Saturday, November 24, 2012

Simple Math

(Originally written for Jedi News. Look at the sweet new logo I have!)

A while ago, I read This Post on the blog "A Certain Point of View" calling for the abandonment of the term “Original Trilogy” because of its polarizing nature, and replace it with the phrase “4-6 Trilogy.” While I disagreed at first, I slowly came around. The writer makes a strong case that “Original” automatically elevates the first set of movies and goes a long way to keep the newer films from being considered classics in their own right (I feel referring to the newer films as simply “The Prequels” does the same amount of damage). However, the more I think about it, saying “4-6 Trilogy” and “1-3 Trilogy” doesn’t go nearly far enough in bridging the gap between the two (soon to be three) sets of films.

We need to abandon the term “trilogy” entirely when talking about Star Wars.


The dictionary describes the word “Trilogy” thusly:
1. A series or group of three plays, novels, operas, etc., that, although individually complete, are closely related in theme, sequence, or the like.
2. (In ancient Greek drama) a series of three complete and usually related tragedies performed at the festival of Dionysus and forming a tetralogy with the satyr play.
3. A group of three related things.

Notice a pattern? They all have the number “3” in them. There are even three different entries. Three.

Star Wars stopped being three films the second “The Phantom Menace” went into production.

That’s why when I absolutely need to talk about the separate sets of movies, I use just the episode numbers (and incidentally, it’s one of the only times I use the episode numbers). Otherwise, I use “films”, “sets”, and Lucasfilm’s own “Saga” when describing the six films.

I-III is still Star Wars, whether one likes it or not. Whatever one’s personal preference, for many people I-III are just as classic, just as quotable, and just as dear as IV-VI. Continued use of the word “trilogy” just gives false hope to those who like to pretend this isn’t so, and ammunition to throw at us who have accepted and embraced the newer films into our hearts and minds. It also sets VII-IX up for a hard time because the vocal minority will disavow it the second it does something they don’t particularly care for (which it should, if it’s going to be any good, since the detractors have shown time and again they get Star Wars the least).

IV-VI are classics. I-III are classics. VII-IX will, hopefully, be classics. We need to remember now and push now that this will in the end be a nine part Saga. Stop saying “original” unless you’re talking about “A New Hope” circa 1977. Stop saying “prequel movies” unless you’re explaining to someone for the first time why they were made later but chronologically happen before. Stop saying “sequel” since that word in itself drips with negative emotions and broken promises. And for the love of cake stop saying “trilogy” for a group of soon-to-be-nine movies.

If George Lucas is involved, it’s Star Wars for better or worse. Just enjoy the ride.


  1. If George Lucas is involved in the next chapter of Star Wars, I think we shouldn't need to worry. Unless well, you didn't like Episode 1,-3.

    1. I would amend that to "If his handpicked writer and director listens to George and doesn't try to 'improve' on his percieved 'mistakes', I think we needn't worry." Speaking as someone who loves Star Wars (and doesn't just pretend to).

    2. That's not how collaboration works, though. The whole point of the filmmaking process is that there are multiple voices contributing and developing the concept so that flaws are limited. Even in the auteur model of film there's always at least someone else butting heads, usually resulting in the film's betterment.

      Ideally the future writer/director will be strong in their own opinions, but also not conflict too heavily with Lucas- be a mix of both rather than one dominating the other.

  2. I think the difficulty in trying to present them as a coherent saga is that they're not really written to be. The original three are self-evidently the story of Luke (however much Lucas may deny that now), while the prequels are the story of Anakin. They are bridged together, but share too many aesthetic and storytelling differences to be meaningfully grouped together outside of them being in the same universe.

    1. That's odd because you made the opposite case before, that they're "too similar." They really aren't different, aside from the fact that they span a good 30-40 years in-universe and times change. It's a single story, and it is all Anakin's story, despite changing from a hero to a villain midstream and Luke taking focus. VII-IX may change that dynamic, but it will still be a single epic story.

    2. They're too similar in their ambition and structure, which is what I was getting at before- one self-evidently tries to be like the other, despite the fact they're two vastly different beings on an aesthetic level (plus I was mostly discussing it on a writing level, not a full cinematic comparison- the writing for both is very similar, though one is less polished than the other).

      And I don't think there's any way one could sensibly read the original movies as being about Anakin at all- he doesn't even feature in the original that much, and doesn't come into focus at all until the end of Empire- Not to mention the fact that the idea for Anakin to actually be Vader didn't come about until the writing of Empire. Luke is very clearly the protagonist of those films, and the whole of the saga is about his journey, not his father's.

    3. It's kind of about both of their journeys. The problem here is that you're simply looking at real-time production. IV-VI on its own was certainly Luke's story, but I-III changes that and refocused it into a story about how the Chosen One falls from grace and then redeems himself. VII-IX will change the paradigm again. The context of the saga evolves with every single new Episode made, but it all fits together. Like Yoda says, you must constantly "unlearn what you have learned."

    4. Well, yes, because the real-time production dictates how these films were created and meant to be understood in their original context. Nothing can change how they were originally meant to be perceived, no matter how many prequels, sequels, creative backtracking, or whatever happens later. There's no way the original films were ever written or directed to be about Anakin, so it's difficult to seriously read them in that way.

      Although honestly, even taking the prequels into consideration I find it hard to buy them being one single story. Were a newcomer to watch the films from Episode I through Episode VI, I still think there'd be a noticeable distinction in the two stories (beyond the obvious aesthetic differences), and I doubt they'd go as far as to call it one overarching saga.

    5. My wife did. I gave her a choice of order when I showed it to her the first time, and she chose number. And it all seemed one story to her.

      Qui-Gon Jinn said "Your focus determines your reality." If you approach the six movies the same way, you'll have comparable experiences.