Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

The spirit is willing but the screenwriting is weak.


I saw Episode III. I liked Episode III, which goes against the prevailing–or at least the prevailing vocal–opinion among most of my friends, including my girlfriend.

But I liked the film. And I’ll tell you why.

Yes, the dialogue sucks. Get over it. You knew it going in. You had two movies’ worth of Lucas-written tin-ear lines to prepare for this third film. Unless you fell for some unsubstantiated Internet rumor, you knew that George wasn’t taking any time attending Robert McKee Screenwriting Seminars.

I got past it, because ultimately what I saw was a well-drawn story about the many ways people and institutions fail each other and ultimately fail themselves.

With lightsabers.

This is opera. The prequels are more tightly plotted and quite possibly a more satisfying legend than the original three films.

Is the execution perfect? No. Are there still idiot plot devices like “midichlorians”? Yup. Is there Jar-Jar? Curse his eyes, yes.

But the prequels do a very good job of answering several questions raised in Episodes IV-VI, which is what good prequels should do. Furthermore, not only does it answer these questions, it dispels myths that may have been put in place by the narrative of twenty years later.

Specifically, I speak of the Jedi and the Republic. From the vantage point of the first three films, one was led to believe that the Jedi were an order of utmost purity, that the Republic was a paragon of democracy and freedom. These are the stories told by our heroes in the Rebellion, most of whom are saying such things when both Jedi and Republic are long dead and nobody who could have said otherwise cares to remember.

Because neither story is true. The Jedi, as we see them in these first three episodes, are being undone by secrecy, political machination, and by their own outmoded traditions. Why do they not notice that Palpatine is a Sith Lord in their midst? Because they’re too arrogant to believe that they could be duped as such. Why does Anakin turn to the dark side? Because the only person to ever address his personal issues in any meaningful way was Palpatine, whereas the Jedi either ignored his pains or told him to expunge them. The Clone Army had been created under very shady circumstances that were all but forgotten when the Jedi realized what a potent fighting force they were. Did anybody bother to go back and investigate what Obi-Wan discovered on Kamino? For example, how the Clones had allegedly been ordered by a Jedi who had died before the order had been placed? Had they discovered that Count Dooku, aka Darth Tyranis, had been the man who had hired Jango Fett and the Kaminoans, would they not have suspected that one day the Clones would turn on them?

The Republic falls not because the Chancellor wrests power from the Senate, but because the Senate gives him that power willingly. Why do they do so? Because he stands at the front of the Senate and lays out a comprehensive plan of action…against events that he himself put in motion. A Senate so cowed and ineffective as to stand around doing nothing cannot help but be awed by a man with a direct demeanor and a swift decision, and so they give him all the power he could ever want. Gladly so, at that.

And in the midst of it all, there is Anakin and Obi-Wan. What is fascinating about the way Anakin eventually falls into Palpatine’s thrall is that Palpatine doesn’t actually lie to him, so much as show him unpleasant truths about his expectations. He is lost, once and for all, when he can no longer trust the Jedi to behave like Jedi–when he sees Mace Windu prepare to strike down Palpatine instead of bring him to trial. If the Dark Lord of the Sith tells you the Jedi have become corrupt, and then you see evidence of it with your own eyes, who will you trust?

And Obi-Wan fails Anakin time and again, not only as a friend but also as an enemy. It is a cold, traditional Jedi mentality that leaves him to abandon the dismembered, enflamed body of his brother on the rocks of Mustafar, rather than attempting to save him and pull him back to the light. He does not offer Anakin justice or mercy, which displays just how much emotion had clouded his own judgment by the end of the duel. Why does Obi-Wan leave Anakin to die? Because Obi-Wan has suffered, and so too must Anakin suffer for his betrayal.

And in the best shape of a longer saga, the information we now have better informs the triumph at the end of Episode VI. We learn that, in truth, not only is Luke stronger than his father was, but that he will likely create a more perfect Jedi Order, one that is able to recognize the part of passion in the Force, that is able to understand the strength of attachment. We know that not only does Leia help bring back the Republic, she may yet bring a Republic that was far better than the one the Empire destroyed. Ultimately, all six films do not simply constitute the rise, fall, and rebirth of the house of Skywalker, but the rise, fall, and rise of said family.

So what I’m saying is that I liked the film. And I can better tolerate the two previous.

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This entry was posted on June 1, 2005 by in Critique, Movies, Star Wars.
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