By now you’ve probably heard about the inclusion of a dance component in the new Star Wars: Kinect video game. When I first read about it yesterday, I found myself scanning the stories for their publication dates. It may have been 24 hours late, but I couldn’t quite believe that this wasn’t an April Fools’ joke. Alas, the videos were real, and they were awful. How awful? Let’s watch.
0:20 The video begins with some sort of an Imperial, um, something, walking into Jabba’s palace. Is it a droid? Is it a person wearing a full-head helmet and a glowing green purse backpack of some sort? The Death Star gunners did wear impractically-designed full-head helmets, but even they didn’t have to wear that weird puffy skirt. I imagine it’s difficult to operate a laser artillery console when you can’t get closer than six to ten inches from anything you’re standing next to. But let’s accept, for the purposes of this video, that the Empire has people and/or droids that they send to initiate dance competitions with the most important gangster warlords. If you have difficulty accepting that, just go ahead and stop the video right now. I wouldn’t hold it against you.
0:24 Not only does the Imperial droid/person have a deeply impractical skirt, but apparently also some sort of an evil French Imperial maid headpiece. It’s also become clear that the helmet is designed to imitate a short ponytail in the back. Intimidation factor is reduced significantly. In fact, I’m surprised that the outfit doesn’t include some sort of a glowing laser lollipop, but maybe that will come up later. We’re only four seconds in, after all. Jabba declares that “We play for high stakes here,” which initially makes me think that the Imperial evil French maid person/droid will be dancing for her life on top of the rancor pit.
0:30 The music begins. Max Reebo is jamming, even though it’s all percussion at this point, but he has that future 360˚ super-keyboard, so maybe he’s doing the percussion himself, or doing sequencing for later in the track. Who knows?
0:38 Wait, what’s this? The Imperial evil French maid person/droid has a twi’lek slave girl? You mean she isn’t even going to be dancing herself? Why the hell is she even here? Couldn’t she have initiated this contest via hologram? And what exactly are these “high stakes” she’s playing for? It can’t be the life of the slave girl. Because you know how you save the life of your slave girl? You leave her at home. You certainly don’t take her anywhere where someone owns a rancor.
0:42 R2-D2 is enthusiastic, but I would feel much more invested if I actually understood what the stakes were.
0:45 The actual dancing begins. The song is an adaptation/parody of Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl.” In order to give myself the proper context, I go watch the original video. I make it about two thirds of the way through. The parody/adaptation is a bit more kid-friendly, replacing “this my shit” with “this my ship.” I’m unclear as to why the new lyrics are necessary. If you want Star Wars-specific material, why not just write a new song? Wouldn’t that be cheaper? Alternatively, if you want material that people will recognize, why not just use the original song? Is that somehow too implausible for this otherwise entirely plausible scenario?
0:50 Dance moves are renamed to fit the Star Wars theme. The first arm movement is titled “There Is No Try,” causing Yoda to throw up a little in his mouth. This, after all, was not a part of any Jedi training he’s ever seen, and he’s 900 fucking years old. Even in a galaxy far, far, away, however, no one has apparently been able to come up with a better name for “The Lasso.”
0:53 I now have an answer as to why the Imperial evil French maid person/droid needed to initiate this dance-off in person. She ain’t no hologram girl.
1:10 New dance moves include the “Force Push” and “Mind Trick.” It’s too bad that jedi mind tricks don’t work on Hutts. I’m getting a bit worried for the twi’lek slave girl. They play for high stakes here, and she might have done better to bring something that would better appeal to her audience, like maybe “Shiny Metal Droid as a Gift.”
1:25 The video in the corner of the guy actually playing the game might be the high point of this video, although it introduces a problem of its own: Apparently you don’t need to be very good at, um, moving your body in a coordinated manner in order to do well. This might be comforting to me as a potential player, but that would require me to entertain the notion that I would ever under any circumstances play this game. So yeah, no.
1:30 New move: “Duel of Fates.” Inexplicably, it does not involve getting cut in half and falling down an exhaust shaft. Also the next move in the queue is entitled “Chewie Hug.” I somehow doubt that any wookie was involved in the creation or naming of this move, else it would likely have been something more appropriate like “Ewok Hug” or “Suffocate Jar Jar Binks.”
1:45 Back to “Lasso.” You know, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone use rope in any of the Star Wars films.
1:55 I think we’ve seen this song’s full repertoire of moves. I’m not totally sold, but judging from his head bobbing, Jabba seems to be totally into it.
2:20 Jabba informs the dancer (or the Imperial evil French maid person/droid?) that she’s “going to have to do better than just good,” and then WTF? LEIA UNCLIPS THE CHAIN FROM THE DOG COLLAR AROUND HER NECK AND GETS UP TO DANCE.
Now let’s step back from this for just a minute. The implications of this gesture are staggering for the entirety of the Star Wars universe in ways that echo (and perhaps explain) the brother/sister deep tongue kissing in The Empire Strikes Back. If Leia can remove the chain from her collar any time she wants, then what exactly is keeping her in Jabba’s palace? Is the message we’re supposed to take from this whole scene that Leia actually enjoys the whole metal bikini/slave/bondage theme? Is this why she so quickly agrees to play dress-up and let the Ewoks braid her hair after she wrecks her stolen speeder bike in Return of the Jedi? And what the hell are we supposed to make of the scene in Jedi when Leia strangles Jabba to death with her clip-on chain? Did he just forget the safe word? Was it the tragic end of the great untold love story of the Star Wars universe? Does George Lucas EVER think about ANYTHING that he does anymore, or has he actually started to identify with Jabba as his own mass expands and he becomes literally and figuratively bloated by his own wealth and continuing (if stagnating) cultural influence? Are we seeing some sort of weird wish fulfillment in this scene? Or is it just total pandering to aging fanboys who finally get to make a barely-clad icon of repressed geek desire stand up and dance? I’m not sure which possibility is more disturbing.
3:00 Or is Leia herself what’s at stake in this contest? Is this some secret plot by Vader or the Emperor to get their hands on the second possible Jedi threat to their power? In which case, is Leia dancing to determine whether she stays on Tatooine or goes with the Emperor’s minion? And how the hell does one even begin to parse the twisted sexual politics of that possibility?
3:45 Jabba is pleased, but we still don’t get to find out what the fucking stakes were.
And the suffering finally ends, but there’s still at least one more big question. In the handful of videos posted at Kotaku, there appear to be three settings for dance levels: Jabba’s palace, the carbonite freezing unit in Cloud City, and the one original location, some sort of a bar with Boba Fett and a bunch of stormtroopers. If the dancing levels are supposed to inject a bit of light-hearted fun into the Star Wars universe, why would at least two of the possible locations be places linked to the greatest hardship and suffering? There are plenty of more celebratory locations: the Yavin temple from the medal ceremony in Star Wars, the Ewok tree city, hell, even the Gungan underwater city could finally serve a purpose.
It boggles the mind to consider the number of people involved in creating this travesty. Did no one stand up and suggest that this was a terrible idea? Or did Lucas the Hutt simply eliminate any objections (objectors)? I won’t suggest that any single piece of licensed media should be considered to cast an indelible stain on a whole creative franchise — there are too many terrible movie/book/music tie-in video games out there to take that position seriously — but given the apparently increasing indifference of George Lucas to the quality and (dare I even use the word) dignity of his own single greatest creation, is there any way to continue to be a Star Wars fan?
I have two daughters, and I’ve been considering how best to introduce them to a Star Wars universe that was such a significant part of my own childhood. I am, however, considering saving them from the heartbreak of endless special editions and terrible adaptations by never introducing them to the films at all. I’m not sure it’s worth it.