Tagged: Anakin Skywalker

John Ostrander: Star Wars Annotations

One of the nice perks of being a pro is that the companies send you complimentary copies when they publish your work. Recently, Marvel published another volume of Star Wars Legends that included some of my Star Wars work originally published by Dark Horse. Although no longer considered “canon,” they’re still in print which is cool by me and gives me an excuse to leaf through them and talk a little about the thinking behind them.

This particular volume is dubbed “The Clone Wars – Volume 1” and has work by several different creators in addition to myself and my artist and collaborator, Jan Duursema. Our editor, Randy Stradley, came up with a thought around the time Episode II came out – having started the Clone Wars at the end of Episode II, George Lucas was going to skip to the end of the Clone Wars at the start of Episode III. Randy proposed to Lucas Film Licensing that we do the Clone Wars in the comics since Uncle George wasn’t going to go there. This, of course, was a long time before there was any talk of doing an Animated Series of the Clone Wars.

Jan and I at the time were the regular team on Star Wars Republic but we left shortly to do a continuing series of oversized bimonthlies under the heading Star Wars: Jedi. Each issue would focus on a given Jedi from the films. We did four of them before going back to the monthly book. While we enjoyed the extra pages of the Jedi series, we liked weaving our storylines in and out with each other and the monthlies provided a better platform for doing that.

We focused a lot on the character of Quinlan Vos, who we had created for our first SW story. Quin was not your usual Jedi – he had been given amnesia, he had troubles with the Dark Side, and could be something of an anti-hero which we would explore even further with Cade Skywalker when we did Star Wars: Legacy. With Quin, we could explore some of the same territory that Anakin Skywalker covered without being tied to one outcome. Everyone knew Anakin fell to the dark side and became Darth Vader but Quin’s fate was undetermined.

I had fun with lots of little touches that show in this volume – I named a character after a good friend, I had prisoners being pressed into service on an impossible mission a la Suicide Squad, and I created a Jedi based on Sean Connery. We called him Shon Kon Ray and he lasted all of one page in Jedi: Shaak Ti before getting blowed up real good. The fans are a sharp bunch and spotted the Connery allusion and, strangely enough, I got a lot of mail and email and chatter lamenting his coming and going so quickly. There was a lot of potential in him, I’ll admit, but that underscored the reality of war, even one as unreal as the Clone Wars. Characters/people that you liked, even if meeting them only briefly, suddenly died.

That also underscores one of the questions and themes that ran through almost all of the stories that Jan and I did in this volume. Are the Jedi on the wrong side in this war? It’s a given that the Republic is corrupt. The Jedi themselves are meant to be peacekeepers and in the Clone wars they are dragooned into being generals. They are supposed to revere life above all and yet they send soldiers to their deaths. War being war, innocents suffer and there is a lot of destruction. In every story, someone who is a Jedi wonders what the Order is doing.

In the Mace Windu story, Samuel L. Jackson. . .err, Mace Windu. . . rationalizes that the Jedi support the principles on which the Republic was formed and not what it’s become. But that is debatable and, in the Count Dooku issue, the Count challenges the notion. Dooku, of course, is a Sith and the Sith are playing both sides against one another in order to weaken and destroy the Jedi. The Republic ultimately votes to transform itself into an Empire and a Sith becomes the Emperor.

When you get right down to it, it’s all rather dark and I found the stories in this volume perhaps more suited for this age than the one in which it was written. I claim no foresight; it was simply a question I felt worth exploring. Can you be a hero if you fight for something that is wrong?

That’s a question still worth exploring.

John Ostrander: Redeeming Vader

anakin-skywalker_311439_mBy its nature, a trilogy connects. In movies, it becomes a single story united by narrative and/or theme. Each component film should stand on its own but they should come together as a single narrative.

Star Wars, especially the Original Trilogy (now known as Episodes IV, V, and VI), is a good example of this. In it, Luke Skywalker follows the Hero’s Journey (as defined by Joseph Campbell ), working with and through classic archetypes as he becomes not only a Jedi but a true hero. It is Luke’s story.

A funny thing happened when Lucas brought out the Prequel Trilogy (also known as Episodes I, II, and III). The story shifted from its focus on Luke Skywalker to his father, Anakin Skywalker, who was the villain of the Original Trilogy – Darth Vader. The overall story is now the fall of Anakin and the final redemption of Darth Vader. It completely changes the focus of all six movies. We are asked to accept this. At the end of Episode VI, Anakin’s Force Ghost takes its place with the Force Ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, the two Jedi who represent the wise mentors and forces for good.

I have serious reservations about this. I don’t know if Anakin/Vader deserves or achieves redemption. Anakin, as he turns to the Dark Side, betrays all his friends. He kills children. Let me repeat that – he kills children. Episode III makes it clear even if it doesn’t show it. Anakin/Vader leads a cadre of Clone Troopers into the Jedi Temple and we see him confront children, the young students, some of which look to be six to eight. They know him only as a Jedi and trust him. We are later told that some of their corpses had lightsaber marks on them and Anakin is the only one who has a lightsaber in that attack. Anakin killed the children. How is that redeemable?

Why does Anakin turn to the Dark Side? Partly because he feels his fellow Jedi aren’t treating him with enough respect; as tragic flaws go, this is rather petty. Also, Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine, Anakin’s mentor, convinced Anakin that he could prevent Anakin’s wife, Padme, from dying. Ever.

Anakin had Separation Anxieties. He couldn’t save his mother from death at the hands of the Tusken Raiders so, once again, he slaughtered every Tusken man, woman, and – once again – child in the tribe. But Sidious tells Anakin he can keep Padme from ever dying and the chump believes him. It’s enough to send him careening down the path of the Dark side, becoming Darth Vader in the process.

And yet both Padme and, later on, Luke insist that there is good in him. Damned if I could see it.

How is Vader redeemed? When he decides he can’t turn Luke to the Dark Side, he decides to turn Luke’s sister. He tries to kill Luke. Instead, Luke defeats him, literally disarming him. Palpatine wanders in and tells Luke to kill Vader and take his place. Luke refuses, tossing away his lightsaber … a rather boneheaded move. Sidious then shoots lightning from his hands and starts to slowly turn Luke into a Crispy Critter. Vader, despite his son’s pleas, just watches for a few moments before finally turning on Sidious and tossing the Emperor to his doom, getting mortally wounded himself along the way. And this act supposedly redeems Anakin.

What exactly did Anakin/Vader do? Did he renounce the Dark Side? No. Did he regret his betrayal of his fellow Jedi? No. Did he feel bad about slaughtering the innocent children? Nope. He turned on his former Master because Sidious was killing Anakin’s son whom Vader himself had been trying to kill only a few moments earlier.

I admit to being an agnostic but I’m specifically a Roman Catholic agnostic. I was raised and steeped in the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and the notion of redemption was a strong part of that. The concept is that suffering expiates past sin or sins. Anakin/Vader sacrifices his own life to destroy Sidious. Why does he do it? To save his own child. Motivations matter and, it seems to me, this one is private, personal, and rather selfish. I don’t see the act as redemptive.

If Anakin isn’t redeemed, then the story for all six movies falls apart since it has become Anakin’s story. He’s not heroic, he’s not tragic, he becomes a monster. He massacres whole groups of beings, he betrays his friends, he kills children. Making the first six episodes retroactively about him just undermines the whole series.

Disney could actually fix some of this. Lucas kept on tinkering with “Did Han Solo shoot first?” (Yes, Han shot first.) Disney could remove the scenes and lines that indicate Anakin killed children if they want. Otherwise, we can just look forward to Episode VII. No Anakin, no Vader to morally compromise the story.

Or so we can hope.