My analysis of this whole (quote-y finger motion) “Star Wars” thing is finally beginning to gel.
(For those of you who don’t know me… or for those of you who do know me but just shake your head and wonder why, God, why, here’s a glimpse into how it works: when I’m thinking about a thing, I actually do very little conscious thinking. I more ‘percolate’. Often while driving. And then, some time later, often days, (and for reason that mystify me) or exactly one week later, my analysis pops out, fully formed. Fuck if I know why.)
[ Spoiler alert: do not read if you haven’t seen Revenge of the Sith. Also, don’t read if you don’t want some of it explained to you in ways that will test your tolerance of geekitude. ]
Here’s what I’ve been thinking on: after seeing Revenge of the Sith, my feelings for the series have done a complete double-back-flip.
I was utterly off of the Lucas bandwagon, had been completely enraged by how utterly useless Episodes I & II were… but I have quite suddenly, somehow, emerged into a strange new, hiterto unheard of land of Star Wars appreciation, that I hadn’t even come close to anticipating.
It seems George & I may have had a great big old fashioned misunderstanding, and I’m only now starting to grok it. I think I may not be alone in this.
Let’s turn the wayback machine to the late 1970s.
Back in the day, Lucas made us wee ones a titanic, intergalactic space opera, filled with the most fantastical creatures we’d ever seen, and some of the most startling reveals we’d ever experienced. When Luke’s unlikely lineage was revealed to us, the world turned on its axis, and we all gaped in awe at Lucas’ ability to storytell. Oh my god, we thought, please do that again.
Part of the the problem, I think, is that that moment was what set the quality bar for us. And, it was never repeated. I mean, not even close. The highpoint of the whole series is Luke dangling, un-limbed, from a weathervane thingy in the middle of Bespin, and Vader telling him how it is. This is now a certainty; there is no room for further debate.
Fast forward: here we sit, and what rankles, what has been so goddamn frustrating, is that the whole rest of the series is… just a story. We know who the characters are, and we watch them go through a series of interesting and world-changing events. But there are no surprises, really. At least, nothing that actually touches the characters in a way we didn’t already anticipate.
So that’s point #1. Let’s call it “It’s Just A Fucking Story! What The Fuck!”.
Next thing. Way back in the day, before there was an Ep I, II, or III, we had only distant tales of the Clone Wars, mostly from the mouths of the people who were there (the Obi-Wans and Yodas of the world). We’d never seen the goddamn thing, though. We had no real idea of what to expect.
We did, however, have this one line, spoken by a crotchety old white-hair, burned into our memories from watching the goddamn thing so many times: “A young Jedi named Darth Vader… who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil… helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father.”
This, I think, is part of the problem. The notion that Vader “hunted down” Jedi seemed to imply, at least to we of the schoolyard high council, that this was a protracted thing. We imagined the Dark Lord seeking one Jedi after another, one betrayal after another, kind of like Ridley Scott’s Alien, only on a galactic scale. The Jedi never knew where he would strike from next, and he wipes them out. But slowly, see. One by one. At least, that’s what we imagined.
In truth, there was very little fact to develop notions from. But, given that the rest of the story was so goddamn epic and shit, we figured that certainly the truest version of the facts must be the biggest version.
In fact what we got was a very very rapid fall of the Jedi. Scant hours after Anakin made his “choice”, the Jedi were done. Finished. Over. Kaput. This was, perhaps, why George didn’t tell this part of the story earlier. It would have left him with very little to do afterwards.
We also got a long, quiet, political transition of the Republic into the Empire. This makes some sense, and is in many ways believeable. It is not, however, quite the way we imagined it on the soccer field with our fingers pointed at each other going “pchew! pchew!”.
So that’s point #2. Let’s call it, “It All Happened So Fast!”.
Third thing. The first series started with Leia, Vader, and then 3PO and R2, and then whoops! Now it’s Luke, and who’s that Obi Wan guy, and wait, Han Solo, and Tarkin and… it just kept on going. You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a hero or a villain of note.
This one, though… well, there’s Obi Wan and Qui-Gon, and there’s Anakin, and… Padme… Darth Maul… whoops, Qui-Gon and Maul are dead, and by the third one it’s pretty much just Anakin and Obi-Wan and the Emperor. The whole plot had boiled down to Anakin and his fall. As… we knew it would, but…
What I am struck by now, now that it’s all settling in, is how very personal this story has become. That, I think, is the most surprising thing. It wasn’t gigantic world destroying space stations, or prophecy, or armies that ultimately decided the fate of the Jedi. It was anger. Simple, juvenile, unjustified anger. Had someone , anyone, been able to get to Anakin and talk through his youthful frustrations and rage and… well, for lack of a better word, his issues, the Jedi, and really the whole Republic, may well have been saved.
But, that didn’t happen, and, striking blindly against imagined foes, he destroyed the entire Republic. Let’s call that point #3, and title it “It’s All About You, Anakin”.
Which brings us to the fourth (and final, thank goodness) point.
If we left it there, we’d have an angry young man, a series of strong mentors, and a corrupt politcal machine on the brink of transition.
That, however, is not enough to bring about the age of the Galactic Empire and give us 6 movies worth of lightsaber duels. No.
So, the last point. These creatures, these Jedi, they are giants. They are hugely, enormously powerful beings. This was always understood (I mean, duh), but it has been brought into sharp focus by how goddamn fallible they are in the recent installments.
What I mean by that is that when a human makes a mistake, feelings get hurt, and the bus is 5 minutes late. When a giant makes a mistake, Republics fall, Empires rise, and ancient orders of knightly wisdom are nearly wiped out. Same mistake, though. Blind arrogance. It’s just that a blindly arrogant Chosen One leaves a bit of a wider swath than others would. Things might have been quite a bit different if Anakin hadn’t been quite so hot-headed. And, it’s really as simple as that.
So, this, then is the fourth, and summary, point, and is in fact my summation of the whole series. Let’s call it, “Star Wars: This Time It’s Personal”.
Thanks again, George. And, good work. Nicely done. Bravo.