anakin skywalker
The tragic fall that started it all... Darth Vader: we're all familiar with the hulking half-man half-machine embodiment of inhuman domination, brutal ambition and a malevolent will to rule the galaxy with a robotic fist - as portrayed in the very widely seen and loved Star Wars series. But as we look back at what made these almost mythical stories great to begin with, we are reminded of who this character was before he became such a powerful agent of the dark side. As shown in the Star Wars prequels, and particularly in the mostly-overlooked film, Episode III: Revenge of The Sith, we learn that the person who was to become Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, was first a Jedi, a prodigious and sincere student of the force, and one of a number of warrior priests who sought to protect the republic and fight for the side of the greater good.

On this week's MindMatters we take a look into Anakin's 'darkened mind' and the emotional and psychological processes he underwent that fueled his tragic descent to become Darth Vader, as well as the excellent portrayal of Palpatine's manipulation of confused Anakin's young mind. Revenge of the Sith may be one of the most relevant of the Star Wars movies for this very reason: in the context of a cosmic 'space opera', it teaches some all-important lessons on how our human frailties, worst instincts and egotistical natures can be played upon - and grown - to allow for some truly horrendous consequences. And may the force be with you, dear listener. Always.

Running Time: 01:05:21

Download: MP3 — 59.8 MB

Here's the transcript of the show:

Elan: It does begin as kind of a space opera, sci-fi, bang-'em-up but it quickly turns into a very high stakes morality tale, full-blown tragedy that packs a wallop if you allow it to, where lessons perhaps can be derived from it and we can see a lot of the things that we bring up here brought out in this pop culture storytelling that is Star Wars.

Hello and welcome back to Mind Matters everyone. On today's show we're going to be continuing on the very rich and deep messages of the Apostle Paul and Zoroaster, the stoics and other material we've been covering in these past few months with the very high literary value of the films of George Lucas, otherwise known as the Star Wars films. The reason we're going into this subject a little bit is because we have found that many of the ideas that we've been looking at and communicating and learning for ourselves are very well demonstrated and fleshed out in popular culture in the form of a movie called Revenge of the Sith.

Now most people are familiar with the Star Wars films. You had Star Wars, a New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In those movies we followed the exploits of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia as they tried to restore peace to the galaxy in their efforts to battle the evil empire headed in great degree by Darth Vader who we learned is Luke Skywalker's father. Luke also comes to learn that Darth Vader also happens to be his daddy, his father and that before Darth Vader became this incredibly evil tool and vehicle for galactic terror he was a Jedi. He was a kind of warrior priest who was good before certain things took him over, before he became possessed by Darth Vader and was killed, effectively.

So by the end of the third film, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader ends up switching sides yet again. He saves Luke Skywalker from the destruction by the Emperor, Darth Sidious. Darth Sidious is this puppet master who Darth Vader answers to. And it begs the question: who was Darth Vader before he became Darth Vader? How could he have made the changeover from Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi who has lived a principled life and who was fighting for good, to this maniacal, monstrous, half machine/half man personification of evil who would crush and defeat his enemies at the drop of a hat and cause untold suffering for parts of the galaxy that refused to bend to the will of the empire?

So this question gets answered for us in the trilogy, the prequels and those prequels are episode 1, The Phantom Menace in 1999, episode 2, Attack of the Clones in 2002, but most especially in episode 3, Revenge of the Sith which is where we really see a young Anakin Skywalker pre-Darth Vader become manipulated into manifesting the dark side, the dark mind. That's where we're going to go today with this show. That's what we're going to be looking at because a lot of the twists in his thinking and the manipulations that we see Anakin subject to and a lot of the fears that he has are those things which ultimately turn him into this vehicle for evil that was capable of causing untold suffering for so many.

So that's a little bit of an intro. I guess we can go anywhere from that point. I know that it had been a while since I'd seen it and I was quite impressed with how the turn of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader came to be. So I guess we can go in any direction at this point.

Corey: Yeah. You asked who was Darth Vader before he became Darth Vader. I think that answer was disappointing to a lot of people who have enjoyed the Star Wars movies and then watched the prequels. They saw Saturday morning cartoons and then Anakin Skywalker was this total wimp, this whiny kid who didn't have enough power, nobody liked him. He didn't think he was getting what he deserved because he felt entitled to everything. I think that people were just turned off by that in a big way and that's one reason why The Clone Wars just went out and never really came back to be discussed or considered worth watching at all.

I hadn't watched that in quite some time. It had been years since I watched Revenge of the Sith and going back and watching it with new eyes, I thought there are some good dramatic elements deep within this relatively, what I consider, to be a botched attempt at creating a trilogy for the prequels. But there's still a lot in there that you can flesh out in terms of understanding how entitlement and the criminal selfish mind of an individual can open them up to becoming what they never thought that they could become, a monster they never thought possible. I think that's the big thing that you take away from watching this movie. That's the thing that I think a lot of us can resonate with. Anybody who has seen the Joker or Taxi or different shows about the simple things in life and simple attitudes and the bad attitudes can lead to horrendous consequences, mental illness that has gone unchecked and, like I said, bad attitudes that don't get corrected, can lead to extremely negative repercussions.

Harrison: For me, it had been 15 years since I saw the movie. I think I'd only seen it once, maybe twice when it first came out and then watching it again and all I remember is not really having any interest in watching any of the first three movies again, any of the prequels. So when we watched this one I was actually surprised at how good it was. I thought "This is actually worth watching. It's pretty entertaining." It's entertaining in spectacle ways. It's got great graphics and scenes and one-liners. The one-liners are actually pretty good and entertaining. That's why they've all been memed in the years since then.

But it has also got, as you guys were saying, some depth to it. There's some really good characterization that goes on. I think that despite people hating on Anakin and especially the actor who plays him, Haydn Christensen, he is a good character and the arc that he goes through, especially in this film, Revenge of the Sith, is believable. It fits into not only the original trilogy leading up to it, it's a plausible prequel to those films.

But it's actually just really well done in a self-contained manner because we know going into this movie that Anakin Skywalker is going to turn to the dark side. We also know that he's going to redeem himself eventually, many years in the future. So we've got that in mind. George Lucas manages to put all the elements in Anakin's storyline that make all that make sense. I counted four key scenes, interactions, between the man who becomes Emperor Palpatine and Anakin.

The first one is where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are going to rescue Palpatine from Count Dooku on his ship during a space war that's going on in space above this planet. Obi-Wan gets knocked out. He's unconscious so it's just Dooku, Palpatine and Anakin. Palpatine eggs Anakin on to execute Count Dooku. This is the first manipulation in this film because they have a relationship already. He and Anakin have a past, they have a history together.

So Dooku's on the floor and Anakin is holding his lightsaber and his own and about to decapitate him and he hesitates. He's like, "Well I shouldn't do this" and then Palpatine says, "No, kill him!" He says "Kill him now" and then Anakin hesitates and then in his very Palpatine voice he just says, "Do it!" {laughter-Harrison imitating Palpatine} and says that it's only natural. After he kills him Anakin says, "I shouldn't have done that. He was an unarmed captive. It's unethical,that's not the Jedi way." Palpatine gives him the rationalizations. He obviously wanted revenge because he and Dooku had a past and it's only natural to want revenge and he was a dangerous guy. He had to be taken out, so just do it. It was fine.

So instead of being a positive influence in this moment, in this very expertly manipulative way, pushes Anakin down this first step and does it in such a way that Anakin afterwards can still tell himself, "Oh, I defeated Count Dooku. He was a bad dude and I saved Palpatine." So he gets all the honour for this act when really he had just executed someone in cold blood that he didn't need to execute. So that's the first scene. There are three other ones. But throughout the film you can see this struggle in Anakin's mind, how he has these positive tendencies and characteristics, but he also has negative ones and he retains the positive ones throughout the film and they start out like this in his positive characteristics. They're still there. They're still there. They're still there. Until by the end of the film they're positive in name only. They're used purely as rationalizations.

We'll talk about that when we get to the end of the film. But in this one he does show that hesitation. Leading up to that scene, as they're boarding the ship, he and Obi-Wan are in their fighter jets, essentially, spaceships, and they've got a whole squad of other pilots behind them. The other pilots are getting taken out by all of these enemy droid ships and Anakin's the one who wants to go back and help them out and save them and it's Obi-Wan who tells him, "No, they're doing what they have to do," that's part of the job description, to be cannon fodder so Anakin says okay and stays on the mission. After he kills Dooku, Palpatine says "Okay let's go and let's leave Obi-Wan Kenobi" who's unconscious underneath this massive metal thing that has fallen on him. But at that point Anakin says "No! We're not leaving. We're all in this together" and he makes sure to save Obi-Wan.

So right at the beginning you see these positive aspects of his personality but they're in conflict with the negative ones. With this one, he wants revenge, he wants to kill Dooku but there's still the part holding him back. But in that first scene you see that he is arrogant. You see that he is very talented but that goes to his head and fuels his own arrogance and he's also kind of youthfully sensation-seeking. He wants to go and not party, but have fun and go overboard. He wants to take risks. He wants to be a teenager as a Jedi in training. You can see that behaviour in the reckless decisions that he makes. They're not evil things but they just show that aspect of his personality.

So he does have arrogance and ambition to be this great Jedi master. Of course Palpatine, being the expert manipulator, sees all of this in him and therefore knows exactly which buttons to push. That's what he does in those succeeding scenes where they interact with each other. Palpatine doesn't need to be psychic but it's almost like he's got this psychic insight into exactly what Anakin is thinking and then the exactly right thing to say in order to feed that negative aspect of himself and to cover over the good aspect.

Before we get into the next scenes, I want to talk about one more progression. With this one I can lay out the whole progression and that's his relationship with Padme played by Natalie Portman. When it starts out, you can see this is one of the positive bits about Anakin's personality, the love that he has for Padme. All the things he does are for her - at least that's what his initial motivation was - but by the end that's just what he's telling himself and that really comes out in his final scene with her.

In this first scene he's just had a precognitive, prophetic dream of her dying in childbirth. He finds out that she's pregnant. So he's ruminating on it in the morning and she comes up and asks him what's wrong and he initially says, "It's nothing" so he kind of blows her off and blocks her out. She says, "No, we have to learn to be honest with each other. Tell me what's wrong." So he does tell her. He says exactly what happened. He's a bit hesitant at first but he tells her all the relevant details. So that right there was a good scene that shows that he has this tendency to not share, to not communicate, but she actually brings out that best part of him by insisting that he talk about it, and he does.

But there's a progression in their scenes together where the next time they talk, after Palpatine asks him to be his personal representative on the Jedi council. Palpatine has planted the seed that the Jedis are actually the ones that are the danger. They want to take control, they want to take power, they want to take him out. Anakin has been asked by the Jedi to spy on Palpatine and Palpatine is now asking Anakin to spy for him and be his toady on the council.

So he's conflicted about this and in his next scene with Padme she can tell there's something wrong, but in that next scene he doesn't tell her what's going on. He shuts her out like he was about to do in the first scene and she picks up on that. That's the progression in their relationship of him closing off and him turning inwards and that parallels his fall into the manipulations of Palpatine. It gets to the point where at the end of the movie, and their next significant interaction, this is where Padme shows up on a volcano planet with all this lava to confront him and see what's going on because she has heard all these things from Obi-Wan Kenobi that he has turned to the dark side, that he's fallen under a Sith lord.

So the first thing that Anakin says to her when she confronts him with all of this is to completely blow it off and he lies to her. He explicitly lies to her for the first time. He says that "Obi-Wan is just trying to turn you against me". By saying that, he's denying the truth of what Obi-Wan had said because everything that Padme had said Obi-Wan had said, was true and he knew it. Then he reveals himself in his next grandiose statements to her about how he's going to rule the galaxy and she can do it by his side and that's when she breaks up with him and says he's going down a path she can't follow.

The first important thing is that that's the point where he's so far gone that now he's actually lying to her whereas previously he hadn't. Previously he was communicating, then he was just shutting her out, and now he's actually lying to her. Then she offers him the opportunity. She says, "No, we can leave all this behind. We can just go and live our lives together and raise our child" and he blows her off. He has just told her he has done everything for her and now she's saying, "Well I don't need any of that. All I need is you" and he says, "No!" He's got a little bit of cognitive dissonance but no, because by now even though Padme has been the justification he has given himself for doing all of these things and the rationalization he has given, in that scene it becomes clear that that's not the actual reason that he's been doing any of these things, or at least it's no longer the reason, that he is now doing it for other purposes and just using his love for Padme, or whatever is left of it, as a rationalization, as a way of self-calming, as a way of convincing himself that he still has good motives, that he has done all of these horrible things, including killing dozens of children for her but that's not what is actually going on in his mind by that end scene.

Elan: Yeah. So that end scene also includes a moment where he realizes that Obi-Wan Kenobi has smuggled himself onboard the ship that Padme came to visit Anakin with and perceiving this as betrayal on the part of Padme, he does his Darth Vader choke grip on her psychically.

Harrison: The first time he's done this.

Elan: Yes! It's the first time and it's god-awful because of all of the scenes prior to that where you do perceive a sense of sincere caring and willingness for Anakin to open up and to be real with the woman he professes to love.

So this is full-blown tragedy that we're watching, in part made effective by Natalie Portman's very effective performance where the full realization of what he has become hits her on a visceral emotional level. Anakin, just prior to that also says, "I don't want to hear it anymore". He sounds like an alcoholic husband. {laughter} "Don't tell me!" But that's really even the least of it. There is an emotional impact to what's become of him that we've been watching for the prior two hours that proceeds step by step by step. I think the brilliance and the success of this movie is like you were saying earlier, Harrison.

This movie is filled with eye candy. It's a space opera extraordinaire. But you are also privy to the life of the mind and the different thought processes that Anakin is battling with that are in confrontation with one another as he decides step-by-step what he is going to do and how he should think in certain situations. One of these changes and confrontations within himself comes at a very crucial point in the film. By the way, I didn't mention at the top of the show, this show is going to contain spoilers! {laughter} But I'm assuming by now...

Corey: We actually gave away the ending. Oops. Too late. Sorry people.

Elan: Yes. But I'm assuming that most people have seen this film before and are maybe interested in seeing it again, just to follow a lot of these steps as an example of what goes into creating the darkened mind. But getting back to Anakin's choice, there is a moment where Senator Palpatine, who is Darth Sidious, who is this phantom menace, who is this incredibly powerful figure in the senate of the republic, reveals himself to be a dark lord, reveals to Anakin that he is the one who has been engineering all of this war that the republic has been having with the separatist.

So there's this master manipulator, the senator, who admits this to Anakin and again Anakin's instincts are correct. He opens his lightsaber and is ready to make an arrest but decides instead to go back to the Jedi council and let them know what he has learned and he's advised more than once in this movie, by Obi-Wan Kenobi, by Yoda, by Mace Windu, a powerful Jedi, that they can sense confusion in him. There's one incredible scene early on in the film where Anakin actually goes to Yoda, opens up and says, "Hey, I've been having this prophetic dream about Padme dying in childbirth. What does it mean?" And Yoda basically says, "Attachment leads to jealousy. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose."

He doesn't tell Yoda that this person that's close to him is Padme. He doesn't tell Yoda that he has a pregnant partner because Jedis don't have partners. They take this oath to their brotherhood and they're not supposed to have children or be in relationships. But Yoda tells him, directly perceives enough of his situation, to advise him Anakin to let go of his fear and his attachment. It's precisely this fear of losing Padme that the emperor, senator Palpatine, in a scene, plays on by promising Anakin knowledge of life over death. It's this promise of power. It's this promise of power over life and death that Anakin holds onto in his attachment to Padme and it's all these emotions that have caused Anakin to narrow his scope of view and understanding and of being that causes him to believe more and more in what Palpatine is telling him.

Harrison: It's a classic prophecy tale, right? He gets this prophecy and then it ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Through his own actions he brings it about because it wouldn't have gone that way if he had followed Yoda's advice. So even though Anakin hadn't given Yoda all of the details, Yoda still gave him the proper advice in the situation. One of the other things that he said was that fear of loss is a path to the dark side.

That's true. If you're fearing losing something, you may or may not lose it, but if you do lose it that's a lesson. It's an opportunity to learn something about your attachment to the thing that you fear losing because that's the nature of life on this planet. Nothing is permanent. You can't hold onto anything in the external world because things can change in an instant. You can have a loved one just die of a complete accident. You can lose everything in some kind of personal or collective misfortune, an economic collapse, a sudden bankruptcy. You can't hold onto anything.

Anakin hasn't learned that lesson. All he knows is what makes him feel good, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, in this case his relationship. But he's not prepared to lose anything. As you were saying, that's what Palpatine manipulates in him by giving him this extra power over nature, this power to essentially go against the nature of things, to act against nature, because death is a part of life and that's what Yoda tells him too, that everyone dies. That's one of those things that's a Jedi lesson to learn, to realize that. Everyone does die and if you hold on too much then the loss becomes even greater and you lose a part of yourself in the process.

That's a major aspect, especially at the start of the fall of Anakin Skywalker, his refusal to listen to this advice that Yoda is giving him. He repeatedly gets good advice from his fellow Jedi. They're constantly telling him the right thing and what he needs to know. They're explicit with him that Palpatine is manipulating him. They're worried about the relationship with him. They can see what he's plotting and how Palpatine is using Anakin to go against the Jedi but because of Anakin's own self-importance in those moments, he can't step outside of the situation and see that he's being manipulated. They're just being honest with him. Even though they don't know all the details, they can sense, they can see that something is going on and if he was a bit more self-aware, he'd see the same thing. He might say, "This is what Palpatine just said to me. That's kind of suspicious, isn't it? It sounds like he's using me for some purpose."

But no, because he's getting this attention from Palpatine, that feeds his ego and because he's getting praise and support from Palpatine for all the things that he shouldn't, but that's what he really wants, he wants that praise, he wants that support that he's not getting from the Jedi because he's being a douchebag. There's one scene at the council meeting where Palpatine knows that they know that he is manipulating Anakin so that's when he proposes to Anakin that he wants Anakin to be his personal representative on the Jedi council. That will mean - because every member of the Jedi council is a master - that means he will be elevated in rank to the level of Jedi master, which is what Anakin really wants.

So he goes and tells the Jedi council this and they all say, "No, this isn't going to work. We've thought about it. It's an obvious manipulation. He's using this for his own hidden political motives. We don't know exactly what they are yet but it's obviously a chess move that he's making and you're just the pawn Anakin."

Elan: Right.

Harrison: So he says, "We'll go along with it but we're not giving you master status. You're not ready yet. You're not there. This is strictly something we have to do because of the nature of the situation. We need you to be close to him. We can't totally cut off our access to him because Anakin can now spy for us, so we need to take this half measure. You can be on the council but you can't be a master." He throws a hissy fit and as he's throwing the hissy fit and saying, "How can you do this? This is totally against protocol. Everyone that's on the Jedi council gets to be a master." You can see Obi-Wan Kenobi shaking his head. Everyone's like, "Oh my god! Look at this child!" Their facial expressions and reactions are telling him "This is the reason you can't be a Jedi master. You're still an infant in regards to these things."

He of course can't see it. By this point, this part of his ego is now so attached to the idea of becoming a Jedi master, totally disregarding all of the extra elements of why this was proposed in the first place, that it's a manipulation tactic on the part of Palpatine. But no, in his mind, he wants to be a master. He deserves it because he knows how powerful he is. He thinks that because he's so powerful that he deserves this. The Jedi council is seeing that he's still a child obviously, no that's not going to work. He still has a lot of growth ahead of him before he can have that rank. Again, it is Palpatine that is the one giving him what that lower part of himself desires the most, giving him that praise and recognition of how great he is, telling him how great he is and he uses that several times in these other scenes.

I'll move on to one other one. This is where there's some kind of musical dance performance going on in a very odd way with this hovering giant orb of liquid with little alien things floating around dancing in it. It's like a space opera, I guess you could call it.

Elan: It looked to me like a gigantic uterus where the signs of life were coming together, the egg and the sperm and that there was something being created. But in any case, go ahead Harrison. {laughter}

Harrison: So Palpatine's in his booth with his high class friends and Anakin shows up and this is when they have a conversation. All the other people leave the booth so it's just the two of them. This is when Palpatine gives him the tragic tale of Darth Plagueis who I believe was probably Palpatine's master?

Elan: Yeah.

Harrison: So he's telling the story about how Darth Plagueis figured out the secret of life and death and how to stay immortal but then taught his one pupil everything he knew and then his pupil killed him in his sleep, which is Palpatine himself who killed his own master in his sleep. But he doesn't reveal that.

But as they're talking, this is when Palpatine plants or waters some seeds that are already growing. He confronts Anakin and says, "The Jedi probably asked you to spy on me, right?" And Anakin's like, "Oh, shit! Don't know what to say" because it's totally obvious. But he uses that, again, as a manipulative tactic. He plays on Anakin's own doubts about what the Jedi are doing because they're not giving him the praise that he feels he deserves. This is when he plants one of the seeds that it's the Jedi who are plotting to take over. They want to get rid of Palpatine so that they can have full control. They want to destroy democracy and become the galactic rulers which is what Palpatine himself wants to do. But Anakin can't see that.

Elan: Let me just comment on that quickly because you're making some good observations fast and furious there. One is that this dynamic that we see with Palpatine of accusing the opposition of exactly what he himself is guilty of doing is something that we have seen in ancient Rome with Cicero and the Catiline conspiracy where Cicero was accusing Catiline of conspiring to overthrow the republic and that Cicero himself was the first man of the republic. We see this today with Adam Schiff in the government in being one of the leads in the democratic party accusing Trump of being pro-Russian and being a puppet and Russian collusion. This is just another one of the ways in which this film has a good grasp of how political maneuverings occur and the types of things that are being said and thought, the thought processes of individuals who are vying for power and who want to influence others along their goals and their ambitions.

What's so interesting about that is that we have this very personal story of Anakin's fall but the backdrop of all of this is that we're following the most powerful figures in the republic at that time, 'a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away'. George Lucas seems to be saying that these are perennial, ongoing, cyclical, repeated dynamics in politics, in power plays, in the ways that governments change from some form of democracy and republic into the empire because this isn't only Anakin's fall. This is the fall of a relatively democratically run galaxy where you have a Jedi council being the first line of response.

So with Anakin's journey you're also following the journey of an entire galaxy. With his turning, with his fall, he has influenced for at least another generation when Luke Skywalker comes to power and the rebellion comes to fruition and the subjugation of many worlds probably because these guys have hyper spatial travel.

Harrison: A galaxy.

Elan: Yeah. So I just wanted to make that point. There's another thing as well that we can observe in Anakin's interactions with the senator I think, which is quite important. Palpatine, Darth Sidious is not only turning Anakin against the Jedi and playing on Anakin's fears so expertly, but he's also putting all of these paramoralism and the Sith, the dark lords, the opposite of the Jedi, the evil Jedi if you will, on par with the Jedi. He's making suggestions that the Jedi want power just as the Sith want power and there's really no difference between them and that there's really no difference between them except that the Sith have a broader point of view and they're willing to engage in and think on other dimensions of the force that the Jedi aren't because they're too narrow minded and have kept from you Anakin. They don't want you to know this but there's a lot of great things about the dark side and I happen to know a little bit about it.

So there's that as well. There's the ponerization. There's all of the ideas that Anakin has, all of the faith and principles and morals that have been instilled in him in his training by Obi-Wan Kenobi and by Yoda are broken down or there's an attempt at breaking it down by the senator who is to become the emperor. It's political ideology. The emperor wants Anakin to become open to ideas that are pathological essentially and that's also one of his crucial tactics in this whole story.

Harrison: In that scene, the way he plays on Anakin's own heightened grandiose self-image, he has already subtly expressed his own views on the Jedi council and then planted that tainted view of them into Anakin's mind and then he follows it up by saying that he would worry about the collective wisdom of the Jedi council if they don't select him to go on this mission to kill the droid lord, General Grievous.

So that was a great line. He'd worry about their collective wisdom if they don't pick him.

Corey: Before this really important mission, that's when he placed him on the Jedi council...

Harrison: Yeah, he'd already placed him on the council.

Corey: he made it impossible for them to trust that he would actually go on the mission because they lost their trust in Anakin because of Palpatine's maneuvering. So after driving in that wedge, knowing that they're not going to send him on the mission, he says, "I doubt their wisdom if they don't send you on the mission". All along, always planting these seeds, corrupting Anakin and then using other people's reactions to this corruption as proof that they are the evil ones. That's a big thing I think about this kind of slow burn manipulation by really masterful manipulators. If they get their hooks into you then pretty soon their ideas are going to become yours and they take on a life and a hunger of their own so that by the time the movie is over, the Anakin of the first 10 minutes where just that big Saturday morning cartoon space battle full theatrics and him and his master Obi-Wan and how he's going to sacrifice himself for the master and he says "I'd never betray you", then by the end of the movie they're battling to the death because he's been lying to himself the whole time about so many things.

Harrison: Yup.

Corey: Not opening up, not getting feedback from anybody and then he has this dream of Padme dying and he's not honest about it. He can't really be honest because their relationship is secretive. But he believes that he can see and know the future and interpret this dream 100%. He believes in himself so strongly that he doesn't even doubt his interpretation of the dream or even think that maybe it would be a good idea to take precautions, like instead of trying to learn how to end death, you can just take her to a good hospital! {laughter}

Harrison: Yeah.

Corey: Get check ups. {laughter} Make sure she's okay. Make sure she's healthy. If you have this fear about these things, there are things you can do to hedge your bets and to make sure that the mother of your child is safe rather than trying to conquer death. It's a big leap to take but for this individual who believes himself to be the chosen one, it presents itself as a very good opportunity to sacrifice your morals in order to become the powerful chosen one that you wanted to become. The hint of power is what lured him, not the idea of saving Padme. It was the lure of power and all the hooks and manipulations that we were talking about that got planted in there that lured him to the dark side and turned it so that, like you said, he would fulfill the prophecy that he believed he could interpret.

Elan: Well on that point Corey, it's very interesting because by the end of the film when most of the Jedi council has been decimated by the senator's Order 66 which effectively changes the entire military to his orders, with the flip of a switch he's got all of this power that is now at his disposal. So the Jedi are decimated. You have Obi-Wan, Senator Organa and Yoda who appear to be the only few left of all of these individuals, trying to fix the situation in a last ditch effort to save the republic from Palpatine's machinations. Anakin effectively loses the fight with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan Kenobi has the high ground and lops off Anakin's legs and leaves him to be devoured by the heat of the volcanic stream.

But the point is this. Yoda, in one of the last scenes with Obi-Wan, says to him, "I have some instructions for you. There is a way for you to communicate with your mentor Qui-Gon Jinn" who has died in the first film. So there is, we learn, some knowledge from the Jedi about the afterlife, about living on, that speaks to Qui-Gon's new state of being. You see this in the original trilogy where Obi-Wan talks to Luke Skywalker as a ghost, from beyond.

So it's a nice little surprise that you get, that if you're not so identified with the flesh, with the physical, with the material realm, that there is in fact a non-material, spiritual knowledge to be had that can be accessed in some way and which was a comment on Palpatine's promise for eternal life when in fact the Jedi and Yoda had an insight into this.

Harrison: There's one other string in this tapestry of manipulation and that has to do with trust because from Anakin's perspective, the Jedi don't trust him, with good reason, because it's pretty clear that they can see that he can't see his own weakness and his own nature as a pawn of this politician. So of course they don't trust him. And he says that. He tells Padme at one point, "They don't trust me." He's kind of whining about it. In that moment he tells her something. He's still being honest in this moment. He says that he wants more. He wants more power. He wants more knowledge about these secret things but he knows that he shouldn't. So there's still a conflict in him. He's still battling between these opposing tendencies in himself.

And then in a scene very soon after that Palpatine tells him that the Jedi don't trust him, reinforcing this belief in himself that the Jedi don't trust him and therefore the Jedi aren't trustworthy. They don't trust him so therefore he shouldn't trust them. This comes to fruition in this third scene where after the encounter with Palpatine where Palpatine has revealed to him that he's this Sith lord and Anakin doesn't kill him but says, "I'm going to go tell the Jedi council" and Palpatine says, "Okay, go ahead, I knew you would."

So he actually does the right thing in that situation. He doesn't kill Palpatine like he did Dooku. He goes and tells Windu. He's kind of squirrely about the way he tells him. He just says, "Oh it has come to my attention that Palpatine's the Sith lord we've been looking for." He doesn't say, "Oh, I had a conversation with him and he told me." He doesn't reveal his sources and methods, we'll put it that way.

So Windu says, "I've got to take care of this now. I'm going to take some of these other Jedi and we're going to handle this." Anakin wants to come with him. I can't remember if Anakin says something like, "Oh, you don't trust me?" or something. Then Windu says, very practically, "If you do what I tell you and what you say is true, you will have earned my trust." Basically it's a promise of trust in that moment as he's going off to deal with Palpatine.

Now if by that point Anakin's own motives were true and sincere, he would have followed orders. "Okay, good. He's going to find out that I've been telling the truth. He'll take care of it. I'll be in their good books now and things will be rosy." But no, he waits behind in the council chamber for a while and then ends up going, like Palpatine knew he would, to join in on the action and that's when he see Windu holding his lightsaber, about to kill Palpatine and that's when all of the worm tongue seeds that have been planted all come together in this picture. "Oh, the Jedi council actually does want to take out Palpatine in order to take power for themselves" because it's a partial truth. The Jedi do want to take power but they're doing it because they see that Palpatine needs to be removed from power, that he's acquired so much power on his own that it's only going to get worse. They're saying he needs to be removed from power, that they will take on the burden of ruling in his place until the system can get back to normal.

So that is part of their plan, to take out Palpatine but not for the reasons that Anakin thinks. At one point when they're discussing this Yoda even says "Oh it's a dangerous course of action. We have to be really careful" essentially because they know that it is a drastic move to take at this point, to remove the head of state and stage a coup d'état. It is a complex situation so you can see how Anakin would see it that way because technically all the things he fears are true. He just doesn't have the full picture. He doesn't see what's really going on and doesn't see that actually the Jedi aren't the ones who want power for its own sake. That's actually Palpatine who wants exactly that.

I thought that was a good progression on the theme of trust in those few scenes. It is interesting when you look at these themes. You can trace them over three or four scenes and they all come together pretty perfectly. So I think it's expertly done in that sense. I wanted to make one comment on the political angle that you brought up Elan and that is just how conspiratorial the movie actually is. Here's this leader that has ruled for years after his expiry date when he should have left office and has accrued more power to himself using a wartime situation in order to acquire these powers and to prolong his own rule.

It's revealed pretty early on that he's actually the one behind the separatist movement or behind the rebels. The rebels are his controlled opposition. He is essentially financing these terrorists to engage in war with the republic for the purpose of problem/reaction/solution, right? He creates the war, he creates the enemy to create this endless war and then he's the one to then step in as the saviour who brings peace to this galactic war on terror essentially.

Elan: Yes.

Harrison: And Anakin's not aware of this at any point. He's not aware that Palpatine's the one actually manipulating all this second faction in the war, the people that the republic is at war with. This is another major aspect of the manipulation. Palpatine manipulates Anakin's idealism and patriotism in this system of government. At various times Palpatine lists the reasons for doing what he's doing. He uses all the right words. "We're doing this for democracy, for freedom, for conscience, for peace." So by the end of the film he tells him to go where all of the rebel leaders are holed up on this lava planet and to kill them all because that will then bring peace. That will end this war. So that's Anakin's final massacre in the film. He goes and he kills all the rebel leaders who have been Palpatine's pawns the whole time. Now that they have fulfilled their function, they're disposable and he uses Anakin to take them all out.

So it's probably the most realistic and cynical take on politics because that's what actually happens in the real world. I can't remember which one of you was saying that it starts out as this kind of Saturday morning cartoonish thing but it actually becomes a very dark movie where very dark things happen. Even the scene where Palpatine orders - what was it? Mission 66? Or Order 66?

Elan: Order 66.

Harrison: And you see all of the military, the clones, turning on all of the Jedi and then just executing them in cold blood. So imagine going into battle with your comrades and they all turn on you, surround you and just execute you. That's what happens in several scenes of these Jedi being killed. So there's a lot of killing in cold blood done in this movie. It's not just cartoon violence like you see, even in a lot of the other Star Wars movies where it's just, "There are some disposable storm troopers. Just kill them off." There are actual stakes in all of these deaths that occur and that are quite disturbing, especially Anakin killing the younglings, killing all of these young children essentially.

Elan: There's another element to Palpatine which I found interesting and that is that when he's being confronted by the good Jedi, Mace Windu and they have this really intense lightsaber battle where Palpatine loses his lightsaber and then you see all of this electric zapping energy being directed at Windu - Adam I would just ask you to do your impersonation of the emperor Palpatine for just a moment, if you can...

Adam: Unlimited Power!

Elan: That's great! And so he gets off on directing this negative energy against Windu. But this is the thing that the filmmakers decided to do. When Mace Windu is in this Ju-Jitsu move, redirecting this electrical power back against the emperor, you can see the emperor becoming malformed. You can see him turning into the physical form that we have come to know him as looking like. And there are moments in those scenes as well where the sound design completely changes and Palpatine's voice changes. He becomes demonic. I think that that was an excellent cinematic choice that the filmmakers made, to make him sound and physically look demonic because the point is that he's gone through this journey himself. He's already super evil and maniacal and manipulative, but he has, in bringing Anakin under his rule, under his power, he has elevated himself even further towards the dark side, towards a metaphysical level of evil in physical form.

This gets back to the allusions we were making in previous shows about the powers and the principalities and how there is a demonic reality that the filmmakers were, I think, alluding to just a little bit in how they made him sound and how they made him look. In The Phantom Menace you have that dark sith with the red and the black and the little horns. How much closer to a devil do you need to get in order to convey the level of evil that the Sith embody in the world?

So there is that as well.

Adam: If I could jump in, there was the scene that you were just talking about with Mace originally going to arrest Palpatine but then in the process of trying to arrest him, Palpatine kills all the other Jedi and reveals his true powers with the force lightning. Then when Anakin comes in, he's very adamant that Palpatine be brought in as a prisoner. I thought that it was very interesting that he was so adamant that Palpatine be brought in as a prisoner, my thought is it's because of his not having dealt with the fact that he killed Dooku in cold blood essentially because Dooku couldn't do anything. He was disarmed and maimed to the point where he was no threat. Whereas in that scene Palpatine is like, "Oh, I can't hold on! I'm so weak! You need to help me Anakin." And then as soon as the opportunity presents itself, that's when he brings in the 'unlimited power' thing and just force lightninged him out the window. Clearly he was not in any way, shape or form subdued.

Harrison: Right. It was all an act.

Adam: It was all just an act and a pity ploy to further manipulate Anakin. I just thought it was an interesting juxtaposition between the beginning and the end.

Harrison: Yeah, that's a good point. You can even see that as a further manipulation on Palpatine's part by first manipulating him into killing this unarmed prisoner. Palpatine knows that Anakin does obviously have a conscience. That's why he had to manipulate him in the first place to do it so when the same situation comes around and he's got this extra personal tie to Palpatine, they're buddies essentially, now Anakin has the chance to do the right thing in the situation which turns out to be the wrong thing.

So every manipulation is so expertly done. And I've got to say who's the actor that plays Palpatine?

Elan: Ian McDiarmid.

Harrison: Ian McDiarmid? He is just so good in this movie! There are moments when his face just explodes in these outrageous facial expressions that are so over the top but so perfect for the scene in question! So in this scene where he's all weak and then the unlimited power thing, there are moments when his face flashes with this demonic glee at what's going on. He's just got this grin on his face. It actually is pretty disturbing and haunting to see, just how intensely this character is presented on screen. It's expertly done. It's fantastic!

Elan: Masterpiece theater for sci-fi.

Corey: I would say besides the original trilogy, the next two trilogies, I think this is the best. It's by far the best movie to come out in the Star Wars sense. Was it Return of the Jedi?

Harrison: Yeah, for sure.

Corey: The only one I could probably watch. It's the only one you guys could have got me to watch.

Harrison: Yeah, none of the recent ones have a fraction of the actual psychological depth that Revenge of the Sith has. They are Saturday morning cartoons for the most part. You don't care about any of the characters. None of them are very interesting and the only reason you might care about some of the characters is because you already know them, but they don't do anything in the films that's actually very interesting at all. No one does anything that's actually really interesting or engaging. So this was the final Star Wars film to actually have any depth to it, I'd say.

Elan: I would agree. Any depth or any credibility as a story, as a part of the mythology of Star Wars. We hope that you guys get to watch this. As we said a little earlier, it does begin as a space opera, sci-fi, bang 'em up but it quickly turns into a very high stakes morality tale, full-blown tragedy that packs a wallop if you allow it to where lessons perhaps can be derived from it and we can see a lot of the things that we bring up here, brought out in this pop culture storytelling that is Star Wars. Unless there's anything else we'd like to cover about this movie, we thank you for listening. We hope that us geeking out a little bit on this movie was enjoyable and that you get a chance to watch the film and we look forward to another Mind Matters next week. Take care everybody.