Saturday, March 12, 2005

Star Wars

There's a lot of talk lately about how Episode III is "not suitable for children" and will be the first Star Wars movie not to receive a PG rating. I'm a Star Wars fan, but not a Star Wars fanatic (I know the words are etymologically related, cut me some slack). I thought Episode I and Episode II were pretty weak in terms of the writing, though not as horrible as some made them out to be. One of the chief criticisms of Episode I in particular was that it seemed like a movie for children. I can't help but think that all of this Episode III hype is something of a clever marketing scheme to convince people disappointed with the first two prequels that this one will be different. "It's darker, it will be pure blood-and-guts Jedi-versus-Sith genocidal fanwank, trust us, you'll love it!"

Here's my problem: the Star Wars movies have always been suitable for children, even geared towards them. They are light-hearted popcorn flicks. Even The Empire Strikes Back, for all its life-threatening drama, was never what I would call a "dark" film. When I was a kid, I liked Return of the Jedi best because it was the most fun. Now that I'm adult, I prefer the fun-but-less-silly and tightly-plotted Empire Strikes Back; Jedi has plot holes you could fly an X-wing through. If Episode III is indeed a "dark" movie it just might be off-putting to the children all of the other movies cater too. In fact, parents are being warned that they might not want to take their kids at all! What, the kids have to keep a hole in their DVD rack until they're 14?

I guess I'm worried that promoting Episode III as "dark," whether it is or isn't, might be a little like President Bush raising taxes for the rich: alienating the base.



  1. Considering what kinds of video games and movies "parents" are buying for their kids lately, I'm not worried about little Billy and Johnny. They're going to see whatever George Lucas coughs up.

    You do have a point: Star Wars is popcorn space-opera fare. Are you familiar with how Star Wars is (literally) a watered-down plagiarism of Frank Herbert's "Dune"?

    Viewed in this context, I'd tell people who are worried that Star Wars is not deep enough to read the real thing.

  2. I'm not aware of the Dune connection specifically, but it goes without saying that Star Wars is an amalgam of all sorts of previous works . . . some adhered to more closely than others. Having never read Dune, I'm not really qualified to make the direct comparison there.

    That said, I have always taken Star Wars at the face value of what George Lucas often says about it: any similarity to other works is out of homage, not laziness. Maybe it crosses the line, maybe not. As a copyleft, "rip, mix, burn," open-source kind of guy, it doesn't bother me too much. Everything builds on what has come before in one way or another.

    I don't know how I would feel were I the Herbert estate!

    As to the other point, I always make a clear distinction between film "sci-fi" and print "sf," not out of print-media snobbery, but because they are two dramatically different beasts. They are both about a sense of wonder; film achieves it through the senses while print goes in through the intellect. I personally have no problem with Star Wars or other sci-fi being what it is.

  3. The thing about Dune, the novel, is that it really is a beautifully written literary novel, almost anti-sci-fi. I highly recommend it.

    Herbert considered legal action against Lucas, but didn't. The "homage" (smirk) connection is well documented online: a boy raised on a desert planet discovers his true elite heritage (and supernatural abilities) and leads a rebellion against the corrupt empire.

    Lucas always juxtaposes the good Jedi with "the dark side", but Herbert delved much more deeply into the dangers of out-of-control war fueled by religion and militarism.

    Okay, I'll just shut up and read the book again...