Friday, September 22, 2006

Staying True to Character

In honor of George Lucas releasing yet another set of Star Wars DVDs, I've got to get on my soapbox about Revenge of the Sith.

I loved the original three Star Wars movies (as any child of the '70s/'80s would), and I never really saw Episodes I & II (just bits and pieces). But my Music Man and I did go to see Sith at the theater--after all, we did want to find out how Anakin became Darth Vader, and the flick got decent reviews. It was a compulsion.

This isn't going to be a review about Sith, though. This is a rant about characterization. There were things about the movie that bothered me (unending battles to name one; sudden, unrealistic decisions to go to The Dark Side to name another), but the thing that left me with my jaw dropping, the thing I couldn't understand and am still waiting for a reasonable explanation for, is what Obi Wan did at the end.

For three movies, we've seen Obi Wan mentor Anakin, take him under his wing. He's like a young brother to him. They save each others' lives, they fight side by side. Obi Wan is portrayed as the ultimately loyal, honorable man throughout all of the movies. The best friend, the mentor, the older brother, who always does the right thing.

Anakin turns to the Dark Side for what I consider pretty flimsy reasons (but that's a debate for a different day), and Obi Wan is certainly horrified that he does, and reacts logically. He knows Anakin must be stopped--and rightly so. It's a terrible thing he has to do, to destroy his dear friend, but it has to happen, for the good of all.

But it's when we get to the battle on the lava-laden planet Mustafar that things go awry.

Obi Wan and Anakin fight ferociously and Anakin ends up falling in the burning pool. He's armless and has stubs for legs. He's burning as he drags himself out of the molten lava.

Obi Wan stands there, looking down at what is left of Anakin, who is no longer a threat to him or anyone else. In fact, the man is clearly in agony.

The honorable Obi Wan that I know would have done one last thing for his friend. He would have put him out of his misery.

But George Lucas doesn't give him that. In those following moments, during that long speech Obi Wan delivers to Anakin about how he had loved him like a brother, and how saddened and angered he is by Anakin's defection, Lucas strips Obi Wan of his honor and defiles his character. He ruins Obi Wan for me by making him do--or, in this case, not do--something out of character for this loyal man.

Why?

(And don't tell me Obi Wan had to let him live so we could have the original three Star Wars movies--that's bull-oney. There are many other ways he could have allowed Anakin to be saved; the most obvious was to let Obi Wan walk away and not see Anakin drag himself out of the lava. That would have accomplished the same thing without destroying Obi Wan's character.)

So I guess my question is: was Obi Wan not really the man I always thought he was? Was this his true character, and all the time I was fooled into thinking he would always do the right thing?

Or is there an argument that he did do the right thing, by allowing Anakin to live on in agony, having no way of knowing that he would be rescued and rebuilt into Darth Vader?

17 Comments:

Blogger Diana Peterfreund soliloquized...

Colleen, if there is one thing I've learned about the New Star Wars movies (the existence of which, by the way, have been disavowed in my household and we plan on telling our kids that they only made three Star Wars films and they all starred Harrison Ford -- even if it means homeschooling) is that you CANNOT ask for answers. You CANNOT ask for logic. You cannot, indeed, ask for anything.

That way lies madness.

Friday, September 22, 2006 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Annie soliloquized...

Wow! I say wow because I'm a huge Star Wars fan (the original 3) and have been watching the original 3 this week. And whenever I watch any Star Wars movie, I start thinking at length about how I would have written the first 3 movies differently. There are SO many things that don't match up, and so many moments I think Lucas ruined with too much dialog or just hokey dialog (the most powerful moments in the original trilogy are the ones with no dialogue and the music takes over... like Luke staring at the 2 moons, or staring at the skeletons of his aunt and uncle. And the silence in which Han is lowered into the freezing chamber.)

I could go on and on, but to answer your question, I would have to say my impression of Obi Wan in that scene is that he had no idea that Anakin would be rescued or rebuilt. I thought it safe to assume that Obi Wan thought Ani was more or less dead, or would be in a mere matter of seconds. I agree the scene could have been done differently, and perhaps better. But when I watch what was done, I don't think Obi Wan wasn't true to his character. To walk away with Ani in agony in the last moments of his life (as far as Obi Wan knew) was perhaps fair retribution for anhilating every single Jedi (including the children).

Friday, September 22, 2006 10:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Annie soliloquized...

*points to Diana* Yeah... what she said! Hehe

Friday, September 22, 2006 10:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Gypsy soliloquized...

I agree with Annie, too.

And I'm with you on Anakin/Darth. Sure didn't take much to nudge him over, did it? I never quite bought that.

Friday, September 22, 2006 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Heather Harper soliloquized...

I am not allowed to diss Anakin in my home. Or the first three movies.

It would break my eight-year-old's heart.

So, when he is old enough to process how lazily the script was constructed...maybe then I will allow myself to form an opinion. But for now, I'll let my little boy enjoy his fantasies.

Friday, September 22, 2006 10:36:00 AM  
Blogger S.M.D. soliloquized...

Just sort of found this and decided to comment.

First, Anakin never fell in the lava. Obi-wan chopped off his legs and one arm when Anakin attempted to force jump over him. He fell on the ashen earth and was set on fire by the heat from the lava nearby on his clothes.

Second, Anakin's fall to the darkside was exactly the reason why the Jedi Order had forbidden love (not friend love, but the other love). It makes one think irrationally. If your lover was dying, you'd do almost anything to save them right? Same thing here. Anakin saw the opportunity to save the person that meant more to him than anyone else. And then he was tricked into thinking the Jedi had betrayed him, which was the final turning point where he went completely to the darkside. Not to mention that Anakin always had an anger problem. Far too many times we've seen him act out of anger, even if just a little bit. He's always acted out of anger because of love (you need to see the second film to have known this).

Third, when you talk about Obi Wan doing the right thing do you mean by what you think is right or by what the Jedi Order thinks is right? If we go by the latter, then Obi Wan was in no way a perfect Jedi. He did things that he shouldn't have here or there, broke a few rules. Granted, he was more obedient than Qui Gon, but still.

Alright, now, despite all that I have to agree with you about something. I never understood why Obi Wan didn't kill Anakin when there was no fight left in him. You know he's responsible for the death of all your comrades, this evil person who cannot be saved. Sure, you'd assume that he'd die rather soon (and he would have which means that Palpatine had gotten there really quick after Obi Wan left), but why not just finish him? Force push him into the lava or just kill him by decapitating him (an honorable death by Jedi standards)... I never understood it. But I guess one will never know why, and maybe that was something that Obi Wan regretted later on (Obi Wan in the originals always seemed a little saddened when referring to Vader).

Anywho, good post, enjoyable :)

Friday, September 22, 2006 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

Diana, I like your stance; unfortunately, I'm in Heather's boat as my 8 year old son has already found the first three episodes, and loves them. Too late for me!

Annie, how weird that you were watching them this week (the original three)--we must be on the same brainwave!

SMD, thanks for coming by and clarifying those things. I can blame my faulty memory (I only saw the movie once) and the fact that I hadn't really seen the second movie--which was why I really shouldn't have tried to write a full review on the flick.

Still, it seems we're in agreement at least that Obi Wan could indeed have finished him off--for me, because I thought he could have done one last thing for his former friend.

Thanks for coming by!

Friday, September 22, 2006 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Carl V. soliloquized...

First off I have to say that this one was the only one of the three films that I thought was any good and I really enjoyed this one. Still doesn't live up to the original three but comes much closer.

I have to say that without seeing the other two I'm sure it would seem that Anakin switched awfully easily. The only bright spots in the first two films were the moments when you say Anakin being deftly manipulated by Palpatine and the moments where you saw that he was a somewhat unstable boy and young man, fixated on the need for a female mentor in his life. His mom's murder, etc. and his regular chaffing against the rules of the Jedi order and against Obi Wan himself lead up to his decision to turn completely away.

I think Obi Wan is actually very true to himself by just letting the Anakin lay there to die. Number one Obi Wan himself was a Jedi who didn't ever want to follow the rules 100% and was taught by a Jedi who himself didn't always follow counsel. Luke turns out to be a similar person. It makes them all more "real" for lack of a better way to put it. Yes they are a little more 'honorable' than say, Han Solo, but they are still humans (in the case of the non aliens of course) who act like real people. They let their emotions get away from them. They make bad decisions. They act real. Even until the end Obi Wan didn't want to defeat Anakin. He wanted Anakin to yield. After the final blow and the burning you can tell that Obi Wan is sickened with grief and confusion over what has happened. I don't think he made a conscious choice to not kill Anakin. I think he believed, rightly so, that Anakin was completely evil and that he was no doubt right at death's door anyway and he just walked away.

I thought with this one that they actually did take all the good political and relationship things from the first two (and again those were bright spots among the dreck) and tied it all up nicely in this one.

And I loved all the battle scenes...but I'm just a big kid.

Friday, September 22, 2006 12:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous soliloquized...

Star Wars! Being a child of the 70s/80s, it has a warm place in my heart too!

For me it all goes back to whether or not Lucas had 1, 2 , & 3 in mind when he released the original 3. He swears he did all along. If he did it wasn't clearly plotted, because as I watch the 1, 2, & 3 it just looks like he tried desperately to make things fit to match the 4, 5, & 6.

That aside, I never thought once about whether or not Obi should have killed Ani for mercy. I suppose it was because I wanted so badly to see 3 fit into 4, 5, & 6. Know 4 was coming along, it never was an option, although I see your point.

Perhaps Lucas felt the same way.

Friday, September 22, 2006 1:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous soliloquized...

KNOWING 4 was come along ....

I really need to preview before I post!

Friday, September 22, 2006 1:37:00 PM  
Blogger Jana J. Hanson soliloquized...

I like to think that because Obi Wan loved Anakin and felt so betrayed by his turning to the Dark Side, he couldn't kill Anakin. He just had to walk away.

I also like to think Obi Wan thought Anakin would die on Mustafar.

Then again, I also remember that moment when Obi Wan discovers Anakin is the father of Padme's child and his face is so...upset, like he had loved Padme too. That's a whole 'nother 'ship.

Friday, September 22, 2006 3:30:00 PM  
Blogger Dane Bramage soliloquized...

Zeek you and I are on the same page. I don't really think Lucas had all nine (remember he said there were nine) laid out before he did the first film. Personally though, I think episodes 4, 5, and 3 were the best. 6, 1 and 2 were like "War of Galactic Mechandising".

Obi-Wan can be forgiven if he truly thought Anakin was dead. Otherwise he should have lopped his head off. Would it have been that far a stretch to have the emperor arrive, hold Anakin's head up like Yorick's and then use the Dark side to keep it alive until it could be attached to a machine body? Not really, especially considering Anakin had more of those foce microbes in him than any Jedi in history.

Which brings me to my last point. Episodes 1, 2, and 3 did more in my mind to destroy the mystique of the Force and the Order of Jedi than it did to clarify. What was the role of the Jedi Council? Dispatch Jedi to strongarm anyoone who doesn't toe the Republic line? And might I add they gleefully killed those who opposed them. And if all it takes to be a Jedi is to have some bacteria in you why not just manufacture Jedi by injecting normal soldier with them? And why only two Sith?

Anyway The first two in my opinion were the best. I wouldn't mind seeing episodes 7, 8, and 9 as long as Lucas allows someone else to do it.

Friday, September 22, 2006 4:18:00 PM  
Blogger Zeus soliloquized...

Great post, Colleen! I really enjoyed reading it this morning!

I do agree with Dane. There is something inherently wrong in the way these films have established the different government orders. The Jedi Order was perhaps the most confusing due to the fact that we are led to believe they are an order of peace, good will, and the protection of the innocent. However, the contradiction of going to war with those who oppose them is just something that is irreconcilable. It makes you wonder if Lukas was making a statement along the lines of as long as you stand on the side of good, killing is acceptable.

I never understood why Obi Wan didn't kill Ani right then and there. The only explanation I was ever given was that in most of the Star Wars movies, you're provided with a scene in which the Jedi always allows his opposition mercy, to die a natural death. This is where the audience screams, "He's not dead! Go back! Turn around!" I'd have to watch them again to see if this were true or not.

I hated the entire love sequence before the long final fight on Mustafar. I had to tell myself, "This is the style of 4, 5, and 6," but even that didn't help me swallow, "Ani, why are you doing this to me? I love you, Ani!"

Girl, you're on the middle of some heat-laden rock, surrounded by hot, bubbling, and sometimes cascading, lava. It's humid and acrid; stale and sulphorous. Do you really think that's the place to have this conversation? Do you expect us to believe you had no idea your boy, Ani, was a Jedi child killer? Come on now! Every woman knows when her man is up to no good!

Saturday, September 23, 2006 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger Nonblond soliloquized...

Maybe there is some sort of Jedi rule out there about only killing if your life is immediately threatened by your opponent? Maybe as a Jedi, he wasn't alllowed to finish the job. That's what I have to believe. I like Obi-Wan too much.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 3:34:00 PM  
Blogger Mailyn soliloquized...

Sorry to spoil it but yeps, the reason was so that they could tie it with the originals. It's nothing to do with Obi but with the fact that Lucas brain cells gave out and he couldn't picture it tying this any other way.

So yeah, sometimes the obvious answer is it, no matter how sad. LOL.

BTW, never ever ever been a SW fans. I actually hated the stupid movies. LOL.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 4:15:00 PM  
Blogger Colleen Gleason soliloquized...

I love this! Lots of good debate and different perspectives. Makes me think a little more deeply--especially with what Dane and Zeus see there about the position and background of the Jedis and their Council.

I always thought there were 9 episodes planned, and I thought Lucas had it all figured out from the beginning--that was what I remembered from when the middle three came out. Either way, I definitely see inconsistencies and loose ends.

Thanks for weighing in on this. I'm intrigued by the idea that the Jedis maybe couldn't honorably kill anyone unless their own life was threatened too. That might work for me.

But I guess I'm leaning toward the Lucas-had-to-make-it-fit explanation.

Hope everyone's having a great weekend.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 5:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Angela soliloquized...

I didn't care for any of the prequels.. so I like to pretend they don't exist.
How could Lucas create so vastly different trilogies and say they're from the same storyline?
I have many issues with all 3 of the prequels. First being, metichlorians (sp?).. definition: something Lucas made up for the prequels to give The Force a medical explanation and that were never alluded to (or needed) in the classic trilogy. Laughable.

Monday, September 25, 2006 12:28:00 PM  

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