1. Notification emails are working properly again. Please check your email spam folder and if you see any emails from the Cantina there, make sure to mark them as "Not Spam". This will help a lot to whitelist the emails and to stop them going to spam.
    Dismiss Notice
  2. IMPORTANT! To be able to create new threads and rate posts, you need to have at least 30 posts in The Cantina.
    Dismiss Notice
  3. Before posting a new thread, check the list with similar threads that will appear when you start typing the thread's title.
    Dismiss Notice

Lucas' Writing and Directing - What's Wrong?

Discussion in 'Prequel Trilogy' started by adamclark83, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. adamclark83

    adamclark83 Rebel General

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Posts:
    603
    Likes Received:
    705
    Trophy Points:
    4,737
    Credits:
    1,441
    Ratings:
    +1,074 / 39 / -16
    I've heard many people talk about how the prequels have wooden performances and dialogue, but how? George both wrote and directed A New Hope so how does his work on that movie compare with these?

    Is it because in Episode IV, he dealt more with the actors' performances whereas in the prequels he was just thinking of how great the visuals were going to be?
     
    • Like Like x 2
  2. Rebo

    Rebo Nearsighted Whill Guardian
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Posts:
    2,500
    Likes Received:
    4,586
    Trophy Points:
    14,747
    Credits:
    5,912
    Ratings:
    +7,302 / 99 / -40
    I'm not sure its as simple as he just had is head in the cloud about the effects.

    Lucas is an editor at heart. His concerns in the PT always seem to be about finding the right beat to cut on, and the right blocking to match teh G, and not always finding the best take for performance. On a movie like this, they may do 30-40 takes one each line with actors finding many different ways to try each piece of dialogue. Some bad, some good. From what I can gleam from special features and reports from those who have seen him work, he did fewer takes, and in the editing bay, acting was not his criteria for choosing a take. You can see this illustrated in Ep 1 special features as he cuts the escape from Naboo scene, cutting McGregrors performance and the pilot together from two completely different takes. When you watch that scene, you can see the disparity in performance. As if it doesn't quite go together. Making it feel fake or wooden.

    As for writing, I happen to think George is a great plot creator with very little ability of self criticize or filter his own work. ANH, was a streamlined story with simple snappy dialogue that came easy to Lucas as it was passion project. Its always harder to repeat something and recapture that magic a second time, so Lucas rightfully brought in help to assist in refining his scripts for the sequels. In the pT, he went back to doing it himself. Something I think he could have pulled off with smaller stories, but the PT movies were far more ambitious in their plot than the OT ever were. Any writer would have had a hard time making something that dense and complicated flow on screen. Combine that with intentional wooden dialogue to meet the style he was looking for, and it becomes easy to pick apart.

    In my mind, Lucas got in over his head and was unable to step back and see it. It was made more difficult because he was trying to walk a fine line of entertainment and quality, while creating a feel which can easily tip over into something that is hard to watch. If you are going to rty to create something new, with a feel that is foreign to modern audiences, you have to be at the very top of your game. It is possible. the faux Shakespearean dialogue of the LOTR trilogy comes to mind as a successful version of a similar problem. But Lucas was rusty, and possibly not up to the challenge without the assistance of a second writer in my opinion. And being surrounded by yes men like McCallum didn't help either. No one was there to say no, and Lucas couldn't say no to himself.

    In my mind, the PT was a fantastic and ambitions failure to create a new type of Hollywood blockbuster. It cam so very close to dancing on the right side of that line, but fell short because it needed some second opinions from someone who was willing to tell George when he had gone too far and when something might have strayed from intentionally wooden or purposely dense, into something that was no longer entertaining.

    But that's just my opinion.
     
    • Like Like x 4
    • Great Post Great Post x 3
  3. Jedi77-83

    Jedi77-83 Force Sensitive

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2014
    Posts:
    2,150
    Likes Received:
    3,968
    Trophy Points:
    13,687
    Credits:
    5,229
    Ratings:
    +6,111 / 170 / -36
    The Annotated Screenplays is a very interesting book that goes through the evolution of the OT line by line in the screenplay. It shows the original idea and what was changed whether it be a character, plot point, or line of dialogue.

    Here is a quote from Lucas about writing the first SW movie, "Dialogue has never been my strong point, so I asked my friends Williard Huyck & Gloria Katz to do a quick dialogue polish.

    If you read through the book it shows what lines Huyck/Katz changed as it has an asterisk next to it. I personally feel they added more humor.

    Here are some examples of revised lines:

    Han: that's because droids don't pull peoples arms out their sockets when they lose!

    The whole sequence of dialogue was changed where Luke tries to get Han to save Leia in the deathstar and says 'she's rich!' and the Chewy howls.

    The whole sequence of dialogue was changed where Han talks to the commander in the detention area, " We had a slight weapons malfunction.... Were all fine...how are you?"

    The bottom line is Lucas had much more collaboration on the OT then the PT and that where his flaws were exposed by trying to do everything in the PT.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Great Post Great Post x 1
    • Informative Informative x 1
  4. vinsanity

    vinsanity Rebelscum

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    125
    Likes Received:
    231
    Trophy Points:
    1,669
    Credits:
    753
    Ratings:
    +362 / 2 / -6
    He also had a better editor, Marcia Lucas was a much better director than Ben Burtt (which I love him but he should have stayed in sound department where he is the king), for me EPIV was a movie that was saved in the editing room.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Great Post Great Post x 1
  5. Jedi77-83

    Jedi77-83 Force Sensitive

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2014
    Posts:
    2,150
    Likes Received:
    3,968
    Trophy Points:
    13,687
    Credits:
    5,229
    Ratings:
    +6,111 / 170 / -36
    The Empire of Dreams documentary really shows how Richard Chew and Paul Hirsch took the movie and gave it some life and better pacing with quicker edits for every scene.

    I will continue to say Lucas is a big ideas guy similar to Steven Jobs, as the stuff he comes up for the SW universe is stuff we've never seen before. Its just when he starts to micromanage everything is when it falls off the rails.
     
    • Like Like x 3
    • Informative Informative x 1
  6. Pobody's Nerfect

    Pobody's Nerfect Jedi Commander

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Posts:
    642
    Likes Received:
    10,899
    Trophy Points:
    92,637
    Credits:
    21,474
    Ratings:
    +12,051 / 59 / -12
    The OT was my childhood. I built lightsabers and stormtrooper armor and collected the action figures. We re-enacted our favorite scenes at recess. I wrote horrible fan fiction, learned to mimic Vader's breathing and Yoda's talking, and pretended Mom's bathrobe was my Jedi cloak. I cut the Star Wars comic strip out of Dad's newspaper every day and taped them to a poster board.

    When we compare the PT to the OT we're not just comparing movies to movies. We're comparing the movie-going experiences, too, and no matter how good Lucas could have made them, no possible PT could have compared to my childhood.
     
    • Wise Wise x 1
  7. vinsanity

    vinsanity Rebelscum

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    125
    Likes Received:
    231
    Trophy Points:
    1,669
    Credits:
    753
    Ratings:
    +362 / 2 / -6
    That's why I'm hopeful for the Sequel Trilogy, Lucas wrote some outlines of ideas of he wants for the ST and let the other people ( JJ, Kennedy, Kasdan, Rian Johnson and others) develop his ideas into a more balanced and cohesive way.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Deadeye

    Deadeye Clone Commander

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    100
    Likes Received:
    145
    Trophy Points:
    417
    Credits:
    755
    Ratings:
    +248 / 14 / -3
    Great question and observation! Remember that when GL was originally casting Star Wars, he looked at GROUPS of actors to determine if there was good chemistry or not. I think that was brilliant, and I don't know if he did that in the preqilogy or not. But yes, I think you are right. ANH was about the story and the characters, and it worked. Getting away from the story and characters never improves a movie.

    For the prequels, George did cast good actors. Liam Neeson, Nataly Portman, Ewan McGregor, and Samuel L. Jackson are a-list actors IMO. So when the characters that those individuals play come off as wooden, or uninspired, the blame has to fall on the writing and/or directing.

    I think part of the problem is that GL took every single opportunity to use the most technologically advanced method throughout the entire process. So my guess is that his focus was more on the technical aspects of making the prequilogy instead of the character / story line aspects. Far too many scenes were filmed on green screens, with stand-ins who represented some CGI character. That puts a huge burden on the actor to visualize all the missing elements, making it too difficult to get into character. I honestly think GL felt like he could put out any thing "Star Wars" and have it succeed.

    Another consideration, the people who grew up on the OT were now adults (in 1999), and GL needed to direct his efforts at a more mature audience. Instead he did the opposite and dumbed it down for kids. Here are some examples of that:

    1) Anakin was too young. Ponder what this 8 year old does, he builds C3PO out of spare parts from the junkyard. He builds a pod out of spare parts that is faster than than anything built by adults. He pilots said pod better than any other pilot in the pod race. He later hides in a Naboo fighter and accidentally starts it up, then accidentally flies it into orbit where the battle rages, then accidentally flies into the belly of the trade federation ship, and finally accidentally fires at the power plant destroying the ship. It's all so trite compared to the final battle in ANH and ROTJ. IIRC, there was a line from Anakin during the battle to the effect of "Let's try spinning, that usually works." Uhg, horrendous! The character of Anakin should have been set as a 17 or 18 year old to make his accomplishments seem more plausible.

    2) Jar Jar was clearly meant to pander to children. I cannot stand the character, but kids like it and that's clearly why it was done in the first place.

    3) Apparently for the purposes of keeping the violence to a minimum, trade federation robots fall apart (rendering them useless) if they so much as fall over. Look at the scenes were Obi Wan uses the force to push them down. This was done to "soften" the violence for children and it really detracted from the fighting scenes.

    4) In E2, C3POs head ends up on a trade federation droid during the big finally. Not funny unless you're a child.

    5) In E3, R2D2 defeats battle droids on Dooku's ship by spraying oil on them and lighting them on fire. That's weak...

    Here are other issues with the writing:

    1) Midi-Chlorians remove all the magic of the force, what was GL thinking?

    2) When Anakin is leaving his mother FOREVER, neither one seems too worked up over it. In real life there would be tears everywhere from both mother and child, to the point where they wouldn't be able to go through with it.

    3) The events of E2 are equally disturbing. Anakin riding around on a fat-azz-opotumus while frolicking with Queen Amidala in a pasture. Somewhere in there was the line "I wish I could wish my feeling away." Oh Lord help us.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Great Post Great Post x 1
    • Wise Wise x 1
  9. Deadeye

    Deadeye Clone Commander

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    100
    Likes Received:
    145
    Trophy Points:
    417
    Credits:
    755
    Ratings:
    +248 / 14 / -3
    Outstanding insights Max! I strongly agree with your point about George being surrounded by yes-men.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Qui-Riv-Brid

    Qui-Riv-Brid Rebelscum

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    115
    Likes Received:
    120
    Trophy Points:
    1,157
    Credits:
    605
    Ratings:
    +274 / 29 / -12
    They are wrong.

    What they really mean is that they wanted the same thing he did before. He already did that.

    I will repeat what I already wrote on this:

    The PT and OT characters are from different times and circumstances. This is totally intentional.
    There is no question that the OT characters are more relatable and easier to care about. Movies where the good guys are clearly good and the bad guys are clearly bad doing good and bad things and one side are the faces and the other side are the heels in wrestling terms is easy.

    The PT has good and bad but it's not so easy. The character cues and personality types that denotes good and bad are appropriately grey. In the PT we have Jedi and Queens, Senators, Chancellor, Counts etc who live in a different strata. They are the top class. They live in an age like Victorian England. They don't show their emotions easily. They are bound by duty and form and class. It's a more civilized age.

    In this world no one can fully be trusted. Yes the Jedi are good but flawed. They want to maintain a status quo that is corrupt in the first place. Palpatine is the bad guy but much of what he wants actually is "good" from a certain point of view. He can bring peace but to do that he starts a war and his "peace" will destroy and enslave the many to benefit the few which really is not so different from what the Republic is doing already in many ways though not with the killer edge but one of neglect and inaction.

    I can relate to Anakin's plight. He and Padme are the most relatable people because they are the young people who rebel against the form of their elders. They have their secret love and Anakin questions those around him. He's part right and part wrong. He's right in many ways but goes about it the wrong way plus of course he, like everyone else in the films, is totally played by Palpatine.

    Some people say they wish Anakin was like Luke. Well he is like Luke in some ways but I think that a repeat of Luke would have been totally wrong. This difference was the point. Luke had a great destiny but didn't know it until he was about 20. Anakin found out at 9 he was this Chosen One and knew how ultra powerful he would become. Luke is like Peter Parker becoming Spider-Man while Anakin is if his school bully Flash Thompson became Spider-Man. IIRC Flash later became Venom.

    The prequels tell a story that no one ever really does. It's about how the bad guy wins. Virtually every other movie or series of movies ever is about how the good guys win. Their win is inevitable. The only time the bad guy ever wins in those movies is if they are in charge already and/or it's seen in flashback. This time the villain's win in the inevitability. No matter what the heroes do we know they are doomed which goes against all story telling principles from the beginning of time where good triumphs over evil.
    In the normal course of events Anakin would overcome his fears for Padme, rise to the occasion and at some point even after even maybe first turning to the Dark Side go back to the light. So for example let's say ROTS plays out exactly the same but Anakin does leap over Obi-Wan cuts him down but holds off killing him right away. Then he brings Obi-Wan back to the ship as the Emperor arrives. Then he truly sees what he's done to Padme and Obi-Wan. Maybe Padme even dies and then her loss taps into the good left in him then he battles the Emperor sacrifices himself by taking them both into the lava. That is your traditional cathartic ending.

    Nonsense. He barely dealt with the actor's performances at all in the OT. In the PT he was far better at working with them. The actors ARE part of the visuals. Star Wars movies were always done in a "silent movie" form.
     
    • Great Post Great Post x 3
    • Clouded Clouded x 1
  11. Rebo

    Rebo Nearsighted Whill Guardian
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Posts:
    2,500
    Likes Received:
    4,586
    Trophy Points:
    14,747
    Credits:
    5,912
    Ratings:
    +7,302 / 99 / -40
    I agree with nearly everything you say here as to George's intent for the PT, but I still don't think he executed on that intent. There is a fine line between intentionally stuffy and stiff, and wooden and lifeless acting. It takes a refined and nuanced touch to walk that line, and I think the PT was just a bit too clumsy to stick the perfect landing that an ambitious effort like the one you describe requires.

    You reference Victorian England as a basis for the performances. To that I would respond that there are plenty of movies that take place in Victorian England that pull off a balance of drama and realism inside the stuffiness and repression that the era requires. Its a difficult thing to do, to appear stiff while still conveying emotion. It takes a lot of talent from the actor, awareness from the director, and refinement from the editor to pull off.

    Lastly, lets not all pretend that the PT was the first time movies were made where the heroes lose. There is a long tradition of the tragedy in drama in general, but also specifically in movies. Its not usually attempted in a blockbuster, but its not completely unheard of.

    In the end, for what he was attempting, I commend Lucas. It was always going to be a tough sell for all the reasons you mention. Everything needed to fall into place perfectly for it to work, and in the end I just think it fell short. But I still appreciate the ambition he had.
     
    • Great Post Great Post x 1
  12. Jedi77-83

    Jedi77-83 Force Sensitive

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2014
    Posts:
    2,150
    Likes Received:
    3,968
    Trophy Points:
    13,687
    Credits:
    5,229
    Ratings:
    +6,111 / 170 / -36
    Please stop repeating this nonsense that the PT is the only movie that the bad guys win.

    Braveheart & Gladiator are Academy Award winning movies where the bad guys win in the end. Goodfellas & The Godfather are movies ABOUT the bad guys. Heck, the Bad News Bears has an ending where the good guys lose!
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Great Post Great Post x 1
  13. Pobody's Nerfect

    Pobody's Nerfect Jedi Commander

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Posts:
    642
    Likes Received:
    10,899
    Trophy Points:
    92,637
    Credits:
    21,474
    Ratings:
    +12,051 / 59 / -12
    This just occurred to me, so it's not very polished or flushed out yet, but how does George Lucas measure whether a movie is good?

    Academy Awards and critical acclaim? By that metric, the original Star Wars was a failure.

    A ridiculously loyal fan base? That might be part of it.

    Money? Yeah, that's probably a big part of it. I suspect any director would rather make a crappy hit than an artistically brilliant flop, because everyone remembers hits and nobody remembers flops. I also suspect no director would ever admit this.

    But what if George Lucas' measure of success is toys? I don't know the numbers, but I think I remember hearing that Lucas made far more money on Star Wars merchandise than he ever did on the movies. And what director wouldn't want to see his fan base fall so in love with the universe he created that they buy memorabilia as a way to revisit that universe?

    We know that George Lucas changed Episode VI so that Han didn't sacrifice himself because Lucas was afraid nobody would want to play with a "dead Han" action figure, so it's certainly possible that Lucas altered a good prequal story into a mediocre one just to sell more toys and Halloween costumes.

    Seriously, what if the whole Prequal trilogy was a vehicle to make Star Wars merchandise the powerhouse it was in the early eighties again? Could that have been a major part of Lucas' reason for dozens of intricate space ships, locations, and costumes instead of dozens of good actors and good lines? Could the problem with the Prequals be that the movies were crafted as advertisements for merchandise?
     
  14. Deadeye

    Deadeye Clone Commander

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    100
    Likes Received:
    145
    Trophy Points:
    417
    Credits:
    755
    Ratings:
    +248 / 14 / -3
    This might very well be possible.

    At the time (1983), my friends and I complained bitterly about the Ewoks knowing full well they were in the movie only to sell more toys. We were ticked off by that aspect of ROTJ, because it compromised the integrity of the film. We felt as though each aspect of ANH and ESB were done to make the finished product as good as possible. And we wanted the final film to be of the same calibre and it wasn't. Don't get me wrong, ROTJ had it's own excellence that we all enjoyed. But the purity no longer existed.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. adamclark83

    adamclark83 Rebel General

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2014
    Posts:
    603
    Likes Received:
    705
    Trophy Points:
    4,737
    Credits:
    1,441
    Ratings:
    +1,074 / 39 / -16
    During the making of Empire, I think I remember reading that GL said to Irvin: "You work with the actors in getting the best performances, and let me worry about the visuals."
     
  16. Deadeye

    Deadeye Clone Commander

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    100
    Likes Received:
    145
    Trophy Points:
    417
    Credits:
    755
    Ratings:
    +248 / 14 / -3
    I reject your theory.

    Many films have the bad guys win. Many films deal with upper class snobs who behave according to strict social convention. And many such films are quite entertaining. Those two things are not what people who dislike the prequels complain about.

    We complain about poor writing, poor dialogue, less than top notch acting, pandering to children, product placement (toys), and overuse of CGI. None of that is a complaint about the subject matter. Everyone knew going into it that Anakin turns evil and kills a bunch of Jedi. Everyone knew Palpatine wins out. No one cared about that, we wanted QUALITY film making. That quality was not present, and many, many fans have voiced their displeasure.

    Please don't accuse those who dislike the PT of wanting the OT instead and being too dumb to realize it. I assure you I have had numerous conversations with people who are intelligent and articulate about on this matter. The shortcomings are not imagined. GL did a poor job.
     
    • Like Like x 2
    • Great Post Great Post x 1
  17. Deadeye

    Deadeye Clone Commander

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    100
    Likes Received:
    145
    Trophy Points:
    417
    Credits:
    755
    Ratings:
    +248 / 14 / -3
    Yes, GL to his credit brought in Irvin Kershner and Lawrence Kasdan specifically to bolster the character development within the film. It was great decision and I applaud GL for having the smarts to do it. ESB made this franchise every bit as much as ANH. It did so because it showed that ANH wasn't a flash in the pan. It showed that the characters we loved from ANH could be further developed and consequently loved even more by the fans. It showed us an upward progression that made us excited for the future films. 1980 was the absolute pinnacle of Star Wars.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Duke Groundrunner

    Duke Groundrunner Rebel Official

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Posts:
    1,056
    Likes Received:
    2,564
    Trophy Points:
    8,884
    Credits:
    5,237
    Ratings:
    +3,493 / 67 / -30
     
  19. DEKKA129

    DEKKA129 Professional Slinger of Balderdash
    Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2014
    Posts:
    723
    Likes Received:
    1,403
    Trophy Points:
    8,249
    Credits:
    2,314
    Ratings:
    +2,216 / 24 / -4
    I have always felt that the main problem with the PT was that George Lucas, by his own admission, isn't much of a writer. Its not so much that he's a bad writer, but more that he apparently genuinely dislikes writing.

    That he's not much of an actors' director certainly compounded the problem, but IMHO the real problem is that he doesn't love to write and yet was unwilling to bring somebody onboard to write the prequel screenplays who DID love to write. Because if you don't love it, you're not going to do it that well.

    And I think the results speak for themselves. There were some good ideas in there, and even a few genuinely good scenes (Palpatine's attempts to set the hook in Anakin during the opera house scene in ROTS, for instance!) but overall the whole thing was marred by dialogue bad enough to make the OT screenplays read like Steinbeck by comparison, by sloppy continuity and by story construction that often seemed more like a "Mad Lib".

    And that's a shame, because Lucas did have some very good ideas for the PT (along with some fairly wretched ideas, granted) and had he hired a truly gifted screenwriter to help him to translate those ideas into a trio of solid scripts, rather than just feeling that he needed to do everything himself, I think the PT would have gone over a lot better with a lot more of the fanbase.

    But y'know, I understand where he was coming from. He got burned SO badly by the studios on Star Wars and then again on Empire, it's easy to see why he'd say, "Screw it... I'm doing it all myself." I don't blame him one bit for that. I just feel that he took it too far and lost one of the key factors that made his OT films so good: the cooperative effort.

    (Your mileage may vary, natch...)
     
    • Like Like x 1
  20. Darth Pimp

    Darth Pimp Rebel Trooper

    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2014
    Posts:
    65
    Likes Received:
    51
    Trophy Points:
    157
    Credits:
    411
    Ratings:
    +73 / 4 / -0
    My sentiments, almost exactly :cool: (and I'm not "in love" with the PT by any stretch of the imagination).

    Yeah sure but its all about the storyline and narrative perspective. In both Braveheart and Gladiator, the bad guy "wins" but the chief hero/protagonist(s) does not turn into the bad guy along with that result. Different ball of wax imho. Goodfellas and The Godfather aren't quite in any similar vein as the narrative of the PT :cool:. Let's be reasonable.
     
Loading...

Share This Page