Friday, 27 May 2011

Favourite Films on Fridays: #30, Return of The Jedi

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Toys.

There's an accusation often levelled at Star Wars, especially in its latter incarnations, that the films are just big toy adverts. Meanwhile, there are people whose main relationship with Star Wars is the toys, to insane extents.

I'd argue: that's the joy of the Star Wars films. Backgrounds can be filled with one-off character designs. Unnamed things: squid-faced guards, furry spider-monsters, women you can't quite put your finger on what's odd about them...

It's why so many people have relationships with Star Wars that extend far beyond the six hours of cinema it comprises. Why there's such a craving for stories set in its universe. Why Star Wars dominated the imaginations of kids on playground three decades after it came out. Why there's a toy of Bossk the reptilian bounty hunter who appears in Empire for approximately three seconds, and why people collect them.

...That's what I reckon, anyway.

By sheer quantity of stuff, Star Wars manages to feel immediately lived-in. Not everything is of equal quality, and there's no definitive aesthetic (look at the devil-man from New Hope for evidence of that). But's that's how the world is, right?

And so Bossk ends up with not only a name, and a species (Trandoshan), but a fleshed-out language (Dosh) that provides the meaning of his name ('Devours His Prey', which seems a little on the nose, frankly) and a full history. All from a quick glance.

This is perfect for those who want to escape, to hide in a world. What our, real world would cruelly label 'geeks'. There's so much crammed in that you're practically invited to find your own niche in this long-ago, far-away universe. The films obviously predates Wikipedia, but they feel like they were designed for each other. Each snapshot glimpse practically begs to be filled in.

For me, however, they remain more pleasing as teases, encouraging your imagination to do the rest. I've been there, in my adolescence: awkward-sideburn-deep in dusty encyclopedias of a fictional historical world. But these days, I just don't want to know: Boba Fett escaping the stomach of the Sarlaac (which, by the way, had just undergone a painful divorce), to be the last remaining piece of his cloned-thin DNA in the universe undermines some of the power of the character for me now.

Maybe it was the difficult lessons taught by the prequels, and pop-culture that took its cues from these films, stuff like Lost. Maybe it was just growing up. But I appreciate that the detail is there, even if it's just to give my lobes a little tickle with each new, surprising piece of sensory overload. And I won't begrudge anyone whatever they want to get from it either.
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(...Unless they're Geoff, of course.

Incidentally, I realised I talked about the trilogy as a whole here, and in fact explicitly referred to the other two films. There's so much other stuff which is great about this film - the speed and physicality of the action sequences, the instant iconic power of certain moments, great trashy dialogue... But you know all that already, surely, and besides, it's impossible to think of the trilogy as separate entities nowadays. Return of The Jedi is just the zenith of all this for me. Consider the Ewok, my friend. Consider the Ewok.)

2 comments:

Christian O. said...

The thing about the good Star Wars films is that they allude to these details, but don't revolve around them. Patton Oswalt has a good bit about the Prequels, where he pretty succintly demolishes them with a quick metaphor. "Oh, so I heard you like ice cream - well, here's a big bag of rock salt!"

Alex said...

That's exactly it! The details are just there, for you to take or leave as you wish.

...This all stems from an argument with my housemate, the alluded-to Geoff, about his habit of adding "and of course Chewbacca is the oldest character IN Star Wars, and they never tell you he dated Han's mom" and this sort of thing.

And I was trying to work out why that felt so crappy, it being stuff I used to know.

I think the thing I didn't mention is, Star Wars' aesthetic is right on this precipice between being Totally Awesome and being Pretty Lame. And if you just play it cool, it works, but when you push this guy as a full character, it just fails.

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