Friday, February 26, 2010

Luke Couldn't Shoot Straight to Save His Ass...

...obviously, he was meant for something other than a blaster.

This is NOT a D20 post.

I know that some people prefer the original Star Wars film trilogy to the prequel trilogy ("Episodes I - III"), just as some prefer Star Wars to Star Trek, or Elvis to the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin to the Stones. I don't think there's any denying that the first trilogy are better films, than the prequels just as there's no question that the Beatles wrote most of their own music while Elvis did not (um...and that's no slight on The King as I can't stand the Beatles). But story-wise, subject matter wise, which era do you prefer? For play, I mean.

Problem is, this doesn't seem like a fair question to me. Because why I'd like to say I'd prefer the Prequel Era to the Rebellion Era, what I'd actually prefer is a Prequel Era based on the subtle hints of the Rebellion Era films.

This may seem like esoteric gibberish, so I'll try to explain what I mean. I haven't read Michael Kaminski's The Secret History of Star Wars, but in re-watching the original movie (now known as "Episode IV") it's pretty clear that Lucas deviated a lot from his original ideas when he wrote the prequel trilogy.

From Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope):

"I haven't gone by the name Obi-Wan since before you were born..."
- Ben Kenobi

"My father didn't fight in the Wars...he was a navigator on a spice freighter."

"That's what your uncle told you. He didn't hold with your father's ideals; thought he should've stayed here and not gotten involved."
- Luke and Ben

"Luke's just not a farmer Owen; there's too much of his father in him.""

"That's what I'm afraid of."
- Owen and Beru

"[Anakin] was the best star pilot in the Galaxy...and a cunning warrior."
- Ben

"Your father wanted you to have this [lightsaber] when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn't allow it. He feared you might follow old 'Obi-Wan' on some damn fool idealistic crusade, like your father did."
- Ben

"...[Darth Vader] helped hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights...Vader was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force."
- Ben on Vader
"Don't try to frighten us with your sorcerer's ways, Lord Vader. Your sad devotion to that ancient religion has not helped you..."

"I find your lack of faith disturbing."
- Vader and the Death Star officers

"The Jedi are extinct, their fire has gone out of the universe. You my friend are all that's left of their religion."
- Grand Moff Tarkin

"You should not have come back."
- Vader to Obi-Wan

In reading these quotes, they just don't jibe with what appears in the prequel films. Vader isn't seduced by the power of the Force...he's a sad-sack co-dependent twenty-something dupe. He's not what I'd call a "cunning warrior," often losing his own weapon, getting limbs cut off, and diving into trouble head-first. Owen and Beru had extremely little knowledge of Anakin and certainly no influence on what decisions he did or did not make. The "Clone Wars" as portrayed in the prequel films have nothing of an "idealistic crusade" to them, and Obi-Wan didn't recruit Anakin into them.

I know in Return of the Jedi, Luke asks Leia what she remembers about her mother...her "real" mother...and Leia recounts a memory of her being sad, something that obviously contradicts the prequel films. This seems to suggest a number of things:

- that the Skywalker wife survived childbirth, and Luke was separated for whatever reason (probably for the possibility of someday being trained by Obi-Wan...kind of a Merlin/Arthur thing)

- BUT that Luke was NOT spirited off by Ben, who dropped the name Obi-Wan and left in self-exile (possibly out of shame for what he had wrought with Vader) before Vader ever sired children

- that the Force and the Jedi were once conceived of being a religious order (like the Templar Knights or some such) and that young men were taken off their own homeworlds to become adventuring guardians of Order

- that Anakin/Vader chose the path of the Dark Side deliberately ("cunningly," even), in order to increase his own power

Other things said in other (original) films seem to suggest that there are no monastic requirement precluding Jedi from being married and participating in family life, and that in fact this was a way to make sure Jedi/Force potential was passed on, just as the son of a medieval lord would one day be expected to wield his father's sword in defense of The Land.

Now, I'm not just posting this to beat up on the prequel films and their going waaay off the rails (like I said, I know a LOT of folks get irritated by the prequel films) it or not, their Lucas's movies and if he had lapses in ideas in the intervening years between film-making, well that's understandable. I AM saying that after spending time re-watching these films it is obvious to me that there ARE lapses...not in judgment (though the Greedo-thing and the Gungan argue perhaps some of that), but a lapse in the feel of the Star Wars universe, if that makes any sense.

I can say this with 100% truthfulness: when I heard Lucas was making the prequel films I was incredibly, incredibly excited and NOT just because I wanted "more Star Wars;" by the time the prequels were released there were already many books, comics, RPGs, and a couple additional feature-length films (admittedly, with Ewoks). No, the reason I was excited was because I wanted to see how the whole story un-folded...the drama that led to The Fall of Vader. I wanted to see what the "more civilized age" was like "before the dark times, before the Empire." Dammit, I wanted to see Jedi Knights fighting in the Clone Wars.

Instead I got a randy and none-too-quick teenager, an Obi-Wan that eats at the Galaxy's local greasy-spoon diner (this is "the more civilized age?") when he's not drinking at the bar, a bunch of Stormtroopers cloned from a Boba Fett clone (and fighting WITH the Jedi), and legions and legions of cannon-fodder droids(?!).

At least there were some cool lightsaber fights.

Okay, okay...I said I wasn't going to beat up on the prequels and here I am starting to rant (I LIKED the prequels, dammit! at least sometimes). This was all just a prelude to say, if I were to write a Star Wars RPG, it would be set in the pre-Rebellion era and it would be based on the unfulfilled potential of the films as much as what was actually in 'em. I think. Now that I look back at what I just wrote, it seems like this is a repeating pattern for me (see: my B/X Companion project).

Jeez. I don't know why I feel so compelled to "fix things." It must be something in my caring nature.
; )

OKAY...that really is it for now. I'm going for a walk!


  1. Yep, the Clone Wars sounded amazing from the way the IV-VI people described them. The hunt for the Jedi sounded epic and harrowing. The Empire seemed monolithic and omnipresent.

    Instead, all of the above happened in the space of about five years and wasn't too exciting at all.

    I suppose in a way Lucas could not have lived up to twenty-odd years of expectation and speculation; by the time we got the prequels, each of us had already come up with a better story of how it all went down.

    The thing that really bothers me is how the prequels essentially neuter the Empire; it seemed like a vast and powerful entity at first, but then the prequels reveal that it rose and fell within Luke's lifetime, which is just pathetic.

    As for my favoured gaming era, it would have to be the Old Republic. That way you can ignore the prequels and not bump into the events of IV-VI. Best of both worlds!

  2. I think it's true of allot of us that the prequel trilogy in our minds was far greater than what we got.

  3. Yeah, the prequels were a let down overall—and this from a person who actually enjoyed most of them. As far as what era I prefer? Well...I love the 'Classic' setting taking place during the Rebellion. I always will...but I'd have to say that the Old Republic era is a close second. As far as gaming in a Clone Wars setting? It just doesn't appeal to me as much. Part of this, I think, is that it is still a 'living' setting, with the Clone Wars cartoons and the like going, you would have to make a decision to either try and keep up with that emerging 'canon' or just make up your own.

  4. Rebellion era all the way. Old (more Ancient) Republic also comes in a close second.

    As for the Clone Wars, I still abide by the info given in Episodes IV - VI, & that which is given in the novelizations of said films (however scant it is). I don't even own the prequel movies. They just didn't do it for me, for all the reasons mentioned by yourself & the others.

  5. Ah oh...feel a minor rant coming on...

    Having seen all the films of the original trilogy an average of 15 or so times before the prequels came out (actually, 24 times for New Hope, 12 times for Empire and about 10 for Jedi to be precise) I was intimately aware that the new stuff had no clue it was supposed to be related to the old stuff.

    In the original version of Return of the Jedi (not the Special Edition, not the DVD - the theatrical version), Obi-Wan says that he sent Luke to live with his brother...HIS...indicating that in truth Owen Lars is Ben Kenobi's brother.

    There are a host of these kinds of lines in the first and third films and if Lucas and company had watched the originals half as much as his fan base did, the prequels wouldn't have been so very, very bad.

    Rant complete.

  6. I liked the prequals, but think Lucas really dropped the ball, in places. In many ways, I prefer Matthew Stover's novelization of Episode III. Anakin's fall is much more believable and instead of a whiny, shallow child, we see a strong, but troubled young man, sick with fear and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, being cunningly and ruthlessly manipulated by his "friend", Palpatine.

  7. the barking alien is corrrect

    the prequels were more about displaying CGI and selling nifty tuys
    about plot development/ consistency

  8. @Barking Alien: While I agree with your overall point, one correction, though: the line you cite does not appear in the theatrical cut (or any cut) of the film, but does appear in the novelization of the film by James Kahn. So Ob-wan and Owen were never brothers in "canon" (whatever that means).

  9. As far as era of play, I was taken with the Star Wars setting ripoff used in Galactos Barrier. IIRC, it was set about four or five generations after Leia became empress, with her great grandchildren being horrific despots and the players as rebels trying to put things right.

  10. Wholeheartedly agree, JB. But I'll take it a step or two further: In my mind, the Force as displayed in the first movie is far more interesting than what came after (and, erm, before-ish). The notion of a mystical energy that is both subtle and mysterious was - to me at least - more interesting and intriguing than something that let people jump around like superheroes, move objects telekinetically, read/dominate minds, project energy, etc. The Force as it appeared in "Episode IV" will always be the way I choose to view it.

    In fact, the history of Vader & Anakin - two different people - and the galaxy in which they lived will be the way that movie represented it. To me, even the sequels added to the gradual demystification of the Star Wars universe. Thanks, but I'll stick to the universe as it appeared in the first film and the related media that immediately followed it: Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the Brian Daley Han Solo novels, and the Marvel comics that came between Ep's. IV and V. Call me an insane purist or whatever, but these kept the mystery of that universe alive... IMHO & YMMV.

  11. I agree with Christopher B.

    STAR WARS (iv:a new hope)-is my new canon.

    There is a book DEATH TROOPER set 5 years before SW where Han and Chewie fight space zombies created by the Empire as a weapon.

  12. I won't flog the dead horse--obviously I agree with the tenor of the post and will always feel that there is a "real" history that wasn't portrayed in the prequel films. But, I was suddenly struck with the parallel with Lord of the Rings---Tolkien frequently suggested that a strength of his work was that it suggested the history behind it it, without actually going into detail. So, I expect that all of us of that generation came up with our own, cool ideas of the Old Days and would have been disappointed by any version Lucas made.

    Of course, he could still have made a less sucky version. ;)

    Just frex, I always picked up on the religion comments in Star Wars (and you know what film was actually called that) and wondered about that. I made the Templar connection too. Much later, I was in the Aleksander Nevsky Church in Sophia, Bulgaria and thought: "Hey! This might be the Jedi Temple!"

  13. Hey folks! Just had a (minor) epiphany. Maybe I/WE are being too harsh on the whole issue. See my post today!
    : )