Forced Star Wars Words

Monday, June 6, 2005

I will this musing (which you will notice is obviously not a story draft—although I have a scattered, dream-related writing below) with my thoughts on the final (let us pray that it is the final) installment of the Star Wars saga. Doolies and I finally went to see Episode III together. I’ll remove the suspense up front: I hated it. Of the three, I enjoyed Episode II the most, although that enjoyment is on par with perhaps “Spanglish,” a movie I barely got through before I left for NYC. I should warn you about spoilers, but knowing that so few people will ever read this, and those who do have already seen it, I remind you more because I like to pretend that I have an audience than because it is necessary.

Many people have complained about the casting, particular Anakin Skywalker (I won’t bother looking up his real name because frankly, I don’t care). For me, he was the highlight of the movie. His dark look—particularly when his head tilted down and his eyes rolled up, showing almost all white and tiny crescents of color—was perfect for the confused Anakin. When you evaluate the entire saga, Darth Vader is the central character. He makes the two main decisions: Episode III he chooses to join the dark side (why, I’ll never know), and in Episode VI he chooses to save his son and turn on the emperor (why, I’ll never know—I would have been much happier, now as an adult, if Darth Vader had waited until the emperor killed Luke, and then threw the emperor down the tube of death).

I thought most of the cast were quite talented, especially when you take into consideration what they had to work with, which wasn’t much. The dialogue was stilted and painful to listen to (since that is the easiest part of the movie to attack, I’ll leave it at that). The character development was confusing, especially Anakin and Padame (I think that’s how you spell her name), the only two characters who had an opportunity to change. Anakin turned to the dark side because he thought he could save Padame, and once he made his decision and swore allegiance, his entire personality shifted, as if it was waiting for this decision for the new him to appear. Padame is even worse. In the first two episodes, she appeared strong (although, except for running to and fro she never made any real decisions). In this last episode, she was weak and in the end betrayed and deserted her man (okay, perhaps that’s not exactly how it happened, but if you look at it from Anakin’s twisted viewpoint, it sure does look that way). The changes in the Anakin and Padame appeared forced and superficial. There was not enough basis or support for them.

Part of the reason for this weakness is of course the weak dialogue. In a love scene with dialogue like, “I love you,” “No, I love you,” “No, really, I love you,” you can’t expect that there’s much of an opportunity to build characters. But it’s more than that. Because of the large special effects budget (and I have nothing against special effects—I enjoyed most of the futuristic city views, but I could have done without the lava scenes), Lucas felt that he needed to use those special effects for drawn out chase scenes where the endings were preordained and there was no reason to watch except to see how the evil people (all of who were either robots or faceless people so as not to hurt the sensibilities of those who think of nothing but the children) would meet their end. I could have done without most of the action scenes, except for the lightsaber battles, which, because of my love of swords, I did enjoy.

There isn’t anything I can point to in the entire movie that I felt was redeeming. When Darth Vader at the end held up his arms after being reconstructed and yelled, “No!” he reflected exactly how I felt. There were so many missed opportunities with this story, so many places where Lucas could have turned this into a real character story with a moving plot, that I cringed at the missed opportunities. Lucas lost hold of his story, and it unraveled because of its very size and scope. He was too ambitious in telling the story. Much of the back story could have been just that: back story, and he could have described it in exposition and let the true character storylines develop. I didn’t feel for Anakin; I wanted to, but I wasn’t given enough time to understand how the Jedis and the Chancellor pulled him in two different directions. And when he learned the truth, his disgust and attraction seemed feigned, as if he already had made his decision.

(I wish I could turn this into an intelligent discussion instead of a badly framed critique. I think these are good—if probably well-worn—objections, but, finding myself in a truly caffeine-free night, with 900 more words to write, I can’t seem to put the words together the way I envision them.)

And then you have the emperor. Anakin watches him get defeated, and then decided, somehow, that he is powerful enough to help save Padame. He was shown to be weak, and yet he claims the dark side is more powerful. That I didn’t understand. The most disappointing aspect of the Jedis were how they weren’t able to sense anything wrong in the troops they were with. The troops, who must have known what order “66” was before it was given, had to keep it from the Jedis, turn their feelings away from their evil thoughts, the preparation to kill their leaders. And the Jedis, who are supposed to be able to sense people’s emotions and thoughts—even going so far as knowing what they were going to do—didn’t pick up on any of this. Maybe it was because they were clones, or because Lucas couldn’t think of a better way to kill off all the Jedis. Either way, it was disappointing.

As a side note, there is an interesting series of sci-fi books by Margaret Weiss entitled Star of the Guardians, which she clearly based on the original Star Wars films. She takes the books in a more religious angle, but her main character, her Anakin, has a much more believable conversion to the “dark side,” and eventual redemption. The back story that she revealed (she started, as Lucas did, with the coming of age of the Luke-character), regarding the downfall of the Guardians (Jedis) was much more believable and interesting, with the Darth Vader character taking a much more active role in hunting down the remaining Guardians (Jedis). I wish Lucas had read this series and incorporated some of the feelings into Anakin. It could have been a great tragedy, instead of the, “what the fuck?” it turned into.

In case you’re curious, when I was younger I was a Luke Skywalker fan in the battle of Luke verse Solo. It was his lightsaber and magical powers in “Return of the Jedi” that pushed me over the edge. (I only saw “Return of the Jedi” in the theater. I think I was too young for the earlier ones.) There’s something about holding up one’s hand and making things happen that I find incredibly desirable (something I still to this day think and talk about probably too often). Looking back, I can see where Hans Solo would be the better character to cheer for, especially since he gets the girl. But the real hero, of course, is Darth Vader. Absolute, huge, and evil. What more can you want in your character?

Okay. That’s enough discussion for that movie. I think I had some interesting points buried deep within my commentary, but seeing as I’m too lazy these days writing all the time to edit anything, you’ll have to dig through it to find it, or not. Either way works for me.

After not sleeping much last night because of all the naps Doolies and I took during the day, we spent a relatively relaxing day reading, watching movies, and eating. Tomorrow is our last day in Brooklyn before we head to the city. I should have interesting things to talk about once we get to there. I’m now struggling through the last five-hundred words of this entry. I thought about drinking an espresso at the Argentinean restaurant my mother brought us to in Queens (near where my uncle lives), but I decided against it. I felt that sleeping tonight was more important than clever or good writing. You see where my priorities lay?

I only have a few hundred words left, so I’ll leave it here. By the way, I should have figured this out earlier, but yesterday I lied about the caffeine. I said it was a caffeine-free day, but I remembered after posting that I did drink yummy caffeine in the form of the greasy roast beef joint’s fountain Coke. Now that I type that, I think I might have mentioned it—I remember bringing up the Coke is some context. I’ll get back to the word count after I finish editing the dream draft. Word count: 2,000; caffeination: (really) none.

This is the filler paragraph I’m using to finish off my 2,000-word goal. As evidenced by this paragraph alone, today was not a good day. But I’ll finish with these last 30 words and call it a night and hope tomorrow, when I have something to write, I’ll do a better job.