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Sunday, June 12, 2011

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This was an excellent article. You should also see the "Death Star Truth" article from a few years back, positioning the Death Star explosion as an inside job.

I don't know why we can have useful political discussions only when they're filtered through Star Wars, but I guess that's better than nothing.

John,

Thank you for that video. A treat. A damned fine treat.

"Remember when we waited on the sidewalk for ten hours to get into the midnight Episode One?"

"Those were the days."

"I was twelve years old, and that night, I was started on the path to adulthood. I got my first taste of what it is to be disillusioned. I learned that what I thought was infallible might not be."

"Nothing was the same after Star Wars fell from grace, huh?"

"When you think about it, that's exactly how it was. My trust in the Government, the Church ... one by one the old convictions flew, like clouds into the blue."


* * *

But Episode One was merely very disappointing.

Episode Two, on the other hand, I walked out of literally unable to cope with the fact that it was not a prank, and that another 'real' version was not forthcoming.

Episode Three was Worst. Movie. Ever. within fifteen minutes and stayed that way.

The reviews John mentioned are excellent. Astoundingly, the prequels are objectively worse than most Ed Wood flicks. I mean it: we're talking about no story structure and no protagonist. If they had been oral narrations, rather than motion pictures, they wouldn't have been stories save in the sardonic joke-shaggy dog sense.

While discussing droids, the MAIN ENEMY in the movie:
Designer to George Lucas,"They really are pretty useless; the Jedi cut through them like butter."
Movie Reviewer: Fuck you!

No tension whatsoever. No sense of scale. No knowledge of canon. Lucas STILL calls lightsabers "laser swords." Every single person who worked on the scripts of the first three trilogies deserves FULL writing credit -- especially the woman who worked on Empire. It sure as fuck wasn't Lucas making that happen.

Cloud: you're the first person I've met that hated the third one the most, but I understand that. You're right: it's irrevocable. I think Episode 2 was the worst precisely because it lowered standards for the entire franchise ("not as bad as episode 1") while name-dropping enough that fanboys decided that it was acceptable filler ("clones, just like Guinness said!"). Indeed, the prequels are an excellent sign of some of the weakness in the original films -- weaknesses that we can happily ignore due to good story structure.

Y'know, the fact that the Jedi wear robes exclusively because Obi-Wan did while he was on a desert planet where everyone wore robes leads me to conclude something: Star Wars canon doesn't deserve to be canon. No, seriously. Star Wars was great because Lucas was forced to get other people to handle parts of the movie that weren't special effects -- especially writing. Why should we accept what is literally incoherent gobbledygook as "canon"? The point of canon is to give a story a definite scope and consistency; the prequels do the exact opposite, destroying the scope by making force-users into deific superheroes that are the centerpiece of any struggle and by just barble narg fid aaaaargh shit all over the consistency.

So why don't geeks just write their own. Hm. That would be some website.

As it stands, I finally get Episode I now. It was an overlong piece of fanfiction about Darth Vader done completely because Lucas has a race car fetish. It's hard to accept how much contempt for the story and self-obsession it takes to create such a thing.

The thing I love about Star Wars cannon (and it's completely unintentional, I'm sure) is how everybody is a bad guy and we chose rooting over one bad guy over another. Apparently the Sith originated as a group of Jedi experimenting with the dark side and were expelled and exiled for heresy and found a planet with people calling themselves "Sith." The refuges adapted into the local culture and continued their study of the dark side while the Jedi were convinced they had gotten rid of them. Eventually the Jedi discovered the planet and them and sent an expedition to wipe out the heretics and commit genocide against these Sith. The Sith survived and realized (correctly) that as long as they exist the Jedi will seek to kill them off and vowed to destroy the Jedi first which they very nearly did.

This is very realistic and in a completely unintended way. The Sith merely wanted to survive on their own but instead were hunted down and because of this oppression they turned to oppression themselves. Now we have a war between two evil forces which both have some claim to high ground to justify their cause and everybody else gets caught in the crossfire. This is exactly what happens in real life. For my side, once I learned this I chose to root for the Sith. Their oppression is to ensure their survival as opposed to the oppression of the Jedi which is to commit genocide.

Also, I liked episode three the best because I like Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine in that movie.

Found it. Ethan Iverson's The Death Star in Our Daily Life.

Purged from his blog, but not from the Internet Archive.

http://web.archive.org/web/20100709191700/http://thebadplus.typepad.com/dothemath/2007/02/the_death_star_.html

Just over a decade ago I went to Tunisia in large part for the purpose of getting to the Sahara in the south of the country and to go on a camel trek out of the town of Douz.

There were many other amazing sites to see I learned preparing for the trip south, and in the planning it also became evident that Tunisia has been the stand-in for any movie desert necessities for quite a few movies, inlcuding of course the Star Wars movies.

What becomes evident is that a lot of the visuals, names etc in the movie are just pulled straight out of Tunisia, not from the imagination. Luke's family's farm is basically just a modified version of everyone's home in Matmata. The cantina (which is now part of an underground hotel) is a similar structure in Matmata. You can get a beer there. There's another town nearby (with a differemt variety of traditional troglodyte living) called "Tatouine." The Obi-Wan robe is basically a local overcoat to keep the dust/sand out. I think the Tusken Raiders are based in the Tuareg (only saw one of these guys on a market day in Douz). The Jawa vehicle is based directly in the design of what was at the time a new hotel in Tunis. You look at this thing and say "holy crap - it's a gigantic Jawa machine!"

Add in elements of the Kurosawa film "The Hidden Fortress" (which gives us R2, C3PO - in the case of those two down to the opening sequence of two bumbling sidekicks wandering in the wilderness, and in being comic relief -, Han Solo and the Princess), sprinkle in a dash of half-assed L.A. "Buddhism" and a dollop of Joseph Campbell, throw in some wipes from '30s Flash Gordon reels and you got yourself a Star Wars.

In the next three movies you had an attempt to add a backstory to what was a mishmash of influences, not likely to work. I think Lucas figured that thinly veiled Berbers and Tuaregs worked for the first three movies, so maybe a Space Jamaican Stoner and a Greedy Space Jew would work in "Phantom." Plus, yknow, sell some merch. (Did any peanut butter concern have the good sense to license Jar Jar jars..?)

Neither of these sites are connected to me by the by:

http://goafrica.about.com/b/2007/11/21/star-wars-tours-in-tunisia.htm

http://www.tunisia.com/tunisia/travel/star-wars-tunisia

The latter of these is trying to upsell the tourist something terrible - in periods of peace a person can get around by train or louage (shared taxi) quite cheaply and efficiently.

I was still using my film camera a decade ago and never digitized my shots, so unfortunately I can't show you them right now.

Here's the Sandcrawler hotel (up in Tunis, where there isn't sand): http://theswca.com/travel/tunisia/tunis/tunis.html

"But Episode One was merely very disappointing.
Episode Two, on the other hand, I walked out of literally unable to cope with the fact that it was not a prank, and that another 'real' version was not forthcoming.
Episode Three was Worst. Movie. Ever. within fifteen minutes and stayed that way."

Cloud, I'm confused. Are you talking about the original trilogy or the prequels? I'm not a Star Wars fan, so am not sure. Also, to Arthur, yes, Ian McDiarmid rocks, the only reason to watch the film.

Catherine --

Episode I; The Phantom Menace
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
...
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

So, the prequels.

Things White People Are Not Used To are staples of science fiction. Hell, Things White People Are Used To And Want To See More Of are also staples. Dune, with Herbert taking inspiration from the Bedouin, has plenty of the former, with Star Trek's Federation being a mostly unworkable version of utopia filled with middle-class Americans (who, despite the fact that the Federation is mostly communist, don't really mind socialism all that much -- they just hate the word). "Tatouine" honestly surprises me, though. Note that I think one sees less of this trope in hard SF: I don't think Larry Niven has ever done this in his hard SF stories, for example. Then again, hard SF takes a pretty dim view of Planet of the Hats characterization, and maybe without that you can't just slap an earth-culture on an alien and call it a day.

To me, the whole problem with the second trilogy was that the basic story, no matter how you cut it, is one in which cute, little, underdog, lovable Anakin becomes asshole Darth Vader. How can that possibly be fun? It's a downer, and we know it's a downer going into the first of the three prequils.

Lucas, when he finished the first trilogy, said there would be nine movies altogether, three prequils (which is what we got, unfortunately) and three sequils, which were going to be about Han and Leah's kids (which, as of now, we ain't got). I think the second idea could have been fun. We don't know in advance where the story will end, and the ending doesn't have to be a downer.

Plus, don't we usually say, after a satisfying narative, "I wonder what happened next?" not "I wonder what happened before?" Who wants to know about Scarlett O'Hara's father journey from Ireland to Georgia? Or her adventures as a nine year old girl? No one. But people have speculated for 80 years about what happens after Rhett walks out on her.

Duh!

Mx. Freemansfarm:

You're exactly wrong. The basic concept is solid. Stories that don't have a happy ending are celebrated. Shakespeare's greatest works are his tragedies. The entire Norse religion is an epic tragedy (spoiler alert: everything ends up on fire). Some of the greatest novels are "downer" stories. The best movie of all time, Lawrence of Arabia, has a plot where the good guy is driven to evil by his ambition and despite his force of will fails in everything he tries to do. The basic concept, Anakin in trying to do good becomes evil itself, is solid and venerated. The problem is in the execution.

Over episodes two and three the plot is supposed to be that Palpatine manipulates Anakin into turning evil and becoming his pawn. He does this by placing doubt into him, by playing on his fears, and by getting him to do evil while making him think he's doing good. There is great potential in this story but the script is horrible and Hayden Christensen doesn't pull it off. Ohh, I'm committed to good, now I'm crying, now I'm committed to evil. It comes across as forced with no human connection to the story and that's a combination of bad writing and bad acting.

The prequels as a whole are intended to be tragic. The concept is great and could have been done really well if done really well. The failure turns it into a different kind of tragic. There isn't enough tragedy in Hollywood and to see it done would be a real treat. I dream of the Batman movie where Batman dies at the end.

Lucas, when he finished the first trilogy, said there would be nine movies altogether...

I'm so glad to hear someone else say this, because it was common knowledge back when Star Wars came out, but the last time I looked it up I could barely find references to it--and Lucas pretends he just tossed off some joke about it and was taken out of context. Yeah, just like he always planned to shove a bunch of digital crap into the first three (aka good) films. Truly a world class putz.

Who wants to know about Scarlett O'Hara's father journey from Ireland to Georgia?

Maybe, but Godfather: Part II.

"The Phantom Menace" was the only one of the prequels that I watched, and I have always had the feeling that I watched it drunk, because I don't remember anything about it, but after watching the review, I have to consider the possibility that I may have watched it sober but was so confused by the plot that I just didn't remember anything.

Maybe, but Godfather: Part II.

Just watched Chinatown again over the weekend (my wife's 1st mesmerized viewing) and thought I would like to see prequel (made then of course). And hell, perhaps two, one about Gittes and one about Noah Cross. To be honest, I'd watch archived footage of John Huston reading the phonebook if it were available.

I'm looking forward to Peter Jackson's The Hobbit (a sort of prequel), although I'm a bit concerned that it's going to be in two parts. They must be adding a lot to the story.

freemansfarm:

I'd half-agree with the notion that prequels are less interesting then sequels -- John Carpenter's The Thing is, imho, one of the best horror/hard sf movies of all time and I have virtually no interest in the now-being-made prequel (though that may be because I have absolutely no faith in the producers to make the story intellectually sound, not because of sheer disinterest). But less interest doesn't mean no interest. People do, indeed, like before-stories. Hell, many gnostic writings are literally prequels to the Bible: Jesus as a child, running around with super-powers, beating up kids he didn't like. I shit you not.

And the problems with the Star Wars prequels are LEGION. The problem isn't that we don't want to find out about Darth Vader: we do, case closed. If you knew a lot of geeks in the nineties, you'd know there was sure as hell a market. The problem was that everything else was more interesting than Vader. Every. Fucking. Thing. But Lucas didn't show any of that because Lucas is a brilliant technician -- abso-fucking-lutely brilliant -- and a pathetic writing hack. As in "inferior to me in full f-bomb mode." That's okay; moviemaking is a cooperative effort. But in the prequels, he cooperated with no one. He gave orders.

What did we want to know and what did we find out?

• How do Jedi formally train? Answer: Not given.
• What's the history of the Jedi? Answer: Not given.
• What's the history of the Sith? Answer: Not given.
• What's the history of the Republic? Answer: Not given.
• What's the culture of the Republic like? Answer: Not really given; any information given is fucking stupid.
• How does the Force's dichotomy. . . work? This is tricky, because most writers are crap when it comes to metaphysics, but do certain powers tend to make you "lightish" and certain powers "darkish"? This isn't just geek-wank; this is a serious, tactical issue with military and massive ethical implications. And geek-wank. Answer: Not given.*
• On that note, what exactly is a Sith/Dark Jedi vis-a-vis a Jedi? Answer: Not given.**
• Why/how did the Empire rise? Answer: Incredibly fucking stupid because the event is basically a brutally-employed crowbar so that Lucas can get his Vader fanfiction on. The rise of the Empire, btw, is the most important thing in the Star Wars universe ever from a "prequel" perspective.

Note that Lucas could have totally phoned in the last point and still made an awesome movie. Just take Rome, replace the characters with anthropormorphic aliens, and go. Instant Oscar bait. Lucas literally didn't know what to write about. And then he couldn't write.

Note Two: Novels don't count. Many (not all) novels suck. Fuck novels. Ditto rpgs/games.

*Note Three: Not only does Lucas not understand what isn't understandable about the Force, he throws in some bullshit he gleaned from skimming a biology textbook while listening to a sermon from Scientologists. . . and, as the review shows, completely undermines all THREE of the original movies by creating a Jedi-detector! Go back and watch the originals: if a Jedi-detector exists, ask yourself how much of them make sense? Obviously, the prequels make no sense with a Jedi detector, either. Not recognizing the implications of invented technology means you're a hack.

** Note Four: Not even the novels/games explain the Dark Jedi/Sith/Jedi trichotomy very well. And, oh, there are "grey Jedi" as well. It's very undefined -- yet these distinctions are serious military and philosophical ones that everyone in the Star Wars universe clearly and unambiguously understands and bases decisons upon. The audience just doesn't get it.

Follow the links above to the reviews. They're crazy-accurate. And just crazy. . .

BAS:

Sure, lots of great art is tragic. But we're talking about popular entertainment here. Popular entertainment aimed at children and adolescents, and the child and adolescent that still lives in adults. To me, and I think to most people, the original Star Wars was great because it was Fun on a Spaceship.

What you describe, in your "what could've been" Star Wars second trilogy, is still No Fun on a Spaceship. I think the second trilogy has such a convoluted and unconvincing and uninspiring and unengaging plot line (as pointed out in the YouTube reviews linked above) precisely because of the tragic ending that was predetermined ahead of time. The writer were trying against all odds to make fun movies, against a background that had to be dark, given the sad and tragic ending. So they threw in everything but the kitchen sink (Boy Racer, Jar Jar Blinks, Yoda's swordfight, etc) that they could think of that was fun. But, if the story could have ended happily, then a simpler, better plot line (a la the first three movies) could have been used.

So, no, I'm not wrong.

John Caruso:

Godfather part II. Yeah, but don't most viewers care a lot more about the "Michael" story than the "Early Vito" story? Doesn't the early Vito story come off as sorta flat, and only there cuz Coppola wanted to get artsy and do "parallel" non linear moviemaking?

NOOQ:

Granted, Star Wars "geeks" are curious about everything in the Star Wars universe, but, still, I think most viewers would have been more curious to see what happened after the first trilogy than what happened before. Sure, there was a whole "world building" thing that COULD have been done, like Tolkien's "The Simalarion," but, again, that is for hard core, committed "fan boys," more than for a general audience. And, even at that, the focus of the prequil would still have to have been how Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader and how he abandoned his children to become an asshole. I just don't see how that could be a fun story.

Yeah, but don't most viewers care a lot more about the "Michael" story than the "Early Vito" story?

I'd guess just the opposite (based on reviews and other responses I've read over the years), but neither of us can say what most viewers care about. For myself, I enjoy the acting and writing in the Michael parts, but I mainly just mark time during them while waiting to get to the Vito segments, which are far more interesting to me. Michael in Part II is practically a cartoon villain, and he doesn't really change so much as reveal the depths of evil he's capable of. But in Part II we get to see what made Vito the person he became, and it's fascinating.

You just contradicted yourself, freemansfarm. It's not the geeks that would be interested in seeing the Republic fall and the Clone Wars -- it's the general audience. Those two things involve wars. In the Stars. You know.

Star.
Wars.

HUGE, sweeping battles with huge casts of characters in an epic struggle. Fun on a spaceship? Try fleets! Are you seriously saying that the mainstream audience wouldn't want to watch that? That sounds so mainstream that if I were to put that pitch to myself 20 years ago, I'd (geekily) worry that Vader would be a footnote. Preoccupation with Vader isn't mainstream, it's geek! You have it bass-ackward. Indeed, that's why Lucas' obsession itself qualifies as fanfiction (to his own work!) because it takes a disproportionate interest in one part of the story.

And not even the outcome is certain. By the beginning of A New Hope we know that a) the Skywalker family is fucked (not a big deal, but will be crucial soon) and b) the Empire exists and it doesn't like the Rebels. That's. It. If there was an external threat to the Empire, the original movies may have ignored it. There are all kinds of things that the originals didn't talk about that could make the prequels not only interest, but make the prequel endings a surprise.

And then, the sequel-movies-to-come could revisit the concerns, conflicts, enemies, and mysteries left behind the prequels. We're talking serious world-building here and a license to just dominate movie awards shows for two straight damn decades. The novels had an interesting concept: just because you blew up the Death Star doesn't mean the Empire is gone. If the Imperial Remnant exists, perhaps it struggles with some of the problems left over from the Clone Wars. Very little was established.

The mainstream you dismiss was really big on Obi-Wan. Plenty of people who sneer at fantasy enjoyed that character, and having him featured made tons of logical sense -- and he would have been an excellent anchor and protagonist in a well-written story. There is no Vader fetishization in the mainstream that prompted Lucas' writing -- if there were, Obi-Wan wouldn't have been so appreciated. Vader simply isn't as important as you or Lucas thinks.

(Note: we're talking three movies here. Even if Vader's fall is really hella important, that could fit in one movie. You don't need three for that.)

And if Vader isn't that important, you have three prequels to do all kinds of exciting things. Many empires form in part due to an external threat; the defeat of such a threat would have been not only exciting but also an "upbeat" ending for those who need that sort of thing, far more upbeat than the "downer" aspect of Vader -- hell, it would totally overshadow the latter. And I just pulled that plot hook out of my ass; more thought could create hundreds more for a professional: the notion that the prequels had to end unhappily is totally and thoroughly wrong. You're ignoring literally hundreds of characters -- and around five characters who are more important than Vader in almost every way.

A: Woo-hoo, we defeated the Threat to the Galaxy, quadrillions celebrate!
B: Yeah, but, um, Palpatine kinda declared himself Emperor For Life. . .
A: Who cares, we win, Palpatine was an awesome leader, no downsides, woo-hoo!
B: Anakin Skywalker is, um, kind of a dick now --
A: Anakin who? Who cares, we have stormtroopers now, we're awesome -- you need to cheer the fuck up!

And, btw, many people liked the downbeat ending of the third prequel -- that's why Cloud's reaction was rare. (Then again, he walked out b/c everything before the ending was so shitty -- an understandable reaction.) So even the notion that having a downbeat ending is bad is simply, freakn' wrong.

Colossally wrong.

Just. . . wtf?

The movie often considered the best in the Star Wars franchise, for old and young alike is. . . drum roll. . . The Empire Strikes Back.

Which has a downer ending. I saw it as a child and I thought it was awesome.

(http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080684/ and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076759/ -- top 11 versus top 16)

WTF are you talking about freemansfarm? Even within the particular set of movies at issue -- not even movies in general -- the Bestest Movie Evah is Bad Guys Win.

As for prequels not being desired, like I said, someone read the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and said, "waitaminute: this doesn't tell me how much ass Teen Jesus kicked?!" Thus, in an eerie parallel to a marketing exec asking "Hey, what if young teen phenom Michael J. Fox played Lon Chaney Jr.'s signature role in a comedy?" the world got The Adventures of Young Christ. Which was more than enough reason for the early Christians to crush the gnostics.

But, anyway: The Lamb of God got a prequel. Your argument is invalid.

NOoC -

For a lot of the reasons you cited I would have liked to have seen

I've also been completely unsure of why the Ewoks were so happy at the end of Return of... They just lost all kinds of friends and relatives when they didn't appear to be at war at the beginning of the day, and now because they helped a bunch of strangers in a lethal firefight they have a big dance party. Really that's the beginning of the end for Lucas' storywriting talent for me, even before we hit the prequels.

The Empire is still there at the end of Return..., all the more reason to see the sequels at some point.

Would have been nice to explain the beginning of the Empire, and why it's so bad. Empire against whom, too. "Rebels" are internal, right?

Basically Lucas had trouble with writing any story that wasn't lifted from other sources.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--BVUTOrYP8

Hm. Lucas was co-writer, not sole writer, on American Grafitti -- and, no coincidence, that was considered an excellent film.

Nothing wrong with copying. Awesome >> sheer originality. That was an interesting youtube clip, though The Searchers being an inspiration is a reach.

The Empire was making Ewok life hell before the rebels came -- that's the backstory, though it's not shown adequately -- a weakness in the film. The Throne Room scene is a much, much bigger weakness: the Emperor should have demanded that Luke save his friends by joining him and having them swear allegience to the Empire. Forcing people into relatively benign bondage is still plenty Dark Side, and is very tempting.

The novels make the Imperial Remnant so powerful that not only are the Rebels/Republic unable to conquer it, both sides eventually sign a truce. The Empire becomes a threat again after the galaxy deals with a nearly-Force-immune external threat -- check a wiki, it's fairly convoluted. The basic concepts have potential but I see nothing in the execution that's very interesting, so Lucas and some good writers could retcon the hell out of that and make some interesting sequels.

I'm pretty much spamming this thread, but I just looked at Chris Hedges site for the first time in awhile and I need to talk about geeky crap for as long as possible.

On source material, I always noticed and had heard rumblings that Lucas was inspired by a more foreign influence in making the films. On the allure of NOOQs "Things White People Are Not Used To" Lucas hit the jackpot. The Jedi certainly had their resemblances to monastic warrior guardians fighting a religious war (Knights Temolar, anyone?) But it seemed so much more deeper than the same old shallow and dualistic Abrahamic, especially Western religious inspired works.

I was right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eMvSjDZYb4&feature=related

This could not be talking about anything else than the Age of the Shoguns. The lightsabers were the katanas, the Force was the Samurai's chosen religion, Zen Buddhism, and this Force (Zen Buddhism) motif corresponded with a the major goal of the Jedi Order, bringing balance to the universe, a distinctly Eastern religious fundamental. Review Yoda's famous dialogue while training of Luke vis-à-vis The Empire Strikes Back and its impossible not to notice how what he says is identical to the core tenets of Tao Te Ching. Add in premonition and prophecy and you got something thats not your typical Western storytelling. Star Wars was also conveniently set up much like an epic, which Samurai folklore and frankly Japanese writing in general is (Think big American anime exports: Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball Z ect.)

And you got a winner for if not most than a great deal of influence.

Of course, Lucas completely screwed up these themes in the prequels adding in this "mitochloria" nonsense but that obviously wasn't the only thing.

That's the era in Japanese history that's covered in the Kurosawa films.

Have people seen the Anthony Lane review of Ep. III? Nasty!

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/05/23/050523crci_cinema

NERD ALERT!!! all the world wide wiener tubes have been warned about this site.

NOOQ::

What are YOU talking about? I don't think most people want to see mindless big fleet battles over and over again. What makes Star Wars fun is the characters and the plot line focusing on Luke, Leah, and Han, not merely star cruisers battling it out with lazers. It's the HUMAN story, not the special effects, that, again, most people relate too. And how Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader is, really, the only human story that most people would care about, if there had to be a prequil. He's Luke and Leah's father. He was the best star pilot ever, according to Obi Wan. He was a Jedi. But he succumbed to the Dark Side. That's a story (although, as I said, it's a downer of a story, perhaps fit for tragedy but not for popular, "summer movie" type entertainment). Sure, Obi Wan is a great character, but what would be the STORY if he was the center of the prequil? Guy becomes Jedi, and stays that way. Good guy stays good guy is not a story. Good guy becomes bad guy is a story. So, of course, Annakin becoming Darth was the focus of the prequil It HAD to be. He is central to the saga (your notion that there are five characters more central than DV is absurd) and to Luke and Leah's origins, his partial redemption at the end of the third movie is the climax of the whole damn trilogy, and he actually undergoes transformation (both in the original trilogy and in the prequils).

As for what could have been done in the sequals, you are proving my point. New ground could have been broken. New adventures. With some of the old characters and new ones too (that was the point about having Han and Leah's kids being the focus).

With the prequils, you are, inevitably, just revisiting what we already know or can surmize. Yoda and Obi Wan were great Jedis. Right, check, we already knew that. Annakin Skywalker was a great Jedi, but then became a super villain and abandoned his children. Check, we already know that. A big, bad emperor, worse even than Vader, overthrew the Republic and proclaimed the Empire. Again, check, got that already from the first three movies. Unless a totally different story, not really a prequil at all to the original trilogy, was going to be told (one which dealt with remote origins and world building and was about stories from a time period long before the fall of the republic and the seduction of Vader), the prequils we actually got were, in substance, inevitable.

As for the Empire Strikes Back, yes it was very good, and, to me personally, almost as good as the first movie and much better than the third one. And, yes, it ends with a downer. But it was part of a trilogy. And everyone knew that. Everyone knew there would be a third movie, and I figure that most people intuited that all would be well that ended well in that third movie. It was like a cliff hanger in the old serials (which strongly influenced Lucas). The good guys are left battered, imprisoned, seemingly defeated...but we pretty much know that they will get out of it in the next installment and defeat the villains. So, no in the Best Movie Evah, the bad guys didn't "win." They were winning, yes, which just made their ultimate defeat all the sweeter. Again, check those YouTube reviews. It's called plot. Or story arc. Or whatever. To make a great heroic epic, the bad guys have to win a few rounds. Specifically, there has to be a point in which things look so black that, to a kid, to someone who doesn't know the convention, there doesn't seem to be any way that the good guys can prevail. Like Dorothy and all her friends captured by the Wicked Witch. Like Robin Hood imprisoned in Nottingham Castle and sentenced to death. All seems lost, but then, somehow.... Drama, suspense. Reversal of fortune. That kind of thing. And then it all ends with the good guys triumphant and the villains vanquished. QED. Classic popular entertainment. Classic "feel good" summer movie. Classic story aimed at young and young at heart audience.

The execution of the Vader story arc was horrible and that is what made the movies so bad. I don't know if better execution could have satisfied both children and adults but it could satisfy one or the other and I do suspect both especially with a more nuanced bad/good dynamic. The suggestion of everyone defeating a great an evil threat and ending up in an empire as suggested has a good/bad vibe to it which could appeal to multiple sophistications. In any case the movies could have been done in a way that pleased some significant portion of the intended audience whatever it may be. The movies didn't. It's not because of an inherent flaw in the story arc; it's because of awful execution.


Posted by: freemansfarm | Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 03:14 PM

I don't think most people want to see mindless big fleet battles over and over again.

a) I said nothing of mindlessness -- you inserted that. There is nothing to suggest -- absolutely nothing -- that a well-written prequel need be mindless. Plenty of science fiction visual media has interesting and exciting large-scale battles. In fact, such a battle was the very conclusion of the original trilogy. So. . . to reiterate: wtf? Are you saying Return of the Jedi doesn't exist?

b) Even if the writing was sub-par, people will like a few fights so long as they make sense in context, mindless or no. If you argue otherwise, you're basically claiming that Michael Bay doesn't exist -- which is a nice sentiment, but it's also a lie.

What makes Star Wars fun is the characters and the plot line focusing on Luke, Leah, and Han, not merely star cruisers battling it out with lazers.

And what makes them fun? The fact that they're "battling it out with [sic] lazers" or whatever it is you mean.

You're engaging in a strawman. You've decided to interpret my claim as a claim of desiring only spectacle. That is not in good faith. You read me claim that the public, including myself, wanted MORE characterization and you're saying I neglected characterization. That's a lie, and you know that full well. Please engage my actual claims, not what you wish my claims were.

I wrote about the potential exploration of hundreds of characters. You're obsessing over one. And the characters I mentioned would be interesting because of the big fights.

And how Annakin Skywalker became Darth Vader is, really, the only human story that most people would care about

Repeating a lie doesn't make it true. You have nearly a half a dozen links above that claim Vader isn't primarily what people wanted out of the prequels. Please stop making things up. Just because you wanted it doesn't mean I wanted it, or Quizmasterchris wanted it, or pretty much every geek I know wanted it, or any of the fansites wanted it, or any of the critics wanted it -- okay, y'know what, you're pretty much the only guy who wanted it.

Just.
You.

your notion that there are five characters more central than DV is absurd

Again, repeating an untruth doesn't make it true. You're obsessed with Vader. Fine. No one else here is. That's you. Vader could cease to exist and the Rebellion/Empire would still be at war. The Emperor, the head of the Jedi Council, and the head of the faction threatening the Republic during the Clone Wars are all more important than Vader.

You're engaging in both a strawman and begging the question. You have a hard-on for Vader. Fine. Many geeks (and non-geeks) do; Vader is an iconic figure. But you're using your concern with Vader to argue that Vader must be the center of the prequels -- and then justifying your concern with the made-up "fact" that he must be the center of the prequels.

If you weren't engaging in a circular argument, you could show how the Rebel/Imperial war could NOT have gotten on without him. You could also show how the Clone Wars are could not have POSSIBLY happen without him.

Can you show that? Obviously not; therefore, you're making up bullshit. The Clone Wars weren't even defined until the prequels. And guess what? Vader didn't even matter in the prequels, anyway.

So, if you want to stop strawmanning, a good start would be to show how the plot -- the Rebel/Empire fight and all the stuff that flows from it AND the stuff that lead to it (!!) -- requires the existence of Vader AND (you need both) requires the viewer to see Vader's actions during the same.

Which you can't do. What you can do is take your own Vader fetish and use it to cloud your judgement -- but this is as about as far from a persuasive argument as you can make.

What's ludicrous here is that Lucas did exactly what you wanted. He gave you a Vader lovefest. And audiences and critics and fans all hated it.

that was the point about having Han and Leah's kids being the focus

Han wasn't in the prequels. Their children certainly weren't.

With the prequils, you are, inevitably, just revisiting what we already know or can surmize. Yoda and Obi Wan were great Jedis.

Right, you just proved that there are some reading comprehension problems here.

a) Prequel is spelled as so -- that was kinda irking me.
b) I never mentioned Yoda in my response to you. At all. You have no idea what you're talking about because you didn't actually read what I said. What does Obi Wan and Yoda being great Jedis have to do with anything?

the prequils we actually got were, in substance, inevitable.

What a doughy pantload. There is NOTHING that required the prequels to cover the random crap you claim. Hell, some of that crap you said isn't even true. Vader didn't abandon his children. We didn't know Obi-Wan was a great Jedi -- we didn't know shit about him. We didn't know how the Empire formed -- it didn't have to overthrow the Republic -- and, in point in fact, it didn't (nor did Rome's Empire "overthrow" the Roman Republic). So the "facts" you're claiming the prequels had to be about a) aren't facts and b) aren't necessary. The only thing the prequels really would have needed to cover to satisfy aesthetics and backstory were the Clone Wars and the Emperor. That's it.

Everyone knew there would be a third movie, and I figure that most people intuited that all would be well that ended well in that third movie.

Bullshit. You're contradicting yourself and you know it. Anyone with a Vader fetish would understand that if the films ended with Vader's creation that this fact would be a "downer." No one was either disappointed nor surprised by the third film's "downer" ending, and said ending was a direct consequence of the Vader obsession. Had a different, legitimate and well-written story been told, it could have been happy, poignant, or any number of emotions. I explained that above.

They were winning, yes

No, they won. You're being disingenuous. You're changing the definition of movie to include other films. Please do not lie, even in implication.

The Empire Strikes Back is a movie. At the end, the bad guys win. Fact. The fact that another movie came after it is irrelevant. I knew people who hadn't seen Return of the Jedi (sacrilege, I know), who liked The Empire Strikes Back just fine. Do not spew bullshit about how it doesn't count if there's a sequel. That's inane.

Further, if your inane logic were taken to its logical end, then you'd have to eat your own words from upthread since you claimed that Revenge of the Sith had a "downer" ending. How can it have a downer ending? It had a sequel -- a sequel actually called A New Hope. Hope. Right there in the name. And that had a happy ending, complete with triumphant victory scene. So, by your logic: any sad ending to the last prequel wouldn't count as sad because the next film, AND the last film in the series, ends happily. Therefore: your logic would hold that Revenge of the Sith's downer ending doesn't count -- nor would the downer ending of any prequel that ends right before A New Hope, rendering your entire argument invalid. Bullshit clouds the mind. Eschew it.

_________________________________


Re: New Yorker review.

Complete pwnage.

Goddamn, the prequels had so many things wrong with them you can barely keep up. I noticed the ridiculous sterility but never really discussed it before.

Just because you have awesome CGI doesn't mean you know what to use it for.

For the record, I have a Vader fetish too. I don't mind a story about him. The problem is that the story sucked, the writing sucked, the acting sucked and a lot of other things sucked. The basic premise, in my mind, is solid. I like the premise of Episode III which is one reason why it's my favorite of the prequel.

Because I'm a huge nerd, I've written a script outline for three prequels that are similar in large part to the prequels that we got, tell the story about the fall of Vader, include a story of the Republic becoming an Empire while battling an external foe, and hopefully are workable into good movies. It's here: http://basamramb.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/a-better-star-wars-prequel/ . This is also a shameless plug for myself, sorry.

This blog has just become a very strange place.

Whoa, people. Step away from the Greek fire. Lets keep it civil and leave the flame wars for the Wookiepedia boards, no? XD

And John, stay on topic ;-).

Personally, I'm among those who couldn't take Star Wars too seriously. I mean, The Empire was always abominably evil and the Rebel Alliance unblemishingly good. It never occurred to me why the Empire attracted all the stupid bounty hunters and snotty military officers while the Rebels got all the good natured spice smugglers. This galaxy far, far away must of had a population of goody two shoes exceeding 99 plus percent with the Galactic Empire employing the rest (not counting the clones). No wonder the Galactic Empire only lasted ten years. Shortest. Empire. Ever. And that's comparing it even to Earth-bound ones. If I judged these movies on suspension of disbelief alone, there would be nothing worth watching.

In fact, I wouldn't pore scorn on all the Star Wars games NOOQ. The plot of Force Commander actually surprised me. It has the main characters born during the Sundari-Galos IV war, culminating in their family home being destroyed. The fighting only ended when the Imperial Navy arrived to the system to restore order, landing Stormtroopers who rescued them from the rubble. I feel that's a much more realistic portrayal of a budding Galactic Empire than anything anything the movies ever portrayed. Infighting among rebelling worlds? An Empire attempting some form of legitimacy? Imperial soldiers who... have feelings? That might actually happen.

... but then there's details about the Star Wars universe that makes Star Trek Technobabble look like the Theory of Relativity. It seems George Lucas never bothered to consult even basic high school psychics in making the movies. I've heard more than one person arguing Star Wars can be fantasy only and isn't close to worthy of the science fiction genre. *Hint, just how fast do you think will light speed REALLY takes you in the vacuum of space?

Chris Floyd is still going on about the murder of children, so more Star Wars for me.

Whoa, people. Step away from the Greek fire. Lets keep it civil and leave the flame wars for the Wookiepedia boards, no? XD

Star Wars isn't important. This is the internet. Geek accuracy is Serious Business. The link explains all.

In fact, I wouldn't pore scorn on all the Star Wars games NOOQ

Perhaps I misrepresented myself, Nikolay Levin. I didn't say the games/novels weren't good; many are! Knights of the Old Republic is pretty much celebrated as one of the best adventure games ever. (Though it's buggy unplayable shit on a Mac -- fuck you very much, Aspyr!)

My point is this: nothing in the games or movies helps -- or hinders -- the prequels. The prequels were free to be whatever they wanted to be. That's what I meant by "fuck the novels/games" -- they were no restriction, even if they were high-quaility, on the prequel plot. The prequels were tabula rasa.

Returning to ridiculous geekness: the Empire was said, in the novels, to have pre-dated the Republic. Mostly. It goes like this: really, really old Empire -- people get fed up and start a really, really old Republic -- Emperor shows up and we get new Empire + Rebellion. Mostly. The wikis can tell you better. There's even more than one Empire if you count the Sith Empires. This is why you name your empires, folks.

(If you can jump to lightspeed, perhaps after that you can go "extra-super-duper" fast, which is reasonable to claim since nobody can get to lightspeed anyway. Yeah, that's a bullshit defense. Star Wars is space opera, though, and can actually be silly. Hell, they could claim the universe is full of ether without busting genre. Star Trek is space opera hiding in a "shell" of semi-hard SF -- that's why it deserves less sympathy.)

Btw, BAS quietly won the thread just now, if you hadn't noticed: maximum geek points to you, sir.

Considering that I've never seen any of these movies in full, this was very educational.

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