Sunday, June 9, 2013

Looking Back At The "Star Wars" Prequels

This article is an attempt at branching out. Blood Is One is still very much a hip-hop/rap website but much of our focus is also the larger world of pop culture. Expect more articles like this on the way.

Alot of hey has been made about the acquisition of Star Wars by Disney and by J.J. Abrams in particular. The new Star Wars films may look very different than what we have seen before and may play very different elements of filmmaking and storytelling than we have seen from George Lucas. I thought it would be good to explore Star Wars, particularly the prequels, in light of these new developments. Thank you to Larry Bernard for his rebuttal of a defense of the Star Wars prequels for the inspiration.

When reviewing Star Wars in its whole, I think its important to get out of one self and to try to get in to the mind of George Lucas himself. Lucas is a very interesting person - both strange and groundbreaking and really boring, ordinary and conservative at once. In his old age, he has began to physically look like a corporate tool - he is almost always seen, for well on twenty years or so, in the same dress attire with the same haircut and beard.

He does some strange and daring stuff with his films - and yet his films are also colloquial and cliched as hell. Moments of the Star Wars saga make you want to rewatch them literally thousands of times while some are so painful it is horrible to even watch them once.

Lucas is a man at odds with himself. As he said once in an interview with Jon Stewart, "Life is dualism," and he is certainly very much proof of that. His often strange revamping of the Star Wars trilogy, changing everything from the sound effects to the lighting for each new release, borders on Obsessive Compulsive.

The prequel trilogy shows this very well. Lucas seemed to be at odds with himself in these movies in dramatic ways. Certainly elements of continuity from the original trilogy are just flat out ignored - Leia's comment that she remembers only "flashes" of her natural mother is belied by the fact that Leia is literally swept up by another family right as her mother "dies of a broken heart" (a truly stupid end to Padme that belies a plot that is highly developed in other ways).

In contrast, other elements of continuity stay completely right on point. Whereas Leia's relationship to her mom is ignored, he spends a really good portion of Attack of the Clones focusing on the origins of Boba Fett - a character with a fairly minor role in the original trilogy but alot of fan popularity. While he is messing up the Leia/Padme connection, he shows really significant levels of transition in to the old trilogy - the return of the the Emperor's Imperial ship from Return of the Jedi, along with Star Destroyers and dialogue by Chancellor Palpatine that sounds like a mirror version of the dialogue from Return of the Jedi.

Some magical stuff does occur in the prequels - Anakin's story is pretty well told and, despite what many say, Hayden Christensen puts on a performance that is as good if not better than any Mark Hammill ever put on. Ewan McGregor does seem really like the ghost of Alec Guinness throughout much of Revenge of the Sith - most of the dialogue and deliverance seems in line with what we'd expect from Guinness. The element of confusion that feeds through the trilogy right up until the end fits with the confused message that Luke Skywalker receives regarding his family past in the original trilogy. In the scenes where they are together, Christensen and McGregor seem to play off each other both as friends and enemies - given that relationship, it's unfortunate we didn't see the two playing off each other more.

Peculiarly, Lucas actually tells much of the genuine story of the prequels - "the Clone Wars" - in a spin-off TV series that had two installations - the first being an animated "microseries" that came out after Attack of the Clones and another larger profit series that came out after Revenge of the Sith. It's really strange - those series actually develop the characters of Anakin, Palpatine, Padme and Obi-Wan in a way that the movies don't really even try to do. We see Anakin actually being the fallen hero he is described as in the movies but never really is (in the first series, he actually uses his robotic arm as a method to save an entire village and we see several meetings with Padme in which their romantic encounters actually have some juice and development to them) and we see some idea of who Padme is. These shows had big audiences but surely nowhere near as big of audiences as the actual films.

My friend Larry Bernard, who wrote the rebuttal of a rebuttal that I'm now rebutting, said that this is "lazy storytelling." Lucas is a filmmaker with some amazing concepts but he is very ethereal in the elements of how he delivers those stories. In the original trilogy, he usually had someone helping him along and guiding him - much of the character play of Empire Strikes Back is really the work of screenwriters who built off Lucas' vision.

One of the biggest hopes that J.J. Abrams' new vision with a third trilogy can provide will be that there will be real, believable character interplay, something so horribly inconsistent in the Star Wars Saga as a whole. J.J. Abrams has shown that in his work on Lost and Star Trek - though he has also had his share of lazy storytelling and plots that become incomprehensible.

No comments:

Post a Comment