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Why I Love Prequel Yoda (and what I think people get wrong)

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I’ve seen quite a few edits of the prequel trilogy that completely remove Yoda having a lightsaber, and people generally criticize that they gave him a lightsaber as they feel it’s inconsistent his character in the original trilogy. This is true, but I think people who do this miss that him not being the same as he was in the original trilogy was the point. I think it represents character growth for him between the prequels and the originals.

Remember when Yoda said “Wars not make one great” in Empire Strikes Back? He learned that from the Clone Wars. I mean, how else would he learn it, there was no other wars in his lifetime (the Sith had been extinct for a millennia by The Phantom Menace, and he was less then 900 years old in that movie), and things are learned best from experience. He learned from the Clone Wars that war, violence, and swinging around with a lightsaber wasn’t the solution to anything. It actually allowed the Sith to rise to power.

When he says “Failed I have” in Revenge of the Sith, he isn’t just talking about losing to Sidious in a duel, he’s talking about how he failed the galaxy because the Jedi Order lost its way.

Did the Clone Wars make him great? No. The Clone Wars destroyed the Jedi Order and forced him to live a life of solitude on Dagobah while the two Sith Lords ruled the galaxy, one of them who was supposedly the Chosen One meant to destroy the Sith. That’s what he meant.

It’s only through the teachings of Qui-Gon, who became his master after Revenge of the Sith and was basically the perfect Jedi, even if nobody could see it, was Yoda able to grow into the character he is in Empire Strikes Back.

Besides, he also does tell Luke that he needs to kill Vader in Return of the Jedi. Not exactly the most pacifist thing to do. He also says, “Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor”, which obviously means he faced him before. Obviously he was witness to the Emperor’s power first hand. That actually becomes a plot hole for anyone who removes that duel from the movie, because now how else would he know the Emperor’s power? It fits into the original trilogy perfectly.

I think it all makes Yoda a much more compelling character. There’s things to learn even for the oldest and the wisest. He was even wrong to a degree in the original trilogy: as mentioned earlier, he and Obi-Wan thought Vader had to be killed. But Luke believed he could be redeemed, and he was right.

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I’m very against Yoda having a lightsaber, but this is a great post and it deserves replies, so I’m leaving one:

Okay, you got me. These are fantastic points.

“Remember, the Force will be with you. Always.”

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The Jedi council at times is arrogant and condescending. They let their dogma get in their own way at times. This is what allowed Palpatine to manipulate them so effectively.

It’s hard to question the authority of people you highly respect, and who could command more respect than a 900 year old Jedi master? Yet, no one is perfect. It’s hard sometimes to know when to trust your own instincts or conform. Qui-Gon does a good job of questioning while still respecting and working within. Ahsoka arguably does more for the galaxy after leaving the Jedi.

There is no one right answer for everything and no infallible sources. Often best to evaluate decisions individually instead of applying strict dogma. Nothing wrong with rules or standards, but exceptions are not a weakness. They are sometimes a hidden strength.

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Excellent analysis. The more I’ve watched the prequels the more I’ve noticed how much they add to the characters from the OT.

G&G-Fan said:

When he says “Failed I have” in Revenge of the Sith, he isn’t just talking about losing to Sidious in a duel, he’s talking about how he failed the galaxy because the Jedi Order lost its way.

Yoda’s leaving the battle with Sidious unfinished always bothered me but looking at it this way it starts to make more sense. Believing he’s already failed, he sees no reason to prolong the battle and risk the legacy of the Jedi dying with him.

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This is very insightful analysis, definitely makes me appreciate the prequel version of Yoda more and how he transitions into the character we see in the Empire Strikes Back. I actually never had a problem with Yoda wielding a lightsaber, that’s probably because I grew up with the Prequels and the clone wars.

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Agreed. To go along with Yoda’s failure line from Episode III, I remember this conversation from Episode II:

Yoda: “Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see.”
Mace Windu: “I think it is time we inform the senate that our ability to use the Force has diminished.”
Yoda: “Only the Dark Lord of the Sith knows of our weakness. If informed the senate is, multiply our adversaries will.”

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I can buy into the rationale, but I still loathe the execution. An old man walking with a cane one moment, then flipping through the air like some Looney Tunes character another is cruddy filmmaking in my book.

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DuracellEnergizer said:

I can buy into the rationale, but I still loathe the execution. An old man walking with a cane one moment, then flipping through the air like some Looney Tunes character another is cruddy filmmaking in my book.

Agreed.

Yub Nub for life

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G&G-Fan said:

Remember when Yoda said “Wars not make one great” in Empire Strikes Back? He learned that from the Clone Wars.

It’s only through the teachings of Qui-Gon, who became his master after Revenge of the Sith and was basically the perfect Jedi, even if nobody could see it, was Yoda able to grow into the character he is in Empire Strikes Back.

I’d find this a lot more compelling if this was an actual plot thread in the prequels, instead of something people just inferred from a bunch of EU media.

When Yoda says this in Empire, it’s not hard to imagine he’s saying this from firsthand experience. But in the prequels, that’s really not what’s portrayed. Yoda has no character arc where he learns the horrors of war. If it’s true that he learned this through Qui-Gon, you gotta remember that this is entirely off-screen, after the credits roll in Episode 3.

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SparkySywer said:

G&G-Fan said:

Remember when Yoda said “Wars not make one great” in Empire Strikes Back? He learned that from the Clone Wars.

It’s only through the teachings of Qui-Gon, who became his master after Revenge of the Sith and was basically the perfect Jedi, even if nobody could see it, was Yoda able to grow into the character he is in Empire Strikes Back.

I’d find this a lot more compelling if this was an actual plot thread in the prequels, instead of something people just inferred from a bunch of EU media.

When Yoda says this in Empire, it’s not hard to imagine he’s saying this from firsthand experience. But in the prequels, that’s really not what’s portrayed. Yoda has no character arc where he learns the horrors of war. If it’s true that he learned this through Qui-Gon, you gotta remember that this is entirely off-screen, after the credits roll in Episode 3.

This.

Lucas’ primary reason for giving Yoda a lightsaber was to pander to children and man-children who need bright shiny objects to hold their attention. Any other aims were tertiary at best.

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SparkySywer said:

G&G-Fan said:

Remember when Yoda said “Wars not make one great” in Empire Strikes Back? He learned that from the Clone Wars.

It’s only through the teachings of Qui-Gon, who became his master after Revenge of the Sith and was basically the perfect Jedi, even if nobody could see it, was Yoda able to grow into the character he is in Empire Strikes Back.

I’d find this a lot more compelling if this was an actual plot thread in the prequels, instead of something people just inferred from a bunch of EU media.

When Yoda says this in Empire, it’s not hard to imagine he’s saying this from firsthand experience. But in the prequels, that’s really not what’s portrayed. Yoda has no character arc where he learns the horrors of war. If it’s true that he learned this through Qui-Gon, you gotta remember that this is entirely off-screen, after the credits roll in Episode 3.

It is a plot thread in the prequels. It is clear by the end of ROTS that the war was a mistake, given that Palpatine engineered the whole thing for his own ends, and it lead to the near extinction of the Jedi order. Yoda obviously recognizes this and learns from it as his open admission that he’s failed and his exiling himself to Dagobah bears out.

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His entire class of pupils are murdered and he doesn’t really seem that shocked. He just heads over to Palpy for a few extra force power moves before quitting. He might has well have said “failed to do enough flips to beat him I have”.

Yub Nub for life

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Uhhhh, try again.

He wasn’t shocked when he was looking at the corpses in the temple because he already felt their deaths. But in the temple scene he was clearly sad and hurt. Just the way he says “Padawan” makes it so obvious.

This image is technically from a later scene but he makes the same kind of expressions, and this also shows that he was clearly distraught that Anakin fell to the dark side and murdered Jedi.

He went to fight Palpatine because they needed to destroy the Sith to try and bring back the Republic as soon as possible. I’m surprised your faulting the guy who’s famous for saying “Do, or do not, there is no try” for actually attempting to DO something about the horrible things that have transpired. You’re seriously suggesting the two remaining Jedi should’ve just never tried to stop the Emperor? “Screw this, go get drinks, we should, Obi-Wan. Forget the Sith wreaking havoc on the galaxy, we should. Only allowed to sit on cushions, we are.” Like, how DARE the heroes try to stop the villains!

It was only after realizing that the Emperor already won and that he can’t beat him that he flees, that it would be better for him to exile himself so there’s hope for a future for the Jedi.

Don’t forget, in the original trilogy he wanted Luke to kill Vader and the Emperor. The Jedi are not above killing Sith when they need to.

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Mocata said:

His entire class of pupils are murdered and he doesn’t really seem that shocked. He just heads over to Palpy for a few extra force power moves before quitting. He might has well have said “failed to do enough flips to beat him I have”.

100%. “Failed I have”, in the context of the movie, is not some grander statement on his role in the Jedi, he’s literally just talking about how he lost the dance-off with Ian McDiarmid.

This interpretation of Yoda’s character arc, it’s cool and all, but it’s not at all present in the prequels.

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Except it is. Not only that, it’s very obvious.

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I don’t find it obvious at all that Yoda is speaking of his failure in a grand, centuries-long sense. Sure, he could be, but it’s equally possible that he’s referring merely to his failure to kill Palpatine, which was the interpretation I had watching the film.

Ultimately, interpretations are formed based on the filmmaking, and there’s little to suggest Yoda’s thought process here. Minutes before this he was self-assuredly walking into the Senate saying how Palpatine’s rule was about to end and his faith in Vader and the Dark Side was misplaced. These words may be bluster, but at the same time they don’t reveal a deep conflict within Yoda. He seems to only question himself once he loses the fight, at which point he has decided to run off into exile before the speeder has even left the air parking lot. Maybe if we saw him gazing out at the still-burning Jedi Temple, the virtual camera lingering on the sadness in his eyes as he comes to a conclusion, it would be clearer that he views his failure as something more than losing a single fight. But that’s not in the film, and I don’t see why I should do Lucas’s job for him.

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Carry on, then. I think it’s all there and never had to do mental gymnastics, it was all very clear for me.

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NeverarGreat said:

Minutes before this he was self-assuredly walking into the Senate saying how Palpatine’s rule was about to end and his faith in Vader and the Dark Side was misplaced. These words may be bluster, but at the same time they don’t reveal a deep conflict within Yoda. He seems to only question himself once he loses the fight, at which point he has decided to run off into exile before the speeder has even left the air parking lot. Maybe if we saw him gazing out at the still-burning Jedi Temple, the virtual camera lingering on the sadness in his eyes as he comes to a conclusion, it would be clearer that he views his failure as something more than losing a single fight. But that’s not in the film, and I don’t see why I should do Lucas’s job for him.

What changed between when Yoda’s talking big to Palpatine and when he says “Failed, I have”?

Nothing to do with the Jedi or the Republic, or the Sith or the Empire. What changed is he lost a fight. That’s kind of what we have to go on, and that’s really the only real interpretation I think you can get from the movie itself.

Not to mention, why does he realize he’s failed then of all times, if he’s talking about some grand centuries-long, galaxy-defining failure? I’d say even before the fight, even if Yoda won, Palpatine getting as far as he did shows that something at least had failed. If this was all actually in the prequels, why wouldn’t he say this right when it became obvious that Palpatine was a Sith?

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I’d argue that Yoda should never have appeared in the PT. Establishing that he was exiled from the order in TPM would’ve been a nice subversion, demonstrating how far the Jedi had fallen since its “golden days.”

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Ahh but there’s the real problem, and keeping all of the ESB twists intact would require far more creativity.

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So the full quote is:

“Into exile, I must go. Failed, I have.”

Yes?

I don’t think that line is necessarily a confession of failure over hundreds of years, but it’s MORE than “I lost a lightsaber fight.” If Yoda had beaten Palpatine in that duel, I’m guessing Yoda and Kenobi would stick around and try to restore the Republic instead of going into exile.

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SparkySywer said:

What changed between when Yoda’s talking big to Palpatine and when he says “Failed, I have”?

Nothing to do with the Jedi or the Republic, or the Sith or the Empire. What changed is he lost a fight. That’s kind of what we have to go on, and that’s really the only real interpretation I think you can get from the movie itself.

Not to mention, why does he realize he’s failed then of all times, if he’s talking about some grand centuries-long, galaxy-defining failure? I’d say even before the fight, even if Yoda won, Palpatine getting as far as he did shows that something at least had failed. If this was all actually in the prequels, why wouldn’t he say this right when it became obvious that Palpatine was a Sith?

What changed was that he lost the duel, and that loss made him rethink everything that happened before then. Like thinking, “Where did it go all wrong?”

He didn’t say that immediately because it took him some time to realize that the Jedi failed the galaxy. He didn’t just lose the fight, he failed to prevent Palpatine from rising to power from the beginning. Sometimes it takes time to process such an immense amount of grief and loss. You immediately blame the thing right in front of you instead of the deeper things, the former being the Sith and the latter being Jedi complacency.

Nibcrom said:

So the full quote is:

“Into exile, I must go. Failed, I have.”

Yes?

I don’t think that line is necessarily a confession of failure over hundreds of years, but it’s MORE than “I lost a lightsaber fight.” If Yoda had beaten Palpatine in that duel, I’m guessing Yoda and Kenobi would stick around and try to restore the Republic instead of going into exile.

Why would they need to go into exile if they defeated Palpatine? They would just build a better Republic and a new Jedi order that’s less complacent and corrupt.

BedeHistory731 said:

I’d argue that Yoda should never have appeared in the PT. Establishing that he was exiled from the order in TPM would’ve been a nice subversion, demonstrating how far the Jedi had fallen since its “golden days.”

Mocata said:

Ahh but there’s the real problem, and keeping all of the ESB twists intact would require far more creativity.

Or maybe because it would contradict more lines from the original trilogy? Like Yoda knowing who Luke’s father was enough to say “Powerful Jedi was he” and “Much anger in him… like his father”. How else would he know to “Not underestimate the powers of the Emperor”? And how else would he learn “Wars not make one great” without having experienced that first hand.

That’s another thing that a lot of people miss. When he says “Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor” that obviously means he faced him before. Obviously he was witness to the Emperor’s power first hand. That actually becomes a plot hole for anyone who removes that duel from the movie, because now how else would he know the Emperor’s power? It fits into the original trilogy perfectly.

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BedeHistory731 said:

I’d argue that Yoda should never have appeared in the PT. Establishing that he was exiled from the order in TPM would’ve been a nice subversion, demonstrating how far the Jedi had fallen since its “golden days.”

This.