The Dark Side

Dan Froomkin sees through the bad dialogue and flashy special effects1 to see the real story in the new Star Wars films :

“Revenge of the Sith,” it turns out, can also be seen as a cautionary tale for our time — a blistering critique of the war in Iraq, a reminder of how democracies can give up their freedoms too easily, and an admonition about the seduction of good people by absolute power.

Some film critics suggest it could be the biggest anti-Bush blockbuster since “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott gives “Sith” a rave, and notes that Lucas “grounds it in a cogent and (for the first time) comprehensible political context.

” ‘Revenge of the Sith’ is about how a republic dismantles its own democratic principles, about how politics becomes militarized, about how a Manichaean ideology undermines the rational exercise of power. Mr. Lucas is clearly jabbing his light saber in the direction of some real-world political leaders. At one point, Darth Vader, already deep in the thrall of the dark side and echoing the words of George W. Bush, hisses at Obi-Wan, ‘If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.’ Obi-Wan’s response is likely to surface as a bumper sticker during the next election campaign: ‘Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.’ ”

AFP reports that the movie delivers “a galactic jab to US President George W. Bush.”

I’m shocked it’s taken people this long to pick up on the political stuff. As I wrote on my site a couple of weeks ago, the first two movies are basically parables on how democratic superpowers eventually become controlled by despots. Lucas put it well himself in an interview with Time magazine three years ago :

So where does Lucas stand in this political polemic? “I’m more on the liberal side of things,” he says. “I grew up in San Francisco in the ’60s, and my positions are sort of shaped by that … If you look back 30 years ago, there were certain issues with the Kennedys, with Richard Nixon, that focused my interest.” Lucas’ own geopolitics can sound pretty bleak: “All democracies turn into dictatorships — but not by coup. The people give their democracy to a dictator, whether it’s Julius Caesar or Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. Ultimately, the general population goes along with the idea … What kinds of things push people and institutions into this direction?”

In Clones, Lucas goes a way toward answering that question. “That’s the issue that I’ve been exploring: How did the Republic turn into the Empire? That’s paralleled with: How did Anakin turn into Darth Vader? How does a good person go bad, and how does a democracy become a dictatorship? It isn’t that the Empire conquered the Republic, it’s that the Empire is the Republic.” Lucas’ comments clarify the connection between the Anakin trilogy and the Luke trilogy: that the Empire was created out of the corruption of the Republic, and that somebody had to fight it. “One day Princess Leia and her friends woke up and said, ‘This isn’t the Republic anymore, it’s the Empire. We are the bad guys. Well, we don’t agree with this. This democracy is a sham, it’s all wrong.'”

The amusing thing here2 is that the plots of these movies were written before Iraq, 9/11, and the ascension of our lovable cokehead preznit. The question shouldn’t be why Lucas is a America-hating liberal who’s making sci-fi movies that slam our glorious leader, but why Bush et. al. are dutifully following in the footsteps of power-hungry lunatics like Julius Caesar or Emperor Palpatine.

1 : Which is, admittedly, a very very difficult thing to do.

2 : By “amusing” I mean “scary as hell”.

Since this is my first post here, lemme take this opportunity to thank Tom for including me on this group blogging experiment of his. Now there’s a good chance that Bob, Jack, or I will post things that our host doesn’t necessarily agree with, so please do us all a favor of directing your comments to the author in question. I can be reached at TheTalentShow [at] gmail [dot] com. Tom’s busy enough without having to defend something I write.