Recently, I got a chance to have a discussion with first time author, Tomas Pueyo Brochard, who is promoting his new book The Star Wars Rings. We have planned a multifaceted project with Tomas that includes an interview, several guest posts, and a book review all leading up to the launch of his book on September 19th. Today we bring you part 1 of a two part interview with Tomas on the topic of his book. Click through to find out more!
So, let me start by telling you how excellent this book is. I had read previous iterations of the various Ring Theories and such, but Tomas wrote this book in such a way that makes it easy to understand and proves his points very well. We got a bit carried away while talking because he is filled with so much knowledge on story structure that I couldn’t get enough, so we decided to split the interview into two parts so that your brains don’t explode (mine nearly did during the interview!). I also plan to talk with Tomas again after The Last Jedi comes out, but more on that later. Be sure to leave your thoughts and comments below and come back tomorrow for the conclusion of the interview.
Listen to part 1 of our interview with Tomas using the player below. If you are unable to play the file, you can download it directly right here (downloadable MP3).
You can also follow along with the transcript below:
Colin JTA: Hello to all our readers and listeners here at Jedi Temple Archives. This is Colin, and today I’m going to be talking with our friend Tomas Pueyo Brochard. Tomas has just written his first book called The Star Wars Rings which is due to launch September 19th. He is currently in the process of doing a virtual tour in support of his book and has graciously agreed to talk with us a little about Star Wars in his life, why he wrote this book, and what it’s about.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Tomas.
Tomas: Thanks for having me.
JTA: So Tomas, why don’t we start by you giving us a little background into your journey of discovering A Galaxy Far, Far Away… Like what was your first Star Wars memory and what got you into it in the first place?
Tomas: Yeah, so I think it was probably around, I don’t know, 5 or 6 years old and my father at the time was a TV commercials Director and he loved movies. He wrote scripts on the side and sometimes he would sneak me into a movie when I should be at school. Then around the time I was 5 or 6 there was probably a re-run or something like that and he took me out of school and we went together to the cinema and we saw together A New Hope. And obviously you can imagine at that age how impressive that is and I think something that is very telling of my approach of the movies is the fact that as a film maker, my father would always make comments around the plot or the lighting, or things like that and so I would approach all movies in general as a film maker too. I would look at the plots and try to think of the stories and that’s the case for Star Wars too, eventually. But the first image is this, A new Hope with Luke and Darth Vader Fighting.
JTA: So you had an inside view into how the film was being made basically by having a film maker in the family.
Tomas: Yeah I guess so, obviously we were in Spain and he didn’t have a preview on the reading itself but yeah, we had an appreciation of how a film maker would approach analyzing a movie like this.
JTA: That’s awesome. That’s an interesting view to have as a kid. So let’s get into your book and what it’s about. Your book is called The Star Wars Rings. I know a popular theory of the Star Wars story formation is the Ring Theory and the parallels of the prequel trilogy and Original Trilogy and so on. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means and what these rings are without causing our brains to explode?
Tomas: Yeah, a ring is just a plot structure. So, you can imagine the normal plot structure. People say, well the three-act structure. The introduction, The development, the resolution. The Ring has three aspects to it. The first one is that instead of being linear, like the three acts, it’s like a circle. It’s like the circle in that it starts in a way that it is comparable to the end. If you take for example A New Hope, you start with the Galactic Empire, the empire who is powerful. And then, at the end of the movie, it’s weakened. And Darth Vader at the beginning of the movie is winning; he captures Leia and at the end of the movie he’s losing. And then the rebellion is losing at the beginning and then winning. So you start seeing all these themes that are touched in the beginning and then are completely revisited at the end. And so it’s kind of a circle movement where we end comparing the end to the beginning.
The second aspect is that of symmetry. If you imagine a circle and you cut it in half vertically you can imagine the two halves and these two halves need to mirror each other someway, somehow. And again an example, taking A New Hope, it’s a movie that has 120 minutes and 30 minutes in we meet obi0wan and we meet the lightsaber and 30 minutes before the end, we say goodbye to obi-wan and we say goodbye to a lightsaber in the fight. So you see the symmetry here where we see the events that happened in the first half are revisited again in the second half. Another example is in minute 45, Luke see’s that he lost his family, they’re burned. And then 45 minutes before the end of the movie is when he saves Leia. He meets her and he saves her. So you see all this symmetry that happens in the two halves.
The last part of the ring is the fact that these circular elements don’t just happen at the level of the movie, but also happen on many other levels. For example, if you take Anakin over the first 6 movies, it’s the story of him starting as a nice boy that is on the light side and then he goes all the way down to the bottom and becomes Darth Vader and then all the way up to the top where he comes back to the light again. So it’s not just the movie that potentially has a ring, but it goes across 6 movies there is also a big ring. So that is what a ring structure is. It’s a narration that is circular, there is also symmetry. The two halves of the ring need to mirror each other. And there is also rings at different levels. There is a ring at the scene level and sequence level, the movie level, and the trilogy level.
JTA: Wow…that is..uh… a lot to absorb
Tomas: Maybe I did make your brains explode.
JTA: But no, that is all very fascinating. And it makes sense when I hear you explain it. And I’m sure in the book it’s more descriptive and you’ll be able to understand it more.
Tomas: Yeah that’s right. And it’s difficult to explain it conceptually. It’s easier to start seeing examples of it.
JTA: So, if you’re like me and many of the other fans out there, you love to read up on any and all theories about Star Wars and this is your first book correct?
JTA: What made you decide to write this book? Why this topic and why do you think it was so important to do so?
Tomas: Yeah I think it answers a lot of questions that people have about Star Wars. For me, the two main ones that it answers are A. Why are the prequels like this? Supposedly so much worse than the original trilogy. And the other question is answers is why is The Force Awakens, Episode VII, so much like A New Hope. Like these are two big concerns that people have and I think that they’re fair, but you can’t understand why that’s the case if you don’t look at the structure of the narrative. For example, the prequels, you can’t really understand them without what I just mentioned around for example the Anakin ring, right? He wanted all 6 movies to mirror each other and so The Phantom Menace corresponds with Return of the Jedi and so on and so forth. So George Lucas was very, very focused on this narrative structure when he was writing these movies. And he probably focused too much on that rather than focusing on directing or the lines that Hayden Christensen had, because he was so focused on the narrative structure. And then for the force awakens, a bit similar, it was so similar because JJ Abrams wanted to tell us, “Look, I’m going to continue the rings. I need to revisit a new hope and change it so you can understand that this in another ring in the saga of Star Wars. Like I’m not completely departing from this ring structure that George Lucas built”
JTA: Yeah you definitely hit a couple of sore subjects with the prequels and the similarities of The Force Awakens and A New Hope.
Tomas: Yeah that’s right and they’re fair, they’re, fair. But then they don’t help us understand where they are coming from. And if you understand where they are coming from, you can judge them for what they were trying to do instead of judging them for what they achieved.
JTA: That makes sense, kind of looking at it as a larger picture instead of what it is. So one of your main ideas is that George Lucas followed a very defined blueprint when creating his movies. What is this blueprint and how do you know this?
Tomas: Yeah so, to be convinced that George Lucas wanted to follow these blueprints, you need to understand how obsessed he was with blueprints for storytelling. The most famous one is the hero’s journey, right? He was writing Star Wars a new hope script in the 70’s and he stumbled upon this concept of the hero’s journey from Joseph Campbell and he was flabbergasted with the idea. So much so that he put the template of hero’s journey on top of his script for Star Wars and whenever the script didn’t match that pattern, he decided to correct it. He’s actually talked about this a lot. So much so that he actually a public dinner to show his appreciation to Joseph Campbells work.
So what is this hero’s journey? It’s the journey that all the hero’s across religions and mythology follow. It’s a very, very specific pattern. It has very specific steps and it starts with the hero in an ordinary world and there is a call to adventure, but the hero refuses that call for adventure, but then he meets the mentor that pushes him to take this adventure. Then they cross a threshold into an extraordinary world where they meet tests, allies, and enemies. And so there’s a few specific steps and he followed EVERY single one of them. Not just in A New Hope, but in EVERY movie. So for example, The Empire Strikes Back, you can see in the middle of the movie when Luke goes to a cave. If you think about it, it’s a bit random. He’s with Yoda, he’s training, and suddenly “oh there’s a cave! Let me go there!”… “No, don’t go there!”… “uh okay” and then he goes there and there’s Darth Vader and he cuts off his head and he sees himself.
It’s really weird if you think about it. Well it just so happens that in the middle of a Hero’s Journey, you need to have what is called “the inner-most cave” where you have a very important event that changes your approach to everything and there is some kind of death in you and rebirth. So George Lucas actually took it literally. He went to the right middle of the movie, he has a cave that he just throws in there, and he pushes Luke into this place where he basically kills himself by killing Anakin metaphorically and by seeing his face he is kind of reborn from a perspective of Only light before, right? Before that he thought that he was only a Jedi and he was fighting for the light and suddenly he sees himself in Darth Vader and he starts to think “Maybe it’s not all about light.” So he was very, very obvious about all these story patterns.
I’ll give you another example, if you go to The Phantom Menace, you can break the movie into pieces of 10-minutes. Ten minutes to the clock! Every ten minutes, he just changes the topic. The first ten minutes is the Jedi arriving to the trade ships, the next ten minutes is about the invasion of Naboo, and then the next ten minutes are about meeting the Gungan’s, and then the next ten minutes are about meeting Anakin in Tattooine. You can go on and on, it’s just ten-minute pieces. Each one of them. So these are just two examples of how George Lucas was so obsessed about structure and then he was even literal about it right? We mentioned the Empire Strikes Back cave, it’s just crazy. He just puts the cave there.
JTA: That’s funny because I always remember hearing people saying how confusing the cave is. It’s just out of nowhere, he just cuts of his head. “Is that supposed to be Luke? Is that supposed to be Vader? What’s going on?”
Tomas: Yeah, Yeah! And that’s why I think it’s so cool to have a blueprint like the Hero’s Journey where literally the point to prepare for the midpoint of the movie is called “Approach to the Innermost Cave” and he just decides to have a cave. So these are a couple of examples, but you asked about the rings and so what he was trying to do is to go beyond and always find more and more ambitions blueprints for movies. So when he was working on the prequels he thought, “Okay, let’s be completely ambitious and use this concept of the rings across ALL six movies” and so he crafted all of the first three movies in a way that they matched these rings. For example, you start at the beginning of The Phantom Menace and you have the republic and you fall to the empire. So from Light to Dark, and from Dark to Light right? The Empire gets destroyed. The same thing for Anakin. He goes from Light to Dark, and then from Dark to Light. If you think about it, that’s what Luke does too in the original trilogy. He goes from Light to Dark, and then at the last moment he decides to go back to the Light and so he was using this framework of the ring structure throughout all 6 movies, throughout each movie individually, and even in each sequence or even every shot sometimes.
JTA: Wow…that’s very crazy. Think about that…how much he put in to make it just like that.
Tomas: Yeah and so I think for me, I kind of understand why he was so frustrated because he was very ambitious. He was really trying hard to do something that nobody else has done. So actually, in 2005 he had an interview with Vanity Fair and he says, “The interesting thing about Star Wars—and I didn’t ever really push this very far, because it’s not really that important—but there’s a lot going on there that most people haven’t come to grips with yet. But when they do, they will find it’s a much more intricately made clock than most people would imagine.” So, he was really trying hard to do this and I think the ambition is really interesting. He just didn’t also take care of all these other sides that are so important in movies and he forgot that those were even more important and that’s why we have the prequels that we had.
JTA: You can definitely tell that he got wrapped up in something and he just had a one-track mind during that.
Be sure to come back tomorrow for the conclusion of this informative interview with Tomas Pueyo Brochard
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