Thursday, May 05, 2005

Star Wars: Rise of the Machine





A little frightening, huh?

I just had an idea. Let me band its wing before it flies away.

As we await the arrival of SW III, it occurs to me that one of the problems with the two Star Wars prequels -- which I am familiar with; I heard there was a wreck, and I ran to see it -- was the utterly pedestrian and utterly confusing evolution of Dennis the Menace into James Dean into (if we are only patient enough) the Man in Black by which I don't mean Johnny Cash.

You talk about the actor who plays the banana in the Fruit of Loom commercial asking the director, "What's my motivation?" Up to now, George Lucas has had nothing coherent, nothing interesting, to say about why good boys go heavy metal: "Yon Anakin hath a lean and pouty look; such men are boring."

Of course, if he had asked me for some script doctoring, greatness would have been thrust upon his vanity project, like it or not. Here it is, one basic idea with two variations, how the first two prequels should have gone.

1) Young Anacin -- I mean, Anakin -- continues to go slowly bad, as he does in SW I and SW II, but we are struck by how ineffectual his badness is. Indeed, it would have been infinitely more compelling if he were one of twins (Anakin and Uberkin) both of whom wander off the path of virtue, Uberkin becoming an effective villain, Anakin trailing along behind, not nearly as wicked or ruthless as he needs to be. (We will get a little Cain and Abel thing going.)Then, whatever happens in SW III happens, the boys falling into a lava pit or whatever, but it's too late to put Uberkin in the Vader machine; Anakin is put in, instead, and that machinery gives him the power to be a better villain than his brother, and a much much much better villain than Anakin ever was. The point is that the machinery provides the means. It is the implement, the instrument, the bludgeon that he lacked before. To a degree, the device changes him. Or not. Or perhaps, in fact, the suit is a mere shell with no inherent power other than the freeing of the wearer from his sense of self, thus allowing him to find in himself the power that was not there as long as he was himself.

That would be heavy, really heavy.

The critics can argue. But the suit becomes a decisive element in the plot, not just a cheap -- if very effective -- trick.

As for the twin babies who drive SW IV-VI, I guess the princess sees the good in Anakin pre-lava and throws him a charity boink. Or maybe he gets her drunk the night before she marries his brother. Or maybe she thinks he's his brother. (If she thinks that he is her brother, whoa! Calling Jane Fonda. Mr. Lucas is ready for his threesome.) Or maybe the princess thinks he's gay and believes she can turn him around. Or maybe his brother is gay, and it all happens the night after she marries his brother. Or maybe they are both gay and .... Doesn't matter. The teenage boys in the audience will love it, since for them it's going to be charity or drunk or mistaken identity or nothing ever, no not ever.

2) This variation would be even better. Anakin is simply a nerd, "good" in some general sense but rather feckless, hanging around, being ignored and belittled by the apprentice Jedi not out of malice but out of the natural reaction of the active and competent to the wannabe. He is entirely peripheral. Big battle. Everyone is killed and Anakin the Nerd -- having hung back, a bit of a coward -- survives maimed but not destroyed. Again, the fixers come with the technological means to save somebody important, but there is no one left to save but Anakin. Once in the Vader suit, he suddenly has the power to work for good or work for bad, and having no self, he loses himself. Indeed, if the saga got him in the suit soon enough, one could more thoroughly trace the corrupting effect of absolute power and, more important, get the suit out there sooner because everybody loves the suit. This is classic science-fiction, how technology is its own temptation and can turn to evil those whose purpose was not maleficent. Indeed, the very simple idea that a man in a can is no longer a man is a meme in plenty of science fiction. You could look it up.

In both of my scenarios, externals shape internals and roles create their own goals, which would be a useful warning to the spotty-faced teens in the audience. Actually, they would probably miss the point. To them it would just be the latest installment of Revenge of the Nerds, which is what Lucas is all about anyway.

In summary, my friends, we did not need SW I and SW II. We just needed a little Richard III:

I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp'd, and want love's majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail'd of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

It would have made just as much sense and been a lot more fun and saved a lot of wasted celluloid.

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