' ' Cinema Romantico: What Does The "Nooooooo!!!" Really Represent?

Friday, November 02, 2012

What Does The "Nooooooo!!!" Really Represent?

Recently I was watching a college football game and at a commercial I flipped over for a showing of "The Empire Strikes Back" just in time to see the scene when Han and Leia and Lando and Chewie are strolling through the (CGI updated) halls of Cloud City and then they reach the dining hall and the door slides open and Darth Vader is sitting there and...you know the rest. Oh, the fortuitousness!

Let's imagine if, say, George Lucas decided to further update this sequence for, say, the Blu ray re-release of "The Complete Saga." And let's say he keeps things the same - Han and Leia and Lando discussing the "mining operation" on Cloud City and whether or not Lando is concerned the Empire is going to shut him down and just as they reach the dining hall Lando saying that eerily foreboding line "I've made a deal to ensure the Empire stays out of here forever" and then he throws unsuspecting Han that little look and then he goes to open the door to the dining hall and then, suddenly, inexplicably, shouts "Noooooooooo!!!" because, say, he's had a change of heart and wants to warn his pal. He wishes he hadn't sold out Han and Leia and Chewie. How much would that suck?

Well, I suppose it would suck because it would simply sound stupid but mostly it would suck because it would severely screw up that classic screenwriting trope the movie so expertly pulls off here - Set Up & Reveal. You can hint that Vader is waiting behind that door - which is precisely what the movie does with its dialogue leading up to the moment - but you can't give it away by having Lando scream "Noooooooo!!!" just as the door opens. If you give it away, the Reveal ceases to be Revelatory which is, you know, sorta the whole point.

If you don't run in obsessive movie circles and didn't know, (representatives of) George Lucas recently confirmed that for the "The Complete Saga" release of "Star Wars" on Blu ray, "Return of the Jedi" will feature an all-new moment near the end when the Emperor is mowing down Luke with lightning and Vader picks up the Emperor and hurls him to his ultimate demise wherein Vader, just prior to lifting up the Emperor and tossing him like a wrinkled cork, bellows "Nooooooo!!!" This "Nooooooo!!!", one might assume, is meant to synch up with the moment near the end of "Revenge of the Sith" when Anakin Skywalker has been christened as Darth Vader and learns (poor) Natalie Portman's Padme has died, prompting him to unmemorably bellow "Nooooooo!!!"

There are 10 million insults that can and have been unleashed in the wake of this decision. I don't want to add to that chorus necessarily. (I've generally been content with Lucas since he released the original unaltered versions on DVD in 2004. That was honestly all I ever wanted. Then again, as my friend Brad recently pointed out to me, the visual qualities of those versions on decent TV set-ups is apparently awful. Then again, I greatly enjoyed simply watching those movies on Betamax taped off ABC's Saturday Night Movie with sound worse than a Lollapalooza stage from 3 miles away, so my wants and needs are different from most.) All I wanted to do via my "Empire Strikes Back" intro was show how entirely from a technical standpoint this decision is spectacularly wrong-headed. Because it truly is.

As an objective filmwatcher, how you could hear this added "Noooooo!!!" - regardless of whether the Vader character bellowed the same words at the end of "Sith" or not - and claim it's good filmmaking is beyond me. It robs the moment of Vader's internal dilemma and of the audience wondering, "What's he gonna do?" Basically the Reveal is destroyed by maiming the Set Up. And so if we can all agree that filmmaking-wise it is spectacularly wrong-headed, we must ask what I believe to be the most essential question: Why did Lucas really add it?

1.) Does he honestly think it's a good idea? I think this scenario is more plausible than many die-hards would admit. I think he's so insulated on ol' Skywalker Ranch, so out of touch with how to simply make a movie that he thought synching up the two "Noooooos!!!" was genuinely brilliant. Let's not forget, dude made "Radioland Murders."

2.) Is he a spiteful jackass? Do you think Lucas trolls Youtube, taking down names of commenters who insult him? "Wait'll they get a load of the 'Jedi' Blu ray!" As stated, he's insulated out there in Cali, surrounding himself with yes-men, but is he that insulated? Doesn't the dude who invented THX have a smartphone? He knows what's up, right? He knows what incensed fanboys say about him, doesn't he? He's aware that the "Nooooooo!!!" of "Revenge of the Sith" is looked upon in "Star Wars" circles like a Cinematic Watergate, isn't he? And if he is, then he knows he's pissing people off and maybe he likes it.

Or do neither of those points matter? Does it simply come down to the unalienable truth that they are his movies and he can do what we wants with them?

I'm not a "Star Wars" fanboy and so sometimes I feel wrong getting myself involved in these arguments but I am a Springsteen fanboy and I can relay that for years Springsteen, famous for having hundreds and hundreds of unreleased songs, kept his unreleased material under wraps, or, at least, under wraps to the best of his ability. All you could find of some - not all - of his unreleased work was inferior bootleg copies. And this seemed to be - at least, according to interviews - from a sincere desire of Springsteen's to present his work the way he saw fit. In an interview with Kurt Loder in the mid-80's he said this: "I guess nobody likes the feeling that they wrote a song and in some way the song is bein' stolen from them, or presented in a fashion they don't feel they'd want to present it in."

He had a point. After all, he made it, ya know? It's his blood, sweat and tears on the stuff. So shouldn't he have the ultimate say as to how and when or even if it ever is properly made available to the public? I think "Loose Ends" (which didn't make on to "The River" album) might be the most perfect expression of The E Street Band "sound" there is, but maybe Bruce differed. Maybe he thought it was crap. Maybe there was something in particular, something he couldn't quite get right about it, that made him keep it off the album and maybe he didn't want to present it to us because it wouldn't be - in his eyes - a proper presentation of what he wanted to get across with that album.

Of course, eventually Bruce did start going public with this material. "Tracks" in 1998 was a massive box set of unreleased work. The recent "Darkness on the Edge of Town" re-release contained an entire disc of new songs. In concerts he has begun playing all kinds of things that I truly think mean more to the fans than to him. (Update: At the Wrigley Field show I saw he played "None But The Brave." He dedicated it to "the hardcore fans" which is why only "the hardcore fans" freaked out when he played it but, my God, did that mean a lot to me. Unbelievable. Didn't think I'd ever see it.) He came around, he saw the light, and I think - I truly think - this happened specifically because he saw what it meant to us.

He didn't owe that to me and he didn't owe to any Springsteen fanatic in general. Not in any way, shape or form. But having that fully mastered track of "Loose Ends" means more to me than words. And I thank him. And I can't help but wonder if maybe someday George Lucas will have a similar moment of clarity.


Unknown said...

George Lucas has simply lost his story telling ability....case in point the last three Star Wars movies...CGI wise he's tried to re-tool the three older movies to match up to the new but he should have left the writing alone from the previous ones...he obviously didnt plot it out good enough when he made the first three never thinking there would be three more to follow as prequels (and if did think that far ahead then shame on him) Main point is ...don't fuck with the wording...New kids these days wont give a rat's ass because they never saw the original so no loss to them...I guess we just need to wipe if from our brain...and NOW we have three more coming out soon....Nooooooooooooooooooo!

Nick Prigge said...

"George Lucas has simply lost his story telling ability."

That really is the basic truth, isn't it?