Why Not Call It Something Other Than “The Dark Side”?

We find ourselves back in Star Wars territory today, with a question posed recently by my friend, @theinsanerobin. He originally shared this thought on Twitter, Before you wonder if I somehow broke my social media fasting, he proved one of my theories true by sharing this musing with me independently.

As he shared it with me:

You’d think the Dark Side would brand themselves differently. Something other than what the Light Side calls them.

Everyone thinks they’re righteous.

Like instead of being “Anti-Light” they’d be “Pro-Passion” or something.

My response was, simply, Do you really want to go down this road[?]

He said my insight would be fun. While I do have fun with my insights at times, I don’t know how fun this will be.

I do believe you’ll enjoy it, though.

Brandon Lee as The Crow in the movie The Crow released in 1994 starring Brandon Lee and featuring the great soundtrack to The Crow starring Brandon Lee.
Let’s have some fun!

What’s in a Name?

The first thing to establish here is that I’m not going to pursue any pedantic, circular arguments about Lucas establishing a fairy tale. However true that is, which does ameliorate a lot of these sorts of questions, it’s an easy way out of the argument.

I’m going to present logical, believable reasons, consistent with everything understood about the Dark Side of the Force.

It boils down to the very Shakespearean sense of the Sith, and any other Dark Side user in the Star Wars galaxy. To borrow the Bard’s sentiment, a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

The Honesty of Darth Bane

Practitioners of the Dark Side are simply too honest to care about using a different name. They do not waste their time with preamble about why you should believe their doctrine. Either you will buy in, or you won’t. The only liars are the ones who can’t be honest with themselves.

I’m including Anakin in that line about characters lying to themselves. I still entertain the controversial view that Anakin flipped to the Dark Side in Attack of the Clones, and the rest of the Prequel Trilogy is the story of a man denying what he’s truly become. He’s started the slide, and as he scrambles back up the slope continues to find that his heart pulls him back to the truth of himself.

I’m not completely sold on that interpretation, but it does fit. Even if you incorporate The Clone Wars television series, you can see the Jedi being dishonest with themselves and indulging his worst tendencies in the hopes their prophecy comes true in a positive way. They pushed all their chips in to bet on Anakin, and will do anything to make sure it pays off.

It’s certainly a really interesting filter through which to watch his arc.

The Honesty of Another Bane

Back to the point at hand, Dark Side practitioners may be dishonest as a means to an end, but they’re never meaningfully dishonest about their quest for power. Their end goal is power, control, and domination. They are ultimately selfish.

There is a universal objective recognition that the goals they seek are not good. Since they cannot be of the light, why not simply call it what it is, and pronounce it dark.

You can look to another work that demonstrates this principle just as clearly. Christopher Nolan’s superb The Dark Knight Rises has a character called Bane who’s painfully honest about being “molded by [the dark].” He refers to himself as “necessary evil.”

This gets to an underlying and interesting philosophical point that surely would cause LANDRU to explode. (If you don’t get that reference, it’s a Star Trek thing.) Bane, like his mentor Ra’s al Ghul and other people “of the dark,” can often see themselves as the unpleasant tools of life. They understand and appreciate the personal wrongness of what they do, but can justify it as a means to an end.

I don’t think that applies to Palpatine, though, who’s just an all-around bastard.

Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, a Batman movie starring Tom Hardy as Bane because Bane is a primary villain in The Dark Knight Rises.
Another example of an Honest Bane. Darth Bane would be proud!

They’re Not Trying to Sell Soap

The idea that there’s some sort of political advantage to having a nicer name seems a byproduct of our marketing mindsets. After all, we’re self-marketers on social media, leveraging hashtags and keywords to generate engagement and satisfy our…whatever.

While Sheev Palpatine may have danced around it at first, note that he was exceedingly up front with Anakin Skywalker in the opera box. He flatly declares, “The Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be…unnatural.

In short, there’s no reason not to call it The Dark Side. There’d be little to no point, because once you got past the name, you’d say, “Boy, that sounds pretty…dark. Like the opposite of light. Can we just stop calling it Fluffy Bunny Side and keep moving?”

It’s about pursuing things that are ultimately selfish. The means to achieve these things are against the Natural Order, like creating life using dark magic, or justifying the slaughter of innocents as a necessary tool.

Anakin is correct that the Sith – our model Dark Side users for the better part of four decades – think inwardly, only of themselves. It’s not limited to the Sith, and I’m not even bringing in the Nightsisters to supplement the argument. I’m not even talking about the Knights of Ren (or Stimpy).

There are people in the Star Wars galaxy using the Dark Side who have no affiliation, or who don’t even have a strong Force connection. Their selfish and monstrous acts simply feed that Dark Side.

The operatives of Crimson Dawn, the soldiers of the Empire, and the chalky visage of General Hux all display an honesty that, while not admirable, is exceedingly blunt. Those of The Dark Side don’t care about what you want to call it. What point is there in obfuscation once they’re revealed?

Their point is not simply to convert, but dominate. To borrow a line from Darth Sidious, “If you will not turn, you will be destroyed.” You can either be down with the sickness, or get 10,000 volts blasted at you through evil magic.

In Conclusion

What is that people always say they want to see more, anyway? Honesty! Billy Joel pointed out that it’s such a lonely word, and everyone is so untrue. So embrace the Dark Side’s honesty. They don’t care if you join, because they believe that their power will give them the way to win either way.

I should be president of the Dark Side. Too bad I don’t want to be.

Ray Park as Maul, who was formerly Darth Maul, but became Maul instead of Darth Maul because he wasn't a Sith and Darth is a Sith title and so he's just Maul for SEO purposes.
Remember, NOT a Sith at this point in the story. Do not use “Darth” or he’ll mess you up.

Jedi Pride

Recently I was watching The Phantom Menace again and in particular (as everyone does) took special notice of the lightsaber battle at the end. That’s not really a revelation; even the haters love the lightsaber battle in this one. But I gleaned a new insight to the film I think.

I don’t know if it was my mood, that I was looking at things from a different perspective, or what, but I took notice of something that drastically echoes as a theme through the prequels; previously it didn’t seem to be a real factor until Attack of the Clones, but it jumped out at me this time.

I don’t think I’ll be able to watch the final duel in quite the same way again.

Jedi Pride

In this expression of it, Jedi Pride (hubris actually) is what got Qui-Gon Jinn killed. Throughout the rest of the series, it’s clear that it left the Sith in a position to ruin the galaxy and inevitably placed Anakin on the path of his downfall.

It also evolves some theories about his character that I’ve had.

What led to this thought was that, while watching, I noticed that Qui-Gon’s death was eminently avoidable in the final battle if he did only one thing.

It’s something that he espouses (albeit most strongly in a cut scene) but like the rest of the Jedi fails to practice.

Restraint

Yes, restraint.

At a very specific point in the battle with Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are separated from him by the plot devices energy doors. They are likewise separated from each other; Obi-Wan is too far (too young? too untrained?) to cover the distance necessary to be physically next to Qui-Gon, which leads to Maul being able to face the older Jedi alone.

But Qui-Gon had the opportunity during the fight to step back, draw Maul toward Obi-Wan, and tip the balance of the fight back in their favor.

I grant that Qui-Gon is established as one of the pre-eminent Jedi swordsman. But he was fighting a warrior younger and fresher, with a weapon specifically crafted to give an advantage in one-to-one combat. Qui-Gon should have had the wisdom to fall back and give Maul no choice but to fight both he and Obi-Wan together.

Had he not taken it upon himself (pridefully) to think he could single-handedly defeat such a young, energetic and obviously-skilled opponent, the story has a different ending. One with potential implications not just for Qui-Gon but Anakin and the galaxy at large.

Further Support from the Text

The prequels, more than the original trilogy, tend to function as one “text.” As a result, more than the others, material across all three supports previous episodes much more robustly. I point this out because the quote I’m using in support of this blog is actually from Episode II.

Obi-Wan: But he still has much to learn, Master. His abilities have made him… well arrogant.

Yoda: Yes. Yes. A flaw more and more common among Jedi. Too sure of themselves they are. Even the older, more experienced ones.

—Episode II

What turns it on its head, though, is that previously I approached Qui-Gon’s character as somehow “above” the pride argument about the Jedi. In some way, that he was “The Last Samurai.” But now I’m starting to see his death at Maul’s hands to be the first example of the pride that leads to the Jedi downfall.

Kinda depressing, really. It speaks to earlier arguments that “had Qui-Gon lived” Anakin would have fulfilled his destiny in a much less tragic way.

Now I wonder.

My Honest Reviews of the Star Wars Films: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith also came along at an important time in my life. I don’t talk about it, few know about it and I have no desire ever, under any circumstances, to relive it. As always, George Lucas was there to offer the salve on my wounds.

So the natural inclination is to think that I can’t be detached in my assessment of this film. Untrue, I say. Untrue. It happens to be a fact that not only does this film have a special place in my heart, I think that it’s the most perfect film Lucas has ever created. It’s both integral to the story and completely independent, similar to the original film, but it’s also a work created by a filmmaker far more sure of his skills.

Coming of Age

Just about everything having to do with the technical construction of this film is perfect. There are moments, to this day, that blow my mind from exactly how much better the process got in so short an amount of time. Actors shot on a set matted into a model, being attacked by digital figures such as General Grievous.

The cuts are quick, the action is breathless and the musical cues are the most operatic of the series. My joy at the fact that Williams brings in more pronounced string arrangements—even giving my favorite instrument, the violin, a highlighted role—can’t be overstated. It breathes new life into old themes. The newer themes, especially for General Grievous, bring a sense of military bravado to match the much-loved Imperial March.

Death, Destruction and Grievous

As far as digital characters go, General Grievous is a bull’s eye. He’s diabolical fun, quirky in the way that some of the best ancillary characters of the series are, and has a real personality that sells him as real. While the effects are fantastic with him, it’s the voice work of Matthew Wood that closes the deal.

Whereas Dooku is an obvious thematic echo of the man Anakin will become, Grievous is a subtle shout of the nightmare mechanical non-life he’ll be forced to live. He’s also got a twisted sense of humor and the type of laugh that tells you that if he had a mustache, he’d twirl it. Maybe it’s thanks to the sense of humor I got from my father, but I’ll get a chuckle out of Grievous every time.

Abstract Operatics

In a way Lucas comes full circle to his more abstract roots (seriously, watch the original THX-1138 sometime), though with much more polish. Dialogue is only part of the way to tell the story here; Lucas realizes he has a full visual and aural arsenal to unleash. He utilizes it like a Buck Turgid on the Pentagon budget team.

Some may knock him for it, but he gets the balancing act spot-on this time; the music cues, surrounding warfare and a quick shot of Anakin stating he wants to go back and save the clone fliers (all played by Temeura Morrison), followed by Obi-Wan’s quick order not to do so, is all that’s necessary to establish Anakin’s desire always to be the hero. Later, when Anakin puts himself and the newly-rescued Chancellor in danger for the sake of saving Obi-Wan, we see his difficulty in letting go. Like a symphony, we just need ‘hits’ to cue us. This character has a hard time knowing when he isn’t in control.

It’s also reminiscent of the original film in this series, which spends just long enough on important deaths and events to let the music swell and move us along in the story. It allows for a lot of story to be told in a little over 2 hours.

Burnin’ Love

And of course, there’s the love story. This time it’s much more tragic and subtle. The theme of love developing into a desire to control comes to fruition.

Most importantly, we find out two important things about Darth Vader, the iconoclastic villain of our childhoods, whom we turned into an anti-hero of sorts. The first is that he was, in fact, a monster. He didn’t just kill the incompetent or those who wronged him. He killed as a means to an end.

The second was that he had good intentions. At least, ones with which anyone who’s lost a loved one can identify.

The Vader plotline also takes on an interesting personal note from Lucas, but not one I’m sure he’s aware of. The English majors out there can start buzzing about unintentional subtext. It makes this film his most personal since American Graffiti.

Revenge of the Sith is an apology poem written to his ex-wife. If you follow the track of Lucas’ life, he was a wunderkind kid who struggled with his identity in the context of his father, who was eager and came into success much earlier in his chosen career than he probably anticipated. He fell in love with a competent and talented woman.

They got divorced around the time Return of the Jedi was finished. I think that if you look over the prequel trilogy, but Sith especially, you see some reflection on his life as to how his own obsessions—ironically, with technology—claimed his love when he couldn’t reconcile the two. He then became trapped, if you will, by Star Wars as everything he ever did or will do since then will be measured by it. A victim of his own powers, if you will.

I think you’d be crazy to say you don’t see a parallel in this film.

The Final Analysis

I know that this review winds up being exactly the way anyone who knows me expected it to be for at least one of these films. But I’m being truly honest when I say, Revenge of the Sith is as close to perfect as any film of its kind needs to be.

Are there fanboy things that I “wish” had been left in? Sure. But the pacing of this film, something for which I take four of the remaining five to task for, is so spot-on it would be hard to imagine it being improved by changing the editing choices. Of course, given his penchant for Special Editions, it’ll be interesting to see what happens with the Blu Ray set. But I will point out that to date, this is the only one of the six that he hasn’t altered in any way when released to DVD. Maybe that says something in and of itself.

My Honest Reviews of the Star Wars Films: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Attack of the Clones came along at a very transitional time in my life. I’ve gone over the emotional connection I have with one traumatic scene before. I also had a great time seeing it at a midnight showing with my cousins.

As a result it’s often gotten treated with kid gloves when it comes to criticism through the years. But now it’s time for the Clones to be dissected. Honestly, fairly and without kid gloves.

Here’s Where the Fun Begins

Much like its predecessor, Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones is an imperfect film. Thanks to a change in the editing booth, though, it’s a step closer to perfect than The Phantom Menace. It’s apparent that bringing Lucasfilm sound editing mainstay and part-time director Ben Burtt into the booth gave Lucas the opportunity to speak in the shorthand he needed. It’s obvious that Burtt understood the nature of these films a little better (go figure, he’s been with Lucasfilm since the beginning) and the result is a tighter pace that “feels” more like the originals’ tenor.

This doesn’t diminish Episode I, but merely acknowledges that Episode II is when things start to feel more relaxed and maybe even a little more inspired. A bit more slapdash action, quicker transitions between spectacle and a little more polish on the effects.

Quick plot synopsis: A fallen Jedi starts some trouble, Padmé gets targeted for assassination while trying to stop the war and a clone army has been created for the Republic without (good) Jedi knowledge. Anakin falls in love, Obi-Wan gets sleuthy and the war starts, which makes Yoda sad.

Unsurprisingly, it was better received.

Clone the Love, Love the Clones

And there’s a lot to love here for both fans and non-fans alike.

Instead of evoking a cold world ruled by disciplined warriors, this film feels more like a youthful adventure. Frankly, there’s more heart.

Interestingly enough, this film—the second in this trilogy—evokes Lucas’ own second work, American Graffiti. Anakin and Obi-Wan pursue a villain in what amounts to a spaceship version of John Milner’s hot rod. The design sensibilities on the capital planet are a bit more Art Deco. There’s even a 1950s-style diner with a big four-armed guy who may as well have been called Mel (his name was Dexter Jettster, and he remains one of the brightest points in the picture.)

This sets an interesting arc as you can see echoes of THX-1138 in The Phantom Menace and so if you progress along, either Lucas is using his previous films to be evocative of the growth of emotion, or after his long absence from the director’s chair we’re watching his literal artistic rebirth as he progresses from the overly intellectual to the blatantly emotional. I’d love to get inside his brain and see if he’d done it purposely or just repeated history.

And then of course, there’s Baby Boba and Daddy Fett.

After decades of absurd devotion to a semi-minor, though admittedly cool, character introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, we meet his father, Jango Fett. As played by Temeura Morrison, this Fett was mask on and mask off a total joy to watch. In a notable scene where he stares down Obi-Wan Kenobi, it’s pure gunfighter swagger.

Jango serves as the genetic template for the Clone Army that’s a source of such consternation in the film. So Clones also gives fans precisely what they wished for years, which was an army of Fett. But instead of doing it in a completely lame way, Lucas gives the fanboys a partial “f*** you” by making Fett into the antecedent of the stormtroopers, who have been reduced in fan circles to the equivalent of the Keystone Cops.

Lucas completes his collection of Revered B-List British Actors of Yesteryear by adding Christopher Lee to the ensemble, who ironically played Dracula to Peter (Grand Moff Tarkin) Cushing’s Van Helsing.

All basso bravura, Lee brings a vigor to a brief role as the first indicator of a great Jedi’s ability to fall (hint-like Anakin will).

The backdrops also evoke the American paintings of the Frontier era, when hyper-realism portrayed an idealistic yet brooding sense of grandeur.

Lucas posits some interesting philosophical questions here, as well. Is murder ever understandable? Is the military a tool of the ruling class, so long as its members are more devoted to the military structure than to being citizens? Is it possible for a Jedi to fall in love as quickly as Michael Corleone and Apollonia Vitelli?

Clone the Hate, Hate the Nerds

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. The love story is admittedly rushed and, going back to the editing beef I developed, about half of the speeder chase in the beginning of the film could have been cut in favor of at least one more scene showing Padmé and Anakin getting to know each other before their frolicking in the meadow.

There is precisely one line in the film that’s a complete train wreck, and unfortunately it takes away the power of one of its best scenes. When this film was released in IMAX®, they cut that line out and the scene played much better. Then it was back in on the DVD. Go figure.

The effects are tremendous on the whole, and the cinematography must have been a technical nightmare; however they did get a bit too ambitious for a few things and could have been well served to know when to develop the digital matte paintings with a bit more depth and detail.

It would have been nice, as well, to see a scene in there that I know was filmed that provided context for how drastically radical it was for Count Dooku to have left the Jedi Order. That back story is wildly relevant and would have at least kept Dooku fresh in our minds before the end of the film.

Sidious also gets short shrift; after dominating the first film, it would have been nice to see him in more than one scene at the end. Although, arguably, you do: but I mean with the cloak. I like him better with the gravelly voice and hood.

The Final Analysis

Still, Attack of the Clones remains one of my favorite films to pop into the DVD player and watch. There’s a tremendous sense of fun to it, and it takes itself far less seriously than The Phantom Menace. The choices are a bit more natural; of course, in context this fits because it’s another step closer to the actual story we grew up watching. We’ve moved from the Cold Golden Age to the Civil War and we’re on our way to the Wild West.

And typically, I hate “bridge” stories. They are by their very nature unresolved. They are not the beginning of the story where the important foundation is laid. They are not the thrilling end when secrets are revealed. They exist only to prep you for what comes next. I hated Matrix Reloaded. Back to the Future Parts II and III were tremendoulsy misguided. Star Trek III exists merely to exist (as frequent commenter Frylock Bodine has accurately illuminated).

But this one is different. It’s enjoyable enough that you don’t mind a lack of resolution because if this is the set up, you can’t wait for the punch line.

My Honest Reviews of the Star Wars Films: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

It’s impossible to review a film like The Phantom Menace in 2011 without the baggage of the last 12 years coming along for at least part of the ride, but I’m going to do my best. I’m going to do more than the whining haters have done for the last decade plus, and that’s give this film an honest critique.

So here we go.

Reviewing the Past of a Long Time Ago

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace is not a perfect film. It is, however, a structurally sound, brilliantly executed and deeply intriguing imperfect film rooted firmly in thesame post-modern tradition of it predecessors.

If you don’t know or remember, it follows two Jedi Knights as they traverse the galaxy for the sake of preventing war and along the way they discover their own messiah and are dogged by a mysterious set of villains known as the Sith while the Republic rots from governmental abuses of power.

Truth be told, this film owes a larger debt to Akira Kurosawa than Lucas’ previous works. It is to The Hidden Fortress what The Magnificent Seven is to Seven Samurai.

For all of the posturing and regurgitation of Lucas’ influences that the average fanboy can spit out—Kurosawa! Joseph Campbell! Wizard of Oz! Flash Gordon!—all should do themselves a favor and actually study them to understand this film better.

It also shares an amazing resemblence, whether inadvertant or otherwise, to a film known as Iron Monkey. I’d love to pick Lucas’ brain and see what influences, if any, that film may have had on him.

Emotional Notes

The emotional notes Lucas hits in this film are quite deep and the musical score is, in all honesty, one of John Williams’ masterworks.

It’s a shame that it’s largely overlooked as such.

Lucas makes a very bold choice with this film by having a main character, Qui-Gon Jinn, basically refuse to give the audience emotional cues as to how they should be feeling about the story&mdesh;very similar to Kanbê Shimada in Seven Samurai. Liam Neeson plays a perfect Samurai master, serene and peaceful in the extreme, even when certain death is near.

However, just because it’s a bold choice I appreciate, doesn’t mean I think it was wise. In the first set of movies we had very clearly expressed emotions, high adventure and a linear plot (told very quickly). It was easier to relate to the characters and as a result easier to relate to the film. Perhaps if Lucas had made Qui-Gon a bit more “imperfect” the audience would be able to relate a little more.

The Phantom Menace also suffers from the fact that the child character is a bit too young to be completely believable. Had Anakin been a scant 2 or 3 years older, the audience would have been able to believe in his maturity and abilities a little more. As it is, a 10 year old, no matter how gifted with magical powers, is a little hard to buy into.

Of Midichlorians

Another bit of contention arose from midichlorians. I think that they’re a terrific story point. While the Force is all around the galaxy, why are some able to be Jedi and others not? Enter the all-important midichlorian. While maligned, it’s a terrific reconciliation between faith and science. For while there may be a higher power, how would it be expressed? How would some be more attuned to it than others?

I think it’s an elegant solution. It also sets up the important transformation of Anakin through the course of the later films, which leads to a slight weakness here. While midichlorians are explained and they hold specific significance in this story, the true payoff isn’t until Revenge of the Sith. If I’m going to be fair, I have to deduct a point for a story element that isn’t contained completely within the film. It’s a little bit of a cheat, however unavoidable it may be.

Enter the Sith

We all knew before this film that Darth Vader was (the? a?) Dark Lord of the Sith, but only because that title had been bestowed in supplementary materials. It never once comes up in the original films, but we knew it all by rote anyway.

Lucas blows the roof off the Sith in this film with the introduction of the much-beloved Darth Maul. He was a great way to up the ante from Vader and show us what “real” Jedi fighting was like. He was definitely a show-stopper.

He’s a great foreshadowing of what we know is coming for Anakin. One transition in particular, where Qui-Gon says he doesn’t know what his high midichlorian count means, is juxtaposed into Darth Maul’s arrival on Tatooine. Maul, in a sense, exists solely for this transition in the film and it’s done particularly well.

However, it’s one of the editing highlights in a movie that has some real issues with knowing when to cut a scene. The irony is, of course, that Lucas redefined editing for American film with the original Star Wars in 1977 (A New Hope since 1979). I’m not sure exactly where the disconnect was for Lucas, but he needed someone more willing to fight him in the editing booth for this film.

Every issue that there is directly relates to his reluctance to leave anything out. I’ll be interested to see what happens with the Blu Ray edition, because there is about 10 minutes or so of excess baggage that cutting would edge this closer to the perfection it deserves to be.

The editing also kills a lot of the comedy that’s in there by taking too long to tell a joke. For instance, Jar Jar’s jolt at the hands of the energy binders is a great bit of slapstick if it took about half as long to tell it. I still laugh at it, but then the joke just drags on, when it could just be over and done with.

The scene with the kids borders on the execrable. This is especially unfortunate because the rest of the scene that tells us of Anakin’s Immaculate Origin, provides a swelling musical cue as the podracer comes to live and a mother realizes she’s going to be losing her son whether he survives the race or not, gets diminished.

As far as the political procedural drama, I like it. Of course, I’m a student of politics and history, and so the Fall of the Roman Star Wars Republic would naturally appeal to me. If anything, I would have dug even more of it.

Which of Course Brings Us to Jar Jar

I like Jar Jar. I like Boss Nass. I like the Gungans. (Stepping out of the timeline, I love them even more now that I have young kids). But there is too much of them. There are four specific points that, if the editing knife had been exercised a little more judiciously, would have made the character of Jar Jar go over much better, as well as help the sometimes-dogged pace of the movie. It’s also unfortunate that, during a truly stirring moment as the racers’ banners are marched to the field on Tatooine, Lucas spoils it with a fart joke. While I laugh at a good fart or poop joke like any sane man, this one completely blows any seriousness out the window for an important moment in the film.

A little more explanation at the end, as well, that the Jedi Council had seen the Hand of the Force in Anakin’s actions at Naboo (they did) led them to overrule Yoda’s advice and accept him for training (they did). It’s alluded to in a scene with Obi-Wan, but could have stood some more clarification.

The Final Analysis

Usually what I’ve said through the years about this film is that Episode I is just like Book I of The Lord of the Rings. (For the uninitiated, I mean the first half of The Fellowship of the Ring.) The first time you’re reading about Tom Bombadil and the Barrow-Wights, you’re tempted to give up on the books. (Little known fact: Tom Bombadil made me give up on reading The Fellowship of the Ring the first two times I tried. Then I tried a third time and slogged through thanks to the encouragement of my buddy Mike. But after I had read the whole series, I was stunned at what I had failed to see the first time around.)

The exposition for an epic story—in this case, Episode I—is a truly fascinating thing to experience if you can simply contextualize it either in the moment or after seeing the whole work completed. Instead of weighting it against expectations, go into it with a clean slate. Of course, you have to wonder if that was ever possible for the public at large with this film. The hype, the years of waiting, the childhood nostalgia—all very powerful to overcome.

The fact that Episode I can also stand as its own independent story makes it even more special. People will eventually look back on this film and see what we missed, which was a new revolution in filmmaking that was more subtle than the first at the hands of a gifted director.