Monday, January 5, 2009

Why I Don't Write Star Wars

Current Reading: Ubik, by Phillip K. Dick

Inspirational Quote: "I shrivel up every time someone mentions Star Wars to me." -- Sir Alec Guinness

I love Star Wars. Not the Expanded Universe. Not the Prequel Trilogy, or the Clone Wars. Not Return of the Jedi (Ewoks... shudder), not even Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars. Not "A New Hope," but "Star Wars," the title it carried in 1977 when Han shot first and the stiff rubber/plastic aliens in the cantina were the coolest thing anyone had ever seen. Something about it set my 11-year-old imagination on fire. Maybe it was just because I was part of the zeitgeist of the time. Maybe because its blatant rip off of Joseph Campbell's monomyth connected with something in my unconscious mind. Maybe because it's story of a boy stuck in a nowhere place who escapes to become something extraordinary appealed to a pre-pubescent boy needing to believe there was a way out of his own nowhere place.

Regardless. I love it. I have a copy of the first VHS release of the original trilogy, before Lucas got it into his head to "improve" it. Now Cassandra, all of four, has begun playing Lego Star Wars Saga on our new Wii and she's utterly in love with R2D2. She's still too young for exposure to the films, but I look forward to sitting and watching them with her someday soon.

Her recent fascination is why I bring it up. And while I consider it, I realize how far away it is from good story. How far? Five points:

1. Dialogue: It's not horrendous. It doesn't sink to the depths of the recent prequel trilogy ("Hold me like you did on Naboo"), but it is very, very bad. Some examples:
  • "When I left you, I was but a learner. Now I am the master." "Only a master of evil, Darth."
  • "If money is all that you want, then that's what you will receive."

People just do not talk to each other that way. There are a few moments and exchanges which are believable (I suspect they were ad-libbed), and these seem to invariably be comedic bits: , "Boring conversation anyway," etc. The rest of it... well, I can imagine Sir Alec's face during the table reads, and when you compare Shakespeare to this drivel, his quote above is completely understandable.

2. Plot: It requires a fair bit of Plot Induced Stupidity. The Imperial Forces must have the collective intelligence of a slug (not Jabba, some other slug) to be unable to capture one ship when they've got a fleet of Star Destroyers (where were the TIE fighters over Tattooine? Four of them nearly took out the Falcon without even trying), and I won't go into the silliness of any military organization that can't stop four people, an alien and two robots from running loose on a battleship with hundreds of troops on board.

3. Characterization: The magical hermit, the restless orphan, captive princess, pirate captain, a pair of clowns for comic relief and an evil warlord. Cliches don't get any more trite than that. Sure there's a lot of room to manoeuvre within those conventions, but Star Wars doesn't bother.

4. Timing: Darth Vader and Obi-Wan were Jedi Knights, who were the guardians of peace in the Old Republic, which we're given to understand was still around when Luke's father was alive. If so, then how come Luke's never heard of them? And an admiral on the Death Star refers to Vader's "sad devotion to that ancient religion." Even Han calls it a "hokey religion." It sounds like a enough time has passed that everyone's forgotten about the Jedi and the Force, and it'd take more than twenty years for that. I still remember moon walks, and they're more than thirty years gone.

5. Logic: A small torpedo in a tiny exhaust port takes out a station the size of a moon. Who designed this thing? A demolition team? I think it's the same guys who gave us the Ford Pinto.

I love Star Wars. It's what first gave me inspiration to write. However, I hope Mr. Lucas understands that I have no desire to emulate his film. I'm trying to write well.

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