votw ii.28: The Force Is Strong With This One
Greetings, exalted ones.
[EDIT: Welcome, ComputerTV fans! Make yourselves at home, comment away, bookmark this site, and get the RSS feed at https://alfredeus.wordpress.com/feed/ — and be sure to stay tuned for the forthcoming Top Eleventy-First Beautiful Ladies of Escapism, where I shall rank all of your favorite women from Awesome to Omigod. And now, a non sequitur poll…]
This is the blog that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Yeah, she’s fast enough for you, old man.
But Grand Admiral Alredeus! A parsec is a unit of distance, not time! Right you are, my young Padawans, and that is the very reason why I am star forging this ambitious post for you all. *Smiles benevolently* It is my destiny.
This weekend sees the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a 3-D animated feature film that will attempt to explain what happened between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, if not plotwise, then at least in spectacle. You might ask, “Why should I care, when the last good Star Wars movie came out in 1983?” I don’t expect you to care…No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!
Oops, wrong billion-dollar franchise. Regardless, I have been a Star Wars freak since the Special Edition of the original A New Hope swirled in my wide eyes in 1997 — a fifth grader converted to a new religion. I bought the original VHS trilogy quickly thereafter, and I watched them ad pukeum so much that I made my dad drive us all over town to watch Return of the Jedi‘s Special Edition many a month after its release. (Sadly, I have never watched my favorite movie of all time, The Empire Strikes Back, on the big screen.)
Of course, all hobbies come and go. By the end of middle school, I had denounced Star Wars in favor of the James Bond movies — not long after, puberty hit me like a ton of sleepless nights and I “floated away with the rest of the garbage.”
The Prequel Trilogy managed to incite the type of excitement in me that only Triumph the Insult Comic Dog could lambast. And thus, from Star Wars freak to Star Wars aficionado, I am heir to the empire.
It would be beyond ridiculous for me to attempt a comprehensive chronology of the Star Wars saga in the same vein as my Batman retrospective. Star Wars invented the concept of merchandising and expanding beyond the one medium, and the Star Wars history belongs as much to the core films as it does the toys, videogames, novels, comics, cartoons, and even Christmas ornaments (I always place Vader ominously close to the angel). For decades now, the so-called “Expanded Universe” has chronicled many a millennia before Luke Skywalker, as well as a full century after his death. Videogames, from the replayable Super Empire Strikes Back on the Super Nintendo (true story: I had the game before I ever knew what a Star War was) to the mind-blowing Knights of the Old Republic on the Xbox, have all added their gnawing dimensions to Lucas’ pocketbook. Do, or do not — there is no try.
So instead of me giving an extensive review of everything that has popped up in the world since 1977 (the 2003 Clone Wars animated series is amazing; my mom ripping up my lifesize Yoda poster was not), I am going to countdown my favorite Top 60 Star Wars characters. Daunting, I know, given that this intro already eeks beyond 500 words. Why Top 60? I’ve decided to include 10 of the Expanded Universe characters, i.e. people never seen in any of the movies. Put away that game of sabaac — let’s get our lasersword groove on!
To better understand the time frame, here is a quick Star Wars timeline:
Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): Invasion of Naboo, 32 Years Before the Battle of Yavin;
Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002): Battle of Geonosis, Start of the Clone Wars, 22 Years Before the Battle of Yavin;
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005): End of the Clone Wars, Birth of the Empire, 19 Years Before the Battle of Yavin;
Episode IV: A New Hope (1977): Destruction of First Death Star at the Battle of Yavin;
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Battle of Hoth, 3 Years After the Battle of Yavin;
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983): Destruction of Second Death Star at the Battle of Endor, 4 Years After the Battle of Yavin
60. Chancellor Valorum
The most forgettable of characters, Valorum was the guy who stepped aside to give Palpatine (a.k.a. the Emperor) his power as the head of the Senate in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Unwilling to resolve the Naboo-Trade Federation crisis, the good Chancellor was seen as a weak, crooked man. Lucky for us, something good came out of Valorum’s ineptitude: the Galactic Civil War! Yay!
The abominable snowman’s only real purpose in Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was to be the reason for Luke’s facelift. Before the filming of Empire, actor Mark Hamill was involved in a disfiguring car crash, resulting in the loss of his nose. Reconstructive surgery can only do so much, so the wampa’s attack in the beginning of the 1980 opus served as the in-universe reason for Luke’s change from tanned farmboy to space troll. Since ’97, debate has rattled whether it was better to not see a lot of the ice creature like in the 1980 original, or if the newly-filmed full-body shots from the Special Edition (as pictured above) carry bigger weight? I side with Lucas’ reiminagining…for now.
58. Zam Wesell
While Anakin Skywalker was creepily hitting on Padmé in Episode II: Attack of the Clones, a bounty hunter by the name of Zam Wesell made an attempt on the beautiful, albeit wooden, senator. Zam gets credit for the high-flying chase sequence in Coruscant, with Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi in hot pursuit. The scene establishes Obi-Wan as the nagging mentor to Anakin’s reluctant follower rather nicely; an added bonus occurs when Obi-Wan “dissuades” a substance abuser from partaking in “death sticks” at the bar. As for Zam, she is killed by her hirer, Jango Fett, and as it turns out, Zam (a she) is a changeling (an it) — a humanoid able to shift appearances (up top, from third picture of pretty woman to ugly alien on the right). You have to hand it to George Lucas and his ability to name characters — what a weasle!
57. Cliegg Lars
A poor excuse for a human being, Cliegg Lars failed utterly when he attempted to save his wife, Shmi Skywalker, from the Tusken Raiders on Tatooine in Attack of the Clones. You lost a leg, Cliegg? Cry me a river, failure! If you remember, by the time Anakin got to his mother, she was already beyond hope, causing poor Ani to slaughter the tribe of sand people (even the little ones!). If Cliegg had been a real man, he would have saved Shmi himself, and Anakin would’ve never have had to resort to his Dark Side leanings. I poo on your grave, Cliegg.
56. Lama Su
In 2OO2’s Attack of the Clones, the emotionless people of Kamino are the ones who provide the Republic with their Clone Army. Lama Su, their Prime Minister, is a striking, lean presence — he introduces detective Obi-Wan to the clones, as well as Jango Fett. It could be said that Lama Su is responsible for the clones’ mass slaughter of the Jedi. Yes, it could be said.
55. Dexter Jettster
A jovial, portly fellow, Dex is the owner of Dex’s Diner, a dive where Obi-Wan frequents to get smashed. Obi-Wan, being the uptight twit that he is, doesn’t really know anyone of questionable inclinations, which leads him to seek out his old friend Dex, who is as much an underworld scum as Matt Lauer is. Even so, Dex tells him that the clue Obi-Wan snagged from Zam Wesell is of cloner origin, which leads the master Jedi to Kamino, all while Anakin is busy cleaning up Cliegg’s stupidity. Boy, these Attack of the Clones one-sceners can’t catch a break.
Porkins! The second he signed in as Red Six in Episode IV: A New Hope, you knew he wouldn’t make it long enough to see the Death Star get blowed up. Look at him. Look-at-him! His name was Porkins! In that picture, he looks like he’s about to upchuck his footlong salami sam’ich with all the fixings. PORKINS!
53. Prince Xizor
There’s a lot you don’t know about Prince Xizor. When he gets aroused, he goes from green to red, which happened when he tried to lay Princess Leia. Also, you have no idea who he is. This is because he hails from Shadows of the Empire, the multimedia project that burst onto the scene in 1997 that told the story between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. As leader of the Black Sun crime syndicate and the main antagonist of Shadows of the Empire, Xizor (she-zor) tried to get in the Emperor’s good graces by killing Luke Skywalker, simultaneously enraging his mortal enemy, Darth Vader. Alas, the reptillian prince met his end when his skyhook was destroyed by Vader’s forces, putting an end to future appearances beyond the novel, comics, toy line, and videogame he was featured in. Perhaps in another life, Xizzy.
52. Bail Organa
His royal highness of Alderaan served two very important uses: he was largely responsible for the Rebel Alliance and he adopted Padmé and Anakin’s Leia as his own in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Friend to the Jedi cause, he was a noble dignitary who was wary of Palpatine’s actions during the Clone Wars. Bail saved Yoda after the little guy’s explosive confrontation with Palpatine in the Senate. After that, he gave Leia a loving home on Alderaan and set into motion the Rebel Alliance she would one day lead. Jimmy Smitts did the bare minimum with the character, but so it goes with everything George Lucas directs. Organa died when Alderaan was destroyed by the Death Star. Leia, well, she hardly noticed.
51. Bria Tharen
A very obscure Expanded Universe character, Bria (such a lovely name) was Han Solo’s first love. Of course, for Han to end up with Leia, something very wrong had to happen to Bria. Well, she fell in with the wrong crowd and became a slave to the Hutts. I was fascinated by the Han Solo Trilogy of novels (even if I only read parts 2 and 3), and I was quite stricken by how Bria was taken by the “religion” the Hutts had shown her. In truth, the whole colony was being drugged out of their minds…She died securing the data of the first Death Star for the Rebels. Han Solo was given this information by Boba Fett right before he met Luke and Obi-Wan in the cantina. Allegedly.
He was a bald mute with a gizmo wrapped around his head that allowed Lando Calrissian to control him. What’s not to enjoy?
49. Nute Gunray
There’s something about this guy that is very unlikeable. No, he’s not menacing at all — he’s just an idiot. He was manipulated by Darth Sidious (Palpatine) to assault Naboo in The Phantom Menace, believing everything would be copasetic. By the end of the Prequels, Anakin Darth mauled him to a crisp. Viceroy Gunray (yeesh) might be a bad, bad stereotype, given his appearance and voice. Shame on you, Lucas. Shame!
48. Biggs Darklighter
Burt Reynold’s mustache be damned, he was Luke’s childhood friend! In a deleted scene, when Luke Skywalker went to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters (/whine), Biggs showed up to give Luke some pointers on the opposite sex. “Above everything,” Biggs said, “stay away from blood relatives.” Guess Luke wasn’t paying much attention…Biggsy met his maker on the assault of the Death Star, teaching everyone a thing or two about standing between the love found only between incestuous siblings.
47. Boss Nass
The Gungan leader from The Phantom Menace, CG-animated Boss Nass had exiled Jar Jar from his underwater domain. You can easily relate to this character. We all hate Jar Jar, too. Unfortunately, Jar Jar met Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi during his banishment, so we had to endure Binks’ existence just so Nass wouldn’t. You slobbering scum.
Sebulbie is a crazy-looking podracin’ dude with attitude that has it in for young Anakin in The Phantom Menace. Spitting out foreign rhymes like nobody’s bid’niz, Sebulba took Ani to the edge by sabotoging the kid’s podracer. I named a freaky-looking pet fish after Sebulba, true story.
45. Mara Jade Skywalker
Mara Jade is one of the most beloved Expanded Universe characters out there. She was first the Emperor’s Right Hand — you know, the chick Palpatine turned to when he and Vader were having one of their little lovers’ quarrells. After Palpatine’s death, Mara Jade made killing Luke Skywalker an obsession, but when she couldn’t do it, she became a Jiffy Lube luber. Eventually, she joined Luke’s band of new Jedi; after that, she fell in love with Luke and bore him a son, Ben Skywalker. Alas, her fairy tale came to an abrupt end when her nephew, Jace Solo (Han and Leia’s kid), killed her after he became Darth Caedus. All of this is traced in years’ worth of reading material — I have Wookieepedia.
The Prequel Trilogy’s Conehead! A master on the Jedi Council, Ki-Adi-Mundi left his most lasting imprint with audiences during the devastating Order 66 montage of Revenge of the Sith. Poor guy never knew what hit him.
43. Jedi Offspring
#43 of our countdown is dedicated to the collective that consists of Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin Solo, as well as Ben Skywalker (images from left to right). Jacen and Jaina are the Expanded Universe twins du jour, the holy duo sprung from Han and Leia’s loins. Anakin Solo came along later on, and he was announced to be the strongest Jedi since Anakin Skywalker, his grandpapi. Later on still, Ben Skywalker (named after Obi-Wan) brought a smile to Luke and Mara Jade amidst the interminable galactic turmoil. Like their parents, the foursome would have a lasting impact on the galaxy from the very instant they were born. For example, Jacen and Jaina were hunted by the reborn Emperor (I know, I know, WTF). Anakin Solo was killed during the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, giving his life for his comrades. As for Ben, he was mentored by Jacen Solo…that is, until Jacen Solo went all Dark Side as Darth Caedus, a calamitous threat hearkening to the days of his grandfather. Ben’s sleuthing deduced that Jacen was responsible for Mara Jade’s death, much to Master Luke’s dismay. In the end, Jaina met her evil twin in combat as the only person who could stop him, ultimately killing him to assure the safety of the galaxy. Boy, imagine Thanksgiving in that family. Han, you belligerent drunk, you.
Greedo is someone you’re more familiar with, I’m sure. The Rodian was the unlucky bounty hunter who wanted to take Han to Jabba the Hutt in A New Hope. We all know what happened next, don’t we? Well, we kind of don’t — we only know what we want to happen next. In the 1977 original, Han Solo kills him cleanly; in the Special Edition, Greedo shoots first, causing an uprorious outcry from the legions of fans who think vagina is an alien goo. In the 2004 DVDs, they more or less shoot at the same time, but both warped scenes are always kinda off. Damn Lucas and his endless tinkering! HAN SHOOTS FIRST!!!
Beneath Jabba the Hutt’s palace dwells a fearsome monster known as the rancor. He’s mean, he’s ugly, and he loves the taste of slave dancers. Return of the Jedi‘s rancor didn’t know what hit him — I guess he had never squared off against a Jedi with a moptop from the 1970s.
40. Mon Mothma
“Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” In Return of the Jedi, Mon Mothma, undisputed leader of the Rebel Alliance, bled those words. Although she had the tiniest of scenes, Mothma stood for the righteousness of the Alliance, and so it was when she became the Chief of State of the New Republic after the Empire went bye-bye. A grave lady, indeed. Makes you wanna get her drunk, don’t it?
39. Nien Nunb
I think we all know what they were going for with Nien Nunb: eyeballs of awesome! I don’t know what that crazy little man was saying to Lando aboard the Millennium Falcon during their assault on the second Death Star, but it was noodles of oodles of fun. And, oh, how he laughs! Like a baby’s giggle!
38. Dash Rendar
Dash was the Han Solo stand-in during Shadows of the Empire while Solo was selfishly chilling in carbonite. What an ego. A rogue and a mercenary, Dash Rendar cruises the stars aboard his Millennium Falcon-wannabe, the Outrider (you can spot it leaving Mos Eisley in the Special Edition of A New Hope). In the Nintendo 64 Shadows of the Empire videogame, you play as Dash as he takes on a spot in Rogue Squadron’s assault against the AT-ATs in the Battle of Hoth; he also does battle against Boba Fett to pry Han away from the bounty hunter’s clutches (that fight, including the intimidating struggle against Fett’s Slave I, is one my favorite videogame moments ever); Dash even takes on the dreaded dianogas — sewer tentacled-monsters that had me jumping in fifth grade fright. Being the lazy gamer I’ve always been, I played the game on Very Easy, which ends with Luke and Leia lamenting Dash’s death right before they infiltrate Jabba’s palace. Had I been a more industrious slacker, I would have realized that Dash survives to never do anything important again. I also read the Shadows of the Empire novel, but he wasn’t as prominently badass as he was on the Nintendo 64. I mean, as Dash, I wiped the floor with wampas and IG-88. No joke!
37. Jar Jar Binks
Is Jar Jar Binks as terrible a character as everyone says he is? Yes. Is he the worst character in the history of cinema? Very likely. Is he a godawful stereotype that should have never been given animated life? Most soitenly. So why did he make the Top 40? Just to piss off a lot of fanboys. Thankfully, Lucas got the hint about how much we all detest Binks as the Prequels went on. Let us never forget that it was Binks’ idiocy that granted Palpatine emergency powers, which gave the conniving Chancellor unchecked authority over the Republic — he became the Emperor in everything but in name in Attack of the Clones. Mesa done something muy muy bombad! How did Jar Jar not die? How?! (Click HERE for Robot Chicken‘s hilarious take on Jar Jar’s fate when he meets Vader. Also, other hilarities.)
36. Salacious Crumb
He doesn’t utter a word in Return of the Jedi, but this cackling Muppet stole the show as Jabba the Hutt’s court jester. I think he deserves a buddy comedy, starring alongside Pepe the Prawn from the Muppets. When he’s not busy making love to Jabba’s tail, Salacious can be seen salaciously dealing death to C-3PO’s eye. Much to Crumb’s dismay, R2-D2 got the last laugh.
35. Bib Fortuna
Bib Fortuna, the head-tail’d Twi’lek, was the faithful majordomo of Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Looking slimy and acting slimy (the way he caresses R2-D2…), Bib was no match for Luke’s Jedi mind trick. “He must be allowed to speak,” he whispers to his master in reference to the Jedi Knight. I can easily imagine Mr. Fortuna engaging in all sorts of seedy slave-boy activities. I’ll stop now.
Watto was Shmi and Anakin Skywalker’s owner in The Phantom Menace, but as far as desert slavers go, he wasn’t a terrible winged human being. Yeah, he had an atrocious accent (more racism!), but consider this: he was nowhere as gag-inducing as Jar Jar Binks. Luckily, Gollum came along in 2OO2 and wrote the book on CGI characters done masterfully.
33. Beru Lars
Aunt Beru seemed like a caring old bat in A New Hope, sympathizing with Luke’s wishes to leave the the dirt farm. In the Prequels, the pretty young thing and her husband take Luke in as their nephew. Aunt Beru will always be remembered as the lady with the blue milk.
32. Shmi Skywalker
As Anakin Skywalker’s only parent, the Virgin Mary Shmi Skywalker gave birth to the demon child who would destroy an entire galaxy. No, not Darth Vader in the Galaxy Far, Far Away — Jake Lloyd in the Milky Way! Shmi was a poised, if troubled, figure in The Phantom Menace, adding a smidgen of gravitas to a movie riddled with pink effects and cardboard one-liners. Her death at the hands of the Tusken Raiders sent Anakin on a mission for demolition. We will always remember you, allegorical slave lady.
31. Owen Lars
When Uncle Owen bought the two droids from the diminutive Jawas on that fateful Tatooine day, he never knew that it would cost him his life, nor did he suspect that it would change the course of history. Still, you can see it in his disgruntled eyes that he saw great things for his nephew — perhaps even terrible things. Before the Prequels ever came to light, it was said that Obi-Wan was Owen’s brother, and that Owen was always tiffed at the Jedi Master for imposing young Luke on him and Beru. This theory was put to rest when it was shown that Owen really was Anakin’s step-brother, making Luke a real family member. Still, Owen was always wary of Old Ben Kenobi’s presence, and he never wanted to see Luke run off with the old wizard on some damned adventure. [EDIT: I watched Attack of the Clones last night, and something struck me as curious: the Lars family once owned C-3PO, so why didn’t Owen recognize the droid — at least his name — when Owen re-purchased him in A New Hope? The holes, they widen!] Owen and Beru’s deaths were the catalysts for Luke to follow Obi-Wan, and thus the universe at large owes a great debt to the ashen bones of Mr. and Mrs. Lars.
30. Darth Malak
Darth Malak was an evil bastardo. 4000 years before the events of A New Hope, Malak ravaged the galaxy in a little spectacular videogame known as Knights of the Old Republic, the one game that prompted me to request an Xbox for my birthday in 2OO3. Cunning and deplorable, Darth Malak was the mastermind behind the Sith Empire’s galactic obliteration. And yet…to my recollection, after dozens of hours of RPG heaven, Malak wasn’t that big a deal to defeat. I guess my Jedi skills were complete.
29. Darth Revan
Yes, videogames are part of the Star Wars canon (official storyline), and they don’t come much more canonized than Revan. In Knights of the Old Republic, the player assumes the identity of a nameless man (or woman) with amnesia. The game introduces the idea of choosing to belong either to the Light Side or Dark Side of the Force via your actions and reactions. If you chose to pay for an item, you would lean towards the Light Side; if you chose to slaughter the merchant and steal his goods, you would be a Dark Sider, natch. I walked a fine line between benevolence and malevolence, sometimes veering to evil for comical kicks, but mostly staying true to the Light Side. As the story progresses, you become a Jedi of considerable merit — and then the I Am Your Father bomb drops: you are, in fact, Darth Revan, the war mongering Sith Lord of the Jedi Civil War, as well as the mentor who instructed the galaxy’s greatest threat, Darth Malak, the ugly fiend who betrayed Revan and left him for dead. After dozens of hours of planet-hopping RPG’ing, the revelation that you are the main antagonist throws you for a loop, making it one of the greatest twists in videogame history. As Revan, you race against time with your ragtag band of Force conjurers to stop Malak — or to claim the Star Forge (think rustic Death Star) for yourself. Darth Revan, we really never knew you.
28. Bastila Shan
You can really see how much fun I had with Knights of the Old Republic (its sequel, ehh, not so great). Bastila was the game’s femme fatale, a she-Jedi with an alluring British accent and a curvy disposition. A lot of the game is spent trying to woo her — you know, flirting, tapping, petting, lightsabering. Even though it would lower her defenses dramatically, one of my favorite things to do would be to disrobe Bastila in-battle, leaving her only with the granny panties she was born with and the yellow double-bladed lightsaber I gave her…through the in-game menu (pictured above). Storywise, she is a master of Jedi Meditation, a technique wherein she can control entire space battles through the Force, making her an asset to either of the feuding factions. She falls to the Dark Side by the end of the 60 hours, but it is her strong, loving bond for Revan that brings her back (or you could just kill her — your choice, ‘member?). Ah, Bastila, you pale, sexy Brit, you.
This is the last Knights of the Old Republic character on the countdown, as well as the first droid. What makes this robot so special? Well, he’s a spunky assassin droid with an acidic attitude. Everything he retorts bleeds sarcasm, and everything he says to you is dementedly hilarious. He constantly resorts to violence, always seeing humans as a lesser form of species. Why, his favorite epithet is “meatbag”! You find him on Tatooine, and if it wasn’t for the fact that Revan owned him in a past life, HK-47 would have offed the Jedi with the quickness. A favorite amongst many, HK-47 is the lovable cold murderer you just want to huggle, meatbag.
26. Asajj Ventress
The mysterious Dark Jedi known as Asajj does not appear in any of the movies, but she is a prominent fixture of the Clone Wars animated series that aired on Cartoon Network from 2OO3 to 2OO5 betwixt Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Asajj was one of the great reasons why that terrific micro-series was in many ways better than the Prequels; she was a furiously fast combatant, she possessed lightning-quick reflexes, and she was just a delight to watch. Hissing very few words, Asajj was the acolyte sent to destroy Anakin Skywalker (in reality, she just served as one of the many to antagonize him). During a breathless confrontation on Yavin IV, it was Asajj who gave Anakin the fashionable scar across his eye. Look for her in the new Clone Wars movie, and go get the DVDs of the 2-D cartoon, like, now. (I still don’t possess Season 3…)
25. Wedge Antilles
What better way to kick off the Top 25 than with Wedge Antilles, the only other X-Wing pilot besides Luke Skywalker to survive the original trilogy? Wedge was always cool to watch because he always seemed in control, ready to take on the whole Empire himself. (Wedge never actually said that — Dack did, and he died in Empire.) Wedge would succeed Luke as the leader of Rogue Squadron, the starfighter elites of the Rebel Alliance. Dennis Lawson played Wedge in the movies, and a nephew of his went to see him in the theater: Ewan McGreggor, the future (past?) Obi-Wan Kenobi. Looking upon the Death Star, Wedge exclaims, “Look at the size of that thing!” That’ll do, Wedge. That’ll do.
24. Admiral Piett
Piett was not an enviable man: as the officer in charge of the Executor Super Star Destroyer, it was he whom Darth Vader turned to for explanations when things didn’t go very well. In spite of this, Piett survived long enough to appear in both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, a feat not accomplished by any other Imperial officer (windpipes tend to get in Vader’s way). “Don’t fail me again…Admiral,” Vader warned, and you can see Piett’s Imperial pants getting creamed just from the look of Imperial fear in his Imperial eyes. Piett was promoted from captain to admiral when Vader Force-choked Piett’s predecessor; Piett never met this fate. Instead, Darth Vader’s flagship was destroyed when it crashed into the second Death Star after an A-Wing starfighter careened into the bridge, instantly killing Piett. That will show Piett to utter “bounty hunters — we don’t need their scum” again.
23. Jango Fett
Let me start this paragraph by prefacing it with a very simple statement: I hate Jango Fett the man. Jango Fett the bounty hunter is brilliant (Image Three) — without the helmet, he is filth (Image Four). Because of the unveiling of Jango as just a guy trying to make it in a crazy galaxy, it totally ruined the mystique created by Boba Fett, his, ugh, son. Boba Fett was a lightning rod of awesome: he wore a badass costume, he had a medieval knight’s helmet, he wore slain Wookiees’ skin, he had a jetpack, the cool starcruiser Slave I, and he snagged Han Solo away. All of it, marvellous. Then, in Attack of the Clones, this all gets tossed away by Jango Fett and his cloned son, two hobos with a night job. There is no intimidation in Temuera Morrison’s delivery of the face under the helmet, nothing with a semblance of badassery. Paperweight can do more with the material! Ah, but when he dons that helmet, all bets are off. His battle in the rain against Obi-Wan Kenobi is a highlight of the second Prequel, and it kind of makes up for everything preceding that. Then he gets his head chopped off by ice-cool Mace Windu. Thank the Maker!
22. Grand Moff Tarkin
The evilest cheekbones this side of Morten Harket, Moffy is the vampirric Imperial officer that unleashed the Death Star’s devastating power on Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan. Hoth to the bone, Tarkin was a bad guy you can count on to deliver the pain. (Jango, you taking notes?) He actually held some authority over Vader, for the Dark Lord of the Sith himself didn’t get in Tarky’s way. The same could be said of Alderaan, that Earth-like planet that went kaplooey when Princess Leia was being handful. This guy was so devilish, Leia even smelled his stench when she was brought aboard the Death Star. “Evacuate!” Tarkin scoffed. “In our moment of triumph?!” He was one of the million souls Luke assassinated when the voice in his head told him to.
21. Admiral Ackbar
“IT’S A TRAP!!!” Since 1983, the fishy Rebel Alliance leader’s catchphrase has become an Internet meme, reverberated by fanboys the world over when Nintendo promises to cater to the hardcore gamer. What is so entrancing about that darling Ackbar? Is it his stilted breathing? His failure to communicate without pausing mid-sentence? Those sensuous eyes? The pouty lips? The irresistible exoskeleton? The eligible bachelor was the comically dominant leader of the Rebel assault on the second Death Store, giving his all to Lando in a witty rapport. “We won’t survive against those Star Destroyers!” Ackbar mused. “We’ll last a lot longer than we will against that Death Star!” Lando casually called. How droll.
20. Mace Windu
Mace Windu’s violet lightsaber has the letters BMF emblazoned on the hilt. That’s what Jedi Master Windu is — one bad motherf…Mace Windu was Yoda’s go-to baldie on the Jedi Council, one swing away from being a Dark Jedi himself. When he furrows his brow, you know it’s on. In Attack of the Clones, he was part of the grand-scale Jedi battle in the stadium, where he neutralized Jango Fett’s pathetic existence once and for all. In Revenge of the Sith, he confronts Palpatine when it is apparent that he is the Sith manipulating galactic events. In spite of his badassery, Mace couldn’t foresee Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, leading to Anakin to choose Palpatine’s salvation over his Jedi Master. In the Clone Wars cartoon, Windu is disastrous weapon of raw power, quelling entire armies with a flick of his signature-hued lasersword. “You refer to the prophecy of the one who will bring balance to the Force,” Mace asked Qui-Gon Jinn, “and you believe it’s this…boy?” Yeah, and that boy pwned your ass, Sammie. Dayum!
19. Wicket W. Warrick
The Ewoks get a bad rap from too many people. Marshall from How I Met Your Mother thinks they’re awesome, and you should, too. Sure, it’s a little implausible that a tribe of midgets in fur could overthrow the Galactic Empire, as seen in Return of the Jedi, but contextually, they really just beat the small number of troops guarding the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor. Wicket is the most famous Ewok of all time, responsible for befriending Leia, and thus the Rebels, first. He was uppity, adorable, and as Leia put it, “jittery.” Han’s leg was even humped by this little dude, awesome, awesome. In 6th grade, I was to write about what pet I wanted for my Language Arts class. Naturally, I painted the portrait of Wicket. (When I got the year’s trophy for being the most accomplished English student in the school, my teacher told the capacity crowd during the ceremony that I would be the next George Lucas. One of these days, Georgie…) Love him, hate him, there’s no denying the raw power of Wicket’s spear. (I actually owned an Ewok action figure many years before I knew what a Star War was.) As for the stalwart dude inside the skin, Warwick Davis successfully parlayed his small role (teehee) into the most successful little person career on film. He’s been Willow and the evil Leprachaun from, um, the Leprachaun flicks, as well as magical characters in the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia series. Nothing says fantasy quite like knee-high reach. Yub yub!
And just now, in our own galaxy, the USA has lost the gold medal in Women’s Gymnastics. Oh, unhappy day.
18. Darth Maul
DM has got to be one of the badassiest villains every put to celluloid. He is tangible hell, a devil with a double-bladed red saber. Not only that, he had the culazo skills to fend off both Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi simultaneously in the best sequence of the movie. What he lacked in vocal emnity, he made up for in pure demonic athleticism. A death angel with glorious Sith tattoos, Darth Sidious’ shadowy apprentice showed that evil can come in devil horns and yellow teeth, not just breathing apparatuses. The Phantom Menace‘s most heart-breaking moment came when Maul slew the fatherly Qui-Gon, throwing Obi-Wan into anguished rage. On cue, the audience applauded when Kenobi sliced the Sith’s body asunder. I’ll see you in hell, varmin!
17. Count Dooku
Darth Tyranus, a.k.a. Count Dooku, was the replacement Sith apprentice Darth Sidious (the future Emperor) took under his wing after Darth Maul became two people. Whereas Maul was just lightsaber on legs, Dooku was a poised aristocrat with Jedi insight, a true gentleman who happened to fall to the Dark Side. A fallen Jedi, Dooku orchestrated the formation of the Separatist Confederation, the rogue systems of planets that fought against the Republic for three years, from Attack of the Clones to Revenge of the Sith. Dooku was the visible decider of the Seperatists, General Grievous its war monger, and Palpatine its Dick Cheney. In spite of his hoity-toity disposition, Dooku can keep up with the best of ‘em as an expert swordsman, managing to defeat both Anakin and Obi-Wan, that is, until Yoda stepped in and pwned Dooku’s velvet arse. Like so many foolish mortals, Dooku believed that Palpatine was on his side, so it came as quite a shock when the faux-captive Palpatine ordered Anakin to lob off the Count’s head with one scissors movement. A shame, that. Veteran actor Christopher Lee, as Dooku, accomplished something no one else ever has — he has acted in three of my all-time favorite franchises: he was Francisco Scaramanga in James Bond’s The Man With The Golden Gun, he was Saruman the White in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and he was Darth Tyranus. What a deep-voiced baddie.
16. General Grievous
“He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil.” Although Old Ben wasn’t referring to Grievous, he might as well have. A cyborg with the corrupt heart of a human and the skeleton of an assassin droid, the hybrid Grievous wheezed and winced into Separatist supremacy following the events of Attack of the Clones. In Revenge of the Sith, Grievous is the calculating commander behind the assault on Coruscant, and at Utapau, he faced General Kenobi in a terribly entertaining battle to the death. However, it was in the original Clone Wars animated series that General Grievous showed his mettle: as lightning-paced as Asajj Ventress and Darth Maul combined, Grievous slaughtered Jedi for keeps, always inheriting lightsabers for any of his six limbs. It’s a shame that the theatrical release didn’t showcase this version of Grievous — you could say that I was left grieving. facepalm
15. Qui-Gon Jinn
Qui-Gon is most definitely the best aspect of The Phantom Menace, my least favorite of all six movies. He is comforting, fatherly, wise, and honorable, and he’s Liam freakin’ Neeson. That man has a lock on all things righteous on celluloid. He’s gonna play Abe Lincoln in a future Spielberg joint, for the love of Yoda. As Qui-Gon, Mr. Neeson brought world-class acting chops to a 1999 popcorn flick bereft of any gravitas. Amidst the eye-squirming special effects, Jar Jar Binks, and Jake Lloyd’s young Anakin Skywalker (*shivers in disgust*), Qui-Gon still managed to give his presence some depth.
Qui-Gon Jinn will always be responsible for introducing the world to Darth Vader. The young slave boy was just podracing along until Qui-Gon met him. The good Jedi Master presented the blond hellion to the terrible-looking Yoda puppet and his ilk and said, “This kid, he’s gonna bring balance to the Force.” The Council forbade Qui-Gon on grounds of age (pfft, Luke was so much older), and so Señor Jinn took it upon himself to teach Anakin against orders. Or at least, that’s what he intended: Darth Maul bore a red saber through the Jedi’s gut, leaving young Obi-Wan Kenobi to raise the child as a future slaughterer and impregnator.
Of course, as it is with all of the plot-carrying characters, George Lucas found a way to make even Qui-Gon a lesser version of himself. Yes…You see, Qui-Gon was the saga’s biggest proponent of, ugh, midi-chlorians. According to the deluded Jinn, midi-chlorians are metachondrial things that reside in one’s bloodstream, and the more microscopic organisms you have, the greater the chance of being a would-be Jedi. This totally demistifies the spiritual aspect of the Force; it replaces the divine connotations of the living Force with a Biology class. Totally unnecessary, and a little insulting. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda describes it as a supernatural phenomenon that unites all living things; to Jinn, it’s nothing more than a blood sample. Even though Anakin’s, ugh, midi-chlorian count exceeded Yoda’s, the Jedi Master saw beyond the test tube results — he knew that his ally was the Force, not some crude matter, and all signs were pointing to no with Anakin. This time, however, science beat religion. You win this time, Darwin.
Before the movie was ever released, I read the hardcover novelization (Kenobi on the cover, f your i), and as the movie started up, I knew Qui-Gon’s death was unavoidable. When it happened, my dad gave an audible yelp of dismay that echoed through the pack house. “There goes the best part of the movie…” (Obviously, reading the novel before the movie destroyed a lot of my inborn hype. After the movie came out, and I saw what I was dealt, I was a freak no more. I, 13.) I would have dearly wished for Qui-Gon to appear again, but his absence set up Obi-Wan’s inexperience in teaching such a reckless, headstrong disciple. It was said that Neeson was to film a scene for the end of Revenge of the Sith which would have reunited him with Obi-Wan as a ghost. I would have wished that dearly, too.
14. Padmé Amidala
Without a quark of a doubt, Natalie Portman’s Padmé is the hottest thing to ever float into the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Is that why she places so far up, because of my decade-long infatuation with Natalie Portman? Well, it helps a lot. Truly, one of the drop-dead gorgeous women in Hollywood. (The geek cred just clinches it.) (Also, I only pawed at my Padmé action figure maybe twice, eighteen times.) It goes without saying that Padmé, as the highest-ranking Prequel-only person on this faves list, is a vital character within the Star Wars mythology for two very important reasons: A) she mothered Luke and Leia Skywalker, and B) her imminent death sent Anakin Skywalker into a Dark Side spiral.
In The Phantom Menace, she played the “dual” characters of handmaiden Padmé, the very pretty girl young Ani falls for (“Are you an angel?” — gag me with a saber!), and the elected Queen Amidala, the stone-faced ruler of Naboo, that idyllic planet overrun by a droid army and the Gungan species of amphibious wretchedness. Ten years transpired (during which time Anakin, Jedi Padawan, spent honing his Force skills and beating off to her picture whining), and when the pair met up again, she hadn’t aged a day, only becoming more disarming in her ripped, white combat fatigues, while Anakin became a brooding, braided lightsaber prodigy. Their adoration for one another quickly became a star-crossed love (*snicker*): she, the dignified Senator from Naboo, he, the Jedi Knight-in-waiting forbidden from carnal love (beyond the one involving Yoda behind closed doors). Aw, to hell with the Jedi Code — Padmé and Anakin become one right before the second Prequel’s closing credits.
During the course of the Clone Wars, they kept their marriage a secret, and they must have been pretty damn good at it, too, since Jedi Masters Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Windu didn’t suspect a single thing. So, how do you ruin the harmonious bond between a young couple? Get knocked up, of course! And so the rumors began: “Padmé, what a whore…a baby out of wedlock…who’s the father?…I bet it’s C-3PO…he looks like he’s packing…” Amidst the escalation of war, Anakin has bad dreams, the poor baby, wherein he foresees Padmé becoming one with the Force. In desperation, he seeks a way to keep her from dying, requiring the highest level of black magic Sith Lord discipline. As ever, Palpatine tricks an impressionable mind and claims Anakin Skywalker as his servant of evil. How does Padmé respond? “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart!”
That’s it. That’s all we get. The galaxy has been raped by the actions of Palpatine and Anakin, and all we get is tears from her heart. He killed younglings, you know! Younglings! But that’s the most prevalent problem with Padmé’s portrayal: she’s as stiff as Woody Woodpecker’s pecking tree. No emotion, no range, no nothing resembling true-to-life human emotion. You’re being wooed with magic tricks? Giggle, woman! Your husband has now become a cold-blooded murderer? Won’t somebody think of the children?! You can’t blame Natalie Portman, of course. She’s a gifted actress. All blame will always fall on director George Lucas, perhaps the richest of worst directors of all time. Yeah, he’s got imagination (if you call lifting stories from old samurai movies “imagination”), but he can’t direct for tauntaun dung. Steven Spielberg offered to direct Revenge of the Sith, and Lucas should have granted the request. (We might have even been spared Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Aww Who Cares.)
In the end, Padmé dies “of a broken heart” while giving birth to the Skywalker twins. I wanted a bit of background as to why she chose the names Luke and Leia. Her pet dogs when she was a child, maybe? A couple she met during a drunken night, which led to a very interesting motel encounter? We all get the irony in the fact that Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side killed her since his fall was done with the motive to save her. What we don’t get is why Vader sounds like a grade-A wuss when Palpatine informs him that he killed her. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” he squeals. Takes you right out of the scene. This is the birth of the most fearsome villain ever, not a Steve Carrell punchline. And so you have Padmé Amidala, the beautiful mother of two who can’t act her way out of a paperbag and caused the coolest bad guy in the history of the world to turn into a pansy. Wonderful.
13. Jabba the Hutt
If you’re a fat kid, chances are, you’re probably gonna get called Jabba the Hutt. Jabba is the poster child for obesity, reinforcing every preconceived notion that goes along with the societal deviation. When Lucas penned Return of the Jedi, he must’ve described the Hutt as “a rubber tub of lard with a gruesome tongue.” As a criminal mastermind, Jabba’s a pretty cool guy. He has a monopoly on drugs, he owns erotic dancers, he can devour entire humans, and he can have people eliminated on whim. His palace may be dingy and unsavory, but do you have a fortress? Do you have a pet rancor? Do you even have your own slave girl? Get outta here with all that jive, sucka.
Han Solo was his best smuggler. You need drugs to go from Point A to Point B? Bam, you turn to Han. Unfortunately, during one of Han’s infamous Kessel exploits, Captain Solo was forced to jettison Jabba’s cargo when he was boarded by Imperials for inspection. I read the novel in which this occurred — Jabba’s reaction wasn’t pretty. And so Jabba put a price on Han’s head, as illustrated by Greedo’s death. In A New Hope‘s Special Edition, Han promised Jabba a large sum of credits to pay him back, but as we saw, Luke’s idealism and Leia’s legs derailed Han’s mission. Even though Han comes off as a prick in the first movie, you have to understand that the scourge of the galaxy are out to put a laser bolt through his skull.
However, three years pass, and by the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, Han is desperate to pay Jabba back, citing a bounty hunter he confronted on Ord Mantell (it was the nefarious 1G-88, a formidable assassin droid one faces in Shadows of the Empire). Of course, Imperial entanglements ensue, and before you know it, Lando Calrissian betrays Han. Solo is frozen in carbonite and given to Boba Fett, his longtime arch rival. By Return of the Jedi, Han Solo becomes Jabba’s wall fixture. That is the power of the Hutt — he can either eat you whole or hang you as decor. Yeah, his empire crumbled when his hubris got the best of him. He should have taken Luke’s deal. “Last mistake you’ll ever make,” chided Skywalker. No, Jabba’s last mistake was giving a chain to slave-girl Leia. His loss, our gain.
12. Boba Fett
Boba Fett has but a handful of sentences in the Classic Trilogy. “As you wish.” “He’s no good to me dead.” “What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.” “Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold.” “What the — ?!” That’s it. Thirty words in an entire trilogy, including the girlish swan song yelp before the Sarlaac gobbles him up. So why is Boba Fett so fascinating?
You gotta give it to the armor. It’s the textbook definition of cool. He’s got gadgets, gizmos, guns, and a jetpack. He is a faceless bounty hunter, a cold serious warrior with a sweet ride aptly named Slave I. Han Solo (the roguish grin with hair) fears him and Darth Vader respects him (they even dueled, and Boba kept his own with a saber). He is Jabba’s main guy for all things honorably underhanded. He’s a cunning analyst, as shown when he was the only one to figure out Han’s ploy to hide among the Star Destroyer’s refuse in Empire Strikes Back. Every time he walks, the chilling sound of spurs ricochets — an outlaw with a six-shooter. He is of Mandalorian descent, an ancient warring people that only knew how to ravage hard and harder. His emblem reeks of noble malice. Those braids he carries? Wookiee hide proudly brandishing past victories. His only real score subtraction comes with the way he was put to rest: Han turns around with a staff, accidentally igniting the jetpack. Boba Fett hurls into the Sarlaac Pit, a lackluster demise if ever there was one. But who cares? The fans loved him, the Expanded Universe adored him. (Naturally, he survives Return of the Jedi, hell-bent on revenge.)
So what the Force happened in Attack of the Clones?! Let me be glib…First mistake: giving him the face of Atreyu from The NeverEnding Story II. Jeez, what a detestable little kid. His interaction with Papa Jango sounded like Styrofoam having sex with an alley cat. Young “Boba” completely obliterates the mystique, making him little more than an orphaned clone with no sense of fashion. Every time I see Daniel Logan’s stanky face on the screen, I just want to pummel the TV. So infuriating. There’s talk of making him the star of the future Star Wars live-action series, set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. That is grade-A horse shoestain! The Fett-man should be left alone! If not, bring him back as the wordless badass who has no face. Speaking of which, in the Classic Trilogy DVD, Lucas has replaced the original Boba voice with that of the actor who played Jango Fett. Logically speaking, since Boba is a clone, he should have his father’s voice. Well, that’s just stupid. The original Boba voice is steely and focused; the new voice is flat and empty, recorded between bagel bites.
And such is the torn legacy of Boba Fett, the galaxy’s most famous bounty hunter reduced to Jake Lloyd territory. The curse of Vader, as it were. Had it not been for the Prequel retcon, Boba Fett might have fared better on this countdown. He was always a top five favorite. Was. In the novels, he resurfaces time and again, sometimes as an adversary, sometimes as an ally. (He even trained Jaina Solo. I know!) But the imprint of young Boba, well…he’s good to me dead.
Chewie is one helluva Wookiee. Imposing and furry, this half-ape, half-Big Foot, half-walking carpet gargles every lovable stream of nonsense, instantly becoming one of the most memorable big lugs of cinema. (Not so lovable? People trying to imitate his speech pattern.) Co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca was handy with a bowcaster and with a screwdriver, but most importantly, he was Han Solo’s best friend.
In Revenge of the Sith, Chewie is given a glorified cameo as Yoda’s trusted Wookiee friend (it really does warm your circuits to see them together during the Battle of Kashyyyk and the inititation of Order 66), but he’s best known as Captain Solo’s second. Han Solo had a rising career in the Empire (no, really), but he gave that up when he risked his neck to save a mistreated Wookiee named Chewbacca, whose people was put to slavery because of their brute strength. Han Solo was kicked out of the Imperial Academy, and although he lost the opportunity of having a brilliant (albeit corrupt) career, he gained a best friend in Chewie, who swore a life debt to the young Solo. A life debt is the most honorable of vows a Wookiee could make; basically, it means that they swear to be with the person who did right by them to the end, through thick and thin. Chewie appointed himself Han’s brother, even if Solo did shirk him away in the beginning.
In the Classic Trilogy, Chewie is Han’s foil, of course, being a comical distraction whenever Han made things too heavy. Chewie was also pretty well-fleshed for a guy who didn’t speak Basic: he was scared of the dianoga, he was torn by Han’s absence in Hoth’s snowstorm, he was enraged by Han’s carbonite prison, and he always managed a good chuckle. “Laugh it up, fuzzball,” Han seethed. He’s also very loyal to his other friends, being much more outwardly caring than Han. He hugs Luke, fixes a discombobulated C-3PO, and promises to take care of Leia during the Han’s carbonite solstice. Beyond the movies, Han was also a caregiver to the Solo kids, becoming a doting ball of fierce fur. Chewbacca also had a wife and kid. No, it’s true. In 1978, the world-infamous Star Wars Holiday Special aired on TV, featuring the original cast singing space carols in a ’70s cliche variety-style show. The backdrop was Chewie going home for the holidays, and so we meet Mallatobuck, his baby mama, and Lumpawarro, the lumpy chip off the old block. Yes, this all happened, and you can easily find it online. George Lucas has sworn to burn every copy of that TV atrocity…(Hey, it did give the world their first glimpse of Boba Fett. And Chewie’s snowball papi.)
As for Chewbacca, he died a hero’s death many years after the Battle of Endor (pictured above, in flames), driving Han to alcohol and mean drunkeness. But the Chewbacca we all love, he is still with us, making us laugh and feel good about the movies we’ve come to see as the mirror of our lives. Or something. Favorite Han quote to Chewie: “Get in there! Get in there! I don’t care what you smell!” Genius.
10. Lando Calrissian
“Lando? Lando System?” “Lando’s not a system, he’s a man. Lando Calrissian. He’s a card player, gambler, scoundrel. You’d like him.” “Nice.” The little exchange between Princess Leia and Han Solo dutifully sets up the introduction of the saga’s suavest bar of chocolate. After the first Star Wars was whiter than a Stormtrooper’s armor, George Lucas hustled the ladies’ man of the ’70s, Billy Dee Williams, to be the traitorous administrator of the city among the clouds.
Like Han’s pursuit of monies in the first film, Lando had no other choice in his ultimatum. He gave up the Rebels aboard the Millennium Falcon — after Han vouched for him — for the greater good of Cloud City. Of course, any deal with a Sith always goes awry, so by the end of the transaction, Darth Vader encased Han in carbonite, handed him over to Boba Fett, and ordered Leia and Chewie to be brought aboard his Super Star Destroyer. So after the betrayal (and after Chewie almost ruptured his windpipe), Lando did good by the Rebels in lending them a hand. After all, he was the Millennium Falcon‘s previous owner (irrate, he was, when he lost it to Han in a high-stakes game of sabaac), so he was perfectly qualified to infiltrate Jabba’s palace to save his old buddy. Or something…Once upon a time, Boba Fett drugged a cornered Solo in Nar Shaddaa, but he was saved when Lando put a blaster to the bounty hunter’s back, then drugged him. From there on out, Lando and Han became the Bennifer or Brangelina of the galaxy — Hando. (That moment also begot the Solo-Fett feud…)
In Return of the Jedi, Lando Griffin General Calrissian was deep within the walls of Jabba’s palace, ready to spring to action on Luke Skywalker’s words. In truth, Lando didn’t do very much — he just sorta shouted at the blind Han to not shoot him while the Sarlaac grabbed a hold of Lando’s leg. No matter, the good general had the Battle of Endor to prove himself to the Alliance. As head of the assault, it was Lando’s job to destroy the second Death Star, something that isn’t entirely impressive since Luke had done it four years earlier and with greater inexperience and fanfare. Still, Lando made good use of the Rebel fleet (go Ackbar!). His accomplishments as a Rebel leader won’t be the thing people remember the most about him, nor will it be the odd way he pronounces his own surname — it will be that grin that macked it to Leia so gallantly in front of Han.
Threepio is a character. A know-it-all scaredy cat, this protocol droid always brings teh funnie. Known for his hush-hush “partnership” with Artoo, Threepio says what the audience is thinking. “You want to go where?” Only a few were born to be Jedi; the rest tend to be C-3PO.
C-3PO began life on Tatooine, the hobbie of a kid with an incredible knack for building things and the even more incredible knack for annoying the living hell out of the world at large. The naked Threepio of The Phantom Menace left very little an imprint beyond his bare chasis. In Attack of the Clones, he rejoins his booty partner, R2-D2, at which point he is introduced to the high-flying adventures he will suffer through for an eternity. Just as he is prone to do, Threepio becomes an easy target, losing his head, literally, which ends up atop a battle droid. As a killer robot, he is determined to eliminate the Jedi scum. After he bears witness to Anakin and Padmé’s unholy union, he doesn’t do much beyond give it to Padmé, yeah, give it to Padmé good. Don’t believe me? Take a gander to the right at the infamous Threepio image that Lucas himself released.
C-3PO’s memory gets wiped at the end of Revenge of the Sith, leaving him with no memory of his servitude to Padmé, Obi-Wan, or his fallen assembler, Anakin. (Kinda makes you ponder about Threepio’s exclamation of “Thank the Maker!”) After that, he went through a series of owners, some more into robot S&M than others (like Jabba the Hutt). He and R2-D2 starred in the 1980s toon series Droids, which is of no real consequence. (Ewoks was another ’80s toon that bounced for a bit, too. There were also a couple of spin-off Ewok movies, but why bother…)
Eventually, C-3PO gets the first uttered words in A New Hope, expressing his cowardice, what else? In this film in particular, Threepio acts as Artoo’s babysitter, often squabbling with the astromech droid. When Uncle Owen purchases C-3PO and R5-D4 (the trilogy’s true sacrificial hero), C-3PO sticks his neck out and vouches for R2-D2. He was repayed in kind when Artoo ran off to find Obi-Wan Kenobi, who might be related to Old Ben Kenobi, as Luke stupidly suggests. And so occurs the first theatrical Threepio embarrassment: discombobulation at the hands of the Tusken Raiders.
He was similarly blown to pieces by Stormtroopers on Cloud City, leaving Chewbacca with the task of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. Threepio is none too pleased with the mop head, for Chewie places Threepio’s head backwards. Then the poor guy had to suffer the indignity of being carried like a backpack by the Wookiee. When would his misfortunes end? Return of the Jedi, friends, since he was elevated to the role of god. Yes, god. To the Ewoks, the shiny golden man is a deity, going so far as to say, “That guy’s wise.” Even though impersonating a divine power is against C-3PO’s programming, he managed to float in the air to pursuade the teeny bears to release the captive Rebels, as if by magic the Force. C-3PO’s supernatural influence (and his talent for storytelling) cost the lives of many blood-hungry Ewoks in the Battle of Endor.
C-3PO is half of the galaxy’s most famous comedy duo, like Abbot and Costello, or Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. With Artoo, the chuckles never end, but even by his lonesome, the self-righteous, British-toned droid brings the funny. (Anthony Daniels, Threepio’s actor, will be the only Thespian ever to appear in every Star Wars film, including this weekend’s The Clone Wars.) His fidgety style of comedy is most apparent in The Empire Strikes Back, getting on Han Solo’s nerves by spouting know-it-all facts about the Millennium Falcon, citing perilous statistics (“The odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field is 3720 to 1!” “Never tell me the odds!”), and c-blocking the ribald cap’n while he tries to put the moves on the princess. Such is the storied android life of C-3PO — annoying when you don’t need him, invaluable when he thinks you’re being crushed to death in a trash compactor. “Shut him up or shut him down!” How rude.
Artoo is the bleepity-bloopity observer of the entire saga, alfredeus ex machina on wheels. He was there from The Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi and beyond. Unlike C-3PO, R2-D2 never gets his memory wiped, leaving one to wonder what exactly is going on in that dome of his…
Artoo’s heroics are enough to put any famed Jedi to shame. Audiences first noticed that they were looking at a special little guy when the princess fidgeted with a futurist’s floppy disk while the Tantive IV was taken over by Imperials in A New Hope. Artoo’s mission was to find Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine, whom Luke Skywalker figured was Old Ben Kenobi’s distant cousin, the jackass. Incorrigible to the end, Artoo runs off and finds Kenobi, silmutaneously beginning the adventure and luring Luke away from death at the hands of Stormtroopers. Throughout the rest of the trilogy, Artoo saves the day simply by being the brains of Luke’s X-Wing fighter and by inserting his shiny penis into wall sockets. Hey, it’s how droids get theirs. (Refer to C-3PO’s picture for more details on the filthy Lucas mind.)
In the Prequel Trilogy, Artoo played just an important a role, often saving ships and individuals with the flick of his appendages, as well as serving Anakin’s starfighter the same way he served Luke’s X-Wing. It is in the Prequel Trilogy, however, that the role of R2-D2, the silent god, comes into play. He watched Anakin grow from a young little pain to a brooding Jedi pain. R2-D2 was the astromech droid that flew with Anakin in the Clone Wars, so he knew very well what he was capable of. Artoo even witnessed Order 66, as well as Anakin’s mutation into Dark Lord of the Sith. This, all this, did he keep to himself when he joined the Rebel Alliance. Is there a little irony in that Darth Vader’s squadron severely damaged little Artoo during the Battle of Yavin — the same dude Artoo served for so many years? Maybe. But perhaps the selfish little droid was too busy admiring his own sheen during the medal ceremony of A New Hope to tell anyone that, hey, Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father.
I posit this theory here and now: R2-D2 doesn’t give a damn. He’s only in it for the reward, the adulation that comes with activating the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon. In the cybernetic eye of the droid, nothing else really matters. C-3PO begs R2-D2 to patch him up — oh, how Artoo does love the attention. The details? They are of no use to the kinky bastard. The one gripe this glory hog has to live with? He doesn’t taste very good.
7. Princess Leia
“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Such is the way that Princess Leia Organa Solo came to be the most drooled-over eminence in the history of geekdom. She was so nice to look at, in fact, that her own twin brother fought an entire small moon just to touch her a little.
Leia has balls. Not just testicular fortitude, but balls of dough atop her head, making for a memorable hairstyle that no one really wanted to replicate, in spite of George Lucas’ trendsetting cred. (He also thought that Queen Amidala’s lipstick down the lower lip would catch on with girls, as well as the rat tail braid of Jedi Padawans.) Her one-of-a-kind ‘do reflects her personality almost dutifully: she is spunky, self-empowering, and she takes no B.S. from nobody, honey. Yes, that is exactly what the cinnamon bun hair says.
She was no damsel in distress, despite her lack of bra. She was resilient to both Papa Vader’s “forceful” interrogation (it involved a lot of bad daughter spanking) and Grand Moff Tarkin’s halitosis symbiosis. As a result, Leia watched her home planet of Alderaan get blown to smithereens. But did this put a damper on her day? Of course not! She was looking forward to a nap! Who the hell cares about your loved ones and everything you’ve ever known when a pirate and your long lost brother are vying for your body? Sarcastic and rude, she was the type of lady any self-hating boy could fall in love with. (The first image of Leia in this here spiel is from The Courtship of Princess Leia, perhaps the best Star Wars novel I’ve read. It’s where she and Han get married after he beats her, psst, pass it on.)
In The Empire Strikes Back, she was even colder as she fended off Han Solo’s come-ons. Outraged by his gall, Leia locked lips with Luke as Chewbacca felt something within him stir. I can only imagine that Luke was getting frequent wet dreams for at least a year after that…Leia finally accepted her feelings for Han. She tore down the Hoth-frigid wall she always kept up, but by then, we had lost the Leia we had come to admire. She became affectionate and caring, but who wants that? I want her to insult Chewie, mock Han, and be incestuous with her blood kin. (Re: Vader.)
Princess of a dead planet Leia had to put her love on hold when Han was frozen, giving Luke ample time to get jiggy with his sis. This was never shown in Shadows of the Empire, but it’s very possible, mostly in my mind. Dressed as the bounty hunter Boussh, Leia brought Chewbacca in for reward to Jabba the Hutt, threatening the Hutt’s palace with the dreaded thermal detonator. (It’s a hit at parties.) She freed Han from hibernation, but it was up to her twin to save them all. How typical. Han spends the rest of the Battle of Endor trying to make sense of Luke and Leia’s relationship (a year in carbonite is plenty of time, you know).
Luke reveals to Leia that they are twins, and that Vader is their father. Well, knock her over with a feather, why don’tcha! Leia claims to remember her mother, her real mother. This is surprising in that they were together for, oh, seven whole seconds. Must be Force Recollection or something. By the end of the Battle of Endor, Han gives Leia a free pass to stay with Luke. Boy, was he surprised (and perhaps a little disturbed) when she told him they were siblings. I’m sure they had sex that very moment as the Ewoks watched and danced and yub-yubbed. Spunky, militant, and just a tad freaky, Princess Leia is the queen of all of our hearts…
…wait, I didn’t even mention Leia in slave outfit?! Blasphemy! It’s not like I owned the action figure in question.
6. Emperor Palpatine
The smartest man in the galaxy? In all likelihood, yes. Emperor Palpatine is the very definition of evil incarnate. There is no other way to put it. But how did he come to rule an entire galaxy? More importantly, how the hell did every step George Lucas laid out for him actually make sense?
It is in the Prequel Trilogy that Palpatine shines brilliantly — in the Classic Trilogy, he is more of an absolute ruler playing with Legos. In The Phantom Menace, he is the honorable senator from Naboo seemingly concerned for the welfare of his people, but behind the scenes, he is Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith, and minipulator of galactic events. By moving the pieces of the Trade Federation army into Queen Amidala’s territory, he made her desperate for resolution. However, Senator Palpatine said he would be of little help in the Galactic Republic because of the beureucrats’ stronghold on Chancellor Valorum. By planting the seed of no confidence in the Padmé’s head, Palpatine managed to sway enough sympathies to gain him the seat of Chancellor.
By Attack of the Clones, the Republic was on the verge of open war against the Confederation of Separatist Planets, which, of course, Darth Sidious was manipulating. When the Clone Wars broke, Jar Jar Binks, of all people, opened the door to give Chancellor Palpatine limitless powers due to the crisis. And thus Palpatine played both warring parties for fools.
All was revealed in Revenge of the Sith. General Grievous “kidnapped” Palpatine, and during the ensuing rescue, Palpatine pursuaded Anakin Skywalker to destroy Count Dooku, Darth Sidious’ apprentice. The betrayal gave Anakin a taste of the Dark Side, even though he lamented his actions. And thus came to light the most ingenious aspect of Palpatine’s grand scheme: the rise of Darth Vader. When Anakin came to Palpatine in his most desperate hour (Ani saw Palps as a father figure), Palpatine related that there was a way to manipulate the Force to spring life from nothing — truly, a divine birth. Even though it was never explicitly stated, one can only deduce that Anakin Skywalker, having no father, was born through the manipulation of the Force by Darth Plagueis the Wise (Palpatine’s mentor), who, you can say, was the man who fathered Skywalker.
So at last Anakin Skywalker figured out that Chancellor Palpatine was Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith. When a group of Jedi, led by Mace Windu, came to apprehend him, Palpatine put on a brilliant show, but was eventually subdued by Windu. And here comes the great fall: Palpatine promised to help Anakin save Padmé from death, and so it happened that Skywalker helped the Dark Lord kill Master Windu. The slide to the Dark Side was complete. Palpatine branded Skywalker with his new name: Darth Vader.
Then came the Great Jedi Purge. All along, Palpatine was responsible for the Clone Army, so he finally put them in his employ: Order 66. Immediately, Jedi across the galaxy were slain by their clonetrooper squads, instantly decimating the Jedi Order. Only a couple were left: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda. Palpatine battled Yoda in a hellacious confrontation in the Senate building while Anakin dueled against his Jedi Master. Spectacular, and nothing short of it.
And so Palpatine elevated himself to Emperor of the newly-minted Galactic Empire. He oversaw the creation of the Death Star and his star pupil, Darth Vader, who had an unfortunate run-in with molten lava. Still, this allowed Vader to forget his humanity, becoming the black emblem of devastation Palpatine’s Empire required. And then Palpatine set his sights on another Skywalker — Luke. The Emperor wanted the son of Skywalker for his own, and he instructed Vader to fetch him. Palpatine always replaced his dark pupils with the latest model, and Vader was yesterday’s tinker toy compared to fresh-faced Luke. What he didn’t count on, however, was Vader’s sliver of humanity: Vader, upon witnessing the assured death of his son at the hands of the Emperor’s signature Force Lightning, betrayed his Sith master and killed him in his last few moments of breath.
As you can see, Palpatine is an extraordinarily brilliant, irredeemable force. He bent the will of the Force to his machinations, leaving an entire galaxy crippled in his wake. History’s greatest minds have also been its most dangerous, and this is no exception with Palpatine. Watching him in The Phantom Menace, one almost laughs at his acting as the hypocrite senator, knowing full well the calamitous repurcussions he will incur on every living soul. Bravo, Mr. Lucas, bravo. If for nothing else, then for the Emprer’s exquisite voice. “Now, young Skywalker…you will die.” We are in your debt, Ian McDiarmid.
5. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan is a lot of people’s favorite character from the Prequel Trilogy — he’s probably mine, as well. He’s not a very dynamic character, no, and he rarely ventures beyond his status as the resident good guy trying to good. But that is his appeal — through the hardest of hardships, he is the idealist that keeps the faith for everyone, if not for himself, then for those around him.
In the Classic Trilogy, Old Ben Kenobi is the Joseph Campbell sage, the wizard who will guide the wide-eyed youth through his trials, even beyond death. Kenobi, touchfully played by Sir Alec Guinness, introduces the world to the Jedi Knight, the lightsaber, and the Force. With hesitation, he also conceals Darth Vader’s true identity to Luke. Princess Leia’s distress call is utilized as a guise to teach Luke about the ways of the Force, but his second battle with his old apprentice, Darth Vader, put an end to the training. Kenobi allows himself to be killed by Vader to become one with the Force, guiding Luke along in a gingerly, voices-in-your-head fashion. When Luke is told of his true parentage, he is rather miffed at the old wizard, but what can he do? He’s dead! Mwahahaha! Take that, blondie!
In The Phantomo Menace, Obi-Wan is not the center of attention at all. He’s actually a smug tool (just look at his showy dueling style) with unfunny one-liners, although he is rather amused by his own humor. It is only when master Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn is killed that he steps up to the plate, vowing to teach young Skywalker. With a more able director, Qui-Gon’s death would have resonated a lot more in relation to Obi-Wan, but after watching The Phantom Menace last night (on VHS!), I can’t help but feel a little snubbed by the potential relationship that an abler director could have built between master and pupil.
By Attack of the Clones, however, Ewan McGreggor grows into the Obi-Wan we fondly remember, slapping Anakin’s hand whenever the apprentice does a no-no. Obi-Wan cares for Anakin, he does, but Anakin doesn’t see that — he only sees a nagging by-the-textbook instructor that is blind to Anakin’s obvious superiority. Time and again, Obi-Wan offers his wise advice to his pupil, but Anakin has his own demons to worry about, his own seething jealousy. Duing this time, the Jedi Master was building a considerable reputation among his colleagues as a cunning strategist, an accomplished duelist, a formidable leader, and a respected negotiator. When the Clone Wars erupted, Obi-Wan became General Kenobi, perhaps the best asset of the Republic’s cause.
By now we know that everything unraveled for the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith, and the world came to an end when Obi-Wan’s best friend became his mortal enemy. Skywalker and Kenobi’s blue-on-blue duel above the lava lakes of Mustafar borders on legendary, but despite Anakin’s blind hatred for his Jedi Master, Obi-Wan fought for his fallen fiend. “I loved you like a brother!” Obi-Wan pleaded to his defeated adversary after a tactic gone awry for Anakin Darth. Obi-Wan took Anakin’s lightsaber, which he would bestow upon Luke, and left him in ashes. The Jedi’s heart faded on that day, reawakened only when Luke Skywalker became the last hope of the galaxy. Jedi Master, general, and Old Ben, Obi-Wan Kenobi was always the man you rooted for — from a certain point of view.
4. Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker, the hero of kids since 1977, embodies what every child wants to do: leave behind a boring life for adventures that will change the world. The archetype doesn’t get any simpler than this, and Luke Skywalker is the personifcation of the audience — adventurous, weary, defeated, chivalrous, and triumphant.
We first see 18-year-old Luke Skywalker on his uncle’s moisture farm on Tatooine, the most unlikeliest of heroes, as they all tend to be (be they from Miami or Hobbiton). He is an impatient teenager always looking to the two-sun horizon, fascinated by his friends’ war stories and eager to leave his desolate rock. (Ironic, it is, that so much of the saga is spent on Tatooine.) A chance purchase of two worker droids propels him into stratospheric fame, instantly becoming the Rebels’ ace in the hole (quite literally) as well as the Empire’s obsession. Luke Skywalker, moisture farmer no more.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke’s wampa misfortune and Battle of Hoth failure send him to Yoda on Dagobah, just as the voice in his head told him to. Impatient as ever, Luke posesses no discipline, no peace of mind, nothing that would make him an ideal candidate, at least, not in the bulbous eyes of Yoda. Still, he’s the only shot they got to ending the Emperor’s despotic reign, so what the hell, make blondie balance some rocks. Luke’s Jedi training is jarring when compared to everything we see in the Prequel Trilogy. He took the G.E.D. high school version of a doctorate’s. (I’m not knocking anyone who took the G.E.D. Some of my best friends did. They’re reading right now. Well, sort of. It’s a lot of squiggly and it makes their heads hurt, but they do like the pretty pictures.)
Luke races to duel Darth Vader in Cloud City out of fear, something Yoda and Obi-Wan, ghost version 1.0, advise him against. They don’t know anything at all, being Jedi Masters and whatnot. After all, Yoda spent many of his hundreds of years backpacking through the galaxy, setting up questionable hooker locales, while Obi-Wan really did just phone it in during the Clone Wars. Foolish or not, Luke clashes laserswords with Darth Vader in my favorite lightsaber duel in the saga. Then again, you can’t help but think that both Vader and Luke’s abilities are weak. Square Luke off against young Anakin, and it would have lasted three seconds. Yoda would have disemboweled him in two seconds. The Cloud City clash was a sport between fencers — every Jedi in the Republic were trained to be warrior gods.
“No, I am your father,” reveals Darth Vader at the crux of Luke Skywalker’s defeat. To this day, it’s still one of the greatest moments in cinema, always able to send a chill down your spine. Only a handful of people knew of the revelatory bombshell upon the film’s release, adding to the aura of the often misquoted scene. Hand-less, saber-less, and father-full, Luke plunges down Cloud City, resenting Old Ben for his disturbing lack of disclosure. “Why didn’t you tell me…”
By Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker is up to snuff as a Knight decked in black, just as his old papa once was. After being the only one out of seven to successfully rescue Han Solo, Luke pays Yoda one last visit. The poor little guy is in the twilight of his life, significantly less Muppety since Luke last saw him a year earlier. Yoda’s final words reveal the existence of the only other hope for his Jedi Order: “There is another Sky…wal…ker…” Fade to Force. Confronting Obi-Wan (you know that when Luke calls him this, he-is-pissed), Luke learns the reason for the wool over his eyes, that it would have been too dangerous to reveal to the Emperor the existence of a Skywalker offspring. Luke then realizes the identity of his twin sister — Leia, that hot mama he so slovenly French kissed time and again in his liquid dreams.
At last, the bookend face-off of Skywalker and Skywalker, father and son. Luke believes beyond hope that humanity lingers within the darkness of Darth Vader, but even so, papa turns Luke over to the Emperor, where no mincing of cackled words ensues. Despite himself (and Palpatine’s uncanny abilty to egg on), Luke duels with Darth in the fallen Jedi’s final battle. In a fit of rage caused by Vader’s supposition that if Luke doesn’t fall to the Dark Side, he could get his sister to do so, Luke overpowers his dark father, returning the favor of a chopped limb in kind. (Lightsabers and hands, just don’t do it, people.) For a fraction of a second, Luke looks to give in to his baser instincts, feeding the anger Palpatine has fanned. Realizing the slippery slope, Luke chucks his saber hilt and declares, “I’m a Jedi, like my father before me.”
Force Lightning! Luke’s end nears, and all the hope Luke had in Anakin Skywalker gushes forth in one swift Emperor-killing movement. Luke Skywalker was the catalyst for the ignition of the balance of the Force, the untold ingredient in the prophecy of the Chosen One. Luke saw into his father’s eyes, the only fleeting moment when the Skywalkers would be together. After the Jedi funeral pyre, Luke becomes the consummate Jedi Master in innumerable adventures. He starts his own Jedi Academy, gets married, has a kid, battles scores of intergalctic threats, and even falls to the Dark Side, the pupil of the reborn Emperor. Beyond the mythology, Luke is the face of youth’s yearning, the embodiment of fulfilling the wish for something better. Kids and adults alike can associate with gazing at the horizon with John Williams’ score booming, both honoring who you are and desiring the world and all its promises. “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you!” As we all are.
“Yoda, you seek Yoda,” the Muppet concludes. “Take you to him, I will. Yes, yes. But first, we must eat.” The diminutive Jedi Master, everybody loves. User of inverted speech, he is. Talk backwards he does not. Foolish, people are. Wars make not one great, but Yoda makes Star Wars great, he does, hmmm.
He is nothing short of glorificent, ahem. (One drawback? People who “imitate” his voice.) Named Mitch in George Lucas’ early drafts, Yoda is the wisest of personalities, earthly or otherwise. The first time you see him on swampy Dagobah, the hoboish elf-eared green whatsit screams favorite character charisma. Both stern and caring, the Jedi Master takes Luke in as his last pupil after 800 years of Jedi mentoring. Obi-Wan was a mage of the Force — Yoda, its very incarnation. Comical but sobering, Yoda emphasizes to young Skywalker the importance of mind over matter, as illustrated by pulling the X-Wing out of the gooey lake. “I don’t believe it,” Luke exhales. With grave disapproval, Yoda notes simply, “That is why you fail.”
Yoda was the last of the ancient order of the Jedi, the final link between the Old Republic and the Galactic Empire. His death is a touching one, showing that even the people we care about the most cannot escape the hereafter. Yoda’s least successful outing was in The Phantom Menace, where the respectable puppet was replaced by grassy turd. It’s only a few decades in the past, and considering that he lives for nearly nine centuries, his appearance should not have been so dramatically altered. Still, Yoda’s counsel is beyond question, delivering the movie’s most poignant quote. “Fear leads to anger,” warns the head of the Jedi Council, “anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Yoda knew Anakin’s destiny would not be a tranquil one…
Then, in Attack of the Clones, we saw a side of the dwarfish Jedi we never expected: galaxy’s greatest duelist. Witnessing the ephemeral confrontation between Yoda and Count Dooku on opening day had me in a fit of giggles, truly beyond belief of the torrential abilities of the stalwart Jedi. His lightsaber attacks looked like glowing green helicopter propellers, whirring and devastating. In the Clone Wars, Yoda assumed the position of head of the Jedi generals, the unquestioned hope of the Republic. Yoda was the Jedi we looked to in awe.
We all want a Yoda in our lives, someone to give us nuggets of powerful wisdom, someone to tell us to do or do not — there is no try, doi. Benevolent, wise, and dangerous, Yoda is the world’s greatest awesome. Remember virtual pets? I had Yoda as a Giga Pet in sixth grade (my brother had R2-D2). However, I didn’t learn very much from the miniscule grey screen, unless you count cleaning up Yoda turd as a skill. If only my virtual pet had the ability to use Force Lightning and possessed the rawness of Palpatine-fightin’ a la Revenge of the Sith…”I won’t fail you,” Luke announces. “I’m not afraid.” “Oh,” Yoda responds, his voice gravelly, weighty. “You will be. You will be.”
2. Anakin Skywalker Darth Vader
The nightmarish breathing. The sleek black samurai helmet. The lit chest plate that nerds use to call their moms to pick them up. The silhouette black cape. The red lightsaber. The voice of James Earl Jones. The revelation of his true self. All of these things and more add up to make the most fascinating villain in cinema history. Fallen Jedi, Dark Lord of the Sith, and redeemed father — this is Darth Vader.
Stepping triumphantly onto the Tantive IV, Darth Vader’s presence was instantly felt like an earthquake in the Force. Within seconds, the imposing stature is seen choking the Rebel captain, flinging the lifeless body like an empty soda can. Not long after, he uses Force choke on an Imperial officer to prove a point, a technique he would become famous for. In A New Hope, he isn’t fleshed out at all, “merely” existing as absolute evil. He has a history with Old Ben, that much we can ascertain, and as the antithesis of Kenobi, he finds the Rebel pilot he almost killed to be more than just a regular pilot. “The Force is strong with this one,” he muses within his TIE Advanced, just before Captain Solo interjects with a “Woohoo!”
As it is with all of the characters, The Empire Strikes Back is Vader’s masterstroke. He singlehandedly orchestrated the attack on Echo Base, shouldering none of the evil with anyone else (in A New Hope, there’s Tarkin, and in Return of the Jedi, it’s the Emperor’s show, obviously). Vader would not relent throughout the length of the film, chasing down the Millennium Falcon through ice planets, asteroid fields, and cloudy cities, even if he had to choke his own men to get to them. “We would be honored if you would join us,” Vader announces to the startled Han, Leia, and Chewie at the Cloud City buffet table. Great, we all think, he got to Lando. Perhaps the unfilmed thing I would like to see most out of the whole saga is the union of Imperials and Rebels — gosh, to be a fly on the wall at that dinner conversation.
“The Force is strong with you, young Skywalker,” Vader booms, “but you are not a Jedi yet.” The Cloud City duel ensues, with Vader’s superior skills obviously overtaking Luke’s swordplay. “Impressive.” Vader takes a swing at Luke, misses. “Most impressive.” Failing to encase Luke in carbonite, Vader escalates the standoff by using the Force to fling all things bolted down at the helpless Skywalker, managing to chuck the flailing Rebel out of the window. Their last Bespin showdown is a fierce one: Luke manages to scrape Vader’s shoulder, and the Dark Lord returns the favor by chopping Luke’s hand off — no more lightsaber duel. “Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father,” Vader pontificates. “He told me enough,” Luke spits, “he told me you killed him.” “No, I am your father.” That’s not true! That’s impossible! Luke screams it, we think it. Darth offers a father-son teamup that would destroy the Emperor, you know, as a fun little project, just the boys.
Luke careens down Cloud City in escape, leaving Papa Vader disappointed. My son does not like me, he sadly concludes. Not even Force telepathy can bring the two together, so the next time we see Papa Vader, he is waiting like a giddy child for his Emperor to arrive on the second Death Star. Both Vader and Luke understand that a second showdown is inevitable, but Vader’s facade is noticeably less ominous in Return of the Jedi, softened by parenthood and Palpatine’s nagging voice. Vader releases young Skywalker to the Emperor, citing that Anakin Skywalker is dead and only the Dark Side path lingers. At last, Luke and Vader’s final duel ignites, and it is an even battle until Vader plays the sister card: “If you do not turn, then perhaps she will.” “DARTH!” Vader is outdone by Luke’s ferocity, unable to keep up with Luke’s powerful saber strokes. Payed in kind, again: Vader loses his hand — for a third time.
Luke does not kill his father at the Emperor’s insistence, so when Palpatine unleashes Force Lightning on young Skywalker, Anakin is reborn, instantly killing the Emperor with one brute heave. Anakin’s last request from his son is to remove his helmet, that symbol of hatred personified. “You were right about me,” the dying Anakin whispers. “Tell your sister, you were right.” And there, in a moment of breathless tranquility, Anakin Skywalker, former Dark Lord of the Sith, slips into the netherworld of the Force. We see Anakin’s image one last time as a ghost overlooking the Rebel celebration, joined by Yoda and Obi-Wan. And here is where George Lucas’ meddling destroys another piece of the soul: up until 2004, it was Sebastian Shaw who stood as the ghost — you know, old Anakin. However, in the hyped DVD release, Shaw is replaced by Hayden Christensen, a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker from the Prequels. How did Anakin revert back to his youth? Yeah, Lucas wants to tie the two trilogies together, but bringing Christensen in is just stupid. Also, Shaw’s image is benevolent and relieved, whereas Christensen makes use of his creepy, crooked stare, totally misplaced for the old Jedi who found redemption and peace.
Which brings us to the Prequel Trilogy. (I have recently concluded without a shadow of an empire doubt that the saga should be watched in the following order: IV, V, VI, I, II, III. If you start with the Prequels, you might get turned off by the stilted acting, lame characters, and tariff negotiations. The Prequels will always be a back story — the real meat is in the Classic Trilogy, with the tantalizing surprises and ambiguities intact. Yeah, you’ll end your adventure on the down note of Revenge of the Sith, but you know it ends well for Anakin, anyway.)
(Yes, a paranthetical paragraph, big whoop, wanna fight about it?) We meet Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine, a slave podracer with a head of gold and the voice of a thousand chalkboard calamities. There is very little to like in Jake Lloyd’s portrayal as little Ani. He is comparable to Jar Jar Binks in inducing nausea. Yeah, I get it, Anakin started out as a happy-go-lucky kid with no trace of evil, but even as a child who is supposed to be likable, there is nothing to like. Barney and Friends would be too good a gig for this kid. Hate, hate, hate.
So what goes askew for Ani as the phantom menace? He left his slave mother behind, which I think made him sad, but I cannot tell since I can read Mandarin better than I can read his “emotions.” Still, Yoda senses much fear in him, so I’ll take the Jedi’s word for it, but just this once. Qui-Gon promises to make him Jedi purely on the basis of a DNA test, but he dies, the lucky bastard, leaving Obi-Wan with the task of raising Skywalker to be a little less annoying. Obi-Wan fails.
Hayden Christensen steps in as Anakin ten years later — a Jedi Padawan with a ‘tude and a bad ‘do. I think Christensen took his acting cues from Jake Lloyd, so instead of being brooding and formidable, Attack of the Clones‘ Anakin is whiny and emo. Yes, emo. I strongly believe Lucas said the following to his actors: “Cut! That was great, Hayden, it really was, but think about an oak tree. Feel the bark. More wooden. Action!” It’s the only possible explanation. Lucas even manages to tone down Samuel L. Jackson’s presence, and he’s always an over-the-top motherdeflowerer…Anakin, in all of his teen “angst,” spouts such memorable lines as, “It’s all Obi-Wan’s fault! I hate him!” Nice. And when it comes to Anakin’s unflinching devotion to the maple tree Padmé? “You’re asking me to be rational. That is something that I know I cannot do. Believe me, I wish I could just wish away my feelings, but I can’t.” His lips tremble from under-acted self-importance, and his crocodile tears hiccup after slaughtering a tribe of Tusken Raiders. Really nice.
Still, the second Prequel establishes Anakin as a reckless self-messiah, choosing his own dark leanings in favor of what is kosher. He also has a terrible fear of death after witnessing his mother’s passing, something he could not prevent. Taking the afterlife as a personal affliction, Anakin vows to ward off death, perfectly setting up the cataclysmic events of Revenge of the Sith. So he’s having scary dreams about his secret wife, so what does poor Ani do? He confides in his favorite dude, Chancellor Palpatine, who’s just the tops, daddio. Palpatine relates the “Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise,” a comical little tale of a Sith lord (Palpatine’s mentor) who could manipulate the Force to beget death and stave off life. Erm, flip that and reverse it.
Badda bing badda boom, Palpatine extends his hand to Anakin to join him, but Anakin does not falter, choosing instead to tattle. However, when push came to shove, Anakin was there for Palps (he already resented the Jedi for not granting him the rank of Jedi Master), and together, they would save Padmé, supposedly. Newly minted as Darth Vader, the galaxy’s greatest Dark Lord of the Sith rises. (The Sith were an ancient race of people who practiced something akin to devil-worshiping via the Force. One day, a Dark Jedi discovered them, and one thing led to another, as it always does, and soon Dark Lords of the Sith were born, a specialized Dark Jedi with the unfathomable teachings of Sith worship in mind.) Vader’s first task? The mass slaughter of the Jedi Knights, including a horrific instance of the swift murder of Jedi younglings. (They’re just kids…)
Vader is instructed by Palpatine to go to Mustafar to eliminate the Separatist leaders that elevated Palpatine to heroic heights in the Republic, and when Obi-Wan gets wind of this, boy, it’s on like Donkey Kong (coin-op, zoinks). Padmé tries to reason with Anakin, but she is unable to convince him that his train of thought is wrong, wrong, wrong. Obi-Wan steps out and Anakin suspects a bit of extracurricular Jedi activities from his wife, so he Force chokes her. Heart-warming stuff. Then Obi-Wan goes off on his democracy spiel, which seems kind of jarring considering the spousal abuse that just transpired. And with that, the greatest blue-on-blue lightsaber fight in the history of what-I-just-said commences.
Cut to the end where Vader stands below Obi-Wan. Kenobi warns him against it, but Ani does it anyway: he jumps over Obi-Wan in a criminally stupid move, allowing Obi-Wan to destroy every limb on the Sith’s body. And now, the tears. “I loved you like a brother!” Obi-Wan calls through tears. Like a brother. Vader seethes with vulcanic hatred as the lava engulfs him. Anakin Skywalker, in that moment, is killed by Darth Vader. Obi-Wan leaves his former comrade to die, but Palpatine arrives just in time to pick up the mess. We then witness the birth of the black suit, the breathing apparatus, and the onyx helmet that defined an entire franchise. Vader’s first words inquire about his wife. Palpatine, the behement manipulator, simply responds, “You killed her.” NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A billion hearts die and laugh all at once.
The tragedy and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader is perhaps the most fleshed-out and recognizable in all of modern American mythology. It took six films to convey who he is and why he is the id of the human condition. You can say all you want about George Lucas (and I have), but you have to hand it to him — he gave us the entire life of a single human being, outworldly but earthly, and that must count for something. Darth, Darth, what would we do without you?
1. Han Solo
They just don’t come any more glorificent than Han Solo. Favorite character to the end. His story is a dynamic one, from pirate to savior, and his sly coolness is something everyone wants to emulate, be it in the grocery isle or on the dance floor. Han Solo, captain of the sweetest movie vehicle ever (sorry, time-hoppin’ De Lorean), is the unbridled winner of this contest.
I don’t know what I can possibly say that can appropriately convey just how much of a star Han Solo is. We first me him with Chewbacca in the Mos Eisley cantina, smug and opportunistic. Seconds before, in a shot not included in the scene, Han is making out with a nameless hottie. What? Han, always the braggart, drops the bomb on how hella sweet the Millennium Falcon is. “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs,” he says, blowing your fraggin’ mind. Damn, boy, it’s so fast it converts a unit of length to a unit of time! Ah, but here’s the explanation to the promise I made you tens of thousands of words ago: the Kessel Run is a perilous pocket of space anchored by a black hole, so the deeper you go into it, the shorter your life is bound to be. The bragging rights of the Kessel Run come with flying ever closer to the black hole, so the shorter your distance from one side to the other, the more dangerous your run. Also, the closer you are to the black hole, the faster your ship will have to be to escape its pull. If that weren’t enough, Han beat his 12 parsecs record a short while after A New Hope. Is that guy bloody brilliant or what?
What’s cooler than a marked man? A marked man who kills his pursuers! Bang bang, Greedo is iced! In the Special Edition, Han meets with a younger Jabba. They’re both pals, you see, in spite of Jabba wanting Solo’s head on a plate, but either way, Han steps on the Hutt’s tail, getting a very “comical” reaction from Jabba, per GL. Stuff leads to stuff and Han introduces Old Ben and Luke to the Millennium Falcon. “What a piece of junk!” Luke exclaims in spite of his hobo fatigues. I don’t know what everyone is talking about. The Falcon‘s design is superb. Like a bit cheeseburger with a satellite dish. Delish. A beaut. “It’ll make .5 past lightspeed,” Han extolls. Stephen Hawking is pleasuring himself to this factoid, I assure you.
In Stormtrooper fatigues, Han reluctantly goes on the princess-saving mission aboard the Death Star, hoping for a reward that will make him a filthy, filthy Wookiee. Luke and Han meet Leia, who ain’t no walk on Corellia, lemme tell ya. Han’s reckless bravado gets him almost killed often, as seen by shooting at magnetically sealed trash compactors and chasing Stormtroopers to a whole a squadron. Han and Luke, safely aboard the Millennium Falcon, fight four TIE Fighters with all their might. “Don’t get penisy cocky!” Han yells to one of Luke’s victories. Leia explains to Han that the Empire let them go, but he’s so pig-headed he can’t see it. Uh, hello, a whole battlestation is gonna allow the release of enemy spies? They’re only gonna send a handful to chase them down? Please. Han, you oaf, you!
Naturally, the Battle of Yavin takes place, and Han, the only reasonable human being, ducks out with troves of munny. “May the Force be with you,” Han says to Luke. Hey, maybe he believes now. Before the Death Star, Luke questioned Han’s beliefs: “You don’t believe in the Force, do you?” “What, you mean that religion this old man just sold to you five minutes ago?” Thanks, “Blue Harvest” episode of Family Guy wherein Obi-Wan is played by the old pedophile. Luke thought he had detered Han’s greed (and his faith), but Luke goes to the trenches by his lonesome anyway. Bam, 18-year-old gets in a bind and what happens? Captain Solo saves the day, ya hearrrrd? When he gets his medal (shouldn’t they be evacuating ASAP?), Han slides Leia a wink. Douse this man, I’m serious!
Ah, the competition between Solo and Skywalker for Leia’s S&M dungeon. In A New Hope, Luke plays the neophyte younger brother, almost pleading to Han to back off in the Millennium Falcon. In The Empire Strikes Back, Han knows the princess wants him to death, but she won’t admit it, so she swaps tonsils with her sibling to prove a point: once a cold prude, always a cold prude, even in the ice planet of Hoth. Still, Han manages to outmanouver her as they escape the Empire (after he saves Luke’s frozen hide for a second time). “You like me because I’m a scoundrel…” That’s how they get them. Siiigh. No room in this galaxy for nice guys or twin brothers.
Han hopes Lando can do him a solid by fixing up the old Falcon, but then he is backstabbed (reflex move: shoot at Vader! Damn! Brother got ice-cold Force powers!) and is frozen in carbonite. Only someone that cool can make frozen, suspended animation look that, um, cool. “I love you,” Leia announces just before Han gets molded. Best line of the saga: “I know.” I know. Omigod! Fangasm! Pansy Lucas’ original line was, “I love you, too.” That ain’t Han, baby. Harrison Ford, in the final, beleaguered take, just drops an all-knowing, all-powerful “I know.” Test audiences were riotous about it, but it was all they could talk about as they left the theater. Suavest mother of all time.
I wonder what Han was dreaming about while in carbonite. Electric sheep, definitely. Anyway, Robot Chicken showed us that Boba Fett made intimate maritals with the block of Han, and that’s the twisted version I choose to believe. Next thing he knows, Han is blind, wet, and visibly older in Return of the Jedi. What happened? Ford aged as Indiana Jones? Bah! Han Solo calls Jabba a fool and almost kills Lando. Sweet. He punk-“murders” Boba Fett. Weak, Lucas. Weak. Back with the Rebels, only an idiot would lead the strike team to sabotage the second Death Star’s shield generator, and Han is just my kind of idiot. “Hey,” Han says, flashing his grin, “it’s me.” Two seconds later, his plan backfires against the Stormtroopers and all hell breaks loose. Ewoks are introduced, C-3PO (Han’s mortal pain) becomes a deity, and cats start having sex with dogs. Biblical stuff.
Captive of the Ewoks no more, Han fends off the sexual advances of the little bears only to discover that Leia can only confide in Luke. That cheeky Jedi bastard! Whatevs, we got a star war to climax. Han is unable to overtake the Imperial base with his pitiful band of Rebels, so the Ewoks pinch hit for an unfair victory. (How can an AT-ST stand the mighty might of stones?) Han got tha thang blowed up and all is gravy, son…But then there’s that c-blocker Luke. Han is honorable, however. He is no longer selfish. He understands the happiness of others is more important than his own wishes. “When Luke comes back,” Han nobly declares to Leia, “I won’t get in the way.” Aww, what a guy. “He’s my brother,” responds Leia in a manner that suggests Han should have known. It takes a couple of seconds for Solo to realize just how big a freak both Skywalkers are, but screw it, he ain’t gonna do much better than a princess of a dead planet!
So ends my tasking rundown of the greatest characters of the Star Wars Universe. Who did I miss? That crazy wriggling soldier from Clone Wars‘ first season? Captain Panaka? IG-88? Kit Fisto? Grand Admiral Thrawn? Nothing next to Han Solo! Why would I have a signed Harisson Ford autograph of Han Solo’s mug hanging in my bedroom? Well, mostly because it was a birthday gift. Thanks, Juanito. There is no one greater than this smuggler. My other ride is the Millennium Falcon. He bagged the babe and fathered a trio of galaxy-changing offspring — and he rolled with Chewbacca. Only a dude that money can understand the deluded ramblings of the Sasquatch. Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon, and captain of this neverending voayage through the stars. The Shwartz will be with him — always.
That is the order in which I enjoy these films, from least favorite to favorite: Episode I, IV, II, III, VI, and V.
And those are the various Star Wars videogames I have owned in my life, from least awesome (top) to most awesome (bottom):
- Super Star Wars (Super Nintendo, never played it but have it; I also have its Game Boy counterpart, but I couldn’t find an image);
– Rogue Squadron II (Nintendo GameCube, got it for Xmas, regretted it);
– Super Return of the Jedi (Super Nintendo, haven’t played much);
- Behind the Magic (not a videogame, just a CD-ROM encyclopedia);
- Lego Star Wars (Xbox, only played it for a week);
- DroidWorks (CD-ROM, teaches you about pulleys as you make your own droid);
- Episode I Racer (Nintendo 64, a podracing sim);
– Knights of the Old Republic II (Xbox, played a lot, not as fun as original);
– Rogue Squadron (Nintendo 64, excellent game I replayed the death);
– Super Empire Strikes Back (Super Nintendo, had it before I knew what a star war was, played it incessantly after becoming a SW freak);
– Shadows of the Empire (Nintendo 64, amazing game, one of the console’s best);
– and Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, oustanding gameplay and storyline, as shown by the inclusion of major characters in the countdown — they need to make a worthier current-gen sequel).
The highly hyped The Force Unleashed is due in stores soon, wherein you play as Vader’s secret apprentice. Might be worth checking out.
And these are some of the innumerable collectables I have gathered (and thrown away) over 10 years of up and down obsession. I had so many action figures (including both of those Leias, slave girl and Boussh), a worthy Micro Machines collection (including my prized possession, the Millennium Falcon), my talking Darth Vader bank, the aforementioned Yoda Giga Pet, a Taco Bell Cloud City, and at least six different lighsabers (I claimed Luke’s, above, and my brother claimed Vader’s). If I could, I would supply a picture the year I dressed up as Luke Skywalker and my brother dressed up as Darth Vader for Halloween. If I could.
At Kinloch Park Middle School, I read an obscene number of Star Wars novels, including the Han Solo Trilogy, the Courtship of Princess Leia, two-thirds of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, the abysmal Black Fleet Crisis trilogy, The Phantom Menace novelization (which was stolen by an a-hole in class who had previously attempted to steal my Pokémon strategy guide), and Shadows of the Empire (the first Star Wars novel I ever read, age 11). It has become virtually impossible to keep up with the Expanded Universe nowadays…
Which brings us to the “major” motion picture Star Wars: The Clone Wars, released this past weekend to crippling reviews and mediocre box office numbers. I have not yet seen it (illustrating my apathy, considering I saw every Prequel on opening day), but I do not think it will hold a candle to Clone Wars, the 2-D animated TV show that aired between 2002 and 2005. I watched the whole series in its entirety for the first time last night (altogether, it’s only the length of a regular movie), and it is outstanding. I do not know why George Lucas has to taint something already that good.
So ends my devastatingly comprehensive Star Wars manifesto. I did not expect it to take this long at all (an entire week for an average of five hours a day). I’ve had to break up this post into two pieces — my Firefox can’t withstand firepower of this magnitude. Suffice to say, there are enough words here to constitute a doctor’s thesis for Visual Arts (how apropos), and if this were all published, it would constitue some 80 pages — a novella!
I also want to thank Wookieepedia — not for its Star Wars knowledge (99% of the data I dropped in these paragraphs was culled straight from my brain, and that is surprising, seeing as how a lot of it is stuff I gleaned ten years ago), but for its bevy of images. Let’s just hope they allow hotlinking…
The Force will be with you — always.
…Oh, wait! I still need to do Video of the Week! So what could possibly capitalize on all of this? a-ha’s “Minor Earth Major Sky,” my absolute favorie music video in the world! Space, the final frontier! Oops, wrong sci-fi franchise…Um, Morten was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force in this music video — or did that happen to Paul and Mags? After all, they did abandon the guy on the moon. Who the hell does that? Anyway, Morten hallucinates that he’s in a 1970s swingers party, and right when he’s about to get some action, the space shuttle leaves him behind. This is what you get for using the astronaut suits from Apollo 13. The curse of Tom Hanks. (The a-ha spacesuits were also used in Apollo 13, which was directed by Ron Howard, who was directed by George Lucas in American Graffiti, who created Star Wars. Degrees of separation!) And there you have it — Howard the Duck!
And now, if you’ll excuse me, a hurricane’s about to hit Miami, so I’m sure there are things non-Sith-related to take care of. Off to my solstice!