Friday, March 9, 2018

Attack of the Clones: The Opener

The middle part of a Star Wars trilogy is the subverter. It takes what's supposedly a simple opener and unpacks it, bringing all its themes out into the open. It's always the most controversial of the trilogy, and is almost always the most hated chapter of Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back seems to get a free pass because people are able to recognize its brilliance, but The Last Jedi is still too young for all the people who hate it to realize that they're wrong and the Attack of the Clones is the clumsiest of the episodes, by far and away, because the subject matter isn't something most people would like to admit to. Romance is not love. Love isn't necessarily a very pretty thing. In fact, love can be a brutal thing, filled with mistakes and wrong-doings that make it impossible to sort out exactly what is going on. Falling in love is a combination of self-delusion, flaunting of authority, and something unbearably beautiful that somehow gets mixed in, almost by accident. The hope is that the unbearable beauty that we were made for wins out.

So no, nothing like a Nicholas Sparks movie, which is the definition of girl porn.

I don't think anyone is going to like this movie, but it is important. I think Leon the Professional is important to watch, as is 10 Cloverfield Lane, but do I like those movies? Absolutely not. Leon the Professional and 10 Cloverfield Lane practically put me in a nuthouse when I watched them (the Army finished that job years later) because they were uncompromisingly  true. They held a mirror to my soul and I did not like what I saw. And Attack of the Clones' statement is similarly uncomfortable. The boy is a creepy horn-dog who can't think straight cause he's hurting so badly, and the girl, while more mature in appearance, is in just as much pain and is just as liable to do something as stupid as the boy.  So no, not happy material to cover.

It's ten years later, the biggest time jump in Star Wars. The Republic is on the verge of breaking apart and there's talks of an army needing to be drafted for the Republic in case the Separatists, who I'm sure have no reason to want to leave, attack the Republic. So we open up on Padme Amidala, now a senator-

Wait, WHAT????
She's doing what??

Are you noticing a pattern of these before and after shots of our last few presidents? The stress of leading the most powerful nation on Earth ages them. None of these people have ever taken up public office again. They're finished. The stress of the Presidency is horrific, in part because it's a limited time. You're trying to get everything you want done as fast as possible with the worst possible people in the world (politicians!) as your tools and can you see why they generally don't do an elected office ever again? 

But none of them hold a candle to Padme Amidala, who was not only elected monarch of her planet, but did it at fourteen years old. Can you say "groomed for power" with me? An entire planet wound up on this girl's shoulders and then, on top of it all, she had to go to war, betraying her own ideals (and probably that of her planet) to save it. Can you imagine just the sheer strain of having to do that? Oh, and then it's all over you and have to get on with your life and you're only a little older than twenty?

No takers?

Padme is overstretched by the time this movie starts. Instead of doing the smart thing and enjoying the rest of her life in retirement, maybe going around and kissing babies and making motivational speeches on how you too can have your childhood destroyed if your parents are ambitious enough, she's thrown herself into an even large arena, with even less control than what she had to begin with. Is it hubris? Perhaps. Most people know when they've bitten off way more than they can chew but Padme just keeps going. But it may just be that she doesn't know what else she's going to do.  In one of her moments of rare honesty, Padme declares she should never have come back in a half-strangled shock that yet another person has died for her ambitions to stay relevant. 

The years haven't been that kind to Anakin either. Padme didn't keep in contact, essentially dumping him on Coruscant, leaving Anakin to make up a fake Padme in his horny teenaged mind.  His life as a Jedi is pretty bad too. We get a good taste of the Jedi that Obi-Wan grew up to be: talented, yet insecure on account of that stupidly powerful apprentice he has, who he's bullied and squashed at every opportunity. Brothers shouldn't raise brothers, usually, and Obi-Wan is the stereotypical big brother. And Anakin resents every last second of it. He knows he's better than his master, who refuses to acknowledge that Anakin's talents are far, far, far greater than his. Oh, and that's not the only thing that's got Anakin's under stress. He keeps having nightmares about his mother in pain, the mother that the Jedi never freed or did anything about. There's got to be a lot of guilt about that too, too. But he somehow believes that the Jedi the good guys, still. I'm not sure entirely how, especially with Obi-Wan, who writes off these visions as dreams and promises in the truly tragic line that "Dreams fade in time."

No, they don't, Obi-Wan. Nobody and nothing is ever really gone.

When they're assigned to protect Padme she and Anakin have what's probably the first real conversation in ten years. It doesn't go so well in Anakin's eyes but he's nineteen, what does he know? But when somebody sends two small worms to kill her Anakin breaks in and Obi-Wan, desperate to one-up his padawan, jumps out a window several hundred stories up. Sometimes we bring the worst out of each other, and that's so true with Anakin and Obi-Wan at this stage. Obi-Wan's never been able to define himself as a Jedi, distinct from Qui-Gon, and Anakin has been so consistently bullied he can't help but one up his "mentor".

This leads us to the changeling chase. I'm not sure why people question why a changeling wouldn't be able to walk into Padme's building at the height of the Republic's technological prowess, or snipe Padme when the assassin knows there's security measures blocks and blocks and blocks out, but people sometimes don't make sense to me. A small, quiet droid with a biological agent that will kill anything it touches seems like the best bet... but what do I know? I'm just writing a blog. Thematically speaking a changeling being sent to kill Padme makes absolute sense. Nothing is as it appears and, deep under the skin, there's a monster waiting. Kinda like the Republic. And Anakin. And Palpatine. And Dooku. The chase, of course, ends with the changeling dead. Jango didn't want to end up tied to this, but one changeling against two Jedi is hardly a fair fight and he kills her, confident that Kenobi can't trace his darts back to Kamino.

Jedi Librarian's response to the idea there might be something missing from the archives? "If it isn't here, it doesn't exist". That's pretty much the attitude of our conscious mind to our own hidden aches and pains a lot of the time. "If I don't remember it, it doesn't exist." Or "If I didn't catch it at the time it didn't happen". Or how about this one? "If it's weird, it's obviously dumb and I shouldn't pay attention to it". Each statement is what we say when we reject the Shadow. It's not a smart move, but we do it anyway.

We end this blog post by going back to Anakin and Padme, who are now stuck on a beautiful planet... together... alone... WEARING THAT.

I know, the flannel's really distracting. Why, George, WHY?
Yeah yeah yeah, I'm not saying that Padme was asking to be kissed or anything like that, but criminy's sake the situation requires the more modest and conservative stuff , which she's used to wearing. Not to mention, y'know, form hiding. You're alone with someone who's clearly sexually attracted to you, confused as to what your own feelings are, and this is what you pick, something uncharacteristically showy?? No, something's up here. And Anakin knows it. So when he leans in it's from left to right and it's understandable on some level. Her pulling back and him accepting that? Also understandable. It's human to make mistakes.

But this? This is just moronic on both their parts.
Anakin reveals his feelings, but now they're tinged with the right to left wrongness of it all. He's respectful, even poetic, but it's just not the right thing. She'd said no, and here she makes a decision that respects the whole of the society they're in. The Jedi can't look like they're favoring any particular senator and she, knowing very well how badly they can be used by others, makes the sane choice. And Anakin, heartbroken though he is, actually loves her enough to back off.

But the problem is the cat's out of the bag. The secret's out, and emotions are not controllable in the same way thoughts are. Once out they rage at the thought of being put back in and fight it as hard as they can. If they're unable to brute force their way out they sit and bide their time, waiting.

Feelings can wait a very long time. They certainly don't fade the way we expect them to. Nothing is ever really gone.

My little brother's birthday is soon. Happy Birthday buddy! I know there's more than a few times I screwed up like Obi-Wan did, but you're not trying to kill me, so I guess I did something right. Hope you enjoy your day.

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