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Overall Problems: an alternative view

Created by dave. Last edited by dave, 18 years and 345 days ago. Viewed 4,180 times. #1
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The Real Problem With Star Wars

Jenn writes:

Aside from Lucas' blowing of secrets and plot twists, which annoys on a huge level, and his nudge-nudge, wink-wink coincidence factor, which irritates, and his continuity errors . . . okay, that's a lot of the problem.

But there's an even more fundamental problem which I don't think could have been solved, no matter what.

In New Hope, Empire and Return, we have an archetypal battle between GOOD and EVIL. Darth Vader and the Empire are EVIL. Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion are GOOD. Han Solo is the only morally ambiguous character (something Lucas removed in his special editions by having Guido fire first). It's simple, it's dramatic. Here are the good guys and we cheer when they win and hold our breath when we think they're in danger. Here are the bad guys and they make a very satisfying thump when they hit the floor. It's okay to wipe out the stormtroopers, who after all are only doing their job and probably for substandard wages, because they are the faceless minions of EVIL.

Lucas designed the whole thing that way. He borrowed from Joseph Campbell's theories to make a modern myth. A modern retelling of the eternal struggle of light and darkness.

Lucas never explained why the Empire is a bad thing. Or why the Jedi were good. Or why the Millennium Falcon speaks a most unusual dialect. It all just is. It's a fantasy and things are very clearly laid out. Which is probably why it completely wowed the seven to nine year old minds that were exposed to it. Children do better with absolutes. And it's also probably why it speaks on so many levels. Because the characters and metaplot are simple but timeless, they are open to interpretation. Star Wars spoke to many different people in many different voices. It could be an affirmation of faith, an action-adventure serial, a romance, whatever you needed it to be. That's how myth works at it's best.

And Star Wars worked. It worked brilliantly.

Now we come to the prequel, Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Lucas's attempt to immortalize the grand epic he envisioned at the beginning.

Only now we have a problem.

Our hero is Anakin, who will become Darth Vader. In order to be trained as a Jedi, he must be GOOD. But eventually he's going to torture prisoners for kicks, which makes him EVIL. Oops, that would be Ambiguity knocking.

Lucas wanted to show the development of a character, the shades of grey between black and white. Which is a noble aspiration and certainly worth looking at. How does a basically decent man go from being a champion to a villain? But now we're not dealing in absolutes anymore, your hero has to be a person with some good, some bad and a lot in between.

Which makes for interesting Sunday night tv movies, but not such a good myth.

The ambiguity is carried over into the rest of the film. The Empire is EVIL, as we all remember. One has only to look at the poverty-stricken and gangster-ridden Tattoine to know that . . . only Tattoine looks pretty much the same under the Republic. And the bureaucratic stumbling blocks the Senate from doing anything useful about an invasion of Naboo. These are not stellar endorsements of democracy. The Jedi on the other hand, are GOOD. Only they appear to be stuck navel-gazing to the exclusion of all else. If the Jedi are such bastions of honour and decency, then surely the testimony of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could have verified the Trade Federation's invasion. Only they completely ignore the Queen once they've delivered her to Coruscant, being much more concerned with their Prophecy and Chosen One. One Jedi boy is clearly far more important than the billions suffering on Naboo. And with Revenge of the Sith, we learn that the Jedi Council is perfectly prepared to indulge in the sort of underhanded, off-the-record double-dealing that make politicians universally despised.

So that's Lucas' problem. He tried to continue in a mythic vein but with people rather than abstracts. And it doesn't work. It doesn't work at all.

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