Let The Wookiee Win Week 2: Love In The Time of Boba Fett January 19, 2010

The following is the second of a series of columns for The Peak. This week deals with how love is stupid, and how Phantom Menace is stupid, and how when combined they are kind of awesome.

A bunch of years after George Lucas got his rocks off letting the global movie-going populace innocently root for incest, he decided to revisit the franchise that made him grotesquely wealthy. He made a few prequels. You may have heard of them. They were kind of a thing.

The wholesale rape of a series aside, George Lucas did a funny thing: recognizing that love was second only to war (as in, Star Wars) in the landscape of literary devices, he decided to rewrite the entire context of his continuity. I think his goiter told him to do it.

Instead of the epic quest of a band of rebels with the intention of bringing down an empire, Phantom Menace made it the story of a headstrong young Jedi who would enslave a galaxy because he had a dream that his wife might die. Maybe.

This ruffled a few feathers.

And why wouldn’t it? The move made their beloved series of jock sci-fi into the nerd equivalent of The English Patient, with such swagger as to inspire calls for the Lucas himself to be buggered with a Jar-Jar Binks doll. The subsequent, weepy version of the baddest badass to ever rock a cape and emphysema had casual and hardcore fans alike introducing their palms to their faces.

But don’t be deceived; the wooden acting and staid dialogue characterizing the romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala is merely the poor technical execution of the most powerful idea Lucas ever committed to film.

It’s awkward from the word go. Our savant slave boy meets the incognito Queen Amidala through a nearly impossible series of coincidences (blame the Force, not the writing), and, throwing reasonable notions of statutory rape to the wind, proceeds to try and woo the 14-year-old monarch as best as his nine-year-old prowess allows (which is to say he showed her his space Lego). Lacking biceps or a wicked automobile, he resorts to clumsiest attempt at flattery in cinematic history, asking her if she was “an angel.” In the best possible distillation of every romantic encounter I have ever had, she looks at him dead in the face, cocks her head to the side and says “What?”

This is the best part of the film, and possibly the best of all three prequels.

Whether intentionally or by accident, Lucas captured one of the greatest and most realistic love stories in Hollywood history, and what makes it so profound is that it almost wallows in its ridiculousness. It recognizes that love is hardly ever the measured, dramatic perfection like we see with Han and Leia in the later episodes, and throws the stupid things we do to the opposite sex at us like a fistful of sand in the eyes.

When Anakin is a kid, all he sees is a goddess, an object of desire. His romantic schooling only goes as far as his mother telling him he was immaculately conceived, likely winking and nudging him the whole time. As he goes through the dogmatically celibate Jedi training, he swims in an ocean of testosterone and midi-chlorians and dreams about her.

Though he has the ability to detect emotions, Yoda and Co. decide it would be a great idea to send a teenager who can crush steel with his mind to spend some alone time with a girl over whom he has Gacy levels of obsession.

Given this opportunity, he awkwardly and directly confesses total dedication to this woman he has spent virtually no time with, and luckily she’s a sucker for a guy with a big lightsaber. In between strained confessions of affection, (and probable explorations of the coital implications of a robotic arm,) they do things like run through a field of wildflowers without a hint of irony.

She gets knocked up, has some twins (who would later totally make out), and, as in every good love story, Anakin goes on to kill millions and set up a cruel dictatorship. What you are feeling right now is the squirming of a million nerds suddenly silenced by the realization that they relate entirely.

Phantom Menace and the love arc of Padme and Anakin was George Lucas’ attempt to take his stories to an operatic level. While the result is more “kill the wabbit” than Barber of Seville, it shows us exactly what our courtship looks like: obsessive, stupid, humiliating, amazing, and utterly central to the life of every person who has ever lived.

Making that primal need for companionship the core of his narrative is just another way Star Wars shows us how we are all exactly the same.

Which is to say, pretty damn goofy.