Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It's All One Story, From Phantom To Jedi

When I watch movies series, no matter what movie series they are, I have to admit, I sometimes watch them out of order or decide to completely skip over a film just for the sake of time. But sometimes, as convoluted as movie series can get at times with all these spin-offs, sequels, prequels, remakes and reimaginings, we have to take part in the entire story.....in complete order. Allow me to dissect this concept a little more in depth. In the Harry Potter film series, we have to start with the Sorcerer's Stone, because that's the first film of the series and the film which explains who Harry Potter is, where he came from and what he plans to do with himself, further setting the stonewall for the following films to walk beneath. It wouldn't make sense if we started with the Goblet of Fire, for we wouldn't understand a lot of the concepts and morals the film is trying to elaborate upon because we didn't see the first three films, we weren't getting the full picture.We wouldn't really know a lot about the characters and who they are and how they got to where they are now because a good chunk of the overall "storybook" was left unwatched.

The same thing applies to another famous series, this one from the sci-fi genre and it is one of my all time favorite stories that combines everything we know and love about motion pictures. From the lightsaber duels in the heart of old swashbuckling tales and swordfights, to the iconic battles between good and evil in the light of Joseph Campbell and Shakespeare, Star Wars has a lot to offer and has a very complex, yet linear way of telling a story. The Star Wars saga, like the Harry Potter series, is meant to be watched in order, and I don't mean in the order they were originally released (4,5,6-1,2,3), I mean the order of the episodes, from Phantom to Jedi as we will entitle it. A lot of people like to watch the original three films and avoid the newer three films all together, but I think that's splitting the story right in the middle and cutting out a lot of key elements, a lot of key elements that make the Star Wars story half full. The Star Wars saga is the story of Anakin Skywalker, from his podracing days to his days as a jedi, to his days as one of the most scary entities in the universe. It's the story of his ambition, his want for power, his might, and finally, his redemption. When we split the saga in half and ignore the newer three films, the films meant to explain why things are the way they are in the original three films, the hourglass is half full, but where's the other half? We are missing half of what George Lucas, a maverick of a storyteller, was trying to tell us. And imagine if we did that with the Harry Potter films. Things wouldn't make much sense if we were watching the series from the Order of the Phoenix to Deathly Hallows Part 2, would it?

The Star Wars saga, in order, embodies a form that no other stories in history take on. A common Star Wars fan would go as far to say that Star Wars is a modern myth or retelling of Christian tales as old as rock. But take away the first half and only witness the second half, we really can't understand a lot of the tensions and meanings the storyteller was trying to convey and we really can't interpret what some of the characters stand for. Take Anakin for example. If we didn't watch Phantom through Revenge, we wouldn't understand that Vader was a tragic, misunderstood creature who just wanted to do glorious things, gain power and save his wife, only to be manipulated and transformed into pure evil. In Hope through Jedi, he tries to fight off that evil and gain back what he once was. Another example is the Emperor. If we didn't watch Phantom through Revenge, we wouldn't understand that it was Palpatine who fooled the people of the republic, started the Clone Wars and used many good hearted people to gain maximum supremacy and take over the galaxy with a shadowy veil. In Hope through Jedi, we see his power decline as the Rebel Alliance steps in, starting a war that would eventually lead to Vader's tranformation back into Anakin Skywalker and Palpatine's overall demise. It's all part of an artistic way of telling tales. In most tales, there is a rise and a fall, although in Anakin's case, there is a rise and a fall and a rise again. Anakin symbolizes the republic in many ways. He rises just like the republic does at the end of The Phantom Menace, and he begins to fall just like the republic in Attack of the Clones, and finally in Revenge of the Sith, he ultimately falls and becomes a dark overlord, just like the republic falls and becomes a hideous empire. Throughout A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Anakin tries to fight off his evil persona and rise to his prime once more, just like the Rebel Alliance tries enviously to fight off the vicious forces of the Emperor's Empire. It's good versus evil at it's highest. Then in Return of the Jedi, we see Anakin rise from his dark pool of evilness and destroy the Emperor, just like the Rebels destroy the Empire by blowing away the second Death Star.The republic is restored, the jedi are reactivated, and Anakin Skywalker is finally set free. If we didn't watch Phantom through Revenge, we wouldn't fully understand that whole rise and fall and rise again concept, for we are only getting half of Anakin Skywalker's journey from good to evil to good again.

When I watch all six Star Wars films in order, I realize that they not only follow the philosophy of Joseph Campbell spot on, but also the ethics and principals present in many Shakespeare plays, particularly the prequel trilogy. The prequel trilogy is something ghastly in the eyes of many Star Wars purists nowadays, but I like to think of it as a way of telling a Shakespeare tragedy with as many spaceships, laser swords and tongue wobbling gungans as possible. Anakin Skywalker's story is tragic and with the prequels, we see how that tragedy kicked off. He starts out as a junk slave living on the sands of Tatooine, a junk slave with dreams as big as moons. He is ambitious and wants to do great things like free all the slaves and become a jedi. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn sees potentional in this boy and after winning a pod race, Anakin travels with Qui-Gon and his party to the planet Coruscant, the heart of the republic and home of the jedi temple. Although the jedi disapprove of training the boy in the ways of the force, Qui-Gon vows to train the boy and teach him everything there is to know. He is the Chosen One, he is the one who will bring the force back to its proper level as the jedi prophecy once stated. Then, untimely, Qui Gon is killed by Darth Maul, and Qui-Gon's student, Obi-Wan Kenobi assumes the role of Anakin's master at Qui-Gon's request. At the end of the Phantom Menace, we see Anakin in his jedi attire for the first time, ready to face the challenges and "hard life" of being a jedi knight. His dreams have come true.

10 years later, as we see in Attack of the Clones, Anakin is in a pickle. He is constantly torn apart because of his dream, because of his love for Padme, and most importantly, because of his lust for dominance and power. He is willing to do everything, and after the death of his mother at the hands of the tusken raiders, we see that downfall emerge in Anakin's soul. He's not Vader yet, but he has started down that path that will conclude by the end of Revenge of the Sith. He takes that lightsaber and runs it through the necks of many sand people, and he even takes out the children as well. As his emotions go haywire, he reveals to his lover what he has done, vowing to become the most powerful jedi ever and vowing to find a way to stop people from dying. It was at this moment in the film that Anakin is much like a character of Shakespeare as well as a character of tearjerking Greek literature. He's angry, he's power hungry, he's lustful and he's arrogant, just like Achilles from the Iliad.

This ultimately proves his undoing by Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin falls into temptation as well as fear. He wants power and he wants to use that power to save his wife from dying in childbirth. Along comes the sinister, cunning Palpatine who acts much like the serpant in the garden of Eden. He offers Anakin a chance to harness these abilities and become an ultimate weapon of power, and giving into his offer, Anakin falls and becomes Darth Vader, a consuming envelope of evil. Vader eats Anakin alive and fills his inners with hatred and obedience, obedience to one controlling demon, the newly rising Emperor. So Anakin goes on a jedi killing spree throughout the jedi temple and goes onto slaughter his master's previous associates. But as Anakin reveals to his wife that he has the power to save her and the power to conquer the galaxy with might, she doesn't believe him and says that he's changed. In fury, Anakin chokes his wife which eventually leads to her death. All that hard work, the turn to the dark side, the slaughtering of many innocent, the burning by the lava river which puts him in the life support suit, it was all for nothing, he killed his wife anyway because he couldn't control what he turned to the dark side to control. And when he burns by that lava river, his humanity, his previous state, his potential of becoming the most powerful jedi ever is wasted away. He later becomes a cyborg, robotic menace of the empire, fighting throughout the original films to gain back what was lost all those years ago. He wants to be Anakin Skywalker again. It harkens back to old tales of Shakespeare like Macbeth, showing how one man's thirst for dominance ultimately leads him to become a monster and an inhuman psychopath.

Throughout the original films, Vader struggles enviously to find his previous self, giving into his master's wishes and doing many ghastly things like blowing up planets, choking captains and cutting his own jedi master down. Then, along comes his long lost son, Luke Skywalker, the one he thought died along with his mother nearly 20 years earlier. Luke is given options. He could kill his father and end his reign or join his father and continue to rule the galaxy with poison. Luke chooses neither of these options and instead creates a new option entirely. He senses his father's struggle to break free from the chains. He senses Anakin Skywalker's struggle to break free from Vader's grasp. He senses the good trying to overpower the evil. So he decides to try and redeem his father, and when he is shocked by the Emperor's prudent lightning bolts, Anakin wards off Vader's envelope once and for all and he is able to desecrate the Emperor, putting the force back into balance like the jedi prophecy said and saving the galaxy from a terrible decline. Anakin Skywalker rose to power as a jedi, fell as a sith and rose again as the powers of his jedi might resurfaced. He was able to find himself, although he died shortly after, but he found what he was trying to find throughout the entire original trilogy. His journey was complete and he was restored as a young ghost through the force. He was back to the way things were beforehand.

And when we avoid Episodes 1-3, we can't complete the circle of Anakin's journey, we can't understand the meaning of what his character is trying to get out to the audience. Star Wars has to be watched in order to be understood, just like the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings series, even the Godfather films should be watched in order if the full story is to be brought forward. The series, in my opinion, is a perfect example of how storytellers try and make their tales worth wild for the audience and when we watch it in the order it's supposed to be watched in, all the meanings, all the morals and values and rhythms are enhanced. They mean so much more, the characters, the settings, and the overall feelings, they all feel so much more important and symbolic in so many refined ways.
There should be no splitting of the trilogies, there should be no prequel or original trilogy. It's one series, one story, it's one Star Wars, and we can enjoy it so much more when we watch it in chronological order, for things are straightened out, aligned and layed out flat so all people, even the younglings can understand it.

May the force be with all Star Wars....and with you! All stories come in different shapes and sizes, and if we look into them with a different view, we can see many glorious things we have never layed eyes on before.

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