I’m going to take a moment to vent about how people watch movies these days. I wanted to let you know up front this wasn’t going to be one of my normal posts. I’m releasing steam that has built up because some people don’t understand how to properly formulate an argument, and if I don’t walk away from the troll I am going to release a primal scream in my childhood bedroom that might scare my family to death.
Oh, yeah, I’m visiting family for the holidays.
So, because I really enjoyed the new Star Wars movie, and I really was curious about how other people felt about it, I went looking around on IMDB for some insight. Much to my surprise, there are a lot of people who really hate that movie! The common argument is that it is both too much like the original Star Wars movie, and not enough like it.
But how can that be?
See, the plot is obviously similar, but that goes back to the archetypes, which George Lucas has said he learned from Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” He structured his story off of the way a hero evolves based on all the epics and myths of almost all the cultures around the world.
There are whole lesson plans designed around Luke Skywalker’s evolution from farmboy to Jedi, from reluctant innocent youth to battle tested hero. And they added his character to the book cover, along with images of heroes from such ancient cultures as the Greeks and the Babylonians.
The archetype or monomyth of the hero is so universal that almost, if not all, of our modern fictional hero stories follow the format: Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, Tris, Bilbo and Frodo, Neo from the Matrix, several of the comic book heroes, and more!
But we don’t teach the classics in school anymore, and so somehow the hero’s journey has gotten lost. And movies have changed so that the entire character development has been gift-wrapped for us so that we don’t have to think about things anymore.
Movies that require you to think are often only Indie film movies, and the rare few that make it to Hollywood are watered down with action scenes and explosions. Or slapstick humor.
Really serious messages, truly universal themes are purposefully hidden behind things that people don’t have to think about. Simon Pegg lamented the changing of Star Trek when he was asked by the producers to dumb down the script for this third installment of the Star Trek reboot. And while I liked the trailer, I’ve been informed by people who know better that the new director is the same as the Fast and the Furious franchise, meaning that all intellect is going to be drained from the films, which basically ruins it and makes it not Star Trek anymore.
Gene Roddenberry had a message, a mission to show people a possible future in which the problems of racism and greed no longer existed. He was showing us what our future could be, and in the Next Generation, they continued to tackle serious issues of the time but hidden behind the lens of science fiction. If you want to talk about racial inequality, but don’t want to offend anyone, change the race to species, and use aliens. It’s brilliant! It’s entertaining, and yet thought provoking. We learn something with each episode of a Star Trek show.
Or at least we did…
Things are changing now. And I’m not sure it’s for the better.
While Star Trek showed a world free of the problems of our society, and in so doing challenged the status quo with things like the first on-screen interracial kiss, Star Wars is iconic for an entirely different reason.
And no, I don’t mean the special effects, although those who only watch a movie for the crash boom hurrah of the action scenes will only recognize it’s awesomeness in that regard. Why don’t I think the special effects are what makes it iconic? Because if that was it, people wouldn’t be angry about the changes George Lucas made when he changed it a while back.
And people would like the prequels better.
As it is, even people who like the prequels wish that we could just cut the first one out altogether. I’m talking about the machete order again. And seriously, don’t get me started on Jar Jar.
What makes Star Wars so iconic is that it appeals to everyone because of the archetypes. It touches on some universal memory that we all have, the spiritus monde, or spirit of the world, that we all recognize. The characters all have a role to fulfill. And they do it by following the progression of a hero.
The prequels attempted it, but because Anakin falls, it’s not a true hero’s progression. And it’s not well executed. The prequels are an attempt at an emotional hero’s progression (or fall) instead of a physical one. While there are villains to be fought, Anakin’s fall is due to his emotional battles.
His attachment to his family, his competitive nature and desire to be the best, his forbidden love for Padme, all these things should create an intense emotional character arc, but they don’t. The love between the two isn’t believable, possibly because when they meet, she’s a ruling member of the senate and he’s barely more than a toddler. The age difference is a huge issue I’ve always had with the story, and one of many reasons for omitting the first movie of the prequels.
So why does any of this matter to me?
Because I am struggling with people on IMDB about the newest Star Wars movie. I see the archetypes. I see the emotional character arc and the separate (and complete) plotline arc of the first in our Sequel trilogy, and most people don’t. As I said before, they are angry because it is both too much like and not enough like the original trilogy.
If you understand the archetypes and the roles they play, then you can look past the similarities in the plot because they aren’t that important. And yet, the plotline does create a complete story, allowing the movie to stand on it’s own. It could be a movie all by itself. Would it be a great movie if there were no other movies to follow? No, but it does have a complete story arc. In the opening scrawl, we are told what the major dilemma is, and by the end the bad guy’s base is destroyed and the mission which set the entire movie in motion has been completed.
The characters, however, are only just beginning their journey. We see them struggle with their inner demons and each of what I think are the three main characters are set on a very specific path after some test, or temptation, that they are faced with; some truth about who they want to be versus who they truly are must be recognized, and as such, the archetypes of each of the characters are fluid because the characters are all in a state of flux.
For me, this is a beautiful thing because the way it is presented allows me, as an audience member to engage my imagination and my intellect and INTERACT with the film.
For me, if a movie doesn’t make me think or question, then I might as well be sitting at home watching reality television and letting my brain turn to goop. I don’t like my entertainment gift-wrapped with all the twists and turns laid out so easily for me that there is no mystery… Although, because of the Asperger’s and my ability to recognize patterns, I usually figure out the twist way before it happens.
But I still want them to try!
The Boy questioned me on it, because he likes to “let them tell the story,” and on IMDB people keep citing their opinions as facts and refuse to acknowledge the internal struggle as being valid. One guy in particular keeps accusing me of just not getting it, because the characters are flat and the villain is weak and the hero is too perfect. And yet, when I suggested to him that he look again and look using a critical, analytical eye, he told me I was speculating and making the whole thing up and that it was just a crap movie and I needed to get over it.
I was wrong because I didn’t agree with his opinion, an opinion that was not based on any evidence from the film, other than that the characters just jumped right into their roles. And he was referring to the roles that would have been assigned to them if they had been the same as the original characters. He’d in another branch of the thread said that this movie was entirely the same as the original and that all they did was change the character names and location names. Yet, his main criticism was about how the characters were NOT like the original.
I keep thinking about that old saying about cake…
No, the other saying about cake!
That doesn’t seem to work. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and you can’t be angry because something is both too similar and too different than something else!
But what really got me was that he refused to acknowledge any of my points. Told me I was too verbose (my words, not his), and that I was giving up because I was wrong and couldn’t justify my point any further… meanwhile he didn’t cite any actual evidence, other than one article which agreed with his point but also didn’t cite any evidence.
He wanted the characters to be easily recognizable, and for it to be a boom crash hurrah of a movie filled with action scenes and he didn’t want to have to work to enjoy the film.
The epitome of LAZY!
So are we as a country just getting lazy? Lazy about our thinking, specifically?
It terrifies me that we’ve got a generation of kids that think they don’t have to think in order to get enjoyment out of something. In fact they tell me that they don’t want to think, and that if something makes them think, it hurts them more than helps.
What a scary thought!
Even scarier is that this obviously isn’t the first generation that have felt that way, and it seems to be getting worse instead of better. When a seemingly well-educated adult can’t formulate a simple syllogism and instead claims victory because I agreed with his evidence but not his premise, then we have a problem.
Side note, it does disappoint me a bit that the Boy seems to think that my critical viewing of ALL (yes, all of them) movies is a negative thing. He says that’s not what he thinks, but the way he questioned me and continued to suggest that it must hinder my ability to enjoy a movie was disheartening. I suppose this is one of those examples of things I need to be more aware of so that I can truly accept that he isn’t who I thought he was, and he’s not the right person for the role I thought was his role in my life.