Sunday, April 19, 2015

In defense of Episodes I-III

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, this is a quasi-bike blog.  But it's also a blog about shit I love too, so we're gonna talk about Star Wars for a minute (or five).  Besides, if you've blasted down a forested stretch of singletrack and you haven't pretended you're on a speeder bike racing through the forest moon of Endor, you're either a liar or you have no business reading this blog anyhow.

The new Star Wars trailer, as the kids say, dropped this week.  In case you haven't seen it, here it is.

 And with this, the news media has gone completely ape-shit.  Good Morning America, ABC Nightly News, (which are owned by Disney, the company making the new Star Wars movies, hmmm) NPR, and others have run stories on this TRAILER (it's a teaser from a movie that is 8 months from being released) and the event, Star Wars Celebration, where the trailer was officially released.  And with it, the ubiquitous interviews with all those quasi-nerds that say the same shit, "Yeah, the trailer was great, but I have mixed emotions, I really hope this is better than the Jar-Jar disasters of Episodes I-III." Or something along those lines.  A fucking 20 something hipster-nerd, who wasn't even born when Episodes IV-VI came out, waxing nostalgic for movies that he hasn't even seen the original versions of?  What the hell?

Let me preface this by saying I don't think that Episodes I-III were great, but they're not as horrible as some people make them out to be.  Could Lucas have done a better job with them by letting someone else direct them?  Sure.  Would they have more depth and character if he didn't rely solely on CGI for every damn effect?  Absolutely.  Can I give you the reasons why they're not the trash you think?  I'm gonna.

Defense 1.  The free flowing story arc.
Episodes IV-VI had no constraints on its story line.  Lucas could have taken us anywhere he wanted to go.  We didn't know there was a second Death Star, we didn't know what Jabba looked like (it's true hipster-nerd, Jabba was NOT in the original version of Episode IV), and we surely didn't know that Darth Vader was Luke's father.

Episodes I-III had a very limited ability to create a story line.  Everything in all the stories had to come to a very specific point.  They had to come to Anakin being trained by Obi-Wan and subsequently being defeated on Mustafar by Obi-Wan and being burned up like a piece of Bantha bacon.  Luke and Leia had to be born, and then hidden from Anakin/Darth Vader.  Yoda and Obi-Wan had to go into
Mmmm, Bantha bacon...
hiding.  Oh yeah, and Anakin had to turn to the dark side and actually become Vader.  Hard to make a new amazing story when the  very specific ending was already written.

This is also why the story line for the new episodes should/better be amazing.  There is no constraint on the stories.

Defense 2.  The acting.
Pensive Luke...that's some SERIOUS
I hear a lot about how horrible Hayden Christensen was as Anakin.  Yes, I'll agree he wasn't great.  But guess what?  Mark Hamill wasn't great as Luke either!  Seriously, go back and re-watch IV-VI and tell me why you think Mark's acting was better than Hayden's.  Just listen to the whiny, monotone voice that says "BUUT I WAS GOING TO TOSCHI'S STATION TO PICK UP SOME POWER CONVERTERS!" and seriously tell me that this is better that Hayden saying in a 4 year old's best grumpy voice "DON'T MAKE ME DESTROY YOU."  You can't.  And, just like in Episodes IV-VI, there were bright spots of acting.  Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan was believable, especially when he was monologuing on the bank of the lava river to the fried up Darth Vader, and when Natalie Portman was telling Anakin "you're breaking my heart" was real emotion.

Defense 3.  They are kids movies.
I think this is the thing that people forget the most.  Not that these movies were not intended for adults, but they were made for kids!  Lucas has said many times that he wanted to recreate that Saturday serial type of experience he had when he was a kid.  And, lest you forget, you most likely watched Episodes IV-VI when you were a kid and then saw I-III when you were an adult, skewing your opinion on those movies (except for those hipster-nerds, who are just regurgitating what ever is supposed to be cool or not cool about Star Wars).

Defense 4.  Lightsaber battles.
The lightsaber battles in Episodes I-III were WAY better than in IV-VI, don't deny it!  Sure the battles between Vader and Obi-Wan in IV and between Vader and Luke in V-VI had a lot of emotion in them, but they looked like they were swinging 25 lb. baseball bats at each other.  As far as the action goes, they were far better in I-III.  Actual choreography and young actors that could handle it  
(mostly), not old guys or guys in heavy black suits.

Defense 5.  The Jar-Jar factor.
This is the one that gets me riled up the most.  Everyone always points to Jar-Jar as to why Episodes I-III sucked.  Don't get me wrong, I don't like the Jar-Jar character.  I think it's pointless and slightly racist.  Watch these movies with a little kid sometime and see how hard they laugh at Jar-Jar and you'll understand part of it.

That's not my defense though.  My biggest complaint is about the revisionist mentality of those that blame Jar-Jar for I-III and think that Ewoks are OK.  Ewoks suck my balls!  I hated them from the second they came on screen at the Elks Theater in 1983 when I first watched Episode VI.    
Really?  The Care Bears beat the Empire?
Seriously?  Luke, Han and Leia couldn't beat the Empire with the fastest ship in the galaxy and all those X, Y, A, and B wings at their disposal, and yet a bunch of FUCKING TEDDY BEARS with rocks and sticks take them down?  I call BULLSHIT on the whole premise!  Tell me the Empire wouldn't just torch their whole planet, burning the forest down and the tree-forts and teddy bears that live therein.  God I hate Ewoks...

So, here's to A New, New Hope that Episodes VII-??? are better than I-VI, yes I-VI, all of them, but I can almost guarantee that there will be a Jar-Jar/Ewok character or moment in these new ones that will get the nerd illuminati so up in arms that they'll have a fit in their mom's basement.  I loved IV-VI as a kid and still do as an adult, I know I don't hate I-III as much as you say you do and maybe now you won't either.

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