Despite growing up only a few miles from the original Dunkin Donuts, I have uniformly disliked the advertisements for the shop since enjoying the original ‘Time to Make the Donuts’ commercial … not the least reason for which was that ‘Fred the Baker’ looked much like the guy I worked for through high school and for several breaks during college! The reason I mention that I find the most recent ads annoying, and my wife tells me to stop thinking so much.
Over-analysis of movies is pretty much a given, and over the last year or so we have had two great examples: Inception was over-analyzed due to the depth and confusing nature of the story, and Avatar was pulled apart to see whether there was anything original mixed in with the rehashed plot rip-offs and over-the-top CGI.
But is there any movie franchise that has been subject to more analysis than Star Wars?
For years after the original series scholars, film-junkies, and fans all pored over the original material … which ended up leading to loads of analytical writings, not to mention fan fiction and the entire Expanded Universe!
But after the release of the Special Editions in 1997, and then the Prequel Trilogy, most ink (and computer screen space) was spent tearing apart the new films for a focus on delivering CGI-first tales for little kids that were lacking on acting, dialogue or anything else interesting.
Personally, while I acknowledge the many shortcomings of the new movies I also find much to like – to the point of thinking that Revenge of the Sith is an overall better movie than Return of the Jedi.
But I don’t really think about any of the movies that much – in spite of being a big fan since the spring of 1977 I have never considered them more than B-movies, fun but ‘fluff’. But at the Hero Complex blog, Kevin McLeod writes a guest essay about the use of mirror techniques and pattern cognition in the prequel trilogy. Here is a sample:
Gesture mirrors: “Star Wars: Episode IV” begins with a Blockade Runner that has obviously just escaped a blockade, and “Phantom Menace” begins with a (too) similar ship approaching a blockade, willingly entering it. Mirroring begins the trilogy. Even basic plot gestures are mirrored. Vader wants her alive; Sidious wants them dead. And subtly there is a doubling of doom; we meet the trilogy’s central conflict: hooded humans who want to kill one another within the film’s opening seconds (the Jedi and Sidious).
He goes on to say that the use of these mirrors creates a fully formed universe of darkness and light, that the stories of the original movies are made better through the complexities imparted in the prequels.
Some commenters on the blog aren’t buying it, including one that succinctly says:
He might have indeed done all you said above, but it was done in a shoddy manner with cringy dialog. No matter how hard you try, you can’t theorize yourself out of that.
I have watched some or all of the movies time and again through the years, and aside from The Phantom Menace, which I find dreadfully plodding, I can watch all of them straight through and enjoy them. There are cringe-worthy parts in the prequels to be sure – but we all laughed at Mark Hammill’s whiny ‘Tosci station’ dialogue back in ’77 as well.
And while I certainly give the author credit for capturing some interesting nuances in the mirroring effects, many others were so obvious that even the youngest viewers got them on first watch. I mean, so much is made to be sure you see the parallels between Luke and Anakin, the Republic and Empire, Rebels and Sith. The comments to the article are worth reading – aside from the love/hate quick jabs, there are some added insights and tear-downs that do a great job of painting both sides. There is a bit on Amidala versus Palpatine that will definitely have my eyes watching stuff the next time through.
So aside from some obvious awkward sequences, stilted and unnatural dialogue and the occasional wooden performance, do you think that the world laid out in the prequels is deserving of this attention? Do you find the mirroring helpful in demonstrating a world in which good and evil are not so easy to tell apart? Are you buying any of McLeod’s arguments? Let me know!