Style & Meaning in Star Wars: Episode III - Architecture
- The Cityscapes
Vast panoramas of a future world are seen outside of Anakin's home, the Jedi
Headquarters, etc. These are in a tradition that goes back to the future city
in "Metropolis" (1926). Fritz Lang's vision stressed a Modernist style
architecture, somewhat similar to the Bauhaus. These were highly influential on the
illustrations in the science fiction pulps, which began in 1929. In 1936, comic
strip artist Alex Raymond started drawing future cities in "Flash Gordon".
Raymond's cities embodied a different 20th Century style, Art Deco. Raymond had
the greatest influence on American comic book artists, and such artists as
Carmine Infantino (the planet Rann) and Wayne Boring (Krypton) created vast
futuristic cityscapes in the Deco mode. Such Deco buildings emphasized strange,
geometrically shaped towers, often assymettric in approach. These frequently
featured flanges and ramps, as well as polyogonally sloped sides, and mixtures of
circular and polygonal cross-sections.
Star Wars: Episode III reflects both such approaches - the Modernist and the
Deco - but with a unique synthesis all its own. The general outline of the
city is broadly in the tradition of a Infantino cityscape in the Deco mode. There
are a profusion of towers, whose shapes are often of the irregular polygons
of the Deco tradition. However, these towers combine this with a surface finish
that recalls 1950's skyscrapers in the Modernist mode. These buildings are
not the pink or gold solid colored geometric towers of Infantino, mysterious
beacons of an advanced civilizattion. Rather, they are glass-and-steel
skyscrapers, like a business building in today's New York, London or Tokyo, but bigger
and with a geometrically "futurist" outline. The suggestion is that such
buildings are the locus of an advanced capitalism. They do not have a sense of
magic, but rather convey corporate success.
While each building in an Infantino or Wayne Boring city seems like some
unqiue fantasy creation, the Star Wars III buildings seem mass produced. The
cityscape also lacks unique or distinguishing features, considered as an aerial
map. Rather, it is like a contemporary urban sprawl. It would be hard to draw a
map of this city, or see it as an environment filled with unique places (such
as the Krypton Zoo or Aquarium in Superman comic books). Consequently, the
World of Star Wars does noy seem more Advanced in civilization than ours does. By
contrast, Krypton often seems Utopian, a product of a genuinely advanced
culture (and one that has outlawed war).
Since the World of the film is about to collapse into dictatorship from
democracy, it is clear that there (probably rightly) was a deliberate attempt not
to suggest it is a Utopia.