Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Political Galaxy Far, Far Too Close

LOS ANGELES -- For sheer lack of subtlety, the light-saber-wielding forces of good and evil in George Lucas' "Star Wars" movies can't hold a candle to the blogging, advertising and boycotting forces of the right and left. Or left and right.

More a measure of the nation's apparently permanent political warfare than of a filmmaker's intent, the heroes and anti-heroes of Lucas' final entry, "Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," were on their way to becoming the stock characters of partisan debate by mid-Wednesday, hours before the film's opening just after midnight.

The liberal advocacy group was preparing to spend $150,000 to run advertisements on CNN over the next few days -- and to spread leaflets among audiences in line at multiplexes -- comparing Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, to the movie's power-grabbing, evil Chancellor Palpatine for Frist's role in the Senate's showdown over the confirmation of federal judges.

Conservative web logs were lacerating Lucas over the film's perceived jabs at President George W. Bush -- as when Anakin Skywalker, on his way to becoming the evil Darth Vader, warns, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy," in an echo of Bush's post-9/11 ultimatum, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

A little-trafficked conservative web site, -- for "Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood" -- added Lucas to its list of boycotted entertainers, along with more than 200 others, including Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and the Dixie Chicks.

Even the Drudge Report web site got into the act: Beneath a picture of Darth Vader, it compared the White House press corps to the vengeful Sith, after reporters peppered a press secretary for pressing Newsweek magazine to "repair the damage" in the Muslim world caused by a retracted report about desecration of the Quran.

There is nothing all that new or imaginative, of course, about politicians borrowing from popular movies to score points: witness Ronald Reagan's co-opting of the "evil empire" metaphor for use against the Soviet bloc or, for that matter, his critics' lampooning of his missile defense ideas as something straight out of "Star Wars." And Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Republican rebel of sorts, compared his 2000 primary campaign to Luke Skywalker's fighting his way out of the Death Star.

But it is highly unusual for a mainstream Hollywood movie to wind up in the swirl of politics even before it has opened -- though that did occur with 20th Century Fox's "Day After Tomorrow," with its apocalyptic vision of global warming's consequences, which advocates including and Al Gore used to protest the Bush administration's environmental policy.

As a rule, Hollywood studios go to great lengths to ensure that their projects are free of messages that could be offensive to any swath of the movie-going public. Say, people who vote for one political party or the other.

All of which calls into question Lucas' decision to have the premiere of the "Star Wars" finale at the Cannes Film Festival. France is sometimes called the biggest blue state of all, after all. And just what was Lucas -- who could not be reached for comment Wednesday -- thinking when he told a Cannes audience that he had not realized in plotting the film years ago that fact might so closely track his fiction?

Alluding to Michael Moore's remarks about "Fahrenheit 9/11" at Cannes a year earlier, Lucas joked, "Maybe the film will waken people to the situation."