Friday, March 16, 2018

Attack of the Clones: The Subverter

What in the....
Of all the subversions in the Star Wars saga, none hit harder than this one. The Republic, champion of freedom and liberty and all the warm fuzzies, commissioned a clone army??? The ethical implications of this are monstrous. You want to not have slavery? No problem, just make your slaves so no one will miss them when they die. We're talking a betrayal of the soul of the Republic on such a horrific level that anyone watching, regardless of whether they like the prequels or not, should feel sick to their stomach. It's like finding out that your dad has a tripod-mounted machine with explosive rounds and that he's going to be using them real soon to shoot up a school, times a million.

Oh, and the Jedi Order never felt this massive shift in the Force.

Oh, and it happened ten years ago, with a man named Tyrannus, not the long-dead Sipho Dias.

What else happened ten years ago? Let's see....

Oh, right.

The Phantom Menace was about Palpatine using Darth Maul to conceal his creation of a clone army while using the Trade Federation incident to put him in charge. For anyone who walks away from the Phantom Menace saying "That was a throwaway!" and "That was pointless!"... that was sorta the point. Palpatine manuevered the Republic to look one way while he did something so huge and ridiculous that they probably would have caught it normally. But, as Yoda points out, Palpatine is using all his considerable powers to block the Jedi's sight so they couldn't have seen it. He used the Sith to conceal the Sith. He found the one guy who we associate with the Sith (a monster) and put him up for the whole world to look at and freak out over. The Phantom Menace was a feint. The Jedi took it. And now the Separatists are getting ready to leave the corruption that Palpatine made.

It's a perfect set up: if the Jedi reject the army the Separatists leave and the Republic, along with the Jedi, will fall. Accept the army and... well... that's Episode III, isn't it? There is literally no winning for the Jedi. Game. Set. Match. And, as some have pointed out, this is actually pretty common for people to do: use something big, sensational, and way overblown to distract everyone from the real event going on. Pretty much every last cultural shift in the last few years has been used to cover up other, evil, changes that we never bothered to look at because look at that moral outrage over there!

Except fillmmakers generally don't do this to their viewers. Congrats, we were all snookered. George Lucas used your own ability to recognize B.S. against you. It's absolutely brilliant and a truly risky move, regardless of how big your franchise is. Part of the Subversion chapters of Star Wars is to lean into the ridiculousness of the opening chapter. It's self-mockery and a good laugh is had at its own expense.

But enough about that. Let's get on with the other subversions of the subversions.

Turns out Anakin was right: Jedi don't have nightmares. After being shot down by Padme Anakin decides he's going to Tatooine to look into what's going on with his mother and our expectations are further subverted: she was freed, is married, and had moved on, without her baby boy. On some level there's a sense that she left him. It's ridiculous of course, but we all expect the people we leave behind to be the same as when we left them. Other people are cardboard cut-outs to us, more or less, and we assume that they will be the same old person they were when we were around them. And it's obvious from the cold treatment that Anakin gives his new family that he doesn't give a crap about them, he wants his mother, even if she's more than his mother now. He's so wrapped up in his own selfishness that he lashes out at everything around him. His rage is so powerful that even Yoda notices it, half a galaxy away.

Now, for those of you who are EU fans, please turn that part of your brain off for the next bit, cause if it's on nothing is going to work. Yoda hears Qui-Gon Jinn in the Force, trying to reach out to Anakin. If you're just going by the movies, this is enormous. There's no indication that the Jedi believe in the afterlife at this point, none. Nothing where you retain individuality, at any rate. If you're gone you're gone.  So what the heck is going on here? We'll have to wait until the next episode to find out, but suffice it to say it's tantalizing, what could be happening here.

Uh oh. She's coming from the right.
Oh, and the TOP too! She's descending...
The scene post-murder is painful to unpack, and not because it's generated many a meme. It's painful because Padme completely and utterly flubs it up. She was right to turn Anakin away, the cinematography of this whole movie screams at the wrongness of connecting with him, that it can only lead to trouble. Ignoring her better judgment she reaches out to Anakin in compassion because, no matter how wrong it is, Padme does care for Anakin. Her answer is completely and totally wrong. Of course people feel anger! What happened to Anakin was not anger, it was pure and spiteful rage, revenge of the highest order. What's a proper response to Anakin at this point? Who knows? I'm more scared that Padme's response to such darkness is "Everyone gets angry". Why, have you felt that way in your life Padme? What in the world happened to make you be able to accept this with nary a blink? Oh, wait, right, ten years ago she had to defend her planet from an unlawful invasion in which no other authority figure actually helped her. Right. Well, that's a dark revelation, isn't it? Turns out these two have quite a lot more in common than we thought. It's just not the right stuff.

We end this post by flitting back to Obi-Wan, who is in for his own surprise. Stuck in a revolving room he's a captive audience for a rather awful truth: his "grand-master" is the head of the Trade Federation and... he's telling the the truth? Most people write this off because, having seen the OT first, they know Dooku doesn't make it so they write him off. But the issues raised by this conversation shouldn't be ignored. Yes, Dooku is manipulating Obi-Wan. Yes, he's not telling him the whole truth. But the truth he is telling is enormous, as is his request for Obi-Wan's help in destroying the Sith. For one second, if you're taking the scene at face value, you have to wonder what would have happened if Obi-Wan had said yes.

Too bad Obi-Wan is a tool. Oh wait, we've known that for a movie and a half.

Seriously, the Clone Wars could have ended before they began. Good job hero. You stuck to your principles and were the knight in naive armor. And everyone suffered as a result. What could have been, right?

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