The Jedi Lounge: Interview with Juli Witte

Today is Monday and we have a new interview at the Jedi Lounge. This week interview is with Juli Witte (@CloneCorridor) from Clone Corridor, you can see her blog here, go take a look at it, it’s really a great blog!

1. Which Star Wars movie did you see first?

 I saw the Original Trilogy pretty much from the moment I was born. My father was a major fan and loved sharing his passion for Star Wars with us so I have memories of seeing the OT without even really knowing what was going on. My first conscious memory of seeing a Star Wars movie however is of The Attack of the Clones, which was the first one I saw in the cinema. It absolutely blew me away.

2. What Star Wars means to you?

 Star Wars means a lot to me. On the one hand it is a way of escaping our world every once in a while by dipping into this fascinating Galaxy. It’s also something that has given me so much inspiration and strength throughout the years that I don’t really know who I would be right now if it wasn’t for Star Wars. Something else it means to me is ‘community’. Star Wars fans exist all over the world and knowing I’m a part of that group of amazing people makes me very happy.

3. What’s your favorite part of the Star Wars saga and why? (it can be one of the six movies or even one of the tv shows)

 It’s incredibly hard to pick a favourite part, since for me the films and tv shows are so interlinked and “together”. But The Revenge of the Sith has to be it, I think. It’s a brilliant film, bringing together threads of storytelling spanning centuries, and is beautifully directed as well.

4. If you wanted a subtitle for the Star Wars movies what would it be for you?

I have a feeling that ‘These films will rip your heart out but you’ll be happy about it’ isn’t quite catchy enough, is it?

5. How important do you think it was to have the Prequels telling this story of the rise and fall of Anakin, the fall of the Republic … and why do you think it was important to tell this story? For you, how does it connect to the First trilogy?

 I think it was absolutely crucial to go back to the beginning and show how evil can arise in an essentially good and fair society. By showing us Anakin/Darth Vader as a young and innocent child it once again becomes clear that good and evil aren’t just two polar opposites. Star Wars has always told intricate stories in which there is more grey than black and white and the Prequels emphasized that like no other. Villains aren’t born that way and Empires don’t jump into existence out of nowhere. The Prequels have added a lot of depth to the story of the OT and have also made Star Wars something that is still relevant in the 21st century.

 6. What do you think of Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman’s performances in the Prequel trilogy for their respective roles?

Personally I absolutely loved their performances. I think especially Hayden Christensen had a difficult job, portraying this character that is so iconic but having to show him from a completely different side. His Anakin is young, impulsive and as open to weakness as all human beings are. He’s really added a sense of humanity to the character that wasn’t entirely there yet before. Ewan McGegor made Obi-wan Kenobi into a fan-favourite. His obvious joy at playing the role and the energy with which he did so meant he was an essential part to making the emotional arc of the Prequels as strong as it was. Natalie Portman’s performance as Padme Amidala gave me an incredibly strong female role model to be inspired by. I loved how she had so many different sides to herself: the humanitarian, the politician, the lover and the friend. It is a really strong performance and she has one of the best lines in the whole saga: ‘So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.’

7. Do you think starting the Star Wars story with Anakin as a boy was a good choice and why?

 Yes. As I mentioned above, Star Wars was always a story that went where you didn’t expect it to go. Lucas isn’t here to tell you a familiar story that won’t make you think. By showing one of the biggest villains in all of cinema as a friendly little boy, a sulky teenager and a confident general Lucas really added depth to the character of Anakin/Darth Vader, lifting him above the stereotype of ‘bad ass’. Anakin is a character with depth, flaws, emotions and conflicts, and it is brilliant to watch. It’s maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but this character arc is the truth. Everyone starts out wanting to do good, but sometimes life takes you the completely opposite way and you find out you have become what’s wrong. The Prequel arc also adds a lot more depth to Anakin’s return to the Light Side in RotJ, I think.

8. What’s your view on the use of CGI, Practical Effects and how they fit into a story? Do you think the special effects were at the service of the story in the Prequel movies?

 There are a lot of misconceptions about the use of CGI and Practical Effects in the Prequels. Was CGI used? Yes. Were Practical Effects used? Yes. The “controversy” around both is only so strong because it is frequently used as an excuse by those who simply don’t really like the PT to give a “valid reason” for that opinion. Personally I feel that there was a great mix between CGI and PE. The PT has the same detailed and authentic feel to it that the OT does, except that the Galaxy we see now is pre-War, pre-Empire and pre-Downfall. The Republic is still in power and thriving so there is time for art, elegance and innovation with the consequence that the PT has a slicker look to it than the OT. Story-telling wise this makes absolute sense. The developments in filmmaking between the making of the OT and PT also meant that George Lucas was able to expand his view of his Galaxy and take his viewers to a myriad of different worlds.

9. What’s your favorite aspect of the story in the Prequels and why?

 There are a lot of story-aspects that I love about the Prequels, from the focus on politics to the introduction of more female characters. However, I love the exploration of the Force that we got to see in the Prequels. Whether it’s Qui-Gon Jinn teaching Anakin about Midi-Chlorians, Yoda teaching younglings or Obi-wan desperately trying to teach Anakin anything, it all added to my view of the Force. In the OT the Jedi as they once were are gone. There is no centre of learning, there is no teaching, there is no continuance. In the PT (and The Clone Wars) we get to see the Jedi at the height of their power and skill and I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve imagined myself as a Jedi Padawan in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.

10. Do you think it was important to tell the story of The Clone Wars and do you think animation was the right medium to tell it?

 I think TCW was an amazing addition to the Star Wars canon. Films only give you so much time and space to tell a story or develop a character and as an animation show TCW had a lot more time to go into these stories and characters and let the audience get to know them. A lot happens between The Attack of the Clones and The Revenge of the Sith which the films can’t show you but the series has done an amazing job of filling that gap in. The animation allowed the storytellers to push themselves as well and made it more accessible to children, which is always a good thing since Star Wars is so multi-generational. It also gave us the gift that is Ahsoka Tano, who has been such an inspiration for young (and old) girls in the fandom.

11. What impact did The Clone Wars leave on the six movies for you? How did it change your way of watching the six movies?

 In some ways TCW has made ROTS even sadder for me. After seasons of seeing Anakin fight for the Republic, both physically and emotionally, it is heart-breaking to see him be a main part in bringing it down. Aside from that TCW has also done a lot to make fans who initially disliked the PT understand the characters better. As I said, movies only have so much time to give, but Dave Filoni and George Lucas really used this to deepen the characters and their stories.

12. What’s your favorite aspect of the story in The Clone Wars and why?

 I absolutely loved and admired the focus on telling the stories of the Clones. It would have been so easy to just have them be part of the story “because Sci-Fi” but the care and attention with which they were animated, voiced and treated has made them crucial to Star Wars. It also brought the aspect of war-fare a lot closer to the audience. Since the Jedi are so gifted battles with droids can seem almost easy, but the Clones really allowed Filoni, Lucas and co. to show the horror and cost of war. Aside from that the Clones were absolutely hilarious at times and I miss them. *can’t wait for Rebels to bring them back!

13. George Lucas said about the six movies “It’s ONE movie and it’s meant to be seen I through VI.” Do you agree with this statement and why?

 I definitely agree that it’s one movie and one story. If you were to take any one of the six out you’d lose a lot of story and those who prefer to only watch the Original or only the Prequel Trilogy miss out on a lot of depth and beauty. All the films interact and have echoes to each other, which is something that really sets Star Wars apart from other franchises. I also tend to watch the whole trilogy I through to VI, but I know many start at IV, watch till VI and then start the Prequels. I have watched it that way before with Star Wars newbies and it makes for the best reactions sometimes. I think any which way of watching it works, as long as the whole story is included.

14. How do you feel concerning the promoting of The Force Awakens in a kind of Prequel hate atmosphere (I’m especially making reference to what happened on SDCC this year)?

 We’ve written a lot about this at Clone Corridor, also from different points of view, and I’ve come to a point where I think I understand how they’re trying to operate. Popular culture has a certain idea about the Prequels, one which is fed by a small sub-section of fans that rabidly hate the PT. Lucas never really seemed to care for the constant criticism on the PT but now that Lucasfilm and Star Wars are in new hands there is naturally a new approach to it all. I think Disney and LF are terrified of a similar backlash and are hence working hard to please that part of the fandom which might respond that way, focusing a lot of the use of Practical Effects and the continuance of the OT stories. This strong linking to the OT is obviously necessary since that is where this new trilogy will begin and it’s important to continue with the kind of look that Lucas created for the OT.
I think the reason many Prequel fans felt almost attacked was because the rhetoric used was very similar to that of those fans who are trying to wipe the PT from public memory. Although it surely wasn’t meant that way by Disney & LF it hit a sore spot with us all, which I definitely believe didn’t go unnoticed. However with recent rumours of a potential Anakin/Darth Vader return and the continuing work on the Prequel era with Rebels and even Rogue One I feel that the Prequels will doubtlessly become more involved as the Star Wars Galaxy grows.

 
15. Final question: What is your level of anticipation for the upcoming Star Wars movie – The Force Awakens?

I am uncontrollably excited for it. I keep remembering that it’s only two and a half (roughly) months away and it just makes me happy. It was such a moment of happiness for me to get “my own” Star Wars films when the Prequels came out and to be part of that rush of excitement that everyone felt, that I’m very happy for all the new younger fans who now get to experience that. Star Wars is growing once again and it’s an exciting time to be part of this amazing fandom.

See you next Monday with a new interview and may the Force be with you!

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