Tuesday, January 12, 2016

853. The Force Awakens - Refuting the Naysayers Continues

Here's a guy who seems to make a pretty strong argument to not take The Force Awakens seriously.

The first and most obvious mistake this guy makes is assuming the original trilogy was about the fall of the Empire and return of the Republic, rather than the story of Darth Vader's improbable redemption at the hands of his son Luke Skywalker. Little wonder that he fails to understand what the First Order is or why it's significant that Han Solo is killed by his own son.

To wit: The Republic exists in The Force Awakens. The First Order is the remnant of the Imperial military, the muscle the Emperor massed over the years to consolidate his rule, why he was able to officially dissolve the Senate only by the time of A New Hope.  Which is to say, even with his iron grip, he still needed help to effect complete control. Hence, a reliance on big guns like the Death Star and its successors. Also, that's why he needed lackeys like Vader at all. "Unlimited power!" Because even the most powerful Sith, or Jedi for that matter, is still just one person, and therefore limited. Gaining a powerful new apprentice gives Palpatine renewed power, "unlimited" power, just another dude he was able to manipulate to stick around.

Anyway, then we reach the relevancy of Kylo Ren and the significance of his relationship, or lack thereof, with Han Solo. Snoke's power over Ren exists entirely in the boy's lack of emotional control. This is always the downfall of a Force practitioner. It nearly ruined Luke, and obviously it did ruin his father. The Sith thrive on emotion, but even they must control it. Ren killing his father severs a level of emotional turmoil he's had difficulty reconciling with his own perception of his future, and obviously Snoke's as well. Snoke thinks this is for the better. But is it? Without this anchor to what led him to Snoke, Ren is actually closer to redemption than corruption.

As for recurring the Death Star element at all, this is basic military tactics. For almost as long as we've had atomic weapons, we've been trying to get rid of them. But we haven't. They're a permanent weapon of our modern arsenal. They loom constantly. Whether you consider the Death Star as a metaphor or not, it makes perfect in-universe sense to keep building the big gun of the Star Wars arsenal over and over again, just as the Sith keep resurfacing.

The problem with guys like this is that they think they're outsmarting what's already about as smart a Star Wars story as there's ever been.  But ironically, Star Wars was never really about being smart, but about its emotional impact.  It's an adventure that seeks to deepen what adventure stories tend to accomplish.  George Lucas always wanted a complicated story.  He didn't always have the exact details in mind that we've grown to love in the original films, and the most famous examples are the big reveals of Empire Strikes Back (Vader is Luke's father!) and Return of the Jedi (Luke and Leia are siblings!), as any fan who ever read Splinter of the Mind's Eye will have known.  The genius of A New Hope was how Luke is immediately presented as an orphan with an interesting backstory.  That about sums up Harry Potter, too, right?  That's exactly why Harry became so popular, because in seven books and eight films, we find out what made his backstory so interesting, and how it all leads to defeating what otherwise might have been a scary but ultimately generic villain. 

Now, just imagine if Empire Strikes Back hadn't had that big ending.  Would anyone really care about Star Wars today?  Plenty of really popular movies have leveled off to exist in the social morass. They still count for something, but in far more limited ways than when they first debuted.  That could just as easily have been the fate of Star Wars, too.  Yet the story was deepened, with one scene.  One scene!  The rest of the movie is fine, really, but without that one scene, the whole thing looks pretty weightless.  And the thing about The Force Awakens is that it doesn't hinge on one scene.  The whole thing seeks to deepen the story.

The problem is that the prequels did, too.  And fans now think of deepening the story as weakening it.  I think that's insane, I really do.  But that's about where most people are in their consumption of popular entertainment.  They actually crave the superficial.  They like disposable, the shiny baubles that are fun to enjoy and then pass along to the annals of history.  What makes Star Wars so different is that it changed the rules.  We ended up caring too much.  And now we don't know what to think of it anymore.  For most people, it's the happy memories, something that helped build something, that in the books and comics became exactly the disposable landscape they're most familiar with otherwise enjoying.  They don't need to think too much about it.

Now Star Wars is asking them to think again.  For some fans, that's just unacceptable.  Too bad for them.

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