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Review: "Star Wars in Concert"

December 15, 2009

I wasn't at all surprised that Anthony Daniels was greeted like a rock star when he took the stage at Conseco Fieldhouse on Dec. 12 to host "Star Wars in Concert."

After all, the flesh and blood representative of the "Star Wars" cycle of films (he played C-3PO in all six) has maintained a kind of purity unknown in the movie world. Unlike, say, Harrison Ford, who went on to movie stardom, or Carrie Fisher, who is now telling of her life of addiction on a Broadway stage, Daniels is known for nothing else besides "Star Wars." By not bringing anything else to the table--and in playing to a crowd of loyalists--Daniels was the perfect host for this event, which attempted to construct an under-two-hour narrative out of the roughly 12 hours of film history. And set it to John Williams' justly acclaimed and now iconic score.

That visual task wasn't simply a matter of distilling the good parts: The creators of "Star Wars in Concert" needed each sequence to last as long as the John Williams music to which it was being set. Thus, the show is structured around montages that sometimes--but not always--stayed on track with the overall narrative. They usually--but not always--stuck to footage from the finished films.

The result, visual, underlined the disparity between what's now known as episodes 1, 2, and 3 and the original trilogy now known as episodes 4, 5, and 6.

Clearly, the technology had changed by the time George Lucas backed up to the beginning of his saga. Yet the Luke Skywalker/Han Solo-era simplicity comes across on the three-story-high screens much more charming and engaging than the higher-tech "earlier" material. In those films, Lucas just couldn't resist adding more ships, more asteroids, more whatever into every shot and the results feels more cluttered than thrilling. Seeing it all together like this, even with short-attention-span editing, makes it seem even stranger that a saga that starts with impossible-to-follow trade disputes and political wrangling evolves into a climactic fight with warrior teddy bears.

It doesn't help that the editors often toss coherence aside, allowing sequences from one film to mix with totally unrelated scenes of another.

All that being said, the music sounded terrific. Kudos to the sound designers and to the players, who seemed to treat Williams' music with the proper mix of reverence and playfulness. 

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