Anakin Skywalker: It’s Complicated

The original Star Wars movies are so firmly enmeshed in my childhood that I cannot write about them objectively. Generations of film geeks already have analyzed the series on so deep a level that nothing I can say could possibly be original. As Luke Skywalker says at the end of Empire, “It’s ImPOSSible!”

Rob and I watched the films in order on Blu-ray, so I’ve been forced to revisit some of my thoughts and memories. I have a different understanding of the politics of the galaxy this time around, which also seems imPOSSible, because I’ve seen them all multiple times. Of course, the first time I saw them in the order they were produced: 4-5-6-1-2-3. I watched Attack of the Clones the most consecutive times in the shortest period of time, because I saw it about three times in the theater when I lived in Prague. And had no idea what the aliens speaking in alien languages were saying, because those subtitles were in Czech.

I bought the whole series on DVD in Thailand (ahem! bootlegs) in 2005, and watched them in order at that point, but over a longer period of time than we watched them this week.

Rob gave up on the franchise after Phantom Menace, so he refused to see Revenge of the Sith with me when it came out. I saw a matinee on opening day in Olympia. After I got the bootlegs, I made him watch Clones and Sith, but he wasn’t into it.

So I was pretty surprised the last time I was in LA without him and he told me he was watching the Empire Strikes Back and explaining it to Leo. (I’m sorry, but every time I think about him explaining the movie to our dog, I just melt inside. I love Rob.) This viewing inspired him to get the Blu-ray set and watch them in order, our first time experiencing the franchise together. We’re separated by 5 years in age, and yet our early Star Wars experiences align. We both had the action figures in the Darth Vader carrying case. Didn’t everyone?

We diverged around the time Lucas rereleased the films in the 1990s with digital alterations. I was in film school at the time and I was, and am, a purist. You don’t get to go back and change your movie 20 years later! If I published a book with a typo, sure I’d want to go back and fix the misspelled word, but I wouldn’t get to go back and use new words that didn’t exist when I originally wrote it. J.D. Salinger didn’t go back and give Holden Caulfield a cell phone so he could text his sister. He didn’t say, “No, you see I wanted to have him text-message her originally, but the technology didn’t exist.” No. You published the book. It’s done. If you want to write about a character text-messaging his sister while having a manic episode in the big city, write another book.

Rob says, “I don’t mind the changes. They’re cool.”

When I say that it’s imPOSSible to write objectively about the films, I mean that I can’t tell you whether or not they’re good. I can’t imagine seeing Star Wars in 1977 as a standalone film. (I didn’t. I’m pretty sure the first time I saw it was upon its rerelease.) I think the films all hold up better as a collective whole.

Watching A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, I was struck by the changes in Yoda and Obi-Wan’s personalities from the prequels. Yoda was a little more wacko than Ben Kenobi, but even so, Ben was known as that crazy old hermit on Tattooine. Clearly, both had gone a little crazy, living in isolation for twenty years. Yoda more than Ben, probably because he had NO contact with other living things except the reptiles on Dagobah.

Obi-Wan is my favorite character in the prequels. My affection for Han, Luke and Leia carries my childish crush and admiration. I can’t “like” Han Solo the way I appreciate Obi-Wan. It’s like I’m not the same girl. I can only look back and remember dreaming about Han.

We watched Return of the Jedi last night, and I did not have the sense of resolution that I hoped I’d feel. Yes, it perfectly ties up the original movies. But it is not a satisfying conclusion for Anakin Skywalker, and he’s the one we’ve been following from the beginning.

Here’s where I say something really outrageous. This time around, Revenge of the Sith was kind of my favorite. Of all six. I found it now, as I found it way back in 2005 when it was in the theatre, to be extremely heart-wrenching and in that way, emotionally satisfying. Anakin’s relationship with Padme, his relationship with Obi-Wan. Destroyed. Everything destroyed. I was affected by it, man. In a way that I was not affected when I watched Return of the Jedi last night. I did like watching Princess Leia choke Jabba, though. And yes, members of Team Luke, now I remember his appeal.