A few nights ago, after dinner, I crept to my writing cave to string together some sentences and my husband, absent his live-in film critic, popped Star Wars, Attack of the Clones into the VCR. Within minutes, I heard the audio pause as he fast-forwarded through the romantic stuff. Honestly? I'd do the same.
In my office, I cranked up the volume on iTunes and got to work on a steampunk WIP. I also tinkered with an ongoing Thor fan fiction story. As I worked, I was struck by two things: first, how disappointing the Star Wars prequels had been, and second, how the Thor movie (2011), got the whole tragic hero thing right.
As I see it, Loki's descent into supervillainy in Thor, is what Anakin Skywalker's, in the Star Wars prequels, should have been but wasn't.
When it comes to storytelling, one could write a thick doorstopper of a book on the many ways that the Star Wars prequels went wrong. The excruciatingly, unromantic love story between the future Vader and Padme Amidala, for one.
Most notable is the ruination of the man in black himself, Darth Vader. George Lucas took one of cinema's most iconic villains and turned him into a whiny little boy in need of a nap. For a big-bad who will go on to run a galactic empire that terrorizes all freedom-loving people and blows up entire planets, Vader's youthful self doesn't inspire much confidence in his future in villainy. Mostly, Anakin makes my fingers twitch with the urge to deliver a resounding slap, a la, Cher in Moonstruck: "Snap out of it!" I can't, for the life of me, figure out what Padme saw in the guy, except that they shared the same remarkable ability to deliver lines in dull wooden tones.
When Anakin isn't chatting up his older lady love with oaken dialogue, he's complaining about all the stifling Jedi Order rules to his mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi. And that, in a nutshell, is the sum and total of Anakin's angst, the reason why he will eventually throw a tantrum on a volcano, and try to kill the guy who saved him from a lifetime of digging Tatooine's sandy grit from his eyes.
As I write this, Season Three of Game of Thrones (GOT) is beginning, and many viewers are hoping for the timely death of Joffrey Baratheon, Westeros's version of Anakin Skywalker. The resemblance is striking. Neither youth has any reason to be such a douche canoe. Joffrey is the coddled, spoiled child of royalty. Anakin is the coddled, spoiled Jedi wunderkind. Yeah, Anakin did a short stint in his youth as a slave, but when Obi Wan found him, Anakin wasn't exactly chained in a shed, covered in bruises and starving. His master didn't hand out cookies and milk, but the boy's hands probably weren't thick with calluses from hard work. He had enough free time to build C3PO and R2D2. I'm no slave, but I barely have enough time to get my hair cut, let alone put together an adorable robot duo. (The kid is like a small, male, midichlorian-enhanced Martha Stewart.)
There's also no indication that Anakin's teen years were troubled. Yoda grumbles that the boy is to old to begin training--what exactly is the usual age for inclusion in Jedi school? In utero?--but Anakin gets accepted into training nonetheless. Now, if Lucas had dug around in his sofa cushions, found some change and bought himself a clue about character building, he might have written Anakin a backstory that included alienation and bullying during his times in the Jedi academy. A justified reason behind Anakin's ambivalence toward the Jedis. But that didn't happen. So we're left with a privileged young man whose beef with the universe is pretty much, "I don't like rules."
Disdain for rules is reasonable motivation for stealing lipstick from Wal-Mart ("reasonable," not "justified"), but hardly a reason to plot bloody vengeance against the organization that has clothed, fed and trained you for many years. Had George Lucas put as much time into Anakin's character arc as he did into the CGI, Anakin's descent into darkness would have been emotionally wrenching. Instead it's his very short journey from bratty youth to deranged and still bratty youth--Now with cybernetic limb action! (Yes, Anakin's mother is eventually murdered by Tusken raiders, but all that plot thread does is demonstrate that the supposedly "noble" Padme is happy to ignore her boyfriend's slaughter of innocents because...love.)
Contrast that with Loki's dive into madness in Thor, which, coincidently, is a meatier story arc than the hero's. Like Anakin Skywalker's, Thor's character arc is only visible under a high-powered microscope. Thor, however, isn't an insufferable prick. But he is arrogant and it's fortunate that he's "The Mighty" Thor, because it must take immeasurable strength to haul that ego around all day. Therein lies the first of Loki's justifiable issues with Papa Odin.
Thor didn't just wake up yesterday and--Abracadabra--become a blundering jock with a penchant for violence. He's been running around kicking sand in the faces of 98-pound weakling realms for centuries. Odin knows this, but still dotes on him and decides to hand him the throne. This is followed by Odin acting surprised and butt-hurt when Thor storms off and attacks Jotunheim. Okay, so Thor was egged on by Loki, but it wasn't like the mischief maker had to expend much effort to get his blowhard brother to thunder off and make things dead.
There's also the problem that Loki's main strengths--intellect and magic--aren't respected in the land of testosterone-y warriors. (In this, Loki is like GOT's Tyrion Lannister.) It's sort of how people smile condescendingly and say that writing isn't a real job. If I heard that for a millennium, I'd probably start kicking puppies, so it's easy to see why Loki might be a smidge put out by the endless degradation of his abilities.
The coup de grace comes when Loki learns he's adopted. For Loki, the cutesy, inspirational saying, "It doesn't matter what you look like on the outside; it's what's on the inside the counts," is a cruel irony, since on the inside he's a frost giant, a member of a race so [purportedly] awful that their homeland had to be turned into an icy glass parking lot, which is now treated like the ghetto of the nine realms. His dad is none other than king of frost giants, Laufey.
Brother is an asshat, but no one else seems to care? Check. Skills disrespected on an hourly basis? Check. You are the monster in the fairy tale? Check. None of these are reasons to inflict maximum breakage on a little blue planet populated by fragile mortals, but one can see how Loki's mind might be like a frog in a blender, set on "chop."
Which is why Loki's character arc is what Anakin Skywalker's should have been. The story of a smart, talented, young man who allows himself to be warped by unhappy circumstances. Loki's story arc is especially relatable for anyone who's ever been the outsider, the geek pushed around by the jocks. Anakin, on the other hand, is the obnoxious jock. Heck, he even gets the girl. There's no gravitas in his characterization and the only darkness in his personality is an inability to accept that you can't always get what you want.
On thing can be said for George Lucas. He could teach a master class in how not to write fictional characters.
Maya saw her first demon when she was seven. She learned to hide what she saw, ignore the paranormal beings around her and build an ordinary life. But she had to tell her secrets somehow, so she began drawing, creating her own world, her own characters.
Twenty years after that first demon entered her life, her normal existence is shattered when she's faced with two of her comic book characters come to life. Living in our world for years, each has his own agenda.
Benjamin Black, sexy thief with a cause, wants to get back to his own world. The world Maya thought she created. Only now he says she's his reason to stay in this one.
Adam Richards, once a cop, now a ruthless crime lord, wants to be immortal and he'll do anything, including hurting Maya's loved ones, to get what he wants.
The problem is, the men are inextricably linked through Maya's drawings. Ridding the world of Adam means Benjamin disappears from Maya's life forever...
Available at Amazon