About Me

Rob Pincombe is a prolific television writer, recovering comedian and sometime comic artist/storyboard artist who just wasn't satisfied with a single blog. He writes about sci-fi and fandom at rebelalert.com, Canadian comics at comicanuck.com, and shares thoughts and insights on writing at starkravingadventure.com

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Harsh Universe

Welcome to the rebellion. With Spike TV in the US becoming the 24 hour Star Wars channel lately, I've had the extended opportunity to have the revised, revamped and recycled trilogy prequel and the original three movies playing as I sat with my mucho delayed tax calculations.

With the dialogue failing to hold my attention and the actors so awestruck by being in a Star Wars movie they fail to bring personality to their roles (too much reverence and not enough irreverence), I had a chance to pay closer attention to the background scenery and design. Man, the designers really are the big stars on display.

One smart thing George Lucas did from the very start was to treat most of the technology like it's always existed. A movie set in L.A. wouldn't spend any time setting up what a phone is or how it works, they'd just use the dang thing and anyone who had never seen a phone would figure it out. "Oh, that thingie allows these two people to communicate."

But the more I watch the films the more I realize how technology doesn't make the lives of the people in his universe any better. It seems to take all the technology they can muster to hold a their savage natural world at bay.

The icy cold of Hoth is barely survivable. In fact, technology fails Luke completely in The Empire Strikes Back. Han must use his wits and survival skills to create a warm sleeping bag out of a fallen tauntaun.

Degobah plays havoc with Luke's X-Wing, the wild waters of Kamino are a deadly danger Obi-Wan must avoid at all costs, the burning volcanic sands of Mustafar claimed Anakin Skywalker's humanity (with the help of a little light saber chop chop, courtesy of his mentor, Obi Wan). And the seat of the Old Republic's Galactic Senate, Corsucant has conquered and obliterated any hint of nature and become an endless, crowded urban jungle.

But is life there better because of it? It doesn't seem so. Flying cars fill the skies, sin dens line the streets. It is as inhospitable as Geonosis has become, with its craggy craters and the run from it's droid factory. Perhaps only the serene and cheery Dexter Jexter of Coco Town's Dex's Diner finds this city planet preferable when compared to the inhospitable environments he has seen.

The only planets where there is any kind of harmony with the natural world are those whose technology hasn't encroached. Planets where the natural is respected and treated with reverence (now that's the place for reveerence). The Wookies and Ewoks live in harmony with their world as do the inhabitants of Naboo. Not coincidentally, the beings of these worlds seem to be the most peaceful and balanced creatures we see in the trilogies.

Are the designers sending a not so subtle message about rampant technology? Unfettered, technology provides few answers and often creates more problems; pollution, waste and destruction of natural environments being only the most obvious ones. Is this a quiet plea for a more measured and peaceful use of science? Perhaps.

More likely such decisions stemmed from creating as dramatic a backdrop to the main action as possible. Seeing hints of the natural and scientific worlds wrestling for domination adds to the compelling, human drama in the foreground. And when the human drama is played out with wooden dialogue, awkward, inconsistent character arcs and perfunctory direction, I'll take my drama anywhere I can find it.


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