Monday, October 26, 2015

Watching Star Wars: The Abrams Influence

Over the weekend, we decided to introduce Hannah to the Star Wars movie franchise. (Well, to be honest, I wanted to watch the movies again, as prep for this December's newest episode VII installment. And so we decided that it was time to introduce Hannah to the Star Wars franchise.)

But . . . how should we do it?

This is a very relevant question for now and for the future. Obviously, when I was a kid, there was only one option--Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and then Return of the Jedi. They came out in the theaters and then we were introduced to the idea of rewatchability via VCRs/DVDs. But there was no question about in what order the story should be experienced.

My Original Experience

But now? Well, my first  two children were born and introduced to the franchise when the Prequel movies (Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: The Clone Wars, Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith) were being introduced and at the height of their influence. So . . . for better (and probably for worse--as you will see later), I chose to show the six movies in chronological order to Sarah and Grace, from Episode I to Episode VI: the Prequels and then the Originals.

Sarah and Grace's Experience

But . . . well, we all know that the prequels weren't the BEST additions to the Star Wars franchise that we all hoped for. The Jake Lloyd Anakin Baby. The revelation of midichlorians. The horrible stilted dialogue between Padme and Anakin at the Lakes of Naboo. Jar Jar Effing Binks. The struggles of watching Hayden Christiansen try desperately to emote and simply landing on confused. The High Ground.

Yeah . . . it was suboptimal. But . . . for better and for worse, it is part of the official Star Wars canon. and so, we're back to the original question that we faced for Hannah. How should she watch the movies? What is the best way for her to get the complete story, but not hand such weight on the weakness of Episodes I-III so early on. I mean, if individuals got TOO disenchanted with the ham-handedness of the Prequels, they might never persevere enough to get to the more decent movies beyond.

And then . . . I figured out the way that I think works best for me. And, as fate would have it, it is heavily influenced by the director of the newest movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (coming to dominate the world this December).

I, as you may know by now, am a big fan of J.J. Abrams work. I loved the TV show Alias. I adored the TV show LOST. I liked almost all of the TV show Fringe. I've watched his Star Trek reboot movies with much satisfaction. I enjoyed his other movies--Super 8, Cloverfield,and even some of the efforts he has made in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise.

And, if there is one thing that I know about Abrams is his strong love of the flashback. He utilizes the technique in lots of his creative storytelling. And so, why not give a strong homage to Abrams when trying to sequence the most optimal way to tell the Star Wars story?

So, I propose that we work the Prequel Episodes I-III as flashbacks within The Empire Strikes back.

The Abrams Influence Method
Think of it. We are introduced to Luke Skywalker, a young nobody raised as an orphan on the planet Tatooine. We see him learn some of the truth about who his father was: a talented space pilot and even . . . a Jedi--a master of the old religious order that once maintained peace in the galaxy. Luke begins to learn something of the Jedi ways from old Ben (nee Obi-Wan) Kenobi. But then Kenobi is cut down by Darth Vader during the Rebel Alliance's efforts to destroy the Death Star super weapon. We cheer as Luke and the Rebels triumph in destroying the Death Star and then buckle in to follow our heroes on their journey to fight the Empire.

In Episode V, we see the strengthened Rebel Alliance continue their efforts to destroy the Empire. Luke fully commits to his Jedi training with Master Yoda . . . but something goes wrong in the swamps of Dagobah. Luke sees strange visions connecting him to Darth Vader. What does it mean? When he rushes to Bespin the save his friends, he confronts Vader face-to-face . .. and Vader drops the bombshell. 

Vader is Luke's father?

(What do you think about THAT, Master Skywalker?)

Now . . .


Pull out The Empire Strikes Back at this point and begin telling the sad tale of Anakin Skywalker's downfall. Begin with The Phantom Menace, then run through The Clone Wars, and then Finish with The Revenge of the Sith. See how Anakin's power was corrupted and twisted by his love for Padme and his fear of losing her.

Then . . . pick up Episode V right where Vader tells Luke the truth and stretches out his glove. Watch Luke recoil in horror and give in to his own despair, letting go of the tower and falling into the airshaft. Watch the end of Empire and then move into Return of the Jedi. Now, you can watch as a PTSD Luke Skywalker, last of the Jedi Masters tries his hardest to believe that there is a glimmer of goodness left in the shell of Anakin Skywalker within the armor of Darth Vader. You've seen how Anakin fell and you are left to wonder if Luke is right.

So . . . what do you think?

(Truthfully, I'm probably NOT the first person to think of this. But I'm not bothering to research and find out what others before me have already said. It is what I'm trying with Hannah and we'll see how it works.)

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