Thursday, September 15, 2011

Star Wars, The Epic that Was and Wasn’t

Tomorrow for the first time ever, the complete Star Wars series will be released on Blu-ray.  The first time this collection will be seen in high definition, although the movies have been on TV in high definition.  I still remember the first time I saw Star Wars.  I honestly didn’t know what I was watching, but back in the day, you know, when there were not 500 channels on, sometimes you just happened upon things.  I can’t remember the last time that has happened.  With the massive amount of DVD’s and programs on, it isn’t any wonder I haven’t ‘discovered’ any great new, or old, shows.

Star Wars is the coming of age story of a boy who discovers there is something more out there than a normal existence.  In many ways, the plot speaks to all of us, because don’t we all wish there were something more to life than the mundane actions we go through daily.  In the original series, the audience follows the exploits of Luke Skywalker, an unassuming boy who discovers he has powers.  As the story progresses, it involves a variety of characters, places and people, for a lack of a better word.  I often forget that Yoda wasn’t introduced until the second of the original trilogy.  It is from Yoda, the small, green Jedi Master that Luke truly learns the powers that he possesses through ‘the Force.’ Once the trilogy ends, most of the story is wrapped up perfectly.

Almost thirty years later, George Lucas, the creator of the original trilogy decided to create the prequels to the original series.  Between the two releases, after some research, a friend informed me what the plot was to be for the original, and alluded to Anakin being the chosen one and the prophecy would be misread.  Anakin was chosen to bring balance to the force, and if you note the tone in the prequels, the balance is skewed to the side of light.  Anakin does balance it, so that the dark side takes hold, and then with the birth of Luke and Leia, only then is the force truly balanced between light and dark.

The novels that follow the story after the movies are interesting, and some actually ‘follow’ the tone that Lucas dictates, but none capture the spirit of the films better than the series written by Timothy Zahn.  I happened upon one of his books and ended up buying one of his trilogies.  Zahn captures the allure of Star Wars without distilling any of the core beliefs that make it great.

When Star Wars was released, the story was not terribly original, but the special effects, for that time, were the first of their kind.  Doing a space movie of that magnitude could have gone the way of Star Trek, which some would consider deliciously campy, I find abhorrently boring.  Star Wars had the perfect palette of characters, something for everyone to latch onto, and an easy plot that never over-assumed itself.  Where Star Wars began to show some signs of a lack of lustre was with the prequels.

I will stop here and say one thing, I enjoyed the prequels over the sequels by leaps and bounds.  The original series was amazing, don’t get me wrong, but the polish in the special effects and acting in the prequels makes them stand out.  The original cast was great, but save for Harrison Ford, none had the screen presence that you get from Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen or Natalie Portman, all of whom have gone on to other commercial success, though Christensen having the least of the three.

What makes the prequels more accessible is something the original series couldn’t do: the prequels were built on a strong foundation.  The polarisation from one extreme to the other for each character provided more substance for the viewer.  Although Darth Vader, in the original, was a perfect villain, the variety of Darth Maul, General Grievous, Senator Palpantine and Count Dooku made for a more diverse character spread.

Lucas was lucky in producing the prequels when he did.  Computer generated effects were becoming much more established and stories of science fiction nature were more prevalent.  Where the original had to draw viewers in with no frame of reference, the prequels had a rich science fiction history, both related and not, that made it accessible.

But above all of this, as I said before, acting made the greatest impact.  The writing was unchanged from one series to the next.  I often find myself frustrated when fans say the originals were written better.  No, they were written exactly the same, the change was you had far better actors delivering lack-lustre lines.  I mean, who can forget the painful scene in Attack of the Clones where Anakin admits his feelings to Padme?  It is awful.  But it isn’t awful because Christensen and Portman deliver the lines badly, no, it is because they are bring the scene up to as high a level as they can, and it doesn’t belong there.

Tomorrow I plan on grabbing the prequel as soon as I can.  But I will not be purchasing the entire series.  I don’t need the originals in high definition, quite frankly, I don’t care.  I want to re-watch Revenge of the Sith until I burn a hole in the disc.  I’ll leave the slurping of the original series for the rest of the fans, give me quality over quantity in this instance.

1 comment:

  1. My dad saw the complete set in the Best Buy ad and went 'We should get that, it can be the family Christmas present'. No prompting or anything. I'm not going to argue or anything. Saves me from saving for it or asking for it. I just hope they'd put the original theatrical versions, and the ones with all the edits they've done over the years as a separate thing. I haven't heard if they've done that to the prequels at all.