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Your Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Reviews All Miss The Point

January 7, 2020
MThomas

Rey

Okay, so I figured that I would never do this.

I mean, write a Star Wars movie review? When so many have already been there, done that, loved it/hated on it/debated it? When I already did it (ah, twenty years ago, but still…)

But, then again, why not?

Especially when so many have gotten it so wrong…

Here’s the thing:

 

It’s a Star Wars movie

This is not Oscar- or Golden Globe-award-winning material. Not for the storyline and acting, anyway. (Well, Adam Driver excepted.)

You see, everybody seems to be forgetting that Star Wars, when it first came out (Episode IV: A New Hope), was regarded even by its own actors as basically a light-hearted B-movie. Typical ’70s sci-fi schlock with some pretty awful dialogue.

Alec Guinness in particular hated working on the original movie. From Bridge Over the River Kwai and Laurence of Arabia to in a American good guy v bad guy space western? (He needed the money.)

Harrison Ford figured it would bomb, so he got ready to go back to work as a carpenter.

The dialogue in Lucas’ movies are so clunky that the most remembered line even in the best of the first trilogy (Empire Strikes Back) is an ad-lib from Ford:

And there were muppets. I mean, muppets for crying out loud. And clichés aplenty. And bad acting. I mean really downright awful piss-poor bad acting (seriously, go watch the first trilogy again and you’ll see what I mean).

Laugh Laughing GIF by Star Wars - Find & Share on GIPHY

This is not a human drama story. This is not real life. There is nothing, repeat, nothing deep here.

Everybody’s getting so hung up on “oh, Rey has no character development, I don’t understand Finn’s motivation, Poe’s dialogue is corny, blah blah blah.”

You’re missing the point.

 

Star Wars is a fairy tale in space

Look, George Lucas pointedly told people that he plotted Episode IV to match the “monomyth” of the hero’s quest — the theory espoused by Joseph Campbell in his classic 1949 book The Hero With A Thousand Faces (this is so well documented I won’t even bother citing anything — go google the interviews!).

Hero1000

Star Wars characters are archetypes. They don’t “develop” or interact realistically at all. And so what? They’re not supposed to. (This is, in fact, why Ford hated playing Han Solo.)

This is why kids love to dress up in Star Wars costumes and run around pretending to be one of the characters. Archetypes represent aspects of humanity, not individual humans. So anybody can imagine themselves as one of the characters, grafting their own personality onto the cardboard figure.

And what’s up with all the butthurt white Reddit fanboys? They got all pissy to see a woman as the protagonist, a black guy as an ex-Stormtrooper, even (gasp) an Asian on screen.

How dare Disney show a future — wait, isn’t this supposed to be “a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” anyways? — that has more diversity than a State university fraternity?

Oh, so you mean archetypes extend to people who aren’t white and male? Hm. Ya think?

And how DARE the filmmakers just make stuff up about the Force? That’s not how it works!

Sigh. Get this…

 

It’s all fictional

Guess what: filmmakers make stuff up. It’s all fiction. It’s make believe.

Did y’all know that?

It’s not real. None of it.

JJ Abrams et al were rewriting the script on the fly on set.

And so was George Lucas, even in Episode IV.

(That’s really common, actually. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, for instance, were notorious for last minute rewrites.)

But in the end, it’s still all just imaginary. These characters are just characters. They don’t exist in real life.

Maybe that bears repeating.

Star Wars is just fiction. Sorry. Moreover…

 

You do all know that Star Wars is not just a movie, right?

It’s a franchise. A series of movies, novels, games, conventions — a cultural behemoth —part of the background of modern pop culture around the English-speaking world. Episode IX has dozens of easter eggs and references to Star Wars lore. Go back and watch it again.

For example, the original costumes in A New Hope were based on Japanese clothing (or at least what Lucas thought was Japanese clothing). Scenes, character relations, and even dialogue was lifted directly from Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress (隠れ砦 Kakure Toride).

So in keeping with this tradition, Rise of Skywalker has a nod to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. (Thanks to Rob Murphy for pointing this out to me! Hadn’t noticed the first time.)

ep9-ff-000034

So why should anybody be at all surprised that the average Chinese moviegoer doesn’t get Star Wars? Gee, you mean, because Jedi knights are a cross between Japanese samurai and Buddhist warrior monks from 12th century Kyoto, Chinese don’t get all that excited about Star Wars? Or that the movies feature rebels fighting a monolithic empire run by a power-hungry dictator? Go figure.

Anyways, back to the main topic…

 

Face it: Star Wars isn’t all that great

Right. So. Look. I get it that some fans are upset because Episodes I through III and VII through IX didn’t match their expectations.

I’m just saying your expectations are unfounded. Way too high.

We all love to remember Star Wars as the best movies EVER. But they just aren’t.

Do I like Star Wars? Hell, yeah, of course. It’s fun to watch. It’s eminently quotable. Some of the memes are endlessly amusing (and editable).

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I finally got my 8 and 10 year old daughters hooked on it last month. They spent most of Christmas and New Year’s running around singing the Darth Vader theme song and trying to use the Force to levitate each other.

But let’s keep things in perspective. As a cultural tour de force (so to speak), Star Wars is right up there. As a work of cinematic art, it’s not all that great. Seriously. It’s good, and the visuals are pretty cool. But the story and the characters are overrated. (Like this newbie says, and I mostly agree).

It is fun to watch sword fights and stuff blowing up, though.

 

So how can you enjoy these movies?

Here are my three simple steps for watching a bunch of movies that don’t have any real deep, significant things to say about the human condition but are kind of fun to watch:

Step 1. Microwave some popcorn.

Step 2. Crack open a drink of your choice.

Step 3. Relax. It’s a movie!

In the end, my advice is to stop taking movies like Star Wars so seriously. They’re fun to watch, but, hey, somebody just made this stuff up. Take it easy.

tenor

 

3 Comments

  1. Some quibbles, but the big one is archetypes.

    The effectiveness of archetypes is not that everyone can paste themselves on to an archetype. Their effectiveness is two fold: they are recognizable and they are psychology. While Lucas pulled from Campbell, Campbell was building off Carl Jung (a co-founder of psychoanalysis, and one time friend of Freud). Jung proposed archetypes as a way of understanding psychology, because he saw the same figures repeating in mythology, legend, folklore, and patients’ dreams. Archetypes became, in Jung’s thinking, elements of the collective unconscious, a part of the psyche that all people share and that the most lasting stories tap (versus the collective conscious which spawns fads, the individual unconscious, and the individual consciousness). (Ok, that’s really massively simplified, but blog comment restrictions.)

    Trivia: Harrison Ford once told Lucas, “You can write this stuff, but you can’t say it” (regarding Star Wars dialogue). Lucas went on to win a Saturn Award for best writing and a Nebula for best script (both Episode IV).

    Like

    • I understand the point about cultural archetypes and the collective unconsciousness. I’m just saying (1) there is no such thing as a collective unconsciousness and (2) it makes for clichéd, boring storytelling. I enjoy watching Star Wars movies but I learn nothing from them. Everybody knows the good guy will win and the bad guy will lose. The hero will triumph. The sidekick will crack jokes. The supporting actors are interchangeable parts. I’m just sick of the same old tired “follow these steps” story writing (even a Writer’s Digest sponsored workshop that I joined last fall brayed about this…boring, predictable story arcs and boring, predictable “hero” quests).

      Like

      • Given that “follow these steps” (as you put it) has been the root of storytelling for all of recorded history, and probably prehistory’s oral storytelling, I doubt it’ll be going away anytime soon. For most storytellers, it’s not a conscious thing (which is both Jung’s and Campbell’s point).

        A significant part of Jung’s theories (and thus Campbell’s) is that the archetypes unconsciously show up, which is why they’re archetypes. Also, archetypes, in the Jungian sense, aren’t cultural. Jungian archetypes transcend culture (ex. trickster, mother, rebirth); they are figures that have been traced throughout the stories of virtually every known culture (which is where Jung’s theory of the “collective unconscious” comes in).

        Like

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