Friday, October 09, 2009

Star Wars – Franchise Retrospective

Since I hope to give weekly reviews of new Season 2 episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, I’ll be providing a capsule review of my thoughts on Season 1, but first some perspective…

The Original Trilogy
I was two months old when Return of the Jedi arrived in theaters, but I still managed to grow up on Star Wars. I remember the subtle shift in my childhood mentality when the Death Star trench sequence of A New Hope went from being “that boring extra part of the movie” to being the relieving coda that, meant even after all the excitement of rescuing the princess had finished, there was still more movie to enjoy. I remember the awe of The Empire Strikes Back (“There’s more!?”) and running to the kitchen to hide from the television when Vader cut off Luke’s hand. I remember the pure bliss of being in Jabba’s Palace and the Forest of Endor – simply being in these places made Return of the Jedi my favorite for many years. Older and a bit more opinionated, I’ve come to appreciate ‘Empire’ the most, but ‘Jedi’ will always hold a close second.

The Merchandise
Star Wars fans like to breathe the universe. For me this took the form of music and toys. My love affair with film music is a story unto itself, but suffice to say John Williams and Star Wars had a noteworthy role in the tale. And, already being a fan of acting out stories with action figures, I was instantly hooked when Kenner released its rebooted line of 1995 Star Wars figures. And that’s one collection of mine that just doesn’t seem to stop growing.

The Expanded Universe
The merits of the ‘EU’ are as hit-or-miss as any so diverse and vast an array of novels, comics, short stories, and video games could be expected to be. To many Star Wars fans who prefer their canon to be ‘G-Level’ (or George Lucas level, i.e. the films and ‘The Clone Wars’), the ‘EU’ is thought to be a tangled mess of curious but ultimately unimportant explorations of that Galaxy Far, Far Away. I’ll readily admit there’s some flimsy and bizarre stuff out there in the EU, and while I’m well-read in it, I’m certainly not an expert, but I’d also go so far as to say that the single best Star Wars stories I’ve ever experienced were select EU novels and comics. I have Timothy Zahn to almost single-handedly thank for carrying my childhood love of Star Wars on through to adulthood. Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston are also authors worthy of note. There’s some bad, BAD stuff out there… but the best of the ‘EU’ is damn, DAMN good. I’m not of the mind that everything ever written in the Star Wars galaxy need be taken carefully into consideration for new G-Level canon entries, but I am of the mind that G-Level canon ought to mine the best of the ‘EU’ for material more often than it does. There’s a reason so many movies are based on books…

The Prequel Trilogy
Like many, I awaited The Phantom Menace with childlike glee. When it arrived, I enjoyed what I got – I really did – but the knowledge of what I didn’t get, or what I COULD have gotten ultimately soured the experience. There were things done right; there were things done terribly wrong. What was once sleek and inspiring was now clunky and over-stuffed. Character took a backseat to pageantry. Things that should have been deep were shallow. Attack of the Clones followed suit, featuring much that was cool, and much that was pathetic. I wanted SO badly to feel the love between Padme and Anakin. I wanted SO badly to feel the thrill of adventure when Yoda arrived with those Clones. But genuine emotion was subbed for by wooden, characterless dialogue. And that ending battle was such a mishmash of images that there was no chain of invention to follow. What ought to have been an incredible set piece, came off as random, unorchestrated chaos. And Revenge of the Sith brought more of the same – a bit more refined perhaps, but the lack of real characterization and motivation throughout the trilogy undercut a series of what would have been powerhouse sequences (Anakin’s fall, turn, murders, and duel) had they been played out by people the audience could inhabit and understand. There’s much I love about the Prequel Trilogy, but there’s far more that frustrates me to the core.

The Clone Wars
Despite the opinion of general geekdom turning against modern Star Wars, with ludicrous cries of “Lucas raped my childhood” and blind accusations of it all being soulless money-grubbing exploitation of the original trilogy’s fans, I – like most open-minded fans -- am ALWAYS up for more Star Wars. Are those that have turned against Lucas really so narrow-minded that they don’t think ANYTHING good could come out of further Star Wars outings? Are they so self-centered that they don’t realize there’s a legion of fans out there clamoring for more? Oh well… I for one was thrilled at the announcement of The Clone Wars series, and even more thrilled when it was announced the first three episodes would be released in theatres as a single story. Unlike most critics and belligerent fans, I went into my screening fully expecting to see three episodes of a TV show projected at movie theater size for my pleasure – I appreciated the gesture to us theater-going fans. So where those aforementioned belligerents saw what they dubbed to be an insignificant entry in the Star Wars canon with sub-par animation for a feature film, what I saw was a pretty good, very fun, series pilot with a lot of potential for things to come, with easily the best television animation I’d ever seen. And with the promise of a new adventure every week, my mind went right back to that ‘Empire’-inspired childhood grin: “There’s more!?” While some fans were blustering and posturing their disdain, it seemed like a pretty good deal to me…

1 comment:

Teebore said...

Hey there Sagacious Penguin!

I followed you over from Nikki's Lost blog, but wanted to leave a comment on one of your Star Wars posts, since we seem to share a similar love of and experiences with it.

I was born a year after Empire, so I too am in that group that was too young to experience Star Wars in its first run but old enough that I still grew up in a Star Wars world. And I can also thank Timothy Zahn for cementing my love of Star Wars: I was eleven or twelve when "Heir to the Empire" was published and was blown away by the concept of the Expanded Universe.

As you say, it contains some bad stuff as well as some good stuff, but I love it just the same.

Like you, I am ALWAYS up for more Star Wars, though I'll need to get caught up on the second season of Clone Wars to follow along with you.

Anyways, just wanted to say hello, and if you have the time, stop over to my blog (Gentlemenofleisure1.blogspot.com). Me and a couple of other guys discuss all things pop culture, including a weekly analysis of Lost that I write.