Revenge Of The Sith: Fear And Darkness

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“Yourself you speak of, or someone you know?” — Master Yoda

“Someone.” — Anakin Skywalker

“Close to you?” — Master Yoda

“Yes.” –Anakin Skywalker

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Three years have passed since nightmares of his mother’s unceasing pain and death tortured young Padawan Anakin Skywalker, heralding the death of the only person who truly knew him in the galaxy and setting him on the path that would lead him to the darkest part of his destiny. Blood and death, the nightmares brought only blood and death and hatred in their wake. Time has passed since the devastation and loss of Episode II and Anakin is now a Jedi Knight, a loving yet secret husband, and a General in the Galactic Civil War, but inside he is still the little boy who had to leave his mother behind to live the life they both dreamed for him and then held her as she died in his arms and promised her grave he wouldn’t fail again. Years have passed since that night, since Ani tasted blood and death in the desert air, years have passed…but now the nightmares have started again — and this time the person dying in them is the one person Anakin Skywalker cannot survive losing… his wife Padme.

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Desperate to save her from his prophetic dreams, Anakin makes one last attempt to reach out to his fellow Jedi, putting aside his wounded pride and the sting of their mistreatment to beg for help protecting the one he loves most. He seeks council from the greatest of Masters, the epitome of the Jedi Order itself: Yoda, and tells him of his fears, of the death he sees looming on the horizon.

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Visually, Anakin is emotionally upset, shaken. He’d endured these dreams only a few years ago, dreams that lead him to find his mother only moments before her death. He’d cradled her broken body as she drew her last breath, unable to save her himself… so he made her a promise. He would not fail again. But now the dreams have returned, sent from the Force itself or Palpatine, to torture Anakin into madness and still his first innate instinct is to turn to what should be the light and ask for help. His mother’s teachings ring true in him, and in his darkest fears he reaches for the light, despite it’s snubs. In truth, he has no reason to trust the Jedi, their contempt of him is and has always been glaringly obvious, but he has sworn his life to their humanitarian cause and has asked for nothing from them in return until now. He will not let his wife die the way his mother had… he promised. And so he looks to Yoda – to save him, to save Padme, to save the Jedi Oder from the fate it is bringing down upon itself…and is met with no more than placating children’s rhetoric. You fear losing something… well don’t, you shouldn’t be attached to it in the first place. Let it go.

“Attachment leads to jealousy… the shadow of greed that it… Train yourself to let go… of everything you fear to lose.” –Master Yoda

Watching the saga as a while, this is the moment the Jedi unapologetically and irrevocably seal their own fate. They have had countless opportunities to practice what they preach in terms of compassion and at every turn they fail to do so. They failed Padme in the Phantom Menace, they failed Anakin from the very moment they met him, and now when not only the fate of another innocent is on the line, but the entire galaxy itself, they fail themselves and those who look to them for Light.

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For all his strengths, Anakin is not a good liar, Shmi did not raise him to be, so he’s about as subtle as a flashing neon sign. And let’s not forget that Yoda himself was present when Padme ran to Ani at the end of Attack of the Clones and threw her arms around him, embracing him without conscious or shame for all the world to see. It doesn’t take a genius to realize something is going on between them… and Yoda is far from unintelligent — so there is no conceivable way he did not know that Anakin and Padme were at the very least, lovers. Even Obi-Wan knew (a fact we learn from a deleted ROTS scene). And his response to Anakin’s plea highlights the stark contrast between simple, common decency and the unbending Jedi morality: Yoda offers no help or reassurance, merely passive-aggressive judgment and we call him the hero for it, for withholding empathy from someone in need — empathy, the link that connects all living beings.

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How easy would it have been to drop the pretense and reach out to the boy that’s clearly terrified in front of him – even if he had no real advice for how to help – and just say: I am here for you. The Jedi – your family – is here for you. 

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Common decency, not dogma — that’s all that was being asked for here. You can speak platitudes and hold your actions and thoughts as superior to everyone around you but if you cannot act with the basest of humane kindnesses in the face of abject terror and suffering then how good can you possibly be? Tears streamed down Anakin’s face. He was shaking. He was terrified. But still Yoda remained unmoved. A Jedi feels no fear… a Jedi feels nothing, just as stone feels nothing. And stone men cannot know balance, they cannot lead, because they cannot feel the difference between right and wrong, they only think they know it. Anakin was mature enough to let go of his pride and ask for help from those he knew hated him. He knew pride, understood it for its complexities, and chose to set it aside for the greater good. But someone who’s never admitted pride, or fear, or anger, or love, or joy, never taken the time to understand them, cannot put them aside for any cause. Because these emotions that encompass both good and bad, light and dark, are nothing more than a fairy story, a rhetoric that can be learned but never understood. Any emotion can be a fault and a virtue, it can save or it can destroy, but only those capable of expressing empathy, of understanding emotions, can understand their importance.

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Yoda condemns fear as darkness, but he had known fear since the moment he met Anakin Skywalker all those years ago, but instead of expressing it, understanding and moving past it, he feigns ignorance of its presence and is therefore consumed by it. He sits as unmoved  in the presence of anguish, fear, and love, watches as a ward of his Order cries for the life that may be lost and is stone. Fear can break a man, twist him into something he is not, but he can rise again with empathy in his heart, but eventually all stone crumbles into dust and is scattered by the wind — eroded by all things.

Revenge Of The Sith: A Mind At War

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I know I said this earlier this week you guys but I just have to repeat myself, I cannot believe we’re already in the third month of our countdown to Episode IX!!! I don’t know about you, but it’s been a hell of a lot of fun exploring these films one at a time, and Revenge of the Sith is one of my all-time favorites — because let’s be honest, it’s dramatic as hell and I live for that kind of over-the-top madness in my mythic lore! What really drives home the tone and emotion of this prequel finale is our fallen hero: Anakin Skywalker himself. The little boy who escaped slavery and devoted his life to the people of the galaxy and became the the young Jedi we’ve come to love and care for now has to die so that Vader can be born in his stead. His ultimate fate was known since the very beginning but now it’s time for him to finally fall beyond our outstretched fingers and plunge into the place where only true villains dwell. And dear god, does Hayden Christensen deliver an emotionally devastating performance.

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The Anakin we meet in the beginning  of Revenge of the Sith is definitely not the same as the reckless, eager-to-prove-himself-but-often-to-his-own-detriment one we left behind at the end of Attack of the Clones. A few years have passed and with the assurance of Padme’s love and support and a more confident and sedate maturity borne of experience and lessons learned, Anakin has settled in his role as a Jedi Knight despite the continued spite of the Masters of the Order. Within the first twenty minutes of the film we see Anakin calmly and resiliently save Obi-Wan’s life twice, council patience while urging greater kindness for those around him (specifically the clones and R2), and engage in combat with a previous enemy with far more control and level-headedness than was previously displayed. For all intents and purposes, Anakin has grown up into a kind, intelligent, compassionate human being and Star Wars goes to great lengths to establish that fact as soon as possible. So many fans and viewers identify Anakin as whiney, immature, and power-hungry but that’s not the character we’re given at all. That’s the Jedi’s tainted version of him, the propaganda slogan that’s hardwired into our perceptions as we watch our supposed heroes fall from grace. Yes, Anakin’s personality changes over the course of ROTS, and it’s important that we see it, but not for the reason so many of us think.

“I sense great fear in you, Skywalker. You have hate. You have anger. But you don’t use them.” — Count Dooku

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As I said, Anakin’s introduction in this film is as an unmistakable hero —  he saves his former Master from not only buzz-droids and a failing personal space-craft, but from being left behind unconscious on an enemy vessel, is willing to risk his own life and his Jedi-mandated mission to save the lives of his Clone troops, and even urges Obi-Wan to be kinder and more considerate to their droid companion and fan-favorite badass: R2-D2. This is a stark and immediate change from the nervous, uncomfortable-in-his-skin teenager we last saw — this is an adult and a leader taking charge to save lives. Lucas even goes so far as to show Anakin advocating patience instead of action, urging that they wait for help instead of surging ahead blindly fighting their way out of a situation… a far leap from the boy who rushed headlong into a fight against an unknown enemy and had the lower half of his arm sliced off within seconds. This is the man Anakin truly is, or is as close to that person as we’ll ever get without Jedi or fate involvement. This is Shmi’s son, the boy who thinks only of others, who knows nothing of greed, and who faced down almost certain death to help complete strangers stranded on a desert planet. This is the Anakin we mourn for when he makes that final fatal choice, and this is the Anakin that is stolen from us and from Padme by the Force itself.

“Something’s happening. I’m not the Jedi I should be.” — Anakin Skywalker

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But alongside this new maturity and growth is the sense that something is very wrong with our hero. We see it in brief flashes of unexplainable violence and even sense it in the quiet moments between he and Padme. The boy who spoke the truth of his feelings at every turn is suddenly more subdued, more uneasy with his thoughts and actions and words and doesn’t know what is happening to himself and the world around him. With each new outburst Anakin slowly begins shutting down, spiraling into himself, unsure of how to communicate what is happening inside of himself and no matter how he explains it to those around him, no one understands enough to actually help. Ultimately he is older, he is wiser, and sadly for him and everyone around him, he is closer than ever to succumbing to his fate.

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Moments after his defeat of Count Dooku, something unexplainable comes over our hero and in a fatal flash he beheads his unarmed opponent — to the urging of Chancellor Palpatine. It’s easy to dismiss this as evidence of Anakin’s already submissive state to his future Master of the darkside of the Force, but this shocking lack of control is shown directly after Dooku comments on Anakin’s refusal to connect to his darker and more human instincts. If Anakin was nothing more than a walking monster waiting to happen then there is no point in stating that he doesn’t fight with the most dangerous and effective aspects of himself, the audience would be all-too ready to watch Vader come out to play, but that’s the whole point. Vader is not wholly Anakin. Vader is the representation of the darkest part of Ani’s human nature and despite himself, his beliefs, and his own choices, that dark energy is being forced to manifest not only by the actions of those around him, but also by the Force itself. Anakin is destiny and fate made real. The Force has watched as it’s users misused it’s energy for thousands of years, as even the good fell prey to corruption and power-mongering and it has finally said enough… and sent Anakin to wipe clean the slate. These flashes are only the beginning of the Force making it’s will known.

“Something’s happening…”

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For Anakin, the small glimpse of happiness and peace that was granted to him is over. The Sith are taking over the government of the galaxy and the Jedi have proven complicit to their crimes, allying themselves with their mortal enemies to stave off the Force’s judgement, ultimately justifying the Force’s need to cleanse itself. Both the Jedi and the Sith are morally corrupt, tipping the scales towards intolerance, hostility, and even death. There is no balance to be found in the Force any longer, so Anakin must create it anew. But in doing so he will lose himself in the process because he is the balance. To wipe away the tarnished light, he will become darkness and death incarnate, and only when it’s time to destroy the dark will he find the light inside himself again. Until his fated task is complete, Anakin’s cries for help will go unheard and ultimately unanswered, even by the audience themselves. We can only watch, and suffer along with him, as he slowly descends into madness and step by painful step loses himself completely to the will of the Force.

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Attack Of The Clones: Master and Padawan


“Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
“Don’t say that, master. You’re the closest thing I have to a father.”  — Anakin Skywalker

Hearing this exchange for the first time as a soon-to-be thirteen-year-old, I was dramatically shook. I mean the irony nearly bowled me over – I remember thinking, “No Obi, you don’t understand, HE IS GOING TO KILL YOU!” It’s one of those great little moments in the films where Star Wars itself goes a bit meta and speaks directly to the fans.

The relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker is something that drives the entire saga. In A New Hope we first hear Obi-Wan’s admittedly skewed version of events before we see them meet as enemies, duel, and watch in horror as we lose our first big SW hero when Darth Vader strikes down a willing Obi-Wan. This is in effect one of our true first moments of seeing how far Vader will go as a villain, Tarkin was the one that ordered the destruction of Alderaan, but Vader killed our beloved mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi.

And even after this point their lives were entwined as Obi-Wan returned as a Force Ghost to help Yoda train Luke as a Jedi, preparing him to face and kill Darth Vader, Luke’s own father. It’s only after Luke calls him on his falsehoods, that Obi-Wan admits the full truth, but defends his previous story in true Jedi manipulative fashion, saying he told the truth, “from a certain point of view.”

So, after all the events and drama of the original trilogy and the very limited time they shared in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones was the first time we truly got to see this epic pair together before Anakin became Vader and Obi-Wan’s story gets a bit fuzzy. And it’s truly so Shakespearian. We ALL KNOW Anakin is going to kill Obi-Wan someday, we’ve already seen it happen, but here they are onscreen with a relationship that although complicated, is full to the brim with love and affection. It makes it so much more difficult to see them as friends knowing how their story ends, but that’s really what makes the saga itself so effective. If they had hated each other from the get-go then we wouldn’t really care that Vader killed Obi-Wan, but that’s not the case at all, and so when the inevitable happens, we suffer along with the characters.

At the end of TPM Obi-Wan fulfills Qui-Gon’s dying wish to train Anakin, even going so far as to threaten the Council with disobedience, but we’re left with the knowledge that Anakin was not Obi’s choice. Would he resent his new responsibility to train a boy he didn’t know and had no real connection to, is that what would drive them apart and lead them to the deathly events of A New Hope? But then we see them together at last in the elevator in Attack of the Clones and immediately, the sense of warmth and familiarity sweeps over us. Obi-Wan may not have chosen Anakin and may never have on his own, but he truly loves Ani, and Ani loves him in return.

In this movie especially we see their relationship as Master and Padawan, or rather Father and Son. From the get-go we see Obi-Wan trying to instill wisdom and the Jedi mentality and Anakin bristling under the constant scrutiny. They bicker and push at each other constantly, but beneath it all is the truth that Anakin so easily admitted.

“You’re the closest thing I have to a father.”  — Anakin Skywalker


Watching AOTC again as an adult, I see not only the aggravation that Anakin feels at being judged, commented on, and critiqued constantly, but the absolute fear that Obi-Wan feels about Anakin. Obi-Wan knows the members of the Council rejected Anakin, he knows they don’t want him in their ranks and yet they’re forced to accept his presence. He understands that unlike any-other Jedi before him, Anakin has no true allies amongst the Jedi other than himself, and that without him Ani would truly be alone and at the mercy of the Jedi Masters. He respects the Council of Masters as his peers and comrades in the Force, but he truly loves Anakin, and in that love, resides great fear of what will happen to Anakin when he’s no longer protected with Padawan-status.

I think that fear leads him to push Anakin, to constantly keep at him and press his own mentality and character onto his student because that’s the only way he knows to keep Anakin safe. If he could make Ani enough like himself then the Council wouldn’t feel so threatened, they like Obi-Wan, so therefore they would like an Obi-Wan-esque Anakin. But that’s not possible. Anakin’s personality is too set to be changed, and his destiny wouldn’t allow for it anyway. He is who he is and although he respects and love Obi-Wan he doesn’t like the constant strain of always being wrong or being labeled as second-best. He wants to shine, but Obi-Wan is terrified of what will happen if he does. Again, it’s so Shakespearian, Obi-Wan tries to protect Anakin but it only leads to resentment and in effect, drives a wedge between Master and Padawan.

In the end, I think we see a great foundation formed in Attack of the Clones. Anakin and Obi-Wan are almost nothing like we’d expect them to be after seeing the Original Trilogy, they aren’t enemies but rather a small family unit with tangible real-world problems. There’s such an abundance of love between them and it makes the story so much more relatable and heartbreaking knowing that their fates are already set in stone. Obi-Wan will die. Vader will kill him. But for now, they are family, they protect each other and face the same issues all families do – just on a galactic level. But more than anything, there is Obi-Wan’s fear for his Padawan, fear for his son, that one day he will not be there to protect Anakin when he needs to be. And Anakin interprets this fear as any teenager would: as judgement and understandably bristles as being so undervalued. And even here, right at the beginning we see the cracks that are forming around them, setting the Force’s plan into motion. One day Anakin will fall, and not even Obi-Wan’s love will be enough to save him.

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Attack Of The Clones: Stolen Moments and A Splintered Soul

No man has ever outrun his fate, and no protagonist either. Anakin Skywalker is young, charming, hopelessly in love, dedicated to his commitment to protect the galaxy and its inhabitants, and is an earnest, loving son. He’s gifted with a lightsaber, vivacious and sweet, with a kind heart not often found in such a harsh galaxy. But he is also Chosen.

No matter who he may want to be, what life he may choose for himself, Anakin’s fate is inescapable. It’s wound around his neck like a noose, choking the light, the love, and the happiness out of him as each second passes. With blood and betrayal and death, he will one day bring balance to the Force and thereby bring to an end the warring, unbending factions of the Sith and the Jedi, with their holier-than-thou dogma and uncompromising restrictions. The Force is neither light nor dark, good nor evil — it is the balance of all things and it demands balance in return, and the cost will be nothing less than Anakin Skywalker’s heart and soul.

It all sounds dramatic as hell, but this is a soap opera in space – if the stakes weren’t truly monumental then why would we even care. And we do care, because despite what he becomes later on, we all can relate to Anakin as he is now – young and in love, full of naïve hope that life can truly be all that he wants it to. It’s heartbreaking watching someone strive to do the right thing and make a difference in their environment knowing that no matter what they choose to do, one choice will never be theirs to alter.

AOTC opens with an attack on Senator Padme Amidala’s life, an act that brings a nervous and frantically excited Anakin Skywalker, now a Jedi Padawan-learner, back into her life. He’s older, more mature and handsome, and she’s as beautiful and defiant as ever. Immediately we all know where the story is going, but there’s a catch: one day, however far in the future, Anakin will become Vader… He will fall to the dark side and although we don’t yet know how or why or what the scope of that actually looks like yet (back in 2002), we know eventually he ends up alone, deep in space, scarred and mutilated, and encased in machinery. So, we’re left wondering… what happens to Padme? What happens to this love we see blooming? How can it all go so wrong?


“I’ve thought about her every day since we’ve parted…” — Anakin Skywalker

It’s hypnotic and disturbing to fall in love with a couple knowing that their future cannot possibly be bright. Their days in the sun are numbered and they don’t even know it yet. Every look, every thought, every gentle touch is one less that they had a moment ago – but we can’t help but to fall for them, just as they fell for each other. In the cool and isolated lake country of Naboo, Padme and Ani are given a handful of beautiful moments and memories before the twisting of the knife begins anew and Anakin is drawn further down the path of fate, this time unleashing his hate and destruction upon a limited populace in retribution for his mother’s stolen life. It’s only a taste of what’s to come but it’s a stark contrast to the waterfall picnics and candlelit dinners of just moments ago. It’s a heartbreaking scene, and it’s there to remind us – and Anakin – that his life is not his own. No matter what we may want for him, Anakin is not ours to save, and he is not his own to govern.

“You’re not all powerful, Ani.” — Padme Amidala
“Well I should be. Someday I will be. I will be the most powerful Jedi ever — I promise you. I will even learn to stop people from dying!” — Anakin Skywalker

The truth is Anakin was born a slave, and although he escaped physical bondage on Tattooine after the events of The Phantom Menace, he remained a slave to the will and desire of the Force until the day he died. And no Star Wars film better encapsulates the inevitability and inescapable nature of Anakin’s destructive fate than Attack of the Clones because in the end, the entire film is a love-letter to a life that could have been, to a love that could have lasted. It’s a collection of beautiful, haunting memories of a life that never truly got the chance to choose and a love that was doomed before it even began.

 

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Attack Of The Clones: The Last Rays of Light

With one month down and The Phantom Menace now behind us, I settled in to re-watch Star Wars Attack of the Clones yesterday afternoon. It had been a little while since I had seen this one and in some ways it felt like I was watching it again for the first time.

When it first premiered in May of 2002 I was in the soaring upswing of my complete and utter adoration/fascination/obsession of all things wildly romantic – I was about to be 13 and dramatic flair was my middle name. All these years later I’ve never really come down off that high of loving impossible romances. Yes, they’re unrealistic ideallic fantasy-dreams that don’t exist in the real world, but there’s still something about them that sucks me in. And at 13 everything seems possible – and plausible – so the more dramatic and impossible the love story, the more I adored it. Needless to say, when episode II hit theaters, I was MESMORIZED.

Attack of the Clones was everything I needed Star Wars to be at that time of my life, it was lush and beautiful, with sweeping scenes of waterfall picnics and sunshine-drenched lake houses. Padme’s clothes were to-die-for and the addition of a purple lightsaber just was sheer perfection. Add to that, Anakin was suddenly attractive – something I didn’t even know to expect – and he was in love with Padme and it was a forbidden love, which just made it all the better! My young heart beat to the tune of the Anidala theme my friends, and I never looked back. I was a shipper before I knew knew what shipping was and for me this installment was a love story plain and simple, and love stories were my bread and butter.

But watching it now almost twenty years later, what really struck me this time first and foremost wasn’t the actual love story –although it is still epic – but rather Anakin’s attitude during the first half of the film. When I think of Ani now, having seen the entire saga, I often picture the Jedi Knight in episode III, the closed-off, near-drowning man who can’t find the light to save himself. Or maybe the happy little boy winning the big pod-race and believing that all his dreams will come true. But this Anakin, this teenaged AOTC Anakin, struck me this time around as such a forgotten gem of a person. He comes across as sullen and argumentative and is therefore automatically panned as being a classic teenage whiner but that’s only when he’s in the company of Jedi. He’s spent the last ten years being told to contain his nature, to submit to the Jedi’s way of life and for someone who is so emotionally mature and expressive, it’s no wonder he chafes at such restrictive and harmful instruction. But the moment Padme enters his life again, all that meaningless chatter and chastisement visibly melt away and he is again that boy from the desert who can’t help but speak the truth.

“Ani? My goodness, you’ve grown.” — Padme Amidala
“So have you, grown more beautiful…” — Anakin Skywalker

Anakin has always been portrayed as highly emotive, especially in the previous film, what he thinks and feels he says, and he has no qualms about expressing to someone that they’re important to him. His honesty and openness are originally commendable but now set against the restrictive nature of the Jedi code – with their aversion to attachment and expression of emotions – is suddenly portrayed as wrong as we see it that way as well. He is chided and ridiculed by Obi-Wan for his display of obvious feelings, but it’s not in Anakin to lie. Not yet. There is still too much of his mother in him, too much of her teachings and love and wisdom to be beaten down completely by dogmatic rhetoric.

That’s why very time Anakin is with Padme he finds himself speaking his most inner absolute truths – things that most people would blush at or feel too embarrassed to speak aloud. Because she is not Jedi, and because he knows that somehow she understand him and he needs her to know the truth while he can still say it. He explains his love for her, his admiration and respect for Obi-Wan as well as the crippling frustrations with his Jedi training. It’s like he cannot help himself. Every time he speaks to her, the truth overwhelms him. After ten years of being encouraged to lock his old self away, and not give in to emotion or his own instincts, the real Anakin is dying to be recognized, to be understood. Even at his darkest, he hides nothing.  It’s incredibly beautiful to watch, but painful at the same time. Painful because honesty is actually frightening for most people and because it’s as if Anakin’s spirit is trying to purge itself of the last ten years of repressed emotion. He’s unconsciously attempting to shake off the shackles of Jedi mentality, but it’s too late, he’s completely surrounded, his fate is already sealed, and this is the last time we truly get to see Anakin as he was before. His time as Anakin Skywalker is fading fast, and it’s almost like some part of him knows it.

“From the moment I met you, all those years ago, not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought of you. And now that I’m with you again… I’m in agony. The closer I get to you, the worse it gets. The thought of not being with you — I can’t breathe.” –Anakin Skywalker

So after watching AOTC again for what is probably the hundredth time, what I see now is a boy who hasn’t yet been broken. What is often read as awkward and argumentative behavior, is in reality just Ani desperately pushing back against the Jedi’s restrictive nature and seeing Padme again immediately reverts him to his old self. He speaks the truth to her with no shame hampering him and for a short time becomes the person he wants most to be — someone capable of great deeds, and great emotions. Ultimately, he is still the Anakin we met on Tattooine, he is still Shmi’s son – but now time is running out, and the Anakin we know and love is coming nearer and nearer his final fatal destiny.

 

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The Phantom Menace: Judgement and Consequence

When I originally planned this post a few weeks ago I had the idea to do a running commentary of my thoughts and reactions to watching The Phantom Menace. That being said, about thirty minutes into the movie I realized two rather crucial things. First: I can’t concentrate on taking notes and watching a movie at the same time, it’s just not in me. I don’t know what I was thinking really, I’m one of those nutters that nearly drowns while drinking things because I sometimes forget to stop breathing for a second and I end up inhaling a lungful of sweet tea or something. Seriously, it’s sad, I have to give one thing my full attention and it quickly became a nightmare trying to watch and write. Second – and perhaps more important – my “revelations” and inner-thoughts were boring as hell. I mean I have my own Star Wars theories and ideas and a crap ton to talk about, but I couldn’t make a compelling list of thoughts to cover an entire two-hour movie where some things just aren’t worth talking about. It just wasn’t happening and I was losing my own interest lol.

So, I had a dilemma… what to do for this post since I have all my other ones already planned out for the month and set in the order I want them in? I couldn’t think of anything at first, I just kept swirling back to a quote in the movie that nearly smacked me across the face this time. And then it hit me. There are so many exceptional quotes from The Phantom Menace that just set up the basis for not only this singular movie, but the entire saga, yet there was something so relevant about this one in particular, something that wouldn’t let my mind rest. I had to discuss it! The quote is simple enough, it’s Qui-Gon’s defense of Anakin after Obi-Wan insists that he and the entire council can see that Anakin is dangerous.

“His fate is uncertain. He’s not dangerous.”

And it’s true, Anakin wasn’t dangerous, not at this point. Ani was a relatively happy little boy who was expressive, emotive, and unerringly kind, who had been raised to think intelligently for himself and problem-solve along the way. But the things that made him a good person in normal circumstances were the very things that turned the Jedi order against him. The Jedi would need to take everything that was Ani away and instill their own doctrines, beliefs, and ways of seeing the galaxy to make him one of them, but at advanced his age, Anakin’s personality was likely setting into place. They wouldn’t be able to fully overcome his own instincts and opinions – he wasn’t a baby or a toddler who they could teach or force to think how they chose – therefore he was dangerous, he was other, and they immediately treated him as such.

Instead of welcoming him with acceptance and understanding or even compassion, the council immediately set themselves apart from Anakin and make it clear – to a child who had just escaped enslavement and had helped two of their own order – that he was not welcome in their company because he was going down the darkside path simply because he admitted to feeling fear. Yeah… let that sink in for a moment because I’m getting mad just typing this. In an entirely new place with strangers who are testing him left, right, and center, far away from the only source of love and security he’s ever know, it’s no wonder Ani is afraid. The Jedi use a little boy’s love of his mother to make him unworthy of their time and consideration, they twist love into a weakness and call themselves the better for it.

Needless to say, I have A LOT MORE to write regarding the council and that’s already planned for later, so I’ll stop myself here. But I will say this: Qui-Gon was right. Anakin wasn’t dangerous until the Jedi made him so. The Jedi created their own destruction and it eventually cost them everything. I think this is a theme that often goes overlooked because it’s the “good-guys” doing the wrong things and we like to turn a blind eye to that sort of thing, but it bears noting that the same thing happens again in the sequel trilogy. Lessons are not being learned here. Ben Solo struggled with the darkness inside himself all his life, but it was Luke –a Jedi – who sealed his fate and the galaxy’s by deciding for everyone that his nephew was dangerous and needed to be dealt with. Another great evil is born because of the judgement of the peace-keeping righteous. And it’s just as Rey says, Luke created Kylo Ren, the same way the council created Darth Vader, and it began here in The Phantom Menace.

Today’s post ended up being a little darker and heavier than I wanted to start out with but hey, that’s Star Wars for ya! There is always darkness at the heart of fairy-tales and if you don’t see it then you’re missing the entire point of the story itself. But what about you guys, what quotes stand out to you when you watch The Phantom Menace? Are there any moments that you just can’t let go of? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll see you guys next time!

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The Journey Begins: The Phantom Menace

The year was 1999 when the biggest Star Wars event of my young life exploded into existence, changing everything I thought I knew about that galaxy far, far away and the people there who had captured my youthful attention. The Phantom Menace hit theaters in mid-May, a few months shy of my tenth birthday and it was like a gift from George Lucas himself. Fifth-grade was looming at the end of the summer, I was a year into my Pokémon craze and a year out from discovering my next great love – Harry Potter – and I had been a die-hard Star Wars fan my WHOLE life. Simply put…life was good.

It’s funny, because I don’t remember actually being in the theater watching the movie with my mom and little brother, but I do remember coming home and repeating Every. Single. Jar-Jar line to my dad and basically reenacting the entire movie. I was a storyteller even then, and Star Wars was the most dramatic, earth-shattering, mind-blowing story I had ever come across and this new installment was everything I never knew I needed, both as a viewer and a writer myself. To see the greatest villain of my childhood portrayed onscreen as a kid almost my age was astounding, add to that the fact that he was an absolute sweetheart was mystifying. How had this eager, helpful, little optimistic Ani become one of the darkest forces in the galaxy, someone capable of destroying entire worlds and torturing his own family?

And Padme! She was only a few years older than me, but she was already a stalwart queen and a determined, powerful woman I envied and respected equally. I saw her up there, in both her handmaiden and her queenly guise, living out the adventure and I wanted so badly to be her. Leia was always, always, amazing but with her ferocity and quick wit, she seemed so far above me, so completely unreachable to a nine-year-old, but Padme felt like she could be me. She was young, scared, intelligent, and determined, she didn’t know what to do but she was brave enough to try. She made me realize that we all start somewhere, that people aren’t just born Leia’s, but that they can become women like her and that that pathway started now. I’d known Leia my whole life but now I would grow up with Padme.

Not to mention the story itself…suffice it to say, I knew the story of Star Wars. But now there were even more stories, more pieces of the puzzle I had just blindly taken for granted before… and therein lies The Phantom Menace’s greatest gift and lesson. I already understood that there is great power in the telling of a story – A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi had already taught me that – but The Phantom Menace taught me there is always more to a story, and it’s the way you deliver it, (i.e. telling it in a certain order or a specific way) that elicits totally different responses. TPM didn’t change what happened in ANH, but it changed our entire perception of it. It forced us to ask those simple, powerful questions: how? Why? And it’s those questions that make us realize, we only know half of the story.

I never questioned Vader as the villain in the original saga, he was presented to me as such and I accepted it immediately. But after TPM I could never see Vader without picturing Ani’s face beneath the mask. The story was done, nothing could change Vader’s fate, but Ani’s was still uncertain, and I couldn’t give up on him, the kid who risked everything to help a group of strangers for no other reason than because it was the right thing to do. Ani had a story to tell and even knowing where it was going, I was determined to stay by his side until the very end, to hear the part that no one had ever heard before, the forgotten tale of that little slave-boy who loved his mother with all his heart.

Like I said, in the end you can’t change Vader’s story. Redeemed or not he goes down the darkest path possible and becomes one of the most powerful, terrifying villains the world has ever seen – whether you start his story from the beginning or from the middle. But by beginning in the middle and circling back once the tale is done, we aren’t left with just Vader, we are left with Anakin and that’s the whole point of Star Wars. There is always more to the story, always more to the people we see on screen, whether we want to admit that or not. We can accept Vader as bad simply because he is, or we can understand that he was once a person who made the choice to help people, and that choice led to more choices and those choices led to a path he never expected. We can ignore Anakin’s story if all we want to see is Vader, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. And this is something I use in my writing even now. Readers see the world as the writers choose to display it, I give you the side of a character I want you to see and you judge in an instant whether they’re good or bad or a million shades in between. You judge an entire lifetime with a moment, deciding a person’s fate and worth with my perception of the story as well as the main character’s coloring the entire thing in our favor. And I know you’re going to do it. There is unlimited power in that, and The Phantom Menace taught me to see it.

Now, back to 1999, flash forward three months and school had started again, and I was finally ten years old. Fifth grade was the epitome of my elementary school journey and conclusion of the first part of my young life. Just like in the galaxy far, far away, things were changing, I was gearing up to strike out on a new adventure, with new places and people and situations I could never dream of. It was exciting but hella scary. But for the time being, Star Wars was all anyone was talking about, Jar-Jar was everyone’s absolute favorite character, and I had pod-racer Ani plastered all over my new school supplies. Simply put, life was good.

*Starting this month, I will be focusing on one Star Wars film each month as we countdown to the final episodic film release in December. And if you couldn’t tell already, we will be starting at the beginning of the story as we know it: The Phantom Menace. I have some awesome posts already planned and I can’t wait to see what others emerge as inspiration strikes and my muse goes into SW overdrive. I hope you join me on this Star Wars adventure and make it the most fun it can possibly be so we can share this year together waiting and reminiscing about all those characters we love to love. This Monday I’ll be watching TPM (again) and doing a running commentary of my inner thoughts and opinions and all that fun stuff and I hope to see you there… I’ll bring the popcorn! – Tara

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