Thursday, March 27, 2008

Coming To A Galaxy Near You: More Clones

Ever since Obi Wan-Kenobi revealed in A New Hope, that he was a general in the Clone Wars, Star Wars fans obsessed about the meaning of this mysterious conflict. Were the Clone Wars a minor skirmish in the history of the galaxy or were they a series of long protracted battles that changed the face of the Republic forever?

Because of the Prequal Trilogy that we know that it is the later, yet George Lucas has only given us the book ends of the great war that brought down the Republic to usher in the dark times of the Empire. While, “Lucas has a lot of explaining to do,” according to Lou Ander’s comment to me in our interview for the British Science Fiction Association’s The Matrix, (OK, I’m name dropping, so sue me!), the “Great Plaid One” also has been brilliant at making millions of fans struggle with the mythological themes in a series subpar space opera fantasies, myself among them.

Lucas is brilliant at composing over-arching epic stories. Star Wars (from Episode I to Episode VI) is a sweeping, multigenerational, galaxy spanning, myth that deserves its great place in the annals of story telling history. Star Wars is one of the few modern tales that will probably be remembered for all time. Like the stories of Homer, though somewhat dated, the greatness of the story and characters’ challenges transcend mere annoyances like a plot that’s choppier than a stormy sea or dialogue that doesn’t sound like a cheese grater dragged across the side of your head. The problem is that with the details—Lucas, not so good.

Taken at face value, the Original Trilogy (OT) is uneven at best and the Prequal Trilogy (PT) is an absolute mess. But put them inside the bigger themes of good versus evil, redemption and fall from grace, and they shine like gold. What Lucas lacks is the restraint and nuance that comes with great scriptwriting and directing.

In the times when he allowed others to do their work, the results were brilliant. Costumes, Modeling, Special Effects, Character Concept and of course, John Williams’ Music were fantastic in the OT and PT. As a matter of fact, George Lucas’ infamous mantra of “faster, more intense” probably made each of these better than they would have been in the average film.

The Star Wars trilogies, for all their faults, all look and sound better than anything else out there. Lucas has a gifted sense of style when it comes to making movies; he was born to do it. His films just come together better than any others (Exception: Howard The Duck). Really, the Star Wars films do transport you to a galaxy far, far away and they are not just eye candy. Ironically the details in the design and production are outstanding, it’s just that Lucas doesn’t have that ear for dialogue, sense of character or attention to plot detail that is needed to make a great story rise above the rest.

Lucas has said before that the script writing process is painful to him. I can understand that. Writing is a tedious, unrewarding process. It takes you out of human contact and requires long hours of intense concentration, a talent that obviously, Lucas does not posses. (Faster, more intense!)

What he could have done was take his storyline and overarching tale and handed it over to another scriptwriter and director to play with. How sweet would it have been to see Steven Speilberg’s take on Episode II with all that old fashioned, action and adventure style? This is what made the OT so special. Lucas did direct the first movie (Episode IV) but that script was drastically rewritten. With Episode V and VI, he left it up to others to direct and write the scripts. Arguably, Episode VI is inferior to any of the others in the OT but it does have a very satisfying duel in the end, even more dramatic and emotional than the one at the end of Episode III.

Now with the entire six episodes laid bear, we are in for a very big treat. Coming this summer, Lucas will release a CG animated movie called, The Clone Wars to fill in the missing gap between Episode II and III. The movie will then be followed by a series on Cartoon Network.

At ShoWest, Lucas commandeered the stage with the help of six Clone troopers from the 501st Legion to introduce the Clone Wars movie and television series.

Here are some excerpts of what Lucas said from the Star Wars official website official blog:

It’s great to be back at Warner Brothers. I started here some 40 odd years ago. I made that exquisite hit before some of you were born called THX 1138. It was a huge hit. It played for a week. [laughs]

But now I’m back with something I think is really special. It started out as an idea to explore what happened during the Clone Wars. In Episode II, we see a little of the beginning of it. And in Episode III we just see the very end of it. We don’t actually get to see the whole spectacular battle.

This is really where it belongs — on the giant screen. It’s very new and different. It’s a little bit of anime, a lot of action and it’s exactly like the features only it’s more stylized. We have a new young character Ahsoka who’s a young teenage girl who turns out to be Anakin’s apprentice.

I think this film will hold up with the live action features. And I’m really excited to be able to bring it to you and I’m hoping that it will sell a lot of popcorn — because that’s actually what Star Wars is — one of the first popcorn pictures.

If you watched any of the Clone Wars cartoons that came out before Episode III, then you know that they were probably far superior to all three PT episodes and delivered where the PT lacked. Hopefully Lucas was able to sit back and let others do most of the heavy lifting, while he tweaked and pushed (faster, more intense!) the quality to the highest level.

I for one am looking forward to the animated Clone Wars movie and the series. I couldn’t ever imagine a time in my life when a new Star Wars motion picture is not either rumored to be coming (as was the case through most of the 1980s and 1990s) or on the horizon (the past decade). I hope that this is a quality film that makes enough dough to force Lucas back into the Ranch to keep producing Star Wars for as long as I live. That’s right George you can’t die until after I do.

Live long and prosper, Mr. Lucas! (Faster, more intense!)

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