An Unanswered Question from Attack of the Clones

Once more, I wade into potentially troublesome territory. But everyone stayed nice and on-topic with An Unanswered Question from The Phantom Menace—or resisted the urge to walk into my brazen trap like Jar Jar Hater and KCSMM—so let’s continue the series to its logical conclusion.

Today’s question is from Attack of the Clones. Like the previous, I have my own answer/response in mind, but want to see where anyone/everyone else goes with it. And since I’m gamely attempting to figure out again if Google+ is anywhere near worth the effort, I’m going to re–post it there.

Why Didn’t Dooku Sense Obi–Wan from Ten Feet?

Vader sensed Obi–Wan/Luke from outside the hold of the Falcon.

Obi–Wan sensed Sidious at work through the Force from across the galaxy in The Phantom Menace.

Vader sensed Luke hiding like a little Pinkman in the Throne Room in Return of the Jedi.

So why couldn’t Dooku, walking about ten feet away from Obi–Wan, sense him? Here was this venerable fallen Master of the Force, trained personally by Yoda as a Padawan and now a full–fledged Sith, turn and burn him to the ground?

Obi–Wan also hides in an alcove right above the conference of Separatists and Dooku doesn–t bat an eye.

Obi–Wan then runs off to his ship and sends a signal out to warn the galaxy about the construction of a top–secret army of Battle Droids Dooku is supervising.

So what say you? Was Dooku unable to sense Obi–Wan Kenobi, later to be venerated as one of the greatest and most powerful Jedi in history, hiding within arm’s reach?

What does that say about his connection to the Force? Was Palpatine really just keeping him at arm’s reach and using him as a place holder until a true inheritor to Darth Maul could be found?

Again, I have my own line of answers and I think they’re pretty firmly supported by the “text” of the films. But this series is about what you think.

Flashback Blog: Why I Love Grievous

It’s pretty self-explanatory. However, it’s also fun to look back and see how “prophetic” I was about the greatly expanded role Grievous would enjoy in the not-yet-airing Clone Wars series that’s now de rigueur viewing for any serious fan, and even reclaiming fans who’d turned their back on the franchise.

In a nutshell, I love Grievous for one basic reason…but then it’d be more fun to have you read my thoughts as I laid them out little more than five years ago.

Fun side note. Apparently I posted this for the first time on the one-year anniversary of the release of Revenge of the Sith, also the sixth for The Phantom Menace. Neat coincidence!

Enjoy!


Flashback Blog: Why I Love Grievous

Originally posted May 19, 2006 at the original kessel korner.

General Grievous – a character that could have gone oh, so wrong and completely wrecked a terrific film. A completely CG main character, but not a good guy this time – a major villain. Considering that the villains had to be the ones to make Sith shine, this was an incredibly risky move. I’ll share with you here why I think he worked so well.

First and foremost, he was not cookie-cutter. He was not yet another calm, completely-in-control bad guy. We had that with Dooku. We had that with Palpatine. In Episodes IV and V, we had it with Vader. No, Sith needed a different ingredient – a villain that harkened back to the Snidley Whiplash-type, moustache-twirling villain who always got away just when it seemed they were about to be smashed by the heroes.

Grievous was a lot of fun. There is a sense of whimsy about him – a machine that has all the trappings of a failing human body. A cheesy, 1930s vampire accent. A cough that was explained to the die-hards, and left completely open to interpretation to the casual viewer. In short, he had a real character about him; he was more than the sum of his lines.

He gave Obi-Wan a chance to shine on his own. The fight with Grievous on Utapau established, without a doubt, that Obi-Wan was one bad mammajamma. Few people have the wherewithal not only to face an 8-foot cyborg, but remain calm about it.

And finally, because of the fight itself. I had a friend nitpick my review of King Kong, accusing me of showing fan favoritism; I had picked on Kong because of its ridiculous over-the-top action – he’s fighting a dinosaur! No, two! No, wait, three!

“Well,” my friend reasoned, “it’s no different with Grievous and the four sabers.”

“That’s not true, it is different,” I protested.

“Just because you’re a fan,” he retorted. My friend thought this was witty. I realized that he fell back on an argument everyone loves to use when I defend a piece of one of these films. The “He-Lost-Perspective-Because-He’s-A-Fanboy” argument.

At that time, dinner was served and we had to table the discussion. I had no chance to prove him wrong at that moment as he so richly deserved- my wife listens to enough Star Wars jabber that when she called us to the table, I chose to drop the discussion.

Well, here is my formal reply. (Since I am sending a link to this out to him, I’d like him to know that no matter how wrong he was that night, I forgive him.)

The Obi-Wan versus Grievous fight starts out with Grievous’ arms splitting into four, wielding lightsabers like a “windmill of doom.” Had it worked where the fight started with one saber versus one, then escalated to two, three and finally four, I would agree with my friend.

But it does not. The fight takes the opposite approach, with Obi-Wan calmly disarming Grievous (a pun!) of two of those sabers and the fight eventually boiling all the way down to a hand-to-hand match. A straight-up, honest-to-goodness fight, with two opponents simply doing everything they can to stop the other’s heart. Like a real fight to the death would be.

No rules, no flashy steps, no twirling like a gymnast. Just two opponents throwing down with anything and everything they can use, or that’s within arm’s reach. The fight is actually a move in restraint, because instead of starting small and building up to craziness, Lucas got the craziness out of the way and then boiled it down to mano a mano. A seeming lesson to other filmmakers that you can practice restraint, and wisely.

On top of that. the hands-on fight was filmed…with one actor and a CG character. That’s just frickin’ cool. Find me one other film that has ever had such smooth hands-on interaction between a CG character and a live person. There is none!

Sure, it’s unfortunate that Grievous only appeared in one of the films. But you know what? Cameo excepted, Tarkin was a character who had a part of consequence in one film only, and it’s okay to like him.

So Grievous has quickly and decidedly rocketed up my list of favorite Star Wars characters, and is likely to stay entrenched there for some time. I even bought one of his action figures to add to my “pantheon of evil” (I collect only cool bad guys and Jedi) and placed him next to Tarkin.

Here’s hoping we’ll get more Grievous in the TV show that takes place during the Clone Wars era – I suspect we will.

Flashback Blog: Mace-ing with the Dark Side

It’s Sunday, I’m tired, I’m working from home to prep for a skirmish about a site at work (I will win) and I’ve got about 6 blogs in progress but not ready for prime-time. So I dug one out of the old Star Wars blog archive from the original kessel korner. I’m on a mission to take those all into this archive anyway since they’re bound to torch that area anyway as they rebuild the site. They’re shutting down the forums, it’s only a matter of time until they get to the blogs.

So I picked one that’s near and dear to my heart, and at the time generated a fair amount of controversy among my fellow fans. To be honest, I stand by my conclusions, and think that it certainly makes for a richer interpretation. Perhaps it was just born out of watching LOST too much. The Sam Jackson pic is the one I used all those years ago, the lightsaber is just added for flavor.

Anyway, enjoy.


Mace-ing with the Dark Side

Originally published on May 13, 2006, at the original kessel korner

Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
One of the best characters from the prequels, and one whose depth and importance is often overlooked. This is largely due to myopic fanboy bias and whining. There, I said it.

This blog is in response to an ongoing conversation thread regarding Mace Windu in the HS forums. In it, I stated that Mace Windu would have gone to the Dark Side if he had successfully killed Palpatine, and that interpretation was challenged. Here, I will provide my points as to why I think Windu was about to become a new Dark Lord.

First, this is definitely open to interpretation. My interpretation is that Windu was ready to do whatever was necessary for a “final victory”; to me, the willingness to win without principles equals a “Dark Side” movement.

Look at the whole picture. Mace was ready to take over the Senate (with good intentions, but remember that road to Hell being paved with them), in effect eliminating the Republic. The implication was that the Senators in league with Palpy would have to be removed from power, forcefully if necessary (no pun intended, but very much enjoyed). This is why Yoda said the plan led to a “dark place.”

Windu had one final step to take, since his thoughts were already going to that dark place. Kill a “defenseless” person to enact the plan.

Now, the roaring counterpoint I expect to see eloquently stated below is that Palpatine was never “defenseless”. I agree that he was completely without the means to defend himself. However, he was at the mercy of Mace Windu. Windu decided to show none, and he had a plan to take control and “clean out” the senate. Sounds like the making of a Dark Side switch to me.

Remember, Anakin did not become a Sith Lord by simply killing Dooku. But it made his later Dark Side actions easier, as it is a slippery slope once you are willing to leave your principles behind.

Mace Windu replica hilt
Awesome hilt design, and purple is my favorite color too. It’s also Sam Jackson’s, and he campaigned Lucas to let him have a purple saber, which broke the ‘rule’ for Jedi..

I don’t see the line, “Too weak…I’m too weak…” as an outright lie. There is a grain of truth in there. All the best lies, after all, have at least a grain of truth in them.

The balance of the Force is teetering on the edge at the moment Palpatine is staring down Windu’s blade. Palpatine had very obviously poured everything he had into killing Windu. I doubt that part of his master plan was to have his face get screwed up/ have his true face revealed, after all. Windu offered more resistance than he could handle. And he was about to kill him.

Palpatine had one chance at that moment. Anakin Skywalker.

Anakin steps in. Once he takes his energy to the Dark Side, the balance is tipped. The Dark Side experiences…well, let’s call it a “surge.” Yoda feels it halfway across the galaxy.*

Palpatine gets the necessary “rejuvenation” at that moment to just flat-out destroy Windu quickly and easily. Mace’s missing saber was pretty much irrelevant at that point; it definitely made it easier, though.

So in a way, Anakin cost Windu his life but saved his soul.

…From a certain point of view. 😉

* I don’t care if a map somewhere shows it’s less than that. You get the point.

Flashback Blog: Star Wars Politics and You

I started this reincarnation of ‘kessel korner’ with a revival of one of its original posts from its days at blogs.starwars.com/kesseljunkie. This is a feature that I’d like to keep going because it’s fun to see how the posts hold up and every so often I want to pull back on a post slated to auto-publish on a certain day so I can re-work it a little bit. That happened for the one scheduled today, so enjoy this. It’s nerdy on a scale that almost makes me blush. Almost.

Meh, it’s all in fun. I remember when I originally wrote it, it was more about the punchline at the end than anything else given George Lucas’ ironic political views.

Note: I did correct a spelling error or two I found when I copied and pasted. But also in re-reading, I thought of an additional point and so inserted it below. It’s highlighted.


Star Wars Politics and You

Empire. Republic. Democracy. Peace. War. Bureaucracy.

For all its grandiose themes of Good vs. Evil and Right vs. Wrong, the actual political structure of Star Wars has never been properly laid out. At least not plainly. So, I want to put the puzzle together here.

Going all the way back to 1977, the irony seemed to escape everyone that a princess was seeking to ‘restore freedom to galaxy’. Perhaps that’s because it was mentioned at the end of the title crawl, just before the rebel starship roars across the screen. Hard to be critical when you’ve just been startled into soiling your shorts.

Lucas leaves us to presume that on Alderaan, there’s a duly-elected, bicameral chamber with a robust system of checks and balances. I’ll presume that to avoid a logic breakdown.

However, Princess Leia’s role was obviously more than that. She mentions the Galactic Senate – and we know from extant sources that she was a representative in it. It’s safe to assume that she’s not duly elected to the role, since her adoptive family are the (benevolent) rulers of her world. So, it’s a political appointment, like an ambassador with voting privileges.

The only later mentions of the political structure of the Empire are that this Galactic/Imperial Senate is disbanded, and the Emperor has given control directly to the regional governors. Grand Moff Tarkin is such a ‘Governor’; so they must be political appointees loyal to the Imperial Throne. Instead of representatives of the planets carrying their will to the Emperor for judgment (Imperial Senate), he installs loyalists to carry his will to the people.

So, from about eight lines of dialogue (including Obi-Wan’s) we are told that the Republic is swept away and the Galaxy is under the thrall of a despotic ruler. So though Princess Leia is apparently some sort of benevolent local power base, the Emperor overrules her, and he’s not benevolent.

I mean, the guy built a weapon capable of destroying planets. That’s not nice at all.

Lucas later laid out that the Empire’s jurisdiction actually suffered limitations in The Empire Strikes Back (Cloud City is small enough to escape notice), but we got no real glimpse at further political structure. With Return of the Jedi, we just learned that centralizing the power of government into one central figure is a bad idea – because if they blow up, then you have to start from scratch.

Then came…The Phantom Menace. Glorious, politically specific jewel of the crown, The Phantom Menace served to confirm a few things and pull the curtain back on a few others. They were:

  1. Senators were not elected – they were appointees;
  2. Queens can be elected;
  3. The people were underrepresented, as the chancellor was a position
    filled by a vote of appointees, not elected officials;
  4. Bureaucracy ruled the day;
  5. Jedi are actually a part of the government;
  6. There is a court system; and
  7. Wait…queens can be elected?

Senators were obviously appointees because that was the only way to make sense of the situation. The Galactic Senate made law on a scale that applied to all planets; the planets themselves had sovereignty, and thus jurisdiction over local matters.

The duly elected rulers of the planets would then appoint someone who spoke on their behalf . They served to express the will of their planet.

This theory is supported by Palpatine’s (supposed) obeisance before Amidala. If you notice, he gives her no instruction – just advice. He is bound by her decisions. This is further cemented by the fact that it’s Amidala calling for the vote of No Confidence in Chancellor Valorum. If Palpatine is an appointee, it makes sense that the person who appointed him carries more weight in the Senate when there in person. It’s like when Jaques Chirac visits the UN – his ambassador just shuts up and lets him roll.

So in essence, the Galactic Senate is the UN.

To that point, the Supreme Chancellor is a position filled by one of those representatives; note that the people of the Galaxy have no direct say as to who wields executive power there.

So, let’s address the idea of an elected Queen. Easy. She’s a President. They just call her Queen. The US government is a prime example of how this works. ‘President’ = ‘Chief Executive’. Apparently, in the case of Naboo, ‘Queen’ = ‘Chief Executive’. (I just hope that they also elect Kings too, because otherwise the Naboo should attend sensitivity training and stop being sexists.)

We’ll get to the bit about Jedi in the government later.

Palpatine and Amidala discuss a court system at one point, which takes us to Attack of the Clones.

In Attack of the Clones, things get fleshed out a bit more. This time, Amidala is the Senator – and she confirms that she was an appointee (score!). So there you go. It’s brief, but the dialogue is there when she and Anakin arrive at Naboo.

Further, this role is filled because Palpatine, as Supreme Chancellor, has to abdicate his role as representative of Naboo. This would make sense. Naboo still has a specific voice in the Senate and the Supreme Chancellor has an opportunity to operate without obligation to one planet’s agenda. It’s never clear as to what happens when Palpatine is no longer SC – does he go back to Naboo? Resume his role in the Senate? Since we never see Valorum again, I think it’s safe to assume that Supreme Chancellors retire and become lobbyists.

The supreme irony is that people in the Senate refer to liberty and democracy – when they are obviously not even elected.

The courts are a joke, not because the Trade Federation isn’t behind bars. But they have been tried in the Supreme Court three times. Apparently there is no concept of double jeopardy in the Star Wars Universe. You must just keep trying someone in court until you get the result you want. Ugh. [2010 Note: In re-reading, I realized that the dialogue could have been short-hand that they tried them on different charges three times, resulting in three trials in the Supreme Court. Though it still doesn’t answer whether the court system on a galactic scale would have required appeals up the ladder through some sort of judicial system on a planetary basis (which seems unwieldy), perhaps the term ‘Supreme Court’ is simply shorthand for a ‘Galactic Court’ that operates like our own International Criminal Court.]

Still with me? Good. I’m almost done.

In Revenge of the Sith, we really delve into the Jedi and their role in the government. In the first two prequels, they are revealed as special operatives – they are actually used to strike fear into the Trade Federation. So, though we know the Jedi to be noble, they have set themselves up for what they become by the time of Sith.

They are the Thugs of the Old Republic.

Think about it. Their loyalty is ostensibly to the Senate, but they continually do the will of its leader. This was true with Valorum – he used them as his ‘negotiators’ at the beginning of Menace in an attempt to subdue the Federation. To wit, the line: “I knew it…they’re here to force a settlement.” [Emphasis Added]

This makes them political pawns. When someone gets out of line, the Senate/Chancellor sends some Jedi to go smack them back into line. Why is that so bad? Because the whole point of the Senate was to allow peaceful resolutions to situations; but apparently, when that was undesirable, go rough up the troublemakers and make them behave. This is made worse by the fact that a system like that only works if you can guarantee that the Senate and/or Chancellor are benevolent in their wishes.

Presumably, this is one of the reasons why Dooku left. I cant say I blame him.

So what’s the point? I know I’ve rambled on for a bit.

The point is that George Lucas, for all his thinly veiled references to modern day American politics, has actually set up a potent warning about…the UN. Namely, the dangers of having an appointed body accountable to none but themselves, who elects their own chief representative and sees fit to make law without chance of a referendum. Power should be kept out of its hands at all costs.

But without power, it cannot even adequately arbitrate disputes. To wit, look at the UN’s handling of…well, anything. Their solution is to pass toothless resolutions of disapproval and make weak sanctions.

So that creates situations in this world relatable to that galaxy far, far away. When an entity (Trade Federation) infringes on another, the joint body can do…nothing of consequence. Eventually, something has to give, and either the joint body’s available enforcers (Jedi) are sent in, or more power must handed to the joint body (UN/Galactic Senate) until it becomes dominant and truly starts to rule.

And then, all you need is a new Chancellor. A strong Chancellor. And we can have…peace.