During my reemergence as a Star Wars fan, one of the first and few pro-I-III articles I ever read was a little piece called “The Case for Jar Jar.” It was exactly what it sounded like, providing literary and mythical interpretations to the goofy Gungan and his role in The Phantom Menace. It was published online shortly after that film was released, but as I would find out it was far from the last analysis from author Paul F. McDonald.
After writing numerous articles for websites such as TheForce.net and Space.com, Mr. McDonald would start his own blog entitled “The Star Wars Heresies,” intended as a permanent home for his older works and work to come. However, it seems Mr. McDonald had loftier aspirations, as evidenced by his newly released book entitles, appropriately enough, “The Star Wars Heresies: Interpreting the Themes, Symbols, and Philosophies of Episodes I, II, and III.”
Going into the book, I expected a sort of “Greatest Hits” collection of Mr. McDonald’s online work. However, while the chapters on Jar Jar Binks and Jango Fett crib a bit from previous articles, the majority of the book is new analysis. Like his work to date, the book provides a scholarly tone akin to the “Pop Culture and Philosophy” books series. That may sound a bit dry, but I assure you that to a true Star Wars fan, it’s immensely fascinating. Split into three parts representing the three prequel films, each chapter takes a look at a specific character and the mythical and philosophical inspirations that George Lucas and the filmmakers imbued them with, drawing from many learned sources including Lucas’ own mentor, Joseph Campbell.
Naturally, certain major characters such as Anakin Skywalker get multiple chapters focusing on where they are at any point during the labyrinthine story of the fall of the Old Republic. While it makes a point of not necessarily defending the execution of the films, it does provide all the ammunition you’ll ever need to shoot down those who would claim I-III have no substance going into them. It is, in fact, the closest thing to a clear smoking gun proving that George Lucas knew exactly what he was doing when he crafted the plot.
The only drawback, aside from a few minor editorial errors (I can’t decide whether putting the footnotes at the end of the book is a fantastic idea or a terrible idea), is that the asking price of $40.00 USD is a little steep for a book of this size and style (similar books normally retail at half the amount). Still, I would argue that for any self-respecting Star Wars fan, the content is well worth the expense. Plus, it would be supporting an author who has been positively contributing to the fandom for years.
As noted in this book’s preface, George Lucas once said “If criticism were the kind of analysis it was meant to be in the first place – as it is in other arts where you have literate, sophisticated people who are knowledgeable – then it would be worthwhile to listen to it.” Paul F. McDonald has clearly done his homework when sadly few would deign to regarding these particular movies, and the result is worthwhile indeed.
For more Jedi News book reviews click here.