2009
07.23

TODD MAN OUT – thoughts rattling around inside the head of Todd

Top 10 (New ) Perspectives on Star Wars

The 30th anniversary of Star Wars just happened and from a fan of 30 years, here are some observations about the series as a whole.  I must note that I do not consider myself a scholar of Star Wars.  That is, the movies are my primary source of official content.  The huge line of novels, which have become the Dead Sea Scrolls of Star Wars lore, do not play a part in my interpretations of what is happening on film. Really, this list is about my 2 cents on setting the record straight with regard to number of criticisms and misconceptions about the Star Wars saga…

10.  The Special Editions, WTF?: Older fans of Star Wars, such as myself, just have to assume that a great part of their continued fandom of the movies has to derive from a heavy dose of nostalgia.  Star Wars represents a time of better tomorrows, where anything is now possible; a far cry from today’s more jaded and dour outlook.  So to think that their creator, George himself, would think that a do-over includes having Greedo shoot first is mildly betraying to say the least.  Now, Greedo shooting first has caused a very public fan cry on the internet, but the Greedo modification is the least of these transgressions in my mind…

What other WTFs? The fact that the most ruthless crime boss on Tatooine, Jabba the Hutt, would allow Han Solo to live after stepping on him is puzzling.  Furthermore, Jabba’s animation doesn’t even come close to matching with Jedi, let alone his lame locomotion.  And we just had to tack Boba Fett in there? In Empire, the subtraction of Vader’s terse line of “Bring my shuttle” after Luke slips through his fingers is small on screen, but large in character. However, the biggest head scratcher is the overblown, overdone music scene in Jedi.  Talk about a tension killer.
Overall, the Special Editions have a number of improvements that genuinely update the films, but where they are altered to the point of sheer inconsistency is patronizing to all fans. If they worked then, why wouldn’t they work now?

9. Where Star Wars Comes From:  Keep in mind, outside of 2001:  A Space Odyssey,  special effects in movies where extremely hit or miss.  Before Star Wars, the expectations of special effects was not great, and thus, the viewer would still have to bring a lot of their imagination into special effects films.  When Star Wars hit, visually, there was absolutely nothing like it what-so-ever; it was mind numbingly overwhelming.  From this derived a deep sense of “how’d they do that?!”  For me, I was just as interested in how George came up with the story and design as anything else.  Since the 30 years that Star Wars has been out,  George has openly talked about how Star Wars was an homage to the Saturday Morning Serials of the 40’s and 50’s; a cross between Flash Gordon and Western flicks.  On top of this, Star Wars is an experiment in mixing classic story archetypes, Greek and Arthurian legends, and mystic/magical mantras from a variety of cultures.  And then, of course, George’s imagination.  However, another source for which George has championed, is Akira Kurosawa films.  Kurosawa was a very prolific Japanese film maker that has made some of the most innovative and influential films of all time.  One Kurosawa film in particular, Hidden Fortress, has been sited as being a major influence on the story of Star Wars.  Now, I’ve seen all the Kurosawa classics, but seeing Hidden Fortress for the first time turned out to be a sad event in some respects.  Star Wars wasn’t just influenced by Hidden Fortress, Star Wars is Hidden Fortress.  The droids, the princess and her quest, the death star (to a certain degree), Obi-wan, and the samurai/jedi ethic are just some of the parallels between the source and the product.  It dashed any thoughts that Star Wars derived from an extensive course of research.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch Hidden Fortress since.


8.  Palpatine/Darth Sidious Vs. Mace:  One of my favourite sequences from the newer films, it continually amazes me how many people miss what’s really going on in this scene.  First, there have been some very interesting theories that the Emperor purposely looses to Mace to position himself as a helpless victim in the eyes of Anakin.  I can see this, but I don’t think that’s exactly what’s happening.  We do have to give a Master Jedi such as Mace Windu credit.  No, I think the Emperor lost to Mace, and with the arrival of Anakin, used his future apprentice as leverage to turn the tide.  With Mace bearing down on the Emperor, the villain unleashes a last ditch force blast, but Mace appears to be more then capable of repelling the attack.  It is at this point that the Emperor’s feint begins, as the backlash of his force blast appears to be draining him, giving him his emaciated visage.  To Anakin and Mace, it looks like he’s dying, but in actual fact, he is unveiling his true form.  Mace, now thinking he has the upper hand hesitates long enough for the Anakin to make his fatal decision.  With the Emperor’s coup de grace of Mace he brazenly shouts “unlimited power!” revealing that he was playing the dying quail all along.  All that was missing from the scene, after Anakin is turned, is that last moment where Darth Sidious wipes his brow and says, “Phew!”

7.  Return of the Jedi is Still the Worst Film:  Whenever someone says that Return of the Jedi is the best of the films, I just bite my tongue.  True fan aficionados know that Empire is the best, Star Wars a very close second, whichever you prefer after that, and then Jedi, even after the Jar-Jar fiasco, totally last.  And not just because of the ewok thing.  I’m actually one of the few that don’t mind the ewok’s victory over the emperor’s “best” troops because military history has proven that stranger things have happened.  It was the portrayal of the battle that let me down, but then, showing teddy-bears dying en masse is far more shocking then showing robots/clone troopers dying en masse.  No, Jedi annoys me for lots and lots of other reasons – everything from robot torture (robots feel pain?), Boba Fett’s silly demise, and all the uninspired acting and dialogue.  Execution wise, it didn’t measure up to the other films.  BUT, surprisingly, it’s a fan favourite.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the Star Wars films in their own way, but Jedi is noticeably lacking.  Then why do so many love it so?  Took me a while to figure out this very simple answer:  It was the very first one they saw.  And if that’s the reason, then they can have it, because that’s as good a reason as any.  So, when I run into that individual that says Phantom is the best of all the films, I’ll smile and play along, because I know why.

6.  The Twins:  From the perspective that you’ve seen the originals first…In Star Wars, Obi-wan talks to Luke of knowing his father, and giving him the gift of a light saber that his father wanted him to have.  At the end of Star Wars, when Vader unknowingly has his son in his sites, but complains, “The Force is strong with this one”, the seed that his son existed had must been planted.  In Empire, before the truth about the connection is revealed, Vader and the Emperor openly talk of sensing the “Son of Skywalker”.  In Jedi, Vader learns of the existence of Leia through Luke’s feelings, suggesting that he was never aware that there were twins.  Couple that with Obi-wan’s “Certain point of view…” conversation and Leia’s “Memories of my mother…” a basic scenario unfolds…For 16+ years, the implication to fans was that there was an affair that Anakin had with who is now known as Padme, but she must have left him almost immediately after this affair.  She lived after child birth, given Leia’s memories, but Luke had been taken from her before Leia could have any memory of him.  She then died mysteriously when Leia was still basically a baby.
Here’s where I get terribly confused.  Given how the newer films interpreted these events, why didn’t Anakin sense there were twins immediately?  There were many instances where Jedi sense things and events without having to be noticeably focused.  Obi-wan sensed that she was pregnant, and that Anakin was the father.  Why then couldn’t Anakin sense his own children while in the womb?  Why then was it such a revelation to Vader to sense a twin daughter?  Did he know all along and was playing on Luke’s fears as a means to turn him? I don’t think so.
And where’s all the doctors with their Star Wars ultrasound?

5.  Poor C3-PO:
  In the original films, 3PO as a character is an active participant.  There are a number of instances where the protocol droid’s skills are required.  He may not have been saving lives the same way R2 does throughout ALL the films, but 3PO was never regarded as a non-character.  In the newer films, his participation is absolutely useless.  Not once are his skills or presence required – does he even interpret anything for anyone?  Clones might have ranked up there with Empire/Star Wars if it wasn’t for all that 3PO lameness throughout the robot factory.  In fact, his history is reduced to being the hapless witness to the trials and tribulations of Anakin and Padme, let alone the boyhood creation of a future Sith lord.

I guess the biggest question is why did they choose to erase 3PO’s mind and not R2’s?  Got me.  Here’s the real stupid part…the droids were allowed to witness the birth of the children.  If the secret of the children were kept from the droids, as they were from everyone else, then R2 could have been trusted enough with what he had witnessed to that point, and 3PO’s mind would still have to be wiped due to his direct connection with Anakin.  Solved.
Although R2 proved time and time again he could be trusted, he is still just a droid, and with a secret as important as the twins, prudence would still require his memory to be wiped as well.  It may have happened if wasn’t for a bit of dialogue bolstering his memory of things in a New Hope.

4.  Why, By the Second Film, Jar-Jar is suddenly an Essential Character:
  The much maligned Jar-Jar Binks.  This is one perspective that I did not catch on my own.  It took a friend, who absolutely despises Jar-Jar, to point the following out, and prove that George just ain’t throwing things to the wall and hoping they stick.  My friend still hates Jar-Jar though.

Many fans can’t stand Jar-Jar.  Again, like the ewoks, there’s something in me that allows me to see the method; it’s the madness that gets to me.  Jar-Jar is meant to be annoying – not only to the audience, but to the characters as well.  He’s meant to test our patience.  He’s a terrible fool, an obvious klutz, and a coward.  Jar-Jar is in over his head in every scene.  But despite all this, he is a necessary character vehicle that leads the Jedi through Naboo and is the plot connection for setting up the 3rd act in Phantom.  His character arch is actually quite ingenious, in that he represents the fool that succeeds in spite of himself.  If I remember correctly, this is another Hidden Fortress theme.  Where Jar-Jar is completely unsuccessful is the voice characterization, which was seriously underdeveloped.

At any rate, it’s in Clones that we see the true destiny of Jar-Jar.  He only has a minute or two of total screen time, but again, he is the vehicle for which is likely one of the most important plot points in the newer trilogy.  Without Padme around, Jar-Jar is vulnerable to Palpatine’s lament for a senator with the conviction to come forward and grant emergency powers.  It is the master stroke for which Palpatine can assume full control of the Senate.  Now, given all the set-up in the first film, only Jar-Jar Binks would fall prey to go forward with such a foolish act.  Thinking that he is doing the right thing, but in actual fact looking for acceptance and creditability, Jar-Jar gives Palpatine what he wants.  The real irony here is that it’s all Padme’s fault for even putting Jar-Jar in charge. The one thing she doesn’t want to occur happens with a terrible error in judgment.  All of a sudden, Jar-Jar’s nature makes perfect sense to the narrative.  Who knew?

3.  Why Darth Vader Didn’t Kill Admiral Piett:  It’s Empire where we get to see Darth Vader in all his evil glory.  Black mailing Lando into betraying his friends, attempting to seduce his own son to the dark side – then maims him, and then killing off admirals and captains wholesale for errors in judgment.  It’s this last string of events that leads to a very subtle clue into the complicated psyche of Vader.  Although the rebels were alerted to the Imperial’s impending attack by the presence of the probe droid – Vader mistakenly assumes Admiral Ozzel is at fault, and coldly kills him for the perceived failure.  Then, Captain Needa, who “assumes full responsibility” for loosing the Falcon, is also murdered by Vader. I remember the audience laughing nervously when Vader accepts his apology.  As Needa’s body is being carted away, Vader warns Admiral Piett not to fail him again.  However, at the end of the film, as Piett directs his men to ready the tractor beam, R2 reactivates the Falcon’s sabotaged hyperdrive, allowing them to suddenly escape Vader’s clutches.  Given the pattern of him slaying those who failed him, Piett awaits his fate…only to have Vader sullenly walk off the bridge, paying no heed to his earlier threat.  In fact, by Jedi, we learn Piett is alive and well.  Why, then, didn’t Vader kill Piett?

I remember that this was a source of discussion amongst my friends right after seeing the movie.  It was one of those questions that stayed with me for many years till one day, while watching Empire for the 50th millionth time, it finally came to me.  It begins with Vader’s conversation with the Emperor.  He attempts to downplay the threat of Luke by calling him “just a boy”.  Later, he attempts to convince Luke to turn to the dark side by joining him in destroying the Emperor.  At the time, that speech felt more like a ruse then a literal intent, but in light of the newer films, the offer now seems more legit.  As the Executioner closes in on the Falcon, Vader almost seems to be pleading with Luke through the Force.  And then the Falcon, unexpectedly to Vader, suddenly makes its escape.  How did Piett survive?  Simply put, given the fact that a direct connection with his son had now been established, he softened, confused by his new found feelings for his son.  At that moment, he grew tired of killing.

2.  Star Wars is a Video Game:  “Star Wars is nothing but a video game” has to be one of the silliest criticisms of the movies; more so a direct shot at the newer films I’m sure.  I’ve read it in tons of reviews, and argued with a number of non-believers as they bash away with this sentiment.  Star Wars is a video game?

Of course it’s a video game!


It’s likely the single most important source of inspiration for video games.  I’d even say that future game designers likely got into designing video games because of their need to actually play Star Wars out.  When the newer films came out, and the capabilities of video games had vastly improved, the connection between the movies and video games would be such a natural fit that George would have been an idiot not to proceed.  If wasn’t for George’s business savvy in locking in the merchandising rights early, he would have never amassed the money he needed to feel comfortable in making the rest of the films.  But, it’s the overbearing, super slick CG animation that makes the texture of the films look like a video game?  That may be true, but when you think that the films now find themselves actually competing with video game CG animation, comparatively, the films better leave video games in their dust.  The irony is, Star Wars video games, over the years, have generally sucked.

1. Luke’s Attempted Suicide:
  So, Luke finds out that Vader is his father, and rather then being captured, Luke let’s himself fall off of the platform.  As he tumbles down the abyss like shaft, he is suddenly sucked into an exhaust tube.  As a kid, and I think many fans since, believed that he used the Force to steer himself into the tube.  When I got older, the act of letting go became crystal clear – Luke is actually attempting suicide.  Now, this may not be a huge revelation to some, but when you put it into the context that Star Wars is meant to be kid’s film, and its leading hero would choose to kill himself instead of facing the firing squad so-to-speak, that’s pretty deep.  Modern story telling usually has the hero keeping a brave face till the better end, but in legends and lore, of which Star Wars is partly based, this kind of solution happens with greater frequency.  The reality is, Luke had no idea that he be would sucked in by the exhaust tube, let alone attempt to manipulate his body into one.  It’s apparent he didn’t have that kind of control over the force anyway.  It’s fate that he survived, pure and simple.

*Pics obtained from the internet from reliable sources in case the lawyer machine senses a mild disturbance in the force

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