The Force…

Posted in movies, sci-fi by jrahman on June 10, 2015

… is upon Rahman pere et fils.


We’ve watched all six episodes — starting with A New Hope, followed by The Empire Strikes Back, then the prequel trilogy, to finish with Return of the Jedi.  Then we started afresh with the first two prequels.  Now going through The Clone Wars — we will not watch Revenge of the Sith until the animated series has run its course.

That’s, of course, on TV.  On the iPad, between the homework, dinner and bedtime reading, endless loops of I am your father or you are the chosen one or goood, not to mention the lego or angry bird versions of the saga or eleventy million fan videos — that’s a different story altogether.

He has the lines from this memorised:

At this rate, I think the kid will have his first brush with disappointment because, let’s face it, sky high expectations are usually unmet.

Was it the unrealistic expectation that caused our disappointment with the prequel trilogy?  After thorough research (see the first para), I am convinced that the prequels are bad in their own right.  In fact, I can do better.  I think I have a good idea of what went wrong with those movies.  As long as these mistakes are avoided, I think I’ll be satisfied with the new one.

Since we are talking about prequels, let’s start at the end — the redemption of Anakin ‘Darth Vader’ Skywalker.  That makes the prequel about the fall of Papa Skywalker — how the Great Jedi Anakin turned dark Darth Vader.  What tempted him?  Given the kids-friendly nature of the saga, the temptation here could not be of the lascivious type.

I guess the simplest path for George Lucas would have been to do a revenge story — you know, My name is Anakin Skywalker, you killed my father, prepare to die.  Wait, that’s what Luke said to Darth, when he didn’t know the truth.  Oh wait, wrong movie.

Okay, I jest, but you get the gist.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there lived a young Jedi named Anakin Skywalker.  While not protecting the civilisation with his pal Obi Wan Kenobi by elegantly wielding his lightsaber, Mr Skywalker lived in a peaceful farmhouse with his wife, sister, maybe even mother, until tragedy befell them in the form of villainy and scum that are the Hutts.  The notorious Hutts did unspeakable things to the ladies, but because there was no witness, the blind justice of the Jedi order could not deliver a just outcome for our your hero.  Enter the enigmatic newspaperman who shows Anakin that it’s okay to bend the rules a bit for the greater good, until of course we find out that Anakin is just a pawn of the baddest villain of all….

Wait, once again, I am mixing up my movies!

Again, you get the point.  A personal tragedy, a need for vengeance, retribution, all perhaps manipulated by the Sith Lord Voldemort Palpatine — that would have been the simplest story for the prequel trilogy.  And to his credit, Mr Lucas did not make Death Wish in Outer Space.

Just in case you need a reminder of what actually transpires in the prequel:

You see, the prequels are based on not one, but two grand themes — a republic in crisis and a torn soul.  These are heavy stuff.

Let’s take the political one first.  The Galactic Republic is bloated, crumbling under its own weight.  Senate is dysfunctional.  Bureaucrats call the shots.  Special interest groups — Trade Federation, Banking Clans — undermine public welfare.  That’s the setting for Palpatine’s rise to power and Dooku’s separatist move, secretly instigated by Darth Sidious aka Palpatine (yes, spoiler– come on, if you’re reading this then you know already!).  Meanwhile, the unelected, unaccountable Jedi are not really all that effective at doing their job of maintaining peace in the Republic.

The original trilogy makes it clear that the Empire is evil, and the rebels are the good guys.  But the politics of the prequel trilogy is lot more complicated.  When and how does democratic republicanism falter?  With a gridlocked Washington DC, a moribund Europe and an ascendant China, few questions are of greater importance.

And yet, in the person of Anakin Skywalker we have a bunch of those more important questions — the blurry lines between good and evil, love and hate, fear and hope.  The Jedi are not supposed to fall in love, because desire leads to the dark side.  But wait, desire is natural, and erecting barriers don’t tend to work out well — just ask those sexually repressed priests any economist.  So the Sith were right?  Well, perhaps not — unfettered desire does lead to all sort of trouble, just ask those sexually repressed priests behavioural economist.  Perhaps the prophecy of Anakin bringing balance to the force was about, you know, finding a balance between red hot desire and the green placidity?

But Anakin had other issues, as explained by this after school conversation:

: Who is Darth Vader’s daddy?
– He doesn’t have a daddy.
: Why doesn’t he have a daddy?
– He is a miracle child.
: What’s a miracle child?
– One without a daddy.
: Only mummy, no daddy.
– Yes.
: What if they want baba cuddle!

Lack of a father figure, forbidden love, anger issues — this is the stuff of Shakespeare, or Greek tragedy.  And therein lies a big problem.  I think this guy would have done a better James Dean impersonation than Hayden Christensen!

Okay, it’s not just Christensen — pretty much everyone underwhelms, perhaps because the script was poor, and direction was lacklustre.  Perhaps it’s Lucas.  Perhaps he stopped being a good moviemaker in the 1980s?  Perhaps he got so consumed by CGI that he forgot about the basics?  The irony is that the CGI is actually pretty ordinary, cartoonish even, so much so that The Clone Wars look better!

Or perhaps he was catering to a different audience.  My son loves the prequels (though there is definitely an aversion to any scene with Jar Jar Binks).  Then again, he also loves The Clone Wars.

As do I.  If the new movie is anything like The Clone Wars, I would be happy.

In fact, you know what, it’s okay even if the new movie is a turkey, because happiness is your five year old starting a story with: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…..


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