Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed
History Channel, Mon May 28, 9 pm
Stephen Colbert kicks it off: "Star Wars came out, and we went to school the next day unable to explain to our friends how everything was different now." Then it's Newt Gingrich's turn ("The idea of the underdog who's on the right side defeating the overdog who's on the wrong side is a deeply American mythology"), and then cue Nancy Pelosi, Dan Rather, Joss Whedon, Peter Jackson, Tom Brokaw, Elvis Mitchell, Camille Paglia, J.J. Abrams, Kevin Smith, and a slew of smarty-pants professors. All are talking about Star Wars in the History Channel's 90-minute-long Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed, which focuses on the mythological roots and the cultural impact of the sometimes amazing, sometimes hokey 30-year-old space opera.
Spanning all six films and delving into everything from the plots' parallels to Christian and Greek myth to the films' historical and political allegories (Nazi Germany in the original films, the Bush administration's America in the prequels), The Legacy Revealed also flirts, mostly successfully, with what the films have to say about everything from feminism to technology.
Deconstructing Star Wars from a mythological and cultural standpoint—and doing so with plenty of interesting, clever talking heads—is a great idea, and for the most part, The Legacy Revealed takes potentially über-nerdy subjects and makes them both accessible and entertaining. Occasionally, it's a mixed bag—it's hard to shake the suspicion that Gingrich is confused and thinks he's talking about Reagan's Star Wars weapons program, or to tune out the professors who desperately attempt to characterize Jar Jar Binks as fulfilling a "timeless archetype" of the "childlike innocent." But soon enough, connections drawn between Zeus and the Jedi, and from Darth Vader's story to that of The Iliad and Paradise Lost end up resonating pretty strongly—throughout The Legacy Revealed, you're gonna hear a lot of mentions of Joseph Campbell, but you'll also end up thinking in a whole new way about one of pop culture's most constant and enjoyable touchstones.