Star Wars Subverted: Deconstructing My Disappointment of The Last Jedi — Part 1: The Creator’s Authority

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The only way I can properly analyze my response to The Last Jedi is by breaking it into smaller parts. Previous attempts to explain myself have resulted in tangents, and I become overwhelmed. I don’t yet know how many parts there will be, but certainly as many as it takes.

George Lucas had a vision and created the original Star Wars. Yes, there were many other contributors in the form of editors and artists, but Lucas spoke it into being. He is the author and keeper of the flame. In 2012, he sold Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise to The Walt Disney Company. The initial understanding was that Lucas would continue to have a presence moving forward, albeit minor. Disney then decided to split ways with him and rejected his story treatments in favor of a different vision. J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan took the reins and crafted the first story of the new trilogy, Episode 7: The Force Awakens. This new story, which is a direct sequel to the story that Lucas created, is a fiction. The author, the creator, the visionary who spoke it into being has been rejected and replaced by a corporate machine who tells stories with a Star Wars setting, but they do not tell the story of Star Wars. When it comes to the fate of the Skywalker family, only George Lucas knows the truth.

Star Wars is a fantasy story set in space, shaped by mythological archetypes as described by Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Furthermore, it was inspired by the Flash Gordon serials of the 1930’s and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. Anyone could have created something like Star Wars from these sources, but only George Lucas could have filtered them the way that he did. The original Star Wars was a passion project, a unique vision from a young filmmaker who struggled to convince the studios that it was a story worth telling.

Following its massive success as a cultural phenomenon, Lucas allowed other directors to shape his Star Wars trilogy, but his vision was always the guiding force. In the 90’s he began to controversially tinker with these films and released “Special Editions” with updated effects and, in some cases, altered scenes. He argued that the changes were made to align the films to his original vision. Soon after, he decided to tell the first three parts of the story: how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. In hindsight, Lucas should have allowed others to direct these films as his shortcomings were on display in the wooden performances and cheesy dialogue. Most people dismiss the prequels as bad films and some even try to forget they exist. Though they are full of faults, it is undeniable that the prequel trilogy serves the greater story by showcasing the rise of the Empire and the fall of Anakin Skywalker. The Skywalker family is at the center of both trilogies, and the fall and redemption of Anakin, who Lucas identified as the Chosen One within this universe, ties everything together. For 35 years, George Lucas told the story of the Skywalker family.

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Imagine that in 5 years J.K. Rowling decides to sell the rights to Harry Potter. Then you learn that a new movie is being crafted. The movie is released and it is called Harry Potter and the Fall of Hogwarts. In this story you find that Harry seems different, perhaps jaded by the death of another beloved character. Also, a new evil wizard has risen to take the place of Voldemort and now that world is as if all the things accomplished in the first 7 parts were meaningless. Would you embrace the story as if it were written by the original author? Or, would you question its legitimacy and wonder if this is really what happened to those characters you love? Didn’t Rowling finish this story in book 7? Isn’t she the creator of that world? And not just that world, but the characters as well? Or, what if someone decided to write a sequel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings? Would that be taken seriously? What if it was turned into a movie with a $200,000,000 production budget? Does money and the backing of a major studio add legitimacy to a story, or does it come from somewhere else?

George Lucas created a new universe that has expanded for 40 years. I am not suggesting that legitimate stories can’t be told within this world apart from him. Consider the acclaimed video game, Knights of the Old Republic. It takes place thousands of years before the time of the films and adds to the lore while introducing exciting worlds and well-developed characters. What I am suggesting is that the core story he developed over 6 films is indelibly his. Sure, if the new trilogy had been amazing I know most fans could have accepted them into the fold. But this acceptance would still require that we look past the truth of Lucas as the authority. It would have been easier to turn from this fact, but there would always be a nagging question pacing in the back of our minds like a tiger behind the bars of his enclosure; how would the creator tell the story?

Creating worlds and filling them with characters is a profound and personal experience. The characters from the first 6 Star Wars films came from the mind of one man, George Lucas. If you remove him from the equation, you erase Star Wars from existence like Marty Mcfly at the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance. The Disney Star Wars franchise should be thought of as separate from what came before, because they have divorced the visionary from the vision. Just as Mark Hamill approached Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi as a new character, we should approach this sequel trilogy as a new entity apart from episodes 1 through 6. But that’s a problem, isn’t it? We’re supposed to accept these new films as direct sequels to the original. Certainly, this is a problem because what we have in episodes 7, 8 and 9 are counterfeits…lies. Disney is feeding us a false narrative. No matter how good or, as I’ll expand upon in the upcoming parts, bad these films are, they aren’t really true to the story. The Star Wars universe has endless stories to tell, and I hope creative people tell them for years to come, but the story of the Skywalkers as told in this saga belongs to the one who breathed life into them over 40 years ago. Even if they consult him in private or use pieces of his vision, as I’ve heard regarding the latest film, the real shapers and agenda setters control the end product. Authority has been usurped and Star Wars, the one you once knew, has been subverted.

Let me leave you with an excerpt from an interview Lucas did with Charlie Rose back in 2015.

Lucas: These are my kids.

Rose: All those Star Wars films.

Lucas: All the Star Wars films.

Rose: They were your kids?

Lucas: Well, they are. I loved them, I created them. I’m very intimately involved in them. And, obviously, to sell them off—

Rose: And you sold them.

Lucas: I sold them off to the white slavers who take these things and…[laughs]

Rose: But having said all that and having talked to you and known you for a while and admired you, I mean it must hurt. It’s your family. It’s your story. It’s you.

You can watch this portion here

Part 2 Coming Soon…

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The Redemption of Luke Skywalker

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If you’ve managed to avoid The Force Awakens, I strongly advise you to read no further.  In other words, “Thar be spoilers ahead!”   If you’re like me and you’ve seen the movie one or five times, welcome aboard.  In related news, the Blu-Ray comes out on April 5th.

Who is Luke Skywalker?

That’s supposedly the question that got J.J. Abrams interested enough to direct Episode 7.  In my opinion, that’s the right question to be asking as the story of our favorite far away galaxy is fleshed out.  Luke is the main protagonist of the original trilogy.  In a space opera heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s philosophy of myth and the hero quest, Luke is the hero.  So even as we follow new characters on an original quest, there’s no escaping from the one true hero of the Star Wars saga.  (An argument could be made that Luke’s father, Anakin, is the true hero of Star Wars, but I don’t accept that.  Anakin’s a tragic hero, where Luke is the positive ideal and embodiment of hope.  Here’s a great blog post that reinforces Luke’s hero status.)  And even though Luke only appears for about a minute at the very end of The Force Awakens, his presence is palpable throughout.  We need to know what has become of him, and what happened that caused his apprentice, Ben Solo, to turn to the Dark Side?   Luke has experienced an intense and unresolved trauma, which demands a resolution.

When I was young, I didn’t think of Luke’s duel with Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back as a traumatic event.  It was cool and exciting, and the big father reveal caught me by surprise, but I knew everything would be made right.   Luke is a good guy and good guys win.  Besides, he gets a fun new hand by the end of the movie and that solves his problem.  As an adult, I look at this moment in Luke’s journey and see his lowest point and deepest trauma.  This is the quintessential father wound.  His father injures him physically by cutting off his hand and pummeling him with large objects.  He simultaneously wounds Luke by revealing that his father is an evil tyrant who has embraced the Dark Side.  It’s an assault on Luke’s identity.  And it goes even deeper than that.

This is also a moment of tremendous personal failure.  Luke disobeyed both Yoda and Obi-Wan, abandoning his training to rescue his friends.  He took a huge risk and accomplished absolutely nothing.  Han Solo is frozen and sold to Jabba the Hutt.  Leia and Chewy escape with Lando, but this is only made possible because Luke is unintentionally acting as a diversion.  Luke doesn’t actually help anyone.  He just walks into a trap, gets his hand cut off and narrowly escapes with severe emotional trauma.  Add to that his realization that Obi-Wan has been lying to him about his father all along.  No matter what nonsense Ben Kenobi says about “points of view”, Luke has been betrayed by his most respected father figure.  And it goes even deeper than this.

In the Star Wars universe, the Force is a metaphysical entity that breeds life and directly influences people and events.  It is the god of that world.  Luke is the last Jedi.  He’s the last hope for the Light Side of the Force.  Certainly, he must have some sense of purpose as the torch bearer.  In that moment, gripping the platform with one hand as Darth Vader reveals his true identity, Luke most likely feels betrayed by the Force itself.  After all, the Force didn’t help him in his fight against Vader.  It didn’t preserve his hand.  It didn’t help him save his friends.  What it did do was turn his father into Darth Vader and lead him to this agonizing place where his best option is to jump into a mile deep pit.  Luke is wounded by the Force itself.
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We know that in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens Luke began to train a new generation of Jedi.  At some point, his nephew Ben turned to the Dark Side as Kylo Ren, and likely killed the rest of the students.  This mirrors the path that Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader took in the prequels.  Han Solo says that Luke blamed himself for what happened and chose to seclude himself as he searched for the first Jedi temple.  Surely, this fresh trauma opened up the old wounds that Luke experienced in Empire. Again, he is faced with an inability to protect those he cares about.  And the legacy of Darth Vader has been revived in Kylo Ren.  Luke has failed again, and perhaps the Force has betrayed him again.  Shouldn’t it be the will of the Force to raise up a new generation of Jedi?  How could this be allowed to happen?  Luke’s choice to seclude himself is similar to his choice to jump off the platform.  Just as Luke fell through space and ended up alone under Cloud City, he traveled through space to end up alone on that island.  Again, Luke has been deeply wounded.

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When Rey walks up the hill to find Luke Skywalker, she reaches into her bag and pulls out the lightsaber that was lost.  The last time Luke saw that weapon was when his father sliced off his hand.  For Luke, that lightsaber had intense negative associations.  It represented his failure, and even a betrayal by the Force itself.  I am sure he believed he would never see it again.  But there it is, in the hands of a young girl who represents a great hope for the future of the Jedi.  Somehow, the Force has orchestrated events to bring the lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker, his father, back to him.  In this moment of catharsis, the Force is reaching out to say, you haven’t been forsaken.  It’s telling Luke that he still has a purpose and redemption is at hand.

The Madness of King George Lucas: Episode 1

Star Wars holds a special place in my life.  It was the first movie from my childhood to truly transport me to another world.  There was a time when I believed Luke Skywalker existed, and Darth Vader was a threat.  I watched the trilogy over and over again without growing weary.  If anything, I grew fonder of the characters and the story gifted to me by a man I knew nothing about.  I believed that only a great man could create something as wonderful as Star Wars.  Before I knew him, I worshipped George Lucas. 

Back then I had the original trilogy on VHS.  It came with a three part interview between Lucas, and critic Leonard Maltin.  They spoke about the early days of the film, when Star Wars was just an idea.  Lucas, soft-spoken and terrifically mysterious, presented his account of the creation with great humility.  Maltin acknowledged the invaluable contribution that Lucas had given to our culture, and wished me well as the light faded and that wonderful LUCASFILM logo appeared to welcome me back to that galaxy far far away. 

Lucas decided to rework his trilogy in the mid-nineties, and what we got was the Special Edition.  At the time, I loved it.  I had heard from many adults that Star Wars was meant to be watched on the big screen, so here was my chance.  Plus it had been updated with newer special effects, and that can only make a good thing greater, right?  Right?  At the time, I thought so.  Well, I was a little turned off by that lame Jabba the Hutt scene they added in A New Hope

Then came word of a new trilogy.  Lucas was going back to the story of Anakin Skywalker and how he became Darth Vader.  Finally, we were going to see Obi-Wan as a young Jedi.  We would see Luke and Leia’s mother.  It would be revealed how the Empire came to power and where Darth got that black suit.  I waited with the utmost excitement for the May release of The Phantom Menace.  Finally, my generation’s Star Wars was here.  It was the movie going event of the decade…or millennium.  As the LUCASFILM logo flashed on the big screen, I experienced film nirvana.  Could it get any better than this? 

Two hours later, George Lucas became a mere mortal. 

 

Cell Phones Are Too Convenient Not To Kill Us

This is the cost of pride

Talk to anyone thousands of miles away in an instant.  And not only that, carry around the tiny device in your pocket.  At a whim, call your cousin in Alaska.  Such convenience.  Don’t want to talk, just send a text message.  We’re the envy of John and Abigail Adams (random yet appropriate reference).

Everything costs something.  If you want to be healthy, you have to exercise and eat right.  If you want to play an instrument, you have to practice for years.  The natural order of things is progress through adversity.  So, when mankind creates a machine that can function as a portable telephone and computer, I get a little uneasy.  This black magic has to come at a price.  And not just the cost of your plan.

Do cell phones cause brain cancer?  Who am I to say?  Do they wipe out entire bee colonies?  I’m no bee expert.  What I can say is that they aren’t harmless.  Let me explain.

George Lucas filmed the first Star Wars not knowing if it would be a success.  Not only that, he faced a number of setbacks during the production and struggled to complete it on time.  Nevertheless, the end product was cinematic gold.  George created art through adversity.  Now fast forward to the late 20th century.  George is riding high off the success of the  Star Wars films he created, and his ego is almost as big as his second chin.  He has all of the power in the world to make whatever film he wants.  At the seat of power and security he creates what we know as The Phantom Menace.  You see, a price must be paid.   For the first film, the price was paid in the hard labor of production.  For the latter film, the price was paid by the fans, who were robbed of their satisfaction.  Someone has to pay the price.

You might point out that texting is extremely dangerous while driving.  Yes, it certainly is, and that’s why it is now illegal in Massachusetts.  But that’s only a small piece of the whole picture. This is much bigger.

For eons, if we wanted to speak to each other we had to use only our voices.  If someone was far away, we had to yell, which required more effort.  Now I can talk to someone on the other side of the world as if they were sitting right next to me.  So little effort for so astounding an accomplishment.

Did you really think there wouldn’t be consequences for such convenience?

The Sexual Purity of Luke Skywalker

Here is an angle of Star Wars that you have probably not encountered. Today, we will be looking at Luke Skywalker’s sexual purity.

First, I should address the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Of course I am referring to Luke and Leia’s brush with incest. By the end of Return of the Jedi we know that Luke and Leia are both children of Anakin Skywalker. This is all well and good, except Luke had the hots for her in the first two films. Chances are Leia also had a thing since she kissed him in every movie.
It’s easy to blow this whole thing out of proportion. Let’s calm ourselves and look at this situation as reasonable people.

At no time in the films does the level of attraction between Luke and Leia enter into the realm of the sexual. What do I mean? If you really look at how they interact, they much more closely resemble platonic friends than lovers. The only possible exception comes at the beginning of Empire Strikes Back when Leia kisses Luke on the recovery table to spite Han. That kiss looks sort of passionate. But remember, it’s a response to her passion for Han (even if it’s passionate anger). I can let it slide. Besides, neither of them knew they were related at that point. I think we can get past this whole thing. Please, try.

Perhaps some of the appeal Star Wars has for young boys is Luke’s lack of a love interest. Girls aren’t super appealing when you’re 6. This makes Luke more relatable to the young audience. He isn’t driven by love for a woman. He is driven by a hunger for purpose, adventure (at least initially. Before Yoda got to him), friendship, and destiny. Just think of all the movies where the protagonist is trying to get the girl. Often times, this is his major motivation. Luke is a man on a quest. His friends Leia, Han, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Chewbacca are his closest relations. It’s simple. It’s Star Wars.

Juxtapose Luke’s purity with Anakin’s uncontrollable desire for Padme. First of all, it’s annoying. You could gag a maggot with those mushy scenes from Attack of the Clones. Anakin and Padme are that annoying couple that think they’re the greatest couple in history. Second, this romance goes against the way of the Jedi. It is a conscious act of disobedience. Not only is it a symptom of Anakin’s deep character flaws, but it is also a major step toward the Dark Side. It is ultimate attachment, and largely selfish. Anakin is merely fulfilling his desire. In the end, he chokes her. Then she dies in a really lame fashion. Her heart breaks. The only good thing to come out of it all are the children. And really, they are the result of nature more than the fruit of their love.

For me, it’s refreshing to watch the original trilogy. It isn’t complicated by romantic relationships, and it isn’t defiled by adulterated passion. Luke is a little boy’s hero.

The Most Offensive Scene in Movie History

There are thousands upon thousands of offensive scenes throughout movie history. For example, the last part of Requiem for a Dream, and basically all of Wanted. But there is only one scene that offended me to the point of inconsolable disgust. It fills me with anguish.

First, let me show you an example of a great scene from the classic movie, The Return of the Jedi.

http://www.youtube.com/v/3S2auEHR4rg&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0

Note the “Chub Chub” song in the background. Those Ewoks were rocking it out old school! And Anakin Skywalker finally has peace among his old friends, Obi-wan and Yoda. All is as it should be. A fine conclusion to an incredible trilogy.

Now take a deep breath. We’re about to take a plunge into the heart of darkness. Here is the worst scene in movie history.

http://www.youtube.com/v/a6NYswem3as&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0

What the hell was that!?!

Hayden Christensen is the worst thing to happen to the Star Wars prequels, second only to George Lucas. I’m sorry if there is anyone out there who actually likes what this guy has done to Star Wars, but to me and almost everyone I know he is the anti-Christ of the Star Wars universe. A whiny bad actor with no likeable qualities.

SO, when Mr. Lucas decided to infuse this toxic Hayden Christensen into the purity that is Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi he unleashed his greatest demon. It’s a demon that Lucas would call, creative license, but I like to call it arrogance. The last slap in the face to anyone who clung to the hope that Lucas respected the universe he created.

And get this, Anakin is still young! The reason he is young and the other two Jedi are old is that he turned to the dark side in his youth, and when he turned back to the light side it was like starting over from that point. Are you kidding me??? So he gets to be eternally young, while the Jedi who were always good must be eternally old. Sounds like the dumbest loophole ever. Oh, did I say sounds like? I meant it is.

But what really gets me about this “re-mastered” ( I like to call it de-valued) version is the change in the Ewok song. What? The Chub Chub song isn’t good enough anymore? You needed to throw out the Chub Chub? These Ewoks have no musical talent! Curse their cute short hairy arms! Bring in the professional orchestra to play over these savages!

I just picture John Williams with a tear in his eye.