Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tip O'Day #336 - Plot Problems in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Guest blogger Zvi Zaks muses on the Star Wars series.

The first Star Wars, Episode Four, presents magnificent epitomes of good (Obi Wan) and evil (Darth Vader). Luke, at first somewhat bratty, becomes a strong protagonist. It's a clean, well structured story.

In Episode Five, the neatness unravels. Vader is not ultimate evil (the Emperor is), and Luke endangers everyone by abandoning his training. Still, the story moves smoothly to that famous kicker, "Luke, I am your father."

Episode Six reveals Vader has unsuspected goodness, and Obi Wan shows himself a weasel when he says 'in a sense' Vader killed Luke's father. It's a little confusing, but we're more or less satisfied at the end. Stories of pure good and evil are less interesting that those with more ambivalent characters, but the latter need more skill in construction. Vader as Luke's father just does not fit with the original film. Lucas tried too hard for the poignant. Since that idea arose after the first film was 'in the can,’ the story suffered.

In Episode One, everything changes. How can cute, wise, brave little Anikin be a villain? Moreover, Jedis Qui-Gon and the young Obi Wan, unlike wise Alec Guinness, are insensitive jerks. Who are the good guys here?

Later, Obi Wan becomes obnoxiously overbearing. Inexplicably, Padme falls in love with and marries Anakin, an impetuous teen at least ten years younger. In Episode two, we see droids under the evil Dookus and clones, precursors of the imperial storm troopers. It's confusing. Who should we root for?

In a plausible seduction, Anikin succumbs to the dark side. The mind-controlled clones betray the Jedi. Yoda goes into exile on Degaba (in a scene that, sadly, didn't make the final cut.) Babies Leia and Luke are placed with good families, CP3O has his memory wiped to conform with later episodes, and we're ready to watch Episode 4 - A New Hope once again.

Scientific absurdities abound (e.g., using 'parsec' as a unit of time, driving a submarine through a planet's core, and a robot, Grievous, with a hunched back and cough). Most are minor. Much more serious is the failure of the Jedis to rescue Anakin's mother from slavery. Her death is necessary to show Anakin's progression to the Dark Side, but it's unrealistic. A trained Jedi might not need emotional attachments, but Anakin is still a child.

Lucas has created a messiah (virgin birth, no less) who falls into evil and needs redemption himself instead of redeeming others. The idea is lofty, but the execution lacks finesse. At the end, there is no point. Anakin-Vader, the saga's main character, is neither hero nor anti-hero. One is tempted to ask - why bother?

I bother. I love Star Wars. The spectacular eye-candy, inspiring music, and enough shturm und drang to delight a meteorologist sucks me in time after time. And watching it while exercising makes my workouts much easier. It's a lot of fun.

But it's nothing to take seriously.

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