Tuesday, March 22, 2005

You're Not Actually Going INTO an Asteroid Field, Are You?

My favorite scene in all of the Star Wars films is the Asteroid Field sequence in The Empire Strikes Back. It's an absolutely perfect scene, in every respect that counts. The dialogue is snappy, the effects are terrific, and the music is so perfectly matched to the action that you can see the images when listening to the soundtrack, or hear the music even with the sound turned off on your television.

Most importantly, it's a scene with tremendous meaning, because it marks the beginning of the true courtship between Han Solo and Princess Leia. For all the exploding TIE fighters and whirling gargantuan space-rocks, the entire scene is about these two people and their relationship. It is here that Leia recognizes her feelings for Han -- earlier in the movie, she denies them, and later, she fights against them, but to no avail. Han's daring and skill overwhelm her.

When the last Imperial fighter explodes, the Millennium Falcon comes out of the asteroid canyon, and Han takes the ship through a sweeping, showboating loop to enter the cave. The love theme plays as he executes this perfect maneuver, and while I'm not a big admirer of Freudian interpretation in literature, it's hard to miss the significance of the Falcon gliding down the cavern's smooth bore. The courtship may be entirely chaste, but at the end of this scene, their love has been consummated.

In many respects, the asteroid field sequence is the turning point of the film. From this point forward, Han and Leia are a team, whose union will carry them through all of the horrors that will follow, regardless of Leia's misgivings.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

At Last, We Shall Have Our Revenge

I guess I shouldn't have gone to see Robots on a day when I'd already watched The Incredibles on DVD. It's a visual masterpiece, but the story suffers in comparison.

On the other hand, it did allow me to see the new Episode III trailer for the first time, so in that regard, it was $30 well spent. (Two kids' tickets, my admission price, large popcorn & drink.)

There wasn't any clear support for my spoiler theory, but the trailer makes one thing pretty obvious -- even if there aren't any major twists or revelations, this movie is going to pack a heck of a punch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I Am Your Father


All right, if you're still reading, then clearly, you don't mind finding out a startling twist about Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. Of course, you're also likely to be mad at me, since I don't actually know if my spoiler is real or not. In all probability, in fact, I'm completely wrong.

Okay, so if you're still reading now, here's what this post is about: Obi Wan Kenobi is Princess Leia's father. It's the only thing that makes sense.

Allow me to make my case.

Let's start with music. When Leia first appears in A New Hope, Obi Wan's theme music plays. Not that big a deal, really, since we know she's recording a message to him. More important is the fact that when Obi Wan is struck down by Darth Vader, Leia's theme plays. John Williams is on record as saying it just seemed like the right music to put there, but in my world, the Star Wars music is fraught with meaning, and I'd like this to mean something.

Next, let's move to Empire, and the moment when Luke takes off for Bespin. The ghostly Obi Wan says, "That boy is our only hope." Yoda's response: "No. There is another." Now, who knows what George Lucas had in mind when ESB was in production. Maybe Luke and Leia were already twins in his fertile imagination, maybe not. Maybe Han Solo was the other to whom Yoda referred. But the story we have is the story we have, and that story ends up with Luke and Leia as twins, suggesting that Leia is the other to whom Yoda refers. In that case, wouldn't Obi Wan have to be somewhat addled to say Luke was their last hope? He knows that Leia is a leader in the rebel alliance. If he also knows that she's Luke's sister, then he should certainly consider her a source of hope as well.

Logic leads us to the simple conclusion that as of ESB, Obi Wan does not know Leia is also a Skywalker. Perhaps, as a ghostly entity of The Force, he ought to, but he clearly doesn't. Which leads to the question, Why not?

Obi Wan has known who Luke is for Luke's entire life. In all likelihood, Luke is the main reason Obi Wan settled on Tatooine to begin with. So why wouldn't he know about Leia? A reasonable answer would be that Yoda kept it hidden from him.

Obviously, neither Vader nor Obi Wan was present at the birth. Kind of hard to miss that second twin coming out. But just as obviously, both of them knew about Luke. No one would consider the Lars farmstead a subtle hiding place for the child, which means it's entirely possible Vader knew Luke was there all along. Clearly, Ben Kenobi did. So Luke's existence was an open fact, while Leia's remained a guarded secret. The motivation for hiding her from Vader is hardly worth discussing -- she was an ace in the hole. But why keep the knowledge from Obi Wan?

Here, we turn back to the prequel trilogy, and again, I'll bring up music. Have you noticed how weepy and sad the awkwardly named Love Theme From Attack of the Clones is? It's a tremendously somber piece of music, considering that Anakin's relationship with Padme is one of the few bright spots in his life. The nature of the music alone suggests that this romance is bad news. Even more telling is the very end of the End Title music. After a number of variations on the Love Theme, the score gives us a few moment's of Anakin's theme from Episode I. Then, that dreamy childhood leitmotiff segues into the Love Theme, which in turn blends into the unmistakeable Darth Vader theme. Once again, this could just be John Williams futzing around. But I can't interpret it in any other way than as an open statement that Anakin's romance with Padme directly facilitates his transformation into Darth Vader. Anakin --> romance --> Vader.

Now, of all places, I'll go to the recent article about Star Wars in Vanity Fair. In a mixture of quotes and paraphrasing that render's George Lucas's actual words indeterminate, the article flat out says that Anakin turns to the Dark Side in a Faustian bargain to gain the return of a dead loved one. The article makes it clear that this is Anakin's mother -- or someone else whom he has lost.

If Anakin turns to the Dark Side because he wants his mother back, I can hardly see how the romance facilitates his corruption. On the other hand, if the romance is central to his downfall, then it must be Padme whom he loses and hopes to gain back.

Here's where things get really interesting. A careful watching of Attack of the Clones suggests that Padme is far more interested in Obi Wan Kenobi than in Anakin Skywalker. It is Obi Wan whom she greets so warmly in Chancellor Palpatine's chambers. When Anakin sulks over Padme barely recognizing him, Obi Wan says, "She was glad to see us." My emphasis would be on the "us" there. With his Force-heightened senses, Kenobi ought to know very well whether Padme was specifically glad to see Annakin, so it probably means something that he says "us" and not "you." When Padme is packing for her return to Naboo, she defends Obi Wan's critical attitude toward Anakin, saying that that is what mentors are for. At every turn, she expresses her discomfort at Anakin's attentions, and whenever given the opportunity to talk about Master Kenobi, she reveals her high regard for him. It is Padme, not Anakin, who insists upon going to rescue the man who is "like a father" to him.

So why does Padme end up falling for Anakin at all? My answer is that she does not. Unless the Jedi are just a bunch of prigs or prudes, they must have a reason for prohibiting attachment, and that reason seems pretty straightforward to me: when a Jedi is highly emotional, his emotions can extend to others through The Force. What Padme feels in AOTC is not her own love for Anakin, but his desire for her to love him.

The acting in AOTC has been widely ridiculed, but if you watch the film with the presumption that Padme is not actually acting upon her own wishes, but upon Anakin's, then Natalie Portman's performance suddenly makes complete sense. Why is she flat and lifeless when passion seems called for? Because the passion is not Padme's. Anakin relentlessly manipulates her the entire time they are on Naboo, both with his open words and, subconsciously perhaps, with The Force. He would do anything for her love, even use the plight of his mother to play upon her sympathies, and move her from her familiar territory to his own.

In point of fact, we actually see the two of them in shadow-puppet form just before Anakin rides off to find his mother. Padme walks stiffly out of the homestead and out of camera view, and only then does her shadow puppet speak the words Anakin wishes her to, while his own shadow assumes the likeness of Darth Vader.

So, what do you think Padme's reaction is likely to be when she finds out why Jedi are forbidden to love? And who do you think is most likely to tell her about that?

How about "She's going to be really, really pissed," and "Obi Wan Kenobi."

Picture Senator Amidala and Master Obi Wan on a ship bound for some important negotiation. Away from Anakin, she confesses that she once had a laughable, juvenile crush on Obi Wan. He tells her that he knew it all along, and explains why, as a Jedi, he could not respond to it. If he were to fall in love with her, he could never be certain her emotions were her own -- they might simply be projections. Realization dawns on Padme. She understands at last why her feelings for Anakin are so powerful while in his presence, but so muted when he is gone. She is alone with Obi Wan. He knows nothing of her marriage to Anakin. She is unaware that she has just conceived a child, but she is suddenly very aware of what her true feelings are, and what she wants.

We already know that Luke and Leia are fraternal twins, since paternal twins must always be identical. The twist is that they are fraternal twins with different fathers. Leia is hidden from Vader because she was easy to hide from him -- she has no blood link to Anakin Skywalker. She is hidden from Ben Kenobi because, in all likelihood, Padme seduces Kenobi to get back at Anakin, and then does not want to burden Obi Wan with having irresponsibly fathered a child. Or perhaps she is hidden from Kenobi because Padme, or Yoda, or Bail Organa, knows that Kenobi would want to do the right thing and stay with his child, which would tend to make both of them easier targets for Vader.

So there you have it. In two months, we'll find out if it's complete hogwash, or a feat of deduction worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

Sorry if I spoiled anything for you.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Look at the Size of That Thing!

If you haven't already checked out Stardestroyer.net, go over to my blogroll and click on it. Star Trek fans may chafe at the inexorable logic that shows how thoroughly the Empire could defeat the Federation, but anyone who likes Star Wars ought to get a kick out of the site.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I'm Ready for Anything.

In two months, my favorite movie of 2005 will arrive in theaters. It most likely won't be the best movie of 2005, although I believe there is at least some chance that it will astonish one or two skeptical critics.

Let me explain that I was 10 years old when the first Star Wars movie premiered, and had already developed a voracious appetite for science fiction. As a budding artist, I found the visuals spellbinding. Furthermore, I am naturally susceptible to passionate music, having been exposed from infancy to the music of Russian composers like Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Rachmaninov.

So I was sort of tailor-made to become a die-hard Star Wars fan.

Yet we all grow up, and there came a point in my life when I nearly lost my adoration of these films. During and just after college, I gravitated toward more cerebral science fiction (Gene Wolfe, Kim Stanley Robinson, Octavia Butler), and had not seen any of the SW films since high school. The low point came when my sister and I happened across a cable showing of Star Wars, just as the attack on the Death Star commenced. We both found ourselves startled at the crudity of the effects (this was pre-Special Edition), and actually ended up laughing at Obi-Wan's disembodied voice saying, "Luke! Trust in your feelings!"

Another few years passed. I assumed that I had largely outgrown Star Wars. I moved from my first job to my second, met my wife, experienced a number of dizzying peaks and crushing disappointments, and settled into a long-running like/hate relationship with the various Star Trek television shows.

Then word came that George Lucas had decided to revisit the Star Wars Trilogy for its twentieth anniversary. The commercials and previews rekindled my interest, although I rolled my eyes at a coworker who stood in line overnight for tickets, and who bought one for every showing on the first day.

Curiously, I can't now remember very much about the first showing of that first Special Edition. I remember standing around talking about it afterwards. I recall finding the reinserted Jabba the Hut scene disappointingly poor in its effects. But I think I remember about as much from seeing the movie in 1977 as 1997. (We arrived late in 1977, and entered the theater to the image of R2-D2 in the haunting bowels of the Jawa sandcrawler.)

What I do remember from 1997 is the showing of The Empire Strikes Back that changed my life. It was my third viewing of ESB:SE -- I saw it on opening day, saw it again in that narrow window of opportunity you could catch all three films in the megaplex back-to-back, and then saw it in the dollar theater, after SW had already left and I didn't have the opportunity to watch my "favorite" on the big screen again.

That was the night when I realized that ESB is a better movie than Star Wars, when I realized that the asteroid field sequence is about the most perfect sequence ever captured on film, for someone who believes in romance, in struggle against adversity, in music, and in art. I had not loved The Empire Strikes Back as a kid, but I found that I could love it without reservation as an adult.

So now here I am, having spent inordinate amounts of time over the last eight years thinking about and talking about Star Wars, awaiting ever-more-anxiously the debut of Revenge of the Sith. If the hints and implications in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones are not merely figments of my own imagination, the new movie will be full of revelations, including several that I don't think most people expect. (A hypothetically spoiler-filled explanation is forthcoming.)

Hopefully, George Lucas and John Williams will at least bat their averages this May. If they do, nothing else will touch Episode III this year. At least, not for me.

You Can Fool Around With Your Friends Later

Welcome to my Star Wars blog. I'll be posting my thoughts about the six Star Wars films here from time to time. Feel free to leave comments correcting my dialogue quotes -- I have four kids, so I don't always have time to go to the DVDs and search out a line to get it perfect.