Many believe the prequel trilogy of the Star Wars saga to be inferior to the original trilogy, and in many ways that is true. The prequels suffered from a lack of focus, horrible dialog, unmotivated heroes/villains, and its inability to live up to the “lived-in universe” of the original trilogy. Lucas’ intent was to tell a story that worked on its own, but also enhanced and gave more meaning to the events of the originals. Instead he created plot holes and tried to connect the characters in unnecessary ways (Anakin building C3PO, Luke and Anakin coming from the same exact city on the same exact planet, Han never believed in the Force even though his best friend Chewie was a personal acquaintance of GRAND MASTER YODA….anyway, rant over). The prequels never quite lived up, but one of the few things George got right was setting up parallels in the prequels that actually did enhance the ending of Return of the Jedi.
These parallels exist throughout all six movies, some obvious and some a little less noticeable. Let’s start with the obvious one I have already mentioned.
Anakin and Luke come from the same planet.
Anakin, a literal slave, and Luke, a slave to his circumstances. Both of their journeys start the same way. They are freed from their slavery and have to leave loved ones behind. Luke had no other choice, his family was killed and Obi-wan was all he had left. Anakin didn’t want to leave his mother behind, but knew he had to.
“Its sorta like poetry. They rhyme. Every stanza sort of rhymes with the last one.” – George Lucas, on the set of The Phantom Menace.
Now I believe Lucas relied too heavily on his rhyming stanzas, so much so that he tried to replicate the originals, instead of creating an original story. However, George did in fact create some beautiful imagery, based on what Yoda said in The Phantom Menace:
“Fear is the path to the dark side…fear leads to anger…anger leads to hate…hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda.
We don’t really see this quote come to fruition in the OT until Return of The Jedi. When we first see Luke in Return, he is wearing all black, hooded, menacing, and Force chokes Jabba’s guard (a power we have only seen Sith use). In fact, he kinda looks like someone else we have seen…
When Luke confronts Jabba, he issues this warning: “Don’t underestimate my power.” Hmmm, where have we heard that before?
Oh right, Anakin says this same thing to Obi-wan at their duel on Mustafar. Well, one thing is certainly clear: At the start of Return of The Jedi, Luke is following in the footsteps of his father and is on the path to the Dark Side. George’s parallels are actually meaning something. In the rest of the movie, we see Luke continuing to wear all black, just like Vader and the Emperor. The parallels stop here until the final confrontation in the Emperor’s Death Star throne room.
Fear is the path to the Dark Side…
Luke surrenders himself to Vader. He goes before Emperor Palpatine knowing that he will die aboard the station once the Rebel attack succeeds. He is calm and collected. Until Palpatine tells Luke he orchestrated the whole attack and that all of his friends will die in this elaborate trap. It is at this point that Luke becomes fearful, he is afraid not for his own life but for Han, Leia, and the entire Rebel Alliance. Ol’ Palps is seeding a fear of loss in Luke, the same way he perpetuated Anakin’s fear of losing Padme at that weird concert thing.
Weird Concert Thing
Fear leads to Anger…
At this point, Luke strikes against Vader and they duel briefly before Luke gains control of himself and ceases his attack. Vader has just seen the fear of loss drive Luke into fighting, so he twists the knife. Maybe Luke’s sister will turn to the Dark Side if he refuses. Vader has taken the seed of the fear of loss and forced it to erupt into full-blown anger. Luke betrays Yoda’s teachings against anger and hate when he lashes out in a furious display and channels all that anger into defeating Vader. This is exactly how his father once reacted when he believed Padme was doomed. Anakin betrayed the teachings of the Jedi Order and saved the Sith Lord Palpatine from death in hopes that he might not lose his wife. His fear of loss lead to his anger against the Jedi and, earlier, caused him to wipe out an entire village of Sand People. Luke has taken the second step to the Dark Side just like his father.
Anger leads to hate…Hate leads to Suffering…
During the final battle with his former master, Anakin is bested by Obi-wan and lies dying on the Mustafar ash. He screams “I hate you!” to his once loved friend and you completely believe that he does. His journey to the Dark Side is complete. He has allowed his anger to turn to hate and that hate brought him suffering. He suffers the rest of his life in a suit that barely keeps him alive. Luke’s anger borders hate in the final moments of his attack on Vader. You can tell while he frenziedly swings his lightsaber and deals the final disarming blow, he no longer is concerned with his friends. He is striking out in pure, Dark Side induced, hatred. Once Vader lays beaten, Luke stands over him ready to deal the final blow. This is it. Just like his father before him. He must let the hate overtake him and take his place as Dark Lord of the Sith. The whole series and all of Palpatine’s plans have been leading towards this moment. The moment Luke gives into his Fear, Anger, and Hate just like Anakin all those years ago. Luke has taken the third step on the path to the Dark Side just like his father. The parallel, the cycle, is complete.
Except he does not kill his father. He doesn’t strike Vader down and become a Sith Lord. The parallel breaks apart. He pauses, he takes in what he has succumb to. He sees his father’s severed hand and has compassion for him. He defies the most powerful and manipulative Sith that has ever lived and becomes a fully-fledged Jedi Master. The cycle is destroyed. The Emperor tortures Luke for his defiance. Vader looks on and silently contemplates what Luke has done. He just saw that it is possible to defy the Dark Side. He sees his son dying in front of him, he sees his mother die in front of him again, he feels the pain of losing Padme all over again. The last shred of Anakin Skywalker boils up to the surface and destroys the evil Darth Vader and the Emperor with him.
Luke has one final conversation with the redeemed Anakin Skywalker. In this conversation, we see that Luke’s all black outfit was actually white underneath the whole time. What appeared to be void of hope, had hope underneath all along.
George Lucas got a lot of things wrong with the prequels, but the parallels he established might be some of the most beautiful imagery in cinematic history. Let’s hope this imagery continues in The Force Awakens and beyond…it seems as though it might…