Why the Jedi are Evil
During the New Year’s holidays I re-watched some Star Wars films. In particular, I re-watched Episode II: Attack of the Clones several times. It is possibly my favorite Star Wars installment because of the exciting battle scenes of the Republic’s clone army versus the Trade Federation and Commerce Guild’s droid army on the planet of Geonosis. Director George Lucas always said that the only characters that would appear in all the films would be the robots R2D2 and C-3PO. The robots do not provide bridges for story consistency from one film to the next, one trilogy to the next. They are an archetypical comedy element in the vein of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, etc. The audience must assume - and in fact we are told outright at the end of Episode III - that they periodically have their memories erased as they age or pass from one owner to another. So although we are happy to see R2D2 and C-3PO again and again, we naturally look instead for verbal cues and clues from the other characters to make a consistent story that covers two generations. It is easier to do this with Episodes IV-through-VI as a group and episodes I-through-III as a separate group because each trilogy was made in closer proximity to its partners than to the films in the other trilogy. I think the biggest problems discovered by laying the first trilogy aside the second and comparing them are 1) Alec Guiness’s (Obi-Wan Kenobi’s) confession in Episode IV: A New Hope that he could notremember ever owning a droid when Luke Skywalker presents him with the R2D2 unit that his Uncle Owen bought from the Jawas for work on his mushroom farm on Tatooine; and 2) Darth Vader’s apparent absent mindedness about his own droid, C-3PO. Obi-Wan Kenobi’s forgetfulness in the matter of the droids seems inexplicable considering how close they appear in the first trilogy. Considering that Anakin Skywalker built C-3PO himself, it seems a mistake that in the second trilogy they repeatedly come into very close proximity but never meet again.
In Attack of the Clones the Republic, headed by the Supreme Chancellor Senator Palpatine (who secretly is the dark lord, Darth Sidious), is threatened with civil war by the secession of thousands of star systems, led by the Trade Federation that we were introduced to in Episode I. The Trade Federation under Nute Gunray and the Commerce Guild are amassing a droid army to prosecute its secession, while the Republic has no army at all, only the Jedi, who Master Windu (Samuel Jackson) himself describes as “keepers of the peace, not soldiers.” At no time are we taught why secession from the Republic is a bad thing other than the suggestion that with a thousand year history the Republic must be somehow unreproachable. Additionally, we are not taught why the Jedi Order’s dedication to the Republic is a good thing, except for some vague and faulty innuendos that the Republic represents democracy (while the secessionists, presumably, do not). It’s a very American innuendo, that is. I mean the idea that democracy (as it is describes by the democrats) is self-evidently good and virtuous while its opponents (or, whoever the democrats label as their opponents) are self-evidently and unequivocally bad. What rot!
The main point of Episode II is to introduce us to the cloned army made for the Republic by the cloners of Kamino, beyond the outer rim of the galaxy and not a part of the Republic. (The clones are made from tissue supplied by the bounty hunter Jango Fett, father of Boba Fett who features in the second trilogy, but is introduced as just a boy in Episode II.) It is these very clones who are the much feared, white-armored storm troopers of the second trilogy.
In the opening scenes of Episode II we see Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), formerly Queen Amidala of Naboo from Episode I, arriving on the planet Coruscant to lead the fight in the Senate against legislation to raise an army of the Republic. There is an assassination attempt on the space port landing pad that claims the life of her decoy, Cordé. Then we quickly switch to a meeting between the Supreme Chancellor, Senator Palpatine, and the Jedi Council. Senator Amidala enters his office with her retinue and Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz) says with unconvincing unctuous ingenuousness, “your tragedy on the landing platform - terrible. Seeing you alive brings warm feelings to my heart.” It is so lame that if I were a suspicious person I might suspect the Jedi Council, or at least Yoda himself might be behind the assassination attempt. But remembering that Yoda is not human, I have to allow that his sickeningly unctuous tone might be an effect of his species of creature speaking in English and not a sign of genuine malice. Jedi Master Windu says that the Council’s intelligence on the assassination attempt points to “disgruntled spice miners on the moons of Naboo.” It seems suspicious to me that since the assassination attempt occurred only minutes before (presumably the senator went directly to the Chancellor’s office) Yoda and Windu should have any knowledge of, opinion about, or intelligence on the matter yet. It’s much too soon. Amidala declares that she thinks Count Dooku, a former Jedi and an accomplice of the Trade Federation Viceroy, is behind the assassination attempt. Master Windu quickly shoots down that speculation saying that, since Count Dooku was once a Jedi, and is a political idealist rather than a murderer, such action is “not in his character.”
Two problems with the Jedi Council become apparent in this scene. First, they are completely wrong about the character of Count Dooku; and, second, they have completely wrong intelligence about who is behind the assassination attempt against the Senator. In fact, the “intelligence” is so completely wrong that a more suspicious person than myself might say that Master Windu just deliberately lied outright to Senator Amidala. If not that, then the Jedi must be inept or incompetent. And if they are so inept or incompetent, then what good are they? Why is the Jedi Order held in such high regard and the audience led to think that they are good, while the secessionists are bad? And, when you think about it, we have only Jedi testimony to the idea that they represent the Good while the “dark” Sith represent the bad Dark Force - or rather, the dark aspect of the Force. (There are not two forces, one dark and bad, the other light and good. There is only One Force with different aspects.) Because the testimony is from only one source it is not testable, meaning that it does not count as empirical evidence, or evidential proof, and it fails the test of scientific observation.
One of the logistical difficulties faced in Episode II is that the Jedi are dedicated to protecting the Republic (meaning preserving it) when the Republic has no armed force to keep it together. The Jedi are not a military force so much as a religious order. And yet, they are called “knights” - Jedi Knights - in the films, and they are armed. They are armed knights, just as the Christian Knights Templar were. So it is a false point to argue that the Jedi are, in fact, not soldiers. They certainly are precisely that.
Moving on, Obi-Wan Kenobi is pointed in the direction the planet Kamino by his friend, Dexter Jettster. He visits the planet tracking down a toxic saber dart that he pulled from the neck of a changling who tried to kill Senator Amidala in her apartment. He discovers the bounty hunter Jango Fett as well as the cloned army (200,000 units are ready with a million more well on the way) and reports back to Masters Yoda and Windu at the Council headquarters. Master Windu says that since they were unaware of the existence of this army - presumably commissioned a decade earlier by a previous Jedi leader named Sifo-Dyas - they ought to report to the Senate that their ability to use the Force is diminished. Yoda refuses on the grounds that if their weakness, or blindness in this matter became known then it would cause more star systems to rally to the separatists’ cause. So now the Jedi Council is withholding information from the legitimate body politic. Who’s bad?
In Episodes II and III the Jedi are trying to force star systems that no longer want to be in the Republic to stay in the Republic. That passes for “protecting” the Republic. Anakin Skywalker is part of that effort. But by Episodes IV, V and VI when Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) is still working to do precisely that, it has metamorphosed into a bad thing. Why? The Republic has become the (evil) Empire and now resistance to it - which was a bad thing in the first trilogy - has been re-labeled a good thing. Why? So, the metamorphosis of the (good) Republic into the (evil) Empire deserves better attention.
In today’s lexicon of democracy, self-determination and autonomy are virtues. Democracy ought to support people’s efforts for self government and self-determination. Therefore, a democrat ought to support the Republic’s secessionist worlds in the name of freedom and democracy and oppose the Republic as a tyranny.
I am confused by the cloned army. Whose army is it? If it is the army of the Dark Force, and if Senator Palpatine is, indeed, the Dark Lord Sidious who is manipulating things behind the scene, then why is his apprentice, Count Dooku, wasting his time with the Trade Federation and the Commerce Guild building a large droid army instead? It looks like Count Dooku should be involved with the clones, not with the droids. Or, it looks like Senator Palpatine is trying to dine off two full plates simultaneously: He is scheming on the one hand to raise a droid army to overthrow the Republic whose government he heads; and, he is simultaneously scheming to raise a clone army for his own use to oppose the droid army and more legitimately prosecute the will of the Republic throughout the galaxy. He is doing both things equally energetically on the calculation that at least one of the schemes must succeed and he will win the power game no matter which one prevails. Or, he is doing the former in order to create the rationale for the latter, which seems like too much expenditure of effort, revenue and energy.
I never liked Yoda. He was introduced in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to train Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death. At that time, in the 1980s, Yoda was just a puppet. By the second trilogy I suppose he became an entirely computer generated image. I never liked the way he looked or the way he sounded. I never liked Sesame Street (I was too old for it when the show began on American Public Television), so I guess I am predisposed to dislike anything of Frank Oz’s. Seeing Yoda as a realpolitik power player and a manipulating schemer in Episode II makes it easier to feel comfortable with my original dislike of his character.
When Episode II was released I knew Yoda fans here who were ecstatic about the chance to see their favorite character in full body (rather than as a hand-held puppet partly concealed behind sets and props) dueling with Count Dooku. The duel scene near the end of the film is thrilling. Little Yoda is engaged in a one-on-one light saber battle with the taller, man-sized Count Dooku, but he is such a proficient swordsman that he is not at a disadvantage. In fact, Count Dooku is outmatched by the little green guy jumping and twirling through the air like a Russian gymnast. The duel goes on for about three minutes, which I thought was unnecessarily long. Yoda’s short stature is such that he could easily have finished Count Dooku off in the first 30-seconds by cutting his feet off with a slashing motion from below, like General Maximus (Russell Crowe) does in the opening battle scene of Gladiator to a German warrior who is getting ready to cleave him in two with his battle axe. Don’t waste tome dueling with an opponent. Just kill him!! But I guess George Lucas might think such a strategy would be too unbecoming the dignity of a Jedi Knight.