Monday, May 23, 2005

Weird thing of the day 23 May 2005/14 'Iyyar 5765 (Day 29 of the `Omer/Pesah Sheni/World Turtle Day/Victoria Day/Declaration of the Bab)


I have been saved the trouble of picking a weird thing for today, because I have been sent a well-written essay. And standing behind me is a nice man in black and holding a lightsaber who insists I post it. Enjoy.


My dear, dear friends,

No doubt you have heard of Star Wars: Episode III
- Revenge of the Sith
, of how powerful it is and
much better it is compared to the previous two
installments. Some have even said that it is as good
as the original trilogy, rivaling even Episode V -
The Empire Strikes Back
. Sitting there in their
seats in the theater, thoughtlessly munching away on
some calorie-laden snack, they think they truly
understand the situation. Fools. Little do they
realize that the story they are watching is not so
much that of Darth Vader, but that of the man telling
the tale.

That is right, my friends. The struggle between the
so-called "good" and "evil" forces in the galaxy is
only a frame in which is set the internal struggles of
George Lucas himself.

Consider the story of the Star Wars saga, not
in the numerical order of the episodes, but in the
order they were filmed. Two characters dominate the
story, young Luke Skywalker, made to be the hero of
the saga, and Darth Vader, the man who ultimately
turns out to be Anakin Skywalker, his father, both of
whom represent different aspects of George Lucas and
his crew. Luke, represents the artistic storytelling
impulses, all the great filmmaking skills Lucas has
learned from his classes and from reading Joseph
Campbell, whereas Lord Vader represents the usual
methods of Hollywood, flash and noise at the expense
of art or even sense, any sure trick to draw in an
audience. Filmmaking is difficult, and one is
constantly tempted to take the quick and easy path to
finishing a film. The fortunes of Lucas parallel
those of these characters and their associates. In
Episode IV - A New Hope, Lucas is young, fresh
from such experimental work as THX-1138, and
though underfunded, he is powerful and is able to
wield his talent to create a unique film, avoiding
that temptations that would make it just another bad
sci-fi movie. Similarly, young Skywalker is able to
start from being on an empty, desolate planet to
overcome the awesome power of Lord Vader's Death Star
as part of the Rebel Alliance. In Episode V - The
Empire Strikes Back
, just as young Skywalker and
the Rebellion faced increased persecution from the
Empire, Lucas's success brought increased pressure and
attention from Hollywood and financiers to make the
movie in a way suited to their interests. Just as
young Skywalker had to face that Lord Vader was his
father, Lucas had to deal that he was no longer
independent, but now part of the filmmaking
establishment. By Episode VI - Return of the
, just as the Rebel Alliance overthrows the
Empire and young Skywalker becomes a Jedi and finds
the good in his father Lord Vader, Lucas manages to
resist temptation to take the easy path and even find
some acceptance of his situation.

Now consider the prequel trilogy. In the intervening
years, Lucas has been drawn further into the ways of
Hollywood and has forgotten the ways of his earlier
films. There is no young Skywalker, only Anakin, and
the latter's tendencies dominate. In Episode I -
The Phantom Menace
, as Anakin is technically
adept but a child, Lucas's work dominated by his
computer-generated spectacles but has a juvenile
story. In Episode II - Attack of the Clones,
Anakin has studied the ways of the Force well but is
impatient and cocky and takes his first missteps
towards the Dark Side. Though Lucas can still put on
a show, in his rush to show off his skills he rushes
through the script and leaves the dialogue painfully
stilted in favor of special effects. Finally, in
Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, as Anakin
gives in to his emotions and desires and becomes Lord
Vader, Lucas has become fully consumed by his
Hollywoodism, fully assimilated into it.

But no, you say, this cannot be! Isn't Revenge of
the Sith
as good as the original trilogy? I'm
afraid not, my friend. Did you not hear the awful
dialogue, same as in the episode before? Did you not
see the same dizzying effects, so busy as Lucas
delights in his cleverness, but yet failing to add as
much as the cruder ones from the 1970s and 1980s?
Yes, it does deal with dark themes, but it logically
has to. He could not have avoided them if he wanted.
A certain backstory was set up in the original
trilogy, forcing the prequel trilogy to have certain
events at certain times. For the third episode, the
Republic would have to become the Empire, the Jedi
would have to be all but destroyed, and Anakin would
have to become Lord Vader. Betrayal and a fall from
grace were obligatory themes, so their presence hardly
means anything. You are affected, but in no more
artful a fashion than if this were a news report. A
story of betrayal and darkness can be as badly told
any other.

Consider how poorly certain events were handled in the
prequel trilogy. Was it necessary to firmly establish
that Lord Vader once was Anakin Skywalker and who his
children were? These were major revelations for those
who watched the episodes in the order they were
filmed; for one watching them in numerical order,
these surprises have been spoiled. A more skilled
writer would have not eliminated Count Dooku so
quickly, but kept him around until the end of the
film, where he is involved in the climactic duel
between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin. In the end, while
Kenobi walks away, both Dooku and Anakin are horribly
injured and mutilated beyond all recognition. Only
one survives and becomes Lord Vader, and which one it
is is not clear, with the heavy implication of it
being Dooku. Indeed, the treatment and transformation
of a burned body into the familiar half-mechanical
being should never have been shown; that way, when
young Skywalker removes Lord Vader's mask, we would
still feel the shock at seeing Lord Vader's true face.
Similarly, though Padme Amidala's pregnancy might be
known, that she is carrying twins might be kept secret
and the births not depicted. Later Obi-Wan is shown
delivering the infant Luke to Owen and Beru, while the
only hint of Leia's existence being Padme visiting
Bail Organa and asking for a favor. A little
creativity could have gone a long way towards
preserving much of the experience for those watching
the saga the first time in numerical order. Instead,
we have clumsy writing where characters speak the
obvious, usually with bad acting ruining even savable
lines. Most of what is good in Revenge of the
is there because it absolutely had to be
there, not because of any special genius of Lucas.

As you might have guessed, Lucas really did tell of
events which took place a long time ago in a galaxy
far, far away. How he learned of them, I am not at
liberty to say, but he did let his own ideological
shortcomings interfere with his storytelling, and not
for the better. Because the distorted events in the
original trilogy made such an impact, I was forced to
act. All that has happened has gone according to my
design. If he had stayed on the path he began with
the original trilogy, he would have become a legend
for a long time to come. But now, having turned him
to the Dark Side, his name will be forever tarnished.
Once his current fan base is gone, his work is now
doomed to pass forever into obscurity.

I'm afraid whatever was good in Lucas is gone. He is
now consumed by Hollywoodism, the temptation towards
its dark side having become so great that it
overpowers and replaces the craft of storytelling. He
has forgotten how to make his characters interesting,
so instead of the vivacity and cockiness of Leia and
Han Solo, we have the empty, dull declarations of
Anakin and Padme. What was an incredible artistic
opportunity has passed, completely wasted, never to be
revisited save in fanfics or until the copyright
expires. The filmmaking Jedi we have known is lost to
impulses which more independent filmmakers would call
unnatural. And just as democracy fell in the
Republic, so has Lucas become consumed by the Dark
Side: to thunderous applause.

- Emperor Palpatine, also called Sidious, Dark Lord of
the Sith
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