Attack Of The Clones: Once Upon A Cautionary Tale

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“Why didn’t you tell me there was danger? Why didn’t you warn me?” — Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles

Like most avid readers, I’ve learned some of my greatest life lessons from stories. Their wealth of knowledge and wisdom has fed my soul for 29 years and it is because of all of them that I am the woman I am today. Fairytales, mythology, fantasy, romance, classics, adventures and darkness, I am a keeper of tales and once-upon-a-times. I know no better way to impart knowledge to other beings than through words, written and spoken alike — for they contain infinite power and magic.

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Perhaps because I think in terms of what book or film reminds me of this or that particular situation, I often wonder what books and stories my favorite characters are exposed to in their worlds? What words guided their lives, gave them peace and comfort, or warned them of danger still to come?

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I know to guard my heart and my senses because of stories like Star Wars, Romeo and Juliet, and Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I know that people who we love and are loved by can deceive because of Jane Eyre, and I know that love is very rarely ever easy because of Wuthering Heights. I am surrounded by stories that explain my world and it’s consequences to me, but what tales did Anakin and Padme have to teach them that fate isn’t always kind? What fairytales warned them to love moderately, or to perceive the monster lurking behind the face of a friend? Was there a galactic Romeo and Juliet that a lovelorn Padme quoted listlessly to herself when Anakin was sent into battle for months at a time? Did Anakin whisper desert folklore from his childhood to help himself fall asleep at night?

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“My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I AM Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.” — Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

Ultimately there is a difference between knowing something and understanding why it is the way it is. The clarity is found in example, in finding yourself in another. Stories give us that clarity. What stories did Anakin and Padme have? Did they find themselves in others? Would it have saved them if they had? Or did they choose to look away, to hide from the truth that could have set them free? They knew their love was forbidden, but did they have an example to show them what that really meant?

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In the end, the romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala is one of the most beautiful and tragic love stories in modern storytelling. Full of forbidden desire, angst, fear, secrets, and ill-fated love, it is truly a cautionary tale for the ages. It teaches the audience what its own heroes failed to learn: to love carefully, wisely, and without falsehood. But above all it teaches that sometimes, no matter your intent, fate has a hand in the way your story progresses. Sometimes you can do everything right, and still fall. Because Once Upon a Time is never a guarantee of happily ever after, it’s only a gateway to a story yet to be told and truths yet to be discovered.

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Attack Of The Clones: Naboo — The End Of The Fairytale


Star Wars has always had fascinating planets with beautiful – if not deadly – scenery and ambiance, but nothing in the Original Trilogy prepared me for seeing the beauty of Naboo for the first time back in 1999. The land was lush, with bright green grass and architecture that spoke of grandeur and elegance, even to a nine-year-old. It seemed fitting to me and my youthful sensibilities, that that’s where Padme Amidala came from, a beautiful, elegant planet for a beautiful, elegant woman. And when we were lucky enough to return to that shimmering world in Attack of the Clones, I was not only thrilled, but immediately entranced and mesmerized by the sheer tranquility of the Lake Country where Padme and Anakin took refuge after her deadly assassination attempts.

To me, Naboo symbolizes the very best the galaxy has to offer. I’s an Eden amongst the almost hellish desert and frostbitten worlds we more-often find our heroes in — and no disrespect to the Ewoks, but it’s a little more upscale as forest worlds tend to go. From what we see of its landscapes, cities, and hideaways, Naboo has a near perfect blend of nature and man, with man-made structures that enhance natural beauty, not attempt to overpower or overshadow them. And after reading Queen’s Shadow and even Leia: Princess of Alderaan, I feel like I understand its people and cultures better, their desire to be of service and to create art, celebrate life, and sustain peace.

With its rounded edges, shimmering waterfalls, quiet strength, and above all tranquil peace, Naboo is what is missing from the sequel trilogy. We began TFA with our core cast on the desert planet of Jakku, a callback to Luke and Tattooine from the originals, but Luke was always the middle of the story – the real beginning was on Naboo itself in Episode I. Over the course of the first two trilogies, we’ve gone from Naboo to Tattooine, in essence from Eden to Hell/ Paradise to the Underworld, and now in the last trilogy we’re back again in the desert, and there’s only one place I can think of that the saga can truly end, coming full circle, and that’s back where the story began: Naboo – paradise.

The story of Star Wars is timeless and cyclical, it mirrors and repeats itself in a thousand intricate ways, and what it’s ultimately shown us is the fall of the hero. Both Anakin and Luke start off strong in their heroic journeys, but overtime they stumble and fall, each going into their own isolated versions of the Hell/the Underworld: a volcanic, firepit of a world, and a lonely isolated island with no one to admire and love either of them for their heroic deeds. And neither truly escape those self-imposed Hells, Anakin dies in space, and Luke dies still on his spit of land in the middle of a raging sea. Both achieve redemption and glimpse the bright peace of the Force, either in the love shining in his son’s eyes, or the majestic double sunset that cries of home, but the audience and the redeemed characters are never taken back to the ultimate peaceful calm of Naboo. I think that is purposeful.

What better way to end the saga of the Skywalkers than where it all began – and with another Skywalker male in dire need of redemption, forgiveness, and love. To most, Kylo Ren’s redemption is the one that is most uncertain, but that’s why it is the most needed. Anakin committed many heinous deeds and actions, but because we met him as a child and saw the conditions he lived in and the suffering he faced, we are much quicker to forgive him. And Luke is so universally revered as an untouchable hero that most miss his failings all together, so his redemption is admittedly glossed over because the majority of the SW audience can’t see past the young hero we were given 40 years ago.

But Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo is another matter altogether. Kylo is someone we met when he was already an adult, we have no cute or endearing memories to put beside all the bad things he’s done. And he’s committed arguably the most heinous crime of all: he took Han Solo away from us. Let’s be honest, the majority of non-Kylo fans hate him, not because he killed his own father, but because he took something from the audience themselves, he took someone from us that we’ve had for almost a lifetime. He took our Han away. And that is unforgivable.

To most.

So, of our three troubled Skywalker men, no one needs more forgiveness from not only their own world, but from the audience and our world, than Kylo Ren. He needs something truly epic to shift the tide of favor but once it’s been done, he needs what no other redeemed hero has been given yet: the peace and healing that is found on Naboo. The story needs to complete itself, it needs to end with the fairytale quality that it’s always showcased so well, and loop back around to end at the beginning. Because that’s the beauty of Star Wars, whether you start at the beginning or dive in at the middle, you are always led back to the brightest hope for a happy ending, so that no matter how many times you tell the story, you are left with hope and a glimpse at what might be happily ever after.


 

 

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The Phantom Menace: A Queen’s Victory

Obi-Wan Kenobi may have overcome the epic new darksider Darth Maul in the finale of The Phantom Menace with one of the most powerful songs in the history of film playing in the background, but I think it’s safe to say that the true victory of the first installment of the Star Wars saga is unequivocally Padme Amidala’s. With her unerring bravery, compassion, intellect, determination, and lack of self-sabotaging ego, Padme goes from a young Queen under attack to a bold ruler who negotiates and fights both on and off the battlefield to secure the safety of both herself and her world’s peoples. Even with the accompaniment of two of the order’s most capable Jedi sent to assist her, it is Padme who ultimately formulates the plan to end the Trade Federation’s unlawful occupation of Naboo and while doing so, mend the tattered relations with the other Sentient race of Naboo, the Gungans.

In a series that is so dominated by masculine heroes and ideals, I think it’s incredibly impactful and telling that the prequels begin the origin of the Skywalker saga with the victory of a woman, a Queen. I have no issue with Luke as the main hero in the originals, he’s the one I’ve rooted for my whole life, the man I emulated and hoped to be like. Leia was strong and fierce and amazing, but she is sometimes overshadowed by her twin brother and even that rascal who won her heart: Han Solo. The victories, even the typically more feminine emotional ones, were mostly male accomplishments. So when the first great battle of the new trilogy was won by a girl about my age, let me tell you, it made me feel so powerful, so capable of anything.

“I will sign no treaty Senator. My fate will be no different to that of our people.” — Queen Amidala

And what made it even more impactful was witnessing Padme’s frailty, her fear and hesitation, because not only did it humanize her, but it made her so much more real. Leia was ALWAYS the baddest b*tch in the galaxy and she knew it, but it was nice and important to see the perceived weakness grow into the strength that saves the day.

Over the course of the film, we are visually bombarded with similar scenes of Padme trying to stand her ground and make life or death decisions while her councilmen, pilots, head of security, Jedi ambassadors, senators, and even the lackluster Supreme Chancellor all vie to make their opinion her decision.

Even after being whisked away by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Padme is lost and noticeably alone amongst her troupe of male saviors, but she doesn’t let that fear keep her from acting. (Yes, she has her handmaidens by her side some of the way – and yes, they are hella epic – but onscreen we don’t get too much of them.) She refuses to be left behind while Qui-Gon scouts Mos Espa for supplies to fix their ship, and it is her determination to see the world for herself and her curiosity of life outside of her own limited view that leads her to understand the issues of the galaxy at large – which later impacts her decision to remain in the political arena once her term as Queen has ended. She meets with people who have no voice, people who have no choice in their own lives… it’s not surprising that afterward she becomes one of the loudest voices in the room.

“I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!” — Queen Amidala

It’s here that Padme meets the only other impactful woman in The Phantom Menace: Shmi Skywalker. Shmi is a slave and an only mother raising an extremely gifted young son on a planet where she is considered cattle to be bought and sold, won and lost to the highest bidder. She easily could have been portrayed as bitter, a spiteful shrew how hates the galaxy for doing her wrong, but instead we’re given a powerful, peaceful woman who sees the evils thrown her way and stands tall with pride and compassion. I have more to say about Shmi, but that’s for another post…suffice it to say, we see a noticeable difference in Padme after she encounters the Mother of the Skywalker line.

“The Republic doesn’t exist out here. We must survive on our own.” — Shmi Skywalker

The Padme that emerges from Tattooine is more grounded, surer of herself and the actions she must take. She still doesn’t know how to right the wrongs of the Trade Federation, but now she sees the plight of others outside of herself and her people…which in time leads her to Jar-Jar and the hidden strength of the Gungan army. Padme’s decision to appeal to the Gungans showcases the greatest lesson she’s learned since leaving her home-planet: that great evil can be conquered not only by force, but by intelligence and compassion. It is her humility and lack of ego, something she learned to put aside on Tattooine, that convinces the Gungans to help her, and it is only with their combined efforts that they free their planet.

“I ask you to help us… no, I beg you to help us.” — Queen Amidala

This is Padme’s greatest victory: a battle for justice and peace hard-won by brute force and intellect, her compassion for life as well as her passion for her planet, her selflessness as a woman, and her power as a Queen. A true middle-ground, a shade of gray, placed here in the first movie as an example of what can come of later is others follow in her footsteps. I can only hope to see her legacy live on in her grandson, another leader who has the greatest lesson to learn and everything that matters to either win…or lose.

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The Phantom Menace: The Emergence and Importance of Fate


When I think about The Phantom Menace, I am overwhelmingly struck by the quintessential fairy-tale nature of the entire film. The scope, the dreamy colors, the adventure, and dangers, and daring! It’s all there and so are the familiar characters we as an audience know by heart: the age-old damsel in distress (who valiantly saves herself IMHO), the Arthurian-esque knights of morality who color our perception of good and evil for better or worse, the archetypal lost prince with an uncertain destiny, and larger than life villains who seek to overthrow goodness and humanity, etc. etc. In essence, TPM truly is the “Once Upon a Time…” segment of the Star Wars saga and without it the entire series is immediately unmoored and unbalanced.

The trials and tribulations of the future don’t mean as much or pack as much of an emotional punch when you don’t know that before Vader was Vader, he was Anakin, a young slave who dreamed of setting his people free and who opened his heart and his home to people in need and risked his life to help them when no one else would. And it’s hard to care about the momentarily-mentioned broken bond between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in A New Hope (when so much else is happening onscreen with Luke and Leia and Han) unless you’ve witnessed the two meeting for the first time and felt the ripples of fate move across the surface of the galaxy. And it’s difficult to feel pity for a man who makes ALL THE WRONG DECISIONS when it comes to his family unless you know that that entire future of that family began with a little boy innocently asking a beautiful young girl if she was an angel.

And that’s what I love so much about The Phantom Menace. More than any other prequel film, it shows the working hands of fate – or the force – and all that was required for the story that we know and love to come into existence. Padme’s world had to be invaded so she would leave it, her ship had to be damaged so it would need repairs, and Ani had to be a slave so he would be in the shop when Padme walked in looking for help. Because how else would a Queen from a lush, green planet meet a slave boy from a harsh, desert world?

In short, this movie had to happen, these events had to take place for the rest of the story to mean anything. Without TPM the story of Darth Vader is still there, but the emotional impact is stunted, and the characters only partially fleshed out. After all, a villain is only a villain at a certain time in his life, and a hero is only a hero when the story is told a certain way.

 

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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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