A little over fifteen years ago, the DVD box set for the Star Wars trilogy was released. Included in the collection was a bonus disc that included a documentary called Empire of Dreams: The Story of the ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy. Filled with interviews and never seen before footage, the film ran two and a half hours long. How well does it hold up after over a decade?
Empire of Dreams is straight and to the point. It begins in the 1970s and speaks to how George Lucas entered the film industry. It begins with a look at THX 1138 and what America was like in the 1970s. From there it spans the original trilogy in order. As it examines the trilogy, the movie also looks at its impact on American culture.
It is ironic trilogy that is filled with so much imagination is being covered by a documentary that is so formulaic. The study never deviates from its linear direction. There is nothing wrong with this and it actually makes sense. The subject is a trilogy, after all. It is just a striking contrast. That being said, there is no need for Empire of Dreams to be as bombastic as its subject. Its goal is to chronicle how the original trilogy was made and its impact.
Empire of Dreams is a fascinating watch. There are tons of interviews with seemingly everyone who ever worked on any of the sets. These are more than just standard PR interviews. While no one is there to dish the dirt -this is not that type of documentary – they are refreshingly honest. This provides viewers with insight on one of the biggest film franchises today.
A big selling point will be the amount of behind the scenes footage. Empire of Dreams is two and a half hours and not a second of it is wasted. Watching how simple some of the shots from A New Hope are fascinating. The problems they had with the droids adds levity that increases the documentary’s enjoyment. From auditions with future stars like Kurt Russel to raw unedited footage, the documentary is every fan’s or filmmaker’s dream.
The interviews may be the most interesting part of Empire of Dreams. It is not so much what is being said, however. As cool as it is to hear about many of the changes to the script, little of it is new at this point. (Luke was originally named Starkiller: Han was an alien at one point.) It is the interviewees that are the highlight of the documentary.
The personalities of each person manage to come through the camera. Throughout the entire film, different people comment on how quiet and shy George Lucas can be. He is a fascinating person to listen to, but he also has the awkward aura others mention. Harrison Ford never says a cross word per se, but he comes off as the grouch everyone jokes about.
Best of all, is Carrie Fisher. She obviously had a great time giving this interview. She is very personable and a joy to watch each time she is on screen. She is filled with great stories and has a great sense of humor. Her segments show why she is so loved among Star Wars fans and why she was the perfect choice for Princess Leia.
Empire of Dreams: The Story of the ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy will not appeal to everyone. Anyone who is not a fan of the franchise will not be drawn to watch this documentary. As interesting as it is, only fans and those interested in the making of movies will enjoy it. Those who do take the time to watch will leave extremely pleased.
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