So we have finally reached the end! Well, almost the end. We’re going to wrap the series up next week. BUT… I have saved the best for last. This is the mistake I think was biggest of them all. Even if the Prequels had been terrible as movies, but THIS had been fixed, they would have gone down in Sci Fi history the same as the Originals.
So wthout further ado.
What made me fall in love with Star Wars as a kid was Jedi.
The Force, lightsabers, just the idea alone of knights with mystical powers in a SCI FI setting was SOO AWESOME to me.
There was this WHOLE mythos that the Originals only make vague reference to about the past of the Star Wars universe. The Age of the Jedi. Even though you had only just been introduced to the fantastical new world, learning that you were coming in at the end of an even MORE fantastical era just made your imagination go wild.
What was the galaxy like when it was full of Obi Wans and lightsaber fights and there was a whole society of jedi constantly acting as Guardians of the Peace?
That mystique and its sense of wonder made the Jedi one of the best executed worldbuilding concepts EVER, in my opinion.
Then, they announced the Prequels.
I remember vividly when I first heard about the Prequels. Well, not when I first heard about them, but when I first realized what they meant.
I was sitting in a theatre for some other movie, watching the coming attractions. A trailer came on for a sci fi movie.
Didn’t really know what I was seeing at first.
Sci Fi setting.
OMG the music. THAT MUSIC.
ANAKIN? Did he say ANAKIN???
“Anakin Skywalker meet…”
They showed Darth Maul’s double-sided lightsaber.
And I lost it.
I LOST IT.
BRING ME A BODY BAG!
I realized I would FINALLY be able to see this amazing past I’d been yearning to see since I’d been introduced to the series. That EPIC past full of jedis and darths and lightsaber battles. DOUBLE SIDED LIGHTSABERS AHHHHHHHHH!!!
I was ready for ALL the lightsaber battles. Jedi fending off like a THOUSAND blaster bolts at one VOOM VOOM VOOM SHSKKSH SHKSSSK!!!
JEDI VS DARK JEDI (sith? who dat?)!
NEW Jedi characters! NEW OBI WANS AND YODAS!!!
FORCE CHOKING AND PUSHING AND LIGHTING ALL OVER THE PLACE SHOOM SHOOM SHOOM SHOOM!
YODA–OMG YODA USING A LIGHTSABER!!!
I WAS READY FOR NON STOP JEDI AWESOMENESS!
And what did I get?
Non-stop Jedi awesomeness. All the lightsaber battles. Jedi fending off like a thousand blaster bolts at once. Jedi vs Dark Jedi. New Jedi characters. Force choking and pushes and lighting all over the place. Yoda using a lightsaber. I even got a new Yoda…
I got three movies FILLED with ALL the stuff I wanted. ALL the stuff I loved.
And did it make me happy?
Allow me to tell you a story about ice cream:
Once upon a time, a mom gave her kid ice cream and he was like THIS IS THE BEST EVER I WANT THIS FOR DINNER EVERY NIGHT!!!!!
So she gave it to him for dinner every night.
And was he happy?
Now don’t get me wrong, ice cream is GREAT! And just because ice cream for dinner ruins it for you doesn’t mean it isn’t a veritable TITAN among dessert foods. But certain things need a framework, a mystique, a reverence, in order for their greatness to truly shine.
The Jedi and Ice Cream have that in common.
And George Lucas made the mistake of feeding us Jedi for dinner every night.
In the Prequels, that is.
In the Originals? NOT SO.
I’m going to go through how Jedi were presented in the Originals just to show you the care the concept was given. (Then we’re going to rant about how jedi were overused in the Prequels.)
Jedi as Presented in the Originals
The Originals started without us knowing about Jedi at all. When we did learn about it, it was presented as something ancient and esoteric. It was something we felt lucky to even know about, since that era had long passed.
We shared Luke’s wonder at seeing a lightsaber for the first time.
We were told about this Force of enormous power in the universe, but we were only exposed to it in hints, small uses that demonstrated how mighty this Force must be.
Then we met Yoda, and we learned more of what the Force IS. Having to wait for that really make it really MEAN something to us. We see the importance of Jedi to Luke’s character in achieving what he’s striving for, but the Force as a concept is really only still emerging in the Star Wars world for us.
Then comes Return of the Jedi.
And we meet the Emperor.
I don’t know about you, but I forgot Empires needed Emperors. And THEN suddenly I was introduced to THE Emperor of THE Empire: the root of ALL THE EVIL our heroes had been trying to fight since the story began. And what was he?
Was he a space pirate like Han Solo?
Was he a princess like Leia?
Was he a wookie?
He was a DARK JEDI.
A dark Jedi like Darth Vader, who we already had a healthy respect and fear for.
And it was THIS dark Jedi who has been manipulating EVERYTHING from the beginning with his knowledge of the Force.
I want to emphasize this point:
All this evil of the Empire WAS NOT just coming from a corrupt government.
It was coming from an EXTREMELY POWERFUL DARK JEDI.
It was ALL born from the Dark Side of the Force.
This ancient esoteric Force thing we’d been hearing about–it was never just Luke and Obi Wan and Vader doing their own thing on the sidelines. Even prior to Luke coming into the picture, it had never been Obi Wan fighting a solitary war against an indifferent enemy that barely acknowledged him and the esoteric religion he stood for.
Obi Wan’s fight, Luke’s fight–Light against Dark, The War of the Force–THAT had been the true fight ALL ALONG.
Luke’s journey, his learning of the Force didn’t accidentally allow him to destroy the Death Star. That had been the ONLY WAY to EVER fight the Empire. That battle has always been the Light side of the Force against the Dark side. That was ONLY hope the good guys had from the start.
So looking at the movies as a whole, the Force goes from being this SMALL MYSTERIOUS THING to something we see as IMPORTANT TO OUR HEROES to what we see as the DRIVING FORCE FOR EVERYTHING HAPPENING AROUND US–up until now AND going forward.
And all the little things add up to giving us this impression:
There’s not constant light saber fighting. It’s something that is built up to. Something we come to savor. Something we grow to have a real reverence for.
We don’t immediately see the Force being used to lift a whole ship. We see Vader using what amounts to a little trick of the Force to choke someone. We see Luke lifting his lightsaber.
We’re led to those things gradually, allowing our emotional relationship to build as the philosophical importance of the Force slowly grows in our minds.
THAT is what makes us think the Force is so cool.
THAT is what makes us think Jedi are so cool.
If it hadn’t been done that way, lightsabers, Jedi, the Force, ALL of it would have been lame.
What would be different BAD way to do it?
How could Jedi have been presented in a way that RUINS the mystique?
Well, say the Originals had presented the Jedi like THIS:
What if what the Force is and why it’s important IS NOT MENTIONED ONCE IN ANY OF THE PREQUELS.
What if we were so overloaded with lightsabers deflecting blasters and slicing up droids and swordfight scenes that we almost WANT to see blaster-only shootouts because there ARE FEWER OF THOSE IN THE PREQUELS THAN LIGHTSABER FIGHTS!
The WORST thing Lucas could have done to lightsabers was make them more commonplace than blasters and THAT is what he did.
There used to be a sense of “AHHHHHHHH OMG!!!” when someone’s hand got cut off by a lightsaber. It was a special moment. A moment we can to treasure.
In the Prequels?
Left and right!
Seriously, by the time that happens to Anakin, we are COMPLETELY desensitized to it.
There’s no RESPECT! NO RESPECT FOR A GOOD LIGHTSABER AMPUTATION ANYMORE YA RUTTIN KIDS! I TELL YOU IN MY DAY! IN MY DAY!
JEDI MIND TRICKS became PUNCHLINES FOR GOODNESS SAKES!
There’s a WAY to build up a character that is touted as being the strongest!
(AHEM AHEM COUGHCOUGHCOUGHCOUGH…)
You’re SUPPOSED to tease us with it! You’re SUPPOSED to give us situations when that character SHOULD react violently but he refrains and holds back. And then!
Finally. After waiting and waiting, we get A TASTE! an awesome supercharged HINT of this character’s power, based solely on this short tiny demonstration. But if THAT was JUST a little demonstration AHHHHH! OMGLOB! AND THEN… ONLY THEN! AT THE END. WE GET TO SEE HIM GO ALL OUT. (Ie this kinda thing:)
Ever wonder why STRIP clubs are a thing and not NUDE clubs? Getting what we want all at once is cool for a VERY short time and DOESN’T leave a lasting impression. That’s what the Yoda fight was like. Like a nude… harlot! YODA YOU… LITTLEGREENWHORE!
Jedi should have been introduced in the Prequels with just as much reverence and mystique as they were in the Originals. We should not have been flooded with Jedi. We should not have been shown all the average mediocre Jedi. And we should DEFINITELY NOT have been shown scenes like Jango randomly killing a Jedi with his blaster:
We don’t want to see how WEAK Jedi are. It’s not what we were led to expect in the Originals and it doesn’t make any interesting point either.
I get that Jedi were very present in the world, but don’t show us that just yet. You don’t have to. And when you do show us, do it with new characters we can come to LOVE as much as we LOVED Obi Wan and Yoda. If you want to introduce other token Jedi later, that’s fine. Completely fine, as long as we get a sense that Jedi in general are as awesome as the jedi we’ve met. And that can ONLY be done with subtlety and mystique.
Otherwise, we’ll think, and WE literally DID end up thinking, “Oh, well still the only Jedi I really like are Obi Wan and Yoda and maaaybe Qui Gon? Probably not. And they were the exceptions. Jedi in general? I don’t know. I like Obi Wan and Yoda as characters, but they no longer form my opinion of jedi cause every other jedi I’ve met is FLAT as FFFU-!” (Basically, this post.)
You ruined Jedi for me, George.
It’s an understandable mistake.
I asked for more.
And you gave me more.
(You should have given us the ice cream we NEEDED, not the ice cream we DESERVED!)