Artoo and His Rusty Innards

once, i tripped on a vine, keeled over, and my head rolled down the hill while Neeson and Portman were delivering their lines. They describe R2-D2, Luke's droid sidekick from the Star Wars, as sort of like a dog. They use words like "dependable," "faithful" and "energetic." The description that haunts my mind is this: Artoo doesn't like being left alone.

Why? He's a droid, after all. An astromech one, at that. Used to the working on machines, perhaps for days at a time, alone. And when he's riding up there on the x-wing, or most other starships, he's alone. No clear canopy up there; he's alone with only the vacuum of space touching his plastisteel shell.

But again and again, he is faithful to his master. When he claims he belongs to an old mystic named Obi-wan Kenobi, Artoo breaks the farm rules and sneaks off at night through the fearful terrain of Tatooine to track him down. When his master is a young kid named Luke, Artoo lifts himself from his seat in the x-wing to follow Luke into the swamps of Dagabah -- even though Luke clearly tells him to "stay put." At Yoda's hut, Artoo lifts himself up on his pivoting feet and peers in on their strange conversation. Through good and bad, Artoo has been Luke's faithful companion, and has been privy to some of Luke's most intimate and exciting moments of training, foreshadowing, trials, failures and victory.

If you think about it, no other character has seen so much of Luke's growth as Artoo has. And this exposure to the young jedi has it's paternal, faithful side as well. Artoo searches expectantly outside the base doors when Luke fails to check in at Echo Base. You can see the little droid's impatience -- and worry. Indeed he is a weird little astromech.

Artoo's role in the original Star Wars trilogy is important. You will remember, he not only carried the sensitive plans for the first Death Star in his "rusty innards" but also introduced (from a certain point of view) old Ben to the new hope for the Rebellion and the way of the Jedi - Luke Skywalker.

With the Prequels less than a year away, I wonder what else we'll find out about Artoo. Lucas has already allowed us to see many images from the production that include Artoo. Many of the images suggest that Artoo knew another great pilot, the young Anakin Skywalker (9 years old or so in Episode One), and that the escape pod in A New Hope wasn't the first vehicle to bring him to Tatooine. Perhaps Artoo will help some Jedi in these movies too - and maybe even meet Ben.

I look forward to discovering what role Artoo has in the new movies. And maybe we'll find out what makes this remarkable little droid so afraid to be left alone.

See also the article at The Many Faces of R2-D2.