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Irvin Kershner: More Than Just the <i>Empire</i> Director

Irvin Kershner, the director of The Empire Strikes Back, passed away over the weekend, and everyone is filled with kind words about the man who gave us the greatest Star Wars film. But Kershner directed other movies, as well, in a broad assortment of genres, from romances to thrillers to comedies, and he was apparently the go-to guy for sequels, having directed three besides Empire -- none of which featured his hand on the original. I haven't seen The Return of a Man Called Horse, but the other two are personal favorites, so I thought I'd shine a spotlight on them, since Empire has its own arsenal of spotlights.

Never Say Never Again
By 1983, America had sat through six Roger Moore James Bond films and one George Lazenby one, and the franchise was still haunted by the spectre (no pun intended) of Sean Connery, the original Bond. So it was kind of a big deal when Connery (who had previously worked with Kershner in A Fine Madness) came back to play an aging Bond in a new adaptation of Ian Fleming's Thunderball. But this wasn't some kind of mummy-bond, like Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull -- Connery was still in fine grey-templed shape to romance Fatima Blush, an egomaniacal assassin skilled in sexpionage (thank you, Undercovers), and Domino Petachi, played by a young Kim Basinger as a naive dancer, and not a nuclear scientist or something, thank God. There are plenty who prefer the original Thunderball to Never, but I prefer the latter, which has a more epic, global feel, thanks to the Central American opening and the climactic scene in West Africa. Klaus Maria Brandauer's sly, villainous Max Largo is scarier than the older, eyepatch-wearing Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi), even when he's playing lethal video games, and Bernie Casey is great as the first black Felix Leiter. Heck, all of the cameos are great. Max von Sydow plays Blofeld! Rowan Atkinson plays a British embassy staffer! Not the best Bond sequel ever, but definitely the best remake of a Bond sequel.

RoboCop 2
While Never Say Never Again is at least appreciated by Bond fans, the nicest thing most RoboCop fans can say about RoboCop 2 is that it's better than RoboCop 3, which isn't saying much. But I happen to love the film's imagery, even if the heart of the original is dealt with early on and replaced with violence and the villainization of psychology. Part of that is the fact that comic book writer/movie director Frank Miller (300, The Spirit, Sin City) wrote the screenplay on which the movie was at least partially based, and it was apparently he who gave the film its 10-year-old drug kingpin and evil female psychologist, who emasculates the hero and creates a new, villainous RoboCop. Classic Frank! The kinder, gentler RoboCop is at least funny, and the RoboCop 2 robot is even uglier and more unwieldy than ED-209 in the first movie, which I like to think is intentional. Sure, the plot gets pretty dumb at times, but the fake commercials and outrageous violence are still intact, and isn't that at least half the reason we love the first one so much?

Share your love of Kershner (or remembrances of The Return of a Man Called Horse) below, then see who our favorite Star Wars actor is.

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