Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bring in the Clones

Magnet # 243:  Star Wars Episode II:  Attack of the Clones Poster

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Me

Whenever I see this magnet, I can't help but think have two thoughts - one, what a beautiful magnet, and two, what an ugly film.  Okay, Warsies, or whatever name you Star Wars fans prefer, don't gang up and come after me.  After the first trilogy, I was pretty into Star Wars and I still enjoy those original films.  So when the time came for the prequels to finally be released, I was very excited.  And I saw The Phantom Menace twice in theaters and, despite Jar-Jar Binks, told myself that I liked it.  Was I in denial?  I don't know, but I have to admit that while I do have one DVD set of the original trilogy, that film has not made it into my pretty large collection - and I don't see myself ever buying it.  But I think it was seeing Attack of the Clones in the theater that finally did it for me with the prequels.  Once again, I was eager to see it, this time on opening day - this very day back in 2002 - with my one of my art classes, and I even sat outside the theater to help buy the tickets.  But somewhere in the middle of the film, it just hit me that I was not having a good time.  First, there was the terrible love story between Padme and Anakin.  The dialogue was terrible, the actors were wooden, and there was no chemistry whatsoever.  And when you compare it to the terrific energy that Han and Leia had, it just got that much worse.  And the rest of the story really wasn't that good - even great actors like Ewan McGregor and Samuel L. Jackson were having a tough time trudging through it.  And then there were the special effects.  Lucas had enthusiastically added in more computer-generated scenes in this film than any of his previous ones, but after one massively impressive shot after another, they kind of burned me out.  I ended up longing for the charming simplicity of a period or indie flick that relies on actually incredible backgrounds on their own merit, and sticks more with the actors.  That many jaw-dropping establishing scenes gave me a headache, but perhaps I'm one of the few.  The film certainly did well, but it's still one of the least-grossing in the Star Wars saga.  And a few years later, when it aired on Thanksgiving night, I turned it on, just to see if maybe it would be better the second time.  I ended up having to mute it and my Mom walked in during the colosseum battle scene and asked me what B-movie I had on.  Yep, that did it for me.  And I still haven't seen the final prequel - I just have no desire to.

But as far as this stunning image goes, I have to put it among the best of any Star Wars film poster.  Like many of them, it was painted by the incredibly talented artist Drew Struzan.  While Struzan has produced posters for some truly great films like the Back to the Future films, Big Trouble in Little China, Coming to America, The Shawshank Redemption, the Indiana Jones films, the Muppet films, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, most moviegoers know him as the painter for the Star Wars film posters.  It was on these films that he got his big break back in 1977.  That was when that his friend Charles White III, an accomplished artist in his own right, approached him to paint the figures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo on a poster that was going to be used for the re-release of the incredibly popular film.  White would concentrate on the more mechanical elements of the image, like Darth Vader, the ships, and the androids.  The result was a striking image that was eventually made to look like a vintage circus poster, peeling off of a wooden fence with an image of Obi Wan Kenobi on the side and the credits below.  It went on to become George Lucas' favorite and he owns the original.  With his knack for portraiture and producing a gripping image, Struzan soon became the principal artist for the Star Wars film posters, as well as a painter for album covers, book cover, and ads, but he never stopped being grateful to White for helping him get his start.  He's now retired, but has left behind a fantastic body of work.  If you'd like to see more of his great work, there's an impressive collection at http://www.drewstruzan.com/.

Even if I'm not too fond of the prequels, I will never stop enjoying the original three Star Wars films.  And to those out there who think me a blasphemer, I'll ask this:  if Lucas had shot and released the prequels before the original trilogy, would they have been half the success they managed to be?  And would the fourth to sixth films have even gotten filmed?  We'll never know for sure, but I know where my preferences lie.

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