Why the Old ‘Star Wars’ Formula Can’t Work in the War-on-Terror Era

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D.B. Grady
theatlantic.com
October 31, 2012

The unexpected news of Disney acquiring Lucasfilm and the plans to continue Star Wars are worth some consideration. The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber is right, of course—the saga will survive “whatever horrible thing Disney does to it.” But the timing of a new film, presently set for release in 2015, has implications beyond the state of CGI and digital projection. This isn’t just another Star Wars film; it’s Episode VII, which means we are set for the continuation of a story that ended in 1983. And life in the galaxy following the Return of the Jedi will have an interesting parallel with our world post-War on Terror.

George Lucas has long claimed that the Star Wars universe is heavily influenced by American foreign policy. According to Lucas, in the first film the Galactic Empire represented U.S. imperialism in Vietnam. (Which, carried forward, makes Princess Leia a member of the VC.) In Revenge of the Sith, the death of the Republic (and specifically, Palpatine and a corrupted Anakin) parallel an America post-9/11. (Here, there’s an uncomfortable implication of the Jedi as members of al-Qaeda.)

I’m not sure I really believe Lucas on either assertion. It seems more likely that he wants to be known for having strong political beliefs and for creating art with a resonance beyond Taco Bell cups. Empire-as-America is the most convenient trope, though it’s not really reflected on screen but for one ham-fisted “with us or against us” line in Episode III. Though the world really was enduring a hard grind during much of the prequel trilogy’s run, the films themselves never escaped a certain plastic gloss. They were hardly an escape because they were essentially about a war, but the war depicted was so inauthentic that audiences never latched on. Perhaps (in addition to so much else) the poor reception of the prequel trilogy can be attributed to a simple disconnect between events on the screen and events outside. They really did feel like something a long time ago, but not in the way anyone wanted.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 at 3:51 pm

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