We went out and saw Star Wars. Don’t worry, if you are, statistically, one of the 6 people on the planet who hasn't seen the new Star Wars movie, I won’t be spoiling any plot details. After rolling it around my head for a few days, I do have one observation.
The prequel Star Wars films are almost universally hated, unfairly so in my opinion. They aren’t great movies, and they have problems, but they are entertaining. Entertaining is several rungs up the ladder from interesting. Interesting is about as good as most works of art ever achieve. A movie that is entertaining occupies pretty rarified air.
I have the art books from the prequel trilogy, and I have devoured them many many times. The volume and quality of artistic design, the consideration put into every detail of every set and every character, is humbling. It’s beautiful in a way that few works of art can hope to be. Not just visually pleasing, but thoughtful. The world created by the Star Wars prequel trilogy is perhaps only rivaled by The Lord of the Rings.
There was something missing from the prequels that exists in the original trilogy. I think it is what makes those original movies so much more satisfying. Mystery. I’m not talking about the whodunit style of mystery. I’m talking about movements in darkened corners and monsters under the bed mystery. Words acted but unspoken and motives unexplained mystery.
Lord of the Rings is practically woven of the stuff. Even given the dense tomes written about every aspect of middle earth, there remain plenty of shadowy unexplored corners of that world.
If you are like me, and you love Star Wars, you will be happy to know that mystery has been brought back to that world. The prequel movies were a gorgeous world and mythic story explained. This new movie is a story told. There is a difference between action, and adventure. If you were to wander into any one of the dark corners of this story, it’s hard to say what danger you might find yourself in. That is mystery, that is adventure, and it is much more satisfying for an audience that they wonder about the dark corners unexplored.
There will be talk about the acting, the pacing, the dialogue, the plot all being superior to the previous three Star Wars films. These things are almost unimportant. The real difference, the real single ingredient that makes this movie better than the prequels, is mystery.