Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Star Wars Commentary, Part 2: Yoda

Yoda was my favourite Star Wars character. Who cared if he was wrinkled, green, and bald? The dude was seriously cool. Wizened and wise, he didn’t need height or muscles or brawn to display his worth. What nerd wouldn’t admire someone like that? You may note, however, that I said Yoda WAS my favourite character.  He still is in regards to the first three movies. In the “new three,” though, he’s one of my least favourites, and that’s saying something.
Old Yoda was a puppet. Puppets are cool. Anyone who’s seen Labyrinth had to have been impressed with the fantastic stuff they did with puppets. Yoda was definitely in that league. As a puppet, he had a slow, careful way of moving entirely in keeping with his 900+ year age. When his movements sped up, like when he whacked that idiot R2D2 with his walking stick, he looked exactly like an old man venting impotent anger. The way he pottered around his little hovel, grumpily denying Luke access to his Jedi birthright, was absolute beautiful.
New Yoda (or fake Yoda, as I like to think of him) is a collection of pixels. CGI. They can do some wonderful stuff with CGI, but Yoda was a failure. He had a slick, too-smooth manner of movement entirely at odds with his supposed doddering abilities. The new Yoda moved slowly, yes, but there was no sense that he was actually infirm in any way. Just slow. There was too much grace and poise when he walked around for me to believe that he was truly elderly or needed that cane of his.

Which, of course, turns out to be the case. When Yoda whipped out a light saber to fight Dooku, I wept. Seriously? Do we really need to do this? Ok. Bad enough that Yoda’s going to engage in a duel, but I anticipated his fighting style to be sort of Tai Chi. Careful, slow, deliberate, yet still manages to be in the right place at the right time. But nope, disappointed again. Watching fake Yoda bounce around the walls like a super-ball was one of the worst movie-watching moments of my adult life.
So we go through that agony only to have Yoda fail to beat up Dooku. Why’d he even show up? Then as the Jedi twins wake up, Yoda goes back to his crippled hobble. So basically, he’s a liar. He’s faking a disability for… what? Does he get a private bathroom back at Jedi HQ? A special parking spot right next to the door for his space-ship? Does he get a shorter work week, extra pay, promotions, what? Is Yoda only ON the Jedi Council because he’s filling their Senate-mandated “crippled” spot? Gah! That inexplicable fake-hobble is one of the dumbest things in the new three movies. It basically turns a wise mentor into a deceitful creep.
Ah, you say, but Yoda was a liar in the first three movies, too! In a way, that’s true. He concealed his identity from Luke (for maybe an hour), but that had a purpose; namely to probe Luke’s mettle and nature. Ah, but what about Yoda knowing that Vader was actually Luke’s father? Well, in spite of the prequels, there’s no indication in the first three that Yoda actually DID know about Vader being Luke’s dad. Obi Wan took it upon himself to train Anakin, according to his own words, and his failure could have easily been a secret he’d kept to himself. Remember that Luke knows about the lie when he goes back to Yoda in the third movie. We get no death-bed Yoda confrontation about the issue, but the instant Yoda’s gone, Luke wants to know from Obi Wan why he’d kept this a secret.
I mean, the prequels throw all the characters into everything, but to judge from the first three movies, everyone has only a piece of the backstory. Obi Wan doesn’t seem to know about Leia, yet Yoda does. (“No. There is another.”) My point is, if you take the first three at their word, Yoda is great. His only failure, really, is failing to instill in Obi Wan a proper humility, because if he had, Obi Wan would never have gone off and trained Anakin. No training, no Vader, no destruction of the Jedi.
But, then again, Yoda trained Obi Wan in the past, back when he was pixelated, and therefore utterly useless. And a liar, to boot.

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