Year of the Witch?
This Friday, the new movie Season of the Witch offers up new supernatural fare. In interviews with Chris Gore of G4TV, the cast proudly declares this the “Year of the Witch.” I’d have to agree; their movie isn’t alone in returning focus to that kind of character. The most innovative approach to witchcraft we’ll see this year, I believe, is probably going to be another Friday night premiere: on the not-so-big television screen, where The Clone Wars kicks off Season 3.5 with the episode “Nightsisters.”
Witches have been lingering in the collective subconscious of the past decade or so, slowly building momentum with characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Willow, who continuously struggled with the temptations offered by the darker powers witchcraft opened to her, and Wicked’s Elphaba, who helped turn the notion that witchcraft is inherently evil on its ear. Witches have also played a pivotal role in the storyline of The Vampire Diaries, where they apparently hold the key to victory in the epic battle between vampires and werewolves.
Infusing witchcraft and magic into the Star Wars universe, though, no doubt will implode some fans’ impressions of the Force and how it works. In the January 2011 issue of Star Wars Insider magazine, Leland Chee presents a nice summary of how witches have been integral to Star Wars for some time now. I thought this was the most interesting part:
In creating Sith Lords for the films, George Lucas instructed concept artist Iain McCaig to draw his worst nightmare. When the first version of this “Sith witch” proved too terrifying, Lucas asked him to back off a bit and draw his second worst [nightmare], figure clothed in heavy red robes and stark black and white makeup. Ultimately the horned male character who became Darth Maul filled the role of the Sith Lord, but the “Sith witches” were not forgotten.
George Lucas is well known for revisiting old ideas he didn’t use previously, like the character name Mace Windu or the sinkhole planet concept that became Utapau. So it seems that Mother Talzin is another one of those instances of something that’s been brewing in the Lucas psyche for some time, and this time his daughter Katie Lucas had the pleasure of bringing her to life. Be prepared to not take anything Mother Talzin says or does at face value; she is a well-crafted antagonist. Her use of magic brings the struggle for power and might in the universe to a new level and opens up some great potential for storylines we haven’t seen before in Star Wars.
At the same time, “Nightsisters” moves its story in a way that will feel very familiar to fans. The opening sequence unfolds much like the breathtaking beginning of Revenge of the Sith, with a space battle and a lightsaber fight that leave the viewer with that same “oh, wow!” feeling everyone had the first time Episode III played in movie theaters. In addition to familiar visuals, there are strong archetypes resonating throughout this episode besides the obvious witches; the most noticeable to me were ninjas and Amazons.
The ninja-inspired attack on Count Dooku (preview clip courtesy of IGN) is one of my favorite parts of the episode, and the sequence does a good job of selling the magic to the viewer. One simple line tells us that even a Sith Lord believes its power is something to be reckoned with. That leaves the rest of the arc open to using witchcraft effectively as a means to build suspense.
“Nightsisters” kicks off a three-part arc with plenty more time-tested archetypes to come. Next week, everyone gets their first look at Savage Opress in an episode titled “Monster.” Without getting into any specific spoilers, I might suggest brushing up on your Frankenstein between now and then.
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