Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed – Where’s The Fun?

Star Wars A Legacy RevealedCelebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Star Wars: Chapter 4 – A New Hope, The History Channel is airing a two-hour special dedicated to exploring the films and their impact on popular culture. Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed [Monday, 9/8C] is a typically thorough History Channel documentary in most ways, but it lacks one vital element to work in this context…

When Stephen Colbert says that, the day after seeing Star Wars he couldn’t explain to his friends why everything was now different, it resonates. That’s how much of an impact the film had on almost everyone who saw it. Child or adult, it made no substantive difference – we knew something big had happened. It didn’t matter if we’d read Joseph Campbell or not.

Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed is, like most History Channel documentaries, filled with knowledgeable talking heads – only in this case, those talking heads include actors, directors, comedians and other entertainers as well as scholars who deal with myth and philosophy. Sometimes, as in the case with Colbert’s opening quote, the entertainers cut through the bull and nail it.

In the meantime, between the entertainers and the scholars, the Star Wars Saga is dissected with almost clinical thoroughness. If you want to learn more about how the Hero’s Journey – and mythical archetypes – influenced George Lucas as he created Star Wars, you’ll do so here. The heroes and villains of Star Wars come in so many shadings that it covers an entire realm of archetypes [nobody, warrior, princess, jester, sage, wizard, etc., etc.].

Episode 4 - Luke, Leia & Han Solo

Those interviewed for the special include such names as: JJ Abrams [Alias, Lost, Mission: Impossible III], Dan Rather [journalist], Tom Brokaw [journalist], Nancy Pelosi [Democratic House Speaker], Kevin Smith [Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks I & II], Newt Gingrich [former Republican House Speaker], Dr. Jonathan Young [Founding Curator of The Joseph Campbell Archives] and the proverbial many, many more…

While some of the entertainment figures [notably Kevin Smith – who is a total Star Wars fanboy, and Joss Whedon – of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame] manage to infuse their efforts at analysis with a sense of wonder, most of the interviewees come across as so deadly serious that they seem to have forgotten the most important reason that they are here – today, right now – analyzing the Star Wars Saga: it was [and is] fun!

The reason that people have been – and continue to be – influenced by Star Wars is that it is enjoyable that it stays with you. Favorite lines find their way into completely unrelated conversations; a semi-religious fervor has overtaken many fans who try to live their lives as the Jedi would; a whole universe of science fiction films, books and comics/graphic novels [not to mention toys, puzzles and all sorts of other collectibles] have been borne out of Star Wars fandom.

Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed makes all these wondrous things seem dry and dull. If it weren’t for the clips from films, the documentary’s two hours would be almost completely bereft of that most important element: fun! So, while I have to give kudos to the doc’s efforts, and expertise, as well as the insights all of the interviewees bring to the table, I also have to say that – unlike most History Channel documentaries – I didn’t particularly enjoy this one.

In short, then, Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed is informative and insightful. It’s just not that entertaining…

Final Grade: C

Posted By Sheldon Wiebe
Originally Posted 05/27/07

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