14 October 2011

The Last Time I Will Ever Write About Star Wars. (Ever.)

Two weeks ago I consumed all six Star Wars movies--the prequels, the tampered-with originals, the special features--in the span of 48 hours. Not by choice or because I'd temporarily lost my mind, but because I was reviewing the new Blu-rays for the show. I locked the doors, lowered the lights, and kept a pillow nearby in case I needed something to rain blows down upon and/or cry into. I pressed PLAY.

And so it began.

Along the way, I located an old friend who I'd presumed lost forever: the Star Wars fan within me. In the 10 years since I'd last seen him, he'd grown pale and gaunt. More animal than human now, he no longer wore clothes, or made attempts to cover his genitals or butt areas. He'd written the words "HAN SHOT FIRST" in poop on a nearby wall.

He peered at me out of the darkness. I peered at him. Then, to my surprise, he spoke. "Friend?" he croaked.

I decided I'd better finish watching the movies before I gave him my answer.


*Naboo = the most boring fictional place ever invented.

*Worst line of the movie Mace Windu: "I do not believe the Sith could return without us knowing." Doesn't look too bad on paper? Try saying it out loud. See? Terrible.

*OK, new worst line just in: Yoda (to Anakin who is being assessed by the Jedi Counsel): "How feel you?"

*Anakin/Jake Lloyd driving his pod during the seemingly nine hours-long pod race = looks like he's playing with a bunch of cheap-looking props.

*Ewan McGregor's ponytail = creepy.

*There's a petty cockiness to the whole thing. This movie is less about expanding a universe or telling any kind of a story, and more about Star Wars taking a victory lap--hooray for Star Wars, everyone! hooray!--while George passes the hat.

*More shit.

*Line that made me put my belt in my mouth and bite down like a cowboy does in movies when he is having a bullet removed from his leg by another cowboy who is using a rusty knife as his surgical instrument: Anakin says these words while flying in space and inadvertently destroying an entire battle station: "This is tense." I'm pretty sure the expression on my face in this moment could be described as woe. This is the moment, I think, when my Star Wars pilot light blew out.

*There is a Forrest Gump mentality to the whole thing: Simply having pluck--not skill or intelligence--is enough to destroy entire battle stations. Another example: at one point Jar Jar Binks gets the arm of a Clone droid, still wielding a blaster, stuck to his foot. As he tries to shake the arm off, he inadvertently shoots at least three other Clone droids. More appropriate title for this movie: Star Wars Episode I: The Inadvertent Menace.

*On their death beds, the staunchest of Star Wars fans will still utter the words, "But...Darth...Maul...was...cool." The truth is this: Darth Maul is not a real character. He is a man wearing scary makeup and devil horns who enjoys doing lightsaber dances with the Jedi. That's it.


*Side note: Before the movie debuted, Harry Knowles "leaked" his review of Attack of the Clones, stating that Episode II would right all the wrongs of Phantom. (No Jar Jar, less Senate machinations, more action, etc.) Harry lied to me, and ever since I've discounted his opinion, and Ain't It Cool's opinions, to $0.000001.

*Ewan McGregor grows an impressive beard.

*Watching this movie is like watching the world's most powerful money hose spray at full bore for two and a half hours.

*More dog shit.

*Anakin's ponytail = looks like the back of his head is shitting.

*Everything feels small and inauthentic. Every vista feels plastic and manufactured, probably because every vista was created in the George Lucas Synthetic Vistas Lab. Why bother going to Tunisia when you can recreate a digital version of whatever you want with computers on your ranch in the woods?

*Mace Windu gets another terrible line: He shows up at Count Dooku's arena and says, "This party's over." (Yes, someone got served.)

*Another terrible Yoda line: While hovering in a ship above the gladiator arena, Yoda says, "Around the survivors a perimeter create."

*More lightsaber dance parties.

*Shit explosion.

*Boba Fett = now ruined forever. Both Phantom and Attack seem hellbent on stripping the Star Wars universe of every bit of mystique it once had.

*Yoda gets into a lightsaber fight. Now I'd been imagining this moment for more than 30 years. And it's so boring. He bounces all over the place like one of the Flea Men from the Castlevania games. That's his move: bounce, bounce, bounce, etc. What kind of bullshit fighting is that? I actually feel bad for Dooku in this fight because he must be so annoyed.

*These CG creatures all look like crappy toys I'd put underneath the wheels of my mom's car to see what they'd look like after she'd back over them on her way to work in the morning.

*Anakin and Padme's romance is the most bloodless relationship ever captured on film. Have two people ever been more neutered or had less chemistry? Man, you could practically see the erections on Luke, Han, and Chewie whenever Leia was around. Seriously, the erections were there; George later had them erased in his Synthetic Erection Erasing Lab. At the other end of the spectrum, when Anakin and Padme kiss, it practically creates a rift in time and space in which every love story ever written, including Romeo and Juliet and The Notebook and Love Story, gets sucked into, never to be seen again.


*Everyone is clenched in these damn movies. Ewan McGregor = clenched. Samuel Jackson = clenched. Natalie Portman = clenched. Hayden Christensen = so clenched. The only person not clenched is Ian McDiarmid as Senator Palpatine/The Emperor. He and his old woman lips scowl and whoop like he just finished his shift as the host of "Monster Movie Matinee" before reporting to the Star Wars set. He seems to be the only person who had any fun at all while making these movies.

*Mace Windu's death = shit.

*George Lucas was once a student of life, but he is no longer. [Side note: I wrote this down while watching the movies, though now I'm not exactly sure what I meant by it at the time.]

*More lightsaber dances.

*More shit.

*Hayden Christensen is supposed to look angry and evil throughout the movie--he's the personification of the struggle between the Light and Dark Sides--but instead he always looks like a varsity quarterback who is vaguely bitter about losing "the big game."

*Darth Vader operating scene: Do they not have access to morphine at Darth Vader Transformation General Hospital?

*Also: Why is Darth Vader so short? He towers over everyone in the old movies--except for Chewbacca, of course--but here he looks like a kid wearing his dad's Darth Vader outfit. The proportions are completely off. Not for one second do I believe that the real Darth Vader is inside that suit.

*It's over. And all I can think is this: what a wasteful enterprise. Even when I was a kid in the 70's and 80's I understood why someone might be tempted by the dark side, how a person could be potentially be corrupted. When Vader reveals that he's Luke's dad in Empire, part of me, even as a child, thought, "Jesus, Luke, just go be with your dad! Go rule the galaxy together. It might be fun. Plus, you'll be with your dad."

But then George has to go and give us eight more hours of movie explaining how one might be tempted, to show us in the most painstakingly banal and condescending way imaginable the good/bad duality that we're all born with. The prequels presume that the audience members, adults and kids alike, are all mush-brained simpletons; that we've never lived a day.

Because how could we possibly understand anything unless George spends eight hours and millions of dollars explaining it to us? "George," of course, being a man who has lived like Howard Hughes--minus the pee jars--in his secret woodland retreat for the past 25 years? Surely he knows everything about life and has plenty of wisdom to share with us? Yes? [Note: That's sarcasm.] [Note 2: I'm pretty sure it's this exact thought that resulted in me writing the "George was once a student of life" note from earlier.]


*I'm tired of everyone always heaping praise on Empire at the expense of Star Wars. Empire is a lot of fun, but Star Wars is the better, more human, more complete movie.

It's true.


*While Star Wars ends in a satisfying fashion, Empire leaves everyone and everything in jeopardy. One: Han is trapped in carbonite. Two: Luke learns that Vader is his father. Three: Luke now has two ghosts--Yoda and Obi-wan--in his ghost collection. True to its title, the Empire really did strike back in this movie.

*Now that I think about it, it's that three year wait between Empire and Jedi that probably turned so many of us into fans/nerds. I had three years, which at that point was approximately one third of my lifespan, to ponder the fate of these characters. Three years to go to bed at night thinking about them; three years to dream about them. That kind of intense wondering, that kind of extrapolation, especially for a kid, does something to a brain that can't easily be undone.


*Yes, there's plenty of mugging and hey-now moments in Return of the Jedi. Yes, everyone was probably drunk and going to orgies at night and doing drugs while filming the movie, because they were all incredibly rich and famous at this point. But I don't care. I still love Jedi. The scenes between Luke and Vader are about as exciting as anything I've ever seen. And I've never understood all the hate for the Ewoks. They're in the movie for about 20 minutes. And they're not that bad. The only truly unforgivable moment for me is the inversion of the "I love you" moment. (Han says it to Leia in Jedi.) Otherwise, Jedi does an admirable job of wrapping up the storyline in a credible, exciting fashion.

And it's over.

Two more things before I wind this down.


I remember the night in 1977 when my Uncle Jack--now dead for several years--took my brother and me to see Star Wars. (My father, never one for flights of fancy, wasn't interested in this kind of "horse shit.") We lived in the country at the time, on a damp acre of rural property, surrounded by miles of pine trees. Uncle Jack drove us to the nearby city of Rome in his El Camino--not unlike the way Obi-wan takes Luke to Mos Eisley--and showed us something that would, unbeknownst to me at the time, forever change who I was.

When he dropped us off later that night after the movie, I remember the image of my mother standing in the glow of the porch light in her white nightgown. She was waiting for my brother and me to come indoors. I remember walking towards her, towards the porch light, somehow knowing even then that, like Luke, I wouldn't always live here.


For months my brother and I coveted the two-album John Williams score for Star Wars with all our hearts. Each time we'd visit the local Western Auto--a chain of auto parts stores that also carried housewares, sporting goods, and, yes, records--we'd fondle the shrink wrapped album until the sales clerk would ask us to kindly cease doing so.

One October afternoon we came home from school to find our grandparents' car sitting in the driveway. When I walked into the house, I knew right away that something was different, that something was happening. The Star Wars theme was coming from the stereo speakers. A closer inspection of the stereo revealed that album one of the two-album set was indeed playing. Our grandparents--like Uncle Jack, also now dead for several years--had brought it to us as a gift.

My brother and I practically began shitting ourselves with joy. Which was an actual danger for me, as I had literally shit myself with excitement on Christmas morning only a year earlier.

Man. Sometimes I really miss that kid--the one who once could get so worked up about something that shit would involuntarily come out of him.

After my recent 48-hour Star Wars digression, to my surprise, the old pilot light flickered back to life again. What's surprising to me is how much time I've spent thinking about Star Wars since. I've had hours of conversations about the movies with friends and co-workers. For years now I've operated as if the Star Wars universe is no longer relevant to me. For better or worse, that's not entirely true.

Since revisiting the movies, I've located the untampered-with original trilogy on DVD. (It's the 2008 box set. I found it on Amazon. It wasn't cheap.) And, after acquiring said box set, I saw Han shoot first for the first time in about 20 years. It's absolutely cathartic seeing this footage again. And it's also oddly pornographic, as if you're watching something taboo, something that you're no longer supposed to be able to see.

I've also since purchased an action figure--a Darth Vader--from a terrific store called Toy Traders in Langley, BC. Vader joins the modest collection of Star Wars action figures that I currently keep in my guest bathroom in my apartment. There's a Luke, a Han, an Emperor, a C3PO, an Obi-wan, and even a vintage Boba Fett circa 1979.

All of which, I suppose, is my way of saying to the revolting, pathetic, poop-flinging Star Wars fan who still lives in me:

"Yes, old buddy. Friend."


  1. Funny you should post this now, as I was thinking about a similar topic the other day.

    My five year old nephew started Kindgergarten this year, and he's obsessed with Transformers. On the one hand, watching him find something that excites him so much is cool, but on the other, I fucking hate Transformers and think it's a load of horseshit. So, I'm conflicted and reflective -- wondering if my Star Wars nerd-outs were the same thing he's going through or if it was something different entirely.

    I mean, in some ways, it seems the same -- he's being Bumblebee for Halloween in the same way I was always Darth Vader (I was a Dark Side guy -- fuck everyone from the Rebel side, save Han Solo...) and he obsesses over his action figures and who could beat who in a fight and all of that stuff that makes fandom so adorably dorky.

    Yet, the other side of me says "well, Star Wars was just a way better set of movies (new trilogy excluded) and surely he'll outgrow this Transformers thing" -- because, let's face it, is anyone really going to be 30+ years old and running out to get Bumblebee tats or having Optimus Prime preside over their wedding? I want to say "probably not", but I worry that maybe that will be exactly what happens. If that's the case, I can't help but think the kids of this generation got shortchanged in the "life-altering movie department" -- let's face it, Shia LaBeouf, no matter how much Hollywood wants us to believe otherwise, is no Harrison Ford.

    The saddest part of all this is that I have to blame George Lucas. Lucas may have given all of us nerdy little kids coming of age in the late '70s and early '80s a fantastic gift with the original trilogy -- but he also fucked us all over with his countless "revisions" and a series of prequels so clumsily inept that I often find myself wondering if someone else actually made the original films and he simply stole them and scribbled his name on them and no one noticed.

    Thanks to shit like The Phantom Menace, Michael Bay and company realized that it was not only totally acceptable, but damn near required to put those awful, borderline racist, comic relief robots in Transformers 2. Tell me Jar-Jar didn't pave the way for those guys.

    Lucas, whether intentionally or not, has established the template for what's expected of these sorts of fanboy friendly fantasy films -- and had he stopped with the original trilogy, that would be okay. There's a lot to admire in those first three Star Wars films -- things that I'd be thrilled to see being emulated. They're not perfect movies -- but they're perfect movies for their time and place and audience. George couldn't leave it there, though -- and by making inferior follow-ups and self-serving "reduxes" he's essentially told the Michael Bay's of the world that making a movie about "giant fucking robots" is more than enough narrative detail to center a trilogy of movies. I can only imagine when Bay releases his "Director's Cuts" of those films...

    So, maybe Transformers is like Star Wars -- the perfect film for its time and place and audience. Somehow, I doubt it.

  2. Man, I am so happy I caught this at home on this brilliant Saturday afternoon instead of at work where I would have massively disrupted everyone around me with my whoops of laughter mixed with tears streaming down my face. Seriously, how in the hell could I have ever explained that??!!

    Scott, if this really is your last written comment on this franchise, then yeah, you totally kicked the shit out of it. BRAVO!

  3. I feel sorry for you older fans. I feel sorry for you because you can't see what TPM really is - fantastic.

    Back when Star Wars came out in 1977 there was nothing like it. It changed everything. I can't imagine what it must have been like sitting in the theatre back then; what it must have felt like to see that first Star Destroyer rocketing overhead. I think for many it could be compared to a religious experience.

    And that's almost what it was. For years Star Wars was science fiction that nerds far and wide could proudly say they loved, without fear of reprisal. Kids of the era were obviously the biggest fans, and as they grew, part of their character was almost defined as being a Star Wars nerd. As if that was something that everyone could immediately understand and relate to. Star Wars was more than mere science fiction and it touched people from all walks of life. So for two decades after its original release, the love of Star Wars grew.

    Then, in 1999 George decides to do the prequels. Now let's think of what this really means. This is storytelling that partially defined an entire generation. A story that was only half told. To think, for nearly a lifetime nerds far and wide had been professing their unfaltering love for this story, this story they partially defined their lives, and it was only half told! To imagine the expectations for this film are mind boggling.

    I was 10 years old in 1997 and seeing the Special Edition in theatres could also be compared to a religious experience. Sure, I had grown up with all 3 movies on VHS, but something about seeing them in their native resolution, on that massive screen, changes everything. I remember those theater trailers for the Special Edition, the ones that proclaimed that an entire generation of kids had never seen Star Wars the way it was meant to be - on the big screen. When the X-Wing exploded through the small TV in the trailer something in my mind snapped, and I would go as far as to say it was the first time I ever got nerd chills. Star Wars was coming to the big screen, and it changed everything.
    Now I don't know if I can really explain this to an older fan. What this was like to be really seeing Star Wars for the first time at the age of 10 in 1997, knowing that the Phantom Menace was in production at that very moment. It was something special, something really unique. Something I really think could be compared to those first viewings of a galaxy far, far away in 1977.

    So, when the Phantom Menace was finally released, it was considered holy. At twelve years old I absolutely adored the movie. I watched it with the same eyes as I watched the original trilogy; to me, it was always one story, it was the natural progression.
    To the older fan, there were the expectations he had been formulating for 20 years, and the hope that Star Wars would really prove to everyone that they had been right to stand by this series all those years ago.

    You really have to try and get into the difference in mindset between us. When a kid of 12 hears about midichloriens, he immediately accepts that as fact: "In Star Wars, there are midichloriens and that's how Jedi communicate with the force!". When an adult hears midichloriens, his face gets red: "Midichloriens? Midi... Chloriens... That sounds kind of silly". He's now on the defensive. His mind can't accept this fundamental change in something he's known for so long, but not because he doesn't really want to, but because for years he's been so identified with being a Star Wars fan, and now there are Midichloriens in Star Wars and the whole world is going to think he really is a massive nerd!

  4. Now, this is really going to blow your mind: the prequel trilogy is really a masterpiece of unequalled storytelling when combined with the original trilogy. I know, it's hard for you to believe, but it's true. The mindset you have of Lucas is really just a reflection of how you feel he has failed you, but it's an illusion. You would like to believe that he has sold out, for money he doesn't need, but this really just isn't the way of it. The prequel trilogy is Lucas's masterpiece. This is his creation from start to finish, the magnum opus of a storyteller who has brought adventures and characters to the big screen in a way that has arguably touched more people than the medium has ever touched, and he has been thinking about this one story for a very, very long time. Lucas doesn't need any more respect, and he certainly doesn't need any more money. The Phantom Menace is the first act in George Lucas's epic about the fall of a great republic, the fall of a great man, and the son correcting the father's mistakes. Lucas cares ONLY about the story. And if you could watch the movies with that mindset, you would see the movie in an entirely new way.

    I'll just briefly analyze your notes on the movie. Naboo is boring, because that's the point. You have to recognize the intentional contrast of the two trilogies. We have a grand republic that's lasted for millennia, verses a republic in ruins. We have seemingly wooden dialogue because that's how these people spoke. Most of the characters represent characters of high authority in the prequel trilogy, and many have the proper speech that comes with that. Then look at the originals, with the kind of smugglers like Han and Lando. We're seeing different aspects of the same world; the view from the top in the prequels, and the view from the bottom in the originals. The entire Republic is too easily allegorized with Ancient Rome, and picture how we recreate their speech patterns in such incredible productions like the HBO series Rome.

    When the crawl fades at the beginning of TPM, I have nerd chills. We're about to see a ship that contains the first two Jedi to fight a sith lord in millennia. At the beginning we have two great warriors in a kingdom of peace. Qui-Gon is defiant because he's bored, things are growing stale. How great is it that by the end of that first act one of the greatest Jedi's has been slain by a sith lord, an order not seen in millennia, and everything now comes down to a young, well trained padawan taking up his master's sword to strike down evil; a padawan that just happens to be Obi-Wan Kenobi... Yeah, that bad ass wizard from the originals. This is the definition of fantastic.

    The rest of what you wrote seems more like basic attacks because you've rejected everything about the movie. Podracing seemed never-ending? I wish that were closer to being true; on my 55 inch plasma on bluray, the podrace sequence looked incredible. I'll admit that there have been viewings where I almost could have agreed with you, but seeing it like this blew my mind. Your attacks on Anakin are because you don't accept the character from the beginning. When you can accept that this kid really is "The Chosen One", and that destroying a space station is as easy to him as walking, other things may start looking differently to you.

  5. @Blinken - There is no "illusion" of Lucas failing me, it is fact, he has. It is you who has the illusion he hasn't.

  6. To the comments above, I have to say this is what I tire of in the age of the Internet -- people telling other people that no, you didn't feel this way about something and in fact you are wrong merely because you didn't see it my way. What ever happened to a matter of personal opinion? Everyone doesn't have to be on the same page about everything.

  7. @Anonymous - You're wrong, we need to be on the same page about this travesty.

  8. These comments are really adding to the hilariousness of the post itself! Please keep it up! And, I gotta say that "Han Shot First!" is sounding suspiciously like someone I know : )

  9. I hated the Phantom Menace. Do you know why?
    Because George Lucas with all of his power and vision and money and computers could not see fit to have put the reflections of the light sabres in the black, marbled floor of the space hangar.

    This ruined all three movies for me.

    No kidding!

  10. this makes me sad...because "o gawd I'm going be eaten alive here" but i did like all of the movies and even the cartoon. When it's the heart affected opinions are heated and polar.