Yoda! The Little Green Man Gets Dissected
Rev. Abp. Antonio Hernández, O.M.D.

A debate has been brewing, and I simply must comment. I must also take part because I was one of the first reviewers of "Attack of the Clones", and I received some interesting feedback on that review, which is right here at Hackwriters.

I’m sorry; I cannot sit idly by, watching the horror continue. So I’ve done my homework, and I offer you these thoughts:

An interesting morning for me consists of reading various webpages about Master Jedi Yoda, whom I adore. I’ve read pages about how the original foam muppet was made, how the silicone muppet from Episode I was rather lackluster, and how sorely the muppet was missed (by some) in Episode II. There are even comparison studies of the mechanisms of the original Yoda muppet’s face and Episode I’s puppet. Mostly, I read nauseating, drooling coos of joy over the horrid CGI Yoda in "Attack of the Clowns" (…oh, I’m sorry, "Attack of the Clones"). One thing I read that deeply impressed me was a description of Yoda I had never read nor heard before: "everyone’s favorite alien." I agree!

One does not foul up an original. George Lucas has gone techno-crazy, and I’m gratified to know that people actually involved in the original films agree with me. They dislike the CGI Yoda in Episode II as much as fans dislike Jar-Jar Binks. There is a reason for this, and I will get straight to the point: Yoda is a puppet-- specifically, a muppet-- not a CGI character. A devoted die-hard fan wrote that Yoda "was born a muppet and he will die a muppet." Truer words were never written. That eminent genius Frank Oz is the one who, along with Stuart Freeborn (Yoda’s designer), gave Yoda life. Lucas did not, nor did he even direct the original Yoda action, and that’s precisely why the CGI Yoda in Episode II is so repulsive. It’s like watching the Jackie Chan cartoon. My feelings are twice as sharp because the Yoda muppet was partially based on my martial arts teacher-- honest, even if Lucas never admits it.

Here is the meat of the problem: CONTEXT. The modern, ugly Yoda is completely out of context. Yoda was deliberately designed as a muppet, it’s no coincidence. Lucas went to Jim Henson for just such a character, and Henson delivered. Henson’s work is as sacrosanct as Lucas’, and Lucas has no right to try erasing that muppet magic. Few fans of "Star Wars" are old enough to remember the pioneering work Henson did with puppetry: Lucas wanted a Henson puppet in his movie, a bit like "having Jim Henson in the movie" without having him in the movie. It’s that simple. Lucas consistently shows a proclivity for biting the hands that feed him; that too is simple to see.

Lucas and his people were not satisfied with their asinine mutilation of Yoda’s face in Episode I. No, they had to go all-out and turn him into a ridiculous, 21st century cousin of Hong Kong Phooey. Let me admit that the effort to knock some age off Yoda is understandable. I was once a forensic reconstruction artist, so I know that if you were to compare Yoda to Albert Einstein or J. Edgar Hoover (Yoda resembles both of them), you’d see that having a bunch of different muppets makes sense. Look at photos of the two men at different ages: they are like completely "different models" of the same concept. We all are, even in different photos at the same age.

Yet a character concept, real or created, has an essence that must not, cannot, be changed. We first saw the muppet Yoda, seemingly half-crazy from hiding away on a swamp planet after watching his Jedi Knights and masters get killed. He was stiff, aged, sometimes awkward, and half-toothless. He also had a muppet’s reality about him, that feeling of true sentience, those bright shining eyes and palpable character, Frank Oz’s life melding with Yoda. That’s why he was the character he was, and that’s why we loved him. What better master can there be?

Then in Episode I, we saw… "something". Something "like" Yoda, but NOT Yoda. It was frightening, like the statues of Einstein at Madame Tussaud’s. This master is centuries old, and powerful; would a few decades of suffering have that much impact on him? No! So why does he look like a stoned Arnold Schwarzenegger in Episode I? Then, since Lucas cares nothing for his fans, we wonder why he worked so hard to make the cartoon Yoda of Episode II look like a muppet? It’s because Lucas does not care about Yoda, an offense worse than dissing his fans. Lucas actually embodies one of his films’ main characters: soulless technology.

For a moment, in fact for thousands of moments, I pine for Jim Henson. We all have, but I cried a little bit more for him when I saw Episode II. Henson could have given Lucas what he wanted in Yoda’s highly-touted fight scene-- and could have done it so much better than Lucas ultimately did. Instead of an ineffective green Pikachu, we would have seen the real Yoda in action. And I’m not lightly using the word "real" here. Yoda was real -- and is real no more. What surprises me most is that the great and powerful Oz would waste his time voicing this pathetic cartoon. If you are a person who can find no other wrong than to say Yoda sounds like Grover, then get a life.

He was SUPPOSED to sound like Grover, dummies! It was a part of his character image. Now we know the other ugly truth: our own love for the true Master Yoda is gone.
Hopefully Yoda will not be gone altogether. It has been rumored that Lucas plans to go back to "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" so that he can erase the Yoda muppet and replace him with a CGI monstrosity.
Death to the idea! Monkeying with the original Yoda in any way would be even more of an insult than what Lucas has done already, not to mention a desecration of Jim Henson’s memory and Frank Oz’s hard work. Without Henson, without Oz, without Freeborn, without muppets, Lucas could not have had a Master Yoda; he would have ended up with Jedi Master Furr Kote.
One would think that George Lucas could be more grateful, and more artful.

My last hope-- I will not wait for a *new hope*-- is that Lucas won’t screw us as roughly with Episode III. He should at least offer us some proper muppet shots of Yoda, who will hopefully fight again and redeem the ridiculous Episode II fight scene. Master Jedi Yoda, one of the greatest fictional film characters ever created, deserves better treatment than Lucas has given him. If I may say so, Lucas deserves to have his hide tanned until it’s green.

© Master E.A. Hernandez October 2003

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