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November 17, 2009: "Backlash" 
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
James Berardinelli wrote:
BANKA wrote:
Return of the Jedi is far from perfect but it isn't that far from perfect (the sarlacc pit battle and the Lando space battle are both awesome).


RotJ is one good movie (the Luke/Vader/Emperor stuff), one mediocre movie (Tatooine at the beginning), and one godawful movie (Endor) cobbled together into one. Parts of it cannot be re-watched without the use of the FF button. I don't have that problem with any of the other five movies.


Can't say that i agree with you, or that I ever will. Return of the Jedi is a quintessential part of my childhood, as well as a quintessential part of the Star Wars universe, without it the trilogy wouldn't be complete and I suppose that might have a hand in why I regard it with a lot more reverence than any of the prequels. You can't really say that any of the prequels are necessary for the series, especially considering how bad they are. Lucas claims that he had an important story to tell, but the final product suggests that that claim is questionable at best since the plot for the prequels feels like it was come up with on the fly. I would argue that the only to watch any of the first 2 prequels is to use the FF button the entire time, with heavy usage for most of Revenge of the Sith as well.


Wed Nov 18, 2009 3:42 pm
Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
I find that backlash is usually a product of different groups of filmgoers liking different things for different reasons. One group vociferously expresses their enthusiasm and the next group doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.

Big blockbuster events are a special case, though. The backlash comes in when unreasonably high expectations are inevitably let down. Many of the Star Wars fanboys, who never miss a chance to complain about the prequels, wouldn't have been satisfied by anything. They can deny it all they want, but it's true.


Wed Nov 18, 2009 4:49 pm
Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
I don't hate the prequels. They don't have the magic of the original trilogy and there are some real flaws in them but I think they are generally watchable. I have a lot of nostalgia invested in ROTJ but it is a bit of a let down.
My list:

1: V
2: IV
3: III
4: VI and I
5: II

Episode II I think is pretty close to godawful. Even the action scenes are too flimsy to redeem it, and the Anakan-Padme love scenes make me want to punch a baby. That being said, nothing could possibly approach the smut that is The Clone Wars


Wed Nov 18, 2009 4:51 pm
Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
thewatcher wrote:
I don't hate the prequels. They don't have the magic of the original trilogy and there are some real flaws in them but I think they are generally watchable. I have a lot of nostalgia invested in ROTJ but it is a bit of a let down.
My list:

1: V
2: IV
3: III
4: VI and I
5: II

Episode II I think is pretty close to godawful. Even the action scenes are too flimsy to redeem it, and the Anakan-Padme love scenes make me want to punch a baby. That being said, nothing could possibly approach the smut that is The Clone Wars


That's pretty much my ranking, though I don't find II godawful. The action and the clone army subplot work for me. And I'm able to get through the Anakin-Padme scenes by admiring Natalie Portman's wardrobe. :mrgreen:


Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:11 pm
Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
ShrunkenHead wrote:
thewatcher wrote:
I don't hate the prequels. They don't have the magic of the original trilogy and there are some real flaws in them but I think they are generally watchable. I have a lot of nostalgia invested in ROTJ but it is a bit of a let down.
My list:

1: V
2: IV
3: III
4: VI and I
5: II

Episode II I think is pretty close to godawful. Even the action scenes are too flimsy to redeem it, and the Anakan-Padme love scenes make me want to punch a baby. That being said, nothing could possibly approach the smut that is The Clone Wars


That's pretty much my ranking, though I don't find II godawful. The action and the clone army subplot work for me. And I'm able to get through the Anakin-Padme scenes by admiring Natalie Portman's wardrobe. :mrgreen:



lol how convenient that her shirt was torn in such a way


Wed Nov 18, 2009 6:09 pm
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Post What about The Dark Knight?
I've always wondered about this myself, this idea of backlash. I don't really know how and why it happens. One film I'm surprised you didn't mention was The Dark Knight. Although for the most part there was a resoundingly positive response, I found that a couple months after its initial release, you started to see grumblings from certain sectors of film criticism and certain groups of audiences. Jim Emerson is a perfect example (he also got on the backlash train against Slumdog Millionaire, but that story is a post for another day). I also talked to numerous people who saw it after the hype had reached its peak and the film had broken tons of Box Office records, etc., etc., telling me that, "It was okay. But it wasn't that great." The other thing I found was people trying to justify their dislike of the film with arguments that I found either unconvincing or outright silly, such as, "I didn't like the Joker's costume", or "I don't like the way Christian Bale talks when he's Batman". Those, of course, are some of the more ridiculous reasons I got. But all in all, it was interesting to watch people basically work to make the movie fall from grace.

By the time Oscar Nominations were announced, perhaps it shouldn't have been surprising that the film didn't get nominations for any major awards. I'm sure there were people on the nominating committee who thought exactly like those people I interacted with. It's truly unfortunate that such backlash exists. After seeing Paranormal Activity, I told my friends, "See it now if you're gonna see it at all. See it before the backlash begins." It was depressing to even advise them of such.

Oh, and on a completely different note, I wholeheartedly agree with you on your assessment of Return of the Jedi, James. Of course, from what I've heard, that was the first time that Lucas actually got complete creative control with the script. I doubt you would have seen the Ewoks had someone had a leash on him...

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Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:29 pm
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Post Re: What about The Dark Knight?
ChronoSpark wrote:
Oh, and on a completely different note, I wholeheartedly agree with you on your assessment of Return of the Jedi, James. Of course, from what I've heard, that was the first time that Lucas actually got complete creative control with the script. I doubt you would have seen the Ewoks had someone had a leash on him...
Lucas was in the driver's seat for the first Star Wars movie. That said, there are also strong rumors that he basically directed RotJ himself, from over Richard Marquand's shoulder.

My assessment of the prequels is that Episode II doesn't have enough material to sustain it and Episode III has way too much. Had the two been plotted a little more carefully, the balance would have done them a lot of good.

I find that Episode I comes closest to replicating the feel of the original trilogy. I think that as the prequels progressed, the demand was greater and greater for them to act as the bridge to the preexisting films, whereas Episode I just had to lay a little groundwork. The biggest flaw is that the Tatooine sequence in Episode I is almost entirely exposition. It takes away from the (excuse the expression) adventure and excitement of the rest of the movie.


Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:20 pm
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Post Re: What about The Dark Knight?
Ken wrote:
Lucas was in the driver's seat for the first Star Wars movie.

Perhaps, though I've heard that he was kept on a leash by the studio with things such as his script. I could very well be wrong about that, though.

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Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:11 pm
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Post Re: What about The Dark Knight?
ChronoSpark wrote:
Ken wrote:
Lucas was in the driver's seat for the first Star Wars movie.

Perhaps, though I've heard that he was kept on a leash by the studio with things such as his script. I could very well be wrong about that, though.


When Lucas made STAR WARS, he did it pretty much as an indie film with little or no studio interference. He sold the rights to Fox in order to finance it, but they didn't view it as anything more than a "filler" film and didn't care what he did with it as long as he didn't go over budget. EMPIRE was funded by Lucas (via his profits from SW merchandising). He retained ownership of the film, but contracted with Fox to distribute it. Ditto for RotJ. (From my perspective, the real difference-maker was Lawrence Kasdan. Although he is credited with co-writing RotJ, Lucas apparently did a major re-write of his script. With EMPIRE, that was not the case.)

It is widely accepted that Lucas directed all three films of the original trilogy, with Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand assisting him on EMPIRE and RotJ, respectively, and lending their names to the project because Lucas was in hot water with the DGA. because he violated their policy with respect to the credits for STAR WARS. By the time EMPIRE went into production, he had either been kicked out of the DGA or had resigned (I don't recall which) so he could have had major problems with the other unions because he would technically have been a "non-union director." By the time RotJ was released, Lucas had been re-admitted to the DGA, but I believe his issues with them were not resolved until after the film had started shooting. It is also widely believed that the real reason David Lynch turned down the opportunity to direct RotJ is because he didn't like the idea of Lucas looking over his shoulder. He wanted more creative control than Lucas was willing to cede.

Part of the agreement Lucas made with Fox to distribute the prequels is that Fox sold back the original STAR WARS to Lucas, so he now owns all six films.


Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:59 pm
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
The “Empire of Dreams” documentary on the “Star Wars” DVD set said Lucas quit the DGA,WGA and Motion Picture Association because he felt upset and persecuted for them going after himself and Irvin Kershner. There was some issue regarding not having the credits come at the beginning of the “Star Wars” movies, but having them come at the end.

The WGA and DGA allowed it for “Star Wars”, but they didn’t allow it for “Empire”. When Lucas put the credits at the end of “Empire”, he was fined and the DGA and WGA tried to pull “Empire” from theaters. The DGA also tried to go after Irvin Kershner so Lucas stepped in to pay all the fines and protect Kershner. The whole experience left him upset so he resigned from the DGA, WGA and Motion Picture Assocation. Because of his resignation, he wasn’t allowed to hire his original “Jedi” director choice, Steven Spielberg, so he had to choose the non-union director Richard Marquand.


Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:25 pm
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Post Re: What about The Dark Knight?
Thanks for that concise explanation, James. Really appreciate it. :)

I guess I don't have as much of a logical explanation for why Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are so superior, then. Oh well. I'll just accept that they are and not look for logical reasoning.

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Thu Nov 19, 2009 6:28 pm
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
Empire is my favorite because, quite simply, it's the most dramatically solid. It's a brilliant piece of storytelling that almost singlehandedly expands the scope of the Star Wars universe to mythological proportions. Jedi and the prequels deserve a little credit for that, but the lion's share goes to Empire. Had Star Wars stopped at one movie, if it had not been transformed by Empire, it would not be remembered nearly as fondly.

EDIT:

Oh yeah, I forgot. Empire has the best musical score as well. The Superman March is my favorite Williams composition, but the closing scene and end titles of Empire are damn close.


Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:25 pm
Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
I am gonna go and disagree with 2 points made by James. While I do acknowledge that Saving Private Ryan is a more deserving film than Shakespeare in Love, BY far the number of times I have watched SIL vs. SPR is numerous. SPR is far too much of an emotional ordeal to sit through too often, and SIL is light, breezy, has several fine performances and is multi-viewing watchable. I do not agree that it has faded. I would say it is in my personal top 200. SPR is as well, though not for its watchability.

Additionally, Titanic was awful for far more than melodrama and cheese. How about those very happy actors running through 35 degree water filling the boat as if they were running through a tropical island pool? The TERRIBLE acting of Billy Zane? The bad karma of Titanic is too huge to list. IMO it is up there with the worst choices of not only best picture but to even be nominated. If there were 10 best picture choices that year, it still shouldn't have made it. It was a billion dollar monstrosity.


Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:46 pm
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
"If Lucas had plans to make Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, they almost certainly have been scrapped by now. "

But I would argue the Clone Wars animated series is a fantastic piece of work (becoming more refined and polished as the second season progresses). So Lucas is seriously involved in the future of all things Star Wars, just not as movies.

Also, Ep1 is not a bad movie. It needs some editing for sure but bad? I don't see it. My kids love it (hate Jar Jar). They even love Ep2 (which left the good stuff out and left the not so good stuff in). The key is they love SW. They really love Clone Wars and the non creepy Anakin the show has developed (the Anakin character that should have been in the movies). The movies are for the young at heart which is always something hard for adults to keep as they grow older.


Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:44 pm
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
Actually, I think Lucas just OK'd the Clone Wars TV show and suggested that the pilot movie be release in theaters...which it was....with disastrous results.


Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:46 pm
Post Re: What about The Dark Knight?
James Berardinelli wrote:
When Lucas made STAR WARS, he did it pretty much as an indie film with little or no studio interference. He sold the rights to Fox in order to finance it, but they didn't view it as anything more than a "filler" film and didn't care what he did with it as long as he didn't go over budget. EMPIRE was funded by Lucas (via his profits from SW merchandising). He retained ownership of the film, but contracted with Fox to distribute it. Ditto for RotJ. (From my perspective, the real difference-maker was Lawrence Kasdan. Although he is credited with co-writing RotJ, Lucas apparently did a major re-write of his script. With EMPIRE, that was not the case.)

It is widely accepted that Lucas directed all three films of the original trilogy, with Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand assisting him on EMPIRE and RotJ, respectively, and lending their names to the project because Lucas was in hot water with the DGA. because he violated their policy with respect to the credits for STAR WARS. By the time EMPIRE went into production, he had either been kicked out of the DGA or had resigned (I don't recall which) so he could have had major problems with the other unions because he would technically have been a "non-union director." By the time RotJ was released, Lucas had been re-admitted to the DGA, but I believe his issues with them were not resolved until after the film had started shooting. It is also widely believed that the real reason David Lynch turned down the opportunity to direct RotJ is because he didn't like the idea of Lucas looking over his shoulder. He wanted more creative control than Lucas was willing to cede.


One other difference between SW, ESB, and RoTJ is that for ROTJ, Lucas did not have Gary Kurtz as co-writer for the screenplay. Not many people seem to realize this, but Kurtz helped to temper (and in some cases, check) Lucas' ideas for the original trilogy. I remember reading an interview with Kurtz which was done by IGN.com in which he talked about the reason he and Lucas stopped working together after The Empire Strikes Back (basically, that Lucas didn't really want to have anything other than "Yes men" surrounding him) and the direction that the trilogy would have taken had he stayed for RoTJ. In fact, if anyone would like to read the interview, just click here.


Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:27 am
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Post Re: What about The Dark Knight?
Ragnarok73 wrote:
One other difference between SW, ESB, and RoTJ is that for ROTJ, Lucas did not have Gary Kurtz as co-writer for the screenplay. Not many people seem to realize this, but Kurtz helped to temper (and in some cases, check) Lucas' ideas for the original trilogy. I remember reading an interview with Kurtz which was done by IGN.com in which he talked about the reason he and Lucas stopped working together after The Empire Strikes Back (basically, that Lucas didn't really want to have anything other than "Yes men" surrounding him) and the direction that the trilogy would have taken had he stayed for RoTJ. In fact, if anyone would like to read the interview, just click here.


See, this is EXACTLY what I was alluding to above. Thank you.

Lucas had a leash on him with the writing on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. But on Return of the Jedi... not so much. That's why you have Han Solo becoming nothing more than comic relief and a running joke, and the ewoks being symbols of the Vietnamese rising up against an imperial Empire. Ugh.

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Fri Nov 20, 2009 12:42 am
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
I'd like to know how much "backlash" is created by producers/studios trying to jocky their flick into the top spot come award season.


Fri Nov 20, 2009 9:18 am
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
Bondurant wrote:
I'd like to know how much "backlash" is created by producers/studios trying to jocky their flick into the top spot come award season.


The problem with that kind of backlash is that it never really affects films DURING award season, so the films they jockey for come away with the awards regardless of the crap the studios pull. The backlash only really hits after the fact, when people realize what just happened, and a film they consider "undeserving" wins because of said jockeying.

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Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:29 am
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Post Re: November 17, 2009: "Backlash"
I see a couple of possible reasons, neither too sinister. The first has been mentioned: the change in audience as the film's screening progresses.

The second can explain changes of position within an individual. Take TPM. There were very high expectations for this movie, generated both internally by fans and externally by marketing. You go in, and whatever minor issues with the film might occur to you you set aside; they're probably nothing, and everyone else seems to be having the great time you expected to see people having, so you have one too. You and your friends have built a part of your identity around enjoying this movie, and so when you exit the theater you defer any criticism and reinforce the personalities you've constructed. As the days roll on, though, criticism slips out innocently. "Yeah, man, awesome movie! You know, the one thing I didn't get though was [...]." "Yeah, I didn't quite understand that, and I thought it was a little weird that [...]." It snow-balls, and suddenly you're faced with a mountain of evidence that the movie really wasn't that great.

Psychologically, this is a very uncomfortable position to be in; you've got to reconcile the fact that you loved the movie with the fact that it sucks. There are three solutions: revise and downplay the movie as a whole, conclude that it was a flawed masterpiece, or that Lucas painted a turd and deceived you into believing it was gold.

And I'll register my own disagreement with your ranking of the episodes, James. I'll grant that RotJ might have been poorly structured, poorly plotted, but at least it was visually credible. At least it was visually interesting. At least it had pathos! On repeat viewings, I just get none of that from Episode I or II.

I appreciate the great reviews.


Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:07 pm
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