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Star Wars has not fallen!

Blame the head cold I'm nursing. Blame reading just one too many reviews, critiques or rants.

But dammit, stop blaming George Lucas for "the fall of Star Wars".

I mean it. I am sick to death of everyone comparing the Star Wars "prequels" (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith; or Episodes I, II and III, respectively) to the "original trilogy" (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; or Episodes IV, V and VI, respectively), and somehow continually finding the newer films wanting. Star Wars fans of every stripe (and many of them, people I greatly admire) talk about "losing faith" and say that George Lucas "sold out" and spout a thousand opinions that, in the backwash, mean precisely spit.

None of us, not the critics, not the reviewers, not the fans, not me, none of us knows George Lucas. He isn't our neighbor who gets the paper in his bathrobe, or turns the hose on our yappy dog, or has the coolest Christmas yard display in the neighborhood. He isn't our best friend, or our mentor, or a deacon at our church. None of us know him.

So why does everyone feel they have a right to bitch about him or his work?

In 1977, George Lucas produced something the world had never seen before. There was the 20th Century Fox drumroll/fanfare, and a moment of silence, with words in a simple sans-serif font of ghostly blue:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far,
far away...

Then, a burst of trumpets, a bold, hollow-font title receding into space, and the golden opening crawl:

Episode IV


It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire's
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
STAR, an armored space
station with enough power to
destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's
sinister agents, Princess
Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her
people and restore
freedom to the galaxy....

This was in 1977. Episode IV? A new hope...meaning hope has been lost? What was going on?

Today, a franchise is never a sure enough thing to justify walking confidently into a story with more than one chapter (with very few, but notable, exceptions). It is important to note that in 1977, episodic movies were still something that had been common enough that most adults going to see Star Wars would have remembered seeing serials in the theater. A thought in many minds was, "Did I miss the first three episodes?"

George Lucas was telling a story. He was telling it from the middle, ostensibly because he was unsure that he would be able to tell the whole thing, and he wanted the uplifting part, the part of the story that is filled with hope and the good guys winning, he wanted that to be what people saw if they only got to see part of the story.

Now, I said 'ostensibly' because the very fact that he included "Episode IV" in the opening crawl said outright that we were coming in at the middle of the story, and there was more to see. I think it was a measure of confidence, or at least positive thinking. The "original trilogy", thus, was never meant to tell the whole story--only the end of it.

The story of Star Wars is the story of Anakin Skywalker. It is about the subtlety of evil and the wonder of redemption. It isn't about Luke and Leia, it isn't about Yoda or Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is about Anakin, and every other character with important parts in the six-episode story revolves around him.

It is impossible to judge one movie against the others. People argue endlessly about which crew of the Enterprise was better, which Back to the Future or Terminator movie was the best and which one blew, but they all miss an important concept--Star Wars, Star Trek, Back to the Future, and Terminator are not random collections of stories. Each one is a single story, divided into chapters or episodes. Star Wars is one movie in six parts--even Lucas himself said so at the Lifetime Achievement ceremony in his honor.

What does this mean? It means each movie is interconnected, interrelated to the others. None of the movies are complete without all the others. Hate Jar-Jar Binks? Go ahead. Think he doesn't fit in with your idea of what Star Wars "is"? First off, get over yourself. Your idea and my idea of what Star Wars "is" is irrelevant. This is Lucas' story, and it is only his vision that matters. Without Jar-Jar's simple-minded gullibility, Palpatine would never have gained control of the Senate--and in The Phantom Menace, it was important to give Jar-Jar enough depth and context so that his senatorial motion in Attack of the Clones makes sense.

"Too much cuteness" has been the thing most people bitch about concerning Phantom Menace. Potty jokes (attributed to "banta poodoo!"--which is actually just a family-friendly way of saying, "Bantha shit!") and all manner of cutesy moments (courtesy, mostly, a very adorable Anakin and the ubiquitous Jar-Jar) seem to somehow offend "serious" Star Wars fans.

Side-note to said "serious" Star Wars fans: Grow up and get a girlfriend.

Phantom Menace is cute becuase it is supposed to be cute. It's about an eight-year-old boy, a foolish Gungan, the seed of romance and the beginning of a beautiful droid friendship. It is about a slave boy...and a Galactic Republic...that is still innocent and wide-eyed and full of original hope.

People seem less inclined to squeak about Attack of the Clones, though many complain about Hayden Christiansen's acting ability.

Side note to those critics: Hayden's the one up on that screen, not you, you no-talent assclown.

This is a similar thing that many say about Revenge of the Sith. "Hayden Christiansen's acting is so wooden." I've seen it in about half a dozen reviews. Let's sit and think for a moment. Anakin Skywalker. In Phantom Menace, after he is freed from slavery, he vows to return and free his mother (and all the slaves on Tattooine). In Attack of the Clones, his mother is kidnapped and brutalized and dies in his arms before he can save her. He destroys the entire camp of Tuskan raiders, "the men, the women and the children." His passion led him to murder more on an order of genocide, and passion drove him to his forbidden marriage to Padme. Passion, say the Jedi masters, leads to the Dark Side. Anakin is understandably terrified of letting his passion overtake him again, so he devotes himself to reining it in hardcore.

Then, too, remember Lord Vader in that opening act of A New Hope. Even though this is the most emotional we see the Man in Black get (save for the ending sequence of Revenge of the Sith), he is still the epitome of control. By this point, he has finally learned that passion is only ever going to kick his ass, so he has all but abolished emotion completely.

Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, NOT Hayden, is wooden. He spends the whole movie riding the knife-edge of holding it all in or losing it completely. All he knows to do is try to shut it down. Of course, he fails, in the end, but the point is, he's trying.

Most other gripes about Revenge of the Sith have to do with the fact that the reviewers, critics and other quacks, by and large, did not see the bridge-piece between Episodes II and III--Cartoon Network's Clone Wars series (which is in two parts). To you all I say, "If you don't know what you're talking about, shut the hell up."

All of it boils down to this. Star Wars is George Lucas' story. He told it, he told it all, and he told it the way he wanted to. That he revolutionized the entire film industry is secondary. He told the story he wanted to tell. He is proud of his work. ALL of his work, not just A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back or something. All of it. And, like he does, we have to look at Star Wars as one movie, one story, and we need to compare and contrast the episodes in that light. It all works together, it all makes sense in that context, and it is all good.

If you hate Jar-Jar, hate Jar-Jar (but don't forget that he is also the first fully-computer-generated character with speaking lines in movie history). Stop bitching about the most innovative movie series in history. And if you don't like the prequels, stop blaming Lucas, look at the series in context and grow up.

He's happy. Why can't the fans be?

back to my normal blog

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