Monday, March 05, 2018

The Last Jedi: Quaternary Thoughts

I'll burn my books!—ah, Mephistopheles!
Doctor Faustus

In a 1980 interview Mark Hamill recalled how George Lucas had originally wanted Star Wars to begin:

"It started with a helicopter shot of an enchanted forest and they push the camera through the window of a tree and you see a mother Wookie trying to breast feed this squealing baby! He keeps gesturing towards the bookshelf and there's all this Wookie dialogue going on. She goes and points to one particular book and the baby gets all excited. She takes the book off the shelf and we see it's titled Star Wars. She opens the book and that's when the ship comes overhead and the film we know starts... Then, at the end, after we get our medals, we bow and it cuts back to the baby Wookie asleep — hopefully not like the audience. And the mother closes the book and puts the baby to bed."

The first Star Wars movie was the end result of a decade-long editorial process; ten years of cutting, simplifying and pruning Lucas's original script. Screeds of political back story were cut back to “it is a period of CIVIL WAR”; pages and pages of mumbo-jumbo about Bogons and Midichlorians were condensed to two lines from Alec Guinness about an energy field. And this ill-judged prologue was reduced to ten of the most famous words in cinema history: 

“A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far Far Away…”

Mark Hamill thinks the studio objected to the prologue because the Wookies weren't wearing any pants. If this is true, the scene must have been at least partially filmed, and is presumably preserved somewhere on Skywalker Ranch. Perhaps that is the real reason Lucas tried quite so hard to stop us from seeing the Star Wars Holiday Special: it's all that is left of a path he decided not to take. But that caption, "A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far Far Away.." appears in neither the novelization nor the comic book adaptation. It must have been added quite late in the day. 

Alan Dean Foster's 1976 novelization is subtitled "from the adventures of Luke Skywalker" and begins with a 500 word prologue taken from "the first saga" of something called "The Journal of the Whills." Lucas seems to have envisaged the Journal of the Whills as a mystical tome. But Foster's "first saga" seems to merely be a history book, giving us a rather dry account of the rise of Palpatine and how Empire succeeded Republic.

Foster's history book is very different in tone from Lucas's proposed Wookie scene. But it serves the same narrative purpose. It draws a frame around Star Wars and turns it into a story within a story. Lucas agrees that this was the intention:

"Originally, I was trying to have the whole story told by somebody else there was somebody watching the whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events."

William Goldman famously used this kind of device in The Princess Bride, which is presented as the story which a modern-day grandfather is reading to a modern-day child. Although The Princess Bride didn't reach cinemas until 1987, the novel (presented as an abridgment of a longer text) was published in 1973—exactly when George Lucas started to work on his epic space saga.

So: Star Wars is a story. But what kind of a story is Star Wars? 

"It is history" says the Journal of the Whills — ancient history, maybe, but history nonetheless.

"It is a fairy tale" says the opening caption and the lost prologue; something to put children to sleep with, but maybe not to be taken too seriously.

"It is a movie" says the opening crawl: specifically, it is the kind of movie you watched at Saturday morning pictures in the 1950s.

But history, fairy tale, and movie are three very different things. "Episode I" and "The First Saga" are part of very different conceptual worlds. If something is history, or even legend, then it is legitimate to look for the facts on which it is based. But a story is just a story. You might very well  watch a movie about Jesse James or Davy Crockett and ask "Is it true? If not, what really happened?" But it is literally meaningless to ask the same question about Shane or the Milky Bar Kid or the Lone Ranger.

The Wookie, and the listener to whom the words "a long time ago in a galaxy far far away..." are addressed is looking back to legendary days long passed when Luke Skywalker saved the rebellion and restored peace to the Galaxy. So too are the students studying the writings of the Whills and the audience watching the movie serial. But Princess Leia reminds Ben Kenobi of heroic deeds done “years ago”; Luke Skywalker hears about how his heroic father fought in the Clone Wars and Ben Kenobi evokes the days of the Old Republic when the Jedi Knights stood for Peace and Justice. The people we are looking back on are themselves looking back; the characters inside the legend have legends of their own.

But their legends are not true.

Star Wars may be a fairy tale, but it is a fairy tale in which the golden coaches are tarnished and most people don’t believe in fairies. To Han Solo, Ben Kenobi is an old fossil; to Uncle Owen, a crazy wizard. The Imperials regard the Force as a quaintly obsolescent superstition; Han disbelieves in it altogether. Granted, in Episode IV the fairy tales all come true: the moody farm boy rescues the captive princess and his faith in the Force saves the galaxy. But in Episode V all those certainties fade away. Luke’s heroic father fades into the horrific Darth Vader; Ben the wise old Jedi knight turns out to have been a manipulative liar.

If Luke can’t believe what Ben told him about his father, why should he believe what he told him about the Jedi Knights?

But if Luke can’t believe Old Ben’s tales of the Jedi, why should Baby Wookie believe a single word of what Mummy Wookie tells him about the Star Wars….


Here is Luke Skywalker talking to Rey in the Last Jedi:

“Now that they are extinct, the Jedi are romanticized, deified. But if you strip away the myth and look at their deeds, the legacy of the Jedi is failure. Hypocrisy, hubris. At the height of their powers, they allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out. It was a Jedi Master who was responsible for the training and creation of Darth Vader… “

My first reaction to this speech was to be revolted by it: to see it as an attack on the whole idea of Star Wars.

The Jedi are the spiritual centre of the movies. They provide the magic and mystery and colour. They are what gives the Saga its significance: behind the battle between Empire and Rebellion is the deeper battle between the Dark Side and the Light. The inner light is more powerful than any battle station; faith is very much a match for a good blaster by your side. Remove the Jedi and what you are left with is a lot of big spaceships blowing each other up.

George Lucas placed the saga in quotation marks. Because it was “only a story” we could enjoy the outrageous swashbuckling while at the same time admitting that no-one could possibly be quite that heroic in real life. But now we have a character inside the frame questioning the story. It is one thing for Obi-Wan to lie to Luke Skywalker. But what happens if the story itself turns out to have been lying? If going to Alderaan and becoming a Jedi like your father was never a terribly good aspiration; if the EVIL GALACTIC EMPIRE was maybe not so evil and the WISE JEDI KNIGHTS were maybe not that wise?

I still think that my first reaction was correct. From a certain point of view.

What Luke Skywalker calls "the myth" of the Jedi Knights is what Obi-Wan told us about in Star Wars. It was that myth that we first generation Star Wars fans fell in love with. The Jedi Knights were the most important thing in Star Wars because they were almost completely absent from it. The most wonderful thing about Jedi is that Ben Kenobi is the only one.

What Luke Skywalker calls "the reality" is what George Lucas showed us in Episodes I, II and III. Everything Luke says is entirely accurate. Obi-Wan really did create Darth Vader by stupidly disobeying Yoda. The Jedi Council really did fail to spot that Jar Jar Binks had nominated a Sith Lord as President of the Republic. They aren’t even that great at preserving peace and justice. By the end of the second movie they are waging a terrible war across the entire galaxy. And Qui-Gon seems perfectly happy to condone slavery and gangsterism on Tatooine.

What Luke Skywalker has in fact done is acknowledge that the prequels were a bit of a disappointment.

Did you get that? The fact that the Phantom Menace wasn't very good is now part of the text of the Star Wars saga. The idea of the Jedi does not live up to the reality. The prequels did not live up to the first trilogy. This is not Rian Johnson deconstructing Star Wars. Star Wars has already been thoroughly taken to pieces by George Lucas. What Rian Johnson is attempting to do is put Star Wars back together again.

Luke says that he is going to destroy the Jedi books which are stored in a holy tree on Act-Tu; but the ghost of Yoda invokes Force lightning and destroys them himself. At the very, very end of the movie, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene, it transpires that the books were not really in the Jedi Tree: Rey had hidden them on the Millennium Falcon.

It still irks me that they are books. The Jedi store important information on small cubes called Holocron. I realize that this is a parodically fannish thing to be irked by, but irked by it I am.

Are we supposed to think that Rey has deceived Luke and Yoda? Or that Yoda and Rey have conspired to fool Luke? Or possibly even Rey and Luke have fooled Yoda? The narrative logic seems to say that the burning of the tree is a decisive step and that Yoda really has brought the Jedi to an end. I am inclined to think that the brief shot of the texts on the Falcon represents a last minute editorial cop out; that having filmed a scene in which the Jedi came to an end, Johnson was persuaded to splice in a get-out clause which allows J.J Abrams to bring them back if he wants to.

But I also note that Yoda says that the books contain nothing which Rey doesn't already possess, which is just the sort of double-tongued thing he might say if what she literally possessed was the books themselves. Splicing in an extra scene which reveals that an apparent Bad Thing didn't really happen after all -- that would be a very Flash Gordon thing to do.

Luke thinks that by destroying the books, he will destroy the Jedi; but Yoda implies that Luke himself hasn't read them. We can see what it might mean for a religion to venerate texts which it no longer bothers to read; but we can't see how this applies to the Jedi because we don't know what's in the books. (Were they rescued from Coruscant when the Temple was destroyed? Or are they texts which even the Jedi Council has forgotten? Or did Mace Windu come on study trips to Craggy Island to read them?) The Jedi training we have seen doesn't get very far beyond Mindfulness 101 -- hold your mind still, don't give in to distractions, let go of your conscious self, act on instinct... You don't need secret texts to access this very basic spiritual practice. Luke seems to think that the Jedi were somehow hoarding the Force instead of sharing it,  but it isn't clear what difference setting fire to some texts will make.

But still: Yoda and Luke, together, burning texts. After Luke has so thoroughly debunked the Star Wars saga, it is a very suggestive image. Perhaps it is one of those scenes which would have been better dubbed into Chinese, or explained with a couple of words of inter-title?

La la la 
old books burning;
La la la 
old order passing
Yub nub 
new way of doing things
Allay loo ta nuv

You don't suppose these "ancient Jedi texts" could be the Journal of the actual Whills, do you?

The first three Star Wars movies ended on tableaux; the characters all line up so we can say goodbye to them. The one in Return of the Jedi felt painfully like a curtain call. The Last Jedi seems as if it is going to end the same way. The four or five surviving rebels are gathered on the Millennium Falcon and Leia tells them "we have everything we need".

It is another hopelessly cryptic moment. What is it that they have got? The Jedi books? Rey's knowledge? Rey herself? But what is Rey's significance? Is she the next chosen one, stuffed to gills with Midichlorians, with a chance to fulfill the bloody prophecy and  make up for Anakin’s descendants buggering everything up? Or is the important thing about her what she learned from Luke? Which is what? That the Force is not power but balance? That it's about wisdom, not floating rocks? (She's really, really good at floating rocks.) Does Rey have everything she needs because spontaneous, untutored spirituality is going to replace text-based religious studies? Or does she have everything because she preserved the texts that Luke was going to recklessly destroy...and is actually intending to read them? Is the point of the ending that both extremes are true? Or merely that Johnson can't decide and wants to tip the ball back into Abrams court?

But this isn't where the film ends.

The film ends back on Canto Blight, the unimaginative Casino Planet where Finn and Rose went for their contrived mid-movie adventure. (When Chewbacca and Artoo Detoo wanted to pass the time on the rickety old Millennium Falcon they play a chess like game with holograms of live aliens. When the richest people in the galaxy want to have some excitement, they put physical coins into mechanically operated slot machines.) During this side-quest, our heroes encountered a group of kids who help them escape. In the very brief epilogue, one of the children uses the Force to levitate the broom he is meant to be sweeping up with. He also has a signet ring, given to him by Rose, with the insignia of the Resistance on it. The film ends with him looking out to the stars. 

The boy doesn't have a name. We will probably never see him again. He is nobody. This is the message of the Last Jedi: bloodlines and books and prophecies never really counted; the Force always was available to everybody. That's why it all comes down to a fight between Kylo Renn, son of Han Solo, third generation of Anakin's bloodline, the logical next step in the Skywalker saga….and Rey who doesn't have a last name. Up and down the universe, thousands and thousands of Nobodys can use the Force and thousands and thousands of Nobodys believe in the Resistence. We don't need no stinkin' Jedi Knights. It's all us Nobodys who will burn the First Order down.

Except, sorry -- can it really be a plot point that the whole idea of the Adventures of Luke Skywalker was a misunderstanding? Can it really be that we have been reading the wrong book all these years?

The boy with the broom isn't merely Nobody: he is very specifically a slave. And I know who else was a slave: Anakin Skywalker, that's who. So the message could just as easily be: here is a new bloodline; here is another child conceived by the Midichlorians; here is another shot at completing the prophecy. The whole Vader - Luke - Kylo cycle is going to play out again, and burn the galaxy down in a new and bloody war. Unless Rey really can learn from Luke’s mistakes.

Johnson has gone to some lengths to leave matters open; to allow Abrams the final say in what Star Wars is really about. Rey is important because she has preserved the Jedi books. Rey is important because she doesn't need the Jedi books. The boy with the broom is of no importance; he's just one of many people who can use the Force. The boy with the broom is of huge importance; the next film will be about how Rey finds him and trains him.

The boy is discovered playing with improvised action figures. He is re-enacting a scene from the movie we have just seen: Luke fighting Kylo Ren on Crait. Perhaps the scene is saying that Anyboy can use the Force if he plays with his action figures? Perhaps all it ever took to be a Jedi was to say "I do believe in fairies" and think beautiful happy thoughts. The Force is become a metaphor for fandom. It is the quality which those of us who believe in Star Wars have got, and those of you who disbelieve in it will never have.

We are all Jedi now. 

Luke stopped believing in the legend of the Jedi, and cut himself off from the Force. The boy can use the Force because he does believe in the legend of Luke Skywalker. The boy with the broom is a hopeful thumbs up sign at the closing moment of what could otherwise have been a pretty damn depressing film. He's a lot like the little boy who redeems everything by telling King Arthur that he still believes in chivalry even if nobody else does. He is what heals the rift between the two trilogies and refutes Luke's claim that the Jedi were a failure.



We are inside the movie; inside the framing sequence. And a little boy is telling stories about Jedi Knights. It is as close as Rian Johnson dare go to the Baby Wookie's bedtime.

La la la 
hopeful final scene;
La la la 
upbeat conclusion
Yub nub 
maybe young will save the day
Allay loo ta nuv
Allay loo ta nuv


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18 comments:

Pete Ashton said...

Enjoying these. Keep it up. :)

Andrew Rilstone said...

Thanks. At least one more to come.

Mike Taylor said...

But history, fairy tale, and movie are three very different things.

I wonder whether here, finally -- after all your writing about Star Wars -- this may be the moment where you've put your finger on exactly what it is that makes Star Wars so magical. That is really is all three of these things at once.

Mike Taylor said...

My first reaction to this speech was to be revolted by it: to see it as an attack on the whole idea of Star Wars.

I'm surprised to hear that. My first reaction was some blend of satisfaction and delight. And I'll tell you why.

It is one thing for Obi-Wan to lie to Luke Skywalker. But what happens if the story itself turns out to have been lying?

That's not how I saw it at all. Instead I heard Luke's speech as his recognising what we, the viewers, have seen to be true. Whatever romantic story Old Ben told Luke, the reality that we saw on the screen was that at the height of their powers, the Jedi allowed Darth Sidious to rise, create the Empire, and wipe them out. If anything, Luke's accurate summary of episodes I-III recanonicalises them. Luke is seeing clearly.

Mike Taylor said...

Did you get that? The fact that the Phantom Menace wasn't very good is now part of the text of the Star Wars saga.

No, no. It's nowhere near as metatextual as that. Luke's saying nothing about Dennis the Menace as a document. He's talking about what, from his in-universe perspective, is simply history. I think you've out-clevered yourself here.

Mike Taylor said...

The boy is discovered playing with improvised action figures. He is re-enacting a scene from the movie we have just seen: Luke fighting Kylo Ren on Crait. Perhaps the scene is saying that Anyboy can use the Force if he plays with his action figures? Perhaps all it ever took to be a Jedi was to say "I do believe in fairies" and think beautiful happy thoughts. The Force is become a metaphor for fandom. It is the quality which those of us who believe in Star Wars have got, and those of you who disbelieve in it will never have.

I think this is rather an unnecessarily cynical reading. I see this, rather, as a Sci-Fi recasting of the priesthood of all believers. We don't need special anointed people in special anointed clothes to unite us with the Force. We're all invited. Bold, I approach the eternal throne.

SK said...

The question was asked previously: who is Star Wars for?

I think it's pretty clear that it is and always has been for new-agey Californian hippies who think that Buddhism is far out and that you should stick it to the man, dude.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Thank you. That certainly answers that one.

Gavin Burrows said...

At least they're not football hooligans like 'Doctor Who' fans.

JAn said...

Love this post. Looking forward to at least one more.

"You might very well watch a movie about Jesse James or Davy Crockett and ask "Is it true? If not, what really happened?" But it is literally meaningless to ask the same question about Shane or the Milky Bar Kid or the Lone Ranger."

I'm trying to process this, but isn't this what the Dark Knight Returns is, or Watchmen?

Actually: isn't this what every comic reboot is? If that's what you meant there's something very solid there indeed, if not, I still think there's something solid there I'm also just going to feel quite smug.

Andrew Rilstone said...

Well, "literally meaningless" is over-selling the pudding, I admit. "What did the Historical Milky Bar Kid, the one of whose life the chocolate adverts contain a garbled memory?" is not literally meaningless in the way that "Is orange round or square?" or "What is the square root of a Scotch Egg" are literally meaningless. But it is still quite a silly question.

The point that I was trying to get to was that some texts are just stories -- freestanding structures that delight us or horrify us by their shape and their form; but that some texts point outside themselves towards actual events in the real world -- and its the real events which interest us, not this particular description of them.

Perhaps the Lone Ranger and Jesse James weren't extreme enough examples. Perhaps it would have been better to say Little Orphan Annie and Anne Frank's Diary; or The Hare and the Tortoise and Scott of the Antarctic.

Obviously, there is a vast middle ground of stories which are, in fact, fictitious but which pretend to be recounting real events. We know perfectly well that Sherlock Holmes isn't a real person, but the stories are presented as if they are Watson's memoirs. And we know Watson well enough to know that he isn't an infallible narrator; so we can meaningfully draw a distinction between what Watson says happened, and what "really" happened.

On the other hand, writers as distinct as a Jane Austen and Stan Lee actively speak in their own voices saying, in effect, "I am making up this story to please you; so I have decided that such-and-such a thing should happen now."You can make up a new story about Elizabeth Bennet; but you can't, I think, say "There is a different, historical Elizabeth Bennet lurking behind the text of Pride and Prejudice who Jane Austen may or may not have fairly represented." It's just a story.

I am quite sure that the point of the frame in The Princess Bride is to force us to take the whole, outrageous story on its own terms, as a story; to not question it, but just to accept it. I don't know if anyone was seriously taken in by the literary conjuring trick to the extent of believing that there really was an S Morgenstern and going in search of the unexpurgated edition of the Princess Bride. But everyone can see that the frame and the main story are two different types of writing. The question "Is William Goldman really married to a child psychologist" admits of the answer "No; he has fictionalized his private life as a literary device"; but the question "Did Westley and Inigo really fight a left-handed duel?" can only be answered by "Yes, of course they did, because Morgenstern says they did" or more simply "It's a story."

My contention is that the multiple frames of Star Wars are trying to do the same thing. We are being asked to accept it as a story; not as a window into an imaginary universe, and certainly not as an unreliable account of a much less heroic war.

Does this make sense?

Andrew Rilstone said...

I think this is rather an unnecessarily cynical reading. I see this, rather, as a Sci-Fi recasting of the priesthood of all believers. We don't need special anointed people in special anointed clothes to unite us with the Force. We're all invited. Bold, I approach the eternal throne.

Whoah! So the Last Jedi reveals that Star Wars: A New Hope was as wrong about the Force as medieval Catholicism was about God (from the point of view of a protestant evangelical.) I think that goes someway to explaining why traditionalist Star Wars fans were pretty freaked out by part of it, don't you?

How much of the original trilogy are we planning to unpick; and once we have done that; how much of the prequel trilogy? If the Force still a gift which some people have and others don't, which runs stronger in some families than others? Is Luke Skywalker still a significant person, who Obi-Wan went to Tatooine to watch over? Was Yoda right in thinking that Luke and "the other" were the Jedi's last hope? Was it necessary for Luke to learn about the Force from Ben, or to go to Dagobah to learn from Yoda? Was the whole Midichlorian thing a scam perpetrated by Yoda, Ben and Qui-Gon? If so, was there anything special about Anakin to begin with?

I am sorry if the remark about "beautiful happy thoughts" over-sold the pudding. I am quite sure that the message of the final scene is "Here is a person who still believes in the legend of the Jedi and the legend of Luke Skywalker. That belief is thematically linked to his apparent ability to use the Force." It isn't clear from the snippet -- it probably doesn't matter -- whether he can levitate brooms because he believes in the Jedi, or if he believes in the Jedi because he can manipulate brooms or whether "Force usey-ness" is a metaphor for "Jedi believey-ness". But that naturally made me think of Peter Pan and the idea that strongly believing in fairies could bring dead fairies back to life.

Andrew Rilstone said...

No, no. It's nowhere near as metatextual as that. Luke's saying nothing about Dennis the Menace as a document. He's talking about what, from his in-universe perspective, is simply history. I think you've out-clevered yourself here.

I am sorry if my use of the word "text" oversold the pudding. Absolutely, from Luke's point of view, the events of Phantom Menace are historical events which his parents lived through, some 60 years in the past. At no level was I meaning to suggest that the movies existed as texts inside the Star Wars universe. (The journal of the Whills, and the putative Wookie story book are presumably in-universe texts. The question of whether the person saying "A long time ago in a galaxy far far away..." and the audience watching the Star Wars movie serial are in-universe or out-of-universe is left as an exercise for the reader. We may also return to the question of how Luke knows what happened, and why he trusts that source more than he trusts Obi-Wan. So far as I can see, the only person still alive and with an unflushed memory is Chewbacca.)

The Original Trilogy presents the Old Republic as an ideal time or a golden age and says that it was the Jedi's function to keep it that way.

Very many of us assumed that the Prequel trilogy intended to show us that Jedi Golden Age. If we were disappointed with what we saw we regarded that as a flaw in the film-making: "George Lucas tries to show us the Republic at its height, but unfortunately he fails to do so, making the prequel trilogy an artistic failure."

I have said several times that I think that the Clone Wars cartoon series comes much closer to what George Lucas intended the prequel trilogy to be. I have said several times that I think that the Clone Wars cartoon series comes much closer to what George Lucas intended the prequel trilogy to be.

I am one of many people who found the Pod Race sequence rather uninspiring. I have no doubt that it was intended to be a visual thriller, and that from an in-universe perspective, it was indeed very exciting. The last thing i would expect would be for Anakin to say that Pod Races were boring, or for it to turn out that that huge audience was there under duress and would rather have been doing something else. There are many other examples of this: Yoda is a CGI effect in the prequels but a physical marionette in the original trilogy, and this effects how he moves, but I don't think we regard it as part of the Star Wars mythos that people of his race get less shiny and more flexible as they get older.

What I am proposing is that Luke's speech about the failure of the Jedi is recognizing that we were all quite disappointed by the prequel trilogy, and making that disappointed part of the story. "You were disappointed by what you saw of the Jedi in the Phantom Menace, not because the Phantom Menace is a poor film, but because the Jedi are in fact quite disappointing." Which is quite an interesting thing to have done. And the ending may say "But it doesn't matter that the Jedi are actually quite disappointing, because kids are going to carry on believing Obi-Wan's heroic version whatever happens."

Rather as if I had said "It part of the text of Doctor Who that at one time the Doctor was a bad tempered grey haired old man, and that he then turned into a silly man with a big grin and a scarf; but it is not part of the text of James Bond that in about 1970 he aged 10 years and lost his Scottish accent." (Three attempts to write sentence saying "This is also relevant to race and gender of famous characters" in such a way as to not get shouted at. Attempt abandoned.)

Mike Taylor said...

Well, let's not over-interpret my rather casual priesthood-of-all-believers metaphor. I'm certainly not arguing that that's what Lucas had in mind, or that he consciously associated the corrupt Council of Jedi with the pre-reformation Medieval church. I'm just saying that I find the re-interpretation of how the Force works similarly egalitation, and I feel is as similarly liberating.

But of course it's not a new interpretation at all: we're back at the old one, when Luke was just a regular kid on a farm who happened to luck out. We wasn't special because of who his parents were, but just because he happened to be force-sensitive. So when we find that Rey isn't special because of who her parents were, but just because she happens to be force-sensitive, we're really returning to the Force as we originally envisaged it.

Does that mean old ideas about the Force running in a family were wrong? Not exactly. We recognise today that there is a strong hereditary component to intelligence, but that doesn't mean that genius can't arise from anywhere. Surely it's the same with the Force?

Andrew Rilstone said...

So hang on, on this reading, Anakin was special and unique, but it was a coincidence that Luke was his child? And Yoda and Ben were mistaken when they thought that Leia and Luke were the galaxies last hope? And when Luke told Leia that she shared his unique gift, he was either mistaken, or, just meant "as, in a very real sense, do we all"? And this isn't a fairly large change in the mythos as we understand it?

SK said...

Anakin was special and unique, but it was a coincidence that Luke was his child

In the original, Anakin wasn't a 'special and unique' Jedi, was he? He was just a damn good pilot who fought alongside Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars and was killed by Darth Vader.

His main claim to fame wasn't even his Jedi powers, which could have been quite run-of-the-mill, but his piloting skills, which is where he really stood out, and was the real inheritance Luke got from him (hence why the climax of the film is not a lightsabre duel, like all the other films, but a bombing run (where they fudge things so that for some reason the fighter pilots are also doing the bombing, at least the latest film got that right)).

All the 'greatest Jedi of them all', 'last hope', family saga stuff comes in with the second film, and then explodes in the second trilogy. In the first film the force is something which runs in families, but more in a 'if your parent (well, let's be honest, at that point 'dad') was one you have a head start' sense -- like if you had to put money on some kid to play football for England you'd put it on David Beckham's spawn -- rather than in the 'mystic aristocracy, powers passed down like the family mansion' sense it later became.

And let's not even start on how exactly you have a mystic aristocracy who aren't allowed to breed…

Mike Taylor said...

RIght, SK, exactly.

In short, I think the two new films are a much better match for the mythos of the original Star Wars than they are to that of the other original-trilogy films or the prequels. But, more, I also think the two new films are a much better match for the mythos of the original Star Wars than that of the other original-trilogy films or the prequels was.

Gaius said...

At least they're not football hooligans like 'Doctor Who' fans.

Wholigans?

(I'll get my hat.)