Having almost ground the movie to a dusty halt over the past half hour, Lucas and Co. throw in a fight scene and a chase-through-asteroids scene in a bid to regain some momentum and probably wake up the audience. I think it is certainly better than Anakin and Padme trying to have an adult conversation.
Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones (00.58.59-01.11.18)
The scene opens with Anakin in bed, having a nightmare. After the rough, emotion filled evening he just experienced, it is hardly surprising that he is not sleeping well. I wish that Lucas showed the dream rather than Anakin dreaming, but only because watching someone have a bad dream feels awkward and voyeuristic. Also, seeing the dream requires additional thought and creativity which Lucas apparently didn’t feel like exerting. Furthermore, I strongly feel that this scene is supposed to mirror Luke’s vision in Empire Strikes Back, but in that scene, there were other things happening because Luke wasn’t, strictly speaking, dreaming and that gave much more depth to the scene. As this is part of a larger point I want to make, I will come back to it in a few moments.
Anakin, it seems, doesn’t return to sleep but spends the rest of the night meditating. When Padme wakes up and stumbles outside, she seems him, but turns to go. Anakin requests that she stay because her “presence is soothing” whatever that means (00.59.54). Padme merely comments on Anakin’s obvious bad night, trying to get him to talk about what is bothering him, but Anakin reverts to a twelve year old state when he tries to deny his bad night by snarling “Jedi don’t have nightmares”; a statement that is as inhuman as it is false (00.59.52). Padme patiently points out that she heard him having the bad dream, but it still takes Anakin a few moments before he admits the truth. Why? Because Anakin possesses unrealistic ideas about what it means to be a Jedi. Padme’s cold dose of reality breaks through his feeble defenses, and he confides in her. Given half an inch of freedom Anakin runs to find his mother, which I believe he would have done eventually, even without the bad dreams, but the premonitions give him a good excuse.
And there endeth the plot development for this part of the film. Obi-Wan brawls with Jango on Kamino, and then chases him through an asteroid belt in orbit over Geonosis. Meanwhile Anakin tracks down his mother through Watto, who sold her years ago, business being business.
One amusing tidbit: when Obi-Wan flies over Geonosis before landing to check things out, he mentions that there is “an unusual concentration of Federation ships” but what he means by this I have no idea (01.10.45). Is there some sort of galactic rule that says there should only be four Federation ships at one place or something? This line, I think, is supposed to be a clue to audience that something sinister is going on, but it actually is quite meaningless and makes one scratch their head while trying to figure out what in the galaxy Obi-Wan means.
But, on to a more troubling matter: Lucas copies himself way too much. In the behind the scenes material for the Phantom Menace, Lucas discusses Anakin blowing up the droid control ship as a future echo of Luke blowing up the Death Star and says that such tropes are “like poetry…they rhyme; every stanza rhymes with the one after it. Hopefully it will work” (3.29 “A Beginning…”). Unfortunately for Lucas, I don’t think it works. Because…
Lucas is not a poet. He is not a writer. He is a special effects wizard who had a great story idea. What he doesn’t realize is that rhyming is a very subtle thing, used too obviously or too liberally and it disgusts rather than delights. Poetry is about seducing language in order to seduce, delight, and tantalize the reader. Lucas’s poetry is not tantalizing: it is a kick in the face. Almost every single thing in the prequels is an echo of the future: you cannot escape it, you cannot excuse it, and you cannot ignore it. Consider Attack of the Clones: First, a love story is a strong secondary story, just like in the Empire Strikes Back. Second, a dangerous bounty hunter is introduced, and it is even the same bounty hunter. There is a chase through some asteroids. Obi-Wan hides out on the back of rock with all systems shut down to confuse his pursuer just like Han does with the Imperials. Anakin has dreams while Luke had visions. There is a big battle at the end instead of the beginning. There is a wampa and there is an acklay/reek/lexu. There is even a father figure revealed: “Watto never told you about your step-father. I am your step-father!!” And Cliegg is even missing a leg like Anakin will be soon. You get the picture? (Honestly, it is hard not too).
Lucas’s problem is not that he mirrors the original trilogy. I have said before that it is a very good thing to do. People see sequels for the express purpose of seeing a film like unto the original film, in fact it tends to be the major draw to a sequel. But, what makes a successful sequel is not a carbon copy of the original: that is, by definition, a failure. (To be fair, people disagree with me about this.) For instance, I believe the endless horror sagas that are popular today are failures because, while the first film might be an innovation, every successive sequel uses the exact same setup and tells pretty much the same story. Lucas does manage to weave new material into the prequels, but not much, which is why I think the Star Wars sequels are better than they otherwise would be.
My point is that one or two major references to the original trilogy would have been expected, needed, and perfectly ok, but mirroring each film so closely just shows a lack of imagination and finesse. Yes, Anakin and Padme are fated to fall in love and produce Luke and Leia, but making that a hard-to-get I-admit-I-love-you-because-we-are-about-to-die love story (a la Han and Leia) was a bad idea: it should have just been a classic fall-in-love romance. Jango Fett’s entire role is unnecessary, and even if it were, forget the whole idea of a clone son, just have it be Boba Fett and get it over with. No asteroid chase, no bad dream, and no step-father, either. Write new chase locations, new ideas to drive the story, and forget awkward psuedo-family encounters.
Futhermore, how exactly was Kenobi going to get Jango back to Coruscant for a Jedi interrogation? I submit that a plot device that is impossible to achieve, even one that never is achieved, is badly written. I find the whole fighting/chasing Jango thing to be an obvious sham because 1) there is no physical way Kenobi could have taken Jango into custody (there is no back seat to Kenobi’s ship, or was he supposed to hope Jango had a suitable ship to “borrow”?) and 2) he forgets about that mission just as quickly as Lucas forgot that Jango was supposed to be trying to kill Amidala, not whatever it is he was doing instead. Jango’s escape is nothing more than an elaborate plot device to get Kenobi to Geonosis, a place he otherwise would not end up.
Anyway, Kenobi explores Geonosis while Watto hunts for Shmi’s bill of sale. The plot thins…