Thursday, September 13, 2012

Does Star Wars Have a Line of Dialog With a Double Meaning?

With this post we now broach a topic of central importance to all of us: the role of ambiguity in cinematic Space Opera.

Near the end of the final Star Wars film, Obi-Wan says something that set me back a moment and made me think. Is it possible that a character in a Star Wars film said something that was layered with meaning? Actually having one meaning on the surface and another at a different level? Could this be?

Arguably there is one other potential case of a double meaning in Star Wars, that being the sequence where Obi-Wan famously tells Luke something about his father, but certainly not everything.   He says that his father was a good friend, a great pilot, fought in the clone wars but had been "murdered and betrayed by Darth Vader", failing to mention that Luke's father and Darth were the same person. Now maybe that qualifies as a double meaning, or maybe its just plain old lying by omission, and that is not quite the same thing.

The case I am referring to is different. It takes place during the the climactic fight between Obi-Wan and his former pupil, Anakin, the proto-Darth. They are fighting over a lava field and of course have time to have a discussion while they try to kill each other.

So Obi-Wan and Anakin are fighting and talking, and they say things like this

Anakin: If you are not with me, then you are my enemy.
Obi-Wan: Only a Sith deals in absolutes. I will do what I must.
Anakin: You will try.

They fight for a few minutes, then Obi-Wan says

Obi-Wan: I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.
Anakin: I should have known the Jedi were plotting to take over.
Obi-Wan: Anakin! Chancellor Palpatine is evil!
Anakin: From my point of view, the Jedi are evil.
Obi-Wan: Well then you are lost!
Anakin: This is the end for you, my master.

Then they fight some more when suddenly Obi-Wan jumps to a nearby ridge, looks down at Anakin and says ...

Obi-Wan: It's over, Anakin!  I have the high ground.

You see, it seems to me that Obi-Wan is actually saying something here that is both literally true and metaphorically true. He has the high ground, standing on a ridge and all, but he also has the high moral ground. Is this possible, could it be that a Star Wars character would say such a thing?

Well, if it is true, it doesn't last very long.   The next lines of dialog are:

Anakin: You underestimate my power!
Obi-Wan: Don't try it.

But of course, Anakin does try it, and for the first time in the history of the cinema, someone who does a stupid move in a sword fight (like spinning around or jumping over someone) is rewarded as they should be rewarded: they are cut off at the knees. Or worse.

Of course, I can't be sure that I am right about Obi-Wan and his high moral ground but nevertheless I wanted to alert you to this exciting possibility.

The scene itself is located on Youtube at the following location.

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