[List] - The 6 Best "Cantina" Scenes


If no other scene in Star Wars encapsulates both the outpouring of imagination from the filmmaker, and the ability to capture it in the audience, it's the cantina scene. The apparently limitless variety of alien creatures that inhabit this hive of scum and villainy, and by extension, the universe that Luke and the viewer are about to enter, is breathtaking (Lucas would later reuse the trick in Jabba's palace in Return of the Jedi). No wonder it has become the standard way to introduce an audience to a breadth of scale in a film. Allow the character to mix, seemingly without hesitation, with an assortment of bizarre, unusual and decidedly alien things, and the audience is willing to accept those things as being real.

After the jump, see some of the scenes that have followed in the cantina's footsteps.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock - Bar

J.J. Abrams, in his attempt to Star War-ify the Trek films, created his own cantina scene in Star Trek '09. However, it was little more then a human and hick filled bar, and Abrams did a far better job of expressing the diversity of Starfleet with his camera pans over the various alien crew members throughout the film. Also, the original series did it better, twice. The first time was in Search for Spock, when McCoy goes to a bar looking for transport to Genesis. We see an assortment of aliens mingling with officers, and even briefly spot a tribble cooing. The second time was in the bookends of Voyage Home, in the Federation courtroom/hall/thing. When the Klingon ambassador, and later when the crew of the Enterprise are judged for their actions, all member species of the Federation can be seen looking on.

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army - Troll Market

Guillermo del Toro has, perhaps, the liveliest imagination of any director working today. This can be seen in all his works, and if there is one thing most to look forward to in Pacific Rim, it is the multitude of designs on the kaiju. Hellboy was a pretty self contained and grounded film, that never had a chance to delve into the faerie realm that Mike Mignola has been wallowing in for so many years. So, Hellboy 2 went aggressively in the other direction, throwing the heroes head first into the world of magic, and the Troll Market scene, done (as the best ones are) entirely in practical magic, finally brought Mignola's world to life.

Dark Crystal - Swamp

[Note: the above video contains an altered soundtrack, not movie original. It was the only clip found on YouTube]

People ask me why I prefer puppetry and makeup in films rather then CG. My response is fast and easy: one is real, the other is not. Both disciplines, at the top of their game, compared side to side, the practical magic will always look better, because it really exists. The extra time has to be put into to make certain it holds up against everything else in the scene, where as a lot of CG looks obviously fake. Case in point, Jim Henson, whom Muppets aside, was clearly a visionary. And while Labyrinth or Willow might be more popular, Dark Crystal is his magnum opus. How many companies would make an entirely puppeteered film, with no human characters today, eh? And how many, if they tried, would look this good?

Jurassic Park - Herds

The somewhat last minute decision to use new and untested computer graphics instead of the established Go Motion to animate Jurassic Park meant that the dinosaurs had to look just that much better, if they were to be convincing (something I believe they achieved, and has not been duplicated or surpassed since). And the introduction, of both the animals and the technology, to the audience had to be a powerful moment. And they pulled it off by making it simple: animals moving around a watering hole, out of focus and in the distance. Nothing big and flashing, aside from the 30 foot Brachiosaurs in the foreground. Each of the Jurassic Park films has included a scene like this. Lost World had two: the chase sequence where InGen hunts and captures various animals, and the final scene, which saw the animals living in their natural habitat. JPIII had a scene along a river bank as the boat floats by, but it came off as far too Land Before Time to be taken seriously.

Beetlejuice - Waiting Room


Fun fact: I often confuse "netherworld" and "Netherlands" when I'm speaking. Which can lead to much confusion in those I'm speaking with. I know what I'm talking about, and that's what's important.

Tim Burton's vision of the afterlife - a paperwork backlogged bureaucracy - wasn't an original idea, but he certainly filled it with his own unique perspective and design. The Maitlands should feel lucky they got off just being a little damp, considering the multitude of ways that death can manifest itself.

Doctor Who: Rings of Akhaten - Market
Courtesy of the BBC
I include Doctor Who as only one TV show on the list (and I could list pretty much every science fiction series ever, and Buffy) because the scene in question, the market place in Neil Cross' Rings of Akhaten, was so obviously a reference to the cantina scene that started all of this. Hardly the first reference to Star Wars since the revival, but perhaps the most labour intensive. Between fifty and sixty prosthetic actors were used in the scene, and none of the designs were reuses of previous species, which immediately puts it heads above other such scenes, like the end of The Pandorica Opens. Millennium FX's Neill Gorton, supervisor on the episode, actually created many of the molds in his spare time and from his own pocket, in the hopes that he'd be able to do a big scene like this one day, and not have to worry about budget restraints.

So, if you are making a science fiction or fantasy film, and want to have a big effect, then do as I have never suggested to anyone, ever, and copy George Lucas.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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