That's why there's been no mention of the movie here. I heard about it for days after I wrote that Elf was not a great movie, even though the post was about how much I liked it.
It's not true that, as Obi-wan says, only the Sith deal in absolutes. Nine year olds do too, and so do their big brothers.
Last night our brand new 12 year old and I went to the late show of Revenge of the Sith to finish off his birthday celebration. He loved it all over again. Five more stars, so I guess it's now a 15 star movie here. All I will say (Minor spoiler alert) is that the last 40 minutes of the movie are tense and exciting; the final image of the movie ties this one to the original perfectly and ends the debate over who is the true hero of the saga for any fans who had gotten confused by Lucas' obsession with Anakin---it's Luke; everything that is flawed about George Lucas as an artist is epitomized in the fact that Christopher Lee disappears from the film within 15 minutes after delivering about 5 lines; and I still don't see how Emperor Palpatine is supposed to be George Bush.
The first time we saw it I completely forgot about the whole stupid debate. When the Emperor was onscreen all I thought of was the beautiful low camp of Ian McDiarmid's performance. McDiarmid was the only actor, besides Frank Oz, Lucas didn't manage to embarrass or waste. This time out I kept reminding myself to watch for the connections, allusions, resonances, and parallels, and every time I thought I'd caught one, I decided I was forcing it into the movie myself.
The story is the story is the story. No matter what else is going on, a good story is finally only about itself, and despite all of my criticisms of Lucas' abilities as a filmmaker and the choices he's made (or his failure to make choices) as an artist, the Star Wars story is a good story, and in the end it is about only itself.
Three years ago, when I was watching Attack of the Clones I thought I picked up on more overt political references, to Bush, but more to Abraham Lincoln.
What Palpatine is up to in that movie (apart from his backstage manipulations as Darth Sidious) is what many Northerners were afraid Lincoln was doing during the Civil War, using the excuse of the war to usurp more power to himself. Palpatine even calls the Clone troops the Grand Army of the Republic. For a second then I worried I'd caught George Lucas making the first real political statement he'd made yet in five movies, revealing himself to be a secret Confederate sympathizer.
That idea lasted all of two minutes. I decided that if Lucas had thought of Lincoln at all he was thinking of a nightmare version of Lincoln, asking the question What would have happened if in a time of crisis a republic got a leader who had all of Lincoln's charm and intelligence and political acuity, who had to face all of Lincoln's challenges, including a sizable opposition party in the North, but who had none of Lincoln's scruples, compassion, or commitment to the Constitution?
I didn't think that Lucas was being profound, or even trying to be. I think he just used the idea as a springboard for a good story.
Palpatine can be seen as a nightmare version of the leader of the United States at any time of crisis in its history when it needed a strong, decisive executive, who very easily could have seized the opportunity to make himself a dictator. In that way he's an nightmare version of Lincoln, of FDR, of Woodrow Wilson, of Lyndon Johnson, of George Washington, even. So he could very well be a nightmare version of George Bush.
So the reaction of many Right Wing intellectual types to the movie still baffles me. If you admire Bush, then, that's how to read the movie, as a nightmare version of your hero. I don't understand why they just couldn't enjoy the movie as a nightmare, a scary What if? story.
But they couldn't. They insisted that Lucas meant the movie as a literal criticism of Bush and the war in Iraq, which was not smart on their part because George Lucas is far more persuasive than all the Right Wing pundits and bloggers put together and by making Lucas Bush's antagonist they presented a lot of people---mostly young men and teenage boys who haven't solidified their political allegiances yet---with the choice: Which George is right? Lucas or Bush?
Whose action figures are all over their rooms?
But if you can't accept the story as a parable and insist it's an editorial, why not just argue that George Lucas is wrong? Many of them set out to argue that it was bad, because of its bad politics not its flawed art, which put them in the position with their own kids of saying, There is no Santa Claus.
Even more perverse, were the ones who set out to argue that it wasn't Lucas's politics that were wrong, it was his whole take on his own story---the Emperor, the Sith, and Darth Vader were the true good guys of the movie. Now they were snatching the Obi-wan and Luke figures out of their kids' hands and forcing them to play with little Darth Sidious and Count Dooku dolls.
This was the point when the people who cared about them should have taken them aside and said, Let it go, and convinced them it was time to take a long vacation.
But they couldn't let it go.
And last night I figured out why.
It's Obi-wan's line to Anakin: "Only the Sith deal in absolutes."
Frankly, I think it's a stupid line. It comes out of nowhere. It doesn't describe the Sith as we've seen them. It describes Anakin now that he's turned into Darth Vader. But it sure doesn't fit Darth Sidious. What it is, is shorthand. It's another case, one of far too many in these last three movies, where Lucas didn't feel like writing real dialogue, he just wanted to get on with the action. What Anakin and Obi-wan are supposed to be talking about in that scene is whether or not there is any good left in Anakin. "Obi-wan once thought as you do," Vader tells Luke in Return of the Jedi, but there is no point in Revenge of the Sith where that idea appears to even cross Obi-wan's mind. "Only the Sith think in absolutes" is Lucas' attempt to deal with what should have been the plot of the last third of the movie in a few loaded lines. "Only the Sith deal in absolutes" is a one line reduction of Obi-wan's attempt to convince Anakin to return from the Dark Side. All it means in the context of the scene is, Anakin I don't believe you are really one of them. It's a set up for Obi-wan's agonized cry, "Then you are truly lost!"
But the reason the Right Wing intellectual types couldn't see it that way is that they are in love with the idea of themselves as Absolutists.
The line attacks their self-congratulating distinction between Liberals as Relativists and themselves as Absolutists. They recognized that Lucas is equating absolutism with evil, which put thems on the side of the Sith and despite their attempts to rehabilitate the Sith they know the Sith are the bad guys.
They also know, even if they don't admit it, that Anakin's absolutism is what does him in. Anakin forces on himself the choice between being a Jedi and becoming a Sith because he won't accept that good guys can have flaws and bad guys can have virtues. They know that once Anakin goes over to the Dark Side his personal absolutism is going to make him the worst evil in the galaxy because he will stride through it forcing everyone around him to accept his way as the way things need to be.
Palpatine isn't Bush. Anakin is Bush. And the Right Wing intellectual types can't stand the movie because Lucas has managed to damn them out of their own mouths, and they hate him for it for the same reason Anakin hates Obi-wan at the end of the movie---because they know he's right.