First and foremost, let me disclaim that I was planning to write about something completely different today. As you can tell lately, I’ve been in my well-known annual Springtime Assault of Awesome Blogs and I like to think about things for a good few days (even months) before committing them to these esteemed virtual pages.
Allow me to declare also that I was going to write in another few days regarding a conversation I had whilst eating fried food at Buffalo Wing Factory with my cousin, who also writes his own screeds. He had brought up a fair, and logical, criticism of the prequels; I would go so far as to say that it was the first truly honest criticism of the prequels I’d heard in a long time. One that didn’t amount to “golly, it wasn’t like my childhood and it didn’t make me feel like I wasn’t an unjustifiably cynical child of the 1980s.”
But enough preamble. Let me get to the matter at hand.
He Stole My Balloons
So the rat bastard wrote about what we discussed before I had a chance to do so. Fair enough. Go and read it here.
In summation, though, his overarching point is reflected in the following excerpts, and I agree with it.
TOS had three characters: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Everyone else was secondary. Can any of the newer series or movies say that? No, they can’t. They’ve all moved from being about “the main characters” to being about “the ensemble,” and the result is that none of the characters mean anywhere’s near as much as the original three.
I pointed out to John, a rabid Star Wars fan…The Star Wars prequels became about the ensemble. While it should have been about Anakin, Obi-Won, and Padme, it wasn’t. Mace Windu, Yoda, and a freaking astromech droid were just as important. They got a ton of action independent of the main characters.
He reflects also correctly on the fact that this is a larger trend. Look at The Avengers, or even the singular titles like Iron Man 2. Heck, go back to Batman & Robin (1997) or Batman Returns (1992). Movies have become about giving tons of screen time to secondary characters, or having so many main characters that everyone’s arc can potentially get blunted.
But since I know at least one reader (who refuses to comment because he doesn’t believe in engaging in anything but a phone call, for whatever flimsy reason) will take this as an escape to say “Aha! told you so!,” I’m not an absolutist on this being a bad thing, and neither is my cousin.
There are movies where the ensemble works. It worked for The Avengers. There is a little bit of a cheat on that, though, since the characters were largely developed outside that film. Like a comic book cross–over, the previous titles were editors’ notes about earlier individual arcs.
As with anything else, it’s a case–by–case basis. And in any case, it’s the norm. Complaining about it won’t help. And besides, movies move in stages of imitation; eventually the pendulum will swing back and everyone will b*tch about when things were more exciting and layered.
(I also happen to think that part of this is from the desire to appeal to international audiences, and we’re seeing American films now try to cater to them. The level of spectacle has duly increased.)
And as a final thought, I think we’re evolving into a different kind of film experience…but those are thoughts for a different blog.
So What Does It All Mean?
- Rob is correct on most of his points;
- He offered the first legitimate criticism of the prequels I’ve heard in a friendly conversation in a while;
- You should read Rob’s blog.
And now, since he asked if I could answer his Kirk-kisses-Leia picture, let me answer with something I made on my own.
Eh, I had ten minutes to kill.