Friday, June 05, 2009

Almost Perfunctory By Now

I was thinking about Star Wars again recently, which I hadn't done in quite a while, when I realized it had been ten years since The Phantom Menace was released. God, I honestly love that movie in a totally uncynical way - it's great. Every bit of it, even the wooden acting and goofy supporting characters are totally in line with the best and worst tendencies of the original films. I was reminded of this when I came across this piece earlier. I can't quite see who this person is (besides "grebok_sod") but I agree with them wholeheartedly. I said some similar things a couple years back. I stand by what I said then (including the bit where I said: "News flash: none of the Star Wars movies are that great to begin with, cut, print.") But we love them all the same despite their massive faults and general not-very-goodness, because they touch something deep, comforting and atavistic in the hearts of every nerd, proto-nerd or recovering nerd.

So yeah, let's remember the Prequels fondly, shall we? I love them because they aren't based on Joseph Campbell's retarded Hero With A Thousand Faces bullshit crypto-Christian manichaesim, but rather more contemporary and historical notions of power, corruption and pride. Yeah, they're kid's movies through and through - even Sith - but at the same time they're also about how hubris can destroy men and nations. Much the same way Wall-E is about a cute little robot looking for his true love but also ecological devastation and the trauma of crushing loneliness. Something I didn't realize until recently is that the Prequels actually, in my eye, makes the originals better, because they open up Obi-Wan and Yoda's motivations to more ambiguous interpretation. Think about it: these old, failed warriors spend three movies filling Luke Skywalker's head with all the same superstitious mumbo-jumbo that caused their downfall in the first place, and then send him off to do not merely what they failed to do in the first place, kill his dad and granddad, but to fix the problem that they had started by allowing Palpatine to exploit the grave weaknesses inflicted by their own pride during his rise to power.

If Lucas ever did wake up one morning and decide to actually do - or at least give his blessing for - a sequel trilogy, that would almost certainly be the hook: an older Luke Skywalker sees through the bullshit self-justifying hubris that Yoda filled his head with and plots a middle path between the two self-reinforcing and self-defeating extremes of dark and light. Which makes a lot more sense if the Force is less a manifestation of God (yawn) than a parasitic bacterial infection that endows great strength and longevity but also drives the infected insane unless usage is rigorously curtailed through punishing self-control. The choice then is either to become a self-abnegating, self-righteous monk or go nuts in short order, basically.

That's a much more interesting dynamic than "good vs. evil". Let's forget about Lucas "raping our childhoods" and just remember the films fondly, for actually trying to transcend the ideological morass of the original and make something novel: a moral fable built on the presumption human nature is fallible, and absolute ethical imperatives inevitably foster hubris which leads to abuse. And the best part is they wrapped the whole thing in a nice, shiny package built to sell lots of toys. Neat trick, that.

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