Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wading into mega-nerdosity

So I saw Revenge of the Sith this weekend and I enjoyed it quite a bit. But like the other two it got me thinking about what I would have done differently. Of course, I can do this with the benefit of someone who did not have the weight of the most popular movie series of all time starting over his shoulder at every turn. And I have the benefit of hindsight. And I have the benefit of not actually having to write anything. So, with all those disclaimers out of the way, let me begin.

1. Yoda: Yoda was perhaps the biggest shock to my system in the whole thing. And he's indicative of a larger problem I had with the series. Namely, that the Jedi were an overtly political body. The way Ben Kenobi described it, and the way everyone in Eps IV-VI reacted to it, the Jedi were practically a myth. Han Solo barely even believed they existed. "I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other and I haven't seen anything that would make me believe there's some all-powerful Force controlling everything." Really? But the Jedi had a seat in congress up till when you were about five years old.

I guess I alwyas thought of them more like Shaolin Monks, only coming down from their mountain hideaway to interfere when things got really dicey. If they had any political motivations, it would be done in the background like the Bene Gesserits. You don't establish a mythology about yourself if you've got an office on the equivalent of K street in D.C.

But even setting all of that aside, Yoda was even further over the line. From what we see of him in Empire and Jedi, Yoda would never have waded into the sewer of politics. He was a mystic. A priest in ultimate control of the force. He's the guy who ran the dojo where all the Jedis trained. It's as if Pai Mei had decided he wanted to run for office. That just wouldn't happen. I refuse to believe that his whimsical attitude upon first meeting Luke was all a smokescreen. He was serious when he needed to be serious, but when he didn't need to be, he was quite the little munchkin. Politics. Pffft.

2. The timeline: This is something I started thinking about before the prequels came out. But it really solidified for me after they came out. Movies in general tend to rely on a compressed version of time for drama and pacing. But this runs right in the face of the nature of an epic where size, scope, and time are all on -- for lack of a better word -- an epic scale.

The Holy Trilogy managed to sidestep this issue by relegating all of these epic events to merely passing reference and occurring sometime in "the past" (the Clone Wars, The Old Republic, The Jedi Purge). If you thought deeply about them, you'd realize that they all had to happen pretty quickly. No more than the span of twenty or so years (Luke and Leia's age). But the way they were referenced, it felt like they took place a long, long time ago. As long as you didn't look at it head on, the illusion held.

Unfortunately, the prequels required looking at things head on and then some. And in so doing, the illusion collapsed and we realize that the Galactic Empire, the most destructive force the galaxy had ever known, in fact, lasted less than a third as long as the Soviet Union. Suddenly it doesn't feel so epic.

I don't really know what Lucas could have done on this one. It seems that the conflict between showing the rise and fall of just one man and keeping the setting epic is too difficult to overcome. The only thing I could say that Lucas might have done differently is to remember the first rule of epics. They always start in medias res. Do what Star Wars did, relegate everything to the past. Don't show the beginning of the Empire. As far as any of our characters have knows, it's always existed. Keep the Old Republic a myth. It fell a thousand years ago. And so on. I don't know if this would actually work, or if it's even close to the story Lucas wanted to tell, but it's the only solution I have to that rather sticky problem.

3. Anakin's Fall: Something I didn't think of until after seeing Episode III. The first two movies made a point of showing Anakin being both a badass (well, at least in ability to wield a lightsaber and fly a starship) and also a very good candidate for "most likely to succumb to the Dark Side". But wouldn't it have been a much further and more tragic fall if he'd been nearly pristine. What if he really was the greatest Jedi ever? And yet something so human was what tripped him up. In Episode III, his love for Padme is what ultimately seals the deal, but he was already very far down the dark path. But Lucas didn't need any of those other minor moments of loss of control. They only made his antihero seem petulant and whiny. That was the problem. He never seemed like "the Chosen One" which is why his fall wasn't as tragic as it should have been.

That's all I have for now. Maybe more later.


Blogger Noisette said...

What if Hayden Christiansen could act? I think all of your Anakin questions are predicated on the idea that the boy can act his way out of a paper bag, which he can't. The fall wasn't believable because he wasn't believable.

3:12 PM  
Blogger milquetoast said...

I agree that Hayden Christiansen is not the best actor in the world. (Honestly, I'm not a good judge of acting, so I don't want to get too harsh) I'll definitely give you that point. But from a story standpoint, his fall was sort of a slow, gradual decline. That could work, and maybe a better actor could pull it off. But I still have to stand by my assertion that it would have been "cooler" (more believable? Maybe, but that's where a better actor could come in) if Anakin had been a good person (the best, in fact) and had still succumbed to the dark side because he was human and cared too much. That notion was in the movie a bit, but, again, Anakin was already fairly dark side-ish.

The Dark Side of the Force is like the One Ring. No one dares touch it because it seduces. Everything starts out with good intentions, but the Jedi (and Hobbits) have learned the hard way that power like that unleashed corrupts its users. Always. That's why I think it would have been cooler to have Anakin be "great" to show that the corruption is inevitable.

4:59 PM  

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