Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Evil Empire

I am not a huge Star Wars fan - which is to say, when the first film came out, back in the seventies, I and my friends went nuts. I couldn't tell you how many times we went to see that movie - we'd never seen anything like it before, and we couldn't get enough. Star Wars seemed like the first film for our generation of youths and adolescents. Who knew it would prove to be a template for an endless succession of mediocre space shoot 'em ups?

After that first film, it was diminishing returns for me. Yeah, I know the second movie is supposed to be the best one, but when I saw it, I was annoyed by the cliffhanger and thought the warmed-over Zen schtick was kind of silly. By the third movie, forget it. Between the spear-waving koalas living in the Marin redwoods, formerly dead people reappearing with blue haloes around them to fill in essential plot points, and dialog like, "Join the Dark Side!" "No, I won't join the Dark Side!", I was done.

So I didn't even go to see the two newer films. They looked pretty dumb. The third film, Revenge of the Sith, looked promising, however. And one of the advantages of being an entertainment industry drone is that I do have frequent opportunities to see movies for free. Sometimes, even during my working day. Which, if you think about it, kind of means I'm getting paid to see them.

So anyway, when the opportunity to see Revenge of the Sith came up this week, I decided to go for it. I even managed to squeeze in a viewing of Phantom Menace the day before (it was on broadcast TV). Boy, that is one bad movie. It really is. But it helped set the bar pretty low for my viewing of "Sith."

Revenge of the Sith
is not a perfect film. George Lucas can't write dialog very well; nor can he direct actors. You're on your own, guys! And there are silly things throughout, like: an asthmatic robot General. I'm sorry, how can a robot have asthma? Are there no robot inhalers?

But still...there is a grandeur to this film. The sets, the effects - they really do create an all-encompassing world - series of worlds, more accurately. Some of the scenes are stunningly beautiful.

But what was really resonating just a bit too much for me were the film's themes. Not so much the "how does a good man become a bad man?" one. The "how does a good government, a republic, devolve into an evil Empire?" part. The part where the rule of law is subverted, where we are told to sacrifice freedom for security, "in defense of democracy."

It got pretty obvious as the movie went on. Darth turns way bad and threatens: "You're either with me, or you're my enemy." By the time we reach a climactic battle between Good and Evil in the august Senate chamber, all that was going through my head was: "My god! It's the nuclear option! May the Force protect the filibuster!"

I'm far from the only one to have noticed these parallels. The New York Times and the Washington Post both cover the story at length, including reactions from the foreign press ("Agence France Presse reports that the movie delivers "a galactic jab to US President George W. Bush," according to the Post). Lucas himself has done little to dispel this impression, says the Times piece:
Alluding to Michael Moore's remarks about "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Cannes a year earlier, Mr. Lucas joked, "Maybe the film will waken people to the situation."

Apparently in all seriousness, though, he went on to say that he had first devised the "Star Wars" story during the Vietnam War. "The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable," he told an appreciative audience.
Naturally, the Right wing blogosphere is going nuts, with calls to boycott the film (to which I can only say, "good luck with that, guys") and much opprobrium over Lucas' daring to criticize our Dear Leader.

Now this is what gets me: why is it that Bush's hardcore supporters are so quick to see Lucas' movie as a criticism of Bush? I mean, if we are fighting for democracy and keeping the Homeland safe from terrorists, these are good things, right? Why aren't these guys saying, "hey, this movie isn't about our President and our America? It's about, you know, ancient Rome! The Soviet Union! Those evil empires!"

Instead, they take it as a given that Lucas intends a critique of Bush and the United States. I find this peculiar. Have they so little faith in their cause?

Or do they, on some level, deep down somewhere, fear that Lucas is right?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lucas is in the fantasy business taps into this media generated myth about big bad government that never can't do no right. For fuck's sake girl you and you ilks are living in a dream that never seem to end, perhaps it's the only place where you get to see things that you prefer to happen, do.
Grow up, quit sounding like a MTV high school type

Other Lisa said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Other Lisa said...

Actually I consider my immaturity as part of my charm...

Anonymous said...

This is the trouble with your kind always seeking approval from a worldwide audience. If it's the universal cool in thing to do to ridicule certain public figures, you don't care if what is being said is true or not so long as you think you have the world perception on your side and you come out of it as noble and adorable like a certain famously fat individual. Sure you can always collect your charm credits by hating what most of the rest of the world think they should hate.

Other Lisa said...

Er...what?

Afraid I'm not following your argument, dear Anonymous...

If you're referring to my hatred of Bush, I'd still hate him even if no one gave me charm credits.

Hey, where are my charm credits, anyway? And what can I get with them?

Anonymous said...

My argument friend lisa is you let your hatred get the better of you makes you irrational. Makes you overlook the essentials of human strivings and rules of survival. Lucas and his Hollywood buddies made hugh piles to a large extent thanks to the third world who by the way can hardly understand English but flock to the films nonetheless. You derides American power, say what's happening now is excessive to put it mildly, please by all means do fill in stronger terms as you see fit; but do you seriously believe without this said projection of power in whatever fashion(you may call it aggression or things worse)
the Hollywood BS crowd can peddle their products; are you the kind that thinks the rest of the world reflectively love what Hollywood or other in the western art sets give them in a language they don't speak as their first language yet are told is important to learn. You may say aggressive marketing but markrting or its various commercial cousins don't just happen in a vaccum. You must think Mikey Moore(since you mention him on your post) and his pals got to get rich at the expense of the third world cinemagoers simply because they are charming creatures .

zhadi said...

Anonymous, your arguments are poorly presented and incoherent. You don't have to agree with Lisa's take on the goverment's reaction to the film, but it takes someone living in a fantasy world to completely deny it. Hollywood filmmakers, while undeniably annoying at times, are not the bad guys here. And they certainly have not shaped the world's largely negative perception of our current Administration and their actions. Bush and company have done that quite well on their own.

Other Lisa said...

Anon,

Whoah. Where in the world did you get all of that from what I wrote? Are we reading the same post? Starting from the supposed "michael moore" reference - I was quoting from the NY Times and their account of Lucas at Cannes. I personally haven't said one word about him or F9/11, anywhere on this blog.

If you want to talk about American cultural & economic imperialism, fine, and I probably would agree with you on a lot of that, but that's not what I was writing about (and if you are interested in continuing this discussion, why not leave your name?). The fact that Lucas has made a pile of money from moviegoers around the world doesn't put him on a par with an American president who invades a sovereign country on demonstratedly false pretenses and an administration that consistently ignores the sentiments of half of the American electorate.

A significant percentage of people all around the world like American movies, and I don't think they're being forced to watch them, all arguments of cultural imperialism to the contrary. Now this cultural exchange is starting to flow the other way - people all over the world love Hong Kong action movies, for example.

I personally prefer small foreign films (did I mention I'm not a Star Wars fan?), but that's just me.

Other Lisa said...

Besides, Zhadi, Anon promised me charm credits, and I still haven't gotten any...

zhadi said...

I will give you charm credits! They're in your account as of now.

Jing said...

Lisa, don't feed the trolls. Anyways I agree, the new Star Wars movie wasn't that good. I even wrote about it in my blog, in between the posts about nuclear weapons and international politics. :)

Other Lisa said...

I know, Jing, I know, but he suckered me with those charm credits...

Anonymous said...

Sheesh, I was just going to say you should check out Anthony Lane's review of the movie in The New Yorker, but some people get bent all out of shape looking for any teeny tiny instance of alleged Darth Bush-bashing (oops, sorry).

Other Lisa said...

Oh, HEE HEE HEE, I am still laughing over said New Yorker review - read it here - http://tinyurl.com/89zt8

I am totally in agreement with Anthony Lane about Yoda. I do not need a muppet zen master on screen this long...

Actually, the only amusing response I heard to the whole Darth Bush angle was a guy from the Weekly Standard on NPR who made a case for why we should support the Empire - a meritocracy that brings stability to the galaxy, you know...