A lot of people wonder what keeps me attracted to Star Wars after so long. After all, Star Wars (1977) is celebrating its 38th anniversary this year. How can one movie have such an incredible impact on popular culture at large? What do some of the most iconic scenes mean for me? Which scenes resonate with me the most? Over the course of this week, I will share (over a few blog posts) some of my favorite scenes starting with the Prequel Trilogy.
The Phantom Menace
For the sake of full disclosure: I do not think that The Phantom Menace (1999) is the worst Star Wars movie of all time. That honor, in my mind, is held by 2002’s Attack of the Clones. TPM actually felt like a Star Wars movie: different groups on adventures that meet at a similar climax, just like Han and Leia in Bespin met Luke fresh from his Jedi training on Dagobah in the climactic fight scene with Vader. And what a climax Phantom Menace had: the invasion of Naboo by the Trade Federation, the Naboo’s assault on the droid control base, and the siege of the Theed power generators. This hectic sort of final battle reminds us of the assault on the second Death Star while Rebel insurgents carried out a ground assault on the forest moon of Endor.
But I think for anybody, especially a six-year old boy like me, Darth Maul captured my imagination in a way that nothing else could. I was shocked enough to see Luke Skywalker wield a green lightsaber in Return of the Jedi (1983), but to see a new double bladed saber? That was more than my mind could handle at the time. I remember, and I’m sure that my Facebook profile has a few pictures, my Darth Maul mask and lightsaber toy from Hasbro that I wore constantly. I never really found out how to fight with a double bladed saber, and definitely could not match Darth Maul’s athleticism, but I loved that thing. And seriously, who could forget such an epic soundtrack to go with the fight?
Seeing Obi-Wan kill (or so we thought) Darth Maul was heartbreaking, but it really stands in contrast now to the way that Ben sacrifices himself to Vader on the first Death Star instead of killing him. Where, as a young Jedi, Obi-Wan drew on his anger and his fear to avenge his freshly slain master, Ben, 51 years later, willingly lays his life down to save Luke and give hope to the galaxy. The way that Maul pulled on Obi-Wan’s anger and fear and drew him to the Dark Side was a foreshadowing of the hold that the Dark Side was beginning to have on the Galaxy. Darth Maul’s triumphant return on The Clone Wars, raising up his brother in the Dark Side and capturing Mandalore was truly a high point of an excellent series for me, and a rebirth of the excitement I had as a six year old.
Attack of the Clones
Was there any doubt that the climactic battle at the Geonosian Arena would be my favorite moment from the second prequel? In the Original Trilogy, we knew about three Jedi. We know that Yoda used to be a great warrior, but now he is a hermit living on a strange swampy planet. We saw Ben get martyred at the hands of Darth Vader, and we watched Luke grow from a farm boy to a Jedi Knight, standing up to the Emperor himself. We never knew about the “ancient religion” that Tarkin talked about. We knew precious little about Jedi in the past, just that Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker were pilots in the Clone War. Attack of the Clones changed that for us: as Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Senator Padme Amidala face execution by the Trade Federation and Separatist forces, 200 Jedi swarm the arena to save them. No longer do we see only two active Jedi: no, the Prequels are a universe absolutely crawling with Jedi.
Not only did we see the Jedi Order come out in full force for the first time, but we were able to see how diverse the galaxy truly is. Coleman Trebor, before being gunned down by Jango, showed us a dinosaur with a lightsaber. How sick is that? Then we are introduced to such strong women as Aayla Secura, Shaak Ti, Barriss Offee (before her treachery and terrorist attack on the Temple), and Luminara Undili. Heck, it gave us real diversity, too: Roth Del-Masona and Nicanas Tassu were both non-white Jedi. There were other fun aliens, too: Sora Bulq, Tarados Gon, Eeth Koth, Que-Mars Redath-Gom…the list goes on and on. I would love to sit down and see a list of the Jedi involved in the Strike Force some day.
Seeing all of those blades lit on the battle field facing certain death painted the trilogy with a deep sense of gloom, similar to the way that Empire Strikes Back left us. As Jedi fell, we knew we were starting to see the fall of the Republic and the birth of the Empire. Unfortunately, Revenge of the Sith (2005) would not provide us with the light-hearted victory that Return of the Jedi did…
Revenge of the Sith
There were actually a lot of scenes from this movie that I would have loved to put. The opening space battle, the duel between Grievous and Obi-Wan, the Jedi’s attempted arrest of Chancellor Palpatine, the dramatic reveal of the Death Star all could have rated highly on this list. Rather, I went for the one with the biggest punch to the gut. Obi-Wan and Anakin never asked to be put together: Qui-Gon Jinn was going to train Anakin while Obi-Wan took on a different apprentice. Qui-Gon’s death at the hand of Darth Maul frustrated that plan, though, so a too-young Obi-Wan started training a too-old Anakin Skywalker. Though they fought valiantly together in the Clone Wars and grew close to one another in incredible ways (where Obi-Wan felt secure enough to tell Anakin that he would have left the Order for Sabine for example!), so seeing this fight was heartbreaking.
Anakin’s lust for power was always his undoing. He thought he could save Padme’s life by gaining power over death, but instead became the cause of her death by choosing pure power over love. Palpatine manipulated his lust for power and drew him to the Dark Side, christening him as Darth Vader before sending him to end the Clone War. After massacring the Trade Federation, Anakin had to face his former Master in a showdown on Mustafar. Each strike of the lightsaber blade pulled on our heartstrings, showing another strain on their sometimes tense relationship.
To see Obi-Wan love Anakin enough to not even kill him, but leave him alive and hope that Anakin would come to his senses when he didn’t have any limbs, was a little glimmer of hope at the end of a depressing movie. Even in the darkest night of the galaxy, the Jedi can still hope that good will prevail. Thankfully, we know that Mustafar isn’t just the place of death: 14 years later, a small band of Rebel insurgents led by former Jedi Ahsoka Tano would appear to bring the fight back to the Empire….
What do you think? What were your favorite moments in the Prequel Trilogy? Do you disagree with mine? Rather they were wiped out entirely?