Sunday, March 1, 2009

episode VI, and we're done!

We wrapped up the marathon around 2AM last night.

It was quite an experience, one we'll always remember. It made us realize just how goddamn amazing the original trilogy is, compared to the prequels.

I recommend it for everyone.

3 comments:

David said...

Even Return of the Jedi, which used to seem so crappy compared with the first two, feels like Citizen Kane after the prequels.

Avi said...

Congratulations!

A few months ago I watch 4, 5, 6, and 1. Not on the same night. Return of the Jedi never seemed crappy to me. Now that I'm older, I realize the ewoks are a little too dorky and goofy, but they in no way ruin the movie. Jar Jar is 100 times worse. Also, I realized, WOW, ep 5 is DARK! The heroes are losing at every turn.

David said...

I suppose it's all relative. You may find you react differently to the films throughout your lifetime. Remember in Clerks when Randal laments that the Death Star explosion in Jedi, unlike the one in A New Hope, killed mostly independent contractors?

As a teen-ager, I felt disappointed Luke did not get the girl. Watching the films in the post-college anonymity of my twenties, I thought Lando and Wedge deserved more credit. I can tell you the dialogue is a lot more wince-inducing when you hear it for the first time as an adult, as with the deleted scenes from the original trilogy. As a kid, I never understood what adults meant when they described Star Wars as campy.

Recently I watched Jedi again, and it felt deliberately unsatisfying in the way that paternalistic fairy tales can be. It's impossible not to feel let down with this movie, if for no other reason than that it marks the end of the series (at least for now). While Jedi is all about revelation—of outcome, of truth, of Darth Vader's visage—it conceals a subtext every bit as cynical as that of The Empire Strikes Back. Obi-Wan's remark that the truths we cling to depend on our point-of-view feels vaguely self-referential.

It begets the question of what scenes one could add that would subvert the audience's sympathies without disrupting the films' existing continuity. This is a useful exercise for any story. With "We Need Girlfriends," for example, Tom cannot have sex with Lucy, at least not in the first season, but he and his friends could stage a John Carpenter marathon. As a writer, you constantly discard scenes and dialogue that do not advance your agenda. The tighter your narrative, the less leeway you have. And there are some gaping holes in Jedi.

Like, what happens to all the Imperials the Rebels capture? Now that we know Stormtroopers are clones with all traces of individuality bred out of them, what is the likelihood one would surrender? At this point it would undermine Han's transformation for him to kill a captive prisoner, but I see no reason why a bunch of Ewoks whose siblings were just slain would exercise such restraint.

The only Imperials we see at the end are the helmets an Ewok plays like a xylophone. Presumably these stripped these from corpses, but which ones? The ones killed in battle or the ones who were captured? This scene would be less palatable had it been a human playing drums with dead soldiers' helmets. Perhaps the Rebels are really rejoicing because, in the zero-sum balance of the Force, they have attained redemption through the more savage Ewoks. Like the narrator of Robert Louis Stevenson's short story "The Bottle Imp," the Rebels ultimately find someone dumb and poor enough to buy into their cause. Which is no different really from what the Emperor has been doing all along.

Imagine for a moment the Rebels have no qualms about killing civilians. After all, they destroy the Death Star without waiting to make sure Luke is safe, and the Ewoks fire arrows indiscriminately into the crowd outside the bunker. If any stray arrows hit Rebels, we do not see it. Nor do we ever see Stormtroopers open fire on each other, despite their homogeneity. Are the Rebels, like al-Qaida, willing to sacrifice their own for the sake of the greater good? Even Yoda suggests in Empire that if Luke values what Han and Leia fight for, then he will let them die (as Obi-Wan did with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru).

If these films were mindless exercises in wish fulfillment as their detractors suggest, then Luke would have gotten the girl and slain Darth Vader, who would have turned out to be a lying sack of shit. But it's almost as if George Lucas, like Alec Guinness, does not want us to get lost in our solipsistic fantasy. The show's over, he's turned up the lights, and is nudging us to wake up.

Again, maybe what I am seeing now just reflects what I am going through at this stage of my life.