Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The STAR WARS Saga (article)

By Reymundo Salao

Star Wars has shook the foundation of Science Fiction and making motion pictures. It has become a cult saga that has a following all over the world. It has stood as one of the greatest sagas that has ever existed, much like Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, and The Matrix Saga. It has become almost a religion in the Geek community. And it has indeed become a "Geek Religion" for more than 20 years. The Star Wars saga began in 1977 when an Indie filmmaker named George Lucas braved the mainstream with something completely different at the time. It was a time when the trend was more on the classic romance movies, and grim noir adult action. The only successful sci-fi at the time were (the original) PLANET OF THE APES and the STAR TREK saga, both of which approached sci-fi in a very mature approach, cultish, and somewhat conservative. Both sci-fi sagas were charismatically successful, but never had the potential wholesome energy a blockbuster movie could generate. With the exception of those two sci-fi giants, the rest of the sci-fi movies were too bizarre to be popularly successful or were badly criticized as B-movies. A time when sci-fi was nothing more than childish fantasy or eye candy for weirdos. At the time, no film outfit would dare pour out a large amount of support for a sci-fi movie. But smalltime filmmaker George Lucas had a vision. A vision inspired by a mixture of classic contemporaries. He wanted a "Wizard of Oz" but not too childish. He wanted a Spaghetti Western, but not too adult-oriented. He wanted a war epic, but it wouldn't be just about guns and tanks, but swords, magic, and laser blasters as well. He wanted some philosophy on it, but not make it too serious and spiritual. He wanted it to be like a medieval fantasy like King Arthur or Lord of the Rings, but one that is set in a galaxy far, far away. Taking inspiration from Akira Kurasawa's "Hidden Fortress", "Seven Samurai", and Frank Herbert's classic novel "Dune", Lucas conceptualized the world of STAR WARS. It was a tall order to have it made into a film. His imagination was just too big to be satisfied. Nevertheless, he got his grant off 20th Century Fox and began filming STAR WARS. But even his friends were totally skeptical about the project, including his friend Francis Ford Coppolla. The filming of STAR WARS was hell. The set in Tunisia was ravaged by disasters. Some of his crew backed out in the middle of the project. And many of his cast members and extras were all convinced that the film was going to be a big flop. At the time of filming, it was a "failure" made out of a ridiculous concept that everybody was joking about. Even at the filming of the grand "medal ceremony" ending, some of the extras were giggling while filming was going in, thinking how "stupid" the film would be once they get to see it finished. George Lucas suffered physical and mental torment during the shooting of STAR WARS. Like the headstrong rebel that he is, he braved the hindrances and criticisms, and finished the film. On initial screenings by film critics of reputed media organizations, STARWARS was flunked with negative reviews, foreseeing an imminent box-office failure. Everything seemed to be dark, black, and hopeless…but when the film was released in 1977 for the general public to see it, it became a monumental success. At an instant, STAR WARS became the greatest film success in the history of motion picture.

It changed the way filmmaking was done. With the success of STAR WARS, it taught film companies to be more open-minded about how far they could stretch the boundaries of filmmaking. It was a time when the film companies never anymore underestimated the potentials of an indie mind.

STAR WARS was initially conceptualized as a long saga divided in numerous chapters. But at the time, Lucas and his crew were concerned of finishing just one movie. It was only after the success of the film, and when it was shown on extended run that Lucas and his team re-shot the intro inserting the "Episode IV: A New Hope" under the STAR WARS title, with indications that it was just one episode out of a larger saga.

Concerned that it would be difficult to act as director and producer at the same time of the next Star Wars movie, Lucas asked Irvin Kershner, whose works were more on character-driven dramas, to direct "The EMPIRE STRIKES BACK" If the first Star Wars was wholesome, energetic and somewhat campy, ESB (Empire Strikes Back) was romantic, thought-provoking, dark, and tragic. Criticisms had it that nobody expected a sequel could top the success of the first film. But ESB was not trying to repeat the style of the first Star Wars, it was taking it to a new direction. Like the second act of a play, it gets more interesting, gripping, and intriguing. In the storyline, all hell breaks loose: C3PO was destroyed, making him a talking living junk, Leia and Han Solo fall in love only to be captured by Vader and having Han tortured and being put to carbon freeze, it's ending has a failed rescue attempt with the frozen Han successfully abducted by his enemies. And there is the shock that instead of seeing a sword fight where the hero wins, the hero Luke Skywalker's hand gets lopped instead. To top it off, the villain reveals himself as the Luke's father. Never has any film dared to end on a tragic epilogue, with assurance that a third one was going to get made. EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, released 1980, not only caught up to the success of the first Star Wars, it has overtaken it, making it THE BEST Star Wars film in the entire saga.

In 1983 came the equally successful RETURN OF THE JEDI, which finally ended the trilogy… Until 1997 when the Trilogy was greatly re-mastered, refined, and re-released, and with it came the news that the untold first three episodes of the Star Wars saga was going to be made. In 1999 there was Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, in 2002 there was Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, and in 2005 there was Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. The "new trilogy" was disappointing to many purists, accusing Lucas to have become what he used to stand up against. He used to rage against the corporations, now, he IS the corporation. Nevertheless, STAR WARS continues to stand as the reputed Modern Myth that it is. And God knows how I'm fanatically crazy about the entire STAR WARS hype. The last and final installment (so far) of the Star Wars Saga is showing this week. STAR WARS Episode III REVENGE OF THE SITH opens May 19, 2005 See you at the movies!

Here I am with my ticket to the premiere of STAR WARS Episode III REVENGE OF THE SITH at SM CIty Iloilo City, May 18, 2005 at 10:00 PM (an hour advance compared to Manila's 11 PM premiere. And more than 2 days advance to the US Premiere at May 19, which is already May 20, Philippine time)

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