The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Monday, May 23, 2005

Now that it's over

I've now seen Episode III twice - opening day on Microsoft's dime and last night on mine own.

I'm one of the people whose formative memories are of Star Wars, but I'll spare you much of that. I did note over on Ace's site: Some critics say that there aren't any good SW movies, and others that the episode we call "A New Hope" should have stayed at "Star Wars" and never built upon. I wasn't here for the 1977 Star Wars and I missed the Christmas special. My first viewing was its 1979 redaction, already renamed "A New Hope", and I saw The Empire Strikes Back not long after. So my Star Wars experience is of the series and not of that first movie alone. Therefore I hold the "Star Wars sola" criticisms of Episode III as meritless.

If we accept The Empire Strikes Back's conceit that there is a human behind Vader's mask, then we've accepted that "the original Star Wars" is an episode in a series and not its first episode. Also, Episode ANH-minus-one in this series has to detail Anakin's fall.

On these terms, I further assert Episode III as a rousing success. Which it was. I could watch this more than once; more importantly, I could do this without the shame I felt rewatching, say, Episodes VI and I.

I'm not too worried about the logical and chronological lapses. Owen and Baru do seem to age more than 18 years between III and IV, but don't forget that they're Caucasian humans on a desert planet with two frickin' suns (many of us, myself included, can barely survive even one of those) - even Luke at 18 looks like Mark Hammill at 26, while Leia looks like Carrie Fisher at 19. As for why the Death Star took 18 years to complete the first time and 3-4 years to get operational the second, sure to feature in an upcoming Kevin Smith diatribe; I have to point out that the first time, the Empire still had to get around Bail Organa's filibusters in the Senate and to invent its technologies from scratch; whereas the second time, the Empire had more nominal control, more experience, and more urgency (remember Vader's comment on new ways to motivate them?). They also made sure to get the power supply and primary weapon online before the shell was completed.

It is groovy to watch the stage set for Episode IV, but that's just a shout-out to the fans and distracting to the rest of us. The story itself is a great one. Anakin starts out a headstrong but loyal follower of the Jedi order, and then watches the Jedi Council compromise its high ground in its intrigue with Palpatine. The Jedi are selfless at heart but their leaders increasingly fail to show this by their actions. And selflessness isn't what Anakin wants; he wants the Force for himself, so he can force his ideals upon others.

Lucas's plot makes three major points germane to world events:

First, the Jedi demand selfless obedience from their members. And they do turn out to be right, if unsympathetic in the process; if Anakin had sent Padme back to Naboo with a farewell kiss, none of this would have happened. (That is, Padme still would have given up the ghost, but Anakin wouldn't have cared enough to become Vader.) There are blogs out there who liken this to the Catholic Church's stance for celibacy in its priests, or at least for secrecy and rigid compartmentalisation.

Second, Lucas doesn't trust research into somatic-cell nuclear transfer. And you know what - he's right. We're trusting corporations to make our clones "Three Laws Safe". This line of research has military applications, and a world or galaxy at war won't even make its robots "Three Laws Safe".

Third, this is how parliamentary republics give way to tyranny (clones and droids aside) - to thunderous applause. That, and said tyrants lie and murder on their way up there. Tyranny is bad and republics need to watch out for tyrants.

Note that these three are not assumptions which the movie characters have made, given their conversations. Characters give expository speeches that follow Michael Moore's talking points, but they're not following the ball any more than is Moore. Padme claims that the war is going on because of a failure of diplomacy - but the relentless inertia of the plot tells us instead that the Separatists have made such bargains with evil that they would be immune to diplomacy even if someone tried it. Obi-Wan offers relativism against Vader's misguided dualism; but later Vader turns that against Obi-Wan by stating that from his own perspective the Jedi are evil. It's not the existential evils of war that brought Palpatine to power. It's Palpatine's own moral evil - and everyone's wilful blindness - that do that.

To sum up, I now consider the "Star Wars Trilogy" to run from III-IV-V. The series has an epilogue tacked onto the end to get Han out of stasis, and a few other episodes here and there (Stover's Shatterpoint book, the Jedi Apprentice childrens' novellae, the start of Episode II, The Paradise Snare Han Solo novel, etc).

posted by Zimri on 23:50 | link | 0 comments

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