Pretty self-explanatory: I watched Star Wars Episodes I-VII over the course of a week and spewed some feelings about each one immediately after watching, although I have gone back to try to edit those puddles of Feels into some coherent form.
January 3, 2016
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
I watched and liked Phantom Menace as a kid—not sure if I saw it in theaters, but we owned it on VHS and I was for sure a fan of the prequels until Revenge of the Sith disappointed me to the point of tears. Because of the merciless and unrelenting forward march of technology, I haven’t rewatched Phantom Menace since we made the switch from VCR to our DVD player—i.e. probably not in the past 10 years, and definitely not as an “adult.” So for whatever the period of time was between last watching it and now, I’ve assumed that the people talking shit about Phantom Menace were being hyperbolic; surely it wasn’t that bad, and the extreme criticism, which then permeated pop culture and became A Thing, is just coming from disappointed fanboys who expected it to be like the original series. I didn’t remember Jar Jar Binks being that annoying or the midi-chlorian thing being that dumb or the acting being that shitty.
Boy, was this a revelation. Phantom Menace is fucking awful and a goddamn chore to sit through. Holy shit, so much screentime is devoted to Jar Jar Binks accidentally fucking shit up. What is even going on with Natalie Portman’s accent as Queen Amidala? Why are we spending so much time on this child who cannot act? Could any child actor even make the role of Anakin Skywalker work non-obnoxiously? How are we supposed to care about any of these characters when basically every conversation is completely about the political/military plot and purely within the bounds of their various professional relationships? (Except for those in which either Jar Jar Binks or Anakin are parties, but, well, bigger problems there.) Also immaculate Force conception???? How are we not still talking about that detail?
Okay, but some positives: It’s possibly a good idea to show the diverse landscapes of the galaxy, with all of the different alien species and elaborate costumes and styles of architecture, to give the audience a better sense of what the world was like before/outside of the totalitarian, clean-cut, super industrial Death Star aesthetic, since we don’t get all that much of that in the originals. The prequels do succeed, at the very least, in helping to establish the larger galaxy, rather than the interiors of spaceships, and that’s probably what was so attractive to my child self.
In fact, I think Phantom Menace basically works as a kids’ movie, and a large part of the vitriol it attracts may be from adults trying to evaluate it as a movie aimed at them. While I can’t imagine kids paying any attention to the political machinations, it might not be that detrimental to their enjoyment, if memory serves. So from that context, fine; Jar Jar Binks is the sort of slapstick, fun to imitate comic relief character that kids may enjoy (or at least not fucking loathe) and having child!Anakin as a character lets them see themselves onscreen. Frankly, that seems like the only reason to have Anakin as a legit kid in this movie rather than a teenager, because I think everything about his plot in this movie and the next two would still work (to the same extent that it even does work) if the character were a few years older, giving them a chance to cast a (hopefully) somewhat more competent teen actor.
Presumably, a large part of the popularity and staying power of the original Star Wars movies is the fact that they appeal to both children and adults without seeming to specifically target either group and thus at times alienate the other. There are kids’ movies that put in some hidden jokes that only the adults will get and movies made for adults that happen to appeal/not be too inappropriate for kids, but I don’t think the originals were necessarily either, although probably closer to the latter than the former. The black-and-white morality and the cutesy droid stuff (and later Ewoks) are the sorts of thing that make them not unambiguously “for adults,” but I don’t think the character interactions are neutered in the way that you would expect in a “for kids” movie. We’ll have to see how I feel about that when I reach them in my rewatch. In any case, not so for Phantom Menace, where the adults do very much seem to speak not naturally and more like “we are adults in a kids movie.”
Also, the CGI also does not hold up well at all. The Gungans and the droids in particular always feel very pasted on, and the underwater Gungan city very much feels like an early 2000s RPG map.
This marathon may have been a horrible idea.
January 4, 2016
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
I was optimistic about this going in, after the disaster that was last night’s viewing of Phantom Menace. After all, I have fond memories of watching the shit out of the special features on the Attack of the Clones DVD. And at least in comparison to Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones means: less Jar Jar Binks, more Padme costume changes, more Ewan McGregor charm, no children except maybe child!Boba Fett.
And, you know, my optimism was not unfounded. Attack of the Clones has a lot of issues, and the 142 minute runtime is rough (although I believe as a child I thought it was not nearly long enough), but I can and will still defend its existence.
For one, it does seem to have course-corrected from Phantom Menace quite a bit, in terms of making an effort to get the audience more invested in the characters and their relationships. Conceptually, the development of the Anakin/Obi-Wan relationship portrayed here works for me. In practice, a lot of the dialogue is too heavy-handed/on-the-nose (“why do I have the feeling that you’re going to be the death of me”), but there are some not terrible ideas there.
Things I wouldn’t have considered as a kid: Ewan McGregor is 10 years older than Hayden Christensen, so I’m going to assume he’s playing his actual age in Attack of the Clones and was playing younger in Phantom Menace, so that Obi-Wan would have been the same age that Anakin is now when they first met. This is important—in Attack of the Clones, Anakin tells Obi-Wan: “You’re the closest thing I have to a father,” which may have seemed true for most of their relationship. Now that he’s ~20, Anakin must be starting to realize that the Obi-Wan he saw as a Real Adult Authority Figure1 when he was a child was just as much of a (not) adult as Anakin is now, and so it’s harder for him to blindly trust in the authority of current Obi-Wan.
Attack of the Clones starts planting the seeds for Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side; we get to see Anakin’s:
- frustration with the political system
- delusions of grandeur2—somewhat justified in that he apparently does have raw talent (or high midi-chlorian count), but Obi-Wan also has a valid point about his recklessness and lack of discipline
- desire to be seen as a Man rather than a Boy—which may be in some ways indicative of a systemic flaw in the padawan system, in which one appears to have the same mentor from adolescence to adulthood, and certainly given the other master/apprentice relationships turned sour, one has to wonder
- feelings of powerlessness—the constraints of being a Jedi may be too close to his past as a slave
- overwhelming emotions that he’s not allowed to feel
- ability to commit genocide, apparently
which are all pretty solid from a story-telling perspective, I think. The problem then comes with the awful dialogue and the awful delivery of said dialogue, although it’s unclear if a good delivery is even possible. The temper tantrums of teenage (or immature early 20s) boys are never really going to be fun to watch—look at Connor on Angel or Harry Potter in Order of the Phoenix—so better writing or acting might not even help.
Some good things: the moral ambiguity wrt the Jedi system. We sort of take it as a given that Jedi = good guys, but man, there are systemic issues there that we’re starting to really see in Attack of the Clones. And the ethics of the Republic/Jedi’s willingness to use that clone army are, well, questionable. Also, Detective Obi-Wan is charming and the “You want to go home and rethink your life” bar scene with the drug dealer (apparently named Elan Sleazebaggano, omg) is a fucking classic.
Mixed feelings about: the grand romance. The Padme/Anakin love story almost works for me, if we just ignore the dialogue and pay attention to the scenery, costumes, and music3, because there’s such an excess of romance between those that they almost make up for it. The wordless wedding scene at the end, with the flash of Anakin’s new metal hand, is just super effective. But Christ, that dialogue. Your love feels like a bit more of a desperate sell every time you explicitly and stiltedly discuss it, you know? Finn and Poe somehow manage to sell more of a foundation for romance in their initial scene together in TFA than the whole Padme/Anakin courtship, despite all the romantic dresses and idyllic landscapes and lengthy declarations of love, and that is ridiculous. It might also help if Natalie Portman didn’t constantly seem semi-repulsed by Hayden Christensen.
Finally, the whole conveyor belt thing was definitely very exciting when I was a kid and much less so now. And wow, that final action sequence just does not end—conveyor belt to colosseum to jedi-on-droids to clones-on-droids to Obi-Wan & Anakin vs Count Dooku to Yoda vs Count Dooku. Jesus Christ. It is a few too many things.
Less optimistic about Revenge of the Sith, unfortunately.
January 5, 2016
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Hayden Christensen seems to have leveled up in acting since Attack of the Clones, although at least 50% of that may be an optical illusion caused by his new facial scar and long hair, which, yes: a Good Look.
This Shortpacked strip remains funny, but it does sort of bother me how much that sort of reductionist view has permeated pop culture. It’s an easy joke to say that “[insert angst-ridden character who goes on to commit an act of violence] just needed to get laid” and I’m guilty of having made it myself many times, but yeah, it’s not just the sex thing and obviously not all negative human emotions are due to unfulfilled lust.
Have we considered that what Anakin really needed was a career counselor? It’s not super clear from the movies what the non-military, non-political career options in the Star Wars universe might be, and if you even can just quit being a Jedi (although even if you can, it’s probably difficult to conceive of when you’ve grown up thinking that it’s the most righteous and holy thing you can be). Still, the Jedi thing is so obviously not the right path for everyone, despite whatever their natural Force sensitivity may be, and it’s especially fucked up for the Jedi to rescue this kid from slavery only to be like, “Here are all of these seemingly arbitrary rules you must follow. No, you’re not entitled to any emotions. No, we’re not going to tell you shit, you just have to trust us in every matter.” The major change from his previous life seems to be that the justification given for stripping him of agency is that he’s uniquely gifted rather than that he’s inferior/worthless, and perhaps that worked when he was a kid, but it is no longer as convincing. So wow, is Revenge of the Sith exposing a whole bunch of flaws in the system, to the point that Palpatine’s seduction of Anakin is like, dude is being blatantly evil and manipulative, but he’s not wrong—especially w.r.t. the Jedi’s censorship of any information about the Dark Side of the Force.
Obi-Wan remains delightfully chill in the first half of the movie. I want to know more about what his deal is. What does he do when he’s not Jedi-ing? Does he have friends or what? From what little sense we got from Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s interactions in Phantom Menace, I’d say they had a very collegiate but not especially personal relationship, which implies that he either doesn’t need any more emotional support/social interaction or has a life outside of that.
The dysfunctionality of the Anakin/Obi-Wan relationship probably stems from the fact that Obi-Wan has to serve as all things to Anakin—teacher, father, brother, boss, confidant (oh god Anakin trying to talk to Obi-Wan about Padme in Attack of the Clones), friend, disciplinarian, etc. It seems note-worthy that Obi-Wan refers to Anakin as his brother a few times in this movie, when Anakin referred to Obi-Wan as “like a father” in Attack of the Clones. Obi-Wan is constantly giving Anakin shit, affectionately, like a brother, but that’s a problem if Anakin is looking for him to be a father figure. Meanwhile, Palpatine is offering (fatherly) validation, and Anakin is so desperate for that that he’s apparently willing to ignore how fucking slimy Palpatine is being about it. And hence, Palpatine’s influence overtakes Obi-Wan’s.
Also, wow, I maybe do not love Yoda anymore? I was rolling my eyes during his entire “Attachments lead to the Dark Side. Fear of death leads to the Dark Side. Fucking everything leads to the Dark Side.” speech. I don’t know, this whole “fuck the Jedi” thing that I’m feeling is kind of revelatory. Adulthood or something! Because yeah, you have this organization that trains people from a young age and is constantly telling them, “I sense your [insert emotion here]. Careful, or it could lead to the dark side,” which seems like a really terrible method for managing teenagers/young adults. It’s this weird incongruity between the empathy it takes to be so attuned with people’s feelings and just awful, awful people skills (Jesus Christ, Mace Windu’s approach to Anakin). On the other hand, you have the Sith saying “Hey, your emotions are valid and actually make you more powerful,” and that’s got to be infinitely more appealing to
Kylo Ren misunderstood teenagers. It depends how much you buy into the “being guided by your emotions/desires”=”selfish”=”evil” thing (not at all4), and how much the movie itself is buying into it (less clear), but I think we can still say that there’s much more moral ambiguity here than in the original series.
So the good: the character development up to this point more or less sells Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side. I think I found it super disappointing as a kid because I expected a sort of grander motivation, but as a (more or less) adult, I buy this. As poorly done as the Padme/Anakin relationship is overall, it does seem like a good final push on top of Anakin’s authority issues and general level of emotion, and it’s totally believable that Palpatine offering the only chance to save the life of the wife that the Jedi wouldn’t even let him have would seal the deal. The montage of the clone armies turning on the Jedi is also pretty effective.
The fucking insane: Anakin walking into the Jedi temple and killing all the children like five minutes after deciding to turn to the Dark Side. That’s just a crazy amount of moral change in such a short period of time. One perhaps gets the sense that Lucas had realized at this point that the Sith were too sympathetic and was like, “fuck, what can I do to get people to root for the Jedi and against Darth Vader? Having him mass murder children wouldn’t be too on-the-nose, would it?” I mean, I kind of love that it happens because of how ludicrously eeeevil it is, but it’s just such a huge moral/emotional leap from “I am frustrated with the current system and desperate to save my wife” to light-sabering up a whole classroom of children. (He maybe does shed a single tear afterwards, so you know he’s ~conflicted~.)
The bad: I mean, any scene between Anakin and Padme, still.
Anyway, as I mentioned, I cried after seeing this in theaters as a kid, because I was so disappointed—I suppose this was the first of the prequels for which I had actually built up any sort of expectation. My records show that I also watched in 2012, but I don’t remember why that happened or how I felt about it then. But yeah, overall, not too bad, and some interesting ideas on the macro level of the writing, if still awful execution in terms of the actual dialogue. I am pleasantly surprised.
January 6, 2016
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
I wasn’t sure how I was going to approach the original series here. It’s incredibly tempting to be a contrarian and view them under the lens of “they’re not that good, stop going along with the hype,” because that is, to some extent, how I started feeling about Star Wars in college (partially, perhaps, because one of my college friends was a Star Wars fan in the obnoxious trivia-spouting, battle strategy-discussing way; sorry, dude, if you’re reading this) and why I was not super enthused when The Force Awakens was first announced. On the other end of the spectrum, though, it’s easy to be blinded by nostalgia and pop culture and to just view these movies as FLAWLESS.
So how does my 23-year-old self feel about A New Hope? Mostly still positively! I don’t think I’ve ever cared about the scenes in which people explicitly talk politics and plot, and that hasn’t changed. Nor have I ever really cared about the actual space battles—I know, that’s, like, the name of the series, but man, I don’t care. I’ve probably pretended to be interested in that sort of thing in every conversation I’ve had with dudes about Star Wars, because one has to acquire that nerd cred, but nope. So it is true that for the whole last 20ish minutes of various pilots in various, um, spacecrafts shooting and getting shot at, I was just thinking “God, I so don’t care. This movie could have ended 20 minutes ago.”
The infiltration of the Death Star remains pretty fun, though, especially in how totally not competent everyone is. Basically every scene of two 20-somethings and a 30-something dicking around in space is golden (this is why The Force Awakens and its press tour were amazing and I am hella optimistic about the sequels). I was scared that on seeing this again I would realize that the acting was wooden or the dialogue stilted or whatever, but I think, at least for the more casual things, Hamill, Ford, and Fisher all deliver pretty charming and natural-feeling performances, and the banter is for the most part not terribly written. Luke, Han, and Leia are all total brats in their own different ways, but their particular brands of youthful(ish) obnoxiousness are so much more fun to watch than Anakin’s—and this is partially writing, partially acting, partially chemistry with castmates. I mean, yeah, Luke Skywalker is whiny and legit says that things are “not fair,” but it somehow doesn’t grate as much as Anakin’s version of the same thing? Perhaps because it’s a more lighthearted whininess—one gets the sense that if you called him out on it, he’d probably just laugh and agree, whereas Anakin would—god, who knows. Go murder a village, probably.
I thought maybe watching these in chronological order and seeing the development of the Anakin/Obi-Wan relationship would lend more weight to the Darth Vader/Obi-Wan fight, but eh, not so much. There’s too much of a disconnect between the styles of the prequels and originals and the actual appearances/voices of the actors to really trick yourself into seeing them as the same characters. So, yeah, didn’t super care, and the actual lightsaber fight was not the most exciting at this point.
Overall, YES for all of the hang-out scenes, whatever on all of the actual plot. The droid stuff, while not unbearable, does not give me any pleasure and takes up so much screen-time. Also, holy shit, I did not remember Luke actually seeing the charred remains of his aunt and uncle up close—that was surprisingly graphic, given the series, and man, dude is having a rough fucking week (how much time is even passing?) between them and Obi-Wan. My only memorable dialogue quibble is his resolute announcement to leave Tattooine to train as a Jedi like 5 seconds after this. It’s too earnest and blatantly plot-forwarding, given the circumstances.
January 7, 2016
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Still solid, idk.
Now that I’m apparently watching these from a”Fuck the Whole Jedi System,” the training montage on Dagobah isn’t quite as, I guess, badass? Well, no, it is still a pleasure to see Luke doing handstands and levitating shit, and let’s just say that whole sequence was a Good Look for Mark Hamill5. But god, Yoda is full of shit. It’s hard to watch Luke be so rude to him in their initial meeting, but then Yoda says things like “Clear your mind of questions” and “there is no ‘why'” and I’m just like, fuck you and your condescending zen bullshit. (At which point Yoda would probably say something to the effect of “I sense much anger in you. Anger leads to the Dark Side. Blah blah blah.”)
The fight scene between Darth Vader and Luke is 1) more exciting than the Vader/Obi-Wan fight in A New Hope, partially because Luke is not super competent at the moment and it’s interesting to see him just getting hit by all of the debris and out of his depth and 2) actually maybe did gain some more emotional impact from the prequels, because of the following exchange from Revenge of the Sith:
ANAKIN: I am more powerful than the Chancellor, I… I can overthrow him! And together, you and I can rule the galaxy! We can make things the way we want them to be!
And then, ~20 years later:
DARTH VADER: Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.
And then ~30 years later:
Kylo Ren would so take his grandfather up on that offer ;_;
Also I forgot what good bros Luke and Han were, because I guess posterity focuses more on the love triangle aspect of the trio. But:
- the fact that hearing Han’s encouragement/that Han stayed is what pushes Luke to make the significant shot or whatever in the space battle at the end of A New Hope
- the joyous hugging at the end of A New Hope
- the snowstorm debacle—it’s no “let’s take our clothes off huddle together for warmth”, but “I’m going to cut open my alien mount and stick you in its entrails so that you don’t die of frostbite” is like, some sort of gesture
- their handling of the love triangle, at least thus far—there’s not as much obnoxious macho posturing as there could be, and that’s, you know, something.
(If we expect the new trilogy to be roughly following the outline of the originals in terms of plot structure—and The Force Awakens, at least, gives us reason to believe that it might—does this mean that Poe and Finn are going to have all of their romantic development in the next movie as Rey is off training to be a Jedi? More on the mapping between trios later, probably—in that, there are a lot of parallels between the characters but not a direct one-to-one mapping from old to new character—but man, that would be a delightful development.)
January 8, 2016
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Still probably my favorite. The Ewoks never bothered me before; they do bother me now, but there’s enough other good stuff going on that it’s not too irritating and, I mean, as hard as it seems to be for fanboys to acknowledge, these movies are to a certain extent aimed at kids or at the very least to be family-friendly. The Ewoks are great when you’re a kid and then you age out of them; that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s objectively bad film-making or whatever to include them (although as a small liberal arts college graduate I probably should be disgusted with the condescending view of tribal cultures or whatever that they represent). Essentially, my feelings w.r.t. the droid slapstick hijinks and Ewoks: could do without, but they clearly serve a purpose and just because I am no longer the target audience for them doesn’t mean I should be outraged at their existence.
I used to tl;dr the scrolling text at the beginning of each movie, but I did make an effort this time to actually read it and try to internalize it. The scrolling text at the beginning of the originals is not too bad—the one for The Force Awakens is similarly straightforward—compared to the ridiculously alienating political/economic background that the prequels try to convey. The thing is, in terms of actual plot and who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are, it’s much easier to comprehend rebels trying to take down an evil dictatorship versus the circumstances that would lead to said evil dictatorship. If the Empire in the original series is essentially space Nazi Germany, one wonders what the prequels would have been like if they had attempted a space Cabaret angle. Anyway, this is what I was thinking about during the first 10 minutes of the movie, and in a way, I sort of got my answer with that weird-ass musical break in Jabba’s palace6.
It’s totally fucked that slave Leia became such an iconic costume, given that every single other outfit she wears throughout the movies is super modest and practical, and the circumstances of the metal bikini are just so disturbing and uncomfortable to watch, that for all of these dudes to be able to completely ignore the context and fetishize it anyway, just…blah blah blah The Patriarchy, right? But this is not at all a new or clever observation.
Anyway, the Good:
- Basically the whole escape from Jabba’s palace remains glorious (well, minus the droid comedy bullshit) .
- Related to the above but A Thing throughout: watching these all in order over a short period of time, it is really gratifying to see competent, collected Luke. Don’t get me wrong, whiny farmboy Luke is also fun. I think I just like Luke a lot more than I expected this time around? But yeah, his whole approach in this movie—which is mostly just being super chill, because he knows that he can Force his way out of every situation, but is going to try all of the diplomatic, non-spectacle-filled options first—is somehow really endearing, I don’t know. Like, just the rolling of eyes and “ugh, whatever” look he gives as he resigns himself to levitating C3P0 to save Han from the Ewoks.
- Most of the action sequences on Endor are also quite fun, even the ones involving Ewoks, because fuck it, it is cool to see ingenuity with forest materials taking down advanced technology, as improbable as the battle-strategy obsessed fanboys may claim it is.
- Darth Vader’s death (and the whole sequence leading up to it) remains emotionally affecting. Also, a bit of a prequel benefit here, in the parallel between Anakin standing aside and watching while Palpatine lightnings Mace Windu to death (which marks Anakin’s official turn to the Dark Side and the beginning of his tenure as Palapatine’s apprentice), and Vader standing aside and watching while Palpatine lightnings Luke, until, you know, he doesn’t. And that parallel does add a dimension to Vader’s decision to step in here; the current situation makes him recall the past situation and fully realize that everything he’s done as a Sith has been for naught and here is a chance to redo that decision point, essentially. So that’s kind of awesome, and well done for that, Revenge of the Sith.
Yoda’s death is no longer emotionally affecting, because god, what an evasive fuck. Luke asks if Vader really is his father, and Yoda’s just like, “I’m too tired to have this conversation.” Sorry, I realize there has been a lot of aggressive Yoda hate, and it has probably ceased to be interesting.
January 9, 2016
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
STILL SO GOOD.
Finn and Rey feel like the most human characters in the entire series to me; part of that may just come from knowing that John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are my age—and not in the sense that Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman were in their early 20s in AotC/RotS or Carrie Fisher was in her early 20s in ESB, but like, both actors were actually born in 1992. The more significant contributor there, though, is probably the writing for the characters and specifically how colloquial the dialogue in The Force Awakens is compared to all of the other movies. I mean, the original series has somewhat natural dialogue between the trio (in terms of the actual vocabulary and delivery—it’s maybe still too quippy to be considered fully “natural”), but it gets pretty formal once other characters come into play, which is, on some level, realistic—people use different language with different people in different contexts—but it can still end up feeling stiff in a way that seems unintended. And then there are the prequels, in which pretty much no one communicates in a way even resembling normal human interaction7.
Anyway, the dialogue in TFA for the most part really hits the right register—it manages to be funny and convey emotions and forward the plot without feeling too overwritten, I think. At one point Finn says “hell no” and that did weird me out, because I was like, huh, is there even a concept of hell in the Star Wars universe and so does that expression actually make sense? Especially given the precedent set by all of the other movies in providing domain-specific colloquialisms in place of expletives (bantha fodder, nerf herder, etc.). On the other hand, it is such a delightfully realistic reaction in that moment, that perhaps I can forgive it.
The Poe/Finn relationship: First of all, that meet-cute is the cutest of meetings. I love that Poe immediately calls Finn out on his bullshit when Finn claims to be rescuing him because “it’s the right thing to do,” but is then totally non-judgmental about Finn’s actual reason. Especially compared to how judgy Luke and Leia were about Han Solo’s financial rather than moral motives for helping the Rebel cause in A New Hope. Even if it doesn’t become a canon romance—and it seems unlikely that it would, but who knows in this post-Hannigram world?—their relationship feels pretty unique for two men in this genre, in how openly admiring they are of each other from the offset, without first going through some sort of bullshit macho fight for dominance before achieving mutual respect. For comparison, Luke and Han got there eventually, but god, there’s so much posturing going on between them throughout A New Hope. Also, Finn’s “Woo! That’s one hell of a pilot!”and Poe’s “Keep [the jacket], it suits you”—I can’t even.
Things I still can’t quite get a read on:
- Kylo Ren hitting his side-wound before attacking Finn and Rey. Is he trying to use his own pain to strengthen his control of Force, since for the Sith, anger/hate/suffering/etc. = power? (Was that just super obvious to everyone but me?)
- That Rey/Leia hug. They’ve never met before, so I’m not sure it totally makes sense unless we just decide to already take as truth the “Luke is Rey’s father” theory.
- The vaguely ominous music that plays as Rey approaches Luke in the final scene; the sense that I get from it is that Luke isn’t an unambiguously “good” figure at this point—not that he’s turned to the Dark Side, but that he’s become this aloof hermit figure who no longer gives a shit about the world at large and won’t necessarily be happy to help. That might not at all be what musical cue was trying to convey, and I may be biased by only having seen post-Star Wars Mark Hamill as a villain in The Flash. And I don’t love the whole fan theorizing/speculation culture, anyway, because there will be actual canon answers in two years, so whatever; I’ll wait.
Also, god, I want more Kylo Ren backstory. I saw some tumblr textpost speculating that he and Poe knew each other growing up, hence Poe’s super casual attitude towards his interrogation, and yes, I would like a definitive answer on that, especially given Poe’s apparent closeness to Leia (Is it strictly a professional loyalty thing, or does Leia see Poe as the son Ben could have been, and if so, how much angst does Kylo Ren have about that?). I do really like the writing choice of using “seduced” in the context of Dark Side to Light Side, since we’re so used to hearing it in the opposite context that it feels sort of jarring, but right, it seems somewhat akin to vehement ex-Catholics who still occasionally feel Catholic guilt, because as hard as they may try, they can’t fully disconnect themselves from the culture in which they were raised. And, I don’t know, unless there’s a reveal of some sort of traumatic event in Kylo Ren’s past that led him to the Dark Side, I’m fine with the idea that it was probably a combination of rebellion against his parents, teen angst that the Jedi system/Luke was not equipped to handle, and being one of those weird loner kids who gets really into
Nazi Imperial aesthetics. Also, god, the official Star Wars Spotify account’s Kylo Ren playlist is fucking on point, especially when considered side by side the official Darth Vader playlist; basically a bunch of angsty nu metal (Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, etc.) vs classic NWOBHM (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc.), which yeah, captures the relationship between those characters quite nicely. I don’t know, I was prepared to hate Kylo Ren, because Adam Driver’s character on Girls is garbage, and, well, Kylo Ren, is also garbage, but he’s, like, transcendently garbage. I love it.
This has gotten so long that I think I won’t try to do the mapping between the old and new trios, but in terms of circumstantial elements/plot points, you can probably find parallels between any member of the new trio and all three members of the old trio, so it’s not as simple as, say, Finn is the new Luke, Rey is the new Leia, and Poe is the new Han Solo, or any single other mapping. And in terms of actual personality and motivations, they’re not really that similar to the old trio at all.
1. The best Real World analogy I can come up with: Obi-Wan was tenured professor Qui-Gon Jin’s PhD student, and his graduation and hiring process ended up being pushed forward by Qui-Gon’s death. To a 10-year-old, there might seem like a huge gap in authority or experience there, but when you reach 20 and realize the person who taught you everything had literally just gotten his PhD when he started teaching you and that he basically had the same level of experience that you have now, that’s, you know, a whole weird perspective shift. ^
2. It would also be interesting if they had leaned more heavily on this, to the point of making Anakin’s mental stability more ambiguous. Certainly some of his jealous/paranoid rants about Obi-Wan read as legit unstable rather than just anger/fear/hate. ^
3. Fun fact: the love theme from Attack of the Clones is the tune that I used to identify the minor sixth interval back in my music theory days. God, that love theme is so fucking good. ^
4. I happened to be reading Selected Letters of E.M. Forster at the same time, and this felt semi-relevant:
The yogi attitude must have been wonderful. I expect that to you two such an attitude seems steadily beautiful. Or do you have your moments of repulsion and think ‘What shall it profit a man to gain his own soul, if he lose the whole world?’ It is curious how one’s little feelings are connected with the immense past, for I am sure that the repulsion of which I speak is our heritage from Graeco-Roman civilisation. Logically, the yogi must be right. Wealth, success, friendship, love, are all one illusion, and reality, (whatever it may be) is obscured by them. But in practise one shrinks from this conclusion. The Western world, and in particular the Latin races, have too vivid a sense of surface-values.
5. It is perhaps embarrassing to admit this, but honestly, if I try to think back on when I first noticed that people in movies were attractive, I do think Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back was one of the early ones, although I can’t quite figure out the timeline. I feel like it was around the same time that I acquired the Star Wars Life board game. ^
6. I am super tempted to go deeper in trying to make this Cabaret connection, but that seems like it would be awful for my sanity. Still, you have this sense of the cantina band continuing to do their thing under different regimes, and the sort of uneasy disconnect that the whole ambience in Jabba’s palace causes, where on one hand you have the lively music and scantily clad women, but on the other hand, this oppressive atmosphere that you know can turn violent at any second and, well, the fact that at least one of the women is there against her will, just makes it all so disturbing and unsexy. But okay, this is a super dumb line of thought to go down, and I will stop. ^
7. We could try to justify this by saying that the prequels take place, what, 20-30 years before A New Hope, and so Lucas is trying to establish the sense of past by having people speak in generically stiff and old-timey dialogue? That seems like a pretty weak argument, though. ^