The Cynical Optimist : The Ultimate Edition Pt. III


Reinterpreting the Saga

“Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”

After watching the saga in its entirety, this line of dialogue from The Empire Strikes Back is given a whole new meaning. In the ‘80s, it seemed as if the Dark Lord was merely bluffing. The revelation that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father was even met with some hesitation by audiences, though deep down inside we knew it to be true.

“Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son!”

Vader’s plea to Luke implies a lust for power – to rule the galaxy. With Luke by his side, Vader plans to betray his master and take the power for himself. Thinking in the mindset of the original trilogy, it’s not hard to imagine that Vader would then betray his own son. That would be the villainous thing to do, and after all Darth Vader was a villain.

But now, after the prequels filled in some gaps, we see Darth Vader as a more pathetic, broken character rather than the intimidating monster from the original films. In the prequels we learned of the Rule of Two. The Sith abide by this rule to ensure they don’t wipe themselves out – for betrayal is a tradition in the legacy of the Sith.

The idea of the apprentice conquering the master is prevalent throughout the saga. In Attack of the Clones, Count Dooku reaches out to Obi-Wan Kenobi on Geonosis – revealing that a Sith Lord is in control of the senate. This scene mirrors the sequence from The Empire Strikes Back perfectly. Dooku says, “You must join me, Obi-Wan, and together we will destroy the Sith!” Kenobi quickly turns down the offer in much the same way Luke did on Bespin.

In Revenge of the Sith, Count Dooku is betrayed by his master, the cunning Darth Sidious. During a duel with Anakin Skywalker, Dooku is executed after Sidious (disguised as Palpatine) persuades Anakin to finish the job. In this case, Palpatine betrayed his apprentice in hopes of gaining a more powerful one. Dooku realizes this sad fact moments before he is beheaded. Not only has Palpatine disposed of a would-be betrayer, but also succeeded in pushing Anakin that much closer to the dark side.

As Darth Vader, Anakin reached out to his son in the same way he did with Padmé at the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith.

“Don’t you see? We don’t have to run away anymore! I am more powerful than the Chancellor, I… I can overthrow him! And together, you and I can rule the galaxy! Make things the way we want them to be!”

It’s here that I tie the loose threads together. In The Empire Strikes Back, the seeds of conflict are planted inside Darth Vader. Luke represents the man Vader used to be – the man he might’ve become if he hadn’t fallen to darkness. Luke is a mirror that reflects the pain and overwhelming regret of Anakin losing Padmé. Luke Skywalker is all that remains of Padmé Amidala. Well, until Vader finds out about Leia, that is.

Destiny has a funny way of working itself out. Anakin was meant to destroy the Sith, not join them, according to the Prophecy of the One. When Anakin became Darth Vader, there was no hope for the Jedi or the galaxy. The force tipped in favor of the dark side. Yoda and Obi-Wan believed a new hope might exist in one of Anakin’s offspring – so they remained hidden until the time was right.

With the will of the Force at play, Luke and Leia would lead the Rebellion to victory against the Empire, and as Luke began training as a Jedi, it seemed clear he would be the one to bring balance to the Force. Perhaps Obi-Wan and Yoda had given up on Anakin, believing that the prophecy was actually referring to Luke or Leia.

Luke abandoned his training and would be no match for Vader, but just by confronting him, Luke would succeed in pushing his conflicted father to fulfill the prophecy. At the conclusion of Return of the Jedi, Vader destroys the Emperor and is redeemed. We see a Hayden Christensen Force ghost alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan, signifying the good man Vader was before he fell to the dark side. Anakin fulfilled his destiny, bringing balance to the force after he helped unbalance it.

The Ultimate Empire

Destiny is inescapable, as are sequels to widely popular blockbusters. The Empire Strikes Back is perhaps the most beloved film of the Star Wars saga, and one of the most highly acclaimed sequels of all-time. When it came time to make the Special Editions, there really wasn’t much to alter or improve upon, being as Empire is essentially a perfect film. The Battle of Hoth was cleaned up, Cloud City was opened up, Luke screamed and we got a pointless scene of Vader taking his shuttle from Cloud City to the Super Star Destroyer.

In the 2004 DVD release, the scream was silenced, Ian McDiarmid took the throne as Emperor Palpatine and Boba Fett’s voice was changed. Most of the changes were subtle, but other problems, like Luke’s lightsaber audio in the Wampa cave, didn’t get fixed. If George Lucas and company have the time to get Temuera Morrison to come in and dub dialogue for Boba Fett, you’d think they could get someone to edit a new lightsaber noise in, don’t you?

Space battles, matte paintings and explosions could use a considerable upgrade. The stop-motion Tauntaun could be replaced with a digital one, complete with digital human rider. Lets take out that pointless scene of Vader arriving on his Star Destroyer – it’s jarring and appears to be recycled footage from Return of the Jedi.

As I mentioned in Pt. II, it would be nice to see Lucas open up the worlds of Star Wars a little more. Hoth, Dagobah and Bespin could benefit from subtle touch-ups to match the digital worlds created in the prequels. The asteroid chase could be made more dramatic, as it’s a little outdated compared to the asteroid sequence in Attack of the Clones.

There’s also the issue of what to do about Yoda. While I love Frank Oz’s puppet – it’s still just a puppet. I’m not saying replace it with a fully digitized ILM creation, but maybe animators could go in and make subtle changes to make him seem less like a static puppet and more like a Jedi master. When he talks I want to see his lips move, rather than knowing Frank’s hand is in there opening and closing.

Speaking of Dagobah, there are deleted scenes of Luke’s further Jedi training on the swamp planet. There’s a sequence involving Luke using his lightsaber to deflect laser bolts from several remotes. It would be great to see this footage finished and put into the film to round out Luke’s training.

And back to Boba Fett. Even though he only spoke four lines of dialogue, I miss Jason Wingreen’s voice. It was cold, mysterious and menacing. Temuera Morrison’s voiceover is bland and underwhelming. I’m all for continuity, and reflecting back on Boba’s clone origins is cool, but Fett loses every ounce of threat as a result. Get your cloned ass back in the studio and make Boba Fett fearsome again!

And you’ve got to wonder what happened to his clone brothers. Unlike Boba Fett, the clone troopers age quicker, which means by the time the original trilogy rolls around, they’re probably all dead. But did the Empire make a new batch using a different template? Maybe all the stormtroopers should be given the same voice to reflect the use of new clones. It’s hard to believe the Empire would have so many recruits who would freely sign up for the most oppressive government in the universe… then again, maybe they’ve got a great benefits package.

That’s all I’ve got for this edition. Check back for Pt. IV where I go in-depth on the Ultimate Edition of Return of the Jedi.