Like I said recently, if you’re buying what I’m selling on SWPAS, you really do need to find a way to get your paws on “The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting The Themes, Symbols, and Philosophies Of Episodes I, II and III.” Yes, the paperback is expensive (though you can get it on Kindle for a lot less). But while I don’t agree with every single point or source–there is after all more than one way of looking at something–I have to say it’s a well thought-out examination of what’s beneath the surface of the prequel trilogy. If you want the very best look at the first set of Star Wars films, hunt down “In A Faraway Galaxy” written by a group of fans and published by a vanity press in 1984. If you want the very best look at the entire prequel trilogy thus far, get this book.
McDonald organizes the book by film, and within each discussion of the film, breaks things down by the archetype a particular character represents. A variety of sources are brought into the discussion: Eps IV-VI, the expanded universe, Clone Wars, Buddhist writers, other books analyzing the saga, commentary from the cast and crew, and of course, commentary from Lucas himself. I’ve read more than a few books analyzing the Star Wars movies over the years and one thing that sets this book apart is its accessibility. Some books I’ve read were pretty good, but were definitely written by and for academics. Others have an agenda behind what they’re writing and Star Wars serves as a way to get people in the door. But while it is a book that encourages you to think and therefore isn’t a breezy read, it’s not heavy or boring or off-putting to anyone without a PhD. I never get the impression that he’s stretching or pulling stuff out of nowhere.
It appears the goal of the book is to take a literary approach as a way to help the reader better appreciate what Lucas did with the films. While it occasionally addresses common negative criticism of the films, the book spends most of the time giving readers a new way of looking at the movies or reminding them of how well everything works together. Part of the perception problem with these movies is that beginning with “The Power Of Myth” in 1987 and for years afterward, a lot had been written about the mythic underpinnings of the first batch of Star Wars films which helped validate them as something more than blockbuster special effects extravaganzas. But these underpinnings weren’t really obvious to most filmgoers, including 90% of Star Wars fandom, and had to be explained. Since there weren’t Cliffs Notes handed out to everyone when the prequels were released, the films lacking the OT’s mythic sweep became a justification for not liking them. “The Star Wars Heresies” blows that notion out of the water.
Of course it might not register with someone who is just chasing a high from 35 years ago or someone who wants more uptwinkles on i09 or Kotaku. But it just might take an open mind and open it a bit further.