Clones -- old school style
Over the past few weeks, I've had Star Wars on the brain more than usual. Yes, for those of you who grasp the implication, I am now using 13% of my grey matter instead of the usual 10. Do not be frightened. Mine will be a rule of benevolent dictator.

There have been quite a few events stoking the fires along these lines of recent. First was the much-anticipated, dare I say drooled-over, arrival of the Star Wars DVD's. I've been very impressed with the quality of the films. A New Hope look vibrant. Recently, there was the spying of the Episode III trailer, which isn't out yet. Note that Lucas announced Wednesday that the teaser trailer will be appearing before the film The Incredibles on November 5, and will be shown on TV the night before on mysteriously unnamed stations. So set the VCR for "all". I'd suspect, as in the past, they'll have the trailer on Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight or both.

And now we have the despotic Jaquandor digging into explanations for old fan issues, in this case, what Luke was doing between Empire and Jedi that completed his training. The answer, naturally, is blowing in the wind. Or read it for yourself because, on this one singular occasion, his analysis is correct. Note that this does in no way constitute an endorsement for greatest single contributor to Star Wars fandom (read opening sentence of his blog). That title belongs to the writer of this extraordinary piece.

There are two major references to the clones in A New Hope, one sequence forming the cannon of anything we knew about the Clone Wars, and the other sequence an oblique reference that has, with the release of Attack of the Clones, become more apparent. The first is at the homestead of Ben Kenobi, when Luke and the former Jedi talk about the past. After Ben implies that Luke's uncle has been 'telling him tales', Luke asks:
    LUKE: You fought in the Clone Wars?
    BEN: Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.
And, until Attack of the Clones was released 25 years later, that has been the only reference to the clones or Clone Wars. That's a lot of time to rely on one small exchange. However, those few words are packed with details we can infer.

Luke is asking in a inquisitive, almost admirative tone of voice, without any hint of accusation. He doesn't think that being involved in the Clone Wars is a bad thing, even with his uncle's influence. We can assume that his friends in the community have a similar point-of-view. Ben's easy acknowledgement of his participation confirms that. However, Ben goes a step further and adds that he was a Jedi knight. Instead of saying, "Wow, what's a Jedi knight?" or "Whose side did they fight on?", he says, sadly, "I wish I'd known him." Of course Luke is much more interested in the father he never met, but his acceptance of what Ben has just told him tells us a lot about the perception of the Jedi in this time. Luke must have heard them term many times before, otherwise he would have asked what the heck a 'Jedi' was.

Secondly, Luke didn't question Ben's allegiance, so the Jedi must have been known to be noble warriors, or at least not fighting against the people. When Ben introduces Luke to a lightsaber and the force, we see that it's likely that people only know the name 'Jedi' and some vague details about them, but nothing of their culture. Despite all this, the details on the clones or the wars themselves remains only something to guess at. Was Ben on the side of the clones (we now know him to be at one point), or fighting against them?

Another clue is left tantalizingly vague moments later, when R2 begins the recorded message:
    LEIA: General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire.
There is not much we can infer from this from an original trilogy standpoint, except that Leia's father knew Obi-Wan 'back in the day', and that likely share similiar ideologies. In terms of the prequel trilogy, this is more interesting. We know that Bail Organa is one of the more powerful senators in the Republic, and that he strongly opposed the use of the clone army. Now that the Clone Wars are in full swing, and the Jedis are to be deployed as soldiers alongside the clones, the question is, was Leia refering to the Jedi who fought with the clones at the beginning of the Clone Wars, or perhaps against the clones at the end under her father's rebellious leadership? For certain, we know that Bail Organa knew how to find Obi-Wan 20 years later, so there must have been some kind of conspiring between the two.

The second reference to clones germanates from a seemingly throwaway line. When Luke, guised in stormtrooper armor, first opens the door to Princess Leia's cell, she remarks with a bit of mirth,"Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" Luke immediately realizes that the uniform is a bit too large for him and quickly introduces himself to his sister, and the escape is on. The line was ostensibly intended as comedy relief, pointing out that masquerading in the enemy's uniform is hardly seamless. However, the laughter distracts from her real meaning. Leia isn't saying that this stormtrooper got a bad fit in the armor department, but that this clone somehow turned out a bit shorter than his brothers. In other words, she knows they are clonetroopers. The rescue party certainly knows the stormtroopers are clones, and by everyone's lack of reaction, you might infer that this is even common knowledge (much more common than the identity of Darth Vader -- even Leia says, "You're WHO?" when Luke introduces himself) in the galaxy. That, to me, is a chilling realization; they all know and accept that they are running around fighting clones.

Or 'Stormtroopers', rather. As we now know from Episode II, the clonetroopers were created from the seed of Jango Fett by the Kaminoans. The question is, when do they make the transition from clonetroopers to stormtroopers? In other words, when does the 'Empire' get christened? Like most of the fall of the Republic, it will be a gradual but certain fall towards a corrupt system. You aren't going to see Palpatine flip a switch and say, "AHA! It's really an Empire!!" Even 20 years after Episode III, the Emperor is still cleaning up the remnants of the Republic (Tarkin mentions the Emperor just dissolved the Imperial Senate). So when do the stormtroopers get created? The answer is, they already have. Except for some uniform upgrades, they ARE stormtroopers. Note that in the entire original trilogy, no Imperial officer, Vader, or even the Emperor refer to their army as 'stormtroopers'. They are always 'troops'. Only the rebels and those sympathetic to their cause refer to the clones as 'stormtroopers'. In other words, it's a nickname that the people of the galaxy have placed on the Emperor's men, a subtle politcal commentary on the Empire's style, for the word means, "a member of a private Nazi army notorious for aggressiveness, violence, and brutality." They are still all clonetroopers from Kamino, just under the ruthless leadership of the Sith.

It's going to be a treat (at least for me, some of you are no doubt reading this and going, 'Get a life!!!') to watch the original trilogy once Episode III has debuted for more of this kind of thing. I love how Lucas never really spells out what is going on, but leaves it for the audience to figure out and understand. Or for dorks like me.

No comments: