Sunday, August 17, 2003

Andrew Cory has some interesting thoughts about Star Wars, specifically focusing on the differences between the original trilogy and the prequels. He's more charitable than many in discussing The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, although he's clearly disappointed in them -- he thinks that George Lucas is floundering and is unsure of how to proceed with his story. I don't really agree with that, even if there are admittedly spots where the dialogue clunks (although not so many as others believe) or where the actors might have benefitted from a more hands-on director (although, again, not as many as most think).

Andrew makes the point, about TPM, that the film's story is too "local" -- meaning, it's not as epic in tone as what we had expected. This is pretty much exactly the point I made a few months ago when I said that TPM is the Star Wars equivalent of The Hobbit, when fans were actually expecting The Silmarillion. I can somewhat understand the disconnect between what fans were expecting and what they got, but it never bothered me. In fact, I rather liked the idea that the big events we all know and love could have their beginning in a story that seems to be totally disconnected from it. It's often that way in the real world as well; after all, who could have predicted that the scion of a Saudi Arabian family whose wealth was in construction would later become our greatest enemy and force a fundamental rethinking of a century of American foreign policy? I won't delve more into that, since I've said my piece, but I have been considering something about George Lucas: he likes to leave fairly large whacks of his story off-screen, to be implied or established in passing.

Attack of the Clones ends with the first battle of the Clone Wars, and according to current rumor, Episode III begins with the final battle of those same Wars. That means that the Clone Wars take place, mostly, off-screen. This has caused some consternation amongst fans -- it's a point raised in those abominable AICN Jedi Councils, for instance -- but when you really think about it, Lucas has always done this. Some examples:

:: In A New Hope, we get the feeling that the destruction of the Death Star is the Rebellion's first big coup, but it's not: the film's opening crawl tells us that Rebel spaceships have already won their first major victory against the Empire. The war is already raging; Lucas has performed a classic in medias res opening. We don't even get to learn what spies managed to steal the Death Star plans, or any of that.

:: In The Empire Strikes Back, the Imperial fleet pretty much hammer-punches the Rebellion, right? Well, not quite. Again, the opening crawl tells otherwise: "Imperial troops have driven the Rebel troops from their hidden base...." (emphasis mine) So, as we get ready to watch The Empire Strikes Back, we're informed that the Empire already has struck back. The Battle of Hoth is not the first confrontation between the Rebels and the Empire since the Death Star; rather, it's the culmination of the Empire's current campaign.

:: Also in The Empire Strikes Back: when the Rebels flee Hoth, they make for a rendezvous point, which is presumably where the fleet is awaiting that we see at the film's end. Why wasn't that fleet at Hoth already? Clearly it wasn't -- the probe droid surely would have noticed some big ships like that orbitting the planet -- and the implication thereof is that Hoth is only one Rebel base, not the Rebel base. This seems to imply a guerilla-like structure to the Rebellion that is only done away with the the Mon Calamari join up between TESB and ROTJ.

I tend to believe that the Clone Wars were never to be that big a part of the story -- they are backdrop, certainly an important event in the Star Wars universe, but Lucas isn't telling the story of the Star Wars universe. He's telling the story of Anakin Skywalker, and he's leaving a lot of the background stuff way in the background. I'm fine with that.

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