Tag Archives: Darth Sidious

Balance of the Force: Light vs Dark

Balance of the Force: Symmetry

Balance of the Force: Symmetry
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“The Jedi were real!”

“Used to wonder about that myself.  Thought it was a bunch of ‘mumbo-jumbo’.  A magical power holding together good and evil, the Dark Side and the Light.  Crazy thing is, it’s true.  The Force, the Jedi…all of it.  It’s all true.”

SWReport Balance Han Force Light Dark

The words of Han Solo, uttered in the same place where he had denied the idea that some all powerful Force controlled everything, renouncing the Jedi and their ways as “simple tricks and nonsense”, carried with them the weight of a teacher, a mentor, a father-figure to Rey in The Force Awakens.  And rightfully so, because the audience as well as Rey needed to understand what was at stake in the galaxy. Continue reading

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Balance of the Force: Harmony

Balance of the Force: Harmony
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“May the Force be with you.”  Nearly forty years ago, movie-goers emerged from theaters with the phrase in their minds and on their lips.  For decades, it has prevailed in pop-culture, eventually leading to “May the Fourth” being regarded as “Star Wars Day” globally.  The Force has become part of our language, our heritage, and, for some, our mythology.  This pervasive concept struck a chord in the twentieth century that continues to intrigue the masses today.

Shrouded in mystery, elevated in mythology, the Force is the singular aspect of Star Wars that fuels imaginations, inflames passionate debates, and drives fans to theaters and television screens time and again to visit that galaxy far, far away.  From Old Ben’s vague explanation of the Force to Luke to Qui-Gon’s specific description of how the Force is sensed through microscopic midi-chlorians, viewers have learned about the Force through dialog and demonstration as characters on-screen have divulged what lies in the minds of George Lucas, Dave Filoni, Lawrence Kasdan, Christian Taylor, and other creators of the movies and shows in Star Wars canon.  Every revelation about the Force presented to audiences brings more questions as fans want to know more about this mystical energy field.  Fans want to know what the Force is, who can use it, how it works, and, of course, what “Balance of the Force” really means.

When Qui-Gon Jinn stood before the Jedi Council beside his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, he revealed that he had discovered a vergence in the Force — a boy he believed may have been conceived by midi-chlorians.  Mace Windu countered, “You refer to the prophecy of the One who will bring Balance to the Force.”  This revelation of an ancient prophecy which may or may not relate to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader penetrated the minds of fans and has generated debates and discussions (and essays like this one) for seventeen years.  What do we know and what can we infer about this “balance” from what we’ve seen on-screen in movies and television programs?

Obi-Wan explains the Force

Balance of the Force: Harmony
For those of us who saw Star Wars in order of release, rather than in chronological order, the Force was first mentioned by Obi-Wan Kenobi on movie screens in 1977.  “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds us.  It penetrates us.  It binds the galaxy together.”  The words resound with the depth of hidden meaning in simple statements that sound as if they’ve been memorized from a catechism in the early years of a Jedi’s training.  For the moment, they satisfy the curiosity of young Luke, but on further reflection, there is much left unsaid.  However, the idea of balance is inherent in the harmony implied.  All living things touch the Force as well as create it.  The unity of the galaxy is dependent on each of the myriad components of the Force operating together in concert — each one gives and takes as the Force flows around and through everything.  Although all living beings contribute to and participate in the Force, Ben later explains, “…a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.”  Years later, on Dagobah, Yoda reiterates the same picture of harmony in the Force: “Life creates it, makes it grow.  Its energy surrounds us and binds us.  Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.  You must feel the Force around you.”

Yoda explains the Force

This idea of harmonious balance between all living things continued in the prequels.  When Anakin asked the question for all viewers, “What are midi-chlorians?”, Qui-Gon explained, “Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells, and we are symbionts with them — life forms living together for mutual advantage.  Without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force.”  While some fans charged that this seemingly scientific explanation removed the mysterious nature of the Force, Qui-Gon’s words did no such thing.  He simply expanded this idea of the unity of all living things inherently linked to the Force.  In the first episode of The Clone Wars, “Ambush”, Yoda encourages the three clones with him by explaining that each of them the nature of the Force and their connection to it as individuals, even though they may not sense it, “All around us is that which we need to prevail…In the Force, very different each one of you are…Clones, you may be, but the Force resides in all life forms.”

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With this picture of the essential harmony of all living things in the galaxy connected by the Force, we gain some insight into what balance means.  Through the give and take of each living thing, the currents of the Force flow between every component part, linking distinct individuals together for the benefit of all through the penetrating, surrounding presence of the Force.

SWReport Balance Aleena

Nowhere is this harmony more evident than in examples of this recurring theme throughout The Clone Wars.  One example of this harmonious balance between living things is seen in in an episode which was initially disdained by many and likely largely forgotten.  in “Mercy Mission” from season four, while C-3PO and R2-D2 investigate the cause of earthquakes on the planet Aleen, they travel below ground and discover the source of the disruptions is due to a disturbance in the peace between the surface and underground realms.  Orphne, a peculiar entity seemingly composed of tiny, luminescent creatures, tells Threepio of a covenant between the Aleena and the subterranean world, saying, “We survive because the ground keeps us apart…Without going through the natural filtering process, the surface air is deadly to us.”  Those who dwelt underground believed the Aleena had broken the seal that separated their two worlds, responding by causing the earthquakes that followed.  This corresponds to what Kindaloo had already told Threepio when he rebuked the ‘droid for entering the subterranean realm:  “Why have the surface dwellers destroyed the peace?  The ground shakes to keep out the foul air which poisons and destroys us.”  It is notable that the surface dwellers were blamed for destroying the peace — the balance that had long been maintained between the two worlds — even though no evidence of this was ever mentioned in the episode.  Also intriguing was that Kindaloo seemed offended by the presence of the ‘droids, emphatically declaring that they did not “belong”.  Could this have been a reference to the idea that ‘droids, as mechanical beings, do not have a connection to the Living Force?

SWReport Balance Kindaloo

In the third season, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka experience an unexplainable phenomenon called “Mortis”.  In “Overlords, we discover that Mortis was “unlike any other, a conduit through which the entire Force of the universe flows.  This planet is both an amplifier and a magnet,” according to Obi-Wan’s vision of Qui-Gon Jinn.  On this unique world, days passed like seasons, as plants emerged with new growth every morning, matured, aged, and lost all signs of life as evening drew its last light.  When night fell, storms prevailed and visions emerged as the sleep of death overshadowed its domain.  This “conduit” of the Force reflected balance between life and death, as well as darkness and light.

SWReport Balance Mortis

Later, in the sixth season, Yoda learns more about this natural cycle of life and death as it is reflected in two distinct aspects of the Force which were sometimes alluded to but not previously explored.  In “Voices”, Yoda hears Qui-Gon’s voice while he is meditating.  Qui-Gon claims to be part of the Living Force.  When Yoda confesses that he has heard a voice from beyond the grave, Ki-Adi-Mundi responds, “The dead are part of the Cosmic Force and lose their individuality.”  The Living Force and the Cosmic Force are aspects of the Force that had been given little more than passing mentions previously.  On Dagobah, Qui-Gon’s disembodied voice instructs the old Jedi Master about these aspects of the Force: “Living beings generate the Living Force, which in turn powers the wellspring that is the Cosmic Force.  All energy from the Living Force, from all things that have ever lived, feeds into the Cosmic Force, binding everything and communicating to us through the midi-chlorians.”  In “Destiny”, Yoda reaches a planet inside which, he says, “life emanates.”  On this planet, he encounters five priestesses who again explain the balance between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, saying, “When a living thing dies, all is renewed.  Life passes from the Living Force into the Cosmic Force and becomes One within it.  One empowers the other.  One is renewed by the other.”  After passing the various trials required by the priestesses, they inform the old Jedi that he would “learn to maintain [his] consciousness after death.  Enlightenment, spirit, balance.  There is another Skywalker.”  Yoda would be trained to retain his identity and individuality even after he died — perhaps in doing so he could help this unknown Skywalker…

When considering this harmony between all living things relative to both the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, the extreme positions of both the Sith and the Jedi seem to be disrupting this Balance of the Force.

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The Sith are marked by their unrelenting desire for power.  Sam Witwer remarked in “The Mind of Maul”, a featurette on starwars.com, that the Sith cling to life because that’s all they have.  For years, fans of Star Wars have accepted that the Sith have no expectation of anything beyond this life.  Therefore, to retain their power, they seek to extend their own lives.  This, even Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, Darth Sidious himself, admits “some consider to be unnatural,” while telling Anakin the Sith legend of The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. “He became so powerful, the only thing he was afraid of was losing his power…Ironic, he could save others from death but not himself.”  To the Sith, death was to be avoided, for that would mean the loss of power.  As the final temptation to lure Anakin to the Dark Side, Sidious promised the confused Jedi, “To cheat death is a power only one has achieved, but if we work together, I know we could discover its secret.”  Cheating death would disrupt the balance between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, refusing to return the Force of life to the wellspring of renewal and rebirth.  The thirst for power and selfish passion of the Sith had tipped the scales.

SWReport Balance Jedi Loophole

But the Jedi were complicit, as well.  Though they gave lip service to the relationship of all living beings united together, they held themselves aloof from others, forbidding Jedi to form attachments and develop relationships.  They resided in their ivory towers and Jedi temples as guardians of peace, failing to recognize that in doing so, they, too, had disrupted the balance by failing to fully interact with other living beings except to solve problems and find promising young pupils to train as Jedi. Anakin, frustrated at the Jedi doctrine, strove to find a loophole, telling Padme, “Attachment is forbidden.  Possession is forbidden.  Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi’s life.”  Later, when counseling Anakin about his visions of Padme’s death, Yoda displays this calloused view towards others:  “Death is a natural part of life.  Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force.  Mourn them do not.  Miss them do not.  Attachment leads to jealousy.  The shadow of greed, that is.”  It seems that through their understanding of the relationship between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force, the Jedi had forgotten that life consists of more than simply being born of the Force and returning to it at death.  Life is to be experienced in relationship to other living beings.  Their cold devotion to doctrine may have disturbed the harmony between all living things.

Both the Sith and the Jedi expressed and demonstrated extreme views which could effectively unbalance the status of the Living Force and the Cosmic Force.  Bringing balance to the Force may imply a return to the peaceful, harmonious relationship of all living beings to one another.

Keep watching StarWarsReport.com for the next article in the “Balance of the Force” series addressing the symmetry between the Light and Dark sides of the Force and what that may entail in bringing the Force into balance.

 

New Ways To Motivate Them- TWL #140

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Review: Lords of the Sith

The following is the Star Wars Report’s review of Lords of the Sith, presented by Joseph Tavano of RetroZAP!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….

When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

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“It appears things are as you suspected, Lord Vader. We are indeed hunted.”

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

For Syndulla and Isval, it’s the opportunity to strike at the very heart of the ruthless dictatorship sweeping the galaxy. And for the Emperor and Darth Vader, Ryloth becomes more than just a matter of putting down an insurrection: When an ambush sends them crashing to the planet’s surface, where inhospitable terrain and an army of resistance fighters await them, they will find their relationship tested as never before. With only their lightsabers, the dark side of the Force, and each other to depend on, the two Sith must decide if the brutal bond they share will make them victorious allies or lethal adversaries.

With Lords of the Sith Paul S. Kemp has written a wonderful book that is a true pleasure to read. (I told him so directly). I feel like Kemp must has relished the chance to write Vader and the Emperor doing something we have never seen before—going on an adventure. He nailed the voice of both of these characters, as well as the cadence of their relationship.

I see a consistency between the Palpatine of Revenge of the Sith and the Emperor of Return of the Jedi. His contempt and power are, well, palpable. Now deeply enmeshed in the dark side of the Force, this is the Emperor you expect: spiteful, challenging, and always in control.

Meanwhile, Darth Vader takes on the expected layers of complexity. Anakin is as gone as Anakin would ever be; Vader here is the personification of anger and a full devotee of the dark side. He accesses the Force only through anger, and any hint of his previous life brings only a cycle of pain and anger. What we, the audience, would see as a moment of clarity when Vader thinks of good things he once had, turns out to be a moment of distraction and confusion to Vader. It’s this turnabout of focus and worldview that shows us just how far gone Darth Vader is.

Internal struggle aside, Darth Vader is a mysterious wraith to the rest of the galaxy. He is the visage of death, unconquerable and rumored not to be human. Simply put—Darth Vader rips it up in Lords of the Sith. We see Vader the tactician; Vader the pilot; Vader the conquering warrior. Cham Syndulla and his crew are right to fear him. This isn’t the stiff figure of the OT, he can move with inhuman speed and power.

Kemp nails the relationship between the Sith master and apprentice.

Interestingly enough, Vader the Sith apprentice is a dual-edged sword. Again, Kemp nails the relationship between the Sith master and apprentice. The Emperor is forever needling Vader, stoking his anger and reminding him that he is a thrall to be destroyed at any time. And then there is Vader, who is an honest Sith apprentice; he is unflinchingly loyal to the power of his master, and at all times wondering if he can (and should) take him out. There’s more than a few tense moments where you wonder if the pot is going to boil over between these two. I’ll say no more.

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Maybe it’s just me, but I do feel like there is one thing lacking from the Palpatine-Vader relationship—when does Palpatine ever actually train Vader in the dark side? There is nothing of that in this story; Darth Vader is a complete and fully trained dark side adept. I had expectations that at this point in the timeline (less than halfway through the Dark Times), that the Emperor would be imparting more knowledge of the Dark Side to Vader other than reminding him that he needs to be obedient. Perhaps some discussion about Force lightning? If and when Vader can use it? Why purple energy wind escapes from Palpatine’s body when he dies? The dark side is a path many things some would deem to be unnatural, and I want to know more about that path!

There is one criticism I do have, and it has nothing to do with Kemp or the novel specifically. When the new canon was announced about a year ago, I welcomed it as the great opportunity that it is to finally tell one coherent, canon, and legitimate Star Wars story. Now, the medium did not matter; all stories put forth by Lucasfilm would work together to tell the complete history of the Galaxy Far, Far Away.

This changes the storytelling approach quite a bit. Authors did not have to be constrained to telling a Star Wars story where 1.) Things began in a familiar place 2.) New characters were introduced to tell a unique story and not overuse the major film players 3.) New characters take up a large portion of the book, but inevitably die or recede into the background 4.) The overall story of Star Wars is not impacted by the end of the book.

Why have the first four books in the new Star Wars canon not deviated from this formula? With the editorial input of the Story Group, these stories can be so much more. I want Star Wars books to answer canonical questions and tell powerful impactful stories that focus on the characters we love. I don’t want them to hint and scratch at such things—after almost forty years, it’s time to dive in. A cavalcade of new characters are on the way, you know. I think that authors would relish that opportunity, and I hope that this is a trend we are moving towards.

Read this book. It is a worthy entry into the new canon, and you will get a great perspective into the relationship between the Emperor and Darth Vader, and to me, that is always essential reading. Oh, by the way, there are also Royal Guards that get to see some serious action on the planet of Ryloth, a rebel cell lead by Cham Syndulla (you know, Hera’s father), and one of the most inventive attacks on a Star Destroyer I’ve ever read or seen.

Also, minor spoiler here:

Vader uses the Force to rip apart his enemies while flying a TIE fighter.

I hope Kemp gets the chance to write more Star Wars books. He has an ease with the galaxy far, far away that feels natural and intuitive. And, if we get to see more of the relationship between the Emperor and Darth Vader, I would want him to be the person to write it.

Trilogy, anyone?

-JT

 

That Is Why You Fail- TWL #93

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