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I'm going to have to find a new way to title these posts. Roman numerals can get kind of unwieldy...

Anyway, let's look at the Senate scene in Episode I. It might just be my favorite Coruscant scene in this movie. First off, we get a dizzying view of the chamber where thousands of galactic representatives meet. It reveals the truly massive scope of the Republic...and how easy is to drown in a sea of bureaucracy. The scene is frustrating; of course it's frustrating. It's only a few minutes long, yet it seems to drag on interminably as we slog through procedure after procedure. Then, when Amidala finally has the chance to plead her case, she's immediately interrupted, and asked to defer. This brings us to her scathing response. "I will not defer. I have come before you to resolve this attack on our sovereignty now."

"I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee."

We see now why someone as young and comparatively inexperienced as Padmé managed to get herself elected ruler of an entire planet. Her gifts are on full display here; her eloquence (clearly not planned beforehand, as she's being compelled to speak extemporaneously), her passion, her ability to cut through all the political bickering straight to the heart of the problem. Her people are in peril of their lives and the Senate might be willing to form a committee to talk about it. Maybe. Well, she's not having it. The momentum of her resolve will carry her all the way back to Naboo, where she will reclaim her planet without any help from an ineffectual government.

Of course....in the process, she unwittingly paves the way for a Sith Lord to attain the highest position of power in the galaxy...and her planet's freedom will only be a temporary victory, as it will ultimately fall under the shadow of the Empire along with everything else in the galaxy. And so we see the quiet brilliance of Episode I. On its own, it offers a simple tale of a young queen saving her people in the face of galactic indifference and conspiring villains. But as the first chapter of the saga, it portrays the beginning of the end, a pyrrhic victory on the road to tragedy.

Next, some prophetic words from Yoda (though even he can't see the extent of the approaching disaster)...
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Thanks to everyone who watched my absurd One-Woman Star Wars! I'll probably start making Episode II after the summer, when my kids are back in school. I've never had more fun with such a silly endeavor.

So we have two major plot strands that play out on Coruscant: Amidala's attempts to gain the aid of the Senate, and the Jedi Council's response to Qui-Gon's discoveries. Both reveal the complacency of the Republic's most powerful institutions, ultimately leading to their undoing. For the Jedi, that complacency is illustrated quite effectively by Ki-Adi Mundi's declaration.

"The Sith have been extinct for over a millennium."

Oh really? If the Jedi Order hasn't caught a trace of them, then they don't exist? Don't you think there's even the slightest possibility the Sith could have found some sneaky way to escape your notice?

Mace: "I do not believe the Sith could have returned without us knowing."

Ah, well. That settles it. The Council's knowledge and foresight is pretty much infallible. If a threat that dire was rising up, you would know. Only one problem with that....

They've been around this whole time. Whoops.

By the film's conclusion, the Council will finally have to concede that the Sith aren't extinct after all -- after losing the one Jedi wise enough to recognize the danger early on -- but they're still blind to the identity of the Sith Lord who's hiding in plain sight. It's the beginning of the end for them. There's a similar line coming up from the librarian in Episode II, indicating that this arrogance extends beyond the Council. We see how you don't have to be evil to enable the downfall of goodness. You need only be complacent.

The Coruscant scenes are, overall, fraught with disappointment and frustration. The capital of the Republic should be a place where things happen; where problems get solved and people are striving together for the greater good. Instead, we witness inaction, delays and bureaucratic squabbles, and cool dismissals of anything that threatens the comfortable worldview of the establishment. Palpatine must, of course, carry the blame for taking down the Jedi and the Republic, but they sure helped make it easier for him.

Next, some or Amidala's impassioned words to Senate...
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A day late, sorry! I suppose posting that massive video on Wednesday threw me off my usual schedule. In any case, let's look at the master manipulation of one Senator Palpatine. I'll never understand why people complain about the Coruscant/political scenes in Episode I. First of all, they really don't take up a large percentage of the movie. But even if they were longer, why wouldn't you want a glimpse into the workings of a massive galactic-scale government? Particularly one that is, unbeknownst to its inhabitants, teetering on the verge of collapse? Don't we need to understand how the Republic fell and why it's so important to restore the democratic principles destroyed by the Empire's tyranny? I mean, that's the whole point of the prequels, examining the macroscopic decay of the galactic government as well as the intimate fall of a single man. And here is the Sith Lord at the center of it, playing the part of a kindly advisor.

"The Republic is not what it once was."


How I love this scene. While Palpatine puts on a show of offering a young leader counsel and support, he is slowly but surely manipulating her into serving his plots. Notice the staging. She sits, passive and nearly silent, while he talks and talks and talks, walking circles around her almost like a predator stalking its prey...or a spider weaving its web around its victim. His tone carries a convincing note of regret as he describes the corruption and slogging inaction that has enveloped the Senate. But in truth, he has been eagerly encouraging the Republic's decline, preparing for his eventual takeover. The Republic is not what it once was, and he's secretly delighted. Valorum is mired by baseless accusations, he takes care to note -- but Palpatine could very well be the one who started circulating those rumors, ensuring the current Chancellor's failure and subsequent take-down.

In the long run, almost every well-meaning character will play into Palpatine's plots. But within the smaller conflict of Episode I, at least, the queen is able to choose a different path than the one he has laid for her. She shakes off her passivity by the end of this scene, declaring that accepting Federation control is something she cannot do. And by post-Senate scene, she is confronting him with fierce energy of her own, no longer merely sitting and listening. She moves, she speaks, she acts, and she takes back Naboo. If only it had brought a lasting peace, but Palpatine has been playing the long game all along.

Next, some Jedi Council arrogance foreshadows their downfall...
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One of my favorite aspects of the Padmé/Anakin relationship is that it doesn't start with sweeping romance, longing looks and smoldering stares. It starts when they're children. So the foundation isn't built upon physical attraction (notwithstanding Anakin's admiration of her angel-like resemblance); it's built upon friendship and a mutual admiration of each other's desire for goodness and kindness. That's why my favorite Episode I scene between them is this one.

"My caring for you will remain."


It's a challenge, actually, to limit myself to only one line from this scene. Each one carries an important note of foreshadowing, character development and deepening of their friendship. So I'll go ahead and put the entire exchange of dialogue here. Why not?

Padmé: (Noticing Anakin huddling in the corner) Are you all right?

Anakin: It's very cold.

Padmé: (Bringing him a blanket) You come from a warm planet, Ani. A little too warm for my taste. Space is cold.

Anakin: You seem sad.

Padmé: The queen is worried. Her people are suffering...dying. She must convince the Senate to intervene, or...I'm not sure what will happen.

Anakin: (Gives her the japor pendant) I made this for you. So you'd remember me. I carved it out of a japor snippet. It'll bring you good fortune.

Padmé: It's beautiful. But I don't need this to remember you by. (Considers) Many things will change when we reach the capital, Ani. But my caring for you will remain.

Anakin: I care for you too...only I...

Padmé: Miss your mother.

Two people, scared and feeling out of control, seeking comfort in each other. I love how Padmé offers the physical warmth of a blanket as a sort of symbol of the emotional warmth she represents to him. And then there is the strange wistfulness hiding beneath the simple words "Space is cold."

I love that Anakin, miserable as he is, still notices her pain and tries to help with a simple trinket. There's a ton of foreshadowing here. "So you'd remember me." Years later, Padmé will still have this pendant, and she'll still remember him. She'll carry that memory to her grave. Good fortune? That's harder to say. Terrible pain and suffering will come, but ultimately it will be Anakin's connection to Padmé, through their children, that will save him from his darkness.

And Padmé must navigate carefully between the wish to prepare Anakin for her "disappearance" on Coruscant and the need to hide her true identity as the queen. "Many things will change. But my caring for you will remain" as we see when she tells him later as Amidala, "We are sure her heart goes with you." And that caring will continue, till death.

Lastly, we see the beginnings of Anakin's anguish at being separated from his mother. Padmé is deeply empathetic, the one person who understands. Which will make it all the harder when her loss is at the center of Anakin's fears in Episode III. But for now, this exchange establishes a sweetness and gentleness that lies at the core of their relationship.

Next, some ironic words from Palpatine.

But in the meantime, if I can work up the nerve, I might post a video which I've been working on for over two months. It's quite silly, but I've put quite a lot of time into it. (It's nearly an hour and a half long. Yeah.) I assumed I had achieved peak fandom with Les Starwarbles, but now I may have exceeded myself. We'll see...
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I love the rhythm of the Star Wars movies; the balanced to and fro between high-adrenaline action sequences and quiet moments. And sometimes those quiet moments are the most powerful. After the intensity of the podrace and its giddy, gleeful aftermath, we switch to the gentle but crucial scene when Qui-Gon informs Anakin of his freedom. Anakin's departure from his home and mother on Tatooine is heartbreaking even within the immediate context of Episode I's storyline, and proves to be pivotal for the overarching tale of Anakin's fall to darkness. Every line carries its own poignancy, and I could easily quote the entire sequence. But this line might be the most important -- in the scene, perhaps in the entire film, maybe the whole prequel trilogy.

"But you can't stop the change, any more than you can stop the suns from setting."


This is the crux of Anakin's struggles, and the ultimate reason for his downfall. He can't bear for anything beloved to fall out of his control, out of his reach. Change, the only sure thing in life, is unthinkable to him. And in spite of his mother's wise and caring words, he will fight that change with all his might. Nowhere in the prequels does this concept play out more strikingly than in this scene:



Anakin is literally racing against the setting suns, driven to save his mother from her inevitable fate. And when he can't save her, he momentarily succumbs to his darkest urges. How painfully ironic that it is her death that leads to his first significant descent to the Dark Side; she, the woman who taught him far better than that. But he's been without her influence for ten years, and while the Jedi have tried to teach him to avoid unhealthy attachment, they are also responsible for his prolonged separation from her. It's just a mess in so many ways.

In any case, back to the original scene. Shmi's wisdom is particularly meaningful because she must endure an equally painful sacrifice in letting Anakin leave. You can see that her heart is breaking, but she knows his chances of leading a better life and reaching his potential are far greater if he can leave Tatooine. She doesn't let her attachment to him get in the way of his future. She conceals the depth of her own pain for Anakin's sake, and she stands alone as he walks away from her.

Honestly, I get so emotional at this point, it's almost a relief to switch to the adrenaline of Darth Maul's attack on Qui-Gon. There's that tonal rhythm again. It really works.

Next, my favorite Padmé and Anakin scene in Episode I...
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Ah, Obi-Wan. Stuck on the sidelines, helplessly waiting while his master concocts some harebrained scheme to get the money for their ship's repairs. By the time Qui-Gon shows up with the parts, you can see his Padawan has just about reached the end of his tolerance for impulsive eccentricities.

"Why do I sense we've picked up another pathetic life form?"


We usually assume that the previous pathetic life form he's referring to is Jar Jar, but maybe it's not just him. Maybe this isn't the first mission where Qui-Gon has picked up strays with the vague sense that they might prove useful. My husband and I have even joked that Qui-Gon has been constantly on the hunt for potential Chosen Ones. Can you imagine Mace Windu wearily rolling his eyes about it -- "You think everyone's the Chosen One. Last week you thought it was that potted plant!"

But seriously. Obi-Wan is going to get some intense comeuppance for his snark this time. This "pathetic life form" is mere days from becoming his Padawan, and their relationship is arguably the most important he will ever know, for better or worse. He'll go from the unpredictable but steady care of his father-figure, Qui-Gon, to becoming the caretaker of a tumultuous surrogate son/brother in Anakin. And he'll learn very quickly that Anakin is far more than some helpless pitiable creature. Don't underestimate anyone's potential. That slave from an obscure planet could very well be the Chosen One.

Next, some words of wisdom from Shmi...
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One of the features of writing something that takes place before an already-existing story is the awareness of things the audience knows that the characters do not, creating marvelous opportunities for dramatic irony. Foreshadowing is different, more tantalizing, when we already know what's coming.

There are so many foreshadowing lines in Episode I. When Padmé demands, "Are you sure about this? Trusting our fate to a boy we hardly know?" there is tremendous irony in knowing that she will utterly bind her fate to Anakin, and though it's after more than a day's acquaintance, it's still a swiftly-made decision that will have life-long consequences. We can chuckle at Threepio's "I assure you, they will never get me onto one of those dreadful starships" and Obi-Wan's "We could be stuck here a very long time," knowing their respective futures of perilous space journeys and decades of exile on Tatooine. There's Anakin's heartbreaking line "I had a dream I was a Jedi. I came back here and freed all the slaves." Though we know the Jedi part is coming, before Episodes II and III came out we could only wonder whether the rest of the dream foretold his destiny or only his longed-for desires. And there are few moments more poignant than the exchange between Anakin and Qui-Gon. "No one can kill a Jedi." "I wish that were so." We know that Anakin will become Vader, the infamous Jedi-killer. And Qui-Gon is mere days away from being killed. Sob.

"I want to be the first one to see them all!"

For some reason, there's something particularly affecting for me about this particular line. The foreshadowing isn't quite as literal -- though Vader travels far and wide, I doubt he manages to visit every system in the galaxy. But it's so heartrending to consider the contrast between this wide-eyed, innocent optimism and the grim being that Anakin will become.

This is one of those moments that I'm particularly impressed by Jake Lloyd's performance. There's so much sweetness in his face as he gazes at the stars and voices his dreams. Like most young children, his imagination is the only limit to his aspirations. (Of course, his confidence is significantly abetted by his ability to see the future.) Obstacles like slavery don't worry him; they can and will be overcome. And you can see why Qui-Gon believes in him, even before he confirms his high midichlorian count. It's hard to resist his infectious enthusiasm. We might all benefit from gazing at the night sky with a fresh sense of wonder and excitement. It's all too easy to forget how remarkable it really is to have a galaxy before your view.

And then I can't help wondering if Vader ever remembered this moment during his long, lonely life among the stars. SOB.

Next, a little more snark from Obi-Wan...
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Here's a character that was largely well-received upon the release of Episode I. In fact, if there were any complaints about Darth Maul, it was that he was killed off too soon, wasting further opportunities to use such an awesome character.

In response I would answer: no, he wasn't. He didn't die too soon. He served his purpose perfectly and I wouldn't change a thing.

"At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge."


(I should probably note the existence of Darth Maul's reappearance in the Clone Wars series, but I only consider the show semi-canon, and that particular "plot twist" just makes me giggle uncontrollably. I remember people joking about the idea of Maul showing up with just his upper body attached to some kind of robo-legs. Joking. As in, wouldn't that be ridiculous? And I still think it's ridiculous. He's dead, guys.)

Now, let's consider one of the motives that drove Lucas to making the prequels in the first place. He was growing more and more concerned that people were idolizing Darth Vader, seeing him as cool and awe-inspiring. But he was meant to be a tragic figure, pitiable at best. So he set about telling Anakin's story, of how a young man with tremendous potential for good squandered it all out of fear and selfishness. And then lost everything he cared about. Villainy isn't cool. It's pathetic.

Darth Maul isn't the ultimate villain. He was never meant to be. He's a lot more imposing than the cowards leading the Trade Federation, but in the end he's just as much a pawn of Palpatine as they are. What is this revenge he's talking about? You can speculate about his backstory, but my sense is that most of his burning hatred toward the Jedi has been fostered and fed by Darth Sidious. He is a Sith Lord; therefore he hates the Jedi and must enact vengeance. But I doubt there's really anything truly personal in his drive for revenge. Certainly not toward Qui-Gon or Obi-Wan specifically. He attacks them because that's what he's been taught to do, and he obeys.

In the end, Maul's terrifying appearance -- the nightmarish swirls of red and black, the horns, the glowing eyes, the double-bladed saber he wields with deadly precision -- is nothing but a mask to distract us from the true danger, the phantom menace lurking behind it all. And when Maul is killed, it will ultimately prove a hollow victory as the master simply finds a new apprentice and proceeds with his plans for galactic domination. Maul, meanwhile, won't live to see the Sith destroy the Jedi order and take over the galaxy. He gets to be the face of the surprise reveal - "Whoops, guess the Sith weren't totally eradicated a thousand years ago after all!" but he reaps none of the rewards. He proved useful for a time, and was then easily discarded for someone with more political savvy, who will in turn be discarded for someone younger and far more powerful.

(Also of interest - each character who plays the role of primary villain in the three prequel episodes could be seen to represent one aspect of Vader's persona. Maul possesses his imposing physical presence and prowess, Dooku is a former Jedi turned Sith, and Grievous is a former organic being turned cyborg. Pretty intriguing when you think about it.)

Star Wars isn't about awesome villains doing awesome villainous things. It's about good and evil, and why good is good. The prequels in particular are about about the exploitation and/or corruption of well-meaning people, while episodes 4-6 explore how good can prevail once more. And Darth Maul's character fills exactly the little role he needs to fill; no more, no less.

Next time, some heartrending foreshadowing from Anakin...
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We tend to celebrate characters who are brash, outspoken, snarky and daring. The quiet ones often go unnoticed and under-appreciated. But I've always liked the quiet ones. Probably because I tend to be more on that end of the spectrum myself. That's probably why Shmi is one of my favorites and, I feel, deserving of far more appreciation.

"The Republic doesn't exist out here. We must survive on our own."


Much of Shmi's importance in the overall story of the saga resides in her influence on Anakin -- her presence during his childhood, but especially her absence once he leaves to become a Jedi. It's always a tricky thing to create a character whose primary impact comes from her absence and death (and the use of "her" isn't a coincidence -- it's overwhelmingly women who are placed in this role). All too often, the character is nothing more than a plot device, underdeveloped, her special place in the hero's heart implicit rather than explicitly developed. But Shmi's portrayal is saved from this danger by an excellent performance from Pernilla August and the details the story reveals of her personality and experiences.

She is kind and giving, in spite of her own very limited means. When Anakin brings home a bunch of strangers in need, he has no doubt that she'll take them in, because that's what their family does. She opens her home to them, brings them to her table and feeds them. Anakin even convinces her to let him enter the podrace by apparently repeating her own words -- "The biggest problem in this universe is no one helps each other."

However, there is an interesting edge to her softness. When Padmé young and idealistic, begins a rant against the injustice of slavery, Shmi stops her with a gentle but firm rebuke. The Republic doesn't exist out here. An interesting way to phrase it. She could have said, "Those laws don't matter as long as the Hutts are in control" or "Your Republic isn't as powerful as you might think" or any other rejoinder that could launch them into a sociopolitical discourse. But Shmi's view of things is pragmatic. For any practical purposes, there is no Republic. That's how she has learned to see the galaxy, as a necessary survival tactic. Help others, but don't assume that anyone will help you. Eke out your own survival.

Shmi keeps her intense emotions buried deep. She doesn't openly sob or scream, even as she's watching her son go into mortal peril in the podrace, even as she's letting him leave her forever. It's not that she doesn't feel the complete depth of those emotions -- she says outright that she dies every time Watto makes Anakin race. But as a slave she's surely learned that it's safer to keep a calm, straight face, to react mildly even to the most monstrous of situations. It's a tragedy that someone as extraordinary as Anakin was born into slavery, but a slave's life is just as tragic for someone as gentle and good as Shmi. I'm very glad to know that this changes sometime before Episode II and she spends her last years in comparative happiness. But I'll discuss that more in later installments.

Next, a few more terse words from a Sith Lord...
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Along with duality, another crucial motif of the Star Wars saga is the concept of identity and how it can be formed and altered. Visually, this motif plays out with symbols like masks (and unmasking), uniforms and other evocative costumes, and even the environments that represent characters or races. But there is a verbal component as well, and that is the use of names.

"I'm a person, and my name is Anakin!"


On the surface, this line might seem nothing more than a clumsy way to let us know what this boy's name is. But I've always found it highly appropriate that we're shown from the very beginning how Anakin dislikes being identified as a slave, takes his personhood very seriously, and believes that said personhood is tied directly to his name. It's heartrending, because we know that he will ultimately become enslaved far more tragically to the Emperor. And that enslavement will be symbolized by a new name, that of Vader.

This flash of anger, this insistence on being identified by the correct term, strike me as very similar to the moment Luke speaks his father's former name and Vader snaps, "That name no longer has any meaning for me." His furious reaction makes it patently obvious that the word Anakin is, in fact, painfully meaningful for him. Any reference to his former self must be shoved away, denied and spurned. But that only proves how powerful a force his original identity remains, somewhere deep inside him.

Anakin will bear many identities throughout his life -- slave, celebrated podracer, Jedi Padawan and Jedi Knight (and how he bristles at the notion of not attaining the rank of Master -- kind of gives new meaning to Vader's boast to Obi-Wan -- "Now I am the Master"), secret husband, Sith Lord, aspiring (but never attained) ruler of the Empire. In the end, however, the identity that saves him is not one defined by his abilities or his social status or how others view him. It is an identity based upon the ability to act with complete unselfishness and sacrifice -- that of father. It is only when his love for his son overcomes his need for power and control that he regains his personhood at last and becomes Anakin once more.

Next time, something from Anakin's mother....
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I've said it before, and I'll say it again, without apology. I love this character.

"Meesa day starting pretty okeeday with the brisky morning munching..."


He's a hapless klutz, but he's kind-hearted and always means well. And I love this scene where he is introduced to Padmé. She's the first character who appears to like him immediately, without reservation. This says a lot about her capacity for compassion and being non-judgmental, which become particularly important once she reveals herself to be the queen. She asks, "You're a Gungan, aren't you?" with simple curiosity, not an ounce of disgust or rancor toward the race that has historically spurned her people.

His response, meanwhile, says a lot about Jar Jar. I love this whole speech. He's so artless, almost child-like, in his re-telling of the events that swept him up into all of this. And the goofy words are just so much fun to say. "Brisky morning munching" is a great synonym for breakfast; I should really use it more often. And his bewilderment and terror at the current situation? Honestly, I could see myself responding the same way, though perhaps with slightly different wording. "I have no idea what happened. One second I was happily getting breakfast, then suddenly this Jedi shows up and everything's exploding and I'm flying on a ship into outer space. I'M TERRIFIED." (Also, when he says he's getting "berry berry" scared, I'm always thinking, "Oh, Jar Jar has a thiamine deficiency, huh? Better get some more whole grains into his diet!" Um, just a little nutritionist joke there.)

In any case, the friendship between Jar Jar and Padmé is a vital precursor to the alliance between Gungan and Naboo that will ultimately defeat the Federation, and it all starts here, with a scared fugitive pouring out his fears to a sympathetic handmaiden. Maybe after she finishes cleaning Artoo, Padmé goes and finds a suitable brisky morning munching for Jar Jar. It's just the kind of thing she would do.

Next time, we'll finally hear from Anakin....
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Sometimes you just need a character who can provide little snippets of exposition, someone who can help the audience navigate the twists and turns of a fast-paced plot or intricate world-building. And if you're going to be that character, why not do it with with gusto, fully embracing the role of Captain Obvious? Such is Ric Olié.



I love everything about this goofy minor character. Ric's lines are never complex or nuanced; they're simply the necessary connective tissue to help us understand that the ship is in danger, or Artoo has just miraculously saved the day, or they're arriving at the city planet of Coruscant. But his delivery is so earnest, so wide-eyed and fully invested, that I can't help grinning every time he opens his mouth. His lines are memorable to me not in spite of but because of their cheesiness. "There's the blockade!" "That little droid did it!" "Coruscant! The entire planet is one big city!!" Always with an exclamation point. I love it.

I enjoy "Power's back!" in particular because it's infinitely quotable. I feel obligated to say it every time a power outage is restored, with that same intense Ric-ish delivery. It's almost as fun as saying, "Commence primary ignition" when starting a car, or "Full reverse! Chewie, lock in the auxiliary power" when you're about to drive backwards. It's simple; there's no brilliant hidden meaning or subtlety, but Star Wars isn't all about deep meanings for me (though obviously that's a big part of it). It's also just plain fun. I don't think it's a mistake that the character Ric interacts with most, other than his fellow pilots, is Anakin, the little boy who's about to have the whole galaxy opened up to him. The thrill of seeing Coruscant and Naboo for the first time, and learning how to fly a ship -- we get to see that through Anakin's eyes. And Ric's delight at sharing it with him is infectious. When you think about it, there's something pretty special about a very busy pilot who still takes the time to listen to a newly-freed slave boy and give him an impromptu lesson or two. Cheesy lines, yes, but Ric's a good guy.

Next time, something from Jar Jar...
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Another pithy quote from Qui-Gon. This one won't be a surprise to anyone, I'm sure. But it's still lots of fun to explore.

"There's always a bigger fish."


First off, the delivery is perfect. Wry and understated, considering they just barely escaped being devoured by a giant undersea monster. That's Qui-Gon for you -- perfectly assured that things will work out for the best, even when it seems patently obvious that disaster is looming. And then we have the delightful ambiguity of this statement. In this situation, the bigger fish ended up being a positive factor for them. But what if the bigger fish comes after the bongo next? Is a bigger fish really something to rejoice over?

On top of that, as a symbolic statement, this line provides marvelous foreshadowing for a film with a hidden "bigger fish" -- a phantom menace, if you will -- pulling the strings of smaller fish like the Trade Federation. Even the formidable Darth Maul is little more than a pawn within the larger schemes of Sidious. There is nothing more deliciously ironic to me than the parade scene at the finish of this film, wherein our heroes celebrate their defeat of the Federation -- while the actual mastermind behind the whole invasion is standing right there. One step closer to his plot to take over the galaxy. Hiding his evil nature beneath his benevolent smile. It gives me chills every time. I wonder if Qui-Gon, with all his outside-the-box wisdom, could have spotted the true bigger fish if he had survived. We can only wonder.

Next, some words from one of my favorite minor characters....

(Note: I've backed up my journal at Dreamwidth and will be crossposting there for the foreseeable future.)
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Returning to the regular chronology, let's take a look at our heroes' trip to Otoh Gunga. I remember being absolutely enthralled by this sequence upon my first viewing. I'll never understand the crabby nonsense about how special effects ruin everything and we should have real settings and practical effects and blah blah blah. Now, shoddy effects can certainly be distracting. But the idea that something has to really be there on set to be convincing? Bah. Why can't we have more faith in an audience's imagination? And the actors, for that matter. I love being transported to bizarre worlds that couldn't possibly exist here. That's part of the fun of the saga.

And we'd never been treated to something like this before. An underwater city, with peculiar bubble-like walls that kept out water but allowed entry if you slowly passed through them. A race of proud, amphibious beings who look down on outsiders with contempt. An imposing tribunal who passes judgement on wrongdoers with an arrogant assurance of their infallibility, who dismiss the invasion aboveground as completely irrelevant to the Gungan people, safe in their hidden refuge.

And then we get Obi-Wan's line.

"You and the Naboo form a symbiont circle. What happens to one of you will affect the other; you must understand that."


We've already seen hints of the overarching theme of symbiosis, but this is the first overt reference. I like that it's spoken by Obi-Wan; it shows that he has worked hard to understand his master's teachings of the Living Force. I also think the half-pleading, half-chastising tone is fitting for a younger, more impetuous character. Qui-Gon would certainly like the Gungan bosses to understand their interconnected role with the Naboo, but he's not going to demand that they listen to a lecture when there are more immediate urgent concerns. Obi-Wan is a little less patient with them. To him it's so patently obvious, and therefore quite frustrating, that their complacency will be their undoing. Qui-Gon is content, meanwhile, to use a little mental manipulation to expedite their journey. Always the pragmatist.

But any wise audience member won't dismiss the line as quickly as Boss Nass does. First of all, it provides some useful foreshadowing to the moment when the Federation's invasion does, in fact, disrupt the haven of Otoh Gunga, leading at last to their alliance with the Naboo. Secondly, what a beautiful and universal concept it truly is! This weird alien world and the vastly different human civilization above share an intrinsic bond whether they are aware of it or not, and certainly whether they like it or not. There are many real world versions of this concept, from John Donne's "No man is an island" to the Circle of Life described in the Lion King. Who we are, and what we do, will affect those around us, and the reverse is just as true, whether we're considering our fellow humans or other life forms or the very planet on which we live. We will only discount the wellbeing of others at the expense of our own wellbeing.

Notice that the blame for the rancor between the two peoples can't be laid entirely at the feet of the Gungans. Boss Nass expresses disgust at the Naboo's superior, arrogant attitude, and I don't think he's entirely fabricating. I can easily imagine humans, with their preconceived notions of what an advanced civilization looks like, would see the Gungans and immediately assume they're primitive, simple-minded, even child-like. If only they hadn't needed an extreme situation like an invasion for both groups to finally overcome their prejudice and embrace their symbiont as an essential part of life! At the risk of being extremely cheesy, I hope we can all find our place in the symbiont circle without being compelled by such extremes.

Next time, one of my favorite lines from Qui-Gon...
matril: (Default)
I'm going to cheat a little here and go backwards. I've been doing the quotes chronologically until now, but I realized that I wanted to cover two lines in one entry. Both come from that pesky guy who never lets you see the top half of his face.

"I will make it legal."
"Not for the Sith."


With Darth Sidious and Palpatine, we have a different kind of duality as compared to Amidala/Padmé or the Gungans and Naboo. It's a deceptive, manipulative dichotomy, between the apparently benevolent Senator and his hidden evil nature. The secret connection between the two identities is indicated from the very start, as both make their initial appearance via hologram. Both are a form of manipulation of those with whom he is communicating, though his exploitation of Amidala is more subtle, beneath the veneer of helping the queen and her people. He appears kind and helpful and honestly bewildered that the ambassadors haven't arrived yet.

As Sidious, however, he is brusque, dismissive of the slightest sign of cowardice ("I don't want this stunted slime in my sight again") and sneering. And then there is his utter contempt for the rule of law. "I will make it legal." There we have his entire system of political belief, summed up in five words. His will, his word, makes the law. Not the will of the people, not a collection of elected representatives; just one ultra-powerful being, bending the galaxy however he pleases.

And later, as the sniveling Federation leaders admit that Queen Amidala has slipped from their grasp and will be impossible to find, he offers the brief but highly effective retort, "Not for the Sith." This is accompanied by Darth Maul's sudden impressive entrance, the first time we get a view of his nightmarish visage, terrifying even in the fuzzy blue of a hologram. So we don't have too much trouble believing that the Sith are, indeed, a formidable force (sorry, but it's such a common word, the puns are inevitable) to be reckoned with.

Sidious speaks in curt, harsh tones. Palpatine, as we'll see in later scenes on Coruscant, rambles on and on in a friendly and solicitous manner. But that chatty kindness is nothing but a mask, and beneath it all is a man who could send a chill up your spine with just a handful of well-chosen words.

Next time, the theme of duality continues with some words from Obi-Wan...
matril: (matril)
I could select a number of wise, pithy quotes from the maverick Jedi hero of Episode I, but I'm starting with this because of its marvelous acerbic edge.

Read more... )
matril: (matril)
One of my favorite themes woven throughout the story of Episode I is duality. True, it wasn't an entirely new concept for the Star Wars saga, as we had seen contrasts of light and dark, good and evil, and so forth in the original trilogy, but it becomes truly prominent in this episode. Most of all, the point is made over and over again that duality is not just a simplistic division between bad and good. More often it involves two halves of a whole that could not exist apart from each other, and must act in balance if they are to function effectively. I'll get into this more in future entries as I explore the concept of symbionts, but right now I'm referring to Amidala and Padmé.
Read more... )
matril: (matril)
Now let's move on to the first quip of many that we'll hear from Obi-Wan. You all probably knew I was going to include this one. But did you know that I would use it as a jumping-point for a long discourse on Obi-Wan's character development? Well, if you've read any of my other long-winded posts, then yes, you probably could have guessed that as well.
Read more... )
matril: (matril)
I have an idea for a series of posts about the prequels. I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with it. One of the most common complaints detractors tend to obsess over is the notion of clunky dialogue. I don't deny that badly-written lines can make the audience cringe, but honestly, "clunky" is fairly subjective. It's pretty much impossible to create a consensus of what constitutes well-written dialogue. And I'm not going to drive myself crazy with the apologist route. Star Wars has always had cheesy lines, from Luke's Tosche Station whine to Threepio's "Curse my metal body!" and many many more. For me, honestly, the cheesiness is part of its charm. Dialogue is generally just a means to an end for Lucas; writing the script is one of his least favorite parts of the process. He tells the story through visuals, through motion, through strategic editing, through the explosive kinetic quality of cinema.

And yet -- and yet -- Star Wars is still eminently quotable. Not every single line of dialogue, of course not. If every line was a scintillating display of wordplay, it would get fatiguing pretty darn fast. It's the occasional quote that stands out and becomes iconic. "May the Force be with you" "I find your lack of faith disturbing" as well as the more humorous ones like "Let the Wookiee win." The prequels are not an exception. And I'm going to celebrate my favorite lines, in chronological order from Episode I to Episode III, devoting a post to each one.
Read more... )

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