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[personal profile] krpalmer
When I heard we were going to get a book about the making of Return of the Jedi too for its own thirtieth anniversary (and also thirty years after a much less elaborate paperback with the exact same name), I decided I'd waited long enough for a paperback version of "The Making of The Empire Strikes Back" and asked for the hardcover for a birthday present. Then, just to even things out, I splurged on the still-available hardcover version of "The Making of Star Wars" with its extra pages. (The storyboards were interesting, but George Lucas mentioning "midi-chlorians" in what was said to be comments from the summer of 1977 really caught my attention; I wondered if greater publicity might be given to this, but did have the uneasy feeling some would just react by saying this "proves" somebody like Gary Kurtz or Marcia Lucas had "talked him out of a bad idea, or at least for a while.") With all of this, though, I suppose I did get to wondering about how this particular trilogy would conclude. It may be that chronicling the making of Return of the Jedi requires a delicate touch. It may also be that I bring that up because I got to wondering if J. W. Rinzler had that touch.

I suppose a certain uneasy feeling started to grow at the very beginning, with Brad Bird's introduction and the picture illustrating it, the original "Force ghost trio" including Sebastian Shaw. Given the book's time frame, this does make sense, and yet I couldn't help but think how that scene seems to be the number-two rallying point for those clinging (even if only to the idea of) the "pre-Special Editions," in this case tied in with a seeming rejection of the new movies. Bird takes his time in getting around to Return of the Jedi in particular and specifically raises some criticisms he had of it on his first viewings, including drawing a gap between Luke seeming beaten down at the end of The Empire Strikes Back but having bounced back by the start of the next movie, wondering "what about Darth Vader telling Luke they could rule the galaxy?" (but more about this later), and implying a "if you can't say anything nice..." tack when he brings up the Ewoks. Looking back at the introduction as I wrote this, I did manage to think it wasn't quite as negative as that first impression, but I was still left wondering if somebody else could have been found to write the introduction, someone who might even had said something like "this movie made us reconsider what Star Wars is again, but even if it wasn't quite the specific story some might have imagined that just might mean it might have a bit more to say about universal situations."

Once I'd got past that, though, and into the development of the script, I started wondering if Rinzler was indulging in his own value judgments. He mentioned approvingly how Leia was in sole command of a strike force and Han was flying the Millennium Falcon in the very first draft, calling attention just by that to how that had been taken out later. (However, he did describe enough of one draft to give me the impression the document I'd read online, noting those points Rinzler had noted but still sort of having the impression other important things felt like they were missing, wasn't an elaborate third-party construction after all.) He also kept dwelling on how Darth Vader had told Luke they could rule the galaxy together in The Empire Strikes Back but wasn't bringing that up now.

That thought, though, had in fact occurred to me just a few years before. Instead of seeing it as a "contradiction," though, I had embraced the opportunity to try and imagine how it could be seen as a sign of character development and started a little message board discussion about it. While I could remember a really excellent essay by [profile] fernwithy looking for signs of change in Vader in just the three old movies, with the new movies I could connect Luke's rejection of the offer to Padme's reaction to a similar one and imagine this shaking Vader up on some level. This does, I suppose, have to be contrasted to some quotes from George Lucas in the book itself that Vader could be taken to still be plotting and hoping to overthrow the Emperor, it just being that it didn't have to be mentioned again, but that in itself just points out a little more Rinzler dwelling on the subject. I suppose I was inclined to wonder just how many people would react to the proposal of "being invited to tell a bit of the story yourself" with the flat demand to have everything spelled out in dialogue, or else they'll just deny it's there at all.

The book did describe in detail the search for a new director, and how David Lynch got the formal offer first only to turn it down. Richard Marquand was second on the final list, though, and I happened to notice how he had pushed for John Mollo to be replaced as the costume designer, against George Lucas's initial resistance. What I hadn't known was that Ian McDiarmid was also the second choice to play the Emperor, when the much older actor first cast had to decline the role at the last moment.

As filming got under way, there were times I was certain we were being pushed to see the three lead actors in particular as weary of the whole thing and uncertain about what they were being asked to perform; by the time the location shooting started, though, I somehow had the feeling the mood had improved. Somehow, that does make me think things were a bit different with the making of Revenge of the Sith, although I suppose there's always the chance a book written from a longer perspective might be horribly disillusioning that way. However, production on Return of the Jedi did seem to move more smoothly than with the two previous Star Wars movies.

With what was said in the book, though, I suppose I was noticing certain things unsaid. There was no breath of Gary Kurtz being told at some preliminary point about the third Star Wars movie ending with a downbeat "Luke walks off into the desert" finale, as "Nilbog's Storybook Land" seemed to accept unquestioningly in a look at the saga a little while ago. While there was in fact a comment that "maybe we could kill Lando" in the "story conference" (quoted in detail, including an interesting hint of backstory a little different from what everyone seems to have concluded from the novelization), the traditional narrative of his immolation in the Millennium Falcon only being taken out at the absolute last instant was nowhere to be seen. As for one particular idea I'd heard in a different context, though, that George Lucas, dissatisfied with Richard Marquand's direction, took over for the scene with Luke and Vader on Endor and Vader's unmasking, there was no hint of that either. However, I suppose I could see how Lucas might have concluded he might as well get back to being the director himself, and he also made some additions to the script even after Lawrence Kasdan started working on it.

After everything, though, and the uneasy anticipation that with different parts of the crew looking askance at the Ewoks we'd wind up with descriptions of some form of "cosmic disappointment" as audiences filed into the theatres, Rinzler says "Judging from eyewitness accounts and fan reaction, Jedi was a crowd pleaser of the rarest kind." (He then gets to assorted critical reactions, including one person who picked up on Vader not repeating his offer to Luke out loud.) I did think a bit of occasional suspicions I've had that casual viewers, who just take in a story and enjoy it, might be a bit more pleasant to be around than someone analyzing it to pieces. In the end, this book might have worked out after all, and it might even have backed up the quote from George Lucas on the back cover for "the whole point of the film" to have you "feel absolutely good about life."

Date: 2014-01-06 01:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazypadawan.livejournal.com
Yeah, this is exactly the impression I got from the book.

Date: 2014-01-07 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] krpalmer.livejournal.com
We just might "criticize too much," though; without the editorializing, I could even imagine the book's reporting being interpreted as "almost without many believing it, things came together in the end." In any case, it's a lot easier to just shake my head and conclude another person has "missed the point" when things are pointed at with sour looks in and of themselves instead of calling them "distractions from the central story," something that just might be stickier for me to deal with...

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