Wednesday, June 15, 2005

How come it's always tremors in the Force? Why not a ripple, or a teensy bump?

The inflatable Mr. Jones has undertaken picking his favorite moments from each Star Wars movie, beginning with A New Hope and proceeding to The Empire Strikes Back. He's claiming to do this daily, although his Return of the Jedi picks haven't occurred yet. We're waiting! I don't really have much to add to what he's said at this point, although he does throw down the gauntlet for me to pick out best moments from each score. Well, my last two entries in the "Exploring the CD Collection" series of posts (see the sidebar for links!) delved into the same two films he has so far mentioned, with the remaining four to come. Note to self: get cracking.

By the way, John believes that watching the films in story order may work just fine, while Matt disagrees. I tend to lean toward Matt's view, as far as a person brand new to the saga goes. I think that A New Hope really provides the ideal introduction to the Star Wars universe, being that it starts fairly small scale and only gradually opens up to epic quality; plus, it's the one that most strongly kicks off George Lucas's Campbellian structure for at least the first trilogy. Plus, for someone new to the series, I do think that it is absolutely essential that the Big Secret -- Darth Vader being Luke's father -- come as a surprise. In that moment, the entire tenor of the saga changed, and I think that's a feeling that would be lost if the series is experienced chronologically.

Now, had Lucas elected to actually start with Episode One way back in 1977, it's a dead certainty that the resulting film would have been almost nothing like The Phantom Menace, and not just from the standpoint of the effects being so much better. For my money, the saga's emotional resonance is strongest watching it in its production order, because with all of the things Lucas did to make the Prequel Trilogy anticipate the Original Trilogy, the story becomes cyclical in nature -- like a yin-yang symbol in cinematic terms.

A chronological viewing wouldn't be disastrous, I don't think. But it would be a different experience entirely from what everyone else saw.

(My view here is also colored by my experience in reading long-standing book series, where generally publication order is best as opposed to story order, unless the author specifically notes that the books were not actually written in the order in which they were published. It's just natural, when turning back the clock to an earlier time in a certain story or fictional world, to put things in that recall the already-published works. Guy Gavriel Kay does this in his Sarantine Mosaic, which is full of little touches that you won't pick up on unless you've read his previously-published novel The Lions of Al-Rassan, which chronologically takes place centuries after Mosaic. That's just one example. But Lucas does the same thing, really, in the Prequel Trilogy.)

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