Welcome to week two of the Good Bones of the Skywalker Star Wars Saga!
Last week, we talked about Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. Check it out HERE if you missed it.
The Bones (or basic goals) of Episode I were the following:
Introduce the Jedi Order
Introduce Anakin aka the chosen one
Introduce Senator Palpatine and the galactic republic
Introduce the Sith
With the above accomplished (albeit badly for some) we move on to…
Episide II: Attack of the Clones
This movie was, as Episode I, both better and worse than I remembered.
As we watched it, I started searching for the bones of the story. When I finally got down to them, I almost felt bad for being so judgy about this movie. Lucas didn’t give his writers an easy job. Check this out.
Reintroduce all of the characters ten years later
Get Palpatine one step closer to being a dictator
Cause unrest and confusion in the Jedi Order
Discover the clone army
He’s super powerful!
But also super dumb.
He takes his first step toward the dark side
The love story
First off, that’s a lot of bones to fit into one story! That’s the reason I kind of feel bad for the writers. Getting all of that into one, coherent, less-than-six-hour-movie would be challenging.
Reintroduce all of the characters ten years later:
Was anyone surprised that Padmé was in the fighter and not the Senator’s ship? Nope. So she hasn’t changed. This opening works okay for her.
Every moment Obi Wan is with Anakin he’s berating him. Like a mean older brother who thinks he knows everything. It’s hardly endearing. And I like Obi Wan. Now, the writers did use this as a starting point for his character arc (yes, it’s there…barely), so kudos for them there.
Ten years later and he still sounds like a bratty kid trying to impress every one. Oh, that means he hasn’t changed either. Which doesn’t work.
Still playing the wise-old sage and ultimate nice guy. He makes my skin crawl. Good job here.
Ten years after being told there was a Sith Lord and they’re still shrugging the information off? Uh, I though these guys were the smart ones.
Get Palpatine One Step Closer to Becoming a Dictator
As I said, he seems so nice…but he’s playing both sides. Most of us, having seen these movies after the original trilogy, know what the outcome will be, and that makes it even worse! This is an often used writing tool—let the audience understand more than the characters. It stressed the audience out as the characters try to catch up. This is also pretty well done.
Cause Unrest and Confusion in the Jedi Order
Sith Lords, missing planets, a clone army they ordered but have no record of. If there’s one thing this movie does well is shed light on how the Jedi are not the powerhouse we were led to believe.
Discover the Clone Army
Obi Wan is front and center here, and he actually handles it pretty well. Get him away from Anakin and he’s an intelligent man. He’s hunting for the assassin that tried to kill Padmé , and ends up finding the clone army. I bet he never saw that coming. Wait, he’s a Jedi…nevermind.
I do like that this search takes us deeper into the bowels of Coruscant, and then to a distant land. This felt okay.
This is where Episode II falls to pieces.
Again, the writers had a lot of things to cover.
He’s super powerful!
But also super dumb.
He takes his first step toward the dark side…
He and Padmé fall in love
These are the bones I’m going to pick at the most.
He’s so Powerful!
We’re told that Anakin is super-duper powerful. We hear this multiple times. Obi Wan is always cutting him down to size, and reminding him of his place. I’d probably be pretty ornery at this too.
Unfortunately, the story relies on Anakin chasing the assassin to show us how powerful he is. (A bit too late in the movie in my opinion, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) It comes off cocky. Sure, he’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeves, and doesn’t seem to have any fear, but in the end Obi Wan shows him up (after the writers make him look like a bit of a coward) using patience. This was supposed to be important, but again, comes off as some sort of rivalry that isn’t followed up on well.
He’s also Quite Dumb!
In order to get Anakin from little boy on Tatooine, to Darth Vader (Sorry, spoilers if you haven’t heard about that little ditty) the writers had to keep him a little immature. Or at least that’s what they chose to do with him. Can’t have a perfectly rational dude turning to the dark side, now can we?
Sure, most teenagers think they know everything, but after ten years in the Jedi order, I would imagine Anakin would have learned a thing or two about not being an idiot. That apparently hasn’t happened. They unfortunately use Obi Wan’s constant berating to make the Jedi Order look like they’re bullying Anakin. So we feel bad for him. This did not work for me. Maybe if they would have shown his anger and problems with authority in Episode I, this would have come off better.
Anakin has to take his first real step toward the dark side in this movie.
To be honest, this wasn’t bad. Using his mother’s pain and then death to send him over the edge was a brilliant plan. There were a few things that I thought could have been added or changed to improve this:
They should have added a few lines to another scene, where Anakin sincerely asks Obi Wan about his visions and if they can go and check on his mom. Show me the concerned son. Obi Wan would tell him they’d been over this and the Council won’t allow it. That would give a whole lot more credence to Anakin’s blaming Obi Wan later, and show how much Obi Wan is trying not to be like Qui Gon, which is actually against his character.
Anakin blames Obi Wan for everything, saying he’s jealous of Anakin’s powers. If this had been better shown earlier, this comment would really have cut to the bone. I think Obi Wan is jealous, but we have to really search for it.
When Anakin and Padmé are in the garage and he freaks out after the attack on the village, the entire planet should have been shaking. Padmé should have been terrified. Yes, at this point she would go to him, but there should be more uncertainty.
Anakin and Padmé Fall in Love
Ugh. This is one of the worst love stories ever. It’s written and acted horribly, which I blame George Lucas for.
We’re delving into this one, because it is actually the most important relationship in the first six movies. *cracks knuckles*
I’ve really been harping on Showing and not Telling. It’s a writers thing, but it’s powerful.
For Padmé to fall in love with Anakin, she needs to see him as the man he’s become and not the boy she knew ten years ago, when she was barely in her mid-teens. I’m not going to play-by-play rewrite the whole movie, but this should have happened before Anakin and Obi Wan got assigned to protect her. Padmé should have seen Anakin doing some awesome and noble Jedi thing—preferably rescuing her in some way—and have been seriously impressed. Then she finds out it’s Anakin, and that gives us a foundation for her feelings. It also would have shown the audience just how crazy powerful he’d become.
Having him being such a puppy dog to her is…endearing? I found it annoying. If she would have shown interest first the entire love story would have flowed much better. Even just a flirting comment when they meet after she sees his heroism would have worked. Give the poor kid hope, instead of having him slobbering behind her for the first half of the movie, making us all feel awkward.
“I’m a Jedi. I’m super cool.”
“You’re so pretty.”
“I’m super cool. Look at my parlor tricks.”
This goes back to Episode I, but the age difference between them should have been closer. Or Anakin needed to be acting like the 20 year old he was, instead of a high school student. Relying on him simply being overwhelmed by “love” didn’t do this movie any favors.
I also don’t think the two of them actually agreed about very much. Relationships are built on common ground, and their discussions usually ended on a “we can agree to disagree” tone.
I found this as a summary of four crucial parts of a romance story:
- A hero and a heroine to fall in love…Stop here. The fact that this wasn’t believable makes the other three points moot.
- A problem that creates conflict and tension between them and threatens to keep them apart. Do they have anything that isn’t tension?
- A developing love that is so special it comes about only once in a lifetime. Can I put air quotes around special?
- A resolution in which the problem is solved and the couple is united. They resolve nothing. They go behind everyone’s back and begin living a lie.
So there you go. The love story needs some serious help. Actually, I think that simplifying it would have been better. In many cases, less is more. Show, don’t tell.
This love story did produce one of my favorite soundtrack songs in the prequels. Their song is so sad! It’s beautifully haunting. Love it.
The climax of the movie is okay. Loads of action, some humor from the droids, and a Yoda light saber fight that is pretty great. We get Obi Wan’s payoff as he tells Anakin that he can’t take Duooku alone, showing that he’s growing as a character.
Fun fact: I watched this movie for the second time, years ago, after I went to Dublin. I was totally flabbergasted that the Jedi Library looks just like the library at Trinity College! Trinity College was so amazing I might have cried. And I felt pretty awesome for having recognized their inspiration.
What are your thoughts on Episode II?