I had assumed that with the release of the loathsome Episode III, my abusive codependent relationship with George Lucas was basically at an end. Sure, I’ve heard that maybe there’ll be a live-action TV series — and, of course, I would watch it — but I really didn’t think I could experience the pangs of anticipation for anything Star Wars ever again. Lucas got me hooked as a child; I returned to him two decades later as an adult…and he treated me like a child! Like an idiot kid with a powerful interest in action figures. (Of course, it was naive and childish of me to expect anything else.)
But this upcoming game looks good. It looks very good, in fact. And it certainly seems like a storyline that embraces the menacing and not-so-childish dimension of the Star Wars mythology, in a way that Revenge of the Sith (and all the prequels) absolutely refused to. To be brief: In the game, set in the period just before Episode IV (i.e. the original 1977 film), you play Darth Vader’s secret apprentice tasked with hunting down the last fighting remnants of Jedi in the galaxy. So the player is a) evil and b) given access to dark-side force powers, which are inarguably more awesome than the light-side powers, and c) compelled by the mechanics of the game to commit the despotic acts of villainy that create the sociopolitical conditions of Episode IV. In other words, we get to pick up at a point where it should be possible to ignore most of the shitty baggage from the prequels. By winning the game, we’d be establishing a dystopia and providing the set-up for Star Wars story we so loved.
Among Revenge of the Sith‘s crimes, the gravest was the decision by Lucas to have a childish (and unconvincing!) love story motivate the transition from Anakin to Vader. Many of the other things that offended me in Sith — the preposterous rainbow-colored reptile that Obi-Won was made to ride, for example, or the dialogue — could be considered a failure of collaboration. Crap by committee, bad creative oversight, etc. But the passage from Anakin to Vader stood at the center of the epic, a bullet point on Lucas’s master plan. And it existed in the way that it did because that was exactly the way Lucas had always wanted it. The ultimate expression of human corruption and degradation in the universe is birthed by a narcissistic hissyfit? Not likely. I much preferred the notion, raised early on in Sith but discarded almost instantly, that there is a perverse pleasure in first-hand exposure to the dark side. When Anakin butchered the tribe of Sand People that held his mother captive unto death, culling every last woman and child in his vengence, it seemed we might be in for a mature story, one in which an evil power is assumed knowingly and for its own sake. A story about a compromise and its terrible cost. But instead we are shown an Anakin deceived by petty lies and manipulated into his fallen state. What dreck.
To make matters worse, after Lucas cheapened the Vader metamorphosis, he did away with the extermination of the Jedi — an institution that had kept peace in the galaxy for millennia, mind you — in the space of a fucking montage. I had always imagined the Great Jedi Hunt to be the ultimate expression of Vader’s legendary cruelty and a test of his will to power. None of this narrative damage can really be undone. But the upcoming game, Unleash the Force, at the very least will give us the dignity of destroying those pompous Jedi assholes for ourselves.
Plus, I’ve played many of the previous Lucas Arts games and they’re usually, at worst, decent. So it turns out I am looking forward to Star Wars again after all.