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January 5, 2010

Space slug

"Help... I can't breathe!"

"Help... I can't breathe!"

How does the slug creature exist in the vacuum of space?

Why do you assume it lives in a vacuum?

Clearly, the asteroid has some kind of atmosphere, even if humans cannot breathe it. We see Han, Chewie and Leia earlier sporting those air masks when exploring the interior of the cave, but that doesn’t mean some kind of atmosphere can’t exist.

In fact, the presence of mist through which they walk, supports the notion that there is some kind of atmosphere there.

If it seems unlikely that an asteroid would have its own atmosphere, remember that Han did specify that they were going to approach one of the larger asteroids so we’re not just talking about a tiny rock.

Brotherly love

"This is the last time I come to one of your barbecues, Anakin."

"This is the last time I come to one of your barbecues, Anakin."

If Obi-Wan really loves Anakin like a brother, then why does he stand there and watch happily as Anakin burns without trying to help him?

Um… did you miss that thing where Anakin tries to stab Obi-Wan with a lightsaber repeatedly? No, seriously, it’s in the movie. Watch it again. It’s easy to miss so you might have to pause the movie somewhere during the entire 15-minute duel to catch it.

Now before anyone accuses the Shameless Star Wars Apologist of setting up strawman arguments, please note that this exact question was asked by a disgruntled prequel viewer over on discussion forums. It was supported with chatter about how Obi-Wan expressed brotherly love for Anakin at the moment of his death.

Beyond the obvious fact that Obi-Wan is referring to how things were prior to Anakin’s turn to the dark side, it’s obvious that there is no saving Anakin at this point so why anyone would expect Obi-Wan to try is a little puzzling.

And happily? Do you really think that moment where Anakin bursts into flame and Obi-Wan turns his head away with a look of shock and dismay crossing his features comes off as happy? If that’s your idea of happy, please, get some therapy. We know this headshrinker on Tatooine who can work wonders with your situation… and he even takes Republic credits.

Nutritious Chocolaty Palpatine!

"Did I ever tell you story of Darth Plagueis The Conscientious Objector?"

"Did I ever tell you story of Darth Plagueis The Conscientious Objector?"

The once-great Palpatine is pathetic in the prequels. He reduces the evil Sith to a philosophical point of view. Boring!

Nonsense. Total nonsense.

Palpatine is just as evil in the prequels as he was in Jedi, if not quite a bit more slimy. Whereas he did a lot of cackling and taunting in the original trilogy, here he is a lying and manipulative bastard with many, fascinating layers of deceipt and treachery.

Yes, in the prequels, he does spend a lot of time talking, and sitting at his desk and having these awkward, fatherly discussions about the world with Anakin, but that was part of his efforts to win over a new apprentice.

And all that “good is a point of view” stuff he tells Anakin was just intended to confuse Anakin and cause him to question his own teachings. How else is Palpatine supposed to pull him over to the dark side? By bragging about how the Sith love to kill kitties and beat up orphans? Of course not. He has to make it seem like a plausible alternative to everything he knows, something worth rejecting the Jedi for. In short, he has to sell it as a legitimate—if not wise—point of view.

In many ways, that makes the Palpatine seen in the prequels far more frightening and evil and realistic than anything seen in Jedi.

The Sebastian Shaw Fan Club speaks out

"Hey, guys! Given that whole 'rank of master' thing some rethinking?"

"Hey, guys! Given that whole 'rank of master' thing some rethinking?"

The changes to the ending of the special edition of Jedi make no sense. Why is Anakin’s ghost young? Bring back Sebastian Shaw!

First off, let’s just admit it. The old Anakin ghost played by Sebastian Shaw never seemed right.

Although he looked perfect for the part when Luke removed his helmet, that spectral image of him at the end looked wrong.

Yes, Luke had redeemed him so he became Anakin again at the end, but this couldn’t have been the guy under that mask the whole time. This guy looked like some kindly innkeeper from a Tolkien story more likely to offer you a pint of ale and a quaint tale than choke you with a force grip. No no no… this guy was too kindly looking, slightly pudgy, almost weirdly angelic. It was wrong.

Hayden Christensen is a far better pick for the end of Jedi. Visually, he comes off like a nice guy with a dark side. His general presence works better in that shot than Shaw by far. On top of that, Christensen’s presence is a perfect visual cue to tie the ending of the series back into the prequels. For those reasons alone, the Shameless Star Wars Apologist believes that Lucas was justified in reworking the scene.

And to address the question of why Anakin appears in his youthful form, let’s refer to the sage words of Yoda, as heard in Empire:

“Luminous beings are we … not this crude matter.”

I think the force ghosts simply appear as the entity or consciousness views itself. Thus, Obi-Wan appears as we last saw him alive which is how his consciousness views itself. Yoda appears as we last saw him. Anakin appears as we last saw him. The Anakin side of Vader sees himself as it was when it became Vader, not as the pale old guy under the Vader mask, even if he did return briefly at the end.

So Luke did in fact bring Anakin back in the end, but that spirit knows itself as the younger Anakin. The decision to replace Shaw makes a lot of sense on many levels when you let go of the original version of the film’s ending.

Ewokophobia: Part 1

"I love the smell of burning Ewok in the morning."

"I love the smell of burning Ewok in the morning."

The battle on Endor was awful. If the ewoks could defeat the imperial forces that easily, it greatly diminishes the accomplishments of the rebels.

Did you see a different movie than the Shameless Star Wars Apologist or something? If memory serves, the ewoks got their fuzzy little butts handed to them.

In fact, if anything, those battle scenes on Endor only underscore just how smart and tough the rebels really are. In the end, it’s the rebels who end up making all the smart moves and breaking in to the imperial bunker.

The ewoks are nothing more than a distraction, and although we see a few shots early on where they achieve a modest amount of success, they are soon pushed back by the imperial forces and flee en masse into the woods, pursued by walkers, some of them being taken out along the way.

Saber Rattled

"Ha! You missed me by a mile, punk-ass bitch!"

"Ha! You missed me by a mile, punk-ass bitch!"

How does Darth Vader block Luke’s swing at the Emperor when Luke’s lightsaber is clearly on the wrong side?

There’s little argument over what is shown on screen, but it’s not so clear what’s really going on—and most viewers seem to miss the implication of that moment. Clearly, at that pivotal moment in Jedi when Luke and Vader cross lightsabers for the first time over a grinning Emperor Palpatine, Luke’s lightsaber blade is on what appears to be the wrong side. Only moments before, the Emperor was taunting Luke, trying to nudge him into giving in to his anger and attacking. The Emperor’s taunts are very specific.

“Good. I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon, strike me down with all of your hatred and your journey toward the dark side will be complete. And when you’re done, get me a sandwich.”

So, with that kind of talk, it might seem strange that Luke grabs his weapon in a flash only to miss Palpatine in what appears to be the single most inept lightsaber move in all of the Star Wars movies.

But that’s assuming Luke was aiming for Palpatine. The Shameless Star Wars Apologist maintains that Luke had no interest in the Emperor at that point, regardless of what Palpatine was telling him to do. Assuming that Palpatine is successful in goading Luke’s anger onward to the point of an explosive response (as seen in the film) then you must assume also that Luke is being driven more by hatred and anger, not rational thought.

And if angry, who will Luke be swinging his lightsaber at first? Would he attack the cackling old man in the chair who, thus far, seems to be full of insults and scorn but little real power, or the black-clad Vader who has repeatedly pursued, captured and tortured Luke’s friends, killed countless of his compatriots, and made life in this little galaxy a general pain in the keister for peace and freedom loving people everywhere, none of whom (except for the Gungans) deserve that kind of harsh treatment?

And that says a lot about what’s on Luke’s mind at that point. He’s not out to topple the empire or prove himself to Palpatine or win one for the rebels, but rather he’s out to settle a personal score. It speaks volumes about Luke’s motivations at that point that he forgoes an easy strike on the real head of the Empire in favor of a failed swing at Vader.

So, Luke’s lightsaber is in the right place. It’s our assumption about who he’s attacking that is not.

Anakin Skywalker: warrior, hero, crybaby

"But I wanted my sandwich with no crusts!"

"But I wanted my sandwich with no crusts!"

For the love of everything holy, why is Anakin so damn whiny? I can’t imagine this guy being Darth Vader.

Well, yeah, that’s sort of the idea. It’s called a character arc.

He’s whiny and frightened precisely because he’s not Darth Vader at that point, not even close yet. He’s a regular human being who is having to deal with the emotional strains of losing his mother and the demands of his chosen way of life.

Presumably, for a character to go from being a good guy to Darth Vader, he’s going to have some pretty glaring flaws. One of the flaws (which we discover is key to Anakin’s turn to the dark side) is his inability to emotionally cope with the loss of his mother. That flaw results in a great deal of fear for him later on which turns into hatred and aggression and lashing out.

So yes, you shouldn’t be able to imagine this guy as Darth Vader yet. He’s not at that stage. He’s still at the beginning of what will be a difficult character arc. That he behaves differently at this point from where we know him to be headed is no great surprise.

Love Naboo Style

"I say, fair maiden, wouldst thou giveth me a kiss?"

"I say, fair maiden, wouldst thou giveth me a kiss?"

I don’t find the romance between Anakin and Padme believable at all. It’s just not realistic.

Oh really? When was the last time you were a powerful warrior courting a high-ranking politician on a planet in another galaxy? How exactly should that sound?

The complaints about the romance between Padme and Anakin fall into a few categories usually. Some feel the dialogue and interaction between the two were too stiff and hard to believe. Others feel that there is simply no reason Padme would fall in love with Anakin.

But when you look at the big picture, it’s not hard to believe at all. Unusual? Yes. Hard to relate to? Yes. But it is believable when you keep in mind a) who these people are and b) the fact that they are already deeply in love but refusing to admit it. You don’t watch them fall in love in Attack of the Clones. You watch them drop the pretense of not being in love.

Remember, the original trilogy was about a ragtag band of misfits and the prequels concern the power struggles between the upper crust of the Old Republic—politicians, religious leaders, warriors, queens, and whatnot. These characters exist in a totally different strata and behave as such. Viewers expecting some of that Leia and Han-style romance here with arguments, smart-alecky dialogue and sloppy kisses will be sorely disappointed. This is a romance between a warrior and a queen/politician. Inevitably, there is going to be a more stately feel to their dialogue and their behavior.

So what’s not to believe? Is it hard to believe that Padme might fall in love with Anakin? Consider that Padme has given over much of her life to public service and leadership and she would presumably admire selflessness in others. Remember that Anakin’s big moment in The Phantom Menace was his willingness to race for the benefit of others, a selflessness that was epitomized in his comment to his mother about how nobody helps anyone else. Padme was attracted to the selflessness and the willingness to help.

And remember, too, that they are together at the end of the The Phantom Menace. He has already become a padawan and so her interest in him might be stoked a bit more given her admiration for public service. We don’t know what happens after The Phantom Menace but we do see hints that, by the time we reach Attack of the Clones, Padme’s interest in Anakin has bloomed into a full-blown infatuation. When she meets him and Obi-Wan at the opening of Attack of the Clones, she sees Anakin’s selflessness has further evolved into public service in the form of active Jedi training. Padme—always the more self-controlled of the two—obviously feels something but has no interest in acknowledging it.

Now, does the SSWA think the romance is one of the best scripted ever? No. It could have been better, but the basic idea is that we have two people whose lives are bound up in very high-minded activities and duties and who secretly have been lusting after each other from very early on. However, they both retain this pretense of “we’re not in love and we both know it” which we see gradually breaking down. Padme is better at maintaining it. Anakin, not so much. There is very little emotion evident in their scenes but that’s who those characters are.

When Anakin explodes and rants about killing the sandpeople and bemoans the death of his mother, Padme gets a rare moment of seeing Anakin with all those pretenses gone and she sees actual emotion pouring out (good or bad) and thus, it tips the scales and she lets go of the pretense.

To reiterate, it could have been scripted a little more deftly, but the way it unfolds is certainly believable when you consider who these people are.

What happens on Tatooine, stays on Tatooine…

"You, I suppose you're programmed for turning to the dark side."

"You, I suppose you're programmed for turning to the dark side."

The changes in backstory in Attack of the Clones are terrible. If Threepio worked on the Lars’ moisture farm, why doesn’t Owen recognize Threepio in A New Hope? It doesn’t make sense.

There’s an approximately 23 year span between Attack of the Clones and A New Hope. Do you remember all the people who passed through your life 23 years ago?

Consider too that in the Star Wars universe, droids are not afforded the same kind of respect and treatment given to their human counterparts. They’re treated more like property. It would be a little like you remembering what kind of refrigerator or blender you had 20 years ago. (Think hard. Can you remember either of those? Would you recognize them today?)

Further, protocol droids appear to be fairly commonplace. We see other protocol droids wandering through the background in all Star Wars movies. Why would Lars assume this protocol droid standing in front of him was the same droid he owned 20 years earlier? To him, it’s just another droid.

Curiously, if you pay attention to Lars’ comments to Threepio in A New Hope, they actually come off quite realistic.

“You, I suppose you’re programmed for etiquette and protocol… I have no need for a protocol droid.”

Given that Owen has lived his whole life in the backwater planet of Tatooine, it’s curious that he seems to recognize a protocol droid for what it is. And in fact, he reacts sarcastically—as if he’s owned a protocol droid before and knows how useless they really are out in the wastes of Tatooine.

The Shameless Star Wars Apologist does not take the position that George Lucas planned it this way, but it does play out well.

Smooth move, Anakin

"Hey baby... you wash your pants in Windex?"

"Hey baby... you wash your pants in Windex?"

Worst pick-up line ever: “It’s coarse and rough and irritating—not like you.”

Poor Attack of the Clones. Everyone hates its dialogue.

Even Roger Ebert, who generally gives Star Wars a thumbs-up and seems to get the fairy tale nature of it all, dismisses the dialogue between Anakin and Padme in his review of Clones as “weary romantic cliches.” To make his case, Ebert cites a misheard line to back it up, and in doing so has perpetuated one of the most persistent gripes about Clones among its detractors.

Anakin tells Padme at one point: “I don’t like the sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating—not like you. You’re soft and smooth.” I hadn’t heard that before.

I hadn’t heard that before either, Roger. And you know why? Because it’s not in the freakin’ film!

Listen closely to the scene in question, where Anakin and Padme talk about their childhoods while looking at the lake on Naboo. The line goes like this: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating… and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything’s soft and smooth.” (Many of the film’s more ardent detractors parrot this imagined line from the film as evidence that the prequels suck, hilariously revealing both their own biases and destroying their own credibility in one shot.)

Now admittedly, the Shameless Star Wars Apologist does have moments of reluctance when it comes to defending some of the dialogue in Clones, but it doesn’t help anyone’s case when major movie reviewers are putting horrifically bad lines in Anakin’s mouth.

Although if it really were that bad in the films, that whole thing about how a Jedi “lives without attachments” might make more sense. With those kinds of pick-up lines, the only “attachments” you’d be getting would be Jabba’s sloppy seconds.

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