Friday, April 13, 2018

Revenge of the Sith: The Closer

The ending of the Revenge of the Sith is the one of the most surprising of all Star Wars; only The Last Jedi beats it for its twists and turns. Anakin doesn't just go to the Jedi, but to Mace Windu. This is a dude who has always disliked Anakin and thought very little of him, yet Anakin still respects him. (Notice that he still doesn't even think to contact Obi-Wan?? 10 years of  bullying really did something, didn't it?) And Mace, despite all the flak he gives Anakin, actually cares enough about Anakin to try and keep him away from this situation. But it's not good enough, not anymore. As Anakin had told Palpatine, he knows he's not getting the whole truth from the Jedi; Yoda's conversation was the tipping point.

This is a scene you have to actually see played out to catch it all. There's a theory that Palpatine threw the fight with Mace Windu on purpose, that he could have taken him in the fight. The people that say this are not paying attention to this scene, where we have Anakin take a pulse check of Padme. What's amazing is that she feels it and accepts it, an act which drives Anakin to tears. Sometimes something in our lives is so beautiful we find ourselves willing to do anything to keep it around, even at the cost of betraying it. And if Anakin thought Sidious wasn't in danger, he wouldn't go. Why go and risk being tied up in something that could hurt Padme in some way, shape or form? But Anakin knows Windu's strength and he's afraid of it, enough to go help Sidious.

To Anakin's credit he does try every possible way to save Windu, even going so far as to try to appeal to the rule of law, something that we know Anakin doesn't actually believe in. But it's not enough; Windu is blasted out into the skies of Coruscant. And that's when we finally see Palpatine for what he truly is. Is he actually scarred by his encounter with Windu? He says he is and we see something happening, but who knows?. That's a lot of Force power to be doing while blocking out the sight of every Jedi in the galaxy so Palpatine can get his stuff done. But this voice... there's nothing else like it in the entirety of Star Wars. In the voice I think Palpatine revealed his true self. Anakin, looking at him directly in the face and realizing exactly who he's gotten himself involved with, still decides that the power that Palpatine is even at that point revealing he doesn't have is worth getting at the cost of his soul. Anakin, our Shadow incarnate, commits a form of suicide that is very common: he gives into the dark influences for the power it doesn't have. We believe a lie because we get tired and need something to attach ourselves to and the darkness has spent such a long time sympathizing with us that we just naturally go towards it, even though we know its horrific. We betray ourselves.

This is how evil men and deeds are born: in despair and agony; innocence is butchered.

The next bit is autobiographical to all of us. Lucas is taking how we all go bad and putting it on the screen. We murder the innocence inside us, lie to those we care about, and then destroy the parts of ourselves that foolishly thought we were going to have peace. It's all... well, this is how it happens, what more is there to say? It's the truth on how evil actually is born. Most of us idolize Vader's strength, but the sad truth is that Vader is not strong, not in the way that matters. Evil is not strength, it's weakness. It's the inability to accept that the material world is secondary to our experiences of it. It's a lack of courage in the face of what we think of as emptiness, but is in fact just the passage to the other world. And Anakin, not seeing this, is more than ready to whatever it takes to make sure that Padme doesn't go there.

It all comes to a head, with Padme finally putting it all out there, finally being honest, finally doing something that may actually hurt her! But Anakin says the one line that we've all said in some way, shape or form, even if we don't know we've said it. Love won't save you Padme, only my new powers can. How many of us have said some variation of that when someone asks for love? How many of us ignore relationships because we think we have the ability to change things on our own? Cause that's what's happening here.

This leads to the most controversial line in the whole prequel trilogy: "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." Anyone who's confused really needs to go back to Episode I: "One cannot exist without the other, you must understand this." As hypocritical as Obi-Wan can be about his treatment of Anakin he still does know the truth, on some level, even if he doesn't always understand what that truth means.  If all you can see when you look at people is another object, without subjectivity, you've relegated them to something to be dealt with in an unbending (absolute) way. Can I use someone to my ends or not?That's where Anakin has wound up and Obi-Wan, as dumb as he about it, recognizes that Anakin has crossed the threshold. But Obi-Wan engages in absolutes as well, doesn't he? When Anakin tries to actually tries to express why he turned on the Jedi Order, Obi-Wan still doesn't understand that he should probably take what Anakin is saying seriously, even if he disagrees. Instead of looking at Anakin as a subject, who has thoughts that can be dealt with and reasoned with, he instead sees Anakin simply as a threat. Loved you indeed. Did you ever, truly, Obi-Wan?

Yes, we're going to cover this scene. First off, it's a clear reference to Episode I. As we had covered before, the Force had saved Obi-Wan. And, if you actually watch the fight, Obi-Wan vaults over Darth Maul a number of times, who just watches it, previous to his miraculous feat. Like it or not, the film had established multiple times that Darth Maul had no tactical answer for Obi-Wan's athletics. Why on earth would Darth Maul change that later? What you think someone should be capable of is irrelevant, the question should be "What is the film showing me?" Maul had no answers for that flip, he just didn't. And, until you're able to actually to cut someone who's flipping over you in midair with a blade, there's very little actual ground to stand on.

Yes, I did that on purpose. I'm clever.

Second, the two situations could not be more different. Obi-Wan is the master of defense, he works on openings that are given to him. Obi-Wan was the only one capable of taking on Grievous, who literally mows his people down with four lightsabers, because he knows how to wait and bait. Throughout his entire fight with Anakin Obi-Wan plays it for time, clearly not able to match Anakin's power. Could Anakin jump down further and run up? Not really. Obi-Wan finally has the ability to physically match Anakin by being higher up. Coupled with his superior intellect and defense and Anakin doesn't stand a chance, his physical superiority has been nullified. And Anakin knows it. All Anakin has is to jump over Obi-Wan... but that's already a bad idea. The high ground is Obi-Wan's bait and source of victory. But Anakin, knowing this, decides he's capable of making the jump. And that makes sense! Anakin is incredibly arrogant normally, and this is not Anakin on normal, this is Anakin on crazy. All it takes is to state your superiority and wait for Anakin to attempt the impossible... oh and beg him not to try it.  Yeah, it's in the bag the instant Obi-Wan gets an inclined plane to fight on.

Three, the Force was with Obi-Wan in Episode I. I went through great detail to show that, as does the movie. This is not the case here with Anakin. The Dark Approach to the Force is about forcing your will upon the Force, which always finds a way to rebel (I'M CLEVER!) against you, as the rising of Rey to counter Kylo Ren later proves. And Anakin has clearly abandoned what makes the Force work and is putting his own will upon the world. So what happens when you try to master the universe?

You burn.

But of course, Obi-Wan can't finish the job. He can't kill Anakin and he can't save him, so he just lets the lava finish him off. I've ragged on Obi-Wan throughout this entire series and this ending scene is exactly why. He has no internal reference point, he can't make up his own mind, and so Anakin just... suffers. Obi-Wan (who Anakin went out of his way to save at the beginning of this Episode) doesn't have the guts to decide one way or another what he should do with his "friend. It's a level of cowardice that is so unhealthily common, but I still find myself appalled by the utter lack of moral fiber in Obi-Wan Kenobi. Anakin has gone to evil, yes, but Obi-Wan, when faced with a choice that falls outside his comfort zone, is just spineless.

I... cannot find an uncut version of Vader being born with Padme dying on Youtube. This makes my life a lot harder. Go find the movie and skip to this part and watch the scene.

Notice how they're "opposing"? If you line up these shots they flow into each other. Anakin is the one with life-threatening wounds and yet, somehow, it's Padme that's dying, for no apparent reason. In a world where everything is connected is it really a question as to what happened here? Padme is giving her life up to Anakin. The woman who couldn't be honest the entirety of this series, who was victimized as a child monarch, who couldn't say no for all the wrong reasons, for once gets it right. Recognizing that, even though Anakin is evil, there is still something in him worth saving. Unlike Obi-Wan, she actually has the courage to follow up on her convictions.

Yup, I was wrong, there is a hero in this story, and it's Padme. I stand corrected. Padme was the only one who realize that she could do nothing for Anakin except give him the one chance that he wouldn't give himself. It's astoundingly beautiful and I'm so glad that I was wrong. And readers, take note: a woman is the hero of the prequel trilogy. What do you think will happen once the subversion is over? The dudes were not the ones that got anything done in this trilogy. Padme may be flawed but at least she did something right. And, if we were to be honest, it's Luke's similarities to Padme that make him the hero of the Subversion Trilogy. Is she an effective hero? Heck no, it's a tragedy. But it's Padme's choice here, at the end, that tells us who the actual "good guy" of this trilogy was.

We end the trilogy with the answer to Anakin's question: yes, there is a way to live beyond death. Yoda knew before the movie started, as stated in The Opener. Anakin was right. The Jedi were withholding knowledge from him, knowledge that he could have used. There is a way beyond death. There is more than just this life. And that's symbolized quite nicely in the existence of the twins, who are the start of something new.

With all the darkness and despair in the prequels, it ends with hope. Padme gave her life for something she knows is real and the twins will... well... that's the next trilogy, isn't it? The answer to this tragedy is coming. Sit tight.

And so begins Luke's journey with twin suns.
Who knew? Johnson may actually know Star Wars!

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