Saturday, June 23, 2012

Star Wars Opera, Part II

In Star Wars I, we meet Anakin as a child. It's fine that he's impetuous and impetuous with his raw talent--that's what children are like. But I'd like to see him start to hero-worship Qui Gon and Obi Wan, and strive to be like them in both manner and discipline. Anakin has no father, so these two men are his father figures. He would want to imitate them in all ways, because that element has so far been missing in his life.

That he leaves his mother at such a young age is of course rightfully important, as the series obviously shows. It's a loss that will stay with him and will affect his future decisions.

It concerns me that Qui Gon does nothing to free the slaves as both Anakin and Shmi hope, but I can see that it's important that he doesn't--if and only if the movie had done something with that fact, which it doesn't. And that is, in my opinion, a lack that contributes to Anakin not being a true tragic hero.

Because as Anakin grows older, he has no real noble goal. Othello at first wants to find the truth about an apparently adulterous wife and betraying friend so that he can have a just relationship to those he loves. Hamlet wants to find the truth and bring to justice his father's murderer--so much so that he won't take the word of his father's ghost at face value; he has to test it to find out for sure. All these are initially unselfish goals.

Anakin's to be a powerful Jedi. This is not really an unselfish and heroic goal.

What would have been a more noble goal? What if Anakin's desire to be a powerful Jedi had its roots in a deep desire to free not only his mother, but all of Tatooine's slaves? Who wouldn't root for a hero who wants that? What is more noble than a former slave who works hard not only to gain his mother's freedom but the freedom of all slaves?

That goal alone would have had me forgive a lot of Anakin's sins of impatience and arrogance, especially if he had harnessed his power with the discipline of both Qui Gon and Obi Wan. Yes, he was powerful, yes he had that power honed to a fine point, but it would not have been for the sheer lust for power, but for the deep love for his mother and the desire to give freedom to others. No doubt he would have not only been given a seat on the Jedi Council for this, but be a voting member as well--a high honor.

Who wouldn't have been as impatient as he would have been if the Jedi council had told him, "we sympathize with you, but now is not the time to free the slaves. You must wait"? Who wouldn't have felt compassion for him if he found he was too late to save his mother, and had failed in securing freedom for slaves? And who wouldn't have understood his motivation in turning to the Dark Side to make up for his failure, especially if the Jedi Council had said something to the effect of, "we told you so!"

That goal would have made his turn to the Dark Side and his enslavement to the Emperor in exchange for saving his mother and freeing the slaves painfully ironic, and terribly tragic. It would have made Padme's turning away from his now dark nature even more heart-rending. Anakin would have been the embodiment of the idea that "the end does not justify the means." And it would have made me even more eager to watch Star Wars IV, V, and VI in the hope that somehow Darth Vader would find some kind of redemption and eventual freedom himself.

But that didn't happen. Star Wars is not an epic opera on the scale of Wagner's Ring Cycle, or a classic tragedy on the scale of any of Shakespeare's tragic plays. And it's for this reason that I keep feeling disgruntled every time I watch Star Wars. It could so easily have been truly epic in theme and storyline instead of only in special effects, but just wasn't.

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