The Anakin/Vader Complex: The Inner Confict of Star Wars Fans Today
DISCLAIMER: What follows are MY opinions based on roughly 15 years of Star Wars fandom and research, personal experience, and a little speculation. Be aware that this is how I feel about these issues. So if you agree, please feel free to make comments below, share this your comrades, or do whatever you like with this. If you do not agree, please feel free to make comments below and share this with your comrades just, please, don’t send your Kowakian monkey-lizard ninja death squad after me. Thanks and enjoy!
Adventure. Excitement. While these are things that a Jedi craves not, they are certainly feelings that are evocative of the Star Wars franchise/saga/phenomenon. But has this cultural marvel lost its luster? The prequel trilogy, the new Clone Wars series, the multiple versions of the original trilogy that are constantly changing, along with the promise (or threat, depending on how you see it) of a new live-action series have all created a slight sense of animosity for some long time fans toward George Lucas and what he has done with his franchise for the last few decades or so. “George Lucas is raping my childhood!!” cry the fans of old, but I ask you: is it really that bad? Has this sweeping sci-fi epic that we have come to love (some of us obsess over, and I know, I can smell our own) really been bastardized beyond recognition?? Or are these outcries simply fan
boys men, as they would be now, reacting out of a place of confusion and misunderstanding??
Let us take a moment and look back at where this all came from. When audiences were first introduced to Star Wars in 1977, instantly people the world over, soon to become the aforementioned passionate fans, were taken by the immense visual scope of the film and its overwhelming sense of adventure. As the sequels followed, each film continued the dramatic adventures of the galaxy far, far away while continually upping the visual flair with each installment. But was this just a magical moment in time when Star Wars was pure and honest and remained un-messed with? I wouldn’t be so sure of that.
During the era of the original trilogy, Star Wars was in its heyday. It was everywhere, ever popular, basically the Harry Potter of the late 70’s and 80’s. This was also the time that we got three separate mini-series dedicated to the Star Wars universe. The animated adventures of Droids, Ewoks, and the live action Ewok Adventures. While not widely known, these stories existed to continue the adventures of a galaxy in turmoil though the quality of each is admittedly not as good as the films. But I think they all capture the same sense of fun and adventure that the original trilogy has at its core. I’ll even go so far as to admit that some times I enjoy sitting down for breakfast on a Saturday morning and popping one of those DVDs in for a watch. Granted, I almost never get all the way through but I have a good time trying.
Now, I’ve got four dreaded words to present to you: Star Wars Holiday Special. For those of you (fortunate as you are) that don’t know what that is, KEEP AWAY. But you can only count yourself as a “true” fan if you’ve at least seen parts of it. This highly sought after rarity has almost become a mark of shame for those of us “in the know” and it would seem has been blocked from memory by several. The word terrible doesn’t even begin to describe just how awful and confusing and just wrong the Holiday Special is. So to those out there upset at ewoks suddenly gaining the power to blink on the blu-rays, have you chosen to ignore the fact that the Holiday Special did in fact happen, AND is still considered cannon?? No, I also do not agree with some of the changes to the films but, lest you forget, it was in the Holiday Special that we meet Chewbacca’s family that includes his son named Lumpawaroo that was more commonly known as Lumpy!!
Now we come to the Special Editions. Mr. Lucas re-visits his classics with updated graphics and new scenes that broaden the scope of his universe and help tell the more complete version of his tale. Here we saw the fabled scene between Han and Jabba in docking bay 94. It was here that we got a more fully realised and more impressive looking wampa. Here, that the Max Rebo Band (go Rebo, go!!) got an updated and more otherworldly song. And of course here that we received the origin of one the saga’s biggest controversies….who shot first!??!?!? Yes, here in the Special Edition, we witnessed the atrocity of (gasp!!) Greedo shooting first. Instantly, fan
boys men (sorry) everywhere cried foul at this most egregious smear on Han Solo’s most bad ass and METAL integrity (blatant sarcasm if you couldn’t tell). But I ask you, did any of this take away from the excitement we had as the Battle of Yavin IV took place or the joy we all felt as the Death Star disappeared in sparkles and glory?? I should like to think not, by the end of it I know I still came away with the same sense of adventure we got from the original versions, only now its just a little more expanded.
Next we dare venture forth into the territory of the prequel trilogy. Now, we all must admit that upon hearing the news of getting a new trilogy of Star Wars films, some of us were at worst, ecstatic. Yes, I know we all have less than fond memories of how we felt by the times the credits hit. I mean, there are three
words utterances that can encapsulate those slightly dreadful times: Jar Jar Binks. I was there too, I remember it well. But let’s also think about the climactic Jedi vs. Sith vs. Jedi lightsaber battle, pretty fun right? A double-edged lightsaber!! Come on, that’s pretty dope right?!? Sure the “political intrigue” wasn’t the most engaging story and, again, Jar Jar Binks, but lets remember that Phantom Menace is not only another Star Wars movie, but it’s a movie of its time.
Then there was Attack of the Clones. I know, I know, I’m not the biggest fan of Hayden Christensen either; but I must say that Episode II really does have an adventurous tone to it. The mystery aspect (surrounding most of Obi-Wan’s sub story) is a rich and interesting addition to Star Wars story telling. And who doesn’t like Samuel L. Jackson as a purple lightsaber toting B.M.F.(which is actually engraved on his lightsaber)?? Oh! And I STILL get a bit of a geek boner seeing all those Jedi, lightsabers ignited, charging at the droids in the arena. Come on, that’s what Star Wars is about!! And if all that weren’t enough, we see Yoda pull out his green piece and do some artistic, Jedi damage! That alone makes Episode II passable.
Next came Revenge of the Sith and if one cannot at least give it a pass then that’s just plain cold-blooded. At this point we all knew essentially what we were going to get and the single fact that we would get to see Darth Vader’s creation was rife with excitement. Sure, the acting (and writing) was a bit wooden and the only things in the movie that were actually real were the actors and their costumes, but I still say Episode III works pretty well. There’s some real dramatic depth there, some visually striking action sequences, and as always the lightsaber battles are light-years ahead of the originals (again, Yoda’s green piece!). I think this all remains true to the fun, adventure-inspired spirit of the original trilogy. True, the prequels do not have the same unique, earnest quality of the original trilogy but THEY WERE made over a decade later. We HAVE to remember that the prequels, like the originals, are all movies of their time.
So, where are we now? A few years after the release Revenge of the Sith came the CG Clone Wars movie. While its reception may have been a little lukewarm, I of course was there day-one and enjoyed all 90 minutes of it. It was fun and exciting and reminded me of how I felt as a kid, first getting into Star Wars. At the risk of sounding redundant, I had fun watching this one. I must admit though, going back to it for multiple viewings is kind of tough. The movie just seems to move slow and doesn’t have enough happening. Following the film was the Clone Wars series. After enjoying the successful traditional animation Clone Wars mini-series that appeared between Ep. II and III, I was a little skeptical of this new series. However, after seeing three seasons on blu-ray, I must say that I really enjoy the show. It has some really good story arcs through some of the episodes. It creates a greater sense of the clones as a presence within the greater event of the wars, as well as displaying some nice, foreshadowing moments for several characters. For me, this show provides a great balance of adventure with a good narrative that pushes the bigger story of galaxy that we are all familiar with. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what new character connections or peeks into the ultimate fate of the galaxy we will get to see from the show.
Alright, so what exactly am I saying here?? Am I saying that since 1977 George Lucas has made no mistakes with his several new dips into his vault of Star Wars lore?? Am I saying that Star Wars is the same fantastic, fan boy entity that it has always been? No, of course not. Its been around for almost 40 years and the only way it has survived this long is by staying relevant by constantly changing with the times. So what if George makes a change to the films every time he re-re-re-releases them? Yes, its weird and a little frustrating that every time the films are brought to a new medium something is different about them. But, seriously, so what?? Its his property and he can do what he wants with it. So what if Han shot first? Or Greedo shot first? Or that they shoot at the same time? Greedo still gets fried and that’s a good thing. Agreed, I also don’t like seeing Hayden as Anakin show up at the end of Return of the Jedi, but it actually makes more sense story wise. And at the end of the day, we can’t do anything about it but leave it alone and just enjoy the films, and everything else, for the simple fact that it’s Star Wars!
The fact is, no, the prequels can’t be directly compared to the originals. Again, they are not the same movies and weren’t made at the same time. No, Jar Jar doesn’t belong anywhere but, yes, digital Yoda is SO MUCH better than that creepy puppet in Episode I. And I’m sorry, but the ‘bad’ news is that Attack of the Clones will in fact grow on you. True, Vader saying, “No. NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” is inexcusable anytime (ESPECIALLY in Return of the Jedi), but does that really take that much away from the over all adventure and drama of the saga?? Do we still enjoy the battle outside Jabba’s sail barge? This guy sure does. Does every lightsaber fight and star fighter battle still get your heart racing and your blood pumping? For me, you betcha! And the asteroid field sequence is still my favourite scene! So I say let’s just all calm down cause if you’re like me and you’ve been there for a while, and WILL be there for a while, and bought the blu-rays anyway, and saw Phantom Menace in 3D anyway, then just remember the Force will be with you always and simply enjoy your time in the galaxy far, far away every chance you get.