In honor of the year 2015, the year Star Wars returns to theaters, I’ll be writing a series of articles throughout the year to celebrate (and occasionally eviscerate), the greatest franchise ever. Enjoy! And may Christmas 2015 come faster than it takes Han Solo to do the Kessel Run.

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The year was 1999. For movie nerds, that year marked the arrival of the single most anticipated film in movie history. It was the year The Phantom Menace came out. As millions of Star Wars fans left their local theater confused about how the magic of Star Wars could disappear faster than a womp rat on meth, I went back to my apartment looking for answers. Did George Lucas really just turn my favorite franchise into a bad Saturday morning cartoon?

In the time since, a lot has been dedicated to explaining why the movie didn’t work. But one of the things that doesn’t get mentioned that often – if it all – is the featured set-piece in the movie: the Pod Race.

The Pod Race, in George Lucas’s mind, WAS the movie. While good ole George was excitedly grinding everything from characters to sets into his digital blender, the Pod Race was the one thing he actually built stuff for. Every one of the vehicles in that race was a real prop.

So why is it, then, that a set-piece given so much attention, given so much screen time, given so much weight in the film, turned out to be one of the most boring races (and set-pieces) ever put on film? You watch that race and you’re not focusing on whether Anakin is going to win or not. You focus on why everything is so fucking boring.

The answer to this – once learned – will ensure that you never write a bad set-piece again (or at least one as bad as this). To be honest, set-pieces are typically one of the more boring parts of a screenplay. They’re often cut-and-dry “car speeds up, cuts other car off, joey shoots, brad ducks” blueprint-oriented scenes, rather than scenes written to actually evoke emotion (huge mistake). Truth be told, a lot of execs skim over set-pieces because there’s no important story information in them and it allows them to finish the read quicker.

If you’re doing your job, a reader will never EVER want to skim past a scene. They’ll be so caught up in your characters and your story that every little moment in that set-piece matters to them!  So what did screenwriter George Lucas do so terribly to make this sequence, which should’ve been one of the classic all-time action scenes, so boring? Five things, to be exact. Let’s take a look at them.

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“BORING MAIN CHARACTER” – I honestly don’t care if you’re the greatest set-piece writer in the world. If we don’t care about the person who’s at the center of the set piece, nothing you write in the set-piece will matter.  I say this again and again on the site, but writers never do anything about it!  Stop putting all your time into the set-piece and put it into creating an original, compelling, entertaining main character who we want to root for.  Star Wars could’ve turned The Pod Race into a Bobbing For Apples contest and it would’ve worked if we cared about Anakin.

“NO MAIN CHARACTER FLAW” – In my newsletter, I talked about the importance of dealing with your characters’ internal issues in external ways. There’s no better time to do this than in a set-piece. And there’s no better way to explore it than through your hero’s unique flaw.  If you’re going to build a ten minute race scene into your movie, it better challenge your hero’s flaw in some way. The problem here? Annakin didn’t have a flaw. He had some doubts, some fears. But he didn’t have a clear flaw. In contrast, Luke Skywalker didn’t fully believe in himself. That was his flaw. And that’s why him trusting himself in that ending Death Star sequence was so goose-bump inducing. A clear character flaw equals clear “external conflict” to play with during set-pieces, which creates a closer emotional connection between movie and viewer.

“THE BULLSHIT ARTIST” – Set pieces are your movie’s big performance numbers. In an action movie, they will often be what your movie is remembered for. So their reason for existing has to be airtight. The Rebels didn’t attack the Death Star in the first Star Wars, for example, because someone had a hunch that the base had a weakness. They had the Death Star plans that told them exactly how to destroy the base. In The Phantom Menace, we’re sold some cheap B.S. that winning this pod race (and using the prize money to fix their broken ship) was the only way for our group to get off the planet. As if two of the most important Jedi in the galaxy couldn’t have found an alternative way to leave. Once we know you’re trying to bullshit us on the reasoning for a set-piece’s existence, we turn on you quickly.

episode1-podrace

“OVER-COMPLICATION” – One of the things I continue to see amateur writers do wrong is needlessly overcomplicate their stories. Stop. Just stop! There’s always a simpler way. What you do when you over-complicate something, is you create confusion in the reader. If the reader is confused about why a big set-piece is going on, nothing in the set-piece matters. Before the Pod Race, Lucas injects an incredibly complicated bet between Qui-Gon and a local alien gambler that states if Anakin loses, the alien gets the pod-racer, but if Qui-Gon wins, he gets the pod racer, Anakin, and a part for his broken ship. The alien then doubles down, and if he wins, he gets the ship, the pod racer, the Anakin, and possibly Qui-Gon too. Qui-Gon comes back at him and doubles his own bet by asking for Anakin’s mom if they win as well. It’s so needlessly confusing, that by the time the race starts, we’re clueless as to what needs to happen. Confusion is NEVER EVER EVER good for your story and is especially bad right before a major sequence.

“REPETITION” – A set-pieces’ mortal enemy is repetition. If the cars that are chasing each other are doing the same dance for too long or if the bad guys and the good guys continue to shoot and duck in the same way over and over, we’re going to lose interest. A set-piece is a mini-movie. And just like any movie, you need to challenge and surprise your audience over and over again. Treat your set-piece like your portfolio and diversify. In the Pod Race, we were subjected to the same desert checkpoints again and again with little variety in the action or interactions between racers.

To me, the worst set-pieces are the ones that feel too technical. A set-piece is a complex series of organisms that have to work together. It’s great if you’ve come up with an imaginative set-piece. But if your hero isn’t battling his flaw as well (i.e. Neo fighting Smith in the subway when he didn’t believe in himself yet), then the set-piece feels empty. You might have the coolest location for your set-piece ever, but if you don’t establish big stakes and make those stakes CLEAR, we’re going to be confused about why the set-piece is happening (i.e. the race car set-piece in Iron Man 2).

Learn why the Pod Race, and other set-pieces like it, aren’t working, so that when it comes time to write your own set-piece, you’ll be ready to deliver.

  • klmn

    “In honor of the year 2015, the year Star Wars returns to theaters,
    I’ll be writing a series of articles throughout the year to both
    celebrate (and occasionally eviscerate), the greatest franchise ever.”

    So this will be the year you review The Star Wars Holiday Special?

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      Okay, you wanna know how much I hate the special? I’d rather watch The Room ten times in a row. There, I said it.

      • klmn

        So you don’t celebrate Life Day? (What’s the Star Wars equivalent of Scrooge?)

        • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

          Maybe Watto? I don’t mind being Scrooge so long as I have wings (which hopefully allow me to do more than just hovering a couple feet off the ground).

    • Gregory Mandarano

      Happy Life Day everybody!

  • Lucid Walk

    Funny you should mention Repetition.
    One of the best movies I saw last year was “The Raid 2.” The movie had a set-piece every 20 minutes, and every one of those set-pieces was a fight scene. AND YET, every single one of those fights were different. Here are just a few:
    1. Hero fights prisoners in bathroom as part of initiation
    2. Hero protects Villain to gain his trust during the prison fight in the mud
    3. Baseball-Bat Man and Hammer Girl show off their stuff by assassinating some guys
    4. Machete Dude fights for his life in a nightclub
    5. Hero defends himself from corrupt cops armed with knives
    6. Hero fights in a car during a car chase (set-piece within a set-piece)
    Every set-piece is its own mini-movie. So each should be different from the last. And I think “The Raid 2″ does an outstanding at said task

  • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

    I’m not going to argue with any of Carson’s points because I agree with the, however, I don’t think the pod race, or the prequels for that matter, were a complete disaster.

    I was 11 when Episode I came out. I had seen the Special Edition movies before and loved them and I always liked them better than the prequels. But I never started thinking badly of the prequels until I grew older, more critical, and also more aware of outside opinions.

    Yes, many things in the prequels are emotionally underwhelming, but by Crom, the spectacle is first-rate. Creatively, I don’t think just anyone can come up with the visuals that we saw in the prequels, and in criticizing the emotional hollowness, we sometimes also forget that they were dazzling and charged with a lot of energy.

    That’s why to this day I can’t say the prequels are bad movies entirely. The worldbuiding is fantastic, and in fantasy and sci-fi impressive worldbuilding carries a lot of weight.

    What I want more than anything (and I suspect Carson, too) is spectacle and emotion, like we got in the Lord of the Rings movies, the saga that I consider my generation’s Star Wars.

  • Buddy

    nice article. but I might have a point :
    For me, one of the best action movie I’ve seen those last few years was MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 4. I just loved this movie. every set-piece is so inventive, full of conflict, urgency, clear goals & high stakes. This is the best way you can write your set-piece.
    they are so fun and original (the prison break-out, the escalating tower, the chase in the storm, the ending in the automatized parking).
    But when you think about it, they never explore Ethan Hunt’s flaw ! (Q : does he really have one ?).
    BUT, they explore the theme and the conflict of the movie (you can have all the technology you want, the best way to spy is with men’s skills).

    • Pooh Bear

      I think by a fourth iteration of a franchise it’s difficult to give the hero an emotional arc/inner journey. What MI4 did very well was give the other agents surrounding Ethan flaws and arcs.

      And yes, MI4 had some of the best set pieces and stayed true to the franchise.

      • wlubake

        Quite possibly my favorite set piece ever is from the original (1996) Mission: Impossible. The Langley heist is awesome. It has high stakes, is clear in its planning and execution, and is unlike anything else you’d seen. The only thing that hurt it was the rat in the A/C vent. Just love that movie overall as it has 4 solid set pieces. Always felt the aquarium scene was underrated.

        • brenkilco

          Mission Impossible is proof that audiences will swallow nearly anything. There’s this impenetrable vault except that it’s got this AC vent in the ceiling about three. foot square accessed by ducts that you can practically walk through. How about a couple of dozen tiny vents?

          • filmklassik

            Loved the idea (had it ever been done before?) of the team dressing up as first responders and gaining access to Langley via a phony fire alarm — or whatever the hell it was. Very inventive.

            Beyond that, I have vague memories of Cruise dangling from the ceiling and being careful not to trip the high-tech alarms — in other words, the famous shot from the poster and trailers — and that’s about it for my memories of the major Act 2 set piece.

            As for the movie itself, well, I don’t mind admitting that I love Tom Cruise (heretical to say these days since he went so publically batshit — I don’t care, he remains an underrated actor and an almost preposterously charismatic Move Star).

            So Cruise was great. But if memory serves, the real mission impossible for audiences was trying to make heads or tails of the storyline. I remember leaving the theater thinking the plot was incomprehensible.

          • brenkilco

            The only other vivid memory I have of the movie is Cruise blowing up the restaurant that was designed like a giant aquarium. And yes the impression I had was that the plot made very little sense. There was quite a bit of nonsense involving computers and IT, then in its infancy, and I don’t think writer Towne knew anything about either one.

          • filmklassik

            Right, I forget that Robert Towne (one of my 3 favorite contemporary screenwriters) did a huge polish on that script. I think he was Cruise’s Go-To guy back in those days. And yeah, Towne may’ve been winging it when it came to the tech stuff, but since I am as technologically illiterate (I’m overextended just writing this post!) as anyone in the world, I’m sure I never noticed.

          • wlubake

            I was a kid (15) when it came out, and never had a moment’s issue following the plot. I think the biggest confusion came actually from DePalma showing, and not telling. Cruise goes through scenarios of what might have happened when his team was killed, but DePalma decided to just show us these scenarios rather than have Cruise tell us. I would think that the conversation between Cruise and Voight – when Voight reappears – is what sends people off track. The story is actually quite clear, to me. I just think that DePalma dropped the ball a little conveying it.

    • Scott Strybos

      In every narrative a need for transformation must be established. That is the fatal flaw. Ethan’s fatal flaw (if he has one, this could be a stretch) is unique because while it is a flaw, it has yet to manifest in a way that requires him to address it: I think Ethan’s fatal flaw is that he always has to engage, fight, try (which is what makes him a hero). Ethan has yet to meet a challenge he could not overcome, so he has not yet had to overcome this flaw. But this head strong, running into the fire every time, could be seen as a character flaw? After all, this need to always be the hero cost him his wife, as seen in MI4.

  • leitskev

    To add a few:

    1) include a distinct antagonist villain. Think Gladiator.
    2) the scene can test and ultimately strengthen the bonds between important characters. Think Hans returning to save Luke’s farm boy hide from Vader.
    3) stakes need to be clear, believable, strongly felt
    4) hero’s resourcefulness must be severely tested
    5) helps to have a surprise somewhere along the way. Such as when the lions emerge from the pits in Gladiator.

    I think Carson hit the main problem with that scene. Could be summed up as WTF are they doing this for? Which made it goofy and long.

    • bl2d

      Regarding #3. How would you show that in a set piece? Or are you saying that the stakes should already be established.

      • leitskev

        I am talking about the stakes of the scene, which may or may not be the same as the bigger stakes. Also, I am not saying this is necessary for all set piece scenes, just something that helps.

        For some reason, Gladiator comes into my head today. In Maximus first fight in Africa, the stakes are his survival. The question is will he even fight. But they up the stakes for the next fight. If he wins, and puts on a great show, his master will take him to Rome, where the emperor is, and we know Maximus wants his revenge.

        Once in Rome, the stakes keep rising as each victory wins him the confidence of the politicians who might support rebellion against the emperor. So these aren’t just fights for the sake of showing how good a fighter he is. There are stakes involved, stakes that continue to build.

        In Star Wars, in the fight scene when they are on the Falcon and they man the guns, the stakes are escape of course, with the larger stakes being they are necessary to rescue the Princess and for bringing the plans of the rebellion. This is also Luke’s first test in battle, and it;s his first chance to prove himself to Hans, a step in their bonding.

  • Darkline

    So if you haven’t seen this and have a spare HOUR!?! This is the best and funniest review of the phantom meance I’ve seen. It shows why absolutely none of the film makes any sense, from the most basic fundamentals (There is no protagonist), to every story desicion being illogical.

    It’ also narrated by a murderer, have fun.

    • Trent11

      This shit is hilarious! I’m so glad Ted Bundy got around to narrating this before they fried him.

    • cjob3

      “Star Wars:The Phantom Menace is the most disappointing thing since my son.” -greatest opening line in the history of film criticism

    • scriptfeels

      yes. yes. and yes.

  • Nick Morris

    After the Yoda scene in RETURN OF THE JEDI, the ghost of Ob-Wan comes clean to Luke about Vader. During this exchange, he says “When I first met him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him.” I don’t believe that Lucas was picturing a 9y/o Anakin when he wrote this scene over 30 years ago.

    So I’ve always suspected that this one line of dialogue from ROTJ (re: Anakin already being a “great pilot”) is the sole reason for the existence of the podrace sequence in THE PHANTOM MENACE.

    Or that’s my theory, anyway. I’m a dork with theories about Star Wars. :)

    • BSBurton

      all of lucas’ changes were dumb in the first trilogy blu ray release. He has Vader screaming NOOOOO in episode 6 but missed a huge opportunity to spice up the dialogue in episode 4.

      Originally Vader says to Obi Wan “When I left you, I was but the learner… now I am the master.”

      Obi wan : “Only a master of evil, Darth.”

      HOW ABOUT ^^^^^^^^^

      Vader: “You left me to die on that hellish planet, alone, while you fled like a coward. Now you’ve returned to face your old student… before I am done, you will call me Master.”

      Isn’t that the better change ?? lol

    • scriptfeels

      Anakin also flew a starship in the final sequence as well though, so even if the pod race was cut out this line would still make sense.

      • Nick Morris

        But would he have suddenly known how to operate the starfighter better than the Naboo pilots without the whole podrace angle? He even says “Now THIS is podracing” during that scene.

  • Nicholas J

    Meesa thinks da podrace isn’t so nutsen. It’s da only part in da movie where meesa’s not thinkin “Dis be da most messen thing meesa ever seen!” Dat and da lightsaber fight, is berry bombad.

  • Daniel

    What are some more action films that do contain set pieces that we care about (ex. emotionally charged, explore theme or character through action..)

    Gladiator, Raid 2 and MI:4 have been mentioned.. can we think of any others? I believe the light saber duel between Luke and Vader in Empire Strikes Back that culminated in Lukes hand getting chopped can constitute as one.

    • Magga

      The opening of Saving Private Ryan is full of storytelling tips, simply because, as realistic as it is, it’s constructed in steps, like a video game almost. First, see the scared faces, the shaking hand, the vomiting. Then, open the doors, carnage. Then, water-based action, under and over the water. Then, hiding behind the metal obstacles, then chaos and horror, filmed subjectively from Hanks’ p.o.v. as well as the enemy’s p.o.v., the latter establishing scope and low odds. Then, open field combat, with carefully chosen human moments. Then, behind the little hill, the use of pipe bombs, the problems with communication. Then, behind the mountain, using inventive strategies like using gum to put the mirror on the dagger. Then, making their way to the top of the obstacle, then fire throwers, then a final overview of the the carnage on the battlefield. Brilliantly thought out and constructed, and almost topped by the final battle in the movie for the same reason: details, overview and clarity masked as chaos, but now with characters we know. The gold standard.

    • https://thebarkbitesback.wordpress.com/ Jim

      Braveheart and Wallace’s speech before the first battle. Conversely, the second battle which took what could have been repetitious and changed it.

      As readers/viewers, we’re looking for patterns to establish meaning and we have a sense of the intended outcome for the second battle based on the first, but we see how the flaw of Robert the Bruce leads to one of the most anguishing moments for both Wallace and he in that second battle and how our expectations have been turned for not only surprise, but thematic relevance.

    • Nicholas J

      KILL BILL

  • Magga

    I’ve always thought the best Star Wars stuff was just OK, but The Phantom Menace is the movie that had the most adverse effect on cinema as an art form in the last couple of decades. 1999 was a stunning year, where Hollywood really got their shit together. The Insider, Magnolia, Being John Malkovich, American Beauty, Three Kings, Election, The Blair Witch Project, Fight Club and, most relevant to the point, The Matrix. The latter was universally seen as an embarrassment for George Lucas, who had waited forever to continue his space saga and made a movie that looked dull, old-fashioned and silly next to the more inventive Matrix. Most people think The Matrix was a big movie, but the Star Wars CRUSHED it at the box office. Lesson: Invention and quality matter less than brand. People know Star Wars, they will see Star Wars no matter if it’s bad Star Wars, which they did again twice in the following decade. So buying a property with a built-in audience became THE way to take out insurance against storytelling problems, as people gladly went to see eight Harry Potter’s, a Hobbit trilogy, any superhero movie, movies based on toys you liked as kids, hell, even rides in Disneyland. The next blow to cinema was the financial crisis, where studios decided to double down on fewer releases with bigger budgets, insured against failure by a generation of brand loyalist with less curiosity than even the kids in the 80’s. And they’re getting rewarded, year in and year out, even by people over 40 who want to relive their childhood days of playing with dolls in their bedrooms. Case in point? “There’s a new STAR WARS-MOVIE coming in 2015!!! It’s been ten years since they last disappointed us! And now the creator of the FRANCHISE (what a horrible word for films) is out the door! Authorship will no longer stand in the way of our fun! God bless the corporations for hiring the go-to guy for this kind of thing, he’ll give us EXACTLY what we expect! Go cinema!” Nothing could be better for movies than this movie flopping, but we never ever let a franchise lose against invention. That’s too seventies, or at least a bit nineties, when it could sometimes happen.

    • filmklassik

      “1999 was a stunning year, where Hollywood really got their shit together.”

      It’s funny how so many people point to 1999 as a watershed year for the movie industry, and I suppose it was.

      … Which really disheartened me. That was the year I realized just how out of step I was with the U.S. mainstream, because I friggin’ hated BEING JOHN MALKOVICH (fun for about a half hour), FIGHT CLUB (pretentious, with a truly awful ending), MAGNOLIA (histrionic and plotless), AMERICAN BEAUTY (not believable for one minute — and far too self-congratulatory), THE INSIDER (not bad, but at least — forgive the pun — a good 60 Minutes too long).

      In fact of all the movies you listed, only THE SIXTH SENSE really wowed me. And that, you might agree, was the film that had the most traditional (and traditonally SATISFYING) narrative structure of the lot.

      Okay, I enjoyed ELECTION, too, giving it a sold B-plus.

      But the rest of those films really pissed me off. And the sad part (for me, anyway) is that those are the films that ended up setting the tone for the next century and influencing a new generation of filmmakers.

      But I freely admit (as I’ve already indicated): Others’ mileage may vary — and probably does.

      • Magga

        That’s a taste thing, and I’d argue that they didn’t set the tone because what we got later was mentors telling people with newly acquired abilities that they were special, something I understand the appeal of for outsider teenagers, but it’s in EVERY. SINGLE. HIT. MOVIE. Fight Club, which only found an audience on DVD, the disappearance of which is another culprit in reluctance to make things without a built-in opening week audience, argued that “you are NOT special”, which is unusual. It’s a cultural artifact now (“We have no great war, we have no great depression”), but it’s still amazing that a movie with so much nihilism was made on a big budget with a superstar, and while I had problems with it, it contributed to a broadness of movies that year, to which I could ad Toy Story 2, Eyes Wide Shut, American Movie, South Park The Movie etc. What is beyond a discussion of taste is that more different types of movies with a broader array of tones and visions were greenlit, which I suspect was a reaction to Titanic, which surprised everyone by increasing the ceiling for box office by about 100% by simply putting large amounts of money behind a writer-director’s vision. The next time the ceiling was raised, it was based on the decision to do the same with Avatar, and Nolan makes money even on non-Batman movies, so I still think it could work if the industry had some pride in their work and some concern about their place in pop cultural history. But they don’t, which is why most people I know are starting to avoid Hollywood movies these days. Homegrown comedies, for instance, stay at number 1 for weeks on end, which never used to happen. I have to believe this erosion of idea-based American cinema is unsustainable.

        In order to not be a downer I should point out that, with Mad Men, Review, Louie, Girls, The Americans and plenty of other shows returning this year, there’s plenty of filmed entertainment to look forward to

        • filmklassik

          Yup. Lots of good filmed entertainment seems to be coming our way, no question about it… but not a lot that’s interested in telling us good, 2-hour, self-contained genre stories — for grown ups.

          Instead we’re getting pieces of that formulation.

          We’re getting 2 hour, self-contained genre stories — for teenagers.

          Or good genre stories for grown-ups — told over 8, 15, or 55 hours. In other words, we’re getting lots of serialized storytelling.

          And I know I know I know I know, serialized stories can be great — but their imperatives are different than standalone motion pictures. Serialized stories — even the best of the best like THE SOPRANOS, TRUE DETECTIVE, BREAKING BAD, THE WIRE, etc — are scratching a different itch than movies are.

          Or we’re getting good, standalone CHARACTER STUDIES released by the Weinstein Company… which can be good, too, I’m not disputing that, but, once again, they are scratching a different itch than well-made, standalone genre pieces like BODY HEAT, THIEF, THE STING, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, CHINATOWN, etc.

      • brenkilco

        I’m probably alone in my hatred of The Sixth Sense. Yeah, the final twist got me but only because it had been preceded by more narrative and visual cheats than any other movie in history. Ghostly Bruce only sits in chairs, never tries to move one because of course he can’t. We never see him enter a building because of course he can’t open doors. His words to his wife who can’t hear him dovetail perfectly with the way she just happens to be talking to herself so that they appear to be having an argument. How is it little Haley Joel never seems to notice that his new buddy is a ghost and how is it that Bruce appears so dapper and together when all the other ghost encountered seem bedraggled and more than a little confused? Ghosts see what they want to see Shymalan tells us with a lazy shrug. Bullshit movie.

        • filmklassik

          Yep, no argument. You can make the case that there was a bit of (okay, a LOT of) narrative sleight-of-hand on display in that movie. Regardless, I did respond to the filmmaking and, grading on a very steep curve (since there wasn’t a lot for me at the multiplex that year) the classicism of the storytelling.

          But I did enjoy the Big Twist (hardly original to that movie, by the way. Go look up a radio play that Orson Welles starred in called “The Hitchhiker,” written by Lucille Fletcher, which was later adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone) even though I saw it coming a mile off. Not because I’m any kind of genius (far from it), but because by the time I got around to seeing the movie a week or two into its run, all I’d been hearing from critics and friends was “SURPRISE ENDING! SURPRISE ENDING! SURPRISE ENDING!” so my attenae was raised to the heavens and I was alert to stuff I otherwise would have missed.

          Wish I’d seen it on opening day.

          • Poe_Serling

            ” Go look up a radio play that Orson Welles starred in called “The
            Hitchhiker,” written by Lucille Fletcher, which was later adapted as an
            episode of The Twilight Zone) even though I saw it coming a mile off.”

            Have you ever seen the ’51 short film Return to Glennascaul starring Orson Welles?

            Yet another take on why you should never pick up a hitchhiker.

            I believe it’s available to watch on youtube.

        • gonzorama

          You’re not alone. I figured out the ending on the way to the theater. So I watched the movie knowing Bruce Willis was dead, and it was a real bore-fest. But I can see how most people were surprised by it, thus believing it’s a fantastic film. It’s a very slow, self-serving film.

          • filmklassik

            “I figured out the ending on the way to the theater.”

            Say what?! You, my friend, are very, very good.

            I knew — or strongly suspected — what the final reveal would be at around the 30 minute mark, but only because, as I said up above, all the discussion about a Big Honkin’ Twist had my eyes and ears on Full Alert.

          • gonzorama

            Yeah – I knew the kid could talk to dead people, and somehow I heard that Bruce Willis only talks to the kid. Two & two came together and as I was pulling into a parking space it came to me. When Bruce got shot I knew there would be no big reveal for me!

            As you said, because everyone was talking about the “big twist” it was running through my mind all day before I saw it. Ruined the twist, but let me see the movie for what it is – boring!

  • mulesandmud

    A good set piece is an opportunity to develop your characters through action, or at least to remind us of their most essential qualities.

    The pod race sequence tells us nothing about Anakin, except to confirm that he is in fact a decent pilot (weird that the jedi do not confirm this themselves before letting a small child participate in a deadly event).

    The prequel trilogy in general seems generally confused about the relationship between character and action.

    Other critics have pointed this example out before, but in ATTACK OF THE CLONES Anakin and Obi Wan foil an assassination attempt on Padme. After spotting the attack droid floating outside her window, Obi Wan jumps out the window and grabs hold of the escaping droid, leading to an extended chase through the city.

    Why not have Anakin leap through that window instead? He’s the young, reckless, impulsive young apprentice, while Obi Wan is the measured, stolid teacher. Which one of those characters do you think would heedlessly leap through plate glass miles aboveground?

    By having Obi Wan jump blindly while Anakin runs to get the car (?), you miss a simple opportunity to articulate who are heroes are, which makes thing muddled later on when our characters’ words don’t match their actions (moments later, Obi Wan warns Anakin to be patient…really?).

    Compare this to, say, the first attack on the xenomorph nest in ALIENS. A classic sequence with a dozen characters all acting perfectly according to their nature.

    Hicks, cool and dependable with his trusty shotgun. Hudson, cracking wise to disguise his fear with bluster. Vasquez, tough and action-ready even if it means ignoring orders not to use her big gun. Apone, seasoned enough to smell trouble but respecting the commands he gets from Gorman, the inexperienced lieutenant calling the shots from the safety of the control room. Burke, the shifty company man worried more about the bottom line than the lives of the Marines. And Ripley, smarter than the rest, but sidelined until she takes matters into her own hands and saves the day.

    The ALIENS scene combines action and character to develop the story, where the AOTC scene is just one thing after another and leaves us pretty much where we started.

    Can’t find the ALIENS scene on Youtube, but here’s the way not to do it:

    • Brainiac138

      I am not saying this is justification for bad storytelling, and I am not saying this is the case, but that scene always felt like something that Ewan McGregor really pressured to be included, at least the way it plays out.

  • cjob3

    This maybe not be true, but to me that Pod Race scene felt like the first true “Video Game sequence” in a movie. It was badly shoehorned in, and didn’t seem to exist for any other reason but because it would be great as a video game. And it was. Sucked in the movie though.

    • cjob3
      • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

        Although the one thing I hated about this game was that as soon as one of the other pod racers passed you, you never saw them again for the rest of the race. Compare that to a game like Re-Volt where there was a chance to rush to the first position even if you were fifth or so.

      • scriptfeels

        this game was amazing.

  • cjob3

    The Pod Race was also terrible because it was 100% suspense-free. We know this a
    prequel. The first of 6 future films involving this character. Despite the bogus danger of cars exploding (!) around him (his mother let an 8 year old enter this race?) we know for a fact no harm will come to Anakin. It’s even obvious he’ll win or the movie can’t progress past this dumb, artificial obstacle. When we have zero concern for our hero’s saftey in what should be a life-or-death race, there’s nothing to do but watch cars driving around and around in a big circle.

  • Guest

    ..

  • Fistacuffs

    And to think, the Pod Race scene was also the best part of this movie. Besides, perhaps, Darth Maul.

  • Scott Strybos

    I don’t know what they are saying but I think it is funny.

    • lonestarr357

      You’re welcome:

      Bearded Dude: “I was promised Muppets. I saw no Muppets!”
      Unibrow: “I didn’t know they could make Yoda in CGI.”

      Not an exact translation, but I did the best I could in making it sound grammatically correct. (Don’t speak Dutch or German – my original guess; thank you, Google translate.)

      • Scott Strybos

        Well, that’s not funny at all….

        • lonestarr357

          Maybe, it’s funnier in Dutch.

    • Midnight Luck

      Beard: “It’s been 16 years. All I wanted was a Happy Ending, instead I feel like I’ve been Man Handled!”
      Unibrow: “Come back! They do their best, but they don’t understand the language, let ‘em give it another try!”

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

    Good rules of thumb for the shiny bling, Carson.

    Just like how Dam Busters was used as a template for the climax of Star Wars…
    PM’s pod race set piece was actually inspired by a classic stop motion animation film.
    THE PINCHCLIFFE GRAND PRIX. Check out the comparison for yourself…
    http://vimeo.com/84289137

    • Nicholas J

      There’s some similarities, but that doesn’t mean it was “actually inspired by” it. Has Lucas said that he was inspired by it or is that just an assumption? There’s only show many ways to shoot a race. You show the starting line, the drivers, the crowd watching, the vehicles, etc. And sure, when you edit them together side by side so that all the cuts and similar shots match up perfectly, then it looks like a blatant ripoff, when really, it’s probably mere coincidence.

      • Midnight Luck

        if anything, he may just really like filming a race. See his early movie AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) which was a lot of kids in cars doing crazy street racing (Fast and the Furious style, LONG before Fast and the Furious).

        I wouldn’t doubt if he was just inspired by his own work, and his interest with getting a race / chase scene down (included Han Solo in those early races as well), so I think he may have just been going back to his watering hole.

      • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

        Lucas did the very same thing in Star Wars with The Dam Busters.
        He used that set piece to staged shots and cut his film to:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/star-wars/10817059/10-films-that-influenced-Star-Wars.html

        And I quote: “But the most significant of these is The Dam Busters, thanks to the very specific bombing strategy Luke and his fellow X-wing pilots must deploy, each taking turns to try and deliver their killer payload. There are many snippets of dialogue Lucas reused verbatim – “Get set for your attack run!”; “Look at the size of that thing!”

        Look at the proof for yourself:

        Pretty darn sure Lucas used the same technique again. Why not?
        Worked great the first time.
        More than good enough for a crummy cash grab of a prequel.

        • mulesandmud

          The original STAR WARS also used a dogfight from Howard Hawks’ 1943 film AIR FORCE as the template for the Tie Fighter attack on the Millenium Falcon as it escapes the Death Star.

          Especially in 1977, there was a real logic behind this kind of cribbing: using analogues from earlier films helped Lucas’ team maximize their special effects work by applying framing and editing techniques that had worked for other filmmakers in the past. Hawks and Anderson had a similarly tricky task in the 40s and 50s, using aerial stock footage to simulate dogfights, only they had no one to copy from.

          Interesting that for TPM, Lucas’ template was a stop-motion film. The fact that he’s cribbing from something so ungrounded in reality might help explain why the effects work in the prequels frequently feels so weightless and unconvincing.

          • Nicholas J

            I always find it ironic, how CGI is supposed to be so liberating for film, allowing you do to anything, but back when Phantom Menace was made it was actually very constricting because your actors weren’t really allowed to go anywhere in the frame since you’re just shooting green screen in a studio. There are so many just stand and talk scenes in the prequels because of this.

            But the effects work for action sequences like the podracing was actually pretty good IMO, at least for 1999. Now though, yeah, it does feel like a video game.

          • mulesandmud

            Just like when movies made the switch from silent to sound. Visual style took a giant step backward, because cameras had to be put kept in soundproof boxes that couldn’t move around. CGI is still a creative anchor for lots of projects that try to use it as a crutch rather than a tool.

            Some of the blame for the flatness of those prequels has to fall on Lucas, though. During the same period, plenty of other directors without half his resources found ways to make CGI an organic element of their films.

          • Magga

            Do we think CGI has gotten to the point where it works? I still prefer, say, the animatronic robots in Jurassic Park or the stunts in the latest Bond

          • mulesandmud

            CGI, like any other tool in the toolbox, has always worked, so long as the filmmakers are mindful of its strengths and limitations.

            Bear in mind, all the best creature effects in JURASSIC PARK were done in part or whole using CGI. And even before that, films like TERMINATOR 2 and THE ABYSS founds brilliant ways to use less advanced effects, all because Cameron understood exactly what they were capable of, and found perfect applications for them.

            Nowadays, CGI has the capability to be both utterly convincing, as in DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (I kept catching myself thinking ‘wow, that chimp is a fantastic actor’), and also utterly invisible, as in GONE GIRL (facial replacements, sky replacements, nearly every scene secretly doctored in some way).

            The danger, now as then, is that CGI will be overused simply because it is available. At that point, it ceases to be a tool and becomes merely a crutch. Best to take it case by case.

    • Magga

      Oops, didn’t see you’d already posted this. Being a Norwegian, this film was kind of my Star Wars as a kid.

  • http://vimeo.com/adamwparker Adam W. Parker

    Regarding the Matrix:

    I’m amazed that it really only has THREE (or four) set pieces. Spaced through the beginning middle and end. And everything in-between is setting up the stakes for those. It’s beautiful to watch how simple and effective it all is – and challenging to live up to.

    It really exposes how wasted, as you mentioned, the Iron Man 2 set piece was. Nothing set it up and nothing resulted from it. They could have taken it out and still had a recognizable story.

  • ThomasBrownen

    Ooohh… I just had a rather profound thought.

    One of the reasons the pod racing scene is rather frustrating is that the whole sequence is a detour (if I remember correctly). The jedis were on their way to another planet (first goal), but had to make an emergency stop on Anakin’s planet to fix their ship (second goal) to get to the other planet, then had to have Anakin win the race to get the part (third goal) so that they could fix their ship and get to the other planet.

    The goals here are NESTED within each other, instead of SEQUENTIAL. We all know that they’re going to meet their first goal and get to their initial planet because that’s where the plot is. And if we know that the protagonists are going to meet their first goal, we already know that they’re going to meet their second and third goals too. So it all becomes rather predictable and boring. Of course, a good writer would find ways to mess with viewers’ expectations — perhaps Anakin could fail the race and the jedi would have to find a different way to get the part for the ship — but such a development would only force us to ask why they needed a pod race to get the ship part in the first place, and that only makes the writing look dumb and forced.

    Hmm… I’m not sure that makes any sense. It did at the time I thought it up. LOL. Anyhow, good article, Carson!

  • Poe_Serling

    Though it’s from a classic film, here’s one of my favorite set pieces.

    I think it lines up nicely with a lot of Carson’s advice on crafting such a scene.

    >>The character of John J. Macreedy (played by Spencer Tracy). Although he’s the definition of a reserved hero, he is anything but boring. He’s a one-armed stranger looking for a few answers in the jerkwater town of Black Rock.

    >>A very simple scene at first glance (not over complicated) – Macreedy wants to have quiet lunch at the local greasy spoon. Then Robert Ryan and his thugs (Lee Marvin and Ernie Borgnine) show up.

    >>The escalation of tension and conflict. With Ryan looking on, Borgnine goes on the attack. At first, he verbally assaults Macreedy… taking a few potshots at Macreedy’s obvious disability.

    >>The real dynamics of the townspeople and the situation come to the forefront during the scene. Things reach a boiling point.

    >>The fight. Memorable and entertaining. A real trailer-type moment.

    • Eddie Panta

      Chilli without beans?

      • Poe_Serling

        Hey, just another reason not to visit Black Rock.

        • Eddie Panta

          Spencer Tracy stars in: Bad Day on the Bowl

          Beans… I don’t need no stickin beans!

    • brenkilco

      And the fight itself, though brief, is itself a scene with rising action and a climax. A karate chop, two chops and a knee to the face, Borgnine going through the door, and the grand finale flip. They knew their business in those days.

  • BSBurton

    After yesterday’s 17 comments, you go to STAR WARS!! At 42 comments today hahah. It’s like viagra for the comments section

  • BSBurton

    Ok, so I’ve got a mini-rant for the George Lucas changes to the Blu Ray edition of the original trilogy.

    Vader screams NOOOOO in episode 6 (instead of the powerful silence that was there before)… I think if Lucas wants to “improve” the trilogy, he missed a huge opportunity in episode 4.

    Originally Vader says to Obi Wan “When I left you, I was but the learner… now I am the master.”

    Obi wan : “Only a master of evil, Darth.”

    HOW ABOUT ^^^^^^^^^

    Vader:
    “You left me to die on that hellish planet, alone, you fled like a
    coward. Now you’ve returned to face your old student… before I am
    done today, you will call me Master.”

    Isn’t that the better change ?? lol

  • Eddie Panta

    http://www.wtfpod.com/

    Richard Linklater on the Marc Maron podcast today discusses over plotting, the natural power of film and the overworked, heavy handed first 20 pages.

    He goes on to challenge the studio criticism of why should we care about your character and what are the stakes?

    He also discusses how conditioned the audience has become expecting that anything thing that happens off plot line is a precursor, or a set-up for a incident that will come later.

    IF your character, a young boy is playing with matches in the basement, then of course this means the house is going to catch fire at some point later in the film.

  • G.S.

    If disappointment is the difference between expectation and reality, The Phantom Menace was (one of) the most disappointing movie(s) in the history of cinema. To me, the failure of the pod race set piece goes even further back than all 5 of Carson’s points. The general structure of the movie was salvageable, but too many story choices worked against it being truly entertaining and enjoyable.

    We entered Anakin’s story too early. Conceivably, the prequel trilogy was Anakin’s rise and fall, including his relationships with his master and the eventual mother of his children. So the first installment should have had, perhaps, a 13-year-old padawan and his master Obi-wan saving a headstrong young soon-to-be-Queen Amidala. Qui-gon was one character too many, further spreading out the narrative focus of the story. With Anakin being too young to make any decisions to impact the story, we’re essentially left without a protag, let alone one with a discernible flaw. A young teenager, however, is at the perfect age to explore the ideas of transition/ascension and explore the flaws that would eventually turn him to the Dark side. Another benefit would be making the eventual relationship with Padme less weird…

    Aging him would also provide more opportunity for drama/conflict built into their very presence on Tattooine in the first place. His relationships with the people there then become lovely little dramatic mystery boxes. Imagine the meeting between Anakin and Watto from Attack of the Clones, but done without knowing how he was treated. What if Watto was physically abusive? Now, here’s Anakin standing in front of him with a lightsaber and the ability to crush his bones with a thought. Imagine the subtext of his and Anakin’s conversation then… Kid Anakin just EXISTS on Tattooine, and barely that. Older Anakin has a painful history he’d have to confront and overcome. With those things laid as groundwork, a pod race bet on a hyperdrive is suddenly capable of being an emotionally-charged battleground for the protag, and thus more entertaining.

    I actually wrote a treatment for how I would have rewritten Phantom Menace as an exercise. It was both fun and upsetting.

  • Howie428

    There was another inherent dramatic problem that the prequels never solved… In the originals our heroes are a small band of rebels fighting a giant powerful establishment. In the prequels our heroes are the giant establishment.

    In spite of constant attempts to separate them from their resources we never really get worried that their backup won’t arrive in time and be overwhelming. It’s only when the Emperor takes over that the dynamic flips back. But as you say, that’s undermined by the fact that the finale involves fights between Obi Wan and Anakin, and Yoda and the Emperor, all of whom we know are going to live.

  • hackofalltrade

    I am gonna start the year agreeing with Grendl on every point. I wonder what that means for 2015 for me? Godfather Part Two is my favorite sequel of all time for your exact reason. It was almost magical how the story blended backstory of his father while watching Michael become “a chip off the old block.”

  • klmn

    OT: Russ Meyer/ Roger Ebert alert. Midnight, Saturday, Jan 10. Beyond The Valley of The Dolls showing at the New Beverly Theater.

    I won’t be able to be there, but this is a good chance for Carson to expand his mind beyond Star Wars.

    • Midnight Luck

      yes. what you said^^
      or

      Websters Dictionary

      en·light·en·ment noun in-ˈlī-tən-mənt, en-

      : to think, to be; devoid of referencing or thinking of Star Wars

      or

      : Buddhism : a final spiritual state marked by the absence of desire or suffering

  • scriptfeels

    My thoughts on this article relate to Carson’s premise that the podrace doesn’t work. The Phantom Menace was a huge success financially, why are we picking over the pod race scenes in particular? How are they related to Phantom Menace losing ‘star wars magic’, I don’t know. I saw this movie when I was 9 or 10 and loved it to pieces. It was the first movie I saw 5 or 6 times in a theater. As a family film I thought the podrace was successful in that it was a big setpiece filled with explosions, trickery, jabba the hutt, and the audience rooting for annie to win so that he gets his freedom as a slave along with the money to repair the starship. The scene had stakes because qui-gon bet everything on winning the race against watto. The goal was clear for Annie to win the race, and the urgency was the race itself. Annie had no time to practice racing, had only raced once before and crashed his pod, and is using his pod for the first time in the race! To me this scene had GSU and acted as a pivotal point in an otherwise all of the place movie. I’d say it was one of the stronger scenes for these reasons.

    More stakes would include Padme’s people back on Naboo being under the trade federation’s control. They didn’t plan on coming to Tattooine and the more time spent there the farther they are from regaining Naboo.

    I would also argue that Anakin’s character flaw is his inexperience pod racing, and to a lesser degree his upbringing as a slave. He only raced once before, blew up his pod, didn’t finish the race, and all while losing to Sebulba.

    I agree that the stakes could have been more clearly established, but I think that they are there if you understand Lucas’ messy storytelling in this film. A better question to me would be how to establish an emotional connection with the audience for the naboo people to give the second act weight because of their ‘suffering’, but as the film stands we never see any suffering on naboo aside from droids surrounding bureaucrats and the princess being intimidated to sign a trade agreement.

    George also had complete free reign over the script and I would be interested in looking at set pieces from spec scripts that have turned into films and flopped. For example, I’m sure there’s a set piece from Transcendence which we couldn’t picked apart. Although I disagree with Carson on this article, I’d be interested to hear how the character’s were boring to him, what repeated itself during the podrace, and why the podrace was ‘cheap b.s.’ for our character’s goal. Just spitballing here, but all in all, I think there are a lot bigger factors limiting episode I’s long term appeal than the pod race set piece… like every joke in this movie. Compared to jar jar reacting to an alien horse creature pooping before the race, i’d say the pod race was great.

  • ChadStuart

    I don’t know, I’m not as down on the prequels as many people are since they did manage to get the spectacle right. And the Pod Race is some pretty good spectacle.

    Let’s be honest, in most modern action movies there’s never much doubt that the main characters are going to live through the film. It’s just part of the formula. Secondary characters might be thrown to the wolves every now and then, but main characters are gonna live. Who watches a James Bond movie without the saftey net of knowing that he’s going to live through it and probably get laid at the end? Yet, audiences have been eagerly lining up for each new installment for longer than I’ve been alive.

    So, if you take that out of the equation, i.e. there’s no real implied suspense to most set pieces, then what you’re left with is the spectacle – and the prequels’ set pieces were always spectacular. You could tell George was always trying to keep it interesting. The Pod Race was something far different than we’d seen in the first three films. They were primarily known for space battles and he gave us a race. In II he gave us a fist fight between Obi Wan and Jango Fett when he knew we expected a lightsaber duel. At the beginning of III he took a standard space battle and added the little droid critters to spice things up. George was always mindful of giving us new things.

    And the best “spectacle” is about showing you something you haven’t seen before. If George had rested on his laurels and given us repeats of lightsaber duels and space battles, then the prequels would probably be as bad as their reputatoin suggests.

    Sure, the story and characters weren’t that strong, I’ll give you that. But I’m not going to complain about the set pieces because they were pretty well done.

    (Full disclosure: I’m old enough to be part of the original Star Wars generation. I saw them all in original release, played with the toys, had to send away for my Boba Fett figure and was disappointed when the missile didn’t fire as advertised, and taped them off of HBO before there was such thing as buying your favorite movies. And I STILL wasn’t disappointed with the prequels.)

  • scriptfeels

    Spot on.

  • filmklassik

    This was awesome, grendl, encapsulating (beautifully) several ideas I have always felt but could never quite articulate.

    And for me, the main problem with Lucas’s second trilogy is that certain narrative choices had become unfashionable since the late 1970s. By 1999, audiences seemed to like their escapism with a heavy dose of angst and solemnity, and that tendency is even more pronounced today.

    One need look no further than the James Bond series for a stark example of that. In 1977, the year STAR WARS burst upon the world, EON released the wonderful and larger-than-life Bond adventure THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.

    And just compare the tone of that movie with the most recent Bond outing, SKYFALL.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • leitskev

    G raises the great difficulty with prequels: we have an idea how things work out already, which characters survive, and that lessens the stakes.

    There is a comparable form to the prequel that has worked for thousands of years: the tragedy.

    With the tragedy, the audience knows the ending. Greeks already knew that Oedipus would learn his tragic history. Shakespeare’s audience knew how Julius Caesar died. And modern audiences know that Lincoln gets shot in the theater.

    So it’s a fascinating question is to why audiences enjoy this stories. And the answer might be that there is something compelling about the tragic fall. For there to be a fall, there must first be a rise to greatness. As Grendyl points out, the Star Wars prequel is about the fall to darkness of Darth Vader. It’s actually a compelling concept, but a challenge for the story teller because of the stakes issue, and a bigger challenge because they committed to it being a trilogy. Maybe that was part of the problem.

    For the story to work, everything has to focus on Anakin’s rise to greatness and his subsequent fall. Grendyl astutely points out that beginning the story with a child was probably a mistake. Maybe that would have been fine if the child part was only a sequence within the first film.

    Audiences that have enjoyed tragedy are moved, I think, by the shared feeling of humanity that comes from watching a rise while knowing it is doomed. Lincoln’s election to President is actually fueled with more power because we already know the tragedy of the war and then his death that is to come. With Julius Caesar we feel the tragic weight of the general’s decisions because we already know where they lead, and we see the man for all his potential and his humanity. With Oedipus there is the sense of a decent man who is undone by fate and a dash of arrogance. There is something powerful in it all and it has moved audiences all the way back to the ancient Greeks. The Star Wars prequel concept could have worked, and at times in the story did work, but decisions to add things like this race really weakened it.

    • gonzorama

      Right – most of us knew the ending of Apollo Thirteen, yet the film was very compelling. It’s all in the approach: if we believe they could die it’ll be a nail biter. If not we’ll just check out…

      • leitskev

        Well, no. Do we know the ending or not? We’re talking about stories where the audience knows the ending, so they are not really nail biters. The audience gets something else out of it. We’re not biting our nails wondering if Lincoln will get shot in the theater or Caesar will get killed in the forum. So we watch for other reasons. It’s a kind of horrific fascination.

        I believe it’s been actually related to the kind of sacrifice rituals we see in both primitive and some modern religions, such as Christianity. Maybe Joseph Campbell said this? Not sure. But the idea is that in watching a tragedy where we know the outcome the audience shares in what it already anticipates: the sacrifice of the hero. And there is something about that which is cathartic. Which purges us of guilt or a sense of sin in our community.

  • filmklassik

    Here’s a classic set piece — the tail end of Steve McQueen’s two-wheeled dash for freedom in THE GREAT ESCAPE.

    Consummate filmmaking. Brilliant photography and stunt work. Wonderful music. And wide open spaces, baby.

    • Poe_Serling

      Another slice of awesome from director John Sturges!

  • Ken

    Qui-Gon has to pin his hopes on a little kid surviving and winning a violent race. What a hero

  • brenkilco

    Nice analysis. Just wish you and Carson and the other commenters could declare a Star Wars moratorium. Even the best of these movies is over rated. But the failure of the prequels is less about the difficulty of crafting a narrative around a character’s tragic fall than about Lucas’s inadequacy as a writer. He had six hours to take Annakin from tow headed innocent to genocidal monster. But until the last thirty minutes or so of the last movie this Darth to be remains nothing more than a surley, teenage malcontent. His descent into cosmic villainy, which includes mass child murder, is absurdly perfunctory and unconvincing even by comic book standards.

  • Poe_Serling

    Again, more Award Season Scripts available to read. Courtesy of Go Into The Story:

    http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/?s=award+season+scripts

    Just added: Foxcatcher, Leviathan, Love Is Strange, Mr. Turner, Still Alice, Whiplash, and Wild Tales.

  • Nick Morris

    “He is so focused on his digital technology and green screens I’m sure he would’ve cast a tennis ball on a string if he could have, and practically did.”

    Legitimate LOL here.

  • Gregory Mandarano

  • Zero

    I don’t care at all about Star Wars (I don’t hate it, either, though that’s for another time), so I can’t really get the most out of this article. But, it has made me think more about character flaws and set pieces, especially in my own novel and screenplays.

    Even in pilots, I always try to have the characters confront their flaws in some way during the climax of the episode. It’s not always fully possible, but more often than not they do, and the pilot is better for it.