Though Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA) was refreshing and exciting, the way in which it glossed over political and military details is a distinct problem. I’m of the mind that this may have been a conscious effort on J.J. Abram’s part, given how the prequels were often derided for providing too many details in this department.
Yet I don’t know what he was worried about! In my opinion, George Lucas’s governmental procedurals have always been the shining stars of his movies! But in case you somehow didn’t manage to appreciate his genius before, I have decided to provide you with a handy list of the top 10 political meeting scenes in the franchise. And yes, it is a completely definitive ranking.
10. The Endor military briefing session (RotJ)
Well, the original trilogy certainly didn’t include the political brilliance captured in the prequels, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that these fabulous scenes had their origin in Return of the Jedi. Though this meeting gets a bit overshadowed by the first appearance of Admiral Ackbar and Mon Mothma, at its heart it is everything that makes Star Wars great. How is it that Leia has no idea Han volunteered the Endor mission when she [probably] outranks him? Why is no one reacting to Mon Mothma’s emotional breakdown about bothan spies? Is there a reason she, Ackbar, and General Madine had to tag-team the briefing?
Don’t even worry about it! Watch as Han refers to himself as a “team” (perhaps this is character development from when he called Leia a “committee”). And then this meeting just ends. Unceremoniously. Because Luke walks in, and apparently no one in the Rebel Alliance is particularly concerned that he was an officer who totally abandoned his post. I guess they can’t afford to court martial anyone when they’re so scrappy.
Now this scene loses a few points because it’s more militarily focused than politically, and I just live for addresses to the Senate. Further, though the Death Star 2.0 is a tad ridiculous, these plans mostly make sense, and everyone talking kind of sounds like an actual person. But don’t worry, we’ll get to those thrilling nonversations soon enough.
9. Anakin throws a temper tantrum in the Council room (RotS)
Despite Revenge of the Sith (RotS)’s reputation as being super action-packed, most of this movie is actually full of political meetings that make all the sense. It’s definitely a competitive category, but coming in at #9 is the scene where the Jedi Council approves Anakin to join them (even though they had no reason to do this), but don’t grant him the rank of “Master.” Which okay, seeing as Anakin has to convincingly turn EVHUL in the span of one movie, this was a fine way to plant his dissatisfaction with the good guys.
But then he outright has a hissy fit. I mean. Here:
What? ! How can you do this?? This is outrageous, it’s unfair…I’m more powerful than any of you. How can you be on the Council and not be a Master?
Which again, okay, Anakin is a poodle who’s gonna slaughter younglings. However NO ONE REACTS. There’s a 90% chance the Jedi are just completely stoned throughout this entire film, because he basically just said something that is kinda a “dark side” alarm bell here, and they just tell him to take a seat with a glazed over look in their eyes.
But then we get into the real intrigue. It’s fatal to not use ships to sweep for Grevious! It’s impossible to take ships from the “front line” (front line of what? Who cares.)! It’s critical to defend the Wookies! I mean Jesus, how bad are they at their jobs that this all came up in one meeting? However to move up on this list, we would have needed more proclamations that don’t actually mean anything. Like, this meeting actually gave people reasons to move to their next plot-location.
8. Palpatine announces his candidacy to Padme (tPM)
But don’t worry; this scene certainly doesn’t have the same problem. No, in fact, we know we’re in good hands because this opens with Jar-Jar talking at Padme about how her people are probably all going to die. Ahh, what cute Nabooian bonding.
But the focus on the scene is certainly the EVHUL Palpatine’s power-grab. By…running for an elected office. Legally. Are you shaking? It’s okay, it’s just The Phandom Menace (tPM) so he can’t be too mustache twirly yet.
Now this scene sits lower on the list, because the true genius of the “no confidence” vote that established this context clearly deserves a higher spot. However, this is the one where Palpatine says, and I quote, “unfortunately, the Federation has possession of our planet. The law is in their favor.” Which just…what? Right of invasion?
And I guess Padme was overwhelmed with how much sense that makes, because her response was to fuck off. “There is nothing more I can do here.” WHY DID YOU EVEN COME? “My place is with my people.” HOW DOES THIS STOP THE INVASION? DON’T YOU NEED GOVERNMENTAL HELP?
But no, clearly, it makes all the sense because Palpatine was meticulously manipulating the outcome of every conversation.
7. “Hey dude with anger management issues, you’re the perfect spy!” (RotS)
So, after the #9 scene where Anakin had a meltdown, the rest of the Council apparently asked Obi-Wan off-screen if he’d go ask Anakin to spy on Palpatine for them. Because he’s definitely stable and not showing worrying signs.
However we know we’re getting into the good stuff now for two reasons: firstly, this scene is the exact same as the scene where Palpatine asked Anakin to spy on the Jedi for him. Person approaches Anakin, makes some points to get him nervous about the other party, and then not-at-all-subtly asks him to spy for them. You can literally ctrl c + ctrl v the two scenes and just change the names involved.
Secondly, this is a nonverstation! And those always make for captivating scenes!
The informal exchange of ideas where one party’s assertions have no effect on the other’s. The result of two people talking near each other, not to each other.
“Don’t bother eavesdropping on this nonversation.”
- OBI-WAN: Anakin, regardless of how it happened, you find yourself in a delicate situation.
- ANAKIN: You mean divided loyalties.
- OBI-WAN: I warned you there was tension between the Council and the Chancellor. I was very clear. Why didn’t you listen? You walked right into it.
- ANAKIN: The Council is upset I’m the youngest to ever serve.
Literally, what is anyone talking about? Anakin walked into a trap by being offered a job? What does this have to do with Anakin’s assertion about feeling conflicted? However, don’t worry, because when you write yourself into a corner…use the force!
- ANAKIN: Master, you of all people should have confidence in my abilities. I know where my loyalties lie.
- OBI-WAN: I hope so . . .
- ANAKIN: I sense there’s more to this talk than you’re saying.
Great, now just blurt out how Anakin should spy and let’s call it a wrap! And don’t even bother denying that it’s treason, because it kinda is. Wait, Anakin is somehow the wise one here now?
6. The manipulating Jar-Jar scene (AotC)
It is a true testiment to how sharp Attack of the Clones (AotC) is that its politically heavy scenes all land in the 6th spot or above. This particular one is where Palpatine is in full-stop manipulation mode to convince Jar-Jar, the temporary Senator (and we’re supposed to think Padme is good at her job?) to put forth a motion that will give Palps “emergency powers.”
But here’s the thing…it’s almost like the movie forgot what they already told us. Which is that:
- The military creation act is very popular and has strong support, which is why Padme was so upset about needing to leave
- The separatists literally just attacked Obi-Wan. We see a droideka roll into the hologram thing, and this definitely seems like admissible evidence
Not to mention, why would the senate vote for emergency powers, yet not for employing the army? Which okay, maybe the point was that Jar-Jar is too stupid to see that, but how many of these scenes rely on Palp’s ever-extending Batman’s gambit? And at one point does Bail get sick of the fact that his only contribution in this movie is offering a vaguely queasy look to the camera? This is why you’re consort, dude.
5. Fuck it, Padme’s doing it live (tPM)
So this is the result of Padme fucking off from #8. And this political decision of hers was so great, that it had to land on this list twice. Because holy shit, she does all this on the mere hope that Jar-Jar’s offhand remark about Gungans being warriors was accurate? I mean I guess if she was wrong, she never really gave a shit about their species anyway… But the lady seriously didn’t have a plan. She just called forth Jar-Jar and said “I need your help,” so that he could bring the Gungans to the table. Or something.
If only Padme had listened to her menz:
- CAPT. PANAKA : The moment we land the Federation will arrest you, and force you to sign the treaty.
- QUI-GON : I agree…I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish by this.
But no, she ignored these reasonable concerns because “I am going to take back what’s ours.” With fire and blood? Holy shit, I think she and Deadpan would really get along.
4. The Jedi casually commit treason (RotS)
So we already saw that the Jedi in RotS are okay playing it fast and loose with disloyalty, and who they ask to help them participate. But like, it’s one thing to ask one of your own to spy on a dude with a ton of power and some questionable calls; it’s another to literally plan a coup.
In this scene, Windu “senses” a plot to destroy the Jedi. So he, Yoda, and Ki-Adi-Mundi stand around a table and plan how they’re going to overthrow the government if Palps doesn’t give up his emergency powers:
- Kl-ADI-MUNDI: If he does not give up his emergency powers after the destruction of Grievous, then he should be removed from office.
- MACE WiNDU: That could be a dangerous move … the Jedi Council would have to take control of the Senate in order to secure a peaceful transition . . .
- Kl-ADI-MUNDI: . . . and replace the Congress with Senators who are not filled with greed and corruption.
THESE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE GOOD GUYS? I mean I know the Jedi code is woolly and changes as the plot demands, but hand-selecting fucking senators?
3. Palpatine’s totally convincing speech to end the Republic (RotS)
Speaking of things that changes as the plot demands, Senate votes! Because seriously, RotS would just have us believe that these senators continually vote for measures that make themselves obsolete. There was even a deleted scene where the following exchange happens:
- PADME: Do you think he [Palps] will dismantle the Senate?
- MON MOTHMA: Why bother? As a practical matter, the Senate no longer exists.
So we’re to simply accept that Palpatine, now with an EVHUL face and a scary cape, delivers the most passionate speech ever about reorganizing the Republic into an Empire (how does this tangibly change anything?) to cheers. And this whole situation was totally not orchestrated because Lucas was enamored with his line, “So this is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause.”
And like, Palp’s speech wasn’t even that good. He just kind of says, “the Jedi rebellion has been foiled. Fwump. There you go. Just take that fact people. In other news, hows about a new constitution and fancy name?” I’m sold. Just listen to that thunderous applause. I guess it’s because every single senator is filled with greed and corruption.
2. Padme’s nonversation with Queen Jamilla (AotC)
When you have a former queen-become-senator meeting with the current ruling monarch, the ground is laid for a most important political discussion. And boy did this one live up to the hype.
First, apparently the Queen is super out of touch with international politics, because she has to ask her senator how many systems joined the Separatists. Whatever, maybe she was distracted with setting a fair fruit tariff policy for Naboo. However, there’s also the chance that she has dementia, because she then asks a question about “why hasn’t the Trade Federation been restrained,” but answers it herself two lines later with “Remember, Counsellor, the courts were able to reduce the Federation’s armies. That’s a move in the right direction.”
Then when Padme notes there are rumors that this wasn’t followed through on, Queen Jamilla just gets bored with the topic, and says “let’s have faith in democracy,” before asking about Padme’s security.
Like holy shit, this scene almost made Anakin seem like he had a point about the merits of totalitarianism.
1. A vote of no con-fi-donce (tPM)
But the number one, cream of the crop, most brilliant and well-thought out political scene has to have come in tPM, when Padme decides that the best way to spur immediate action that will help Naboo’s crisis and get around bureaucratic red-tape is to… move forward with a proposal that will lead to an election process. That’s not time consuming at all.
Oh, it’s also worth mentioning that Chancellor Valorum was one of Naboo’s strongest supporters, but why not blow that up? And this super slow red-tape was because the Trade Commissioner said there was no proof of their attack that Padme testified to, so they wanted a commission to be established that would explore the validity of her claims. Except that there was a lot of proof. Like several eye-witnesses (two of whom are Jedi), and body counts and shit. And did they think Padme just went to Tatooine for a vacation?
But no, rather than even try to point any of that out, she just went straight into her vote of no con-fi-donce (her “regal” delivery is just so amazing). Which like, how can that even happen? I’m quite sure someone random testifying before a parliament can’t begin an impeachment process.
And just wow, you really felt it when all those senators we didn’t know started reacting in ways we didn’t have any reason to care about over the removal of a chancellor that didn’t matter to us in the slightest. Why are we supposed to feel good about Padme, again?
So there you have it: the true heart of the Star Wars franchise. Here’s hoping Episode 8 corrects TFA’s mistakes and brings us these in droves.