Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Star Wars....the arcana, and COOL PICS

Into the Fuel Chamber
George Lucas has sometimes likened his filmmaking approach to cooking. A visual gourmand, he likes to keep a number of pots on the elements, sampling from some and sprinkling ingredients as needed. His approach favors having a countertop full of potential ingredients, improvising a recipe as he goes along.

To fill out that countertop, he often overstocks -- he'll have components that he'll leave out of the final concoction. To fans fascinated by alternate iterations of their favorite films, these are the tantalizing abandoned concepts or deleted scenes that eventually find their way onto DVD.

The previous Set Diary recounted the differences found in the shooting script description of the space battle. Continuing where that left off, the shooting script next describes a major set piece aboard General Grievous’ cruiser. The scene went by the wayside, but Hyperspace members saw webcam coverage of shooting in a water tank on Stage Two in Sydney two years ago, in August 2003. They knew something was missing from the final movie when our Jedi heroes remained relatively dry during their search for Palpatine

Instead of cutting to the bridge to introduce General Grievous, the script followed the intrepid Jedi as they worked their way through the cruiser. The elevator antics haven't happened yet.

In scene 6, the Jedi encounter Shaak Ti, sitting meditatively on the grimy floor of a wide hallway. There are tears in her eyes as she apologizes to Kenobi for her failure. Six destroyer droids tumble into the hallway, parting to reveal General Grievous and his bodyguard droids.

Here was his original scripted introduction:

GENERAL GRIEVOUS: Anakin Skywalker, the "hero with no fear." We've been waiting for you. Frankly, I was expecting someone with your reputation to be a bit... older.

ANAKIN: General Grievous, "Supreme Commander of the Droid Armies," you're shorter than I expected...

GENERAL GRIEVOUS: I'm surprised Skywalker, for someone with so much intelligence... you walked right into my hands.

ANAKIN: Quiet frankly, I was hoping for more.

OBI-WAN (quietly): Anakin, we've got a job to do here, don't upset him.

GENERAL GRIEVOUS: Ah, yes, and General Kenobi, "the negotiator," who doesn't know the meaning of the word intelligence. Your presence, along with Chancellor Palpatine's, has graciously given me more hostages than I could have hoped for.

This introduction was reworked into the cruiser's bridge and shot during pickups (on September 2, 2004 to be precise) since it couldn't be lifted directly from footage shot in Sydney -- the Jedi have their cloaks on in this version of events. In the final edit, their face-to-face was Grievous was transplanted to after their duel with Dooku, so Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor had their scenes reshot without their cloaks against bluescreen.

With his new hostages, Grievous has little need of Shaak Ti. In a cold-blooded display, the droid general stabs her through the heart, killing the beautiful Jedi. Obi-Wan and Anakin stand at rigid attention as the scene has suddenly become much colder and grim. They surreptitiously pass hand signals between them, like a major league pitcher and back-catcher, trying to decide their next move.

Agreeing upon their tactics, they use their blades to cut a circular hole in the floor. The hole was digital, but the sparks were achieved practically with a circle of squibs laid out on the floor by the Special Effects Department. The Jedi disappear below decks before the droids can do anything. Grievous orders his droids to hold fire because he knows what lies beneath.

The Jedi plunge into a filling fuel chamber. "The slightest charge from our 'sabers will send this ship into oblivion," observes Obi-Wan. "That's why they've stopped shooting." (When shot, the line was altered slightly and Anakin was given half of it).

The threats begin to pile on. Six super battle droids wade into the fuel pool. A sparking, arcing set of dischargers mounted atop the power generators represents the upper limit the fuel can reach before the whole room explodes. Anakin and Obi-Wan swim through the fuel, sparring with remarkably buoyant battle droids. Skywalker finds an escape vent, and the Jedi crawl through, into a network of pipes.

The generator room was shot in the water tank of Stage Two on August 14 and 15th, 2003, with the vent shaft scenes shot on August 15th.

Calling the water something exotic like "starship fuels" helps the suspension of disbelief in one regard -- the crawl through the vent shafts manages to completely dry the soaked Jedi.

Kenobi and Skywalker emerge into a corridor, slamming the vent shut behind them. Anakin seals the hatch shut with his lightsaber. This hallway scene was shot on the first day of principal photography, June 30, 2003. An image of it was revealed in "Jedi Dispenser," one of the Before the Helmets published on Hyperspace

Skywalker then teases his former master on the number of life-saving scenarios each of the Jedi has weathered. Questioning Skywalker's math, Obi-Wan says, "No! Twenty-eight to thirty-nine. That mess on Cato Niemoidia doesn't count." As fans can recall, a variation of this line was moved instead to the Senate landing platform scene.

As they make their way down the corridor, some destroyer droids come rolling behind them, leaving us back in familiar territory in a scene that survived to the final edit.

For further reading on this subject, see how it was originally reported here: Set Diary: Wesa Goin' Underwater, Okiday?


From the desk of Ralph McQuarrie: a rough concept for what would become the Star Wars birthday poster, commemorating movie theaters still exhibiting the film a year after its release.

Never tell him the odds! Han Solo plunges his ship into an asteroid storm in this storyboard illustration by Ralph McQuarrie.

Ken Ralston contributed to the creature design process. This illustration features a canine alien design that closely resembles a puppet he would operate in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

As can be seen here, R2-D2 was also originally going to fall victim of the ray shield trap inside the Trade Federation cruiser. This was altered during editing to have Artoo be elsewhere at the time.

In a cut sequence, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine clings to the tumbling star cruiser -- an effect created by having Ian McDiarmid atop a stationary piece of bluescreen surrounded set.

George Lucas is reunited with Jeremy Bulloch. The man behind the mask of the original Boba Fett returns to Star Wars as Tantive IV pilot, Captain Colton.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) emerges from the Naboo star skiff much to Anakin's outrage. The minimal set of Stage Three would become a Mustafar landing platform.


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