Star Wars: Episode III

So, the husband and I, along with our pastor, saw Ep. III yesterday. Overall, I liked the movie a lot; it was far better than I’d expected, definitely much better than Ep. I or II.

Some little things:

* The light saber battles were fantastic, particularly the very emotional one between Anakin and Obi-Wan.
* Padme was exquisitely and sadly beautiful in her funeral march, with her hair spread out and dotted with white flowers, and Anakin’s token in her grasp.
* Too many needless sound effects. The dragon thing Obi-Wan rides doesn’t need to scream that loudly or that often.
* Some aspects of the main plotline — Anakin’s turning to the Dark Side — are very effective. Some emotional scenes of aftermaths, in particular. On the other hand…

I can believe in Anakin’s confusion and frustration in general. He’s passionate and introspective, given to outbreaks of temper and impulsive action that he later regrets and broods over. I love his apology to Obi-Wan. I love the tension between his friendship with Palpatine, along with Palpatine’s perfectly calculated manipulations, and his ambition and admiration for the Jedi Council. Widens the tension previously seen in II between him and Obi-Wan. I love his realization that Palpatine is a Sith Lord, and his “what have I done?” when his action results in Windu’s death.

The story is magnificent, complex and subtle, full of feeling. At many levels, there is the prophecy or premonition, and the response to that sense of destiny brings about the destiny. Like Greek tragedy, where the tragic hero’s attempts to escape his destiny are the very things that lead to that destiny. Without the prophecy, the destiny would fail. With acceptance of the destiny, the destiny would fail. Here we have Anakin’s premonition of Padme’s death, along with his frantic determination to prevent it, which in fact leads to it. On a larger level, we have the prophecy of Anakin bringing balance to the Force, and in the end (of the whole story, not this episode), he does — he kills the emperor and dies himself, destroying the Sith after all.

I love Lucas’s grand vision for this whole story. He’s simultaneously a big picture guy and a details guy — sweeping, epic plotlines of destiny spanning generations, plus roles for the foolish (Jar Jar) and seemingly insignificant (R2D2 and C3PO), countless little details like scurrying creatures or droids in the background, amazing spacecraft, etc. What’s missing, at least in these three prequels, is the middle ground. They are beautiful pieces of film — great models, graphics, effects, cinematography, and so on. They convey enough of the grand story that you can feel the vision and identify with the characters. But the dialogue is generally weak and some parts of the action are just strained. I can believe that Anakin, stunned by Windu’s death — confused by his ethical ideas, his personal determination to save Padme, and by Palpatine’s manipulation — and psychologically insufficiently supported by the Jedi — would turn to the Dark Side. What I can’t believe is that he would do so, definitively, within seconds of Windu’s death. His nature seems to require a longer time of reflection, further deterioration of his relationships in the Council, and more frequent and intense nightmares about Padme.

Finally, groan if you must, but I do see some lessons here.

First… If only Obi-Wan and Anakin had been close enough, trusting enough, for Anakin to confide everything in him. But Obi-Wan is master, not just friend, and Anakin chafes under authority. And Obi-Wan doesn’t always go about his corrections in the most compassionate way. Here’s a moving illustration of what I wish youth group kids could understand about family dynamics. Most of the youth group kids I know have good families; they ought to trust their parents more, confide in them more. The parents I know love their kids; they ought to offer advice and correction more compassionately, inviting more trust and confidence.

Second… If only Anakin knew earlier that Palpatine was evil and Obi-Wan good; when you know someone’s character, it illuminates their actions. And so I ought to trust God more and resist the devil and the world more, because while the devil and the world flatter me, they are evil and manipulative, and while God rarely coddles me and often chastises me, he is good and he loves me.

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