Wednesday, May 27, 2015

31 Day Star Wars Challenge, Day 27: All-Time Favorite Scene in the Entire Saga

I nearly gave myself away back on Day 25 as to what my favorite scene in the whole saga is, and this scene was actually originally going to be my favorite of just Return of the Jedi. Then I thought about it and realized that the first two movies - and ultimately, the prequels - were building up to this moment, where the "prophecy" finally came true.

Via LifeJuice SFF
The final confrontation between Luke and Darth Vader was bound to be epic, a culmination of tension built from the very first time they saw each other. They both want to turn the other, and both are certain that they will win. It seems a lot has changed since Vader fought with Luke in Bespin, where he tried to recruit his son into usurping the Emperor; he is either tired of being the lesser Sith and is ready to give that title to Luke, or he is trying to prove his loyalty to Palpatine by striking down his own flesh and blood. Granted, the whole Rule of Two wasn't really a part of the films until the prequels, but whatever, we're looking at this scene separate from that. Luke, on the other hand, is looking to prove himself to both of the Sith and to himself that, unlike his father, his dedication is to the Light, and he is more than willing to be a martyr for that cause. If he is able to save Vader, that is just a bonus.

But all of that is shot all to hell when Vader threatens to go after Leia.

The music here by John Williams is just beautiful and adds a mournful and sinister tone to the scene.

If you look at it, though, Luke's motivation for striking back at Vader and Anakin's reason for joining the Dark Side in the first place are identical: they are trying to protect women they love from suffering. The main difference is that Luke has an actual physical being to attack to prevent this, and Anakin was basically fighting death, something that kills 100% of all living creatures. Maybe it's this idea of battling an idea that kept Anakin from seeing the negative aspects of his actions, because as soon as Luke saw the ramifications of his anger, he stopped and embraced the Light Side of the Force: he saw his feeble father with a severed hand, an identical wound on his own body. And, I may be projecting here, but it seems like Luke essentially said, "You know what, this is my path, and I'm not going to destroy my soul for what is Leia's choice. She is strong and capable and dammit, I believe in her. I will not do to my sister what my father did to my mother and take away her agency." It's breaking that cycle and bringing balance back to the Force.

In another comparison to the prequels, the Emperor's actions throughout this whole "trying to turn Luke" sequence proves to me that George really just wanted to show off his new CGI when displaying the abilities of very old, very strong Jedi and Sith. The Emperor just sits there the whole time, seething with power; and Yoda, back on Dagobah, rode around on Luke's back as he trained, only to use to Force with ease to lift Luke's fighter out of the swamp. Now, yes, this was due to technological restraints at the time, and having people bounce around like Gummi Bears wasn't possible, but think about how much more impressive both Palpatine and Yoda were because they didn't have to prove to people that they were powerful. That right there is true Zen: you are power. It is something that cannot be taken from you when you internalize it, as both masters would know. An immature, less experienced practitioner would have to perform for others, much like Luke and Anakin did. Do I think that Lucas had this in mind when writing this scene with Lawrence Kasdan? I have no idea, although his studies of Buddhism might indicate that it did influence him somewhat.

Aside from the philosophical interpretations, the performance by Mark Hamill here was brilliant. I don't know if he's a method actor or not, but damn, you could feel the anger and desperation flowing through him as he fought with David Prowse's Darth Vader. Even though his face was behind the mask, Prowse did an excellent job of appearing frightened by the strength erupting from Luke, sticking up his stump of an arm and silently asking for mercy, and Ian McDiarmid was so deliciously sinister at the finale of the fight as he cackled at the spectacle. Nearly everything about this whole scene, from the plotting to the dialogue to the visuals, came together to create the best scene in the Star Wars saga.

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