Saturday, January 13, 2018

Star Wars: Is Intent Everything for Art?

This is the beginning of a long, long series of reviews about Star Wars. When I think about Last Jedi and what I want to say on it I find myself wanting to say something about the whole series and so I'll start at the beginning: Episode I. Yeah, you're probably headdesking that, but numerically it's the first episode in the series, so that's where I'm going to start. But first I have to ask a simple question: when looking at art do we look at the piece first or the creator? The work or the intentions that went into the work?

See, before a certain point, I would have probably said look at the creator and his intent, not the work. I mean, it's so easy for us to do that these days, isn't it? With DVD extras and journals and blogs and all the access we have to the mind of the creators it's just as entertaining to look at what was being made as the end product.

Then I went to a psych ward.

In a story that I may tell someday, I got shipped to a psych ward as part of my illustrious career in the Army. It's a long story, but those are definitely places you want to stay out of if you are sane.  And the cookies are not as good as what were advertised to me in years past, sadly enough. Fortunately the particular one I was in allowed us to draw with pencils but I couldn't have a drawstring in my shorts because of the fear I'd hang myself with it, nevermind the fact that the string in that thing probably wasn't long enough to do such a thing. Life is weird sometimes, but I digress. As part of passing the time I would draw compositions for paintings that I had in mind whenever I got out. I had been checked in as more of a precaution as opposed to being in actual danger and I was feeling the need to get out so I fantasized about paintings I would make once they finally realized that I wasn't actually crazy, just in need of some help.

A Russian Orthodox chaplain came in and saw my sketches and recognized them for being icon sketches. He took a look at one of my compositions and started chatting with me about it. As we talked he completely broke the piece down, commenting on my choice of figures and placement as well as one detail that was completely wrong but still added a layer of theology to the piece that I had never even considered. I normally put a whole lot of thought into how I set things up so I was surprised that he had found things in what I had drawn that I could never have considered, because the piece was far too close to me to see it properly. And yet he had added something to it that I would never have considered. But he was correct, the piece did speak that particular way. The piece was independent from me, even if it was mine. My thoughts and my dreams went into that humble little sketch, but in the end its statement was not the one I intended, even if my intentions were still part of its make-up.

And that's most definitely true of Star Wars.  We have this idea that somehow Star Wars was finished and so therefore we knew what it was, which is clearly not the case. Star Wars continues and, like it or not, that means the content will change. And that the sum of that statement will be more than Lucas, Abrams, or Johnson intended. And that statement is more than the original trilogy now, by a long shot. Gone are the days when we thought we could make do with "good" Luke saving "bad" Vader, although to be honest those days were never here to begin with. Star Wars was almost always intended to be more than the Original Trilogy.

And let's get this out of the way: it was never the Legend material. Never. While there's some good stuff in there like the Thrawn trilogy you get much closer to Dark Empire more often than not. Lucas never intended to be beholden to the EU, considering it secondary. Disney had every right to remove most of it from canon and, while there are some aspects that are good and I'll miss them, the vast majority of it was nothing more than glorified fan fiction that made tons of cash. The morality of that is... not really questionable. I don't think it should have been done to begin with, especially since Lucas never intended to honor it. But yet, here we are, decades later, with a lot of people thinking that decades of fanfiction is Star Wars. It's not.

So what is Star Wars? What are we going to use in this obsessively long and probably insane review of it? We'll deal with what Star Wars as a whole says next week, but for the purposes of this review it's the movies. There's so much to cover just there that, for the moment, we'll just stick to the movies, bringing in bits from the TV shows and comics and novels as they're pertinent. But that's it. I'll be leaving DVD extras and what George intended by the side and what others think he intended by the side, far away. I suppose that means I'll try and be objective. We'll see if I succeed.

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