The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Saturday, September 09, 2000

Musings on Star Wars

(I'll apollogize in advance the the extreme linkage in this entry but think of it as an experiment in hypertext)

I was hanging out with my friends Jeff and Kurt (the erstwhile high school English Teacher I went haunted house hunting with) and the discussion primarily concerned itself with Star Wars.

Yes, we are geeks.

Where to begin … where to begin …

We've yet to actually see a true Jedi Knight in action. In Star Wars (full title: Star Wars: A New Hope, aka ANH) you have Ben Kenobi, a Jedi Knight way past his prime and Darth Vader, a Sith Lord (and for this discussion, also considered a Jedi Knight, just a bad Jedi Knight) who's a walking iron lung. Their battle in ANH is presented as an even match between the two. Why Darth Vader wasn't as aggressive in ANH as in Empire Strikes Back (ESB) and Return of the Jedi (RoTJ) could be attributed to a respect for his former mentor and an acknowledgement of Obi-Wan's mastery of the Force.

In ESB, we get the introduction of Yoda, an 800 year old Jedi Master near the end of his life and hiding out on Dagobah, so again we have a Jedi Knight in his waning years of life. We also have a Jedi Apprentice in Luke Skywalker, possibly the most whiny Jedi Apprentice we've seen yet. Which is why Darth Vader is able to wipe the walls with Luke. And Vader's aggresiveness here can be seen as a father/son abuse situation—or someone fed up with a whiny kid.

The Emperor as presented in RoTJ is again, an older person and while powerful doesn't seem to engage in battle, instead sending subordinates in his place, along with the mind games he plays. Even though Luke declares himself a full Jedi Knight towards the end of the film, Darth Vader and the Emperor still manage to wipe the walls with him, despite Darth being a walking iron lung.

The Phantom Menace (TPM) brings us plenty of Jedi Knights, but the film focuses on two, Qui-Gon Jinn, who is just past his prime as a Jedi Knight, and a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, still an apprentice Jedi not fully vested. About the closest thing to a full Jedi Knight we have is Darth Maul, another Sith Lord. Yet, for being the overhyped bad guy of the film, we don't really get to see him in any action—the most underutilized character in the film cut down in his prime by an apprentice Jedi Knight.

It's apparent that Jedi Knights (and Sith Lords) are powerful indeed and not something you want to be on the wrong side of, yet when will the real Jedi Knights show up?

Another thing we puzzled over in TPM: Was Senator Palpatine Darth Sidious? The implications are fairly clear in both the movie and the book that the two are in fact the same person, but one has to consider why the Jedi Council didn't pick up on Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious during the funeral pyre of Qui-Gon? In ESB, Yoda can sense the Dark Side and points it out to Luke, most notably when he sends Luke through a part of Dagobah that is steeped in the Dark Side. Two answers:

  1. (as explained in the book, never mentioned in the movie), the Sith Lords were driven underground and due to infighting, their numbers were reduced to two—a master and an apprentice. And the only way to advance is for the apprentice to forcefully take control (ahem). So with only two at any given time for well over a millenium, the Jedi Council has lost the skill of detecting the Dark Side.
  2. Why Naboo? One rumor I've heard is that it's a center for cloning. As circumstantial evidence we have Queen Amidala and her handmaidens, who look like her. In the book, it's made explicit that they often trade off as decoys for the real Queen (and they look more like Amidala than in the movie). If indeed, Naboo is a center for cloning, and according to other source material, clones do lack the Force (or the ability to use the Force) then we might have a case where Senator Palpatine is a clone of Darth Sidious. That would explain why the Jedi Council don't detect the Dark Side in Senator Palpatine.

And Senator Palpatine's plan to seize power was subtle and very effective. So subtle it was actually wasted in the film. No matter the outcome, he won. He (or his evil twin Darth Sidious) was manipulating the Trade Federation so if they won, he had power. If they lost (and they did) he still got power since he became Chancellor of the Senate. Very smooth.

Another point of discussion centered on Anakin's fall to the Dark Side. The popular rumor is in a duel between the young Obi-Wan and a recently turned Darth Vader, Vader falls into a pit of lava. He barely survives but has to become a walking iron lung to survive. Another point brought up by Jeff is that possibly Darth Sidious isn't nearly as strong with the Force as Anakin/Vader and manipulates the newly fallen Sith Lord to take out the Jedi Knights and it's these battles where he slowly looses his body—loosing parts of his body during the battles. As implied in series, machines aren't part of the Force. In TPM we learn that Anakin is probably the strongest person with the Force yet. In this way, Darth Sidious ensures he's the strongest with the Force.

The question of the Jedi Mind Trick being the baliwik of the Dark Side came up. In the role playing game, any Jedi character using the Jedi Mind Trick automatically gains a Dark Side Point (if any player accumulates six such points, they automatically turn to the Dark Side and become a non-player character under control of the Game Master). Yet so far, the only characters to actually use the power are the Jedi Knights. Obi-Wan in ANH uses it several times—the most notorious being “These aren't the 'droids you are looking for” bit. The other times are very subtle—when leaving the tractor beam he distracts the guards and possibly, just possibly, he tries it on Luke (“Come with me.” “Okay—wait! I can't just leave … ”). Qui-Gon attempts it in TPM, and Luke tries in RoTJ.

In contrast, none of the Sith Lords have. Well, a possible exception might be Darth Sidious and the Trade Federation but neither the movie nor the book go into that. Darth Vader prefers to teleketically choke people, the Emperor just plays mind games and if pissed off, goes for the lightening strike. Darth Maul (“The most underutilized character in TPM!” “SHUT UP SEAN!”) just goes for the attack. If the role playing game is true, then most of the Jedi Knights would have turned long ago.

There was more we talked about (the Jedi Telekentic Power) but I figure I've geeked out enough already.

Independant Film Making

Every Saturday evening I play D&D with a group of friends, the oldest being in his mid-30s and the youngest, Marco, being 18.

Tonight Marco brought a video tape he and a friend made last year for extra credit. The project was a board game with a math theme and his group decided to adapt D&D. The video tape was a commercial they made of their “game,” mostly made by Marco's friend.

He popped the video in and hit play. Professional credits appeared and the music, while “borrowed” from another movie, was a good choice. Then the first scene: a mid shot from behind of a person wearing medival type garb walking. I wonder what film they took that shot from, I thought. Then a cut to a medium shot of Marco, wearing the outfit. Whoa! I thought. His friend is good with the cinematography!

Except for the occasional telephone pole (“It's a tree!” Marco would shout at us when we pointed it out) the setting was perfect.

“Hey Marco,” I said. “Where exactly did you film this?” This is South Florida. No palm trees and hills were visible.

“Hill Park in Coral Springs,” He said. Ah ha!

Even though the dragon was this cheesey computer generated dragon, it was impressive to realize that it was a high school student working on a home PC. I've seen B-movies with worse special effects.

Medium closeup of Marco, off to one side of the screen. Behind him is a thick forest of trees off in the distance when the dragon lands behind him, cutting him off from the forrest. “That was shot in front of a blue screen,” said Marco.

“Blue screen?”

“Yea, my friend made a blue screen.”

On video, Marco pulls out his sword; it glints in the sunlight. Next shot, medium long shot from above looking down. Marco in the upper left, the dragon taking up the rest of the screen. It starts attacking and Marco is reacting to it—decent job actually. Then it ends with a joke about there only being a dragon and no dungeons but that Bibo (the character Marco played) did die. It got a laugh.

An excellent job. I was seriously impressed.

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