Style vs. Substance discussion

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by ShrunkenJedi, Nov 29, 2004.

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  1. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    Now, plenty of people seem to like Star Wars for the lighsaber battles, the technology, the rich visual feel, the badass Sith, etc. Clearly it has that element in it.

    And, others (like me) like the characterization, foreshadowing, the fact that while it might seem so on the surface, the good is not all good and the bad is not all bad-- that kind of thing. However, these aspects don't seem to be as well known, and it can be argued that other books and movies far surpass it in this respect.

    So, do you watch SW just for the style, or much prefer the substance? Do you enjoy the style and substance equally? Do you think there should have been more lightsaber battles? So you think the action goes on too long and it should have been replaced by characterization? Why?

    My stance is that I think there is depth to SW unrecognized by the general public (but that it could stand to be strengthened), and the strained bonds between Obi-Wan, Anakin and Luke and Anakin's subsequent revivification through Luke's uncompromising love is one of the most moving things I ever will see.
  2. NZPoe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2001
    star 4
    I think that there is also an unpercieved greater depth to Star Wars that is missed out not only by the majority of the public, but also by a large percentage of fans.

    But in saying that I believe that the style of Star Wars films do prevent that deeper subtext from coming through. I enjoy all aspects of the Star Wars films, but I RESPECT Star Wars for its spirituality, which almost nobody else I know of does the same.

    The focus on special effects, action, the 1930's serial-format of filmmaking, acting and writing in the Star Wars films unfortunately does quash the strong thematic content and high-brow intellectualism of the films which is something I would have loved to have more of. The only mediums in which I've seen this aspect of SW become most prominent would be in the Expanded Universe Dark Horse comics and the writings of Kevin J. Anderson.

    And of course, on a lesser note, some of Lucasarts more classic Star Wars games (The X-Wing and Tie Fighter space combat series and the Dark Forces series).
  3. Go-Mer-Tonic Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Aug 22, 1999
    star 6
    That just makes the message get through better. The unassuming nature of the style of these films helps people watch it without being defensive about things.

    They don't brace themselves against the spiritual ideas because they aren't expecting them.
  4. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    Yes, Go-Mer, that's a big reason why I like Science Fiction-- even to the point of Space Opera-- so much, and think it's so powerful; it can introduce and discuss scientific and moral ideas without the baggage of the contemporary world. Meaning in part, naysayers who would dismiss anything new as 'impractical' and 'idealistic'. :D For instance, in SW, the idea that one should love without requiring anything from your loved one, and that that love (and only that love) is redemptive, is illustrated to get at us at a gut level.

    Spiritual, I suppose, but I would say it is even more moral speculation, discussion and illustration. It frees us from the confines of organized religion, and I think that's a very good thing, but the force is not itself religious in nature. It is simply a part of nature in the GFFA, something that some individuals can tap into.
  5. Dark_Jedi_D Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 16, 2004
    star 1
    I enjoy the style and the substance. The story is great and it is nice to have a good battle every now and then.
  6. TripleB Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 4
    Classic Trilogy- Style and Substance.

    Prequel Trilogy- Neither.

    Star Wars: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC video game: Style and Subatance.

    any questions?
  7. NZPoe Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2001
    star 4
    Yes - where did you get such misguided information?? ;)

    j/k :D
  8. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    I do have a real question.

    What do you think about the political plot in the prequels? Do you absolutely not like it, or do you think other substance-poor elements wash it out, or what...
  9. Tyranus_the_Hutt Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 14, 2004
    star 4
    I like the political plot of the prequels. It adds an interesting element of contrast to the original films. Those pictures were more romantic in nature and were largely derived from 1930s and 40s action serials. The OT was based on mythology and had a "gee-wiz" sense of wonder to it; the prequels are more grim and are deliberately antithetical in their overall tonality (compared to the OT). Because we know the outcome, everything that occurs takes on an added emotional resonance - we feel somehow as though we're in a Greek tragedy. The political machinations of Palpatine and the convoluted Republic/Seperatist plot threads sometimes border on obfuscation, but, for me, there is an inherent interest in re-watching the pictures to absorb the subtlety and detail missed on earlier viewings. So in my opinion, that aspect adds considerable depth to the prequels, as well as enhances the OT.

    Likewise, the emotional subtext of the prequels contributes a large amount of psychological immediacy and power to scenes in the OT that appeared, at first glance, to be "one-dimensional". I tend to view the scenes on the Lars moisture farm in "A New Hope" in a different way now that I am able to connect the events of "Attack of the Clones" with those originally concieved in the OT. Interestingly, Episodes 4-6, by there mere existence, help to embellish the dramatic conflict of the prequels. It is a notion strangely similar to the films of the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu; his movies were different and yet somehow similar - despite their individual power, each one fed into the collective fabric of the others. While its depth is not initially apparent, I think that the same is true of the "Star Wars" saga.
  10. Jumpman Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 12, 2003
    star 4
    Since the beginning, for me, it's been all about the story and the characters, specifically the Skywalker family.

    To me, the style enhances Star Wars but it's always been about the story. The story and characters are what drawn people back to certain films. It's always been that way. It's always been about story.

    Now, I do love my lightsaber battles!

    "I like the political plot of the prequels. It adds an interesting element of contrast to the original films. Those pictures were more romantic in nature and were largely derived from 1930s and 40s action serials. The OT was based on mythology and had a "gee-wiz" sense of wonder to it; the prequels are more grim and are deliberately antithetical in their overall tonality (compared to the OT). Because we know the outcome, everything that occurs takes on an added emotional resonance - we feel somehow as though we're in a Greek tragedy. The political machinations of Palpatine and the convoluted Republic/Seperatist plot threads sometimes border on obfuscation, but, for me, there is an inherent interest in re-watching the pictures to absorb the subtlety and detail missed on earlier viewings. So in my opinion, that aspect adds considerable depth to the prequels, as well as enhances the OT.

    Likewise, the emotional subtext of the prequels contributes a large amount of psychological immediacy and power to scenes in the OT that appeared, at first glance, to be "one-dimensional". I tend to view the scenes on the Lars moisture farm in "A New Hope" in a different way now that I am able to connect the events of "Attack of the Clones" with those originally concieved in the OT. Interestingly, Episodes 4-6, by there mere existence, help to embellish the dramatic conflict of the prequels. It is a notion strangely similar to the films of the great Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu; his movies were different and yet somehow similar - despite their individual power, each one fed into the collective fabric of the others. While its depth is not initially apparent, I think that the same is true of the "Star Wars" saga."

    This is Star Wars in a nutshell right there. Perfect post Tyrannus.
  11. BauconBatista Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 24, 2004
    star 4
    Nice points by everybody here(With the exception of TripleB).

    I was always fascinated by the "style" of Star Wars(Specifically the space battles--yummy :D ), but it wasn't until recently that I got a much deeper appreciation of the saga as a whole, and why certain things like the political story and the (Lack of) chemistry between Anakin and Padme have a place in the grand scheme of things. I wish people weren't so blind about such things.
  12. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    Nice points, indeed!

    Yes, I agree with the poster above me. I think that's one reason why AOTC is so great-- you see everything start to come together.

    Now, I do want this to be a discussion thread, so if any of you out there want to argue that you think there's more style than substance, go right ahead! I want to hear your arguments.
  13. AdmiralZaarin Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2001
    star 5
    What do you think about the political plot in the prequels? Do you absolutely not like it, or do you think other substance-poor elements wash it out, or what...[/o]

    Personally I think the politicking below the surface on Palpy's part is one of the highlights of the PT. Watching as all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and as all his clandestine pulling of strings come into fruition...simply delicious.
  14. Moog Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2003
    star 1
    Nice thread - this has really got me thinking!

    I reckon Star Wars actually offers a perfect balance of style and substance, because neither the style or the substance draw too much attention to themselves. The complexities of the plot and characters (substance) and the subtleties of the themes and symbolism (style) ensure that they work on a subconscious level.

    Obviously when you do recognise these things it only makes it better! Personally I love it all! The intricate plot... the expressionistic characters... the visual and dramatic symbolism... the recurring themes and story elements... I can't get enough!!

    Unfortunately not everyone understands though, and many people confuse this subtlety for lack of depth. But something like the Matrix sequels can show how both style and substance can easily be overstated, to the extent that they appear totally ham-fisted (in my opinion).

    But, to go back to the original question and look at this from a style vs substance point of view, I don't think one is more important than the other, and I believe the films wouldn't work without both of them in place.

    For example, one of the most powerful scenes in the saga (for me) is Luke standing in front on Anakin/Vader's funeral pyre. But the scene only really works because of the story which has brought Luke up to that point, together with Anakin's story, the contrast between their characters, the visual mirroring of both Qui-Gon's funeral scene and Luke's burning homestead scene, and even the fact that Anakin's first 'death' will surely have something to do with lava/fire. The fact that it's a strikingly composed shot, with powerful music (the third element which Star Wars can't do without) completes the process, and the viewer is left with a deep feeling of satisfaction, even if they haven't consciously considered any these elements.

    That's Star Wars!
  15. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    To clarify, creating this thread, I know that style and substance aren't necessarily a tradeoff. You're right, we do have a strong mix of both! But people's preferences for one over the other, that is, how strong to make either style or substance, can vary, and I wanted to hear other opinions, as well as opinions on what constitutes the substance and style in SW. :D
  16. Dionysus Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2001
    star 1
    Nice topic, and very well-written and carefully-reasoned posts.

    However, I think we may be getting a skewed perspective, ShrunkenJedi. The Saga forum seems to draw the most thoughtful fans, probably because it was created in order to encourage thoughtful discussion on the saga as a whole. It stands to reason, then, that most of us are 'substance' people, though we do appreciate the style aspect.

    More broadly, and as some of you have hinted at, I think much of the popular 'failure' of the prequels can be traced to the fact that they do not deliver stylistically what many people expected. There is not as much wham-bang action, not as many nifty battles or clever catchphrases. I acknowledge that part of this is due to the writing (particularly dialogue), which I feel is a notch or two below what we saw in the OT.

    But most of it is a result of the prequel's emphasis of substance over style. There are some very big ideas at work in the PT (e.g., What destroys an empire? What are the limits of democracy? What is the role of religion in government? When is a military response appropriate? etc., etc.); bigger questions, I think, than what we saw in the OT. (Though the point made above about unconditional love was eloquently argued and very perceptive.)

    My point, I suppose, is that it's much easier for most people to appreciate space battles and lightsabers than profound political and philosophical questions. It is the style that drew most people to Star Wars, and it is the (supposed) lack of style in the prequels that has pushed them away. But it is the substance that makes Star Wars unique, and which will ultimately make it lasting.
  17. Jedi_Master_Jay Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2004
    I agree that the political plots in the PT really do add depth the the overall story. The battles and lightsaber action is all visually stunning. The only thing lacking in TPM and AOTC is the acting and/or writing.

    It's hard to really decide which one is to blame for the lack of passion on screen. Many of the lines in both movies were terrible and were not the fault of the actors, but then you have Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor in those same movies giving great performances. I love both movies, but am dissapointed every time I watch them at how deep and moving the story is, but how lacking the performances are.

    I have definately enjoyed the PT's style over its substance.
  18. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    I thought I'd bring this little thread up again :)
  19. SaberGiiett7 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 2, 2002
    star 6
    I watch and am hooked to the Star Wars phenomenon ultimately because of the story. Most of the visual effects and sequences of warfare or combat aren't a far cry from a vast amount of other films.

    The rise and fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker is one of the greatest tragic stories ever told since Shakesphearean-era literature. The triumph of peace and justice over violence and tyranny.

    All these elements and the relationships that are built because of this storyline contribute to the greatest epic space opera of our time. Although I do feel that the Prequel scripts are sub par.

    This is my honest, humble opinion. :)

    <[-]> Saber
  20. b-wingmasterburnz Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 27, 2004
    star 3
    I also agree the movies have both substance and style. The general public, though? Here's what comes to mind for the general public when Star Wars is brought up:

    1. Every single element of Episode IV, or, "Star Wars"

    2. "Luke, I am your father."

    3. Prequels = sucks

    yeah, I'm done.

    Anyway, yeah. This past year has been well spent for me thinking about the parallels between the movies, about how it's really Anakin's story, and just how beautiful these things are. I spent most of high school removed from Star Wars because I was afraid of being labeled a gusher. Then, I watched ROTJ one night and it all came back. I truly do appreciate and enjoy all the movies, because I can see much more depth in them than the general public can. I am very anxious for ROTS.
  21. ST_TK421 Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Jan 18, 2005
    This is a good discussion. the subtance of the first three Star Wars was that of Hope. Good versus Evil. In I-II the feeling is a bit more grim foreshadowing of what is to come.
    It's kinda depressing in a way. I say that but my favorite episode is The Empire Strikes Back. But in V there was a feeling of hope. Again when Lucas made Episode IV he really didn't know if he was going to get to make any others so in IV you have a completeness to it. The group is more of a family they come togeather. Solo, Skywalker, Lea, Chewie and the driods and even Obe Wan. Set against black and white/, younge innocent good against old faccist like evil.

    I have my own blog at:
    http://www.deathstarjournals.blogspot.com

    I would apreciate any post or comments about star wars.
  22. darthmedium Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jan 16, 2005
    star 1
    But most of it is a result of the prequel's emphasis of substance over style. There are some very big ideas at work in the PT (e.g., What destroys an empire? What are the limits of democracy? What is the role of religion in government? When is a military response appropriate? etc., etc.); bigger questions, I think, than what we saw in the OT. (Though the point made above about unconditional love was eloquently argued and very perceptive.)

    Thank you.. these are the precisely the reasons I love the prequels.

    Much like Harrison Ford, I come from an ethnically diverse background. My family originally came from Ireland and what used to be part of Russia (it's now called Belarus). As a result, I was never brought up in any one religion, although I have been influenced to a certain extent by a particular religion.

    I have always felt, as a consequence of this background, that religion and politics should remain seperate. I find it infuriating, in fact, that, given events of the 20th century, we still have people who would disagree about that.

    I object to the so-called "war on terrorism" for moral, philosophical, and ethical reasons. The invasion of Iraq, for example, was something I was opposed to from the start. I anticipated native hostility to the invasion of Iraq because I had observed similar conflicts going on in Israel.

    I also found it interesting that "Israel" was used as justification for the invasion, as do I find the president's characterization of Israeli Prime Minister Aeriel Sharon as a "man of peace" (any one who really knows anything about the middle east could tell you that this is not so).

    September 11th was in fact, a response to the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. It was percieved by Osama Bin Laden to be an "affront to Islam".

    It is extremely irritating when I try to address these subjects to others and people try and tie me up using:

    1. examples from the Bible
    2. confrontation regarding the "moral" nature of terrorism (I propose observing the phenomena in an "objective" manner, although many of my opponents would respond by accusing me of not being "objective")


    The casting of Natalie Portman is extremely interesting for this reason. Being from Israel, I have always wondered why it was that her interpretation is so often ignored. I believe George Lucas's casting of her was deliberate and meant to raise this question.

    Also, casting Anakin Skywalker as a Canadian was, I believe, meant to raise similar questions. Arguing that Anakin had joined the dark side by the end of AOTC is a popular one, but one that I believe is unsupported by the onscreen evidence.

    Could one not make a similar argument for Luke? And couldn't one also apply that to Natalie Portman's character? Hence, I believe such an interpretation, the one concerning Anakin's "soul" to be faulty and even, dare I say, morally reprehensible. I believe "fan" response to the love story tells us more about "fans" and society than it does about anything else. One has to question the morality and correctness of a society that would consider a concepts such as "compassion and unconditional love" (as signified by Padme Amidala in AOTC) to be in itself immoral.

    This is what I love about the prequels. It raises a whole lot of philosophical questions.

    There is no doubt in my mind that George Lucas is familiar with Jim Morrison... who went to UCLA a few years before he did.

    The environment of the Battle of Geonosis is also rather interesting... it is somewhat reminiscent of Tattooine.

    Geonosis, I believe, is meant to invoke both Vietnam (elements of the camera work definetly suggest this) AND the Gulf Wars (I also think Padme falling down is meant to evoke something, which makes even more sense if with the Vietnam comparison)

    Both Vietnam and the Gulf Wars could best be characterized as a real "Attack of the Clones", when you consider the nature of the opponents in both instances.

    I do think it is interesting that George Lucas put Padmé in the Battle
  23. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    Darthmedium, I agree with much of what you said-- politics and religion in no way being able to mix, etc. I also have a very ethnically as well as religiously mixed backgroud (Jewish and Christian, but personally agnostic/atheist), and find it hard to understand why some people seem incapable of seeing beyond the boundaries that separate us. Again, this is what I think good science fiction allows us to do--see beyond earthly boundaries and into what is intrinsically human. This is what I think all of Star Wars does superbly, and I commend George for it-- it attracts people from all over the world. We see the flaws in the crumbling Jedi order, because we are not a part of it, but the flaws are our own. We see the disaster the Emperor has wrought and see the deviousness behind his plans as he maneuvers himself up from Senator to Emperor. And more. :D
  24. ShrunkenJedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 26, 2003
    star 5
    I just want to see if anyone has anything new to add ;)
  25. Shadowen Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 11, 1999
    star 3
    When I want something stylish, I watch the movies. When I want something with substance, I read the EU.
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