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January 6, 2010

Are you a good Anakin or an evil Anakin?

"He must DIE, Mr. Thorn!"

"Yippee! I won the podrace... and now we celebrate by feasting on the blood of orphans."

There is no excuse for making Darth Vader shout “Yippee!!!”

First of all, I’ve seen the Star Wars movies countless times and Darth Vader never once shouts “Yippee!!!” He does mutter it under his mechanical breath after the destruction of Alderaan but hey, can you blame him? That planet blowing up was, like, soooooo awesome.

Presumably this gripe refers to the moment in The Phantom Menace when Anakin, ostensibly a child at this point in the story, expresses his joy, as we might logically assume in a manner appropriate to, you know, a child. A child which is, need I remind you, what he is.

Apparently some viewers feel Anakin needed to be darker, more sinister, or in the inimitable words of Patton Oswalt, “like some Damien Omen kid, like evil and killing people with his mind and shit like that.”

But how would that make any sense? We see at the end of the entire saga that Vader is redeemed by his son. That implies that Vader was good at some point in his past. You’d find a redemption story more believable if he was evil incarnate from birth? No, of course not. Pure evil couldn’t be saved. It wouldn’t make sense.

And not only would it not make sense, but it would make for a very unsatisfactory ending. Why then would a purely evil character care enough about his own son to betray his master? The entire story would fall apart. A good, childlike Anakin is the foundation of the story. Remove that and it all topples and everything else is rendered less credible or cartoony.

January 5, 2010

My new favorite buzz-phrase: End user value proposition

Here’s a good video of a side-by-side comparison of a 1.6GHz Atom chip vs. a Cortex A9, but how am I supposed to take it seriously when the guy uses a phrase like “end user value proposition”? Really?

Character assassination

"You know, Padme, they say sex with your boyfriend's mentor builds character."

"You know, Padme, they say sex with your boyfriend's mentor builds character."

What the Star Wars prequels need is a soul. They need characters you care about and real character development.

There was plenty of character development in the prequels, but people were so fixated on the stuff they didn’t like that they ignored the good things.

One of the Shameless Star Wars Apologist’s favorite moments in all of the prequel films is the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Obi-Wan tries to get Padme to tell him where Anakin has gone and, in the process, figures out that Padme is pregnant. That whole scene is one of the best character moments in all the Star Wars films—quiet and understated and you get revelations about each of the characters that fundamentally change their relationship as well as changing the course of events to come.

And then you have the weird, drawn-out moments where Anakin and Padme are shown thinking about their lives and what’s going on.

And Palpatine trying to pull Anakin to the dark side by telling him lies about the Jedi, playing on his fears and uncertainties.

Those are all great character moments where you get a real sense of the connections between these people and how they affect and manipulate each other. There’s a lot to like about the prequels in that regard but too many nerds crying in their Mountain Dew about Jar Jar and midichlorians can drown that out.

Any color you like

"But with my blade all washed-out, I can't even see... how am I supposed to fight?"

"But with my blade all washed-out, I can't even see... how am I supposed to fight?"

Why can’t George Lucas standardize the color of the lightsabers across all the episodes?

It’s surprising how often this earth-shatteringly important issue comes up—why do the appearance of lightsabers in the original trilogy differ so much from the appearance in the prequels?

The changing appearance of the lightsabers had a lot to do with how you were seeing it and the environment, the angle, the lighting around it, etc. That still seems the simplest and most satisfactory answer, but if you require a more concrete explanation, then consider that sabers age and need maintenence to keep them in good condition. When Obi-Wan turns over Anakin’s lightsaber to Luke, it has been sitting there unused for over 20 years.

Think about how your computer or microwave oven might perform after 20 years of disuse. Perhaps that original blue seen in the prequels has grown dull over time due to the aging of the components in the weapon.

What happens on Tatooine, stays on Tatooine…

"Bye, Threepio. Hope to see you around. Maybe we can get together and freeze some smugglers in carbonite or something."

"Bye, Threepio. Hope to see you around. Maybe we can get together and freeze some smugglers in carbonite or something."

If Anakin was born on Tatooine, built C-3P0 and knew R2-D2, how come he never acknowledges these things as Darth Vader? It’s not realistic.

First of all, how or why do you think he should react to all these things? If he even still recognizes Threepio or Artoo at all, he probably doesn’t care at that point. And what’s he supposed to do? Buy them a drink and reminisce with them about the good ol’ days?

Not only is he a vastly different man at that point, but there’s approximately a 20 year gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Do you remember all the people who passed through your life 20 years ago? And consider that in the Star Wars universe, droids are fairly common things, nothing special. 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, would you get all nostalgic and emotional about seeing them again. Very unlikely.

When The Phantom Menace came out, there was a lot of needless wailing and crying about the problems that details in the prequels introduce, but none of them were really problematic at all. One of those frequently cited “problems” was that if Anakin were born on Tattooine, why does he not seem to acknowledge or remember it in A New Hope when he’s capturing Leia.

Umm… because maybe he was a litle preoccupied at the time. The task at that point for Vader is to retrieve the stolen Death Star plans, not to reminisce about a time and place he likely wanted to forget anyway.

Oh, and possibly because the scenes in A New Hope would play something like this:

“Comander, tear this ship apart until you’ve found those plans, and bring me the prisoners. I want them ALIVE… oh and did I mention that I grew up here on Tattooine? Yeah, lovely place, lots of fun memories and… oh! The pod races. Sigh…”

So, to some extent, prequel characters recognizing each other would seem a bit of a stretch anyway. The whole issue is nullified by time and memory.

Waiting for Yoda

"Um... Obi-Wan, you think you can give me a hand here?"

"Um... Obi-Wan, you think you can give me a hand here?"

Why did Obi-Wan wait so long to tell Luke of Yoda? Why didn’t he tell him before going off to face Vader?

Knowing what Obi-Wan knows, that he can still communicate with Luke after his own death, it actually wouldn’t make much sense to waste time telling Luke about Yoda. It makes sense that he would return in Empire to direct Luke when the time is appropriate.

Besides, there really isn’t any moment where Obi-Wan could have told Luke about Yoda once they had arrived at the Death Star. When he rushes off to release the Millennium Falcon, there is a sense of urgency and little time for talk. He needs to get the Falcon free so they can escape and quickly. He hardly has time to tell Luke about Yoda. So, the idea that he wouldn’t necessarily spill it all there makes sense in the context of the story.

Some fans argue that Obi-Wan must have communicated with Luke in the years leading up to Empire, but there’s no evidence for that. Not only does that argument lack evidence but Luke looks very suprised to see Ben again.

And what if, for sake of argument, Obi-Wan had appeared prior? Perhaps he had his own reasons for waiting. Perhaps Luke wasn’t mature enough or maybe Obi-Wan and Yoda disagreed on whether he was ready or not (possible considering the disagreement between them later on.)

By the way, the behind-the-scenes answer is that George Lucas came up with the idea of Yoda because he had killed off Obi-Wan and had to create a new Jedi to guide Luke. Obi-Wan didn’t tell Luke about Yoda before rushing off in A New Hope quite simply because Yoda didn’t exist yet. However, Lucas couldn’t have introduced Yoda if it didn’t seem realistic that he should be introduced at this time (regardless of the actual storytelling mechanics behind it all.)

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.

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