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Category: Star Wars
The original Star Wars trilogy – a fortunate rehash of westerns, with Star Wars 43rd Anniversary 1977 2020 Shirt medieval legends, Japanese films and space operas of cosmic adventures – hijacked the childhoods of many of us to the point that the mere mention of Darth Vader or the Millennial Falcon awakens hidden desires to park the adult pose and play with a plastic AT-AT the size of a dog. Which we don’t do, of course, why they’ll say… because I can’t think of any other reason not to mount a good battle between imperial assault troops and rebels entrenched in the folds of a “mountain” (read blanket), except the one that you’re not supposed to do something like that once you’re eight years old. But let him raise his hand if he doesn’t want to plant a majestic AT-AT right now in the middle of his living room. In at least a couple of generations, it’s hard to find an individual who had access to a television or a movie theater and didn’t grow up under the omnipresent influence of Star Wars.
Many years later we could still remember that the first of the films in the original trilogy was mysteriously subtitled “episode IV”, which made us dream of the three lost episodes, those films that had never been shot but that in our children’s minds were full of mysterious possibilities: would we find out what happened between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi? Would we be told about those mysterious “clone wars” that Luke Skywalker mentioned in passing? Where had the Emperor come from? What was Luke’s mother like? At what precise moment did Anakin Skywalker succumb to the Dark Side and why? We needed to know all that! So, when after years and years of nebulous legend about the “lost trilogy” George Lucas finally announced that he was going to shoot the first three ghost episodes of Star Wars, we were legion who felt snatched by a feeling of epiphany: finally we were going to contemplate with our own eyes all those legendary events. Before the release of Episode I, such was the joy of anticipation that we didn’t even bother to look for hiccups in the possible cast or any other aspect of the production that leaked to the public. Although the first reasons for concern, at least for me, were produced with the vision of the first sequences broadcast as an advance: a lot of computer landscape, a lot of CGI and little model, a very little Star Wars aesthetic… but I didn’t let myself be carried away by skepticism. We all knew that Lucas’ main activity was not directing films, but special effects, so it was logical to expect a flood of visual technology in his new films. All right, FX would be the new Ewoks: a price to pay for one more dose of space magic. It was absurd – I thought then, but now it doesn’t seem so absurd – to have expected to find an aesthetic similar to the old movies. Yes, I was a little uneasy when I saw those first advances, but I decided that computer effects weren’t going to ruin the culmination of an old childhood dream. I was ready to enjoy.
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But how could one suppose what was coming upon him. I can say, without blushing, that the moment I rose from my seat after seeing Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the only time I ever really got angry out of a movie theater. Really pissed off. They had just spit in my face, me and my inner child, who was clutching trembling at my sternum amidst panic sobs. Yes, other times I’ve been swindled with a movie ticket, but you can’t get mad about it. It’s not always right to choose which movie to watch, so when you have to swallow a bodrio, you swallow it, shrug your shoulders and go home with calm and dignity. “Next time I’ll try to have more of an eye,” says one. That’s when you make a mistake in choosing which film to watch. But I didn’t choose to see The Phantom Menace, but The Phantom Menace chose me. You’re never old enough to say “no, I’m not going to see the Star Wars pre-school, I’d rather not risk it than not liking it. It’s impossible. You have to go and see it. George Lucas knew I was going to see her. He knew it. My ticket had been sold beforehand since I was a brat and I was arguing in the playground about the material the Jedi swords were made of, about the functionality of Luke Skywalker’s robotic hand or about who could understand the barking of Chewbacca. My ticket to Episode I – mine and the tickets of millions of other captive spectators – was sold from the first time I, being a brat, had seen the imperial cruise appear on the screen at the beginning of Episode IV. But I can understand that all this is my problem. It’s supposed to be. Or that’s what the defenders – who are there, God knows why – of the second Star Wars trilogy tend to argue: Apparently, old fans were disappointed because we didn’t find what we expected to find, we had created unreasonable expectations about what could hardly match the original and the feelings it had awakened in us in its day, and that’s why disgruntled fans insist that the three pre-schools are a disaster. When, some people told us, “they weren’t so bad”. But I’m not so sure that was the only cause.
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To begin with, I don’t know what’s wrong with being disappointed: the second trilogy was sold to us as an extension of an old fantasy world, and that’s what we old followers bought. It’s true that some old fans expressed positive comments about the new trilogy, but I guess it was because they were not psychologically prepared to admit that George Lucas had perpetrated on them the biggest mindfuck in the history of cinema. Michael Haneke, that apprentice psychopath, tries to make the audience uncomfortable with his tricks, but he will never manage to cause 1% of the damage that Lucas did to us with his abominable pre-schools. Episodes I, II and III of Star Wars were like kicking Rosebud before the horrified gaze of Charles Foster Kane. Let’s face it, half of us will say something like “may the force be with you” when we die, so we could hardly take the affront well. The second Star Wars trilogy became a sadistic reminder that the world is a truly twisted place, where you can’t even trust the Jedi. But time has passed and the initial trauma has been diluted. On the one hand, the detractors no longer put so much passion nor do we want to lynch Lucas in the middle of an industrial building lined with blue screen. On the other hand, the incomprehensibly good reception that many critics made of pre-schools in their day has become an almost generalized contempt for the ominous second trilogy. Time has put the three episodes in their place, and Lucas’ scandalous attitude – who over and over again retouches the original trilogy to lessen technological differences, as if trying to justify himself – has made it quite difficult for the defenders of his work.
But were those of us who fiercely criticized the new trilogy driven only by the immature tantrum of the child whose new bicycle was not the color he expected? Eventually I went back to the movies, ready to better appreciate what good they had to offer me. I made two discoveries: one, that pre-schools were quite deficient not as an extension of the original trilogy, but as films considered in isolation. They were very bad, frankly. And two, that George Lucas took a thousand and one iconic elements from the original films and shoed them in to please the old fans. He played with our nostalgia, because our nostalgia would make him sell more tickets. So the argument that “we should see the new trilogy with a clean look to appreciate it for itself” is meaningless. There are so many Star Wars 43rd Anniversary Shirt ,elements of the original trilogy that Lucas artificially introduced in the new one, even in many moments where it was not only unnecessary but also sang in cheap stuffing, that I think it is perfectly justified for old fans to censure the defective link with the films we saw in our childhood.
But, beyond that… what did the films of the new trilogy offer us? The story? I think the Fields medal could be awarded to anyone who is able to summarize in an orderly and coherent way what the hell episodes I, II and III were about. In other words, we can perceive three more or less defined lines of argument: Anakin Skywalker’s “evolution” (that is to say, his romance with Padmé/Amidala and a kind of coup d’état of Senator Palpatine, the future Emperor. But for example the evolution of Anakin does not exist: almost from the beginning he is an egocentric, irascible, jealous, envious, complaining individual… what comes to be said, with forgiveness, a real asshole. We do not see that Anakin Skywalker of whom Obi Wan Kenobi spoke to Luke and whom he remembered with nostalgia as “a good friend”, a theoretically admirable Anakin who could not avoid succumbing finally to the temptations of the Dark Side. This is not the process we contemplate in pre-schools. There is no “fall” of an admirable man, but rather we see how the visible factory defects of an irritating Anakin are exacerbated to become a truly detestable character, who to top it all does not even have much to do with the future Darth Vader. Thus, Lucas dedicates three films to a central axis, Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader, which, in practical terms, barely exists! Compare this with Luke Skywalker’s evolution in the original trilogy: first the idealism and innocence of his beginnings, then the ambition, disappointments and doubts about himself, and finally try to overcome the pain of his wounds to reach maturity.
Nor does the romantic argument look very good in comparison. If we remember the romance between Princess Leia and Han Solo, everything was quite credible or at least very plausible on screen: two opposing people – the formal and educated girl from a good family and the disordered loner – who end up being complementary and who also have something in common: the need for affection. We see them go through different stages, from mutual rejection to a long procession of comings and goings full of discussions that increasingly resembled arguments of a couple, moments of fleeting flirtation, and finally the acceptance that they could not continue denying that they loved each other. A subplot in which we could indicate a beginning, an ending and an end marked by the motivations and personalities of its protagonists. What about all this in the romance between Anakin and Padmé? Well, nothing. We don’t know why they’re complementary or if they’re complementary at all. Male spectators can understand that Anakin, driven more by his crotch than by his head, is obsessed by the charms of Natalie Portman. Okay, who doesn’t. But what the hell does she see in him? The truth is that it is impossible to read any background in the love story between them despite so much postcard scene and so much dialogue that it goes from the unbearably cheesy to the directly embarrassing.
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And as for the political plot… well, it is so diffuse, incoherent, full of inconsistencies and above all so, so boring, that we can hardly say that it works as a cinematographic plot. From the epic simplicity of the original films, where the bad guys built the Death Star to pulverize planets and the good guys had to neutralize it (a simple plot easy to follow), we went on to a labyrinth of commercial treaties, Senate discussions and palatial intrigues that become more and more absurd the more attention we pay to it. The lack of a story was the main problem of the second trilogy. It seems that Lucas wrote the script aiming at different targets at the same time and that made the films lack any consistency. He mixed dishearteningly childish sequences aimed at three-year-olds with rather laughable solemnity dialogues, theoretically intended for a more adult audience. Or completely static scenes that were suddenly succeeded by sequences of very run over and confusing action. It’s quite likely that the origin of it all lay in Lucas’ enormous power in the industry, and the fact that there was no one on his crew who was able to tell him what was going wrong – something that can be clearly seen in the documentaries about the preparation and shooting of the films – so whatever went through his head, however stupid, ended up in the movies. There was no one in a position to give him back a script saying “George, this is infumable”, so the scripts ended up being effectively infumable, which is what usually happens when someone becomes their own boss.
Like everyone else, after the pre-schools premiere and for a few years I thought Lucas had only cared about the box office and merchandising sales. The director thought that anything with the Star Wars logo would sell and he was right, so what’s the point? However, now I think the franchise father is really concerned about the integrity of his legacy. Sometimes we focus so much on his facet as a businessman that we forget that Lucas, like everyone else, has an ego. Let’s put it this way: after the original trilogy, he retired from management and dedicated himself to developing the special effects industry. But he remained a cultural icon of the first order, revered by millions of people around the world, and the importance of Star Wars in the collective imagination never diminished an iota. His spatial trilogy appeared in virtually every list of cinematic milestones we can imagine.
But the second trilogy has changed the world’s perception of him. People respected him for his talent but now they don’t just doubt that talent (some even wonder, how much of Lucas was really in the original trilogy? Because it is not perceived or traced in the new films) but has also become a popular object of jest. The three pre-schools have been dissected in various revisions as ruthless as they are systematic, revisions that have brought Lucas’ shame to the world (the culmination is probably Harvey Plinkett’s quirky but devastating critique, who I wouldn’t be surprised if Lucas considered removing from the face of the Earth, because he pulverizes the new films brick by brick, in an indisputable way). And the director has felt touched in his pride. How do we know? Lucas is often as inexpressive as if he were a product of his own CGI, but the facts speak for themselves. With each re-edition of the old films, the originals, retouches have been added to modify the world’s memory of the original trilogy. Instead of publicly admitting his mistakes and clinging at least to the greatness of the first trilogy, Lucas has decided to contaminate it with the defects of the new trilogy, hoping that future waves of spectators can no longer understand why the old fans were so soliviant. Let’s put ourselves in Lucas’ place: the guy doesn’t work at a hardware store and isn’t happy to make ends meet. He’s a world figure and he’s already thinking about his place in posterity, a role that could have been definitely damaged by the greedy insane superficiality of episodes I, II and III. He is doing everything possible to prevent his figure from going down in history as that of the manazas who fucked up a cultural referent of an entire generation that he himself had created, and he is doing it, of course, in the wrong way.
One of the most obvious – and hilarious as well as sad – symptoms of Lucas’ concern for “what will they say” was the Blu-Ray edition of The Return of the Jedi. After half the world has for years made fun of Darth Vader’s infamous “noooo!” in Revenge of the Sith, an exclamation that destroyed in seconds and forever the aura of one of the most charismatic characters in the history of cinema, Lucas decided to counterattack in the worst possible way. Far from taking things humorously or at least resignedly and admitting that he had screwed up, he has included a similar exclamation in the new version of The Return of the Jedi, in which Vader says “noooo!” again defending one of the top scenes of the original trilogy. Evidently, George Lucas trusts that people will end up forgetting what the original films were like, modifying the past in the best style of George Orwell’s 1984. When I saw this sequence retouched, I understood that it was no longer about including special effects or promoting the new actors, but something else. The author of Star Wars wants us to wear Star Wars 43rd Anniversary 1977 2020 Shirt, forget what Star Wars really was, remapping the old films over and over again. Well, what better excuse to counterattack on our part and dedicate the second part of this article to compiling those moments of the pre-schools that irritated us, saddened us, embarrassed us (above all), perplexed us or simply made us think that the new films had been conceived, written and directed by a chimpanzee. An ominous list of moments in which George Lucas broke our hearts. In the meantime, may the Force be with us. We’re going to miss it.