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PT The Politics of the Prequels

Discussion in 'Prequel Trilogy' started by DarthHomer, Mar 9, 2012.

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  1. DarthHomer

    DarthHomer Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 29, 2000
    Forgive me if there's a topic on this already, but I just wanted to discuss the political aspect of the prequels. Love it? Hate it? Are there parallels to real world politics woven in by Lucas or just imagined by the viewer?
    Personally, I love the political storyline of the prequels. It's probably my favourite element of the films after the action scenes. Palpatine's machinations are beautifully scripted and acted and I found the depiction of how the senate works in a GFFA fascinating to watch. I never understood the criticism that the politics in the prequels are boring.
    Firstly, Lucas said in interviews as far back as the early 80s that the first three episodes would mostly be about politics. There's no believable way to depict the fall of a Republic and the rise of a dictator without focusing heavily on politics, and to expect Lucas to just ignore that element of the story is unfair.
    Secondly, the senate scenes are beautiful to watch. I've heard people compare it to c-span but, as far as I know, that doesn't feature creatures form all around the galaxy in a massive chamber with freakin' floating pods! At least not last time I watched. The way that the senate is used in ROTS, with Yoda and Sidious literally throwing the pods at each other, is also a nice allegory for how politicians act when civility is abandoned.
    And speaking of allegory, I find it funny how different people use the politics in the films to suit their own arguments. Of course when ROTS first came out there were a great many articles comparing Palpatine to Bush/Cheney and the Clone Wars to the War on Terror. Since Obama got in office I've seen just as many Republican bloggers compare him to Palpatine and quote Padme's "This is how liberty dies" line in reference to the reaction by congress to Obamacare. Like any great work of fiction, people read into the movies what they want to read (just as how Lords of the Rings has been called an allegory for pretty every real-life war since Tolkien wrote it). I don't think Lucas intended these specific parallels, even though he did admit that Palpatine was based on Nixon. It's clear that he drew on a more wide range of influences, dating back to the Roman Empire.
  2. Cryogenic

    Cryogenic Force Ghost star 5

    Jul 20, 2005
    Hi, DarthHomer! Nice thread!

    Lucas says he's a bit of a history buff; and I should think that's also fairly obvious from even a cursory glance of the prequels. In particular, he has said he is fascinated by how and why political systems go bad; that people can and do actually give power to a dictator. He has spoken more than once about the similarities between Palpatine and Augustus Caesar. Yes, there are other connections (Reagan, Nixon, Hitler, et al.), but he seems to have placed a larger-than-expected emphasis on the Caesar one. In fact, he gave an interview a few years ago in which he said he had been addicted to several television series, one of which was the HBO series "Rome".

    No, I have never quite gotten this tired charge, either. Politics may be a chore to everyone, but they are only boring to a dull mind. This has merely become another stick to bash the prequels with, under the vague auspices of "these prequels are too big for their own boots", in my opinion. While the films are very "political" from a certain point of view, they are hardly drowning in politics. Often, there is a strong allegorical dimension at work, where a larger political story, and points of subversion, satire, etc., are depicted in broader, mythological terms, or even with a heavy dose of humour (e.g., the Threepio head-switching gag in AOTC).

    True enough. I don't think the prequels are top-heavy with politics, though. It's better to say that they have a more cultured, countenanced air; and politics are an inexorable part of that structured weave. If people didn't want this stretch of galactic history to be depicted, they shouldn't have bothered watching to begin with. Clearly, it was always going to be a little more stuffy and recondite than just a bunch of bickering rebels or shooting matches in space.

    Right. Also, if you count up the total time spent in the Senate itself, I don't think it amounts to more than about fifteen minutes, tops. The "C-SPAN" accusation is actually a little depressing. Granted, not many are going to want to while their time away watching hour upon hour of men in suits sipping water and occasionally droning on about paragraph 12 of sub-section f in Chapter 4 of some new building legislation, but that isn't all that C-SPAN offers. In fact, that derisive comparison is misguided on any number of levels. For one, C-SPAN crucially offers unedited coverage of real events, which is manifestly not the case with the prequels; or any movie, period. Yes, that comparison is meant to be facetious, I suppose, to indicate that watching the prequels feels interminable, but it's also a back-handed attack o
  3. BoromirsFan

    BoromirsFan Jedi Master star 4

    May 16, 2010
    The political aspect of the prequels make them much more interesting to talk about.

    I love the classic trilogy, but they are black and white. There isn't as much to talk about or question in the OT.

    To be fair though, the politcs didn't pay off till revenge of the sith.

    Going back and watching the seeds of the empire through the deception of Palpatine is much more fun now that you know whats going to happen.

    I think we had a general sense of what was going to happen, but of course Lucas surprised use by going in the different route.

    I never imagined the clones wiping out the Jedi in one fell swoop. Its brilliant what Palpatine did. I imagined Vader would turn in the beginning or middle and hunt the Jedi in a sort of protracted conflict.

    I was right about Vader turning in the middle but thats it.

    Its why I mentally cringe when people post their "concepts" for their version of the PT, and act all high and mighty that they can do better than Lucas.

    I am not saying he is some god of film, he can make mistakes, and I heartily found Red Tails to be somewhat painful and dull to get through.

    But at least with the Star Wars PT he went off the beaten track and gave us something with depth.

    There is no depth to watching Vader massacre people for whole movie's running time. Vader does this in ROTS but its played in a more meaningful way. As Palpatine's political machine propels him to victory, Vader is extinguishing any threat of Palpatine's true identity and the whole Clone War sham. But what Palpatine is doing is much more horrifying, even though he isn't murdering anyone.
  4. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    ^^^^^^ Well said.

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and say something that is likely to get me flamed somewhere: I liked ANH. I saw it in the theater when I was five years old, and I immediately wanted to be Leia when I grew up. I wore my hair like hers. I played with action figures. I went back to the theater with my Dad to see the sequels.

    But if ANH had been the only Star Wars film ever made, I would have forgotten about it by now.

    Why? Because the characters and storyline are so straightforward that at this point I would find them boring. I'd rather it not be so blatantly obvious who the "good guys" and "bad guys" are. I want to have to think about it a bit. I want my "good guys" to be flawed, even fatally so, and my "bad guys" to have good intentions and/or a soft spot or two. I at least want them to be perceived that way.

    That's one thing I loved about the prequels. They turned everything we knew about the OT and who was "good" and who was "evil" on its head. Palpatine was considered by the majority of the galaxy to be a "good guy". He was kind to Anakin and Padme. He called the Jedi his "friends" (and yeah, we all know that he was full of poodoo, but none of the other characters did). The dude got elected Chancellor and kept accumulating powers afterwards, even the power to break the GFFA equivalent of the 22nd Amendment, because he was just that damn popular.

    I like that. And reading the Plagueis novel and seeing exactly how Palpatine's political machinations were contrived in accordance with the Sith "Grand Plan" made it all the more interesting. The fact that Plagueis and Sidious planned to use Sidious' skills as a politician to have him take over the Republic--interesting and downright creepy.

    I also liked seeing the Senate corruption, the corporate buyouts to the point of individual corporations actually having Senate seats (seems like a fantastic satire of the American political system), and how Palpatine took advantage of that corruption, even encouraged it, to put himself in power. Again this is all corroborated by the Plagueis novel.

    The politics of the PT were not only interesting but confirmed my own cynicism with the political process. And I love it.
  5. DRush76

    DRush76 Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 25, 2008
    What makes the politics featured in the PT so interesting is that I've seen something similar in real life . . . even in my home state.
  6. drg4

    drg4 Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 30, 2005
    You're not the only one, Anakinfan. I've stated before that I would not count myself a fan had the sequels/prequels followed in a similar vein.

    If the meditative Empire Strikes Back preserved my interest in adolescence, then the near-despairing PT bolstered it as I became a young adult.

    The Phantom Menace was released when I was sixteen--a prime age at which to be receptive to the political facets. Palpatine became a sort of pop-culture touchstone for gauging establishment figures. Three years later, the Clone Wars would provide me an analogue to the unfolding, nebulous War on Terror.

    The supreme irony: Star Wars can accommodate both your daydreams and nightmares.
  7. Darth_Pevra

    Darth_Pevra Force Ghost star 6

    May 21, 2008
    I'd like them if they were anywhere close to realistic. Don't understand why Valorum was booted out of office - I thought he was supposed to be a toy of the bureaucracy, therefore giving "the real rulers of the senate" more power. All the more reason to keep him in power.

    Also don't know why Palpatine got even elected, with the bureaucracy and the very powerful TF opposed to him (Malastare didn't really hide their support of the TF).

    Why didn't anyone properly investigate that whole "mysterious army pops up over night and aids the republic" thing?

    Sometimes it seems as if Palpatine controlled the entire galaxy from the beginning. But this raises the question why we would need the PT.

    I could go on for hours and hours. If you want some real SF-politics, watch Babylon 5. Star Wars politics are... nothing to think too hard about.

    And if anyone is willing to give convoluted explanations for my questions: Please don't. I'm not willing to waste too much time on that.
  8. anakinfansince1983

    anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms star 10 Staff Member Manager

    Mar 4, 2011
    Why even mention it at all if you don't want to discuss it?

    I'm not going to attempt an explanation other than to mention that American politics and the politics in European countries must be very different, because I found quite a few parallels.

    I was 27 and not nearly as cynical as I am now, but I do remember a few parallels with a US Senate being more concerned with Bill Clinton's sex life than with the state of the union itself, and then of course the next year we had that really convoluted election that lasted six weeks (with Al Gore conceding on my 29th birthday--thanks Al [face_tired] ). AOTC, and the Iraq War coming a year later, really hit close to home. It's almost like Lucas had a crystal ball and could see these events that were about to unfold a year after his movies came out.
  9. Valairy Scot

    Valairy Scot Backpacking One Pack a Day Mod of New Films star 6 Staff Member Manager

    Sep 16, 2005
    Boy do I really feel old now - thanks. :p

    I see tons of parallels with real world politics, quite frankly. We saw and we see it - governing bodies more concerned with winning, stalemating, getting re-elected, getting something for themselves and/or their constituents and screw the's a built-in flaw of democratic/republic government.

    But the alternatives are no better.
  10. PiettsHat

    PiettsHat Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Jan 1, 2011
    I'll admit, I'm a bit hesitant in posting this, but it's a feeling that hit me pretty hard when I watched ROTS the past few times...

    Nowadays, I can't help but compare the scene of Dooku's execution to when Osama bin Laden was killed in May of 2011. Obviously, there's no intention to make a political statement about Bin Laden (considering it was filmed in 2005), but the whole scene makes me uneasy. Here we have a young, patriotic man who has just been told by his head of state to take out the leader of an enemy faction -- an enemy that has been proven to have targeted innocent people to advance his political/ideological goals. There is no attempt to arrest this leader and take him prisoner.

    Dooku's death reminds me uncomfortably of discussions of whether or not it was appropriate to revel in Bin Laden's death or even whether it was right to kill and not attempt to capture in the first place. I don't have the answer, but it does make me more sympathetic to Anakin because it's much clearer to me now that while we, as the audience, can easily tell that Palpatine is evil, he has no way of making such a deduction. He sees himself as a soldier fulfilling his duty and saving innocent lives by taking out a threat. The waters have been muddied, for me, on that one.
  11. Darth_Pevra

    Darth_Pevra Force Ghost star 6

    May 21, 2008
    On a very superficial way, yes. It follows this line of thought: "Politicians are a powerhungry and corrupt lot and the few honest voices will be drowned out by the others." But look anywhere beyond that level and it falls flat like a balloon hit with a needle. The motives of the participating politician often make no sense at all.

    Example Valorum:
    We're lead to believe he is a seasoned politician, a professional, and yet when Padmé stabs him in the back he immediately gives up. With that kind of personality, how did he get voted into office in the first place?
  12. DarthHomer

    DarthHomer Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 29, 2000
    I get the impression that Valorum is based on Lucas's original idea for Palpatine - a well-meaning politician who has become controlled by bureaucrats and is deaf to the cries of the people. If you look at it from that angle, then Padme's call for a vote of no confidence is the final nail in the coffin of an already unpopular leader. That's why I think he gives up so easily.
  13. drg4

    drg4 Jedi Master star 4

    Jul 30, 2005
    A remarkably salient point, PiettsHat.

    In all honesty, my reaction to bin Laden's death was one of apprehension. I could not, for the life of me, delight in that victory. Not after reflecting on the moral and economic bankruptcy that stemmed from the decade-spanning War on Terror. The invasions and occupations. The countless murdered and displaced civilians. Our dead and wounded servicemen and women. The sanctification of torture. The erosion of our Constitution. The fact that the Terror War had no end in sight (and was never intended to, by our venal and mediocre politicians).

    I would imagine that, much like Dooku in a fictional galaxy far, far way, Osama bin Laden is laughing from beyond the grave.

    No wonder Revenge of the Sith hit me as hard as The Dark Knight.
  14. Arawn_Fenn

    Arawn_Fenn Force Ghost star 7

    Jul 2, 2004
    Legislation being passed by its supporters having the majority vote? Yep, that's how liberty dies, all right. :rolleyes:
    jackg1 likes this.
  15. obi-rob-kenobi4

    obi-rob-kenobi4 Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 17, 2007
    I have always said that one of the best things about Episodes 1,2 and 3 is the story of how the Republic turns itself into the Empire. This is all EVEN MORE interesting when you just consider the amazing parallels between what happens in the film to what has been happening in America lately. And thats coming from George Lucas himself. Now that we've (finally) become so culturally aware of greedy-corporations buying into and controlling politicians and political parties I believe it is easier to truly appreciate the clever political sub-plots of the film and the PT as a whole. The greatest, bloodiest conflict in galactic history (the clone wars) would begin with a seemingly inconsequential conflict about rich, greedy corparations trying to pay less taxes in TPM. That is what was presented as the beginning of the end of the great old republic. How brilliant!

    Very true to life as well IMO.
  16. Samuel Vimes

    Samuel Vimes Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 4, 2012
    Well to be fair, politics being corrupt is hardly new.
    That a wealthy merchant or rich company gives money to elected politicians to get political favors has been around for decades.
    Even the Roman senate was notorius for being corrupt.

    The idea that a person creates a fake war/conflict in order to get power is also nothing new either in the real world or in fiction. That doesn't mean that such stories are bad, far from it, but it isn't something new.

    Overall I like the political story in the PT but I feel that it was underdeveloped. Yes I actually want MORE politics.
    The problem I have is that the motivation of many of the politicians were not explained very well and so it came across as people doing things just to move the plot along.

    Take TF in TPM. We are told that they are angry at some new tax and in protest they blockade Naboo.
    Based on that motivations the TF would want the senate to quickly make a vote about removing this tax.
    But that is never spoken of. Instead Sidious says that he will make sure that the senate does nothing.
    And why is the TF in league with the Sith? Sidious has much to gain as the TF has a big army but what do the TF get out of this? What do they hope to gain by INVADING Naboo? I can see the blockad as a protest of sorts but what good does the invasion do? Just getting control of Naboo. Why? Is the planet very rich, does it have lots of valuable resources, is the location important?

    In all the TF comes across as just goons to the main villain. In part that is what they are but if they had a clear, independent motivation that would be good.

    Valorum comes across as inconsitent. He gets fed up with the endless bickering in the senate and decides to send two Jedi to resolve the matter quickly. This shows strength and determination. And yet when the Jedi come back and report that not only have they failed but the situation has gotten much worse, war has actually broken out, then he suddenly and for no apparent reason seems much weaker. I like the actor and I think that it is a pity that the character wasn't used more and developed more.

    In AotC, what did the seps actually want? They wanted to leave the republic yes but what then? Dooku talks about making the senate agree to their demands but what are those demands? Do they want to take over and rule the republic, do they want money, do they want more territory?
    Also why are so many flocking to the seps? The seps seems mostly to be made up of greedy corporations and they seem to be behind much of the corruption in the senate. So if a system is unhappy with the corruption why would they side with the seps? Also the TF is known for attacking and invading a small and helpless planet. So other small and defenceless planets would not be very keen to join the seps given the TF's involvement.

    What might have been intersting is that the seps are actually mostly made up of smaller systems that are unhappy with the corruption and strong influence of the TF and the like. So in AotC the armies of the TF and others are on the side of the senate and the seps are the ones who use clones. Would have been uncomfortable for Padme to have to work with Nute in co in defending the republic.

    In short the seps, like the TF, comes across as the goons of Sidious. Which again they sort of are but an independent motivation would have been nice. Dooku might not have been a Sith at all, he was just an ex-jedi that got fed up with the corrupt senate and formed the seps. But Palpatine is just using him and his idealism.
    That would make Dookus death rather tragic, that he finally realizes how cruelly he has been used and then Anakin kills him.

    Bye for now.
    Old Stoneface
  17. kenobifan1999

    kenobifan1999 Jedi Youngling star 1

    Sep 3, 2012
    i liked the politics. well i like the prequels more than the originals so yeah
  18. Samnz

    Samnz Jedi Master star 3

    Sep 4, 2012
    I would have liked to see the Dooku/Padmé conversation in AOTC.

    I think what they wanted was fear. If you act against the Trade Federation (e.g. by raising taxes), you will suffer because the TF makes the rules.
    Sidious must have attracted them with his influence in the senate. He says he deals with the senate in the film, so that should be his offer.

    He sent them on an undercover mission and hoped they would bring him proof.
    Without proof, he was afraid of losing his power which, of course, eventually he did either way.

    I think we have to separate the corporations and the worlds that folllowed them. The corporations definately wanted free trade, no taxes etc. which means more money in the end.
    However, independent worlds that followed them were probably frustrated with the honorless politicians, the inefficient system etc and were lured by promises of a "better system".
  19. Samuel Vimes

    Samuel Vimes Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 4, 2012
    Well we might think they wanted free trade, no taxes etc but we don't really know because they never say what they want.
    What promises of a "better system"? If the corporations has corrupted the senate and made it ineffective, why would a goverment totally run by the corporations be any better? The TF did not seem very "honorable", nor did any of the other seps.

    Bye for now.
    Old Stoneface
  20. FirstStarWars

    FirstStarWars Jedi Youngling star 1

    Sep 4, 2012
    I always loved the politics of the prequels and wish we saw more. I know most of my friends do not agree but its what the prequels always were about more than action. Even back in the old days, during the CT release, you knew that the first 3 had to more politics, its the raise of the empire.
    obi-rob-kenobi4 likes this.
  21. Samnz

    Samnz Jedi Master star 3

    Sep 4, 2012
    I think it's immediately clear that corporations are always after money. There is the Trade Federations involved and their motivations became quite clear trough TPM.
    Although I agree it could have been better if they hadn't cut that stuff for the most part. The script lines for Dooku:
    Only the bold made it to the final movie.

    That's what we know. We don't know what the general population knew. And don't forget the home worlds of these corporations, they were very supportive.
  22. Samuel Vimes

    Samuel Vimes Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 4, 2012
    Which again brings up my point that the politics weren't explained enough. We only have TPM and from that it is hard to see why the TF would be seen as "good guys" or a better alternative to many of the worlds in the SW galaxy. They invaded a defenceless planet and for what? Greed it seems like. And the homeworld of these corporations would be around 50 planets, not the many thousands they talk about.

    Also the dialogue in the Dooku and seps scene is odd. One sep say "what you are proposing could be considered treason." but noone responds to that. It is like they all ignore him/her.
    So the cut stuff should have remained and a better motivation for the seps were needed in my opinion.

    If the seps had been a genuine political movement instead of Sith goons, I think it would have added dramatic weight to the war but also to the characters on both sides.

    Bye for now.
    The Guarding Dark
  23. Samnz

    Samnz Jedi Master star 3

    Sep 4, 2012
    Yeah, but these movies aren't political dramas or political thrillers. They are sci-fi adventures with a political untertone. We don't know why Leia hates the Empire so much at the beginning of ANH, we don't know how the Empire works. It's just not the heart of these movies. It's a very interessting part of them, but not the center. So it isn't as developed as it could have been.

    Additionally, who are the Separatists? Their head is Count Dooku, so it's Count Dooku who convinces systems to joins them and we don't know what DOOKU promises them.
    The TF and others are part of the Separatists, nothing more.
    Dooku plays both sides, he promises things to the TF and other things to the systems because they are SITH, they don't care for each of their problems.
    It's just ab big conspiracy of the Sith.
  24. Black Sun 4 Life

    Black Sun 4 Life Jedi Youngling

    Sep 8, 2012
    The seps are terribly mishandled. I would much have preffered an invasion by the Vagaari or Nagai. They are a weird mix of crazy aliens, dark jedi, and decent people.

    DARTHVENGERDARTHSEAR Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Jun 8, 2002
    Zeta1127 likes this.
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