Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars on the Brain

I've been talking about writing a post on Star Wars now for close to a year now (here and here), but I've got so many thoughts on the franchise that it's difficult for me to sort out my thoughts into anything approaching coherence.

In the course of this past year, however, while my own brain has been frustratingly inarticulate, other Internet commentators have been very articulate.  And a few of the posts I was going to write have already been written by other people, and I see no need to duplicate what they have already done so well.
So I'm just going to use this post to link to articles which articulate what I wanted to say myself, but never got around to it.

First off: I was intending to write a post about the confused politics of Star Wars--how it's both incredibly anti-war, and incredibly pro-war at the same time.
(On the one hand, George Lucas intended the Evil Galactic Empire to represent the United States military.  But on the other hand, Star Wars was single handedly responsible for making war toys cool again, and cleared the way for such franchises such as G.I. Joe--something that would have seemed unthinkable just a few years beforehand in the immediate post-Vietnam atmosphere.)
But Charlie Jane Anders over at io9 wrote a wonderful article about the phenomenon which now makes any commentary I would have seem needlessly redundant.  See his article here.

I was also intending to write an article on how much prequels suck--not the Star Wars prequels specifically, but the whole concept of prequels in general. But Amy Woolsey over at The Week pretty much summed up my thoughts exactly.  See her article here.
Unfortunately, despite how strongly both Amy and I feel about this, it looks like to a large extent the ship has already sailed on this one.  We've already got a lot of prequels in the pipeline coming our way.  The current Star Wars: Rebels TV show, for example, is a prequel.  All of the announced anthology Star Wars movies are prequels (Rogue One--apparently a prequel about how the Death Star plans were stolen in the first place, some sort of Boba Fett prequel, and some sort of Han Solo prequel).  Plus, now it looks like we might get some sort of live action Star Wars TV show [LINK HERE] which is (sigh) also a prequel.
The best we can do at this point is just maybe hope that after 2020, there will be no more prequels.
Seriously though--Prequels are the worst.  They're boring, they have no stakes, they create bad continuity, and they're absolutely needless.  (Was anyone asking for a Han Solo prequel?  Did anyone want a Boba Fett prequel?)

Last, but not least, I was going to write a post on how The Force was the worst part of Star Wars, and that I really hoped the new films would down play it.
Star Wars has a lot going for it.  I like the fighting Nazis in space idea, I like the pirates and rouges and smugglers, I like the dogfights and the laser guns and the explosions, but The Force is just boring, inconsistent, and doesn't even really make sense.  It was tolerable in the first trilogy, because it was only gently teased.  But it was awful in the prequels, and it has the potential to make the whole Star Wars franchise awfully boring in the future.
Fortunately for me, someone already wrote very eloquently on this very subject:  Mike Ryan wrote a trilogy of articles on why Jedis and The Force are boring--here, here and here.
As of this writing, I have yet to see episode 7.  So I have no idea how the new movie will handle it.  I've got to say though, I'm disappointed with Star Wars: Rebels.  The very set up for this show would have been perfect for doing a Jedi-free story--it was set during the years in which, according to traditional Star Wars mythos, there weren't supposed to be any Jedi.  It would have been the perfect opportunity to just focus on pirates and space Nazis and laser gun fights--and what did they do?  They insisted on re-writing Star Wars mythos so that now there were a bunch of Jedi running around in this period.

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky in Prague, Czech Republic


Darrell Reimer said...

I'm not sure I'm ready to bin The Force. No Force, no light-sabers, for one thing. The Force is simply one plot device among many. The problem is it was developed too recklessly, and you can't un-write that. Now that we've seen Jedis leaping tall buildings with a single bound, that's how we think of it. It's like watching Superman fighting General Zod: throw a mailbox at him! Throw a car at him! Throw a train at him! etc. No Kryptonite, no suspense or drama. So I propose Star Wars writers cook up some Krytonite, tout de suite.

Joel Swagman said...

Something I was going to write in this post, but ended up cutting for reasons of brevity, was that I quibble slightly with Mike Ryan on his wording. He says that Jedis are boring, but I rather like the Samurai swordfighting in space aspect of the Jedis. If we could keep that, but get rid of the magic part of the Jedis, I would be all in favor of it. But I just hate the magical part.

The problem with giving characters near-omnipotent powers is that it makes them boring. It also makes things really inconsistent--so watching the prequels, the viewer is constantly like: "But if he could use the force powers in that previous scene, why doesn't he just use them in this scene?"

But if I'm reading you correctly, it sounds like we're both in agreement about the flaws of how the Force has been used in the past. The question is what to do about it going forward.

Obviously at this point, we're stuck with "The Force". The new movies couldn't ignore it now even if they wanted too--it's just too big a part of the Star Wars universe.

I think The Force worked in the original trilogy because it was something that was out there somewhere, but something that Luke didn't have full control of until the very last movie. So it didn't really spoil the story too much.
I guess that would be my hopes for the new movies.
(As of this writing, I still haven't seen the new movie. But if all goes according to plan, I should remedy that within the next 24 hours.)