Monday, November 29, 2010

UPDATED - RIP: Irvin Kershner

Last year, the Golden State Theater in Monterey, CA held a screening of The Empire Strikes Back and I was lucky enough to attend. After the screening Irvin Kershner spoke for a little over an hour sharing behind the scenes stories of the making of Empire. I have been searching for this video since I heard the news of his passing this morning. It picks up right after talking about what he thought of Star Wars when he first saw it. Sadly this was the only video I was able to shoot due to a low battery. But, I'm incredibly happy that I still had this and we get to hear a little about how he got the job on Empire.

Original Post
Today comes word that fanboys have lossed another admired person. Director Irvin Kershner passed away at the age of 87. Irvin began his directing career in the late 50's, and directed a lot of television during the 60's. But it was a movie he would direct that would endear him to sci-fi fanboys forever. A little movie called The Empire Strikes Back. (Yes, he did direct Robocop 2, but we're not talking about that.)

That's right my little nerdlings, George Lucas did not direct Empire (nor Return of the Jedi). While the story credit is of course George's, the writing credit goes to Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. But the responsibility of turning this story in to a sequel for one of the most successful movies of all time fell on Irvin's shoulders. Through that he would create what is now considered by many (including me) the best science fiction movie of all time.

I understand that a simple, "Because it's awesome, that's why," won't be a sufficient answer. But I also will not bore you with a dissertation. What it comes down to is the arc of the characters. You have Luke, still trying to find his way but overestimating his power. You have Leia, stuck between her feelings for Han and being the leader of the Rebellion against the Empire. Then there's Han Solo. Realizing that he's not just the tough smuggler he always figured he was. But his emotions for Leia have now compromised everything he once thought he knew.

Through all of this something else happens. Our characters are suddenly seperated from each other. Luke to the far off planet of Degobah, and the others in a busted ship still trying to evade capture. But it's in Degobah that we meet a new character that brings everything in to light. Yoda. An old Jedi Master who will show Luke the ways of the Force...when he's not whining.

Then stuff happens, more stuff happens and we get to the moments that stunned movie audiences. First, after being captured by Darth Vader, Han Solo is frozen in to carbonite. He took one of the heroes, the bad ass who actually pulled a gun and shot at Darth Vader, and took him out of the game. Han was the one who was supposed to have Luke's back. The one who would save his neck, again. It all leads up to a confrontation the audience had been waiting for.

Luke vs. Vader
For those that did not see this in the theater when it first came out, try to imagine it if you can. You're seeing this for the first time. You are discovering everything as it's being played out on screen. Luke is in a lightsaber duel for the first time and it's against Darth freakn' Vader. Suddenly, in a moment we didn't see coming, Vader cuts off Luke's hand. It's a moment that shocks and leaves you wondering, "What now?" And that moment is delivered when Vader begins talking to Luke and trying to get him to join the Dark Side (who I hear have great benefits). In an exchange that is forever burned into nerd brains everywhere, what we thought we knew gets turned all around and cinema history is created:

"Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father."
"He told me enough. He told me you killed him."
"No. I am your father."

It's a line that is mis-quoted over and over, but a moment that made every audience gasp in shock. This is story telling at it's best. And it's because of Irvin Kershner.

On behalf of all nerds everywhere who pretended to have their hand cut off, we thank you Mr. Kershner. In my head your repsonse to us is, "I know."

POPped in carbonite
Jungle Jesse

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