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Friday, April 9, 2010

Top Ten Science Fiction Movies -- Featuring Star Wars

In a land far, far away lived a writer who loved movies too much. (Um...that would be me.)

Today we look at Science Fiction films. Here are the top 10 according to the American Film Institute:

Top Ten Sci-Fi:

1 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
2 STAR WARS: EPISODE IV- A NEW HOPE (1977)
3 E.T. - THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL (1982)
4 CLOCKWORK ORANGE, A (1971)
5 DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE (1951)
6 BLADE RUNNER (1982)
7 ALIEN (1979)
8 TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY (1991)
9 INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
10 BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)

Trivia on Star Wars:
  • Peter Mayhew (who played Chewbacca) worked as an orderly in a Yorkshire hospital prior to being cast in the movie. He won his role ten seconds after meetingGeorge Lucas for the first time; all the 7'2" Mayhew had to do was stand up.
  • Stunt doubles were not used for the scene in which Luke and Leia swing to safety. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill performed that stunt themselves, shooting it in just one take.
  • According to Mark Hamill, studio executives were unhappy that Chewbacca has no clothes and attempted to have the costume redesigned with shorts.
  • Carrie Fisher found the dialogue to be very difficult, later saying, "You can type this stuff, but you can't say it". Harrison Ford had similar trouble (particularly in the scene where the Millenium Falcon leaves Tatooine), and persuaded George Lucas to let him change several lines. (Tip to writers: Read your stuff out loud to see if rings true.)
  • Though the only thing Chewbacca can say from start to finish is a Wookiee growl, he has the last line in the film.
  • The Chewbacca suit retained a bad smell for the duration of filming after the trash-compactor scene.
  • Mark Hamill held his breath for so long during the trash compactor scene that he broke a blood vessel in his face. Subsequent shots are from one side only.
  • George Lucas came up with the name R2-D2 during post-production of American Graffiti (1973). One of the sound crew wanted Lucas to retrieve Reel #2 of the Second Dialogue track. In post-production parlance, this came out as "could you get R2-D2 for me?". Lucas liked the sound of that and noted it down for future use.
  • The first science fiction film to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.
  • My first son was born the same year this movie hit the big screen. Yes. I'm that old.

Craft Lesson - The Hero's Journey

Star Wars is often used in writer-land as a model of the Hero's Journey. It follows along the classic arc as clarified by Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey and Stuart Voytilla in Myth and the Movies. The teaching is that all good stories have a sort of formula. The character should come full circle from who they once were to who they are now. The journey is what makes up the story. To understand fully how to move a character through a story without making him look like a chess piece, I urge you to check out Voytilla's book. But here's just a taste of how I perceive the hero's arc in Star Wars:
  1. Ordinary World - Luke lives on his uncle's farm
  2. Call to Adventure - Princess Leia shows up as a hologram. This spurs Luke to find Obi Wan Kenobi (her only hope) who tells Luke about his heritage and invites him to come with him to fight the evil Empire ruled by Darth Vader.
  3. Refusal of call - Luke feels inadequate, and besides, his uncle needs him.
  4. Crossing the Threshold - Luke's aunt and uncle are massacred. There's nothing keeping him there now. He joins Obi Wan.
  5. Tests, Allies, and Enemies - Luke learns who to trust and who not to trust as he encounters Storm Troopers and other Empire lackeys. Han Solo and Chewbacca turn out to be valuable allies.
  6. Approach the Inmost Cave - Literally or figuratively, the hero should find himself someplace dark and dangerous. In this case, it's the large trash-compactor in the enemy ship.
  7. The Ordeal - After much Light-Sabering, Luke and his team, along with the rescued princess make it to the Millennium Falcon (Han's ship). But Luke's mentor, Obi Wan, sacrifices himself at the hands of Darth Vader so the others can escape.
  8. Reward - Escape from the enemy ship.
  9. Road Back - The Rebellion (the good guys) rally the troops and Luke joins them as a fighter pilot. They plot to destroy the Death Star.
  10. Resurrection - No longer a country bumpkin, Luke is now wise to the ways of the force, and a hero in the making.
  11. Return with the Elixir - Luke destroys the Death Star.


Enjoy this You Tube tribute to George Lucas. Carrie is hilarious as she describes her experience as Princess Leia.

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