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That is no country for old men

... and what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Coruscant to be born?

I've finished Revenge of the Sith. It took a good fourteen hours over two evenings, which tells you I took time to enjoy it and that it was engrossing. I have to say that I concur with the folks who have averred that Stover has what it takes and can salvage even a really rough and plot-hole ridden culmination to a saga that is really starting to bear the imprint of the late 20th / early 21st century generation gap. More on this subject later, but I also stand by my initial impression that Adam Bertocci, curator of The Chopped-Off HandsLimbs of Star Wars, is going to have a field day with Episode III.


History is philosophy teaching by examples. -Thucydides

I think the strength of Stover's writing is also its weakness: hyperbole makes for interesting and evocative reading, letting you get inside the head of the focal narrative persona, but it also tends to become jarring or cloying. For instance, I know Padme is supposed to die of ambiguous physical causes attributable to the proverbial broken heart, but even the most blatant foreshadowing doesn't have to repeat upteen quijillion times that she loves him as if he were her very breath, her light, her life, etc.

Stover's flair for the dramatic serves him well in narrating some of the tense scenes, such as the clone ambush, which startled me even though I expected something of the sort. I liked the punctuation of Anakin's fall by periods of severe ambivalence leading up to Dooku's fall and Windu's. I disliked how silence always fell "like a hammer" between him and Obi-Wan and how Anakin's fall seems to have him more dizzy than trapped in a genuine morality play and downward spiral of rationalization, guilt, jealousy, vengeful pride, etc.

The persistent, ultimately immortal dragon of fear and entropy is an interesting metaphor, but whereas Stover shows Zelazny-like skill in weaving the interlocking plots-within-plots together, I think the back-and-forth struggle between Vader and the dragon rings somehat hollow.

I liked the way that Yoda realized finally how the Jedi Order's stagnation during his lifetime had caused it to defeat itself simply by lagging behind the Sith quest to adapt and seek out new knowledge of the Force and its applications. I also liked the bridge between Windu's story in Shatterpoint (which I know the rough outline of but have yet to read). Some salient points about the history of the order are there.

My issue: The magnitude of the tragedy, the grandeur of what Sidious could have offered Anakin, is missing. Fine, Faustian bargain, deus ex machina, decoys, Jedi all dead, but why? Realpolitik, fine. Greek tragedy of portents, SW-style, sure. Anakin bore the seeds of his own destruction within him, great. But what makes Anakin suddenly so susceptible? Tell us more about the hubris and the inner struggle and less about how he wishes the confusing politics would stop. More about how he feels suspicion of the entire Jedi order and how Palpatine manages to dissipate and transform his anger. "The secret of immortality," if we are going the Palpatine-as-Mephistopheles route, needs to be more concrete than "hey, my Sith Master had it, and guess what, I'll teach it to you if you turn to the Dark Side".

Moreover: Why is Amidala a shrewder maneuverer than Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, anyway? Is she a natural? Are the people of Naboo stronger in the Force? She's no older, and "wisdom" in Lucas's universe has such a nebulous quality that I am reluctant to even figure that into the equation, despite Amidala's former reputation as queen.



Travis Bradshaw gave a very useful lunchtime seminar on "Switching your Notebook to MacOS or Linux", which is really an apologia for MacOS 10.x, but such a good one that I've decided against Dell and HP for Entulassë (my next notebook, after Númerrámar) and will probably get a G4 iBook. Yes, zengeneral, you may target me for destruction now. In fact, I think I'll give the next KDD seminar en Français, que dites-tu? (Hrm. I suppose it's just as well that Nichols doesn't have roof access and the window wells are hard to get out through... if you know what I mean.)

Ryan Shelton gave his practice defense on the Robosim today. As soon as I find my way around the bureaucratic morass that our Division of Continuing Education (DCE) has made of the Tegrity server, I will put the link here. Oh, and did I mention that I am looking for a new apprentice? ;-)

In other news, I phoned in one last return authorization on Númerrámar, my ThinkPad A31p (1.7GHz Pentium 4) before the 3-year warranty expires on 21 Apr 2005. After over a year and a half, the intermittent grainy video artifact persists.

--
Banazir

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
zengeneral
Apr. 15th, 2005 06:56 am (UTC)
..
and will probably get a G4 iBook
eh, by the time you get it, I will be cracking skulls over in the Mathematics Department...

Yes, [info]zengeneral, you may target me for destruction now. In fact, I think I'll give the next KDD seminar en Français, que dites-tu?
I have no reason to destroy you; just don't interfere with the robot army?

--- ---
side note: for the IK, all we really need is a "squeezer". i.e.
take a good animation
have some joints be "tweakable" within some threshold.
rather doing "put this bone here", we minimize the distance over the tweakable parameters.
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2005 06:20 pm (UTC)
Some Sith!
eh, by the time you get it, I will be cracking skulls over in the Mathematics Department...
Oh, I hope you'll be graduated or nearly so, and moving into or towards a Ph.D. program in CS. This is November, 2006 we are talking about.

Did you mean you'll be beyond caring because you're over there or just possessed of banthacannon fodder (i.e., college algebra student)?

Yes, zengeneral, you may target me for destruction now. In fact, I think I'll give the next KDD seminar en Français, que dites-tu?
I have no reason to destroy you; just don't interfere with the robot army?
I don't need to; you will do it yourself. (See RoTS for details.)

side note: for the IK, all we really need is a "squeezer". i.e.
take a good animation
have some joints be "tweakable" within some threshold.

Right, but I think tuning constants for relaxation can be done most easily by starting from real physical models of the Humaniform, Equine (Quadruped), and Avian forms.

rather doing "put this bone here", we minimize the distance over the tweakable parameters.
I think the former should be used for calibration purposes only, after which we can use minimization by relaxation.

--
Banazir
dsthenes
Apr. 15th, 2005 11:32 am (UTC)
There's a boonk?@?@ But ... but ... there's no mofie yet?!

*confuzzled*

Demosthenes
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2005 06:24 pm (UTC)
Yay Demos!
Welcome, Lord Nemo!

There's a boonk?@?@ But ... but ... there's no mofie yet?!
*confuzzled*

That is correktis.
The novelization of the screenplay hit shelves a couple of weeks ago, in advance of the film hitting theatres.

--
Banazir
masteralida
Apr. 15th, 2005 12:11 pm (UTC)
Discussing it with darana while she was reading it, I told her what really bothered me about Anakin's fall was that it was so abrupt and so total that it made no sense at all. One minute he's a young Jedi, trying to figure things out in his life and the next he's kneeling at Sidious' feet. Uh....

Maybe in CRG we're meaner than in the movies, huh? I like having a good solid reason for someone slipping down the Dark path. "I have the power of life and death" just isn't it for me ;)
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC)
C'mon over ta th' Dark Side, son, it'll be a hoot! - 1 of 2
Discussing it with darana while she was reading it, I told her what really bothered me about Anakin's fall was that it was so abrupt and so total that it made no sense at all.
You know, that's a good point, but it actually gives me some hope for the movie. You see, in a book, the transition is jarring because we expect more exposition about how the war scarred Anakin and drove him towards atrocity the way it did Depa, and even got to Mace and Obi-Wan in the end. In a film, the order of the day is "say it, don't show it".

Of course, knowing Lucas, the glowing yellow eyes, Picture of Dorian Gray transformation, and a whooooole lotta cringeworthy dialogue will probably be the long and short of it, so don't get your hopes up. ;-) (Not that you would. :-D)

One minute he's a young Jedi, trying to figure things out in his life and the next he's kneeling at Sidious' feet. Uh....
Well, the kneeling is interesting. I think the "longtime bond" rings a little untrue when you contrast his spending so many years in the company of his master before his knighthood. It's also unclear how one goes from "I can't kill you, you hold the secret to saving my love and you've been the one person I have always trusted" to "OK, time to go commit massive genocide in your name, BRB". Anakin made that leap to every single Jedi is a traitor with odd ease. I always expected him to annihilate the Temple with a single act of rage, rather than invade and personally slaughter people he knew to be innocents.

On the one hand, you get the impression that Anakin has always walked along the knife edge of pathos. "You're different, you had a life before the Jedi," said both Padme and Palpatine. You can see it written in the commingled pity and rage he feels standing over Dooku on the Invisible Hand, and you can see it in the way he just loses the resolve to kill Palpatine upon his initial revelation. You can see it in the way he can never stand to let Obi-Wan or other Jedi die doing their duty: this, too, is part of his hubris. Obi-Wan comments that Anakin is loyal to people rather than principle or duty, and this is certainly a foreshadowing of "help them you could, but you would destroy everything they have fought for".

It's also telling that in the movieverse, Anakin's emotionality is a key factor. It isn't just age: Luke and Leia have a serenity that their father never had, an inner peace that he never found. He was driven to glory, in a way the last members of the Jedi Council could not even grasp. I was struck by how the Order was always remote and inaccessible to him, in several ways: how members of the Council seemed to have long teetered on the brink of voting to offer Anakin membership, but how he himself seemed not to realize that this was not forthcoming, to the point of making an outburst (after Palpatine's appointment by executive fiat) to justify his own exclusion. He seems to have no real sense of his place: to him, the hierarchy of the Jedi Order should be meritocratic, promotion being based purely on power and achievement.

(continued)
banazir
Apr. 15th, 2005 06:17 pm (UTC)
C'mon over ta th' Dark Side, son, it'll be a hoot! - 2 of 2
In fact, Anakin is such a willful naif in this regard that:

a) one is reminded of the vaunted gene SW1 (Skywalker Whining)

b) it becomes clearer how and why Palpatine manipulated him so easily
right up through Episodes V and VI

c) the case is made that Anakin should not have been made a member of the Jedi Council, was not only knighted and deputized too early, but should probably have had more time to acclimate to the Order before Obi-Wan was appointed his master

d) one wonders what went wrong with Jedi education - of all the orders whose the basic teachings and principles need to be comprehended before a student (or padawan), one would think that the Jedi stand at the pinnacle

e) I think it's clear that despite the principle of nonattachment, Jedi of the classical order do not put all that much stock in dissipating the master-padawan bond right away. 5 months on the Outer Rim and separate missions in the war alone certainly won't do it.

Maybe in CRG we're meaner than in the movies, huh? I like having a good solid reason for someone slipping down the Dark path. "I have the power of life and death" just isn't it for me ;)

Actually, it's all there: "I have the power to dominate others, bend them to my will, destroy your enemies, give you everything you ever dreamed of that has been denied you, grant you the glory you deserve", etc. Anakin just doesn't seem quite invested in those desires, somehow. Certainly some of that in AOTC was the Lucasian Cheese Factor. I don't know if it's the lack of direction, iffy chemistry between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, or just the drowning out of the dramatic element by too much space (monsters and jet packs and clones, oh my) with too little opera. Yoda teunceing around certainly jarred me out of some deeper thoughts about Dooku's idealism and how thinking in absolutes could be tainted and subverted.

I think the problem is that being a space opera, a franchise that is by definition successful because it is pulpy, takes SW movies out of the running when it comes to high drama. Between the swashbuckling, droid-duelling, starfighting, and big plushie lizard love, Palpatine has no time to do anything but declare his powers and ask, "don't you want some of this?". Gee, you have the heads of three Jedi masters on your desk. I dunno...

Well, when it comes to complexity of character and detail, Lucas was always on the hazier side. Luke himself is a fair caricature of the Youth or Fool of the Campbellian monomyth until the good parts of ESB. I have to say that for all the magic of the original trilogy, the characters are all a little one-dimensional. Anakin (and Obi-Wan to an extent, quintessential Jedi though he sometimes is) was to be the sole exception, and he wasn't. Oh, well.

I think the story is well told, I think it will be a fitting way to close the circle, and if I wish it could have been more, I hardly regret it because Jedi are supposed to let things pass out of our livesI let that hope go some time before Episode 1.

--
Banazir
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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