May 25, 2005
When I first heard that the new Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith might be laden with political, anti-Bush messages, one part of me was inflamed at the thought of George Lucas (as though he couldn’t screw up his beloved series any more) lacing this final chapter with partisanship. The other part of me was saddened that, whether intentional or not, skeptics were looking for such messages in the midst of our beloved melodramatic space opera.
Personally, I had found little reason to quibble after I saw the film at the Arclight a few days after it was released. It contained some definite “political messages,” but it wasn’t a political film by any stretch, and given what I knew of George Lucas’ dislike of President Bush and how much he could have inserted, I cut my losses and dismissed the political klaxons in my head as paranoidly looking for windmills with which to tilt.
But oh, how wrong I was.
I since stumbled upon a leaked draft of the Ep III script, which is pretty authentic considering it was reported on at least a week before the film’s release. It is spot-on accurate for every line the film I can remember, but also includes numerous lines and entire scenes left out of the final version. I’m saddened to say the deleted parts leave little doubt that Lucas intended the political aspect of RotS to be a commentary on the Bush administration, the Patriot Act, and the war in Iraq generally.
*** OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING ***
A couple of the more salient points include:
Regarding the Patriot Act:
PALPATINE: There are times when we must all endure adjustments to the constitution in the name of security.
ANAKIN: With all due respect, sir, the Council is in no mood for more constitutional amendments.
PALPATINE: Thank you, my friend, but in this case I have no choice . . . this war must be won.
- These lines were cut from the scene when Palpatine informs Anakin he will be his personal representative on the Jedi Counsel. (as a side note, yes I am aware the Patriot Act is not a constitutional amendment)
Regarding Bush and Republicans generally:
- When Palpatine has been disfigured and is announcing the Galactic Empire to the Senate (from which Padme’s now-famous quote, “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause,” stems), a few additional lines were deleted:
PALPATINE: In order to ensure our security and continuing stability, the Republic will be reorganized into the first Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society which I assure you will last for ten thousand years.
PALPATINE: (continuing) An empire that will continue to be ruled by this august body, and a sovereign ruler chosen for life . . .
PALPATINE: (continuing) An empire ruled by the majority . . . Ruled by a new constitution . . .
- Maybe I’m reading too much into this one, but do I smell some Democrat minority angst here?
And let’s not forget the politically-charged that actually made it into the film:
PADME: What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?
. . .
PADME: Anakin, this war represents a failure to listen . . . Now, you’re closer to the Chancellor than anyone. Please, please ask him to stop the fighting and let diplomacy resume.
The final line, and the one that stuck in my craw from the moment I heard it, isn’t as much about current politics as modern philosophy, and I think is more dangerous and hair-raising than any of George’s whiney sour grapes lines:
OBI-WAN: Anakin, my allegiance is to the Republic … to democracy.
ANAKIN: If you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.
OBI-WAN: Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.
Anakin’s line here is arguably a jab at Bush’s 2001 comment regarding the war on terror (though in light of the deleted and other lines it seems increasingly likely). It’s Obi-Wan’s second line that bothers me â€“ if only Sith Lords deal in absolutes, what do the good guys deal in? The logical answer seems to be the opposite, which would be moral relativism. Contrary to what the Jedi seem to espouse (ironically it is actually Palpatine that urges Anakin to take a look at the softer side of Sith, not merely that Sith = Evil), Obi-Wan’s message here seems to indicate that good and bad are relative ideas, and that strict or enforced morals are dangerous and oppressive. This is the school of thought that gives sympathy to terrorists and frames all political issues from homosexuality to abortion in terms of individual rights upon which we must not infringe. Why not? Because my morality may not be your morality, and who are you to impose your morality on me?
Fortunately, this brief homage to “no true good or evil” is easy missed, since it is so contrary to Star Wars’ consistent message of pure good (Jedi) and pure evil (Sith). Like Lucas’ abhorrent writing and abysmal directing, pointless partisan commentary serves no purpose other than to further denigrate an already beleaguered series. It’s fortunate that someone got to Lucas â€“ as someone no doubt must have â€“ and convinced him to remove some of the more shameless moments, references to some newfound “constitution,” etc., or Revenge of the Sith really would have been seen as a political movie with an unabashedly political message. Well done, George! You’ve successfully completed six episodes of the Star Wars saga without shattering the childhoods of thousands (despite your best efforts, I might add).
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