(Originally Written for Jedi News)
I need to ask a question.
What’s wrong with angels? Specifically the mentioning of them in movies? I really want to know, because I can’t fathom how much hate and mockery gets heaped on a pretty plot-important line of dialogue in The Phantom Menace.
Upon seeing the woman he will one day marry, despite being nine years old, Anakin Skywalker asks “Are you an angel?”
Now…Anakin doesn’t mean the Judeo-Christian winged humanoids, but an alien creature from the moons of Iego (he thinks). Still, if space pirates are to be believed, they’re the most beautiful creatures in the universe. So that’s quite a compliment to Padmé.
Okay, all semantics aside, we all know Lucas meant the former definition of angel and made up the latter to justify using the word. Either way, it doesn’t matter. This line of dialogue gets mercilessly ridiculed for all aspects of it. But…why? I don’t get it.
Is it because it’s corny? Yeah, comparing things to angels (of any kind) is kind of corny, but you know what? That’s fine. We’ve got a child in a movie primarily aimed at 7-12-year-olds, so it’s fine. Plus, this is Star Wars, we’re talking about. A bag of Cheetos has less corn and cheese than a Star Wars movie. It’s allowed. Frankly, I’d be more upset if they didn’t stray into this territory. It’s such a 30’s line, which is vintage Lucas.
Is it the performance? Jake Lloyd gets way more flak than he deserves. I do admit he gives some bad line readings. I counted about four. Really, aside from the approximately four (depending on whether you count sentences or passages as “lines”), he gives a good performance on par with his co-stars. That’s not bad at all for a child actor, and it certainly could have been so much worse (for example, the other kids in the movie). As for the line in question, it’s actually one of the readings he absolutely nails. I could understand having problem with a totally gushy four-year-old’s reading when Anakin is almost double-digits. Lloyd doesn’t go that route. He’s very matter-of-fact about it, like he’s curious if it’s going to rain later. That bluntness is not only perfect for a boy his age, but it’s strangely also very Vader-like. I could imagine that tone from the James Earl Jones voice box, if not necessarily the subject matter.
It seems to be the subject matter, since a lot of other angel-centric lines from other things get blasted, most notably in the first Spider-Man movie (which was an old lady telling an embarrassing childhood story; what’s wrong with that?). Yes, angels can sometimes be a touchy subject because of their association with Christianity, but many other religions and mythologies have some form of angel and even contemporary interpretations use them quite loosely. I don’t hear people complaining about a cardset in Magic the Gathering featuring a whole army of angels (in fact they were the sleeper hit faction in that storyline).