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