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 Post subject: The Making of Return of the Jedi... JW Rinzler
PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:30 pm 
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Hot off the heels of The Empire Strikes Back being released the next instalment gathers momentum and the journey for George Lucas and ILM continues.
The first chapter starts with ILM’s impending work with Raiders, Stark Trek II, E.T and poltergeist, creating a success story by itself which is intertwined with Lucas’s next instalment of the Star Wars trilogy script in progress.

Lucas’s hand picked team at ILM including the production team get some lime light which is well documented and described in compelling detail.
Fox, the distributor of the films, naturally a money making corporation want the best deal possible as does George Lucas but his priority is the burden of the Star Wars franchise and finally getting the last movie (for now) done.
Lucas’s dream is his film school and artist environment facility at ‘Skywalker ranch’ finally being completed. To complete this reality and self sustain ILM, vast amounts of money are needed from this last movie (although at this point scheduled for 9 separate films, soon to change).

The first chapter really cover’s drafts and scripts with some art work from Mcquarrie. Getting a feel for what is to become. Certain elements over time are dropped. Some of this based on time and finance such as the gothic and almost medieval home of the Empire on Had Abbadon which served an eerie and dark template for a lava duel between Vader and Luke.
With the revisions, key characters such as the Ewok’s and Jabba the Hut played a key part from the beginning, despite many not appreciating the Ewok concept.

Once the search for director Richard Marquand was over and Lawrence Kasdan finally agreed to join in with the script Ideas starting taking shape. It was especially interesting seeing the 16 pages of the conference transcript between Lucas, Kasdan and Marquand.
While different elements such as scouting locations, getting deals on the table, finance and schedules are never far away from the content in the chapter. It’s well described and the Author gives an insight to the pressures facing Lucas and co.

Finally penned as Revenge of the Jedi the filming finally commences 100 pages into the book.
One big change (along with many others) is that Darth Vader became the epitome of evil in the Empire Strikes Back and Lucas had him down for this movie as a complete subservient lapdog of the Emperor, thus turning one of the greatest villains into a weakened character. Furthermore the initial various scripts gave Vader such a fear of the Emperor that even Moff Jerjerrod could deliver dialogue to shut up the fan favourite dark lord. I for one was pleased that these scripts changed, if they hadn’t I believe Darth Vader would not be seen as the character he was up until 1999 when Lucas decided to influence that with the start of the prequels.
Once the action starts, naturally the book follows the shooting schedules as it does with the previous templates of the making of series.
Throughout chapters you get a feel (if vague at times) of the actors and their evolvement. Hamill is never far away with the most detailed coverage, often upbeat, somewhat humble persona, you see a number of shots with him laughing and smiling behind the scenes. He is spared in the general outlook in terms of positivity as is Ewok star Warwick Davies who charms his way into the book as an eleven year old Star Wars fan.
The rest of the crew from actors to ILM all share at times a negative undertone (with the exception of Joe Johnston) within the chapters.
Marquand is constantly viewed as out of his depth. Trying to enforce respect and desperately wanting Lucas’s approval but often handling the cast and crew awkwardly.
Carrie Fisher made no bones about hiding her feelings towards him. Marquand simply gave the impression of frustration towards her and she viewed him as somewhat arrogant, in view treating Harrison Ford (now a big star after Raiders) with obvious favouritism and respect which was viewed as transparent.

Both Fisher and Ford seem frustrated with their characters. Ford is left very vague by contrast to the previous other books. You get the impression it’s just some inconvenience for him to get on with and be done at last. He makes no attempt hiding his displeasure that Solo doesn’t go out with a bang, attempting to change George’s mind to let Solo die.
The bravado of Solo was also lost from the previous films as was the same with Leia.
Carrie Fisher mentions she would of liked to go back and do the Endor Vader/ Luke revelation scene again as she simply viewed it as discouraging in terms of performance. Whether that be script or acting this was mentioned within a close proximity of the scenes being completed.
Jedi basically took Han and Leia and made the two strong personalities fairly passive. Each would comment upon review and completion that it was the weakest movie in the saga.

What is apparent, that while Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker and to a degree Tony Daniels all have had their book time heavily reduced , few positives are mentioned towards David Prowse (Vader).
The casual reader may be surprised but it’s no secret for years that Lucasfilm and Prowse have had a strained relationship. Rinzler goes almost out of his way to print three times that Prowse was basically one of the least trusted members of the team. Beyond the usual scrutiny of false pages in the scripts to preserve the plot from most people, Prowse was highlighted as a clear problem. Not only Lucasfilm threatening him with possible breach of contract for a Daily Mail interview but behind the shadows you get a certain distaste of people’s reactions towards mockery from his accent, taking himself too seriously, wanting a pay rise and difficult to work with.
You also get a sense of his input from Bob Anderson in the stunt Vader costume trying to lift Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, somewhat to Prowse’s amusement. With cables and other elements, you can tell that despite a heavily swollen knee Prowse found this comical that here is a near 60 year old struggling, while he who is rightfully Darth Vader and a body builder can do this in one take, which is exactly what he ended up doing.
With the addition of Harold Cole (Vader’s hand’s on Endor in light saber scene close up) which show the actor in the full suit minus the helmet and Craig Barron filling in for another pick up scene on Endor with Vader exiting his shuttle in full costume. Add that to James Earl Jones first credit of the voice (he originally did not take a credit for ANH/ESB) and then finally Sebastian Shaw becomes the unmasked Vader. This all must of taken a toll on Prowse and you can’t help but feel Lucasfilm didn’t respect him enough and they categorically viewed the character of Darth Vader as their property and Prowse was just a performer in a suit. The notion that Prowse thinks he is Darth Vader is viewed mainly with unsupportive viewpoints. LFL owns Vader and clearly this book highlights a collaboration between Prowse, Jones, Anderson, Shaw, and Burtt (Sound). The pick ups are possibly irrelevant in the grand scheme of filmmaking but the complex character is simply not one man. Even if I would imagine the public to view Prowse’s excellent portrayal of Vader in high regard. That aspect of the book highlighted one of the stronger undertones.

Richard Marquand was never far away from print though, one of the main people mentioned throughout. Basically the complexity of Jedi was way over his head. Marquand was not Lucas’s first choice and the special effects and various other elements meant that Lucas’s was around most days. Some of the artistic freedom seemed to be taken out of his hands with the input or lack of in the editing room where Lucas comes into his own. I don’t think Marquand either through his approach came off as well as Kershner in terms of achievement or likeability but he showed a clear enthusiasm to please Lucas and to help make Jedi a success even though Lucas was on hand to check many of the camera set ups. A shame that he died so young at 49, you do get a positive feel for his character when his son James mentions him.

Ralph McQuarrie quits and then comes back to help. Often seemingly bogged down with the Star Wars saga so it forces his hand amongst the younger rising talent, where as previously he was viewed as the go to guy, his impact while great seemed to show a frustration towards times moving on.

Even Stuart Freeborn comes under criticism. The massive undertaking of creatures involved outweighed the previous movies. Freeborn was under the cosh from work overload and his struggle to keep to schedule becomes apparent. The word slow is mentioned various times and highlighted is Yoda being a different colour green with his eye’s sticking. This was a frustration, not to mention the Ewoks where not held in high regard. They were meant to contain blinking eyes and such forth. Jabba the hut however turned out well despite the huge costs involved as did many other creatures.

Alec Guinness was mentioned a few times but once again, he wanted to get his teeth stuck into the role rather than just be a ghost. Nice enough as he seemed towards Lucas his resentment of Star Wars and it’s fans is well known and it’s briefly mentioned he viewed the fans as ‘ghastly bores’.

One thing of significance is Boba Fett’s death. Even Lucas admitted to his staff that they could’ve done better with how he meets his end. For those fans who have always thought a worthy character such as Fett was killed off too easily, it’s perhaps a bigger frustration that Lucas at the time of the movie knew this wasn’t his best for the character.

The book moves onto the frantic pace with ILM trying to meet the release date of Jedi where costs and effects continue to escalate. The title changes to Return instead of Revenge and little revisions and pick up’s start taking shape. As the edit’s begin the special effects and ILM go into overdrive. Everyone is worked to their limit.
The optical, camera, sound and matte paintings departments as well as the Rancor share the last quarter of the 372 page book.
The matte paintings and the talents involved really illustrate the amount of free thinking intertwined with Lucas’s vision in a fantastic detailed overview.
The book nearing it’s end with the box office figures smashing everything in it’s path apart from ET and Star Wars, where Jedi remained until Home Alone in 1991. A success story? Yes. Lucas completed his saga. Due to costs and being burnt out he revised the 9 parts he had planned for and left it at taking a 2year break to raise his daughter. Perhaps in 5 years he would return when technology became better and more cost effective. Jedi helped complete the ranch and it was a top 3 of all time movie. However, while he accepted poor reviews don’t make a bad movie the direction in which he took Jedi was seen as an error in judgement and at the time and to this day Return of the Jedi is generally viewed as the weakest film out of the three.

Conclusion:

Another fantastic and eagerly awaited making of series from established author J.W.Rinzler to finish off the classic trilogy. The presentation and glossy visuals lend themselves to a quality we’ve come to expect. In my mind literature like this at £30 a time may intrigue the casual fan but it’s the die hards that will really benefit from the detail. This is by no means an easy book to read in terms of content. It’s often bogged down as you would expect with heavy descriptive chapters taking us on Lucas’s journey which covers that beyond the movie.

The book is honest, reveals information like Lucas’s emotional turmoil while Marcia asks for a divorce in the middle of the movie being made and the struggle to bear the burden.
You go through the motions as the Author puts you through a frantic pace of the ups and downs of such an undertaking. You get a glimpse of the undertones towards different departments at times and limit’s breached, in the end you turn the last page and realise the book almost gives you the same feeling as the movies did upon reflection.

Return of the Jedi is a weaker movie all apart from the special effects. A view shared by the majority of cast, crew and public alike even at the time (apart from the appeal of the Ewoks to some). This isn’t a Star Wars ending, a feel good factor nor does it have the poise of The Empire Strikes Back that makes you want more and where no doubt character development is at a peak. This last chapter saps your energy. The negatives in the content make for an interesting read but by the time Lucas is ready to give up upon completion, Marquand’s death mentioned, the Elstree back lot left to rot with props, some ILM members start to break off and do their own thing and this being deemed the weakest in the saga you can’t help feel sad that it’s the end. Not because the saga is completed but despite best efforts at the time you’re left with an unexplainable numbness once you turn the last page.


Recommended 4 stars ****


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 Post subject: Re: The Making of Return of the Jedi... JW Rinzler
PostPosted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 5:59 am 
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Joined: Tue May 07, 2013 5:49 am
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I'm still reading the Empire book, and have thumbed through the pictures in this one, but I have to say... awesome review man. Thanks! Looking forward to reading it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Making of Return of the Jedi... JW Rinzler
PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:30 pm 
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Truly a superlative, very well written, and informative (and very enlightening) review. Thanks so much for this, Paul. :thumbsup


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 Post subject: Re: The Making of Return of the Jedi... JW Rinzler
PostPosted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 6:43 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2011 3:38 pm
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Location: Dracula's Castle
Thanks for the cool review! I might get the book some day.


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