Writers tend to pay lip service, then head service, then outlawed-outside-of-Nevada service to William Shakespeare. The man, the legend, the bane of middle schoolers. And while I wouldn’t say he’s the best English writer (I wouldn’t know who is), I would say he’s the most interesting. Any discussion I’ve been in regarding any of his plays never reached its end, because the guy puts enough character, intrigue, poetry, and questions in his works to fill a sarlacc pit. He’s worth discussing, is what I’m getting at.
And now that I think about it, Star Wars is opposite in every way except for the acclaim. The depth of Star Wars comes from its setting and mythology details, since its characters are archetypes and its dialogue is, well, it’s Lucas. Unlike the weak and usually stolen stories of Shakespeare, the plot of Star Wars (ok, that story was also stolen, shut up) is one of its strongest elements. And people don’t tend to talk about Star Wars in my experience because it’s obviously and rightfully one of the best film trilogies ever, and putting it on a Best Films list is like putting oxygen on a Best Things to Intake list.
Which brings us to the book in question, written by Ian Doescher. I received the trilogy as a Christmas gift, which is good, because it’s one of those joke-sounding gifts that I never would’ve bought for myself, and I would’ve missed out on a fun, interesting journey. They know what I like, what can I say.
I say ‘fun’ because the book is fun, though I’m not sure how much Doescher wants me to have fun. Han teases the reader about whether he shot Greedo first or not, and there’s a hilarious (and quite Shakespearean) conversation between stormtroopers about whether or why the Millinieum Falcon is empty or not. And it’s hard not to smile, or roll your eyes, or just skim over it entirely when you read a line like “R2-D2: Beep beep, beep, beep, meep, squeak, beep, beep, beep, whee!”, or the simple and elegant “Chewbacca: Egh.” Yet Luke soliloquizes (that’s right! I know fancy Shakespeare words! What of it?) eloquently about the nature of adventure and R2-D2 even talks when no one’s around, in order to say that he’s going to save the day. No, I’m not kidding. It seems weird to have such earnest dialogues and faithful recreations of classic scenes in a title as ridiculous as William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. Then again, perhaps that’s part of the joke. Any bad movie aficionado will tell you that a movie isn’t as fun to laugh at if it knows it’s awful and tries on purpose to be awful. Sharknado suffers from this, though not to the point where it’s unbearably self-aware. The more earnest someone is when she presents you with a sewer gunk and polish sausage sandwich, the more embarrassing it is for her, and the funnier it becomes, because we as a species love human suffering and just need to accept that fact. Doescher’s work isn’t bad at all, but I think it’s operating on the same control board. The more seriously committed he is to emulating Shakespeare, the funnier the whole picture becomes when viewed from a distance. The other bits of intentional comedy don’t distract from this goal, since Shakespeare would be all too happy to poke fun at the lower class and the simple-minded.
But something’s missing from this book that seperates The Holy Trilogy and the Bard like a thin, electrified fence: there’s no sex jokes.
Remember when I said that combining Shakespeare and Star Wars seems like a study in contrasts? Keep in mind that Lucas’ opus, aside from one slave outfit, is really chaste and sexless, mostly because it barely represents one sex. Shakespeare could oil Jabba for days using the sleezy, grimy sex puns he engages in. Maybe it’s because I’m bad at picking up these things, but this book seems to lean towards the Lucas approach to the nasty rather than the love sonnet approach. You can’t do half an entradre (“You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and buy a whistle from a Toys R Us…”), so maybe one side has to win out in the end. But we’ll discuss whether this project is more Shakespeare than Star Wars when The Empire Striketh Back.