The Unswung Bat

Friday, May 20, 2005
Jump to Lightspeed

Anyone remember the unwordable excitement at the beginning of the new Star Wars Trilogy? Not just from the hardcore fans (like me), but normal people too. Everyone was excited about seeing what came next. And the anticlimax was implosive. I'm not even gonna talk about how terrible and ham-handed the two first movies were. I completely wrote off the new trilogy as uninteresting reels of crap festooned with ugly exposition and CG effects. Going to see Episode III was more or less something I did to just wrap up the series because I couldn't stand to walk away from it, miserable though it was.

I should say, though, that when I first saw the theatrical preview for Revenge of the Sith, I began to hold a tiny, guarded New hope. Much like Obi-Wan Kenobi watching at a distance over a young Luke Skywalker growing up in exile on the sandy wastes of Tatooine, I had the sense of a promise - which I needed to protect from overexposure until (and if) the time was right - that the mess of the new trilogy could be overcome, redeemed even. But I did not let myself go crazy about it.

I don't think you might understand how much I liked the original movies.

There was a time when I knew everything about Star Wars.

Every name, every book and its author, every ship, its workings and significance, every alien and planet, the serial numbers of each droid mentioned in any source - the movies, short stories, comics, not the cartoons because those were crap, technical manuals, scripts, novelizations. Seriously, I knew everything.

Not only that, but the story was alive to me, in a way ordinarily reserved for a great book, which, I'll readily grant, the titanic amount of Star Wars material was not. I can't explain exactly what nerve twinged in response to the stories to make them and their characters and ideas so significant, but if you're reading this, probably somewhere inside of you is a little fanatic who knows exactly what I mean. Possibly not, not everyone I know was into Star Wars. But almost everyone was.

I will say, after watching Revenge of the Sith once, from the very beginning they did it right. From the first shot I was excited, a little tense, engaged, and not only that, but - in a way I had pretty much forgotten about - happy with the movie. I was smiling like a ten year-old.

I won't say there weren't a few things they could have done without, some artless dialogue, an overreliance on computer effects that cost a certain needful grittiness and realism. But it all flowed right, and not only that, it did what a story should. It didn't waste itself on worthless setup and premising: everything was layed out right to start with. And nothing was given away from the beginning.

Note that, because it's key. If I was to complain about the first two prequels, I would find their deepest fault to be not the awkwardness of their telling or the gaudiness of their presentation, but their awful, drudgeful, indefensible boringness. Any surprises in them were at how stupid their characters could be, or how much time could be wasted on a scene - or a whole act - with absolutely no relevance. Otherwise, everything in them happened as though events were running along a track that was plainly apparent to the audience. The universe we'd thought was so cool before had been reduced to a landscape of cutouts and automatons unvitalized by any imagination.

Everyone knows what the ending of Episode III will be, but - crucially - the question of how it will come to be seems important. Gripping, even. There was one, central fight for the duration of which my heart was pounding. Also, this movie actually rewards those who have an eye for details and know the story set out in the previous trilogy, whereas the other prequels, it is virtually unanimously agreed, causes those same people to unite in cringing wonderment at how they could have got so wrapped up in this Star Wars thing. I would see this movie again tomorrow at a moment's notice. I'm still jazzed about it - obviously it's reflected in my writing.

Here's the real thing though. I feel like I could watch the old movies again not with nostalgia or just because They're Star Wars, but to see how they all fit together, follow the end of Revenge of the Sith through till Return of the Jedi, follow the story again. I could even read some of the books for new ideas - though I'd be noting style problems and where the language should be changed, of course.

Some of the first stories I really took time thinking up were, like with a lot of kids, continuations of Star Wars stories I'd gotten caught up in, that I didn't feel should've ended where they did or that I wanted to make differently. It's as good a place as any to start being creative, though I've moved a long way away from there. I've just been reminded that it's a great imaginary world to let one's own imagination zoom around in. None of it's real, you know. And with a nudge, unless you want it to be . . .

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