Star Destroyers, Part II

Okay, that was the easy bit. Here’s the tougher material.

Winnow it down to ten things Star Wars screwed up. For me these are all just little things, little sour notes…I mean if I talked about the BIG screw-ups I’d never get it down to just ten, would I? But beyond that, you can criticize mistakes (as I did during Attack Of The Clones when I was chanting “Die, Jedi, Die!”), you can criticize things that weren’t mistakes, which gives them no excuse for being as useless as they are…but what about the things that just sort of hover in the middle, being uncalled-for? I’ll let a lot of things slide, with Star Wars…I don’t really feel it’s polite to point out that if the Rebel base at the end of Empire is that far outside the Galaxy, then the Rebels probably have a significant technological edge over their enemies…nor would I dream of making a fuss over how come they’ve got all those towers all over the Death Star, or anything like that…

But there are a few things that really bug me unreasonably.

1. Luke’s new lightsaber. It’s green, you know. But for the life of me I can’t figure out why it should be green. The thing about the old lightsaber he had…this lightsaber was a big deal, you know? His father’s lightsaber, ancient relic of the Jedi…blue, in my eyes, for a damn good symbolic reason. And then he loses it, and it is not even an issue…except it ought to be one, it’s a heavy-duty part of his symbolic adornment and he needs it. And if he doesn’t have it, or he gets a new one, or he gets the old one back somehow…however you slice it, and howevermuch weight you want to put on it or not, that’s a story right there. You could cover it in a scene, or you could cover it in a sentence, but that it isn’t covered at all seems to me symptomatic of something Star Wars got drastically wrong…which is, attention to its own symbolic apparatus. Suddenly everybody just stops paying attention: Luke’s lightsaber is swept away and we don’t even see it fall…he gets a new one and we have no idea where it came from. It doesn’t represent anything anymore; what it used to represent isn’t important anymore. Replacement hand; replacement weapon; the focus is suddenly, radically elsewhere as developments just get magically “healed”, fixed-up…we re-set to zero, without explanation, and things just stop happening, but somehow no one notices. Luke’s story ends with him looking back at the galaxy, flexing his fake fingers: he’s failed his Campbellian quest.

It should mean something!

But it doesn’t.

2. The problem of the Sith. Back when Darth Vader was just Darth Vader, it didn’t matter who the Sith were…they were bad guys who choked Tarkinites with their minds. Awesome, thankyou, that’s all I needed to know! But as soon as Vader becomes Luke’s father, it’s inevitable that one of these days we are going to have to know what in the hell this “Sith” business is all about. BUT THEN THAT DAY NEVER EVER ARRIVES, and that’s pretty much unforgivable. I had to go online to figure it out, because George Lucas apparently left that key element of his story for people on the Internet to work out amongst themselves…and brother, what a mess they made of it all. Shocking. This story got straight-up abandoned by the side of the road, it’s a horrendous screw-up, it simply defies explanation and I am aghast at it.

3. The dilution of sense of place. Honestly, was I supposed to find all these dumb planet names that are now stuck in my head cute, or something? They are way too fucking cute, and along with the samey-samey names go the undistinguished appearances. Locations in the first Star Wars were simple and few, and they popped out at you, unfamiliar and fresh. In the last set of comments, the old standby of the “used universe” was brought up, and rightly so…but part of the deal with a used universe is that different spaces in it get used in different ways, neither world nor tech is meant to be interchangeable with other world, and other tech. It’s part of the reason I had such high hopes for the prequels after seeing The Phantom Menace: at least Padme’s spaceship looks as clean and sleek and fancy as it would have to, Coruscant is noisy and Tatooine is back again thank goodness…and sure, Naboo has no character whatsoever to it, but two out of three ain’t bad, and at least there are some buildings. Well, it didn’t really work out, actually…but it already went wrong in Empire, as somebody made the mistake of wanting me to care about Hoth because it’s an “ice planet”, care about Bespin because it’s a “cloud city”…and I didn’t, and I don’t. In the first movie I accepted an alien playing a fucking clarinet, damn it, I don’t think I’m being all that nitpicky, I just want some kind of sense of place in these nonsensical places…but Hoth is just a bunch of ice-caves with people running around in them, Bespin is just white plastic walls and sliding doors, and the only thing about Dagobah worth mentioning is that Yoda lives there. Why does Dagobah even have a name, and why are we subjected to it? The name isn’t the place unless the name is just right…and “Dagobah” is a dumb name, it sounds like a kid mispronouncing something. So cute; in fact it’s worse than cute, it’s twee. What happened to R2 and 3PO standing in a desert, what happened to texture? Gone, gone, gone, like Anakin’s old lightsaber. Never to return.

4. Yoda is wrong, but nothing comes of it. He’s totally wrong about telling Luke not to break off his training…wrong about Luke’s fear, wrong about Luke destroying everything his friends have worked for, he’s even wrong about there being “another”, since who’s gonna teach her? How will she ever know? And Yoda doesn’t even want Luke to go and save her in the first place, eh? Ben is rather pissy too: if you go, just consider me no longer your private Jedi ghost, oh Ben you bitch. This is foreshadowing that goes absolutely nowhere, and it’s the end of Yoda but the movie forgets to tell us so…there he is in that great light from the X-Wing as it takes off, it’s just magnificent, shoulda hit like a ton…but phfft! No business resulting, oh well too bad…

5. Luke the badass talks like he thinks he’s goddamn Hamlet. Now this is interesting, because correct me if I’m wrong…but Luke didn’t actually learn too much down on Dagobah, did he? No he did not; in fact he failed every test. Remember that? Guy was a washout. So, how did he get to be such a badass? Where did he learn to talk in that crazy supervillain way? Where’s all this coming from, Ben and Yoda are both dead, how’d he complete his training? And why is he talking like that? “Then alas! My father is truly dead…” Oh shut up, farmboy…

6. No more models, no more Muppets. I ask you, does George Lucas hate me or something?

7. “Younglings”. He does hate me. But seriously, if 6. is “abandoning your cool design principles for CGI”, then 7. is “hire a writer”…because without a good script, the car crash isn’t taking place in slow motion anymore. By the time Empire is finished, so’s the attempt to do anything more than wrap it all up…and by the time Attack Of The Clones hits, the pressure to wrap it up has become so intense that it doesn’t even matter what the words are anymore, the important thing is to cross that finish line any way you can…and so we get such amazing wastes of time as finding out how Naboo elects its teenage Queens, things are randomly tossed in and then randomly tossed out again, and it’s a dog’s breakfast for nearly four whole movies, which is a screw-up of such colossal proportions I’m not sure it’ll ever be equalled.

8. I don’t have the heart to do 8. at the moment. It’s actually rather depressing, when you list ’em all off like this. Just gonna post anyway…sigh… and fill in the rest later…


49 responses to “Star Destroyers, Part II

  1. The biggest problem is that something very personal got farmed out into franchise mode right away and lobotomized it. I’m sorry man but Star Wars? Could we stop thinking about this for a few years? It’s so goddamn oversaturated that even good conversation like this tires me out. It’s kind of sickening that of a crew that produced The Conversation, THX1138, Taxi Driver, Blow Out, and Jaws we’re still talking about fucking Star Wars. It’s just Sergio Leone’s Hidden Fortress with the ending from Triumph of the Will anyway.

  2. Which one of those was the one that I’m jealous for not having thought of?

    Anyway, I don’t have problems with all of these things. For instance:

    1. The sword you make for yourself is always better than the one you get from someone else. This isn’t just in Star Wars; I remember it also from the Prydain Chronicles (although, in that, they did make a bigger deal about Taran forging his own sword). And I think the colours were just to distinguish one guy from another. Obi-Wan white (right?), Vader red, Luke’s dad blue, Luke green. When you see him with the green lightsaber, that means he’s come into his own as a Jedi; he’s got his sword.

    5. The problem with this one is that I read the novelizations, and they make it clear that Luke did learn all kinds of stuff on Dagobah. The movie only shows you the parts where he tripped up, but in the book he made all kinds of progress also. So I didn’t notice, but then again you must be right, because what’s on screen is what’s important.

    Then again, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, which was what they were originally going to do instead of Empire Strikes Back, or not, had Luke as a full Jedi already.

  3. Like Bill Clinton, I feel your pain America…and “oversaturated” may be a polite word for it, eh? Jaws is something I’d love to see more people talk about now and then, it’s vastly underrated as a comedy…

    But fortunately this little exercise isn’t about Star Wars so much as it’s about Andrew’s posts on Hypercanon…something I hope will become a bit clearer down the line. And then I promise: a break from Star Wars!

    By God, we’ll have one!

  4. If you found out your dad was Space Hitler, and you knew you had to fight him, wouldn’t you make your weapon look different than his, and really buckle down on your training? If I can get no-prizey for a second, maybe Luke found another teacher or a bunch of old manuscripts, or went out in the desert and communed with Obi-Won’s ghost between movies. The Sith are just bad Jedis who decided to gain personal power rather than help people, or at least they were when I saw the movies when I was a kid.

    Great, now I sound defensive talking about friggin’ Star Wars. Honestly, though, I filled in the blanks myself when I was a kid, and they never bothered me. (What bothered me was that Chewbacca looked like he could wreck a dozen stormtroopers at once, but never did.) Thinking about Star Wars in a critical way can only lead to the Darkseid.

  5. Couple things about the lightsaber. First, it was going to be blue — it’s the same basic model as Obi-Wan’s — but a blue laser sword didn’t show up too well against the blue sky for the desert fight scene. Thus, green. Simple enough to change in post-production. Plus, green is organic, blue is sterile, blah blah blah. That last part is just me thinking out loud.

    Second, there was apparently a scene cut from the final script with Luke making the new saber in Obi-Wan’s hut, and then putting it into R2-D2’s head. I suppose that scene was cut because it spoiled the surprise later. Still, I wish they’d kept it in, because it shows that Luke has run back into Obi-Wan’s figurative embrace, and also that he’s pulling knowledge not just from Yoda, but from what he’s learned in the few days he was with O-W.

    I don’t think Yoda is necessarily wrong about what he tells Luke. I just think the Force is working in a direction different than what Yoda’s used to.

    Now, two big things that bug me about SW — one about the originals, one about the prequels.

    The biggest problem with the originals, and with Jedi specifically, is that they totally drop the ball on Han and Leia, both as characters and as a couple. Leia is one step away from being the central character in the story. She’s the one who’s supposed to contact Obi-Wan and bring him to Alderaan, and if that had gone well, she’d probably learned about her Jedi potential a lot sooner. As it is, though, she has the burden of both becoming a Jedi and “repopulating” the Jedi ranks, which sounds very primal and earth-mother-y. Sure, you have Luke go from whiny snot to spooky warrior, but you could also have Leia go from feisty rebel to spooky matriarch. Han’s story isn’t near as interesting, but why can’t he fly the Falcon one last time and leave the shield to Lando?

    As for the prequels, they pretty much ignore all of Naboo’s weird geology (a hollow planet core? Gungans with inexplicable plasma-energy tech?) and undersea life once our heroes get back to the surface. I always thought Palpatine was interested in Naboo because of those things, and they’d pay off somehow. Nope.

  6. Screwups:

    1. Lucas’s big inspiration for “Star Wars” was the “Flash Gordon” serials. (Joseph Campbell can suck it. That was post-facto pretension. The first movie is clearly an inspired Hollywood pastiche, not an exercise in conscious myth-making. Claims to the contrary will be met with mocking laughter.) Watching Ep 2, “Dialogue Is Painful,” he’d done it — he’d recreated the exact flavor of a “Flash Gordon” serial, but with his own actors and modern effects. Unfortunately, “Flash Gordon” serials are fucking awful.

    2. No “voice of reason” in the prequels. Part of the charm of the originals is the reluctance of people to believe in the crazier stuff. In the prequels, everyone’s in on the weirdness from the git-go. No Han Solo, no “your adherence to that sad old religion” Imperial prissies, nobody like that.

    3. Also in the prequels, nobody gets excited. (Jar-Jar doesn’t count.) How are we supposed to find the situations exciting when the characters themselves don’t? The Jedi remain cool and calm; Amidala never gets worked up. Snore.

    More later.

  7. Harrison Ford wanted Han to die after he killed Boba Fett, and so did Kasdan. It also went to production as Revenge of the Jedi and the fucking sister thing was a last-minute change. The biggest problem with thinking they were on top of everything is stuff like the green lightsaber or the lack of desert chase in the first one – the footage looked like shit, so they changed it. Like the same actor playing the daughter and the fool in King Lear – its a demand of the artform that ends up in the final cannonized version and then is discussed as a conscious decision. All the best lines in Empire were improvised because Lucas wasn’t on set half the time. That’s how you get “I love you” “I know”. Kirschner didn’t have the visual prowess of Lucas but he actually worked with the actors.

  8. “All the best lines in Empire were improvised because Lucas wasn’t on set half the time.”
    I think there was also a lot of punching-up done on the OT scripts, wasn’t there? – I’m always surprised by how good some of the banter in Star Wars is, given how bad a writer Lucas turned out to be.

    Re: 2. I gotta say, I know there’s a horde of fans who laud the Expanded Universe(R) as the Real Home of Star Wars Nowadays, but I find all that stuff at least as dreadful as the prequels. Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox game) presented the Sith as nothing more than some kind of political coalition – Vader’s a Sith, but so is some tin-hat protoStormtrooper – I hated that. I’ve also seen some ridiculous semantic tap-dance around the whole “only two there are” bit, where they make up bullshit distinctions between “Sith” and “Dark Jedi”. Rubbish.

    4. Yoda’s also wrong in the prequels – all the Jedi are, and it’s kind of a plot point, maybe? I don’t know if it’s Lucas trying to spin how unimpressive the Jedi are after Episode I, but Yoda gives that “hey, maybe this suffocating code of piety and moaning ain’t so good!” speech in Episode III. A few years on Daggle-bath though, and he’s back to bemoaning adventure and excitement.

  9. 4. The stupid prophesy. “Bring balance to the Force?” What the hell does that even mean? From the perspective of the Jedi pre-Ep 1, wouldn’t that be a bad thing? They’re on top, the Sith are non-factors. “Restoring balance” would mean…well, what Vader did: crush the Jedi, bring up the Sith for a while, and eventually destroy the Sith too. Why in the name of nerfherding would they want that? Weirder, that prophesy wasn’t mentioned in later movies (I think, it’s been a while). If Obi-Wan later mentioned it with a “whoops, he was The One, but we didn’t know what that would mean,” that would have helped a lot.

    5. Mistaking lots of boom-zoom-zappy-zappy with excitement. The opening of Ep 3 was a big ol’ space battle, with lots of moving parts, flashing lights, and pretty stuff. Boring as hell. Since we don’t care about the characters and the action is hard to follow, it’s just a lot of noise. I swear that scene was an hour long. So dull.

    6. A long-standing gripe: Anakin being a kid when we first meet him. Yes, I get that Star Wars is, in its heart, a kids’ movie series. But still. Painful and unnecessary. Kids in 1977 identified with Luke, Han, and Leia easily, too. Casting a kid wasn’t necessary.

    7. “Are you an angel?” Are you fucking kidding me?

  10. Mike Loughlin: Your no-prize is totally in the mail! Also, it does sort of pay off anyway when Vader says to Luke something like, “I see you’ve constructed a new lightsaber,” and kind of tests it out and admires the work. Awww, he’s a bit proud, isn’t he?

    These are mostly gonna be prequel complaints, but the original trilogy isn’t without blame.

    1. The main thing that bugs me about the prequels (and I’ve <a href=""talked about it on my blog) is that you’ve probably already written those movies in your head to varying extents. Even if you didn’t sit down to write your prequel fan scripts, you probably imagined what would be in those movies, because I feel like Lucas was encouraging the audience to fill in the gaps themselves. Why would you throw something like “the Clone Wars” out and never explain it unless you *wanted* the audience to participate? To “use their imagination”?

    2. Darth Vader seems to get promoted between Star Wars and Empire. He’s clearly the Number Two Man in the Empire in V and VI, but in IV he’s clearly subordinate to Tarkin (and he does get in a TIE fighter himself at the end of Star Wars, after all). It’s more interesting if Vader is high ranking but not necessarily unanswerable; Vader being Number Two just because he’s the coolest villain is too obvious.

    3. Jumping off of the “nobody gets excited in the prequels” comment, in a larger sense, the characters in the prequels seem homogeneous. The characters in the original trilogy aren’t particularly deep, but they’re diverse types: Naive farmboy, charming scoundrel, uptight princess who’s more down to earth than she lets on. The Imperial officers, of course, are largely interchangable, and that’s the point. But in the prequel trilogy, everyone is samey and unrelatable. Instead of being archetypes transposed into a space-fantasy setting (Han = cowboy, for example), they’re just all “fantasy characters.”

    4. And jumping off #3, John Hodgman once said that Phantom Menace would have been vastly more entertaining if our heroes had Sebulba come along on their adventure instead of Jar Jar, and damn if that would not have injected some much-needed conflict (and sort of fill in the Han Solo role without being too obvious about it).

    5. Everybody knows everybody. Luke is Vader’s son; I can accept. Leia is Luke’s brother; nah, that’s not very satisfying. Boba Fett’s father played an important role in the early conflict; that’s stupid, Lucas, you’re just reaching now. Anakin Skywalker built C-3PO; COME EFFING *ON*.

    6. “Padawan.” That’s just one more showy fantasy term you don’t need in the story. There is nothing wrong with “apprentice,” and Obi-Wan and Yoda apparently agree because they never use that term in the original trilogy.

    7. Anakin is too sympatheic. In the original trilogy, Vader’s somebody who needs to be redeemed; Obi-Wan says he was “*seduced* by the Dark Side of the Force.” In the prequel trilogy, Palpatine pulls a bunch of strings to manipulate Anakin to the point where he’s at the end of his rope. He wasn’t seduced, Obi-Wan, he was coerced! Luke’s love doesn’t redeem Vader, he just reminds him what a mean dude the Emperor is.

    8. Amidala is a democratically elected queen. Look, I do actually prefer living in a democracy over a monarchy, but I think we can all bloody suspend that for two hours and root for a queen in a space-fantasy environment, all right?

    9. Political intrigue in the prequels. You know what gets next to no screen time in the original movies? Politics. There are maybe a dozen lines in the entire trilogy addressing how the Empire actually *runs* stuff. That’s not the important, narrative stuff in a space-fantasy; that’s for the fans to ponder and write fan fiction about. Do not film the fan fiction.

    10. Four women in the whole of the original trilogy. There’s Leia, there’s Aunt Beru, and there’s Mon Mothma. The blue slave girl in Jabba’s palace, too. Of *course* Luke can figure out who his sister is; only two of them are important enough to be named on-screen, and he’s related to one of those already.

  11. 1. In the immortal words of Patton Oswalt (in reference to the prequel trilogy) “Jon Voights BALL-SACK!” Stop showing me where the cool shit I like came from (the droids, boba fett etc.)

    2. Death Star pt. 2 = lazy

    3. I always thought the Emperor was old and evil looking…BECAUSE he’s old and evil, not because Shaft pt.2 dropped a toaster is his tub.

    4. Han Solo in Jedi…redundant. Clearly he wasn’t meant to be in the film.

    to be continued…

  12. Yeah, the Emperor’s scrotal-skin visage should have been the product of his inner evil coming out over the years, not Sam Jackson reflecting Force Zappy-Zaps back at him in a Jedi Rubber/Glue Showdown.

    The clone warriors/Fett connection was powerfully stupid.

    Midichlorians. Jeebus Q. Keerist.

  13. Matthew: that’s it exactly, it’s the business of the green lightsaber!

    But sadly I need goin’ to bed now, so cannot elaborate until tomorrow…

  14. cont’d

    5. Making the Jedi a bunch of short sighted pricks in the prequel trilogy (wait, that’s actually a good thing)

    6. The excessive use of CGI in the prequel trilogy made the entire affair feel like plastic. The universe of the OST felt like it was actually LIVED IN. I’m not talking about ship design alone, I understand that the time of the Republic was more regal, stately and ornamental. But, c’mon. Let’s see some STRINGS!

    7. The creation of characters specifically for us in “cool” fight scenes (I’m looking at you Darth Maul)

    8. George Lucas: writer/director

    9. This is an external issue, but, the way Star Wars fans (myself included) kept coming back to the poisoned well every few years, even though deep in the cockles of our hearts, we knew that these movies should not exist. The prequel trilogy only served to rob us of the weight behind the OST. Because, in the end, nothing could match what these events looked like in our collective imaginations.

    10. Imagine if you will, that ‘Return Of the Jedi’ was the first Star Wars film. That’s basically what they did with Episode 1.

  15. No.9 could actually be said of many films. The first 15 minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade foreshadowed many of the tendencies that Lucas’ dialed to 11 in the prequel trilogy. (everything that makes Indiana who he is, occurred over the course of one morning?! EVERYTHING.)

  16. Pingback: Linkblogging for 05/09/09 « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!·

  17. The green lightsaber: I feel wonky bringing this up, but the scene which somebody mentioned above about him building the saber himself is in the novelization of Jedi as the first scene – a browsing trip to B&N or maybe even the internet and this knowledge could be yours. This implies that the scene was in whatever treatment or script draft the prose writer was given to work off of. I remember the point being to explicitly delineate that Luke had finished his training and was now a Jedi, and that’s what you do when you finish your training… you build your own. I’m sure the non-canon novels and the comics deal with the question of where the crystals come from, etc., etc., quite a bit.

  18. “a browsing trip to B&N or maybe even the internet and this knowledge could be yours”

    I know it always seems dire when a quote is made like that — like the person is about to be “wrong-on-internetted” — but no fear here, Todd! I just wanted to point out:

    That isn’t really knowledge I don’t already have, right?

    I mean I know, you know, Matthew knows (and I forget who else on this thread knows, but it seems to me there are quite a few of us), that getting that green lightsaber is an important symbolic stopover in the story of Continuing To Make Luke Skywalker Interesting. I mean, obviously that’s why I brought it up, right?

    However I think I have a slight problem with this statement:

    “This implies that the scene was in whatever treatment or script draft the prose writer was given to work off of”

    I actually don’t see it that way at all; and I don’t think the Star Wars movies deserve this apology of yours on their behalf. I think it far more likely that the novelizer of Jedi thought “oh fuck, well clearly THIS has to be in there…but O Lord would it be asking too much if they’d just given me a jumping-off point in the Empire movie for it?” Try to novelize Jedi by offhandedly remarking that “but all of a sudden Artoo shot Luke his new green lightsaber”, and you’d be crucified…but labour that kind of remark with Colbert-like expository details and you’d be crucified in pieces. This is the sort of thing that happens in any novelization: what you need, that the source doesn’t give you, that’s what you’re being paid to supply. Because (and in Star Wars this principle assumes an ungodly prominence) to novelize just what’s in there would make the filmmakers seem like fools: would amount to a critique.

    (Alan Dean Foster’s “Alien” is the only exception I can think of, to these principles…unless you count Campbell Black’s “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”, where the film gave absolutely everything, except two key plot points…and the rest was just see-what-you-can-do…

    …You know I often wonder who “Campbell Black” was…in a way, it was an impossible job…I mean just THINK ABOUT IT, readers of this blog who dabble in written adaptations…!)

    I hope I’m not seeming like I’m lambasting you, Todd. I’m actually very pleased you’ve brought all this up, I was sort of waiting for this. Because:

    “I’m sure the non-canon novels and the comics deal with the question of where the crystals come from, etc., etc., quite a bit”

    I am absolutely sure they do…because, of course, they must. But this is the very question that lay beneath my question about “what did Star Wars get right/wrong”…

    …Because I only saw the movies, and I don’t know from crystals. A friend of mine’s sister once said to her: OH THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR EXPLAINING TO ME WHY THE BAD GUYS HAVE RED LIGHTSABERS!!!

    Again, not lambasting: just pointing out that the greater mass of the Star Wars audience is not going to know about, JUST AS YOU SAY, the “non-canon novels”. Or the on-canon novels. Or the comics. Or indeed anything like that. I was a huge Star Wars FREAK in the late Seventies and early Eighties…but I had to look up the Sith on Wikipedia just a couple years ago, to find out about them. And I didn’t like Jedi enough to read the novelization.

    You know (and I hope I’m not repeating myself) everyone complains about the Ewoks in that movie…the people on this thread correctly note that they weren’t bad at all…I go back to my acceptance of a fucking clarinet, so if I accepted that, how could I not accept these space-teddy-bears…?

    I think the Ewok-hate is just a convenient emotional shorthand for feeling somehow betrayed by Jedi. Because it isn’t the Ewoks who ruin the movie…!

    Because it was already ruined when they got there…!

    I am going to try to MAKE SURE, Todd, that you don’t think I’m just having a go at you. I’m super-glad you said this. Because the point of these Star Wars posts of mine (one more to come!) is to draw attention to the perplexities of canon. Because Star Wars is in many ways like the sinkhole of canon — because its creator abandoned it, but more than that he locked the door behind him. George has said that the only canonical SW events are the ones in the movies…and yet that simply can’t be true. And therefore, there’s a lot of tension [ANDREW, take note!] set up in the narration of the semi-authorized, unauthorized, and non-authorized associated Star Wars stories…and the kicker of that is, we absolutely must know that the novelization of Jedi must count in at least some way…!

    …And yet it’s still ancillary, and must remain so.

    And yet if you don’t know the stuff that doesn’t count, the prequels make no sense at all!

    I tellya, Star Wars makes it bloody difficult. Star Wars is a shell game for the fans. Star Wars is the grave of consistency: it forces the “personal canon” on everybody, and then says everybody’s personal canon is wrong

    (My apologies, I find I must hurry up on this conclusion…I had hoped to take a bit more time about it, but…)

    Let’s compare it to Doctor Who…where until the advent of Russell T. Davies, all the fans of the show lived in a non-fractious state of “personal canon” multiplicity. No Who theory could be totally right…no theory could be totally wrong…but all Whovians were equal, and more than equal: they could communicate. Because the one ineliminable fact of that show was always this: try to sum up and quantify and rationalize the Doctor? Well, good luck son…the Time-Lords themselves couldn’t manage that trick.

    Or, to put it on a slightly higher shelf:

    The show started out in a way not just “random” (as the kids say), but also literate: it was a literate randomness. Little tossed-off remarks of high symbolic purity, just as though the screenwriters had read Proust, or Virgil…”the web of time”. “Many races will become friends, because of the Daleks”…in the story of the Doctor, agency is paramount: there is nothing that cannot be changed for the better, but it comes at a cost. These days we rely on paradoxes to absolve us of genuine moral decision: but the Doctor is past all that. For him, everything counts…

    Or, a higher higher shelf…and I promise I will get back to Star Wars in a moment…

    The writers of Doctor Who, in the very early days…probably didn’t care. Later on, there were writers that did care…and later than that, writers who probably cared a little too much (I’m looking at you, Douglas Adams)…and we won’t even get into RTD, although let’s be frank, Ecclestone was brilliant…

    But this shit was all prismatic from the get-go. Halfway through Trouton’s run, there was an infinite explosion of universes of “personal canon” — “The Doctor: Behind The Music”. I sometimes think marvellous Jon Pertwee’s run was intended to clamp down on that: to show the fans that, hey you’re not the boss, we’re the boss…

    (I sometimes think Sylvester McCoy’s run was meant to show the same thing…)

    But it didn’t work. The fans could not be contained. And then the Doctor of Baker, T. blew the whole thing wide open. Surely there was NO THING that the Fourth Doctor could not do…!

    …But back to Star Wars. Apologies for the sidetrack: I only meant to say the Doctor began as a character that his writers honestly couldn’t’ve given a fuck about what he said…it was a kid’s show, in that grand UK tradition of presenting scenes for children that were twee/fucking scary, logical/fucking OUT THERE, winking/GODDAMN SERIOUS, absolutely uncaringly episodic/IN STRICT CONTINUITY. And unlike in the Star Wars universe, all the novelizations count…everything counts, because it doesn’t count, or can’t be counted on to count. Because the Doctor will always be above it.

    LUKE SKYWALKER, on the other hand…!

    Will always be below it.

    And maybe I should end this comment right here…I have more to say, but I’m pushing it too much I think…and this will already no doubt end up gibbled, but I wanted to say: oh Christ, Todd, forgive me, this was not a measured answer, I’m trying to do ten things at once here. I mean to say:

    It’s an impossible situation, to be a Star Wars fan these days. You have to extend SO MUCH CREDIT, to people who insist they’re not borrowing from you, that you’re borrowing from THEM…

    It’s the opposite of Doctor Who fandom.

  19. ROFLMAO!!!!! Oh, Pillock, I LOVE these articles. I LOVE you. :-)

    I agree with your criticisms, but the one thing that always bothered me the most is this: In the Star Wars universe (and, yes, in the Star Trek universe as well), there is SOUND in space. There SHOULDN’T be sound in space.

    Unless I’m mistaken, I think 2001: A Space Odyssey is the only space-based science fiction movie that gets that RIGHT. But I’m biased toward that movie, anyway.

    • Firefly was brave enough to do silent space too, but then chickened out and put frantic banjo-plucking over all the space-shots so you can’t even tell.

      Serenity has noisy space.

  20. Ouch.

    Well, I’m happy to have provided you with a pretext for your pretty awe inspiring comment. I agree with you totally (or at least sub-totally). I was really into Star Wars in the late 70’s (ages 8-10 if memory serves), and I read the comics, read the novelizations, read the Lando and Han books, read Splinter, and would have taken in anything else they shoved at me, until I just sort of wandered off. A neighbor’s kid is into Star Wars the same way now, and I just feel kind of bad for him. It’s fun to have one or two little offshoots to play with and discuss, but now it’s a full time job.

    To clarify, though: my original comment was just issued because no one had brought up the fact that that one scene “existed” (I realize these quotes are the crux of your point) somewhere, not realizing that a) you and every other commenter knows vastly more about this stuff than I do, especially with regard to novelizations, and b) I shouldn’t write posts so quickly that I actually say something like “a browsing trip to B&N or maybe even the internet and this knowledge could be yours.” (I sort of meant this as a version of “I’m too lazy to look this up,” but it must have gotten away from me)

    One thing maybe I could bring to the table that could apply here is that there is a “making of a scene” video on the Revenge of the Sith DVD (I think this is the only one of the special features I’ve watched) is interesting in that the various crew members talk about Lucas’ particular type of auteurism, where they do loads and loads of creative work that they throw out on his whim so that he can rest assured that he is the author of the work (they don’t put it like that, exactly). It’s sort of like watching an alternate history where Jack Kirby says “I know I drew everything, and I had to redraw whole issues, but Stan is the author of the work.” My point is that Lucas seems to have a definitive idea that Star Wars is “his” (he’s hired people that help tell him so) which is interesting given that your ideas of “personal canon” and the necessity of some of the other material being “real” seem to be correct, making him full of crap.

    • “a browsing trip to B&N or maybe even the internet and this knowledge could be yours.”

      Oh, no, I thought that sounded just fine…it was only a very convenient jumping-off point, just as you say. Certainly took no offense, and actually felt bad for pouncing on it the way I did…but it was just such a perfect opening that I couldn’t resist.

      Horrifying to think of Lucas’ auteurishness just leading to good things being tossed!. Yikes.

  21. The thing that bugs me the most, the most out of everything in the whole shebang, is that the distance between episode 3, where everyone knows there are jedi and the emperor killed them all, all the tech is shiny and new and the republic just now died, and episode 4, is that there’s maybe 16 years between them.
    In 16 years, all the tech goes to hell. Does the empire not have RnD? in 16 years, people forget about Jedi as a major political force and an army of (nearly) bad-asses, and think of it as a hokey old religion? Really? Even inside the empire, where a bunch of those guys who are currently generals are much older than 16 and were probably around and working for palpatine when he gave the order to kill them, kill them all?

    There just doesn’t feel like enough time. Time is abundant in eps 4-6, everything is old. The empire feels like it has been there forever (not least because the emperor himself is clearly a thousand years old). But then the first three come along and everything happens in a month and a half, then…


  22. This:

    “democratically elected queen”

    touches on one of the more objectionable parts of Star Wars. It’s politically reactionary. One the one hand, you have a emperor (drawn from the senatorial classes), aided by another, Vader (ditto). They’re opposed by Skywalker (ditto), Leia (ditto), Kenobi (ditto) and Yoda (not quite sure, but probably ditto). Leia’s a princess, for god’s sake. Monarchy is just tyranny plus flummery, which of course is around by the bucket. What we have in Star Wars in an internecine quarrel between the governors about which form of despotism is going to prevail. Very, very Roman, of course, but Rome was nothing like a democracy.

    You have Carrie Fisher. She’s young, beautiful, clever, funny and utterly charismatic. That’s not enough for our George. She’s also a princess. Get that, plebs? Only posh girls get to be as wonderful as her. And then George wraps this mystical “force” rubbish around them all, as if new age gobbledegook can disguise the tyranny of it all.

    While we’re at it, just how stupid were the Empire’s engineers? Not only were they unaware that any civilisation with FTL drive is capable of creating a planet-destroying weapon, without needing the expense of building a planet-sized weapon. Wouldn’t 100 mini-death stars be just a wee bit more useful?

    And if you’re going to build a death star, wouldn’t you take a few more precautions. What did the rebels do? They stole the Empire’s plans for the death star, ran some simulations, and discovered you could take out the whole shebang by lobbing a missile down an outlet pipe. Couldn’t the Empire have, you know, run the same simulations? Discovered that their multi-quazillion credit battleship was a bit flawed and made some minor alterations.

  23. You too, eh Clone?

    Never fear: sounded exactly like you. And you’ve really got to check out the Star Wars Conspiracy guy, who points out (among other things like Obi-Wan Kenobi being a murderer and a liar, and Luke Skywalker being psychotic) that the rebels aren’t “rebels” at all…they’re counter-insurgents. Call a spade a spade.

    Nobody ever does!

  24. Have you got some links for this Star Wars Conspiracy site? I found a couple of pages through Google but none mention the stuff you do.

  25. I found this article by David Brin which has links to his Salon articles on Eps 1 and 2:

    I have to admit I love poking holes in crappy Sci Fi movies/shows. It’s half the fun. : )

    I’ve enjoyed this thread but don’t have anything to add, except wishing Leigh Brackett had lived a little longer.

  26. Hold on I did remember one:

    * Anakin’s age and Amidala’s age

    How is it that he’s a kid when they first meet but then in E2 they’re about the same age. I can’t believe that she could fall for him having met him previously as a precocious brat. Is it the effect of special relativity on space travel? Are the other characters affected similarly? I thought FTL of the Star Wars handwavium variety would cancel out that temporal effect.

    • I think maybe she’s supposed to be younger than Natalie Portman – like 15 – in the first one, so she’s older but only by 7 years or something? But yes, emotionally it makes zero fucking sense, and is super-duper creepy in light of recent revelations (point 3) about Indiana Jones. He finally worked it in!

      • Yeah looking at what you linked to it seems that expediency was the reason why they did it like that:

        In fact, Kasdan said he wanted Indy and this girl to already have a history when they meet because, “I like it if they already had a relationship at one point. Because then you don’t have to build it.”

        Because having to write any scenes with real erotic tension etc would be too difficult and perhaps confusing for writers and their expectations of the audience respectively.

      • (replying to my own post because it won’t let me reply to Chris T’s)
        The problem being that we actually get to see Anakin and Padme’s “history”, and it leads about as logically to romance as… I dunno, I can’t come up with an analogy because it’s just so hideous.

  27. Oh, man, I went looking for that link on Adam Star’s “Esoteric Star Wars” (still over on the sidebar and still worth a read, though the pictures have unfortunately disappeared from that site), and I think it was “The Skywalker Paradigm”, but I got a 404 so I can’t be sure.

    But it’s out there somewhere, I’m sure…

    Sorry I couldn’t be of more help! It’s a funny one. Unless I got the name wrong.

    Hmm…more research required…

    • It looks like the Skywalker Paradigm is the one; only it’s down right now. I checked the Wayback Machine but that wasn’t much help apart from the synopsis page, which is all too brief I’m afraid.

      Esoteric Star Warts was a good read though. I like the whole thing about R2D2 being a kind of master manipulator of the action, an anti-HAL.

    • But really a sober analysis of the events leads to the inevitable, obvious conclusion that it was blow-back from the destruction of Alderaan.

  28. I know this thread is kind of finished, but what the heck.

    How come Kenobi and Yoda and Skywalker are palling up to Vader at the end of the third film? OK, Vader’s a) dead and b) responsible for killing the emperor, but does the force let every wrongdoer off if they say they’re sorry. The guy was a planet-destroyer. Dark Phoenix in unsexy clothing. At the very least the Jedi could have waited a few months before welcoming the slaughterer of Alderaan into their bosom. Just so outsiders don’t get the idea that Force is seriously relaxed about butchering people for no reason.

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