Thursday, May 12, 2005

Misunderstanding Episode III

I am eagerly awaiting one week from today. The opening night of Star Wars Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. So I am trying to avoid the press which will give away plot details. But we all know what ultimately happens. Anakin Skywalker, in a desire to speed up his training and to put power before wisdom, turns to the dark side and becomes Darth Vader. And after after he makes that fateful decision, he sustains a number of grievous injuries during a duel with Obi Wan Kenobi, requiring him to don the dual function intimidating and life supporting black suit by which we recognize the dark lord.

And while many folks have a list of questions they would like answered in the movie, this guy at MSNBC made my brain hurt. If Jon Bonne is the best MSNBC has to offer, I fear for the site. Read it through to the extent that you can follow it, but I find this article reflective of a profound lack of understanding not just of the movies, but of the kind of logical reasoning that has made humans the superior species on the planet. And if these are the questions he wants answered, he can save himself the price of the ticket, because the other movies do a very nice job on their own explaining these very facile questions.

Let's take his questions, such as they are, one by one.

1. Leia. She was adopted by a diplomatic family and raised as a diplomat. And given the pogroms against the Jedi, it might not have been a good thing to have her walking around with a lightsaber. In any case, her role is not diminished in the least, but rather she serves the role as the brave brains of the bunch. Her patrician demeanor aside, she isn't afraid to get her hands dirty.

2. The Skywalker family. The base issue here is actually valid, where he questions why Vader doesn't recognize his own children, especially Leia, with whom he has significant interaction in Episode IV. But he misses the point about Luke by missing facts. In Empire, the Emperor in the old version also refers to Luke as "The Son of Skywalker". Unless Vader forgot his old name, the tie is pretty darned clear in his mind. There is evidence that Vader realizes who Luke is just as he blasts R2-D2 rather than Luke's X-Wing fighter which is about to score the kill shot on the Death Star. After blowing away a number of X-Wings, Vader isn't going to miss Luke by accident. Further, he mentions that "The Force is strong with this one." Beyond that, when the probe finds the base on Hoth, Vader says "I'm sure Skywalker is with them." He hasn't forgotten his history. The remainder of this question is a series of very obvious observations. Luke and Leia were separated. If one gets knocked off, the other survives. Padme probably gave Luke to Obi Want to hide, and gave Leia to Bail Organa (please tell me that his name is not lost on any of you), whom she would have known from the Senate. Easy enough?

3. Politics. Huh? The minutiae of Star Wars politics and who gets elected it is what it is. Yes, there's corruption. We certainly don't see that in the real world. If Bonne doesn't get that, I fear for him. And if he hasn't figured out that Palpatine has the Senate on strings, Episode III will be lost to him.

4. The Sith. Where there's good, sometimes there's bad. And do the Sith need to point to grievances against the Jedi in order to mount an attack any more than terrorists need to have a logically cogent list of slights in order to attack the west? They're bad guys. They're mad that they don't have power. Is that too far fetched an explanation?

5. Vader's Ambitions. Anakin wants power because so many events in his life (slavery, death of his mother, Obi-Wan's incremental and seemingly slow training) have left him feeling powerless. He gets it through the dark side. Does Bonne think once he gets it that he'll abandon its source? He didn't set out to destroy the galaxy, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Think, McFly.

6. Training. Fair enough. But I think it's also fair to assume that Yoda didn't have the luxury of years of training, given that his brand of the force had fallen into disfavor with the Empire. Palpatine and Vader could sense the training going on, so it is unlikely that they could have continued it for very long. Nor would the result (Luke and Vader ruling the galaxy) be much worse than the galaxy already was Palpatine running around with a Death Star. They had to go to war with the Jedi they had.

7. Jedi Shortcomings. I think Bonne answered his own question. They became a little too self-assured and ignored warning signs. Combine that with the nefarious methods of Palpatine and you get the situation the galaxy had.

8. Jedi Emotion. Someone flunked kindergarten ethics. To Bonne's question, I ask, what use are laws or personal values if you won't follow them? The tenets are only as good as we take them seriously. Anakin would not conform himself. He preferred the power of evil. Not rocket science.

9. Yoda. I'd love to know about his past too. But the reason for the Dagobah selection is in the books, which Bonne has apparently never cracked. The dark side presence on Dagobah where Luke faced the image of Vader in Empire? That's why he moved there. To hide his own presence. It's a detail, though, and doesn't warrant such hand-wringing.

10. The Force. Been explained in Episode I. The midicholorian explanation isn't a work of art, but it is what it is. As far as the disappearance at death, and the blue explosion of Palpatine, this is probably the second and last truly valid question that Bonne raises. Interesting, but a very minor issue.

MSNBC should be ashamed of itself for putting such a dilettante in charge of writing what turned out to be a truly painful misunderstanding of the saga.

Of course, the fact that I have wasted many years of my life watching the movies and reading the books says little for me, but at the very least, Bonne could have watched the movies more than once before writing this drivel.


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