Star Wars: Deleted Magic

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Garrett Gilchrist
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Re: Star Wars: Deleted Magic

Post: # 10015Post Garrett Gilchrist
Sun May 19, 2019 5:11 pm

The Phantom Menace came out 20 years ago today. Genuinely fun to watch in theaters, because at the time there had never been a movie like it. Obviously there's a lot wrong with the film, and my immediate reaction - and that of my friends - was to film a 2-hour parody that summer, entitled The Phantom Movie, in which I played about fifty-four roles.

George Lucas invented the blockbuster film as we know it, and with the prequels he did it again, inventing the CGI blockbuster. His films are bursting at the seams with ideas, trying to emulate the adventure movies he loved growing up, and pulling influences from all over.

There is an inventiveness to them, and a sheer weirdness, which is missing in the safer Star Wars films being made now, which largely retread old visual ideas.

George was and is a good idea man, and in the 70s he had a very good eye for editing. What he isn't, is a good writer/director. He has a tin ear for dialogue and could never direct actors. I once made a popular documentary called Star Wars: Deleted Magic, which was about how the footage shot onset for the original Star Wars didn't work, and how George, Marcia, Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew fixed it in the edit.

No one fixed The Phantom Menace in the edit. It moves slowly and awkwardly, with flat performances, despite the then-revolutionary effects. The prequels didn't get much better after that.

The general flatness of the film wouldn't have been a big problem if it moved more quickly to disguise that, as the first Star Wars did. There's just not a lot of "there" there.

But visually it was something entirely new - all the prequels were - and George was inventing that technology, awkwardly, on the fly. We'd never seen a CGI character like Jar Jar Binks before - as much as we wished we'd never see him again. We'd never seen environments like this, or a film pieced together digitally like this.

Actors weren't used to acting against greenscreen, and reacting to nothing, and it shows. Filmmakers have gotten better at that, as the technology has improved, and now every year, the big blockbusters accomplish the sort of greenscreen shooting and CGI spectacle that George was trying for. George invented it.

And for all the complaining about Attack of the Clones, Hollywood seems to remake the movie several times per year.

In 1977, and again in 1999, George Lucas was exactly the sort of nerd that the film industry needed.

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