Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Star Wars Revisited

I'm watching Star Wars (or as the neo-geeks call it now, "A New Hope" but as the nerds call it, "Star Wars") to see if it's apporpriate for my sons (yeah, that's the ticket). A few comments:

1. The ending sequence, the Battle of Yavin (a.k.a. The attack on the death star) is one of the best in movie history and has permanently elevated Lucas into the public discourse - it's why I even care about his later work and why I feel betrayed by his future crimes.

2. The Porkins Effect - This is what I'm now labeling the general status of Lucas' movie-making crimes. If you recall, and if you need help here's the online script, Luke's flight wing was the 'red team' with Luke as Red Five. One of his wingmates is Red Six, a.k.a. "Porkins":

PORKINS: Red Six standing by.
Porkins, is, how do I say it, chubby. So, OK, I thought, maybe this is just a pilot nickname, like the Top Gun thing ("Maverick" "Ice man" "Certified Public Accountant"), but no: the official Lucas universe states that the character's name is Jek Porkins.

To review: despite all being White Anglo Saxon Protestant humanoids, many with classical Western names (Luke, Ben), sometimes they have made-up nonesense names (Han, Jek) that will be mixed up with real words (Solo, Porkins). And he's fat, so his name is Pork. As you see from the picture (more from here), many others have found this character problematic.

So what's my beef (pun intended) with Porkins? His name is childish, stupid, and unimaginative. And this impulse to turn fun, exciting, action into puerility is what overtook Lucas's latter films. This is related to the Ewok Effect, where serious matters are converted into cutesy-poo family-market pandering, but while Ewoks were meant to push toys, and thus demonstrates artistic integrity sacrificed for greed, Porkins is artistic integrity sacrificed for cheap laughs for six year olds.

True, both the Ewok and Porkins effects combined to create the dreaded, execrable Jar-Jar Binks, but my point here is to say that this impulse was present in even the first beloved film.

BTW, this looks like an awesome website made by fellow-travelers from my generation.

3. Inconsistencies between the Original Three and the Hated Last Three

Just for ease of use, even though the last triology were planned prequels, such that the first movie (A New Hope) is to be numbered 4, or somesuch, I declare here - in concert with all those born in the 1970s - that the original trilogy are to be numbered 1 2 and 3 while the last trilogy are to be burned at the crossroads at midnight and if they are to be referred to at all, they are to be known by their real-life chronology of 4, 5, and 6. Hear ye.

Ahem. Anyway, I am on record stating that the 6th movie, Sith, is the worst of the bunch. One reason it's atrocious is the ham-fisted attempts to make the prequels consistent with the original trilogy. Never mind that the technology of the latter trilogy is way better than what was to have taken place 20 years in the future, the biggest problem is that the entire tenor of the first three films - meant to resurrect the underdog resistance of WWII, think Casablanca - is totally undermined.

But besides tone, I now realize, seeing the first film again after a few years - possibly the first time since seeing Sith - is how many freakin' facts are wrong!

The best example is this dialogue between Obi-Wan and Luke:
LUKE: No, my father didn't fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter.

BEN: That's what your uncle told you. He didn't hold with your father's ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved.

LUKE: You fought in the Clone Wars?

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

LUKE: I wish I'd known him.

BEN: He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior. I understand you've become quite a good pilot yourself. And he was a good friend. Which reminds me...

BEN: I have something here for you. 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 damned-fool idealistic crusade like your father did.
What do we learn from this:
  1. Obi Wan and Anakin were about the same age, and lived together in Tatoonie as friends,
  2. "Uncle" Owen knew Anakin and Kenobi and didn't want them to go off and fight for ideals in the Clone Wars,
  3. Anakin and Obi-Wan were already, or later became, Jedi Knights, pilots, and were already enlisting to go on an idealistic crusade.
  4. The Clone Wars seem to be already about fighting for ideals, the implication is against the Empire, and there were air-battles and tactics fought and implemented by Jedis,
  5. The "ideals" of Obi-Wan, shared by Anakin, are meant to parallel Luke's desire to fight in the rebellion along-side his boyhood friends - and thus we can learn more facts from this nearly explicit parallel (e.g. Obi-Wan's relationship with Anakin was as comrades in arms just like Luke and Biggs).
Enough. Basta. None of those facts, which are fascinating and would make a good movie/trilogy, are present in the latter three films. Which begs the question that I will resist putting in all caps: Did Lucas watch Star Wars even once before he made the second trilogy? Seriously! It's like he forgot what he did in the first three, remembered only certain details through the Southern California doobie haze, and make the latter trilogy consistent with invented facts and not the real ones.

4. Han Shot First, Just have to say it, again. It's a motto for those of us betrayed by the Crimes of George Lucas. Pic from here.

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