Was it good?
No, it wasn’t. But going to see Star Wars to see a ‘good’ movie is like going on public transportation to meet nice people. I enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, but the movie sucked. The writing was bad, the plot was bad, and the ‘resolution’ wasn’t. The acting, except for Anakin’s, was alright. Yoda I loved, and it was nice to see again exactly why Yoda was so feared as a Jedi Knight (and why he was in such bad shape when Luke ran into him at Dagobah). The fight seen between Palpatine and Yoda was pleasing to me. I can see why a lot of people thought it ruined Yoda’s character to have him be a good fighter, but really, being a Jedi is supposed to be about the Force and balance, and frankly, I think it held true to my belief that Yoda was always the Gandhi character.
By the way, Gandhi said “Non-violence is the law of the human race and is infinitely greater than and superior to brute force.” Yes, he was against a violent resistance to the injustices put upon India, but the word he used for this was satyagraha. It means the willingness to endure great personal suffering, in order to do what’s right. Courage to do what’s right, even if you know you can’t win. Specifically, Gandhi thought that taking up arms against a sea of troubles will not, by opposing, end them. Thanks, Hamlet. Gandhi thought that violence leads to more violence.
Revenge of the Sith sort of proves this point. The Jedi were violent, and getting to the point where they couldn’t see a path but violence, to ‘save’ the Republic. It was a noble goal, to defend democracy and such, but the follow through was a little off. Mace Windu is the perfect example of this. He has no compunctions about kicking ass and taking names, proving that the general ‘check’ within the Jedi has been missing for years. The Jedi have nothing to stop them from ‘hostile negotiations,’ as Anakin put it in the second movie (Clone Wars, not The Empire Strikes Back). They try to be peaceful, and when it doesn’t work, oh well, time for the killing. Yoda, and a few others, seem to frown upon this, but even they don’t step up and say that it’s a bad idea.
Now, in Yoda’s defense, he didn’t seem to be all that pleased about the use of brute force, but he realized that there was a point when you had to step up and fight for what you believed in. Yoda saw the balance of the universe threatened by Palpatine, and knew that to restore it, he’d have to cut out the problem. Yes, through violence, but by this point Palpatine had proven he wasn’t going to go quietly into the dark night. If Palpatine was just opposing and oppressing, that would be one thing. But since he was a movie character and was thus a clear cut evil man, it’s easier to make the simple decision that he has to go.
That’s where the movie breaks down totally.
Darth Vader, in the original trilogy, is presented as the most evil of creatures, the most vile of mankind. We see him in his mask and cloak, we hear the ‘hoooo haaaaaaah’ breathing, and we tremble. He is evil. Then we learn he killed Luke’s father and we hate him more. Then we learn he is Luke’s father, and Obi-Wan lied to prevent Luke from going to the dark side (which I see as a great moment of continuity, as Obi-Wan continues to make similar mistakes through his life). So we have the tragic hero of Vader, who was a great Jedi, was seduced to the dark side, becomes Sith and evil, then comes back in his dying moments and is elevated, again, to hero.
Twenty-five years later, we get told that we’ll learn Anakin’s back story and all about why he became Vader. The potential for this back story is tremendous. How did Palpatine seduce Anakin? What is Palpatine’s reasoning for becoming evil? How did we get from a million Jedi to two? We anticipate these answers.
We get jack shit.
Palpatine is cast as a power-hungry senator who wants to be the supreme ruler. He’s obviously cast as the Hitler role. After all, if you ever want to make someone pure evil, make them a Nazi. It’s something everyone hates, so you never have to worry about someone being offended. But it can also be used as a cheap plot device. Palpatine is evil because he’s evil. That’s it. Even Hitler had more motivation than that. One presumes Palpatine wanted to rule so that he could control and make the Empire safer. But without even that casual mention of ‘I can do better than you fools’ you’re left wondering why.
Anakin himself is a whiney idiot who, instead of giving him one humane reason for becoming evil, was handed a set of excuses that sound like every college freshman’s blog. Okay so on theory is that Anakin was willing to do anything to save his wife and child, to the point that he’d broker a deal with the devil for her. The other is that he really believed that the Jedi were wrong. Both reasons are pretty solid, if scripted correctly, and I can understand and agree with both. Not to say I’d do it, but you get the idea. It’s even feasible that someone could have both thoughts in their head, were they Anakin, and had that been the case, I wouldn’t have been so pissed.
But as I said, you have to craft this the right way. You have to build up the tension correctly. It’s more than just an ‘evolution’ from Clone Wars, when Anakin bitches that he gets no respect from the council. That’s the problem of a boy who wants to be seen as a man, and it’s a classic one. We’re all okay with that. But when we meet Anakin the man in Revenge of the Sith, we see that Anakin hasn’t matured as much as one would have liked. He still suffers a boys naï¿½vetï¿½ about fairness. As Anakin’s supposed to be in his early 20s, I was okay with letting that go.
We also get a glimpse in both Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith of Anakin’s dark leanings. In the first instance, he butchers the people who killed his mother. Now, who can argue against that? Yes, the humane thing would have been to let them go, but it was made fairly clear that these were villainous creatures. And yet, we’re contradictorily being told that Anakin was wrong to kill for love.
Take a moment. A Jedi should not know love.
How asinine is that? No knowing love, not caring for people, may be part of why the Jedi devolved into the ass kickers. I understand that they don’t want the Jedi to put aside reason for the sake of one person (very Vulcan moment: The good of the many). If you’re part of a people who have the goal to protect all innocents, then it’s rather your job to step back and say that you can’t love one group of people more than another. You should love all of them. But phrasing it as not knowing love has the effect of dehumanizing people.
So fine, we’ve got strong emotional, naive Anakin, who loves Padme and has doubts about the Jedi being right. Part of his doubts come from his youth and inexperience, but part comes from the fact that he can see problems but he can’t understand their root cause. This was a flaw in the Jedi training, not to teach him to look at the whole picture. But Anakin is the product of his environment. By the time he came to the Jedi school it was too late. Only Yoda seemed capable of understanding the darkness the Jedi were facing, and he wasn’t strong enough to take care of it.
The problem with all this fanwank is that in the movie, all you get is a whiney kid who loves his pregnant wife (whom he shouldn’t be married to anyway), and bitches a lot of about how he don’t get no respect. Then he meets an older dude who tells him he’s right to be upset and there’s a way he can protect his beloved but … he has to sell his soul to win the World Series.
Wait, sorry, that was Damn Yankees.
The point remains the same. Anakin, for no reason other than he’s unhappy and scared, joins the dark side. Well, he’s a stupid kid. That’s okay in and of itself. That’s not okay for the biggest, baddest, freakiest, evilist bad guy to march imperial and blow up a planet. They made Vader a pussy!
Then they short change us with ‘Arise, Lord … Vader.’ We get no explanation as to why he’s Vader other than Palpatine though it’d be cool.
Then they knee-cap us with what could be the most brutal, gut-wrenching moment that would cement Vader as evil without peer. Anakin/Vader comes to the Jedi temple and butchers the kids. That would have been a phenomenal moment to show us. That would have made us realize that not only has Anakin gone to the Dark Side, but that he’s embraced it. But instead of showing it to us, they allude to it and tell us. Lucas forgot the number one rule: Show, don’t tell. It was almost like he didn’t think the audience would be smart enough to understand what was going on. Even if he didn’t want to give up his precious PG-13 rating, he could have done a lot. Shown it in shadow play, leave a little gore.
Problems I still have:
(1) Leia says in the sixth movie (Jedi) that she remembers her mother and she was always very sad. While it’s possible Leia’s remembering her adopted mother, it seems odd that no one told her she was adopted.
(2) How did Anakin/Vader know Luke was his son? When did he figure this out? As far as he knew at the end of Sith, Padme was dead and so was the baby. Singular.
(3) How the fuck did the Jedi not know Padme and Anakin were together? I can buy them not knowing about the marriage, but they were shacking up together and this should have been obvious to everyone. He couldn’t still be her bodyguard, could he?
(4) Chewbacca. It was great to see him, I love him, but damn it all, if he knew about all this, he should have told Han to stop being such a dink.
(5) How did Leia know about Obi-Wan? Seriously, if she was adopted, and no one told her about that, then no one should have mentioned ‘There’s this one Jedi out there, actually…’
I’ve been told the novelization explains much of this but for fucks sake. I shouldn’t have to buy a book to grok a god-damn movie!
I guess the whole thing can be summed up in that the movie was a glittering clean reflection of our current government that failed miserably as being anything more than a mind-fluff candy. Star Wars missed out on all the potential for reality and grit, which it barely had in the first trilogy anyway. Star Wars is like the cliff-note version of Sci-Fi commentary on today’s social strata.
You want the real deal? A down to earth (pun intended) sci-fi movie that gets it right?
Go watch Serenity. You’ll be happier.