The Prequel Menace – The Princess Diary

(Other than tomorrow’s post, which will undoubtedly be about my run, the next maybe 7 (?) posts are going to be Star Wars related. So if you’re not a fan, see you in a week!)

This post will have spoilers for: the Star Wars movies (except The Force Awakens)

I was talking to someone I had great respect for (who I will call Pyro, to keep their identity anonymous), and found out that their favourite movie from the Star Wars franchise is Revenge of the Sith. As is tradition, I had to give them crap for it, as the typical response to any of the prequel movies is:

Even though there are three of them, so technically, only one of them can be the worst (my vote goes to Attack of the Clones). Pyro replied that the prequels seem to get a lot of crap, but not all of it is justified. Is this true? (Mini-plug: If you don’t absolutely hate the prequels, the webcomic Darths and Droids makes the whole storyline a lot better. It covers the events in the series from the perspective of a group of people playing Dungeons and Dragons).

Some of the great moments in the original trilogy referred to events that we never get to see, and are left as a mystery. There were a lot of unanswered questions, but just like with many other stories, you’re just going to have to accept this and move on.

It really doesn’t matter to the story, in the grand scheme of things. Why is Leia a princess, but Luke, her twin brother, left to waste away on Tatooine? How did Leia know Obi-Wan? How did Vader end up being their father? Why does Obi-Wan have his lightsabre? What were the Clone Wars? All interesting questions, and there was much fan speculation, but no official answers. I do remember reading in a book that Vader ended up an asthmatic in a suit because he lost a fight to Obi-Wan and was burned by lava, but that just raised even more questions – who put him in the suit? If he lost, how is it that he’s one of the most feared men in the galaxy and Obi-Wan is  in hiding? Why does Obi-Wan have such a crappy ability to come up with a new name?

It doesn’t matter, and not having the answer to those questions doesn’t really reduce your enjoyment. Does it matter that you don’t know how lightsabres work exactly? Nope! As long as the rules for all the Force related stuff remain consistent, then it doesn’t. The only time it really does break the story is when it’s something deus ex machina-like, and it breaks the sense of immersion as you’re left thinking, “That totally came out of nowhere and doesn’t make sense at all, but now the good guys win. Hooray?”

Sometimes it’s a twist just to have a twist, but sometimes it helps with the story. Vader turn out to be Luke’s father helps explain why he’s so reluctant to kill him, despite the fact that Luke is incredibly outclassed throughout the entire trilogy. Having Leia turn out to be his sister makes the first movie a bit icky, but gives a convenient “out” to having them find Luke. That being said, the whole series had a convenient “out” with the whole “the Force made me do it” thing, but I’m glad it wasn’t as overused as it could have been.

George Lucas, and the film team. had the unenviable position of having to try and tie up all the big loose threads left by the original trilogy, but still leave the prequels as good standalone movies, for people who may be watching them for the first time. Not to mention all the hype that had been generated by the long wait between Return of the Jedi and The Phantom Menace (16 years).

Even harder, they had to turn Anakin from a good guy to a bad guy, but still have the audience engrossed in his story. I think it’d be pretty damn tough to turn this:

into this:

Though he was the reason we had the first one in the first place….

(Did you hear Vader’s breathing when you saw the second image? Because I hear it in the back of my mind every time I see it.)

I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at some of these things, and discuss how the series handled it. I’m going to consider the movies only, so I won’t include the novelisations (because I don’t have time to read them all right now), and none of the supporting material. The copy I am basing it on (just in case they decide to “remaster” them again), is “The complete saga” (lol, not complete anymore) blu ray discs, which were released on 2011. I thought about including Shadows of the Empire, but decided against it. It has been years since I played the game, and even longer since I read the book. My copy is sitting somewhere at my parents’ house, and I don’t even know if our N64 still works. As a side note: watching the movies at 3.1 times speed is really fun!

The first question I thought I’d explore was Leia’s royal heritage. Explaining the fact that she’s a princess wouldn’t be so difficult if it weren’t hindered by the fact that her lineage can’t give away the fact that she is the daughter of Anakin Skywalker.

According to the current voted answer on Sci-Fi Stack Exchange site:

Leia was adopted as a baby by Senator Organa and his wife Queen Breha Organa, thus making her a princess.

Technically, I don’t think she could be considered a princess by birth, since her mother Padmé Amidala was no longer Queen of Naboo at the time of Leia’s birth, having taken the position of Senator of Naboo. So it’s only via adoption that she has royal status.

However, before the prequels were aired, we didn’t have that information.

From an out of universe point of view, I have a feeling someone said to George Lucas that everything’s better with princesses (warning: TV tropes link) – the page itself even has an entry for her, saying the story would have been the same even if she wasn’t a princess (except for the part where Han is motivated to rescue her because she has money). Or it could be that the original story wasn’t even set in space to begin with (I mean, you do have Lord Vader, Luke is a farmer, and Han is a pirate). When it was just the original trilogy, it didn’t matter why. Leia was a princess (of an asteroid belt?), and that was that.

In The Phantom Menace, we find out that the girl Anakin has a crush on, and shamelessly flirts with, turns out to be Queen Amidala (fun fact: her decoy is played by Keira Knightley, of Bend It Like Beckham and Pirates of the Caribbean fame).

Well, that seems to answer the question quite cleanly. Leia is a princess because her mother is a Queen. Except that ends up raising another question: if Leia is famous enough that people address her as a princess because they know her mother is a queen, and Anakin knows that this woman he loved, and had sex with, gave birth to her, why didn’t he put two and two together and realise Leia is his daughter? Presumably, the dates would have added up.

Plus, if Amidala is the Queen of Naboo, she’ll have to stay on the planet for the rest of the series, because it doesn’t make sense for the Queen to just jet off on adventures with her jedi husband – it’s unnecessary danger to the royal family, and it really just makes no sense.

Maybe the film team realised this after they had shot too much footage for TPM, because it seems that the Queen of Naboo is an elected position.

This also helps to explain why she is so young and isn’t an orphan or something. I couldn’t find her age explicitly mentioned in the movie, the only thing is this line:

The most “official” source might be Weird Al’s song The Saga Begins which has the lines:

Did you know this junkyard slave

Isn’t even old enough to shave

But he can use the Force, they say

Ah, do you see him hitting on the queen

Though he’s just nine and she’s fourteen

Yeah, he’s probably gonna marry her someday

Though in Attack of the Clones she does mention becoming politically active at the age of eight:

So when I was eight, I joined the “Apprentice Legislators”, then later on became a Senatorial advisor, with such a passion that, before I knew it, I was elected Queen…I wasn’t the youngest Queen ever elected, but now that I think back on it, I’m not sure I was old enough. I’m not sure I was ready.

I guess they had to make her young because they decided to make Anakin so young in the first movie, and it’d be creepy if she was a middle-aged woman making googly eyes at a kid. That being said, Natalie Portman does not look fourteen in the first movie, which is another reason why I think it was retconned late into production. Although, Natalie Portman and Jake Lloyd still looks creepy – especially because they keep Natalie for the next two movies, but change his actor to someone else, so it looks like she hasn’t aged at all and he has!

So anyway, the Leia inheriting her royalty from Padmé point is now a wash, because there can’t be any known link between the two, otherwise Vader would have know when he was with her both on her ship and on the Death Star. He also wouldn’t have allowed her to be put up for execution.

It’s safe to assume she isn’t a princess through her birth mother or through her father. Another side note: Tarkin pronounces her name LEE-A, but I think the accepted pronunciation seems to have become LAY-A, as that’s how Natalie Portman says it in RotS.

With the first movie’s explanation for her royalty being a wash, that leaves Lucas two more movies to explain how Leia is a princess, why Luke isn’t a prince and how she managed to escape the notice of Vader.

Attack of the Clones doesn’t really do anything to solve this mystery, except develop the love between Amidala and Anakin, which we already guessed was going to happen based on the events in TPM. Also he murders a bunch of Tuskan raiders, and we meet Owen and Beru for the first time, which will be important later.

There are a couple of things that I’ll touch on in later posts, but the important thing here is that Anakin has to turn to the dark side so that he can turn into Darth Vader. They had already decided to paint him as a naïve do-gooder in the first movie, and although he does show some anger and recklessness in AotC, he’s still clearly “good”.

The other thing is that Padmé has to give birth to twins, but Anakin can’t know. How can they accomplish this?

They manage to kill two birds with one stone in Revenge of the Sith: have Anakin thinks she’s dead, and have her give birth in secret. However, with Padmé being as famous as she is – in the second movie, she was quite active in the senate, being in opposition of “Military Creation Act” – how could they hope to hide the fact that she was alive, and had twins? So she still had to die, but not until after giving birth.

This means you need the following events to happen: Anakin and Padmé have sex, Padmé becomes pregnant, Anakin has reason to believe Padmé is dead (best if he deals the killing blow himself, so now he has nothing attaching him to the light side), Padmé is taken somewhere else and gives birth, children are hidden away in secret. Padmé dies and the secret of her children’s heritage is kept secret by the people who take care of them.

Which is pretty much what happens in Revenge of the Sith minus the having sex part, which it is assumed takes place off-screen. This does come at the expense of one of my most hated parts of the entire series.

Yoda decides the kids must be split, and Bail offers to take Leia, saying he and his wife had always wanted to adopt a child.

YODA: Hidden, safe, the children must be kept.

OBI-WAN: We must take them somewhere the Sith will not sense their presence.

YODA: Split up, they should be.

BAIL ORGANA: My wife and I will take the girl. We’ve always talked of adopting a baby girl. She will be loved with us.

One of the final scenes is Bail handing a baby to a woman, who we assume is his wife. NOWHERE IS IT EXPLAINED THAT SHE IS THE QUEEN OF ALDERAAN.

Bail mentions being a senator during the movie, and that’s about it. If you’ve seen the original trilogy by this point, then you can assume she’s the Queen, except you pretty much hear nothing about Alderaan in the prequels, especially nothing about their ruling class. So despite three movies having the chance to explain it, if you only watched the movies, you still wouldn’t know why Leia is a princess (though there’s nothing that contradicts the idea that Bail’s wife is a Queen, so that possibility is still open). In fact, the worst part is that due to Padmé’s time as the Queen of Naboo, you may be mistakenly led to believe that she’s a Princess due to the fact that she’s the daughter of Padmé!

In terms of answering the question of Leia’s royal heritage, the prequels did a pretty poor job of it. It seemed like they were answering it with Queen Amidala, but that didn’t work, so they shoehorned in the adoption and conveniently had her adopted by a Queen. This wasn’t in the movie, but in the Return of the Jedi script hosted on IMSDB, Obi-Wan, as a Force ghost, explains:

BEN (continuing his narrative)

When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both as safe as possible, for as long as possible.  So I took you to live with my brother Owen on Tatooine… and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa, on Alderaan.

Luke turns, and settles near Ben to hear the tale. 

BEN (attempting to give solace with his words)

The Organa household was high-born and politically quite powerful in that system. Leia became a princess by virtue of lineage… no one knew she’d been adopted, of course. But it was a title without real power, since Alderaan had long been a democracy.  Even so, the family continued to be politically powerful, and Leia, following in her foster father’s path, became a senator as well.  That’s not all she became, of course… she became the leader of her cell in the Alliance against the corrupt Empire. And because she had diplomatic immunity, she was a vital link for getting information to the Rebel cause.  That’s what she was doing when her path crossed yours… for her foster parents had always told her to contact me on Tatooine, if her troubles became desperate. 

Luke is overwhelmed by the truth, and is suddenly protective of his sister.

LUKE

But you can’t let her get involved now, Ben. Vader will destroy her.

BEN

She hasn’t been trained in the ways of the Jedi the way you have, Luke… but the Force is strong with her, as it is with all of your family. There is no avoiding the battle. You must face and destroy Vader!

It clashes with the prequels, and seems like it was left on the cutting room floor, as isn’t even included as a deleted scene on the copy I have.

As another side note: In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Alderaan is one of the planets you can go to. Part of the main questline on the planet involves a war between various noble families, with the Organas being one of those families. At the time the game is set, House Panteer is the ruling family, but the Crown Prince is assassinated, and the Queen also dies, leaving no heir, hence the warring.

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1 Response to The Prequel Menace – The Princess Diary

  1. Pingback: The Prequel Menace – Jedi Training | :|

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