Tuesday, February 03, 2015

#790. Star Wars: Strange Magic?

One of this year's earliest releases ended up being what should have been considered inevitable: a fully animated George Lucas film.

This was Strange Magic, which like 2012's Red Tails and two out of the six original Star Wars films was directed by someone else, but the George Lucas is strong in it.  Specifically because the Star Wars is strong in it.

After reading the Dark Horse comic book adaptation of The Star Wars, the original vision of the saga, in which names and situations are familiar, but everything's scrambled compared to what ended up on the screen, it's become hard for me to separate Lucas from his variations.  Strange Magic, in some sense, is the courtship of Padme and Anakin all over again.

Although to be more specific, it might even be an alternate version of Darth Vader himself, the later fully villainous version of Anakin Skywalker.  Strange Magic's Bog King is an unhappy fellow who has instituted an oppressive regime, much as how Vader first appears in A New Hope.

It's worth noting how even in the films as they have been presented, Star Wars still remains difficult to completely reconcile.  Luke and Leia being siblings was something that kind of happened in Return of the Jedi.  Anyone familiar with the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye will remember what New Hope and even The Empire Strikes Back implies about their relationship.

Lucas involved triangle romances, or implied triangle romances, in the Star Wars prequels, as Anakin believes Obi-Wan Kenobi is somehow involved with Padme by Revenge of the Sith.  This is one of the singular misunderstandings about the saga yet simultaneously one of its most popular elements, insofar as the romance between Leia and Han Solo, as emphasized in Empire Strikes Back, which also introduced Vader being Luke's father.

Lucas working with complicated relationships was evident in American Graffiti, a film about high school students.  To some extent, how much a fan understands or appreciates what Lucas has done throughout his career, and not just Star Wars, affects how they view Star Wars itself and their ability to interpret what is and isn't accomplished in it with regards to the prequels.  Yet Lucas himself always viewed Star Wars as far more fluid than the fans would, which has contributed to a widening distance between his impact on what makes Star Wars what it is and what the fans think about that.  This is where Strange Magic enters the equation, again.

This is a movie that makes it clear how different Star Wars can be, in any number of ways.  The Bog King softens when he realizes Marianne can see him as something other than a monster, and the idea of true love as a source of power akin to the Force represented by the presence of an imp who could very easily be seen as a variation on Yoda, whom Lucas once referenced as a classic magical bunny, as in Alice in Wonderland, who randomly appears to facilitate matters.  Now, seeing Yoda as just a "magical bunny" is difficult in itself, because his original appearance in Empire Strikes Back as a wise sage instead of the strange little miscreant he first seems to be drastically affected any other interpretation.  The Yoda in the prequels has a far more gleeful attitude, especially around young Padawan learners (as seen in Attack of the Clones), something that seemed impossible in Empire Strikes Back and even The Phantom Menace.

Yet context is always key.  In one context, Vader is no Bog King, Luke and Leia had no potential for romance at all, and Yoda is too busy being sage to bother with being playful.  In another, everything is different.  Yet, in the mind of George Lucas, the same.

Strange Magic failed at the box office because it wasn't really a children's animated film at all.  Maybe it was supposed to be, but it might better be appreciated for what it really is, a commentary on Star Wars and how its creator continues to see it.  Lucas is famously uninvolved in the Disney version of Star Wars that begins with The Force Awakens, but he still has things left to say.  Far too often, the conversation has leaned toward the fans being tired of Lucas changing things.  But it's worth remembering that for longer than the fans knew anything about Star Wars, George Lucas was already changing things.

It actually deepens the experience.


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