Heart of Dorkness: Star Wars Celebration IV, Day 2
Star Wars fans like to buy shit. George Lucas is the father of modern movie merchandising, and this weekend marks the 30th year of him bleeding us dry.
Today CIV opened its doors to card-carrying HyperSpace Fan Club members only. Of which there are tons. From noon to eight, we have free run of the L.A. Convention Center. Well, kinda. Thing is, on Fan Club Day, there’s really not much going on. Today is pretty much just “buy shit day.” The Star Wars Shop is open. As is the Exhibition Hall, which is just like the Dealer’s room at any other ‘Con, except that 95% of the shit for sale is Lucas-related. The art sale is also on, selling lithographs, limited to 250 in number, from 30 or so artists.
Action figures and models and Force FX lightsabers and posters and vintage toys and Legos and vinyl statues and children’s costumes and anything else you can think of that keeps the lights on at Skywalker Ranch. It’s all here.
I have my eye on two items in the Exhibit Hall, one I can kind of afford, and one I really can’t. There’s a bitchin’ model of Obi-Wan in Clonetrooper armor that I really like. But I’m absolutely drooling over a Master Replicas Han Solo Blaster. It’s awesome. And also out my price range.
And there are the exclusives. Items only available here that will be coming soon to an EBay or hobby shop near you, with a nice fat dealer mark-up, of course. I picked up the Ralph McQuarrie Concept Art Artoo and Threepio figures, but the line for the Luke one over at the Hasbro booth is brutal. I’ll pass.
I also bought a T-shirt and one of those limited run lithographs. Now my spending is on hold while I decide if I want to blow the rest of my spending wad on one big cool thing (like General Kenobi) or just nickel and dime it and get a lot of less cool little shit. It’s hard being a man of limited means.
If you’re thinking this just sounds like a great big capitalist clusterfuck, it’s not. Well, okay, it mostly is, but there’s other stuff open on Fan Day. Just not everything. There are a handful of dudes that have these totally rad home-made full-scale Astromech droids that run on RC. None of them have holoprojectors or anything, though, but they’re neat.
There’s also an exhibit of Lucasfilm Archive Props (more on that tomorrow) and a hall of Artist Designed Darth Vader Helmets. There are like 60+ Vader helmets in all, all painted and morphed by different artists. It’s kinda cool, but really geeky. Here’s a few of them:
And, of course, there are costumes. Hundreds and hundreds of costumes. Members of the 501st, Vader’s Fist, those lovable nuts who dress as Storm/Clone Troopers, you can’t escape them at CIV. Fucking everywhere. There are tons of Jedi, running the gauntlet from Darth Revan to Aayla Secura to Quinlan Vos to Jacen Solo. (If you know who all four of those people are, you get a nerd cookie) There are a fair amount of Mandalorians, mostly of the Fett lineage, as well as Imperial Officers (including a spiffy Grand Admiral), Rebel Pilots, one thoroughly impressive Gamorrean Guard, and, then, of course, the ladies.
While there were still plenty of “Earmuff’ Leias and “Slave” Leias, there weren’t as many as I thought there would be. I suspect that’s because many of the women have taken up the guise of Leia’s mother instead. Lots and lots of Padme costumes. She does have a lot more wardrobe changes in her three movies than Carrie Fisher had in hers. None of the women really live up to Natalie Portman (who could?), but it remains a very popular costume choice for the girls. My favorite female costume, however, was a girl dressed up like Han Solo. Han Solo with cleavage. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s hot…maybe it’s just me. (sorry, no picture)
But that’s really all that was going on today at Celebration IV. Lots and lots of geeks doing lots and lots of shopping. Tomorrow, the real party begins, as we commemorate the 30 year anniversary of the release of Star Wars.
Until then, kick back and enjoy my final thoughts on Attack of the Clones. Or don’t. Whatever. See if I care. <sniff> <sniff>
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Thoughts and Reflections: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
First Seen by Me: Opening Midnight Show, Mann Village Theater in Westwood. Los Angeles, CA. May 2002.
Known Aliases: The One that Sucked Less, The One Where Anakin Talks about Sand, The One Where Yoda Whoops Some Ass
Best Obscure Character: Dexxter Jettser. Am I the only one begging for a cartoon series chronicling the prospecting adventures of this poly-limbed short order cook?
Favorite Image: Watching the brand spanking new Army of the Republic leave Coruscant, Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) pounds his fist ever so gently on the railing. In that littlest of gestures lies the birth of the Rebel Alliance.
Runner up: Obi-Wan JUMPING through the window of Padme’s apartment to head after her attempted assassin. Now THAT’s some Jedi shit.
Favorite Line: “Around the survivors a perimeter create!”
Biggest Sins: About 3 too many Threepio-has-lost-his-head jokes. Anakin riding on the back of a giant tick. “I hate sand.”
The O’Williams Factor: During Anakin’s confession of his slaughter of the Tuskens, we get the first chronological use of the Imperial March. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty cool.
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I said yesterday in my review of The Phantom Menace, that, while my feelings on that film were mixed, they weren’t nearly as mixed as they are for Attack of the Clones.
I really really like Attack of the Clones. Which makes some of the things that bug me really really bug me because they stand out so much. I’ll get to that.
After the nearly universal “boo” that people gave TPM, there wasn’t as much of a build up to Episode II. So much, in fact, that when tickets went on sale, it caught me off guard. Of course, I immediately scrambled to buy tickets for the midnight showing, and still stood in line for an embarrassing amount of time waiting for it to start. As a hard core Star Wars geek, there’s a lot of shit in AOTC that I had wanted to see in TPM. Lots of Jedi doing Jedi shit. Obi-wan with a beard. Yoda kicking ass. And, most importantly to me, the motherfucking Clone Wars.
But let’s get down to it. There is one reason why 99% of the people who hate Episode II do so:
Grown Up Anakin Skywalker.
Little Annie in TPM was a heartbreaker. A lot of people like to blame Jake Lloyd, the young actor who portrayed him, whose only notable role before the film was playing my Governor’s son in the perennial Christmas classic Jingle All the Way. I don’t blame the kid. He looks like he could be a young Mark Hamill, although maybe a more Muppet-like version. No, the kid’s not the problem.
It’s the writing. Little Anakin is written badly. He is written, very deliberately by Lucas, to be “a kid.” We all know that the best child performances in history are usually where the kid does not act like a kid. Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon. Anything with Dakota Fanning. I mean, that little fucker in The Sixth Sense was great, and part of that is because the role did not call for him to ever say “yippee.”
The reason I digress like this (as I do often) is that, in my opinion, people’s reaction to Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker is largely misguided. Hayden is not the young Darth Vader that we expected or, honestly, wanted. He is whiny. He’s a little effeminate. There are moments, I think, that he attains real bad-assery, but those are mostly moments where he is not talking.
Yet again, here, I blame the way the character is written. Hayden is a good actor. If you haven’t seen it, go watch Billy Ray’s Shattered Glass for a great performance by Christensen that uses his natural traits to its advantage.
His voice is a little shrill, grating. His demeanor is a little, well, limp. So when he screams lines like “He’s holding me back” he sounds like a teenager mad because his dad won’t give him the keys to the car. And maybe that’s what George wanted. Anakin Skywalker as spoiled brat. And maybe, just maybe, he also wanted to subvert your image of Darth Vader.
(Warning. Major Star Wars geek shit ahead. If you do not have a working knowledge of the Expanded Universe, you may find this confusing and exceedingly boring and geeky.)
We tend to think of Original Trilogy Vader as the ultimate movie villain. He wears a bitchin’ set of black samurai armor. He strangles his underlings for the slightest of mistakes. He tortures Princess Leia and Han Solo. He is one of the great movie badasses of all time.
But not really. Not to George.
You have to remember that under that armor, Darth Vader is a middle aged man on life support. That’s right. Think less Iron Man and more Iron Lung. He is a fallen hero. Dismembered and crippled. He is, as Obi-Wan says, “more machine now than man.” He is largely a robot.
And robots cannot feel the Force.
Darth Vader, as we know him in the OT, is not nearly as powerful as Anakin Skywalker would have been, had he not, well, been chopped up and set on fire. If it’s the midichlorians in his blood that allow him to interact with the Force, and he is missing large parts of his anatomy, then he is also missing a large part of his interaction with the Force.
He is, literally and figuratively, a shell of a Jedi.
Not that we knew that watching Star Wars in 1977. But he is the only Jedi walking around his world. Imagine if you were the worst Major League Baseball player in the world. But then you went to a conference for accountants. You may be the worst MLB player in the world, but, there, amongst the eggheads, you are still the best ballplayer in the room. That’s what it’s like to be Darth Vader. Mid-sized fish in an empty pond.
All I’m trying to get at is that in order to enjoy the prequels, it’s necessary to re-think the character of Darth Vader. I’m not saying you have to. You don’t have to do shit. I’m sure as hell not going to make you. But I really do believe that Lucas’s idea of Vader is much more in line with what we see in the whole six pictures together, not just the badass dude from The Empire Strikes Back.
Which brings me back (finally, you long winded fuck) to Hayden Christensen in AOTC. He is selfish. He is whiny. He has a temper. He rarely listens to his elders. He’s a moody fucker. And he’s a brat.
It all goes back to the writing. As Harrison Ford famously told Lucas while making the original film “George, you can type this shit, but you can’t say it.” Some of Anakin’s stuff is written very badly. Teen soap badly. Like “Saved by the Bell” badly. Not even “Dawson’s Creek” badly. I’d kill if it were only “Dawson’s Creek” bad.
That’s what tears me up so much about the film. I love about 75% percent of it. I think all the stuff with Obi-Wan is great, I think the opening speeder chase is great, and I think the last 45 minutes is great. It’s the very badly written stuff with Anakin and Padme that hurts the film. And my soul.
And that really sucks. Because this is the love affair that creates Luke and Leia. It is probably the most important thing that happens in all the prequels. And it kinda sucks. I like the idea behind it, but that all goes out the window the moment Anakin tells her that he hates sand. Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen are good actors, but you can’t tell it by watching their scenes together. That’s because they’re bad scenes.
But compared to TPM, AOTC is manna from heaven. I was on such a high after seeing it for the first time because I thought it was SO much better than the last one. And I still do. It is by no means flawless, but I enjoy it a lot.
And let’s not forget, it’s got Yoda kicking ass. Not everyone appreciates that. Some actively despise it. Not me. The lightsaber is the weapon of the Jedi. All Jedi. Yoda, as well as everyone else. If Yoda didn’t know how to use a saber, how could he teach others to do so? He couldn’t. I, for one, think the entire end fight with Anakin, Obi-Wan, Dooku, and Yoda is fucking amazing. It’s the shit I’ve wanted to see since I was four years old. And that, to me, is worth sitting through a half-dozen Anakin/Padme love scenes.
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Tomorrow, on the first film’s 30th birthday, the first general public day of Star Wars Celebration IV. Featuring the Convention’s first panels and a trip to the ultra-cool Lucasfilm prop archive.
Plus, my thoughts on Revenge of the Sith. If you’re lucky, they’ll be as long winded as these were.
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