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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Thank God for Star Wars III

Preface: Am I going to mention any spoilers in this post? If you have lived under a rock and haven't heard what happens to Anakin, Obi-wan, Yoda, R2-D2 and C-3PO, this posting isn't for you. If you don't want to read someone's opinions of having seen Revenge of the Sith, this posting isn't for you, either.

I can't say that The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie sequel I can remember. I still remember commercials for The Bad News Bears go to Japan ("Are we gonna sit on our butts all day or are we gonna play ball?") and I never actually saw it until years later when we got 36-channels of cable bliss. However, The Empire Strikes Back, was a movie I was well aware of. I had seen Star Wars in the theaters (I hadn't seen either of the two Bad News Bears movies) and was really excited about the idea of a sequel movie.

Clearly, this was 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm making long-term marketing impressions in me. When the girl who sat in front of me in my 8th grade English class saw the movie, I asked her to describe everything to me. "He wants me to describe every second of the movie!" she said to someone next to her. This was technically incorrect since I really only wanted something a little more detailed than broad strokes, but that's not important.

So even though Star Wars Episodes I and II were mediocre, I was still going to see Revenge of the Sith. And I'm pleased for having seen it once and for all, because, unlike The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, this movie has left me both compete and empty, like the half-hour after coming down from attending a good, but not great, party. I'm pleased it's over; I'm pleased that the Star Wars Engine hasn't entangled me further, and best of all, I've no interest in seeing Revenge of the Sith a second time.

Here's the thing: there were a couple of things that everyone knew would occur between the beginning of ROTS and the beginning of ANH. They include, but are not limited to:
  • Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader
  • The Chancellor becomes the Emperor
  • The Republic becomes the Empire
  • A rebellion is formed, of which Leia Organa is a member
  • C-3PO and R2-D2 have no memory of their relationship with Anakin and Obi-Wan
  • Anakin fathers two children. Luke is hidden on Tattoine and Leia is adopted by Organan royalty
  • Almost all the Jedi are killed.
  • Obi-Wan hides on Tattoine
  • Yoda hides on Dagobah
  • A "Death Star" is almost completely built.
Now, George Lucas had a problem: there were so many plot-lines which needed addressing he could choose to resolve all of them, just the critical ones, or some in-between. Clearly he had to resolve primary plot issues with elegance, and that he did. But, he chose to resolve all secondary plot lines, and he did a poor, clumsy job of it.

For instance: C-3PO and R2-D2 were resolved in about 8 seconds of incongruity. It was jarring. Had he been able to better integrate them into the key dramatic elements, this would have been worth watching. Instead it felt like the scene was filmed as an obligation. Thanks, but no thanks. I would have preferred he not resolve their characters at all, and leave it to someone's future work, such as a novel or TV show. (As a side note, I realize now that an opportunity was lost by including them in the prequels altogether: creating characters whose future was unknown.)

Speaking of TV shows, Lucas hasn't given up on marketing to us: there are two TV series in the works. Like I said, these shows could could have been the opportunity to create elegant character conclusions. Instead, Lucas resolved everything, leaving nothing to the imagination. And for that, I'm grateful, because now I have the answers to everything. Free at last! Free at last!

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