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Monday, June 27, 2011

Bad feelings, and the people who have them

What haven't we done in this space in quite a while? Why, rant about someone's inability to understand Star Wars, that's what!, always one of my favorite websites, has a piece up today called "5 Movie Fan Theories That Make More Sense Than The Movie". There's a bit about, you guessed it, Star Wars. Here it is:

Star Wars: Obi Wan Kenobi is OB-1, Clone Warrior

One of the most intriguing aspects of the original Star Wars trilogy was the brief mention of something called "The Clone Wars" -- in the first film, those three words alone are enough to change Luke's perception of Obi-Wan Kenobi from "cave-dwelling old creep" to "badass space warrior." The thing is, in those early movies they never actually told us what exactly the Clone Wars was, which somehow makes it sound even more epic: For over two decades, literally the only thing fans knew about it was that it involved clones and warring.

Of all the wild theories fans came up with during those cold, lonely Star Wars-less decades, there's one that stands out ...

The Awesome Fan Theory:

The "clones" were artificially grown Jedi, and Obi-Wan was one of them -- thus the clone designation "OB-1."

Picture this: Millions of cloned Jedi Knights battling across planets and spaceships in a badass whirlwind of laser-force space death. A "star war," if you will. It makes sense: If you had to clone someone to create an army of warriors, a powerful Jedi would be the most logical choice.

According to this theory, the name Obi-Wan Kenobi is actually a transliteration of his serial number: OB-1, first in a line of star-warring space wizards. In the first movie, Obi-Wan uses the alias "Ben Kenobi," supposedly because he's hiding from the Empire, but that doesn't really make sense: Why would you keep the same last name if you didn't want to be found? This would explain where the alias came from: It was the name of the original Jedi he was cloned from (and therefore his "father").

Oh, and it closes a gigantic plot hole in the prequels: The reason the old man Obi-Wan doesn't seem to remember any of the events of the prequels (such as not remembering having ever seen the droids before, or that Darth Vader built Threepio) is that the old man is just a clone. Also, imagine the awesomeness of the surprise ending they could have included in Episode II, in which the future Darth Vader starts his march toward evil by pushing the original Obi-Wan Kenobi off of one of those high walkways they apparently design into every spaceship.

What We Got Instead:

In Episode II: Attack of the Clones, we find out that the Clone Wars was actually a war between some crappy robots and ... an army of Boba Fetts. The Jedi are sort of standing in between, and then they're all killed by the Boba Fetts. Yeah.

Oh yeah. These guys are way cooler than an endless apocalyptic horde of Jedi.

As for Obi-Wan, he forgot all about R2-D2 and C-3PO after spending three whole movies with them because ... you know what, at this point we don't even care.

This is the first time I've ever heard this "fan theory" in action. In all's a pretty cool idea. But I have to admit that I was never really traumatized by not knowing what the "Clone Wars" were all about. Sure, I wanted to know, but I didn't devote a whole lot of thought to it. I figured it was a bunch of wars. Involving clones. Why worry about it?

But the rest of this is awfully wrong-headed. Surely it's not that difficult to pay attention to details? Starting with the question of why Obi Wan would use his original last name when he's in hiding, it should be remembered that he's not in hiding on Coruscant or some other heavily-populated central world. He's hiding on a sparsely-populated planet way out on the Outer Rim, a planet that isn't really even part of the Empire yet. There's no real reason for the name "Kenobi" to be particularly troublesome; the only people who really know about him are the Emperor and Darth Vader, and neither of them really has any reason to be concerned with events on Tatooine. In fact, Vader himself may be subconsciously intending to avoid that planet entirely, since it's where he grew up and met Padme.

And really, for all we know, "Kenobi" is like "Jones" in the Star Wars universe.

But the commentary goes off the rails when the writer assumes that the fan theory would fix a major "plot hole" in the Prequel Trilogy. The statement that "Obi Wan doesn't seem to remember what happened in the Prequels" is just silly. First of all, he never said that he had never seen the droids before. All he said was, "Don't seem to recall ever owning a droid." Owning. And he hasn't. He's worked with droids, but none has ever really called him "Master".

Second -- well, he's got to be careful, doesn't he? When the droids show up in his life again in A New Hope, he can't possibly expect them, and he can't just start babbling at them: "Hey, R2! I haven't seen this little droid in twenty years! And C-3PO! How's it going!" He can't do those things because Luke is right there, and Luke has no idea who he is or what he represents. And it's not like they have time, over the ensuing course of events, for Obi Wan to give Luke a lengthy recitation of the events of the Clone Wars. What does Cracked think that Obi Wan is supposed to do?

And third, of the two droids specifically -- it's well-established in Star Wars that astromech droids (R2-D2) and protocol droids (C-3PO) are pretty much a dime a dozen. It's also established that Obi Wan doesn't think too highly of droids in his early life. And there's just no real reason for Obi Wan to even know that Anakin built C-3PO. Maybe he knows, maybe he doesn't. Cracked is assuming that the characters know as much as we do, and there's no reason to make that assumption.

There. Been a while since I ranted in defense of Star Wars -- I'd forgotten how good it felt!


Lance Mannion said...

Never heard that one either. I don't remember what I thought the Clone Wars were when I first saw the movie or caring, particularly. As for Obi-wan not recognizing R2, you're right, there's no reason for him to. One R2 unit looks like another and our R2 spent all his time with Anakin, who, we know, did not spend all his time with Obi-wan even when he was his apprentice. And the look Alec Guinness gives R2 when he says he can't remember ever owning a droid can be interpreted as him thinking, "I wonder..." Presumably he stops wondering and knows it's Anakin's R2 but if he tells Luke that, Luke's going to start asking more questions about his father Obi-wan doesn't want to answer.

Like you I also figured that Kenobi is that galaxy's equivalent of Jones. He seems to be known far and wide as just Obi-wan.

Charlie said...

It's harder for me to rationalize why they let Luke keep his last name, growing up a few yards from his grandmother's grave and one of the few spots in the galaxy Vader might be reasonably expected to visit (either to pay his respects to Ma or to blast some memories of Anakin away - sort of a Dark Jedi reverse 12-step process - or to come back and finish wiping out the Tusken Raiders; I can see any of those being Things He Might Do). Not that I'm trying to hop on your comment thread and wear the anti-prequel hat, but I do think Lucas's insistence on reusing Tatooine makes the transition more awkward than it needs to be.

Doug said...

I remember thinking about the droid recognizing question too, I had attributed it to the fact years had past and living as a hermit (and an old hermit to boot) Obi Wan wasn't what he used to be.