Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Power of Characters, Ex: Star Wars

So, to celebrate Star Wars day, I watched Return of the Jedi, which is easily my favorite. As I was watching, an old argument came to mind: movie is the best? Now, each movie has it's followers, but I'm going to break it down into two categories: A) those that think The Empire Strikes Back (TESB) is the best, and B) those that think TESB is the worst. My dad falls into category B because he says the movie starts nowhere and ends nowhere (i.e. there's not real change in the overall situation).

Now, I used to be of the same opinion (I admit, I was category B for most of my life), but last summer I finally realized why people are so divided over whether or not TESB is a good movie. It all comes down to what people are looking for when they watch Star Wars: A New Hope and Return of the Jedi are predominantly plot-driven (a situation is resolved, the Alliance and the galaxy are saved, the enemy is destroyed) while TESB, on the other hand, is predominantly character-driven. TESB is where 98% of the character development for the entire series takes place (Han Solo changes from the gruff, devil-may-care mercenary to the still-rough, but softening/capable of caring hero; Luke Skywalker changes from the impatient, irascible youth to the trained and experienced warrior; etc.).

So, if you enjoy character development more than sci-fi action, you'll probably like TESB the best. If you watch for the plot and the sheer, glorious science-fictionyness, you'll probably like one of the others best.

There, I've settled the argument once and for all. Now Star Wars fans everywhere can get back to enjoying it (as long as they stay away from Star Trek fans—when these two groups get to close, they make the Cold War seem like a pleasant day at the beach).

And the reason I decided to write this post is because writers everywhere (even die-hard Star Trek disciples) can learn a thing or two about the importance of both plot- and character-development from watching Star Wars.


  1. On Star Wars day, my husband woke me up with the pun "May the fourth be with you..."


  2. I need to watch those movies again! It's been so long.

    Great post and analysis on the differences!

  3. Some great points about the differences between plot and character driven fiction! Thanks for the breakdown. :)

  4. Yep I agree. In a very strong book, the MC will develop and respond as the plot does. The MC will respond to the plots of the book in a realistic way, and after being put through the mill, come out stronger.

  5. LOL! Well, I'm glad that's settled. ;)

    I've always enjoyed the films, regardless of their "problems."