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April 17th, 2006
03:07 pm
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Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away
T-minus ten days. It feels like the last month has absolutely sped by; I can't believe how little I've been perched in front of a computer. All this gear buying and trip taking and trying to adjust to the fact that in a little over a week I won't see home for several months.

But not all of the time has been spent in obsessing over the upcoming trip. If nothing else, kadyg and I took some time off of planning and preparation last night to watch -- finally, for my first time -- the original Star Wars. (She may have been prodded by frameacloud's recent viewing.)

It was ... kind of disappointing.

I guess a certain part of this is that, after having not seen it for 29 years, and after having had it beat into my head through endless cultural reference, it had an impossibly high bar to leap. I mean, it's a movie that singlehandedly altered human entertainment expectation; spawned a universe and a dedicated fandom over the course of my whole lifetime; built the George Lucas empire; and created a generation of "Who would win in a fight - Han Solo or Captain Kirk?" arguments. On top of that, all of the most memorable lines are the ones that have been drummed into my head for decades, to the point where I was reciting lines like "Mos Eisley spaceport ... you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy" and "These aren't the droids you're looking for" along with the on-screen characters. They kind of lose their impact that way, although a certain "Oh, that's where they come from" cultural fascination remains.

It probably didn't help that I was watching the new remastered edition. Unfortunately, it was rather obvious which scenes were new and which were original. (Hey, look! Pretty CGI! Hey, look! 1970s Tron-line computer displays!) It kept jarring me out of my film absorption. Compounding this was the absolutely wretched, vile, hard-to-overstate-in-its-badness sound editing -- most of the movie, we had to crank the volume up to 11 to make out the dialogue or music, but new scenes would cut in ear-piercingly loud and clear. There may have been some necessary continuity fixes in the new edition, I guess, but beyond that, I can unambiguously say that everyone involved in the remastering should have been fired.

As in, out of a cannon, and not toward a safety net.

As a story, the film held together pretty well -- by George Lucas standards, anyway. In the entire Star Wars series, he seems to have a bad case of Storyteller's Voice -- jumping between the parts of the narrative he finds interesting without so much as a "meanwhile." (Am I the only person who is a little annoyed by the "Hey, we're skipping over three movies' worth of material, here's the backstory we didn't care about" nature of the opening credit rolls?) It's not as jarring in the original as it is in the newer ones, but you can still see the signs of the sloppy narrative shorthand that stands out to me as one of the series' trademarks.

Speaking as a first-time viewer in 2006, Star Wars' visuals were just ... dated. I regret that my instinct is to harsh on it, because in a few ways it's aged well, and because it really was one of the defining films that made science fiction cool. They did remarkably well for their time -- which makes it painful that the three prequels were made so recently, because the difference in eye candy was like night and day. After having seen the full glory of badass Yoda saber-fu, the 1970s light saber scenes made me wince; and I found myself shifting uncomfortably in my seat during the final, climactic Death Star battle as they kept cutting back and forth between the same three sequence shots. And the planet-sized explosions? Ick. The final scenes made me nostalgic for the old, vintage Star Wars arcade game, which strike me as a greater technical achievement (though admittedly through the soft haze of memory).

And speaking of dated ... "Greedo" the money-grubbing bounty hunter? "Porkins" the overweight rebel fighter pilot? *twitch* I guess it's good to know that as Lucas aged, at least his ham-handed stereotypes gained a little bit of weight in the deniability department. (... Er, or something.)

And so I find myself in the odd position of having finished Episode 4, looking forward to the last two with the same sort of odd trepidation I imagine many longtime fans felt after seeing Episode 1 and being slapped in the face with a wet Jar-Jar. Most fans swear by the original trilogy over the new trilogy ... I don't think I can agree at this point, although I'll reserve judgment until I can watch the other two movies.

Current Mood: blahkinda disappointed
Current Music: Asia, "Wildest Dreams"
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(12 comments | Leave a comment)

(Deleted comment)
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Date:April 18th, 2006 02:13 am (UTC)
Kendo artists, huh? Interesting. *practiced that for a couple months, more-or-less left in frustration, though she didn't intend to*

I'm trying to remember the last time I watched part of the original trillogy--I can't. It was recently enough that the contrast between then and now was jarring and noticeable, however. On the other hand, the first time I saw them was sometime in my youth, when bad special effects and acting are more easily forgiven or unnoticed. I'm still pretty forgiving of plot holes and the like, mostly interested in getting caught up in The Drama of The Story. We have the VHS tapes at home, maybe I'll rewatch it and add my own review to this growing trend

On the other hand, I've never seen the remastered edition, just parts of it here and there. I found the sudden addition of an expanded musical number to the--was the Mos Eisley cantina?--to be somewhat jarring. *That* wasn't what I remembered. It was kinda neat, music and dancing CG aliens and all, but...*different*.
Date:April 18th, 2006 04:38 am (UTC)
If you're going to be around Baycon, I'm going to be bringing my laserdisc player and the original trilogy in un-remastered widescreen glory. Watch it with us and feel the love.


Any chance of an innocent bystander wrangling an invite to this?
(Deleted comment)
Date:May 15th, 2006 03:17 am (UTC)
Is this close enough? ;-)
(Deleted comment)
Date:May 24th, 2006 03:25 pm (UTC)
Ha! My compatriots (the Traveller in SF crowd) will be in 350. I think I'll be able to find you. ;-) My hair will (time permitting) be purple, but otherwise this is what I look like.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 05:53 am (UTC)
Un-remastered widescreen laser disc glory? I'd be down with that.
You can find me snarking in the Jackal Lair.

And I'll be sure to go on and on to Bax about cool it all was.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 12:30 am (UTC)
Something that I've found fascinating to ponder since the prequels came out is how reactions to the story would differ for someone who saw the series in order 1-6 as opposed to someone who saw the last three first (or at least knew the big stuff like what becomes of Anakin). I can't watch the first movies without knowing exactly where everything's going, so it's an entirely different experience than it would be if I didn't know who was going to become villains or who wasn't around and was therefore going to die. I can't help but wonder how understanding of the plot and characters would be different if I'd learned the plots in sequential order.

From what I've heard of the remastered version, I count myself lucky to have the "new" VHS version that only has a few new scenes added as opposed to the DVDs that were released a few years ago. I've also got the originals on tape that I recorded when they were on the very first time I watched them in late elementary school.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC)
I don't think it's possible to have grown up in America without knowing who Darth Vader really is, and all the other spoilers that go along with the series' existence. But your larger point, about the difference in "first three first" vs. "original three first" moviegoers, is well taken.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 12:40 am (UTC)
I first learned the plot of episode IV in 4th grade when I read a summary of sorts (a book with a number of pictures from the movie and a very abbreviated telling of the story) and didn't know who Darth Vader was in relation to the other characters or who he had been until I saw episode V when I saw the series a year or two later.

I don't think adults could really watch the first ones without knowing the spoilers of the originals, but I do think that some older elementary- or middle-school-aged children could. Then again, I'm not sure what sort of example that sets, with a hero and potential role model becoming a villain. It seems somehow different to think about the first three as backstory rather than to think of the whole as being a continuous story.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 02:55 am (UTC)
We've got the original on video (pan-and-scan).

Fundamentally, the original, non-Special Edition is a vastly better movie than the Special Edition. Lucas basically decided to take his work and tinker with it until it sucked.

Yes, the Special Edition sucks. You are absolutely correct about that.

The original is cheesy, and Seventies, and incredibly predictable -- and a hell of a lot of fun.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC)
If it helps at all, Sir Alec Guiness gave an interview about how awful the Star Wars trilogy was, from an actor's point of view.

And truth be told, I don't think I really like Star Wars either, even from the cheesy 70s point of view.
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Date:April 18th, 2006 04:22 pm (UTC)
I had the same sense of "Is that all?" when I finally saw Indiana Jones a couple of years ago.
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Date:April 20th, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC)
*insertion of clever statement, as a placeholder to let you know I have added you to my friends list.*
I enjoyed our dinner last month.
Have a fun treck!
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