A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .
Why Star Wars is Impervious to Criticism
On 16 May, 2017, Michael Moreci published an article at Tor.com titled “10 Reasons Why Attack of the Clones Is Better Than You Remember.” You can read it here: http://www.tor.com/2017/05/16/10-reasons-why-attack-of-the-clones-is-better-than-you-remember/
Over fifty people chimed in with comments. Very few agreed with the author of the article, and most aired their grievances with the series, especially the prequels.
Every time I become aware of grievances with any of this series, something begins to niggle at the back of my mind. That happens even when I myself have grievances with it. It took a few days to figure out why all those complaints are meaningless, and the reason distills down to two genius moves on George Lucas’ part. This article will discuss those two genius moves, and even how my own criticisms turn to mist in the face of them.
Genius Move #1: Marketing and Presentation.
Star Wars first came across my young radar in 1976, when a novel entitled “Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” crossed my path. The cover was cool, and I had heard there was a movie in the making, so I snapped it up, read it, loved it, and waited for 1977 to roll around. The novel was accredited to George Lucas, but it is widely known now to have been ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster.
When the movie came out, I was there in line at the theater to see it . . . but only FIVE times. After all, I’m not a FANATIC! There was news of sequels, and I quickly learned that Mr. Lucas had NINE movies lined up. First, he would tell the middle three; then do the prequel three; and finally, the concluding three. So, many years of this saga was ahead, and I sighed with pleasure.
And between 1977 and 1983, he did produce the middle three movies of the entire saga.
But, you might wonder, why start in the middle?
Two reasons I can think of: First, because the series would require a lot of info-dumps to give the back story full attention, and he probably thought that beginning in the middle would be satisfying, allow him to introduce parts of the back story which he could elaborate on later. Too, the middle three was more intimate, more character driven – and thus more appealing – while the prequels would be more plot driven. Thirdly (I know, I said there were only two; I lied), based on those prequels, perhaps he was prescient enough to know that CGI special effects would need to come a long way before those prequels could achieve their grand epic scale that they required. That last one presents another caveat to telling this story non-linearly: a whole new generation to woo, and another one coming for the final three. Really, a multi-generational saga spanning three life cycles.
This explains the structure of the movies also. The first in either series was simpler, almost childlike, for younger audiences. Then, over the next six years both series became very dark indeed as the audience matured.
There are three main aspects to writing a good story. The first series (Episodes 4 – 6) emphasized character building, perhaps the most engaging of the three aspects. The second series (Episodes 1 – 3) developed the plot, giving background history and information, and justifying what we saw in the first series.
The third aspect of good story telling (after characters and plot) proves to be the next genius move that renders the entire saga criticism proof. It is . . .
Genius Move #2: Setting
Setting can basically be described as time and place. So, what time and place does this story take place in? What ten words have we been bashed over the head with at the beginning of every movie? These:
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .”
Time: A long time ago. In our history. A long way into our history. So far back that none of these customs are familiar to us.
Place: In a galaxy far, far, away. Not even our galaxy. We don’t even know which galaxy.
This Setting means that all the attitudes, actions, speech, mores, conduct, beliefs, etc. are completely unknown to us. An argument could be made that none of these characters are even human. Oh sure, they’re bipedal, symmetric humanoid appearances seem human, but how do we know if they have two lungs, one lung, or gills perforating their butts? This genius move erases all criticisms.
Take a look back at that Tor.com page, and read some of the critical comments. Let’s answer some of them with this Setting. Let’s answer one of my own criticisms with this Setting, and see what happens, shall we?
Q: What stupid people would appoint a 14-year old Queen Amidala of Naboo, and expect her to have the wisdom of an adult to govern?
A: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . this is quite common. Oddly enough, this has even happened in our galaxy just a few centuries ago.
Q: What an awkward and childish romance between Anakin and Padme!
A: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . this is normal. In fact, it is romanticized in their movies and social media.
Q: Why is their dialog so wooden?
A: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . this dialect is encountered occasionally.
Q: Jar Jar?!?!?!
A: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . this inane and clumsy creature actually became a fairly capable Senator of their Republic. Go figure.
Q: (My own) How can Anakin kill dozens of children and then receive redemption merely by saving his own son from the Emperor?
A: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . moral relativism is the rule, and redemption for horrific crimes is achieved easily. Oddly enough, moral relativism has become quite common in our society as well.
Q: But what about the plot holes?
A: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . certain facts are such common knowledge that it is assumed their audience is well aware of them and there is no need to fill in those gaps.
Q: But, what about Star Wars canon?
A: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . you only know the canon that’s been shown to you. There is much, much more. In fact, there is anything anyone cares to add to the canon, so get over yourself.
Really, what this amounts to is this: We might have opinions about various aspects of the movies or the story, but to pick at those nits in public is a waste of time. It serves only one function: to delude us into thinking we actually know what we are talking about. In reality: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . . anything is possible.
I love these movies, and accept them at face value as fun entertainment. Rogue One is being added to my library as we speak, as I think it is an important addition to the saga. I haven’t decided about Episode VII: The Force Awakens yet. It seems to be a remake of A New Hope. But Episode VIII: The Last Jedi may validate TFA as another vital film in the saga, so we’ll see.
Regardless, may the force be with you.
25 May 2017