What was Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III referencing?
December 20, 2010 1:57 PM   Subscribe

What was the opening of Robot Chicken's Star Wars Episode III referencing?

The second paragraph of this article has a good description of the opening of last night's airing of Robot Chicken's Star Wars Episode III:
[...] began with Vader picking up Palpatine to throw him to his death when suddenly the image freeze frames – and you hear Palpatine say, "Whoa, whoa. You ever have one of those moments, where you think how did I get here? Those 'what the f**k?' moments." The Who's "Baba O'Riley" kicks in, over a montage of Palpatine's life (as told via stop-motion toys that is), in a funny send up of a classic movie style.
This commercial/trailer for the episode shows sort of (but not exactly) what it looked like.

The whole set-up (i.e.: freeze frame of the protagonist in an unfavorable situation, fourth-wall-breaking voiceover of said protagonist, "Baba O'Riley") feels extremely familiar. The IGN article calls it a "classic movie style". Yet, I can't find a specific movie with this exact set-up. So, was this a reference to a specific movie (or maybe TV show) or something more generic?
posted by mhum to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It reminded me of Summer of Sam, but that might have just been because of the song choice (Baba o'Reilly by The Who).
posted by sacrifix at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2010

American Beauty?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:03 PM on December 20, 2010

(i.e. this trailer)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2010

(Also, it's been a while since I've seen the movie, but I seem to recall that it starts with the protagonist's death, and blah blah blah.)
posted by Sys Rq at 2:10 PM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: I thought of American Beauty too, but I don't know if it's a great fit: Here's the actual opening for American Beauty. Is Baba O'Riley used in the movie itself or just in the trailer? Kevin Spacey's voiceover does address the viewer directly, but is there a freeze frame moment in the movie? I might have to Netflix it to check if the other elements are there in the movie somewhere.
posted by mhum at 2:18 PM on December 20, 2010

heh, made me think of the dukes of hazzard
posted by Redhush at 2:25 PM on December 20, 2010

This is really making me think that there is a particular reference as well, but I can't pin it down! The "whoa, hold on a minute" theme is more common these days, but the narrative flashback cuts are straight out of every Scorsese trailer. He's more a fan of the Rolling Stones, though.
posted by mikeh at 2:29 PM on December 20, 2010

For some reason (maybe the VO) it made me think of Goodfellas.
posted by The Bellman at 2:29 PM on December 20, 2010

Here's what I think is the relevant trope
posted by utsutsu at 2:30 PM on December 20, 2010

Exactly like this at the start of Good Fellas.

Open trunk, brutally stab the still living victim, and then freeze frame on main character - "Yeah, I always wanted to be a gangster"
posted by Meatbomb at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2010

Hmm. Maybe Fight Club?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: Good suggestions so far, but I'm not sure any is quite exact enough.

Here's the Goodfellas opening. There is a freeze frame on Ray Liotta, but he delivers his voiceover line ("As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.") just before the freeze and it cuts to credits before the voiceover resumes. However, when the voiceover resumes, it does go to reminiscences of his "How we got here" story, which is close.

I couldn't find a good video of the Fight Club opening, but here's a script. There's a lot of VO in Fight Club and I seem to recall lots of fiddly editing, so there's a good chance something like this occurs in the middle of the movie. I might need to re-watch that one too.
posted by mhum at 3:16 PM on December 20, 2010

The video in your question makes me think of John Hughes' movies, but I can't think of any that quite fit
posted by chndrcks at 4:28 PM on December 20, 2010

Ratatouille opens much that way, too.
posted by Rallon at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I asked someone in the know, who said it's just a trope they used and made their own. No specific reference, but, as said above, influenced by the million movies that have done it before.
posted by buzzkillington at 7:33 PM on December 20, 2010

It's definitely a common trope. But I agree that I feel like I'd seen something very similar before. I.e. someone falling or getting shot... Maybe we're collectively hallucinating. Could it have been from a tv episode. I'm starting to think the brit series Spaced did something similar...

Specifically this episode kinda. Naw not that one. Perphaps another. Or perphaps it was another britcom. Or maybe it was a movie... Damn...
posted by Smegoid at 9:41 PM on December 20, 2010

Reminds me of the Wonder Years. But with the Byrds or something instead. Or maybe just the Simpsons referencing the Wonder Years.
posted by loquax at 7:48 AM on December 21, 2010

It reminded me of the opening to Million Dollar Hotel.
posted by vagabond at 11:55 PM on December 22, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, it looks like buzzkillington has it. In the web video commentaries for the episode, Seth Green and Matt Senreich talk about how Baba O'Riley came about (scroll down to Part VIII). They describe how they originally put together a trailer for the first Robot Chicken Star Wars special and one of the animators swapped out the Star Wars music for Baba O'Riley. So, it sounds like this scene did, in fact, originate with them. It just hits all of the exact right notes to make it seem like it's from something else.
posted by mhum at 9:41 AM on December 28, 2010

« Older You want me to get a file cabinet? Really?   |   Songfilter: Sci-fi themed cabaret songs Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.