In exploring why Anakin turns evil (and knowing Luke doesn’t), ‘Revenge of the Sith’ episode a good look at nature vs. nurture.
The father turned evil. The son didn’t. Was Anakin Skywalker the proverbial bad seed, or did he just have a tougher upbringing than his boy Luke?
George Lucas’ chronicle of the Skywalker family, which concludes with “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” makes a nice cinematic case study of the old nature vs. nurture debate. Are good and evil bred in the bone or cultivated through life experience?
“Revenge of the Sith,” which opens Thursday, completes Lucas’ prequel series about the roots of Anakin, a dashing pilot and Jedi knight who turns to the dark side and is transformed into Darth Vader.
How about it George? Was Anakin born bad?
“No,” Lucas told The Associated Press. “That’s why most people got upset about ‘Episode I.’ They said, ‘Well, he should be a monster.’ But he’s not a monster. He has sort of heightened skills and awareness, and he’s smarter than most people, but at the same time, he makes rather bad decisions.”
Lucas chose to start with Anakin’s boyhood, showing him progressing from cheery, precocious innocent in “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” to churlish, lovesick puppy in “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” to twisted terminator in “Revenge of the Sith.”
As a prodigy with skills beyond his years, Anakin became seduced by the thought that he was destined for greater things than the average Jedi, said Lucas pal Steven Spielberg.
“I think it was simple ambition that turned him to the dark side,” Spielberg said. “The trilogy says to me it’s the dangers of that ambition. Look, he was in pod races at too young of an age. In this case, it was sort of the evil result of ambitions, being too ambitious for his own good.”
Born into slavery on the desert of planet Tatooine, Anakin was a mama’s boy raised in a single-parent home never knowing who his father was. Identified by the Jedi as the next big thing, Force-wise, Anakin is whisked away to grow up under the tutelage of such galactic godfathers as Obi-wan Kenobi, Yoda and Mace Windu.
As a teenager, Anakin returns to Tatooine and slaughters a band of nomadic “sand people” for killing his mom, the Jedi apprentice’s first steps toward a life of malevolence.
“Anakin comes from a single-mother upbringing. He had such an extreme attachment to his mother, and because of that, losing her obivously had massive impact on him.” said Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin.
In “Revenge of the Sith,” Anakin’s fear of losing the person he most loves – his wife, Padme Amidala – makes him an easy mark for the evil emperor-to-be, who tempts the young Jedi to the dark side with promises of boundless power that would allow him to save his woman.
“It really had to do with greed and the flip side of greed, which is possessiveness,” Lucas said. “If you’re a Jedi, you can’t have possessiveness. You can love people, you can care about people, but you can’t hold on to them. As a result, that’s where he goes wrong, and it takes him down a path of gaining power, and that power corrupts itself. And pretty soon, he’s thinking about becoming emperor of the universe.”
No one is born with a Napoleon complex. Yet our genetic raw material does establish tendencies for how each person will respond to environmental factors, said Alan Hilfer, a child psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York.
“We come into the world with a personality, a character. Some kids are more irritable, some more sensitive, some kids are easygoing,” Hilfer said. “We all come in with a particular set of biological pieces to make up who we are. How things act on those pieces determine how we navigate the rest of our lives.”
Anakin does have a biological predisposition to great power in his sky-high level of “mitachlorians,” the microscopic mojos from which Jedi and their evil counterparts, the Sith, derive their potency.
Then, so too does Luke, who inherits Dad’s innate powers.
“The Force is strong with this one,”
Darth observed in his first encounter with Luke in the original “Star Wars” during a dogfight in space.
“The Force runs strong in my family,” Luke comments in “Return of the Jedi,” hinting to Princess Leia of her own hidden powers as he reveals they are brother and sister.
Luke grows up with a better support system, raised in a stern but loving home by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on their Tatooine moisture farm. And unknown to him, he has Obi-Wan watching over him from a distance, biding his time until young Skywalker is ready to learn the ways of the Force.
Of course, Luke’s aunt and uncle are slain by Vader’s thugs. And he faces a similar threat of loss – in Luke’s case, his sister – yet resists the temptation to chuck his altar-boy ways and sell his soul to the emperor.
At the end of “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi,” Luke’s good heart is so strong, he draws his father back to the side of right as Anakin renounces decades of depravity and dies with a loving gaze fixed on his son.
“However Luke managed to become selfless, because he wasn’t really trained in the same way a Jedi would be trained, but in the end, when push came to shove, he made a decision to be selfless,” Lucas said. “He did not want the power to control the universe. He didn’t want to be the emperor’s right hand. He didn’t want to destroy his father, and he refused to go along with the program.”
Put simply, Han Solo once carped at Luke, “Don’t get cocky.” Luke got the message. Anakin didn’t.
“I think it comes from someone’s obsession and someone’s ambition, letting their ambition get the better of the,” Christensen said. “That’s something thaty Luke didn’t really have. Although he had this sense of wanting to have something bigger, leave Tatooine and all that. But Anakin believed the hype. He thought he was the chosen one. That’s a much different level of wanting something more. Absolute power, that’s not something Luke wanted.”
And it was not something Lucas wanted for Luke. For all the nature vs. nurture theorizing, Lucas has the easiest answer to why Luke doesn’t follow Dad down the path of evil.
“It makes a good story,” Lucas said laughing.
Source: The Lincoln Journal Star, Written by David Germain (AP)