Saturday, May 21, 2005

Revenge of the Sith

I saw this yesterday and thought it the best of the Star Wars prequels (which admittedly is saying much). The nature and motivations behind Anakin's fall is well-handled and the Dark Side is made more attractive not by appearing to be good but by placing serious doubt on the Light Side's claims to virtue. When Anakin kills a helpless opponent, he was hesitant before the fact and realizes immediately afterwards that it is something he should not have done. When Mace Windu is on the verge of killing a helpless opponent, he has no doubt. When Obi-wan utters his now notorious statement that "only a Sith deals in Absolutes", where does his nuances ultimately lead him? He ends up lying to Luke about what happened to Anakin. That's not to say that there are no bits that are not thought out well or just plain dumb.

Anakin: still shows flashes of the petulant loser that he was in Attack of the Clones. When he's appointed to the Jedi Council and is told that he won't be a Master, he whines in response to the snub that:
"This is sooo unfaaaiiir!!"
Arguably we all know people like Anakin but rarely do they make blatantly self-interested complaints in front of others. One would have thought that Anakin, close to the political Palpatine, would have known how to cloak his motives and utter something like:
"What?!? I am shocked, shocked! that this Council would show such contempt for the Chancellor faithfully executing the laws of the Senate, to which you are responsible!"
In this way, Anakin is not only concealing the reason for his outrage, he still succumbs to the Dark Side in being passionate and he also puts the Council in a spot.

Obi-Wan:Twice Obi-wan utters quips for comic effect. This rang false with me as he was not known for such quips in the Attack of the Clones or in a New Hope. At the very least, he should have uttered some Jedi platitude.

The Jedi Council: come across as a bunch of morons. They fail to notice Anakin's prominent habit of wearing black and they do nothing about his embarassing displays of passion. At the very least, they should have had a program for smacking errant Jedi with a cluebat to stop them going red. Another lapse is when Obi-wan discovers that Anakin has been having serious whoopsie on the side - he does absolutely nothing whatsoever. One would have thought that the millennia-old Jedi Council would have established procedures by now to handle this all-too-human failing.

Politics: The political controversy in the republic is poorly developed. We have the Seperatists, the Chancellor and the Opposition. Now the half the Opposition seem to be opposed to the Chancellor's subversion of the Republican Constitution while the other half are against any war. The motives of the anti-Chancellors are difficult to make out as Palpatine has given no evidence of bad faith that any of them can point to. The ideals of the peace party is simply bizarre: Padme urges dialogue as a way of resolving differences. Has she really forgotten the experiences of Naboo at the hands of the Trade Federation? Not only did the Trade Federation blockade the planet in order to get a treaty signed but she herself resorted to bad-faith tactics to avoid signing the treaty. When she realized that the Senate wasn't going to do anything productive, she resorted to violence to get her way. How could she reasonably expect dialogue to resolve the grievances of the Seperatists? But then again, since Padme has fallen in love with one Anakin "Life is sooo unfaaaiiir!!" Skywalker, people should not be surprised to find that her political beliefs are grounded in the same wellspring of delusion as her love-life.

Darth Vader: The worst for me was what Darth Vader says when he realizes that he has lost Padme. A far more spectacular display of force pyrotechnics than what actually takes place followed by an emotionally dead "What is my master's wish?" would have conveyed better his reaction to the enormity of his loss. But then again I suspect that George Lucas settled on what he actually put in because the only alternative that he could think of was to have Darth utter the far worse Anakinesque "Life is sooo unfaaaiiir!!".

Trivial observation #1Some have wondered why it takes eighteen years to build the first Death Star but only two and a half to build its much larger successor. Some have suspected union trouble but I believe the answer lies in the Imperial Senate. When it possessed budget control and oversight, Emperor Palpatine had to resort to numerous accounting fudges to get the funds he needed for construction. When the Death Star is built, he not only feels strong enough to dissolve the Senate but also revenges himself on the leader of those that delayed the construction of the Death Star.

Trivial observation #2I would be far more wary of the new teachings discovered near the end of Revenge of the Sith with the knowledge of what happens to Obi-Wan in A New Hope and Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. Clearly these new teachings cause advanced ageing and senile dementia.

Trivial observation #3: I don't know why the Emperor persists in having his red bodyguards in Return of the Jedi considering how quickly Yoda dealt with them in this movie. He may have been the best Jedi in the galaxy but one expects the Dark Lord's bodyguards to put up more of a fight.

Trivial observation #4: George really screwed up by failing to give Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) a confrontation of some sort with Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). See here, here and here for reasons why.