It’s Been a While

I used to blog quite frequently.  I lived in the open on the Star Wars blogging site, and even did a training journal of sorts for when I ran the marathon in 2005.  Of course, with it being on a Star Wars-focused site, a lot of the posts were focused on that film franchise that has cornered the market on my heart for nearly 100% of my conscious life.

Then, of course, I fell off the side of the planet.  My first kid was born, and then I tried to resurrect my hobby on MySpace.  That didn’t really take off, and then my life became decidedly more complex, less focused and painfully chaotic for a while.  Since the point of a blog is to live out in the open, I will.  However I don’t feel the need to live with every detail exposed.  So the most I will say is that I’ve chosen a difficult road that requires me to be more forgiving and kind than ever I thought would be possible.  To borrow a line from a fictional character, sometimes I amaze even myself.

All of that aside, now I’ve decided to carve some time out in my life to blog again.  Will there be a decided theme to my blog?  Not really.  Just whatever strikes my fancy.  Though I am a tremendous film buff and sci fi geek, and fiery political cynic so expect a lot of that to be in the rotation.

Heck, there will be some postings that will likely infuriate anyone choosing to read them as they realize that no, no one should have thought that hard about the symbolism of the The Dark Knight.  But I have and that is what the next post will be on, in fact.  I just needed to write this type of post out so I can get back in the flow and find my voice again.

Truthfully, it’s good to be back.  I enjoy writing.  As the blog progresses, I’m sure that I’ll be tweaking the design here and there as well.  But I believe in the iterative roll-out.  It can grow and change as time moves forward.  Like I have.

But in the truest sense of preparing whoever happens upon this blog for what is to come, here is an older blog post of mine called “In Defense of Jar Jar” from August 14, 2006 on blogs.starwars.com/kesseljunkie (And the typos are left in because I’m an honest guy):

“One of the most interesting criticisms I hear about the prequels, and The Phantom Menace in particular, is that they do not “feel” like Star Wars. I understand, though I do not agree.

I think that most fans entered the theatre at 12:01 on May 19, 1999 expecting something that would make them feel the same way the originals did. There was no way anything could – and Lucas went in a decidedly different direction in some regards. The Phantom Menace was a period piece, and did not provide the types of answers that were expected. The Jedi were stiff, the galaxy was at relative peace and the great Big Baddie of our childhoods was a dorky kid.

George Lucas was between a rock and a hard place, so he chose the hard place and lived with his decisions. I admire him for it, and I defend those decisions because he made the right ones, ultimately.

Jar Jar, in specific, was a right decision. Jar Jar personifies the innocent, naive and clueless nature of the Star Wars “world” as a whole at the time of The Phantom Menace. Perhaps, if people had paid more attention, they would have seen the move of the Trade Federation to invade Naboo the way Qui-Gon did: “There’s no logic in it.”

Instead, the galaxy was wrapped up in its own problems, and its own government crippled by its bureaucracy. Further, this was still the “golden age” – why worry? Go about your happy way, everything will work out. For goodness’ sake, Padme lived on the same planet as the Gungans, was the duly elected leader of the planet, and had never met a Gungan.

The “world” is further established by the juxtaposition of the naive Jar Jar (and Padme) on Tatooine. Tatooine represents the disintegrating fringes of order, where Republic law means little and those enjoying the largesse of a golden age are completely lost.

Had Jar Jar, or Padme, been more world-wise, then the impact of going to Tatooine for the first time is not there. Jar Jar is completely helpless in the real world, where ideals mean nothing and kindness is in short supply. Os Jar Jar becomes an extension of what resulted in George Lucas getting hit hardest (in my opinion). He introduced a world we already knew – and it wasn’t what we expected.

Instead of Han Solo, the Rhett Butler of the 1970s, we had Jar Jar Binks, the first slapstick amphibian in a live-action movie. Could Jar Jar have worked better if they had “toned him down”? Sure. Could George Lucas have had a Han Solo character? Sure. Could there have been more war, and less procedure? Sure. And then everyone would have criticized Lucas for being unoriginal.

And this is the funny thing – there was a precedent for Jar Jar. His name was Wicket (and you even remember Kneesa, though you shouldn’t). The presence of Jar Jar in The Phantom Menace and Wicket in Return of the Jedi act as book-ends. Jedi sees the return of the innocent (which is “missing” between I and VI when viewed as a whole) and values their contribution – both the Gungans and the Ewoks help turn the tide of battle.

Are there things that, if I were the editor, I would have pushed to have clipped in The Phantom Menace? Probably. But I’m honest enough with myself to admit that I am a lot like other moviegoers today: I underestimate the decisions that go into a film and overestimate my potential ability to make one. We all do, because we live in a world where people with much better things to do follow, and cheer for, box office returns on movies in which they have not even invested.

Let’s face it. Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) was released in a vacuum. There had never been anything like it. When you unwrap that new DVD that you’re complaining about buying in another month, most of you will look at the original Star Wars and go, “Huh. I remember that differently.” It’s nostalgia that alters your memory, and informs your peceptions.

The Phantom Menace, as visionary and groundbreaking as it was, was a victim of everyone that had made movies just like Star Wars for 20 years (not to mention The Matrix and its clever use of that 360-degree effect I saw in Gap ads the year before it). I personally loved the fact that Lucas made choices that were difficult, and further, that he challenged my own perceptions of Star Wars “history.”

Now, I am also aware that most likely, a Special Edition of this film is lurking around the corner. Call it a sixth sense. But I think that the main choices will stand, unless Lucas caves to fan demand and turns Jar Jar into a 10-foot cannibalistic cyborg who moves in “bullet time”. ”

2010 note: You know what?  That kinda holds up. I’m going to like getting back into this.

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