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For the release of the three original (albeit updated) films in the
Star Wars series, this documentary was provided as the main extra on a
fourth DVD. Starting with the difficult production of Star Wars and
looking at the completely unexpected success it turned out to be, we
examine the making of the two sequels, the puppets, the effects and the
actors with recollections and insight from cast and crew.
At the start of this documentary it appeared to be heading down a very bad road where it looked at the national mood at the time the original film was being produced; it appeared to be suggesting that the film itself was a major event and was some sort of saviour of the world! Now, the influence and knock-on effect of Star Wars in the film industry is undeniable but if the documentary was going to be just a big love-in then I would have struggled to finish it. Fortunately the film manages to move away from this for the majority and the slight tone of awe and respect afforded to the films can perhaps be forgiven. Likewise the film avoids any significant dissent aside from some of the crew acknowledging that they didn't share Lucas' vision or like the film they were making (but admit they were wrong); but it brushes over things like Guinness' dislike for even the finished film and the cold direction by Lucas and never lets anyone ever share stories that could come across as damaging.
However, outside of these minor complaints the documentary is an impressive look at the films in a mostly very interesting and honest way. Back stories, personal memories, personal experiences, onset trouble and footage from the production all combine to produce a story that is very interesting and full of nuggets to the point where I could easily sit and watch it again. Of course you probably need to be a Star Wars fan to care about such things but, considering this was provided as a companion to the three films, then it is more than likely playing to a friendly crowd. The involvement of so many of the cast and crew is a real bonus but I would have liked a bit more from some of them for example I would have liked to hear something from Prowse, considering he thought he was a central character only to find himself totally dubbed out of the film! Lucas himself is a bit full of his own self-importance and the documentary does get better with Empire and Jedi because his contributions are reduced to make way for the other directors.
The film touches on Phantom Menace but wisely says nothing of it. In fact the documentary does shed light on why Menace may have failed as a film at one point in the writing of Star Wars, one contributor says that the Force had to be carefully written to be present but to never be too serious or heavy or it would suck the fun out of the film. This made me smile because I believe that the weight of self-importance is a major reason that Menace is lacking in entertainment value. Overall this is an impressive documentary that looks at so many issues that it will be difficult to be bored by it sound effects, visual effects, writing, production, casting, marketing, development, studio pressures and so on it is a must for fans and it puts to shame many of the ten minute "making of" featurettes that pass for documentaries on some dvds.
I have also seen a 90 minute version of this documentary, which was
shown on the brilliant Biography channel. Although I had doubts about
buying the soon to be released trilogy on DVD, the documentary has
certainly whetted my appetite, and made me eager to see the complete
version which will be included on the fourth disc of the set. Even for
someone as knowledge about the Star Wars movies and George Lucas as I
am, it was still very entertaining, and contained quite a few never
before seen out-takes from all the films. The programme features the
problems that Lucas had with 20th Century Fox execs (apart from Alan
Ladd jnr, who greenlit Star Wars) when the movie ran over budget and
missed it's Christmas 1976 opening date, the '...hippies...' at ILM who
hadn't completed any decent effects shots Lucas could use, and the
destruction of sets in Tunisia which halted filming temporarily. There
are also interviews with most of the original cast members - even
Harrison Ford who certainly doesn't enjoy doing them, which is no big
These edited highlights I've described, have left me hankering for more.
I watch this movie as both entertainment and education. If there was
ever a film that so thoroughly covers the making of a classic, bears
all and leaves you wanting it to be longer than its 2 1/2 hour length,
it is this.
First, it offers a breakdown of Lucas' roots, inspirations and student films. It glides over his personal life, barely mentioning how he met and married his wife, and tastefully omits the divorce Lucas endured as a result of his investment of time into Skywalker Ranch, instead of his marriage. The editor allows us to hear Lucas begin to talk about it, and then fades it off. It was painful the first time, and he probably should't have to relive it with his fans.
The same Bonus Disc contains a shorter documentary that features today's best movie directors discussing how SW influenced them. There is not a finer documentary made about the process of film-making.
The documentary almost takes a detour into propaganda when THX and Pixar come up, but then we realize that Lucas was the guy all of these entities was born from, or developed from. Today's movie editing software is born from Lucas' struggle to make 1970's equipment and people work for him.
A must-viewing for anyone serious about the craft or the profession.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nearly 30 years ago in a galaxy far far away, George Lucas forever
altered the cinematic landscape of science fiction with "Star Wars." A
memorizing fairytale, and by now legendary intergalactic epic from
which all subsequent like-minded endeavors have had to live up to,
"Star Wars" was the story of the son of a Jedi Knight, Luke Skywalker
(Mark Hamill) and his quest to rid the galaxy of an evil empire and
Darth Vader. That Han Solo (Harrison Ford) slowly began to emerge as
everyone's favorite heartthrob (particularly in "The Empire Strikes
Back") didn't seem to hamper Lucas' initial desire to tell a good story
especially since Princess Leila (Carrie Fisher) was actually Luke's
sister and therefore definitely 'out' as a love interest for the young
and viral Jedi in training. But I digress. With its strident overtones
of son eclipsing father in "The Return of the Jedi" Lucas' space saga
fully realized the box office potential of trilogies. Buttressed by
spellbinding special effects, script scenarios that seemed to improve
in leaps and bounds with each new installment, and a near mythological
following akin to "Star Trekkies," "Star Wars" became that rarified
cinematic sensation; a marketer's wet dream. John William's masterful
main title and subsequent scoring forever changed the musical landscape
of contemporary movies for the better. One needs only to hear the first
few bars of music to find instant connection with a film history
steeped in the great composers of Hollywood past.
"Star Wars" also made George Lucas a very, very rich (if conflicted) man, and, gave him a cottage industry to fall back on during his less lucrative career in the late 80s and early 90s. That in recent times fans of the first three films in the series have expressed their overwhelming outrage at the director's need to insert new computer generated footage and "update" his film classics is a bone of contention that has been well documented in print and on the web. Press releases from on high at Lucas Films LTD have used the logic that Star Wars in totem belongs to its creator. Hence, if the creator is dissatisfied with his work he has every right to go back and "fix" what he feels is inadequate.
However, while no one can dispute that it was Lucas' initial genius that created the legacy, it does seem, at least to this reviewer, that Herr Director relinquished his own personal rights as to what is or isn't a good film after he bestowed that greatness onto the collective memory of movie audiences. After re-releasing the trilogy in theaters in the early 1990s, the films went into moratorium so that Lucas could devote his time and effort to producing the last three (actually the first three). Yet, despite his overwhelming advancements in film technology, none of Lucas' subsequent installments have come anywhere close to recapturing the magic of the first trilogy.
And now, at last, audiences get to witness the reason why Star Wars redux pales in comparison to Star Wars proper on DVD. These new hi-def transfers are, in a word, mind-blowing. The images are pristine and exhibit a surreal amount of clarity, depth and fine detail. Film grain is practically non-existent for an image so smooth you'll swear you're in the same galaxy with Luke and Co. Colors are rich, vibrant and bold. Flesh tones are miraculously true to life. Blacks are deep and solid. The enhanced sequences in the film have a much more integrated feel to them than they did in theaters in the 90s. Of the three films, Star Wars exhibits the most improvement in video quality. "Return of the Jedi" in direct comparison seems a tad weak, particularly in the scenes on Endor in which the forest foliage has a decidedly muddy/too grainy feel to it. (Aside: the image is still astounding compared to anything you've likely seen before. Compression artifacts are present but do not distract. There's no hint of edge enhancement or pixelization. The audio for all three films has been cleaned up considerably. Though all three soundtracks are decidedly the product of outdated sound equipment they are remarkably engaging for films of their vintage and will surely NOT disappoint.
This collection comes with an extra disc loaded with bonus footage. There are vintage documentaries, new featurettes and a host of deleted scenes and outtakes to choose from. But if you're like this reviewer, ultimately these are mere icing on the cake. The real treat here is to finally have the Lucas legacy back in everyone's video library. May the force continue to live on!
Like most DVD fanatics I picked up the "Star Wars" boxset last
Christmas when it came out. I was disappointed, to be honest. Apart
from the fact that much more could have been included in terms of extra
content (did we need a video game demo taking up space on the fourth
disc?) it also didn't include the original versions of the films -
which, as far as I know, are those that practically everyone prefers.
Nevertheless this insightful and exhaustive documentary - which covers the entire pre-production through post-production phase of each original "Star Wars" film - almost redeems the DVD collection. Although it is fairly "full of itself" as IMDb commentator Bob the Moo notes, it DOES feature a good wealth of information - including some facts I hadn't heard about before (e.g. Jedi was given a fake working title so fans wouldn't sneak onto the set).
If you're a fan of "Star Wars," definitely check this out - if you don't want to dish out the cash, it's playing on A&E right now. But in my opinion it's not as great as it could have been because it falls victim to George Lucas' "cleanness" - we're led to believe "Star Wars" is the most important and defining event of the past century and that turned me off a bit.
This special starts before the original Star Wars, and after introducing Lucas and setting the scene for the time period, it takes us through the entire trilogy, with clips, interviews and behind the scenes footage en masse(I won't throw on the ever-ambiguous "and more" that is a common favorite to throw on DVD covers and the likes... believe me, if they've got something good to sell you, they know it, and they won't hesitate to tell you, "more" is like "interactive menus"... it makes nothing out of the ordinary sound like a real treat). Each main member of the cast, including Kenny Baker(R2D2), and Anthony Daniels(C3PO) - who sounds a lot like his character even when he's just speaking normally - and Peter Mayhew(Chewbacca). It has a good pace throughout, the version I watched was 90 minutes, and it never grew stale. It is edited expertly throughout. There is a solid flow to the documentary. It holds a lot of information, and the right amount of time is spent on it. The fun factor of this is achieved nicely, and without overshadowing what it is presenting. About the only person not brought in for an interview is David Prowse, who I suppose may still hold a grudge over not being told that they weren't going to use his voice(and if he knew that they were going to add in footage of Vader where his voice was still the one heard, in this special(which... let's just say, doesn't exactly sound as powerful and terrifying as that of James Earl Jones, who is also interviewed in this)... well, he might have stayed away for that reason, I know I would). There is perhaps a bit of patting on the back going on, as the special mentions just *how many* nominations and wins the films got, and how important it was, and so on and so forth, but this doesn't keep it from being worth watching. I recommend this to any fan of the original trilogy. Heck, the anecdotes alone almost make the hour and a half worth it. 8/10
Interesting and informative documentary on the original trilogy, has
interviews with all the surviving creators and stars of the films, and
much behind the scenes footage, anecdotes, and trivia that fans love.
Pretty exhaustive and extensive look at how the films were conceived and directed, the casting process, evolution of the groundbreaking visual effects that so captured the imagination of children, the memorable music that kids hummed in schoolyards as they re-enacted their favorite characters and battles, and the costume making process for the familiar alien characters like the droids C3PO, R2D2, and Chewbacca, not to mention Darth Vader!
On the original Special Edition DVD set, this is worth watching.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a huge Star Wars fan and I had recently seen this on television. Since I had seen it I decided to comment on it. Remember, though, I had seen the television version, not the longer DVD version of this documentary. There are fun interviews in this documentary, and this includes some interesting details about the making of the first three Star Wars film. They do talk about Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, but not much. This documentary was made before Revenge of the Sith.
Here is the basis of this documentary. It is basically the history behind the infamous Star Wars movies. George Lucas and the rest of the cast and crew talk about how the movies came to be. There were difficult hardships, including the intense heat in the desert sequence, from the cold winter in the snow sequence in the Empire Strikes Back. They also talk about the slew of awards that Star Wars won, and the records that it shattered.
Overall, this is a fun-filled documentary to watch. Some of the facts about Star Wars are also really interesting to hear about. For example, Frank Oz, who is the puppeteer for Yoda, accidentally breaks and shatters the Yoda head, so they have to make a brand-new one. Also, in the Empire Strikes Back the crew were snowed in a hotel so Mark Hamill, who plays Luke, had to go out in the freezing cold alone. I also like the fact that the director and the producers told nobody that Vader was Luke's father. Anyway, this is an enjoyable documentary to watch if you are a fan of the Star Wars trilogy.
Recommended Titles: Star Wars.
This documentary about the making-of the Star Wars trilogy makes one
realize how much of a miracle it was that the original film was made at
all. A myriad of problems beset George Lucas and his collaborators
during production and few predicted the film would be as big as it
Empire of Dreams (2004) is a generally good documentary. It goes in-depth with the production of the first film especially. The best asset is the plethora of archive footage, which is wonderful to see.
I'm not sure if this is the definitive behind-the-scenes SW. The majority of Empire of Dreams (2004) focuses its attention on Star Wars (1977) and lavishes a good deal of attention on The Empire Strikes Back (1980), virtually ignoring Return of the Jedi (1983). You're probably better off with JW Rinzler's Star Wars books, which give each film in the trilogy equal attention and go into an almost day-by-day record of the productions.
Empire of Dreams is also quite uncritical and there are several moments when as much extreme praise is showered upon George Lucas as possible, bordering on nauseating. Marcia Lucas, whose contributions to the film were important, is quickly glossed over. She and David Prowse (the physical performance of Darth Vader) were not interviewed due to having rather rocky relationships with George. There's also a plug for those wretched special editions, with their intrusive CG additions and narrative tampering.
Is this necessary viewing? Not really, but Star Wars fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes footage.
All, Like many of you, I'm a fan of Star Wars. Since I was born in
1977, I'm what you might call a Star Wars baby. At least that is what
my mother told me. Star Wars has been a part of my life for years.
Times have changed, but I remember feeling like the characters in Star Wars were friends who I was on a journey with. Do you know the feeling? Like, if I'm watching Empire Strikes Back, or if I happen to stumble onto it on some random channel, I have to immediately watch Return of the Jedi.
A few years ago, while at dinner with friends. A cinematographer asked me what my greatest movie experience was. Without a doubt, Return of the Jedi's opening scene, where Darth Vader walks down the plank... I remember the audience's ovation.
The movies were fun then. When Return of the Jedi was released, I remember Vader's opening scene and the long lines. The lines for Jedi where ridiculous.
Like many of you, I was expecting to feel the same magic, when the last three movies were released. It didn't happen. I could be wrong, but I think the most exciting thing to happen in the Star Wars universe, within the last 15 years, has to be the Phantom Menace TRAILER. I remember downloading this trailer from Kazaa and hearing the audience going crazy. For a split second, when I watched the trailer back in 99, it was 1983 all over again.
As the years have passed, I've grown attached to films with similar themes. The hero, who takes off on a journey and has a similar quest to Luke. A few years ago, I sought out the writer of another favorite film, The Last Dragon.
The writer, Louis Venosta revealed to me, that Joseph Campbell's book, A Hero With a Thousand Faces, was an intricate part of his writing. I had never heard of Campbell until this time. I would learn that Campbell was the author who influenced Lucas. In fact, Campbell has said that Lucas was his greatest student.
After reading several of Campbell's books and meeting with Venosta, I thought about writing the sequel to the Last Dragon, but then realized that I needed to write my own story.
As a native New Yorker, and someone who could have lost his life during 9/11, I felt that a story needed to be made. A new myth. I finished writing my first book in 2008. Over the last few years, I couldn't figure out how to get the story out to the people who needed and wanted to read it.
Like many of you, I hate all of the remakes. I was watching EMPIRE OF DREAMS, the documentary of the Star Wars films and I see a comparison between the time when Star Wars was made and the current state of affairs in the United States today. When I was selling my book on the streets of New York, a passerby told me that there weren't any new stories since the Matrix.
The name of my book is MASTERNEVER AND THE FLOW OF DEATH. You can download the entire book by visiting www.masternever.com I've included an entire soundtrack that accompanies the book. I hope you will download and enjoy the book.
I hope you don't mind me posting here. After writing a book and several screenplays, I want to connect with people who have similar interest. The rest of the Star Wars babies. Those waiting for a new myth.
I'm also posting here, because IMDb played a vital role in starting this journey four years ago. So, I've come full circle.
You can see me talking about this book, mythology and stories, but visiting this video.
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