Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Star Wars Episode 2.5: The Attack on the Viewer

Matt Yglesias has posted on something I had hoped to forget, the new Star Wars film The Clone Wars, to which my son dragged me last weekend.

The popcorn was good, but oh dear gawd did the movie ever suck. Well, not in every last way -- it was animated, and the style of animation lends itself to the kinds of action that nine-year-old boys, and sometimes their fathers, are drawn to: profusions of laser blasts going every which way, light saber duels, exploding mechanical beasts, endless impossible feats of tumbling.

The story made little sense, failed utterly to give viewers any reason to care about the dramatic outcome or the fate of the characters -- insofar as these fates were a matter of suspense, this story wedging somewhere between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith -- and was borne aloft on embarrassingly bad dialogue. It bore the stamp of George Lucas, in other words.

One Lucasian flaw was particularly acute in this film: the ability of Jedi Knights to anticipate the activities of robots. I don't see how this can work. The force, as I understand it, is some kind of transcendent thingy that flows through all living things, and Jedis are set apart for their ability to wield and manipulate it: they can read and influence the thoughts of man and beast, remotely sense the presence of other life forms, especially other Jedi-eligible life forms who are "strong in the force." So Darth Vader can know that Luke Skywalker is close by and vice-versa, Yoda can anticipate the saber parries of the Emperor before they happen, etc. Utter bullshit, but fair enough for a fantasy film franchise. It has never made sense to me how such a thingy should provide even the most force-endowed person with insights into the future actions of a robot, and yet Jedis routinely deflect the laser blasts of robots, detect robots before they're visible, and so on.

Are there any Star Wars geeks out there who would care to clear this up for me? I could probably google it but I'm too busy complaining.

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