Friday, November 05, 2004

So, here I was thinking I had nothing to mention and today would be met with a news article or two, but voila! Star Wars.

As is well documented, The League was once a huge proponent of the Star Wars franchise. Star Wars wallpaper, Star Wars bedding, Star Wars figures lining the floor. Jamie was a bit irritated with the figures on the floor, so I started keeping them straightened on a shelf.

Star Wars was our mythology as kids. It surpassed Superfriends and Tron by a lightyear. This was the stuff we went to bed thinking about, and ran around the woods behind our house play-acting (eternal thanks to me mum, who got me an official Stormtrooper pistol for Christmas when I was 8. Best. Present. Ever.).

And it’s well documented how I saw Phantom Menace in the theater 5 times. And, sort of against my will, saw Attack of the Clones 4 times in two weeks (seeing both the opening night midnight show, and the next morning’s 9:00 am show, after which I went to work and stared mindlessly at my monitor for four hours before going home and collapsing. Thanks, Dan).

And it’s hip to say these movies suck. Because, you know what? These movie have a lot problems. They have an enormous "wow" factor, but they also have a lot of issues that adults are much more keenly aware of than kids. But maybe that’s why these movies work so well as trailers. The trailers are always amazing, culling the best parts out of context, and making you really believe that these movies are somehow going to save Western Culture, and getting you juiced up for a monumental letdown.

It’s tough to say the stories are incoherent, because that’s not really accurate. And it’s easy to say the acting is wooden, because it mostly is. The plot does suffer from a lack of expediency and occasional lapses of logic. And all too often, things occur because it would look cool, rather than because it’s a good idea or really follows internal logic.

But here’s why I'm posting on this at all, and it’s going to sound a lot like what I said about Sky Captain:

I want these movies.

Sure, I made an off the cuff comment yesterday about it being “more of the same”, which, arguably, it is. My first reaction was "oh, great. Another trailer which looks phenomenenal, but which is better than the actual film."

But more of this “same” is Star Wars “the same.” This is space opera envisioned on a scale most mortal minds can’t possibly begin to plot out and construct. Most writers and directors would NEVER try to tell a story so massive in scope, movie after movie. They would flat out tell you it was impossible to manage so many characters and so many character threads working through so many plotlines. Let alone, keeping a tangible backstory, introducing new cultures, creatures, and ideas with every change of scene. And maybe, maybe they’d be right.

I WASN'T nuts about Episode II, although I thought it was beautiful to look at, and had cool stuff. I almost got the feeling that this was the paperwork being done to set the stage for the upcoming movie. Does the new trailer look cool? Maybe, but I've lost objectivity, and I'm in a "won't get fooled again" mode. Episode II had things I loved (Slave 1 in the asteroid belt), but it had a lot of business going on that just felt like plot lines being distended.

In order to get his stories told with any efficiency, Lucas is painting with a broad brush, and I think that, more than occasionally, it leads to some missteps. I don’t particularly believe in the romantic character curve for Anakin and Padme (a case where less might have been more). I don’t particularly believe in Anakin’s curve as he becomes eeeevil (he seems like he was doing pretty much okay until his mom got whacked). But, we have another 2.5 hours of the story coming in the final installment, and a chance to tie up the threads. I can hold out hope that the character moments I’ve been longing for may yet materialize.

Since 1977 studios have been spending a lot of money trying to get another movie to capture the imagination of the public the way Star Wars did. They've been trying for the formula a million different ways, but, ultimately, it never works out. Instead, the terrain is littered with clunkers like "Last Starfighter", "Battle Beyond the Stars", "The Black Hole" and dozens of others. Until Lord of the Rings (a commodity proven a hundred times over before the latest screen adaptation) nothing else managed to place huge audiences in a world completely foreign to our own, but so easily understandable.

Short of Jack Kirby and Tolkein, I can’t think of anyone who has stepped up to the plate and even TRIED to tell a story with such wild ideas, and crazy imagination firing on all six cylinders. (A note: I thought about this after publishing, and there are countless sci-fi and fantasy novels which have done this. I'm being unfair. I could discredit the fantasy genre as just lifting from Tolkein, but that's cheesy and not true. And sci-fi continues to expand it's definition while telling sprawling, effective stories. I just really like Jack Kirby, so I'll plug him wherever I can. Don't get me started on TV epics and their need to feed the beast which led to the whimpering death of X-Files.)

Only Tolkein managed to cross-cut two or more major battle scenes at a time to create a climax this successfully (and, now, by extension, Peter Jackson). I mean, Sweet Christmas… from a technical and storytelling perspective, I can’t really think of anything more complicated than that.

The trailer gives us two warring Star Destroyers blasting away at one another in low-orbit? Droids flitting about on the surface of a volcanic planet? Tiny green space samurai getting serious?

If you told me the details of the trailer for Revenge of the Sith, and never tossed “Star Wars” into the sentence, I would be wondering where I could sign up to see this paean to sci-fi cool. I mean, throw in a monkey, and you’ve officially surpassed my criteria for paying to see a movie in the theater. What? You say there’s an army of monkey-people? I gladly surrender my eight dollars, sir.

I'm giving it a shot. Maybe not opening night this time around, but I'm giving it a shot. And I will say parts of the trailer DO look cool, but I'm not going to not be skeptical. At the end of the day, it's not just the elements which tell a story, it's how they're interwoven. This can be the coolest shoddy movie ever, or it can seal the deal as the Star Wars saga truly earning it's much hyped reputation.

No comments: