For almost three generations, the Star Wars Saga has captivated the imaginations and hearts of children and adults. In 1999, George Lucas introduced a whole new trilogy to the world and changed Star Wars forever. In the history of film, there many never be a more debated issue than the merit of the Prequels (until JJ Abrams releases Episode VII that is). These films have been characterized in pop culture as ruining the childhoods of many. Yet is this really the case? Do these films really deserve this intense hate, hate worth of Sith Lords? That is the subject of The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols and Philosophies of Episodes I, II and III by Paul McDonald.
The book walks through each film and dissecting the mythology, literature and religion behind the stories of the Prequels. McDonald explains his focus and process this way,
While understandably reticent regarding his own press, George Lucas made a telling statement during an interview recorded by the Star Wars Insider magazine regarding the release of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. “If criticism were the kind of analysis it was meant to be in the first place— as it is in other arts, where you have literate, sophisticated people, who are knowledgeable— then it would be worthwhile to listen to it,” he remarked. “[ But] to have them [the critics] rant and rave about their personal feelings is a waste of my time.” I find this really intriguing for a couple of reasons.
To begin with, Lucas himself very clearly delineates between two types of criticism. The first is scholarly, studied, and refined; the second is mostly personal opinion and knee-jerk reaction. More often than not, Star Wars has been subjected to the second—especially the prequels— while Lucas tellingly identifies the first as more important. As we will see, this is where Star Wars really lives and breathes.1
McDonald uses literate criticism to prove his point that far from being nothing but money making, special effects extravaganzas the films are personal explorations of some of our most profound questions in life.
But clearly I must disagree with those who argue that the prequels were only driven by special effects (as well as Lucas’s alleged need to amass a large fortune, especially in light of his donations to charity). As this book proves , Star Wars meets you where you meet it. That Lucas didn’t simply farm out the prequel trilogy for someone else to create speaks not so much to an obsessive need for control but rather to a deep , personal commitment to the project itself. In some ways it could be argued that he was far more invested in the prequels than in the originals, as he purposefully took on the task of writing and directing each of them.2
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. McDonald shows just how well read and literate Lucas is as each Prequel entry is teaming with illusions to philosophy, mythology, religion and literary constructs from many different eras. Whether you are a Prequel hater or lover, this book has something for the Star Wars fan in all of us.
1. McDonald, Paul F. (2013-09-03). The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols and Philosophies of Episodes I, II and III (Kindle Locations 85-92). McFarland. Kindle Edition.
2.McDonald, Paul F. (2013-09-03). The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols and Philosophies of Episodes I, II and III (Kindle Locations 3616-3620). McFarland. Kindle Edition.