In the final analysis, Star Wars is, in fact a entertainment for children…it is a “kids movie.” The original film, created in 1977 was designed to be a rip-roaring adventure film of the type George Lucas enjoyed in his youth.
This is a film that is created before the Reagan-Bush economics of the 80s and the New Cold War, before the extreme partisan politics and Neo-Con movement of the 90s, before 9/11 and the fear-mongering, civil liberty crushing “war on terror” of the 21st century.
Happy little adventures in space…that’s what Lucas was shooting for.
Fans that read more into it or that (like myself) try to justify parts of the film to maintain some sort of internal consistency are missing the point. How come the Emperor can shoot lightning and Vader can’t? Is it because Vader is half machine and the lightning will “short out” his systems? Or is it because by the 3rd movie you need the Emperor to have something new that no one’s seen and that makes him even more sorcerous and badass.
Why is Count Dooku such a spry old man at age 78 when Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan looks downright clunky at 63? Maybe because:
a) having established Obi-Wan and Anakin as two youthful and acrobatically potent Jedi, a doddering Christopher Lee would have been mince-meat.
b) having already used one acrobatic alien (Maul) in the first film, Lucas needed a suitable (i.e. significant threat) replacement
c) Lee provides an excellent “heavy” despite his lack of youthful spryness, and
d) We have better special effects (and a bigger budget) than in 1977.
Trying to justify the discrepancy by saying “oh, Dooku was channeling the Dark Side” or that Guinness’s Obi-Wan “was out of shape from twenty years of meditation” or “crippled by prior injuries” is just failing to go with the joyful madness.
Sure, Jar-Jar Binks SUCKS to a lot of us…that’s ‘cause we were in our much more mature 20s when he was introduced on screen. I will admit it…I LOVED the ewoks when I was age 10, and Return of the Jedi was probably by far and away my favorite movie of the original three, when I was a kid.
Yes, I loved the ewoks…I even had a Burger King glass and at least a couple action figures (though I preferred Logray and Chief Chirpa to that runty Wicket). I even dug on their little celebratory song that got cut from the re-digitized version.
Sure, there was contrivance, and camp, and cheesiness…much moreso than the first two films…but to a kid, it was nothing but sheer awesome. Puppet monsters and Jabba the Hutt? Speeder bike races? A bazillion tie-fighters swarming like angry hornets? A dark robed figure of pure evil that shoots lightning? A one-on-one showdown between Luke and Vader? Little teddy bears taking out the over-confident, faceless minions? Chewbacca yowling like Tarzan and stealing scout walkers? You bet.
All of it. I loved all of it. As a child RotJ was a fantastic capstone to the first trilogy.
Now SINCE growing up, I too have moaned and groaned about all the things everyone seems to moan and groan about. The ewoks. The camp. The “re-mastering” of the original films. The prequels not living up to expectations. But ya’ know what? I think I have been missing the point as much as anyone.
These are movies for kids. Written, directed, produced, and acted by adults…but designed (by Lucas) to target kids including “the inner child” of adults (especially Lucas himself).
From that perspective, I believe it is possible to enjoy the films without resentment and without complaint. True, one might have to actually watch the films WITH CHILDREN to get a true perspective of how well they succeed (sometimes it’s difficult in one’s 30s and 40s to remember what the hell excited you as a kid), but that’s the only fair way to judge the movies. The backlash Lucas has suffered at the hands of ADULT fans returning to a KID genre and being disappointed may be entirely undeserved. In other words, we have all (including myself!) given the man a raw deal by setting expectations he never intended to make.
- He wasn’t striving for great art
- He wasn’t trying to create a mythology spanning centuries
- He wasn’t attempting to reconcile all the internal inconsistencies and various Star Wars sources of fiction.
The guy was just trying to create fun, adventuresome, family-wholesome films.
So judging them based on THAT, I find only a couple-three problems with the entire six film series:
1) Jar-Jar binks, as a character, is COMPLETELY FORGIVABLE AND EXCUSABLE. I imagine that many kids would find his hijinx funny and entertaining; certainly all of it is secondary to the main plot line and thus simple comic relief in the Shakespearean style. However, his accent (and that of the other gungans) is pretty darn thick to try to understand. Why make his language semi-incoherent when you you could (instead) use subtitles and have the human characters fill in the important expository dialogue, as was done with Greedo and Jabba the Hutt. As far as little kids not reading sub-titles, neither Jabba nor Greedo actually SAY ANYTHING that needs translation thanks to the (English-speaking) opposite actor’s responding dialogue. Frankly, I can only catch the context of the Gungans words BECAUSE of the dialogue from Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan most of the time.
2) The addition of Greedo shooting Han (the “Han Shot First” scandal). I don’t recall Lucas’s justification for this, but I think the original sequence was (from a screenplay stand-point) an important illustration of the Han Solo character’s personality. It provides more dramatic pay-off later in the film when he comes back, choosing friendship over selfish self-interest. The character loses something with this particular ret-con.
3) And that’s about it. From a “film critic” perspective, the addition of the Jabba scene in the first film doesn’t provide much in the way of additional exposition or plot development, and for me slows the pacing and downplays the “pay-off” when Jabba is revealed in all his bloated splendor in the 3rd film, but it certainly doesn’t derail a serial adventure story like Star Wars.
SO after saying all that, I say the films should be celebrated for what they are: wonderful fantasy children’s movies and real pieces of Americana and classic Hollywood film-making, as well as historic examples of ground-breaking special effects.
[does that mean I think people should NOT dress up like stormtroopers at conventions or write down “Jedi” for religion in their 2010 census? Hell, no. People should take their fun as seriously as they want, dammit. This is a call for appreciating what the films ARE and a request for folks to stop complaining about what they are not]
Now What O What dear blog-readers does any of this have to do with RPGs (since this IS an RPG blog)? Plenty…if one is interested in writing a Star Wars RPG.
For one thing, if Star Wars (and its sequels/prequels) is a kid movie, shouldn’t the game be kid friendly? Or at least have the potential to be so? To me, this means designing a game that is ACCESSIBLE to kids, including the 10-12 year old range…something easy to learn and easy to play. Which for the most part would cut out most of D20s overly-complex, multi-hundred page books (including the multi-hundred page sourcebooks as well).
For another thing, it suggests that much of WEG’s original RPG “got it right,” at least regarding the ATTITUDE and presentation. I’m not so sure about the game system itself (which has a few problems for me), but the writing very much promotes a wa-hoo, kid adventure type game.
[you know, thinking about it, only the prequel Episodes II and III feel/seem too dark for the Star Wars genre. As an adult, I enjoy them, though I wouldn’t call ‘em “high art;” as a kid, I’m not sure what I’d make of ‘em. Might have to consult with some of my friends’ younger teenagers]
In addition to being accessible and having the proper attitude, a Star Wars RPG should have a degree of OPEN-ENDEDNESS to it, something akin to Classic Traveller (sans Imperium, in other words). Look at the metric tons of fan fiction created for the “Star Wars Universe” from books and novels, to fan movies, to comics and magazines and games and cartoons. Regardless of Lucas’s original intentions, he has indeed spawned a living, breathing mythology that is ever-growing and expanding. A Star Wars RPG should NOT attempt to encompass all of the material (yow! That would be ker-razy!) but should leave room for folks to make their own stuff and create their own sourcebooks, etc.
In my opinion, a Star Wars RPG would do well to not even include stats for specific film NPCs, assuming the point of the game is “to allow play within the Star Wars universe.” If the point of play is to recreate the films, participate in the Battle of Hoth or go toe-to-toe with Vader in the Death Star (for example), then yeah, you need stats for all the principal characters. However, I’m inclined to leave that for a single, separate sourcebook.
What am I saying? That I’m interested at taking my own stab at a Star Wars RPG? Um, yeah, I guess that’s the point. I would think A LOT of people are interested now that WotC is giving up the license come May 2010. Last summer, I was working on my own Jedi-specific game, bitterly resentful that Hasbro/WotC had their iron grip on the RPG IP. Now, I’m filled with…dare I say it?... "A New Hope."
But if ANYONE’s going to do a Star Wars RPG, it ought to be done right, and by “right” I mean, in the spirit of Lucas’s original vision, NOT in our adult perception of what we think that vision should have been or even could have been. But that’s just my opinion, folks.
I wonder how much the license costs…?