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I've Figured Out Why Star Wars Sucks

The original Star Wars (no, I refuse to call it "Episode Four," or whatever other stupid name was tacked on later. When it came out it was "Star Wars," and the other movies had other names) was a good movie. It had excitement and humor and grace and redemption. It was complete in itself and even after all this time is good enough to make many people forgive the crap that was piled on top of it.

As a story it worked. The plot arc was a sequence of events that occured as a result of the characters' choices. It was logical and fairly consistent. It was also character-based. Yes, it was a typical Hero story with all the archtypal Hero characters running through their parts, but each character had a personality and each character's actions arose logically from that character's personality. Luke was consistently rebellious and impatient in a teenager-y sort of way. Han Solo was out for his own interests, some of which were money, acclaim and love. Obi-Wan was the sage looking at the bigger picture. It all worked.

And then, the sequels piled up. As I see it, when you have a hit movie that's character-based and you want to make a sequel that ends up a flop, it's because the sequel is plot-based. In the first movie, you say "here's a group of guys that are like this, and they have this situation and let's see how it plays out." In the next movie you say "what happens if we take them and put them on a volcanic island surrounded by buxom zombie women and they're rescued by Martin Van Buren and Shaquille O'Neal who need them to negotiate a treaty to fix the world price of magnesium..." This plot may sound good on paper, and perhaps there are characters who can carry it off, but it's unlikely that if your first book was "Gone With the Wind" you're going to be able to logically shoehorn Rhett and Scarlett into that situation. In order to make the sequels move, your characters give up the internal consistency that make them compelling, and become stick figures that are now just ridiculous.

There are a few movies that have had really good sequels. Toy Story was wonderful and its sequel was even more wonderful. The characters acted in an internally consistent manner, and they were given antagonists who were also fully-realized and acted consistently. The Prime Suspect series is another example of sequels that allow the main character to be the focus, not the plot. There have been some weaker episodes of that series, but on the whole, it remains strong.

So, that's the lesson here. If you have to make a choice, go for character.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
cumaeansibyl
Jun. 7th, 2005 04:01 pm (UTC)
I'm not alone in thinking that The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the six, because you did get a lot of character stuff. Luke is still rebellious and impatient, but trying to learn to control that (and failing); Yoda is a perfect Hermit; Vader is the Fallen Angel. Han and Leia weren't doing anything particularly archetypical, but they were definitely bickering and hating and lusting in the time-honored tradition.

Return of the Jedi was, by comparison, disappointing; the only character who really gets any attention is Luke, until the very end when Vader comes in with redemption on schedule, and that's interesting, but you had to sit through a lot of PLOT to get to that point.
earthdog
Jun. 7th, 2005 04:14 pm (UTC)
Most of my friends and people my age think that Empire is the best movie.
junglemonkee
Jun. 7th, 2005 04:20 pm (UTC)
Empire Strikes Back didn't have an end. It was a setup for the third movie and as such, loses BIG, BIG points.
earthdog
Jun. 7th, 2005 04:14 pm (UTC)
Star Wars works for me because it is four characters with different agendas and different POVs that have to work together to achieve a series of goals. It is true that all the characters are archtypal and some what typical. The archtypal nature gives it that space cowboy mythos. In the end this just gave all of use the chance identify with the characters.

This is why Star Wars is the best of all of them.
wordweaverlynn
Jun. 7th, 2005 04:53 pm (UTC)
Are you implying that Jar Jar Binks is not afully developed character?
I have to agree. Shrek 2 was as good as (or better than) Shrek, because it too was character-based.

junglemonkee
Jun. 7th, 2005 07:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Are you implying that Jar Jar Binks is not afully developed character?
I imply nothing. I'm saying it right out loud: JarJar Binks' body may have been CGI, but his personality was pure MS Paint.
alleahna
Jun. 7th, 2005 07:13 pm (UTC)
Wait wait wait... I wanna see taht Martin Van Buren, Shaquille O'Neal buddy/adventure flick.

Okay, that was my out loud typing, never mind.

The reasons Empire was a better movie have already been detailed. Add to that the fact it had a more professional look, the actors were in some ways, more believable in their roles (perhaps they were more comfortable after the success of the first movie or because of the director, Irvin Kershner), the CGI and modeling were better and it had a good cliffhanger ending. Fans of the first one did not mind that, to be honest. We knew, by that point, Lucas was planning a third film we were willing to accept that ending.

I would agree that it just stops. Even books in the middle of a fantasy trilogy or other series will have a definite end point while still setting up the action of the next book. Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series are an excellent example of this skill. That's just good storytelling. Lucas did a bad job here in that he gave us a good cliffhanger, set up the plot of the next movie but did not give us any completion for the current one.

Lucas, as we've seen, is a notoriously poor storyteller so it's not surprising. It should have ended with Luke returning to Dagoba and Leia going and doing... something. Setting up a new rebel base, mebbe and regathering her forces, all the while plotting how to save Han. She got stuck in the 'heroines need to be rescued' mold that the old serials followed, unfortunatley, so she was the token female window dressing of this movie rather than a singular character of her own.

And that's my two credits.
da_moon_goddess
Jun. 8th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC)
The problem is the script, the dialogue.
I still have to see the most recent release, but the last two movies pretty much sucked. I have to say that a large part of the problem is in the script. The dialogue pretty much sucks. The lines are sooooo generic and cheesy. Lucas was too conceded to ask for help and people will pay to see the movies regardless. It is painful to listen to the dialogue and to watch the actors deliver the lines. The actors aren't horrible, but the lines they have to deliver are pretty bad.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )