In a Galaxy Far Far Away – Return of the Jedi

Another trilogy ends! This one’s a super good one. We’ve got a bunch of feels and some awesome action sequences, and we’ve got Jabba the Hutt who’s pretty fantastic…and gross…but fantastic.

But mostly we get a bunch of Anakin closure. I know Luke’s great and whatever, but this whole wacky sextet of original films is Anakin’s story, and this one, of course, is his redemption after going Full Evil in the last one.

Plus, we’ve got Luke attaining Full Jedi status, which is a HUGE improvement from Mr. Whiney McToyspaceships in ANH. AND! We get Lando redeeming himself and becoming the hero we all knew he always was.

I really like this movie, you guys!

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Episode Number: 6 — Released: 1983 — Production Number: 3

The End of the Beginning

I know, since the Sequel Trilogy became a thing, the series is, for all intents and purposes, “unfinished,” but this is the most satisfying ending ever. We’ve got Luke figuring stuff out and putting on his big-kid outfit and ending up the first of a new class of Jedi, which is fun. Though, the sad thing is that he doesn’t know that double-bladed lightsabers are a thing . . .

Anyway.

But it also is a finale to the first six films, redeeming Vader who finally embraces his destiny as the Chosen One and is all sorts of awesome and selfless and cool. He ends his life as Anakin Skywalker, not Darth Vader (which is simultaneously amazing and sad because Vader is pretty sweet). It ties up the loose ends and returns the story back to the beginning.

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Now, obviously there’s more to say, of course. Will Leia rebuild the Republic? Will Luke spread the teachings of the Jedi to new students? Will Han man up and ask Leia to marry him? Will Lando continue to be AMAZING?

But it’s all a part of that sort of foggy “happily ever after” stuff that readers REALLY WANT TO SEE but stories never address (which is why fan fiction exists!)

We did get a bunch of amazing (and some not-so-amazing) books that continued the story, and some of it was awesome. Han and Leia got married. They had three kids (one died and one became a Sith, but…you know…they had some good stuff before that!) Luke opened a new Jedi Academy and recruited some amazing talent like Corran Horn (who’s completely fictional and never even showed up in any TV shows or anything and yet I totally have a crush on him) and dealt with an ENDLESS parade of superweapons. Leia became Chief of State for the New Republic and then thought, “UGH, politics suck,” and started studying the Jedi ways. There was a bunch of invasions, most notably the Yuuzhan Vong who just messed everything up.

But if we’re talking about the movies, this is no longer The End because now we jump ahead a bunch and see that things really didn’t go well after RotJ and now there’s a whole bunch of new stuff that our heroes have to deal with.

But we’ll get to the new trilogy as it progresses.

Let’s talk about Jedi.

Like My Father Before Me

Luke grows up a BUNCH between Empire and this one, but you get the feeling it’s not a very healthy sort of growing up. The guy’s become so inward and serious that he’s almost emotionless, especially at the beginning. The confrontation with Vader on Bespin REALLY messed him up and he’s clearly not coping well. Sure, he’s more reserved and stuff, but he is so INWARD that, at times, you just want to give him a hug and ask if he’s OK. Now, part of that might be the director. I know that Han is a lot more reserved in this one, too, compared to Empire, but still.

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Someone give Luke a hug. I guess it’s safe to say that Luke is the same age that Anakin was when he fell to the dark side. Anakin had a lot more personality. He was more conflicted, less stable, and the victim of Palpatine’s CONSTANT manipulation. Luke only meets Palpatine at the end, and though he knows how to push Luke’s buttons, Luke is a much LESS malleable person at this point than Anakin was. Luke is clammed up tight and terrified of letting his guard down again (whereas, after Anakin’s disastrous fight with Dooku, he was desperate for a chance to get more powerful and meet Dooku again).

So, while I do find Luke to be a bit cold here, it totally fits the character, and it’s nice to see him open up to Leia at the end and sort of find some stability in knowing that she’s his sister, and they’re sort of a matched pair trying to make sense of what it means to be the children of the most feared man in the galaxy.

You Don’t Know the Power of the Dark Side

And then we get a very different Vader, too. This is the main reason why I love this one so much. In Empire, Vader is TERRIFYING. He is this immovable wall of scary that Luke goes running into, and he nearly kills Han Leia and Chewie in his desperation to get Luke to join him in taking over the Empire. This is Vader at Peak Evil. he wants to rule the Empire, and he wants to use Luke to make that happen.

In this one, he’s still imposing, but there’s this teeeeeeeeeeny tiny part of him that’s started feeling remorse for literally everything he’s done. AND he’s finally able to see that the Emperor isn’t just an obstacle to be defeated in his mad scramble for power; the Emperor is the warden who has Vader chained to him. Vader isn’t REALLY a free agent. He’s a slave. Even though he rose up OUT of slavery as a kid, he’s found himself right back where he started, enslaved to a corrupt power that robs him of his right to be in charge of his own destiny.

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In Empire, he says, “You don’t know the power” in the sense that he’s saying, “IT’S SO AWESOME! IF ONLY YOU KNEW!” But in this one, he says it to basically mean, “You don’t know how impossible it is to escape,” and it’s SO SAD because you can tell he isn’t even sure if Luke can defeat the Emperor, but all he has left at this point is to use Luke to free himself from the Emperor’s influence.

He’s sort of lost a bit of his mojo because he realizes (again or for the first time) that the Emperor did this to him. He kept him from being able to realize his full Force potential by using him to rise to power.

And that makes Vader in this one SUPER complex and interesting.

I just love it.

Vile Gangster

Can we talk about Jabba? Please? I promise I’ll be fast.

But I love Jabba, not really as a role model, but as a character.

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Not only do we get a reminder of Anakin’s slavery beginnings (since the Hutts are the ones who control the slave trade on Tatooine) in the movie where he is redeemed, but we really get to see some proper “scum and villainy.” Obi-Wan made Mos-Eisley out to be this horrific den of thieves, and we got a bustling spaceport with some crumbly areas. But with Jabba (whose palace is a monastery for these freaky monks who want to be disembodied brains) we get a wonderfully gooey, dusty look at what makes Tatooine such a scary place.

And for a foam puppet, Jabba is still one of Star Wars’ weirdest and most memorable villains. And he literally doesn’t move. He just reclines. And then he reclines on his sail barge. But then Leia kills him so all is good. But he’s a great villain, completely different from all the other villains we’ve met. When you see him in TPM, he’s kind of sleepy and spaced out. And then you see him in ANH and he’s the slimy businessman, and then you see him here and he’s just literal corruption personified.

Plus he’s got a pet rancor who’s the best monster ever.

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I love the rancor. Again, an example of what REALLY GOOD puppetry is like. And I know Lucas was sort of disappointed that they weren’t able to get a really dynamic performance out of the rancor puppet and would have preferred a computer generated character, but like the rancor works so well because it possesses a tangible quality that CGI just can’t replicate. Maybe it could have worked if it was a few years later and folks had taken the Jurassic Park approach, blending puppets and really good CGI, but I’m totally happy with the rancor is all its terrifying awesomeness as is.

I want a pet rancor.

Conclusion

I know I haven’t spoken much of anyone else, but this is really a Vader/Luke story. Han and Leia finally get together as a legit couple, but we knew that was going to happen. Lando blows up the second Death Star and becomes a hero of the Rebellion. Chewie continues to be amazing. The droids continue to be amazing. Everyone else has sort of figured themselves out and figured out how they fit into the galaxy. There’s no regrets or doubts with them. Obviously Leia is going to take some time to come to terms with the fact that Vader was her dad, but for the most part, they all make sense. Luke was the only one who sort of bounced about the edges trying to figure himself out. And then we’ve got Vader who, when the Emperor visits, is suddenly reminded of just how weak he really is.

And then Luke and Vader meet and end up “fixing” one another, which I think is just marvelous.

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In terms of the future, I really want the next TV series to focus on Han and Leia rebuilding the New Republic with Luke resurrecting the Jedi. It can fill in the gaps of what happened with Leia’s son and it has LOTS of time to mess around with in the space between RotJ and TFA. Mostly I just really want Han and Leia’s wedding, Luke being a wise teacher with imposter syndrome, and Lando getting bored with being a hero and getting into fun adventurous shenanigans on the side.

*shoots Lucasfilm a knowing look*

But we’ll just have to see how things play out.

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So now we’re moving on to the new trilogy!

See you next week with The Force Awakens!

In A Galaxy Far Far Away – The Empire Strikes Back

I know this one’s the critical darling and literally everyone on Earth says it’s their favorite, but my favorite is actually RotJ. HOWEVER, this one introduces my favorite Star Wars character, features my favorite battle, and ends up at my favorite location, so it’s a super good one!

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Episode Number: 5 — Released: 1980 — Production Number: 2

From Farmboy to Freedom Fighter

So, I heart Luke, but the opening crawl is all, “freedom fighters, led by Luke Skywalker,” and I’m all, “Um, no, Leia is leading them.” Luke may lead Rogue Squadron (which they appear to have created in between the first movie and this one to celebrate Jyn and Cassian and all their amazing friends who captured the Death Star plans), but he isn’t in charge of the rebellion yet…

But anyway.

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He’s in a weird midway point here, which is fun. He’s still impatient and defeatist when things get rough, but he feels a lot more put together, which is nice. He doesn’t whine anymore. So see, there’s already hope for him! He’s waaaay past the point where his father was in his development. He doesn’t feel like he deserves anything, but he is so devoted to THE CAUSE that he has trouble pulling himself out of the situation and thinking rationally, which is understandable.

But it’s nice to see Padme’s more grounded genes kicking in and Luke not being a whine-factory who is sad because he doesn’t own his own planet or whatever.

All You Need is Love

Overall, one of the best things about this one is the Han/Leia romance. When you watch these in story order (rather than production order), it’s a huge relief to see a healthy romance finally.

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And it’s hysterical because they spend most of their time arguing, while Anakin and Padme had lots of quiet talky scenes in which she was wearing romantic outfits and he smiled a lot. Leia wears a pretty-but-practical outfit on Bespin, but for the most part, she’s wearing survival gear that match the fact that they’re on the run and there are no shopping malls to be had. So, take note, folks. The secret to a healthy relationship isn’t beautiful dresses and romantic conversation. It’s snark and mutual respect.

I just really love Han and Leia so much. They’re the perfect couple. He never takes advantage of her and she never has to give up any of her authority or brain cells to make things work. They just fit together and it makes me so happy.

And Vader

And Vader is, of course, AMAZING. He goes through a million admirals in this one, which gives Piett the fastest promotion track in the Empire, jumping him from Captain to Admiral in a matter of days. I think it’s nice that Vader doesn’t kill Piett at the end when the Falcon escapes, even though you can tell from Piett’s face hat he’s totally expecting that.

But Vader, since he doesn’t have a HUGE arc, is more the Lurking Menace behind everything.

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But once he’s finally able to get to Luke and try to convert him (to further his own plans for being Emperor), you can see something shake loose in him right after Luke jumps down into that impossible infinite pit. And I think that’s why he doesn’t kill Piett. He’s distracted by other thoughts. I mean, meeting Luke would have OBVIOUSLY reminded him of Padme and of his own horrible mistakes, and I love that, though Vader is still pretty deep in Dark Side Land by the end of this one, there’s like 1.1% of Vader that’s started going, “Wait a minute!”

And that’s pretty cool.

Yoda!

 I’ll look at Yoda from two perspectives here.

Production Order: First Impressions

Yoda is adorbs and marvelous. I could listen to his amused giggle on repeat all day every day for a week and never get tired of it.  Even when he goes into serious Jedi mode, you can’t help but find him just the most precious green creature ever. Also, I love how literally everyone involved in the production of the film just refers to him as a frog, even though he looks nothing like a frog.

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But like he is a frog.

Mister Miyagi has some serious competition with this li’l dude. He’s just the best. And even though we don’t reeeeally get to see him go into Full Power mode, we know this dude could like squash a planet with his brain. or something.

Yoda is a delight.

Story Order: Fallen Master

My impressions of Yoda during this latest go around were super different. I felt bad for him.

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He was once respected and powerful, and now he’s holed up in this crazy swamp planet and, even though he’s probably just playacting so Luke underestimates him, you really do get the feeling that Yoda has gone a bit nuts living all alone for so many years in close proximity to a dark side nexus (or whatever that messed up tree thing is).

He was a general during the Clone Wars and he trained younglings. This dude had one of the most fulfilled existences of anyone in the galaxy. He did everything selflessly and never sought personal gain or fame or anything. He just gave everything and never expecting anything in return.

Obi-Wan even fell prey to the lure of heroics from time to time.

But Yoda didn’t. And Vader’s betrayal cost Yoda his purpose in life. He can’t train anyone and he can’t help anyone and he can’t share his knowledge with anyone.

Until Luke arrives. And despite being given this fantastic opportunity to be what he has always been, he resists because he was so broken by Anakin’s betrayal that he’s terrified of the same thing happening again. Especially since Luke knows where Yoda is, and if he turned, Yoda would have nowhere to hide lest the Emperor seeks him out and sends Vader to finish him off.

He’s just such a tragic character! I still love him dearly, but story order hits home just how much Anakin destroyed Yoda’s life. And yet Yoda doesn’t resent him. He’s sad about what happened to Anakin and regrets that he couldn’t help him.

*hugs Yoda*

A City in the Clouds

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Bespin is just the coolest. I’m a big fan. I know it’s this industrial thing and probably isn’t the greatest n terms of actually living there (since I imagine everyone who lives there are either workers or families of workers) but I just love the concept. The city itself is isolated and yet full of lots of cool stuff. I wish I could just run around and explore.

Who am I kidding, I want to live there. Literally.

Also Lando is the best.

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I love him because he’s not REALLY a bad guy. He has a selfish moment where he truly doesn’t understand that there’s no way he can make a deal with the Empire that doesn’t involve people getting hurt or killed. He doesn’t know Luke, so he feels OK with having Vader scare Han to lure this Luke guy to the city. But when he realizes Han is going to be put into carbon freeze and given to Jabba the Hutt, he realizes he’s made a horrific mistake, so he tries to maneuver things so Leia and Chewie can stay with him. But then Vader changes the deal again. So he straight up rebels, breaks Leia and Chewie out and escapes with them, and then leads the mission to rescue Han.

It’s a miracle he’s able to save Han because if he hadn’t, I don’t think Lando would have been able to function after that. He pays for his betrayal, and he’s able to redeem himself, and I just really like that. He teeters on the edge of making a life-altering error, but is able to catch himself at the last minute and become a hero of the Rebellion.

Lando is awesome. And that’s why he’s my favorite character.

That and he wears capes. Capes are cool.

Conclusion

This movie sort of breaks a whole bunch of rules in terms of what makes a blockbuster. It’s the middle act. It’s not really a complete movie. It’s just a part of an unfinished story. Like, look at Indiana Jones. Each movie has its own MaGuffin, it’s own love interest, and its own villain. They’re separate stories. But with this one, it’s got these ellipses going off in either direction. And that’s weird. Also, it has all the action scenes at the beginning, which is also weird.

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But it works.

I could ramble on a WHOLE lot more, but this is getting long, so I will sign off for now.

Star Wars is amazing, y’all, and don’t you forget it!

Next week, we’re wrapping up the Original Trilogy with RETURN OF THE JEDI!

In A Galaxy Far Far Away – A New Hope

This is the one that started it all! And here we are five movies into the series. But this is the one that started it all! Let’s do this!

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Episode Number: 4 — Released: 1977 — Production Number: 1

Look, Sir, Droids!

Apparently Lucas got this idea from Kurosawa, but I love how this is totally the droids’ movie. Obviously Kurosawa never included droids in his movies, but the whole idea of telling a story from the minor-est of minor characters is fun.

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Also, I love Threepio because he’s such a worrier, and yet he’s super adaptive. When Luke buys them, Threepio is like that cat that just makes itself at home right away without a care in the world. He’s fidgety and stressful, but after having lost his last master to the Empire, he seems super chill to have changed hands to this desert farm boy in the middle of nowhere.

We all need to be more like Threepio.

And Artoo is literally the entire reason this movie exists. He’s the best.

Only a Master of Evil

R1 does a great job of expanding Vader’s bizarre position in this movie. He’s completely terrifying and super powerful and imposing…but he’s basically a henchman in this one. Tarkin is the main villain (which is fine because I LOVE Peter Cushing).

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Vader is basically just the Emperor’s errand boy. Tarkin wields all the actual power in this situation, so Vader just does whatever Tarkin tells him. But they have an interesting relationship. Tarkin refers to Vader as “my friend” at one point, and he knows that Vader was once a Jedi. Vader doesn’t feel like Tarkin’s lackey. he does his bidding, but the two of them seem very much to be equals. Tarkin has no issues with Vader, and Vader seems to trust Tarkin. There’s not much in the way of rivalry between them like there was between Krennic and Tarkin. They’re both just sort of Totalitarian Bros and they’re OK with that, which makes Vader’s ascendancy to the top of the Imperial military food chain in the next movie that much more impressive. You get the feeling Vader cultivates this mutual respect with Tarkin solely for the influence, so that when Tarkin is bumped out of the picture (possibly by Vader) he would be in a position to take over.

Continuity

There are a few issues that previous (read: later) movies created, though.

Obi-Wan should totally recognize Artoo. He spends more time with Anakin, but still, Artoo and Obi-Wan interact quite a bit. And even if Artoo’s memories were protected by a firewall to protect the identity of Anakin, Obi-Wan SHOULD recognize him. I don’t think the prequels ever explained this…

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Also, on the subject of Obi-Wan, his conversation with Luke early on is super sugar-coated. He’s obviously doing that on purpose, but still, his comment about Owen thinking that Anakin joined Obi-Wan on “some damn fool idealistic crusade” seems weird. TPM had Owen meeting Anakin long before he met Obi-Wan. Now that’s either an error on TPM’s part, or Obi-Wan is just making stuff up. I guess you could say that, later on, once Owen got to know Obi-Wan, he didn’t fully understand what happened and assumed that Anakin’s fall was Obi-Wan’s fault.

Also, Obi-Wan’s comment about the lightsaber is odd. Because we sure know that Anakin definitely did not want Luke to have his lightsaber when he was old enough. He was too busy burning up on the side of a volcano.

I guess the real truth would have hurt Luke too much. But still, this fake narrative that Obi-Wan creates is a bit TOO far from the truth…

Also, Vader mentions that several transmissions were beamed to the Tantive IV, but R1 showed one datacard literally tossed through a doorway seconds before Vader reached it. I guess you could say that Vader is playing it cool and acting like he wasn’t just there a few days prior, but I wish R1 had kept that piece of continuity.

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Also, it’s obvious the whole “Darth as a Sith title” thing hadn’t yet been established. Again, it could be Obi-Wan glossing over the truth (because by that point, all mention of the Sith would have been wiped away by Palpatine so hearing Darth something wouldn’t make people immediately think of a Sith) but still, when he’s fighting Vader, he calls him “Darth,” which feels weird.

The Princess and the Farmboy

Marathoning the films like this really reinforces that Luke and Leia are OBVIOUSLY Anakin’s children. Leia’s got Padme’s sense of diplomacy and maturity, but when she grabs that blaster and blows up that vent to the trash compactor, that is all Anakin. We saw Padme in a firefight in TPM and she was laying down cover fire for the others, but Anakin is the type to just dive right into the middle of a fight and start shooting, which is what Leia does, and that makes me happy. Leia is the best.

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And Luke got Anakin’s impatience and his feeling that he’s always right. Luke never doubts himself. He embraces the Force and defends it to Han who thinks it’s dumb, and he’s not shy about sharing his opinions (“It’s not impossible. I used to bullseye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They’re not much bigger than two meters.”) And he’s not super good at tact or diplomacy. He’s immature, but his heart is in the right place. That is Anakin all over the place.  But unlike Anakin, Luke is more self-assured, which is definitely Padme.

Your Friend is Quite the Mercenary

I always forget just how cynical Han Solo is in this one. He’s so much more stable in ESB and RotJ. In this one, he’s got so much swagger it throws him off balance.

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I’m eager to see how the new Han Solo film treats him. There’s this fantastic trilogy by A.C. Crispin which is totally not canon anymore, sadly, but it outlines (one version of) the particulars of how Han got on Jabba’s bad side, and it’s awesome. We get Han’s intro to the Millennium Falcon and his history with Lando and his falling out with the Empire. It’s just marvelous. And it’s technically canonically accurate until next year when the film comes out, so you totally need to read it now The first book is called The Paradise Snare. I think the second one is The Hutt Gambit, and the third one’s called Rebel Dawn. They go right up to the moment when Han meets Obi-Wan and Luke.

Also Han shot first.

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Sorry, Greedo. You’re just not cool enough to match Han in terms of sneaky quick draws.

_________ Deserved a Medal

Yes, I know Chewie deserved a medal. But what about the two other pilots who survived?? Wedge survived and he doesn’t get a medal. And the other dude (don’t know his name, but the dude in the Y-Wing that is seen flying away with Luke, Wedge, and Han right before the Death Star explodes) doesn’t get a medal. That makes me sad. I get that they didn’t want a long awards ceremony to end the movie, but like, still…Wedge deserves a medal…

Conclusion

This is a weird movie and I love it. I’m glad the studio let Lucas keep making these, because the whole unresolved Han/Leia thing would have been terrible, and Vader’s still alive and out there somewhere, and that’s terrible, and then there’s the fact that the Empire still exists and they’re all still being crushed under the thumb of a brutal dictatorship, which is also terrible.

If this whole crazy franchise had ended after it’s first movie, life would have been sad and depressing and meaningless. Good thing nerds everywhere embraced this one and the studio wasn’t as terrified of making a sequel as they initially were. So, thank you, nerds of the seventies for making life worth living by supporting this weird genre-bending rule-breaking movie that had everyone confused.

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And thank you, George Lucas for being amazing and creating this whole wacky galaxy! You rock, sir.

Next up is Empire! Whoooo!

In a Galaxy Far Far Away – Rogue One

When this one was announced, I remember everyone was all, “Eh…I dunno…” and I just wasn’t convinced that it could work, especially since all the characters are new, and there were bound to be all kinds of continuity errors, and it was just going to sort of a generic action movie that lacked heart.

Boy am I glad I was wrong!

This movie rocks so much.

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Episode Number: X — Released: 2016 — Production Number: 8

A Motley Crew

I want to hug all of the characters. Maybe not Vader cuz he’s scary…but if he wants hugs, I guess I’d be OK with it.

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But seriously, this bunch is so great that I’m really sad we won’t get other stories featuring this bunch… Well, I’m actually lying because Baze and Chirrut are getting their own comic series (!!!!!) and HOPEFULLY we’ll get some Cassian/K-2S0 adventures in the future. Also, I love Bodhi (tied with K as my favorite character). I don’t know if we’ll get any future stories with him, though… But we do get more awesomeness with Galen and Krennic (and itty bitty Jyn!) in the novel Catalyst, which is totally on my TBR list.

The only thing this group is missing is Baby Groot. But I don’t think K would like him much…

The Empty Chair

So, like, in ANH, when all the baddies are discussing the Death Star and how awesome it is, there’s this super conspicuous empty chair, and I think everyone’s just accepted that that chair belong[ed] to Krennic.

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We have lots of Evil (capital E) bad guys. Tarkin is all military and zero compassion. Vader is a brutal ragemonster who cuts the Emperor’s enemies into tiny bits. But Krennic is somewhat likable, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why.

He refuses to accept the fact that the Empire doesn’t REALLY need him there. Galen developed the Death Star weapon, and Tarkin is in charge of overseeing the operation of the weapon as it pertains to the Emperor’s orders. Krennic was in charge of overseeing the construction of the Death Star, but as soon as it’s finished, he becomes obsolete. And it’s clear he knows this.

He doesn’t really do anything to redeem himself. I mean, when he destroys Jedha (which is literally the birthplace of the Jedi order and a priceless piece of history!) he just cares what the moment means to him regarding his accomplishments. Plus, he didn’t seem too concerned with killing Galen’s wife, which was a dick move…

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But like, there’s this hint at the beginning that Galen trusted him at one point and, before the two of them found themselves in too deep, they could have been good guys. I dunno. I guess Catalyst will fill in the blanks there, but Krennic is such an interesting villain, and I love him.

The Man in Black

While we’re on the subject of villains, I guess I should bring up Vader because, like, why wouldn’t I??

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What’s so great about this one is that Vader is ALL villain. He’s moved past his hesitations and awkwardness of adjusting to being in the suit following his reconstruction. He’s probably in constant pain despite all his bacta treatments, and it’s pretty obvious that he just channels all that suffering into keeping himself upright. There’s no Anakin left at this point. He starts to resurface much later. I love how the first shot of Vader is him sans suit recovering in the bacta tank. But even though our first view of him is so vulnerable, he never loses any of his power and impact.

He’s in the movie for, like, ten minutes, if that (which makes sense because he could have easily stolen the whole show if he’d been given a bigger role), but his presence serves to show us not only how he’s accepted his new role as hunting dog of the Emperor, but how the destruction of the Death Star allows him to become as powerful as he does in Empire. Tarkin is in charge and Vader isn’t really in a position of military power. He’s a one-man army, not a leader, and the destruction of the Death Star allows him to wield military power for the first time, which is when he becomes a much greater threat.

Getting Back to the Good Guys

I don’t know if this is a criticism of the film or not, but it’s really easy to discuss this solely in terms of its connections to the rest of the franchise. Like, for example, I get the feeling that, when Luke was all basking in the afterglow of the destruction of the Death Star and getting medals and everyone is telling him how amazing he is, I KNOW there were rebels who resented Luke because the people who REALLY deserve medals all died on Scarif. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were banners honoring Rogue One’s heroism on the walls of the throne room while Luke walked down that aisle at the end. There’s a LOT of nostalgia going on here, so it’s easy to overlook the actual story.

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I think that another part of that is because these characters all give their lives to complete the mission, and so it’s really painful to talk about them without breaking down into wracking sobs.

But maybe I’m just really melodramatic.

In any case, what’s so great about this team is that it’s clear they know they’re probably not coming out of this alive. There’s that terrifying moment when they realize they’re trapped on Scarif and decide to continue on with the mission, but there’s never any hesitation. And that’s pretty metal. K is the first to die and that really messed me up because I love K, but I knew that the loveable robot has a tendency to die in movies and so I accepted that and moved on. And then Baze and Chirrut (sobs) went and it was so sad because they’re such a DEVOTED couple (and yes, I did mean couple, because it’s just kind of obvious). But then Bodhi died, and that just hit me hard because he was the character who I would have expected to be the ONLY survivor. Jyn and Cassian were always destined to go out in a heroic blaze of glory and I had accepted that, but Bodhi had that sort of Moby-Dick’s Ishmael feel to him. Once the Pequod sinks, Ishmael is the only one left to tell the story, and Bodhi just struck me as that lone storyteller type. But NO, he has to explode when the ship is destroyed. *kicks rocks* Sigh, I guess it was necessary since there was obviously no way to get off the moon…

Still…

Every single character deserves their own novel. I just love all of them so much.

Conclusion

I really hope the rest of the Star Wars Story movies are as good as this one. I feel like future filmmakers might get lazy and start cranking these out with wild abandon, turning it into something cheap and bland.

I hope not. Star Wars is amazing.

I’m holding my breath in regards to the Han Solo film. I know it will probably be great, but still… *is tentative*

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But it’s all good. Next week, I’m doing A New Hope! See you then!

Marvel By Numbers – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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We’re taking a break from In a Galaxy Far Far Away to add another entry to Marvel By Numbers! This year, we’re getting three MCU entries, so it’s gonna be a good one.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

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Overview: Our favorite band of bizarre misfits are back, making a name for themselves in the galaxy, when they meet up with someone who has clues to who Peter Quill’s father might be. Also, there’s a really angry sovereign who’s out to destroy the Guardians for stealing something of immense value.

Note: I scheduled this for a few weeks after the film’s release to avoid spoilers, but even so, if you haven’t seen the movie yet, beware that there are spoilers ahoy!

Writing: 7/10

The comedy is top-notch, a good mix of clever and dumb-but-amusing. Everyone has whip-sharp comedic timing, and the audience in the theater was so tickled that their laughter often obscured follow up gags to especially effective jokes, so that is definitely a plus.

I took some points off because the script overall is VERY cliche. The first GotG had a similar problem, but in this one, a lot of the big impactful moments later on are pretty easy to spot.

Now that’s not to say that people weren’t tearing up in those final scenes, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see them coming a mile away.

I don’t think it affected my enjoyment of the film, but don’t go in expecting tons of surprises.

Style: 9/10

As always, it looks great. The character design is wacky and the soundtrack is fantastic. The human characters in this one all seem so offbeat that they could easily be taken for aliens if they were dropped off on Earth.

I also have to heap MOUNTAINS of praise onto Weta for their design of Baby Groot. I was a bit worried that, because they were doing the digital animation instead of Industrial Light and Magic (who have their hands full with Star Wars right now) that the overall look would feel too different, but they do a great job of capturing the heartwarming amazingness of Groot in wee form. Groot is so cute it almost hurts.

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And there are a few scenes where Groot gets sad and you just want to burst into tears and hug him because he’s just so precious and innocent.

I also love the design of Mantis. She wasn’t an alien in the comics, but her design is marvelous nonetheless.

My only disappointment was the design of Ego’s planet. It’s pretty, but in a digital matte painting sort of way. We don’t get a lot of characters interacting with the environment. It’s always these beautiful backdrops. I guess it would have distracted from the story, but it would have been nice to have more scenes outside Ego’s compound.

The Villain: 7/10

I guess there’s two villains, but the Sovereign Ayesha, though amusing, feels too silly to be taken for a real threat. Great character design, though. And I ADORED Elizabeth Debicki in The Man from U.N.C.L.E so it was awesome to see her in an over-the-top villain role again.

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The other villain, Ego, fell a bit flat for me. I LOVE Kurt Russell, and it was awesome to see him de-aged into his 80’s persona again (Hollywood’s de-aging technology has really made scary leaps and bounds since the days of X-Men The Last Stand and Tron: Legacy) but he’s never really trustworthy.

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I don’t know if we’re supposed to get drawn into his con as Peter is, but I think it would have been more effective if the fact that he was evil and untrustworthy wasn’t made so overwhelmingly obvious from the get go.

And in the final confrontation, there’s never a huge sense that he can actually defeat them. I guess this is meant to be lighter fare than previous MCU entries, but there’s not a whole lot of actual danger evident at the end. Now, this may also be to catch the audience off guard when a certain character sacrifices their life. It’s obvious they’re going to defeat Ego, but it’s NOT obvious that we were going to lose someone.

So, I’ll give them props for that.

Explosions: 10/10

I didn’t have my notebook with me in the theater so I couldn’t keep a tally, but there were hella explosions and they were awesome. And they totally furthered the plot and were important.

Favorite explosion: when Ego takes out all of Ayesha’s fighters at once.

The Hero’s Journey: 8/10

The character stuff is pretty good, if a bit telegraphed.

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Nebula was so one-dimensional in the beginning of this film, that I was really worried that they’d completely ruined her character, but then we get past her outer shell, and she has some great moments, which is fantastic.

Rocket is still a favorite of mine. We get more of what makes him tick, and it’s marvelous.

Baby Groot is perfect and I love him.

I LOVE Drax’s interactions with Mantis. She’s so odd and he seems to really appreciate that. And she’s so clueless that she isn’t bothered by Drax’s lack of a filter.

Gamora has a lot more depth and likability in this one, which I really appreciated. She was sort of flat in the first one, and she feels more developed here.

Peter Quill is the only one who didn’t draw me in, and that’s difficult to comprehend because he’s freaking gorgeous. His angst in this one is something we’ve seen in MANY other TV shows and movies, so it didn’t really draw me in. It was awesome to see him realize that he has super crazy powers, especially after feeling a bit too ordinary surrounded by so many crazy powerful folks, but I wish we’d gotten more of that in relation to his team rather than in his conflict with Ego.

It’s always difficult when you have so many main characters and he’s the only human, so by his very nature, he becomes the audience surrrogate that we see things through. And it’s REALLY hard to make that character stand out as much as the kookier characters. Chris Pratt does a good job with the more lighthearted stuff (he handles comedy very well), but the character just doesn’t have much in the way of dramatic heft (except in that heartbreaking last scene where the camera just stays directly on his while he tries not to break down. Oh my goodness, that scene was amazing).

Score and Rank

1. Captain America: Civil War (49/50)

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (46/50) 

3. The Avengers (45/50)

4. Iron Man (43/50)

5. Doctor Strange (42/50) 

6. Iron Man 3 (42/50)

7. Guardians of the Galaxy (41/50) 

8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (41/50) It tied with itself! Rottentomatoes likes the original a bit more so it wins out in the tie-breaker.

9. Captain America: The First Avenger (40/50)

10. Thor (39/50)

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (39/50)

12. Ant-Man (38/50) 

13. Thor: The Dark World (36/50) 

14. The Incredible Hulk (34/50)

15. Iron Man 2 (33/50)

 

Next week, we’re going back to the Star Wars Universe!

In A Galaxy Far Far Away – Revenge of the Sith

A trilogy ends!

I’m generally less of a fan of this one than most people, but there’s still good stuff here. If nothing else, it looks amazeballs and the music is some of the best in the entire franchise, so that’s fun!

I will say, watching this is a WAY more emotional if you’ve gone through all of The Clone Wars. Cuz you fall in love with all the clone commanders and the Jedi generals, and then it all goes to hell here. So, if you have time, WATCH THE CLONE WARS because it’s amazing.

Alright, let’s do this!

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Episode Number: 3 — Released: 2005 — Production Number: 6

 The Story So Far

 One of the best and worst things about this episode is the sense that you’ve missed everything that happened in between AotC and this one. And sure, we have The Clone Wars to fill in that gap, but still, we get such a short period of Anakin and Obi-Wan being a team in this episode before everything falls into teeny tiny pieces, jumping straight from AotC to this one feels like such a huge change.

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We don’t see Anakin become a sparkly new Jedi, and we don’t really see him move past the teenage resentment he was wrestling with in AotC. We get that AWESOME first scene of them flying through the space battle together and being a team and stuff, and then we get all their delightful banter as they’re fighting their way through Grievous’ ship, and it’s marvelous, and then afterwards, Palpatine starts driving that wedge not only between Anakin and the Jedi Council, but Anakin and Obi-Wan. So, basically, one HAS to watch The Clone Wars to get a fully satisfying story, and to give this one its highest impact.

How Do I Love Thee?

Folks love to mock AotC for its love story, but to be honest, this one takes the cake for sheer relationship cringe. It’s logical to not like sand because that stuff can be ANNOYING, but the whole balcony scene near the beginning leaps into nigh unintelligible clouds of question marks pretty quickly. It’s just…not great.

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And while Padme’s intense desire to fix Anakin makes sense in AotC, in this one, her inability to see how Palpatine is manipulating him, especially when she begins to question his use of power, just feels off. I suppose she’s trying to keep a low profile due to her pregnancy, but still…

I dunno. Padme is a pretty strong character, but this one makes her into quite the damsel, and Star Wars is not known for its damsels. *makes Rosie the Riveter pose*

I’ve Never Heard of Anyone Called Obi-Wan

Aside from his curious “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” comment (which I’m still trying to make sense of), Obi-Wan is a pretty fantastic character in this one, especially since we see him conflicted in complex ways! In many ways, his arc is more interesting than Anakin’s because, while Anakin is being manipulated by Sidious into a dark spiral, Obi-Wan goes through several different spirals and, during the second half of the film, he has to keep re-evaluating everything as his knowledge of what is happening and what has been happening keeps changing.

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When the Council sends him to kill Grievous, he nods calmly and does his duty, but when Yoda explains that he has to stop Anakin, who is obviously in thrall to a powerful Sith Lord, Obi-Wan resists, but then gives in when he realizes a fight with Anakin is inevitable.

And it’s just so heartbreaking because he spends the whole fight trying to reason with Anakin, remaining cool as a cucumber right up until he realizes he has no choice but to kill Anakin, and THEN he gets angry and gives in to emotion. He’s just gone through an endless war and witnessed countless atrocities on both sides, and this is the thing that becomes too much for him to handle because it has nothing to do with duty to the Jedi.

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It’s a failure of a galactic kind that he loses Anakin to the Dark Side, and I think it’s that failure that drives him to devote the rest of his life to making sure Luke Skywalker doesn’t fall in the same way.

Yoda’s exile to Dagobah is one of necessity, since the Force energies there cloak him, but Obi-Wan going to Tatooine is one of duty. He wants to make it up to Anakin by ensuring his son lives up to the legacy of good things Anakin accomplished.

I’m surprised Obi-Wan didn’t get a little MORE eccentric during his exile on Tatooine.

But I love the character, and he has such a wonderful progression throughout the prequels.

Plus, Obi-Wan gets to ride Boga, who’s the best squeaky lizard mount ever. I love Boga.

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A Bevy of Bad Guys

 First off, once Dooku is removed from the equation, General Grievous is the main bad guy for much of the film. And Grievous is cool. Obi-Wan’s been fighting him for quite some time, but this is Anakin’s first introduction to the ol’ cyborg, which has a fun poetic quality to it because Grievous is literally what Anakin is about to become, though he doesn’t realize it. Grievous is more machine than man, essentially just part of a face and some organs. He’s powerful, but I get the feeling Grievous would have been EVEN MORE POWERFUL had he not been reconstructed.

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But of course Anakin wouldn’t realize this until it was too late to do anything.

Then, of course we get Palpatine. For all his shrewd political manipulations and uncommonly slick deflections, once he goes full Sith and doesn’t have to hide things, he goes a little overboard. when we meet the Emperor in RotJ, he’s like this spider, cool, calculating, and completely deadly. And during that AMAZING scene where he tells Anakin about Darth Plagueis, you can see all the gears working in his head and there’s all this subtle danger beneath everything he’s saying, and he pulls Anakin farther into his web, and it’s fantastic. But at the end of this one, he’s a bit manic.

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His fight with Yoda could have been so cool and emotional (since Yoda vs. Palpatine was a matchup I have wanted ever since I first saw RotJ), but instead it’s a goofy brawl, which is sort of disappointing. I love the idea of destroying the Senate chamber in the confrontation, but a Sith’s power comes from anger, and Sidious is so…giddy throughout the whole thing. It would have been nice to see more rage and deadly force.

Sigh.

Sidious is still one of my favorite characters, though.

The Fall

With all that said, everything following Anakin’s defeat at Mustafar is pretty much spot on perfect. Vader’s reconstruction gives me chills every time, and that shot right near the end where we see Vader, Sidious, and Tarkin standing there looking at the beginning of the Death Star is AMAZING.

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I really wish we could have a movie set during this time where Vader has to fight to keep the Death Star secret and prove his value to Palpatine all while adjusting to his new tortured existence. We could also see him building his sweet palace on Mustafar here that we’ll see later.

But alas.

Though we do get that amazing Darth Vader comic series that Marvel’s been doing (has been doing? I’m a bit behind so I don’t know if it’s done yet) which I’m a huge fan of.

What About Padme?

The whole “she died of a broken heart” thing doesn’t ring true with a lot of fans, and I’ve found myself struggling with it a lot, too.

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She became so dependent on Anakin, and I think the fact that he was away so often fighting in the Clone Wars allowed her to create an idealized version of him in her mind. When they were together briefly amidst the fighting, they were so happy, it became so easy for her to forget the fact that this guy is emotionally unstable. The Jedi help him (and I think being able to train Ashoka helps ground him a bit more, too), and so from the outside he would definitely have appeared to be more stable and mature, but all that is a distraction. In moments when his fragile ego takes over (like when the Council doesn’t make him a Master) he’s still that angry kid.

But Padme was so desperate for a happy future that she loses sight of just how dangerous he is. His whole issue is attachment, and so it would have been easy to confuse possessive obsession with devotion, especially if they were separated and she didn’t get to see him consistently.

So, when all that finally comes out and she realizes that she’ll never have that peaceful future with him and her children are probably never going to know their father because Obi-Wan has made it clear that he has to kill Anakin, the overwhelming shock of it combined with the trauma of being physically assaulted by the man she loves and then giving birth COULD be a feasible explanation for why she wasn’t able to cope and dies.

People rag on her for not being there for her children, but people don’t realize just how powerful the mind is. Her whole sense of stability self-destructs. And she fights it. Her last words, that she believes there is still good in Anakin, are a last ditch attempt to bring herself up out of this black pit of despair and depression with something positive, but it’s not enough. She uses the last of her energy to bring her children into the world, even though she’s lost the will to live. And she doesn’t give up on her children because she knows Obi-Wan will take care of them.

I still don’t FULLY buy it (and if you have other theories, I’d love to hear them), but it is at least feasible. I think we’re so used to strong women in Star Wars that to see one with a fatal weakness is so unusual to us, but it’s not unrealistic. There are people like this in the world: strong, talented, motivated people who could do so much with what they have, but end up losing themselves to something that’s dangerous to them.

It’s crazy sad, but it carries with it a HUGE impact.

Conclusion

I always wondered why Leia was given the royal family and Luke the moisture farm. They both deserved the royal family.

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I guess, since they had to be split up, only one could be with their actual family. Owen and Beru are awesome, even if they’re living in a dangerous wasteland. Plus, it’s awesome that, after losing Shmi, they get to raise her grandson. Her memory and her legacy lives on. It’s amazing that Leia gets to grow up with the finest education and opportunities, but it’s also sad that she gets cut off from her heritage and her family legacy. So it does even out. And they do end up finding and saving each other in the future, but that’s another story.

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Next up is Rogue One, but next week’s post is going to be the next entry in Marvel By Numbers since Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out a couple weeks back. See you then!

In a Galaxy Far Far Away – Attack of the Clones

People rag on this one, but I’m here to show all y’all just how awesome the writing. You think I’m lying, but seriously, my current re-watch has FINALLY won me over on this one. It used to be my least favorite film in the series, but my opinion has turned around a bit. So let’s do this!

It’s a good one.

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Episode Number: 2 — Released: 2002 — Production Number: 5

The Dark Side

The reason why I would always get hung up on this one is Anakin is such a dangerous personality, and yet no one seems all that bothered by it. Sure, Obi-Wan expresses his concern to Mace Windu at one point, but Anakin is so obviously unstable that Obi-Wan should have taken much more drastic action.

The answer is, of course, Palpatine.

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This is really his movie.

When you realize that literally everything that happens is the result of his manipulations, you get a sense of just how POWERFUL Sidious is, and how completely brilliant his plan to not only put the Sith back in power but to make that power a force to be reckoned with.

I’ll go into that in more detail in a bit, but the main point is that Sidious is an AMAZING villain, and I never really understood that fully until now.

Plot, Plot, Who’s Got the Plot?

What makes me most happy is realizing that so much of the movie is packed full of red herrings leading you away from what’s really going on in the same way that Palpatine is leading everyone where he wants them and away from the secrets he’s not ready to reveal.

When this first came out, I remember everyone obsessing over Sifo Dyas. Obviously, he was going to be CRUCIAL in the next film, right? There were folks online who posited that Sifo Dyas was really Sidious in disguise or that Sifo Dyas was not dead and was actually an alias for Dooku. The theories ran wild (kind of how now everyone feels like Snoke has a secret identity that they’ve figured out). But ultimately, Sifo Dyas was explained in the Clone Wars as just an actual human Jedi who commissioned the clone army.

He’s the reddest of herrings, and it’s wonderful.

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ALSO, the whole plot to murder Padme is another huge red herring whose purpose is to lead Obi-Wan to “accidentally” stumble onto this secret clone army (even though its existence has been deleted from the archives, so no one else accidentally found it before the time was right). Then Obi-Wan can tell the Jedi, and when Palpatine tricks Jar Jar into voting FOR the creation of this army, so that when Sidious sets up the pieces for a big confrontation on Geonosis, the weakened Jedi have no choice BUT to accept the Clone Army from the Kaminoans.

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The only upside is we get to see Obi-Wan going all Noir Private Eye as he tracks down Jango (who’s amazing and one of my favorite characters).

So, basically, Sidious had Tyranus hire Jango Fett to hire Zam to “almost” kill Padme (Jango knew the ship was a decoy but Zam didn’t) so Palpatine could suggest that Obi-Wan come protect her. And then have Zam try to kill Padme again so Obi-Wan could foil the assassination and then Jango could kill Zam with the sabre dart that would lead Obi-Wan to Kamino (because Obi-Wan’s connections would give him special knowledge that the Jedi archives couldn’t) so that the Jedi would use the clone army when Sidious started a galactic war.

It’s like there are strings attached to everyone and Palpatine is tugging on them.

Lovey Dovey

For a moment, I wondered if Palpatine knew that Anakin was unstable and had problems with attachment when he suggested that Anakin escort Padme to Naboo to keep her safe. If that’s the case, then his foresight is pretty incredible because he knew he’d later be able to use Padme to manipulate Anakin into joining him. If not, it was just a happy accident that Palpatine later exploits.

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But I feel like Palpatine had a hand in pushing the Tusken Raiders to capture Shmi so Anakin would begin slipping to he dark side.

Maybe just a wild theory, but like…Palpatine is amazing, so…

My Hero

Anakin gets a really bad rap in this one. I think Hayden Christensen is fantastic. It took a while for me to warm up to him because his character is so awkward, but like that fits.

He’s an ex-slave who had to leave his mother behind (in slavery) so he could gain enough power to come back and free her. He had friends as a little boy, but he had to give up all those friends and spend ten years learning about the Force and being told that he has to take things slow while his mother spends ten years in slavery (so he thinks). His obsession with getting what he wants grows throughout the years because I bet he spends a lot of time assuming he can just leave the Jedi and go get his mother someday. But then he realizes that the Jedi are treated with respect and are in control of their own destinies.

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Remember, as a slave, he was property and was ordered around. He accepted it because he didn’t know anything else but once he realizes that he doesn’t have to be treated as “slave scum” (to quote Sebulba), it’s obvious that would mess with his head.

Enter Padme

At first, she’s just an object of desire. She was the only girl he ever felt much kinship with as a kid (remember the other kids just mocked his podracer and never thought he could win anything) so when he’s sequestered away from the Jedi, going through adolescence and having to deal with volatile emotions that, were he younger when he joined the Order, he would have been taught to control, he fixes on Padme.

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It’s absolutely an unhealthy fixation, and when he meets her, he comes across as a total creep because he never thought he’d ever see her again. He had her on a high pedestal and when he finds himself with power and some influence, he realizes that he can possess her.

When he’s away from her, he’s clever and brave and strong and charmingly impulsive, but when he’s around her, his psychological shortcomings come to the surface. It’s only his Jedi teachings that allow him to kind of keep a handle on his feelings and agree with her when she says they can’t ever be together because it would jeopardize both of their professional lives (even though she’s a fixer and she wants to fix him just as much as she wants to fix the Republic).

If Palpatine weren’t in the picture, stroking Anakin’s ego and reminding him how much of a victim he still was, I think Anakin and Padme could have had a very healthy relationship.

But alas…

Oh Yeah, and the Jedi

And atop all of this, we have the Jedi who one would assume would be able to see through all this deception, but Sidious is so powerful that he’s able to cloud the entire Order’s minds and keep them from seeing what’s going on. Yoda comments early on that the Dark Side is clouding everything, and then later that the Dark Lord of the Sith is keeping them from seeing what’s really going on, and even with their knowledge that a Sith is out there, they still can’t pin it on Palpatine who should be practically RADIATING dark side energy.

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So, when the Jedi all charge headlong into that insane awesome battle at the end, they’re ALL being moved like chesspieces on a board by Palpatine who is literally starting a war and controlling both sides so he can be given more power to stop that war.

Like, oh my god, Palpatine is completely bonkers brilliant.

The only one who seems to suspect anything is going on is Yoda, but even he can’t figure it out. It’s like he gets the barest hints of ideas when he’s around Palpatine, but he can’t quite pin it down.

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Conclusion

This movie is brilliant. It takes a long time to see it because there’s so much misdirection, but definitely give this one another chance. And yes, Anakin and Padme’s romance is awkward. It’s SUPPOSED TO BE. It’s not a healthy romance. Padme falls for Anakin as a rebel and as someone she can fix and Anakin is too immature and possessive to ever be able to give Padme any kind of fulfilling relationship.

And yet they get married!

Stop it!

The final shot of this movie is so great because it should be this sweeping romantic finale in which they’ll be happy ever after, but he becomes so possessive that he turns to the dark side to handle his paranoia that he’ll lose her, and she is so trapped by her feelings for him (and later her devotion to the fantasy that they’ll be able to be a family in the fiture) that she doesn’t run screaming from the room when she has a chance.

They’re both completely doomed…but look how happy they look right at this moment.

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Sigh.

I will probably go through the Clone Wars series at a later time, but I really want to just binge watch the entire series right now. Sadly, I have other things to do.

But seriously, give this one another chance. Don’t pay attention to the surface stuff. Pay attention to the gears grinding beneath everything. This isn’t just the tragedy of Darth Vader. This is the tragedy of how paranoia and fear can be exploited by those in power to remove people’s freedoms. Srsly.

So, bye bye for now!

Next week, we’ll be looking at Revenge of the Sith!