George Lucas took Star Wars to the dark side. Can JJ Abrams bring it back?

Published: October 23, 2015
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Abrams promised to bring balance to the force by finding harmony between special effects and the narrative.

At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker faces off against his father, Darth Vader, under the watchful eye of the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious. Initially, Luke tries his best not to engage with Vader in combat, not only in the hopes of pulling his father from the clutches of evil, but to shield himself from the intoxicating draw of the dark side.

Darth Sidious,

“Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you!”

Eventually,  Vader breaks through Luke’s mental defences,

“So, you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the Dark Side… then perhaps she will.”

Caught in a fit of rage at the thought of Leia falling to the dark side, as Sidious laughs menacingly in the background, Luke attacks Vader with the power of the force flowing through him.

Finally, Luke brings Vader down, slicing his father’s weapon hand off. Here, he is beckoned by the cackling Sidious to end Vader,

“Good. Your hate has made you powerful. Now… fulfil your destiny. Take your father’s place at my side.”

His face twisted into a mask of confusion and anger, this is the closest Luke has been to falling to the dark side of the Force. As he listens to the emperor’s spellbinding words, he is ready to kill this part-man, part-machine, lying at his feet.

But then Luke notices something.

He glances at his own hand, which in a previous battle had been sliced off by his father, later replaced by a mechanical limb, and then stares, at his father’s missing appendage, from where wires and smoke sprout now.

Luke breathes, coming to a realisation. As Vader turned to the dark side and casted away his humanity, he lost his mortal limbs, eventually becoming more unfeeling machine than flesh.

Luke won’t let history repeat itself,

“Never. I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”

Like so many of you, I grew up watching Star Wars. The ultimate battle between good and evil, the saga has been near and dear to my heart, even till today. Not a year passes by, where I watch both the original and the new prequel trilogies in a single day marathon.

The original trilogy, although several decades old, thanks to fantastic re-mastering, stands up as the greatest cinematic trilogy of our time. Had Francis Ford Coppola not messed up Godfather III, perhaps he would have earned this honour instead.

As any fan will tell you, George Lucas’s second Star Wars trilogy pales in comparison to the original. Although it features far superior special effects, it lacks the heart and soul of the first trilogy. Nothing exemplifies this more than how the force is described in the prequels. Whereas in the older saga, Obi-Wan explains to Luke that it is a mystical energy, which surrounds the universe, in the newer films, it is described as the result of midichlorian, which are microorganisms found inside living beings.

On my last Star Wars marathon, I began to notice the similarities between Lucas and Vader himself.

After bringing us the fantastic first original three films, where the filmmaker found an enthralling balance between storytelling and special effects, Lucas began to fall to the cold dark side of technology. Initially, he only re-mastered the first trilogy, in a move welcomed by fans.

But slowly, much like Vader, Lucas began to lose his humanity to his addiction. Like Vader, the rabidly awaited prequel trilogy lacked heart. Actors of the prequels now reveal how they were confused by their roles as they were not offered much in the way of direction, and there was nothing in front of the green screen to clue them in.

No, for Lucas, the narrative was now secondary. It was almost as if he could not wait to end filming so the process of adding in mouth-watering special effects could commence.

Sadly, Lucas’s appetite for special effects was insatiable. He soon turned his emperor-like fingers towards the original trilogy. Not content with simply re-mastering the classic series, he relentlessly began adding new effects, corrupting the soul of the beloved movies in the process.

The circle was now complete. Much like Vader, Lucas had given in to the dark side. Here, instead of the Force, it was special effects, and rather than Vader, it was Star Wars that had lost its soul.

New at the helm, JJ Abrams is a diehard fan of the series; he directed the rebooted Star Trek films as if they were Star Wars. Tasked with taking Star Wars forward, Abrams promised to bring balance to the force by finding harmony between special effects and the narrative.

He has so far more than lived up to this vow. Behind the scenes footage reveals good old fashioned set design, where alien creatures and robots are once again tangible.

Perhaps this is why the trailers of The Force Awakens is being received so emotionally by the countless Star Wars fans. I must confess that I too have reached for the tissue on occasion, while viewing the various previews. Yes, Abrams, it seems like you are putting the heart back into Star Wars.

Many fans believe Return of the Jedi was titled as such for Luke’s journey, but this is not so. No, it was Vader who made a return to the light side as Anakin Skywalker. We can only hope that The Force Awakens is a return to the light side for the saga.

Only time will tell, but we can sense the force is strong with this one.

But the expectations are high. As Yoda would say,

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

May the force be with you… 

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Vegetable Man

    “The original trilogy, although several decades old, thanks to fantastic
    re-mastering, stands up as the greatest cinematic trilogy of our time.
    Had Francis Ford Coppola not messed up Godfather III, perhaps he would have earned this honour instead.”

    I think its unwise to compare Star Wars to the Godfather, a better comparison would be against Lord of the Rings, as that too is a battle between good and evil in a fantasy setting. (Although LOTR wins that one easily)

    And speaking of good and evil, Star Wars lost the battle between good and evil when George Lucas decided that instead of making good movies, he should make ones that will sell the most number of action figures.

    Also, when you say Godfather III was messed up, i have to ask… wasn’t Return of the Jedi completely messed up? In fact the decline in the quality of Star Wars can trace its roots to ROTJ… Ewoks defeating what the Emperor called “An entire legion of my best troops”… followed by the surrender of the entire imperial fleet…

    Another fun fact from Return of the Jedi is the conversation between Leia and Luke in which Luke asks “Do you remember your mother, your real mother?” and she responds with a “Yes, images really, she was Kind, beautiful but a little sad”… odd considering that according to the new trilogy, Padme died just after child birth (lost the will to live apparently… that’s another good one…)

    Yes, A New Hope was good and Empire Strikes Back was Incredible… but Return of the Jedi is quite terrible and the less said about the prequels the better…
    I suppose one of the reasons the prequels sux so bad, is we were left for over a decade to fill in the gaps and make use of our own imagination as to why Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader… with just subtle clues from the Trilogy (mostly comments from both Obiwan and Vader himself)… but George Lucas completely screwed up… its as if he made no serious attempt at developing either a proper script or any meaningful story… and considering how well LOTR and even the Dark Knight showed the fight between good and evil… George Lucas should be seriously embarrassed with what he has done.

    Anyway, i look forward to The Force Awakens… anything will be better than ‘Are you an Angel”….Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was an intense read…….but I’ll wait and see what Sheldon, Leonard, Raj or Howard has to say on this and if even Penny remains silent then I’ll know you’ve got it wrong.Recommend

  • Brutus

    Well, all that your blog did to me is to rekindle my memories of the greatest sci-fi trilogy of my prime youthful days. I vividly remember, watching one of this great series in a theater with my girlfriend, while she slept soundly next to me, I was worried about the reaction of the Jabba the Hutt!
    Anyway, I would wholeheartedly welcome if this great epic is remade or recreated, the only condition is that while meeting the demands and expectations of the modern contemporary era, the new movie makers shouldn’t tamper too much with the lovely, legendary, iconic and unforgettable characters that the original makers of this movie had created.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    hahaha it took me a second to get it. Yeah I am a geek.Recommend