Mike Klimo presents a case in defense of the hidden artistry of the Star Wars prequels. It’s key that he chose “hidden” to qualify the artistry of Lucas’ return to his archetypal space universe, because it is indeed hidden, or at least, a whole lot of turds (e.g. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen) rose to the surface to make it so we didn’t look any deeper into possible artistry lying beneath. Most consumers likely saw the rebirth of the series as commercial exploitation, or as an artist who had lost his touch. It’s hard to conceive of it as strictly exploitative, given that the prequels were planned all along. (I remember hearing things about necessary technological advancement for the prequels to work. Was rendering Jar Jar Binks – an easy scapegoat for all that went wrong with the trilogy – the culprit?) Even if it wasn’t a cash cow, most viewers felt the trilogy was disconnected from the life-affirming spirit of the original trinity. Put simply, Episodes 1-3 didn’t use the Force.
Well, maybe not the Living Force. Klimo wants his audience to believe that Lucas was tapping into the Cosmic Force.
You’ll recall from earlier in this essay that the Cosmic Force exists beyond the Living Force (which itself comprises both the light and dark sides). The Cosmic Force is all-pervading and all-encompassing, meaning it’s in all things and all things are part of it. Put another way, it’s like the Dao. It serves as a unifying construct. (This most likely explains why outside of the six films, particularly in The Clone Wars television series, the concept of the Cosmic Force is explicitly referred to as the “Unifying Force.”) And like the Dao, the Cosmic Force symbolizes the primordial unity that underlies all existence. It resolves all duality.
Lucas, as an avatar of the Cosmic Force, was creating something transcendent. Tapping into this unifying energy of the Universe is participating in eternity. Unfortunately, mortally, we have to channel such unimaginable energy into the likes of Watto, the Gungan species, and the tragically impotent Mace Windu. Whatever Lucas’ magnificent designs were – and Klimo’s argument is convincing on this front – the outcome is largely uninspiring. Such energy could not be effectively expressed in the forms that Lucas ultimately chose. The overall framework, what Klimo identifies as “ring composition/structure” is dazzlingly beautiful. Klimo breaks the films down shot-by-shot (enough to substantiate his claims) to show the nuanced parallelism that Lucas worked into the scripts. On the merit of his intended vision, Lucas remained a genius throughout the production of Episodes 1-3. He wasn’t an artist who lost his way, just an artist who couldn’t capture The Way.
Joseph Campbell explored the myriad attempts by individual human beings and collective cultures to translate The Way into stories. All the myths fail to condense the Universe’s energy into a single narrative or character. But no shit. Stories still resonate when they tap into that creative energy and impart even a fractured measure of it. That measure is transformative, or at least it’s full of transformative possibility if we’re open to it. Episodes 1-3 fail to harness this energy and communicate it. But not for a lack of effort or thoughtful design. Lucas retreads previously explored territory not to be derivative or sloppy, but because that path opened up gateways into universal energy. Perhaps he was a fool for trying to walk the same circle, for he never actually left the known world to which he had returned. The original trilogy was Lucas’ own heroic journey translated into communicable narrative. The new trilogy didn’t enter any unknowns, and so it felt too familiar and too drained to empower us in any way. It wasn’t a religious experience, i.e. it conveyed no revelation. Although the original series was conceived out of humanity’s mythological history (and so was subject to the death knell of habit and custom), born of the same energy that inspired generations and cultures across all forms, it worked because it was translated into a new form that this culture needed. Space is not the final frontier, but it was the frontier that beckoned our curiosity most profoundly. It still strikes us. What’s next, we might wonder? Macroscopic, larger-than-life possibilities – e.g. space, superheroes – are our gods, the temples we keep visiting and worshiping. Perhaps microscopic, inconceivably smaller-than-life possibilities are next. There is, of course, no difference between the microscopic and macroscopic worlds, though we haven’t discovered a clear understanding of that yet. Hence our ongoing quest for some unifying scientific theory to bridge the gap between these Yin and Yang spheres. In the end, it’s all one. Some Cosmic Force is present at the core, integrating and transcending all duality. In the meantime, as we scramble for an understanding of everything that lives around and beyond us (as though there is such a division), we might find the Force within us.
The grounds where we stood with Lucas in the original Star Wars were sacred. He invited us into that space. But perhaps it’s foolish to say that Lucas is some genius for doing so. After all, he was just serving a Universe interested in witnessing its own creative prowess. He was the one who was open to the Universe’s calling, and he called us to participate in the adventure. We entered the journey at the point of the destination, where a small portion of the original creative energy was left. It was enough to speak to us. It filled us with wonder and awe. And we were only consumers. Imagine what you might feel if you open up as Lucas did, to the creative possibility available to all of us willing to listen.