Thursday, October 13, 2011

Revenge Of The Sith Spaceship Landing Drinking Game

After all the recent hubbub over the release of the Star Wars movies on Blu-Ray, I decided to re-watch all three of the Prequels (on glorious plain old DVD). Why would I do such a thing to myself, you ask? I don't know. Self-loathing? A masochistic streak I wasn't aware of? Who can say?

After watching them I came to the conclusion that the movies aren't as quite bad as I remembered them. The most frustrating thing about them is that they're almost good. In the hands of a competent writer and a good director, they could have been great.

Anyway, on to the point of this post. As I was watching the final film, Revenge of the Sith, I began to notice something. At first I thought it was just my imagination, but it kept happening over and over again, to the point of absurdity. What was it, you ask? There are a veritable poop-ton of shots of space ships and shuttles taking off and landing, generally on some sort of platform.

Virtually every time the story shifts to a new location, we're forced to watch the characters enter a ship and fly from one place to another. Either George Lucas doesn't believe the audience is smart enough to figure out how the characters are getting from Point A to B, or he has a heretofore unknown fetish for spaceship landings.

Seriously, if you like watching ships take off and land, you'll find this movie positively pornographic.

Look, I get that this is a Star Wars movie, so it's a given there are going to be spaceships in it. That's great. Bring 'em on. And I know that movies need establishing shots to give the audience an idea of the geography of the movie's world. I just don't think it's necessary to see a ship landing every time the movie changes locations.

Don't believe me? Try using a non-Star Wars example. On Seinfeld, when Jerry and George are sitting in Monk's Diner and then leave, the next thing we see is a shot of Jerry's place (accompanied by some weird guitar music). Then we cut to the interior of his apartment. We understand that the characters have traveled to a new location. We don't have to watch Jerry and George leave the Diner, enter a cab, see the cab pull up to the apartment and the two exit it.

So how many ship landings are too many? Let's examine the film, shall we? Yep, it's time for another obsessively detailed post, which I call the Revenge of the Sith Spaceship Landing Drinking Game. The rules are simple: every time a main character takes off or lands in a ship, you have to take a shot. By the end of the movie you will most likely be dead from alcohol poisoning.

Be sure to watch the convenient Landing Tally in the upper left hand corner. Here we go! Spoilers ahead!

Anakin and Obi-Wan land their fighters in the hangar bay of General Grievous' ship in order to rescue Senator Palpatine. OK, I will accept this scene as necessary to establish a location.

General Grievous blasts off from his doomed ship in an escape pod.

Seriously, George? General Grievous? Yes, I know Charles Dickens used slyly descriptive names for his characters, but he was a good writer. I guess in your case the names Sargent Dreadful and Colonel Heinous were already taken?

Anakin lands Grievous' ship on the planet of Coruscant. This is a very extended sequence, lovingly detailed for the discerning ship landing fetishist.

Here we have the first of the classic platform scenes, as Anakin and Obi-Wan deliver Senator Palpatine to the Senate building on Coruscant in a shuttle. Another ship fetishist's dream. 

This is a perfect example of George's favorite type of landing shot. We see the ship proudly banking through the sky as it approaches the platform, then watch it ever so slowly settle onto the surface as its retro-rockets fire and a complicated door peels open. Then the ship bounces ever so slightly on its air-cushioned shock-absorbing struts. The only thing missing is the "Bown-chika-bown-bow" porno music as the sun glints seductively off the burnished metal of the ship.

Incredibly we then get to watch Obi-Wan depart the platform in the very same shuttle.

You could reduce the run-time of this movie by a full fifteen minutes if you just cut out the shots of ships landing on platforms.

Oh, we're not nearly done! Read the rest by clicking below.
Next we see General Grievous land on a platform on the planet Utapau. George really had a boner for this world and its platforms, as we will see it many more times during the course of the movie.

A Republic Gunship lands in the shipyards of Coruscant. No major characters enter or leave this ship, but I felt its in-your-face prominence in the scene warrants its inclusion. So shut up and take another drink!

Obi-Wan departs Coruscant in a Republic Cruiser.

Obi-Wan takes off from the Cruiser in a small fighter.

Seconds later we see Obi-Wan docking with a hyperspace ring before he heads for Utapau. Because his small fighter doesn't have a hyperspace drive, dontcha know. I hesitated to include this one, as it's technically not a ship landing. But it's presented with all the fixated aspects as the dozens of other landing scenes though, so ultimately I decided to go for it. My blog, my rules.

If only George devoted as much attention to detail in his scripts as he does this unimportant crap...

If you're playing the Drinking Game, are you starting to get a buzz yet? You'd better brace yourself, because we're nowhere near the end!

Obi-Wan lands lands his fighter on Utapau (I told you there'd be more ship action here). And yes, we had to watch him ditch the hyperspace ring a few seconds prior to this.

Obi-Wan's droid pilots the fighter away from Utapau as a diversion. I'm surprised we didn't have to watch the droid dock with the hyperspace ring again and blast off.

Republic gunships arrive on Utapau to save Obi-Wan.

Back on Coruscant, Mace Windu heads for the Senate building to arrest Senator Palpatine. Another superfluous ship shot. We just saw Mace enter the ship and tell Anakin where he was going. The scene could have ended there. We probably could have figured out that the ship then took off and flew Mace to his destination, rather than sit in stunned confusion as he first appeared in one place and then inexplicably showed up in another. There was no need to show the ship taking off into the crowded skies of Coruscant, other than to show off the special effects team's skills.

Anakin senses that his mentor Senator Palpatine is in trouble and takes off in a small ship to rush to his aid.

Hilariously we then have to watch Anakin land on a platform at the Senate building and rush off to save Palpatine.

Princess Leia's Hair Buns! Why did George feel it necessary to show Anakin arriving? He just showed him taking off in a ship. When Anakin bursts into Palpatines's office to save him, I think even the biggest dullard in the audience would be able to connect the dots and realize how he got there.

Plus, wouldn't it have made for a more exciting entrance if Anakin simply appeared in the doorway at the crucial moment, instead of having his every move telegraphed far in advance? I just do not understand this compulsion to show us every detail of how the characters move to and fro.

Again with the Utapau! Another Republic Gunship lands on a platform there. Once more, even though no important characters enter or leave this ship, its prominence in the scene makes it worth including.

A few seconds later, a different Republic Gunship takes off from a platform on Utapau.

Bail Organa lands his sporty little flying couple at the Jedi Temple back on Coruscant. As we will find out later, Mr. Organa is Princess Leia's adoptive father and is one well-traveled denizen of the Star Wars universe. He racks up some hellacious frequent flier miles during this movie.

Bail Organa barely escapes with his life as he flees from the platform at the Jedi Temple.

Starting to feel drunk yet? We're still nowhere near finished!

Yoda blasts off from the Wookiee planet Kashyyyk in a little escape pod.

Yes, it's really spelled "Kashyyyk," with three Ys. How do you even pronounce that? "Kash-EEEEEEEEK?" The other characters just say it as "Kash-ik," so apparently the extra Ys are silent. I guess they're supposed to help the name seem alien, but unless you're reading it you'd never know it had three Ys in it, so what's the point?

Bail Organa (there he is again!) leaves Coruscant in his Blockade Runner.

All the scenes of this ship in Revenge of the Sith really bug me. This is supposedly the same Blockade Runner from the opening minutes of the original Star Wars movie, the one that gets swallowed up by the massive Star Destroyer. In the original movie the Blockade Runner seemed pretty darned big. I got the impression it was hundreds of feet long. Here it banks and turns and acts just like a small private jet. It's like finding out the starship Enterprise is the size of a semi-truck.

Obi-Wan borrows the late General Grevious' ship and leaves Utapau. At long last, I believe this is the last time we see this planet.

Anakin hops in a fighter and leaves Coruscant to head for Mustafar.

Are there no guard rails on Coruscant? The entire planet is one gigantic city and everyone lives in 200 story skyscrapers. Anakin just bounded down those rounded steps and into his fighter ship that was hovering there. No guard rails or fences anywhere in sight. How many people on Coruscant topple off the edges of their penthouse apartments to their deaths each year?

Obi-Wan rendezvouses with Bail Organa's Blockade Runner, in another scene that makes it seem much smaller than I imagined.

Bail Organa's ship returns to Coruscant. Told you! This dude gets around.

How close are all these planets, anyway? I know they have hyperspace, but it seems like they flit from world to world in mere minutes. In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo worried about the distance to Bespin and how it would take a long time to get there. I guess the Star Wars universe is constantly expanding, and in these earlier prequels the planets were closer together?

Anakin lands his fighter on a platform on the hellish volcano planet of Mustafar.

Obi-Wan leaves Padme's apartment and hops in a ship and heads for the Jedi Temple. Again, nothing between the steps and the ground far below.

Padme leaves a platform on Coruscant in her shiny chrome plated Naboo ship.

Padme lands on a platform on Mustafar, because if George Lucas shows us someone taking off in a space ship, then by God he's going to show them landing when they get to where they're going. It's like some personal credo by which he lives.

If you're still conscious, by now you're no doubt beginning to feel the effects of alcohol poisoning. You should attempt to dial 911 so that the paramedics will arrive just as you're finished reading this post.

Bail Organa (again!) rescues Yoda in his flying coupe.

Obi-Wan and an injured and pregnant Padme leave the platform on Mustafar.

Emperor Palpatine's shuttle lands on a platform on Mustafar.

Seriously George, couldn't you just show the shuttle sitting on the platform with the Emperor walking away from it? There's a good chance we'd be able to figure out that he just came out of the big ship behind him and that it landed there sometime in the last few minutes. I'm telling you, this movie is pure ship platform porn!

Obi-Wan and crew land on Polis Massa. This time they don't land on a platform though, they go through an airlock and into a pressurized hangar bay.

The Emperor's shuttle lands on Coruscant. Because why stop showing us ships landing at this point? 

I'll be damned if isn't Bail Organa again, who's apparently become the Most Important Person In The Whole Frakin' Star Wars Universe. Here we see his ship delivering Padme's body to her home planet of Naboo.

I can tell it's Naboo by the domed architecture ripped off from James Gurney's Dinotopia books.

Bail Organa's ship (sigh...) lands on a platform on his home planet of Alderaan.

So there you have it. A Grand Total of 37 shots of ships taking off and landing on platforms. I knew I wasn't imagining it. If you've been playing the Revenge Of The Sith Spaceship Landing Drinking Game, I apologize for your recent death.

By the way, just for the heck of it, the deleted scenes on the DVD even feature a damned ship landing scene, as we see Yoda arriving on Dagobah to begin his exile. George couldn't even resist sticking one of these shots in the deleted scenes!


  1. I write these posts so you don't have to!

  2. George Lucas can do no wrong

  3. Your ideas about Lucas' motivations here are good, but I have a few others:

    (1)When Lucas made the original trilogy, he was continually frustrated by the technological limitations of the time. He could get away with showing a ship coming in for a landing, and he could show it already at rest, but showing it actually touching down was too complex a feat of motion control and compositing to pull off effectively.* This was so frustrating that, when he had a chance to do it again decades later, he had ships touching down all over the damn place. Maybe this is the ROOT of his fetish, actually.

    (2) It's pretty obvious that Lucas does't understand why the original trilogy was successful. While people flocked to them for spectacle and a sense of adventure reminiscent of classic movie serials, Lucas followed them up with three movies about aliens and robots sitting in meetings discussing trade policy. Perhaps Lucas ended up thinking "People liked Star Wars. There are people in spaceships in Star Wars. Maybe they liked it because of the people in spaceships. I'll throw lots of that in there. But most space travel would be against a boring field of stars. Takeoffs and landings are more visually interesting. Let's throw a lot of THAT shit in there. Done. That's why they pay me the big bucks."

    * I don't remember any actual touchdowns in the first three. Am I wrong? If so, this reason is bullshit.

  4. In reply to Anonymous: Well, that's certainly one opinion, alright.

  5. @Shannon Hubbell:

    Thanks for the intelligent and well thought out reply!

    I think you hit the nail on the head here with point #1. Ever since Return of the Jedi, Lucas has never been able to settle for showing us an apple when he could show us the whole damn orchard. He's apparently never heard the old saying, "Less is more."

    In Jaws, it's common knowledge that the mechanical shark kept breaking down and Spielberg had to shoot 95% of the movie without it. Rather than hurting the movie though, this actually helped it. It gave the audience a feeling of dread, knowing there was a shark out there in the water but never seeing it. I believe Spielberg learned a valuable lesson in directing from that. If Lucas had directed Jaws, the shark would have been in every damn shot. He'd have even figured out a way to have it attach Sheriff Brody inside his house.

    You are so right with point #2, that Lucas has no idea why the original trilogy was successful. While it was sort of interesting to see how Palpatine manipulated events to become emperor, the meetings and senate scenes are an absolute bore.

    I'm not saying that he shouldn't show ships taking off and landing; certainly some of the shots were valid and even necessary to establish locations. And I can't deny that most of the shots were indeed cool looking and well done. I just don't think we needed to see it happen 37 freakin' times.

    For the record I can think of one shot of a ship landing in the original trilogy. The Millenium Falcon is shown coming to a rest on a platform on Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back. That's the only one I can think of though.

  6. I'm a huge Star Wars nut & I don't think the weakness of the Prequel Adventures is in the Directing, nor the plot or the backdrop or the general story at all, in fact many of those things can be incredible, but in the nitty griity screen writting. Just my opinion.

    Why George did not give his overall story to Kasdan ( a trusted friend who wrote Empire and Jedi and co-wrote the screenplay for Radiers with Lucas ) is beyond me. That being said, I think a better cut by an inspired George could do wonders for the movies.

    And yes it like spaceship porn, you certainly get your money's worth. What can ya say, it's Star Wars.

  7. is it really a demonstration of something ? or just an elaborate "i do not know how having good time without destroying everything around me" ? it's time consuming, no ?

  8. It would make hard transitions if there wasn't space ships breaking it up a bit.


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