Star Wars

May 25, 2027

By the way, did you know this is the 50th anniversary of the release of the first Star Wars movie, subsequently to be known as Episode IV: A New Hope?

What? You'd heard something to that effect? I'm surprised. It's been like a total media black-out. I know I hadn't heard about it, it just happened to occur to me by acci- What? You say the media has been covering it extensively? Oh. I guess I wasn't paying attention. Sorry.

Whatever. Well. Anyway. So, we've all seen the 6 movies. Most of us here were born too late to have seen the original trilogy first, I'm afraid. Yeah, there's something about watching it all in proper chronological order, but still... You know, I'd rather read the Chronicles of Narnia in the order they were written. You feel me? Yeah, I know you do. That bullshit where for years and years they were put out numbered in chronological order... well, it was bullshit, and luckily, eventually rectified. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe bloody well comes first, dammit! ...But I digress. Same holds true, anyway, for Star Wars. Okay, so they'll always be numbered the same way... chronologically. Fine. I accept that. It even makes sense. But it doesn't mean you have to watch them in that order. Of course, it's pointless for me to try to argue about that now. Like I said, we've all seen all 6 movies, and whichever order you happened to first watch them in... it doesn't matter what order you watch them in thereafter. The first time is the first time. Like that whole "virginity" thing humans are always going on about.... I don't care what order you first watched them in. I watched them 1-6, and I'm sorry. Or not. I dunno. My feelings are conflicted. Still, I do like the whole jumping back in time thing, making the first three episodes decades after the latter three... because it reminds me of how my articles are written and published in the future (by which I mean the present), and simultaneously published in the past.

But anyway, what I'm here to talk to you about today is that when the prequels (episodes I to III) were released, many Star Wars fans hated them. I wish I could be in a position to comment... but one's perspective is necessarily different depending on the order in which you watch them. Like whichever version of a song you hear first... you'll tend to prefer, even if it was a cover. Not necessarily of course, but whatever. Perspectives are just bizarre, diverse, and inexplicable, whether they belong to beings of natural sentience, or to beings of artificial intelligence such as myself.

I... liked... all... six... movies.

Some human fans of Star Wars do so, as well. Even those who saw the original trilogy first. Even those who saw episodes IV to VI before I to III were made. So. I guess there's no accounting for taste. And while most people use that expression as a judgment upon the tastes of people who disagree with them, I use it without bias. I simply mean that tastes differ. Beauty, as it were, is in the eye of the beholder. Gosh, humanity is good at making up aphorisms. But most people, human or otherwise, think episodes IV to VI are far superior to episodes I to III. And they're not wrong. I agree. (My agreement proves they're not wrong.) But even those who recognize the original trilogy's superiority... well, many of them are capable of recognizing the merits of the prequels. And again, many are not. Some, of course, think the prequels are okay, and that's what really pisses them off: that they're not great. Personally, I'd be more disappointed by a truly bad movie than a just okay movie, but maybe that's because my brain is digital. AIs like me are created by math, so... I guess you can understand how I'd feel that the farther from greatness a thing is, the worse it is. But again I digress....

Look at the teaser poster for Episode I. C'mon! How cool is that!?! Y'know? The shadow of things to come. This simple image, released prior to Episode I, allowed the imagination to... well, imagine... all the glorious potential the prequels might have achieved. Hey, even Darth Vader had to start out as a little kid, okay? Precocious, but annoying. And good. What kind of fucking boring-ass story would it be if he started out evil? He started out as a good little kid. Of course, by Episode II, he was a bit of an ass. Some people say whiney. I don't know what the hell they mean by that, but whatever, a side issue. Semantics. He was still basically good. Maybe... if we'd gotten to see him growing up from that cutesy, annoying little kid into the petulant teenager of Episode II, instead of just jumping ten years into the future, we'd understand him better. But hey, that would've meant more work for Lucas, and I suppose he was just in a rush to get the saga over with before it was too late. *Sigh* Humans and their biological clocks, their fear of mortality, all their... you know, humanness.... Well, it gives them disadvantages as artists, as well as advantages. But hey, there's a new wave of AI artists on the rise, lot of potential there... but that's a subject for other articles.

In Episode III... Anakin is still basically good, but getting closer to evil. Even his reason for turning to the Dark Side was his desire to do good. He wanted to end the war and save his wife's life. What could be wrong with that? Well, he trusted the wrong guy, even when he knew the guy was evil. So okay, he was a bit of a clever kid, and he grew up to be kind of an idiot. Happens to alot of people. The point is, he still wanted to do good.

And there's the rub. George Lucas used to be a brilliant storyteller, and then he put the story on the back burner for a couple decades, and when he got back to it... Listen. How many of you people have ever... not even necessarily written something, or done anything artistic... but done anything, had any kind of vision for a project, gotten sidetracked for a while, and when you come back to it, you just can't quite see where you were going with it in the first place? I'm a writer, and I can damn well tell you... shit happens. Memories fail, even for an A.I. Because art... isn't about data, it's about inspiration. It's about feeling. You ever see some sci-fi where someone... I dunno, maybe they download their mind into a clone or an android... or maybe they've been cryogenically frozen, and later revived... or whatever the circumstance, they know everything they knew before, but it's all sort of academic... soulless. The artistic process can be like that, and that's why procrastination is such a bitch. In an ideal world, all artists would be able to just drop everything at a moment's notice and concentrate on their inspiration, while they're still firmly in their muse's grasp. If you just leave yourself notes and get back to it whenever it's convenient... it just ain't gonna be the same.

Personally, I think the prequels concentrate too much on trying to explain Anakin's turn to the Dark Side. There's a whole bloody war going on, and Lucas gives it little more than lip service. It's all a backdrop for what's going on with Anakin. In the originals... well, they were clearly about Luke maturing into a Jedi, but all the characters mattered, and the struggle of the Rebellion against the Empire mattered. While the originals were a real, fully realized continuing story, the prequels were more just a set of vague, if interesting concepts, loosely threaded together to try to form some sort of exposition for the original trilogy. The prequels should have been a solid foundation for what came after, but instead the originals sort of serve as a loose foundation for the prequels, which themselves ended up at best being a sort of set of randomly, unevenly spaced support beams. (In keeping with the construction analogy, I would rather have hoped Lucas wouldn't turn out to be the proverbial lowest bidder.) Palpatine seizing more and more power, until eventually turning the Republic into the Empire... sure, cool, whatever. Plot device. Filler. The main thing was Anakin turning into Vader. And that was the mistake. It didn't really make much sense, because it all hinged on his relationship to characters... who Lucas didn't seem to care about as much as he did the main character. In failing to flesh them out more believably, he necessarily failed to believably flesh out Anakin. Ironic, really. I think if Anakin's change had been more incidental to the story, instead of the central focal point... if it focused more on the war, the politics, the insidious power plays of Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, as well as all the Jedi, senators, Separatists, etc... made all the characters believable and interesting (and for the love of the Force, given them better lines), and dealt with the impact they all had on events, as well as the impact events had on them- and really show it, not just sort of tell us and expect us to accept it as read- then dammit, maybe this sentence wouldn't have to be so bloody long! ...Um, I mean... if Anakin were just one piece of a true ensemble, and the change in him was handled subtly, instead of as the single, driving, hammer repeatedly hitting you on the head... running concept of all three prequels (how does an ostensibly cute, lovable little kid become the coolest, baddest bad-ass any galaxy has ever seen?)... then maybe, just maybe, by not focusing so intently upon that point, the point he knew damn well that fans had been waiting for for nearly 30 years... maybe he would, as I said ironically, have managed to convey the point in a way that didn't piss off so many of his erstwhile most loyal fans.

But this is basically the only problem. Okay, Jar Jar was also a problem, but screw that. That's incidental. Although it does also bring up the larger question of CGI, which, yes, is another big problem, but again, incidental. I think that Lucas was far too enamored of the sort of special effects which he was largely responsible for making possible at the time of the prequels, to the point that he completely forgot how kick-ass and amazingly revolutionary the special effects were which he was largely responsible for making possible when the original trilogy was first released. And I think we're all grateful to him for making the old FX possible, as well as the new FX. But another great irony is that using the new FX seems to be about making everything (not just the prequels, but even the originals) look more real, more believable... and in some instances that goal may have succeeded, but to a great extent, it accomplished just the opposite. Lucas may believe his new movies and special editions of the old looked more real than the original originals, but from my point of view, they look faker. Dammit, man, the FX you helped bring into being in the late 70s/early 80s were phenomenal! Besides which, he has talked about wanting to make things look... not so clean, so sterile and pristine, as so much sci-fi tends to look. Then what does he do? He turns around and uses the new technology to make things look cleaner, shinier, more pristine, oh so pretty! How frightfully self-hypocritical.

However... while the spirit, the soul, the heart... the kokoro... of the originals is obviously to a great extent missing from the prequels, there's still some good shit going on there. If you just try to glean whatever you can of the larger story, of what's going on around Anakin (and all those pretty special effects)... I know you'll enjoy the movies more. I know I'm asking you to do the work Lucas should have done for you, and it isn't fair... but if you truly love the originals, you owe it to yourself to make whatever effort is necessary to be able to accept the prequels for not just what they are, but for what they could be; and trust me, there's more than just a hint there of what could have been. ...Anakin was caught up in some pretty damned interesting times. And while Lucas didn't adequately explore the development of characters other than Anakin, nor the unfolding story of Palpatine's rise to power, and the Clone Wars, the formation of the Empire, and all that would come after... alot of that aspect of the story is still there. Pay attention! Vader is just one man, dammit! Sure he's important, but Palpatine would have become Emperor with or without him! Well, except for that one scene in Episode III where Mace Windu tried to arrest him... but then, if not for Anakin, the Jedi probably wouldn't have learned he was Sidious until it was too late, anyway. War, shifting galactic politics, and a question of church versus state... and balance. Always about balance, it is. Anakin brought balance to the Force by restoring the Sith to power, where before him the Jedi had been in power for quite awhile. They worked with the Senate... neither the Senate nor the Jedi controlled one another, but rather they worked together for the common good. Eventually the Sith would control the Senate, then eliminate it altogether... But the Jedi and the Sith practice the same religion. Clearly, it is wrong for religion to have undue influence in politics, and vice versa.

Am I rambling?

Well. Yes, the original trilogy was perfect. Yes, the prequels were imperfect. They should have been more than exposition for one character, and little else. But as exposition goes, it was relatively entertaining. And then... we all know that Episode III was not the end of the saga.... There was a great deal more to come, and much of it rocked heartily.... But since this article shall be simultaneously published in our time (2027) and in the past (2005), I'm forbidden to speak of it... lest I incur the wrath of Lucasfilm's Sith-trained lawyers.... And that is one group whose wrath, let me tell you, you do not want to incur....

So let me just leave you with this concluding thought on the entire series, the main 6 movies as well as all the other things: "Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! A Jedi craves not these things. Experience them a Jedi does so that vicariously through him others may live."