Anakin Could’ve Learned Some Game From Yoda’s Preschool
Big news in the Star Wars universe this week! That’s right: I finally watched Episode II—Attack of the Clones. And man, was it nice spending a little quality time getting to know Yoda.
The little green Jedi has been a constant throughout my Star Wars experience, of course, but in Attack of the Clones, my No. 1 sage took off the gloves and placed the fate of the Jedi Order into his diminutive tri-phalange hands. The scene in which Yoda summons a wee lightsaber out of his cloak and trounces Count Dooku while whirling around the room made me forgive the transition from puppet to CGI. Yoda’s “I dare you to fuck with me” face is unparalleled—except, perhaps, by the sight of him presiding over a classroom of young, attentive padawans and a sheepish Obi-Wan: “Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing.” Yoda patiently employing the Socratic Method with students who tower over him is the cutest thing … no, wait, the baby Jedi who has both the right answer and a heavy lisp is the cutest. Save your owl a trip, Hogwarts: I want to attend Yoda’s Jedi preschool.
Obi-Wan’s sheepish demeanor isn’t limited to the padawans, unfortunately. He’s kind of relegated to comic relief throughout Attack of the Clones. It’s disappointing, considering that he’s managed to grow out his hair and gain an expertise in great diners since I last saw him. Pity, it is.
The sidelining of Obi-Wan is particularly troubling considering he makes room for a character almost as annoying as Jar Jar Binks: Hayden Christensen’s teenage Anakin. Jar Jar made me roll my eyes, but the brooding, smirking contempt of this young Jedi made me grit my teeth. In contrast to the sweet, duty-bound and boring Luke, I was invested in the story of how this eager, ambitious slave grew up to become Darth Vader, and his young days in The Phantom Menace were promising. But, as happens to so many teenage boys, Anakin acquired a rattail and a terrible attitude.
Like so many angst-ridden, self-involved teens, Anakin is at his most whiny and insufferable around his older crush, a princess played by Natalie Portman. Here’s a tip from someone who miraculously survived being a teenager: When the unattainable royalty you love confides in you about her childhood, don’t respond with “I don’t like sand.”
Despite the fact Anakin has the worst game I’ve encountered since my eighth grade Fall Dance, Padmé falls for him. (Maybe rattails are a sign of virility on Naboo?) At one point, she tells Anakin, “Please don’t look at me like that, it makes me uncomfortable,” at which point I actually said aloud, “Same, Padmé!” [Ed. note: I can confirm this.] Was there no one around at Rivendell (or wherever the meadow romp occurred on Naboo) to stop Padmé? Whatever happened to that nice boy from her legislative youth program, the one who became an artist? When your boyfriend confesses that massacring a Tusken village in a blind rage was an expression of grief, that’s a dealbreaker—to be angry is to be human, sure, but not that angry. If he slaughters an entire community at the death of his mother, what will he do if you die? Don a black mask and enforce a dictatorial regime over the entire galaxy? Oh, wait… (Hypothesis!)
Beyond my love of Yoda and hatred of teenage Anakin, I thought the plot of Attack of the Clones was fun—if a bit heavy-handed with what must be George Lucas’ criticisms of the Bush administration, especially in Queen Jamillia’s cheesy speech about faith in democracy. The idea that a creature as deeply annoying as Jar Jar Binks could persuade the senate of anything—let alone his fittingly idiotic proposal—is a deep indictment of early 2000s politics. Ceding emergency power to one ruler? As far as I know, that only worked out well once, and Palpatine is no Cincinnatus.
Speaking of Jar Jar, I could not be happier that his irritating hijinks have been rightfully replaced by what is, hands-down, my favorite character. That’s right, C-3PO is back in full form and as charming as ever. I’ll spare you all the quotes of his that I wrote down, but I can’t resist, “Oh my goodness! Shut me down—machines making machines! How perverse!” My highlight from the battle of Geonosis—other than the epic lightsaber action I had hoped for from Star Wars—is the C-3PO/clone mashup and R2-D2’s no-nonsense reassembly of his friend. “I’m quite beside myself,” Threepio punnily exclaims. So you are, my dear scandalized robot butler, and so am I.
Begun the clone war has, but my Star Wars saga is quickly coming to an end—after I find out what happens to transform an insufferable teenager into a Sith Lord with a breathing mask. Join me in the grand finale of my personal Star Wars Challenges (at least until December) and watch Revenge of the Sith this week!
• The ghost at the end of Return of the Jedi is this version of Anakin! (I think. With different hair.) Really, George? For a parting image to all your fans, you chose the worst teenager of all time?
• Leia may not have known her mom, but she inherited some of her resourcefulness and general badass know-how, and for that I am glad.
• I’m relieved to see some things don’t change in a galaxy far, far away: The reference librarian of Star Wars looks remarkably like the gray-haired stereotype that presided over my neighborhood branch growing up.
• The CGI landscapes and effects have really come into their own, but I have to admit, the fully automated robots and clones just aren’t as charming as when you know there’s an actor in there.
• Oh, look, I found a strong woman who isn’t a romantic interest in Star Wars! Nope, false alarm, that can’t be—the bounty hunter after Padmé turns out to be a changeling reptile.
• So, Darth Maul was the apprentice, and Darth Sidious is the master? Is Darth Sidious… Chancellor Palpatine?
• Are red lightsabers for Team Empire, and blue and green ones are for Team Jedi? How come Mace Windu gets a purple one?
• I still have no idea: What are midi-chlorians?
• How come Obi-Wan ends up spending his life between the trilogies in the hinterlands of Tatooine? And is Yoda in hiding on Dagobah?
• What kind of a creature is Yoda? Are there more? (Please, more!)