( Instead of that... )
( Instead of that... )
I was perhaps following more Star Wars discussions in the late 1990s since I've done since, and I'm ready to suppose a "golden age" wasn't "lost" in sudden and shocking fashion in 1999 (or even 1997) because I'm aware of the complaints about Return of the Jedi from back then. It's at least possible I fell away from possible "groupthink" just out of the inarticulate conviction the then-third Star Wars movie was the conclusion and getting upset about it wouldn't make a difference except to yourself, but in since coming to think I could really shock some by declaring the three new movies a more interesting and compelling unit I always feel that also has to face the possibility all the "blame" then falls on Return of the Jedi itself. That, of course, might not even really touch on the unpleasant feeling that the latest of three "official" continuations from that point (and the one that has the apparent advantage of existing in the same medium as the previous movies) involves the celebrated heroes of the apparently beloved movies having failed off-screen in just about every way for the sake of getting new product with a drab ethos and a barrage of snappy dialogue rolling. Still, that hasn't quite stopped me from thinking "roll on Rogue One" so far.
I can still wrap my head around to supposing Anakin seeming to fire the shot that blows up the droid control ship "by accident" added to the indignation of some. While there just might be a chance now to point elsewhere at "the Force guiding someone," I happened to think that while "the big explosion" catches attention, the crucial moment that had been mentioned before in the movie was Amidala and company managing to capture the Trade Federation viceroy, an echo perhaps of Palpatine managing at least a partial success in becoming Supreme Chancellor. Anakin would then have definitely helped more pilots survive the battle than otherwise and eliminated the possibility the droid army would eventually execute its captives, but once again the rush to indignation might have overcome some. That thought might not help anyone but me, but it did at least add a bit to getting to the halfway point; I'm looking further ahead yet at the possibility of managing to watch the Clone Wars episodes that featured the younger inspiration for a Rogue One character, anyway.
Being invited to mark the shared anniversary of two of the Star Wars movies by coming up with "ten things I like about the prequels" was invigorating, but also challenging. By this point my appreciation of them is pretty far-ranging; the trick was narrowing it down to a few things I could share some hopefully well-chosen words about. With thought, though, I formed a list, and then a list I could and had to pick and choose from. As I did so, I did have to face insisting it isn't a "top ten" list; to say something about the major characters might mean saying a lot, much of which may have been picked up from others. Instead, I hope this is more a personal but wide-ranging summary.( An illustrated summary, too )
For a brief moment just before Christmas, I managed to get over not just all the emphasis on just how much stuff had been put in front of the film cameras for The Force Awakens and the seeming code behind it but also the critical ecstasies that seemed more a matter of recycling old complaints, and articulated the careful reaction that I liked the movie more than I'd been concerned I would. Just a few hours after that, though, with an impression the latest movie hadn't been as "revisionist" as the code had made me worry I seemed to be thinking more about the other side of the saga, the crawling sense deepening the beloved heroes such a big deal had been made of their returning had just been presented as having blown the whole thing, except that we'd never quite know how because of convictions things had been cooler when Darth Vader's origins had been up to the imagination. A few months later, the trailer for Rogue One seemed very much more of the same, save that the mechanical and costume designs wouldn't have slight tweaks to them this time. As for being open-minded enough to go back to The Force Awakens looking for greater depth, hearing the special features on the Blu-Ray were making a big deal of just how much had been put in front of the film cameras in the context of ecstasies that seemed more a matter of recycling old complaints put me right back where I'd started, and in not having bought a disc yet I'm conscious of how I had bought a Blu-Ray player and a HDTV at last, and yet without really waiting for a declared sale, just so I could get to the saga Blu-Rays before it was somehow "too late."
With all of that, though, the latest announcement of "Prequel Appreciation Day" challenged me to come up with "10 favourite things." A bit of thought started bringing ideas to mind (although I can't say they're my top ten, just ten varied things). The only trick will be articulating them in the days remaining.
The "Dunning-Kruger effect" seems summed up as "the unskilled can't recognise their own lack of ability and consider themselves more talented than they are." My own uncertainty, though, is whether saying someone else is demonstrating that effect is somehow to demonstrate it yourself. It might only depend here on both of the times I'm thinking about having to do with opinions on fiction (as much as I have my own opinions). Whether "false modesty" or "holding yourself above someone else" ties into things is another question.
( Partial concealment, anyway )
Right as that was happening, though, I happened to finish reading the last issue of Creative Computing magazine from 1977 (I'd managed to buy a copy in an online auction before a scanned version of that magazine got added to the Internet Archive), and it just so happened the book review column started with the reviewer bringing up Star Wars. He did lead off "with faint praise," saying "The visual effects are stunning and superbly done, the plot won't confuse you," and invoked 1977's own form of "fan cred" by mentioning "I kept expecting the minions of Boskone and a Gray Lensman or two to pop up at any moment," but then started talking about how the movie "falls kinda flat when you think about it afterward." This seemed to have everything to do with the "world-building," including asking "How can the Millenium [sic] Falcon take off from a planetary surface?" Writing for a computer magazine, he devoted particular space to asking why, with C-3P0's technology available (R2-D2 didn't seem to have the same impact on him), all the spaceships depended on manual controls, and wound up hoping "they listen to some competent technical advice for the sequels."
This extended criticism on objections nobody else ever seems to have thought of may not be quite the same as the work Mike Klimo has done in searching out old movie reviews from more obvious sources, but it does get me thinking that perhaps some people weren't as ready to intuitively accept whatever "Star Wars is (but the 'prequels' weren't)" as some other people have convinced themselves these days. I am as conscious as ever of having been conscious in concentrating on particular things and themes to say "I find enjoyment in the saga." I can also wonder what those ideas George Lucas had were, and if they would have taken an effort all over again to take in and fit into a story previously considered complete, just as a different sort of effort to whoop it up at the new product may not be entirely unconscious for some. It is one more thing to think about, anyway.
For several years, I'd held back from watching that movie for fear something inside me would come loose and I'd agree with the boundless condemnation. After being lucky and brave enough to find a nucleus of other fans willing to be positive towards all the Star Wars movies, I started watching it again, and now as I watch it my willingness to suppose some people can disagree with it pretty much evaporates and I just wonder how hard they have to work at their negativity. However, I suppose I was contemplating one thought that had happened to me just a little while ago.
In contemplating how one mainspring of the movies is Palpatine exploiting the desires of others to get what he wants, all of a sudden I was thinking a bit of how Qui-Gon uses Watto's cupidity to get not just the hyperdrive parts his money's not good enough for but also Anakin's freedom. I've become interested in considerations of Qui-Gon "a Jedi who should have lived" even as I resist proclamations that Obi-Wan is "the ideal Jedi"; seeing a similarity between him and the "central bad guy" was, perhaps, a bit unsettling. At the same time, I suspect too much a deal can be made of "moral equivalence." Something that might even be called "subtlety" in suggesting that even "the best" isn't "perfect" doesn't seem that bad, though.
Not every appreciative interpretation of Obi-Wan has to be seen as suspecting everything else in the new movies, of course, so I do keep wondering if I'm "trying to fold in too much complexity." If it ties in with "questioning the authority" he's often seen as in the old movies, there I can both suppose he could be "questioned" from just that one trilogy and wind up asking in a bigger way at what point you stop "questioning authority," or at least acknowledge the answer to your question can be to be convinced by them after all. Perhaps it's more a matter of wanting to indulge in a "tragedy" with no genuine heroes left by the end, something I don't do that often with tragedies at all. There, I suppose, it's a matter of the "happy ending" already existing. It is something I think about, anyway.
Then, though, it really hit me that Kane had said he'd liked the new three better. (The column mentioned him "shrugging"; I can somehow imagine the columnist venting at him beforehand to provoke such a response.) "They don't speak for everyone" is a familiar comment in the environs of the "Prequel Appreciation Society," but it is sort of nice to have a tiny additional bit of evidence that way. Before handing the newspaper over, I also happened to notice that Kane had watched the movies while sidelined with a broken collarbone; I had been wondering if he'd managed to cram the viewings in between playoff games.
( Things were different for me with that movie. )
I'd managed to hear the second teaser had been released while sitting in the airport waiting to fly to England, which is at least a memorable setting. Beyond engaging a Youtube embedded video in a less than perfect presentation for an iPad screen, though, I guess the heavy use of "new Imperials" and continued coyness about just what the sort of story the pointed emphasis on presumably nostalgic visuals might be used in the service added up to something other than the overwrought reactions I heard of second or third-hand. Even when I'd got back from vacation and had access to a bigger screen, the urge to watch the video again still seemed elusive.
On finally watching the teaser for a second time, though, I did seem more charitable towards the whole thing. I've been reminded that having given the new Star Wars movies a chance shouldn't mean preparing to reject some even newer ones out of hand. If the second trailer for JJ Abram's Star Trek was where things started feeling sort of "off" for me, this didn't seem quite so extreme. Against that, however, does remain the thought that with a continuation in comic books and a continuation in novels and comics having both been relegated to "retired" status, it may not be that hard to let a continuation in film remain "another possibility" as I wonder if I'll ever know just was in those ideas that George Lucas had when Lucasfilm was sold but which weren't used in the end.
This thought springs from the old "drawn animation" Clone Wars series shown just before the movie premiered. It had a big "Jedi powers" battle down on Coruscant, but threw in the realization by Yoda and Mace Windu that with no attempt being made to attack the Senate or the Jedi Temple there had to be another target. I suppose this ought to have been reasonable, and yet the commentaries included with the DVD made the point that the planet "should" have been more messed up in the movie itself. Perhaps I'm reacting to an impression of "we'll just fix this problem that never occurred to them."
In any case, I'm done for this year, but I'm wondering about the next. Regardless of when or how I manage to see the first promised trailer for The Force Awakens, by the fall of next year I'm sure we'll be pretty far into the runup for the first of "the new new Star Wars movies," and at the moment I'm still holding myself capable of accepting it as "a continuation" or not. I can also still engage in the luxury of saying "time will tell."
A bit of this might well come from the carefully quantified and qualified rules of the role-playing game that got adopted into the early novels as "hibernation trances" and the like, but I suppose more of it comes from my own peculiar habit of not being really interested in "pairing off" fictional characters not undeniably defined as such in their stories. Where some people seem to not want characters to go through life without a defined helpmate, I seem to be content with giving them a bit of privacy. When the romance is undeniable, though, I do seem ready to get gushy over that, and I suppose that leads into the obvious objection of "so what about Anakin?" I try to answer that by thinking that while "biological urges can be switched off," emotional attraction is harder to deal with.
I did find myself, however, trying to find ways to not have one "personal theory" seem the "most obvious one." Knowing how things turn out, the thought begins to scratch at me that the movies can be interpreted as "Palpatine has everything planned out from the start," and things only stop going the way he's foreseen in the final reel of Return of the Jedi itself... the problem then becomes "why then?" That one person alone in all the galaxy possesses a diabolical free will (or, perhaps, just sees himself as the "puppet who can see the strings," to quote "Watchmen") somehow seems to interfere with comments from George Lucas that he thought of the saga as a modern attempt to suggest ancient truths about right living. I suppose, too, that I eventually became a little dissatisfied with Grand Admiral Thrawn in the novels knowing, though the study of art, the precise psychological button for each alien species that gets every member of them to freeze up.
The best way out does seem to be to wonder how he might have triumphed much sooner over the course of The Phantom Menace had a team of heroes not (half-unwittingly) interfered. Remembering a comment in the DVD commentary track about the battle droids being "found ineffective" against the Jedi, I do wonder if Qui-Gon's premonitions about Queen Amidala being assassinated had been part of a scheme to provoke a conflict that would swarm the limited numbers of Jedi (it did work in Attack of the Clones), and then create the vacuum in the galaxy to be filled with a new imperial government that eventually opened through a redrafted plan two movies later. If that's a little too hopeful, I suppose I've also contemplated that "Nemoidians find the 'standard human accent' somehow offensive; they hide that because it'll hurt trade." That, of course, may be a little too obvious.
I remember some people arguing pretty much past each other in the days of the Star Wars Usenet newsgroup about whether the rescue of Han Solo was all according to an elaborate plan. I also recall a line in the novelization, which ties into some discussion in the recent "The Making of Return of the Jedi" book, that Han had to be brought outside Jabba's palace to increase the chances of escape. The hindsight we look back at the events in the movie with could be converted into foresight on the parts of the main characters, with just Threepio unfortunately left out because everyone else knew he couldn't keep a secret. For some reason, though, I do want to believe that "Luke didn't know Jabba could drop people he was angry with into the Rancor pit beneath his throne room before he cast them into the Sarlacc in the desert." Certainly, characters who think ahead are a change that may well be welcome in the face of "they who grit their teeth harder win," and yet when one side has all the plans and everything plays into it that sometimes doesn't seem that exciting than at least a bit of fast thinking being necessary. That, perhaps, may tie in to how I want to interpret the new movies as well.
So far as "plans" go, I'm also inclined to think that "after Luke's discussion with his father on the forest moon of Endor didn't turn Darth Vader away from the Dark Side, he despaired and supposed all he could do now was distract the Emperor until all three of them were caught in the attack on the second Death Star." This, again, may just be a stronger statement of something actually said in the dialogue, but I'm also inclined to think that "Darth Vader, after Luke rejected him in the previous movie, was at an equal loss for ideas of how to turn his son to the Dark Side, and saved the Emperor in the moment of crisis because of concerns on some hidden level Luke might even be able to walk away after that." The Emperor may well have suspected this, but I do wonder if he even would have got a dark kick out of the instant of his death in that moment, sure that "Vader taking a gamble" wouldn't have paid off anyway, and everything could go to pieces so far as he cared because he wouldn't be around for it. Perhaps by that point thoughts about "the Sith are supposed to be entirely selfish" are indeed a "personal theory."