Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rogue One: RoboTarkin, Darth Vader and the White Washing of an Empire

Star Wars at forty years old is now a prisoner of it's own history.

Galen the rock farming scientist, has to have desert moisture vaporators and blue milk on this farm just to let you know that it is in fact a farm in the Star Wars universe.  Despite the fact that it obviously rains there.

The fighters are still using 1977 era computer animation for their targeting systems.  Their dog fighting remains ship to ship using direct line of sight fire just like the WWII movies that Lucas loved as a kid.

Sure it's expected but is this really story setting that is still capable of any kind of vital and dynamic, self expression?

The answer is no.  It's an indication of stultification.  Star Wars franchise is in creative decadence.

I hear the cry of, cut them some slack Cataline, at this point it's not science fiction, it's fantasy.  Let me counter with Digital Peter Cushing.

Now I actually do appreciate that it would have been difficult to tell the Rogue One story without Grand Moff Tarkin.  Krennic needed a superior he could be berated by and Tarikin was by far the best fit for that job.   You don't have to build up a new character so, there is an economy of story telling  in  using Wilhuf Tarkin.  Fine. Cool. I get it.

But why didn't they recast the part?  Just hire a new actor.  Answer: Star Wars is too hide bound by it's own history to allow for that.

The sad part was that they insisted on shoving CGI Tarkin in our faces when a few film school tricks would have covered up what they were doing quite a bit better. Tarkin talking to a window with his reflected face thus obscured.  Tarkin communicating via a hologram, thus accounting very nicely for the digital appearance.   Orders relayed audio only.  Those would have worked as well as being respectful to the memory of Peter Cushing.  A few fan boys are all agog over the CGI performance and are insisting that it was much better than it actually was and you know what?  I would still loath it if it was dead solid perfect because that wasn't Peter Cushing.

Actors are artists too.  Their work is their intellectual property (after a fashion).  Their lives inform their roles and add texture to their performances.  The man who played Wiluf Tarkin had known war, early success, career failure, the crushing death of his wife of thirty years.  All of those things were somewhere in the sad brown eyes of Peter Cushing when his character orders the destruction of Alderraan.  The computer that mimicked him brought none of that to the party.

I have less objections to CGI Leia even if that part was horribly done, since it was (A) extremely brief and (B) Carrie Fisher green lit it herself.   Although the principle still stands.

And now we reach the part where Star Wars hidebound enslavement to it's own orthodoxy becomes unsupportable.

Darth Vader.

By now everyone knows that Darth Vader is in Rogue One.  Boy, oh boy, is he ever in Rogue One.

About half way into in the new film, in what I am bone deep certain is a studio ordered rewrite, Director Krennic having had command of the Deathstar stolen from him by Grand Moff Tarkin, decides to plead his case to Darth Vader.  Who can hopefully intervene on his behalf with the...

Wait a minute.  Why would Krennic do that?  Why would he even think of that?  In his world Darth Vader is kind of a nobody.

No, really.  The end of Rogue One is meant to tie in seamlessly with the first movie.  And in Star Wars: A...Star Wars. Vader isn't that important.

In the original Star Wars, before George Lucas started lying about his grand vision and trying to portray himself as the new Tolkein, Vader was quite a bit different as a character than he is  now.

We can start with the obvious. In known early drafts of Lucas' script, Darth Vader was always named... Darth Vader.   That was the name his momma gave him. Luke Skywalker's father was an entirely separate character who had been betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader from a literal point of view.

In the world where Krennic lives, Vader is supposed to be something akin to a Lieutenant Colonel, who happens to be a court favorite.  Sort of like Otto Skorzeny in Hitler's Germany.  Kind of a celebrity commando but he isn't all that important in the circles of the genuinely great and powerful.  The Imperial high command looks down on him disdainfully.  Sure he can get away with some shit like the occasional Force choke but Tarkin slaps him down for it.  He is tolerated, not feared.  In the first movie he is just the guy you  would put in charge of a reinforced company level special task force.  Princess Leia didn't think twice about getting all up in grill when he boarded her ship.

And then later, "Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash."

That is not something you say about the Number Two Guy in the Empire.

In his first iteration, "Vader is just the guy who shows up when the empire means business."

Then Lucas, so broken from making the first movie that he actually green lit the Star Wars Holiday Special, steps back and turns the reigns over to Kershner and Kasdan, who proceed to make the Godfather II of Star Wars movies.

It is in Empire that Vader becomes the emperor's right hand man.   And it is that version that Krennic goes to see.  It's amazingly over the top.   We are talking Phantom Menace ridiculous.  Vader lives in a temple on Lava World.  He rates his own Red Guards now which he never did before. The scene begins with some manner of acolyte/vizier type scrambling up to a figure suspended in a tank, similar to Luke's in Empire. It is Darth Vader. It becomes clear that Vader pretty much rates his own cult members.  Anyway acolyte/vizier informs Lord Vader of Krennic's arrival.  Tank drains, partially revealing a heavily scarred, deformed figure within.

Oddly they follow that entrance with...another entrance.  Darth Vader appears at the top of the stairs in full Dracula cape sweep.  It's pointless.  Krennic pleads a bit and gets a ritually obligatory Force choke. The scene wasn't needed to move anything forward.  Krennic could have figured out his next destination on his own with the information already in his possession.  It's only purpose was tacked on fan service.

Vader then gets a third entrance at the close of the battle.  That is the one that the fan boys are gibbering about and it truth that is the one that actually fits within the context of this movie.  I have zero doubt that that was supposed to be Vader's only scene.

So here's the thing.  If the producers are so hopelessly hidebound by the conventions of the Star Wars universe, then why are they White Washing the Empire?

Lucas shot Star Wars in 1976 at Pinewood Studios in Britain. There weren't a lot of black actors working there back then so everybody was fish belly white.  It was what it was.   But now the rebels are so all over the place ethnically they could barely remember to throw in a few aliens.

 Yet the empire remains one hundred percent Anglo-Saxon.

Lucas used WWII imagery through out the first movie.  The uniforms of the Empire were clearly Axis inspired. I mean they were wearing baggy riding pants with jackboots.   Understandable at the time, memories were still pretty fresh.

Now they aren't but the Nazi imagery is getting much more blatant.


I wouldn't be put off by any of this if the Empire had more mixed racial representation. But the only Black Imperial in the whole thing defected in the first five minutes of the last movie.

We are moving past the days of, if you are White you are automatically a racist.  The SJWs seem to have realized that they have beaten that horse to death during the Obama years.

There is no getting around this, thanks to the adoption of Privilege Theory. Racism moved from something you do, to something you are.

We have now entered the time of, if you are White you are automatically a Nazi.  I would deny this about myself vehemently  but I got so tired of saying I wasn't a racist for the past eight years that I simply can't be bothered.  Make your own assessment, nothing I can say can say will make you change your mind about me.

 I did not choose Identity Politics.  I find them odious.  But it doesn't change the fact that Identity Politics have been thrust upon me.

There is however an upside to being a Nazi.

"Say what you want about the Nazis, no woman has ever had a fantasy about being tied up and beaten by a man dressed as a liberal." -- P.J. O'Rourke


Jew613 said...

Darth Vader's shift from a court favorite tough in A New Hope to the empire's number 2 in Empire Strikes Back always made sense to me when I saw the original trilogy. Much of the senior military and some of the political class were onboard the death star. With its destruction it created a crisis and a vacuum. Vader used the opportunity to move from the Emperor's apprentice/enforcer to the second most powerful man in the empire.

bob kek mando ( NABTY ) said...

another thing to consider is that Leia's testimony is not necessarily definitive.

it's not like the Emperor is going to be particularly interested in giving the Rebels and dissident Senators a detailed flow chart of the Empire command hierarchy.

further, given that the Emperor is supposed to have DECEIVED the Senate into ceding authority too him ... i think we can be pretty sure that this was an ongoing stratagem from him.

clearly, Vader had SOME sort of power in ANH, he had his own bespoke TIE fighter fer crissakes and he was obviously in full command of the boarding party.

keep in mind also, Vader *was never punished* for force choking the officer on the Death Star. Tarkin never does anything more than say, "Enough of this. Vader, release him." and it wasn't REALLY a command, more of plea.

i think a VERY good case can be made that Vader is *pretending* to be subservient in ANH and that Tarkin knows full well that he has no real authority over Vader.

iirc, Vader not only never asks permission to do anything in ANH, he only bothers to inform his nominal superior that he's going to do something once or twice.

this is NOT how things function in a military command structure.

i'd have to re-watch the movie to be sure.