Saturday, May 14, 2005

Star Wars III - The Phantom dilemma...

...or how I learned to stop worrying and love George Lucas again...or not.
I can't decide whether or not to go see Star Wars III. I'll say this. When I saw Episode I, I was caught between crying, vomiting, and burning down the theatre. Three words. You guessed it. Jar-Jar Binx.

I know very few Black people who didn't writhing in anguish every time Jar-Jar appeared on screen, much less opened his mouth. You may count me among the writhing. I was also immediately struck by how the trade council sounded like an Asian stereotype, and how Anikan's slave master seemed like a horrible Arab or Jewish caricature.

I know, I know. It's just a movie, and a fantasy movie at that. In fact it's a fantasy movie set completely outside the context of America, Earth, and all the stupid prejudices, bigotry, and deep history of insults and injustices that have shaped American history in particular, and world history overall.

Believe me. All the physical writhing I did in my chair at the theatre was nothing compared to the mental and emotional writhing in my head as I reminded my bruised and battered psyche that it's a movie, it's fantasy, it's fun for kids. In The Matrix, Cypher had a point. "Ignorance is bliss."

Too bad I'm not ignorant. What's more, I don't think Lucas can rightly claim ignorance either. The fact that the best defense he's mustered for himself is that the flim is a fantasy totally outside Earth's context only tells me that if the story were placed within Earthly confines, people like me (and a lot more folks like him than he probably thinks) would then have every right to be offended. To add insult to injury, he angrily blamed critics and "the media" - which I suppose would include the humble blog - for getting all us good colored folks worked up over nothing is a patent insult in and of itself. I guess to Mr. Lucas, we are all just sheep with no agency of our own. Critics, he explains are not doers or makers, simply destroyers. So I guess it's the dumb leading the stupid.

Thanks, I feel a lot better now.

Lucas isn't the first to hurt me so, and he won't be the last. In fact it's largely because of the slings and arrows my heritage and therefore my ego have suffered at the hands of Hollywood that I'm determined to become a screenwriter. So artist to artist, and audience to artist, know that I have forgiveness in my heart, and forgiven so many before you.

With that, I most likely will go see Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, in the theatre. It actually looks like it will be a decent story this time 'round, finally worthy of the name Star Wars. Good art can sometimes transcend one's personal failings. Hopefully this episode will be that start.

And even if it doesn't, know that there remains in me the 4-year old who was indelibly changed by a film at the time inexplicably subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope.


swami said...

So did ya see the new movie? I do not know how i feel about it.. Aside from the lack of emotion from vader and the queen, I thought it was a ok film. I think your blog is right on. One thing I would add to it from my point of view is : After seeing this last movie I think I finally came to terms with the fact that in reality the first films (except for Empire of course) were riddled with racism's, cultural stereotypes and galactic poor acting. Personally, i think I've had a false love affair with the original. That being said, I still love the Idea of Star Wars, but its implementation has always been sub-par. I think this is in part because of Lucas's restricted perception of culture period. In the first movie he pitts "sand people" against "jawa" Ok, we all know the Jawa controll hollywood and the banks... The poor sand people are uncultured and live in their own dung.. rape, pilage and murder.. Im surprised there was no suicide bombing during the scene when a frugile Jawa was nogotiating prices to exploit the robots they sell. Anywho, for a long time i was really upset about the sterotypes Lucas seemed to infuse into his films... Then I realized, wow, if i wanted to I could fit any culture into any of the characters. It just seemed that because of my studies and experience I projected our world unto his. Hence, while Jar Jar was incredibly inane and bugged the shit outta me, when i got over his accent I realized that there are people in my life that act like Jar Jar, but are not even close to being Jamacan or from the Islands, dont have dreds and are not black.. Ok, Im rambling now, i must be bored and have nothing better to do with my time.. Let me just say, the Force is strong with you afroNaut and Im so blessed to be your friend.

AFroNaut said...

Yo Swami! Hope the Super Bowl shows went well for you and the BBC. Sorry to take so long to reply to this comment, but yes, I did end up seeing Revenge of the Sith, and in the theatre no less. The verdict? I've even seen it a second time on DVD which I can't even say for the first two (got half way through the first one and didn't even try on the second). So here's my record for the Star Wars space opera thus far:
1) Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
2) Episode IV: A New Hope
3) Star Wars Clone Wars animated series seasons 1 and 2
4) Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
5) Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
99) Episode II: Attack of the Clones
99,999,999) Episode I: The Phantom Menace

So there it is. Lucas redeemed himself from the first two with this one, though there's little to no forgiveness in my heart for Jar-Jar Binx. The dialogue was still stiff and ham-fisted, and I really don't like what's-his-face who played Anikin as Anakin/young Darth Vader. All the good seasoned actors were reduced to scenery chewing and melodrama. What a waste of Sam Jackson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman. Granted, Star Wars and Empire were no writing masterpieces, but they struck a decent balance of menace and wise-cracking yucks. For whatever they lacked, they had personality. This one was just a little less bland than the Episodes I and II.

I was more satisfied with the plot in this one than even Return of the Jedi, because I think Jedi was when Lucas' attention to story took a huge backseat to special effects, creature animation, etc. Also, it wrapped up the story arc better than Return of the Jedi did it's own. Granted, Empire Strikes Back was a tough act to follow, but in the end Revenge had the added umph of redeeming the first couple.

If you haven't seen the Clone Wars Animated Series, rent it, download it, or do whatever else you have to in order to see it. Also, the Star Wars Battlefront II is not only great in the gameplay and action, but really tells a cool story of the transition from Clone Troopers to Storm Troopers and the early years of the Empire. Check 'em both out as you can.

Peace and love, kid. All the best!