Browsing all articles tagged with George Lucas

A cloying, cynical trailer…you know, for kids.

It’s hard not to be a little bit disturbed by this ‘child-friendly’ trailer for The Phantom Menace. George Lucas already has millions of flesh-covered piggybanks walking the earth in Star Wars Adidas trainers does he really need to assimilate the next generation too? A generation that – judging by the tone of this trailer – was born at least 5 years after the summer of 1999 caused grown men to fill their Slurpee cups with salty tears upon witnessing the cruel violation of their childhood dreams through a hideous cacophony of computer effects, shit jokes (figuratively and literally) and poor acting.

It seems the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Via Badass Digest.

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Digital warlock: George Lucas (clothes added in post)

What really bugged me about the original release of Return of the Jedi were the doors to Jabba’s palace. I was only 5 when I saw this version and I remember someone on my row shouting ‘BULLSHIT!” very loudly when they saw the reverse of the doors after R2D2 and C3PO walk in. He then started crying and vomiting loudly. The whole of Cannon Cinemas smelt like Parma Violets and stomach acid. From that moment on, the audience was lost; if they couldn’t believe the exterior doors to Jabba’s lavish palace were that size then they’d hardly believe in a Rancor beast, would they? I felt in some ways that I lost my innocence that day, my childhood cruelly molested by Uncle George and his silly doors.

Lucas attempted to repair my childhood when he made the doors slightly larger in the third iteration of the special edition. Sure, I’d believe you could fit a smaller skiff through these doors but the onset of adulthood had left me with a cold and cynical nature. I didn’t really want to believe you could fit a smaller skiff through – let alone the full-girth of the Master’s sail barge with those pig-men stood on top. Yeah, I was dead inside. But thank the maker for the fifth pass on Blu-Ray. George has made the doors massive and I now look back on the film with a warm fuzzy glow. You could fit anything through those bastards. ANYTHING. It also emphasises the impressiveness of Jabba before you even meet him for the second time, because nothing says don’t fuck with the owner like ‘my doors is bigger than yours.’ Holla!

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Original release: The search for doors

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Third special edition: door-ish

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Blu-Ray: BAM! Doors.

More subtle alterations are done later on in the new release of the film: When Luke is electrocuted by the Emperor, after revealing to Darth Vader that he is his son (OMG SPOILZ!), I always thought it daft of Darth Vader to just stand there. People probably have their own ideas about what was going on; I like to think that maybe Vader didn’t see anything, because he was wearing a giant bucket on his head and because it’s later revealed that he’s about 170, so his eyes are probably fucked. Anyway, like Yoda says, “doubt leads to arguments, arguments lead to fights, fights lead to nuff probz”, so it’s only right for George Lucas to come back and stick his dick in the metaphorical mashed-potato, by adding a subtle audio enhancement that you probably won’t even notice, unless you’re really paying attention. Check-it:

In case you missed it

Your ears aren’t lying, he says ‘NOOOOOOOOOO’. It’s a neat addition and also ties the old films in with the original trilogy of Episodes I-III. There are so many people wearing stuff on their heads in the entire saga of seven films* that it can be confusing knowing who’s who. When Darth Vader shouts “NOOOOOOOOOO” in Episode VI it’s a neat tie-in to when that guy with the long hair in part 3 wakes up and can’t get the black bucket off his head and is all like “NOOOOOOOOOOOO” before walking into things and knocking them over. Ha ha. This is just great synergy from George Lucas, or as I like to call it: ‘cinemargy’.

* 1-6 + Episode 7: The Caravan of Courage, or ‘Campervan of Crap’ as it was sometimes known – despite being the second best entry to feature Ewoks. Maybe Uncle George should take a pass at that using his new maxim: “If it don’t blink, it don’t think.”

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Harrison Ford actually moves slower than this in the film.

One of the many benefits of having children is that your social life is dictated by the availability of family members / unwitting fools, making themselves available to babysit. So by the time I can make it to the picture house to watch the latest flickering thing of interest, early word is out and I can normally avoid the complete stinkers – though please permit me a moment to shake my fist in the general direction of Predators.

One significant bullet dodged was Indiana Jones 4. Although I wasn’t one of the thousands of people who staggered out into the summer sunshine of 2008 with levels of film-induced rage not seen since Richard Littlejohn watched a subtitled film about a man without a job, I knew that my moment of reckoning wouldn’t be too far away.

For the past two years it’s played on my subconscious like an upcoming visit to the dentist, reminding me that at some point in the not too distant future I’m going to have something horrible thrust down an unwilling orifice by an old man who appears happy and carefree but in reality is a joyless husk who gets pleasure from pissing on people’s (metaphorical) chips. And until I do, I’m never truly going to be happy.

Well this particular appointment was made this weekend, and like a visit to the dentist it left me with headaches, a slightly nauseous taste in the mouth and a feeling that I never want to go through the experience again. But unlike a visit to the dentist, I didn’t get a sticker afterwards to cheer me up. 

Age is undeniably the strongest theme in Indy 4, the protagonist is old, the makers are old and, like an old person, you’re not quite sure what just happened when it’s finished – though you can be sure that you’re not going to get that time back. Even more coincedentally,  the whole experience is akin to an OAP screening: relatively inoffensive but marked by a general lack of excitement and a curious smell of biscuits.

As famous ex-carpenters go, Harrison Ford is easily in the top 3 (between Jesus and Karen). Here he looks like he’d much rather be off planing a bookshelf than swinging a whip. Of course, it’s entirely possible that he’s been hanging around furniture so much that he’s adopted their way of life, like Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves or that bloke from Avatar who makes for an unconvincing screen star, even when standing next to a 9ft tall, blue cat-alien.

Indy moves so slowly from the outset, an action scene set in the warehouse from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, that it’s like Spielberg used ‘lethargy’ as a motivational buzzword, then played the resultant footage back at half speed, but not before spiking Ford with Ambien, covering him in wet cement and filming the whole thing in a tank filled with treacle.

Even the return of Marion, Indy’s flame from Raiders, fails to raise the pulse of the star and the viewer, probably because the once former, feisty love-interest  now looks like she keeps too many cats. There’s barely an ounce of the spark that made her such a pleasure to watch all those years ago and that is a heartbreak in itself.

Indy and Marion’s reunion, which should be a cause for all-inclusive mutual celebration, only serves to remind of the passing of time, human frailty and the transient nature of all living things. Basically, the exact opposite of what you should be getting from a film featuring the ‘Indiana Jones’ prefix – unless of course it was followed by ‘and the 21 Grams’. And if you’re going to hand over the reigns to Alejandro González Iñárritu you’re going to need some piss-funny computer generated monkeys to distract you from the resultant misery.

Which brings us to another failing of Indy 4: the inevitable prevalence of CGI

For several years, The Berg and Ford told anyone who would listen (and that was basically EVERYONE)  that George Lucas was holding up the film because he thought that the script wasn’t ready. Well, anyone who’s seen a George Lucas film from the past 25 years would know that this theory doesn’t hold much water. It’s like Shymalan’s latest being credited to Alan ‘Night’ Smithee for having too many plot twists and decent performances. Unless of course the writers were receiving pages back from George with ‘Morr poo jokez’, and ‘Howard duck heer’ scribbled on the page in (computer-generated) crayon.

But like the poo jokes themselves, the evident reproach in any conversation featuring ‘George Lucas’ and ‘CGI’ is old hat and, despite a tidal wave of criticism, this emperor is not about to (digitally) alter his clothes – and not because checked shirts are finally hip again.

A few months ago, when conversing with a colleague about favourite films, he argued the case for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even after I countered “but there’s no shark, or Rutger Hauer on a rooftop in his underpants”, he explained that in his opinion Raiders takes the mantle, not because it offers any semblance of a deeper theme but because it’s a well-polished piece of entertainment with every scene offering a perfect mix of humour, surprise, adventure and strong characterisation. If you took the film apart, like a stick of rock you’d find the same elements running through each scene. It’s deceptively simple and fulfills its obligations to the viewer spectacularly.

In Indy 4 you’ll find similar consistency but only in so much as nearly every scene offers an old person, rubbish CGI and more flapping than an episode of ‘Springwatch Nights’. If it offers anything resembling positivity it’s a tick in the box marked ‘Yes, I now agree with euthanasia’.

Age in itself isn’t an issue; it never stopped Pat Morita (well, until it STOPPED, stopped him) and Danny Glover made something of a career out of being too old for varying degrees of shit. The real tragedy with Indy 4 isn’t that he got old, it’s that he lost his dignity. And if you’ve ever fallen off a chair with your pants around your ankles, you’ll know that dignity isn’t something that can be easily regained. So perhaps it’s time for Indy to say goodnight for good.

My suggestion is for one last adventure. A flight across the map with the dotted red line leading to a nice little clinic in Switzerland. There, surrounded by his loved ones: Marion, ‘Shitty Beef’ and a comedy CGI rodent, he can lay in a private room and go to sleep, forever, with his hat on to avoid any unwelcome spin-offs. At least they won’t have to look far to find someone who could craft a lovely pine box.

Good night Indy. Please don’t come back.

What a gwaan

What a’gwaan?

The main problem with Robin Hood 2010 is not necessarily Russell Crowe’s accent, which veers from a low-rent impression of Fred Trueman from the Indoor League, to broad scouse, before taking a wrong turn up a Jamaican patois cul-de-sac; it’s not even the fact that by now Ridley Scott has been back to the medieval well so much that he seems to have caught creative leprosy from the water, and could theoretically direct a castle siege in his sleep (and probably did – lulz).

No, the real problem is the fact that when going for a theoretically realistic retelling, of what is quite clearly bollocks, they decided to cast Russell Crowe. Now, suspension of disbelief plays a large part in any cinematic entertainment but when you have someone who is in medieval terms, and putting it as politely as possible, is not so much reaching his twilight years as wondering where the light’s gone, playing a common archer you can’t help but feel that he’s perhaps been kept back in the ‘special group’ for a few years.

If archery were studied at degree level, you get the impression that Russell Crowe’s character is about to take his attempt at an NVQ into double figures. Then again, he’s really good with a bow and arrow, so maybe he’s only recently taken it up, like old people who volunteer for work in their retirement. That would make sense I suppose.

Digressions aside, I kind of enjoyed the film, despite the age and accent of the lead, the fact that the merry men’s personalities were so interchangeable they were more like a bearded hydra, obsessed with ale, song and wenchery; despite the ride of the midget army at the end – and basically, the end itself.

I think if the problems of the film are symptomatic of anything it’s when the major creative forces on a film are allowed to do whatever they want, because, short of hiring a music video director, there is no surer way of creating a cinematic shark sandwich.

Of course the example of this phenomena that’s so text book it should be given its own ‘ism’, is George Lucas, whose ‘Lucasism’ was to return from a 20 year directorial break with The Phantom Menace. By producing Howard the Duck and not a lot else in the interim, he wasn’t spending all this time working on the script and VFX, he was essentially taking an extended gap year – though I’ve had friends spend a single gap year more productively, and all they did was blow up a cow with a rocket launcher and investigate the lady-boy paradox before (or maybe after) going mental.

Another, more tragic case of Lucasi-sm is Peter Jackson, who not only managed to make elves cool but also broke the curse of the third part of a trilogy being total balls and helping to create one of the best visual effects of all time: Orlando Bloom appearing to have screen presence. But when he’s earned the right to do whatever he wished, he came back with King Kong, which despite being half-decent, was needlessly over-long and featured a dinosaur chase sequence that was so poor, it appeared to have been created using the world’s largest treadmill and the processing muscle of a computer bearing Alan Sugar’s company logo.

Following Gladiator, Ridley and Russell’s return must have seemed as impressive on paper as it is in alliteration. And with a reputation of assaulting workers in the service industry, what would Crowe do to a well-paid film producer were they to dare suggest that Robin Hood probably didn’t sound like Bubbler Ranx in a Lilt advert?

Now I’m not suggesting that film producers should solely have their way, but if the creative forces can be reigned in by money men with occasional interjections of common sense then we may get more enjoyable films. But with news of Mafia Wars and Ice Road Truckers films being green-lit then perhaps common sense, as a commodity in Hollywood, is rarer than finding the word ‘good’ in their eventual reviews.