Saturday, May 21, 2005

Star Wars

Movie reviews aren't really how I'd like to use this space. That being said, an essay needs to be written about Star Wars III.

As far as the movie went, it wasn't spectacular. The acting, like in the 2nd episode, was atrocious. The dialogue was simply abhorrent. Anytime someone opened their mouth I simply had to brace for impact.

What I'd like to speak about is a little larger than stilted dialogue and poorly placed brooding looks by the not-very-talented Hayden Christensen. Revenge of the Sith provides a surprising amount of philosophical material to mull over.


The Star Wars universe has always been predicated on the idea that good is good and evil is evil and we can see the difference by the color of someone's weapon. Sith rearranges some of our conceptions, obviously. A republic turns into an empire, the bad guys take over what was once the territory of the good guys, and even bad guys have some "good in them," as almost every character close to Vader hits on again and again.

But the finality of good and bad are questioned heavily during the course of the movie. Obi-Wan, in a fit of bad dialogue (but otherwise decent acting from the always charming Ewan McGregor), tells Vader, referring to Palpatine, "he's EVIL!" Anakin calmly replies that this is his perception, and that from Anakin's point of view things are different. In a somewhat contradictory statement, Obi-Wan says that the "Sith only deals in absolutes."

Moral relativism plagued the whole film. Every character in the movie was simply concerned (at least in appearance) with the wellbeing of the galaxy. Palpatine assures Anakin over and over again that an empire is the only way to create a secure universe, that he seeks to bring peace to the galaxy. Perhaps Palpatine was being duplicitous in his desire (in fact, we can be pretty sure he was), but it demonstrates a point about politics that most people overlook: we're all working towards the same goal.

Obviously, an Empire is not a very good way to achieve said goal. Apparently, a corrupt republic isn't either. The parallels that can be drawn between Sith and the US government are so numerous and blatant that one wonders if this film was made as a critique of George Bush. While our nation is falling apart, falling prey to power hungry imperialists, our money stripped of us at gunpoint, our rights abolished in the name of security, senators and congress-people simply pat each other on the back for getting their piece of legislation passed. Perhaps the only insightful, interesting or well-written line in the entire movie summed up our US congress very well: "So this is how liberty dies; to thunderous applause."

Regarding the Jedi ethos, I was continually offended at the idea that the Jedi were supposed to be totally selfless, self-sacrificing warriors of righteousness. The Sith is not bad because they are selfish and seek their own gain; they are bad because they kill "younglings" (can we just call them kids? Please?). The Jedi are not good because they sacrifice themselves for others; they are good because they work with others for their mutual benefit. Here again we face the issue of moral relativism: are the Jedi really that good for promoting the status quo over what could be a perfectly feasible second option? What is it that the Jedi are really fighting, and what is so awful about it that it needs to be destroyed?

What lessons can we take from Sith? For one, it should be clear that good and evil are not so different. In episodes I-III, the Jedi work for the republic, which becomes the empire. In IV-VI, they work against it. The Empire sought to create the same effects that the Republic did, so was it the Jedi who changed? Furthermore, is a corrupt republic really any better than a well working empire?

The biggest question of all, of course; who was really the Chosen One? Was Anakin, who actually destroyed the Sith in the end and killed the emperor, or was Luke, who triggered the good in Anakin and started the Jedi anew?


Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're tossing the word relativism around too easily.

1:31 AM  

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