Saturday, November 18, 2006

Just a Geek about Star Wars

I always love Wil Wheaton's blog at because he makes me feel that it is okay to be a geek--there are a lot of us out there. Some of us still like Star Wars and Star Trek and bits of our own personalities and developmental age come out of those things. We like that stuff and goddamnit it is simply fine to stand up and say we do. As Polonius said in Hamlet, "This above all: To thine own self be true."

So I liked the original Star Wars trilogy too. Loved it in fact. I remember things about my childhood from it. I remember my mom and dad hollering up the stairs when I was four, saying that the previews for A New Hope were on Siskel and Ebert again. I remember, at age seven, writing stories and playing out back with my friends after Empire Strikes Back all about how we would save Han Solo from the carbonite. I remember, at age ten, my mom taking my sisters, me and the kid across the street Sammy Kim to Return of the Jedi, and I already knew the whole story and the characters' names from the storybooks. Jabba's little friend is named Salicious Crumb, not once ever mentioned in a movie, but we die hard Star Wars fans all know it.

It sounds a little like whining when Wheaton talks of how George Lucas "betrayed" the series with the new ones. However, I simply have to agree with him, through and through. The new movies were simply not produced to "tell a great story." They were produced because they could be and would make money.

When Episode 1 The Phantom Menace came out, I was so excited. A year or so earlier, I attended all the re-releases for the Star Wars Special Editions with all of their new footage and new effects. (However, I really really really despised that stupid song in Jabba's palace in Return of the Jedi and wondered just what the hell Lucas was thinking.) The Phantom Menace meant a return to the universe that helped define me generationally. Then it stunk to high heaven. I think he needed some serious test screening before he released it because then he never would have had to defend the flak against the crap that was Jar-Jar Binks. I simply despised his Star-Trek-explanation to the Force with the midicholorians in the blood--I hated it so much so that it actually detracted from that special magic in the universe. It slapped against everything Yoda taught on Dagobah in Empire. The only, and I mean the only, redeeming factor of the movie is that it was the first step in the grand scheme of Emperor Palpatine to take over as the Emperor we all knew and loved from Return of the Jedi. It was the first power play, and in that regard, succeeded admirably. It threw off any scent as to what Palpatine was doing. Oh, and the lightsaber fight with Darth Maul at the end was super-cool.

Then Episode II Attack of the Clones was just worse. The whole relationship between Padme and Anakin was stretched to fit. Anakin grew in years and the princess didn't. There was no chemistry. No matter what you say about the whiny Anakin, just watch Luke in A New Hope say, "But I was going into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!" That blended well as they were both whiny. The whole origin of Boba Fett tried but just falls flat if you ask me. Especially when he simply gets bumped into the Sarlacc pit in Jedi, one wonders if this was the grand scheme for this character. And I'll be honest, the princess would not have married Anakin AFTER he slaughtered all those Sandpeople.

Episode III had some redeeming factors, although still fell short for me. I simply wish that Lucas would have let some real writers help show how Anakin becomes Darth Vader. Instead, he just turns into him, and we the audience are just supposed to understand it all. The whole time with lava at the climactic battle we Star Wars geeks knew would be there and were very happy it had all the lava. Somehow, that was written into our mindsets way back in the early 80s.

All in all, I just felt disappointed by the whole new series. If, in fact, these two trilogies, these six movies, all led up to Darth Vader's final redemption by destroying the Emperor at the end of Jedi and looking upon his son Luke "with [his] own eyes" then I think it just didn't work. Maybe the ending to Jedi to could be refilmed from scratch to do it better justice and fit in better.

I really think that the story, and this is what we all learned as kids, was supposed to be nine movies. What works is a story that involves Luke in the next three installments falling into the Dark Side. I get a lot of this material from conversations as a kid and the Dark Horse mini-series from the mid-90s called "Dark Empire." Luke, in order to defeat a great evil in the universe, must take power from the Dark Side and get in close to the evil. Darth Vader was supposed to have done this too but he could not bring himself back from the Dark Side until it was too late. Luke accomplishes this, thus defeating the Dark Side permanently.

I think Lucas forgot the roots of the story and transplanted some new story over the top of it. I think, instead of deriving Star Wars from the classic source material he did, he thought his story was better.

Wheaton is right about one thing, we may be geeks about this stuff. Star Wars, though, is such a part of this generation, that we felt ownership of it. That is true fandom. I love Star Trek, but have never felt the same kind of ownership of the basic structures and storylines. I will simply say that I love some Trek episodes and storylines and despise others, and that's all right. But Star Wars is all of us.

I even feel more generational ownership when I asked my English classes the other day, "Who's the bad guy of the story" Who's Darth Vader?" 90% had no clue as to who I was talking about. Seriously. Most have never ever watched Star Wars. That's how I feel a more generational ownership of the whole Star Wars phenomenon. We may be geeks, we may be a certain percentage of the population, but we loved the original so damned much that mucking with it hurt us.

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