One of the best things about being a dad, for me at least, is the chance to revisit some of my favorite childhood experiences*. Sadly, George Lucas chose to sully several of these sacred moments when he
bowed to Mammon made the Star Wars prequels. Now, I know that shrewder critics have done a much better job** than I ever could documenting Lucas’s hackery. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pile on.
Last weekend, the younger boy, having saved up his screen time for several days***, earned the right to watch an entire movie. Yes, an entire movie! All at once! He wanted to see Episode I, but, because I’m a good father and a patron of the arts, I insisted that he had to sit through Episode IV first. He loved it. Phew. But then he saved up his screen time again, and yesterday he put his foot down. It was time to watch Phantom Menace. “Okay,” I said, “if you really want to waste your afternoon, I’ll sit through it with you.” Big mistake. From the unspooling of the backstory — I’m explaining to the younger boy, “There’s a trade war being fought over taxation. Which has implications for the parliamentary proceedings of the galactic senate.” And thinking to myself, “WTF? Kids are supposed to care about this?” — through the final credits the movie makes absolutely no sense. That said, again, the review linked above does a perfectly good job taking apart the film.
Still, I did want to add that it’s a bit unsettling when you’re watching a movie with a four-year-old and he says, “Daddy, why did Obi Wan say he doesn’t know R2D2 in the other movie?” “Huh, what?” I replied groggily, because naturally I was trying to sleep away the pain. “In the other movie [Episode IV], daddy, Obi Wan tells Luke that he’s never met R2D2. But in this movie [Episode I] R2D2 saves his life.” And the younger boy is right, of course. They make a huge deal of the fact that R2D2 saved the day in Episode I, presumably because Lucas had a new set of action figures he wanted to include in Happy Meals or whatever. But in Episode IV, Ben Kenobi, upon meeting Luke and R2 for the first time, insists that he’s never seen the little droid before. Wait, what? Is Old Ben getting a bit senile? Has he been drinking too much of that purple drank that Aunt Beru served back at the Skywalker Ranch? Or is he just some kind of incredible Jedi ingrate? Who the hell knows.
Anyway, I wanted to tell the younger boy, “Look, kid, I’m sorry to say that capitalism is a cruel system. And George Lucas wanted to cash in this go round rather than tell a well-crafted story. You should prepare yourself for more such disappointments in life.” But instead I mumbled something about the complexities of continuity, and by then there was another light saber fight going on — because like twelve seconds had passed — so he was distracted. But seriously, what’s up with that? Did Lucas not even watch Episodes IV–VI before making the prequels?
And then there’s Jar-Jar’s and Watto’s minstrel show. No comment necessary
* Re-reading A Wrinkle in Time with my older boy? Heaven.
** The creepy stuff about sexual violence notwithstanding. Yuck. Still, the reviews are pretty good primers on storytelling technique.
*** Yes, we test our children’s willpower all the time by placing marshmallows in front of them when they’re hungry. What of it?