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Lucas knows ‘Star Wars’ saga is for kids, too

Published 9:27am Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Column: Pothole Prairie, by Tim Engstrom

Are you a “Star Wars” nerd? I am. Are you excited about new “Star Wars” movies coming out now that Disney has purchased Lucasfilm? Me, too. Do you watch “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” cartoon on The Cartoon Network, through iTunes or on the “Star Wars” website? Yup. All three. In fact, sometimes, I even like to read the Wookieepedia, an online database cataloging all the action and characters from movies, TV shows, comics, you name it.

I have a son who turns 6 years old this weekend. I was 6 when “Star Wars: A New Hope” came out in 1977. Forrest loves “Star Wars” stuff, too. He knows the characters and is grasping such great cinematic concepts as bad guys sometimes fight bad guys and droids can have personalities just like people.

I assume if you made it this far, you probably like “Star Wars,” too. I have a point to make.

I recall when “The Phantom Menace” came out in 1999. Hard-core fans didn’t like Jar-Jar Binks. They didn’t dig the script’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker as a child. These are the same people who didn’t like the Ewoks in “Return of the Jedi.” In fact, they are the same group of whiners who don’t like “The Clone Wars” cartoon series simply because it is animated, rather than live action, or they dislike episodes of the show that delve into the lives of the clones. They don’t like that one of the main characters is Ahsoka Tano, a 15-year-old girl.

Obviously, I disagree with those critics. Here is where George Lucas is smarter than the hard-core fans. He does what he thinks is best for the future fan base, not the present one.

The hard-core fans and some cinema critics tend to like it when the bad guys win in “Star Wars” plots. They liked “The Empire Strikes Back” the most among the three original movies. As the name implies, the bad guys pretty much win in that movie. Of the three prequels, they liked “Revenge of the Jedi,” where Chancellor Palpatine is revealed to be Darth Sidious and many Jedi are wiped out.

But my son likes Jar-Jar Binks. He likes the Ewoks. He likes when the good guys win. He likes that “The Clone Wars” is a cartoon. Sure, he watches the lightsaber fight scenes, but he likes episodes of the cartoon series that are about lighter sides of the galaxy, too, such as droid adventures, Yoda teaching the younglings or how clones become storm troopers. He identifies with Ahsoka Tano, though his favorite Jedi is Kit Fisto, a green, aquatic-looking fellow. He especially likes any wookiees that enter the plots. He doesn’t care if something in a script, such the uniform of a storm trooper, doesn’t match up with what was in a movie or comic book or video game.

Seriously, it’s like some hard-core fans won’t allow the new writers and animators to have any of their own creativity. It’s got to be difficult to take a fictional realm as wide and well-explained as “Star Wars” and add new material. I am stunned at how consistently well the folks at the Skywalker Ranch do it with only the occasional retcon.

Retcon means retroactive continuity, which is changing facts established earlier in a fictional work.

Credit Lucasfilm for providing plots for the younger viewers, and never forgetting them. It is like they hook younger viewers with kiddie fare and then — probably to the consternation of Mom and Dad — push their boundaries with more violent clashes.

Still, there are no blood and guts, even though good and bad guys die. But the “Star Wars” writers don’t seem to glorify it. Rather, when deaths happen, they merely are instrumental to the plot. It doesn’t pretend that violence lacks consequences and, as always, the “Star Wars” movies and shows offer lessons.

Basically, the kids have to put up with the grownup content of the “Star Wars” saga and the grownups have to put up with the kiddie content. The critical ones need to change their expectations.


8 life lessons of ‘Star Wars’

1. “Many of the truths that we cling to depend on our point of view.” — Obi-Wan Kenobi

2. “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” — Yoda

3. “I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.” — C-3PO

4. “You must unlearn what you have learned.” — Yoda

5. “I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey towards the Dark Side will be complete!” — The Emperor

6. “So this is how liberty dies … with thunderous applause.” — Padmé Amidala

7. “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.” — Han Solo

8. “The ability to speak doesn’t make you intelligent.” — Qui-Gon Jinn

Tribune Managing Editor Tim Engstrom’s column appears every Tuesday.