After not writing for a week, I am ready to jump back in the thick of Attack of Clones. When last I left the intrepid heroes, they were chasing down a bounty hunter, a pursuit that ended with a crash and burn. Sadly, the good writing crashed and burned along with Zam’s speeder.
Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones (00:21:01-00:31:33)
The action continues as Anakin chases Zam through what appears to be one of Coruscant’s red light districts, while Obi-Wan observes from overhead. Eventually Zam the Assassin ducks into the Outlander Club, and Obi-Wan lands to join Anakin’s attempt to find her. They meet up outside the club so that Kenobi can berate his padawan, giving Zam plenty of time to hide or find the back door and escape. Kenobi tells Anakin to take a breather because he thinks Zam went into the club to “hide, not to run” (00.21.57). I don’t know why he assumes this. Perhaps Kenobi has visited this club before and already knows that there is no back exit, but I doubt it, because I am pretty sure the back door is what they use to leave the club in a few minutes. I don’t know why Zam doesn’t leave through the back door, either. She clearly has opportunity as Kenobi spends his time at the bar throwing back a shot instead of blocking the exit(s) or finding the assassin.
I take a moment to pause here and ponder a paradox. Yoda clearly tells Luke that the Force is to be used for “knowledge and defense, never attack” but Kenobi upbraids Anakin for losing his lightsaber because “this weapon is your life” (00:22:03). Huh? A lightsaber is so powerful of a weapon that, even wielded defensively, it is an offensive weapon (blocked laser fire ends up being deflected, not absorbed, so unless the Jedi is really careful, that laser beam ricochets rather nastily). Making the lightsaber the focus of a Jedi’s training (what other definition fits with “your life”?) ensures that the Jedi learns to be offensive, which seems to contradict the Jedi’s target nature.
Before continuing with the scene, I give you the stupidest line of the film, what I like to call the Bigger Fish line: “Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” (00:22:08). No further comment.
Once inside the club, the viewer is made witness to the most risque part of the six Star Wars films. Leia’s gold bikini in Return of the Jedi made a big hit in 1983, but here Lucas amps up the skin. Ordinarily, I ignore most nudity or near nudity in movies, because it is almost always gratuitous (and I don’t care), but I make a point of it here because the Phantom Menace was fairly obviously a kid’s movie, and most of the kids who loved it were going to be even more excited about seeing Attack of the Clones. So then why put so many bare backsides, mesh pants, and cleavage in the sequel to a hugely popular kids movie?
Anakin and Kenobi glance around the club for a long moment before Anakin clues his master into the fact that they are chasing a changeling, to which Kenobi responds “in that case, be extra careful” but he sounds sarcastic (00.22.34). I wonder if that is deliberate, because under normal circumstances, finding out that a person you are chasing may not even look like the person you are chasing tends to make things more complicated. Kenobi then compounds my confusion when he tells Anakin to “go and find her” because he is “going for a drink” (00:22:44). What? My guess is that Kenobi is trying to lull the assassin into a false sense of security, or is trying to lure her into attacking him, both achieved by using Anakin as a hound to flush her out, but that makes little or no sense at all. Once she sees Kenobi at the bar and Anakin kind of half-heartedly looking around, why not just slip out the back, or out the front, since neither Jedi seems to be paying that much attention? The only explanation I can think of for this odd behavior is that the script demanded such odd behavior.
While drinking, Kenobi utilizes a Jedi Mind Trick in a manner other than directed: “you don’t want to sell me death sticks….you want to go home and rethink your life” (00:23:08). He preys upon a drug dealer for nothing more than a private, cruel joke. Sure, the scene is funny, but it is wrong. Messing with anyone’s mind, drug dealer or not, is unethical. Kenobi smirks as Elan Sleeze-bag goes home to rethink his life (the dealer’s name really is Sleezebaggano). Obi-Wan clearly enjoys the power he has to make even the most weak-minded bow to his capricious whim. Shouldn’t a “guardian of peace and justice of the galaxy” protect the weak minded most of all?
While all of this happens, Zam decides to break with all rational thought and tries to shoot Kenobi in the back. Having seen her botch the assassination of Amidala twice, I already think she is a lousy assassin, but this scene confirms it. She has a clear shot at his back at twenty paces, but never fires, even when she stupidly enters the blood range of his lightsaber. She does not do what any dumb assassin would do, and shoot with clear line of fire (or better yet, not kill unless you are getting paid) and this is the definition of Bad Writing: making people act as people do not act. And she pays for it, first with the loss of an arm, and then with the loss of her life.
Kenobi and Anakin help Zam out of the club (leaving her severed arm behind), and proceed to interrogate her in the dark alley behind the club (see? there was a back door). She almost tells them Jango Fett’s name, but Fett kills her first with a toxic dart (00:24:27). I find it next to impossible that Fett could be hanging around outside the club with his toxic dart gun just waiting for Zam to show up in the arms of the Jedi. He just conveniently happened to have followed them there, and been waiting in the right place for the right time. Nope, I don’t buy it.
But, one good thing comes of all this: the Jedi Council finally decides that it would be a good idea to track down and apprehend the second bounty hunter, and in the process discover who wants Amidala dead and why. In the mean time, they decide (without discussing it with her, or the Senate, or anyone) that it would be a good idea to have Anakin force her back to Naboo. Why? “She’ll be safer there” (00:25:16). Huh? Didn’t they learn their lesson from letting her stay in her apartment after the first attempt on her life? Amidala, after surviving a bomb, didn’t alter her routine at all, and went to sleep in her own bed, and the assassin found her. Going back to her home planet is the next obvious place to look (especially areas with which she is very familiar). The only reason Jango doesn’t find her there is because he inexplicably stops trying to kill her. Also, they are not to use “registered transport” and they are to “travel as refugees” (00:25:20). I guess that there would be refugees of the most overcrowded city ever hoping for a bit of green and open spaces on Naboo, but this little subterfuge is made meaningless as soon as Amidala takes an extended leave of absence from the Senate and makes Jar Jar the official representative in her stead. No point in hiding the fact that you are leaving when you announce that you are leaving. Unless the Galactic Senate works differently than the American Senate, there is no way Amidala could have left secretly under any circumstances, especially if she was the leader of a very vocal opposition to the creation of a Galactic Army.
In the midst of all of what I don’t like in these ten minutes, I love the scene in which Anakin talks with Palpatine. John Williams uses a single horn (?) in his scoring to give this scene a sinister, momentous feel, and the long camera angles cloak the characters in shadow, hinting at the darkness to come. Palpatine craftily works on Anakin’s vulnerabilities, making him more susceptible to his later seduction. In fact, Lucas will fairly clearly mirror this scene in Revenge of the Sith, when Palpatine reveals to Anakin that he is, in fact, Darth Sidious.
(But why does Anakin call the Chancellor, an elected official, “Your Excellency”?)
Next, Amidala packs for her long journey. After telling Jar Jar to get to work, she tells Anakin that she would rather not leave on the eve of a very important, galaxy changing vote. Anakin replies that “sometimes we must let go of our pride, and do what is requested of us” as if pride had anything to do with votes that change the very nature of a galaxy spanning Republic. “Anakin, you’ve grown up” Amidala says, which is condescending, but also blatantly untrue in every way that matters (00:28:14). (To be fair, for the briefest of moments, Anakin did seem out of character, i.e. mature). What follows is a “conversation” in which Anakin whines loud and long about Kenobi’s oppressive teaching style, and the fact that Anakin feels like he isn’t as powerful as he should be. Kenobi is clearly failing to teach Anakin anything because a Jedi shouldn’t be so preoccupied with power and achievement. Kenobi was well into his 20s before he was thought ready to be a Jedi Knight, and anyway, this diatribe is a very eloquent argument against promoting Anakin. He is still way too childish and immature to handle the responsibility, something that Kenobi brought up a few minutes ago with Windu and Yoda. Speaking of which, the senior Jedi again mentioned the concept of Anakin being the “Chosen One” who can “bring balance to the Force” without ever stating what that means (00:27:17). Since that is why they are trusting an unpredictable Anakin with an important assignment, it might have been helpful to provide a least a little explanation.
Also happening in this scene is the love starting to grow between Anakin and Amidala, though how an older, experienced, responsible Senator could ever find such a whiney clearly-still-fourteen-years-old Jedi attractive is beyond me. Especially when he looks at her in creepy ways, and then when she asks him to stop, doesn’t understand why, and continues giving her a creepy smile that says “when you say No, I think you mean Yes” (00:29:45). The condescending continues when Amidala combats the whining by saying “don’t try to grow up too fast” which is something a mother says, not a twenty-four year old (00:29:26).
Amidala finishes packing, despite the fact that she is going home where she probably has clothes, and despite the fact that few refugees would dress as richly as her anyway (and in ridiculous head things). For some reason Amidala thinks that her handmaiden is in danger “take good care of Dorme, the threat’s on you two now” (00:30:06). Why? Why would this even occur to her? Dorme is not pretending to be Amidala, she never was going to pretend to be Amidala, and she never will. Why would anyone bother her at all? If, instead of Jar Jar taking over, Dorme was going to pretend to be Amidala and still try to vote as Amidala in the Senate, this concern might make sense, but Amidala just sounds stupid saying what she does. (My personal theory is that Lucas intended for Dorme to be a decoy a la Phantom Menace, but changed his mind, but forgot to change the dialogue). Dorme starts crying (which seems out of place to me). Amidala sees this and says, “you’ll be fine” apparently thinking that Dorme is crying about her own “danger.” Amidala acts the part of a parent comforting a child, which is condescending and strange for an adult speaking to another adult (00:30:13). Dorme tries to explain that she is in fact not a self-centered person, but is concerned about Amidala because “what if they realize you’ve left the capital?” (especially since Jar Jar just announced to the Senate that he was taking over Naboo’s representation due to Amidala’s extended leave of absence)(00:30:19).
This scene is just wrong.
Finally, Kenobi tells Anakin to not do anything “without consulting either myself or the Council” (00:30:29). Such micromanagement would make anyone angry. Far from Kenobi making small mistakes with Anakin, it appears that he is screwing up galactically. If I thought that Lucas was intentionally writing these scenes to show Kenobi’s abominable failure, I would be happier right now, but I think we are supposed to agree with Kenobi and disagree with Anakin. Hold this thought, I will return to it after Anakin murders the Tusken Raiders later in the movie.
Cue awkward laughter. (“We have Artoo with us” gets second place for the Bigger Fish line.)
Typho and Obi-Wan share a parental moment, and the refugee starship blasts into space.