Friday, June 2, 2023

40 years of Return of the Jedi: a radical Hollywood experiment that remade the mythology of the 20th century

Today, May 25, 1983, marks the 40th anniversary of the American premiere of Return of the Jedi in 1983. That film closes one of the most radical and popular experiments in the film industry, even if today there are also three prequels, three sequels, two. “associated” movies and a growing number of series that take place in the universe created by George Lucas in 1977 and two supporters perhaps more important than Lucas himself. Return of the Jedi, as befits a series that has been around like a glove in the way of movies, themes and – not least – their marketing to the point of almost reinvention, was a great box office success, although less than. The original and -at that time the most watched film in the history of ET, Extraterrestrial, was released the year before.

Lovers of information will appreciate these numbers: adjusted for inflation, the collection of Star Wars (which was not Episode IV or something like that, just Star Wars in English) was 1,297,730 million in the USA and second in history: ET ranks. fourth, and Return of the Jedi, 17 (below Avatar and Avengers: Endgame). Even The Empire Strikes Back (13) and the most recent The Force Awakens (11, no less) over the next original trilogy. However, it is an absolutely historic film and its light — and its shadow — are cast today.

The relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, and the subsequent redemption, was one of the attractions of the film.

First of all, the film owes not so much to George Lucas (the manager and constant supervisor “a la Walt Disney” of what was happening in his universe), nor to the director Richard Marquand (more impersonal than often interesting Irvin. Kerschner, director of Empire Strikes Back) but to the producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, and above all to the true genius of these names: Lawrence Kasdan. By 1983, Kasdan had already made his wild and classic debut Burning Bodies, which defined what would later be called the romantic thriller, far from the family entertainment that Star Wars meant. But he was also the head behind Indiana Jones (the first film was only called, in its premiere, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and he had a script to go around that should have been his first job as a director, but fifteen years ago. when it was written, another film: the spy.

Kasdan (together with Leigh Brackett) were the authors of the perfect love story of Leia and Han Solo, so close to the comedy of Hawk’s marriage (Fast Love, without going any further), with aspects of family melodrama and the story of the star choir. wars from kasdan

George Lucas says, and there is no reason to doubt, that the original Star Wars script included many elements that were to be seen in Empire Strikes Back, for example the father-son relationship between the villain Darth Vader and the hero. Luke Skywalker But Star Wars was a kind of madness: it crossed the budget twice (from three million dollars in the 70s, it went first to seven and then to ten) and put the fox in the mouth, which was barely recovered after a decade. Elizabeth Taylor starring Cleopatra at a huge price. But as we know, Star Wars was just the kind of fantasy that the child of the 70s was missing, accustomed to seeing costumes and space suits, characterized by more and more realistic films. Planets that seemed to be truly inhabited, some with ambiguous characters, a strange mix of samurai, World War II air battles, fairy tales, westerns and robots. Because that film is intended to be a tribute to the Forties (especially Flash Gordon) the technology made possible thanks to the first uses of computers. The film of the 1970s was basically hyper-realistic: fantasy was adapted to what technology allowed. That fact made the film a success.

George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan during the filming of The Empire Strikes Back

But it was also an iconographic success that unleashed a great consumer fever, so much so that everyone was asking for “small figures” from Star Wars and there were none. It is strange to say that all this stuff abounds today, but how was it then? It was that consuming fever that convinced Luke that he would continue with the series. But it wasn’t really a plan. Well, it was Kasdan who transformed those hurried and almost parodic episodes of the first film into the basis of mythology. For The Empire Strikes Back, he also had a great deal with Leigh Brackett, one of Howard Hawks’ main writers and a veteran of these struggles. Kasdan and Brackett are responsible for the perfect love story of Leia and Han Solo, so close to the marriage of Hawks comedy (Fast Love, without going any further), the aspects of the family melodrama and the ensemble story originate from Kasdan, who wished. for that form in a contemporary reunion, in that great western that was Silverado, and in other movies like I’ll Love You to Death, Grand Canyon or Lord Mumford. Kasdan rejected serials – after all, traditional but too formulaic stories – to build a bridge between this new technological entertainment and classic Hollywood. The result of the operation was that a huge Star Wars universe was created, the central characters were covered in food and the mythology was established.

Return of the Jedi was supposed to be called Vengeance of the Jedi, but the circumstances of the revenge world had changed. Although Kasdan thought that the Return was much weaker than the Avenger, there was no reason. After this was the idea that the heroes of the film should not put down any negative aspect or that could harm the business, then they meant freedom. There is a strange thing about the film, the original change, which is worth pointing out in order to understand the historical weight of not only the film, but also the Star Wars product: Kasdan believed that Han Solo would die before the start. The third act, and to establish this uncertainty about which character would survive and which would not (spoiler alert: a concept finally revealed in The Force Awakens) and multiply the final blow. Luke, however, did not want to. The reason: he believed that if he killed Han before the end of the movie, no one would buy the dolls or merchandise depicting the character. In fact, Harrison Ford said the same thing, “I don’t see a future for Han Solo as a dead toy.” To consider Luke financed – as he did with The Empire Strikes Back – the film from his own pocket, it is almost understood.

This is to say: Star Wars was not a large interconnected fictional universe, but a large universe of events and diversions at the center of which were the films. The center would move in time. He absolutely defined it with Return of the Jedi, where the writer’s attempt to reunite the band of heroes after the terrible ending of Empire Strikes Back is noticeable from the beginning. Another fact: unlike the rest of the script, Harrison Ford only starred in two films. And between the first Star Wars and 1982, he became not a star, but a “time star”. So at the end of the second film it was “frozen”. It was not too easy to convince him, but they could have done the last film without him: he was again defining the obstacle of business with art. It is also clear why the cinema (relics of the serial which are still respected in some way) with its resources: let’s go back to the beginning. The final redemption of Darth Vader is another matter: he has perhaps become a great icon of the series – a series that, by the way, is one of those that has established the greatest amount of cultural icons in the entire history of cinema. lightsaber to R2D2- and had to find a destination that would allow me to sell the doll with joy.

However, probably the biggest impact of Star Wars was the creation of new technologies for each episode. In a camera that was able to accurately process movement (Dykstraflex, in homage to its creator, John Dykstra); sound effects with hundreds of elements created by Ben Burtt, who made the fabric of any film recognizable without sight; the elegance of the green screen, the use of innovative ups-sups, and the use of the computer to arrange the various shots of the film in the final battle of Return of the Jedi are constant steps in the future. In a sense, the idea seemed to be to create an image and then invent the technology that would make it possible. That absolute revolution changed the way images were produced and generated an ideology that today is as fascinating as it is dangerous: when computers arrived, it was finally possible for the filmmaker to create – no longer remember – any visual idea he had in mind. And there is the problem of relevance: an incredible image does not necessarily carry the story. Much of the film’s later failure stems from this technological “intoxication” that Return of the Jedi set as a standard.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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