break me a f’n give

25 May 2005, 10:25 am

So I finally read Anthony Lane’s New Yorker Review of the new SW movie. (Link valid as of 25 May 2005; beware of link rot.)

I’m intrigued that one of Lane’s gripes — besides little things like theme, plot, acting, and syntax strange the Yoda of — is that apparently the Lucasverse looks too antiseptic for Lane’s taste.

It was striking how lived-in the environment of the first (1977) SW looked. (I seem to recall both critics giving Lucas cred for this and Lucas crowing about it in interviews, although the cause-and-effect relationship there is obscure). But the jawa’s robots were rusty and dented, Luke’s landspeeder was all beat up (and his garage was a mess), and the rebel spaceships looked like they’d seen much better years. When Luke first saw the Millenium Falcon, his delivery of the words “What a piece of junk!” was less cringe-worthy than most of his performance. The imperial equipment was gleaming and spit-polished, of course, but that was in sharp contrast to everything else.

I haven’t seen any of the SW films from this millennium, and after reading Lane I’m not sure I will (I had been thinking about giving the new one a shot, and, against my better judgement, might yet).

But I wonder to what extent the pervasive antiseptic quality Lane describes is a product of Lucas’ quest to eliminate actors, sets, and props from filmmaking. I remember my response when Pirate Rick first showed me his 3D animation of an aircraft carrier landing — I told him it looked too shiny and pretty. (I think I even referenced the Death Star from the first SW movie as a comparison.) The look he gave me would have filthied-up a whole fleet of aircraft carriers. In the end I got my beat-up aircraft carrier, and I think even Rick thought it looked better. But I learned that making digital renderings look credibly grubby is way, way harder than making them look purty.

Villains named Grievous and Sidious? Sheesh. Dark + Death = Darth was transparent, but it least it involved combining two words, which must take a fraction more brain power. I wonder if all of the Sith are supposed to have to have names with lopped-off “in”s?

  • Darth Stigation
  • Darth Terloper
  • Darth Vitation
  • Darth Terferon
  • Darth Telligence

(I know, I know . . . there was a “Darth Maul” (also a f’n stoopid name), but there’s no such word as “inmaul.” Quit harshing my buzz. Maybe there is such a word in the Lucasverse.)

6 comments on “break me a f’n give”

  1. editrix

    You are so Darth Souciant!

  2. Flasshe

    Haven’t read the Lane review yet, but I think it makes sense the prequel universe is more antiseptic than the 20 years later empire vs. rebel alliance universe is, doesn’t it? Lots can happen in 20 years, and the rebels were forced to use older broken-down stuff, unlike the two sides in the Clone Wars. Not to give Lucas too much credit, but maybe he was showing how quickly things can go downhill once you switch from a democracy to a dictatorship.

  3. summervillain

    Flasshe — mmaybe, but I still agree with Lane that it’s fundamentally more satisfying if the milieu looks like people actually Darth Habit it. I don’t buy that ultra-pristine = free and prosperous and shabby = poor and oppressed. Doesn’t work for me. Although maybe that is the way Lucas thinks. Hrm.
    Btw, the Lane piece is pretty funny — I really do recommend it.

  4. Flasshe

    I did finally read the Lane review, and yes, it’s funny. Not sure I agree with every point, but he does make some good ones. I too really wondered why the Jedis (as embodied by Yoda) are supposed to have all feelings and attachments bred out of them. That seems more like the fascist way of doing things than the supposedly more enlightened Jedi way (aka A World Without Love). Although it does make it easier to sympathize with Anakin and his turn to the Sith.

  5. 2fs

    I’ve always thought Lucas’s (and his writers’) sense of language was atrocious: there was no rhythm, no sense of coherence, to his fake names. Definitely one of the weaker aspects of the whole Lucas mythos.

  6. summervillain

    2fs —
    Y’know, I didn’t actually think so in the first movie. “(in)Vader” was pretty transparent, and “Han Solo” was maybe a bit too obvious, but I liked how many of the names fused cultures together, and how the variation between names hinted at a polyglot culture. cf “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” with echoes of Asian and African (not to mention Pig Latin), and its quasi-recursive structure. Or Skywalker, which sounds distinctly Native American. “Governer Tarkin,” on the other hand, sounded suitably flat and hard without overdoing it too much. It seemed like a good match with Lucas’ plundering of assorted mythic archetypes.
    Even in the second flick I thought “Lando Calrissian” was a pleasantly flamboyant coinage, but even by then things seemed to be trending toward the over-obvious. I don’t remember if they used the term “Ugnaught” for in that movie or just in toys/trading cards/etc., but it’s pretty unforgivable either way.
    Ugh! Your score, Mr. Lucas: naught.


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