Friday, April 9, 2010

I SENSE A DISTURBANCE IN THE FORCE


Starting at roughly the age of 15, I began to have friends. This—some might say Jurassic—period in my development as a social animal did not go terribly well. These friends treated me badly and took advantage of me etc etc sob story sob story emo memoir bullshit, but when I got to college I tasted the novelty of having friends I actually liked who actually liked me, who I had shit in common with besides the homo sapiens ID card. This led to my present day situation, where I have an ever-widening circle of friends I love deeply and whose presence in my life I cherish with a ferocity that would alarm most of them if my natural emotional intensity wasn't part of what they like about me.

But, as George Harrison informed us with a vehemence that required three fucking records to make the point, all things must pass. This period of having friends, yeah, I had a good run, but it's time to dynamite a very large percentage, maybe all, of those friendships. Oh well. Here goes.

Star Wars sucks.

I have a lot of (extremely) subjective reasons for feeling this way. Not all of them have to do with the movies themselves, but with the paradigm shift in the history of cinema they caused, which isn't really fair to the movies themselves, but if the fucking names of everything weren't so goddamn retarded (Tattooine? Grand Moff Tarkin? Jar Jar Binks? Count Dooku?), if Mark Hamill wasn't the shittiest fucking actor ever going back to fucking Aristophanes, if any of the six movies had been less than 10 minutes overlong . . . sigh . . .

All right, let me get off on a slightly different foot. Part of this weirdly angry reaction to Star Wars has to do with the fact that everyone else fucking loves it, and things that everyone else seems to get but that confuse me are a source of frustration. So, as level-headed as I can be without ranting about George Lucas' goo goo ga ga nomenclature, the catastrophically bad acting, and clunky pacing, here are my problems with the Star Wars sextet:

---I never organically gave a fuck about Luke Skywalker. I felt like I was being told to care about him. And I always thought he was a whiny dipshit, until Mark Hamill walked into frame in Jedi looking like he just snorted Ecuador and had somehow aged 20 years since Empire, at which point I almost started liking him until he started talking.

---Even though everyone always calls Star Wars science fiction, it doesn't feel like SF to me. SF, to me, has always been about world building to the end of crafting an analogy for a philosophical concept, sociological state of being, or historical observation. Or, more accurately, that's what I like about SF. I'm not saying Star Wars isn't SF, but I feel like it taking place in space is more about production design than it is about the story. Star Wars feels, to me, like a sword-and-sorcery thing like Lord of the Rings, or the whole Joseph Campbell hero's journey thing that everyone faps to, but with spaceships and laser guns and shit because, hey, that hadn't been done before. (And that is something I do need to give Star Wars credit for: as time-honored as its narrative and basic philosophy are, the setting really is novel).

---George Lucas can't fucking direct. THX is good when you're stoned, but American Graffiti is one of the shittiest-paced movies I've ever seen, ridiculously overlong, with one of the laziest fucking soundtracks ever (and don't give me that “it was the first needle-drop soundtrack” bullshit either: Marty Scorsese was doing Mean Streets at the same time, and somehow managed to actually have a good soundtrack). Old people tell me “oh, you had to have been there” but guess what? I'll talk loud so your hearing aid'll pick it up: cinema is supposed to transport you to another place! If it was a good movie, people who weren't there would give a shit. I wasn't in a POW camp in WWII, but Stalag 17 still rules. It can be done, George. I mean, I'm happy that Charles Martin Smith and Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford all got careers, but Jesus Christ, man.

Okay, so the four-sixths of the Star Wars series that George Lucas directed? The fact that was the shittiest four-sixths is not a coincidence. Stilted compositions, indifference to the performances, pacing that goes beyond inert to fucking dead. Seriously, how many goddamn climaxes did the first one have? And each one stopped the narrative dead. And seriously, you couldn't have found someone better looking with more talent than Mark Hamill? He is, after all, the fucking main character, George. Goddammit, I need to shut up before George Lucas has me killed. Fortunately he has better things to do than read this blog.

---The fact that The Empire Strikes Back actually is awesome and an all-time classic just pisses me off more. Cuz, ya know, the rest of the sextet could have been this good too, with actual writers doing the writing, actual directors doing the directing, and George Lucas' role limited to walking around making sure everyone knows how to pronounce the stupid names of the planets. I mean, look, it's his baby, I get it, he should be in charge, but I think the ultimate failure of the series to elicit any other reactions than rage or frustration for me is due to George Lucas' inability to delegate or collaborate. Not everyone is an auteur.

---Okay, Darth Vader. You win, he's fucking badass. And his arc over the first trilogy is great: even his ultimate redemption, paying with his life for his drift to the Dark Side, sure, that rules. No argument here. I could listen to James Earl Jones recap Sex and the City episodes, and I'd be happy. So when George is like, “ok, the prequel trilogy is going to be all about Darth Vader became Darth Vader” I was actually kind of excited. The fact that young Obi-Wan was going to be around, sure, he was great, even if most of why he was great was because he was Alec Guinness, but sure, Ewan McGregor, why not.

Let's pause for a second: someone who never liked Star Wars was willing to grant that this concept had potential. We all good? All right . . . then why in the sweet name of fuck was that prequel trilogy so motherfucking boring? God DAMN it, man, the only fucking cool thing that happened in like eight hours of prequel was the fucking light saber fight between Yoda and Christopher Lee. Samuel L. Jackson wasn't even cool. Instead we had Liam Neeson mumbling about something called midochlorians (George, we were okay with the Force being magic. That was what we liked about it, shithead) and Ewan McGregor not showing his cock (Ewan McGregor shows his cock. That's what he does) and a bunch of minstrel show aliens and the mysterious, inscrutable Boba Fett—easily one of the coolest things about the first movies—being given this plodding, retarded backstory. Natalie Portman risked her life wearing that neck-breaking headgear for nothing.

And ya know. We haven't even gotten to proto-Vader yet. Because we have to save the best for last. So we already covered how he was kinda like the whole fucking point to the fucking prequels. That being understood, anybody out there mind explaining to me why the fuck you cast a 10 yr old retard and an anorexic emo fuckbucket who can barely speak English (despite being from Canada where they speak it better than we do) as THE CENTRAL FUCKING CHARACTER? Man, George Lucas' casting Achilles heel is Colossus of Rhodes-sized. For all the props he deserves for getting someone who rules as hard as Harrison Ford to play Han Solo (and Han Solo, I concede, is as cool as everyone else thinks he is, to the point where I wish the first three movies had been about him, even though that could never happened because this is the story of a man named Skywalker) George really needs to be taken to task for fucking up nearly every other role where he didn't just throw a paycheck at someone like Alec Guinness.

---Finally, Ewoks. I can think of a couple good uses for Ewoks: firewood being one, dwarf tossing being another, because if you put a shitload of velcro on the wall the furry little fuckers would stick nicely. But yeah, that's about it. Jedi started off fucking great—the whole action stuff leading up to Jabba being killed was awesome—and then crash-landed in Ewokia. The only cool thing that happened in the movie after they landed on that shithole planet was the race through the woods. Any bunch of furry aliens dumb enough to worship C3PO as a god deserve to be nuked by the new Death Star.

Now, I realize the tone of a lot of the above is a little vituperative and unfair. If I really was trolling—and, in full disclosure, I love trolling Star Wars fans—I wouldn't feel the need to equivocate a little bit here. Saying Star Wars sucks is hyperbole. None of the movies is utterly without merit. With the exception of Episode II, I can legitimately say that I enjoyed a significant enough percentage of each that the frustrations I've vented are more due to me wanting them to be better. I see the joy Star Wars fans get from Star Wars and I want to feel it too.

So, in the interests of fairness, here's a (by my standards) concise look at each entry in the sextet and exactly what it is that pisses me off about each, as well as what I like.


Star Wars (1977)

(Ed. Note: go fuck yourself, George, I'm not calling it Episode IV: A New Hope. I hope you like my movie Episode Cock: A New Blowjob, because it's your turn in the barrel, motherfucker)

What Pisses Me Off About It:

(1) It's too fucking long. The fact that this movie is a second over an hour forty-five is stupid.
(2) It literally has about three different climaxes—the trash compactor thing, the death of Obi-Wan, the interminable, repetitive Death Star finale—and the first two stop the movie dead.
(3) No reason to give a shit about Luke. Fuck Mark Hamill in the ear with a lightsaber.
(4) I get that the Triumph of the Will business in the last scene is a joke, but it's not funny, and the fact that morality is so binary in this goddamn movie gives you no latitude to make your good guys look like Nazis.
(5) George clearly hadn't decided that Luke and Leia were brother and sister yet, which makes Luke's crush on her kind of icky.

What I Like About It:

(1) Han Solo fucking owning that little dipshit whatshisname in the bar. The reissue, with Han reacting instead of just whipping out his cock and shooting a laser from it, pisses me off just as much as the most devoted fan.
(2) Qui Nguyen used “going to Tosche station to pick up some power convertors” as a euphemism for masturbation once, which redeemed one of Mark Hamill's whiniest moments for me and gave me something new to giggle about. Thanks, sir.
(3) Alec Guinness rules
(4) James Earl Vader ibid
(5) The jump to hyperspace was shit-hot. Actually, most of the FX were pretty dope (George Lucas was smart enough to basically hire Stanley Kubrick's guys from 2001) and hold up well to this day.


The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

What Pisses Me Off About It:

(1) It ends.
(2) That's basically about it, except for being a little long.

What I Like About It:

(1) The part between the opening and closing credits.
(2) Yoda. Two feet tall, wrinkly, fucked up syntax, can make shit levitate: totally the kind of cat you'd want to smoke some space weed with.
(3) Lando Calrissian is the first actually morally ambiguous character we meet in the Star Wars universe. Han's just cranky and self-centered, Lando actually aligns himself with the bad guys. AND YET . . . he turns out okay! Come on, how can you not love Billy Dee Williams.
(4) The legendary revelation that Vader is Luke's father manages to come completely out of fucking nowhere AND still make total sense.
(5) The action scenes are all so goddamn good. (checks director credit) Oh, that's why!


Return of the Jedi (1983)

What Pisses Me Off About It:

(1) Fuck an Ewok.
(2) The Emperor sucks Wookie taint. Why the sweet fuck would someone as powerful and vital as Vader take orders from this fucking choad?
(3) The ending is ricockulous. And that music sucks. How come the alien jazz band in a shithole bar in the first movie is so good but the fucking Ewoks can't even book a good band to celebrate the salvation of the fucking universe?

What I Like About It:

(1) The first twenty or so minutes are awesome.
(2) Carrie Fisher does alien bondage well. Too bad she had to do all that blow to fit into the costume.
(3) Yeah, everybody has cocaine coming out of their fucking pores in this movie. The Jedi drinking game should be, every time Mark Hamill looks like it took more than three grams to get him out of his trailer, you have to drink. But make sure you have a lot of booze before playing that game.
(4) The ultimate redemption of Vader, even if it took him fucking long enough to finally dump the Emperor down an abyssal.


Episode I (1999)

What Pisses Me Off About It:

(1) The fucking kid.
(2) The Force being scientifically explainable. IT WAS A FUCKING METAPHOR, GEORGE! IT WAS A FUCKING METAPHOR! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!
(3) “Well gee, massa Obi-Wan, let me flop my tentacles in yo' way! Even though you gotta universe to save, let me git in yo' way constantly! No, I'm not a racist stereotype. Nooooo. Who could think that?”
(4) Natalie Portman confuses me, and her bits with the fucking kid are creepy.
(5) $100 million budget, and we couldn't find something to counteract Liam Neeson's Valium?

What I Like About It:

(1) Darth Maul was fun. Killing him off was fucking stupid.
(2) Ewan McGregor proving he can act without having his penis out. Which is not to say his more penile work isn't more fun . . .
(3) Not half-bad CG effects.


Episode II (2002)

What Pisses Me Off About It:

(1) Everything except the lightsaber duel between Yoda and Christopher Lee

What I Like About It:

(1) Nothing except the lightsaber duel between Yoda and Christopher Lee.


Episode III (2005)

What Pisses Me Off About It:

(1) Hayden Christensen conveying his great moral dilemma about going over to the Dark Side by holding a shit for the length of principal photography
(2) The frantic dash by George Lucas to bring the prequel narrative to a close after spending five hours fucking around in the first two movies, the second of which being a two-and-a-half hour reenactment of ONE FUCKING LINE Mark Hamill has in the first movie (the one from 1977, not Episode I).
(3) Although this is a problem for the entire prequel trilogy, this one makes intimate, encyclopedic knowledge of the entire series an absolute prerequisite for understanding anything. Granted, this is my own problem for not being intimately, encyclopedically knowledgeable of the entire series, but note this section is called “what pisses me off about it” not “flaws.”

What I Like About It:

(1) The dark tone. There are real stakes in that duel between Annakin Fuckface and Ewan McGregor at the end, even though you know they both live.
(2) Seems like it's an hour shorter than the second one even though it's almost exactly the same length.
(3) Finally, Natalie Portman has a reason to exist! Welcome aboard.
(4) Once it ends . . . no more Star Wars! Just kidding. It actually ties in to the beginning of the first trilogy pretty neatly, once George Lucas sweated blood to get it there.


Despite how it might sound, I don't hate Star Wars so much as I don't get it. Really, my main problem with the movies has nothing to do with the movies themselves. The Hollywood studio system used Star Wars as a Trojan horse to get inside the gates and reconquer the movies for its own nefarious, commercial-minded purposes, which is kind of ironic, considering that George Lucas had near-total creative control on the first one and absolute control over the next five, which he produced independently and maintained control over at the very least 75 points on each.

George Lucas, in that sense, is the embodiment of the 70s dream, the Hollywood New Wave ideal, the director as god. But his freedom came at the expense of everyone else's. The only director since who's enjoyed as much control over his own pictures is James Cameron, and that's only because he made so goddamn much money that the only way to stop him would be at gunpoint.

Yet, that same freedom the Star Wars box office receipts granted George Lucas also crystallized, forever, his fate as The Star Wars Guy. No matter how good anything else he ever directs is—a dubious proposition considering how uneven THX and how fucking bad American Graffiti is—and no matter how different, audiences will forever associate him inexorably with Star Wars. I mean, yeah, the billion dollars he made off Star Wars makes it a minimum security golf prison in Malibu, but Star Wars is still a prison. And that's really too bad.

Sorry about all the mean shit I said about you, George. Think you can you spot me a $20 to next week?