The Last Movie

Recently I was asked, if you were about to be put to death (let’s just say that in my case it’d likely be for thoughtcrime), what is the last movie you’d request to watch?

It’s a riff on the more-traditional “what would be your last meal” sort of question (short answer: Brinner), but it stopped me in my tracks.

My initial response was “something really long” and a hearty chuckle was shared. I’m one of the great comedy minds of my generation, as evidenced each week on Words With Nerds™.

I couldn’t decide, though. I had to beg for an evening to consider.

So Many Factors

After all, there are so many questions that the basic premise raises!

In a situation like that, you’d feel arguably obliged to choose your favorite movie of all time. It follows that if this is the last piece of entertainment you’ll ever see., it should presumably be the favorite one, a teddy bear experience that soothes and lets you lose track of the running time so that you lose track of what would undoubtedly be a stressful watching experience.

Because otherwise, these sorts of questions rely on the thought that you’re at peace with being killed to begin with. I can assure you that if I knew the time of my final moment, I’d be distracted by that fact.

And I Wonder

So I wondered how I could choose. There’s the inevitable mental conflict between selecting a Batman movie and a Star Wars film. As an odd side note, I never considered Burton’s 1989 Batman, though it’s probably the moment I started down the path of being a “geek.”

The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, with their themes of heroism and rebirth, could easily distract me from thinking incessantly about the final question of my faith put to the test. I adore both films, and they’d be a reassuring pat on the butt, as it were.

Both move me to that moment of heroic emotion as well, that great feeling of victory for the righteous. Which, when I meet God, is what I hope the general feeling to be. Because the opposite would suck.

For heroism as well, I could choose The Last of the Mohicans by Michael Mann, with its bittersweet ending wrapped in both victory and sorrow. The soundtrack alone is something marvelous and the cinematography in the film is some of the best you’ll ever see.

Then my mind wandered back to Star Wars as a whole and Revenge of the Sith, my favorite of favorites, in specific.

But then I’d be ignoring The Godfather Part II! Which got ruled out immediately, because I don’t
want to go out on a down note.

And though Revenge of the Sith ends with a note of hope still, I realized I’d have to rule it out as well. There’s a lot of darkness there. And so long as I’m ruling out darkness, I have to disqualify the original The Godfather as well as Vertigo.

Citizen Kane would seem apropos, but I’d prefer not to go out with a message of how small even the greatest of us are.

Musicals!

The only problem with indulging my love of musicals is, how to select a favorite? The field is littered with larger-than-life options that have a special place in my heart.

Singin’ in the Rain, The Music Man, 1776, Godspell (maybe it counts as an extra little prayer at the end?), my treasured Guys and Dolls.

But then I know, if it’s a musical, it has to be Scrooge with Albert Finney. It’s the one version of A Christmas Carol that makes me weep still, and reminds me of warm Christmases with my family and especially my dad singing along with “Thank You Very Much.”

But Then…

A musical is fine, but I don’t know if it can deliver the type of spiritual oomph I’d need.

I wonder if, knowing it’s your last film, you could really enjoy it?

Is this all an argument against watching bad movies since, theoretically, each one could be the last one you see?

Vader Should Have Surrendered to Obi-Wan

I’ve come to an idea about how Vader should have dealt with the situation on Mustafar.

He should have surrendered!

Let me take you through the reasoning why this not only makes sense, but would have resulted in Anakin becoming an even greater Sith Lord than Palpatine. Hell, he would have been the greatest Sith Lord since the legendary Bane.

Surrender to Victory

The situation as we all know it is that Obi-Wan showed up to bring Anakin to justice, and depending on your point of view (see what I did there?) that’s what he did. However, it left Anakin a broken shell (some could argue a zombie of sorts) to be reconstructed by Palpatine and to continually ponder his existence in terms of what could have been.

Had he surrendered, though, it would have been a master stroke that would have won the galaxy as his. It would have left the Jedi decimated still, and it would have been a stroke of genius to get the galaxy to back the Sith as the leaders of a thousand thousand worlds.

Surrender would have allowed Anakin to continue destroying from within, without having to bloody his hands further.

So How Would That Work, kesseljunkie?

Let me explain.

Palpatine had engineered the senators to surrender their peoples’ freedoms in exchange for power. He reorganized the Republic into a Galactic Empire to “thunderous applause.” This monstrous being had sold those not on the bureaucratic take on the idea that the Jedi had gone rogue, become extremists and threatened to overthrow the government.

Very obviously, the Sith had the intelligence and wisdom to turn a beneficent system against itself by working from within. They worked in shadow to get to a point of primacy that gave them complete control. When Palpatine addresses the Senate in Revenge of the Sith, the need to hide is erased. His true face is known now and the system has been reshaped to support him.

Anakin surrendering corners Obi-Wan into coming back to Coruscant, to present him to a system he knows is rigged against him. The Jedi have been destroyed by that point and Yoda cannot offer public assistance. Political allies will cow in fear rather than be portrayed as supporting traitors.

Palpatine would have likely given Obi-Wan diplomatic leniency in public and then jailed him “for his own protection.” And when the show trial that only goes further to portray the Jedi as ignoble renegades, Obi-Wan can then either stand trial for the Order’s “crimes” or be “killed while attempting escape.” Heck, Palpatine could have kept him alive as bait to draw out other Jedi who wanted to rescue him, or lure sympathizers into the open so that his enemies make it easier for him to eliminate them.

To be honest, I’d started writing this half-heartedly and am pretty sure I’ve convinced myself now.

Hiccups in the Plan

Sure, there could have been inquiries about the timing of certain events. People may have been curious as to how or why Anakin was sent in secret to assassinate the entire Separatist leadership while the Jedi were supposedly turning against the Republic they’d sworn to defend.

They would have been distracted by propaganda though. Their curiosity would have been deflected by the portrait of a hero who remained loyal to Palpatine, and the Republic by default, since Palpatine’s cult of personality was the new order of government.

Who would have had the courage to bring him to trial though? Even if Bail Organa stood tall and insisted on it, Palpatine had control. At a key moment in the movie, Mace Windu flatly declares that Palpatine “controls the Senate and the courts” before he attempts to assassinate him. So a trial would have been actual good PR for the new Empire since it would have been a terrific chance for Anakin to declare his loyalty, evidence could show he had single-handedly gone to finish off the Separatist threat after a long war and he would have been exonerated.

At that point he becomes Palpatine’s face. Handsome and young, he is more able to persuade by coercion than fear. He would have been a supreme leader instead of a mysterious monster prowling the lanes of space and forcing Palpatine to continue personal interactions. After all, a withered and evil face is still more compelling than an implacable mask.

Anakin surrendering would have been the ultimate move to ensure Sith power for many lifetimes to come.

In Conclusion

At the end of it all, this is all conjecture based on a fan’s frenzied fantasy. Star Wars isn’t structured for this sort of courtroom drama, but I can’t help but wonder.

Have I stumbled accidentally onto a “better fate” for Anakin? Or am I just tilting at windmills?

Another Unanswered Question from Revenge of the Sith

So here we are, the end of our second installment of unanswered questions from the Star Wars saga. I’m going to have to create a specific archive page for this nonsense soon.

So here is my latest question regarding Revenge of the Sith.

Why Didn’t the Clone Troopers Follow Bail Organa from the Jedi Temple?

I can’t really resolve this one, except for one answer I have in my head that nonetheless isn’t completely satisfying. As usual, I want to see if anyone has a similar perspective, or perhaps a contrary one that sways my opinion significantly.

But the basis of the question is, really, the Emperor knew Organa would end up being a thorn in his side if he let him live. I’d think that a supplementary of Order 66 would be “And if you see any of these specific people who could happen to get caught in a cross-fire, mow them down too.”

Now, my own internal reasoning as to why they didn’t follow also hinges on the fact that Lucas changed his mind and didn’t have Organa fire back in the final film (I know that was a change).

But I want you to sidle up to the podium below and give me your ideas why the troopers let Mr. Loyalist Committee get away.

Let’s Get Some Perspective Here

Lately there have been a few flare ups on the blog, on Twitter and elsewhere having to do with my love of the prequels. I was originally considering going with yet another rant about how much I honestly love them (I’m listening to the Episode III soundtrack right now, actually).

Before wading back into the “debate,” it struck me to take a different tack this time.

Whatever Do You Mean, k?

I mean that I’m going to put the ridiculous assertions to the test by measuring, one day at a time, the much–maligned prequels against films that really and truly are terrible. If for no other reason than to give some perspective on what I think is a ridiculous claim to assail them on purported quality. There are different aspects to this, and I will pick on each one.

Today I will go with a personal favorite: inconsistency.

Reinventing the Wheel

Connor MacLeod of the Clan..Wait, What? ZEIST? What the Hell is a Zeist?

Have you ever seen Highlander II: The Quickening? If yes, try to guess where I’m going with this. If no, the price of continuing on here is to rent and endure that piece of offal.

See, Highlander was a low-budget cult hit featuring the music of Queen, a completely awesome villain named Kurgan brought to life by Clancy “I’ll see anything with him in it now” Brown, Sean Connery still trying to find his post-Bond identity, Christopher Lambert and a plot involving…IMMORTALS WITH SWORDS KICKING ASS.

Highlander was all sorts of awesomesauce. It has a befuddling 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, barely approaching Revenge of the Sith’s 80% (see what I did there?). Granted, The Phantom Menace has 57% and Attack of the Clones has 67%, but I love all four of them.

Highlander II, however,was so bad that I don’t want to believe it exists. It recasts these mysterious immortals as aliens from the planet Zeist, ignores Kurgan and has some horse crap about environmentalism worked into it. It is beyond atrocious.

In my opinion.

But What Else?

What else do you need? For all the little hiccups you might have with the prequels being “consistent” with the original trilogy, one or two require some creative allowance, but they’re not unforgivable sins.

Highlander II, however, completely wrecks any attempts at consistency. In the first film, Connor MacLeod asks Ramirez what makes them immortals. Ramirez wistfully explains no one knows why. He muses that to ask such questions is like asking if “the stars are merely pin pricks in the curtain of night.” In the second film, they’re aliens from another planet, fully aware of what they are.

It also features one of the worst villains of all time.

Here’s the Catch

But I remember a guy in one of my film analysis classes who wrote a paper about the Highlander series and he loved Highlander II. It was the cornerstone of his paper! I remember thinking he was out of his mind and that the professor should flunk him on principle.

I have no idea what he got on the paper, but I can say that I look back now on my disdain for him and feel shame. He turned to me for support at one point and I left him high and dry. He didn’t deserve that.

Why?

Because even if I could never agree with him, he had his reasons for liking the film. More power to him.

In Defense of Uncle Owen

This is a blog that I’ve wanted to write for awhile about Owen Lars.

Before Luke gets to see the world at large, Owen Lars is his great obstacle. The last rampart to block his visions of the future, Owen continually wants Luke to stay on the farm for just one season more.

Uncle Owen talks to Luke Skywalker in this promotional photo from Star Wars, later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope, even before the term Special Edition was invented
Fine, Uncle Owen, I get it. South ridge condensers need to be repaired. But why are you in a bathrobe?

He wants Luke ignore the friends who have grown past him and moved into the world in favor of remaining a farmer.

And of course, Luke wants nothing to do with it. Like the audience, Luke has dreams of adventure and love that are greater than his surroundings can provide.

So naturally we identify with Luke. He is not just the hero of the tale, but I would argue a uniquely American one in many ways. He does not want to enter the trade that provided for him his whole life. He feels he can be fulfilled only if his greatest dreams come true.

Of course for Luke they do. He is our generational archetype, the great hero who came from nothing to change the world.

But what about Uncle Owen?

A Different Perspective

Now that I’ve been a father for a few years, I’m starting to think Owen Lars got a bit of a bad rap.

Owen knew what Luke’s father did. If you pay attention to the ending of Revenge of the Sith, he never interacts with Obi–Wan. That’s on purpose.

Good ol’ Ben Kenobi drops the progeny of Death and Fear into your arms and leaves him to you. Owen never had his own children, looking at the films. Luke was his one and only tie to a sense of family that had disintegrated for Owen since Shmi’s death. So he grew to love and was watching over the child of the galaxy’s most notorious sociopath. Owen was afraid, to be sure. But wouldn’t you be?

I would.

So after 40 years, can’t we give Owen a break? He did the best he could, and even raised a kid with a good sense of values who, when he had the tough choices, made the right ones. He had something to do with that.

We might not like that Owen was protective of Luke. But he did a damn better job than the Jedi did with Anakin.

And I think that’s the point.