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mygif

A very interesting point of view. Thank you for sharing.

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mymatedave said on June 26th, 2010 at 3:54 pm

That is an interesting argument, I don’t know that I agree with it, but it definitely is something to think about.

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mygif

I really like that interpretation. It’s a lot more interesting than “Jedi should be 100% good guys and Sith are 100% bad guys” that seems to be a basis of a lot of arguments.

I always like it when people objectively look at the prequels in a manner unlike the typical “George Lucas Raped my Childhood” fashion. I think the biggest obstacle the prequels really faced was that expectations were far too high.

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I think you make some good arguments here, and it might be taken that the “returning balance to the Force” prophecy wasn’t about evening out the numbers of Jedi and Sith, or Lucas’ baffling “the balance between the living Force and the other Force” explanation, but simply emotional balance.

The Jedi never deal with their emotions, they just repress and avoid. When those aren’t an option, they don’t have any practice at coping, and some inevitably crack. The Sith code seems to exhort no emotional restraint whatsoever, which is another way of effectively never dealing with your emotions.

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I halfheartedly disagree.

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mygif

First Civil war, now this. Thanks for really bringing the nerdery around here, John.

That said, I think you are wrong on an number of points, for a certain definition of wrong.

You seem to be approaching the matter from the standpoint of ‘the only data I’m using is what actually appears in all six movies; no other sources are considered.’ (Correct me if I’m wrong about that, by the way.) That’s certainly a way to go, but you gotta realize that Lucas has expounded on this stuff beyond the movies, and I personally feel that Lucas gets to be the final arbiter of what was and wasn’t happening in his universe, even if what was happening turns out to be really stupid and/or make no sense.

For example, you talk about what the prophecy is about. Lucas has been explicit about that; “Anakin’s offspring redeem him and allow him to fulfill the prophecy where he brings balance to the Force by doing away with the Sith and getting rid of evil in the universe…”.

Now, I think that’s a little bit silly and simplistic. (Keep in mind that Lucas ALSO has flat-out said that the Dark Side is evil, as pushback against a vocal segment of fans who were arguing that the Force was wholly neutral and only what you DID with it was bad.) But you know, in a way, it’s also a repudiation of the old Jedi Order as well. Anakin’s OFFSPRING redeem him. Yoda and Obi-wan were good men, good teachers, and I personally think they were right about a lot of stuff, but in the end it was Luke seeing beyond them and going where they could not that brought his father back.

Other points; I think you’re being excessively hard on the Jedi Order. A lot of the Council are dicks, and they make some stupid decisions, but that doesn’t invalidate their philosophy, which seems at its core to be ‘you must be detached, serene, and open to the Force in order to let it flow through you. Attachment and possession are bad; they will blunt your connection to the Living Force and through the passions they arouse, they will open you to the Dark Side.’

Look at Yoda in Empire. Luke asks, “How am I to know the good side from the bad?” “You will know when you are calm, at peace, passive.” That actually seems like really good advice given the context their universe works in.

The old Jedi Order doesn’t really ACT like a bunch of ruthless sociopaths, either. If I’m allowed to pull from the various Clone Wars series, they have friends, comrades. Some of them have hobbies and active lives outside the order. They joke and laugh with each other, and this seems acceptable to all involved, and many of them are genuinely, passionately devoted to figuring out what the right thing is and doing it, not JUST for some amorphous greater good but on an individual level as well. Yoda doesn’t think ‘love’ is bad. He thinks that letting your love for your mother and the rage you feel over losing her to lead you to butcher a whole lot of Sandpeople is bad. I will allow that he DOES think anger is bad no matter what, because (and I’m pretty sure, again, that this comes right from Lucas, but I may be wrong) that anger, NO MATTER HOW RIGHTEOUS, will poison your connection to the Force, opening you to the Dark Side.

It is because of this, the Order states, that the Jedi HAVE to be detached and separate from the world, to a degree, because this enormous power they wield demands certain sacrifices in order to be wielded responsibly. As it happens, I think they go to far. But they’re not really ‘villains’ except inasmuch as they are flawed.

/rant

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Citizen Bacillus said on June 26th, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I’ve heard this argument before, and part of me wants to agree. Trouble is, the prequels were *so* lacking by every other metric of good storytelling that I can’t bring myself to believe Lucas came up with it on purpose.

Has he ever said anything of the kind in interviews, DVD commentary, novels? Short of that, I don’t think it’s a debate that can ever be resolved with diving headlong into arguments over literary theory. And no one wants that.

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eris esoteric said on June 26th, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Personally, I have no idea what Lucas was intending with the series, but I’ve always kind of seen the whole thing from the same point of view that Mr. Seavey here is expressing. What Star Wars needs is a John Sheridan, who’s willing to kick both the old philosophies aside in favor of finding a new, balanced way.

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The idea of the Jedi being flawed and not right about everything is an idea that my friends and I have bandied about a lot. It’s even an idea that was specifically brought up in both of the Knights of the Old republic games, though each of the games addressed it differently.

There’s also discussion that the Sith were originally just rebelling against the hidebound dogma of the Jedi, and didn’t become corrupt and evil until later. While there’s a general equation of Jedi=good, and Sith=evil, there’s really more of a Jedi=order and Sith=chaos/individualism that’s even stronger. And as we all know, order does not necessarily equal good, any more than chaos equals evil.

It’s definitely interesting to think about.

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magnuskn said on June 26th, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Well, this was a big heap of fail, mostly due to John not doing the research and producing such gems as “Jedi wipe parents memories of their children”, i.e. equating them to child kidnappers.

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Sorry Johnny but I give your half-hearted defense an apathetic shrug of meh. Though I do like that Murc fellows rebuttal…

Me I’ll just continue on living in my Denial World where nothing was done with the original trilogy past the THX recut and the only additions to the Star Wars universe were in print form…

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mygif

Hard to argue with insightful comments like “big heap of fail.” What research would you have him do, Mr. Magnuskn? Is there a book or documentary John should check out?

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mygif

The only redeeming features you point out from the prequels are themes. It’s great that the person who will bring ‘balance’ to the force eventually makes it even, only two jedi remain (Obi-wan and Yoda) and two Sith remain (Vader and the Emperor). As Luke begins his ascension, Obi-wan is killed (or rather, defeated?), again by the instrument of that balance. It’s interesting that the Jedi spend most of their time thinking that returning the force to ‘balance’ is a good thing, while not realizing what that balance entails.

The thematic losing of hands and mentors is also interesting; there is a certain pleasantness in repetition and a story that loops back on itself.

I’ll even buy your interpretation Manichean dichotomy of the Jedi Order and the Sith.

But, those things aren’t what damns the prequels. It’s the characters and the plots that those themes inhabit. In the Phantom Menace, it is unclear exactly who the protagonist is, who we’re supposed to relate to, or really, what’s going on at all. Characters are two-dimensional and lifeless, we have no clear indications of what the motivations of the characters are; why does the Trade Federation want to blockade Naboo? What is in it for them? A hologram told them to do it? What about Qui-gon’s motivation to train Anakin? Is it for some vague prophecy? Why is that prophecy so important? At least with Watto, we can chalk it up to greed.

The plots are similarly convoluted. Darth Sidious’ aims and methods are basically inscrutable. We are given the impression that he is pulling the strings of everyone around him, but it just comes across as a random mess. His whole goal was to be made emperor in a political way? The Jedi just decide that the army of clones that just *happened* to be there is a good thing to use? No one looks over the pre-executable orders on the clones list (Order 66)? The fundamental tipping point is Jar Jar initiating a motion to give Palpatine emergency powers? Palpatine is really backing both sides so that he can pit two colossal military forces against each other? Why did he bother with the clones in the first place? Why not just use the droid armies of the separatists, and, the republic, lacking clones, gets defeated and Palpatine installed as emperor anyway?

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Well, I always thought bringing balance to the Force /was/ exactly what ended up happening. Two Sith vs how many Jedi? In the end, there is just Luke and he seems to be a synthesis of the two schools on some level. I always thought Yoda knew that’s what it meant

Also, I thought that there was a very interesting transition in who taught who: Luke was taught by Obi-Wan (much more effectively than he did Anakin). Obi-Wan was taught by Qui-Gon. /Qui-Gon/ was taught by Dooku. Now, stupid name aside, we know that Dooku is one of the “Lost Twenty” – a Jedi who has left the order. He was taught by many jedi but /also/ Palpatine. I thought that Dooku’s training of Qui-Gon (and therefore Palpatine’s training of all of them, on some level) leaves you with Sith doctrine synthasized through Jedi discipline.

Or something like that.

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mygif

Three words: “Failed, I Have.”

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You are right on a lot of points:

1) Lucas needed a script editor. He’d have forced better exposition pointing how unsympathetic the Jedi had become: in particular, hopefully getting Anakin to rage at Obi-Wan about how the Jedi took him but never went back to Tatooine free his mother from enslavement and take her off-world before the Sand Raiders captured her.
2) The Jedi were as stagnant and unquestioning as you highlight. One scene in particular you missed: in the Jedi Library, when Obi-Wan fails to find a planet, the librarian just shrugs it off and claims “there must be no planet”. Doesn’t even give it a second thought or do further research: Worst. Librarian. Ever. It’s only a Padawan who hasn’t yet been conditioned to Not-Question to point out the obvious clue that someone erased the files.
3) There is no excuse for Jar-Jar.

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magnuskn said on June 26th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

@Erik: There is that thing called “Wookiepedia” if you want to make sure that you are not talking complete non-sense about certain topics of Star Wars.

Mind you, Wookiepedia is not *always* 100% accurate, due to it being user-controlled, but it’s better than conconcting half-cocked BS like how Jedi are parents-brainwashing child kidnappers, just to construct a strawman for ones argument of the Jedi being sociopaths and the “other villains” of the prequels, which is patently absurd.

And that is taking into account that the Jedi of that era were pretty arrogant and short-sighted.

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I too noticed the stupidity of the Jedi philosophy, but nothing about the movie suggests to me that George Lucas did. It’s not like he’s a subtle storyteller.

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Makeshift_Robot said on June 26th, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Magnus, if you look at just the films (which are what John’s post addresses), there’s no more “research” to be done. He’s looking at the events of the movies and drawing conclusions from them. None of this Word of God nonsense, or EU novels, just a basic act of analysis and conclusion. Which is fantastic.

Why are you so intense about defending the honor of a fictional group of people?

John: Great, great work. I like Star Wars but I’m not really “into it”, and this makes the whole work more enjoyable and interesting in hindsight.

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quinctia said on June 26th, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I take it you haven’t seen any of these:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI

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VanVelding said on June 26th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Well said. I’ve never understood the intensity of hate directed at the prequels. Not good, but not terrible either.

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I’m always thrilled to see a defense of the Prequels, even a half-hearted one. I’ve been beating the drum for the Prequels on my own blog for years, and I continue to keep right on, all the while recognizing that I’m rolling the rock uphill or something like that. Thanks for this post!

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I don’t believe for a minute that Lucas is a good enough writer to have written with any of the stuff in the article in mind, except in the haziest, most underdeveloped form.
Like most “higher-end” thought on Star Wars, it’s all fan created, though this post is more legit for sticking strictly to what’s in the films, rather than using information provided in grudging scraps through press materials and pamphlets that come with toys; way too little of anything treated as “canon” by Lucas defenders is actually explicitly from the movies.
As far as the comments go, with people actually attacking a DEFENCE of the prequels for not being respectful enough, he’s sticking with what’s in the films, a perfectly respectable way of, you know, analyzing a goddamn FILM.
How often do you see people demanding that they check the Citizen Kane wiki for information based on a card that came with the “Deluxe Special Edition Rosebud Lego Set”?

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mygif

Excellent analysis. Previously, I defended the Separtist plot as my favorite part of the prequels (because the concept is pretty clever.) Now, we have this too.

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I’ve been saying a form of this for years.

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[…] like the way John Seavey of Mighty God King thinks in this essay titled “A Half-Hearted Defense of the ‘Star Wars’ Prequels“: On the one hand, I’m not crazy enough to say that the “Star Wars” prequels are good. […]

mygif

That’s an interesting take. It certainly explains away about half of my biggest problem with the prequels; the prophecy regarding Anakin. I had the hardest time wrapping my head around why the Jedi thought that “bringing balance to the Force” was a GOOD thing when they already outnumbered the Sith. Your theory about a middle ground works fairly well (though we did still end up with only a handful of Jedi because of Anakin’s actions).

Of course it doesn’t change that the back-story mentioned in four to six claimed that Anakin was a great hero who had been corrupted by the Dark Side when the reality is that he started out as a bratty kid, became someone who slaughtered whole families for revenge, and then got worse. I guess I shouldn’t have expected Jedi to be very reliable narrators after the reveal at the end of Empire.

None of that hand-waving excuses giving Jar Jar Senatorial power, though. 😉

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John, I think you’ve got a point, and I think your reading is a valid one, though getting into authorial intent leads us into murky waters. Problem is, it doesn’t constitute a defense.

Let us stipulate that you’re correct that the Jedi being incurious, thickheaded douchebags is a deliberate choice rather than an accidental artifact of sloppy writing. The problem is, so what if it is a choice? It’s still a bad choice, and bad artistic choices are how you wind up with bad art.

To put it another way, let’s say that George Lucas had decided that the last 45 minutes of Episode II should be nothing more than a five-second clip, looped over and over, of Obi-Wan Kenobi slamming his dick in a door. And let us presume that he made this decision deliberately, for reasons that made sense to him. It would still be a bad decision, resulting in a bad movie.

Han killing Boba Fett by accident was a bad creative decision. Greedo shooting first was a bad creative decision. Jar-Jar Binks was a big pile of bad creative decisions. Just because they were decisions, just because they were deliberate, does not make them defensible.

Likewise, the Jedi being bad guys, leaving us with nobody to root for in a genre that is deeply dependent on the audience rooting for the heroes, is a flatly bad decision. Frankly, assuming that Lucas intended to make the Jedi good guys and just fucked up his job is actually a more generous reading, since that merely makes him sloppy and inept rather than deliberately stupid.

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mygif

I thought that Lucas’ was paying homage to Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” when he was writing “Star Wars”. Hence, the Bushido-influenced emotional detachment of the Jedi.

Interesting article, lots of points to ponder.

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Tim O'Neil said on June 26th, 2010 at 11:40 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with this defense – I have always unabashedly loved the Prequels for much of the reasons explicated above. I don’t know jack about most of the Expanded Universe or even the pseudo-canon Clone Wars / Shadows of the Empire stuff. I just know the movies themselves are some of my favorite movies, all six of them, and as a piece they hold up quite awesome.

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This only serves to make me wish that you (or somebody who thinks about story as much as you) had written the prequels, instead of Chinbeard the Hutt.

I think you’ve done a great job at finding a line that would work, but the movies themselves don’t seem to be aware that it exists.

Interesting article.

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To clarify, magnuskn: It’s not that I didn’t research the Expanded Universe material (and/or Lucas’ statements in interviews, et cetera) on the subject; it’s that I don’t care about it. If it’s not on screen, it’s just an interpretation or an extrapolation of events, and all interpretations and extrapolations are equally valid.

That is to say, they have as much validity as the evidence and logic they use to prove their case. Saying, “No, I don’t believe the Jedi would kidnap children because in the scene where you see the Jedi younglings, they’ve got parents, and you didn’t do your research because you didn’t go back and rewatch that scene closely enough to notice that” is a valid criticism. Saying, “Jedi don’t kidnap children because Author X wrote a Lucasfilm-authorized book in which they gave a different explanation and you didn’t read that book”? No. Lucas authorized that explanation because it sold books. He might authorize a completely different explanation tomorrow. I don’t go by things outside the text when attempting textual analysis. Because, well, duh. :)

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mygif

Excellent argument

Ive kinda had those sort of feelings when dealing with Star Wars stuff. Especially when playing Knights of the Old Republic 2, where a lot of the conversations revolve around if the Jedi should have intervened in some war in the not too distant past (Saying that you agree that helping the planets that we’re being attacked is a good thing makes the Jedi treat you like scum, because waiting for the councils decision was the logical thing to do).

There also a very interesting bit in Knights of the Old Republic 1 where you visit a Sith school, which if you ignore the backstabbing and murder, just seems like a place full of incredibly determined and passionate students.

I think the whole reason that people seem unwilling to accept the idea of the Jedi being massive douches is because Obi Wan and Yoda seemed like such nice dudes in the Original trilogy. The fact that Luke immediately rebuilt the Jedi Order in the EU didnt help either.

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Uber Geek said on June 27th, 2010 at 12:23 am

I alway thought that if the Jedi Council had of given Anakin a little positive reinforcement, he wouldn’y have sided with the Emperor.

Also, while the Jar Jar in the movies was a steaming pile of crap, the one from the original script was interested. I feel that “The Phantom Menace” would have been better if they had left in the racial tension between the humans and the Gungans.

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Mary Warner said on June 27th, 2010 at 12:33 am

I never thought the prequels were so bad. I’d even consider the third one great. They do have their problems, especially the dialogue and some stretched-out action scenes. But Jar-Jar, although annoying, is not nearly as bad as people claim. Far worse is that two-headed race announcer, and all of Threepio’s lines from the first two.

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@John, “If it’s not on screen, it’s just an interpretation or an extrapolation of events, and all interpretations and extrapolations are equally valid.”

Sorry, but I think I’m going to have to say that I think you are flat-out wrong about this. The guy whose playground it is DOES get to call the shots. Example; I don’t get to call Lord of the Rings an allegory for World War II. Know why? Because J.R.R Tolkien is the guy who spent most of his life building that universe, and HE gets to say what it is and isn’t an allegory of and what the things in it mean, not I.

Now, obviously, there are going to be some occasional exceptions here. If Lucas were to say ‘Luke’s lightsaber was colored yellow’ he would, well, be WRONG. And possibly in need of medication. But my point remains.

I also think you’re being a bit strawmanish here. “Jedi don’t kidnap children because Author X wrote a Lucasfilm-authorized book in which they gave a different explanation?” Okay, you kinda have a legit point there. You’re talking about ancillary material, not authored by Lucas, that Lucas likely didn’t even read and may not even be aware of.

But when Lucas goes on the record, himself, and unambiguously makes statements clarifying things about which there was ambiguity? Those statements stand. They might be DUMB statements. But they do stand.

It does also kind of raise the issue of what ‘counts’ in a large canon of work. To go to the Tolkien well for an analogy again, if I told you that I didn’t regard things that happened in The Hobbit as valid for making points with regard to the Lord of the Rings, ‘because if it isn’t on the page in the trilogy itself its just an interpretation’ people would regard me as nuts. If I disregard the Silmarillion, LESS people would regard me as nuts. If I disregard points made from obscure unpublished letters written by Tolkien that are vaguely and imperfectly excerpted online somewhere, even fewer people.

To flip this back to Star Wars… one can probably disregard, say, obscure comic-book tie-ins. Lots of people disregard the EU books. If you disregard the prequels, you look kinda dumb. (especially for the purposes of this discussion, which is ABOUT the prequels and how they interface with the first trilogy, where it isn’t about the Jedi and how evil/not evil they are.)

But can you disregard the Clone Wars TV series, either of them? How about the MOVIE? That’s all on screen, right? Where does the line get drawn?

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This is not a question with a “right” answer, Murc. Some people feel that the statements of the author are vital clarifications of the finished work; other people feel that it removes a lot of interesting possibilities for interpretation of the story if you chain yourself down to what the author thought. (For example, Tolkien might not have intended LotR to be a WWII analogy…but that doesn’t mean his experiences in the war didn’t inform the work.)

I think that it’s not a big deal if we disagree on that, so long as we remember that this is, ultimately, a fun intellectual game we’re playing. I’m setting out the rules for this round as “all six films, no Expanded Universe (which would include the Clone Wars TV series), no authorial statement.” If you have different rules, that’s fine…but we’re going to have a short, boring discussion that way. :)

And yes, I have at times had a lot of fun watching the original “Star Wars” and ignoring everything else, including the rest of the classic trilogy. You’d be surprised how many interesting things you see if you don’t get locked into the idea that Vader is Luke’s father and Leia is his sister. The key point is not to take any of it too seriously.

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mygif

Fair enough, sir!

Going by that rubric, the position you take in the OP is a hell of a lot more defensible. I think the ‘Jedi possibly mind-wipe parents thing’ is a bridge too far; at that point you’re starting to get into the whole ‘Paladins can be played like the Hitler Youth’ argument that people had back in the earlier days of D&D; these people might not be GOOD, but they’re not really Orwellian-style evil either. There’s nothing in the first six really one way or the other what the Jedi would do with, say, Force-sensitive infants whom their parents didn’t want to give up. ‘Forcible repatriation’ is an option, I suppose, but there’s just as much evidence for ‘well, here’s our card, call us back any time before the sprog turns three.’

Having said that, I think you’re assembling elements from a narrative that is DEEPLY incoherent and incomplete (well, the prequels are, anyway, and they serve to make the original three LESS coherent by extension) and then extrapolating from there to a sort of ‘worst possible’ interpretation. None of the points you make can be DEFINITIVELY proven evil, but I can make, I think, an equally strong case that the Jedi have a morally upright, coherent philosophy re: the Force and how to interact with it that was failed by a decadent, obtenebrated order that had fallen into decay and was failed by its well-meaning leadership.

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@John Seavey
“You’d be surprised how many interesting things you see if you don’t get locked into the idea that Vader is Luke’s father and Leia is his sister.”

I am interested in interesting things. Will you give some examples please?

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“One can imagine a maternity ward where the Jedi test newborns for their strength in the Force, taking away the potentially powerful forever to be raised in the Jedi temple (and possibly wiping the minds of the parents with their Jedi powers. After all, they’re “compassionate”, aren’t they?)”

Is slightly different from

OH HEY YOU GUYS, WE IS THE JEDI COME CHECK OUT OUR MILLENIUM FALCON, WE HAVE CANDY

*these are not the children you are looking for*

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magnuskn said on June 27th, 2010 at 2:52 am

@Makeshift_Robot: I am so intense about the topic because of the reason that John writes a long article and long replies about it: I care. Star Wars happens to be my favourite fictional universe and I have written longer screeds for other entertainment I cared less about.

@John: I think the argument can’t be really limited to “just the films, nobody cares about the rest, haha!”. First off, do you cut off the Clone Wars TV series, too? Lucas has primary supervision of its content ( which is what gave us a black lightsaber, but what can you do >..< ).

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magnuskn said on June 27th, 2010 at 2:55 am

Whoa, why did it cut off my reply after the second paragraph? Oh, well, let’s compress.

Secondly, discounting the EU seems like a cop-out from your side. “Oh, so you got facts which directly contradict my idea? Well, they don’t count because I just changed the rules, haha!”.
That’s a bit weaksauce way to debate. You didn’t lay out that you wouldn’t include the EU in your original post. I personally find it exceedingly difficult to disassociate knowledge I’ve accumulated during the last decades from the prequels.

And thirdly, there are levels of canon in regards to Star Wars… as long as Lucas doesn’t directly contradict things other authors said, they have standing and there are people at LucasFilms overlooking that canon is maintained. Every new project in Star Wars has to be sanctioned by LucasFilm, with new events being vetted that they don’t contradict canon.
So your argument that “the EU doesn’t count” does not hold water. It is not some wild west where every author can write whatever he likes, like comics do become from time to time ( i.e. when a new EIC at Marvel decides that continuity is too difficult and who cares and Peter can’t be married >.< ).

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Jar Jar is pretty much the Ewoks all over again. While there may be no excuse, I think people overreact to him: he’s no worse than dozens of trite mascots designed to appeal to kids. He’s like a Scooby-Doo gone wrong, or something.

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I tend to think that you have to draw a pretty conservative line as to what constitutes canon material in the expanded universe stuff. There are vast amounts of directly contradictory material out there, much of it voided by George Lucas himself in the prequel trilogy. It can’t all be valid.

One other thing to keep in mind is that even to George Lucas, Star Wars is a ongoing work in progress. The original Star Wars concept material bears only a superficial resemblance to the (thus far) finished product. There is no graven-in-stone meta plot line dating back to the mid seventies.

As for changing the rules in the face of your EU facts, John said he was looking at the prequels as prequels, and suggesting a possible interpretation. He never said he was trying to validate and incorporate the EU stuff, and he is under no obligation to do so, unless he’s trying to sell a novel to Del Rey. Just because he hasn’t spent a few thousand dollars on ancillary merchandising products doesn’t make it any less valid.

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I wonder how Magnuskin would react to hearing that Lucas essentially declared all the EU novels, games, comic books, etc. non-canon when Phantom Menace came out? How does author-as-final-authority jive with gotta-source-’em-all?

But enough pot-stirring. The thing I most enjoyed in the prequel trilogy, that took a little inference here and there to see, was Palpatine’s con game. He wasn’t content to sit back with the “only two Sith at a time” rule, because as long as he was the only one who knew he was breaking it, it made everyone else a little complacent.

“But Burke,” I hear you say, raising a valid argument, “he does only have one apprentice at a time. He has Darth Maul in the first movie, and then Count Dooku in the second, and then Darth Vader only after Dooku’s dead.” But closer to the truth is that the audience only sees one apprentice at a time.

Remember in Attack of the Clones that it took ten years to grow the clone army–once they had the requisite hardware and genetic sample, which would themselves have taken time to gather discreetly. The arrangements were made by a Jedi (Dooku), and as the clones were a major part of Palpatine’s overall gambit, it isn’t likely that he would have trusted a new-to-the-cloth apprentice with setting it up. Which means he had at least two apprentices, Darth Maul and Dooku, at the same time.

Why would he do that? Because everyone but him accepting that rule makes everyone but him a little bit complacent. His apprentices don’t turn on him because they don’t know there’s competition, the Jedi don’t look for more than one Sith apprentice to be out there causing trouble–and even if the Jedi get lucky and trip over both his apprentices, he still wins because they’ll kill both, assume they got all the Sith, and stop looking for more.

The whole prequel trilogy is basically Palpatine setting up a con to make himself the only person with Force powers left in the galaxy, and to also coincidentally be in charge of it. The clones are a weapon made to kill all the Jedi, the war is engineered to make the Jedi grab up the closest weapon to hand (why, look, here’s a zillion clones, and we just happen to need an army–sure, it’s suspicious, but we’re too desperate just now to ask questions), and as a side effect the war means people at home will give more and more authority to the leader who’ll make it go away.

Do I think Lucas came up with such a subtle scheme? Maybe not on purpose. For that matter, maybe I’m just making it up, myself, but it makes the films more enjoyable for me.

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Menshevik said on June 27th, 2010 at 5:35 am

@ Brad Hanon –
While I’m in the minority about this, I loved the way Boba Fett got killed in RotJ and never could figure why such a cult developed around him since in ESB apart from a cool-looking helmet what he has going for him is a good instinct for locating his prey, but in the fight scene in which he is involved he is basically good at running away, er, I mean making a tactical retreat. For the purposes of the plot he did not have to be the badass fighter his fans wanted him to be, and I really was disgusted with the fan-service addition of Boba Fett to the Special Edition of ANH.

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Um…yeah, that was pretty clear. The scene in Clones with the librarian underlined the dichotomy of ‘bad’ Jedi (read arrogant and condescending)and Sith (genocidal assholes).

It’s just that distinction wasn’t enough to justify what the prequels were.

Y’know what, I’ve only just discovered KOTOR II and the storyline there with the Sith is actually more profound than the official film releases. Once again the notion of ‘balance’, is addressed, but in a far more interesting manner.

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Sofa King said on June 27th, 2010 at 8:14 am

I don’t think the Jedi would take the chance on leaving a Force-powerful kid with “Muggle” parents. They didn’t with Anakin. Supposing the kid watches his parents get gunned down in a back alley on Tatooine? Then you have an angry young guy with a utility belt and Force powers running around, easy prey for the Sith. They’d have to do SOMETHING.

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@Sofa King

Your ideas are intriguing, and I wish to learn more.

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Garfield said on June 27th, 2010 at 8:55 am

I’d be against falling in love, too, if it were always as badly written as it was with Padme and Anakin.

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I’d be inclined to call Episodes I-III as flawed successes. When I watch the prequels, I love watching the different ways the Jedi fail Anakin, and Anakin’s need for a father to the point of starvation (compare Anakin in Episode 2: “You’ve been like a FATHER to me.” to Obi-Wan in Episode 3: “We were BROTHERS!” or Palpatine in Episode 3: “I need your help, SON.” Imagine if Qui Gonn survived the fight w/ Darth Maul?).

Among other things, we get just enough reason for why Obi Wan Kenobi should be considered among the greatest of the Jedi (the first Sith Lord any Jedi has faced in over a thousand years and he slices the dude CLEAN in half!) and I like watching Count Dooku in action, fully unaware of how much of a patsy he truly is.

It’s almost like watching a sci-fi version of a Shakespearean tragedy. I often wondered if that were the reason for all the criticism levied at the prequel trilogy – damned things reminded too many people of high school english!

And if I ever write a book, I’m titling it “Even Jar-Jar Has a Purpose.” Cuz he does. He really does. :)

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I was going to weigh in, but I am feeling pretty lazy this Sunday morning and am going to let Red Letter do the talking for me:

http://www.youtube.com/user/RedLetterMedia

No one, and I mean No One, has better summed up the problems with the second trilogy better.

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Jim Caldwell said on June 27th, 2010 at 10:13 am

I loved the way Boba Fett got killed in RotJ and never could figure why such a cult developed around him since in ESB apart from a cool-looking helmet

He was introduced and featured prominently in the Star Wars Holiday Special, long before ESB. I was hardly a member of any sort of Star Wars fandom, but at the playground level, he was seen as an exciting new character to look out for.

That it didn’t work out that way didn’t seem to matter to anyone – he was an empty vessel to pour all their homemade ideas into.

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Tenken347 said on June 27th, 2010 at 10:18 am

@Menshevik

The reason I personally think that Boba Fett’s death in RotJ was bad has nothing to do with how cool I think he was (and I do think Boba Fett was pretty cool). The fact is, Fett found Han and the others on Cloud City. He’s responsible for the Empire taking over there, he’s responsible for Han being frozen in carbonite for three years, and he’s indirectly responsible for Luke rushing out there and getting his hand cut off. He shouldn’t have died on accident; Luke or Han should have straight up murdered him in that fight. Not knocked him off the barge into the sarlac, but actually killed him via blaster or lightsaber. Leia strangles Jaba with her own slave chains, but Fett dies on accident? Doesn’t work for me.

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@Tenken347

Agreed!

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John, did you ever read _The Darth Side_, by Cheeseburger Brown? It touches on the points you’ve raised, and it is WONDERFUL. It’s basically Episodes 4-6 told through Vader’s eyes, with great humor and moments of startling humanity and emotion. Also, free online! I’d quote from it, but, well, it’s too good to ruin that way.

http://cheeseburgerbrown.com/Darth_Vader/

(his other stuff is great too, I HIGHLY recommend Simon of Space)

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malakim2099 said on June 27th, 2010 at 12:08 pm

@Burke: Why would he do that? Because everyone but him accepting that rule makes everyone but him a little bit complacent. His apprentices don’t turn on him because they don’t know there’s competition, the Jedi don’t look for more than one Sith apprentice to be out there causing trouble–and even if the Jedi get lucky and trip over both his apprentices, he still wins because they’ll kill both, assume they got all the Sith, and stop looking for more.

I always felt that the “only two” rule was a deception from the beginning. Why let people know how much of a threat you really are? Especially when (in the pre-film history) that caused your downfall on repeated occasions?

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Magnuskn said:

“Secondly, discounting the EU seems like a cop-out from your side. “Oh, so you got facts which directly contradict my idea? Well, they don’t count because I just changed the rules, haha!”.”

Um, no, you don’t have facts that contradict my idea. Because this is all made up. The Star Wars didn’t really happen. It’s all fiction.

…you do know that, right?

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That’s pretty disingenous, John.

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An interesting interpretation, and not one I entirely disagree with. Good article.

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magnuskn said on June 27th, 2010 at 3:27 pm

@Burke: There are levels of canon, as explained here: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Canon

Can you can directly quote Lucas on where said that all the EU has been declared null and void by him?

@John: Come on, now you are really BS’ing. Of course I know that the universe is fictional. But if you want to have a discussion about the whole Jedi philosophy, you got to discuss the “facts” as they happened in-universe. You can’t just say “Oh, I like my hypothesis more than what the authors wrote, so I’ll just ignore those pesky facts”. That’s a pretty US-Republican thing to do.

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Wait, there are still people who regard authorial intent as the final arbiter for interpreting a text? [slams head on desk]

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People are getting their panties in a bunch because Johns not interested in the EU?! C’mon you guys, seriously

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And there’s that word again, “facts”, in a context not recognizable by any human being. These are fictional texts. Lots of people have different opinions about those fictional texts–places the story could have gone, things the characters could have done before the story started, events that could have taken place off-screen.

Some of these people were paid by George Lucas. Some were not. You insist that the ideas and opinions that were paid for are somehow “better” and more true than the ones that were not. This is simply not a convincing argument to me, and no amount of “but it IS!!!!!!!” from you will make it so. Fan orthodoxy is only meaningful if you choose to accept it, and I don’t.

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Magnuskn, you’re the reason Wikipedia editors mark up articles for being written in an “in-universe style”. Interpreting the facts in your own way is not a “US-Republican thing to do”, it’s an art critic thing to do(obeying the mandates of a single person who mustn’t be questioned is much more of a US-Republican thing to do, except when it’s inconvenient for them), and what Lucas says “really happened” doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. We’re talking about the movies here, and if the events didn’t happen in the films, then they probably aren’t too relevant to our discussion.

Can anyone ever have a discussion of Star Wars in the broader context of cinema or fiction without someone bringing the “Expanded Universe” into it?

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@Kyle-

Well… YEAH, dude. I didn’t write it, so how the hell do I know for sure what things are representative of, what things were really allegorical or metaphorical of, what things about which there was some ambiguity actually mean. The dude who KNOWS gets to make definitive statements about that. Not sure how that’s controversial.

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@Murc: There’s a call for you. It’s the entire field of postmodern literary analysis… something about you skipping class for the last forty years?

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In my view this redeems the prequels maybe 10% of the way. Interestingly, the webcomic Shortpacked! made a very similar point some time ago in service of comedy: http://shortpacked.com/comic/book-1-brings-back-the-80s/05-now-in-technicolor/a-83/

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By now, Lukas has lost my respect to such a degree that his endorsement of a position concerning Star Wars is more likely to lead me to discount its value, rather than the other way around.
And no, it’s not a “he raped my childhood” thing, just a plain, simple “every idea he’s had for twenty years has proven that he’s lost it, and needs to hire real writers and listen to them” thing.

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While it’s an interesting theory, it’s just not evident in the movies.

The prequels have some good in them; particularly Palpatine. Everyone agrees that he *earned* his Empire. He was smart and his plans worked well. And sure, it has bad and people have different opinions on every element (I liked Jar Jar for example).

However, while you’re right and Lucas intentionally made the Jedi order sterile, there is absolutely no way that this is supposed to be a *bad* thing. It is never, ever, portrayed in a negative light. The only people who perceive the Jedi code as a mistake are Anakin, Palpatine, and Padme. One becomes a villain, one is a galatic despot, and the other is *destroyed* by blind love. The movie quite clearly says, “The Jedi were right all along. They were just too trusting.” No one in any of the movies is ever brought to task, the Jedi are never cast in a negative light. Not ever, not once.

So yes, you can say they’re sterile and loveless and that it’s intentional they are those things, but it’s certainly not negative according to the movie. Lucas does not portray it as a problem.

In every love scene in Episode II where Anakin and Padme pursue one another has an undercurrent of “This is a mistake”.

The idea that Luke tells Yoda to fuck himself by saying he’s a jedi like his father before him is a total misreading because the ending couldn’t be clearer as Yoda, Obi-Wan and Anakin all stand together, smiling, happy and tra-la-la-la.

It’s not that your theory is *bad*, it’s quite smart and it fits, it’s just not *there*. At all. That subtext is not present in the movies.

I’ll give you an example; one of the reasons I really enjoy STAR TREK: NEMESIS is this: when I watched the movie I sat, totally convinced that Jean-Luc Picard had a *death wish*. The whole movie sets it up; his reckless action-hero abandon, the loss of Riker and Troi, the loss of his family, and in this world of a bored, old captain who feels obsolete and alone, enters a younger duplicate of himself, smarter and stronger than he and all he needs to live, is for Picard to die. So there I am thinking, “How brilliant. He wants to die, and now he’s being given the chance to die and continue as a younger self, but can he redeem Shinzon?” The film builds and death-wish Picard does all manner of crazy things like ramming the Enterprise into the Scimitar, and then beaming over to have a fist fight and blow up the ship with him on board. And then the *worst thing happens*, his immortal android friend, Data, *dies in his place*. Poor Picard, happy to die, done with his life, instead has his immortal friend take his place. And through that, he finds a new lease on life. It’s a terrific variant on the same theme of death seen in WRATH OF KHAN! Super awesome!

So I like NEMESIS because of that sub-text. It fits. All the pieces are there.

Except, it’s totally not there at all. It’s not in the script. The director didn’t do it, nor did the editor, neither did Stewart. No one, anywhere, ever, has mentioned this as a possibility. What’s more is that no scene treats Picard as taking risks or acting over-the-top or melancholy. It’s played totally straight and unknowingly.

So yeah, it’s a nice subtextual theory, but it’s just not there. It’s a fine way to enjoy it, as you imagine the film as something else. Here’s a thing to consider: look at the *writing* of the prequels (and the original, and NEMESIS) and you’ll notice that these are *not* subtle movies. They just have no subtlety at all. Everything is very obvious and very clear.

If the Jedi were supposed to be considered at fault, someone would have actually specifically said so (and only two people do: evil, manipulative, lying Palpatine, and Anakin after he’s murdered a school full of children – you’re clearly not supposed to agree with them). If Picard had a death wish someone would have actually specifically said so. You know this is true because the writers, directors, and actors talk about *every* theme and interpretation that they are aware of in those movies. NEMESIS is about free will? Nature vs nurture? Yep. The characters talk about it, the director talks about it, the actors, everyone. The prequels are about how a republic turns into a dictatorship and how a good guy turns bad? George Lucas says so in the Episode II commentary.

There is only one scene of real subtlety in the prequels, and that is the opera scene in Episode III. It was done at the eleventh hour out of the blue. That’s it.

These are obvious movies. That doesn’t necessarily make them *bad*, these types of movies, by convention, need to be somewhat obvious in order to be understood. It does mean that secret subtextual readings of the work are generally the exercise of an immersed, over-thinking reader, and not the intentional work of the creators.

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Interesting ideas. Much better than “SITH BAD, JEDI GOOD” which is what Lucas likes.

Thanks for giving me something to think about.

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“Can you can directly quote Lucas on where said that all the EU has been declared null and void by him?”

Not those specific words, but I can get as close as anyone needs to:

“There are two worlds here,” explained Lucas. “There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe – the licensing world of the books, games and comic books. They don’t intrude on my world, which is a select period of time, [but] they do intrude in between the movies. I don’t get too involved in the parallel universe.”

If you go look up “Star Wars canon” on Wikipedia, you can find more quotes from Lucas on the EU being a distinct and separate entity from the movies. Which, as far as I’m concerned, means that if anyone is discussing just the movies and wants to say EU doesn’t count, they’re entitled. You’ll also see a quote from a Lucas employee saying “Anything not in the current versions of the films is irrelevant to film-only continuity.” So again, EU doesn’t count.

This is all from one Wikipedia page- I can go back and dig some more if you prefer.

I hate hate hate canon and canon arguments. Derailings of discussions like this being an obvious reason why.

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@Brad-

That’s… not actually a rebuttal, or even a very useful response. I don’t know that much (read: anything) about postmodern literary criticism. I know enough postmodernism as a whole to know that I don’t much care for it; I have issues with schools of thought that declare themselves to reject enlightenment principles. I don’t think you can just assume that I’m automatically so dumb and wrong about this I don’t even merit engagement, but rather merely belittlement.

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@Murc-

I nearly commented on this in my previous post but I was already being cranky, so I decided to drop it. Postmodern literary analysis rejects authorial intent entirely, the idea as I understand it being that the text has a life of its own and your personal interpretation of a work means as much or more than the author’s. (In other words, if you think some reviews tell you more about the reviewer than the author or their work, you’re probably right.)

It strikes me as an incredibly narcissistic way of looking at things, personally. And it really galls me when some people take the idea of personal interpretation trumping author intent to mean “Since intent doesn’t matter, you’re guilty of something whether you meant to offend me or not.”

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Bass, I have to say, your reading of Nemesis is WONDERFUL. I’ve only seen that movie once, but if I were to watch it again, under this lens, I’m sure I’d find it a much more interesting experience.

Consequently, I don’t see ANY REASON why it should be cast aside just because it wasn’t the filmmakers’ explicit intent. Separating this discussion from academic matters of theories of literary criticism (postmodern or otherwise) and authorial intent…the Star Trek and Star Wars films are created with the primary purpose of entertaining you, the audience. If you find something in this movie that entertains you, even if it was not put there on purpose, I think you should be able to enjoy it for that reason. I don’t think anyone should let some kind of philosophical notions about the purity of intent ruin a pleasurable experience.

In short, when you publish your novel or release your movie, you give it to the audience to make of it what they will. If it’s possible to think you’ve made a good movie and have an audience decide that it’s bad, I’d say it’s also possible to think you’ve made a movie that says one thing but have an audience find an alternate meaning in it.

Even shorter: John, this isn’t going to make me like the prequels any more than I already do, but this is a terrible interesting way of looking at them, and therefore quite valuable, I figure.

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Uber Geek said on June 28th, 2010 at 12:11 am

Just to comment on the “Jedi kidnapping babies” debate: since the Jedi order is so well respected, maybe parents are happy when their child is found to be force positive and consider it an honor.

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@Everyone in the Fett debate.

Movie Fett was nothing special. Even if given the benefit of the doubt (that HE was the one behind the Cloud City ambush), he still only did what anyone with half a brain would have done (used Han’s old contacts to track him). Besides, if the whole thing was his idea then that means he called the Empire in to do all the heavy lifting (and if it wasn’t then he’s just picking up Vader’s scraps) so he didn’t actually even catch Han himself even though he collected Jabba’s bounty.

I have no problem with that character dying a bitch death even if its one as humiliating as a Three Stooges bit unwittingly administered by a blind man. You don’t get to be a badass just because you look cool.

PS: Wow, I think I figured out why I don’t get the love for Boba Fett; he’s the Norman Osborn of Star Wars. He’s entire reputation is built around taking credit for the hard work of other villains.

@Andrew

The difference between Jar Jar and Ewoks should be obvious. Jar Jar is a racist stereotype whose incompetence is played for laughs. Ewoks are adorable killing machines. Plus, Jar Jar aided the Empire’s rise to power while the Ewoks defeated it.

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@Justin-

I sort of agree with you and sort of don’t. I know, someone on the internet is unpersuaded by your arguments! Shocking.

Yeah, to an extent, when you put a work out there, you are kinda throwing it out to the audience at large, and you have no real control over what other people make of it. And if those people are enjoying it and getting something valuable out of it, hey, good on them. A number of writers/directors/what-have-you DELIBERATELY allow people to assign their own meanings, which is a totally valid way of doing things.

There’s also the real possibility that if you make a statement you think says one thing, and ninety percent of the people who see it think it means something ELSE, that you’ve massively failed; the problem is with YOU, not them.

(This is not always the case. The Beastie Boys recorded ‘Fight for Your Right (To Party)’ as a PARODY, which to this day hordes and hordes of their fans do not understand this. Their fault, or are people just stupid? I come down on the side of the latter.)

But I digress. On the other side of this… over at your own joint, a few weeks ago (if people will permit me to reference sources outside the comment thread), you made a post about Two-Face and Riddler, and various ways of looking at them. Good stuff. You mention that Dini/Timm have ONE way of looking at Harvey Dent, but you think that there’s a far more interesting way of doing so, which you outline in detail. But you do concede that your way of looking at Two-Face is just that, an alternative POSSIBILITY. You don’t try and assert that what Dini/Timm was doing (making Harvey a multiple personality case) wasn’t ACTUALLY what they were doing and try and impose your preferred mode of dealing with him over what was ACTUALLY going on.

To go all the way back to the original post; John’s proposed way of looking at the prequels is, as you say, terribly interesting, and therefor, to an extent, valuable. But I’m pretty sure its also to a large extent wrong.

@RAC-

That explains an awful, awful lot about more than a few blogs I read. Thanks dude. :)

@John-

Thanks for this epic thread, man. Quite an entertaining way to spend the weekend. Haven’t gotten my nerd on like this in quite some time.

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magnuskn said on June 28th, 2010 at 12:50 am

@John: Oh, bloody hell, if you just want your interpretation of the Jedi to not include EU material at all, just say so. I am not here to put you into chains for whatever you want to say. My whole point was that there are already interpretations of the Jedi, done by paid authors in published novels, which are in a continuity recognized by LFL, so you might want to include those in what you write.

It’s clear you don’t want to do that, so go ahead. But please stop with the “Oh my God, how can you say “facts” to things which happened in a line of novels, while this is all fiction!”. If you want to have any sort of meaningful discussion about a topic, you got to treat the storyline as some sort of established continuity. You don’t want that discussion, but there’s a reason why the novels are in continuity and your speculation is not.

@Jordjevic: See above. As to about the EU being brought into it, why not? Until John said that he didn’t want to the EU brought into it ( which he did not do in the original article ), it was fair game to note that there already is an established continuity for how Jedi go about getting their new pupils.

@RAC: And there are different levels of canon, as also noted in the Wookiepedia article. Yeah, Lucas word trumps all, but since he making any more movies ( yet ^^ ), the EU is at the moment pretty free to evolve. Mind you, that all can change with the TV live action series, whenever that will happen.

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@Magnus: John wrote about the films. At no point did he mention the prequels, and when people in comments tried to bring up points from the EU, he clarified that his preference for this article was to focus on the material in the films themselves.

By your own arguments, shouldn’t his authorial intent have some standing here?

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magnuskn said on June 28th, 2010 at 8:06 am

@Burke: Of course, which is why I want to end the argument. I assumed incorrectly, and if he wants to use only that perspective, its his prerogative.

I personally have difficulty separating the two “universes” for the sake of argumentation, but I guess that’s to be expected when one has spent the last nine years on the TFN boards, read all the post-ROTJ novels and mastered and played Star Wars Saga RPG rounds.

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@ Magnuskn

Considering how much better some of the EU material is than the actual films, it’s tough to blame you for bringing that stuff in to the discussion.

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Dr. Creaux said on June 28th, 2010 at 9:20 am

@magnuskn “My whole point was that there are already interpretations of the Jedi, done by paid authors in published novels, which are in a continuity recognized by LFL, so you might want to include those in what you write. ”

Boba Fett also had a full back story established in the EU, done by paid authors in published sources, which Lucas ignored when making him a clone baby in the prequels.

Just sayin’.

DC

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Justin Zyduck: “Bass, I have to say, your reading of Nemesis is WONDERFUL. I’ve only seen that movie once, but if I were to watch it again, under this lens, I’m sure I’d find it a much more interesting experience.”

Thanks. I’m pretty sure it’s why I’m the only person I know who likes it.

Justin Zyduck: “Even shorter: John, this isn’t going to make me like the prequels any more than I already do, but this is a terrible interesting way of looking at them, and therefore quite valuable, I figure.”

I agree that’s it’s interesting and it’s a cool way to look at the works. HOWEVER, what is important is to say, “You can look at it like this” as opposed to giving the idea that it is part of the author’s intent and that it is actually in the work.

See, what John did with the prequels and I what I did with NEMESIS is exactly the same as people who claim that HARRY POTTER is about Satan worship or that THE LORD OF THE RINGS is a white-supremacist novel (they really do). We, of course, dismiss such idiotic misreadings because we can plainly see that those readings are simply not in the text and we don’t want the artists to be seen in a negative light.

Saying that the prequels have a complex discussion on morality or that NEMESIS is about death wishes is precisely the same kind of misreading, just from the other end of the spectrum, designed to justify and heighten the work and bring it into a positive light.

So while it can be interesting and funny to read things into a story that simply aren’t there as an intellectual exercise or a joke, it’s best not to confuse it with what is actually there and intended, because if anyone can read anything they want into any work and claim that it was the author’s intent, the work ultimately becomes meaningless; it has no meaning at all.

And discussing it is equally meaningless.

It’s a fun exercise, but no more than that.

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I’m surprised that Magnus hasn’t noticed that the prequels do allow for the possibility that Shmi was impregnated and the mindwiped by one of the Jedi (which would explain the “spontaneous pregnancy” thing.) Given the structuring of the films, Dooku makes the most thematic sense for Anakin’s father; Anakin/Dooku’s arc has the same general pattern as Luke/Anakin. Obviously, Palpatine would be another candidate.

Or you can believe Shmi spontaneously became pregnant and think of Anakin as a fallen Jesus stand-in.

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magnuskn said on June 28th, 2010 at 10:51 am

@Thok: Actually, the most “logical” explanation for Shmi is Palpatines old Boss: Darth Plagueis, the Wise.

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@Thok: Actually, the most “logical” explanation for Shmi is Palpatines old Boss: Darth Plagueis, the Wise.

Other than the fact that Darth Plagueis died at a minimum of 3 years before Anakin was conceived and that this theory at best comes from a non-movie source and a couple of lines from Palpatine when he was flat out trying to manipulate Anakin, then yeah sure.

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magnuskn said on June 28th, 2010 at 11:17 am

@Thok: Hey, I thought the rules were “no EU!”. :p And by that rule, Palpatines remarks to Anakin in RotS are very indicative of Plagueis having “conceived” Anakin.

As in: “Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise, he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side, he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.”

Also, Wookiepedia at least says he could have experimented on Shmi in the correct timeframe.

But, hey, believe what you want, I am done here for this week. Unless someone really needs to do another round of “I wonder what Magnus would say…” ^^

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And by that rule, Palpatines remarks to Anakin in RotS are very indicative of Plagueis having “conceived” Anakin.

You seemed to have missed the whole “A few lines when Palpatine was flat out trying to manipulate Anakin” in my comment. It’s hard to take any of that speech as fully truthful when it’s obviously propaganda and manipulation.

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magnuskn said on June 28th, 2010 at 12:05 pm

@Thok: Can we finish this? You got your interpretation, I got mine.

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Boy, it sure is a shame Lucas never got around to filming any prequels.

http://xkcd.com/566/

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Honestly? I always figured Anakin was Qui-Gonn’s kid. He’s not asking where Anakin came from, he’s testing to make sure that the suggestions are still holding.

Yes, this does imply that I think Qui-Gonn was a Jedi date rapist. I’m full of heartwarming thoughts. :)

As to Bass’ question, “Do I believe that this was really Lucas’ intent, and not just a possible interpretation of his work?” I don’t know. I do think that Lucas is capable of more subtlety than his critics give him credit for, and I think that it’s unfair to call him “too obvious” when the original trilogy is a giant analogy for Vietnam and Watergate that every single fan seems to have utterly missed despite Lucas putting out a giant coffee-table book “The Making of Star Wars” which outright says that’s what it is.

On the other hand, he does seem awfully sincere in the DVD commentary track for Episode II when he talks about Anakin’s love for his mother being wrong and a mistake. It’s entirely possible that I’m ascribing a sense of irony to him that isn’t there, simply because I find the Jedi moral code to be so reprehensibly detached and creepy that I have to assume the screenwriter doesn’t really mean it.

So I’ll punt. I know it’s how I see the films; I think there’s textual evidence for it, and I’m assuming the weird tonal shifts are deliberate attempts at irony. (And yes, there’s absolutely no way that the final scene of buddy-buddy Anakin and Yoda and Obi-Wan makes sense no matter what reading you use, but then again, that scene makes no sense no matter what reading you use. On my own blog, I suggested that within a decade, Luke winds up in a mental institution because he can’t shut out the bickering Jedi ghosts that nobody else can see!) But I do acknowledge that Lucas might have been entirely serious and straightforward. But if he was…man. Dude’s got issues. :)

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Candlejack said on June 28th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

If all attachment is evil and dark-sidey, then how did Anakin get into Jedi heaven by killing a dude to save his son’s life?

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@Candlejack: Since Anakin is a child murdering, daughter torturing, sass-talk suffocating monster the only answer is to misquote The Simpsons:

“Jedi Heaven must be easier to get into then Arizona State.”

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There’s the satirical Magical Ghost Body theory, that posits that one only gets a a Magical Ghost body if one dies in front of Luke, and that the Star Wars movies are a massive Xanatos Gambit by various people to ensure this fate.

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As I’ve always understood it, a Jedi only gets a “ghost body” if he embraces or has embraced the Force (and probably his/her inevitable death) in it’s entirety, before they die. That’s one of the problems with the Sith; they feel as long as they’re powered by the Dark Side (and a shitload of life-prolonging technology), they’ll never die! IOW, all Sith fear death.

But here’s my 2 cents on the Star Wars saga: If you look at all 6 movies, Star Wars ends up being a story in favor of Atheism. If you like at the Jedi as Religion (the “good ones”) & look at the Sith as a religous cult, you see a guy that abandons both beliefs & goes it alone, learns to think independantly, accepts Atheism.

I’m sure this was thoroughly unintentional by George Lucas (in all honesty, he really is a mediocre storyteller), who was obviously was trying to show that spirituality of any kind is a good thing.

At least, that’s how I see it, when I think about the movies in conjunction with this atricle. OK…I’m braced…have at me! >CRINGE<

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I kinda wish the prequels weren’t such an incendiary subject. Just about any other movie, you can speak positively of and it’s no big deal, but even though there are almost certainly a lot of people who liked these films (even by the standards of sequels to a popular franchise they did pretty good for themselves), defending them without massive qualifications (“Okay, they suck and Lucas is untalented, BUT”) is some kind of taboo.

I guess it’s because any debate does generate a lot of heat. I mean, argue about the merits or lack thereof of EXORCIST II and you’ll get a few people trading back and forth, but there are enough STAR WARS fans that arguments become long and involved and it’s best to avoid the subject. Which means the negative consensus kind of goes unchallenged.

Which kinda sucks for those who disagree.

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I wasn’t making a complaint, I’m glad this is how Star Wars looks to me. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

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John: “I do think that Lucas is capable of more subtlety than his critics give him credit for, and I think that it’s unfair to call him “too obvious”…”

I didn’t say he was “too obvious” or that being obvious was bad. Movies in this genre being subtle is kinda like a horror having a slapstick scene. It can be done, but it’s not really desirable or appropriate.

George Lucas’ talent is not in dialogue, plotting, or subtlety, but in immersion. The man knows how to immerse you in a fantasy world so that you never leave. He’s responsible for STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES, two of the most beloved franchises in cinematic history.

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Oh, that wasn’t directed at you. It’s just a general observation.

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Hitman322 said on June 29th, 2010 at 3:08 am

I’ll just say what I told a friend who eventually succumbed to the “Lucas raped my childhood” ideology; I asked him how he felt about the movie while walking out of the theater or during the drive home. He said he loved it. In fact one of my friends took the day off and saw every showing from midnight to late afternoon when I arrived. Again, he loved it until the group think of Star Wars hating took hold.

Bottom line – they’re entertaining. Not as entertaining as the OT, but there are sequences in the prequels that stomp the shit out of the OT. But looking back, there were plenty of annoyances or lulls on the OT. Stupid Ewoks for one.

All in all – Lucas has created an unsurpassed sci-fi cannon. And yes, nothing will surpass the experience of seeing Empire for the first time in theaters, but I do enjoy the prequels as part of the whole, and I look forward to exposing my kids to the fantastic fantasy world that Lucas has created for us. They already love playing with R2 and my light sabers.

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magnuskn said on June 29th, 2010 at 4:23 am

Just found this quote and thought I’d share it:

“The Jedi are trained to let go. They’re trained from birth. They’re not supposed to form attachments. They can love people- in fact, they should love everybody. They should love their enemies; they should love the Sith. But they can’t form attachments. So what all these movies are about is: greed. Greed is a source of pain and suffering for everybody.”

-George Lucas, The Making Of Revenge Of The Sith; page 213

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John, it’s an interesting theory, but I think it’s a stilted reading of the text. The first prequel movie is called “The Phantom Menace.” The only “phantom” is the guy who appears in the movie as an incorporial holigram: Darth Sidious. That sort of gives the game away, doesn’t it?

It seems to be that the Jedi Order’s biggest flaw is that they are 1. complacent and 2. overly dogmatic. Complacent might be understandable since at the time of the prequels they are supposed to be a hybrid law enforcement/diplomatic corps (I think Lucas used the Texas Rangers anaolgy) and haven’t been a military force for a thousand years. The Order, or at least the Council is certinly overly dogmatic, but I’m not sure how far that extends throughout the rank and file. The Jedi we see most in Episode I is Qui-Gonn, who is manifestly not dogmatic.

And Yoda is mostly correct. In Episode II when Yoda feels Anakin through the Force he says Anakin is in great pain. That pain is caused by the horrible death of his mother, and is causing him to, you know, murder women and children. So maybe Yoda’s philosophy is a bit austere or severe, but that might be appropriate for a group of near-unstoppable superpowered killing machines.

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Oh, and for the record, the only of the Prequel movies that I actually don’t like is The Phantom Menance, because it’s a mess of the movie (I think the Duel of the Fates is really good, however). IMHO, the middle third of Attack of the Clones is really enjoyable (from when Anakin and Obi Wan split up until the clones actually arrive), if you discount the ‘falling in love’ drek on Naboo (and there are a couple of fan edits I’ve seen that reduce this and make it a substantially better film). Lucas needed someone willing to take his story, script and film under the knife, and clearly he was too successful to warrant an editor (see also: Stephen King).

But I still don’t think your reading of the Prequels holds water.

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Dan Coyle said on June 29th, 2010 at 11:26 am

Magnuskin: that’s interesting, and a little sad, because I read the unintentional subtext of Revenge of the Sith as ANY human attachment was inherently bad and doomed to drive you crazy, as it did Anakin.

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For what it’s worth Phantom Menace is my least favorite movie as well. I’ve said before that one of my favorite parts of the original trilogy is the three way battle at the end of RotJ with its cuts between the various battles and the simultaneous rising and falling action of the various fronts.

Phantom Menace deliberately tries to invoke that same conflict with the Battle of Naboo, and a direct comparison shows that the RotJ is much better the Phantom Menace.

1. Ewoks vs Stormtroopers>Gungans vs Droids. This is partially because the cute fuzzy killing machines are more interesting than the Gungans, because Lucas focuses on the very individual tragedy of that one Ewok who is killed on the battlefield, and because the battle is just generally more creative, with guerilla warfare tactics providing a variety to the fight that Phantom Menace doesn’t really have.

2. Rebel Alliance vs Death Star>Naboo Pilot vs Death Star Prototype thing. Mainly because Anakin-sue is so annoying, while the Rebel Alliance battle while mostly annoying has a bit of Narm Charm via Ackbar and Londo.

3. Han/Leia infiltrating the Empire force field station>Padme capturing Trade Diplomats. Technically a subpart of 1, but worth mentioning since Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are actually interesting.

4. Luke vs Darth/Emperor is roughly the same as Maul vs Qui Jon/Obi Won. From a technical standpoint, Maul vs Qui Jon/Obi Won is a better fight. But Luke vs Darth/Emperor was never about technical merit, but the emotional struggle about whether Luke would succumb to the Dark Side and if he could save Vader, while Maul vs Qui Jon/Obi Won is only a mindless brawl with no possibility for subtlety or much emotional resonance.

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Thok, I’d argue that the reason that Alliance vs Death Star > Naboo vs Trade Federation Flagship is that the Rebel pilots knew what they were doing and their destruction of the central core was a purposeful act, whereas Anakin got lucky by accident.

And while the Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan vs Maul fight looks freaking cool, you’re right about Luve vs Vader vs Emperor having more weight because of the stakes being emotional and ethical rather than physical.

But mostly, I’m posting to this thread because nobody else linked to the Jedi Pit Theory yet.

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[…] A half-hearted defense of the Star Wars prequels. I agree with his assessment of the attitudes of the Jedi in the prequels, but I’m not […]

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Re: John (and no, I’m not arguing with myself):

You’re right, the Jedi we see most in Episode I is Qui-Gonn, and you’re right, he’s manifestly not dogmatic. He’s also portrayed as out-of-step with the Jedi Council (“You’d be on the Council, if you didn’t keep arguing with them…”) and a very atypical Jedi. Yoda is unhappy with his decision to train Anakin, he’s unhappy with Obi-Wan’s decision to follow in Qui-Gonn’s footsteps, and he’d much rather…do whatever very unspecified thing they do with people who have Force powers that aren’t Jedi. Isn’t it awfully funny that we never see a single one anywhere, ever, in the six-movie series?

Don’t get me wrong–I agree that Darth Sidious is the “phantom” in “The Phantom Menace”. But that doesn’t mean the Jedi are morally pure, just because they’re fighting Crazy Electrocution Guy.

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Well reasoned, and I’ll admit to liking the prequels as well… What? Who said that?

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John (and I’m not arguing with myself either. Although I do have a goatee, so I’ll be evil universe John for purposes of this discussion), you seem to be switching back and forth on what evidence can be used and who has the burden of proof in this argument, which is causing a lot of frustration in the thread.

I don’t think it is “awfully funny” we never see a non-Jedi (or non-Sith) force user in the prequels. That’s mostly because we have a very limited view of the Star Wars universe to base implications on (Sidious had to come from somewhere, though. And I recall that Lucas had mentioned in some material that he intended to have at least one bounty hunter to be a force-user, but she turns up in like 6 frames of episode I and never shows up in the films again, so that probably doesn’t matter).

There’s also no evidence of mindwiping parents. Aside from “he would have been identified early” comment from Gui-Gonn there’s never any discussion of Jedi-trainee recruitment.

Also Qui-Gonn is the ONLY Jedi we spend any time with who isn’t on the council, maybe they’re all like that. Maybe the Council gets chosen because they’re no fun at parties.

My point is that if the 13 or 14 hours of screen time is a pretty small window on a galaxy-spanning civilization. So if you say “the only things included for purposes of this disucssion are things that happen on screen” you cannot then turn around and say “nothing that happens on the screen contridicts my arguement, so my arguement is valid for the purposes of this disucssion” without some pushback. I mean, hell, maybe sub-Jedi class force users are all given scholarships to medical school.

I will agree with you that between Obi-Wan’s “holy crap” face and Mace’s “fuck you” reaction to Qui-Gonn’s petition to the Council to train Anakin that Qui-Gonn is willing to push the Council further than most Jedi. I will agree that “he’s too young to begin the training” is a cop out (but the kid HAD been a slave, and clearly had a temper and that’s probably not the best emotional platform to base a decade of very dangerous training with a lightsaber on). I will even agree that the Jedi being too sterile and remote played a role in their downfall. It’s the fact that they’re TRYING to be too morally pure that cuases the problem.

But I simply disagree with your fundmental premise that the Jedi are co-villians of the prequels. I think you’re mistaking ham-fisted writing wtih subtext.

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On the Boba Fett subthread: another thing that the Prequels do is make Boba Fett make much more sense. Every one of his scenes is improved when you realize that he could really care less about Han Solo, who’s just a paycheck, and that his real agenda here is to kill Luke. From the potshot that he takes at Luke to prematurely spring Vader’s trap [which way always meant to capture him], to the reason that he’s hanging around Jabba’s court, and all the way to his death, where he spends the entire fight trying to get a clear shot on Luke and doesn’t even consider Han to be any kind of threat at all. Han may have knocked him in by accident, but a few seconds later and he’d have had enough sight to do it on purpose and Boba still wouldn’t have bothered with an off-hand kick.

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Hey John,

This post was better the first time you wrote it, on your own blog.

<3,

me

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More to the point, this is a good post when you bill it as an explanation of how George Lucas fucked up, and a bad post where you bill it as an excuse for how George Lucas didn’t fuck up.

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You’re right, John 2.0. :) There’s no evidence of mindwiping parents, killing washout Jedi, or exiling Jedi-Mind-Trick-resistant races to the Outer Rim so as to make it easier to oversee the Republic. (Well, actually there is evidence of that last one…)

But what there is evidence of is a Jedi order, as seen by its spiritual as well as political leaders, that views caring about individuals as “bad” and advocates a sort of general compassion for people in general. That encourages you not to care too much when the people you love die, because grief is a “negative emotion” and inexorably leads to evil. Those things tell me that Jedi aren’t going to say, “Wait! We can’t kill this ten-year-old kid just because he washed out of the Jedi training program! That’d be cruel!” They’d calmly, dispassionately, emotionlessly suggest that it serves the greater good, and humanely terminate him without cruelty to prevent him from becoming evil.

Now of course, I’m not saying, “This is what happened, prove me wrong!” That’d be silly. I’m saying that it’s actually a pretty logical inference from what we see on-screen. (I also have some fun things to say about the Jedi as unreliable narrators when it comes to the Jedi/Sith conflict, and how we really never see if the Jedi Republic is better, from the average citizen’s point of view, from the Sith Empire.)

This is all just speculation, not some sort of new canon. But isn’t it fun to speculate?

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John 2.0 said on June 29th, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I’m still unconvinced. And I think I’d still argue the finer points of what Yoda actually believes and teaches. It’s not telling you that you should not care when someone dies because it’s a negative emotion, but because that person has rejoined the Force (and that probably means a lot more to someone who can actually feel the Force). Obi-Wan clearly feels grief, but he doesn’t let it overwhelm him, and he fights to control his rage and be centered in the Force(that shot of him behind the “laser gate,” or whatever it is, is my favorite in Episode I). The Jedi have a memorial service for Qui-Gonn, so clearly the Jedi aren’t a bunch of Vulcans.

But I take your point about speculation. As and long as I’m speculating I’ll speculate that some of the EU gets it right and those who don’t make Jedi go off to the Republic’s Agriculture Corps where they help feed and heal the planets of the Galactic Republic, since they learned the lessons of duty and a desire to help others.

I’m just offering a semi-coherent response to your half-hearted defense.

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Thing is, one could argue that even if Lucas was just being a ham-fisted writer and didn’t intend this potential reading of the Jedi to be there- that doesn’t mean it’s insupportable. Death of the author and all.

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John 2.0 said on June 30th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Evan, I don’t want to beat this dead horse much more, but John (1.0) says explictly says that “this is a feature not a bug” that Lucas intends the Jedi in the prequels to be creepy and unsympathetic. That’s what I’m disputing.

You can have whatever interpretation of the motivations of the Jedi you would like. “This is my reading” is fine. “This is my reading, and I believe my reading to be what Lucas really intended” is something completely different.

I can say I believe that ‘Star Trek: The Undiscovered County’ is a analogy for the end of the cold war and I can back up that statement from numerous sources as being what is intended. I don’t believe Bass’ reading’Star Trek: Nemisis being was what was inteded, but do think that it’s pretty awesome.

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That’s it exactly, John 2.0.

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Well said, John 2.0.

This, for me, is the rub in the review. I can totally see a reading with the Jedi and the Sith both being villains; I cannot see Lucas deliberately putting that in. It’s one thing to take a postmodernist stance and throw out authorial intent; it’s another to contradict the author’s stated intent and say he intended otherwise. So, it’s incorrect to say that Lucas didn’t accidentally make a Jedi code that made his heroes seem unpleasant, he deliberately made the Jedi just as absolutist and unsympathetic as the Sith, only from the other direction. Given Lucas’s own history with personal relationships, I somewhat suspect that he might even agree with Prequel-Yoda’s philosophy on personal relationships… but that’s speculating a long way out, isn’t it!

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joshbrown said on July 1st, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Bravo.

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So Star Wars fans have less of a problem with “the Jedi come off that way because Lukas, being a shitty writer, fucked it up”?
Cool.

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Dude, nice fucking job. And here I thought I was the only prequel defender.

The Prequels get a really bad rap for superficial reasons: The wooden acting, the green screens, etc. Few people actually take the time to watch those movies to figure out why the things are the way they are. If you listen to the dialogue in some of those scenes (I’ll admit, some of it is just bad) you’ll see that it’s chock full of symbolism and foreshadowing; it’s pretty awesome.

I for one would much rather have the Prequels as they are than have them be cheap copies of the originals. While they may not be as good, at least they’re something different.

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Pete Butler said on July 2nd, 2010 at 12:46 pm

John, your thesis is plausible only because Lucas has devolved into such an incompetent hack as a director. The notion that the Jedi-as-badguys element was the intentional work of an unappreciated genius simply strikes me as silly.

Having said that, it is one HELL of an interesting thesis, and a fascinating thought exercise into what might have been if Lucas were both good at his job and had the cojones to screw with one of the fundamental assumptions of his universe. Thank you very much for sharing it; I’ll definitely have it in mind when Red Letter Media releases its review of Episode III. (I was going to say “The next time I watch those movies,” but, damn. I’m not sure that much tequila actually exists.)

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Your theory is an interesting one. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call the Jedi sociopaths or the like, but they were very very flawed as an organization. I think the idea of bringing balance to the Force relates to this. The Jedi couldn’t give in to their emotions because if they did, they’d fall to the Dark Side, so they trained themselves not to feel much of anything. If being a Jedi means your emotions have to be suppressed or you become, almost immediately, pure evil, then the Force itself is very much out of balance. I always found the common theory that bringing balance meant creating even numbers of Jedi to be kind of silly, and hence I never saw Anakin as the Chosen One at all. It makes a whole lot more sense if you consider that Luke was the Chosen One. He refused the Jedi way by going back to save his friends, which was the right thing to do, ultimately, and then he refused the Sith way by not allowing his emotions to turn him into a monster. He used love, fear, and anger to achieve his victories, and he managed to keep some level of self-control through it all. Hence, he brought balance by finding the proper middle path, where passion and serenity keep each other in check, rather than fighting for dominance. I’ve read almost none of the expanded universe stuff so I have no idea if Luke’s new Jedi Order are any better than the old one, but it would make sense that they should be, if my theory is correct.

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DaveKan said on July 5th, 2010 at 4:14 pm

The fact that you have to put this much effort and creativity into defending the prequels is evidence enough that George Lucas did not put the same effort (or talent) into writing the stories in the first place.

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John 2.0 said on July 21st, 2010 at 4:23 pm

There is an only kinda related, but still awesome article over at the Onion AV club that touches a lot of this:

http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-big-questions-should-artists-lives-or-opinions,43349/

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[…] A Half-Hearted Defense of the “Star Wars” Prequels […]

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Rob Martin said on March 10th, 2013 at 6:06 am

I am a middle aged scifi fanatic who reads as much hard scifi as I watch mainstream scifi. I am a huge supporter of the prequels and Jar Jar Binks. The backlash against the prequels exists mainly because it became hip to do so back in 1999. Classic generation fans were basically angry that Lucas had kicked over their sandcastle by trying to inject some level of scifi world building and political intrigue not contained at the same level in the classics unless one read the tie-in novels to fill in the gaps. I could go on for pages regarding detailed analysis of why this is but I am sure it has been done elsewhere . Classic Star Wars was groundbreaking for its time so anything coming after it would be considered derivative. At its basic level however is a simplistic fairy tale with as much wooden acting and dialogue as the prequels, Sir Alec Guiness aside, only Harrison Ford has had a successful career while the prequels have produced Natalie Portman, Ewan McGreggor, (Liam Neilson , Samuel Jackson) . Jar Jar became a media punching bag that haters could really dig to find fault with as the scapegoat to launch the hater’s revolution. Jar jar is essentially no sillier than Chewbacca or an Ewok aimed at a children’s toy market. live with it. The prequels work better as a trilogy unto the,selves than the classics. One moment Leia and Luke are kissing then they are brother and sister…lets just wing it while the Dewey eyed world looks on in nostalgia. There are campaign efforts out there for Disney to dump CGI in favor of stop motion puppetry, which while the best that could be done for its time, is no more realistic looking than a current day Gollum or Caesar. Just because we may enjoy the quaintness of a Model T doesn’t mean we all need to drive PT cruisers. Lucas could do no right other than stop after episode 6. His prequels could have been Citizen Kane and the masses would have complained about a cgi rosebud. Take a better look at the prequels. There is a lot more there under the cgi surface than meets the candy eye.

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