Saturday, November 08, 2008

Obi-Wan Dances Back, Declares It To Be On

I'M NOT SO MUCH OF an ultra-orthodox Star Wars geek anymore that I can't do some creative speculation into the film. Used to be, though. Used to get indignant even at the thought of other science fiction franchises. The blinders eventually dropped off somewhere at the end of high school in 1987 when (a) while watching the original Star Trek to generate MST3K-style comebacks, I got into that show too; and (b) I began seeing the one girl who'd started hanging with me and my guy-friends, and her sister, in bathing suits more often, and my priorities realigned themselves somewhat. Some things just have a way of educatin' a man.

More jaded now than educated, I sometimes look back on that old film and wonder. Today it was Obi-Wan Kenobi's confrontation in the cantina with those two slags who threaten Luke. (Yes, I know these two slags' Extended Universe names. No, I am not going to use them.) A couple of months ago, I viewed Yojimbo, one of George Lucas's sources for Star Wars. Ben's rather one-sided bar fight had its birth in Yojimbo, right down to the severed arm. Toshiro Mifune walks away from that fight with a wry comment to the town coffin-maker about his services being needed. Obi-Wan, however, merely looks around grimly to ensure the fight is done, then snuffs the saber and helps Luke up off his ass.

I was thinking. Obi-Wan's no slouch as a Jedi Master. He's already Force-tricked a Stormtrooper into letting Luke and the Droids cruise through a DWI. Setting aside Lucas's hard-on to include scenes from like 10 Kurosawa and John Ford films in a two-hour skiffy romp, Ben easily could've used the Force on these two alien clowns and chilled their latex asses out before resuming his job interview with Chewie. The only two on-film Force-resistant creatures we'll meet — also on Tatooine, oddly enough — won't show up until later in the re-edit of Ep 4 (Jabba) and, years later, in the much-maligned Ep I (Watto). Everyone else? Fair game for the mind trick.

So that leaves two possibilities for why Ben didn't chose a softer way of resolving this conflict. First, he may have figured, we're going to be here for a while, and the longer we are, the greater the odds that Blondie over here is gonna step in shit with one of these freaks. I might as well make a statement now to disabuse them of the thought of fucking with us.

Second, and this is, if even less Jedi-like, my favorite. At this point, the details of Ben's 20-ish years of exile on Tatooine hadn't been frantically scribbled in yet by a million Extended Universe monkeys. (And me, in fact.) As far as we know, other than checking up on young Skywalker often enough for Luke to recognize his last name as that of a "strange old hermit," Ben hasn't been doing squadootch. Can't use the Force in any meaningful way; no sense in attracting the Emperor's attention, nor that of his chief flunky, whose midichlorian-packed kid happens to live down the road a piece. Tusken Raiders could be frightened off with a dime-store duck call, and he had nothing even a retarded Jawa would want to steal. Lonely days in the Jundland Wastes, endless nights under now-forbidden stars, a long damn way from a lifetime of adventure.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, hard-fighting General in the Clone Wars, wise and reserved Master on the Jedi Council, who bested two Sith Lords and a batshit four-armed kill-bot in combat during his prime, had a 20-year case of Force blueballs when he walked down those dusty steps into the cantina. When those two slapdicks got in Luke's face, it was like Ben's birthday and the Wookiee Life Day rolled into one bright gift.

Ben could've guided them away with a Force-ful suggestion. He didn't. He wanted that fight.

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