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May 16, 2005

Comments

Benedetto

In my nearby Catholic parish, Msgr. Pastor uses movies as his primary "text" for Adult Faith Formation. We watched all the "Star Wars" films available on video.

But the true inner, spiritual meaning of "Star Wars" did not become apparent until Msgr. also showed us the true exegesis of "Star Wars" by the emminent theological Mel Books, "Space Balls."

(This is not a joke.)

john hearn

"May da Schwartz be wid ya!"

Maclin Horton

Seems like most everybody, especially George Lucas, went astray early on in taking the Force stuff far too seriously. It's fine as a place-holder for religion in this imaginary world, but yes, "terribly overblown" is if anything an understatement.

I guess Lucas, like so many entertainers, has wanted to be something more. He has slowly ruined a great piece of pop movie-making and now is not even a first-class entertainer. This complaint from an unhappy former seven-year-old is the best comment I've seen on the decline and fall.

By the way I'm 56, which I guess means I was pushing 30 when I stood in line to see the original movie, so age is no barrier. I would say maybe it's a guy thing except that my wife was right there with me.

Chris-2-4

I believe that a christian concept of sin and redemption helps one to appreciate the movies, but I don't really believe that it works the other way around.

ajb

There is definitely a "there" there. But any attempt to extract some profound revelation from pop culture is the fault of the seeker, not the author.

The Tao of Pooh, anyone?

Lucas is famously on-record stating that his inspiration was Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces and he simply wanted to take the hero journey into the "final frontier" of outer space.

Sydney Carton

I wrote the following on another blog in response to a question on why the Galactic Empire of Star Wars was "evil":

The Galactic Empire is essentially a fascist state run by a theocratic meglomaniac. The empire engages in widespread evil: cloning of mutated individuals to create mass armies, killing of innocent civilians on a small (the Lars residence) and on a large scale (the use of weapons of mass destruction on its own citizens as seen in the destruction and genocide of Alderaan), and the dissolution of republican government in favor of dictatorship.

Originally presented, the Emperor is a distant figure in Star Wars. In Empire, he's seen as a Master of Darth Vader, and in Return of the Jedi - a wielder of the Dark Side of the Force. What was strange in Star Wars was how the evil people embraced the evil nature of their acts. I'll bet money that even Stalin, in his heart of hearts, thought he was a good man. A characteristic of human nature is that the most wicked individuals do not see themselves as evil. This derives from pride, and the inability to essentially hate oneself (lest one commit suicide), or a genetic predisposition in favor of self-survival. In any event, it's odd that the Emperor and Vader don't try to mischaracterize the Dark Side of the Force. But it flows from their own ideology and theology of the Force. And they call it for what it is: DARK. They willingly embrace evil, for evil's sake. Both the Emperor and Vader tell Luke to "let hatrid flow through you" and to "release your anger" to gain power. Evil is a means to its own end, essentially. There is no perversion too extreme, because the more evil the act, the more power derived from it. The Death Star was not designed as a weapon to scare people into submission, although that is how it was sold to the Emperor's generals. But given the nature of the necessity of committing evil acts to obtain power with the Force, it is obvious that the Death Star was to be used often.

Vader and the Emperor practice a theology of hatrid. The Dark Side of the Force isn't about "political order." Such a thing is merely a temptation for a license to engage in evil for its own sake. Vader's words to Luke to "end this destructive confluct" is merely a tempting door to greater sins - because Vader and the emperor don't want to END the conflict. As seen in the prequels - they START the conflict. And they start it precisely because their theology of power demands committing evil to gain power through the Force. Evil thus becomes its own sake.

The Galactic Empire is less like German Nazis, who desired a perverted racial order to society, than the Islamists, who instead desire the destruction of good. Islamists, committed to a false religion of Jihad - permanent war, have no qualms about committing the most horiffic acts because such acts only further a martyr's desire of obtaining heaven. But the Germans avoided the use of mustard gas in WW2. Why? Because even they, as wicked as they were, didn't see an escalation of horror as its own end. Both the Islamists, and the Galactic Empire of Star Wars, do.

The entire point of the Dark Side's theology of embracing hatrid, letting it flow through you, to release your anger - those are not the practices of people determined to create order. Disorder is implied from such words. Permanent war is implied. The more conflict, the more hate, the more power. It's a play right out of the devil's handbook.

ajb

Syndey:

I enjoyed reading that.

Not to quibble too much but I don't think you can conflate "the empire", the emperor and Anakin/Darth Vader.

The emperor seems to embrace evil for its own sake. But what I look forward to with EpIII is seeing how he convinced Anakin.

The big backstory question has always been how Anakin becomes seduced by the dark side and turns into Darth Vader.

I suspect we'll see that, rather than convince him to knowingly do wrong, Palpatine convinces Anakin that the dark side is actually right and good. Sounds familiar.

Kevin Jones

There is a bit of something there in the first trilogy that could wake up a few people, but I can't say the same about the new one. Considering the botched treatment of sin and redemption in the last two movies, I'm wondering whether the first trilogy really handled it well.

Gerard E.

I don't care about this hype. Not a little bit. The first movie ended the golden age of Hollywood- 1967 to 1977, the age of Godfather I & II, Chinatown, Taxi Driver. Got the Hollywood studios addicted to the Big Blowsy Special F/X Summertime Blockbuster. Lucas has made more dough on the figurines, Darth Vader costumes, cereals, and other souvenirs than gate and video profits from the first five movies. ABC News reports that his company is taking over the entire office building that once housed The Presidio, giant military base near the San Francisco Bay. Moving 1800 employees and paying $6 million in rent at the new joint. So he can make those artsy movies close to his heart. God Bless America.

john hearn

"Once to the Dark Side you turn, forever will it rule your destiny."

- Yoda

Sounds more like the fate of the fallen angels to me.

And thanks Sydney, that was a good read.

Suibhne

Thanks, Mr. Horton, for the link to that review. I was a wide-eyed 9-year-old boy when Star Wars was released and -- like every other wide-eyed 9-year-old boy -- was absolutely bowled over.

The Phantom Menace was garbage: the spectacle over the story. Attack of the Clones redeemed the Star Wars name to a degree, but I wonder if my reaction was due more to the fact that it wasn't anywhere near as bad as The Phantom Menace. I hoping against hope that the new movie will be worth our time.

There is a "there" there, but I agree that it has gone way too far.

Tom

The Tao of Pooh, anyone?

Ouch! Now there's a book that should have been printed on paper that dissolves in air, to prevent rereading.

The thing about trying to wring spirituality out of Star Wars is that it presupposed there's spirituality to be wrung out. "[H]ard questions about ... metaphysical reality"? Try "wish fulfillment with 'splosions."

Maclin Horton

I guess my inner seven- (or nine-) year-old was alive and well when I was technically in my late 20s, when the first movie came out, and still is, since I still enjoy it.

Laura

LAst time I was really into Star Wars was in 1998 when I saw Star Wars: The Magic of Myth at the Smithsonian. It was very cool, and seeing what shaped Lucas' dream was fascinating. Something I haven't seen mentioned, is the Japanese influence, specifically Samurai culture in the SWs movies.

Cheryl

I'm a 45 year old woman and still remember being blown away my the original Star Wars movie, which I think I saw the summer after senior year of high school. I was dragged there by a friend and had no idea what to expect, but I loved it and still do. The theater was packed and we had to sit in one of the front rows, and I still remember seeing those words rise up on the screen, "long ago in a galaxy far far away," or whatever it actually said. Pure fun.

I have had little interest in the sequels, however, and have no interest in exploring any of the SW phenomenon for deeper meaning.

My favorite Star Wars experience came many years later. My daughter, who was less than three, was with me in a store and a little Jedi knight came over brandishing a light saber and repeating lines from one of the movies. My daughter said to him, "I have big girl underpants on and I went to the potty all by myself!" He looked at her solemnly and replied, "may the force be with you."

Benedetto

Kudo's to Laura! Actually, if you watch The Hidden Fortress, starring Toshiro Mifune and directed by Akira Kurasawa (1960), it is just like "Star Wars!" From Amazon.com:

The inspiration behind the legendary Star Wars Trilogy, Academy Award-winner Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece is the action-packed saga of an exiled princess, a masterful warrior, and two bungling misfits in search of gold. With spectacular wide screen cinematography and a stellar performance by Toshiro Mifune (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) this hilarious comedy-adventure combines elements of Samurai epics, American Westerns, and the nobility of the common man.

This is the source of the force.

Maureen

The first Star Wars movie was about luck and pluck and people yearning to breathe free. For all the princesses and galaxies far, far away, it was as American as Oz. I get this feeling Lucas doesn't really want to be American all the time. When he remembers, then he is cool (and stops wasting his time trying to destroy the memory of his younger self).

Now, if the Trade Federation had been a consortium of plucky star traders fighting the evil Mafia forces of Jabba the Hutt's dad, and Amidala's planet had been forced to choose between them, that would've been cool.

Nguoi Dang Chay

When Lucas turned to "midiclorions" to make the Force scientific, that was the gayest ..... wait, no, one of the ten (or twenty) gayest indicators that the prequels were going to be absolute garbage.

So now here we are at Episode III, finding out that Anakin Skywalker is ready to turn to the dark side after years of built-up hatred from people calling him "Annie".

Yes, I'm still going to see Revenge of the Sith -- at the dollar theater. If it's better than the first two (and it looks like it) it's one of the best movies of the year, which is really really sad.

grateful_catholic

Actually, at 44 you'd be a tad young to be a full-fledged, "in from the ground floor" Star Wars addict. The "spiritual" angle in the series, I've thought from the beginning, was the perfect thing at the perfect time for people clamoring for something that "felt spiritual" and had absolutely no content as far as demanding one single hard choice in any fan's life.

Sandra Miesel

HIDDEN FORTRESS is supposed to be an influence but it's one of the poorer things Kurosawa ever did. Not even Mifune can save it.
When the original SW opened in 1977, it was like finding a brand new issue of PLANET STORIES. If Leigh Brackett had lived to write the final script for EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, that part of the heritage would've been clearer.

John Farrell

There is only one reason to see Revenge of the Sith, and it has nothing to do with George Lucas. It's once again to see the actor who spans all the generations in which these movies discussed here were produced, the man the Boston Globe critic called "the eternally elegant Christopher Lee."

:D

alias clio

I'm exactly the same age as Amy, and I feel the same way about Star Wars. Cute. Fun. Amusing. Not profound. Not memorable, even on its own terms. I've found Disney movies more haunting. Or, best of all, the Sinbad movies with special F/X by Roy wot's-'is-name. (I think.)

As Alec Guinness once said to a fan, I say to all of you who take it too seriously, "You must never see Star Wars again."

BTW, I was the same about Tolkien (books not films) and tho' I still love them it's not an obsession. Haven't re-read them for years. There is hope.

Victor Morton

Sandra:

No accounting for taste, but there is no "supposed to be" involved. George Lucas is interviewed on the Criterion Edition DVD of THE HIDDEN FORTRESS and he details what elements in STAR WARS were and were not influenced by Kurosawa. He also says he likes some of Kurosawa's other films better, SEVEN SAMURAI especially. The ironic thing is that if there was ever a Japanese director of that era who was influenced by US films and that most American of genres, the Western, it's Kurosawa.

Some snobby critics denigrate Kurosawa sometimes as less "Japanese" than Ozu or Mizoguchi. But Kurosawa's falling in love with something western and then selling it back to us better than ever ... well if one doesn't think that's as Japanese as it gets, I've got some people in Detroit who might disagree.

Sandra Miesel

Yes, I know Lucas claims inspiration from HIDDEN FORTRESS (prototypes of the the RTD2 and CP3PO and the princess, for instance)but HF is still a weak film. I've been a great fan of Kurosawa for 40 years, just not that particular work. Yes, I've heard what the Japanese critics think of him but they're snobs. Tomorrow I'll be watching the full-length cut of KAGEMUSHA on DVD. Not not going near REVENGE OF THE SITH.

Donald R. McClarey

The problem with Star Wars as it has developed, is that too many people, including Lucas, have taken it all way too serious. The first three films struck me as being good, mindless, very light science fiction. I enjoyed them immensely. The three prequel films have gotten bogged down in pseudo philosophy and the search for deep meaning in what was originally supposed to be an updating of the old science fiction movie serials of the 30's and 40's. Having said that, I will certainly be taking my family to see the film on Saturday. Viewed purely as entertainment, and not as some timeless epic, I am sure it will still be better than 90% of the pap released this year.

Whitcomb

Not to sound hoity-toity but.....I have never understood "Star Wars" fanaticism. The pictures are fun, of course, and there's nothing wrong with them. But when you see a 35-year-old co-worker suddenly flash his light saber to break up a monotonous day....you do start to wonder.

I think I've seen one of the "Star Wars" pictures from start to finish, one of the sequels or prequels, when I took my kids. I was 22 when the first one came out and I skipped it, preferring the truly dark visions of "Apocalypse Now" and "The Deer Hunter."

Victor Morton

Sandra:

Years ago, I went with some grad-school colleagues to see DAVE (Kevin Kline / Sigourney Weaver), a liberal piece of Hollywoof wish-fulfillment. Discussing it afterward with my colleagues, I dismissed it as "KAGEMUSHA as rewritten by the ACLU." The one other conservative in the group was intrigued by that dismissal and so we watched KAGEMUSHA together, and James absolutely flipped for it and borrowed a couple of Kurosawa's other films from me as a result. I had similar success getting a Clint Eastwood fan to watch YOJIMBO.

One of the great things about Kurosawa is that all the great foreign directors, he is probably the most accessible and least eccentric, the one who requires the least "acclimatization," the one whose films are the most plainly and thoroughly enjoyable.

Laura

I don't understand the antipathy toward George Lucas. I dunno, I kind of admire the man. He had a dream, a vision, and he went for it. And in the meantime, lots of people have been entertained. Sure, some of the SW sequels haven't been so good, but hey, so what? He's changed moviemaking and did it without too much sex and slasher violence.

He's also adopted three or four kids. I think it's cool he lives just down 101 from me in Marin County on Lucas Valley Rd. (Mere coincidence, the name.)

May the Force continue to be with him.

Rosemarie

+J.M.J+

I became a SW fan as a child after watching The Empire Strikes Back. Believe it or not, that's the first SW film I saw. My mom never brought me to see the first film (Now called "Episode IV: A New Hope"); but I went with my friend's family to see the sequel years later and was hooked. Shortly thereafter I saw the original as part of a "double feature" w/Empire, then had to wait three years to find out what happened to Han Solo! Grrrr.

But I digress. I guess I'm still something of a SW fan, but I don't own a lightsaber or Darth Vader mask. It's a fun little occasional diversion for me, not an obsession. My husband is a SW fan from childhood too, probably a bit more into it than I am. So we will certainly be seeing this new movie, though I'm not sure whether I will like it. I don't like dark movies, and this one promises to be quite dark.

Did you know that some diehard SW fans actually made an edited version of The Phantom Menace, which removed Jar Jar Bink's more annoying scenes? It's called The Phantom Edit (I kid you not). Jar Jar's still in it, just in a greatly reduced, less annoying role. Word is Lucas didn't like The Phantom Edit, but I kinda like the idea; those fart and poop jokes involving Jar Jar were really unnecessary.

In Jesu et Maria,

Nguoi Dang Chay

I think the reason many have become contemptuous toward Mr. Lucas is that he's shown he doesn't 'get' the appeal of his own movies, as evinced by the odd changes to the re-released originals and the absolute prostitution of the prequels to the almighty buck. It's fine to want to make money from your movies (of course) but to inflict Jar Jar Binks upon your fans in the process to sell more toys to kids is just cold-hearted and cruel.

Maclin Horton

I think Maureen's comment above deserves emphasis:

The first Star Wars movie was about luck and pluck and people yearning to breathe free. For all the princesses and galaxies far, far away, it was as American as Oz.

Exactly. It had that admittedly naive but still uplifting defy-all-odds-in-the-name-of-freedom American spirit.

Laura,

Speaking for myself, I don't have any animosity toward Lucas as a person, I just think he took a major wrong turn as an artist.

c matt

Maybe Lucas got seduced by the Dark Side.

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