The majority of the film is pure QT style. The music choices and editing style are a near perfect match, and provide a take on Empire that's equal parts humorous and legitimately cool. Some portions of the film feature an abundance of slow motion and montage - the purpose appears to be to maintain sync with the musical choices. It may be a tad jarring in places, but the artistry of these sequences is very good. They may disrupt the pacing a but, but in and of themselves, they're quality. The use of title cards and a nonlinear narrative really complete the experience. The way Yoda was handled was nothing short of inspired.
But the real standout of this edit is the ending. The Empire Stikes Back has one of the most powerful endings in the history of cinema. I like this version better. I don't say that lightly. The way in which it is presented here adds a tremendous emotional punch that surpasses the original film. I was amazed. I sat in silence, jaw agape as the credits rolled.
You're doing yourself a disservice if you don't set some time aside to watch Pulp Empire.
There were just a couple of choices that really jolted me. First, and this is the more minor one: why didn't Lando get a cool funked-out montage? I mean, Fett gets one and Lando doesn't?
Second, and this was the bigger deal to me, was the way the final scene played out. The Neil Young song felt more than a bit on the nose, while at the same time not quite hitting the appropriate note musically or lyrically. What was meant, both in the original film and in the edit, as a moment of utter despair, ends up just feeling like...not much, really, because all we have is this sort of lazy, plodding classic acoustic-rock track. And lyrically, it seems simultaneously like an extremely obvious choice (old man/young man, father/son, etc.) and like an incorrect one. After all, it's Vader pointing out that the two men are father and son, that the two men are not dissimilar, not Luke.
I also might have liked to see some reference to the Dark Side cave in this scene. I understand not including it in the Dagobah chapter, but I kept expecting some form of flashback to it. Without any indication that Luke experienced anything other than a hallucination of his father as a young man, Yoda's request that he not bring his weapons with him, and his subsequent disappointment, don't make a lot of sense.
It has (among other qualities):
* Evidence of a strong vision for how to re-edit source material to tell a new story or provide a new experience;
* Display of a high degree technical skill; and,
* Inclusion of at least one moment that positively seethes with emotional AND intellectual impact, that resonates both within the editor's overall artistic framework as well as across a pantheon of other works.
With Pulp Empire, in my opinion, njvc has truly achieved this infrequently achieved level of Fan Editing Greatness.
Are there imperfections? Yes! Will this please everyone? No! Just look at the existing reviews to see the polarization…which some would consider another sign of a great work of art. But do great directors please everyone? No! (Certainly that is true of the director who is the inspiration for this edit!)
Before I jump into my review, I want to give some perspective from where I am coming from. I consider myself a fan of Tarantino, though truthfully I am not well versed in the specifics of how to make a "Tarantino" movie. Also, I have to say that I have NOT seen the Kill Bill movies which seem to have had the greatest influence on this edit, when looking at the music choices and also some of the editing choices.
So essentially, I was really not looking for a "Tarantino" version of ESB, as I knew I wouldn't be able to really fully appreciate that. Also, the editor states up front that his intention that this is "in no way…intended to be a new Tarantino film! It's intended to be a fun homage to one of my favorite filmmakers, and a remix of one of the best films ever made."
With that out of the way, let me proceed to the actual review!
AUDIO/VIDEO QUALITY - 10
I watched the 720p mkv version of this edit, quality was on par with this type of source material.
VISUAL EDITING - 10
njvc really pushes the envelope with the visual editing, and in almost every situation he succeeds with flying colors. Beyond just the standard avoidance of amateur mistakes (of which there are none), he skillfully employs many visual editing techniques to tell his story. And all of these techniques (with the exception of one) are pulled off with expert technical flair.
Some of these techniques include: the use of cross-fades, fade to blacks, non-standard visual transitions, multi-windowed action sequences, black-and-white, slight picture degradation and color changes to indicate flash-back material, freeze-frames, stylized titling, integration of multiple source material footage, subtitling with proper timing, and more I'm sure I am missing.
Additionally -- and this is no small feat -- the visuals match the audio soundtrack so often and so well (whether within video montages or during standard action sequences), that again, this is truly an example of a very high degree of visual editing skill!
The *one* visual editing technique that was not on par with the rest was the use of slow motion, which also was used extensively throughout the edit. In some places the slow motion was smooth; in many other places it was not, and this clearly is due to whatever editing software njvc had access to, along with the limitations of the source material itself.
Since he used this technique so often, I had to mention that at times the quality of the slow motion was noticeable and a bit distracting. This is of course due to the fact that true slow motion needs more frames than what are available to fan editors. One must either use better software to use sophisticated algorithms to try and provide smoother slow motion (which can be expensive and also doesn't always work), or just use less slow motion if it is important to the editor to not have a problem of this sort be noticed.
For njvc, the use of slow motion was an obvious artistic choice, which I'm not critiquing here. Nonetheless, the slow motion was not smooth a lot of the time.
That being said, I cannot reduce my score in this area, because of the truly stellar job that njvc has done in so many other places (which I've tried to clearly articulate). Since this IS a fan edit and not a production from a studio, my rating must be a 10 in this category (with the caveat noted in the review text about the one visual issue I noticed).
AUDIO EDITING - 9
It is quite a bold and risky move to replace a Star Wars movie's ENTIRE soundtrack. Not only because of the iconic John William's music is so ingrained in people's minds when watching these movies, but also due to the technical problems it poses. As anyone who has edited a Star Wars movie knows, the soundtrack is for the most part very much part of every audio channel available to the editor. It is very rare to have access to a "clean" dialog channel that doesn't also contain the original soundtrack.
Thus, I must applaud njvc for doing a generally excellent job in his goal to provide not just a new soundtrack, but also adding in the required foley/sound effects in order to match the visuals.
And though I already mentioned this in the visual editing category, there were a vast number of perfectly synchronized moments between visual and audio which is a sign of fantastic editing.
However, there are some issues I must mention. First, the audio levels of the soundtrack and the dialog are not consistently well balanced. In some places the soundtrack overpowers the dialog, in others it seems too quiet. I do understand why the former might be necessary (in the attempt to eradicate the original soundtrack as much as possible) but nonetheless it is a distraction.
NARRATIVE - 8
From a narrative point of view, njvc states in his intention was essentially "to take The Empire Strikes Back and remix it," with "nods" to Tarantino, and the inclusion of "hero moment[s] for most of the main characters." Thus, this is still a narrative based on ESB, but also intended to be a "mashup" and "remix" of that iconic movie.
Furthermore, to tell his story, njvc chose a framework that consisted of a "pre" credits scene, a main story split into "chapters," as well as some scene work integrated into ending credits. Additionally there was intentional "out-of-sequence" presentation of story elements.
Within this framework as provided by the editor, I believe the narrative works quite well. It hits all the major plot points of ESB, and I could find no plot holes even with the extensive editing.
I enjoyed the method of using chapters very much, as it served to help us move through the story and emphasized that this was not going to tell us everything that occurs, but rather focus on "the important stuff." Truthfully I wish some of the longer chapters were split into a some shorter ones. But in the end, I was ok with just six chapters. Perhaps that has some sort of significance that I am not aware of that links it to Kill Bill (which I believe was mentioned as the inspiration for using the chapter technique, but I might be wrong).
I also greatly enjoyed the small pre-credits scene with Luke and Darth Vader, which beautifully foreshadows the climactic scene that occurs at the end of the film.
Another very effective narrative moment was the inclusion of the Clone Wars scene to replace the cave scene. It visually displays the transformation of a Jedi into a Sith due to his uncontrolled anger, which Yoda tells us is the path to the Dark Side and to evil.
My only problem with this scene (which actually was kind of significant, but forgivable), is that I really feel the Jedi character should have been Luke, and not Anakin. Thus I wish njvc either did not include the "Anakin!" audio from Qui-Gon (meaning, just have silence instead), or instead used a similar strong "Luke!" stated by Obi-Wan. It totally threw me when I heard the character named "Anakin" and I do believe it didn't fit right with the narrative at that moment, which I felt was to show Luke the danger he has inside of him. The mere fact that the character ends up defeating the Sith opponent yet he himself ends up looking like a Sith was plenty enough (in my opinion) to make this point very clear.
Finally, from a narrative perspective within the framework established by njvc up to this point, the very end of the movie was almost perfectly done. We experience the clear climactic moment, which was foreshadowed at the very beginning of the movie, and is one of utter despair. Yet the narrative is allowed to provide some level of completion (Luke does get rescued) but during the end credits. It is a powerful narrative technique (in my opinion) that njvc pulled off quite successfully.
With that said, I found that there were a few inconsistencies and/or problems with njvc's chosen narrative approach.
First, his choice for the first chapter to be fully out of sequence with the rest of the edit was off-putting to me, as all the other chapters were in fact in sequence, even if they included a few moments that did move either backwards or (mostly) forwards in time. Those times (the ones inside self-contained chapters) worked well, and felt consistent to the narrative structure. It was only that first chapter that felt, to me, out of place.
Second, while the Hero Moments were well done, they were not presented consistently. Some had the name of the character presented (along with a freeze frame) to indicate this was the start of his or her hero moment. Most moments however, did not have this visual cue. I would have been ok with this, except that the same visual cue is used at the start of Chapter Two to introduce Han and Leia (but these weren't their hero moments). Finally, while it was a cool titling effect, Boba Fett's Hero moment had a completely different visual introduction than all the others. While I'm fine with using different ways of introducing the Hero moment, overall it felt like there was a thread that got broken by using similar techniques in too many different ways to mean the same thing sometimes, but not at other times.
Third, I found the "double" titling a bit distracting (e.g., almost the exact same main titles were provided at the start AND the end of the movie). I know this was an artistic choice, but nonetheless I include mention of it in the narrative section because it had to do with titling, which, coupled with (to me) the inconsistent use of titling for hero moments, ended up feeling like a stylistic choice that was forced rather than organic to the material or due to an already established approach.
Finally, and this is a minor point but nonetheless distracting to me, was the implication that the Death Star destroys Earth, and not Alderon. While certainly a cool moment purely from an audio/visual synchronization perspective, from a narrative standpoint it just felt out of place and not appropriate for an otherwise faithful representation of the events that occur in Star Wars.
ENJOYMENT - 9
I truly feel this is an amazing piece of work that uniformly displays high technical skill, and deftly executes a unique style in a truly professional manner.
For me, the true highlight of this movie is Chapter 6, of which really there are two parts. First is the battle sequence, which is very artfully done and so well synchronized to the music that is a joy to watch.
Second is the climactic scene where Vader reveals himself to be Luke's Father. I found this sequence to be incredibly powerful and moving. Including scenes from the PT was obviously a controversial choice, yet it served the purpose to truly provide more emotional depth to the father/son connection, and also really make us feel for Darth Vader himself, and see how alone he is in the universe (emphasized by additional OT clips of Vader during this sequence).
Now, I did have two minor problems with Chapter 6. First, I think the transition between the two aforementioned "parts" was not smooth (from an audio selection point of view). Second, while I generally felt the sliding flashback scenes (which include both PT and OT moments) was extremely effective, I think there was slightly too much emphasis on Anakin; I think the goal was to link Luke and Anakin, and this could have been achieved with a shorter sequence. The two moments in this sequence that felt like they were not necessary or went a bit too far was Anakin force choking Padme, and Anakin leading the attack on the Jedi Temple. Up to that point, the sequence was quite amazing in that the choices of what scenes to use truly showed a strong parallel between Anakin and Luke. I think trying to imply anything further than a connection to the early pre-Darth Vader Anakin is where things went a bit too far. But overall it was a great idea and really did contribute to the overall emotional impact -- and success -- of this climactic scene. For me, it was a powerful and completely new visual contribution to the meaning of this quintessential moment in all of Star Wars!
And the final shot, of Luke hanging there, clearly in silent agony with only the wind as a sound effect and a fade to black, was just a perfect conclusion to the "main" movie! For me, this ending was fantastic in providing a true emotionally wringing experience, while at the same time tying together the threads that connect Anakin before he became Vader to where Luke is right now.
I am only going to lightly touch on the things that kept this from being a "10" for enjoyment -- other than the aforementioned issues from the other categories, I personally was not a fan of using the dubbing for Yoda. It was very hard for me to not see Yoda and not hear his voice. Also, I never saw Kill Bill so the change didn't resonate for me in any way. Finally, the audio replacement had some minor but noticeable technical issues (some audible hiss, and some original yoda sounds bleeding through).
But beyond that, I can't emphasize enough how this edit really touched me emotionally in a way that the will certainly stay with me for a long time to come.
OVERALL RATING - 9.0 (calculated) - 9.5 (if I could assign it manually)
I think this is a superlative job, and there's really not much more I can say at this point, other than: Congratulations njvc on your bold, daring, and skillfully done edit! -- this is on my short list for 2013 Fan Edit of the Year.
I highly recommend this edit, with the caveat that one must not expect this to be a "Tarantino" version of ESB. Even though it does certainly borrow elements from Tarantino movies both musically and stylistically, it radically departs or disregards these conventions as well, creating its own unique approach to presenting ESB in a way that ultimately focuses on re-envisioning one of the most well known events in movie history.
When looking through the reviews up to this point, as well as how njvc chose to "market" this edit, I think he might have done himself a disservice by over-emphasizing the Tarantino aspect of this work. Even though he makes the statement I quoted above, nonetheless, the artwork, Synopsis, and Intention all are laden with references to Tarantino. It is very understandable then, that people would approach this edit with Tarantino in the forefront of their minds. And I think it would have been better to try and avoid that preconception.
Ultimately, I urge anyone who loves Star Wars, and has an open mind, to give this edit a try. Enjoyment of Tarantino might enhance (or not) your experience, but in no way is it required!
Amazing review, thank you! Some wonderful compliments in there, and some insightful criticisms too. Not sure about those audio pops though, they certainly weren't present in my final mix... Try in a different program and see if that helps? Anyway, really appreciate the thought and time it must have taken to write that up! Cheers :)
I just finished watching the final cut of Pulp Empire. I had previewed an earlier version, I think it was just the draft before the one njvc ended up releasing.
I'll start by saying that with an edit of this kind it is pretty much impossible to please everyone, similarly chances are not everyone will agree on the creative choices made by the editor. With that said. A lot of what I say in this review is not about the technical quality and the editing, but rather the creative choices, what worked and "felt right", and what didn't work for me and in my opinion didn't "fit". So a lot of the review is going to be ("music cue, i liked" "i wasn't 'feeling' this") so not the most articulate review ever!
I must admit I was a little biased going in as a result of watching some of the sample clips that njvc posted (i.e. Darth Vader - Hugo Stiglitz is GENIUS).
DVD Design etcs:
- professional menus! really slick
- awesome intro scene and opening credits, music worked, and black and white made it feel like the opening to Kill Bill
- awesome music cue with "like we're being watched!"
- Pai Mei, mixed on this, good idea, and an Asian master kind of fits with yoda's zen jedi master, but i dunno, i guess mentally it was a bit incongrous to me with yoda's grunts and hmmms, and the pai mei voice
- music cue "you know him?!", excellent
- music cue, for me it didn't work, when he cuts himself free from the ice cave
- freeze frame character intros, i liked it!
- Bernard Herrmann Taxi Driver score! njvc must have decided to pander to me for a good rating ;), this was a sexy choice IMO
- music cue "well i'll see you in hell" excellent
- Imperial probe droid music cue, awesome
- Darth Vader Hugo Stiglitz FAVORITE PART OF THE ENTIRE EDIT, awesome
- split screen works surprisingly well for the battle
- sneaky job of sneaking in a clip of luke in the death star trench!
- i was a fan of using the Death Proof car sounds for the Falcon
- music cue when the "cave" is shaking and then collapsing
- music cue for "apology accepted" good stuff
- Boba Fett "intro" was cool
- the David Bowie training montage has grown on me as I've watched this edit a few times since my initial review
- music cue when going into pit was cool
- anime scene another sequence that has grown on me in subsequent viewings and the music that goes along with it is good
- "decide how you must serve them best" music cue is excellent there
- Joni Mitchell, i knew exactly what njvc was going for (a la Jim Croce Django) and this really worked perfectly for me
- and awesome music cue, getting out of the millenium falcon to lando intro
- across 110th street, i like the song anyway, so i liked that you included it
- music while leia is worried about 3PO,not sure if this was intentional but i liked that it sounded as if it was playing on the radio in the room
- perfect music cue, with Vader at the end of the table and Han starts shooting at him
- i liked the music cue when darth vader overseeing carbon freezing
- music cue, "I love you, I know", (and parallel between Han being frozen in carbonite, and The Bride buried alive in Kill Bill Vol 2 excellent! not sure if that was intentional or not)
- music cue, Lando's security taking away storm troopers, enjoyed this
- quick elapsed time progression matched with vader's breathing was a nice touch
- i initially liked the ecstasy of gold remix, but then went it shifted in fatboyslim/chemical brothers (the brother's gotta work it out) remix, for me it just didn't fit with the scene
- but excellent spot to stop/pause the music as vader falls over the edge
- Awesome O Fortuna! Really liked this choice
- crescendo matching with Luke getting his hand sliced off, very nice
- im probably the biggest neil young fan on the forums, (only TMBTM surpasses me), i didn't like Old Man at all, the slideshow, and especially the inclusion of prequel footage, although luke's screams of "noooo!" sort of matching up rhythmically was a nice touch
- I liked this, title cards intercut with some more footage
- loved the split screen comparison special feature, "about this edit" (also gave some more insight into some of the creative choices you made!)
Some General Thoughts/Comments
- partially out of chronological order narrative, I get it, cause Tarantino's narrative is often this way, but for me it didn't completely work (the 1st chapter with yoda, maybe cause it gave the edit a bit of a slow start, but you can argue its stylistically like Reservoir Dogs which has just a bunch of dialogue in that opening diner scene)
- overuse of slo-mo, there was a lot of it, but i guess it was necessary as a kind of editing shortcut/trick/work-around, but at the same time because of how much it was used it became a part of the style of the edit
So what more can I say. njvc is a bold, brave, risktaker IMO. This is what fanediting is all about, simple fanfixes are entertaining but projects like this are almost always more interesting. I have a lot of respect and admiration for this sort of outside the box thinking. I have some idea of what a huge rescoring/audio editing undertaking this was and how challenging it is to rescore a movie like the Star Wars for nearly the entire movie (impressive, most impressive).
This edit may not be for everyone. I could definitely tell that njvc had a ton of fun making this edit and that he was, first and foremost, making this edit for himself.
I'm going to show this edit to some of my friends who are big time fans of both star wars and tarantino, so I'll be interested to see what they think.