Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Plot Spoilers

Starkiller Throws Lightning to Distract You From Plot Holes. Image via Stars Wars: The Force Unleashed

SPOILER WARNING

This is an addendum to my review of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed to discuss the flawed story. The following critique gives away most, or possibly all, of the major plot points in the game and should not be read by anyone unless they have played the game already or simply don’t care about the story.

Flawed From the Start

Often it seems games don’t like to explain the why of things.

Perhaps it is believed that a minute of exposition will be too much for players eager to dive into battle.

In Unleashed, a boy comes at Darth Vader with a light saber in an attempt to defend his soon-to-be-murdered father. Vader lives, of course, and the game shoots forward a few years, at which time the boy, now known as Starkiller, is Vader’s devoted apprentice.

How did Vader win him over? He wasn’t a baby who could just forget what Vader had done, yet there is no explanation as to how he wound up being completely, fanatically devoted to his father’s killer.

Dark to Light in 10 Seconds Flat

The grown Starkiller not only serves Vader without question, but seems to have absorbed his moral code. He is without an ounce of pity or empathy, a cold-blooded, ruthless killer. Then Vader kills him, brings him back to life and sends him on a mission to fire up the resistance and destroy the emperor.

At this point, Starkiller starts acting concerned about other people, being nice to his pilot Juno, and seems to desire to do some good in the world.

Why? Sure, he has some understandable hostility towards Vader after being killed and all, but that in itself would not completely change his personality. So what does? This is not a gradual transformation; he is just suddenly nicer.

A lot can be done with a character when the course of his life is altered by a traumatic event.

We could have seen Starkiller’s transformation as a series of small steps in which he gradually realized the error of giving in to the Dark Side. Alternately, Starkiller’s motives could have come across as ambiguous: has he really become nicer or is this a cynical pretense? But these possibilities are ignored in the script. Starkiller believes he is really going to topple the empire and help people and he seems eager to do so. And there’s no good reason shown for him to feel that way.

Romance

One knows from the first time Starkiller meets Juno that they will eventually kiss. They’re attractive people who seem antagonistic towards one another; a classic Hollywood-movie pairing. The writers know the audience will expect a romance, so they don’t bother doing anything to justify that eventual kiss. Starkiller and Juno snipe at one another, then he does something nice for her and stops acting like a sociopath, and eventually they’re making out. If only it were that easy in real life.

Gotcha!

Eventually, it turns out Vader wasn’t interested in helping the resistance to kill the emperor after all. He simply fooled Starkiller into believing that.

Why?

Starkiller was Vader’s devoted servant; if he’d been told to pretend to help the rebels he would have been happy to do so.

What made it necessary that he really believe in the hoax?

And why kill then revive him? It wasn’t like the resistance knew Vader had almost killed him, in which case the excuse would have been that this gave Starkiller some legitimacy. And surely it wasn’t the only way - or even the best to convince Starkiller that Vader was serious.

Learning Vader’s real plan is the game’s big “twist,” but nothing leading up to it makes any sense at all. If you have seen as many movies as I have, you won’t even be surprised.

Kill Me: That'll Teach You

Eventually, Starkiller has the emperor on the ground, but he doesn’t beg for mercy.

Instead, the emperor follows the strange tradition of super villains who encourage their mortal enemies to kill them. In real life, that would certainly get the bad guy killed, but fictional heroes generally lay down their weapon at this point in the story anyway.

We are meant to feel Starkiller is rising above the Dark Side when he refuses to kill the emperor, but it is an utterly moronic thing to do. The emperor is dangerous, and it is obvious that if left alive he will wind up escaping to wreak more havoc and probably do something really bad with that Death Star of his like, say, vaporize a planet.

Yes, for the sake of Star Wars Episode III you can’t kill off the emperor, but that doesn’t change the fact that in terms of Unleashed’s story, Starkiller did something really stupid. As for the morality of his decision, well, he just killed a bunch of underlings to get to the emperor. Are we to believe that it is somehow more immoral to kill an evil despot responsible for the deaths of millions of people than a whole bunch of guys doing their stint in the military?

In Conclusion

In Unleashed, there is no character development and the story is a mess. The storytelling is quite poor, so I was shocked when I saw reviews acclaiming Unleashed for that very story. Unfortunately, it is common for video game reviewers to rave over scripts that would fail a Writing 101 course. Samuel Johnson once said that if you see a dog walking on its hind legs, even though it is not done well, it is still a surprise to see it done at all. Video game critics seem to have a similar attitude; they are so startled to see a game attempt a story that all they can do is applaud the effort as though it were a success.

The enthusiasm for Unleashed’s narrative in the gaming press is a perfect example of why so few game developers put in the time to craft really effective stories; because hardly anyone asks them to.