Inspired by Gary Farber’s interesting comparison of what is supposed to be the full script and the actual theatrical version of “Sith”, I thought I’d list some of the things that occurred to me about the film and the overall Star Wars narrative as it is left at the end of the film.
1. Much as I suggested in an earlier post, the Jedi had an internal crisis which paralleled that of the Republic. They had lost their way, even their balance, just as the Republic had become arteriosclerotic by the time of “The Phantom Menace”. Palpatine’s overall plan brilliantly capitalized on their complacency and detachment, their inability to understand the world around them. Nor do Obi-Wan and Yoda actually seem to have learned much in their exile by the time “A New Hope” rolls around. They both tell Luke he’s going to have to kill his own father and both of them seem horrified by Luke’s strong feelings for his friends. Understandably since from their perspective, Anakin’s attachment to Padme appears to be the cause of his fall. But watching “Sith”, I don’t think that’s it. Overlooking the awfulness of Lucas’ actual staging of the romance, you might argue that only Obi-Wan’s personal friendship with Anakin and Padme’s love for him keep him from falling much earlier. It’s not his attachment to people that is his weakness: it’s his narcissism, which arguably the Jedi helped to feed with all the talk about him being “The Chosen One”. If I were going to go back and rewrite the EU novels, most of which stink pretty bad anyway and could use a rewrite, I’d make the post-ROTJ story of the New Jedi Order be about a Jedi Order that rejected asceticism and understood that the Force isn’t just simply divided into a dark and a light side. I know that’s where the EU books eventually got to, but in a kind of haphazard way. The prophecy of the Chosen One appears now to be accurate, but what the Jedi don’t grasp (even as they speculate that the prophecy has been misinterpreted) is that they’re the target of the prophecy, not the Sith, that the Jedi are the ones “out of balance”.
One other note on this: I’m struck at how casually the Jedi kill their enemies when they could just disable them instead. (For example, Yoda’s decapitation of the two clone troopers on Kashyyak.) Whatever else they are, they’re not especially reverent about life, and even less so sentience, since they have zero compunction about droids even when said droids clearly are sentient. Their reluctance to kill helpless enemies is clearly a martial code first and a nominal allegiance to some kind of justice system, not a belief about the sanctity of life. I have no problem with this: it’s what makes the Jedi attractive in many ways, true Zen warriors–but it does mean that a certain amount of their rhetoric rings hollow.
2. Gary mentions that he’s not entirely sure why Palpatine stages his own kidnapping. Partially it appears that there’s a brewing political situation where he needs to be confirmed in his Supreme Chancellorhood once again, so this is another in a long series of Reichstag Fires for him. Clearly it’s also very much about getting Anakin to kill Dooku and hopefully removing Obi-Wan at the same time: Palpatine wants Anakin at his side by the time he brings down the curtain on the Separatists, evidently recognizing that the Separatists can’t keep it up forever and the time is fast coming where he’ll have to declare himself Emperor. I did like the brief look of panic and surprise that Dooku gives Palpatine when he tells Anakin to kill Dooku: evidently that was not in the scenario that the two Sith worked out beforehand. One wonders what Palpatine told Dooku: whether Dooku had any idea that Anakin is targeted for recruitment, whether Dooku really knows the overall plan, and so on. The “Clone Wars” cartoons help with this a bit, and the overall history of the Sith gives us plenty of room to recognize that Dooku and Palpatine are playing the usual, “Let’s work together while we try to kill each other” game.
3. I still can’t forgive “midichlorians”, but Lucas did at least try to recover the fumble of Anakin’s virgin birth with that extremely interesting conversation between Palpatine and Anakin at the Star Wars-universe version of a Cirque de Soleil performance. Not only does Palpatine hint that his plan to bring down the Jedi and take over the Republic has been in the works for a very, very long time, he gives us the briefest glimpse of his own training.
4. Other things about all three prequels now make a bit more sense. Everyone made fun of the stupidity of having a single ship control all the droids on Naboo in “Phantom Menace” but now it’s clear why Palpatine wanted it that way: he wanted an off switch so that when the time came he could shut down all the Separatist armies in one easy move.
More on the question of Palpatine’s training and other things. I saw someone suggest that the film really should have ended with Vader taking off to chase Captain Antilles and Princess Leia, to recover the plans, with an ellipsis of the years in between. Actually I like it the way the actual film does it much better, and no doubt the caretakers of the Star Wars universe do too, since it opens to them a whole series of stories for books, animated films and comic books that are set in the time in between “Sith” and “A New Hope”. I’d actually read or watch those if they’re done well, because there are some obvious and rather interesting stories that reflect on the overall narrative.
1. The formation of the Rebellion. The contours are there (and further outlined in the full script Gary read), but I like an especially delicious irony that I can see. Palpatine uses a “wag the dog” scenario with the Separatists in order to gain control of the Republic, but the emotions spawned by the war against the Separatists actually open the way for the Rebellion, and the tactics used by the Separatists also teach the Rebellion a great deal. Palpatine actually sows the seeds of his own future defeat through the very machinations that gain him power.
2. Jedi-in-hiding. The reversal of the Jedi Temple beacon means that it’s actually possible that some other Jedi survive the massacre in hiding. It’s reasonable to speculate that one of the major jobs that Darth Vader will shoulder in the first ten years or so of the Emperor’s reign is hunting down surviving Jedi. Any Jedi in hiding, including Obi-Wan, would obviously have to struggle against a complicated burden. They don’t dare demonstrate or use their powers, but they would be living in societies where compassion would almost demand that they do so. I can definitely see a story involving Obi-Wan, the Hutts and the danger of exposure…
3. Yoda and Dagobah. It’s left open how Yoda finds Dagobah and how long he’s been there when Luke arrives in ESB. I assume he chooses it because of the profusion of lifeforms. There might be a story in Yoda’s flight to the planet, particularly because the Emperor and Darth Vader know full well that Yoda is still alive and a threat. That story might also explain why there’s a place very strong in the Dark Side on Dagobah…
4. Palpatine’s backstory and his future ambitions. I like Obi-Wan’s deleted line about a plot hundreds of years old in the script Gary quotes: it’s nice to see that he at least realizes at the very end the enormity of the plan Palpatine has been carrying out. Is it his plan, or is he the inheritor of it from his own master? Moreover, once the whole plan succeeds, now what? The motivation for just having two Sith and no more is presumably gone, since that was about the need to keep hidden from the Jedi and avoid division on a grand scale. You’ve just subverted the Republic and destroyed the Jedi: what you gonna do now, Palpatine? Go to Disneyland? What drives a conspirator once his conspiracy succeeds at the grandest scale?
5. How early does Darth Vader begin to hatch his own plots to overthrow the Emperor, as long as we’re at it? Anakin doesn’t appear to have the cunning of Dooku or the raw intensity of Maul, so it would be interesting to see how he goes about learning his trade as a Sith in the early years of the Emperor’s reign.
One thing that does occur to me is that it’s a little hard to believe that Darth Vader is so blase when it turns out Princess Leia has fled to Tatooine at the beginning of “A New Hope”. Considering that he’s also receiving constant briefings about the Death Star plans when he returns to the Death Star, briefings that include a description of one of the droids involved and a description of a pair of farmers who appear to have been harboring the droids, it’s a bit weird that he doesn’t put two and two together quicker than he does. Even after Obi-Wan shows up, he seems to still think it’s just about the Death Star and Princess Leia. Presumably though this is what allows him to grasp right after the end of ANH that he has a son.