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Topic: Why Star Wars should have stopped at just one film Locked Post Reply | Post New Topic
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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 25 May 2017 at 10:00am | IP Logged | 1  

One interesting article appeared on BBC this morning, for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, arguing that all subsequent films undermined the original

How do you see this argument?
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John Byrne

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Posted: 25 May 2017 at 11:25am | IP Logged | 2  

The original film was complete unto itself. The resolution promised by the opening crawl was achieved.

In order to "continue" the story, the filmmakers had to UNDO the first film. As time passed, this process continued, until the first film could no longer even fit into the chronology (which itself was vastly compressed).

There is no SEQUEL to STAR WARS. Only a series of more and more contrived rewrites.

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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 25 May 2017 at 2:57pm | IP Logged | 3  

Valid argument.

I've long said from a story standpoint, STAR WARS never needed a sequel.

And much of what followed diminishes the original.
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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 25 May 2017 at 4:29pm | IP Logged | 4  

I agree that the original film works well as a self-contained story.

However, I also have to admit that I warmed up somewhat to what George Lucas did with it all afterwards, once I realized what Disney has in mind for it (open-end episode storytelling, it seems...). 

As an experiment, I watched in a single day what became episodes 1-6 (I watched them in that particular order), to see if the story works. Episodes 1-3 were poorly executed on a number of fronts compared to 4-6, true, but if you watch the whole thing together, it becomes the story of Anakin Skywalker from birth to death (rise-fall-redemption) although with some uneven pacing when observed from that particular perspective. However, it still works (more or less). Lucas even stated that he would call the potential supercut of those 6 films as a single long movie The Chosen One

I would be happy to take Star Wars (the original movie) as the whole thing, somewhat less enthusiastic to take "The Chosen One" (episodes 1-6) as the whole thing - but so far, I have no idea what to make, story-wise, of episodes 7-9. 

Episode 7 is a typical soft reboot, similar to what J.J. did with Star Trek. Perhaps we will get a third meaning for the whole thing together at the end, and episodes 1-9 will end up being about R2D2 and C3PO - the only characters that will be in all nine movies. But I am not holding my breath there.          
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Steven Myers
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Posted: 25 May 2017 at 5:34pm | IP Logged | 5  

I have to think Darth Vader surviving the final battle made sequels possible as it left something unresolved. Fans would always have griped about this had there never been a sequel.
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John Byrne

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Posted: 25 May 2017 at 6:36pm | IP Logged | 6  

Vader's escape left the door open for a sequel -- just not THAT sequel.
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John Popa
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Posted: 30 May 2017 at 6:20am | IP Logged | 7  

Generally speaking, all sequels undermine the original, unless the original intent is to do a series. "Star Wars" is a complete story - the plot resolves and the characters have full, dramatic arcs. Everything afterward, regardless of its quality, is surplus to the cause.

In my delusional paradise of a world, a successful story in any medium leads people to seek out other works in similar genres or by the same creators, not just sequels and prequels of the same thing.

I guess I do believe I fairy tales :)

Edited by John Popa on 30 May 2017 at 6:23am
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 30 May 2017 at 8:46am | IP Logged | 8  

Well, according to Lucas's commentary on the film (which I watched for the first time the other day), he'd originally written the story for all three Star Wars films as one script over 200 pages in length. Later, he realized he could focus on just the first part of the script to make "Star Wars." He borrowed the Death Star finale from late in the script, transplanting it to the end of this first film, but otherwise, it all was pretty much in place from the get-go. The father reveal, the brother/sister relationship, Obi-Wan's misdirection... All of it. Even the skeleton for the prequels was in the background notes he'd developed for all of the characters. :-)

He says that he'd always hoped to go back later and try to scrape up the cash to make the other two films, but since that was unlikely, he just concentrated on the one he was making at the time. When it hit big, well, that meant the other two could be made, but really, the creative intent was always for a series of films to tell the full story. 

It was odd hearing him talk about Luke falling in love with the beautiful princess and the brother/sister reveal in the same breath, as if he himself still doesn't recognize what a discordant note that strikes...

One would hope that if any of this is true, he would have written certain scenes differently to make their "original intent" more clear...

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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 30 May 2017 at 10:32am | IP Logged | 9  

There is no consistency in Lucas' statements over the years on all this, unfortunately. The same issue exists with others involved as well. 

For example Mark Hamill stated that Lucas told him back in 1976, while they were filming Star Wars in Tunisia, that four Star Wars trilogies (12 movies in total) were planned (see here).

Here is George Lucas a few years later, in 1980, in his own words (from Prevue magazine): 

"I took the screenplay and divided it into three stories, and rewrote the first one. As I was writing, I came up with some ideas for a film about robots, with no humans in it. When I got to working on the Wookiee, I thought of a film just about Wookiees, nothing else. So, for a time, I had a couple of odd movies with just those characters.Then, I had the other two films, which were essentially split into three parts each, two trilogies. When the smoke cleared, I said, 'This is really great. I'll do another trilogy that takes place after this.' I had three trilogies of nine films, and then another couple of odd films. Essentially, there were twelve films."

If I am reading this right in 1980 he has talking about 9 episodes and 3 non-episode anthology films, again for a grand total of 12.

Fast forward to 2008, Total Film interview: 

"I've left pretty explicit instructions for there not to be any more features. There will definitely be no Episodes VII–IX. That's because there isn't any story. I mean, I never thought of anything. And now there have been novels about the events after Episode VI, which isn't at all what I would have done with it. The Star Wars story is really the tragedy of Darth Vader. That is the story. Once Vader dies, he doesn't come back to life, the Emperor doesn't get cloned and Luke doesn't get married..."

Most recently Lucas was in the news because he apparently completed story treatments for episodes 7-9 and handed them over to Disney as part of the overall franchise sale - only to discover that Disney decided not to use them (there was no obligation to do so as part of the transfer agreement, for better or for worse). What his vision was for episodes 7-9 remains a mystery locked in Disney vaults many Star Wars fans are now obsessing about, but if I had to make an educated guess here, I would say it was probably three films about a third generation of Skywalkers going through the familiar motions (i.e. Anakin the grandfather, Luke the father, a now Luke's and/or alternatively Leia's children - three generations and three trilogies).

At the end of the day, I am not sure what to make of it all...  


Edited by Aleksandar Petrovic on 30 May 2017 at 10:51am
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 30 May 2017 at 10:37am | IP Logged | 10  

If we buy into Lucas having the first three movies planned out, then yes, the Luke and Leia thing is disturbing. Luke clearly being attracted to Leia and the peck "for luck" in STAR WARS could be dismissed easily enough.

But then, to continue the "romantic triangle" into EMPIRE, with Leia giving him a full-on long, deep kiss (admittedly, mostly to piss off Han) just makes things retroactively very icky with the reveal in JEDI.

Sure, the characters didn't know. But Lucas did, ostensibly, from page 1.


Edited by Brian Rhodes on 01 June 2017 at 9:54am
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 8:49am | IP Logged | 11  

Sequels were planned from the start, but Lucas figured it would be like pulling teeth to get them made, since STAR WARS was not likely to to be a big hit. If you want to see the original sequel plan, go read SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE, which was the first of two sequel novels that Lucas was working on with Alan Dean Foster, and would hopefully serve as the basis for a low-budget film. 

No Han Solo (Ford wasn't contracted for any sequels, unlike Hamill and Fisher, who had signed up for a trilogy), no big (or expensive) space battles. Just Luke and Leia racing against Imperial forces to get the Kiber Crystal.

In regards to Lucas' overall plan at this time, interviews and notes indicate that the trilogy would have followed a fairly traditional fairy-tale structure: Luke and Leia fall for each other, Luke defeats Vader and avenges his father, and the Empire is finally defeated for good. Remember, it should be noted that the opening crawl of STAR WARS was rewritten in post-production, and that the bit about the theft of the Death Star plans "restoring freedom to the galaxy" was likely added to button up the story.

Then, STAR WARS came out, and was the biggest hit of all time. Lucas immediately scrapped the modest sequel plans, and intended for an open-ended, non-linear, series of 12 anthology films, which would explore different aspects of the universe he'd created, to be helmed by various directors in various styles. However, once he got into the nuts and bolts of working on the first sequel--and hit upon the idea of Father Vader--he committed to a more more structured "Saga" of nine films/three trilogies. But, by only the third film (RETURN OF THE JEDI) he and the cast/crew were pretty burned out by the STAR WARS phenomenon, and so quickly wrapped everything up. He also loosely promised to one day return and make the prequel trilogy, if not the sequel trilogy.

When making the prequels, he further reworked the series into The Tragedy of Darth Vader, and dismissed the possibility doing of the sequel trilogy. Now, Disney owns everything, and is proceeding to make its counterfeit sequel trilogy, with no involvement from Lucas or the story treatments he came up with.


Anyway, Lucas has done more than a bit of whitewashing, when it comes to the story structure of the series. There's simply no way that the original trilogy as we know it sprang fully-formed into his head, and then got chopped into thirds. Every draft of the original STAR WARS represents a gradual refinement of the same basic, "rescue the Princess and destroy the Death Star" story that we know and love. 

Yes, Lucas wrote a lot of notes, and a great many names, ideas, and moments were recycled into all five subsequent films. The Ewok battle at the end of JEDI was a riff on an early ending of STAR WARS, with Wookiees attacking Imperial forces. This in itself was a riff on Lucas' ideas for APOCALYPSE NOW, with a primitive force defeating a technologically-superior army. Many of the ideas throughout the entire series are result of Lucas being willing to twist and retcon the story to include those ideas. Midichlorians were intended pretty much from the start, but Lucas didn't work the idea into a film until 1999. An evil character who ends up aiding the heroes was in early drafts of STAR WARS, but only found life in the third film, with Vader's "redemption". The Emperor was supposed to be a crooked, Nixon-esque politician, but ended up as a evil wizard-esque Force user, yet Lucas later managed to go back to the original idea via the dual identities of Palpatine/Darth Sidious in the prequels.

When you start breaking down the script drafts, story notes, and interviews, you see how it all slowly turned into what it is. Father Vader was a too-tempting retcon which gave birth to the prequel trilogy (which is why EMPIRE went from "Chapter II" to EPISODE V" after the idea was written into the script). Sister Leia served to quickly resolve the love triangle and explain who the "other" was, so Lucas could finish JEDI and just be done with it all. Yes, the notion of Luke having a twin sister existed at least as far back as EMPIRE, but Leia filling that role was purely a clumsy and icky retcon.


Edited by Greg Kirkman on 31 May 2017 at 10:04am
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John Byrne

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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 9:46am | IP Logged | 12  

…and explain who the "other" was…

••

I left EMPIRE assuming it was Vader. Still think that would have been a better way to go.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 10:01am | IP Logged | 13  

The fact that Lucas ended up having Vader be the one who killed the Emperor makes that even more of a lost opportunity!
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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 1:21pm | IP Logged | 14  

I do not believe for a second that George Lucas had a hidden scrapbook somewhere with the complete preconceived The Chosen One story arc inside (i.e. the tale of Anakin Skywalker's life from immaculate conception to redeemed force ghost, to be told as a good old serial comprising of six two-hour theatrical episodes) before the first day of shooting back in 1976. 

If that were the case, the whole thing would have been apparent from the very start. The logical thing there would be to call the entire project The Chosen One (why Star Wars?), to shoot Episode 1 as the initial movie in 1977 (who starts telling epic stories from the middle?), and assuming that first movie does not flop to keep going with the production of episodes 2-6 on a regular schedule until the story is fully told (otherwise what's the point?). 

The end result, production-wise, would have been similar to Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings, which you can genuinely watch as a single movie if you have 12 hours to spare (if you put his extended home editions together imagining them as a supercut of a serial, the length is similar to Star Wars Episodes 1-6 taken together). The whole thing (Episodes 1-6) would have worked without any consistency problems, there would be an overall look and feel of a single (long) production.

The same applies to an even more remote possibility that he had an untitled 9 episode serial preconceived, telling the story of three generations of Skywalkers, three episodes per generation but with some overarching idea that brings it all together.  

Instead - I think that George Lucas had a basic desire to do more than just a single movie back in 1976, but that he had to gave that 'more' an overarching meaning along the way. It was an improvisation stemming out of the original movie's success.           
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 2:15pm | IP Logged | 15  

Instead - I think that George Lucas had a basic desire to do more than just a single movie back in 1976, but that he had to gave that 'more' an overarching meaning along the way. It was an improvisation stemming out of the original movie's success.           
+++++++

Precisely. He had a bunch of ideas he wanted to explore, but the story structure itself was in constant flux. All sorts of wild ideas and tangents were bandied about in the story meetings. Ironically, the prequels were far more planned out from the start than was the original trilogy.

You can see the progression of his ambitions, as STAR WARS went from a risky proposition to a massive success. There were loose plans for a modest trilogy, which then ballooned into a 12-film anthology (Lucas needed to fund the construction of Skywalker Ranch and maintain independence from the studio system, remember), then settled on a more structured/serialized 9-film Saga, which then hit the wall of reality and fizzled out after only three films.

Of course, Lucas being a shy eccentric, it doesn't entirely surprise me that he'd try to maintain the myth that it was all planned out in advance, be it due to personal insecurities, or his wanting people to stay invested in each new chapter of the SAGA, rather than knowing he was making it up as he went along.
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John Byrne

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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 2:41pm | IP Logged | 16  

And it all started as FLASH GORDON. Or was that BUCK ROGERS?
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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 3:15pm | IP Logged | 17  

Regarding the prequel trilogy: now that we are in this Disney Star Wars era, in hindsight I do have some newly found respect for the prequels. 

I respect the fact that Lucas went for the new and unfamiliar there, rather than giving us more X-wings and walkers and TIEs (which is what most folks wanted and expected - and exactly what Disney now delivers). In contrast Lucas decided to explore new ground, not to go back. People did not like it, but I get his point entirely. 

I think the prequels turned out the way they did because Lucas simply waited too long to execute them. In those 16 years a lot of things changed, he changed, and a happier result would've been the final outcome if he went for it earlier (I write this without forgetting the burnout and saturation factor you mentioned, which must have been monumental by 1983). Indiana Jones ended up in that same boat, unfortunately.  

As for Lucas and the sequel trilogy - I never really contemplated on the effects of the internet age on the creators until I spotted John's reactions here to often dismissive and unfair New Visions reviews and comments on the web. Some of the stuff posted online even makes me cringe, and I simply on the consumer end here. There is no way that Lucas was not observing prequel trilogy reactions online, and discovering that after burning another decade of his life to make another trilogy he only succeeded in "retroactively ruining someone's childhood" (and similar). 

He not only gave up on making the sequel trilogy himself because of this (I think that we would be in the middle of it by now without People vs George Lucas and alike out there) - I am convinced that he sold Star Wars to Disney as a genuine "f--k you" to such fans.

Unfortunately for Lucas, Disney decided not to use his story treatments for the sequel trilogy (I think that he fully expected that), which only made him even more bitter.          
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 4:32pm | IP Logged | 18  

And it all started as FLASH GORDON. Or was that BUCK ROGERS?
+++++++

What sort of world would we now be living in if Lucas had acquired the rights to FLASH GORDON from Dino De Laurentiis? Or had made APOCALYPSE NOW instead of STAR WARS? The mind boggles!
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 31 May 2017 at 4:49pm | IP Logged | 19  

Regarding the prequel trilogy: now that we are in this Disney Star Wars era, in hindsight I do have some newly found respect for the prequels. 

I respect the fact that Lucas went for the new and unfamiliar there, rather than giving us more X-wings and walkers and TIEs (which is what most folks wanted and expected - and exactly what Disney now delivers). In contrast Lucas decided to explore new ground, not to go back. People did not like it, but I get his point entirely. 

I think the prequels turned out the way they did because Lucas simply waited too long to execute them. In those 16 years a lot of things changed, he changed, and a happier result would've been the final outcome if he went for it earlier (I write this without forgetting the burnout and saturation factor you mentioned, which must have been monumental by 1983). Indiana Jones ended up in that same boat, unfortunately.  
+++++++

I agree with all of this. I've become convinced that a large chunk of fandom simply wants nothing more than to live and relive the original STAR WARS experience--the same beloved moments and tropes, and the same anticipation and speculation in-between films. Lucas opened the door to a new age of STAR WARS and SW fandom with the prequels (despite fans' complaining, the prequels were still massively successful, and kicked off a whole new generation of merchandise and spin-offs), and now Disney is reaping the benefits and accolades, fairly or not. As I've often noted, I can't help but think that a good portion of the success of the new films comes down to fans having a bad case of STAR WARS blue-balls after the prequels didn't give them what they wanted, and Disney was more than eager to exploit that by lending a helping hand.

And I often wonder what would have happened had Lucas released EPISODE I in, say, 1986. Or even, say, 1993. Of course, his reasons for waiting were varied (getting divorced, raising his adopted kids, STAR WARS fatigue, wanting to do things which were technologically impossible in the 1980s), but I still wonder what would have happened.

Despite all of the fallout and negativity surrounding the prequels, I think a strong argument can be made that the prequels were, in their own way, just as game-changing as the original films. Digital characters, digital environments, digital cameras and theater projection. Internet fansites obsessed with leaking spoilers and spying on productions. The pre-release hype and marketing machine. These are all things which have become commonplace. I think a good chunk of the modern genre-film culture that we now live in can be traced to the technology, hype, and marketing surrounding the prequels.
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 01 June 2017 at 8:30pm | IP Logged | 20  

Its clear as hell that Lucas was making up most of the stuff as he went along, and didn't have everything planned ahead of time.

Personally, I'd like it if the prequels never happened, Boba Fett didn't exist, and the ending of ROTJ was different. It seems kind of lame that Vader is forgiven for all the evil he did just because he sacrifices himself to kill the Emperor, thereby saving Luke, and becames a Force ghost as Anakin. Even worse that the recent edit of ROTJ replaced Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christiansen as Anakin's ghost, yet left Obi-Wan and Yoda old. I get the symbolism (that Anakin more or less died when he became Vader), but I don't like it.

No prequels would spare us from Jar Jar, the since ignored `Midechlorians' bs, the whole backstory for Boba Fett, who is only popular because he looks cool (as they say in the Deadpool vs. Boba Fett episode of EPIC RAP BATTLES OF HISTORY: "Presenting the most overrated character than anyone ever saw."), and Anakin's backstory essentially making him look like a fool the way he turns to the dark side.

The least Lucas or Disney could do is order new edits of the prequels that remove the mention of Midechlorians and Vader yelling `NOOOOOOO!'






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Aleksandar Petrovic
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Posted: 02 June 2017 at 2:29pm | IP Logged | 21  

It is not just the lack of vintage George that I had in mind when I said that waiting for 16 years was too long. The fact that Ralph McQuarrie declined involvement with Episodes 1-3 because he run out of steam was the biggest overall handicap imo. I will forever wonder about that, what McQuarrie's designs for Episodes 1-3 would've looked like.

Star Wars is a visual feast, and some of the prequel design choices I truly found bewildering. First and foremost, basic Battle Droids. In you want to cow someone into submission (a planet) with a humanoid droid army, droids should really look like a fully metallic and overbuilt beefed-up version of the 1984 Terminator, with those nightmarish red eyes staring at you without blinking - and not like chicken on a stick... 

That said, I really liked the overall richer general look and feel of the pre-Empire era - that worked quite well to distinguish it from the oppressive sameness that comes later. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 02 June 2017 at 3:12pm | IP Logged | 22  

Star Wars is a visual feast, and some of the prequel design choices I truly found bewildering. First and foremost, basic Battle Droids. In you want to cow someone into submission (a planet) with a humanoid droid army, droids should really look like a fully metallic and overbuilt beefed-up version of the 1984 Terminator, with those nightmarish red eyes staring at you without blinking - and not like chicken on a stick...
+++++++++++++

I've never quite understood the criticism of the battle droids, since the serve an intentional story point. They're clumsy, inefficient, and depend on a central source that can be destroyed. Palpatine had intended for them to be his ready-made army once he took power, but they proved ineffective at Naboo. So, he rethought his plans, and put in the order for the clone army, since humans are more creative and more independent. And, cloned humans could still be programmed for obedience.

The battle droids (designed to look like skeletal versions of the original concept art of the Neimoidians--originally to be CG characters, themselves, but eventually realized as actors in masks) were supposed to be silly and non-threatening, in contrast to the clonetroopers/stormtroopers.

And, yeah, I'd love to have seen what McQuarrie would have done for the prequels, but I do rather like the style we got. It starts out clean, smooth, and artsy, then devolves into the mass-produced ships and weapons of the Empire.
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John Byrne

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Posted: 02 June 2017 at 3:19pm | IP Logged | 23  

I've never quite understood the criticism of the battle droids, since the serve an intentional story point. They're clumsy, inefficient, and depend on a central source that can be destroyed. Palpatine had intended for them to be his ready-made army once he took power, but they proved ineffective at Naboo. So, he rethought his plans, and put in the order for the clone army, since humans are more creative and more independent. And, cloned humans could still be programmed for obedience.

The battle droids (designed to look like skeletal versions of the original concept art of the Neimoidians--originally to be CG characters, themselves, but eventually realized as actors in masks) were supposed to be silly and non-threatening, in contrast to the clonetroopers/stormtroopers.

•••

Put down the kool-aid and back away from the table. Hands in sight.

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 02 June 2017 at 5:33pm | IP Logged | 24  

Put down the kool-aid and back away from the table. Hands in sight.
+++++++++++++

Y'see, that right there illustrates a point I've occasionally tried to make.

Lucas' story purpose for the battle droids is in there, plain as day. It's alluded to in dialogue within the films. He mentions it in DVD audio commentaries and interviews made at the time the films were released. I believe it's also mentioned in the ART OF and MAKING OF books. It's not as if I'm making stuff up to fix plot holes, or using after-the-fact novels and comics to fill in the blanks left by the films. It's a legitimate and interesting plot point, but it's just not spelled out directly within the films themselves.

But, because the battle droids didn't meet the fan expectation of being Cool New Robot Stormtroopers, their intended story purpose is snarkily dismissed and/or missed/ignored altogether.

I'm not trying to take sides, here. I just find it fascinating how much expectations and preconceptions affected the fan reception of the prequels. Ironically, the prequels are much more coherent as a three-film unit than the original trilogy ever was. Unlike the originals, they were planned out in advance, and they all work to tell a specific story. You can argue the success or failure of that story, and of the storytelling itself, but the intent absolutely was there. There's a logic which was worked out for plot points like the battle droids. You may not like or agree with it, but it's still there.

I think that two inherent problems with the prequels are the unlimited resources (creativity thrives on restrictions, after all), and the fact that Lucas is a brilliant idea-man, but has trouble connecting to audiences emotionally with his dialogue and direction of actors. The prequels have all sorts of interesting ideas and themes in them, but they're bogged down by the execution. It's a shame.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 02 June 2017 at 7:48pm | IP Logged | 25  

It's like listening to someone who's just come back from Bible Camp explaining how perfect and intricate Jesus's plan for all of us is, if we'd only just open our eyes and see it...

The robots looked silly. They were used as a consistent source of comedy relief. Intentionally. Right there, on the screen. Viewers are not somehow bad guys for asking what the result might have been if we'd been given enemies who weren't clowns. The fact that the ass-covering and self-justification for a bad choice were written into the margins of the script at the time doesn't make the choice more effective. At all.


Edited by Brian Hague on 02 June 2017 at 7:50pm
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