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CT Did Vader/Anakin actually deserve forgiveness?

Discussion in 'Classic Trilogy' started by Rivenblade, Dec 15, 2020.

  1. Rivenblade

    Rivenblade Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Nov 21, 2020
    I suppose this could be in the general discussion forum, but because Vader's redemption happens in the OT, as does his death and the appearance of his force ghost, I figure it makes sense to post it here. Apologies if this has been talked about to death or covered in memes! I'm new here, so please be kind. :)

    I resonated with the idea that Luke's love for his father ultimately saved Vader and returned him to the light in Return of the Jedi. It was a beautiful moment and one that I always looked forward to when watching the trilogy. After so much heartache, pain, and death caused by Vader, and seeing Luke suffer as a result of Vader's malice, seeing Luke believe so strongly that there's good in his father despite everything he wrought was inspiring. It was and is a beautiful moment.

    Then we got the fall of Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy. And...well...Anakin is a child murderer. Not just one child. But a murderer of children. This single act seems so unforgivable and so horrendous, that to this day I can't really say I "like" Darth Vader or find him sympathetic. Yes, he's probably the most famous and iconic villain in movie history, to the point of people getting tattoos of him and putting up posters of him in their rooms, but at the end of the day, this is someone who killed innocent kids because he felt like it.

    Even when I watch The Clone Wars, where Anakin is a sympathetic and likeable hero with faults aplenty, I can't shake the knowledge of what he will do in the future, and it makes me raise an eyebrow when people tell me that Anakin is their favourite character, or that he's "the real victim" of the story. Don't get me wrong, he was misled and lied to by the Jedi Council, but his subsequent decision to murder the younglings was so disproportionate to his plight that it made him utterly irredeemable to me, and not worthy of the praise or iconography that he gets. Nevermind the atrocities he commits after he actually becomes Darth Vader.

    Wearing a Vader t-shirt? You might as well slap a picture of Stalin on yourself and call it a day. :D

    Well, I'll leave this here as a starting point for this discussion. It is meant to be serious, but with a hint of tongue in cheek. Vader is compelling, and Anakin was a brave and selfless ally during the clone wars, but that single act tarnished his entire legacy to me, and made the redemption in RotJ not feel as pure and good as it did before we knew that Anakin slayed kids.

    And how do you think Luke would have reacted to Vader if he had known that his dad had committed such an act?! Feels like there's a satirical fan film to be made there. Just 5 minutes of Vader lying there and recounting all of his horrible past deeds to his son, who thinks he's a super good dude, would recommend! And then Luke just cringes and his face just becomes more pained the longer he listens.

    Thoughts or memes, anyone? :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
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  2. FightoftheForgotten

    FightoftheForgotten Jedi Master star 4

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    May 19, 2020
    Someone asked Lucas this very question during the making of ROTJ (it may have been Howard Kazanjian) and George basically said ISN'T THAT WHAT CHRISTIANITY IS ALL ABOUT, FORGIVING PEOPLE IN THE AFTERLIFE.

    IMHO no, Vader does not deserve forgiveness. He is basically the Jamie Lannister of STAR WARS, except his good dead was arguably less noble than Jamie's was. Jamie acted to save thousands of innocent lives. Vader only did what he did to save one person.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
  3. Rivenblade

    Rivenblade Jedi Padawan star 1

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    Nov 21, 2020
    Ah, I didn't know that. Either way, Lucas missed the part of the Old Testament that mentions something called the Ten Commandments, which, you know, forbid killing. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
  4. Shadao

    Shadao Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 2017
    Better face the grim reality of what "help the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights" really meant than try to dance around and pretend Vader didn't really kill children like so many people want him to do. I mean, if he stood by and watched Alderaan blow up without objection, then yes, he would kill children.

    With Vader, since that fateful day on Mustafar, he has been living in hell every single day. Trapped in a life-support suit after being burned to a crisp and being told that he killed his wife. It destroyed Anakin and left nothing but self-hatred and resignation. The point of Vader's redemption isn't about forgiveness, it's realizing that it's never too late to turn back to the light and seek redemption. That's why Luke surprised Vader and everyone. He gave his father a chance to turn back from the Dark Side when everyone else gave up on him. Vader became conflicted because he spent years rationalizing his actions and fate as destiny, as something he was meant to be. He thought redemption was laughable until Luke gave him unconditional forgiveness and an offer.

    That is what gave Vader the courage to kill Darth Sidious at the expense of his own life. And killing Darth Sidious doesn't save one person; it destroys the very keystone that holds the Empire together. Without the Emperor, the Empire collapsed very quickly.
     
  5. darthvader88

    darthvader88 Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Apr 29, 2005
    Probably not

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  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    Welcome aboard, @Rivenblade! You certainly jump into the discussion around here with a deep question or maybe even several deep questions embedded in this one thread:)

    I think when I first saw the OT as a child (the PT hadn't yet come out--not too date myself too much:p), I felt similarly to what you describe. The power of Vader's redemption from monster to being capable of self-sacrifice for his son resonated with me primarily because of how it impacted Luke. Luke was able to redeem his father. Luke was able to see his father turn his back on the dark and return to the light. Luke was able to have a final moment with his father, who affirms that Luke was right to believe in him and his capacity to to be redeemed. Luke was able to see his father reunited with Obi-Wan and Yoda and find peace in that sight at the end of ROTJ. So Luke rather than Vader was at the center of it all as he was at the heart of the OT being the core protagonist.

    Prior to the release of the OT, I found Vader to be an iconic and terrifying villain (there were plenty of times that he made me cover my eyes with fright when I was a little girl) but I didn't necessarily see him as a complex character in his own right. Not saying that others were wrong to find complexity in his character or his backstory at that point. Just that I personally didn't, but I was also a child seeing Star Wars through the eyes of a child, and complex thinking tends to arrive more with age. Wonder comes more naturally to a child; nuanced views come more naturally to an adult. At least that is my experience.

    The PT came along and to me succeeded in making Anakin a more complex character--to me, arguably, the most complex character in the entire Star Wars saga. Through the PT, I got a very tragic backstory for Anakin Skywalker and a compelling account of his descent into darkness. I think the Anakin we meet in the PT is meant to be a tragic hero, which to me makes sense because I believe the PT is ultimately meant to be a tragedy, a story of the tragic downfalls of not only Anakin, but of the Jedi Order and the Republic to which he linked and is an integral part. He is the Hamlet, the MacBeth, the King Lear, the Othello of the PT. The tragic hero is designed to provoke a range of reactions within the audience. The tragic hero is not entirely admirable or sympathetic but there is still something that was once noble about him and something in his downfall that is supposed to invoke a kind of pity. The tragic hero is someone seemingly elevated above regular mortals--Anakin is the Chosen One of Jedi prophecy, a General, a war hero--but the greatness of their position only exists to magnify their fall. Anakin falls to the Dark Side and is maimed in the hellish landscape of Mustafar by the man who had been his best friend (a sort of father and brother figure in one) and ends ROTS trapped in a black suit and mask he must live in to survive. A sort of slave to the Dark Side as he was a slave to Watto growing up on Tatooine. A powerful slave perhaps but still a slave and one locked in misery and suffering.

    Is it possible to still feel some sympathy for Anakin at other moments in the saga even though he slaughters the younglings at the Jedi Temple? For me, it is. Just as it is possible for me to sympathize with how Othello is manipulated and misled by Iago while at the same time being horrified by how he strangles his wife. So I can sympathize with Anakin because of his past as a slave. Because of the torture and death of his mother. Because he was tormented with first visions of his mother's death (which came true) and later with visions of his wife's death (which he was determined to try to prevent as much as he could). Ultimately, I think Anakin's tragic flaw is that he cannot accept death and loss, and to me, that is a tragically human flaw that speaks to the human condition, so it's one to which I can relate.

    Anakin's murder of the younglings in ROTS was terrible, but I also think that it was well built up to and foreshadowed in AOTC because ROTS isn't the first time Anakin was guilty of murdering younglings. He also was guilty of murdering Tusken Raider younglings in AOTC, since as he explains to Padme, he didn't just kill the Tusken Raider men (implied to be the warriors) but also the women and the children (whom the context makes clear are noncombatants in my opinion). His slaughter in AOTC might seem more "justifiable" because it is vengeance carried out after his mother's abduction, torture, and death at the hands of the Tusken Raiders and because Anakin does express remorse afterward to Padme (while at the same time trying to how what he did wasn't a crime), but it is still a very similar offense that eerily foreshadows how he would slighter the Jedi younglings in ROTS. To me, it was a way that AOTC really was a very strong set up to ROTS. Anakin could try to "justify" his killing of the Tusken Raiders by claiming that they were animals and he just slaughtered them like animals, but the audience does not have to agree with Anakin and can see that this is the start of Anakin's journey down a dark path ruled by anger and revenge. It is this "othering," this reducing sentient beings to mere animals to be slaughtered, that makes it possible for Anakin to commit more atrocities in ROTS and the OT. This to me reflects many real world atrocities and justifications for them so I think we aren't meant to agree with Anakin's logic regarding the Tusken Raiders but rather be appalled by it and condemn it.

    I would also say that the Vader of the OT must be a child killer as well. It's just not brought to our attention and given narrative weight and dramatic attention as it is in the PT. To me, Vader is as much responsible for the destruction of Alderaan as Tarkin is since he was content to watch as Alderaan is blown up (despite being the second most important person in the Empire) and holds Leia back as the catasrophe unfolds. It's hard to fully comprehend the scale of Alderaan. An entire world and the whole population that didn't happen to be off world at the time eliminated in one moment, but if we crunch some numbers using real world figures to get some sense of the atrocity, the numbers would paint a terrible picture of how many children could've been killed on Alderaan. If Alderaan had a population comparable to Earth's, there could be 2.2 billion children on Alderaan that were killed. If Alderaan's population were comparable to India's, that could be 472 million children killed. Or if Alderaan's population were comparable to the USA's, that could be around 74 million children. So we are talking billions or millions of children dead and Vader didn't even flinch at the idea. Many people show more emotion swatting a fly. Those deaths might've occurred off screen, but they still happened and Vader is responsible for them no less than he would be if they occurred on screen. So I believe if we thought about it, we always knew that Vader was a murderer of children and maybe the PT only brought that truth into a harsher focus. Which to me is a good thing, since it made the audience face the reality of the terrible crimes he committed both as Anakin and Vader (because Anakin and Vader really are ultimately the same person to me).

    I think a large part of Vader's appeal with fans is just him being this scary bad guy and all the costuming that goes along with it. That was a huge part of why he was a favorite character of my brother's growing up. It's the same sort of reason why he liked Maul with the facial tattoos and the dual-bladed lightsaber. They are powerful characters that look cool for all that they are evil. So to me there is a lot of different ways to engage with the Anakin and Vader character, and it's hard to definitively state which way is superior. Different people just have different tastes and ideas about what is appealing in a character.

    I figure that Luke did know about all the atrocities his father committed as Vader including blowing up a planet (the planet his sister had grown up on in fact) and was still willing to forgive Vader, so I'm not convinced that Luke knowing his father also killed children in the Jedi Temple would change his mind about his father's redemption. I think to him he just believed that his father could turn away from the dark and return to the light, and when that happened, he was willing to forgive his father whether or not his father deserved it.

    In answer to the broader question of whether Vader deserved forgiveness, the truth to me is nobody really deserves forgiveness. So for me redemption occurs with a character when there seems to be an understanding (spoken or unspoken) that the character realizes he/she has done terrible things, doesn't deserve to be forgiven for them, but is willing to do all he/she can to try to atone anyway. I also think it helps if I can see how the character suffers for his/her crimes and is driven to repentance.

    In general, though, I admit to being a person who is naturally drawn to redemption arcs and tragic heroes. Those are the kinds of stories I like. Give me the tragic heroes. The Anakin Skywalkers, the MacBeths, the King Lears, the Hamlet, the Othellos. I can engage with those characters and their tragedies on a deep level. Give me the redemption arcs. The Vaders, the Edmunds and Eustaces from the Chronicles of Narnia, the Zukos from Avartar: The Last Airbender. Those are the heroes and character arcs that can often move me the most.

    Of course, there are other people for whom these stories don't resonate or who can't see the characters redemption as achieved, and that's okay. Stories are meant to be interpreted in different ways. What resonates with me doesn't have to resonate with you and vice versa.
     
  7. Emperor Ferus

    Emperor Ferus Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Jul 29, 2016
    Objectively, I don't think so. I used to be much tougher about it. But one of the messages of the OT is that anybody can be redeemed if somebody cares enough like Luke did.

    If Luke knew what Vader had done? Well, by that point, he may not have known about the Younglings, but he knew about Alderaan and probably equivalently heinous acts Vader had committed over the years, as @devilinthedetails points out

    The fact that he didn't deserve Luke's forgiveness makes Luke's efforts to redeem him all the more powerful. And Luke knew two things: that Vader had once been a good person, and that the man behind the mask was the father he'd longed to know.

    That said, the believability of it depends on Vader dying soon afterwards, I think. He's much less likely to be forgiven by anyone else, and rightly.
     
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  8. darthvader88

    darthvader88 Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 29, 2005
    A Youtube did a What If on Vader living, and They had Vader and Luke going on the run. I don't think Vader would have not wanted to face retribution for what he did...

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  9. DARTH_BELO

    DARTH_BELO Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Nov 25, 2003
    I understand people may have different perspectives.

    Based on my faith, I do believe Vader deserved forgiveness-I believe anyone does-regardless of what is done-if they are remorseful. Forgiveness is not conditional. How many bad things would someone have to do before they reach the point where they can't be forgiven? Where exactly is that line? If one is remorseful and acknowledges their need for forgiveness, they are forgiven. And forgiveness is possible without the need to have people also feel sympathetic to them-because sympathy and forgiveness are not the same thing. I do not believe Anakin deserved sympathy-but if he were to seek forgiveness I don't personally believe it should have been denied him-whether he simply cut off someone's hand with a lightsaber or killed a room full of children. And if that were NOT true, and there's NO chance for redemption-then that is a very sad concept, and I'd wonder what would be the point of even trying after that, if there were indeed no hope.


    Again, this concept all depends on one's personal beliefs. This is my belief based on my faith. I understand people may disagree-and that's fine.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2020
  10. Emperor Ferus

    Emperor Ferus Chosen One star 7

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    Jul 29, 2016
    I'd also like to add that forgiveness is not the same as escaping justice. Vader objectively did deserve to face justice, though that doesn't negate his redemption or Luke's forgiveness. So as I said, it's best for the narrative that he died after saving Luke.
     
  11. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

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    Jun 19, 2019
    Yeah, I agree with two main points raised:

    1) Just because Luke forgave Vader/Anakin on a personal level, that was his choice and not necessarily one that had to be shared by other beings or society as a whole. People like Leia or Han have a right to feel differently about whether Vader/Anakin was really redeemed before he died and about whether they could forgive him or not. Forgiveness and redemption are very personal matters after all. One of the details that I actually really appreciate in the New Canon is that Leia doesn't seem to have forgiven Vader/Anakin in the novel Bloodlines and she definitely identifies Bail Organa as her father in every way that matters instead of Vader/Anakin. It was one of the decisions that Claudia Gray made in depicting her character that felt the most authentic to me, because it made total sense to me that Leia would choose to think of Bail Organa as her true father rather than Vader/Anakin.

    2) If he had survived the destruction of Death Star II, /Anakin would've needed to face justice for his crimes in a court of law. If he refused to do that, I wouldn't be able to see him as truly redeemed since to me that would show that he wasn't prepared to atone for his crimes by taking responsibility for them but instead wanted to escape the consequences of his actions. That's why I agree with Ferus that it's best narratively speaking that Vader/Anakin die at the end of ROTJ rather than live. It means that he can so he is willing to literally sacrifice himself and his life to save his son as well as gives a certain feeling of "justice done." It also makes the Force Ghost scene at the end possible, and I think that is one of the most powerful scenes in the saga. So to me that was a very good and important decision as far as the overarching saga narrative goes.
     
  12. DARTH_BELO

    DARTH_BELO Jedi Grand Master star 4

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    Nov 25, 2003
    100% this.
     
  13. christophero30

    christophero30 Chosen One star 8

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    May 18, 2017
    Totally. If Vader had lived I can't see him hanging out in the Rebel lounge playing the "how many of your friends did I kill?" game with the other Rebels. :p
     
  14. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

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    Jun 19, 2019
    That would make a good Robot Chicken Star Wars skit, though[face_laugh]
     
  15. Sarge

    Sarge Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 1998
    The whole point of forgiveness is that the forgiven doesn't deserve it. If someone deserves forgiveness, they've earned it, hence they have atoned and no longer need forgiveness.

    This debate long precedes the PT. Throughout the OT we've seen him Vader committing murder, torture, and genocide, so the younglings massacre adds little to the issue.
     
  16. Emperor Ferus

    Emperor Ferus Chosen One star 7

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    Jul 29, 2016
    Lucas and Marquand brought this debate up and discussed it in 1981 according to The Making of Return of the Jedi.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2020
  17. FightoftheForgotten

    FightoftheForgotten Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 19, 2020
    Forgiveness is about forgiving someone regardless of whether they deserve it or not. It doesn't strictly mean that the person doesn't deserve it, it just means it doesn't matter whether the person deserves forgiveness or not.
     
  18. Kenneth Morgan

    Kenneth Morgan Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    May 27, 1999
    First, there are three types of forgiveness, I'd say: personal forgiveness, Divine forgiveness, and official forgiveness. Say X steals my car, then has a religious epiphany and realizes he's done wrong. He returns my car to me and apologizes; I accept because no real harm was done, and that's personal forgiveness. X confesses his sin to God and genuinely repents; God forgives him, and that's Divine forgiveness. X turns himself in to the police, faces a judge and apologizes; the judge lets him off with a warning, and that's official forgiveness. However, all three are not always together. I could hold a grudge and not accept the apology. God may see the repentance as false and disregard it. And the judge may still give X a few months in the county lockup.
    So, let's apply this to Ani/Vader. Luke sees the conflict in Ani, knows how strong the Dark Side is, and forgives his father. Thus, personal forgiveness. Ani repents his crimes, and he's allowed to go to Light Side Heaven to see Padme and his Mom and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan again. (Hey, I'm sentimental, and that's how I look at it.) That the GFFA equivalent of Divine forgiveness. However, even if Ani lived and threw himself on the mercy of the court, no way can he get official forgiveness. His crimes are too great. Best he can hope for is life without parole, rather than spacing or the chair.
    Did Ani deserve forgiveness? No. He was weak, foolish and fearful, and he let it push him into mainlining the Dark Side to the point where he just didn't care what he was doing. By the time he knew he was on the wrong side of things, it was too late, so he just went with it until he could take over and put things "right", as he saw it. In the end, he turned back and repented, but he still deserved to get the boom lowered on him. Which it was, as in multiple dismemberment, electrocution, immolation, permanent disabilities, and death. But he didn't go to Sith Hell like Palpatine, thanks to an act of grace (defined as "unmerited favor" in Christianity) from the Light Side, in response to Luke's faith and Ani's repentance and, according to some sources, help from Obi-Wan and Yoda.
    Well, that's how I see it, anyway.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2020
  19. Jedi Knight Fett

    Jedi Knight Fett PT Interview Host/Teh Mole Host star 10 VIP - Game Host

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    Feb 18, 2014
    Not really. However I still get it and I like it, but he didn’t really deserve it. He killed countless people
     
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  20. SoUncivilized

    SoUncivilized Jedi Padawan

    Registered:
    Dec 5, 2019
    If you deserve it it's not really forgiveness, right? It might be atonement or justice or something, but it isn't forgiveness. Forgiveness is what saves people who would never survive the consequences of strict justice.

    A lot of action movies are about justice or comeuppance or revenge. Star Wars, in the end, is about something quite different.
     
  21. AEHoward33

    AEHoward33 Jedi Master star 4

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    Aug 11, 2019
    I don't think there is an answer set in stone about this situation. I guess it depends upon the individual fan. Some believe Anakin did. Some don't.
     
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  22. QUIGONMIKE

    QUIGONMIKE Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Yes, good post here. Although TROS screwed up(my least fav SW film by far) the "without the emperor part" but thats not for this thread! ;)

    As to whether Vader deserves forgiveness has to be based on your belief that either he was acting completely on his own or if there were forces partially controling him. Or, nope, he knew what he was doing and is therefoe 100% responsible for every bit of it. I hate to use the cliched "the devil made me do it" type of argument but Vader was "seduced" by the dark side and he isnt the only one throughout history whos succombed to it. His entire life was sort of a mess. No father, no family support, separated from his Mother although that was his decision ultimately. Then Jedi training(a hard life), reuniting with Padme, his mother dying, nightmares, fear of loss, etc, etc. It starts to pile up and you can only take so much.

    I agree that Anakins redemption isnt about forgivness but rather turning back as you said. Good way to put it. Myself, I certainly cant forgive the slaying of children but at that moment.....how sane was he? How much control did the Emperor have over him at that time?
     
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  23. s_heffley

    s_heffley Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Jun 7, 2015
    BuT VaDeR kiLEd kiDs iN the PreQuels!!! HOw coUld wE foRgiVe hiM noW?

    Do you guys think Alderaan was just a planet full of adults?
     
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  24. PymParticles

    PymParticles Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

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    Oct 1, 2014
    If this were a real story about a real person who actually existed and actually committed atrocities? No, absolutely not, by that measure the man was a genocide-abiding, mass-murdering, war criminal maniac who subjected both his wife and his two children to acts of inexcusable violence.

    In the context of Star Wars as a fairy tale story about larger-than-life figures operating in the language of mythopoetic tropes? Yeah, sure, that's kinda the whole point. You make a relatable message that's applicable to real life (people who have done bad things are not incapable of being better, people who have made mistakes can be deserving of love and forgiveness, it's never too late to do the right thing, etc.) using a wildly exaggerated scale and circumstances that no one will ever find themselves in.

    Judging Star Wars, or any comparable story where the pure-hearted heroes regularly commit war crimes set to an upbeat score and to our great delight, by the same moral standards that we use in real life, is an exercise in futility and an example of "missing the point entirely."
     
  25. Kenneth Morgan

    Kenneth Morgan Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    May 27, 1999
    Actually, Tarkin gets the direct blame for Alderaan. He came up with the idea and he gave the firing order. There's been a lot of debate on whether or not Vader had the authority to override Tarkin on this. In any case, Vader kept silent, so he bears some responsibility, though not all.