For the sake of those readers who have not yet seen the new Star Wars film, I have decided to restrict my discussion in this first blog to the Star Wars movies in general, thus not giving away any details of Revenge of the Sith. That being said, the themes I pick up upon might yet insinuate facts about the new movie that will annoy fans who desire the Full Effect of viewing the film with a spoiler free mind; so either go out and see the thing right now, or read on according to your own calculations of the peril involved.
I was eleven years old when Return of the Jedi, sequentially the last film in the Star Wars saga, was released in cinemas. By then I had been a fan of the galaxy far, far away for about six years, or over half of my life up to that point. I had a room full of star wars figures, playsets, vehicles and merchandise, and I spent a great deal of my free time dreaming up adventures with my friends in which we took turns playing the parts of Han Solo, Luke or sometimes Darth Vadar. I knew the plots of the film like a priest knows scripture, and would often drift off to sleep while reviewing the manner in which the various scenes and segments of the plot led into one another. Not to sound like a total geek, I had other interests: G.I.Joe, Dungeons and Dragons, Ninjas and a game we called Risk, which was more or less my friends and I pretending we were soldiers in the forest. But Star Wars was king: better than Buck Rogers, Indiana Jones or the Bible.
I was enamored by the heros, villains and fantastic creatures introduced in A New Hope, and I was astounded by the revelation of The Empire Strikes Back that Vadar was Luke's father (it seems so obvious now, but such was the magic of childhood). Revenge of the Jedi was only a slight let down, with the Ewoks and syrupy love plot, but by that time the first stirrings of puberty were just around the corner, so my whole outlook was scheduled for major upheaval. I remember going to see Return of the Jedi with my parents, and sitting through Darth Vadar's dramatic change of heart at the end of the film. It certainly made for a grand finally to the trilogy, but there was an aspect to the denouement that puzzled me. At the very end of the film, as Luke is lighting fire to the body of his dead father, he sees a vision of the flickering blue spirits of Yoda, Ben Kenobi and the now restored Anakin Skywalker standing together and waving at him from what must be some sort of Jedi afterlife. This part of the plot puzzled me, and I remember asking my parents, as the final credits were rolling, how Darth Vadar, who had been such a nasty villain his whole life, could be so dramatically redeemed through the single action of tossing the evil Emperor into the chasm.
Plastic Jedi Spirits
The fact that Anakin should be so thoroughly redeemed in such a brief period of time so as to share the company of the spirits of Yoda and Ben, the two great Gurus of my youth, didn't make sense to my youthful imagination--I mean, here was a fellow who had been responsible for the death of countless rebels, not to mention a whole planet, as well as killing Ben Kenobi, his old master, cutting of the hand of his own son, even going so far as to kill members of his own military leadership! How could one further act of violence, that of destroying the Emperor, possibly undo all the wrong that Vadar had already committed in his life? I guess my young imagination was reaching out for some kind of idea akin to a purgatory where people like Anikin Skywalker go, though at the time I hadn't been introduced to any such religious concept.
I can't remember my parent's giving any intelligible answer to my query, though I remember them as being amused by the question. I do think that the three prequel movies have answered the question, but it wasn't until seeing Revenge of the Sith that the pieces completely fell into place. The answer involves the nature of the society that allowed an entity like the Emperor, and then Vadar, to come into existence. It also involves the enigmatic prophecy, first voiced by Qui-Gon Jinn in Episode One, that Anakin was "the Chosen One who would bring balance back to the Force", and it involves the quest for immortality, a theme implicit in the first three movies (episodes IV-VI) but not explicitly developed until the three prequels.
So, I hope I didn't give away too many secrets in this outline. In the next blog I will lay out my argument for The Sith as a portrayal of the unintegrated shadow (in a Jungian sense) of the Jedi Councel, the tragic necessity for the appearance of a figure like Darth Vadar, and the subsequent restoration of balance and wholeness in the Force that Anakin's fall and redemption brought about.