An Unanswered Question from Revenge of the Sith

So here we are, the end of our series of unanswered questions from the Star Wars saga.

But not really. I’m walking away for a little bit, but you can bet this topic comes back. Considering the entire concept was spurred by a question I asked Agent Bun just before we watched The Amazing Spider–Man, which was better than people gave it credit for and definitely better than Prometheus, the focus will expand. But for now…the curtain falls.

So here is my question (for now) regarding Revenge of the Sith.

Why Didn’t Mace Windu Take More Than Just Jedi to Accuse and Arrest the Chancellor?

I mean, on some level he had to know where things were headed. Especially since Anakin leveled the charge that Palpatine was the Sith Lord, meaning all of the focused physical power of the Dark Side was now manifesting in him alone just before they went off to get him.

I get that the Jedi were cocky, but this just makes Windu seem so cocksure as to be stupid. The troops were still loyal to you, and there was a whole battalion (I guess) headquartered in the temple or near it. If you went with a platoon of soldiers, at least you’d give Palpatine a motivation to “play it cool” and at least cede political power while things were “sorted out.”

He wouldn’t be issuing orders for one thing. Orders that led to the wiping out of the Jedi.

Unlike some of the previous ones, I don’t have a ready–made, logical answer to this one other than to say that Windu is already teetering on the edge of the Dark Side and motivated by a quest not for justice at that point, but vengeance.

Also for the record, I know that the way it is in the film is more dramatic, and played that way on purpose, but the whole point of this series is to look at things from different angles and try to imagine different ways it could have played. So don’t go responding that it’s for the sake of drama. I want a serious nerd over–examination of it.

Darn It, Where Are My Expanded Soundtracks?

I’m going to be brief, but a bit nerdier than usual today.

Expanded soundtracks have been released for Episodes I, IV, V and VI. Empire Strikes Back‘s expanded offering features alternate music that got “spotted” out of the film in favor of silence or more subdued cues (one of which, I disagree with, but it’s not a big deal). Return of the Jedi‘s expanded soundtrack includes music that was likewise altered, and a musical cue for a scene that didn’t even make the final cut. A New Hope‘s featured music from an entirely cut sequence that was later re-purposed for an expanded entrance to Mos Eisley in the Special Edition.

Episode I‘s is pretty much the entire musical audio reel for the film, including background music that I didn’t even notice was there until I heard the disc for the first time (I can’t not notice it when I watch the film, now).

Episodes II and III, however, have gotten the single-disc treatment and have never been expanded. This is kind of bogus, for someone who’s a real fan of the music. Williams’ scores provide the heart and soul of these films – to the point where you have to admit they wouldn’t succeed without them – and I want every single ding-dong-doo-dah note.

There’s a beautiful cue at the end of Revenge of the Sith that’s truncated and it just irks me because…well, I’m a nerd. But aside from that, it’s one of the most stirring pieces and I want to hear it. There are incidental cues from Attack of the Clones that are terrific, and I’d also like to hear any alternate track treatments, like they have on the other expanded soundtracks.

For that matter, while every one else complains that they can’t (yet) get the “unaltered” films on disc – though technically they were released, just not to everyone’s satisfaction – the soundtrack thing is a gripe I have.

Make no mistake, it’s not because I can compose music or play an instrument. It’s because I thoroughly enjoy the music and it relaxes me. And when I’m working on something, it helps me focus and get things done. The unaltered soundtrack is a way for me to have the movie playing in my head while doing something else, so I’m coming at the sometimes-tedious work of scanning HTML or tweaking a design from a happy place. And I want Clones and Sith expanded soundtracks, but no one joins in it with me when I register those gripes on the Web site, or directly at Lucasfilm employees on Twitter.

I know it’s not the worst thing in the world, and obviously I can survive without them. But as a fan(atic) about the music, it’d be nice to get a little bit of love here.

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: I Must Obey My Master

Yep. I’m still in the process of reclaiming my old blogs from their old origin points to protect them from being locked away from me for good. I’m also very tired and going to sleep pretty much immediately after I post this.

This time, I decided to nab another one that explores the nature of the Dark Side, but also Anakin/Vader’s dependency on Palpatine/Sidious. It’s something that, as a fan, I’m always interested in trying to peg down just because of the subtextual complexity laid down in that relationship.

So here are my thoughts from 2005, just a few months after Revenge of the Sith was released.


I Must Obey My Master

Originally published on August 24, 2005, at the original kessel korner.

There is something over which I have pondered for more than twenty years. In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader, on the forest moon of Endor, declares, “I must obey my master.” In light of the events revealed in Revenge of the Sith, I think finally know why.

Now, you must know that I am not pulling this from any official source. So don’t take my word as ‘canon’, unless like me, it makes the most sense for you. 🙂

I have always wondered why Vader must obey his master. It just didn’t make sense; Vader offered Luke the opportunity in The Empire Strikes Back to overthrow the Emperor. (As a side note, I loved the parallel moment in Sith when he made the same offer to Padmé.)

There are any of a number of noble reasons you can throw out there as well. One which I always favored was that Vader defends the Emperor, in part because on a subconscious level he wants to prevent Luke from making the same mistakes he did. That explanation still works in the subtext, but it’s not a strong enough motivator to keep Sidious alive.

Vader is already doubting the ways of the Sith by the beginning of Return of the Jedi. The statement, “It is too late for me, son” points to a conflicted soul, one who is resigned to his fate but unhappy about it. It’s not the triumphant declaration of power that we came to expect from Vader after A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, when he was still a blazing acolyte of the Dark Side.

Despite the conflict, despite the doubt, Vader acts first out of the Fear of Death. And since we know that Vader fears death above all other things, he must do everything in his power to protect…the wellspring of his life.

After Revenge of the Sith, it clicked for me when Sidious told Anakin the story of Darth Plagueis. The Sith want to acheive immortality by unnaturally prolonging life. The one word that Palpatine/Sidious hit on in the “legend” was power. Later, when Anakin turns, Sidious states that “only one has mastered” the secret to immortality, “but together, I am sure we can discover its secret.”*

The Emperor, when he goes to find Anakin on Mustafar, does not turn and look for a new apprentice. It would have made sense, would it not? Especially for a ruthless, self-serving manipulator like Sidious. He had already won. We know that Anakin is damaged goods by that point, and so does he. But rather, he goes to the lava shore and saves Anakin’s life. This is not a tender man, so to see any sort of tenderness does not fit.

Palpatine still needs Anakin, because as weakened as he is, he is still the key to Palpatine’s chance at immortality. After his slash-and-burn fate, Anakin needs Palpatine’s power to stay alive as well. They act like parasites, one feeding off the other.

That is the key. Together, Sidious and Vader are extremely powerful. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I believe that one keeps the other alive.

Even in his weakened state as a zombie cyborg, Vader provides the power for the Emperor to cheat death…to a certain point. The problem is that Vader is no longer the powerful man that Anakin was, and as time marches on he cannot feed the Emperor’s “need” much longer. The Emperor now needs the whole, unspoiled son if he is to unlock the secret forever.

Vader, on the other hand, made three plays for power (Mustafar, Death Star, Bespin) and failed. The sun is already setting on him, and he knows that he has blown his chance at “independence”. He needs the Emperor in Return of the Jedi far more than the Emperor needs him. Vader must obey his master, because otherwise he will die. Without Palpatine, the key to Vader’s unnatural life ends.

“Luke, help me take this mask off.”
“But you’ll die.”
“Nothing can stop that now…”

I am already sure that everyone will tell me that it was the Emperor’s lightning that killed Vader. Being more machine than man, blah, blah, blah. But you know what? People survive Force lightning in the films. While I think still that it brings the house crashing down, it is the removal of the Emperor’s power that ensures Vader’s death. This adds even more nobility to the sacrifice. When he throws the Emperor down that ill-placed reactor shaft, he knows that he is committing suicide to save his son. That is the ultimate sacrifice – not to just throw yourself into harm’s way, but to know that it means your end.

So what was the final moment that pushed Vader over the edge? We all know that. But now, maybe I understand why it was such a difficult decision from the start.

* Give me a break. If I mis-quoted something, I know I was at least in the ball park. I haven’t seen Sith more than five times yet, the memorization will come.


I still think this is a pretty valid interpretation after all these years. Anyone have any thoughts?

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.