Thoughtful Stuff To Read

A new essay on Cantina Cast discusses the baptism motif in the Star Wars saga.

And, this oldie but goodie from Making Star Wars.net makes the case that Padmé Amidala is the hero(ine) of TPM.

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15 Responses to “Thoughtful Stuff To Read”

  1. M. Marshall Says:

    Interesting articles though when they talk about how Padme is not a love interest in TPM, it reminds me of how some complain about Padme’s characterization through the rest of the prequels has her reduced from a fearless leader to a love interest and “victim” for Anakin.

  2. lovelucas Says:

    Luke wearing white, as does Leia, citing that as a sign of purity, etc is all well and good but the stormtroopers aren’t wearing black. I do like the analogy of baptism in Star Wars as being a rebirth, for good and bad and that humility is a required status that is hard-won first: in Anakin’s case, it broke him.

    • Tarrlok Says:

      The stormtroopers (and clone troopers by extension) wear white on black, giving them a more skeletal than angelic look. They don’t wear white fabric but hard white plastic armour plating. I’ve seen it remarked that stormtrooper helmets look a bit Klannish, and the snowtroopers are a dead ringer for the white hoods.

      See also the ivory/bone-coloured battle droids, who look even more like skeletons.

  3. lovelucas Says:

    Re Padmé: I’ve never considered her weak, certainly not in TPM where she was a commander making hard choices. If anything it was her love for Anakin that softened her resolve to be a senator first and always and that might appear to be a “weak” decision since it was not at all logical.

    • blade57hrc Says:

      Imo, everyone appears to be weaker when in love. It’s almost inherent. Just look @ Han/Leia in ROTJ when the love story is ”resolved”.
      I have a hunch that one amongst the first complains from those who hate on the PT now will be that Han/Leia got ”ruined” and got all mushy…lol

      • lazypadawan Says:

        Not to give away any gossip re Ep VII but I can’t believe there are fans who hope Han and Leia are at each other’s throats in this movie because they’re “better that way.” *Facepalm.*

      • blade57hrc Says:

        Funnier still….they’ll probably be! lol

        because screw character progression…it ruins everything.lol

      • Tony Ferris Says:

        Look at the reaction to Marion Ravenwood in Crystal Skull sure. They quite rightly matured the character, calming her down and giving her a maternal quality, while also keeping that streak of wildness in play.

        That progression though, was hailed as mis-characterization by many who simply wanted her to be the exact same as she’d been in Raiders. Would that not have been depressing? For her to have shown entirely no growth in the intervening years.

  4. Keith Palmer Says:

    In reflecting on the “baptism motif,” I did get to thinking about Luke jumping off his X-wing into the Dagobah swamp in The Empire Strikes Back (although I don’t know if he went in over his head), and Artoo did fall in the water there too…

    The other article was also interesting, although I don’t know if I’ve really demanded there be a “central character” in The Phantom Menace (or indeed “the Republic trilogy” altogether). I do sort of fear it was in part responding to yet another unreasonable criticism.

  5. Daniel Xie Says:

    The hate against the Prequels by RLM for having no main character is hypocritical if we look at the fact that fiction is increasingly growing away from a single relatable protagonist to varying points of view and varying characters looking at one event or perspective or are being influenced by it.

    Just look at Game of Thrones, no main character. If you have to mock the prequels for having no main character why don’t you disown a large chunk of fiction these days.

    • Tony Ferris Says:

      Here’s what I wrote in their comments section…

      Much of what you say is true. The Phantom Menace IS Padme’s story, and it is most certainly one of heroism. It should be understood though, that the story is told through the eyes of the Jedi, specifically Qui-Gon Jinn. He is the protagonist.

      He is though, an unusual protagonist. His character arc is much subtler than we might expect, particularly if we’re assuming to see a central figure much like Luke in A New Hope, whose arc describes a coming of age tale. Qui-Gon is already of age, a fully realised person, and the picture of self-actualised maturity. Even accounting for his death, he ends the film much as he begins it.

      Maturity is a central theme of the saga, and the true point of the metaphor being expressed by Campbell’s hero’s journey, which has been so influential on George Lucas. When Lucas talks about Luke’s and Anakin’s stories butting up against one another, it is because one represents healthy maturation, and the other a failure to mature, an arrested development. Qui-Gon therefore represents the ideal, and functions throughout The Phantom Menace as the solid centre anchoring the rest of the picture. He facilitates Padme’s hero’s journey (as well as Obi-Wan’s and Anakin’s), but he does not interfere with it. His conflict with the Jedi council reveals their dormancy and myopia, just as Padme’s dissatisfaction with the Senate illustrates the frailties of the Republic. The failings of the Jedi order though, are almost of greater concern, because it is they that represent the spiritual core of the Republic, and so Qui-Gon’s conflict with them portends galactic moral deterioration, not merely political corruption.

      Menace is a story about a group of likable ‘heroes’ attempting to repel a planetary invasion. It has adventure and excitement to spare, visual and narrative invention to beat the band, and many subtleties of depth and complexity, but its emotional peaks are not as substantial or momentous as those other entries in the saga. There’s a restraint to the picture, a deliberate forswearing of the histrionics and ‘effervescent giddiness’ (as Lucas once described it) of the first made trilogy. This is done for a few reasons: On one level the prequel trilogy is a tragedy, and so its characters are purposely sombre, but in terms of The Phantom Menace it’s about depicting a galaxy at rest, prelapsarian and stagnant. This is prologue, an establishing of theme and purpose, of character and coming conflict. Qui-Gon’s steady, unflappable nobility suggests what is being lost – his death as much sets it in stone – while simultaneously establishing that which might be restored. Luke’s decision not to fight at the climax of Return of the Jedi, marks the return of Qui-Gon’s virtue and integrity. Luke effectively becomes Qui-Gon Jinn. That is Qui-Gon’s importance. That is why he must arrive on screen fully realised and matured. He is what’s being moved away from, and striven towards ultimately. He is the beginning, and the end.

      “I couldn’t have that same tonality in the father’s trilogy that I did in the children’s trilogy. The thing about children is, they’re exuberant, they’re naïve. You know, they’re funny. But fathers, especially fathers going down the wrong path—it’s a much more somber reality.” – George Lucas

      Ultimately The Phantom Menace is an ensemble piece, and it gives time to all its players, but its focal point is Qui-Gon. Padme is certainly a hero, and that should be recognised more, but we shouldn’t confuse her heroism, even her centrality to the narrative, for protagonism.

      To be honest, the argument that TPM doesn’t have a clear protagonist, or even that it needs one feels a little like the studio executives who insisted that American Graffiti was a mess for the same reason. That it didn’t have a plot (which Menace clearly has BTW), it didn’t have a main character, and that it was just a bunch of disjointed scenes strung together without any clear purpose or story.

      These days Graffiti is a classic. I believe that Menace would have already enjoyed a re-evaluation and elevation were it not so drenched in irrational, pop culture antipathy. But one day. One day…

      • Keith Palmer Says:

        Bringing up American Graffiti seemed a good thing to do for me; even if I’ve seen it used as a cudgel to try and invoke “Lucas’s pre-burned-out days” (although that at least admits he had some role in the success of Star Wars in the face of the claims Marcia Lucas’s editing was the sole factor), when I watched that movie I had the feeling it had informed my impressions of Attack of the Clones (just as THX 1138 seemed relevant to the saga itself.) Again, perhaps, the claim about “no main character” only cropped up in an attempt to try and seem different from “mere” character-bashing, but at least we can turn around and find some deeper insights.

      • Brian47 Says:

        Great observations in your comments, Tony and Keith, really worthwhile in sharing around the ‘net. I’d like to borrow from it liberally! 🙂

      • Tony Ferris Says:

        All of Lucas’s films are to me, very much the work of the same man.

        As you say THX 1138 is evident in Star Wars, and not just in it’s oft repeated numbers and letters, but in it’s broader thematic concerns. In fact I recall an article you wrote yourself Keith, examining that very subject. Heck the clones on Kamino could almost be a part of that subterranean complex from Lucas’s first feature, just as much as and the neon snarl of Coruscant’s skyways, all speed-lines and streaking light, do much to invoke Graffiti’s Jukebox graphics, and as has been often said, though rarely heeded, Lucas’s cinema is all about the graphics.

        As to Marcia Lucas ‘saving’ Star Wars in the editing room:

        Bunkum!

        Pure and simple.

        An insidious attempt to divest Lucas of authorship, and one that is easily disproved…

        This is not mine, but it tracks:

        It’s mainly a zombie lie perpetuated by a lot material out there. One of the worst offenders is Michael Kaminski’s ‘Secret History of Star Wars’ book–which is quite popular.

        Here’s an excerpt:

        “The rough cut of the film was also a disaster…Editor John Jympson was fired and Marcia took over, starting over from scratch and salvaging the film as best she could, shaping it into a more exciting and emotional experience.”

        Kamnski later writes that “Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew had been brought in to finish the edit after Marcia left.”

        This kind of stuff is why we hear things like “Marcia Lucas saved ANH” and “Marcia Lucas is the reason it’s good.” But what Kaminski wrote is factually wrong. Just look at the timeline. When Lucas returned from England, the “assembly cut” was a disaster and Jympson was fired In August 1976, Lucas, Marcia, AND Richard Chew BEGAN the new edit.

        Marcia focused on the end battle, Chew on the escape from the death star. Then Lucas took over that sequence from Chew, so Chew could start at the beginning of the film. They quickly realized they needed more help and Paul Hirsch came on board in mid-Oct. As Hirsch, puts it–he and Chew would leap frog each other going from reel to reel while Marcia was “buried in assembling the end battle.” By late Oct/early Nov they had a first cut “Just after Thanksgiving” -according to JD Rinzler’s book, Marcia left to help Scorsese with NY, NY. Jan 1977, Hirsch is the only editor left on the picture for the last 5 months–with considerable work left to do INCLUDING pickups and reshoots.

        I certainly don’t want to diminish Marcia’s role in editing the picture–but i think the timeline alone debunks the myth of Marcia Lucas as savior of ANH. She was part of a 4-person editing team. And she helped for 4 out of the 10 months it was worked on.

        Rinzler’s book includes a breakdown of the scenes that each editor mainly worked on too–which helps debunk the myth.

        Could Rinzer’s book be biased toward Lucas? Sure. But Lucas, Hirsch, and Chew all seem to be telling the same story. And the dates are key.

      • Tony Ferris Says:

        To brian,

        Feel free, mate. 🙂

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