Last evening was the second-last episode of the Lost series, which began in the autumn of 2004.
A few thoughts: the programme is one of the most violent ever presented, or at least, that I have seen recently. Last night’s show, for example, featured a woman dying after having her throat cut, right before a second character is shot to death. Last week’s segment revealed more about the mysterious Jacob, and his unnamed twin brother, who were born from a shipwreck survivor who washed up on the island, was rescued by a woman already living there, who in turn murders the new mother by bashing her head in with a rock. This woman then raises the twins as her own.
I was reminded of the Norse pagan creation story, of the chief goddess giving birth to the Nordic race by having twins, one of whom is fair-haired, the other swarthy. In Lost, Jacob is shown to be fair in appearance, while his twin, if not swarthy, is much darker complected. It seems that the unnamed twin was rendered into the “smoke monster” that has harassed and murdered the plane-wrecked survivors, and many others, throughout the course of the series, when Jacob pushed him into the cave from which emanated a bright light of unknown origin. After which, the light was extinguished and the smoke monster came flying out of the cave.
The significance of this, I’m not certain. However, the producers and cast of Lost recently held a party to mark the end of the series. They were sent a revealing note by George Lucas, creator and director of the Star Wars “saga”.
It read as follows: “Congratulations on pulling off an amazing show. Don't tell anyone ... but when Star Wars first came out, I didn't know where it was going either. The trick is to pretend you've planned the whole thing out in advance. Throw in some father issues and references to other stories — let's call them homages — and you've got a series.” This is what many people, including me, suspected all along about Star Wars.
The Star Wars “saga” ultimately failed, becasue there was, in fact, no story to tell. The Star Wars universe was not a place, but a device, which allowed George Lucas to meld together several genres — the western, the war movie, the medieval romance, the pirate flick, and the samurai film — to create an exciting adventure with the first installment in 1977. Though set in the distant past, the far-away galaxy possessed super-futuristic hardware, inspired in turn by Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon serials of the 1940s. This allowed the characters to seamlessly hop between genres. Thus, Luke Skywalker and company could engage in a gun (“laser”) battle in keeping with the old western; later, Skywalker could take on Darth Vader with a sword made out of light, as befits a medieval epic; afterward, our heroes could engage the forces of the evil galactic empire in World War II-style space dogfights. Courtesy faster-than-light travel, the characters could speed to any planet as befitting the genre: either a “desert” planet, or a “forest” planet, or an artificial planetoid to stand in for the villain’s castle. It was this melding of genres which made the original Star Wars so exciting, even if, as one critic put it at the time, it was really “bubble-gum for the mind.”
Be that as it may, it was certainly good-tasting bubble-gum — and relatively long-lasting, too. The premise had enough promise for two separate movies, but that’s it. The first sequel, the Empire Strikes Back, Lucas wisely handed over filmmaking duties to hired guns. Even here, however, the saga necessarily fell back onto melodrama — “I’m your father, Luke.” The third film in the original series had all the action, without the spirit. The three prequels, released around the turn of the century, and detailing the transformation of Luke Skywalker’s father into Darth Vader, the chief villain of the series, were at times just mediocre, and often, abysmal. Even a children’s programme joked about how the Phantom Menace was “half-baked.” One reviewer called it “the Phantom movie,” which is precisely what it was. Perhaps a more skilled screenwriter could have penned something more exciting and interesting. It is more so that Lucas attempted to stretch a device — sci-fi hardware subsuming multiple themes and genres — into a saga, and it didn’t, perhaps couldn’t, work.