B. Guy Holmes (h0bbe5) wrote,
B. Guy Holmes

I Have A Bad Feeling About This...

Star Wars, since its premiere on May 25, 1977, has been a cultural phenomenon. The cult following of the original trilogy spawned countless books, cartoons, comics, videos, conventions, games, and an incalculable amount of merchandise. Star Wars, for lo these 28 years, has been the center of a subculture, and a force in western culture. The original trilogy had, at its core, simple, archetypal, primordial themes that resonated with the deep cultural roots of a vast number of Americans. Beyond the flashy (for the time) special effects and the spectacle of futuristic technology and society were the deep conflicts between animal passions and conscientious judgement. The dark father figure of Darth Vader is a powerful symbol for human's dark past. Especially with memories of the Vietnam War fresh in people's minds, people hungered to see a triumph of human conscience over our darker emotions. Star Wars was the legend for its time, an anchor for a confused generation. Its enormous profits were indicative of its emotional and cultural appeal. Its profits also prompted George Lucas to rehash the old story 22 years after the initial release. In 1999, Episode I: The Phantom Menace sought to recapture the hearts and minds of Americans, as well as their bulging wallets. The film was a spectacular box office success, and a dismal critical failure. George Lucas had always been obsessive about Star Wars, remaking his original trilogy twice before the prequel trilogy was finished. His obsession to perfect and complete his saga greatly clouded his judgement. His two other movies, released in 2002 and 2005, also failed to capture the essence of his first saga. Despite the astounding imagery and stunning battle sequences, Lucas had forgotten about the simplistic yet powerful conflict that drove his first movies. Perhaps it was Lucas's obsession with the presentation of his story, or the fact that he got caught up with an exaggeratedly grand story, but Lucas had always been good at expressing the feel for American culture. While the original trilogy was the perfect media for a society that craved moral justification, his latest saga was again an astounding reflection of American culture. The economic prosperity of the 90's rode along a strong cultural wave. With the end of the hollow 80's, the generation of the 90's was not only more cynical, but far more fragmented. With the explosion in technology and the birth of the internet, Americans gave themselves up to a directionless revolution. A sort of self-indulgent hedonism spawned, now allowed to flourish to unprecedented heights. People could carve out their own world in the infinity of the internet, and it was there many Americans escaped. The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith devote themselves to the escapist power of technology, with their unparalleled use of computer animation. This seems to be the only true purpose to the directionless three films, whose weak and inconsistent cast of characters did little in the way of developing a plot in the quagmire of ridiculous monologues discussing the Force and galactic politics. The only character focus seems to be Anakin Skywalker, the man who would become Darth Vader. Through his attempt to set up episodes 4,5, and 6, and to humanize Darth Vader, Lucas seems to have sabotaged the romance and strength of the original trilogy. His character focus on Anakin tires to convey the inner conflicts of a troubled man. Deep conflicts that inevitably seem shallow. We all know the fate of Anakin, and thus his conflict is not really a conflict, since the victory is already decided. The young, arrogant, shallowly conflicted Anakin is a true metaphor for our current society. His seemingly limitless potential lends to him a bravado, an arrogance, that is merely shielding a frightened child from a twisted world. We know where he is headed from the beginning, and thus we know where we are going too. After a bloody century of catastrophes, and millenia of falling empires, Americans have unwittingly resigned themselves to their inevitable fall from grace. The conflict between restraint and indulgence has already been won, though it has yet to be fought. The ominous and labored breath of Vader, a powerful figure of darkness and technology, serves to remind us that this man was doomed from the start. We must remind ourselves that this isn't the end, a new hope will arise, and purpose will return to us once more.
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