Monday, August 16, 2010


I'd be remiss as a Star Wars blogger if I didn't note this item, which showed up at the Star Wars Celebration event last week. It's a brief scene that was cut from Return of the Jedi. Darth Vader is using the Force to contact Luke Skywalker, whom we see on Tatooine, finishing up his new lightsaber. This scene was to come immediately after the opening scene in the film (where Vader arrives on the Death Star II and tells Moff Jerjerrod that he'd best get construction going faster lest he get on the Emperor's bad side). In the finished film, the Death Star scene cuts to C-3PO and R2-D2 approaching Jabba's palace.

I've known of this scene's existence for years and wondered if it might show up someday, since the music for it was actually released in 1997 on the Special Edition of the Jedi score. It's a cool little tidbit that I'm not sure as to the reason for its cutting, as it's barely a minute long.

This was part of an announcement that the Star Wars films will be released on Blu-ray sometime next year. That's pretty cool, although I don't own a Blu-ray player and won't buy one just for this; I won't be getting a Blu-ray player until the current DVD player dies, mainly because I still do not see the overwhelming need for yet another digital media format. If I have Blu-ray by the time Star Wars comes out, great; if not, then I'll wait for both.

Apparently the original releases won't be part of the package, because they need a lot of restoration work. I'm generally fine with that. In truth, I haven't even watched the original releases since the Special Editions came out; with a couple of small exceptions, I'm generally OK with the changes Lucas and company made in 1997. It would be nice to have the originals out for archival reasons, though. Same reason I still have my theatrical cuts of the Lord of the Rings films, even though I don't watch them.

And of course, since this is George Lucas we're talking about, in every forum where I've seen discussion of Star Wars on Blu-ray, I see the same tired old kvetching about how "There goes Fat George again, double-dipping and making his fans buy his stuff all over again." That this is standard operating procedure for all of the movie industry is apparently no excuse when it comes to George Lucas, who literally can't win: "Why the hell isn't Star Wars on Blu-ray? Oh, it is? Well, thanks for the double-dip, you jerk!"

Oh well. I still love you, Uncle George!

(Oh, might as well mention this article on original Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz that I read a few days ago. Kurtz, it seems, is breaking silence, and frankly, he sounds rather like a bitter old man who is still angry that he didn't get his way all those years ago when George Lucas didn't want to make the version of Return of the Jedi that Kurtz did. But Geez, look at how Kurtz wanted things to go in the third film:

“We had an outline and George changed everything in it," Kurtz said. “Instead of bittersweet and poignant he wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy. The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”

The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.

Rescue Han Solo, only to kill him forty minutes later? End with the Rebel forces in tatters? Sounds like the ending of The Empire Strikes Back to me. And frankly, Lucas's desire for a happy and upbeat ending to Jedi shouldn't have come as a surprise, since Lucas was giving interviews in 1977 about how a big part of why he made Star Wars: A New Hope the way he did was that he was tired of depressing, dystopic movies that dominated the early 1970s. Plus, by this time Lucas had his notions for two trilogies, one telling the tale of Luke Skywalker and the other that of Anakin, much more firmly in his mind, even if he didn't have many details ironed out. He knew that the first trilogy would by definition end on the same note that Kurtz had wanted the second to end on, which would have seemed fairly silly.

I also note Kurtz's weird belief that Lucas refused to allow main characters to be killed off because of toy merchandising. Well, Yoda dies in Jedi, and that didn't stop Yoda figures from being made, did it? In fact, lots of movies that have action figures have figures of characters who die. This objection of Kurtz's makes zero sense; but then, I've never found the whole "Lucas decided that all he cares about is making toys" argument terribly convincing.

Finally, I reject his notion that making prequels is somehow "limiting" to story, presumably because we know how it ends. So what? People didn't flock to The Passion of the Christ out of suspense for its ending. I know how Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will end, but you'd better believe I'm seeing that movie. Knowing how a story ends is in no way an impediment to enjoying a story, or being able to tell it well. Kurtz should know that.

OK, now I'm done. Whew....)


Jason said...

My guess is that this scene was probably cut so that the reveal of Luke's new saber in the middle of a big action scene would be more of a crowd-pleaser. Also, maybe it wasn't an issue of runtime so much of pacing? Or of making Luke's eventual appearance at Jabba's palace more dramatic?

Re: the special editions vs. the unrevised originals, I know I'm something of a purist, but I dislike tinkering with acknowledged classics years after the fact simply on principle. I think we ought to let things be what they were, i.e., the best that could be made at the time they were made. Everybody loved Star Wars just the way it was for 20 years... but now suddenly in 1997 it needed to be fixed? I didn't get the logic then and I don't get it now. Spielberg has always hated Bruce the Shark, but he hasn't gone back and CGI'd Jaws, has he? I loathe the changes George made, for the most part, because I don't see that any of them were necessary, and many of them are just plain dumb. (I hate all the slapsticky bits in the new Mos Eisley scenes, for example.)

That said, I know some people like the changes or at least are indifferent to them. I wouldn't really care about the Special Eds if the originals were still available in a decent-quality transfer, just as the theatrical cuts of the Lord of the Rings movies and Blade Runner are. Again, it's the principle of thing, whether we're talking about "archival purposes" or simply because some of us want to see the SW trilogy we saw when we were kids; in my mind, the Special Editions are different movies.

Jason said...

Oh, as for the Kurtz interview, I didn't think he came across as particularly bitter or angry, so much as disappointed. He thinks the RotJ and the prequels could've been much more than they were and that they missed the mark. Hardly a minority opinion. And I think he regrets that a friendship and a professional relationship came to an end over creative differences.

For the record, I also reject the "only interested in toy sales" thing, and I do like RotJ as it exists. But I also think the alternate RotJ he describes could've been interesting and just as successful and satisfying, if it'd been done well. LotR doesn't exactly have a euphoric ending either, but we all loved it, right?

I remember this chain-email thing from years ago, kind of a precursor to blog memes, that described how you must be a certain age if you were still in your single-digit years when you saw SW, and thought the creatures were scary, and you were in your early teens when you saw RotJ and now you couldn't keep your eyes off Leia's bikini or Han Solo's butt. The point was that you were growing up, and your perceptions of the movies were changing. I think a lot of people don't believe the SW movies matured along with us, or that RotJ was a step backwards after the increased maturity of Empire. I'm wishy-washy on this subject; I could argue either side depending on my mood. But I certainly understand perspectives like Kurtz's, and, as I say, I think a more serious RotJ would've been interesting.

Jason said...

Incidentally, sorry to go on so much... it's obviously an emotional topic for me. :)

Kelly Sedinger said...

I know that Kurtz's views are hardly a minority opinion. That's kind of my problem with him: he's pretty much parroting the anti-Lucas line, very nearly word for word. The only thing missing is the "Lucas needs someone to tell him when his ideas suck" trope. It really did seem kind of bitter to me -- "I wanted to tell the story this way, he didn't, and so now I think everything he's done since then sucks."

True, everything lies in the execution, but his alternate-ROTJ sounds like quite a downer of a film, and Star Wars was never intended to be all that dark, in my view; even TESB is not without its goofy, nearly slapsticky moments. I get the idea that people wanted Star Wars to "grow up with them", but I'm not sure why they wanted this. I tend to love Star Wars because it really stayed true to what it was intended to be in the first place, even when it was out of style to be that.