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Friday, May 20, 2005

Some Questions About Star Wars

I recently saw the new Star Wars movie, and although I try generally to post on more legal and weighty topics, I just can’t resist saying a few words.  Having grown up on Star Wars, I had to see the new movie within 24 hours of its release, but I’m proud I at least did not go to the midnight showing and could wait until the next morning.  That’s only because the first two prequels were so terrible. 

I’ve been pondering some deep issues about the Star Wars series, and although the movies are made to require a suspension of disbelief, I still find myself asking these questions.  Warning – spoilers below.

1. How could anybody write that dialogue?  Lines like Padme saying to Darth Vader: “You’re a good person, don’t do this”?  This hilarious review in the New Yorker captures it best:

The prize for the least speakable burst of dialogue has, over half a dozen helpings of “Star Wars,” grown into a fiercely contested tradition, but for once the winning entry is clear, shared between Anakin and Padmé for their exchange of endearments at home:

“You’re so beautiful.”
“That’s only because I’m so in love.”
“No, it’s because I’m so in love with you.”

For a moment, it looks as if they might bat this one back and forth forever, like a baseline rally on a clay court. . . .

Why didn’t anybody on the set say something when they were filming?  How could the crew refrain from laughing?   

2. How come Jedi Masters are killed so easily?  Do they put any schmo who picks up a light saber on the Jedi Council? 

3. We learn that the Death Star is being constructed as Episode III ends.  Why does it take some 20 years to complete, as it is finished not long before the Episode IV of Star Wars begins?  Were there construction delays?  Union problems?   After all, this isn't the Freedom Tower.

4. I still can’t understand the reason why Anakin goes to the dark side.  He wants to save his wife, but Yoda’s advice is to just let her die.  So if you care about a loved-one and don’t just want to let them go, then you’re in danger of becoming an evil madman.  The way of the “good side” of the force is to just shrug off the deaths of the ones you love and don’t bother lifting a finger to try to save them.  If that’s the good side of the force, the dark side must be really dark.   

5. In the original Star Wars, why is it that the storm troopers, described at one point as amazingly accurate shooters, can’t seem to hit anything or anybody with their blasters? If you’re creating a clone army, shouldn't you clone somebody who can hit a target?  The Emperor would have won if he just created storm troopers who had better aim.  And why do the storm troopers wear all that clunky armor if one blaster shot will kill them?  Heck, a rock thrown by an Ewok will kill them too. 

6. Others have pointed out this one, but how in such a high-tech society is it a surprise that Padme has twins?  And if Darth Vader can be saved despite being burned to a crisp, why does Padme die despite such wondrous medical technology?

7. How does Obi Wan Kenobi age so much in the 20 or so years between Episode III and IV?  After all, although old, Count Dooku leaps around like a cricket in his battles, but poor Obi Wan goes from a spry young man in Episode III to a very old man in Episode IV who can barely wave his light saber.   And why is Yoda on his deathbed by the time of Episode VI, only about 30 years after he fights like an acrobat on speed in Episodes II and III?  After all, if Yoda is over 800 years old, why should 30 more Yoda-years make such a big difference?

8. Why does R2D2 suddenly go from being a battle bot who can fly and do amazing tricks to a much less functional droid by Episode IV?  If C3PO’s memory is erased, why does R2D2 (whose memory isn’t erased) not tell him what’s going on sometime during the 20 years they hang out together between Episode III and IV?  Why keep it all a big secret? 

9. Why hide Luke on the planet where Darth Vader grew up with people he knows?  And if you want to hide Vader's son from him, why do you fail to change Luke’s last name from Skywalker?  The witness-protection program sure isn’t up to snuff in the Star Wars galaxy. 

10. Why does Yoda say he’ll miss Chewbacca?  Since when are they such great friends?  And how is it that at the very day and moment that Luke and Obi Wan enter the cantina bar in Episode III they just happen to run into Chewbacca?  [An interesting fact I learned while typing this post -- "Chewbacca" is part of Microsoft Word's spell check dictionary, as it corrected my misspelling.  It doesn’t recognize “tortious” or other commonly-used legal terminology, but apparently it is well-programmed for Star Wars.]  In an another amazing coincidence, R2D2 winds up in the hands of Luke.  In a galaxy of millions of planets and gazillions of life forms, it just so happens that R2D2 is purchased by Luke Skywalker.  Please don’t tell me the odds of that happening.  I guess that the Force works in mysterious ways.

Posted by Daniel Solove on May 20, 2005 at 02:00 AM in Daniel Solove, Film | Permalink

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I went to see Star Wars, Episode III at a midnight showing two nights ago. Unsurprisingly, it was a smash hit at the box office. It was very good objectively as well. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the series. It is also mandatory for any... [Read More]

Tracked on May 20, 2005 5:13:37 PM

Comments

3. Well, the Death Star is the size of a small moon. Also, the empire's still being established at that point so resources need to be allocated elsewhere. Remember, at this point there's no rebellion and the empire still has a senate to keep the local systems in line.
5. By the time Star Wars IV has rolled around the storm troopers are no longer composed of clones. I mean, the empire has a giant population to draw from (either via recruitment or conscription) and doesn't need to outsource their armed forces like the Republic did. Also, the storm troopers are surprisingly accurate in the assault on the Blockade Runner in IV. It's only when they start shooting at heroes that they become can't-hit-the-broad-side-of-a-barners. Hmm... sounds like a plot hole to me. No wait, it's the force! Yes... that must be it...

The armour isn't there to stop blaster shots, it's there to stop shrapnel.
6. You can have hyperspace or ultrasound. Not both.

Posted by: Polybius | Jun 9, 2005 1:02:50 AM

Anakin has a prophesy-dream of Padme dying in childbirth, and decides that joining the darkside is the best way to save her. Part of his motivation comes from Palpatine recounting the story of Darth Plagus, who could create life.

Ok, Padme is dead. Why isn't Anakin bringing her back to life? Darth Plagus could have. If she was going to die in childbirth regardless, why join the darkside?

Joining the darkside, in and of itself, was never going to save Padme. It was the dark side of the force that could bring her back to life that Anakin was after, right?

So it doesn't seem like Anakin is in a worse place (other than being mostly machine) than he thought he would be when Palpatine told him Padme was dead.

Posted by: wt | Jun 8, 2005 5:17:33 PM

The truly sad thing about this is the enormous loss of respect I feel toward George Lucas. Had he just had the common sense to leave the first three Star Wars movies alone (heck, he could have even not done Return of the Jedi -- although Jabba the Hutt was fun), he would have left such a lasting legacy. But instead, he had to ring up his cash register and produce three video games that couldn't hold a candle to the Lord of the Rings movies. It's really quite sad.

Posted by: Jason | May 25, 2005 2:44:54 PM

Actually, the original Deathstar could not fire that many shots in a row. Besides, blwing up Yavin 4 is problematic because it is a gas giant and they make for funny high-energy interactions.

Besides, the only person who realized that snub fighters would be a potential harm to the deathstar was Vader ... considering that was how he blew up the droid control ship in Episode I.

As for languages ... Luke had better understand Jawa, it is a major lingua franca on Tatooine! Okay ... enough Star Wars for now ... back to the law.

Posted by: Joel | May 25, 2005 10:11:17 AM

Good points, all. Here are some more nonsensical parts of Star Wars.

Why the heck didn't the Death Star at the end of the original movie simply blow up that small moon first, and then fire again and destroy the rebel base? Instead, the Death Star has to wait for the moon to get out of its way; in the meantime, the rebels navigate through that shooting gallery and blow the thing up. Surely the Death Star can fire two shots in a row?

Also, have you noticed that everyone in the Star Wars universe is multilingual? Han Solo can speak to Greedo; Luke can talk to Jawas; everyone understands Chewy's grunting. They must have one heck of a secondary school system in that universe.

Posted by: Jason | May 24, 2005 7:38:34 PM

As far as the dialogue this time around versus the original trilogy, I think the Han Solo character made for a more accessible dialogue for a lot of people. The lack of a Solo-esque character in this trilogy, IMHO, hurt the narrative ability with respect to the wide audience.
I can offer some potential explanations on the differences between the constructions of the two death stars - First, the Empire was in the midst of building itself into an empire during the production of the first Deathstar. It has alot of Impstars and TIE fighters to make and had to devote a great deal of material to that purpose. Second, the clone union is very powerful in demanding fair labor time. Building a moon can take a while. ;) Third - The second deathstar was built with the knowledge of how to build the first, was nowhere near completed and was barely more than a skeleton station, and was not supposed to be nearly operational. The ability of the Emperor to drive that many people that hard that quickly is a testament to the Sith motivational skills. But, these are just suppositions.
McGregor was channeling Alec Guiness for these movies. He was a wonderful presence and capably filled the role he needed to fill. It was a pleasure to see him as well as Tony Daniels and Frank Oz in the movie. If you have not seen it at least once yet, why are you reading this post?

Posted by: Joel | May 23, 2005 3:04:46 PM

Re: the dialogue

After watching Episode III, I went back to watch the originals. It's true that the dialogue is not very good in the first trilogy, but it is far less preachy and "speechy" than it is in the more recent three. Han Solo's lines, however, really stand out as funny and sometimes clever. I mean, c'mon "I love you." "I know." is a million times better than the nonsense Anakin and Padme say to each other.

Re: the Death Star

I didn't think it was that crazy that it took so long to build the first Death Star. That is, until I realized that they (mostly) built the second Death Star in the time it took them to invade Hoth, freeze Han Solo in carbonite, and rescue him from Jabba the Hut. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the first three movies all take place within five years of each other. The construction time for the first Death Star seems crazy when you realize it took them so little time to build a replacement.

One final note:

Whatever my complaints about the new movies, Episode III was really enjoyable to watch. Ewan MacGregor is great, the story moves fast, and I found myself really hoping that Anakin wouldn't turn.

Posted by: CBH | May 23, 2005 1:27:59 PM

It may or may not be bathos. It is definitely campy. It was always meant to be such in the grand traditions of sci-fi serials and westerns. Does High-Camp automatically justify the creation of bathos? I expect cheesy dialogue, I WANT cheesy dialogue from that universe! The acting has never been stellar as a rule. There have been stand-out performances in each movie, but it is most assuredly the exception!
Big nerd, I admit to forgetting the extra "e" and how to spell the wookiee home planet. Such is the cost of life, I am afraid.

Posted by: Joel | May 20, 2005 5:40:03 PM

People, people, people. It's "wookiee," not "wookie." Come on.

Also, Luke and Leia kissed because they didn't know they were brother and sister, of course. There's no force field that prevents siblings from kissing, just the incest taboo.

Posted by: Big nerd | May 20, 2005 5:18:10 PM

Lets not forget the most important question:

WHY IS ALL THE ACTING SO HORRIBLE?!!? Particularly the idiot who played Anakin. No range, that man has. And the bathos! Oh, the bathos! (Like Vader's "NOOOOOOOO!" C'mon George.)

I also think the misogynistic message is even blunter than the political message. "Don't get attached to dirty girls [mother, wife] or you'll turn EVIL!!!"

Posted by: Paul Gowder | May 20, 2005 5:01:01 PM

Chewbacca is a wookie from Kasshyk ... ewoks are small and fuzzy. You must acquit!

Posted by: Joel | May 20, 2005 1:45:46 PM

"Chewbacca" is "commonly-used legal terminology." Check your Black's for "Wookie defense."

Posted by: Kris | May 20, 2005 1:21:28 PM

The real question is: why did Leia kiss Luke twice (in IV and V) if they are brother and sister?

Posted by: Jeff V. | May 20, 2005 1:08:12 PM

9. Alternatively, the good in him consciously or subconsciously influenced him to not seek out his son.

Posted by: Jeff V. | May 20, 2005 12:47:27 PM

I think "Sith" is best summed up by Anthony Lane's comment in the above-mentioned devastating review:

"The general opinion of "Revenge of the Sith" seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes. True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to cruxifixion."

Amen.

Posted by: Laura | May 20, 2005 12:26:04 PM

1. Oh, come on... *It's a space western* not My Dinner With Andre. It's not *supposed* to be about the dialog.

2. Not all masters are equal... Yoda saw it coming.

3. Union Problems. Definitely. The Clone Worker's Guild is strong with the Force.

4. It wasn't *just* the Padme thing... it was also his lust for power, and the anger that has showed in all the previous films--like when the sand people kill his mother. The Padme thing was just the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.

5. Yeah, I think the empire should get a refund on those clones. Hello, Warranty of Merchantability?? Don't tell me the Republic hadn't adopted the UCC!

6. Didn't you hear the crappy robot dialog? "She lost the will to live..." :)

7. I think it was the life in exile... or you could chalk it up to the destruction of the other Jedi... maybe the life force of all the other Jedi being extinguished took a greater toll... dunno.

8. Because R2D2 got wise... would *you* tell 3PO anything? He's a blundering blabbermouth...

9. The could have hidden him anywhere--*spoiler* the Emperor told him that he'd killed Padme, and if he had indeed killed her, the baby would have died with her. Given his history on Tatooine, there wasn't much chance he'd go back there...

10. Yeah, I wondered about that, too... and how in the hell does Chewbacca end up with Han solo? He goes from Jedi master pal to rum runner... go figure.

Posted by: Dave! | May 20, 2005 11:25:49 AM

AA1, thank you for your detailed responses. I needed more coffee before I tried to do that. I will add the following:
Re: Stormtrooper armor - weaponry technologies always advance faster than protective technologies
Re: Tatooine - Psychologically, would Anakin ever want to go back to that backwater hole in the galaxy? What was left there except for painful memories. Add in the pride/arrogance that leads to his fall and you have a winning combination.
Re: Rapid aging of Jedi Masters - Several of the books go into some details about this with different theories. Let us leave it that in cloaking their appearance from the Empire, a greater amount of energy was required compared to all out war. The inability to fully harnass the force led to a more realistic aging scenario compared to their previous vitality.
Re: Ewok attacks - Rocks were not killing the STs, just knocking them out. Concussions are not your friend.

At the end of the day: Lightsabers, the Force, midget-green-laser sword-wielding alien - See above comment on storyions. May the force be with you all.

Posted by: Joel | May 20, 2005 10:36:36 AM

1. On dialogue. It really bugs me when people criticize the new trilogy based on the awful dialogue. Yes, it is awful. But you can't tell me it is worse than what Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had to say. I think our error is due to the fact that we were kids when the first trilogy came out, and so we didn't have high expectations from the dialogue and acting; we just fell in love with The Force, the story arc, and the mystique of it all. Now that we are older, we expect something more from the movies than we should. The question should not be: "Did I enjoy The Phantom Menace as much as I enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back? The answer to that is undoubtedly "no." The proper question is: "Did the 9 year old kid next door enjoy this new trilogy as much as I enjoyed the first?" And the answer to that is probably "yes."

2. Jedi die in this movie? Thanks for ruining it.

3. Think about how long it is taking Reagan's Star Wars defense system to be built. They probably spent 20 years testing the Death Star, declaring each failed test a success.

4. Anakin turns to the dark side?! Just kidding.

5. Asking why the stormtroopers wear the armor is like asking why hasidim wear long black coats in the summer. Remember that they (the stormtroopers, not the hasidim) are cloned from Fett (the father). He wore armor, so they wear armor in homage. Just like the hasidim and their Polish roots.

6. Dude, this happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The medical technology is just different.

7. Per Yoda: People decline much more rapidly as they get older. Once you cross a certain threshhold, you just deteriorate. For Yoda, that happens over 20 years. For the rest of us, it takes, like, 5. Per Obi and Yoda: if you were living in caves on Dagobah and Tatooine for that long, you'd age fast too. Those are bad climates. Nothing like the comfy jedi towers on Coruscant.

8. R2 lost the ability to fly. Big deal. A lot happens in 20 years. See my comment on Yoda. As for C3PO, the far better question is why Obi and Anakin (who BUILT 3PO for god's sake) don't recognize him in Episode IV. This is a difficult question, but I guarantee you that there's some fan fiction on it somewhere.

9. You think like Vader. Vader doesn't bother to look for Luke on Tatooine because he's sure that they'd never be stupid enough to hide him there. So that's the best place to hide him.

10. It is called the anthropic principle. True, this is all very unlikely to happen. But we see that the movies exist. So it did happen. Of all of the zillions of things that could have happened, it had to happen this way, otherwise there wouldn't be a movie to talk about.

Posted by: amosanon1 | May 20, 2005 10:20:34 AM

Re Star Wars dialogue, I'm put in mind of Harrison Ford's (perhaps apocryphal?) comment on the set of Episode IV: "George, you can type this shit, but you sure can't say it."

Posted by: Tax Lawyer | May 20, 2005 10:19:59 AM

I think that all you Star Wars geeks out there miss the point that dialogue heard in your thirties sounds less intelligent than the same dialogue when you were in elementary school. I had the 2-record Star Wars album that was simply a recording of all the dialogue, so I have pretty good record of that dialogue. Luke whining at his aunt and uncle? Leia's trash talking in the garbage chute? This was not good dialogue, but we were kids and we didn't know any better.

Posted by: Christine Hurt | May 20, 2005 10:02:26 AM

I must admit that I have not yet seen Ep. III. I am going to see it with my father this evening, so I'll get some better answers for you then. In the meantime, just remember that the underlying particle in the make-up of the Lucas-o-verse is storyions. Storyions are inherently unstable sub-atomic particles that encourage macro-level reactions to create a better story. Trust me, its a better explanation than the midichlorians.

Posted by: Joel | May 20, 2005 9:49:45 AM

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