Star Wars (The Original Trilogy) Themes

One of the reasons that Rian Johnson had so many problems and so much of a backlash against SWTLJ is the exact same problem that I had with Looper–he relied on visuals rather than trying to create epic themes that SW (especially the original series).  SW at its core is about relating its characters to the world and showing how much more you can be.  SW is about themes that resonate through the characters’ (& by extension, our own) lives.

Star Wars: Believe in Something Greater/Higher than Yourself
The theme of SW is to believe in something greater/higher than oneself–to have faith.  There are a multitude of scenes that illustrate this including the famous “Trench Run” scene where Luke is told by Ben’s voice to trust the Force and he turns off his targeting computers.  In doing so, he is questioned by “ground control” as they wonder what is wrong.  It is most explicitly talked about, however, during Luke’s “training” with the drone with Ben teaching him about the Force.  We see that once Luke realizes that he can “see” beyond the physical and into the immaterial, then the Force “guides” his actions and helps to move him from good to great.

The Empire Strikes Back: 1) You May Not Have All of the Facts Even When You Believe You Do and 2) The Power of Belief.
The ESB is a darker movie, not because it is literally shot darker, but because it deals with more complex and more nuanced themes.  Most specifically, one of the main themes that runs throughout the movie is the idea that even if you think you have all the information at hand, you actually might not not and a closer look might be wise.  This happens to both Luke while training at Dagobah and to Han, Leia, and Chewie in Cloud City.  In each situation, both groups think that they have all of the pieces of information they need, when in fact, they are missing valuable pieces that would greatly enhance their understanding of the situations they find themselves inhabiting.  It really comes down to trust.  Should Luke trust his teachers or trust himself, should Han, Leia, and Chewie trust Lando or not?  Luke also learns from the raising of the X-Wing that he doesn’t really truly believe in the power of the Force.  Yoda has given himself over to it completely where Luke has learned the lessons, but when things get hard, he doesn’t really trust in the Force to see him through it.  This ties back into the first theme when Luke doesn’t trust Yoda enough to see his training through even though it might cost him his friends.

The Return of the Jedi: Point of View as well as Friends versus Lackeys
For RotJ the theme is trifold: 1) One’s Point of View, 2) the idea of having Friends vs. Lackeys, and 3) Don’t make the same mistakes.  One’s Point of View is very important in orientating/grounding the character to the world and has an important bearing on how the person/character looks at the universe.  Luke is angry with Ben Kenobi for not telling him the truth about his father, but Ben tells Luke that many of truths that we cling to in the universe depend greatly on our point of view.  Had Luke not learned that lesson then he might have fallen into the trap of believing that his father was completely lost.  Having friends that one can depend on was very important to the SW characters as they are always bailing each other out and formed an interconnected web.  The Empire, however, relied on lackeys to serve and fulfill the Emperor’s will and this ultimately cost them the battle.  Many fans hate the Ewoks because they reason that the Empire shouldn’t be able to be defeated by “teddy bears with spears,” but history is replete with examples of finer military forces getting upended by smaller, less advanced forces because those smaller forces have better “grit” for lack of a better word.  Even the biggest Imperial Walker can be taken down with the right combination of grit and moxy–something the Ewoks had in spades.  Finally, Luke learned a valuable lesson in ESB–that under the right circumstances he could find himself in the same position and be lured to the Dark Side.  Luke was especially conscious of this based on his experience in the “cave.”  When his time came to be tested, he saw what he had done and stepped away from the “precipice,” something his father couldn’t do.  So he learned his lesson well and ultimately, it served to save his life as well as to ensure the victory of the Rebellion.

This is where SWTLJ ultimately failed in that it really didn’t go deep enough with the themes that the characters inhabited to make it a truly satisfying movie for fans of the original trilogy.  There is a reason that many are calling Rey/Kylo Ren’s “relationship” “Reylo” and that is a true disappointment to me personally, but to many other OG SW fans out there.

Slight spoiler here–Skip down to the next paragraph if you want to know nothing about TLJ–you know you’ve gone off the rails somewhere if there’s a scene in a SW movie where Rey is telling Kylo Ren to put a shirt on (and yes, that scene exists).  Why does that scene even exist?  What function does it perform that either a) ties into the greater universe as a whole or b) reveals something unique about the characters or the world?  It was simply a throw away line designed to get laughs and get tweens speculating on how cool it would be if Rey and Kylo “hooked up?” Gah!  Please, someone get that out of a SW movie and put it in Twilight where it belongs!

We talk about suspension of disbelief–well, for me, that was the moment when the “magic” was broken and I saw SWTLJ as a movie rather than a story.

 

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They Call Me, Mr. Lobot

lobot_starwarsdotcom

Image Source: Star Wars

Earlier this spring, just after school was out for summer, I found myself wanting a pair of bluetooth headphones.  My wired headphones (Sony) lasted quite a while, but finally went to the great headphone round-up in the sky some time ago.  I’ve found that, for some odd reason, my engagement with my writing improves when I’m listening to music.  It improves tenfold when I can shut out everything else with headphones and just become one with the music.  My uncle was HUGELY into classical music and every afternoon and evening when I came home from school, I did my homework with music playing in the background.  I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not a dancer and I don’t think that I can dance (I only move in time with the music; I’m not sure that on any planet where there’s human habitation could you even begin to call what I do dancing–probably not on any alien planet, either, but I digress).

As an adult, I’ve found that I use music sporadically–sometimes I put it on and the projects seem to go much better, smoother, and easier.  Sometimes, either I feel I don’t need it, I’m not in the mood, or (like previously) I don’t have the right equipment (i.e., no headphones) and I’m not nearly as effective as I once was in writing (& then I wonder why nothing comes/or I can’t get to come out the way I see it in my mind–go figure).  I really wanted a pair of Apple Airpods, but they were too expensive at the time and were going to take six weeks to ship, so I looked on Amazon and found a pair that I really liked and that were fairly cheap as I plan to get Airpods later in the year.

Airpods_Apple

Image Source: Apple

So I bought a pair of Senso Active Bluetooth Headphones (pictured below).  However, I didn’t realize that the bluetooth earphones were as big as they were.  When I put them in and then looked at myself in the mirror (with my bald head), I discovered a distressing fact: I looked like Lobot from Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back.  For this reason, I’ve not really worn them for any length of time until today.  Today I discovered just how much that I’ve missed the music and how much music plays a role in my writing/creativity.  All those years of listening to classical music during the school year and doing my homework and all those years of jumping around to WJTT Power 94 in the summer has really “wired” (or perhaps “re-wired” my brain) as I seem to enjoy a boost to creativity to my writing when I’m listening to music and it is a palpable increase.  Even as I write these words, looking for all the world like Lobot, music is coursing through my ears into my brain and the words are flying out of my mind and on to the computer screen.  My bloody fingers can’t even keep up; if it wasn’t for auto-correct, then this post would be filled with typos.

Senso Active Bluetooth Headphones_Amazon

Image Source: Amazon.com

The point I’m trying to make is that even though I look foolish, the boost in creativity (& hopefully productivity) is well worth it.  So call me, Mr. Lobot.

xwing
So, in preparation for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie releasing soon, I went back and finished watching my 6 disc set of Star Wars Blu-Rays. I’d started watching them way back at the start of school, but I’d fallen away from them. I went from 1-4 (using Lucas’ numbering scheme), but needed to finish 5-6 (The Empire Strikes Back & The Return of the Jedi) for the uninitiated. Over the past two weeks, I finished these two movies and they rekindled my love for all things Star Wars and Science Fiction and Fantasy in general.

Child of Star Wars

I saw The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) first when I was a child. Heresy, I know, but when Star Wars came out, I was only 4 years old and my parents didn’t think that I would like it. As a matter of fact, we weren’t much of a movie going family per se. That changed in the early 1980s, when my preference for all things Sci-Fi & Fantasy began to emerge. My mother and stepfather took me to see ESB and I was immediately hooked. So much so, that they took be to the bargain theater the next weekend to see SW and the X-Wing trench run had me talking about it that entire summer.

When I was a kid, my grandparents used to subscribe to an oversized magazine called Life and in it, there was an extended interview with George Lucas. It talked about his early life, his car accident that nearly cost him his life, the movie American Graffiti and his making of Star Wars. I remember devouring that article.

In one interview, not sure if it was the one I mentioned above, Lucas mentioned that he kept the subtitles in his movie because he wanted to inspire kids to read. He wanted them to be so fascinated by the visuals that they would want to learn to read the text to figure out what they were missing in the scene. Or so was the gist of what I remember from the interview. I already was reading and reading well, but what Lucas’ movies did for me was show me that there was a niche of media available to me that focused on the futuristic and the fantastical. I began to search out those avenues wherever I could find them–in the library, on TV, in games (the Atari 2600 & Commodore 64 were my console and “PC” respectively).

Lucas took, for me, what was simply a preference and turned it into a passion. I can (& will) read non-genre works, but given the choice between a contemporary work or a genre work, I’ll almost always choose the genre (Sci-Fi/Fantasy) work.

Creating Science Fiction and Fantasy

Like many creators, I want to create my own works because (except for a few exceptions) people don’t seem to be writing the kind of things that I want to read/watch anymore.

I recently tried to read a fantasy work by an author whose cover art and cover blurb looked promising. When I started it, however, the F-Bomb was littered all through it. It completely turned me off–there’s no way that a “fantasy” milieu would use a vulgarity like the F-word in the same way and context that we would in today’s society, but that’s exactly what happened in the story. It was as anachronistic as playing the song “We Will Rock You” at a joust. At least the movie A Knight’s Tale used that ironically, but the author didn’t seem to even know how anachronistic his use of the word was. Its always dangerous trying to pretend to know the mind of an author, but it was almost like he thought, “Hey, this is how my friends and I all talk to each other, so sure, its okay that my characters in my fantasy novel talk this way too.” Um, no, it’s not okay. Even in Sci-Fi, if you’re going to use vulgarities, you need to take into account how the language might have shifted over time in your universe. Just shoving a contemporary vulgarity into your story because we (as a culture) use it now is, in a word, lazy. I loved Stephen King’s Dark Tower series for a while, but the vulgarities (among other things) eventually drove me away. King thinks we Americans talk like that, but in reality, we don’t (or at least we don’t in contexts that King writes about). In public spaces, we tend to moderate our vulgarities. It is only in small groups or online where anonymity reigns do most of us seem to cut loose.

Another area that I’ve talked about is the rise of the “Anti-Hero” in Fantasy. I stopped reading much of the Sci-Fi written in the 90’s because there was an “anti-Star Wars” reaction where everything had to be dark and gritty. The same movement is happening in Fantasy at the moment (the rise of Game of Thrones is evidence of this phenomenon). I’m beginning to read more Science Fiction now because it is more in-line with my own tastes due to the resurgence of military Sci-Fi at the moment.

I’m hopeful that the Force Awakens heralds a resurgence of the type of Fantasy and Sci-Fi that I personally like. Perhaps then, my stories will be able to find an audience and I’ll be able to read/watch more of the media in the genre that I love. I suppose only time will tell.