Lure Of The Ring


With the recent release of the billion-dollar-grossing, fanservice-providing, feminist-friendly, Adam-Driver-showcasing, adequately-reheated Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the utterly abysmal Star Wars prequels have come in for a fresh round of vicious criticism from the pathetic nerds of the “SW Universe.” (NB: that group includes your humble author.) It’s now plainly apparent to everyone just how easy it would have been to make prequels that the audience actually liked and enjoyed, which is making everyone even more furious with George Lucas than they were previously. There’s even a growing movement calling on Disney to remake the prequels and effectively erase “The Phantom Menace” et al from history the way Sebastian Shaw’s ghost was digitally erased from the current distribution of ROTJ.

But what if we’re all wrong about the prequels? What if we were to find out that they were brilliantly-planned-and-executed critical masterpieces that reinforced the Star Wars universe instead of copiously vomiting all over it? That is the argument made by a brilliant amateur critic in a website devoted to the “Star Wars Ring Theory”, and whether you agree with him or not, his theory is also an object lesson on the true nature of literary and artistic criticism… even if it’s not quite the lesson he intended…


The website is Star Wars Ring Theory and it is subtitled “The Hidden Artistry Of The Prequels”. The site’s author, Mike Klimo, argues that the prequels aren’t the haphazard exercises in incompetent plotting, dismal acting, and cringe-worthy slapstick that most people have long believed them to be. Instead, he suggests that they form a “narrative ring” with the Original Trilogy that strengthens and deepens the story of the first three films.

If you read the whole site, as I did, you will at least be convinced that George Lucas put a lot more thought into the prequels than I had ever suspected. Over the course of what has to be eight thousand words or so, Mr. Klimo documents dozens of instances where Episodes I-II-III mesh perfectly with IV-V-VI. He offers compelling evidence that the prequels had to be the way they were in order to serve the story, all the way down to the oft-derided “virgin birth” of Anakin Skywalker and the dreaded midi-chlorians. Not that knowing all of this will help you enjoy the films any more — I will personally confess to not watching Episodes II or III since my initial theatrical viewing — but it will, perhaps, give you a new respect for them.

Even if you don’t give the proverbial tinker’s damn about Star Wars, the Ring Theory website is fascinating because it is an example of strong competitive criticism. When I was but a teenager, my favorite professor, Dr. Edward Tomarken, told me something that I probably should have figured out some years before: that criticism is competition to the text as much as, or more than, it is comment on it.

This is something that we all inherently understand: who among us hasn’t read and enjoyed one of the “parody reviews” of a product on Amazon in which we would otherwise have no interest? For a few years after the millennium, there were thousands of people out there who spent countless hours of their time writing parody reviews. It was a whole community. Even I participated, albeit after I’d bought the product in question and become a verified customer for it. The magnum opus of parody reviews is surely the DeliciousTacos “review” of a male-masturbation egg, but the genre is so pervasive that Amazon now devotes a section to it.

Literary, artistic, or product criticism, at its best, can thoroughly surpass the text on which is based. If it is not superlative or even good, however, it can still become famous in its own right; the David E. Davis, Jr. “test” of the BMW 2002 was indistinguishable from advertising copy but it is still held up forty-five years later as an example of the finest possible automotive journalism. The modern equivalent of that article is probably the Basem Wasef Z06 semi-advertorial in WIRED that was recently selected as the “Best New Vehicle Review of 2015” by the Motor Press Guild; it’s a very long and uncritical way to say ZOMG THE Z06 IS Z-AWESUMZ but it was well-received by the industry.

The text to which my dear professor was referring when he schooled me on the essential nature of criticism was Samuel Johnson’s Lives Of The English Poets, a work that was slammed out by Johnson in his spare time strictly for the cash but which has come to underpin much of English literary criticism. As Wikipedia will helpfully tell you, Matthew Arnold called it “… [a] performance which is itself a piece of English literature of the first class.” In some cases, as with the Life Of Savage, the subject survives in history primarily because of Johnson’s work and not on his own merits. This is an example where Johnson, as a critic, competes directly with Savage, the poet, for the reader’s attention — and wins handily.

With its detailed, tireless assemblage of images, concepts, and conceits, the Star Wars Ring Theory is just as much an attempt to impress the reader with Mr. Klimo’s own perceptiveness and intelligence as it is an attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of George Lucas as a filmmaker. In this respect, I believe it succeeds…

…but if the reader has been attentive thus far, he is no doubt wondering, “Isn’t this very article an attempt on Jack’s part to compete with, and perhaps demonstrate superior understanding to, Mr. Klimo and his website?” The answer is “of course it is.” Thus endeth the lesson, and the blog post.

23 Replies to “Lure Of The Ring”

  1. jz78817

    my problem with the prequels is they really had no story to tell. We already knew who Anakin Skywalker was, we already knew who he was going to become, and everything was more or less filler material between Anakin taking another step towards the Dark Side. blah blah trade disputes blah blah leaving his mother behind blah blah Jedis being bodyguards blah blah mom dies and he slaughters sand people lather rinse repeat.

    films which are “origin stories” almost never work.

  2. Harry

    I enjoyed The Force Awakens. I saw it the first weekend with my father, and for the entire movie I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and for them to turn terrible. They didn’t. My biggest problem with it is too much hugging. I took my 7 year old to see it this weekend in IMAX 3D, with my father, just as he had taken me to see Jedi in the theater, one of my first movie experiences. I guess if my daughter and I take my future grandson to see Star Wars Episode [negative] IV (how does one express a negative roman numeral? is it like zero and they just don’t exist? Does the use of a roman numeral system in the opening crawl prevent the creation of movies that take place prior to episode I, or will they all just have to be renumbered like between the theatrical release of Star Wars and subsequent releases?) then will I have creative a ring narrative for my family?

    I got a few pages into Mr. Klimo’s article, and I find it interesting and I will finish it later. I am a little annoyed at his confusion of Mr. Plinkett’s views with those of the author of the Mr. Plinkett review. Having enjoyed the Plinkett review’s more than the movies themselves, I am bothered that some of the more blanket and ridiculous statements made in them are taken out of context and used as a straw man to discredit the opinions of Mike Stoklasa.

    The Plinkett review is more about why I and many others didn’t enjoy the movies, rather than why it was a bad movie.

    IMO, the major points of the Plinkett reviews, and this view mirrors my own, wasn’t a problem with the narrative structure, or the attempt to tell an extremely complex story, it was a failure to get the easy parts right.

    The characters did not act in a way that is reasonable or consistent in their own universe or ours.

    The scene that sums it all up for me is the opening battle of Revenge of the Sith. It is one of only two sequences that depicts fleet on fleet capital ship combat (the other being the end of Jedi.) But it is confusing nonsense, and I don’t mean it was a narrative device that simulated the fog of war because of our protagonists limited point of view. What are all the fighters doing? Why are whatever one calls the ship to ship artillery that was shown constructed like deck guns from WWI and being manned by humanoid droids and firing actual disposable shells? I am all about Han Solo’s gun being made from a broom handle Mauser, and the Millennium Falcon cockpit looking like a B-29, that makes sense, its a space pistol, and a space ship/plane. However if they put propellers on an X-Wing we would have all thought that was stupid.

    Are these droids supposed to be something we care about as individual? I know we do about R2 and C3PO, but are all mechanical beings thus, like the little roomba droids that are scurrying about? That is the only reason I can think of for why when the best pilot in the galaxy gets clustered bombed by a bunch of tiny droids then those droids try to disassemble his fighter instead exploding? It is because they all have a will to live. Who would develop such a weapon?


    The actual film making, over use of digital sets meant the actors were barely aware of their surroundings, their reaction to events that were not added until post reflects this. Lazy ( or maybe necessary due to green screen shooting limitations of the time?) camera blocking.

    Painfully written dialogue.

    Unsatisfying answers to questions that were best left mysterious (midichlorians and the force)

    Unexplainable, rather than unexplained nonsense. Obviously in a made up universe there is much we don’t know, as even the most painstakingly created ones have limits. Saying the senate has been disbanded lets you know there is a senate, and therefore some sort of representative or legislative counter balance to the emperor, and now its gone. If you choose to show the senate in the prequels, at least have the rules that body operates under make sense.

    Yoda becomes a flying magic green abomination.

    Light sabers everywhere. The Plinkett reviews point this out for several hours. Some of it is nit picky, Individually few of the errors are fatal, but collectively you get, well, what the prequels were.

    On an unrelated note, I applauded the un-canonization of the expanded universe. It was completely unwieldy. As a child I remember what a big deal it was then the Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels came out. I even remember enjoying the Kevin J. Anderson novels when I discovered them in thee “A” section of new fiction at my local library. Even my young teen self could tell that by then things in the EU were getting out of hand, I cannot imagine that if when back and read those books now they would be any less off putting then Keven J Anderson’s foray into the Dune sandbox.

    I would be ok with the machete order becoming canon for the moment, it fixes a few glaring problems. When they start churning Star Wars universe movies out like sausages in a few years I can even get beind re doing the prequels entirely.

    • Dan S

      Machete order makes a lot of sense except, honestly, when I tried to do it, I couldn’t manage to watch 3 after remembering how incredibly bad 2 was. Wound up skipping and going to return of the jedi.

  3. Harry


    If I were to write and submit to the public something that was boring and incomprehensible, and then upon being told by nearly everyone that my work was so, having a third party explain that I was trying to write it in the style of James Joyce does not retroactively make my original work less terrible.

  4. galactagog

    I agree with Harry

    I have also been wondering if the girl was the result of an incestuous Luke + Leia. Although they probably didn’t know they were related at the time.

    How else could she be so powerful with the force, but completely untrained?

    unless Leia got impregnated by the Emperor. Or Darth Vader, while she was a captive

    But I am assuming she is a twin/daughter from Han + Leia

    Anyway, I think everyone gushing about how great this movie was, is because the last 3 were so FUCKING BAD. By comparison, an average Star Wars movie looks brilliant.

    I think it could have been much better.

    For example: at the end they may as well have had Rey walk down a long hallway, and open a door to reveal Luke Skywalker. That was about as interesting as the journey to discover him was.

    Lots of other stuff too, but I will restrain my inner geekness because I really don’t care that much

    generally it was pretty good though

      • galactagog

        awesome, thanks!

        although I was also making a jab about the editor comments in that podcast 🙂

        I tried reading a couple pages of that guys “ring theory” stuff.

        Despite his valiant efforts to defend them, those movies still sucked. Framing shots to match previous films and using reverse parallel plots doesn’t make a good film. I thought it was pretty obvious that Lucas was repeating the classic Hero journey. Big deal.

        Does that excuse JAR JAR BINKS, or that ridiculous underwater/planetary chase sequence? I was surprised Miss Piggy didn’t have a cameo

        • VolandoBajo

          Didn’t Miss Piggy play the role of Jabba the Hut?

          My theory about all of this is that it was Disney that pushed the “no spoilers” thing, even before the premiere, and that it did so primarily to protect the potential audience from finding out that others thought it was eminently ignorable, thereby threatening their take.

          Having seen all six previous films, though only once for some of them, I felt like I should invest the time in seeing what all the fuss was about, but I got about what I expected…a rather tedious sequel, in many ways much less successful than other (n+1) sequels (for large values of n), such as Rocky, the Fast and Furious franchise, or the Riddick adventures.

          In the end, the only reason I wasn’t more disappointed was that I started out with low expectations, and The Force Awakens didn’t disappoint my initial assessment.

          I’m surprised by the relative lack of outrage by diehard Star Wars fans towards Lucas for
          turning the reins over to Disney. Or maybe there is, but I just don’t find it worth digging into.

          The whole thing is about as relevant to me, personally, as a slant-six Plymouth Duster…a nice concept to start out with, but well past its prime.

          I have been laid low by the flu for the last week plus. I think it is only coincidental that I became ill the day after I watched The Force Awakens, but I’m not sure of that. It is the biggest clinker I’ve seen in some time, enough so that it made the latest Rocky sequel seem at least OK.

          I doubt that I would care enough any more to even bother to watch a sequel to The Force Awakens. And anyway, what would it be called? The Force Descends Into A Deep Snooze?

          Enough is enough…

  5. Economist

    I remember being impressed with the Zahn novels when I read them in my teens and I was much more impressed when I read them again in my twenties.

    I still hold out hope that Grand Admiral Thrawn will see the big screen. He was a nuanced, scary, and utterly believable villain.

  6. kvndoom

    I’ve gone to see TFA three times so far. I want to see it once more, but who knows if time will permit. I’m hoping to catch The Revenant this coming weekend.

    I enjoyed it a LOT more the 2nd and 3rd times I watched it. I think I was too apprehensive the first time because I was waiting for it to start to suck. By the time I realized it wasn’t going to suck, it had ended. It truly was a better experience the next two times. I am just ticked that they couldn’t just say that Rey was Luke’s daughter and be done with it (even though she might not be, it seems most logical).

    Han Solo knew who she was, whoever she was. He offered her a job smuggling because he didn’t want her to get involved with the Force. But Leia didn’t seem to recognize her at all, which is a bit puzzling. A daughter Luke never told his sister about? Maybe!

    I liked Finn and in a way he’s the new Han Solo. His motive isn’t being the good guy but he is gonna be dragged through this mess regardless. I suspect he and Rey won’t cross paths again until SW9 but they will each play an important part in the overall conflict. Poe was pretty awesome too… making wisecracks in the face of certain death is probably what I would do too. Fuck it, I’m about to be cut in half with a lightsaber, might as well talk a little shit on the way out. I hope he gets more screen time for the next movie as well.

    The smartest thing about the movies was Kylo Ren. Before release, he was pegged as a “Vader wanna-be.” The fact that he WAS indeed a Vader wannabe, but mainly due to being Vader’s grandson and having inherited some evil genes, was a pleasant “fuck you” to all the second guessing nerds out there (myself included). I’m also happy that they got the daddy issues out of the way so that Kylo can develop into an evil being without a lot of inner turmoil.

    The biggest problem is going to be following it up. Rey is already more powerful that Kylo. She whooped his ass completely and with no lightsaber training whatsoever (she had only known she had the Force for like an hour or two for that matter). So now Emperor Snooki is supposed to complete Kylo’s training but Luke is gonna train Rey simultaneously? In order to make a good trilogy, SW8 has to tip the balance towards the bad guys just like ESB did. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to happen with such a decisive ass kicking and Death Star destroying. And please please PLEASE for the love of Cthulhu no more death stars. But how do you top that? How do you make the Empire, um Order a serious threat and set up the climax of SW9 without a Death Star? I mean seriously what is more intimidating than a planet-destroying weapon? The planet killer should have been introduced in SW8 and destroyed in SW9. In fact, that would have been a PERFECT tide turning cliffhanger for SW8- the reveal of the Star Killer and heartless destruction of the Republic’s home planets. Boom, billions dead in a flash, credits roll. THEN you would have had the masses foaming like rabid squirrels for the conclusion!

    Anyway I could go on and on for hours and I have to get my ass in bed.

    • Rock36

      I disagree that Rey is necessarily already more powerful than Kylo Ren, except perhaps in raw force sensitivity. Remember Kylo just took a direct bowcaster shot after he murdered Han Solo in the prior scene, and was still bleeding freely in the duel scene. We saw repeatedly through the movie how powerful Chewie’s bowcaster was; so much that it was almost a minor plot point of the film. I just can’t see how Kylo wouldn’t be at a significant disadvantage after taking a shot that instantly killed multiple people under the same circumstances.

      Rey, to some degree, already knew how to handle weapons and fight on some level as evidenced by her staff early on Jakku. So while it was a different weapon fundamentally that a light saber, Rey would have at least understood a little bit about timing, movement, and attacks/parries in a fight. She was certainly in the right physical condition to fight. Finally, Rey was in fact losing until she did her little force summoning meditation in the middle of the fight, which began her counter attack that put an injured Kylo on his ass.

      So I’m not really of the opinion the Rey/Kylo fight was that one-sided.

      I agree about the super death planet Starkiller Base. I really wish they found another big bad obstacle to overcome or thwart.

  7. Athos

    Went with my son the 1st of January to watch it. Never had that experience as a kid. First one I saw was the Empire Strikes Back. Not a nerd (not that type) nor one of those d@#$%heads that think the movie is a way of life. I was afraid my $20 were going down the toilet but the movie was enjoyable.

    The good:
    1) The bad guys need to be fought to truly stop them. Telling them to stop won’t go far. That such a message is front an centre in the movie amazed me, specially in these times.
    2) The new lightsaber is awesome. Looks also like something a proper Knight would have carried many years ago.
    3) Of course, the Millenium Falcon is back and the revised spaceships kick ass.
    4) The new storm troopers are less hopeless than in the past and the new uniform looks the part better than the prevous one.
    5) The new Death Star/Sun sucking weapon. Awesome, out there and scary.
    6) Most of the old cast is back. Chewbacka, C3P0 and R2D2 (alias Arturito in all LATAM).
    7) Rey, she kicks ass, but it’s BS that with no training she can fly, be a warrior, etc… it doesn’t matter how strong the force is in her.
    8) The PC agenda wasn’t as bad as I expected. No artificial sarcasm. A bit off topic, but Snoopy was surprisingly refreshing in that regard.
    9) The janitor, of all people, guides the good guys into the facility. Who else could have known the place better (but not some of the juicy things). Plausible.

    The bad:
    1) The script was cheesy at times and downright BS at others. Since the local TV aired the 6 first movies at least 3 times before the premiere, I was able to watch all of them at least twice and found cheesiness from the original movie until the carp prequels.
    2) Finn. This guy cannot be the next Han Solo, seriously. No balls, no swagger, no malice, no character and no brains. Mr Resistance’s big deal better gets its act together in the next movies or they better replace it. Not surprisingly Han picks his BS a mile away and tells him “we always find out ;)”. Cannot see him smuggling peanuts into a modern primary school before the kids throw him under the bus. Finally the little dance he did to his previous commander, pathetic. No wonder Rey is offered the smuggling job. Loser.
    3) Kylo. No problems with him being a Darth Vader wannabe, but the tantrums for everything are out of place. Is he a future commander or the other general’s/new emperor’s biatch? The other guy is more Vader than him.
    4) The carnage. It got to the point of being disgusting at times. Or maybe I’m old and soft.

    Want to watch it again, however I haven’t decided yet if at the movies or from the $2 kiosk in a couple of months when they release it in DVD.

    Off topic: is there a video of Mr Toyoda speech introducing the new Lexus?

    • jz78817

      “3) Kylo. No problems with him being a Darth Vader wannabe, but the tantrums for everything are out of place. Is he a future commander or the other general’s/new emperor’s biatch? The other guy is more Vader than him.

      see I disagreed with this. I thought he played it far more realistically than Hayden Christensen ever did. He’s basically what you would get from a spoiled 15-year-old boy with those kinds of abilities.

      • Athos

        Adam Driver wasn’t bad. And yes, he played it better than Christensen. It’s his character I find problematic.

        See, from movies 4-6, DV doesn’t throw a tantrum to drive when something goes wrong. And if you note, KR is not the sole commander, he has someone else besides… and they both meet their lord together. Is that guy the one I say is more DV than KR.

        Anyone throwing a tantrum like that in front of its subordinates deserves to be canned. Period. No matter how gifted or spoiled (or both) the person is.

        • Kvndoom

          Remember one, the age diference between Kylo and General Hitler ( might as well call him that…). Hux is straight up evil. They complement one another because one is evil to the core, the other is a child seduced to the Dark Side.

          Vader was calm and collective, but he was also much older and fully trained. For as powerful as he was, he was still Palpatine’s bitch. Kylo has to be made into a man, and then he will be less conflicted and emotional, and more powerful.

          I hope they can improve on the foundation they made with this movie.

        • jz78817

          “See, from movies 4-6, DV doesn’t throw a tantrum to drive when something goes wrong.”

          well, even ignoring how much older the character was at that time, he still Force chokes the shit out of pretty much anyone who pisses him off. Even w/o the screaming and raeg that’s still pretty much textbook “do what I want or I’ll kill you and break your stuff.”

          “Anyone throwing a tantrum like that in front of its subordinates deserves to be canned. Period. No matter how gifted or spoiled (or both) the person is.”

          I highly doubt someone like Kylo Ren is “hired.”

          • Harry

            Quick pitch

            A limited run series about a down on his luck Bothan who takes a job working for the First Order HR department Force Sensitives Division.

        • Rock36

          Hux is more Grand Moff Tarkin than Vader, and at least on some level Tarkin could tell Vader what to do.

          Immaturity, emo, whatever you want to call Kylo Ren, I’m actually glad he isn’t completely some Vader clone and has his own distinct personality regardless of what it is. I’d say Adam Driver plays KRs impetuousness and lack of self control infinitely better than Hayden Christensen did as Anakin.

          Just because KR wants to follow in Vader’s footsteps and shares Vader’s goals and ambitions, does not mean he needs to be a complete Vader clone and completely ape Vader’s habits and personality.

  8. Disinterested-Observer

    It seems to me that, like Newton’s catflap, calling something into existence that did not previously exist, such as a poem or a song, is infinitely superior to criticizing someone else’s work. Assuming that the work was truly novel. I just read “The Great War and Modern Memory” because I mistook it for a history book. Modern Library put it at #75 all time non-fiction books. I think I would have been much better served by reading “Gravity’s Rainbow” (why is this book so prominently featured in a book about WWI? Don’t ask me), “The Wasteland”, and some bad trench poetry.

    • VolandoBajo

      Or try some good aerial poetry…Randall Jarrell’s “The Death of the Tail Gunner” or something like that title. One of the few poems I read in freshman English Lit that still haunts my memory decades later.

      As I recall, Jarrell was killed shortly after writing that poem, and it is my opinion that had he survived the war, he would have become one of the greatest poets of the twentieth century, on a par with T.S. Eliot, and even surpassing some recognized masters of the genre.


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