Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sins of the Father: The Empire Strikes Back

| by Justin Thomas |

Are you annoyed with the frequent hints of anger directed at George Lucas dropped in these posts now and again? Are you annoyed with how an attempt to build suspense, to get people saying, “Wow, he really hates that guy, and I’m very interested to know why so tell me already,” completely failed? Are you annoyed with the shoehorning of vitriolic prose directed at the man responsible for two of the largest film franchises in history into essays where it decidedly doesn’t belong? Do you wish I’d just get on with it or stop dropping the not-so-subtle hints?

Wait for it...

Let me tell you, dear reader, what I’m annoyed with, and that’s two little boys who demand a Star Wars movie be on the television at all times of the day and night. Oh, it started out pretty cool, “Hey, look, there’s a bit of nature and nurture in how well they’re taking to Star Wars.” That remained for a month or two. Then I desperately wanted something else to do than watch a Star Wars movie. Anything else. I’ve even worked on some writing, which is something I’ll do anything to get out of up to and including buying a movie theater 500 miles from where I currently reside. Then the questions started. “Daddy, why is the top of Luke’s fighter pilot uniform a different orange than the bottom?” “Daddy, where did Wedge go to college?” “Daddy, what is the socio-economic system of the Wookies on Kashyyyk?” You know, stuff absolutely no one ever needed to know, or wondered about, when it comes to the Star Wars movies.

At this point I feel it necessary to apologize to the dozens of people I know who have been subjected to any thought, question, idea, feeling, rant and/or terse e-mail sent regarding the Star Wars film franchise. If I was as bad with the questions, I’ve really annoyed a lot of people.

But let me tell you something else that annoys me and that’s the continual defiling of the Star Wars film franchise by the man responsible for its existence. “Here we go, more Lucas bashing...” Yes and no.
Mostly yes. Okay. Completely yes.

The most-recent viewing of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Version 2.4 got me worked up. During Vader’s teleconference with the Emperor, the newest version of the movie would make one believe Vader was on the hunt for Skywalker but didn’t know he was the Son of Skywalker. I need to break that down a bit.

Someone named Skywalker blew up the Death Star.

The Empire completely mobilized its fleet to find the Rebels and, specifically, someone named Skywalker.

Darth Vader said something like “the Rebels are there and I’m certain Skywalker is with them” so finding Skywalker was of greater importance than finding the Rebels.

But it wasn’t until after the Battle of Hoth when the Emperor informed Darth Vader that Skywalker is the Son of Skywalker. We are to believe everything up to that point was just Darth Vader searching for someone named Skywalker without knowing Skywalker was someone’s son even though every male in that universe, save Anakin Skywalker, had a father and was therefore someone’s son. Vader expresses amazement during the conversation as though he had no idea and the Emperor advises him to search his feelings. Then we get the if he could be turned, he’ll join us or die, blah, blah, blah father-son crap to end the conversation.


Just how stupid is Darth Vader? If the entire saga is watched Episodes I-VI, as I believe we’re to watch them, then Darth Vader is a complete moron. Look, Chief, the dude has your name and was raised on your familial farm by your half-brother and his wife! How can those dots not be connected?
Or how stupid does George Lucas think we are as an audience? Do we really need such a ham-handed handling of the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father in the same movie an hour before the reveal of the single-greatest bombshell in the history of the movies? Are we that dumb that if we’ve watched the movies in order, we won’t know the kid named Luke, born to Padme, fathered genetically by Anakin Skywalker, isn’t Darth Vader’s son? Is that telling of something already shown quite clearly in the other movies necessary? Set aside for a moment the new conversation is nowhere near as good as the original nor is matching the Emperor in Episode V to the Emperor in Episode III any more necessary than having Ewan McGregor reshoot all the Alec Guinness scenes to match. It’s absolutely terrible storytelling and illustration of nothing but contempt for the audience and its intelligence.

It isn’t nitpicking because it’s a huge deal. In the context of the saga it’s a huge moment and one that sabotages the contract between the filmmaker and his audience where one side doesn’t care for the other. How on Earth can someone think it’s an improvement by spoon feeding information a three-year-old already knows if they’ve watched the saga in order?

It’s the right of the artist to finish a work when the artist feels it’s finished, but being the audience of this work of art and seeing it continually changed by someone who has lost sight of what the art means and how to execute that art is difficult. The dude’s done. He has no idea what he’s doing and is so wrapped up in “Well how did Vader know Luke’s his son” that he has lost sight of how asking that question of one moment in one film completely ignores whether the arc of the saga answers it.

The version of The Empire Strikes Back released in 1980 was perfect. There isn’t a single problem with it, it’s a gorgeous movie, there isn’t a single boring shot and it’s an incredible Act II in the three act Original Trilogy. It made the Star Wars franchise. I really wish George Lucas would watch the damn movies before deciding to change something like The Empire Strikes Back.

And I totally know I overused the word “annoy” in this post.

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