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What Does Each Movie Bring to Worldbuilding?

Discussion in 'General Movie Discussion' started by cawatrooper, Dec 5, 2019.

  1. cawatrooper

    cawatrooper Dungeon Master

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    Marathoning Star Wars now in the live action, chronological canon order, and it's made me really appreciate the series from a new lens:

    The Phantom Menace
    Attack of the Clones
    Revenge of the Sith
    Solo
    Rogue One
    A New Hope
    Empire Strikes Back
    Return of the Jedi
    The Force Awakens
    The Last Jedi
    (and in theaters) The Rise of Skywalker

    I made a profile post about this, but I kinda wanted to flesh it out a little more into a full thread.

    So far, we've finished Rogue One, so that's as far as I'll go today. I'd also like to note that as far as worldbuilding goes, I want to take a more holistic approach, than necessarily noting how many alien species were in the Cantina or how many planetary systems were name dropped in dialogue, if that makes sense.

    The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones
    I've grouped these together because I think they show a couple sides of the same coin. I know that some fans (definitely including myself) are frustrated that the trilogy kinda skipped most of the Clone Wars, but I do think that these films do show snippets of something else important- the Ordinary World.

    Basically, this is the storytelling idea of the world before the story's conflict really sets in full force. TPM and AotC both showcase a galaxy that hasn't been totally engulfed in war yet- instead engaging in podracing, Coruscant night life, and trade negotiations. Of course, there are the sinister rumblings of the conflict that is to come- blockades, assassinations, the reemergence of the sith, slavery, and a strange clone conspiracy... but for the most part, the galaxy as a whole hasn't felt these things too terribly yet.

    While I see this as a huge boon for these movies, I will say that I don't think they fully take advantage of this idea. As we see the movies mostly through the lens of a queen and Jedi, we're kind of seeing things from a pretty privileged perspective. Even on Tatooine in TPM, we rarely see things from Anakin's perspective, instead taking the POV of Qui Gon who's more of a passive observer.

    As I'll point out later, Star Wars can get pretty interesting when it fully immerses itself into its worldbuilding, rather than taking the more distanced Jedi approach.

    For this reason, I kinda wish we had a spinoff film set around or before The Phantom Menace- a completely self-contained story that could show the Ordinary World from

    Revenge of the Sith
    Again, this movie is not about the Clone Wars, in my opinion. It's about the relationship of Anakin and Obi Wan, as well as Padme.

    For this reason, I do wish we got one or two films set during the Clone Wars itself, outside of the animation. Ideally, these films would focus on completely original characters, because remember- ROTS is already Anakin and Obi Wan's movie.

    That said, I think ROTS may be one of the worst Star Wars films at worldbuilding. There are some small moments that I think are interesting, such as the opera and even the parking lot Anakin gets his speeder from when going to Palpatine's office. But for the most part, I just feel it brings relatively little to the table.

    That's not to say it's a bad film, because it does what it wants to- as I've said three times now, it's a character centered film on Obi Wan, Padme, and Anakin. And it's really good at that, actually.

    Credit where credit is due, I think Order 66 is a really well presented scene for a variety of reasons, and I think a big part of that is how it's really the first time we get much of any sense of scale to the war itself. Sure, we see the Jedi council is almost entirely absent (implying they're away at battle) and we see Obi Wan and Yoda on the battlefronts... but it really isn't until this scene that we get a true, galactic scale of this thing. So, props for that scene.

    Also, the finale- the rise of Palpatine and Vader's empire, the death knells on Naboo, Obi Wan and Yoda going into hiding, Bail heading back to Alderaan. You can feel the darkness closing in. It's not fully encompassed the galaxy yet, but it's coming...

    Solo
    This is the first time that I've really watched this film in its chronological spot, and man does it deserve to be there. So last we left off, the Empire was rising, hope was dying, yada yada.

    Solo starts off pretty dang dark, both literally and figuratively. Corellia is a city planet under the shadow of Imperial war machine construction, while its citizens are at the mercy of criminal gangs who have thrived under the Empire's ruthlessness.

    And unlike TPM and AoTC, Solo actually shows us a much more grassroots point of view of this now "ordinary world" (in that it technically is the ordinary world for the Original trilogy).

    In Solo, the Empire is always a constant threat- on Corellia, Vandor, Mimban, in orbit around Kessel... but they're never Han's enemies, they're more like a force of nature. Han has no bone to pick with them because he's smart- that's not a fight he can win, it's just a fight he needs to run away from.

    The Empire is oppressive in this movie, and the only way to victory is to claw your way to the top of all the other desperate criminals trying to survive.

    It's kind of a hopeless film, and I really wish that the obvious sequel had been made. I know people complain that Han is too happy go lucky in this film, but I think that's pretty clearly the point- he is an optimistic Han, but even in victory he's still under the bootheel of the Empire. That's something he could never escape, even in the comically unlikely event that he'd own a crime syndicate all his own. This brighteyed Han has nowhere to go but down, and I think that characterization would've been fascinating to see, and kind of mirrors that spreading terror of the Empire itself.

    Rogue One
    Rogue One opens with a similar sense of hopelessness. Galen Erso, having fled to what seems to be some remote, undeveloped planet, is sought out by Imperial officer Krennic. The message is clear: the Empire is spreading, and the last hiding spaces are running out.

    Now, I'll admit that the beginning after this are quite choppy, and make a good case for how well the crawls can provide easy context, but regardless they do some things that really help build this world. We see Jyn going from prison camp to prison camp, again hopeless. Then there are the partisans of Jedha, and Cassian on the Ring of Kahfrene, two different (but both brutal) sides of kneejerk rebellion to this growingly oppressive Empire.

    A bit later, too, we get some context for a hub of part of the Rebellion- Yavin IV's base. We've technically seen it in Episode IV, but it's a nice bit of continuity, and the various diplomats we see there from different star systems give the alliance some sense of scale.

    Jedha just doesn't work for me for worldbuilding, and I think I know why. The idea is fascinating- a large city on a plateau, under the oppressive shadow of a Star Destroyer. Occupied by Imperial and Extremist rebels alike, with tensions at an all time high. Should work, right?

    But we're missing that key component- grassroots context. We never really see this powder keg from anyone else's perspective, with the closest being Jyn rescuing a crying child at one point. Jedha feels more like a video game level than an actual city to me- one minute you're in a crowded marketplace, the next you're just walking through areas and encountering stormtroopers to fight. Again, it has some good ideas, but it's not nearly as tight as it could've been, and the fact that the Death Star's single reaction burst scene focuses on the Partisans rather than the atrocity of destroying the city kinda drives that point home.

    Eadu is cool. Feels like a Rogue Squadron mission, to me. I know I said I didn't want to get into too many specifics, but I'm always down for when a Star Wars movie has a large percentage of its cast on a specialized mission while the battle itself is fought by nobodies, giving a dramatic backdrop for the mission itself. Hoth did that, Geonosis did that, Starkiller Base kinda did that...

    Oh, and Scarif, too. Perhaps the best example of naval warfare in the entire series, setting the bar for what these things should look like. The finale on scarif did so much to bring new things to both the Empire and the Rebels, and it almost acts like a sort of pitch for more gritty war movies set during this time, so I'd say it definitely adds some to the worldbuilding. Meanwhile, you've got Jyn and Cassian's mission teasing the possibility of other projects like this, and Vader becoming a quite viable threat...

    eh, I know I said I wouldn't get too into specifics.




    Anyway, I've written a badly written novel here, so kudos to anyone who made it through. I'll update as we continue our marathon, but I'm curious your thought on these things- am I on the mark, or wildly off base? Did I forget something (or more accurately, simply didn't think to add it)? Let me know!
     
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  2. RockyRoadHux

    RockyRoadHux Ginger General

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    Made it through, it was a fun read! You made some interesting points!
     
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  3. FN-3263827

    FN-3263827 First Order CPS
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    oh man, Jedha is my absolute favorite of the new cities so far. i know this place, i know its streets, i know its intermingling of people.
    i grew up on a border city where indigenous peoples, tourists (pilgrims), and colonialists are constantly jockeying to co-exist.
    under the worst conditions it's a powder keg, but under the best it's a glorious melting pot.

    not sure the point you're making about the partisans vs. destroying the city, so maybe you can elaborate on that, but i really love Jedha. : D

    [​IMG]

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  4. cawatrooper

    cawatrooper Dungeon Master

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    Maybe I'm being picky, but that's just what bothers me about it so much- it has so much potential to be an iconic locale of Star Wars (even more fleshed out than something like Tatooine) but we move through it so fast.

    I wanted to really feel that tension boil over, feel the doom that sits over the city, and I think that spending just a little more time in Jedha's "ordinary world" without rushing through action sequences would've been beneficial.

    But to be fair, there are some moments like this already. I guess I personally could've just used a little more.

    Glad you liked it! :)

    So, what I think you're asking about is when the city is being destroyed?

    I guess to me it just felt like the camera focused really heavily on Saw's partisans escaping from their caves, rather than dwelling on the horror of those actually inside the city. I get the partisans are more important to the story, since that's where all our main characters are... but that's also kind of related to my overall point- more time could've been spend fleshing out the city and maybe even giving us specific citizens to care about in it.

    Though I realize "spend more time on the planets before Scarif" may not be the most popular Rogue One opinion out there :p
     
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  5. cawatrooper

    cawatrooper Dungeon Master

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    A New Hope
    Watching this film with the lens of worldbuilding, I wanted to vocalize something interesting that I assume I've known, but still found fascinating- this movie takes the idea of "show, don't tell" and demonstrates how that's not always good advice.

    Sure, we get a lot of showing. The opening act is a pretty great slow burn of various alien species, setting a precedent for what the area around a desert spaceport would look like.

    But so much of the goings on in A New Hope happen entirely off screen: we're told about the fight against the Empire and the Rebellion, but we see very little of them until the end. We're told about the dissolution of the Senate, but we don't see any significant Imperial presence outside of the Death Star (and in fact, note how Tatooine itself is outside the full reach of the Empire anyway), Alderaan is only shown from orbit, etc...

    This all serves to build a world much bigger than the one that we actually see with our eyes in the film, and pretty effectively. We hear about this war between the Empire and Rebellion, but we spend most of the movie only seeing some small aspect of it... therefore, the scale of this thing must be huge, and far beyond Luke's current grasp. In fact, the locales here feel almost like an egg, if we need a physical analogy. The universe is out there and waiting, but our hero simply isn't ready for it yet (as opposed to our filmmakers being needed to hold anything back for more meta reasons).

    Scale is something I'll talk about later, I'm sure (watch for The Last Jedi), but I think A New Hope manages it pretty brilliantly with the relatively limited number of resources and tech the movie had compared to later entries.
     
  6. cawatrooper

    cawatrooper Dungeon Master

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    The Empire Strikes Back
    The last few days are gonna be chock full of Star Wars, because we've fallen a bit behind- not a bad problem to have, if I do say so myself! ;)

    Anyway, worldbuilding in Empire...

    First of all, I love the bits of dialogue in the beginning that hint at things happening in the passage of time. I feel that this stuff is super important to Star Wars eventually growing up to have a ton of multimedia content, because the movies clearly laid a groundwork that stuff happens between the movies- and more importantly, cool sounding stuff that makes the audience curious. We all wanted to know what happened with that bounty on Ord Mantell, right?

    If I had to criticize the Hoth worldbuilding, it would be that I'd like to have seen the Rebellion there in contact with some other rebel groups off planet, making plans to reorganize. I get that it raises the stakes if you think this is the last of the Rebels, but we now know that isn't the case. Sure, it's a nitpick, but seeing them discuss the "shipyards of Mon Calamari" or the "Rebels hiding on 'x planet;" would have been a neat way to have them all dispersed in the beginning, only to assemble again in ROTJ. Again, a simple enough nitpick that certainly has never affected my enjoyment of the film.

    Dagobah and the Yoda stuff is super important to the series lore, but I struggle to come up with specific worldbuilding reasons of why it's important- personally, I see that as more lore building, which is just as vital!

    Cloud City is kinda neat, when you think about it. Here, you have an area kinda like Tatooine that isn't quite under Imperial control... but unbeknownst to our heroes, it actually is. Vader has recently arrived with a contingent of Stormtroopers, turning this potentially friendly zone into a hellish deathtrap. I still would love to see a live action depiction of a region under heavy Imperial control sometime, but it's also kinda neat seeing the Bespin guards form their own little rebellion of their own.

    Empire isn't my favorite Star Wars, but watching it with these things in mind (as well as taking notes to appreciate the cinematography) helped me really enjoy it last night!
     
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