Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones -- forbidden love, sinful desire

Director: George Lucas, 2002.

Lucas' second film in this prequel trilogy, it is set ten years later than Phantom Menace. He has clearly learned from that fiasco because he spends some time focusing on the now adult Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) showing his gradual character degradation. But the weakness of this film is Christensen. His acting is dreadful and his chemistry with Natalie Portman is horrible. Unclear it is what Lucas saw in him. But he somehow won the role.

Padme (Natalie Portman) is now Naboo's senator on Coruscent. When her ship arrives, it is immediately attacked. To protect her, two Jedi knights are assigned: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin. The last time she saw him he was a kid; now he is a man. When a mysterious assassin lets two poisonous worms into her bedroom, these two set off on the aerial car chase that is the highlight of this film. When the bounty hunter is killed just before she can say anything, Anakin is commanded to accompany Padme back to Naboo while Obi-Wan must find out what is going on.

It is on Naboo that Anakin falls in love with Padme. As his feelings for her grow stronger she comments, "It must be difficult having sworn your life to the Jedi . . . not being able to visit the places you like . . . or do the things you like." (These would include Tatooine, where his mother still lives.) He responds, "Or be with the people I love." But Padme asks him the key question, "Are you allowed to love? I thought that was forbidden for a Jedi." With twisted reasoning, Anakin answers, "Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi's life. So you might say that we are encouraged to love."

Anakin's thinking is blurred by his personal feelings. Certainly compassion is related to love. But it is not love. Rather, it is "a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering." This is not love in the sense that Anakin is alluding to. No, the love he feels is one that leads to attachment and marriage; it leads to passion and procreation. Neither compassion nor love is wrong. Both are biblical and qualities of God. He has compassion on the weak and suffering (Exod. 34:6; Deut. 32:36). He is characterized as love (1 Jn. 4:8). They are only wrong in the context of Anakin's situation.

Anakin is forced to choose between his Jedi duty and his love for Padme. Sometimes we, too, are forced to make a choice. We may want to have both options, in a sense "having our cake and eating it too," but frequently it is not possible. The right thing to do is to make a choice and live with that choice. The wrong thing is to rationalize our way into having both, as Anakin does. When we try this, we may seem to get our way initially, but it usually catches up with us. When it does, the consequences are worse than if we had accepted a single selection. Certainly that is so with Anakin, who marries Padme in a secret ceremony on Naboo.

As his love grows, so do the troubling dreams of his mother Shmi (Pernilla August). Sensing she is in danger, Anakin and Padme fly to Tatooine. When he learns from his mother's new husband that she is no longer a slave but now a captive of the Tusken Raiders, the savage dessert people of the region, he goes on a suicidal rescue mission. His feelings are taking control.

Feelings prove to be the start of Anakin's undoing. Padme tells him, "To be angry is to be human," but he thinks otherwise: "I am a Jedi. I can be better than this." When she tells him, "You're not all-powerful, Ani," his dark delusion comes to the fore: "Well, I should be."

Anakin wants to be like God, all powerful. He thinks this is his right, as a Jedi. But even Jedi knights are not gods. They harness the power of the force, they are not the creators of the force. Anakin reminds us of Satan. He wanted to be like God. He sees himself in the place of the Almighty (Isa. 14:14). He felt he could aspire to the throne of heaven and take control of all things. But he is not God. He can never be God. He might have more power than humans, immensely so, but his power pales in comparison with that of the mighty one.

As the film flies to its close, Obi-Wan discovers an army cloned from the bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) on Kamino. There also emerges a plot by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), a renegade Jedi, who is in cohorts with a separatist faction and the mechanical General Grievous. In a final controntation with Dooku, Anakin rushes into the fight, led by his emotions, and loses an arm, like his son does in The Empire Strikes Back.

With turmoil in the Republic, Chancellor Palpatine secretly enlists the clone army. Needing more power, he encourages Jar Jar Binks, now a Gungan Senator, to make a motion for the Senate to give the Chancellor sweeping emergency powers to go to war agains the separatist forces. Interestingly this is exactly the same ploy used by Adolf Hitler to gain dictatorial power in Germany in the mid-1930s prior to World War 2. Like Hitler, Palpatine is one step (and one film) away from tyranny.

Copyright ©2010, Martin Baggs

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