Let me just start by saying that writing this letter was not my idea. I have always maintained a respectful (if somewhat scornful) distance from the Star Wars franchise. I saw the original trilogy for the first time a couple years ago, just to put an end to hearing: “YOU’VE NEVER SEEN STAR WARS??!!” That conversation had begun to end friendships. When I tried saying, “It’s okay, I’ve seen the first one,” someone would inevitably smugly point out, “You mean the fourth one?” And more friendships ended. I hoped all things Star Wars would leave me the hell alone, but then the folks here at Dear Cast and Crew were all like, “Please write about Revenge of the Sith” and I was all like, “Which one is he, again?” and my Companion was all like, “... you need to clear your schedule.”
And that’s how a perfectly good weekend was ruined.
While preparing myself mentally for the onslaught of siths and wonkies and whatever else, I found myself wishing – not for the first time – that someone had just showed me these damn movies when I was a kid. I think early exposure is key to liking Star Wars, nostalgia being the only thing that helps you look past its many, many weaknesses. I had to watch all three prequels so that Revenge of the Sith would make any sense at all, so I resolved to approach them with softer eyes, promising myself that, by the end of it, I would be able to list three things I liked about Star Wars.
This optimism lasted about ten minutes. What followed was six hours of me going, “Who wrote this shit?” My sympathies were with you, Fraser, as I sighed through scene after scene of clunky dialogue and performances that would have made the cast of my Grade 1 production of The Very Hungry Caterpillar raise a snide eyebrow. I pictured you watching each day’s footage, and I can’t even imagine what it was like to sift through multiple takes of Hayden Christansen muttering, “My strength has doubled since we last fought” (because that’s what apparently passes for smack talk in a galaxy far, far away) and having to pick the best one. You had to go through all the raw material to make sure it was fit to turn into a film worthy of franchise devotees’ loyalty and passion. It must have been awkward knowing they were going to get a steaming pile of wookie doo-doo instead.
So I decided to adjust my expectations, because I didn’t want to be one of those grumpy, stuck-up people who shits all over Star Wars. I was going to jump on this bandwagon if it killed me. And I managed to come up with one thing that could have been truly great if it didn’t suck so much, and another that actually was great.
If the Force was strong in me, I would, without a doubt, be Team Dark Side. I thought Darth Vader was the most compelling character in the original trilogy, so I thought I would enjoy watching his story unfold. It’s just too bad Anakin/Vader was portrayed with the intensity of a soaked badger. Vitriol aside, by the time I was ready to watch Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s story did have me hooked. Even though I knew how it would end, I felt for him—but I really had to reach for it. To me, the most tragic aspect of Anakin’s story is that he was failed by people who loved him. Their inability to see past his Chosen One-ness and reach out to a boy who was clearly suffering a crisis of identity and faith is pretty heartbreaking when you think about it. And don’t even get me started on Padme. Whenever Anakin tries to express doubt or disillusionment, her stock response of, “But but the Republic!” was unhelpful, insensitive, and frankly, a bit dickish. Eventually Anakin goes full Vader, and it’s all quite sad, but I was kind of glad to see him packed off to the Death Star so that he could finally have a chance for some much-needed Vader-time. I guess I should say I liked the idea of Vader more than what I saw onscreen.
As for the one thing I ended up loving, Yoda, my little green homeboy, walks away with that distinction. I think there is a parallel to be drawn between Yoda and you, in that you both watched a massive clusterfuck unfolding and were ultimately powerless to stop it. I realize that, had Qui-Gon Jinn listened to Yoda in Episode I, there would be no Episodes II through VI, but I couldn’t help but remember Yoda, all the way back in The Phantom Menace, basically warning everyone, “Train that kid we must not, shady as fuck he is.” Likewise, I pictured you watching day after day of dailies with your head in your hands, going, “Turn out badly this will...”
(It’s also to my everlasting disappointment that, before going into exile, Yoda didn’t find Obi-Wan Kenobi, bitch slap him hard, and yell, “TOLD YOU SO I DID!” Just another missed opportunity that might have made the film truly great.)
Ultimately, I’m glad I’ve finally (sort of) climbed aboard the Star Wars bandwagon, if for no other reason than I now get all the Star Wars references in other movies and TV shows. I should also probably track down that guy on the subway who tried to hit on me with his best Chewbacca impression; I now understand what that was, and I’m very sorry for hitting him with my purse and pulling the emergency alarm.
I will probably see The Force Awakens at some point. Maybe in a few months, when the horde of costumed weirdos currently lined up outside the theatre has had its fill. Because it is, undeniably, a great story, and no amount of scorn I or anyone else choose to heap upon the films ultimately detracts from that. My fingers are crossed that this next iteration will be the truly great film series that all the Trekkies deserve.
Wait, that’s not right, is it?