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  1. #1

    Ruminations about George, the Saga, and our perceptions.

    I unintentionally stumbled upon a rather well-thought out "essay" concerning the Saga and George here:

    http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/index.htm

    I personally find it interesting in that a great deal of what this gentlemen suggests could have (and often has) come from my own pen. If nothing else, it serves as a summary of sorts of a lot of what I've been saying for quite some time. But my hat goes off to Mr. Rilstone for bringing new and deeper insight and meaning to George, the Saga, and what we think about it all...

    (These are rather long and are a bit easier to read on his actual website. Links provided.)

  2. #2

    Little Orphan Anakin: The Mask of God

    http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/mask-of-god.htm


    We started singing:

    My, my, this here Anakin guy
    May be Vader sometime later but right now he's small fry
    He left his home and kissed his mummy good bye
    Singing "Soon I'm gonna be a Jedi."
    "Soon I'm gonna be a Jedi."

    Return of the Jedi ends with Luke Skywalker removing Darth Vader's mask and seeing his father face to face for the first time. This scene could stand as a symbol for the whole series.

    From Luke's point of view, the unmasking of Vader represents the transformation of the Evil Father back into the Good Father, the Jedi-daddy he always wanted. In terms of the narrative of the trilogy, it represents the defeat of the Empire, as the technocratic superstructure is stripped away to reveal a human being beneath it. From the point of view of the audience, it is the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, the villain of Episodes IV - VI renouncing his evil and revealing himself as the hero of the whole saga.

    Some people claim to be disappointed that under the mask, Darth Vader turns out to be 'just an old man'. But that surely is the point. For the story to work, we have to believe that Anakin and Vader are two different people. Anakin was consumed by the Dark Side of the Force: when that happens, says Ben, the good man who was Luke's father ceased to exist. When he turns back to the Light Side, Vader doesn't exist any more; and Anakin is just ordinary—just a fat old man. So the unmasking of Vader also represents the end of the golden age. From now on, all the heroes are going to take off their masks and reveal that underneath, they have feet of clay.

    Attack of the Clones constructs a line from this 'Unmasking' scene and extends it out to infinity and beyond. Episode II amounts to an unmasking of the entire setting; a deconstruction of the Star Wars universe.

    The 'clones' of the title are Palpatine's cloned army, who will become the Stormtroopers of Episodes IV-VI. It transpires that they are clones of one Janga Fett, the clone-father of Boba Fett. Boba Fett is a mysterious figure in the original trilogy: clearly an important person (even Darth Vader treats him quite politely) but never given an origin or a background. The Stormtroopers, of course, are purely iconic; organs of the Emperor who the heroes can kill without compunction.

    In Episodes IV-VI, neither Boba Fett nor any Stormtroopers are ever seen without their helmets on. In Attack of the Clones, we see their faces. Out of costume, Bobba-Jango is under-acted, about as unassuming person as you could imagine, living in an anti-septic bed-sit and wearing a bland prison uniform. There is not a hint of rapport or affection between Jango and his son. The clone warriors are rather pitiful figures in a training camp that recalls the slave-world in THX 1138. They are stated to be 'docile and obedient'; and even when we see them in their armour, you can't quite shake this original image. Two key icons of the original trilogy have been brought down-to-earth with a resounding thud.

    This debunking and de-romanticizing happens consistently throughout the movie. The opening 20 minutes of the movie are full of images of falling: from the cloud-capped heights of Coruscant into the seedy under city. In Coruscant the Jedi are addressed as 'your grace'. But once they descend to ground level, they are little more than plain clothes police officers, and not treated with much respect. 'Gang way….Jedi business' says Anakin, to work his way through a crowd. Is this really how legendary knights were treated in the golden age?

    When Luke went into a tavern, it was a Wild West saloon, full of aliens who have the death sentence on 12 systems, and a cool Clint Eastward smuggler who wins gunfights without getting out of his chair. The equivalent scene in Attack of the Clones is of a nightclub, with video screens showing sports matches and drug dealers offering 'death sticks' for sale. The Emperor, who spends Return of the Jedi as a dark lord with his face cloaked in shadow, is represented in Attack of the Clones as a lying, scheming politician. When we first met Yoda, he was a mysterious, distant figure who had once instructed Obi-Wan. In Attack of the Clones we catch a glimpse of what that 'instruction' might actually have been like. A wise old man studying at the feet of a holy mystic? Hardly. Yoda has become a friendly, patronizing schoolmaster observing a class of primary school children. Is how heroes were trained in the golden age?

    (Of course this scene's primary purpose is to write Lucas out of an inconsistency: Yoda was stated to be Ben's teacher long before Qui-Gon was ever thought of; so we have to show that Yoda trained everybody to stop Alec Guinness being caught up in yet another porkie.)

    Even the central psychological plot of the movie is substantially debunked. The process which will culminate in Vader being consumed by the dark side of the Force is here represented as an adolescent sulk, a series of temper tantrums. 'He never lets me do anything. He always criticizes me. It's not fair. Yippee.'

    Watching A New Hope, we imagined that the Old Republic which Ben and Darth Vader inhabited would be something more epic, grander and more operatic than Star Wars. (The Old Republic was the republic of legend; no reason to ask why it existed, only to say that it was the Republic.) But the republic which we see is in fact rather banal: skyscrapers and Jedi temples, bickering politicians…finally, seedy nightclubs, coach stations, coffee bars and car chases. Star Wars was a fairy tale: this is just a sci fi movie. Corsuscant: is only New York with flying cars. Mos Eisley might as well have been Shangri La.

    Watching Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones we feel nostalgic for a romantic past, 'before the dark times', when everything was clear-cut and simple, before the Force went out of balance. But that romantic past is the age of Luke Skywalker: an age which is nominally located in the future. The golden age of the Old Republic turns out to be a time of cynicism and betrayal; the Dark Times turn out to be, in fact, the heroic age. Does that mean the hoped-for-time of innocence will come after the fall from grace? And that the 'lost past' of Luke's childhood is actually located in the future?

    It is perhaps very natural to locate the lost golden age in the future, given that this futuristic sci fi movie is supposed to be happening 'a long time ago.'

  3. #3

    Little Orphan Anakin: Daddy, Daddy, You Bastard, I'm Through

    http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/daddy.htm

    When I was five, Papa knew everything.
    When I was twelve, Papa knew a great deal
    When I was seventeen, Papa knew nothing
    When I was thirty five, I could go to Papa for advice
    When I was fifty—ah, if only I could still ask Papa.

    Anon.

    The Star Wars movies are about growing up. They are also profoundly nostalgic about childhood. This is a paradox which neither George Lucas nor Luke Skywalker is able fully to resolve.

    Episodes IV - VI are about the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Episodes I - III, on the other hand, are about Anakin's transition from childhood to adolescence. Luke's rite of passage involves becoming reconciled with his father; Anakin's involves leaving behind his mother and transferring his affections onto Amidala, his first lover.

    'Jedi' and 'Father' are almost synonymous terms in the movies. How many times are they together on Luke's lips?

    I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi, like my father.

    I was once a Jedi Knight, the same as your father.

    Why wish you become Jedi?
    Mostly because of my father, I guess.

    You've failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.

    Due to a terrible script-writing mistake, Anakin Skywalker is literally the son of the Force, having been conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost. He explicitly says that Obi-Wan, the archetypal Jedi is the closest thing he has to a father.

    There was a time when Hollywood psychological wounds were all blamed on Mum. James Dean's delinquency is solved the minute his domineering mother gets out of the way; Charles Foster Kane had to acquire a warehouse full of sledges to compensate for the fact that his mother sent him away; and we all know what Norman Bates did with his Mum. But somewhere along the line, the blame shifted to a quasi-mystical figure called Father, and it turned out that nearly all of life's problems could be solved with a quick 'I love you son / I love you too dad'. In some cases—anything with Robin Williams in it—this may have no significance beyond representing the anxieties of middle class men who don't feel that they spend enough time with their offspring. In more pretentious movies, 'Father' is probably a secularised-Christian-Jewish metaphor for God. Marlon Brando slips into the most embarrassingly theological language before sticking baby Superman into the space capsule. 'The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son.' The Star Wars saga is not about the relationship between a father and a son, but between Fathers and Sons.

    The first trilogy is about Luke Skywalker and his Dad: the scene which sums up the movie is the unmasking of Vader. Luke has no memory of his mother. The Star Wars galaxy is very much a woman-free zone: apart from Beru, Mon Motha and a handful of slave girls, there are more or less no women in the films. The relationship with Leia seems fraternal long before we know that they are actually siblings.

    It's very much a rite-of passage story, about a young man's passage from adolescence into adulthood; about how he becomes an independent human being. Vader, Ben and Uncle Own represent the various ways in which a young man perceives and remembers his father during this growing up process. Uncle Owen is his 'real' father, the one he knows in the real world; and Ben Kenobi and Darth Vader are two competing psychological memories of Dad: a good one and a bad one. On the one hand, we remember Dad as the perfect, all-good, all wise figure from when we were a little child: on the other hand, we perceive him as a terrifying, domineering, punishing figure.

    George Lucas admits that Vader's wounding of Luke in The Empire Strikes Back is symbolic castration. We have to be careful with this. When Freud talks about the boys fear of being castrated by his father, he does not literally mean that young men expect their fathers to chop their willies off. 'Castration' represents the fear that Dad will prevent you from being a full man; that he will punish you if you assert your independence, that you have to escape from, or even kill Dad before your manhood is safe. Vader is a 'castrating' figure in this sense: what is finally terrifying about him is not that he blows up planets, but that he wants Luke's identity to be subsumed in his. 'Come with me…We will rule the galaxy as Father and Son. The Son of Skywalker will not become a Jedi. He will join us or die. It is the only way. It is your destiny.' Obi-Wan literally disappeared from Luke's life when he had taught him what he needed to know: the good father knows when it is time to step aside. Luke does not want to remain merely 'the Son of Skywalker', but to become a person in his own right. Ultimately, by taking Vader's mask off, he sees that the person underneath is no longer frightening or dominating. The redeemed Vader has turned from the Bad Father to the Good Father, and like Obi-Wan, he too must step aside and yet Luke become a person in his own right. At the end of the trilogy, Luke has stepped out of Vader's shadow and become a Jedi..

    Or has he? It is profoundly questionable whether Luke Skywalker is capable of growing up. We will return to this point..

    The second trilogy is about Anakin Skywalker and his Mum. Its emblematic scene is Anakin turning his back on his mother, and going off with Qui-Gon to become a Jedi. Where Luke had no memory of his Mother, Anakin has no knowledge of his Father. Where Owen, Ben and Vader represent Luke's differing perceptions of his Father; Shmi and Amidala represent a young man's changing perception of women in general. Anakin's growth into adulthood is complete when Amidala turns from a symbolic mother to an ordinary woman; which happens to be at the same moment that Anakin buries his actual mother. Again, when Freud talks about the Oedipus complex, he does not mean that all men literally want to commit incest with their mothers; he is simply pointing to the fact that Mother is the first woman of any importance in our lives, and that our eventual wife is to some extent a substitute for her.

    The first words which Anakin speaks are to Amidala: 'Are you an angel?. (And hers, to him, are infinitely patronizing: 'Aren't you a funny little boy.') As it happens, she is not an angel, but a Queen, and then, due to the oddities of the Naboo constitution, merely a senator. Angels and Queens are fairly similar to Mothers, existing on a pedestal and totally off the agenda for any kind of romantic involvement. Amidala explicitly puts herself in a quasi-maternal role towards Anakin. When they leave Tatooine for the first time, she puts a poncho around him because he is cold, which is, coincidentally, the same gesture that Leia had used to show her sympathy for Luke after Obi-Wan died. 'To me, you'll always be the little boy I met on Tatooine', she says, mortifyingly, to the teenaged Annie.

    Attack of the Clones begins, naturally enough, with Anakin's first mission independently of Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan is 'the nearest thing' which Annie has to father; but the teenaged son is already straining at the leash: he thinks he is in advance of his father, he never feels that he is listened to, he holds me back. It’s not fair. Obi-Wan is in the role of 'bad father' — not the nightmare figure that Vader was for Luke, but just as unwilling to allow him to be a person in his own right. At any rate, that is how Anakin perceives him.

    The first mission which this Daedelus sends him off on is to guard Amidala. Following the Oedipal script to the letter, Obi-Wan makes it absolutely clear that Annie is not permitted to love Amidala. We've been told nothing about Jedi taking vows of celibacy up to this point: indeed, the idea of the Force running strong in particular families would seem to speak against it. But mythological fathers prohibit mythological sons from marrying mythological mothers. It's what they do.

    Amidala and Annie 'decide' that they cannot fall in love. And in case anyone misses the point, in the very next scene, Annie has a dream-vision about his real, literal mother: the one who he left behind on Tatooine to become a Jedi knight. In Phantom Menace, leaving his real mother (Shmi) entailed acquiring a symbolic one (Amidala); so it makes sense that, having been rejected by the symbolic-mother who he would like to marry, he runs home to the real one.

    Cinema audiences cannot, of course, forebear from tittering during the excruciating nightmare scene, because Anakin's wriggling in bed look as if he's, er, how can I put this.... And the audience probably have a point:. The whole sequence is about puberty, sexual awakening and adolescence. Annie is becoming aware of women for the first time. (No wonder he keeps breaking his lightsaber.)

    Now it gets weird. The dream-vision occurred on Amidala's home planet, indeed, at one of her favourite childhood haunts. (Picnics and chases through long grass are classic images of 'innocent' childhood.) But the nightmare calls Anakin back to the place of his own childhood, the increasingly repetitive planet Tatooine. And where should he end up but at the Lars homestead from part IV: the place where we first met Luke; where Luke bought 3PO, where Luke set out to meet Ben Kenobi—the absolute point of origin. Annie's search for his mother has taken him back to the womb. Like Luke, he is going to set out on a quest from this place and end up a substantially different person.

    In a depressingly perfunctory bit of plot, it turns out that Anakin's mother is dead. Just as Luke shot off in his landspeeder to find Father Ben, and returns to find Owen and Beru's funeral pyre; so Anakin shoots off on a speeder-bike to find Shmi, and returns with her body. Luke stood at almost precisely this spot and announced his intention to 'become a Jedi, like my father.' Anakin, likewise, promises that he will never fail again and become the greatest Jedi in the universe. The death of Shmi is explicitly said to mark his passage to adult-hood: 'My son, my son, my grown up son.'

    All the Oedipal themes collide at Shmi's funeral. Luke's father (Anakin) and Luke's father (Owen) are burying Anakin's mother (Shmi) in the presence of Luke's mother (Amidala) who is also Anakin's stand-in mother. Also present is Anakin's stepfather. The scene is interrupted by an emergency phone call from Anakin's next-best-thing-to-a- father, Obi-wan. And it is at this point—when Mother is buried, when Son has declared himself to be an adult, and when Father calls us home—at this moment, Amidala undergoes her final transformation. As long as Shmi was alive, Amidala was an exalted figure with whom love was very definitely off the agenda. Now Shmi is dead, Amidala becomes a resourceful, accessible tomboy figure: able to handle a blaster, perform escapology, and take control of the situation, and eminently available as a lover for Annie. She has, in fact, transformed into Princess Leia, complete with silly hairstyle. They can both start ignoring the various parental authority figures: disobey Obi-Wan's instructions not to come after him, and finally, disobey the Jedi order and fall in love. The death of his mother represents the moment at which Anakin grows up: now, finally, he can be interested in girls.

    By now, everybody knows that Luke Skywalker is one of Joseph Campbell's heroes with a thousand faces. For Campbell, 'Hero' is more or less synonymous with 'everyman' or 'self' or possibly 'ego' in a Freudian sense. The journey of the Hero is a metaphor for Everyone's journey through life; or else it is a metaphor for the process by which the Self confronts its inner demons and becomes psychologically whole.

    You don't have to buy the Freud-Campbell reading to agree that viewers of the movie are expected to identify pretty strongly with Luke. Some people have pointed out the similarity of the names 'Lucas' and 'Luke' and suggested that he represents the director. Maybe: but it's more important that Luke is our; our avatar in the Star Wars universe, the eyes through which we see the world. We wish that we had a best mate like Han Solo to look out for us, and a wise old father like Obi-Wan to teach us, but we never wanted to be those characters, or thought that we could be. It's not so much that we pretend that we are Luke: we know from the beginning of the movie, that Luke is Us.

    But Anakin fits equally clearly into the Hero With a Thousand Faces pattern. He has a mysterious, semi-divine origin; he leaves his home to go on a quest; he receives weapons and teaching from a wise old man; and acquires companions, some of which are extremely annoying. According to Campbell, the quest of the Hero involves descending, metaphorically or literally, into an underworld; and returning with a 'boon' that will save the world. It's a little early to review Episode III but I think that it is a safe bet that the movie will end with Annie falling into a volcano, lava flow or other pit. The whole of the second trilogy might therefore be seen as his passage through the underworld, climaxing with his defeat of the Emperor, which will be conflated with 'bringing balance to the Force.'

    Again, I don't think that it is controversial to say that we are meant to be identifying with Anakin throughout the first trilogy, and that our capacity to enjoy the movie depends on the extent to which we can do so. Lucas wanted to direct Phantom Menace at a young audience, and was therefore probably correct to give the movie a very young main character: Anakin's is a role which the average nine-year old can imagine himself into without difficulty. On the whole, when I was watching the film, I was able to project myself into Anakin, since he seemed so much to be fulfilling my fantasies as nine year old Star Wars fan (he gets his own space ship to play with, gets to build his own robot, and then gets taken off to become a Jedi Knight—for real.) I had more of a problem with Attack of the Clones, because I don't think that I ever was quite that kind of uber-teen which Anakin is supposed to represent.

    If Annie and Luke are both 'everyman' figures, then it is not a great stretch to say that the two movies, considered psychologically, have only one hero, called Luke-Anakin, or Skywalker, or simply the Hero. Luke and Anakin are ultimately the same person. While watching Episodes I and II I repeatedly forgot that this was supposed to be a film about Darth Vader (the blonde kid is Darth Vader???) and found myself thinking that I was really looking at a younger Luke Skywalker. This is particularly clear when Annie is dressed in flying gear before the Pod race, and when Anakin and Amidala step onto a bridge in the droid foundry and more-or-less quote the beginning of the chasm swing sequence from A New Hope.

    If we treat Luke and Anakin as a single character, then Shmi's funeral makes a great deal of symbolic sense. Amidala is literally Luke's mother, and symbolically Anakin's mother. Once we combine Luke and Anakin into a single person, then we can see that Amidala is simply The Hero's Mother. But, of course, Shmi is also the Hero's Mother. As we have seen, once Shmi is buried, Amidala takes on a role very much like Princess Leia; who is (in A New Hope at any rate) Luke's potential lover. Once we combine Luke and Anakin into a single person, then Amidala, Shmi and Leia merge into a classic three headed goddess, the Hero's mother and lover. The meaning of the funeral scene is clearly 'The Hero, Anakin-Luke, buries his mother: the Hero's Mother Amidala-Shmi, is transformed into the Hero's Lover, Amidala-Leia.'


    [Chart omitted, see website]


    Viewed sequentially, from Episode I - Episode VI, the Star Wars saga is a fairly straightforward 'growing up' or journey- through-life myth. Luke-Anakin, the hero, left his mother behind in Episode I, as a little boy; went off on a quest to recover his true father as a young man in Episode IV; and was reconciled with his Father's ghost in Episode VI. The hero is a child in Episode I, a teenager in Episodes II and III; a young man in Episodes IV and V and an old man in the closing moments of Episode VI: we have experienced his whole life.

    But, of course, we don't experience the films sequentially. In terms of our actual experience of the movies, the 'Unmasking of Vader' scene, comes, not at the end of the saga, but slap dab in the middle: it is the fulcrum around which the saga pivots. When Luke takes Vader's mask off, Anakin comes onto the stage for the first time, and our identification shifts from Luke to him. Almost the first view we have of Anakin Skywalker is very last image of the movie.

    At the time of Phantom Menace, I argued that Luke, by becoming reconciled with Darth Vader, had regained a kind of childhood innocence, represented by the next trilogy being about the boy Anakin at the time of the old republic. But I now think that it is more complicated than that. Luke's quest is not, in fact, about recovering childhood: it's about growing up: that's what reconciliation with the father means.

    And, at the very last minute, Luke blows it.

    Compare the Father - Son scene in The Empire Strikes Back with that in Return of the Jedi:

    Vader: No. I am your Father.

    Luke: No, no, that's not true, that's impossible

    Vader: Search your feelings. You know it to be the truth.

    Luke: No, no.

    Vader: Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son…come with me. It's the only way.



    Vader: Luke, help me take this mask off.

    Luke: But you'll die.

    Vader: Nothing can stop that now. Just for once let me look on you with my own eyes. Now go my son. Leave me.

    Luke. No. You're coming with me. I'll not leave you here. I've got to save you.

    Vader: You already have. You were right. You were right about me. Tell your sister; you were right

    Luke: Father…I won't leave you.

    The evil, child consuming father in Empire Strikes Back says 'Come with me. Join me. Your destiny lies with me.' The redeemed, good father in Return of the Jedi says 'Go, leave me.' In Empire Strikes Back, Luke would sooner die than be 'the Son of Skywalker'; but in Return of the Jedi, he disobeys his father. The very last line spoken by Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy is 'Father, I won't leave you' and indeed, he takes the dead Vader with him back to Endor. In the victory celebrations, he looks away from Leia and the teddy bears, and at the ghost of his father (or rather, his Fathers: Anakin and Ben are both phantom menaces at the feast.) So at this pivot-point of the two trilogies, Luke holds on to his father. He has failed the test and refused to grow up. So there is nowhere to go, in terms of the psychology of the Hero, but back into childhood. The hero becomes the little fatherless boy, who is going to have to leave his mother, and try, once again to become a Jedi.

    The Star Wars films are therefore based on a deeply ambivalent view of psychology. The Hero is trapped in an irresolvable double bind. To grow up, he has to be reconciled with his father: but once he has been reconciled with him, he can't leave him behind; and he is reduced, for ever afterwards, to the role of son. The flawed Hero is, at bottom, a little boy who cannot grow up; the ideal avatar for generations of Star Wars fans.

  4. #4

    Little Orphan Anakin: The Hero With at Least Two Faces

    http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/hero.htm

    Diagram: Structure of Star Wars Saga From the Viewers Point of View (Word Doc)


    We are now in a position to try to understand the structure of the Star Wars saga as we actually experience it

    Star Wars is, first, a series of movies; secondly, the psychological biography of an Everyman hero; and thirdly a patchwork history of a not very interesting science fiction setting. If we try to read the movies sequentially, from Episode I - VI, we are inclined to foreground the 'historical' narrative. But this Star Wars 'saga', the one which begins with Qui-Gon fighting Trade Federation robots is a wholly imaginary work, one which no-one has ever or will ever see. Only by looking at the movies we actually saw—the saga that began with C3PO shutting down the main reactor—can we discuss the way those movies actually effect us, and begin to understand just how clever George Lucas has been.

    Our first experience is a movie called Star Wars which exists independently of the other five movies. Considered alone, Star Wars is a perfectly satisfactory and completed journey of the Hero. At the end of Star Wars, good-father Obi-Wan has stepped out of the way, and exists only as a memory, or a voice, in Luke's mind: what Freud would call the super-ego. In the last moments of the movie, Luke trusts in the Force, and destroys the Death Star. If this isn't 'becoming a Jedi', what is?

    Our second experience is of a movie called 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back'. It is highly important to our experience of 'The Star Wars Saga' that we initially accept Star Wars as a complete and finished entity, and only subsequently learn that it is 'Episode IV'. Uniquely for a sequel, 'Star Wars 2' extends the saga in both directions: what we thought was a complete entity turns out to extend both forwards and backwards. This is important; because 'Star Wars IV' is a summary of the whole psychological plot (the Hero Grows Up) which also serves as the first chapter of a much more complex saga—which, in effect, tells the same story. We need to have allowed ourselves the innocence of experiencing A New Hope as a fairy tale in order to properly experience the disillusionment of Empire Strikes Back—which says, in effect 'They didn't all live happily ever after. And there was a lot going on before we said once upon a time, too.'

    Once we know that Star Wars was actually Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, then we become aware of the existence of Star Wars Episodes I - III. True, when we watched A New Hope and heard Obi-Wan, Uncle Owen, and Darth Vader talking about events in the 'olden days', we had a vague sense of a 'back story'--previous events in the Star Wars universe the existence of which gave the setting some of its mythical power. But once we read the words 'Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back,' those events are 'firmed up' as being possible subjects for movies. We all have our own ideas about what those prequel movies are about. You can't watch Episode IV - VI without having some mental picture, however vague, about what life was like 'before the Dark Times', about what Vader's training by Kenobi might have been like. At two crucial moments, our 'imaginary' prequels re-write themselves in our heads. The first, of course, is when Vader reveals his paternity, and two characters in the prequel trilogy, the good-father and the good-father's-slayer merge into one. The second, and less important, is the revelation that Luke has a sister.

    When we see 'Star Wars: Episode I', we are in a sense seeing the movie for the second time. We already know roughly what is going to happen—Palpatine will become Emperor, the Republic will fall, Obi-Wan will acquire an apprentice called Anakin, Anakin will become Vader, Vader will kill all the Jedi knights but himself be maimed, Vader will have twin children called Luke and Leia. We almost certainly have our own preconceptions of what the Old Republic was like, and the film is almost certainly different from those preconceptions. Almost by definition, our reaction to the prequel is to say 'That wasn't how I imagined it' every five minutes. (This is a very different experience from saying, as we might do with a sequel 'that wasn't what I expected' or 'that is a surprise.) As we have seen, this disillusionment is very much built into the structure of the movies, so that we are not merely surprised that the prequels are different from what we expected; we are disappointed that they are more banal and prosaic. (It is a matter of debate how much of the fan-disillusionment that Phantom Menace engendered was an intentional part of the film's emotional structure—the revelation that child-hood as experienced is not the same as child-hood as imagined through the eyes of nostalgia—and how much was just due to it being a genuinely bad movie…) Just as 'dad', the old man we have to deal with on a day to day basis falls short by comparison with the perfect Father we remember from when we were small children; so Hayden Christensen and Jake Lloyd fall short of the Anakin's of our mind…and this is not necessarily the fault of either the actors or the script.

    In the same way that A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are continually pointing backwards to an as-yet-unmade prequel; Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Episode III are continually pointing forwards to the first trilogy. A considerable amount of this 'pointing forward' is intended to re-write the original trilogy and invest it with meaning and significance which it did not have when we originally saw it. In particular, it appears to be intended to re-write the crucial Luke-Vader-Emperor confrontation which makes up most of the meat of Episode VI. In Episode VI, Palpatine mockingly calls Luke Skywalker 'my apprentice'—a line which takes on a great deal more significance once we know that Palpatine is Lord of the Sith, and Vader is his Apprentice. (Indeed, we have already seen one apprentice, Darth Maul being killed and replaced with Anakin; so the possibility that Vader might die and be replaced with Luke seems to be a real one.) I also suspect that Vader's destruction of the Emperor at the climax of the movie is going to be invested with an additional level of meaning. Anakin is the one who would bring balance to the Force, and Palpatine and the Sith are the ones who had put it out of balance; therefore in order for Anakin to fulfill the prophecy, he had to turn to the Dark Side, if only to get close enough to Palpatine to kill him. (But having turned to the Dark Side, of course, he doesn't want to kill his master, so he needs Luke to bring him back. Damn clever, these prophesies.) Something which, when we first saw it, was a family drama about a father and a son, and a political drama about an evil emperor and his servant, is transformed into a world-historical drama. A mythic hero, conceived by the power of the midichlorians, born of the virgin Shmi, wounded by Obi-Wan, descended to the Dark Side, redeemed through the sufferings of his Son, defeats a centuries old evil and brings back the spring, or at any rate, brings balance to the Force. It is important that we have this double experience—first, as a story about a father and a son; and second as a much more cosmic and universal event.

    The first time we experience the first trilogy, we experience it from the point of view of Luke, the everyman-hero. Luke is the hero and, until the closing moments of Empire Strikes Back, and still through most of Return of the Jedi, Vader is simply the villain. As we have seen, in the closing moment of Return of the Jedi, Luke appears to fail in his quest, refuses to leave his father behind and thus fails to grow up and become a Jedi. For that reason, we have to go back to his childhood, and make another attempt at growing up. As 'readers', we experience the Quest of the Hero again (leaving home, growing up, becoming a Jedi) but this time, with Anakin as our Avatar.

    Much of Anakin's journey, as we have seen, recapitulates Luke. He leaves his family, he learns about the Force from Obi-Wan and Yoda, he is tempted by the Dark Side. But Anakin's quest also fails. In Episode III, he is consumed by the Dark Side; and fights a climactic battle with Obi-Wan. In this climactic battle, the Son is maimed by the Father. While watching this battle we will doubtless recall the confrontation between Vader and Luke in Episode V. In both cases, the Hero is confronting his domineering, 'evil' father, and in both cases the son is wounded.

    But Anakin's story does not end with Episode III: it continues into Episodes IV, V and VI. So we have to re-experience those films, this time taking Darth Vader as the hero. Many of the key scenes are different when we re-experience them. We no longer see the confrontation between Vader and Obi-Wan simply as a clash between two more-or-less Jedi peers; but a continuation of the patricidal theme. This is now the third time we have seen the Hero face the Hero's Father; and this time, finally, the Hero's Father knows that he must lose and allow the Son to surpass him. When Vader says … 'I sense something', we wonder whether he is really sensing 'his old master', or is beginning to remember and recognize his son. When he says 'The Force is strong in this one', we wonder if he suspects who This One is. We recognize that the Death Star—even the Empire Itself—are very much an underworld through which the Hero is passing in order to bring balance back to the Force. And the second time we experience Vader's unmasking, we perceive it, not as a final test which Luke fails, but as the final stage in the salvation of Anakin, the Hero. Luke is no longer the Hero who fails to grow up: this time is the agency through which the fallen Hero is redeemed. When we experienced Return of the Jedi, from Luke's viewpoint, then the final moments seem to be a failure, the Hero turning his back on his friends and looking towards his Father. When we experience it from Anakin's viewpoint, we perceive it as a final success. The wounds that the Hero received at the hands of his Father are healed, and our last image is of Anakin: mature, good, in his Jedi robes, and alongside Obi-Wan and Yoda, represent the final salvation of the hero and, presumably, the restoration of balance to the Force, the healing of the world.

    Hochsten Heiles Wunder! Erlosung dem Erloser.

    We have gone a long journey with the Hero—from Luke, to Anakin, to Vader and back to Anakin again. The cycle, which has been more like a spiral, is completed. Lucas is absolutely correct to rule out making Episodes VII, VIII and IX: there is absolutely nowhere left for the sequels to go.

  5. #5

    Little Orphan Anakin: Attack of the Cloned Reviews

    http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/clonererview.htm

    There is a world shortage of opinions about Attack of the Clones.

    It seems that the only things that anyone is allowed to say is that:

    1: It has bad dialogue

    2: It is dominated by CGI special effects

    3: It is derivative of other movies, e.g. Fifth Element and Gladiator

    4: It is better than Phantom Menace.

    Opinion famines seem to attach themselves to this kind of movie. At the time of Star Wars all anyone said was that it had great special effects. At the same time, all you were allowed to say about Doctor Who was that it had bad special effects, and, interestingly, that The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy was impossible to understand.

    When someone says 'Doctor Who has bad special effects' I am inclined to reply 'Well, I don't think the CSO experiment in Underworld worked particularly well, but then the alien dimension in Warriors Gate was very evocative.' To which they reply 'Wobbly sets, wobbly sets, wobbly sets' and walk off: the concept of 'wobbly sets' has expanded to fill their whole consciousness on this point. Silly me to expect words to be used to express actual ideas.

    In the case of Phantom Menace, the only viewpoint one heard was that Jar-Jar Binks was very irritating. I have to say I never found him so: I thought he was a relatively amusing character, in same vein as C-3PO, Jabba the Hutt, and all the other comic-relief characters of the first trilogy. After six viewings of Phantom Menace, the only 'racism' I can discern is the Japanese accent of the trade federations representatives.

    This separatist review will therefore secede from the army of cloned opinions which is oppressing the galaxy, and try to say a few coherent things about the movie.

    1: Dialogue

    The dialogue of Attack of the Clones is melodramatic and non-naturalistic. If 'good dialogue' means, say, Tarantino-esque repartee, then Attack of the Clones doesn't have it. On the other hand, there is only one genuinely awful passage, the blazing-fire love scene, in which Anakin and Amidala start talking in a weird, formal language, rather like a badly translated opera libretto. For the rest of the movie, well it didn't sound like bad dialogue to me; it sounded like the way they talk in a Star Wars movie. 'Bad' dialogue has been a feature of the franchise from the moment the Jedi with the public school accent said 'He thought he should have stayed at home and not gotten involved.'

    The problem was actually one of unintentional bathos as a result of an inconsistent tone. If we had been asked to believe that the 'Old Republic' was an age of heroes where everyone wore sweeping clothes and talked in arias, then 'If we follow to this to a logical conclusion it will take us to a place where we cannot go and which would destroy our lives' might be a reasonable thing to say. But it is a mistake to have Anakin saying 'If Obi-Wan saw this, he would be very grumpy' in one scene and 'I am haunted by the kiss you should never have given me' in the next.

    2: CGI Effects

    Computers are still a sufficiently novel idea that we are aware of what they can do. We are therefore inclined to use CGI as a buzzword. We are less impressed by fantasy and spectacle because we now know that it is relatively easy to produce. Most of us know that you can create any kind of virtual world inside a computer: the only limit is your artist's imagination and the amount of time you are prepared to spend rendering it out. There were very few moments where it was obvious to my untrained eye that I was watching computer animation. Some scenes, especially the Jedi council had a quality of unnaturally sharpness which gave me a sense of it 'not being quite real'. (This may have been an artefact of the Leicester Square Odeon's ultra high teach projection system.) CGI creatures occasionally have a specific, slightly mechanical way of walking which distinguishes them from, say, the slight jerkiness of a Ray Haryhausen monster pic. (I particularly noticed this as Yoda walked offstage in the background of the Jedi councils first meeting with Palpatine.)

    The film naturally plays to the strengths of the computer animation process. The special effects in Attack of the Clones are not 'better' than those in Return of the Jedi. The spaceships in Return of the Jedi look real; you can't actually improve on that. What the new film can give you is MORE special effects. A computer can give you a hundred or a thousand Stormtroopers, where miniatures and extras can only manage ten. That tends to give us very crowded screens; and to me, a thousand battle robots is less dramatic than a single invincible Death Star. In that sense, the capabilities of the CGI process did rather dictated the contents of the film.

    Lucas's imagination has a relatively limited range, and keeps going over and over the same material, trying to do the same kinds of scenes better and better each time a new piece of technology comes along. I have the sense of a man who is forever frustrated that he can't make the pictures which he sees in his head come to life on the screen. When we first saw the bar filled with aliens in Star Wars, it was an awesome and funny concept, even though some of the individual creatures were not particularly well realized. It is understandable that Lucas wants to do it again and again, with aliens that really look alien. But there is a law of diminishing returns – and when we end up in the bar in the Coruscrant under city, we don't say 'Wow, wow…a night club full of aliens!' we say 'Yeah, yeah, yeah: another Cantina scene.'

    C: Derivativeness
    Duh, it's a Star Wars movie.

    Star Wars is basically pastiche; cool bits of other movies translated into sci fi terms and then pasted together—Roman Arena with aliens; Ben Hur with aliens; the Searchers with aliens; the Dam Busters with space ships, some of which are flown by aliens.

    It is true that some of the source material for the Coruscant car chase in Attack of the Clones did seem to be Judge Dredd, Blade Runner, Fifth Element; and the assassin-eels looked as if they had wandered in from Alien or Wrath of Kahn. It might be thought a pity if Star Wars is reduced to pastiching post-Star Wars sci fi movies.

    I also felt that some of the pastiche was a little too banal, so that the Jedi archive looks too much like a modern public library and the civilian transportation looks too much like the interior of a subway. This implies, to me, a failure of imagination, a failure to see that everything in the Star Wars universe must be, not only bigger, but also more heroic than that in real life.



    This is not to say that I don't think that the film was flawed. It was. I think that its flaws were threefold:



    A: Plot
    The film's plot went nowhere. There was no tension in the Amidala-Anakin romance, because we all knew where it had to end up: but the element of pre-destination wasn't used to generate, say, dramatic irony. But neither was there any great sense that Obi-Wan's wanderings from set piece to set piece were very meaningful, nor that they related to the overall structure of the movie. Just as Phantom Menace very loosely follows the structure of A New Hope, so Attack of the Clones is meant to feel structurally similar to Empire Strikes Back. We jump backwards and forwards between two plots, one full of action (Obi Wan, Han and Leia) and one static and character based (Anakin and Amidala, Luke and Yoda.) But Empire Strikes Back is tightly plotted: not only do we know that the sufferings of Han and Leia are intimately related to what is happening to Luke; but we also recognize continuous thematic echoes between the two storylines. (For example, Han Solo and Luke both have an adventure in a cave which turns out to be quite different from what they were expecting.) Attack of the Clones is really just a tumbling mass of incident. And the end result of all the incident is neither victory nor defeat for the heroes, but the release of two small pieces of plot-information, or the moving of a plot pawn or two. Anakin and Amidala are married. Palpatine is voted special powers by the senate. Er…that's it.

    B: Mistaken Belief That Back Story Matters
    Does anyone remember Dark Crystal? (Rhetorical question. Don't write in.)

    Despite the rather inane plot, it's one of the best-realized cinematic fantasy worlds. The surreal muppetery creates a great sense of Otherness. There are no knights in armour, no castles, or goblins: it is set neither in the world of here-and-now, nor in the over-familiar world of fantasy archetypes. (Granted, once you look at them for more than a minute or so, you realize that all the weird creatures are the familiar archetypes in fancy dress but that didn't remove the initial sense of being far, far away.) It also has great depth, or rather, the illusion of great depth. Wherever you look, there are wall carvings, symbols, strange ceremonies, and unfamiliar flora and fauna. One of the first images is of a Mystic creating a sand painting and destroying it with his tail. We don't know why he does this: we just sort of accept that sand paintings are very Zen, and this is very much the sort of thing these Mystics might do.

    Tied in with the movie was a gurt big art book called The World of the Dark Crystal, which I understand now sells for frighteningly high amounts of money on Ebay. Mine isn't for sale. It contains a lot of pre-production art, and some photographs from the movies; all tied together with an elaborated back story about how the Crystal came to be broken in the first place, and lots of data about the goodie Mystics and the evil Skeksis. We learn the names of individual Mystics and Skeksis; we learn that the Mystics aren't really called Mystics at all, but Ur-Ru. We learn that the beings they merge into at the end are called the Ur-Skeks. We even learn what the sand-painting meant (it represented the history of the world of the Dark Crystal.) It was the sort of book that every fantasy geek would be proud to have on his coffee table. I often thought 'I could use this as the basis of an RPG', before adding 'No, I couldn't: background notes about the significance of murals is not a good basis for an interactive scenario.'

    It would have been intolerable if all that background detail had appeared in the film. Exposition of Ur-Skek religion and the mystical significance of the number three would have slowed down the plot. But it is that the existence of all that off-screen data contributed to the illusion of reality which made the film so convincing..

    I have, to coin a phrase, a bad feeling that Attack of the Clones only existed as a vehicle for its back story. George Lucas had some notes about the political structure of the Galactic Empire and the relationship of the Jedi to the Sith and he jolly well wanted to explain them to the audience. Plot and characters were secondary to that world-building aim.. He'd decided that the Death Star was designed by some people called the Geonosians; and decided to work this into the movie. But 'worked in' means 'stated, alluded to, dangled in front of the viewers nose': It doesn't actually have any purpose or role in the story. Yes, Star Wars aficionados get a certain sort of pleasure from noticing that the representative of the Techno-Union has a breath mask reminiscent of Darth Vader's; but he's only in the story is so that aficionados can notice him. It all feels flung together, like Lucas is trying to retro-fit the old films to his new vision of the setting.

    C: Lack of Characters
    Lucas's failure to understand what made his original movies tick is immense. Go back and watch the films, particularly the first one, and what strikes you are the chemistry between the five main human characters, with a bit of a comic relief from the metal ones. What makes us go back to Star Wars again and again is the way Han Solo says "No reward is worth this", and Leia says "This is some rescue!" This survives into Empire Strikes Back, about a third of which is about the sexual tension between Han and Leia, and even into the slightly more cardboard Return of the Jedi. Now, granted, Attack of the Clones has a better stab at creating some characters than Phantom Menace: but they never sparkle. They are primarily there to go through the motions of advancing the plot. Anakin is going to rebel against Obi-Wan and go bad; Amidala is going to fall in love with Anakin. There is no group dynamic, only a collection of plot-coupons.

    Once upon a time it seemed rather bizarre to imagine that there could be a Star Trek series which didn't feature Sperk, Kock and Bones. Surely, Star Trek was reducible to those three characters? But Mr Roddenbury, having half a brain at least, sat down and said "If I come up with a new set of characters, with some of the same themes and ideas behind them, then people will accept Star Trek: Next Generation as a new version of the same show. And so it proved. Say what you like about Enterprise or Voyager, and I often do, but each version of Star Trek has been based around a set of characters whose interactions are likely to generate amusing narrative situations. Cardassian civil wars come a very poor second.

    So why, oh why could not Mr Lucas think along these lines? "I need to think up a set of half a dozen cool characters, he could have said -- quite possibly one of them a bit roguish and one of them a bit mystical -- and get them together in Episode I, and keep them together until Episode III. And I need to make them as much fun to spend time with as the characters I created in Star Wars. And then I need to think up some cool adventures for them to have. Perhaps I'll have them fighting baddies, who we can call, for the sake of argument, "The Sith". And in the background to their adventures, I can leak some data about the Old Republic, and then, as a sub-plot, we can show how Obi Wan's apprentice goes bad and turns evil. He'll be a minor character in the first film, and the main villain in the last one."

    But, alas, what Lucas actually did was say "Gosh, everyone is bound to be fascinated to find our who Luke's mother was, and precisely what it was which turned his Dad bad; and won't they just be so thrilled to see a young Obi and a young Darth walking into a bar together. When they see Anakin and Amidala fall in love, they will know that they are witnessing an awesomely important event in galactic history; and that will make the film seem important, and that importance will be enough to carry the film all by itself."

    It ain't so, George. It just ain't so.

  6. #6

    Little Orphan Anakin: Questions, Questions, Too Many Questions

    http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/swquestions.htm


    1: Evil Jedi
    In Phantom Menace, there are only two Sith: a master, and an Apprentice. Darth Maul gets the chop, leaving, presumably, a vacancy.

    In Attack of the Clones, Saruman is an evil Jedi, throwing around Emperor-style bolts of lightening which even Darth Maul showed no signs of doing.

    Do we conclude:

    1: That Saruman has replaced Maul as Palpatine's apprentice, having turned to the Dark Side at some point in the ten years since Phantom Menace?

    2: That there are other societies of evil Jedi apart from the Sith, and Saruman belongs to one of those?

    3: That Yoda was mistaken, and there are sometimes three Sith at once?

    4: That Yoda's remark at the end of Phantom Menace (that he doesn't know whether Darth Maul was master or apprentice) foreshadows a clever twist: Maul was the master, Palpatine the apprentice, and Saruman was a sort of apprentice in waiting, ready to take on the role when the master died and everyone moved up once?

    5: That Lucas is making it up as he goes along?

    I always feel that a Doctor Who scriptwriter is not really trying as soon as the expression "evil renegade Time Lord" is mentioned. I feel that "previously un-mentioned tribe of evil Jedi" betrays a similar kind of shorthand laziness.



    2: What did the Dark Lord know and when did he know it?
    In Empire Strikes Back, Vader knows of the existence of "the Son of Skywalker"; but in Return of the Jedi, he is surprised to learn that he also has a daughter. It is even possible that Obi-Wan does not know of the existence of Leia,: in Empire Strikes Back he does not know of the existence of Yoda's "other".

    In A New Hope we are told that Anakin-Vader "wanted Luke to have his lightsabre when he was old enough". We are also told that when Vader left Kenobi, he was still only a learner.

    Thus, we require a situation in which --

    A: A still-good, still-apprentice Anakin has asked Obi-Wan to pass his lightsabre onto his son, but doesn't know that he has a daughter.

    B: Although Luke is fostered with Anakin's stepbrother on his home-planet, and although he is living openly under his real name, and although Vader knows of his son's existence, he never goes after him there.

    C: Leia remembers her mother, but Luke has no memory of his

    To pull all this together, I think we are going to have to have some enormous hand-wave. I think that Vader is going to lose his memory. Or, perhaps his conversion to the Dark Side will be conceived of as a Jekyl and Hyde transformation, which leaves him perceiving Anakin Skywalker as an entirely separate person. This might even make Kenobi's claim that Anakin's transformation meant that Luke's father was destroyed literally true. I predict that Episode III will go something like this:

    1: Amidala gets pregnant. This is kept secret from everyone; no-one outside Naboo even knows they are married.

    2: Anakin says goodbye to his pregnant wife, and goes to fight in the Clone Wars with Obi Wan, who for some reason is being referred to as General Kenobi, and "serving" Bail Organa.

    3: Anakin sees that the galaxy is collapsing into chaos. He still believes in his "benevolent dictatorship" theory as expressed to Amidala in Attack of the Clones. He states that he wants to help Palpatine bring order to the galaxy. Obi-Wan forbids him. Anakin resigns from the Jedi order, and, still a learner leaves Obi Wan. At this point, of course, he doesn't know that Palpatine moonlights as Darth Sideous.

    4: Palpatine, tells him about the power of the Dark Side. He tells him that if he becomes a Sith he will be the greatest Jedi ever, all-powerful, and capable of even stopping people dying. He probably takes him to a high place and breaks out in an allegory. At any rate, Anakin gives way and starts to undergo Jekyl and Hyde transformations, from Anakin to Vader and back again.

    5: In his Vader form, he helps Palpatine hunt down the Jedi. But in a lucid moment, he warns Amidala and tells her to hide his child with his mother's husband on Tatooine, where he will be overlooked by Palpatine.

    6: Little does he know that he does not just have a son, but twins!

    7: Amidala does as she is told. Yoda escorts the new-born boy to Tatooine, stopping off briefly on Dagobah on the way. ("There's something familiar about this place!") But she takes the girl to Alderaan where Baal Organa will protect them.

    8: The trade federation trace Amidala to Alderaan. They come to kill her. She gives her child to Baal to take care of. The trade federation assumes that Leia is Baal's kid, and no-one sees any need to disabuse them of this misconception. The trade federation kills Amidala. She recites some bad dialogue, and expires.

    9: Palpatine doesn't think to look for Luke on Tatooine as obviously no-one would be stupid enough to hide Vader's son on Vader's home planet. Vader, as long as he is Vader (and not Anakin) doesn't know where is son is. But years later, when he finds out that the name of the young pilot who was strong in the Force turns out to be "Skywalker", the long buried memories of his previous identity start to return.

    10: Vader is sent by Palpatine to kill Obi-Wan. There is a big fight. At the last minute, Obi-Wan says something like "By the way, did you know you now have a son?". This makes Vader turn back into Anakin for a second. He hands his lightsaber to Obi-Wan and says "Could you make sure my son gets this", and then jumps into the fiery pit.

    12: Obi-Wan, assuming that Vader is dead, goes to Tatooine, partly because it is remote and partly because he gets to be near the Anakin's child. Presumably, it is a few years before he finds out that Vader survived and has acquired a suit of armour and a breath mask.

    13: All the other Jedi are killed.

    14: Twenty years pass, and Star Wars begins.

    I trust that is all perfectly clear.

  7. #7

    Little Orphan Anakin: A Certain Point of View

    http://www.aslan.demon.co.uk/viewpoint.htm


    Lucas has stated that Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are pretty much the films he envisaged when he started working on the saga back in 1973: it's taken this long for cinema technology to reach the point where he can actually produce them.

    This is obviously a fib.

    The first trilogy seems to have been made up on the hop. Alec Guinness was originally going to survive Episode IV: check the pre-production sketch of the medal sequence if you don't believe me. Lucas's decision to kill him off seems to have been taken very much at the last minute. It didn't happen because it was part of his Total Vision that Ben should merge with the Force. It happened because he was too good a film maker to have a character wandering about with no real purpose in the storyline. If Obi-Wan had been alive in Episode V, then, presumably, there would have been no Yoda; no training on Dagobah, and the revelation of Darth Vader's identity would have had to pan out differently.

    According to the Lucas-sanctioned Annotated Screenplays, Luke's paternity was by no means a fixed element in the original vision. Remarkably, a script for Return of the Jedi was written in which Vader was not Luke's father—he was revealed as having lied in Empire Strikes Back. Lucas even claims that he allowed his collaborator, Leigh Bracket, to work on Empire Strikes Back without telling her the twist ending he had in mind…which is a fascinating definition of 'collaboration'.

    When Lucas created Star Wars: A New Hope, he didn't know that Darth was Luke's dad; that Ben Kenobi was a liar or that Luke and Leia were siblings. He certainly didn't know that the final end of the trilogy would involve Darth Vader turning good and killing the Emperor. He briefly entertained the possibility that Luke would die in the final battle! And, if he didn't know any of that, how could he possibly have had the plots of Episodes I - III planned out in his head? Did he really know, in 1972, that Episode II was going to involve a big fight between Yoda and a villain named Dookoo, when, by his own admission, Yoda was the result of a script writers conference in 1980? If he had known in 1977 that Luke was the son of the Chosen One (and that the Force was Out of Balance) don't you think he would have mentioned it?

    That said, copies of the early draft of the Star Wars screenplay have long been available, and they do, indeed, have a certain amount in common with Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Although the storylines are broadly similar to what eventually became Episode IV, some of the background is much more reminiscent of the prequels. They both have a lot of bargain basement mysticism about the nature of the force. Both early drafts refer to the Jedi's enemy being the 'Sith', a term not mentioned on screen until Phantom Menace. The Adventures of the Starkiller contains a fair bit of galactic politics. Perhaps this is what Lucas means when he says that the Prequels are films he had in mind from the beginning; perhaps he is saying that Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are much closer to his original conception of Star Wars than Star Wars itself was.

    If this is so, George Lucas stands revealed as one of a long and illustrious line of artists who has dedicated himself to ruining one of their great works—because they have totally failed to recognize what made it so great.

    The draft versions of Star Wars, particularly The Adventures of the Star Killer are fair to middling sci fi fantasy adventures. They would have made decent 70s movies, to file alongside Logan's Run and Zardoz and forget about. Star Killer contains lots of mumbo jumbo and made up politics and a huge weight of backstory. Lucas—then if not now a skilled storyteller—had the sense to surgically remove all that material, and leave nothing but the bare skeleton of the story. Ever since, he has regretted cutting up his baby, and is now engaged in re-instating as much of the lost material as he possibly can. But he has completely failed to realize that it was precisely the 'cutting back' process that made Star Wars such a classic movie.

    Star Wars works because almost every extraneous detail has been removed; so that we end up with something almost abstract. We might recognize it as an abstract diagram of the structure of stories even if we had never heard of Joseph Campbell. The word 'archetype' is over-used: it might be better to say that the Star Wars characters (Hero, Villain, Hero's Helper) its settings (Desert, Jungle) its back story and its tropes (Old Republic, Evil Empire, The Force) are vast, broad generalizations. If the backstory were to be sketched in this abstract quality would evaporate. But this is precisely what Lucas's intention seems to be: to turn the Old Republic from an abstract icon of a golden age into a generic city full of squabbling politicians; to turn Obi-Wan from the Hero's Mentor into a movie character; and to turn the Force from a brilliant symbol of religion into a bit of Dungeons and Dragons cod mythology.

    Here is the description of the Force from 'Starkiller':

    'In another time, long before the Empire, and before the Republic had been formed, a holy man called the Skywalker became aware of a powerful energy field which he believed influenced the destiny of all living creatures...after much study, he was able to know the force, and it communicated with him. He came to see things in a new way. His 'aura' and powers grew very strong. The Skywalker brought a new life to the people of his system, and became one of the founders of the Republic Galactic…As you know, the 'FORCE OF OTHERS' has two halves: Ashla, the good, and Bogan, the paraforce or evil part. Fortunately, Skywalker came to know the good half and was able to resist the paraforce; but he realized that if he taught others the way of the Ashla, some, with less strength, might come to know Bogan, the dark side, and bring un- thinkable suffering to the Universe. For this reason, the Skywalker entrusted the secret of THE FORCE only to his twelve children, and they in turn passed on the knowledge only to their children, who became known as the Jedi Bendu of the Ashla: 'the servants of the force'. For thousands of years, they brought peace and justice to the galaxy. At one time there were several hundred Jedi families, but now there are only two or three.'

    Here is the equivalent passage from Star Wars:

    'The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living beings. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together. For over a thousand generations, the Jedi were the Guardians of peace and justice in the old republic. Before the dark times, before the empire.'

    The improvement is obvious. By saying almost nothing, the second version suggests everything. The first version is a cloth-eared lump movie bollocks, the sort of Mcguffin you could find in any computer game. The re-write is an inspired bit of sci-fi. The Force is all religions and none, a place-holder for Spirituality which can mean anything we want it to. The Ashla is just a Green Lantern power ring. And, brilliantly, 'The Force' defines Religion in Scientific terms. The Ashla is based around hippy sounding 'auras'; the Force on scientific sounding 'energy fields'.

    It may be that while Lucas was writing Ben's lines he was thinking 'Well, I'm still talking about the Ashla, here: I'm just providing a summary. We'll cover the details if we do a sequel.' It may be that he was already thinking about Midichlorians, Sith, Jedi Temples, and Chosen Ones Who Will Bring Balance. It is very likely that he thinks that the exposition of the Force in Episodes I and II is simply elaborating the original vision, or articulating ideas which were already implicitly in Episode IV. His intention, with his sequels, and his special editions, and his threatened even more special editions, seems to be to re-write history; to convince us that when Alec Guinness told us about 'The Force', he was really talking about Ewan McGreggor's midichlorians.

    The original movie was abstract and non-specific, and therefore it colonized the day dreams of a whole generation of children. It would not be too much to say that it put us in contact with the Deep Structure of Story, a framework on which we could and did hang almost anything we wanted. It is instructive to compare, say, the 1977 Marvel comics 'sequel' to Star Wars with Splinter of the Minds Eye or even the notorious Christmas Special. They are referring to different universes.

    The prequel trilogy, on the other hand, is specific and crowded; and therefore, it will colonize the day dreams of no-one at all. We can internalize the simple structure of Star Wars and therefore feel that we are inside it: Attack of the Clones overwhelms us with specific detail. However exhilarated we may be, we are only ever on the outside looking in.

    The prequel trilogy is supposed to provide a backstory for the originals. But the original films had their own back story, and it was a good one:

    'A young Jedi named Darth Vader who was a pupil of mine before he turned to evil helped the Jedi hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Your uncle didn't hold with your fathers ideals; thought he should have stayed at home and not gotten involved. Your father's lightsaber. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade, the same as you father'

    Clear, coherent meaningful, and infinitely suggestive. Once upon, on a farm, there were two brothers, Owen and Anakin. One day, Ben the wizard came along, and asked them to become Jedi Knights and fight against the evil empire. Anakin went, but Owen stayed at home. Anakin had a baby son, and he left it with his brother to look after. Anakin was the best star pilot in the galaxy, and a good friend to Ben. He was not, in any sense, the messiah or the saviour of the universe. Ben also had another young apprentice, Darth. Darth was jealous of the master's hotshot new apprentice. He was consumed by the Dark Side of the Force, and murdered Anakin. He betrayed the Jedi to the evil Emperor. The dying Anakin gave his lightsabre to Ben, to pass onto his son. But when Ben goes home, Owen won't accept the lightsabre, and won't even tell the boy how his father died. The boy grows up in ignorance of his father, even though the scar on his forehead is purely metaphorical. And then, one day…

    This is rather a good story, and its existence is an important part of the original power of Star Wars. The main purpose of Phantom Menace is to annihilate it: to make us forget we ever even imagined it.

    I mourn its passing

  8. #8

    Re: Ruminations about George, the Saga, and our perceptions.

    So there. If you managed to take the time out of your life to read all of that, thank you. I wish I had written it. There's a lot to talk about in there and quite a bit of it is well covered territory.

    As ROTS emerges and the discussion inevitably begins, many of the elements brought up here can be referred to easily.

    Discuss....

  9. #9

    Re: Ruminations about George, the Saga, and our perceptions.

    Congratulations! Someone already said everything you ever could or would. Please leave it alone, it's getting really old. Save your stuff for a forum for people who hate Star Wars; stop putting it on one dedicated to those who love it. Not to make this a personal attack or anything, but seriously, I'm getting tired of it. I know I'm not the only one.

  10. #10

    Re: Ruminations about George, the Saga, and our perceptions.



    Blind devotion hasn't gone out of style, I see.

    But really, John. You've got it all wrong. I LOVE Star Wars which is why I'm so hard on anything that pretends to be that which drew most of us here. I'm not going to wave pom-poms at everything that has Star Wars slapped on it as you apparently must.

    By the way, did you even bother to read the above fully and take t e time to reflect on it, or is your faith in the saga that weak that you wouldn't dare endanger it by introducing questions?
    Last edited by stillakid; 03-09-2005 at 07:49 PM.

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