I am a Jedi, like my Father before me

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M: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” But Luke is also like his father in many other ways…

K: …and boy does it freak Obi-Wan out.

M: Poor dear never stops stressing. Even after death.

K: He and Yoda both spend a large part of ESB and RotJ just panicking that they are going to lose Luke to the Dark Side the same way they lost Anakin. Which is understandable considering the parallels between the two Skywalkers.

M: Let’s start with the basics. Both Anakin and Luke grew up on Tatooine–which obviously messes a person up, all that sand–and both enter Jedi-hood late in life, after some serious trauma.

K: The Jedi Council thought Babykin was too old, imagine Mace’s face if he got a look at 22-year-old Luke asking to be trained as a Jedi.

M: And he’s certainly not the Jedi Council’s idea of an ideal student. He’s whiny and stubborn and has some sort of revenge/heroism dream when it comes to fighting the Empire. He is so incredibly normal, I can’t stress that enough. Just a stereotypical 19-year-old kid who isn’t quite sure what he wants to do with his life… he just knows he wants it to be *different.*

K: And off of Tatooine.

M: His initial Jedi crash-course is frighteningly similar to Anakin’s. He’s helping some random Jedi Master get off Tatooine and then said Jedi dies before he really gets to train.

K: Ooh good parallel. It’s not quite as bad as Anakin with Qui-Gon, because Luke wasn’t promised a Master and training at the Jedi Temple only to have it seemingly taken away, but the loss of Ben is a big turning point in Luke’s life.

M: Given that his aunt and uncle have just died, he transfers his need for guidance onto Old Ben.

K: And then he’s just left adrift with this vague knowledge of the Force, a lightsaber that apparently belonged to his father, and a disembodied voice that occasionally appears in his head (and for all he knows, that might just be him going crazy).

M: Luke is incredibly unprepared for being “The New Hope.” He’s got all sorts of attachments, and has a huge amount of power with very little idea of how to control it or even what it is exactly. The whole situation is so similar to Anakin’s that it’s no wonder Yoda immediately tries to say he is too “like his father” for training.

K: Despite that, I think it’s important to note that Luke has made a lot of progress by the time ESB starts. He’s a commander in the Rebel Alliance, leading a fighter squadron. He’s more mature, and he’s clearly been trying to practice with his lightsaber and the Force. He just needs some guidance. Which Yoda is wildly reluctant to give him.

M: Post-Anakin-Stress-Disorder.

K: Hahaha. Compared to the way he taught Jedi during the days of the Republic, Yoda takes a very different approach with Luke. Very little combat training, that we see anyway. Lots of open talk about the dangers of the Dark Side and practicing with the Force and meditation. He’s trying to learn from his (and Obi-Wan’s) mistakes.

M: Of which there were plenty. Luke’s training with Yoda is basically “Difficult, being a Jedi is, deal with it you must.” Yoda immediately teaches Luke not to give in to fear or despair, and does not give him violence as an outlet– no practice lightsaber duels or special missions. Luke’s outlet is… Yoda Backpack Obstacle Course.

K: “I can be a backpack while you run.” He even replaces “hate” with “aggression” on the list of emotions for Jedi to avoid. He does not want a repeat of Anakin. But let’s back up for a second and talk about that scene in Yoda’s hut when Obi-Wan intervenes to get Yoda to train Luke.

M: Oh yes, go ahead.

K: Up to now, Luke’s whole experience with Yoda has been a test of Luke’s patience, literally. Then Yoda asks him “Why wish you become Jedi?” and Luke says “Mostly because of my father, I guess.” Which, ow, my heart. But right after that, Yoda says he can’t teach him because he has no patience. And then the clincher, “Much anger in him, hmm. Like his father.” But what I love is Obi-Wan’s response: “Was I any different when you taught me?” I mean, we’ve all seen Obi-Padawan–he’s got some repressed anger for sure.

M: “Why do I sense that we’ve picked up another pathetic lifeform?” Obi-Padawan is no paragon of humility or acceptance. But back to Luke– Yoda straight up trolls Luke. He makes Luke eat his weird soup while chirping “patience” like 5 times, and then as soon as Luke gets frustrated Yoda gets hella serious… but this time, it’s Obi-Wan who comes to the young Skywalker’s defense. Which I love. Because Obi-Padawan was NOT on board with training Anakin… but this time, given Obi-Wan’s hard-earned wisdom, I think he knows that Luke’s natural emotions don’t mean he’s going to go slaughter younglings as soon as he’s unsupervised. It just means he needs some good-old-fashioned Jedi Master guidance in controlling his emotions.

K: But, the fact remains, Luke’s training begins like his father’s–with a lot of doubt about whether he can pull this Jedi thing off. (Also with a claim about not being afraid, which Yoda sees through both times.)

M: Luke is so focused on the future, which Yoda is quick to point out to Obi-Wan. “All his life as he looked away to the future, to the horizon, never his mind on where he was. What he was doing. Hm. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things.” Meanwhile, Luke just wants to get going on this Jedi training so he can save his friends and fight the Empire.  

K: And get going he does, in the ESB scene that probably most closely parallels Luke and Anakin. Luke has a vision of his friends in danger–and his immediate reaction is to run to the rescue.

M: Ugh, this scene kills me. I’m just sitting here like a Force ghost: “No, Luke, no!” (Though of course we know this ends much better than Anakin going to his mother.)

K: (Or trying to save Padme.) Before we really get into Yoda and Obi-Wan’s freak out about this situation, I have to make a quick aside about Vader. Embarrassingly, it took me the LONGEST time to figure out why he tortures Han on Cloud City. Because, as Han himself says, “they never even asked me any questions.” But getting information was never Vader’s goal–he wants Luke. And as the son of Anakin Skywalker, it is more than likely that Luke has an affinity for terribly upsetting Force premonitions. Vader just needs to create the scenario of danger and pain that will bring Luke to him.

M: And Vader also knows from experience that loved ones– and wanting power to save them– will likely be a terrible temptation to the Dark Side.

K: It’s so smart and so creepy. I love it. But the Jedi do not. Because they are worried, justifiably, that Luke is going to make all of Anakin’s  mistakes if he attempts to save Han and Leia.

M: Cue the freak out. Yoda takes a “go big or go home” approach to his warning: “If you leave now, help them you could… but you will destroy all for which they have fought.” Harsh.

K: But it could be true. And it’s a risk Yoda is not willing to take with someone as important as Luke.

M: I love how for once Obi-Wan just comes straight out and explains why they’re worried: “This is a dangerous time… You’ll be tempted by the Dark Side… I don’t want to lose you to the Emperor the same way I lost Vader.” (cue tears)

K: Gah, we don’t want you to lose Luke the way you lost Anakin either, Obi-Wan!

M: But back to the action–this is the Star Wars, and limb loss is imminent. A mistake on Vader’s part. One I’m sure he regrets later bahahaha.

K: Yeah, nothing gets a person on your side like cutting off their hand. Immediately after this obviously painful moment, when he’s been utterly beaten, Luke faces the same offer that Anakin gets from Palpatine: “Join me.” He’s offered a chance to overthrow the Emperor and have unimaginable power at Vader’s side.

M: But darling Luke rejects the Dark Side, despite that tempting power.

K: And parallels his other parent by refusing to join Vader in evil.

M: So, Luke refuses the offer for power, but after losing his hand and having a traumatic encounter with a parent… has some angst. Similar to Anakin’s situation at the end of AotC.

K: It’s not an exact parallel of course–Obi-Wan is the one Dooku offers a partnership to in AotC, and Anakin’s mother is dead not a supervillain, but the trauma and the clothing choices these separate experiences lead to are undoubtedly similar.

M: And that brings us to the beginning of RotJ when Luke arrives at Jabba’s palace. Which, admittedly, is my *favorite* Luke entrance EVER. Boy knows drama, like his father before him.

K: And fashion, like his mother before him.

M: 10 points to Hufflepuff for Jedi threads.

K: That scene where Luke comes to Jabba’s palace sets the mood for the rest of Luke’s journey in RotJ. Yes he’s our hero, but he’s a little…ambiguous.

M: He’s wearing all black, very Vader, hood up in a way that would make my suburban mother call him a drug dealer, and he freaking Force-chokes some Gamorreans.

K: It’s understandable if the audience is a little worried about Luke going forward. He’s in more danger from the Dark Side than he’s ever been before this point. Which is important from a plot standpoint–if we didn’t believe there was a chance Luke could fall, we wouldn’t be so afraid of him facing the Emperor.

M: I also want to point out that RotJ was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi. Obviously, George eventually changed his mind about that, but I think that title makes it even more clear that this isn’t the same innocent Luke who wanted to go to the Tosche station and pick up some power converters.

K: In the novelization of RotJ, there’s a ton of commentary throughout the Tatooine section about Luke struggling not to *enjoy* killing all of Jabba’s minions and blowing up the sailbarge. He knows that’s the wrong way to approach it, but he can’t deny that revenge is sweet. He’s rescuing his friend and getting rid of an awful criminal, which are good things, but he’s still feeling that pull to the Dark Side.

M: I can understand Luke’s struggle not to enjoy it, because I sure enjoy watching it. The skiff scene is the best. But he does keep his promise and go back to Yoda. And I love Yoda’s subsequent warning: Luke is in danger of suffering the same fate as his father.

K: Yoda’s right–Luke very nearly does suffer the same fate (presumably minus the horrific injuries though).

M: Backing up though, I want to briefly mention Obi-Wan’s conversation with Luke prior to the Endor sequence.

K: Oh yes, please. Especially because Luke’s angry at him–very Anakin.

M: And Obi-Wan responds in his typical roundabout way as well. But also, Obi-Wan (probably unintentionally) piles on Luke the same pressures Anakin faced. Obi-Wan tells Luke that he is their only hope, that he has an important destiny, and that if he doesn’t face that destiny then the Emperor wins.

K: Yes, Luke is facing a lot of pressure in that scene with Obi-Wan, and he’s feeling more alone than ever after watching Yoda die. Like, jeez, poor kid.

M: And so he goes to face his father.

K: His first tactic? Trying to talk Vader out of being evil. Gotta love Luke. He really is determined not to turn to the Dark Side. And he does a good job initially, even when they get to the throne room and the Emperor is there egging him on.

M: But, like Anakin does and Yoda warns against, he underestimates the Emperor, as his focus is on Vader. (Luckily, Vader finally doesn’t underestimate the Emperor.)

K: The fact that Luke tries SO HARD to do the right thing over and over (“I will not fight you, father”), and that he finally does tap into the Dark Side out of desperation to save someone he loves–can we say “Anakin in RotS”?

M: Again, like Anakin it looks like his fear is what will weaken him.

K: But instead, his compassion for his father coupled with his realization (thanks, robot hand) that he’s in real danger of becoming the very thing he hates saves him.

M: Meanwhile, Vader watches the Emperor hurt Luke, in a way that reminds me of the scene where Mace Windu confronts Palpatine…the very night that Anakin turned to the Dark Side himself. And just like on that night, he has a decision to make.

K: Only this time Anakin gets it right! He stops the Emperor! And I get super emotional about it!

M: And Luke does what Anakin wanted to do all along– save a loved one from a terrible fate.

K: Well, and Anakin gets to save a loved one too. Win-win.

M: And the Force ghosts can finally stop worrying. Until Kylo shows up… *grumble*

K: But that’s a topic for a whole different post.

 

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Meme Monday: Oldie-Wan Text Posts

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If you haven’t caught on already, I LOVE Obi-Wan. And not just beautiful-faced, sass-mouthed, sad-eyed, prequels-era Ewan McGregor Obi-Wan. I also ADORE weary-eyed, cranky-grandpa, dad-bod, 500% done Alec Guinness OT Obi-Wan. And maybe it’s just Guiness suffering through his annoyance with Star Wars to earn a few bucks, but I think OT Obi-Wan has got such a “WHY ME?!” way about him.

That, combined with my penchant for macabre humor, brings us today’s meme selection. These text-posts totally punch you in the feels and cause that delicious guilty-laughter and then SADNESS that is quite unique to the Star Wars, and Obi-Wan in particular. Seriously, someone give Obi-Wan a cup of tea and sympathy. *weeps*

–M

 

duh duh duh DUN DA DUN, DUN DA DUN

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K: The only Star Wars score John Williams has won an Oscar for is the original 1977 Star Wars. (ESB, RotJ, and TFA were all nominated, but none of the prequels were, which is a travesty we can talk about another day.) I love the ANH soundtrack, as I love all Star Wars music, but it’s missing something the other Star Wars scores have–The Imperial March.

M: Certainly the absolute most iconic bit of Star Wars music, one identifiable within a few notes. However, given that it’s woven so deep into the fabric of popular culture, it’s easy to overlook not only its individual brilliance but also how skillfully John Williams incorporates the theme as a leitmotif throughout the rest of the soundtracks.

K: Although it’s called “The Imperial March,” its subtitle is “Darth Vader’s Theme,” and that’s how most people know it: the stirring and evil-sounding music that blasts every time Vader makes an entrance. But if we follow the story chronologically, starting with the prequels, that’s not how it first appears.

M: No, it first appears in “Anakin’s Theme,” arguably one of the best pieces of Star Wars music EVER, given what we’re about to talk about. And to clarify, I don’t know music very well… I’m sure there’s a lot more here than we’ll discuss.

K: Oh for sure. I bet there have been Masters theses written about the themes of Star Wars and all of the brilliant things John Williams does. I don’t have the technical knowledge to write one, but I do appreciate what I have learned and noticed while listening to the soundtracks. So, “Anakin’s Theme.” It’s a beautiful, hopeful sounding piece of music, full of the promise and potential of this sweet kid from Tatooine. But there’s something darker lurking both in the child and in the song.

M: I love the sort of unsettled nature of the tune. Despite how intensely melodic the song is,  it’s hard to break up into segments. The notes carry into each other, rather impressionistically (Think Debussy). But at the very end of the melody, those notes tumble into the notes of “The Imperial March.”

K: Not, it should be noted, as sinisterly as the theme appears throughout the OT. It’s a lot gentler, easier to miss. But it’s a reminder of the approaching inevitable.

M: Once you hear those last few notes and make the connection to “The Imperial March,” it’s hard not to have that mood flavor the entirety of the song. Its unsettled nature, as well as the struggle between the upwardly moving melody and the melody’s inevitable fall  at the end of the tune… it all comes down to those last few notes.

K: It mirrors Anakin in the prequels as well–trying to rise but eventually being dragged down to the Dark Side.

M: But it doesn’t stop there. We get to hear the Imperial March throughout Anakin’s fall, as well as in The Clone Wars.

K: I was surprised, listening to the prequel soundtracks, at how sparingly John Williams actually uses the Imperial March. It pops up only at the darkest points in Anakin’s fall, highlighting the big turns in his journey to darkness. And even then, it’s usually pretty subtle. For example, when Anakin slaughters the Tusken Raiders in revenge for his mother’s death, the Imperial March plays not over the shots of Anakin slashing with his lightsaber, but over the scene where Yoda feels his rage and distress in the Force. It also appears in AotC in its less-widely-used function as the theme of the Galactic Empire–as Chancellor Palpatine and select senators look out over the gathered clone troopers and the new battleships of the Republic (so eerily reminiscent of stormtroopers and Star Destroyers respectively) we get that melody again.

M: I love that it isn’t used blatantly in the prequels for two reasons: First, I think it’s important that Anakin is not yet Vader. They’re not one and the same person, hence Obi-Wan insisting that Anakin Skywalker was killed when Vader was created. Not using it oppressively gives Anakin the constant chance for redemption–it’s really not until the end of RotS, when he rises as Lord Vader, that he has completely become that character. Second, it is used so liberally in ESB and RotJ when Vader’s presence and power is a constant. This in contrast to RotS, when Anakin potentially could have avoided becoming Vader. By the time the OT rolls around, the March is unavoidable, drowning out many of the other themes once it arrives.

K: The OT Imperial March is so great. It can be bombastic and in-your-face as it comes striding down a corridor, or it can jump out and surprise you.Going back to your point about using it sparingly in order to emphasize that Anakin isn’t Vader, let’s talk about Clone Wars!

M: GAH, literally my (and I think your) favorite moment in The Clone Wars is in the episode “Voyage of Temptation” (S2 E13). Obi-Wan and Satine are caught in a pickle… this crazy senator dude, Tal Merrick, is holding a detonator that will explode the ship they’re on, but neither Obi-Wan or Satine can bring themselves to kill the man. Merrick says “Who’ll strike first and brand themselves a cold-blooded killer?” Obi-Wan and Satine both hesitate… and BAM, the guy gets stabbed in the back by Anakin, who seems completely unaware of the implications of the situation. And in the background…

K: Duh duh duh DUN DA DUN, DUN DA DUN. We could write a whole other post about that moment, because it is my favorite of all time, but the use of the Imperial March there…gosh. Painful. The same sort of thing happens a few times throughout the show–any time Anakin drifts toward the Dark Side, that theme lurks in the background, reminding us of what’s to come.

M: Honestly, it’s a bit of a killjoy in that it’s this little reminder of the tragedy to come… Anakin will cease to be himself and will turn into Vader instead.

K: Thanks a lot, show–can’t just let us pretend that it’s all going to turn out fine, oh no. Interestingly, when Anakin really does fully commit to becoming Vader in RotS, the Imperial March still isn’t used nearly as heavily as it is in the OT. Probably because RotS is meant to show the absolute tragedy that is Anakin’s Fall, and the Imperial March is so entwined with this idea of Vader as a terrifyingly powerful force of evil.

M: I mean, it’s a march. It has this confidence and ruthlessness and drive to it that isn’t yet appropriate for Anakin. He’s not at ease with that level of evil until his transformation is complete and he leaves behind all traces of his former life.

K: But by the time we reach the era of the OT, the music fits perfectly with Vader’s persona. He is completely relentless and unstoppable, just like the rhythm of the march.

M: OOOH, which is why I love the little snippet of the March we get in RO. We don’t really hear it until the very end, when Vader has boarded the Rebel Cruiser and is watching the Tantive IV fly away, cape billowing in the “wind” (wind doesn’t exist in Space, obvs a bit of Vader using the Force to be extra), the literal definition of BADASS.

K: Dang, that Vader scene is still the coolest, most breath-taking (in the literal sense) 45 seconds I have ever seen on a theater screen.

M: *SHINK* Red lightsaber glows in the darkness as we listen to the same alarm sound from ANH… I DIE, we must change subjects before I talk about this all night. Back to the March in RO, I love that we only hear it, really, at the very end. We hear a few bars of it in the “Do not choke on your aspirations” scene, but using it in its full glory only at the end lets the audience know that the best/worst is yet to come… Vader is just getting started (additionally, this reflects the absence of the March in ANH). Also, I feel I must insert a word for Rebels here, which uses the March in a more Rogue One fashion (except for when they make it major during the Empire day celebrations?! Weird?!). He’s a mystery… scary, but not yet a direct threat to the entire galaxy.

K: I also like that, I think it works best to give the March its biggest and best incarnations during the movie that features everything going Vader’s way (well, until his son jumps down a death shaft rather than join him in ruling the galaxy): The Empire Strikes Back.

M: Exactly. And in ESB the March is kriffing everywhere. Every time we see an Imperial ship, every time we see Vader. I love how larger than life this makes Vader feel. And honestly, at this point, the gang don’t know what exactly they’re facing. They’re only now realizing how big of a problem he is.

K: And once they realize it, there’s no escaping it. Suddenly, Vader is everywhere: hunting the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field, appearing to Luke in a creepy tunnel on Dagobah, even sitting casually in a dining room in Cloud City. And his theme comes everywhere with him.

M: I especially love it in “The Battle of Hoth,” mostly because that’s one of my favorite tracks, but also because even amidst the thrumming of the AT-AT’s theme, the March STILL manages to be the scariest and most bombastic tune in the suite.

K: Gah so good. But, if the March manages to completely take over ESB, it has a much more complicated life in RotJ. It starts out as the same powerful theme, playing over Vader’s and later the Emperor’s arrival on the Death Star 2.0. But things are less clear to Vader these days. And his theme doesn’t always pound out confidently the way it used to. In particular, I’m thinking of the scene where Luke is brought to Vader on Endor. The Imperial March as we usually think of it IS present in the scene, but there’s this whole other section where bits and pieces of the March try to assert themselves only to disappear into the other melodies.

M: I think it’s a signal… Vader isn’t going to be Vader for much longer. It has less surety, more hesitance.

K: VADER isn’t sure anymore. Not sure about the Emperor, not sure about his decision to embrace the Dark Side, not sure what to think about his son–his son, who is insisting that there is still good somewhere inside of that black shell. It’s the Emperor’s theme, not the Imperial March, that takes center stage when Luke and Vader duel–it’s the Emperor Luke truly has to defeat, not his father. Which brings us to the last, really beautiful use of the Imperial March, during Anakin and Luke’s final conversation. As Luke helps his father take off his mask (literally and figuratively shedding Vader), a really high, haunting version of the March plays.

M: It sounds full of regret… just an echo of Vader’s evil and, really, the person he used to be. But also, and I’m just going to go ahead and assume John Williams did this on purpose, it sounds like Anakin’s Theme, especially with the harp at the very end.

K: Yes! It’s got that melodic quality again.

M: And because Vader has become Anakin again, Luke finally gets to meet his father.

K: *gross sobbing* Once it plays over Anakin’s death, the theme does not appear again. Instead, when Luke burns his father’s body we get a powerful version of the Force theme, and I cry and cry…

M: Vader is no more! Anakin is one with the Force. *weeps* Praise the space conflicts.

K: And praise John Williams for scoring them.

May the 4th Be With You

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It’s Star Wars Day! To celebrate, we have each made lists of moments that make us happy from each of the Star Wars movies. May the 4th be with you!

K

TPM: I love Obi-Wan’s face at the end because everyone else is smiling and triumphant while Obi-Wan is finishing the movie the way he started it—with a bad feeling about this.

AotC: I love the scene in the droid foundry when Anakin’s arm is stuck and there are blades chopping all around him because it seems like he’s going to lose his hand a la Luke in ESB, but that doesn’t actually happen until later.

RotS: I love the way the music goes away and it’s completely silent right as the mask goes over Anakin’s terrified face and then…the first Vader breath. Chills.

RO: I love the sight and sound of Vader’s lightsaber igniting in the black hallway. I think I stopped breathing in the theater.

ANH: I love Leia saying “Somebody’s got to save our skins,” because she’s supposedly the one being rescued and then she rescues her rescue party. Anyone who says Leia is a damsel in distress is just so, so wrong.

ESB: I love the tiny moment when Lando has to physically drag Leia away from shooting stormtroopers during the escape from Cloud City. She is going to make the Empire pay for taking her boyfriend, so help her Force.

RotJ: I love when Luke does a flip off the execution plank, catches his lightsaber, and just kriffing wrecks Jabba’s henchmen. It’s his biggest Jedi moment in the original trilogy and I cheer through the whole thing.

TFA: I love the way the Force theme swells when the lightsaber goes shooting into Rey’s hand. I about stood up and clapped the first time I saw this scene.

 

M

TPM: Padme: “The Queen will not approve.” Qui-Gon: “The Queen doesn’t need to know.” Padme: “Well I don’t approve.” He’s a troll, she’s a queen, it’s a great moment. Bonus points: the knowing look Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan share just after Padme reveals her identity.

AotC: Obi-Wan getting a drink after the chase on Coruscant. Never fails. I laugh every time.

RotS: So many feels in this movie, almost chose “You were my brother Anakin, I loved you.”  but we’re celebrating so I’m going to go with the moment when Obi-Wan wakes up to find he’s hanging from Anakin in an elevator shaft. I just love how big his eyes get and how he bear hugs Anakin.

RO: UH WHAT ELSE I love Vader igniting his lightsaber in the dark hallway. But, since K already chose that… I’ll have to go with just a few seconds later when Vader force slams the rebel soldier into the ceiling. It’s the most Anakin we’ve seen Vader and it’s beautiful.

ANH: Luke standing beneath the twin suns, the force theme playing… just the most Star Wars Star Wars moment, and a kriffing beautiful shot to boot. It’s where it all began.

ESB: YODA. YODA. YODA. More specifically, Yoda’s Theme is my favorite piece of Star Wars music.

RotJ: This film has the best dolly-in in cinema history. It happens when the Emperor is electrocuting Luke– he’s obviously going to lose or die if something doesn’t happen soon– and it cuts to Vader– and there’s this little dolly in. It’s this perfect moment that, because of the camera movement, projects so much emotion onto Vader’s mask. It’s the moment he returns to the light. The moment he decides to become Anakin again, and do the right thing– save his son! The whole series leads up to this moment, and it’s served, perfectly, by a dolly in.

TFA: Rey adding “and you will drop your weapon!” when she first does a Jedi Mind Trick.