Unless you live under a space rock, you’ve probably heard that next year, Disney and director JJ Abrams will re-boot the Star Wars saga, first unleashed upon the real world back in the 1970s by George Lucas. If you don’t care about any of that, then I have no idea why you are still reading this. Stop now. Go away. Go back to your much more productive and fulfilling life.
But if you do kind of care a little bit, or if you’re like me and you spent a few years in your childhood scanning the stars, waiting for the Millenium Falcon to land in the football field next to your house and sweep you away to a galaxy far, far away, then I need your help.
I need you to re-post this plea to Disney and George Lucas and anyone else who will listen. Make it go viral. Make them listen. Our message is simple: It’s time to kill Jar-Jar. And please God, it’s time to erase all memory of Midi-Chlorians.
A long time ago, in a galaxy…
Let me explain. The Star Wars universe is a beloved example of what psychologists call a “paracosm.” It’s an imaginary world, a complex make-believe milieu that exists with its own internal logic, its own rules and natural order.
Yes, there are characters — Luke, Han, C-3PO and on and on — but a huge part of the charm and the fascination is that the setting itself feels sort of weirdly real to lots of people. It takes on a life of its own, a shared existence, sort of like Narnia or Middle Earth or Oz.
Even when the original Star Wars movies weren’t so fabulously great, you still felt like you were sort of — going there. Those star destroyers were on there way from someplace, going to someplace. You didn’t know where the hell the “Kessel Run” went, but you wanted to find out.
But after releasing the original trilogy of films, George Lucas began tampering with his paracosm in ways that freaked everybody out, and rightly so. He re-crafted the films, adding bits, changing key sequences, larding on new digital special effects. The “there” of his imagined universe, its texture and tone, became more and more muddled.
Then he produced a series of prequel films that attempted to recast explain much of how his imaginary universe worked. He wanted us to believe that Darth Vader, one of the most evil villains in film history — a guy who murdered children and helped blow up whole planets –was really just sort of a whiny college kid gone wrong.
Then Lucas kept adding more and more weirdly absurd and unfunny characters, including a vaguely racist Rastafarian-themed alien named Jar Jar Binks.
He even ginned up a long, bizarre theological ramble in which the mysterious Force that empowered his Jedi knights turned out to be tiny “Midi-Chlorians,” sort of like sentient, ESP-powered bacteria. It turns out Lucas’ paracosm was being powered by a parasite.
But it’s not to late…
Which brings us to the present moment. Since taking over the Star Wars franchise, Disney has made it clear that many of the things that fans thought they knew about the Star Wars universe might not be true after all. This is, after all, meant to be a re-boot. It’s a chance to freshen the narrative, bring Lucas’s world back to life.
Among fans, this has produced a weird mix of anticipation and anxiety, but I say it offers a huge opportunity. Here’s why. In the lead-up to next year’s release of the brand new Star Wars film, the old movies are being released 3-D, beginning with “The Phantom Menace,” arguably the worst film of the franchise.
Before Phantom Menace hits theaters, Disney and Lucas should collaborate on a radical fix, going through and eliminating or minimizing parts that just sort of suck. The whole Midi-Chlorian speech? That can go altogether without hurting anything. About two-thirds of Jar-Jar, including the scene where he steps in poo. That should get the snip.
They should also axe the most embarrassing, wooden, dead-fish-eye “love” scenes between Anakin and Padme and slash the long minutes of blather about trade talks and embargoes and anything involving legislative maneuvering and filibusters.
Finally, many of the racist voice parts — the Jewish slave-owner, the evil slant-eyed Trade Federation dudes with creepy “Asian” accents, the Jamaican jive of the Gungins — should be re-recorded and dubbed over. Gungans could be passably cool if they weren’t burdened by the blackface patois.
If you don’t think that simply by dubbing in better voice acting you could vastly improve the “prequel” films, check out this hilarious video. It shows what the “real” Darth Vader sounded like. This is the voice of the actual actor playing the big baddy, before James Earl Jones stepped in and made the character work.
See what I’m saying? Do the same thing with the Gungans, make them sound more like people we care about and less like blubbering Smurfs, and you might have yourself a movie. My point is that if you can make horrible changes to the Star Wars, like swapping the ghost of Anakin for the ghost of Vader in “Return of the Jedi,” or making Greedo shoot first in “A new Hope,” you can use the same creative license to clean up your terrible, terrible blunders.
So here’s my fan-boy list of demands. Lop about 15 minutes apiece out of “Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith” and tweak the voice tracks and you’ll launch your series reboot with far better, leaner, more entertaining films. Not perfect, but no longer cringe-inducing baroque messes.
You could also snip out about half of the Ewok scenes. And yeah, please, we beg you, make it so Han shoots first. Don’t you get it? f Han shoots first, he’s bad-ass. If he shoots second, then he’s a sap who got lucky and Greedo goes from being a cold-eyed-killer bounty hunter to a joke who can’t shoot straight at point-blank range.
It’s worth pointing out — as a sop to Lucas’ sensitivities, if nothing else — that this kind of latter-day tweaking and fine-tuning is nothing new for imaginary worlds. JRR Tolkien had to go back and clean up tons of little messes and inconsistencies and wobbly bits in “The Hobbit” and his “Lord of the Rings” novels. CS Lewis wrote each of his Narnia books with no idea that there would be sequels and prequels and, eventually, a fully-imagined world of Narnia. He spent years sorting out how all the parts of his paracosm fit together.
As the Star Wars universe comes to life again, it’s time to demand once and for all that some parts of it — not a lot, but some the worst, most cringe-inducing bits — belong on the cutting room floor. And finally, as a sop to my own sensitivities, I’ll point out that if you think this is much ado about nothing, here’s the opening segment of Stephen Colbert’s show this week, where he unpacked the design of the latest iteration of the Star Wars light saber.