I ended up getting enough spoilers for the Force Awakens that I was not so interested as to beg my family to put off seeing it a few days while I was out of town. I’ll probably end up seeing it the way I saw Attack of the Clones – via the Red Letter Media Review. But when I was still thinking I might see it over the holidays, I went back and rewatched the original trilogy*; there are some things that really stick out like a sore thumb!
Before you get too mad, re-read the title. Note that I don’t say it’s a terrible movie, but a terrible sequel. Okay, so why do I say Empire is a terrible sequel? Because in the context of what we know about Star Wars from a New Hope, it barely makes any sense. I’ll get to the gaping plot holes in a minute, but let’s start with the biggest problem: George Lucas’ twist that he knew was coming all along but really didn’t which retroactively makes Star Wars make less sense.
Empire begins with Vader looking for Skywalker. He’s all “Growl, I sense young Skywalker is with the rebels! Moogah boogah!” All of a sudden, Vader knows who Luke is and is looking for him. In New Hope, Vader didn’t know him from Adam, and there was no indication that he actually realized who was flying the X-wing that blew up the Death Star. He merely notes that the force was strong with this one, the way the Red Baron might’ve remarked upon the skills of a pilot who dodged his shots in a WW1 movie, but that wasn’t any indication that he even knew that it was the same kid who’d shown up with Ben Kenobi. If anything, Vader should’ve been holding his grudge for Solo. Vader sensed Kenobi on the Death Star without a whiff of Luke in New Hope. In Empire, Vader is like a bloodhound with an old sock.
As Jeffro has pointed out, making Vader Luke’s father makes Obi Wan Kenobi a liar; this is a big deal, but I’ll tackle it after a few plot holes. The telescoping of time in Empire muddles a lot of things. We never really get a good idea of how long Luke trains with Yoda. Is it a day? A long weekend? Because we don’t know the distances between Bespin, Hoth and Dagobah, we can’t really say how the characters get places and when. Though hyperdrive is often referred to as Light Speed in the Star Wars universe, it’s pretty clear that it’s faster-than-light. How does Vader reach Cloud City before the Millennium Falcon? Does Boba Fett relay the Falcon’s warp coordinates so that the imperial fleet can re-route and somehow get their first? Why did they even need to hire Boba Fett, he doesn’t even do anything!? Why do so many Star Wars fanboys obsess over a background character who dies like a bitch in Jedi? Anyway, somehow, a single-occupant fighter manages to get from a backwater swamp planet to Bespin in like a day because Luke’s spider-sense was tingling. The time thing would not be so jarring if I wasn’t constantly reminded of the fact that the entirety of Star Wars: TIE Fighter takes place between the evacuation of Hoth and the order to build a second Death Star.
The iconic light saber fight between Vader and Skywalker introduced one of the many elements that would eventually make the Star Wars universe completely terrible: using the force to throw garbage at each other during a sword fight. How did I forget about that?
Also, they really dropped the ball on that whole “no, there is another” reveal. Nothing in Jedi indicates that Leia would’ve been able to stop the trio of evil Luke, Vader and Palpatine. But that’s on Jedi, not Empire.
Really, though, this post is about Obi Wan Kenobi, so let’s move on to him.
You may have thought the Star Wars Saga is about Anakin or Luke or the Skywalker Family. You’d be wrong. Star Wars is about Obi Wan Kenobi the way that the Tale of Heike is about Taira no Ason Kiyomori: it is the chronicle of the destructive and lingering ripples, even beyond his death, of one man’s dedicated craptacularness. Obi Wan Kenobi is a terrible person and this is the tragic story of the ruination of all he touches.
When we’re first introduced to Obi Wan Kenobi, he is the whimsical moral center and sage of a fairly rote bildungsroman who guides the youth on his path to manhood. But that’s all tossed out and retconned, largely by Empire and Jedi, but even moreso by the prequels.
Obi Wan tells Luke Vader killed his father. Empire makes him a liar, and Jedi shows him refusing to own it. Far worse than the midiclorians is Ghostbi Wan in Jedi coming up with a simpering justification filled with moral relativism as to why he lied. He doesn’t say “Look, Luke, I lied, I’m sorry” but “In a way I was kind of telling you the truth.” The one thing that the prequels succeed at is justifying this by showing Obi Wan Kenobi to be a horrible person.
Even though Yoda doesn’t call him on it, Obi Wan lies about being trained by him RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM! We never see Kenobi under the tutelage of Yoda but under some mysterious shmuck who would use his Jedi powers to con merchants and cheat at games of chance. Obi Wan spends most of the prequels being an angry and jealous asshole. We can conclude that he was lying even about ever being Anakin’s friend in New Hope based on what we see in the prequels. The events in the life of Luke Skywalker are set in motion by an elderly Obi Wan Kenobi who clearly sees an opportunity to get back at Anakin AND drag his kids into it. “Strike me down and I shall become more powerful than you can imagine.” He’s martyred himself in front of Vader’s kid; Skywalker doesn’t know what a shitty dude Kenobi is, so naturally it will polarize him against Vader. I’m also pretty sure that Yoda didn’t want Luke to know about his sister because it would lead Vader to her; hardly seems a coincidence to me that Kenobi lets it slip RIGHT AFTER YODA DIES! Kenobi, knowing that Luke’s sister is alive, is going to make sure that Vader and Palpatine have leverage against Luke. What a guy!
Obi Wan as the overarching villain of the Star Wars saga may sound like some “Ron: the Deatheater” shit, but go back, watch the movies and think about it: IT MAKES TOO MUCH SENSE! The problem is that it’s ENTIRELY ACCIDENTAL! You know you’ve made a huge mistake when the character you’ve tried to make the moral anchor of your story is so wafflingly written that his being a villain is more than just plausible.
Anyway, big announcements and reveals tomorrow.
*:VHS Original edition.