Star Wars: Episode
June 10, 1999
I am inclinded to agree with your comments about the old Lucas vs. the new Lucas.
Consider a little-known detail about Return of the Jedi: the movie originally called for a different ending. The original ending diverges from the revised version right after Lando launches his missiles at the Death Star reactor and then hauls ass just ahead of the massive fireball. The original script (from memory, but it's probably about 80% accurate) runs as follows...
Lando: I don't think we're going to make it.
Wedge: You'll make it, Gold Leader, just follow me.
Lando: I told Han I'd bring her back without a scratch. I hope that old pirate forgives me.
The Millenium Falcon goes whizzing out of the Death Star, the Death Star explodes, and the Falcon is destroyed with it. Back on Endor, Han looks up, striken, as he feels a part of his heart wrenched away (I don't know for sure about that last bit).
Instead, Lucas decided to go with the happier ending, where the Falcon makes it out fine and cruises away gloriously, complete with a little gleam on its hull.
My understanding, from a couple sources, is that the original ending was actually filmed, but they decided to redo it. I can't give you 100% confirmation on this, though.
On a side note, I've also heard from a couple sources that Harrison Ford got into a number of disagreements with George Lucas because Ford firmly believed that Han Solo should have died at the end of Jedi.
My personal opinion is that Solo should have been flying on the Falcon and he should have been blown up with the Death Star (and the whole sister thing should have been dropped to clear the way for Luke and Leia, but this isn't important). Han was basically the selfish mercenary type who gets caught up in the whole right vs. wrong struggle when he doesn't really want to get involved. This is all prevalent in the first two movies, but basically lost in the third. If they had kept that up, then Han ending up sacrificing himself for the rebellion would have been the ultimate irony and his ultimate redemption. After all, redemption is what Return of the Jedi, is about, no?
On the whole, though, I like Han, and deep inside I'm glad he didn't die. Luke is a whining brat.
Marco (Baltimore, MD)
Thank you! I didn't know that about The Return of the Jedi, but if true, it is an example of exactly what I'm talking about in my commentary. Sometime during the making of The Return of the Jedi, George Lucas changed. Being commercially successful, being politically correct, and appealing to children more than adults (rather than both equally) seemed to take precedence over creating a cohesive movie with artistic integrity. The Ewoks are of course the most obvious example of the changed Lucas. It's unfortunate.... I like your idea for a better ending to The Return of the Jedi.
June 13, 1999
Hi, Carlo! Great commentary! I was unaware of the information sent to you by Marco regarding the changes made to the end of Jedi. In retrospect, it doesn't surprise me a bit. I'd like to add this little note that many have now forgotten. The original title of Episode VI was REVENGE of the Jedi. It was changed shortly before the release (one-sheets and press materials had already been printed with the original title), because Lucas felt that it was inappropriate for the spiritually superior Jedi to seek "revenge." He thought that would send a bad message to kids. It certainly fits neatly with the other ways that Lucas seems to have bowed to calculation in his staging of every film that came after Empire Strikes Back. Rather than follow his natural instincts for drama and storytelling, he has transformed into a guy whose awareness of his position of influence over masses of young men drives him to gut his own work in service to the (supposedly) nobler cause of feeding them what he thinks they need. Yuck. Nobody over the age of two needs pablum. It may have nutritional value, but it's bland and boring to consume...just like The Phantom Menace.
Thanks for commenting! Return of the Jedi vs. Revenge of the Jedi.... it's amazing what a difference a syllable makes. I suppose that change by itself isn't a big deal, but when you add it to everything else, it helps support the theory that sometime during the making of Jedi, Lucas the Producer became more important than Lucas the Artist. I am fairly pessimistic about Lucas the Producer's ability to do justice to the story of how Anakin turns to the Dark SideI expect that he won't, but I fervently hope that I am wrong.
Note: Spunkee is a regular contributor to AboutFilm.Com.
June 11, 1999
I enjoyed reading your review, even though I disagreed with much of it. I liked the movie. It was fun. I was entertained. Maybe I'm not one to delve into complex analyses. But I'm not a child either. I do agree that this is basically a two hour exposition and that the next two films should be more satisfying to those who were so disappointed in this one.
I believe you missed one thing though. You stated that the phantom menace was Darth Maul. In my opinion, the phantom menace is Senator/Emperor Palpatine. His presence as both a younger man and the several scenes where he is shown in hologram as an older man serve to bracket the movie and provide foreshadowing for the next episode. Even the friend I attended the movie with noticed the physical resemblance between the Senator and the Emperor and came to the conclusion that this was the same person, without benefit of reading the cast lists.
Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your commentary and love the website. Thanks...
I suppose an unintended corollary of the arguments I made in my commentary is, "Only a child would enjoy The Phantom Menace." Obviously that's not true.... but I do wonder if people who enjoyed The Phantom Menace would have enjoyed it as much if it had not been part of the Star Wars universe. What do you think? Do you think it affected your perception of the movie? Regardless of whether it did or didn't, I'm happy that you enjoyed The Phantom Menace. I certainly don't want anybody to have an unpleasant experience at the movies; I just think that many are likely to be disappointed by this film.
Regarding my stating that the phantom menace was Darth Maul.... that was sloppy writing on my part. You're right--the phantom menace is the whole Sith conspiracy--which I comment on at length in my write-up--but I still think that Darth Maul should have been a bigger part of the movie. Even though he's not the primary villain, he is the primary hatchet man and the final confrontation is with him.
Thanks for continuing to take an interest!
June 13, 1999
I agree with much of what you said in your review. My only hope is that Lucas decides NOT to write and direct Episode 2. He needs to turn over control to someone with a fresher perspective on the movie. He seems to have been driven by commercial interests to make this movie, and it shows. You mentioned the pod race and how great it looked, that it had the feel of a video game. With that statement, you have summed up the entire purpose of the movie--it is a video game; in fact there are about three of the them on the market now, one of which uses the pod race as cover art.
Doesn't it seem too darn convenient to have all these marketable toys and games trying to capitalize on the movie? It's almost as if this was the whole point of the movie--to create some visual hook on which to hang all the wonderful toys and gizmos Mickey D and The Colonel and The Taco Dog want us to buy.
My only consolation in this whole matter is that the public isn't buying it hook, line and stinker. The latest box offices totals show that The Spy Who Shagged Me did THREE times The Phantom Menace numbers this weekend, taking the No. 1 spot. The Phantom Menace is actually down 21 percent from the prior week.
Despite P.T. Barnum's famous statement ("There's a sucker born every minute"), the general public seems to have the intelligence to distinguish between something that's good for good's sake, and worth supporting, and something that we should blindly accept (through mass marketing) as great and slavishly accept.
June 13, 1999
That's a nice review, Carlo (I enjoyed your Shakespeare in Love review as well). The only real problem I had with The Phantom Menace was the underdevelopment of the characters. Like you said, you can think of many adjectives to describe the original characters, here, there's next to nothing (aside from the all too obvious "heroic" for Qui-Gon). I suppose I didn't have a problem with Jake Lloyd, I thought he did a fine job, not fantastic, but good enough.
June 13, 1999
Fantastic review. My thoughts exactly (well, I disagree on Jar Jar. I liked him). Your review is worded so eloquently. It features some stuff I didn't even realize yet, but that are very true. My compliments on your Phantom Menace review.
BTTF-fan, amyqazz, datmo,
Thanks for the commentary on my commentary! Your compliments are very encouraging.
June 15, 1999
You're welcome. Your review is the best Phantom Menace review I've read anywhere and I've read TONS.
9 February 2000
I used to think emotional complexity was beyond any child actor as well, until Victoire Thivisol in Ponette and Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Two of the best performances of the decade. As for Jake Lloyd - he may be the worst child actor to ever step foot on a sound stage.
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