I touched on this with my last post about the movie Rudy: it can be fun to come up with alternative interpretations of movies that the directors and writers didn’t think of.  With Rudy, I was saying that I found the hero character’s fixation on football to be an unhealthy obsession, rather than the inspirational determination it is presented as being.

Some movies have much more elaborate alternative interpretations.  Take the Star Wars movies for example: most people assumed that the Empire is evil just because the opening crawl said so.  But, in Phantom Menace, it’s pretty clear that what Palpatine says about the Old Republic being “mired” by “bureaucrats” is true.  They can’t even get it together to go do something when one of their planets gets invaded and occupied.  If nothing else, the Empire runs a more efficient operation.

If I know politics, a few years after ROTJ, there would be a massive campaign to rehabilitate Palpatine’s image.

This does not even take into account the Jedi, who claim to be good–although the only people who really seem to feel this way are the Jedi themselves–but who are shown to brainwash people from a young age to indoctrinate them into their cult.  They say the Sith are evil, but in the movies, at least, the Sith wait until you’re an adult before asking you to join.  Count Dooku was a former Jedi and an aristocrat of some sort before he opted to try his hand at Sith Lording in his retirement.

Also, of course, there’s the fact that everything the Jedi do turns out to be an abysmal failure.  The Sith are clearly the only ones capable of creating a plan and seeing it through to the end in that galaxy.  Even at the end, in Return of the Jedi, all the Jedi stuff Luke had been taught goes by the boards, and the Emperor is overthrown not by him, but by the actions of a renegade Sith.

George Lucas probably didn’t intend any of these interpretations (and the “Expanded Universe” contradicts a lot of them), but I think the movies can definitely be viewed that way.  Personally, I think it makes more sense in some ways.

Or take Oliver Stone’s movie JFK.  It was controversial for its promotion of conspiracy theories.  I have a different take on it: I think Kevin Costner’s character is an unreliable narrator (he’s not really the narrator, but the film is very much from his perspective) who has this weird obsession with conspiracies.  Donald Sutherland’s character “X” is a figment of his imagination, whom he created to fulfill his dreams of uncovering a massive plot.  Try watching JFK and then A Beautiful Mind and see if you don’t agree.

I know there’s also a famous alternate interpretation of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off–although Freddie DeBoer doesn’t buy it–but I have never seen that movie, so I wouldn’t know.

What movies do you interpret differently than may have been originally intended?

I can’t say I’m terribly excited about it. From the description, it sounds like “Gears of Star Wars”. Actually, more than anything, it sounds like Star Wars: Bounty Hunter. I think it even included a level that was set in the underbelly of Coruscant.

More than anything, though, it makes me uneasy how everyone is going “oooh, it’s Star Wars but with ‘darkness’. This has never been done!” Yes, it has. I know KotOR II was rated “T”, but the underlying story, as well as some of the stuff that’s hinted with characters like Visas Marr, is more mature than anything I’ve seen in a lot of “M” games. And while we’re at it, it’s not like Dark Forces and Shadows of the Empire were brimming with sunshine and joy.

Maybe it will be good. But so far, the reports don’t make me hopeful.

If the Defenders of High Culture didn’t have enough to worry about with the Harry Potter conference, there now comes an announcement that a new Harry Potter game will be coming out this fall. Perhaps the 2013 conference will feature an in-depth examination of Harry Potter for Kinect and what it means to our society.

If it’s anything like Star Wars Kinect, it might not be such a great thing, although I think Potter fans might be more receptive to that sort of thing than Star Wars fans. As long-time readers probably know, I think that J.K. Rowling’s series is fun, but deeply flawed. (Someday maybe I’ll write about that at length.) I’ve never played any of the games based on it, as they all seem to have about them the feel of something done just to cash in on the popularity of the name.

As far as I can tell, all Potter games have been based to a large degree on the books and movies. As a Star Wars fan, I know from experience that this usually means trouble. Star Wars games are either excellent or really bad. And the bad ones are often the ones that try to follow the movies, and have you playing as Luke or Anakin or someone. (The LEGO ones don’t count; they follow the movies, but with an original twist.)

The great Star Wars game series everyone thinks of are original stories like Rogue Squadron, Jedi Knight and Knights of the Old Republic. These take place in the Star Wars universe, and though in some cases they overlap with events or characters from the movies, for the most part they are their own stories. They don’t let the established stories dictate their course too much.

Are there any Harry Potter games that take place in the Potter universe, but don’t more or less follow the established story and timeframe? That would have the potential to be good, and to keep the franchise going. Now, for all I know, Rowling has forbidden this. Which she, as the creator of the series, is totally within her rights to do. But it would be the best thing for it as a franchise.

So, Star Wars fans everywhere are outraged over this video:

The fact that it started getting publicity around April Fools’ Day makes me wonder, but it seems like it’s genuine.

Well, what else are you supposed to do with the Kinect? They already have some kind of lightsaber minigame in it, so they had to throw in something else for filler.

I also seem to remember that in the intro to one of the Rogue Squadron games (I forget which one) there was a brief sequence of the Star wars characters dancing a disco. Nobody complained about that. And for my money, the elaborate dance sequences in Return of the Jedi pose a far bigger threat to the integrity of Star Wars as a space opera than this does.

Look: Star Wars is a whole mythos. It’s a fantasy universe, and as such it is only to be expected that laughable and ridiculous ideas occur in that universe as well as serious and powerful ones. It’s that way in the real universe, and so it might as well be in any fake universe. It doesn’t ruin the movies to have a video game where Han Solo dances, anymore than Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ruins Hamlet.

Also, it’s only a movie series, after all. If it were ruined, the sun would still come up tomorrow.