' ' Cinema Romantico: My 5 Favorite Star Wars "Special" Effects

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

My 5 Favorite Star Wars "Special" Effects

The special effects of "Star Wars" (all right, okay, fine, "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope") were groundbreaking. And Grand Chancellor George Lucas continued breaking more ground with them. And tampering with them. But I'm not here to complain nor demean those special effects. Because not only were they groundbreaking, they were integral to the story. Yet, just as integral to the story, and perhaps even more so in a way, were the less special of effects. The mere effects, the regular effects, the prosaic effects. "Star Wars" was sci-fi, to be sure, but it was also old-fashioned guerrilla filmmaking and just plain old-fashioned, and those old-fashioned effects are the ones we here at Cinema Romantico prefer.

  My 5 Favorite Star Wars "Special" Effects

1. Rebel Uniforms

The vests look like they came from K-Mart. The pants look like they came from Walmart. The helmets look like they came out of a dollar bin at Walgreens. Could there have been a more appropriate contrast to the badass Stormtroopers about to come barreling through the airlock?

2. Plastic Cookware

If there is a brightest spot to the center of the universe, and if you are on the planet farthest from, then it probably takes awhile, right, for new cookware to trickle its way down. So it would only make sense that poor Aunt Beru is still stuck with that same damn plastic cookware she probably got as a wedding gift from Owen's super cheap second cousin.

3. Mos Eisley Matte Painting

I'll never forget the first time I saw the Emerald City glimmering in the distance of the frame of "The Wizard of Oz." I can't quite remember any other image so utterly illuminating my family's RCA tube TV from the 80's. Did my youthful mind register that it wasn't real, merely a supreme optical illusion? Probably not. Maybe it did. Who knows? But that Emerald City matte painting remains at the forefront of my Cinematic Effects list and the Mos Eisley matte painting of "Star Wars" is not far behind. The actual view is in California's Death Valley, looking out toward Furnace Creek, but it always makes me think of a Tatooine-esque Mulholland Drive. From above L.A., all those far-reaching lights twinkle so romantically. Down below amongst them, sin and vice lurk down every highway and under every neon sign. From above Mos Eisley, invoked by John Williams' heralding score in that moment, it's the first outpost of a new world to which young Luke Skywalker is venturing. Down below, it is a hive of scum and villainy. And much like the Emerald City itself could never - in my fanciful mind anyway - live up to how it looks from a distance, there will be always be something just a touch more magical about seeing Mos Eisley from the ridge and merely imagining what awaits.

4. Rebel Base, Yavin Moon

Do you know what's so much cooler than some computer-generated Jedi Temple? An ACTUAL Mayan Temple standing in for the rebel base in "Star Wars", that's what.

5. X Wing Marshall Wands

Yesterday at The Atlantic, Noah Berlatsky had a fine article detailing what he termed the "scum-caked brilliance" of "Star Wars", a spot-on label of its "visual scruffiness." And that's sort of what this entire Top 5 (that I swear I had begun crafting before reading that article) boils down to. The X-Wing fighters carrying out the infamous attack on the Death Star are most definitely visually scruffy. They are worn and scarred, as if slapped together out of used parts from Big Al's Scrap Yard on Yavin 8. These were the details that not only grounded "Star Wars" but so fantastically enhanced the all-important "long time ago" in the "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" preamble. It's why when I contemplate "Star Wars", I don't contemplate X-Wing fighters hurtling through space. I contemplate the Rebel Marshall Wands guiding them toward the runway to lift off for space.

1 comment:

Derek Armstrong said...

Thank you for this.