Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Star Wars: Redux

"Star Wars, at its secret, spiky intellectual heart, has more in common with films like Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books or even Matthew Barney's The Cremaster Cycle than with the countless cartoon blockbusters it spawned."

Oh, no question - them, and Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space. Someone prone to a little common sense would simply assert that the last four Star Wars movies demonstrate Lucas's inept management of the most basic elements of storytelling. But that's the beauty of po-mo self-consciousness: wield it deftly enough, and you can get a giggle out of the very stones beneath your feet. Aidan Wasley of Slate gives Lucas the po-mo treatment, here.

My last word on the matter: I have, in a moldy cardboard box in my basement, several Star Wars magazines that were rushed into print the summer of 1977 - most of them spin-offs from Forrest J. Ackerman's Fangoria press. It's all breathless stuff, printed on pulp paper, with typos and poorly reproduced b&w stills from the movie. In its own weird and inevitable way, it probably contributes to the myth of Lucas's genius more significantly than the first two movies did. One of these rags (a "Poster-Mag!" - a large single sheet of medium-gloss paper that folds out into a large poster of Darth Vader and Storm Troopers boarding the Rebel cruiser) provides a lengthy history of Darth Vader and his origins. This was pulled, we are told, from George Lucas's fabled "red spiral-bound notebook" - an original text as mythical and valuable to SW fans as Q or the Dead Sea Scrolls are to New Testament scholars. Read 25 years later, it's amusing to see where the "history" meets the final product, and where it veers. The origins of Vader's apparatus are bang-on, right up to the light-sabre duel with Kenobi in the volcanic caverns, even while Lucas (I assume) cagily asserts that Vader physically kills Anakin Skywalker. It's almost enough to get a dewy-eyed fan wondering if this Red Notebook - an original document, a repository of every Star Wars Galaxy detail and mythical nuance - is the real deal.

Again, the last four movies should make that theory smell like last month's baloney. And for the hold-outs who refuse to accept the evidence before their eyes, there's the "Making Of Star Wars" documentary that comes with the original boxed set. We get glimpses of Lucas' original studio proposal: they paint a picture of a man who is wildly uncertain as to what the adventures of "Luke Starkiller" (a 64-year-old general) actually entail. Before this proposal makes it to an executive's desk, someone passes it to Ralph McQuarrie, thinking a few of his illustrations might help sell the story. Mystery of mysteries, at this point the project begins to cohere.

There's yer genius, kids: Ralph McQuarry. Instead of looking for the Red Notebook, buy this book, and start making your own movies, because Lucas gave up on you 20 years ago.


Phil said...

Ep Three? I don't know, dood. It's a worthy successor, though only a partial repentance.

Whisky Prajer said...

I'll give you this: Ep III is better than Ep VI - by an Ewok or two.