Star Wars VII and the Ultra-Real

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CK MacLeod

WordPresser: Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001.

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  1. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    In one of Hercules’ journeys, Hercules holds up the sky for a brief period, until he outwits Atlas. Nobody complains that this is implausible. Bifrost is a rainbow turned into a bridge. Nobody says, “this defies physics”. It’s defiance of ordinary experience is the point.

    I wholeheartedly agree with point 5. I suspect that, in the next film, the Resistance, and Leia, are in for a dark time.

    I have no idea why you would put the word ‘monomyth’ in scare quotes. Maybe I’m just not getting the point you’re making? Star Wars is all about the monomyth, self-consciously so. If the explanation for why something is where it is turns out to be “that’s where it needs to be for the monomyth”, no further explanation is needed. The elements of the monomyth arrange themselves, and this mirrors our subjective experience of life – it doesn’t have any meaning, but we give it meaning. Coincidences become messages from God.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      Those aren’t scare quotes, Dr J. They’re just quotes. “Monomyth” seems to me to be a special term, developed in relation to Campbell’s “hero with a thousand faces” thesis.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Fair enough, I guess. It’s just that Star Wars is so consciously founded on Cambpell’s work that I would not expect the term to be set out as something out of the ordinary.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          That it’s a quoted term doesn’t imply that the author is suggesting it’s odd or questionable. It’s just a n indication by the referrer that the particular sense of the term that the referrer is alluding to has a very particular source, and likely a rich or involved backstory associated with that source. He’s just saying, ‘This is a term coined or used by a particular person at a particular time for a particular reason, and there’s a lot more that has been and could be said about it if a person wanted to investigate further or review said discussions.’Report

    • Avatar Glyph in reply to Doctor Jay says:

      “In one of Hercules’ journeys, Hercules holds up the sky for a brief period, until he outwits Atlas. Nobody complains that this is implausible. Bifrost is a rainbow turned into a bridge. Nobody says, “this defies physics”. It’s defiance of ordinary experience is the point.”

      Right, and if the Millenium Falcon were a winged horse, it’d be a Pegasus and not a spaceship.

      It’s not entirely fans’ fault that Star Wars chose to hybridize two forms of fiction, fantasy and sci-fi, that have inherent and fundamental differences in the way they normally work.

      In other words, Space Wizards.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Glyph says:

        Space Wizards is basically spot on. The formula “long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away” sets the expectation that this is not futurism, it’s myth. But it’s myth made of the stuff our our lives today, rather than the stuff of the lives of Greeks living 2500 years ago.Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          You might not like the stuff of which Greek myths were made. That is a different culture than our own.

          Oedipus sincerely does not know that he has killed his own father and married his own mother. But at the end, the Furies rip him to shreds for the crimes of parricide and incest. Classical Greek audiences would have found this a just and appropriate end to his story. We do not, for intent matters to our morality in a way it did not matter to them.

          Also, who is the bad guy in the Trojan war? Agamemnon? He’s the aggressor, yes, but that doesn’t mean he’s in the moralwrong. Seems like he had something of a point what with Paris stealing his wife and all — especially when you realize that she wasn’t just a wife, but a noblewoman whose marriage to Agammemon had political implications. Was Hector the Trojan or Achilles the Greek the guy to root for in their fateful duel? Hard to say, isn’t it? The classical world was comfortable with finding honor in the enemy and ambiguity within ones own group.

          If there is a side upon which moral blame for the bloodshed and genicide might be placed, by our standards the culpable parties are the Olympians. But to a Greek, that would never, never do.Report

        • But it’s myth made of the stuff our our lives today, rather than the stuff of the lives of Greeks living 2500 years ago.

          Is it? The trappings are different, sure, but the story remains the same. Per lots of comments below, the physics in Star Wars is so different than what we understand about how the universe works that “magic” is a better description. Jedi and Sith powers are not that much different in scale than those exhibited by the Greek gods when they’re on Earth. Or the powers elves and Norse gods had on Earth in the stories that Tolkien based his work on. Greek heroes sailed between ports in days/weeks/perhaps months. In the Norse stories, they sailed between ports in days/weeks/perhaps months. In Star Wars, they “sail” between ports in… days/weeks/perhaps months. The opening lines may say galaxy, but for practical purposes the scope is the Mediterranean or the North Sea.

          There seems to be a rather timeless scale for the stories that most people love.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

            Elves were just high functioning sociopaths. The fact that their stories only occur in England strongly suggests that you have the myth-ization of an actual society, rather than something like “changelings” which are near-worldwide, and mostly explain illegitimate children.

            Amazons have a similar “actual society” basis… and what you get from that society is hilariously “anti-feminist”Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Doctor Jay says:

          Well, but I’m not totally agreeing with you here. Not only does stuff that appears to be sci-fi need to be a little plausible, based on what we know – that is, it can be handwavey, but if it directly contradicts current common knowledge, it’s going to be a problem for many – but even in the fantasy genre, if enough real-world physics are magicked away, that can sap dramatic tension, “plausibility” be damned. And when dramatic tension deflates, the seams start to show.

          If, instead of a long and arduous journey to Mount Doom, Gandalf had simply cast a Spell of Teleportation on Frodo so that he got there instantaneously, it’d be a very different story, and one with lower stakes.

          I’m not saying that journeys have to take place in real-time, that’s not how stories usually work anyway, and it would be especially problematic for stories that take place across interstellar distances*; but the scale/plausibility issues people are referring to do exist for many people, and if you want their disbelief to remain suspended, you may have to make some allowances for it.

          *Though it occurs to me that you could make a pretty cool sci-fi horror movie where a intergalactic traveler has to keep entering/leaving a state of suspended animation, with increasing disorientation each time they wake and the monster/threat is still there. Like the Battlestar Galactica episode “33”, but stretched over hundreds or thousands of “real” years.Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Star Wars promises and delivers a universe full of magic and wonder. It is a joy to behold.

    Finn and Rey inspire hope and sympathy. Han and Leia and Chewie inspire confidence and trust. Kylo Ren and General Hux (?) inspire fear and dread.

    Joy, fear, hope, confidence, trust, dread, sympathy, and wonder are emotions.

    Emotions are what make art work.

    Whatever other criticisms of narrative unoriginaly, dizzyingly fast editing, and ultimate unplanned incoherence one might level at Abrams and Kasdan, they have made a work of art which fulfills the massive promise of emotional resonance made by the generation of pre-release hype. Is it high art or low art or a recapitulation of a questionable academic risk or an opiate to the masses? It is all of these?Report

  3. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Well said CK. As I left the theater, and after ruminating on things a bit, I came to pretty much the same critique you’ve written up here, even tho I was incapably of clearly articulating it. So thanks for that. I agree that there were serious credibility issues in the movie – the internal logic never added up, so to speak – as well as the over-arching appeal to a particularly American version of the relationship between political liberalism and force (not The Force). I found it a bit grating actually. I also think that the critique you provide here wouldn’t be so devastating if Kasden (he shoulda knew better) and Abrams (he prolly couldn’t have) had developed or at least grounded our Heroes and anti-Heroes motivations, struggles, etc with something personal rather than a bare appeal to a predetermined (??) conception of good and evil and so on. At the end of it I just wasn’t attached to any of the characters in any significant way (except Rey who I thought they did a good job with) and so I don’t really have any personal concern or care about how things turn out for them. Any of them. They’re all just impersonal (not even archetypal) presentations of well-established types of characters without subtlety, nuance or personality (except Rey), and who’s only substance derives from what a theoretically well-trained audience is expected to project onto them. I found that annoying actually. Not a fatal flaw, but a cheesy one.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Stillwater says:

      Thank you, Stillwater, but I’ll mark two reservations or two versions of the same reservation: I didn’t find the thematic development grating, I just found it – as I expected to, more or less; I don’t think my critique was devastating, or anyway it wasn’t meant that way.Report

    • It’s a Star Wars movie. This is like reading The Cat in the Hat and having problems in general with its credibility and in particular with the characterizations of Thing One and Thing Two.Report

      • (But I’d still enjoy a physicist or cat coming along and running the numbers under relevant scenarios of an MF entering/emerging within/traveling through the atmosphere at lightspeed.)Report

        • Avatar James K in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          @ck-macleod

          A physicist won’t be able to give you an answer for a ship entering atmosphere at light speed because real-world physics says an object moving at light speed will have infinite mass, which is why in the real world only things with no mass can travel at light speed. If anything like hyperspace travel is in fact possible it will rely on principles that are not currently known to physics, which would make it impossible to make sensible predictions as to how it would behave.

          Randall Monroe did run the numbers on how much damage a baseball would do travelling at near-light speed though.Report

          • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to James K says:

            @james-k I’ve heard that about infinite mass, which is why, though I don’t claim to understand it, I was a little more careful with my language in the post than in the comment.

            Thanks for the link on the baseball traveling at 0.9c – outlines the problem very nicely, though it’s not clear just how careful the author was being in trying to interpret the size of the explosion based on speed, mass, atmosphere. I think we’d need someone to figure out what would happen if an object the apparent size of the MF was somehow accelerated to to various fractions c, and, to answer the question about the practical weaponization of remote control TIE fighters, at what level of acceleration they would produce thermonuclear explosions upon colliding with… whatever… Also what kind of other effects accelerations in that general range impose upon the accelerated object and items (from dust and debris, to other spaceships, up to planet-sized objects if relevant) in the vicinity.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to James K says:

            The Lonely Assassins are an obvious counterexample to this principle.
            Who the hell needs hyperspace when you have quantum mechanics?
            (and because those creatures were made by “the guy who writes insanely too much backstory” there’s an entire world of creatures backing them up… including the necessary ecology).Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to CK MacLeod says:

          This assume a ship leaves hyperspace at ~c.

          If no one beats me to it, I’ll expand on this later today.Report

          • @oscar-gordon Tis exactly what our main MFer says he’s gotta do to penetrate the bad guys’ defenses.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to CK MacLeod says:

              Rey: But you can’t emerge from hyperspace at lightspeed – objects traveling at lightspeed would have infinite mass – which is inconceivable!
              Solo: Well, I meant sorta-lightspeed – like… real, real fast!
              Rey: So you’re saying the First Order’s defenses are programmed only to handle objects going real fast, but not real, real fast?
              Han: Yeah, that’s the ticket.
              Rey: OK. I guess…Report

          • Of course a ship leaves hyperspace at c. What did you think, that the gostak distims the doshes?Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Sorry, forgot about this.

            First off, let’s remember that it has been clearly demonstrated that both Lucas, and Abrams, and apparently their writing teams, don’t know a parsec from a pineapple and apparently can’t be bothered to call up an physicist to get a little bit clarity.

            Second, despite being a hotshot pilot, Han Solo has never struck me as a technical flyer, he’s more “seat of the pants”. The fact that he hadn’t met his end in a rapidly expanding cloud of gas and flaming wreckage has convinced me it is less talent & skill and probably more to do with a good amount of Force sensitivity on his part, or Chewie is doing a hell of a lot more to cover for Han than we ever see. So, take anything Han says with a big grain of salt.

            Now, hyperspace is not something you necessarily have to enter or leave at speeds near c (sources vary). As many have pointed out, doing so would demand you spend a great deal of time building up or bleeding off kinetic energy (speed). If you watch the Star Wars movies, the ships look like they are accelerating, but I contend that is merely an optical illusion as they transition to hyperspace, where either the value of c is not the same, or the equation E=mc^2 doesn’t hold (or both). Thus, once in hyperspace, a ship may accelerate and decelerate as needed with much higher speed limits & more achievable energy requirements.

            Of course, one can not navigate easily through n-space while in hyperspace, which is why you need very precise jump coordinates. You have to know where & when you entered, your acceleration profile, and where you intend to exit, plus any course corrections to avoid large stellar bodies, so you can plot precisely when you need to exit hyperspace.

            So when Han jumped out of hyperspace, he had probably already decelerated to somewhat safe speeds, but he was making the transition inside the planetary defenses, which left very little margin for error on the timing.Report

            • Would be less worth discussing if the point hadn’t been made very explicitly, in what passes for “technical detail” even, in this context, and wasn’t crucial to the finale, that the MF would emerge from hyperspace at SOL, and do so because the First Order defenses were programmed only to deal with sub-SOL objects. The whole thing is quite ludicrous, of course, though the SOL is mentioned in other contexts from time to time.

              Maybe there’s some redeeming social value to the whole thing if a curious kid from time to time is inspired to look up the speed of light and enter the wondrous world of relativity. We do hear stories all of the time about honest-to-Force scientists who say they were first inspired by sci-fi.Report

            • Now, hyperspace is not something you necessarily have to enter or leave at speeds near c (sources vary).

              I was thinking about this, and the classic “Accelerate to light-speed to enter hyperspace” books is Starman Jones, one of Heinlein’s best juveniles. It’s a perfect Heinlein being Heinlein idea; he gets all the engineering right, but ignores the fact that it’s not possible to accelerate an object with mass to c. He’s making up the rules, so he could easily enough have said “accelerate to .9999c”.

              Another amusing thing about the book is that the crew members have to convert from decimal (the data in the star charts) to binary (which the ship computers understand) in their heads. RAH knew that scientific computers use binary, but apparently not that converting between bases is will within their abilities.Report

        • The energy required to accelerate a macroscopic object to the speed of light is infinite. This means that the atmosphere of the planet would need to absorb the blow of an infinite amount of energy to slow down a Millennium Falcon entering at the speed of light. This would simply mean instant and utter destruction of that planet, or indeed of any other finite object in the universe on which the good guys tried to land.

          So according to The Force Awakens, the Millennium Falcon is essentially the universe’s most powerful Death Star.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        It’s a Star Wars movie.

        I’m not sure why that should make us lower our expectations. Especially when our expectations weren’t all that high, actually.Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Stillwater says:

      Finn is motivated by empathy, in every significant act he does. I find this remarkable for a male character, and very well grounded.

      Han is motivated by a sense of uselessness and despair – he keeps this at arms length, but it is shown in several different ways. I understand less of Leia. The behavior of Kylo Ren is still a mystery, but I feel I have been promised to be told more of him. (He wants to destroy the Jedi, but why? What happened?) Were it the case that JJ Abrams at the helm for future films, I would doubt that this promise would be kept. (He’s great at setting a hook, but not so great at delivering on it.) But he’s not.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    It’s funny, but recently I have been pondering this very problem, but from the opposite direction.

    I am reminded of back in the 1980s, when it became a common conservative criticism of liberal academic culture that academics had the audacity to think and write about non-Canon culture. I remember one essay in particular (likely from the Atlantic?) that pointed to a PhD student from some college somewhere that had done his dissertation on the history of propaganda in comic books during WWI & WWII, instead of doing one on Milton or Homer, they way God intended academics to do their dissertations. It’s easy to forget this now, but the willingness to look seriously and critically at non-Dead White Men Cannon™ art and literature is a pretty new thing in our culture. And, I would argue, it’s a good trend overall, and it has bled into other disciplines as well, and made them better for it.

    But I wonder sometimes if there are some things that weren’t really made for this kind of hyper-detailed analysis.

    An obvious example is MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. It would be easy to go through and pick apart that movie apart in the same way people pick apart any of the Star Wars movies, and find them lacking in the exact same fashions:

    We’re just told that the motivation for the Tin Man is wanting a heart, and we’re expected to believe it? A tornado rips a house out of it’s foundation and send it spiraling and yet somehow no one in the house gets hurt? We’re supposed to believe that a bucket of water just happened to be sitting right where Dorothy was standing when all hope seemed lost, and they she just happened to think to throw it at the witch, and that it just happened to make the witch melt, and that the monkeys would just happen to let everyone go then?

    For that matter, you can make pretty much the same criticisms for Horse Feathers, or Some Like it Hot, or The African Queen, or (because it’s that time of year) It’s a Wonderful Life. But we don’t tend to do that, because that’s not really what those movies are made for. And the fact that you can find narrative holes, telegraphed motivations, and Deus ex Machina plot twists in those works don’t make them any less wonderful for what they are.

    The more I read people analyzing Star Wars as if it’s a work of Shakespeare or Marlowe, the more I think everyone’s kind of missing the point of it.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I think we mostly agree, but there’s a peculiar aspect of the believability problem in relation to “techno-fantasy” in our “Age of Technology”: Star Wars re-mythologizes the scientifically disenchanted world, and I’m sure that’s also central to the cultural phenomenon – which, to complete the irony or send it on another circle round. is a heavily technology-intensive cultural phenomenon…Report

    • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Personally, I don’t object to very serious consideration of works such as these per se. It’s just the lack of understanding of what the work was intended to do, and how it was intended to work, that’s annoying.

      Borges wrote magical realism. There is such a thing as heroic realism, and certain trends in comic books push that direction. But Star Wars is not heroic realism, it’s heroic mythology. I think it’s completely legitimate to point to elements and say, “this didn’t have any emotional impact”, or “this served no purpose”. And character motivations are absolutely fair game.

      But a lot of the complaints make me think, “you just don’t like this kind of thing, do you? There’s no movie that could have been made that you would like, it seems”

      There’s also a sort of complaint where I think, “Weren’t you paying attention?” But to some extent, if the audience missed an important detail, it’s on the filmmakers, not the audience.

      SPOILER – SPOILER – SPOILER

      As an example, there are many complaints out there in the wild that Rey should not have been able to beat Kylo. This ignores the fact that Kylo took a hit from Chewie’s bowcaster, which we’ve been shown repeatedly hits like Mike Tyson. Most people wouldn’t even be standing. But the idea of a villain who also seems vulnerable is a very tough sell, and a huge risk. It also ignores the fact that Rey had a moment of revelation which turned the tide of battle (and at that moment of revelation, we here the music that is generally known as “Luke’s Theme”, so what does that mean?)Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Technically The Wizard of Oz has an out because it’s about a dream.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      The more I read people analyzing Star Wars as if it’s a work of Shakespeare or Marlowe, the more I think everyone’s kind of missing the point of it.

      Heh.Report

  5. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Well the starkiller weapon crossing half the galaxy in moment, also Han doesn’t care about setting coordinated for the jump, crashing into stars a calculated risk.Report

    • (Must be a very small galaxy, or sector of it, for the light generated by the starkiller thing to reach viewers on other planets pretty much immediately. Is this somehow “explained’ somewhere?) (Should I be spoilerizing such details – or have we ventured so deeply into hyperspoil that it’s pointless?)Report

      • Avatar El Muneco in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        It’s simply a blunder, the galaxy really is that small because it’s an Abrams galaxy. Abrams has proven in pretty much every work of SF he’s done that he has no sense of scale, in earthly dimensions but especially in spatial scope. Planets will be in visual distance of each other, even across interstellar space. The homeworlds of massive interstallar empires will be less than a month’s travel apart at normal cruising speeds. To Abrams, the Milky Way is effectively smaller than the Earth was in 1900.Report

  6. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Well Shakespeare was allegory disguised as popular entertainment, concerned with the acquisition of power, the meaning of truth , human passion, Marlowe likewise.Report

  7. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    Re han’s morivations, he think his noble phase only for him so far, getting back into his old craft, only gets him so far, luckily there’s no jabba who rules the underworld, the mob scene is decentralized.Report

  8. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    The novelization broached it, in an unsatifactory manner.Report

  9. Avatar Lurker says:

    Every criticism of episode 7,seems like it could equally well apply to Episode 4 as they deploy similar story structure, similar character archetypes, similar lack of realism and/or narrative “credibility,” similar reliance on big action set pieces, and are primarily Campbellian myths.

    Episodes 1-3 failed because they moved away from the simple hero-myth story line and towards some kind of tragic story about the fall of Anakin that Lucas had no idea how to tell. And they were made worse because Lucas tried to introduce too many elements that didn’t fit with a tragic story: children’s characters like Jar-Jar, a child protagonist engaged in racing games, political intrigue, detective like plotlines (e.g. Obi-Wan trying to discover where the clone army came from), and possibly one of cinema’s most badly executed romances.

    I suppose the one criticism that applies to episode 7 that doesn’t apply to episode 4 is that the latter was original and the former is intentionally following a very parralell story.

    But the value of the original for most of us isn’t its originality. It’s that it honestly tells a Campbellian hero myth story in a fantasy world that has some futuristic elements. And honestly episode 4 really wasn’t that original, except as a new collage of old cinema tropes and set pieces. The jedi are from samurai movies. The droids are comic relief. The Empire is just from WWII movies. The attack on the death star is a clear remake of a number of WWII fighter plane/bomber movies. The effects were borrowed from 2001.

    Is episode 4 better because of its originality. A bit, I guess, but the execution was worse: Hamil’s acting -the lead- is horrid. Some of the scenes run on too long. The movement from one crisis to another is sometimes forced and not well paced. Etc.

    Could episode 7 have had fewer references and parralells to episode 7? I suppose so. Would the movie have been better as a result? I don’t really see how it would be more enjoyable for most. The enjoyment of the movie -for most- is that it resonates as a Campellian hero-myth, which it would do as well -not worse or better- with as few references and similarities to episode 4. And the other way the movie is enjoying is as an action movie with likeable young characters, and reducing references to the old movie would not have made the fun action aspects of the new movie any more or less fun.

    I propose that those whose enjoyment of the movie was thrown by the references to past movies approached the movie with a -perhaps subtle and subconscious- cynicism that this movie was going to be bad and their mind was looking for anything to criticize. It reminds me of some old fart -like me- watching the original episode 4 and saying, “Oh, this isn’t any good because it is just a copy and mishmash of old samurai and WWII movies, simplified for little kids, with some hammy acting.” If that is too cynical, then the criticisms of episode 7 are, too, no?Report

    • Avatar Lurker in reply to Lurker says:

      Please note, I mean the above as a defense of episodes 4 and 7. I think they are both wonderfully good movies. And I can see that some people wouldn’t like either of they don’t enjoy hero myths, action ser-pieces, fairy tales, fantasy, etc. But I find it hard to see why those who would like the kind of movie that episode 4 is -call it the “Fantasy Hero-Myth, Action Genre”- wouldn’t also love episode 7 (maybe not quite as much or maybe a little more or roughly the same) as episode 7.

      Please explain in simple, simple terms as I am a simple, simple man,Report

    • Avatar miguel cervantes in reply to Lurker says:

      Well Hamill was just a wild eyed farm boy, as the film began, looking forward to finding a way off this dustball of a planet, we discover later, he had a different destiny, Rey is similar, but she shows greater ability, and demonstrates possibly greater peril, seeing how quick she is to show anger, Kylo Ren as a parody of Vader, akin to Mel Brooks in Spaceballs is something else entirely,

      Also Poe Dameron, from the hints from the prequel to TFA, also probably has ties to another prominent character in the saga, who appeared in all three films,Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Lurker says:

      Episode one could have been all “racing games” and fun and joy, with just enough “I’m a loser kid who kicks puppies occasionally” to set the stage for the future.

      Arya in the first book of Game Of Thrones manages this… you can tell a tragic tale without having it all be dark and gloom from day one.Report

  10. Well said @ck-macleod. I have only seen the film once and am now just reading the various reviews/analysis/criticism of the piece now that I am back in the states. All I know is that my popcorn didn’t cost 10 bucks in Mexico. Much closer to 2 dollars.Report

  11. Avatar miguel cervantes says:

    possibly, besides light speed, is obviously something multiple greater than c, involving tachyons, of course that does not excuse being so cavalier employing the hyperdrive,Report

  12. Avatar George Turner says:

    I enjoyed Finn’s story. He was taught from birth not to think for himself and just serve his side’s interests, and always thought the Republic (or whatever they call themselves) as the enemy. But then he starts thinking for himself and flees the only party he’s ever known, changing sides and of course be denounced and hunted as a traitor and sell-out. To his amazement, he finds that he’s valued as an individual and that his insights, knowledge, and courage are finally appreciated. I think any black conservative can appreciate it.

    The other part I like is how they use Rey to revisit the central theme of all the Star Wars movies, recycling. When we first met Luke he was buying re-used/recycled droids from the Jawas to help with the moisture vaporators that recycle water. Later that day he finds himself about to be recycled in a trash chute, and his first concern after destroying the Death Star was whether R2 could be repaired or whether he’d have to be recycled. That theme continues through the first three, culminating in the Emperor’s attempt to re-use and re-purpose an existing Skywalker instead of having Darth Vader crank out a litter of new ones. And then of coures the prequels open with Luke’s young father working in a recycling center, where he builds everything from droids to podracers out of scrap. He ends up fighting and defeating the Trade Federation, who are the villains probably because they produce new products instead of sorting through the garbage like everyone else.

    So it’s fitting that Rey also works in the recycling industry, which is rightfully portrayed, as it is throughout the series, as a hellish and pointless existence that people dream of escaping from. And her mission is to get Luke’s father’s lightsaber back to Luke, even though Luke already knows how to build lightsabers (it was part of his training) and probably has a couple crates of them gathering dust in his garage. As episode VII closes you can see it in her eyes. “Here. I brought you a forty year old lightsaber that was found as a lamp in an antique store before ending up in a box in a basement – because I’m a scrap dealer like your father. Re-use. Recycle.”Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Glyph says:

        Oh, out and about. I look in sometimes.

        Today I drank a new flavor of V-8, mango and carrot. It tastes simultaneously delightful and atrocious, much like Star Wars.

        As to the lightspeed question, the best answer physics has so far is the Alcubierre drive which uses a bit of trickery to contract and expand space. Whether it could work in reality is somewhat doubtful.Report

    • “Luke, I am the reincarnation of your mother, Queen Amidala. I was sent to you to say ‘Take this. You are more than old enough to start putting away your toys when you’re done with them’.”Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        ^_^

        or the conversation could just go straight into the recycling pit.

        Rey: “I believe this lightsaber belongs to you.”
        Luke: “Actually it was just a loaner from Ben Kenobi. Did you find MY HAND?!”
        Rey: “Your hand?”
        Luke: “Yeah. Last I saw it, it was firmly attached to that lightsaber.”
        Rey: “No, there was just this. I guess someone threw your hand away.”
        Luke: “I loved that hand.”
        Rey: “But you’ve replaced it.”
        Luke: “You ever make out with a droid before?”Report

  13. I haven’t seen the movie – in fact only saw the first 2 when they came out, so this is a question more than anything else. You write:

    After all, in this universe, everything and -one is surrounded by The Force, which can be defined as “whatever we need it to be for the sake of delivering a simple quasi-mythical or epic narrative understandable by children and childlike adults, adjusted for present widely approved or approvable social, cultural, political, and economic purposes.”

    Would a plausible interpretation of The Force be simply, that it is human subjectivity? That is that the entire cinematic cycle of SW is a defense of subjectivity, an assertion of its paraphysical powers in the face of empiricism? In which case the question of hyperspeed etc is simply a question of such things being imagined.

    This occurred to me while reading the discussion at the current Market Failure post and making my comments on human agency, irrationalism et al. The rational actor is before all else the subjective actor.

    BTW, when the second SW came out, Karen and I were taking karate with Hidy Ochiai who asserted, with some plausibility, that he was the model for Yoda. Certainly a ready at hand interpretation of The Force is some Orientalist fantasy based on chi or ki.Report

    • Atomic Geography: Would a plausible interpretation of The Force be simply, that it is human subjectivity? That is that the entire cinematic cycle of SW is a defense of subjectivity, an assertion of its paraphysical powers in the face of empiricism? In which case the question of hyperspeed etc is simply a question of such things being imagined.

      I think on some level that is a part of the appeal of SW, and also part of what in the exchange above with Tod Kelly I referred to as the “re-mythologization of the scientifically disenchanted world.” In other words, SW (and maybe a lot of our entertainment) as a response to the technological annihilation of being. If I were of a mind to take the SW discussion further, or re-do this one, it’s a theme I’d want to expand on. Fortunately, I have no such intention…Report

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