I’m not very far into playing through all nine Star Wars movies in this week’s Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, but I’m already convinced it’s one of the definitive takes on the franchise for a single reason: Padmé Amidala’s best decoy being a guy in a beard.
Playing through the game’s adaptation of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones this week, I often found myself stifling a snort or two at Skywalker Saga’s gag-a-minute approach to Star Wars. But one repeating gag in the first two prequels kept making me guffaw gleefully: Amidala’s famous “reveal” scene at the climax of The Phantom Menace, where she announces that the Padmé wearing courtly attire for a good chunk of the movie is actually one of her decoy Handmaidens. Of course, it’s much the same in Lego Star Wars… by way of Spartacus:
It’s a great little gag, but the random bearded Lego dude in Padmé’s gorgeous red dress just is utterly delighted. Especially as Skywalker Saga keeps committing to the bit beyond this moment. He’s the decoy that shows up in the palace to distract Nute Gunray during the climactic battle of the movie, and even funnier, when Padmé’s ship lands on Coruscant in Attack of the Clone’s opening, he’s the decoy who gets blasted during the bombing (he’s fine, of course — people don’t visibly die in Lego Star Wars cutscenes, it’s a game for the youngest fans of the galaxy far, far away).
That’s his contribution to the entire game, maybe a handful of minutes at most, but it was the one consistent thing that just kept me chuckling like a child whenever I was playing. Lego Star Wars has always leaned on the sillier side of things, and lots of absurd visual gags. And no doubt the rest of The Skywalker Saga is going to have running bits just as funny as this one. But it was the one thing that kept reminding me that, as lovingly dedicated to what Star Wars is as something like Skywalker Saga is — and truly lovingly dedicated to Star Wars as a totality — that Star Wars really at its best when it knows just how much to take the piss out of itself sometimes.
We have a tendency, as Star Wars fans (and really, nerds in general), to get defensive if someone pokes fun at a thing we love. Or, heavens forbid, someone doesn’t take this world of space ships and magic hippies with laser swords seriously enough. After all, Star Wars means so much to us — this epic, sweeping, multi-generational story of rebellion and resistance, the perpetual battle for good and evil — that we are inclined to take it as deathly serious to prove that it’s worth our investment, as if Star Wars isn’t already taken quite seriously enough as one of the largest and most beloved pop cultural behemoths of the modern age already. Even if we meme it and mock it ourselves, anyone else doing so is disrespecting that deathly-grave worldview we’ve built around this thing we love.
Lego Star Wars ignores all that. Sure, put a bearded guy in Padmé’s handmaidens! Have Obi-Wan wonder why his lightsaber doesn’t have two blades when he first encounters Darth Maul! Hell, have him punt the Sith apprentice’s still-living head through a basketball net before it plummets into Naboo’s reactor! It loves Star Wars so much that it cannot help but joke and jibe at every available opportunity. Star Wars is frequently absurd, in good ways and bad. It’s frequently quite funny, even when sometimes we don’t want to admit that ourselves. Lego Star Wars doesn’t try to hide that part of it all, even when it’s portraying the moments of this story we hold high as deep and meaningful, influential and powerful. If anything, it’s in those moments that it goes the silliest, as if to pull us down from haughty highs and remind us to take the joke. Star Wars, after all, is fun, even as we love it at its most serious, especially even when we want better from it.
Sure, make Padmé’s most consistent bodyguard a Santa-bearded dude who loves to dress like his beloved elected monarch. Why not? That’s as Star Wars as all the lightsabers, X-Wings, bounty hunters, and Empires in the world, especially if it makes you laugh.