In honor of the posting of the new Star Wars 7 trailer, I pointed out on Facebook that Star Wars, in fact, sucks. I got yelled at, a lot, of course, so I felt a certain need to expand upon my argument. Since Facebook is a poor medium for explaining anything that takes more than three sentences, I brought my argument here:
Why Star Wars Sucks…
For purposes of this argument, I’m going to ignore that Episodes 1,2, and 3 exist, simply because even Star Wars fanatics admit they are somewhat problematic, and so their inclusion seems dangerously close to strawman, or at the very least, like bringing a baseball bat to beat up an eighth grader. I’d rather not pile on.
Star Wars, A New Hope is actually a decent fantasy flick. That it is fantasy and not science fiction has been well argued, so I won’t go into that. It has a strong simple plot (farm boy is accidentally pulled into an intergalatic war, and becomes a hero), fun tidbits in the Force and lightsabers, and an Empire sufficiently evil to root against (blowing up a planet just to prove a point? That’s not the Diet Coke of Evil).
Recent information, in the form of Dark Horse comics and deleted scenes show that its likely that Star Wars only works because George Lucas didn’t have the money or the power to screw it up, even though he tried (and tried again, with the special edition shit). But he didn’t, so he didn’t, and Star Wars ends up being a pretty enjoyable blockbuster.
That is, until The Empire Strikes Back shows up to screw everything up. Most people think it’s the best of the bunch, and as a movie, they are probably right. The dialogue is a bit less laborious, the characters and tone are more realistic and human, and the directing is much crisper and more professional. But, in terms of what it does to the overall story, it sucks. And worst of all, the “realistic downer” ending isn’t really an ending at all – just a trend setter for the “setting up the sequel” ending that has become a de rigueur for big budget movies.
In the first movie, lightsabers and the Force are these egalitarian weapons and, well, magic, that are available to anyone willing to believe and study hard (Luke has no special access to the Force beyond a suggested affinity and an available teacher). Luke’s place as the unlikely hero from the first movie is revealed to be a sort of inherent destiny due to his parentage. It becomes obvious that Obi Wan hung around near Luke because Luke was genetically pre-disposed to being the hero. So much for the rest of us growing up to save the universe…
Moreover, the mythos around being a Jedi Knight takes a major beating. In the first movie, being a Jedi is hinted being a lifelong calling. But all it takes to become a Jedi is a matter of days, hanging out in the jungle with an angry green oven mitt. Seriously, why does Yoda complain about Luke so much? As far as Yoda is concerned, Luke is literally his last option for passing on his religion, and its work that can be done in a matter of days. But he’s a cute oven mitt, and Luke is sort of a brat (I guess people forget he’s all of 17 at this point because the actor looks 40…), so people give him a pass.
And that brings us to Return of the Jedi. Where should I start? Maybe with the teddy bears that can bring down the Empire (weren’t these the guys that used to be able to blow up planets?)? Maybe the crime lord who runs his operations out of the ass end of the universe? (Seriously, what mafia boss would set up operations in the middle of nowhere? It’s like the Yakuza operating out of Ogallala, Nebraska)* But the bit that gets me the most is the bit with Luke and Leia being siblings. It is so obviously tacked on that it reveals that the rest of the trilogy was put together with bailing wire and prayer. People mention the two kissing in Empire as problematic, but for me, the bigger problem is that Vader is about to sense Luke as his son after a few minutes together, but after days of holding Leia captive, he couldn’t figure out she was his daughter… I guess the Force is buggy.
I recognize that this is the picking of nits. And yes, they are fun, silly movies, and shouldn’t deserve this much scrutiny. Which is part of my point. Three well-remembered movies from the late seventies and early eighties would be fine. But when they inspired billions in product tie-ins, three (soon to be six) extra movies, TV shows, comics, books, and the like, that’s when it started to bother me that these movies weren’t better. Do these really deserve to be the biggest franchise ever produced? Should they really be worth billions? Should George Lucas really get a museum?
Until Firefly gets a tenth part of the time and money dedicated to Star Wars, I’m going to vote no…