Friday, 4 October 2013

The Difference Between Magic and Science in Star Wars

The Stars Wars Saga simultaneously encompasses one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time and one of the most disappointing.

The original trilogy is popular culture touchstone beloved by millions and introduced so many good things into the world such as blasters, the Millennium Falcon, lightsabers, the Force, Han Solo, lightsabers, Darth Vader, Jedi, and lightsabers. Oh, and it also featured a memorable intro...

Rolling text roamed the universe in search of plot narration.

They are not without their flaws though, such as this Stormtrooper hitting his head on the door:

The finest trooper in the Empire.

The prequel trilogy, on the other hand, is comprised of some of the most reviled movies of all time. Films so disappointing and infuriating that they known to incite fanboys into murderous blood-thirsty rage at the mere mention of Jar Jar Binks.

Me'sa just wants'a hug. 
There are many things wrong with the prequels. Many many things. From thinking that what was really missing from the originals was boring political debates...

And yes, Jar Jar Binks is a member of the Galactic Senate, because fuck it.

And tedious meetings of the Jedi counsel...

Half of whom were died of boredom and came back as ghosts.

To just generally shitting all over the original films' continuity in ways that served no purpose other than to shoehorn some of the beloved (and most marketable) characters from the first trilogy into the prequels.

Darth Vader built C3PO as a child. This is cannon. 

Oh, and R2D2 was Anakin's astrotech robot in the Clone Wars, because of course he was.

"Come on, R2. Let's bounce."

Aside from raising a host of questions like 'how come Darth Vader didn't recognise that the pair of robots hanging around Luke, Leia and Han looked surprisingly similar to the pair of robots he used to hang with before he got hit with the asthma?', this just makes the Star Wars universe seem a lot smaller when all the important stuff in this huge rich universe of a million different alien species happens to a group of like 10 people and these two robots.

However, these (and many other) problems have been discussed and critiqued in great depth elsewhere on the interwebs. But few people have discussed magic. 

Not quite the magic I meant.

In the original films there is a real sense of magic and fun, in the prequels this is replaced by pseudo-science and utmost seriousness (politics and trade embargoes). Compare how Obi-Wan first tells Luke, and by extension, everyone, about the Force. The Force is described by Obi-Wan as what gives a Jedi his powers, an intangible energy force that flows through the universe and binds all living things. 

Alec Guinness (Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) in Star Wars -  Episode IV (1977)
"It's invisible but you can feel it. In your heart."- Not actual quote.

In the prequels however, when Qui-Gon Jin tells Anakin about the Force and all of a sudden it is about the midichlorian count in your bloodstream. And what are midichlorians, you ask? 

"Midichlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells". 

Qui-Gon must be trolling him. He must be. Look at that smirk.

Okay... and how does this relate to the Force again? 

"Without the midichlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force. They continually speak to us, telling us the will of the Force. When you learn to quiet your mind, you'll hear them speaking to you."

"Yeah... sure thing, crazy bearded man."

This answers a question that nobody asked with an answer nobody wanted. And nobody asked the question because the fact the Force is a type of energy that moves through all living things is enough. That makes it something mystical and cool. Essentially the Force is magic and it didn't need to be explained because "look how awesome it is that he can use it to move things!" But in the prequels, George Lucas for whatever reason decided to replace the magic and wonder in the originals by pointlessly and terribly trying to explain everything with horrible pseudo-science.

When Obi Wan asks Han if the Millennium Falcon is a fast ship, Han replies, "It's the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs." No one knows what the Kessel Run is or what a parsec is. All we get from this is that the Millennium Falcon is fast because it sounds badass that it made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs and that's all we need to know.

When this man tells you something in a vague badass manner, you know it is true. Don't question it.

If this exchange had happened in the prequels, Han would have spouted off some babble how it actually isn't the fastest ship but rather has the best navigational system and therefore can plot the best and most efficient course in hyperspace. Because that explanation is totally hardcore and not at all lame.

But then again, lightsabers!

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