually make sense, a lot of what Yoda says turns out to be gibberish if you stop and try to think it through, the films invented ‘Stormtrooper Syndrome’ where supposedly-fearsome bad guys turn out to be comically inept, the make-it-up-as-we-go-along approach to the overarching story means that Obi-Wan Kenobi keeps lying to Luke in exposition, and the script is really weak in places (as another side note, I’ve heard it argued that George Lucas should have been directing silent films or films without dialogue – I think that’s a fair call as pretty much everyone agrees that the Star Wars films make brilliant use of visuals and music and big-brush storytelling).

That said, it would take more time than I have now to list the things that ANH and ESB get right. I’ll limit myself to the opening sequence of ANH – the big band overture and initial panning shot showing Tatooine is epic (an over-used term in reviewing that I think is appropriate here), the shot of the two spaceships flying overhead is likewise awesome and gives an immediate sense of menace, following the droids as point of view characters is original and gives us the impression of being involved in but slightly outside the action, showing the Rebels preparing to fight while we listen to the sound of the Star Destroyer seizing the ship builds tension brilliantly (ironically, probably because the special effects budget wouldn’t have allowed for actually showing the scene from the outside), the fight in the hallway is a great action sequence, and the entry of Darth Vader is pretty much unbeatable as far as villain introductions go. It is, though, a very visual, very grandiose, very un-subtle style of storytelling that doesn’t appeal to everyone.


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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:18 pm 
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Amazing sights and sounds, I won't deny it! But it was genuine surprise to watch these and find that all the core ideas, the basic premises of the whole thing, are almost completely undeveloped. It somehow never feels like it got past a one-paragraph concept for a story despite getting a three-movie treatment. I'm really just amazed that such a vast audience developed such an enduring connection to something with no there there.

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:02 pm 
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I think that people are hungry for mythology. Star Wars provided a framework.


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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 1:48 pm 
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Yes. Science fiction and fantasy make a heady mix.

I was 18 when Star Wars came out, and several things about it blew me away: the music (!!!), the special effects (just look at any other science fiction film from the 1970s to understand why), the emotion in the story (there was a strong trend in SF movies to be "cool and cerebral," as if humans in "the future" necessarily had outgrown all that messy emotional stuff that might make their characters interesting). But a little thing that was huge for me was the famous "lived-in future," which was utterly new then. Luke's dirty, dented landspeeder. "What a piece of junk!" Banged-up robots. Previous SF films showed futures that seemed to have been sanitized for our protection and freshly removed from the cling-wrap before filming. This felt as real as could be.

And, at that point we didn't know that Obi-Wan was lying. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:49 pm 
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I've been thinking how to some extend it's a lot like Mad Max Fury Road - a grandly realized visual world, and an extremely simple story told largely through those grand visual gestures. But somehow, despite its extreme simplicity, the people and the conflict and Fury Road felt real and urgent, while the Star Wars' people and the conflict never felt at all real. To me, at least. It's one thing to design an exquisitely realized world but it doesn't mean much without something human to care about!

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:26 pm 
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yovargas wrote:
Amazing sights and sounds, I won't deny it! But it was genuine surprise to watch these and find that all the core ideas, the basic premises of the whole thing, are almost completely undeveloped. It somehow never feels like it got past a one-paragraph concept for a story despite getting a three-movie treatment. I'm really just amazed that such a vast audience developed such an enduring connection to something with no there there.

I think subsequent events have made it pretty clear that Lucas just isn't a very good scriptwriter. But when I first saw the films a long time ago (in this same galaxy), that wasn't yet clear and I was too young to be critical of adults anyway. Instead, the effect the script's failure to flesh out its concepts had on my mind was to increase the scope and mystery of the universe it created. Why is she Princess Leia? Is there a monarchy in this world? If so, why would she hold onto that title after joining the rebellion? Or is the rebellion itself old and established enough to have its own kings and queens? Or perhaps it's just some sort of ironic Nóm de guerre? (ok; I didn't use the term Nóm de guerre at the time). How is the imperial government structured? Is "Darth" a title, or part of his name? What makes the empire so bad anyway? etc. I still had a child's ability to blame my confusion on my own powers of comprehension instead of on the script, and the stories work really well and become especially absorbing when you are able to preserve your belief in their coherence that way.


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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:32 pm 
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Or as another writer once said "Part of the attraction of the L.R. is, I think, due to the glimpses of a large history in the background: an attraction like that of viewing far off an unvisited island, or seeing the towers of a distant city gleaming in a sunlit mist. To go there is to destroy the magic, unless new unattainable vistas are again revealed"

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:37 pm 
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I have the impression that you're not really a science fiction person, yov. Maybe that's why it doesn't feel "real" to you. Whereas I grew up inside those tropes and they felt not just real, but familiar. But handled in a way that I'd never seen on a screen before. Dingy futures weren't new even then in written SF, but SF was almost always dumbed down and sanitized for the mass market. This came straight across. It didn't sneer, and it didn't feel the tiresome need to connect to our reality at all. It was a long time ago. It was far, far away. Nobody planted any American flags anywhere. Nobody grew up in Brooklyn. It was uncircumscribed. It could go anywhere.

It didn't, exactly, because Lucas's imagination had limits. :( But the new movies give me hope.

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 3:45 pm 
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That's a very interesting quote in this context, Al. Tolkien was talking about being doubtful about publishing The Silmarillion, which essentially could be considered his "prequels". And while there are certainly main of us who love that work as much as The Lord of the Rings, I think that to a large extent events have proven his concern to be justified. When you have a far less skilled storyteller like Lucas try to retrofit a backstory, well, the results speak for themselves.

x-posted with Primula.

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:02 pm 
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I think it's one of those stories that you have to fall in love with while young.

The new movie is my favorite, so far.

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 4:57 pm 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
I have the impression that you're not really a science fiction person, yov.


Not true! My younger self pretty much read nothing but fantasy & sci-fi. 2001 & Martian Chronicles were both early favorites, though I read many others. (Though I don't really consider SW sci-fi, more of a "space opera". But semantics....)

This got me thinking, friends are often surprised by how much 80s pop culture I don't know. Stuff like never having watched Goonies or ET either. Thing is, though I was born in 1980, I didn't come to the US till 87 and didn't know English till 88. So that's most of that decade of US pop culture I wasn't really around for. I can imagine that if Star Wars had hit me within that period, I could've loved it. (It's certainly better than the Thundercats my 7-year old self loved....) But my parents were (and still are) totally uninterested in pop culture so they never took us to the movies or hardly ever rented any for us. So even after Americanizing, I was still pretty oblivious to a lot of movies in particular. But I did read. And when my brother got me LOTR for my 10th or 11th birthday (best present ever!!), I totally fell in love. I can't recall for sure but I think it was after LOTR that I started regularly reading other fantasy & sci-fi and I think that after the grandeur and majesty of Tolkien, Star Wars just looked.....lame. I probably didn't have the opportunity to see SW until I was a teen and by that point, SW looked pretty darn uncool. I mean, C3P0 for goodness' sakes........


(As an aside, since it came up, I loved The Silmarillion both times I read it though it's certainly a hard book to get through. It's perhaps LOTR's greatest achievement that even if you don't know that the book The Silmarillion exists (which I didn't for a long time), you can feel that those "unattainable vistas" are really there. It was thus no real surprise to find that the "vistas" in The Silmarillion were so richly beautiful. It's equally unsurprising to me that, when George pulled back the curtain on SW's vistas, there wasn't much there worth seeing.)

PS - I always thought this was hilarious:



:P

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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:23 pm 
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I apologize for guessing so wrong, yov! And I completely agree that Star Wars is science fantasy, not science fiction in the full legal sense. ;) But the elements of it I responded to were the SF ones—the space travel, the lightsabers, the aliens and weird planets (though I got tired of the "entire planet with a single climate and ecosystem" thing by the time I watched Empire). I could accept the Force as the price of admission. :P

(And please, sometime, thank your brother for giving you LoTR back then. If you'd never found Tolkien, we would never have gotten to know you, and that would have been a loss! :shock: )

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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 Post subject: Re: IMDB Top 250 films
PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:48 pm 
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I realized today that it was never the space ships and aliens that appealed to me. Those were fine but to me, the draw was always putting humans in new, unusual situations and thinking what would happen that caught my imagination. Like trying to deal with a homicidal AI alone in space a la 2001. Terrifying! :shock: (I like stories about AI a lot. Did you see last years Ex Machina?) In that sense, it didn't much matter to me whether the chase scenes were on horse or car or spaceship. Though if I had to pick, I'd probably pick the spaceship. 8)


And I will be sure to thank my brother on your behalf! :D :love:

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