All Hallow’s Lee – STAR WARS EDITION
Admittedly, I thought that I had this article written before I had even begun it. George Lucas’s Star Wars films figured prominently in my childhood, and I still enjoy them today; the original three, that is. . . or so I thought. It was my plan to dissect the second and third installments of the prequel trilogy for this article, explain how disappointing they are, and describe how the late Christopher Lee’s prodigious talents were squandered in these films by Lucas and company. That article seemed easy to write. And when I borrowed my friend’s copies of episodes two and three on DVD, I planned on giving them a brisk rewatch and typing up this article all within a few hours; after all, Count Dooku dies about fifteen minutes in to episode three, and one more amateur critic’s article on the failures of the prequels should be easy to write.
Instead, what I discovered is that the prequel films have more depth and complexity and are more enjoyable than I have previously given them credit for. Mr. Lee’s talents and presence were not at all squandered on the role of Count Dooku. In fact, Christopher Lee’s Darth Tyranous is second only to McDiarmid’s Palpatine for pure presence and evil in all of the prequels. I decided that Count Dooku deserves a place alongside the other Sith villains of the Star Wars saga, and I fell in love with the prequels to boot.
Let me try to explain how this happened. And please forgive me the occasional digression. It’s all in aid of convincing any of the stubborn and prequel-wary Star Wars fans (like I was until a few days ago) that these films deserve a second chance, and that Mr. Lee’s Count Dooku ought to be remembered along with Sauron, Frankenstein’s monster, Rasputin, and Count Dracula as one of the finest performances of his celebrated career.
Here’s my attempt to figure out where Count Dooku resides in the saga. At the beginning of episode three, it’s about ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace. Palpatine’s power and influence have only increased since scheming his way to the chancellorship of the Republic. At his side is Count Dooku, architect of the secession of the outer rim planets and Sidious’s invisible hand guiding the Republic toward the wars designed to weaken its galactic hegemony and allow Darth Sidious to capture the remaining power and twist it into the Empire of the original films.
As Attack of the Clones is more or less a mystery, and Tyranous’ identity is necessarily kept from the audience for much of the film, the time that Lee spends on screen is low; however, as his presence is felt. Mr. Lee, it seems, is the only actor who could bring the gravity needed to play the character that is second only to Lord Vader himself as nemesis of the light side of the Force and the Jedi order.
So why is it that Tyranous is so shamefully dispatched twenty minutes into the third film? Before it would even be necessary for the projectionist to splice the second reel… if such thing was needed with the prequels… but you get the idea.
His death is not shameful nor premature. It was necessary for Sidious to draw from the well of Annakin’s anger to use it to both rid himself of an apprentice whose utility had passed and to further draw Annakin towards the dark side and his destiny as Lord Vader.
Earlier I said that it seemed Mr. Lee was the only actor who could have portrayed Count Dooku–he brought gravity to the role and the sinister nobility needed to portray the fallen Jedi master, seduced by the dark side. This is a bold statement, but a true one. Mr. Lee’s Hammer Films counterpart Peter Cushing can fairly be considered the only actor who could have been A New Hope’s Moff Tarkin. Likewise, in a twist of cinematic magic and justice, the prequels can claim Christopher Lee as the one man uniquely qualified to have portrayed Count Dooku.
Thank you and rest in peace, dear Count.