Thursday, July 27, 2006

On the Force

I love Star Wars. I love the story, the mythology, the premise, the characters, the cities and the aliens and enduring battle between good and evil played again and again on distant battlefields. And not just the movies, either - the entire body of work that constitutes the Star Wars storyline, from the novels to the games to the comics.

One can tell that a franchise has surmounted the bonds of unreality when an entire community of Star Wars lovers has arisen in both the real world and the electronic one. Star Wars is not merely a successful movie series, nor is its massive popularity a result of nostalgia over the good ol' 1970s (and such arcana that we will never truly know). It has grown into a cultural phenomenon, no less real than Elvis or eating with chopsticks. It is a legitimate facet of global culture - Star Wars is unabashedly Western, but its appeal is universal and it harbors no ill will toward any race or creed (save, of course, those that have been indentified as Profoundly Evil). It embodies a fresh and unfettered view on morality, while at the same time introducing subtle moral vagaries such as the right of redemption. It is simple to understand and yet profoundly deep. The wider universe of Star Wars is a sandbox of the mind, allowing free rein in a galaxy that stretches infinitely in both time and space.

The movies have ceased to be the only defining aspect of Star Wars - the Star Wars mythos has extended through popular media, tinkered with and expanded by the unceasing labours of hundreds of creative minds. It has grown into one of the largest self-consistent chronologies ever created. It is the ultimate escapist fantasy for the Everyman, but it is by no means an ideal world - it is filled with enough grit and noir to please most who look for quality in the grim and the dirt. The gleaming and immaculate spires of Coruscant against the dusty sandstone of Tatooine or the slime-filled sleaze of Nar Shardaa, the insouciant heroism of Luke against the dark and contorted souls of the most conflicted characters in space opera - Darth Vader, Dooku, Exar Kun and the rest. The supercilious nobility of the Senate against the rough but open manner of smugglers like Han Solo and Talon Karrde - Star Wars has characters that speak to us, that we may identify with, characters that can be loved and hated, characters that change, age, mature. No cookie-cutter Rambos in Star Wars, despite appearances. Not even the Jedi are perfect. The Fall of the Galactic Republic echoes that of Foundation and conversely that of Greece.

One of the best things about Star Wars is its capacity to expand. It is an agglomerate of concepts, ideas, and grand mythologies spawned in hundreds of dreams and visions. It is a sweeping and self-sustaining universe, dynamic and ever-changing, encyclopedic in its detail, grand in premise and scope. Star Trek really cannot hold a candle.

To those who scorn Star Wars because it seems like conventional Hollywood fare, simplistic and explosive, you haven't bothered to look deep enough. Granted, the Prequel Trilogy hasn't been brilliant. But the Originals are, along with the vast account of SW history of the books, comics and games, that speak to me more clearly than the gothic travesties of overly complex and grim steamy sci-fi tomes that critics love to sneeringly compare to Star Wars.

In short, Star Wars has transcended mere fiction; more than most, it lives on within not merely my mind, but also in my heart.


John Riemann Soong said...

Hundreds is an understatement.

There must be hundreds of thousands fan fiction contributors out there.

The Arbiter said...

Indeed, but fan fiction doesn't count as official input into the star wars universe