Thursday, July 09, 2020

Unreliable Narrator, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Sequel Trilogy

Many of you  by now are hearing the rumors: that Kathleen Kennedy is on the way out as matriarch of the Star Wars franchise.  That the operation will soon be run by either Jon Favreau or Dave Filoni.  That the entire sequel trilogy is going to be scrapped and "re-made".

Personally, I doubt that last one is going to happen.  Because I can't but think of all the little girls I've seen dressed as Rey for the premiere of the past few Star Wars movies.  Rey is a true heroine to them.  Heck, she is for me too.  But especially to young girls who look to Rey as a role model.  Not I or anyone else should take that away from them.  Besides, Star Wars was ripe for a female character on par with Luke Skywalker and young Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Rey fits the role perfectly.

But I won't deny that the sequel trilogy is the worst of the three.  I first had a bad feeling about this when it became clear that too much of The Last Jedi was going to be spent on the Resistance fleet fleeing from the First Order.  And then Snoke getting killed.  And then the reveal that the enemy of The Rise Of Skywalker would be a resurrected Emperor Palpatine...

I've had a theory for many years.  It's about Star Trek, the original series.  So many episodes of that show are timeless classics.  And then there were the utterly hokey ones like "Spock's Brain".  You know, the episode where aliens run off with Spock's gray matter so it can serve as the new computer running their indoor plumbing.

How hokey can you get?  But it begs the question: did the over-ridiculous premise of the episode disqualify it from being canon?  Because it just doesn't seem, you know... "Star Trek"-ish.

I've a solution to that.  How the bad Trek can co-exist with the good.  Those episodes are actually fake captain's log entries that James Kirk made when at times he was feeling extra bored.  And then decades if not centuries later the data dump of the U.S.S. Enterprise is being researched by historians who don't know any better.  And they find the stuff about the brain stealers and the space Nazis and whatever else and they assume that those things "really" happened.  When in fact it was just Kirk having his fun.

That's my theory and I'm sticking by it.

So what bearing does that have on a post about Star Wars?

I've re-watched The Rise Of Skywalker at least a dozen times now since it became available on iTunes and then Blu-ray and now on Disney+, and... how should I put this?  It's frustrating the hell out of me.  Part of me likes it.  Part of me is "meh" about it but the larger part of me can't stop thinking how much makes no sense.  Like travel times through hyperspace: it shouldn't be that instantaneous.  And how Palpatine is brought back so late into the entire saga.  A lot of small issues that accumulate.  Plenty enough of them lingering from the previous film The Last Jedi.

And now... I sadly lament that the Star Wars sequel trilogy - episodes 7, 8, and 9 - are the weakest of the entire series.  When they should have rivaled the original trilogy in greatness.

But then something hit me.  And this is going back a ways...

George Lucas was saying as early as 1982 how the entire Star Wars saga was one story being told by the droids Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio.  It was the tale of the Skywalker Family, being shared with the Whills: a mysterious sect that among other things recorded the history of the galaxy.  And their collection of such stories became "The Journal of the Whills": something that Lucas later described was a larger work of which Star Wars "was just a piece".

Let's assume that was and is and ever shall remain George Lucas' notion about how the story of the core Star Wars legend came about.  We can be assured that hundreds of years after the events of the Skywalker saga, Artoo and Threepio are passing it along to the Whills.  We can trust their word.  They were THERE during that time.  They saw it all happen.  Especially Artoo.  At least, they saw everything from The Phantom Menace through Return Of The Jedi.

But did Artoo and Threepio necessarily witness the later events with such clarity?

No.  They did not.  Apart from traveling aboard the Millennium Falcon during Rey's search for Luke Skwyalker, Artoo went nowhere.  He had been in near-total shutdown for years prior to Rey and Finn's arrival.  And Threepio?  He certainly wasn't off on any cosmic adventure.  Not without his little blue buddy.  Threepio was just hanging around the Resistance base, in Leia's company.

It can be safely assumed that the true chronicle of that part of the Skywalker legend ended with Return Of The Jedi or thereabouts.

So does that mean the sequel trilogy is all trash?  Nope.  Not at all.

Because there was another droid who was witnessing those events.  From the first moments of The Force Awakens, BB-8 was an active and integral part of the sequel trilogy.  And we can rest assured that he chronicled as best he could the larger events around him.

The thing is, BB-8 might well be what is termed an "unreliable narrator".  And if he is sharing his knowledge with Artoo and Threepio (who go on to share it with the Whills) it may not be entirely accurate.  BB-8 is a plucky little droid but he seems confused at times.  Maybe he has a circuit burn out in his memory, as a friend has suggested.  Maybe he's just in way over his cute lil' head.  However it is, BB-8's accounting of history might be severely handicapped when compared to that of Artoo and Threepio.  Those two have a counterpart-level base of understanding.  They are check-summing and error-correcting each other.  BB-8 has no such advantage.  And so it is that, sadly, BB-8's recording of many details is spotty at best.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that BB-8's part in the chronicle is ALL bad.  In a general sense his chronicle is accurate.  And if he tells Artoo that Rey goes to Tatooine to bury Luke and Leia's sabers and that she assumes the Skywalker surname, we can be confident that's what really happened.

It also allows for a lot of leeway of interpretation.  Snoke?  He could have been "made" by Palpatine.  He could also have been some Dark Side shlub who existed long before Palpatine was even born (and The Last Jedi novelization indicates that he was).  Hyperspace travel?  That's BB-8's interpretation of what he was told by Rey and others.  The casino?  Okay we can take BB-8 at his word that's what happened.  There are dozens of elements of the sequel trilogy that defy logic... unless we can accept that they're being conveyed by an unreliable narrator.

I put it to the test.  I re-watched The Last Jedi and The Rise Of Skywalker, per my new paradigm.  And lo and behold it works.  It really, honestly works!  The sequel trilogy is much more palatable now.  After fanwanking my synapses to the breaking point trying to "suss it all out" with the problems of the final three movies, suddenly there is a silver bullet for it all.

But in a funny way, I can still accept the quirks and at times misfires of the sequel trilogy as being part and parcel with being true Star Wars films, even without having BB-8's flaws being the cause of it all.  Because in the end, Star Wars is a legend.  And legends are rarely if ever clean cut affairs.  They don't need to be, either.

It's just that it's nice now to have a reason to accept the sequels as belonging with the other six movies after all.

3 comments:

Lurch said...

Chris, get a life or a girlfriend or something. You think way too deep on stuff man :p

(j/k)

In all seriousness, this is a great line of thought. It makes me appreciate the sequels a little more. A little anyway.

Chris Knight said...

I do tend to analyze things a bit much.

It's a design feature, not a flaw :-D

Juanita's Journal said...

Sorry pal . . . not convinced.