Episode II
ATTACK OF THE CLONES

There is unrest in the Galactic
Senate. Several thousand solar
systems* have declared their
intentions to leave the Republic.

This separatist movement,
under the leadership of the
mysterious Count Dooku, has
made it difficult for the limited
number of Jedi Knights to
maintain peace and order in
the galaxy.

Senator Amidala, the former
Queen of Naboo, is returning
to the Galactic Senate to vote
on the critical issue of creating
an ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
to assist the overwhelmed
Jedi....

A very good crawler. Serious things are about to happen in the Star Wars universe, it presents us with the facts in unambiguous terms. Civil war is about to break out and the Republic is torn on the issue: pursue a policy of appeasement or prepare for a full scale military conflict.

* `Several thousand solar systems'? That should be `star systems', as there is only one Solar System--ours, orbiting the star named Sol. Then again, only rabid astronomers worry about these sorts of things anyway...

Soundtrack by John Williams

NOTE: I have some knowledge of the plot (but no special knowledge), and I do mention some scenes which have been shown in trailers. You might consider some of these SPOILERS.

Track listing for the original release:

  1. Main Title and Ambush on Coruscant
  2. Across the Stars (Love Theme)
  3. Zam the Assassin and The Chase Through Coruscant
  4. Yoda and the Younglings
  5. Departing Coruscant
  6. Anakin and Padmé
  7. Jango's Escape
  8. The Meadow Picnic
  9. Bounty Hunter's Pursuit
  10. Return to Tatooine
  11. The Tusken Camp and The Homestead
  12. Love Pledge and The Arena
  13. Confrontation with Count Dooku and The Finale

Main Title and Ambush on Coruscant

The Main Title is the familiar scroller music. Ambush on Coruscant begins ominously, as you might expect. Rolling waves of scales set a gorgeously distressed tone.

Across the Stars (Love Theme)

Fluidly phrased strings and brass swell majestically. The same theme is repeated at the end, much more quietly -- not bleakly, but as if a memory. This is, as Lucas has said, the first real love affair in the series. Its theme is, fittingly, beautiful and memorable.

Zam the Assassin and The Chase Through Coruscant

Zam's theme is presented as an almost random-sounding blend of discordant themes, building tension. During The Chase Through Coruscant, we hear pulse-pounding rhythms and, to the surprise and dismay of some fans, electric guitar. It's used sparingly, however, and I think it works.

Yoda and the Younglings

This track features a rare bit of choral work supported only by a harp, then the Love Theme, then quotes Yoda's Theme. After a minute or two of quiet experimentation by the Younglings, I presume, we hear the Force Theme, and then a bit more of the Love Theme. I suspect this track will mean more to me in context, after I've seen the film.

Departing Coruscant

The Force theme opens this nostalgic, majestic, and too-brief backward glance at Coruscant. There's not much to say here because there's not much to hear.

Anakin and Padmé

Lilting flutes, to represent Padmé I suppose, lead into a quiet statement of the Love Theme by a piano.

Jango's Escape

Sudden desperation! Bells clang in the background as a jumble of quick frenetic bits repeat their warning. Fanfares pronounce daring acrobatics as Jango Fett eludes his captors.

The Meadow Picnic

The Love Theme is in full flower here, set amid small flittering notes and, presciently, some ominous undertones which eventually overtake the beautiful melody, only to be pushed away at the end.

Bounty Hunter's Pursuit

Slower than Jango's Escape, but still insistent and wonder-filled. The title is ambiguous: is the bounty hunter in pursuit of someone, or is the bounty hunter being pursued? When I find out, I'll wait a while before spoiling it here.

Return to Tatooine

Like a childhood memory from long ago and far away, this theme floats at first on gossamer wings of soft scales. It takes solid form in the Force Theme, then Duel of the Fates, and eventually settles on a foreboding low brass theme.

The Tusken Camp and The Homestead

Wooden percussion, faint in the background, opens this tribal piece. Several minutes later, a crisis begins, inaugurating a run of those same scales, which lead into the first appearance of the Imperial March, which will become Darth Vader's theme.

Love Pledge and The Arena

Strings state the Love Theme, which is then amplified by a reed (clarinet?), and then reechoed by the entire orchestra. The Arena is a martial-sounding march, punctuated by furious battle (quite possibly the Last Stand), with the Force theme coming into play.

Confrontation with Count Dooku and The Finale

Here we hear the Imperial March in proper, as terrifying and thrilling as ever it was, made more so by being interwoven with the Love Theme. It is painfully clear why Jedi are forbidden passionate love along with other strong emotions, and why Anakin refuses to be limited in that fashion. We then hear the classic Finale theme, followed by a small reprise of each theme, ending with a contrast between a hopeful high flute and the ominous low Vader theme that ended Young Anakin's Theme in the last film.

now tell me why
Summers fade and roses die
Golden hills now veiled in gray
Summer leaves have blown away
Now what remains, the wind and rain

Episode II begins with a spaceship as all Star Wars films do. But really AotC begins with death, and gets darker from there. This is not a happy film, even though it ends with marriage, there is darkness all around us.

The Jedi are powerless to see what is coming, all except Yoda, who clearly can do nothing to prevent the "balancing of the Force." Nor, I think does he wants to prevent these destinies from being fulfilled. 800 years of Jedi Mastery will breed that.

Things move much more quickly in AotC than they did in Episode I. We quickly see that Anakin is not a nice guy. He’s charismatic, he’s headstrong, he’s powerful with the Force, but he’s troubled. Even before his mother dies in his arms, we see the Skywalker fire, the anger Luke unleashed on Vader in RotJ, the "It’s not Fair" attitude we saw Luke deal with in ANH & ESB. But Anakin is untempered by growing up on the farm, he has none of the gruff love Luke certainly recieved from Lars and Beru (Blue Milk!) or by the closeness of friendship that Luke shared with Han and Leia and before them Biggs and Fixer and Camie. Anakin we quickly learn is alone (except for Obi Wan).

Anakin´s relationship with Obi-Wan is troubled by jealousy and resentment from the beginning. It doesn’t help matters that Anakin has a secret advisor in the form of Chancellor Palapatine, who whispers into his ear, "You will become the most powerful Jedi ever." Anakin wants it all and he want’s it now.

So where are we going? Where is Anakin going? We all know where and this is the beginning of that steep slope. And while Anakin is no Darth Vader yet... just you wait three years. I don’t want to spoil this film for anyone, it is the best SW film since ESB. While the Dark Side is still only growing and is not at the hight of it´s ascendance, its growth in AotC is compelling and fascinating to watch.

Many questions remain, how does Mace Windu die? How does Yoda get to Dagobah? Are the Storm Troopers clones? Why can’t the Jedi see Palapatine for what he is, or if Yoda can, as is implied why doesn’t he do anything about it?

Lucas has said Episode III will be dark... I want it to be as black as night.


The answer came, the wind and rain
Now what remains, the wind and rain
And little change, the wind and rain
Same old friends the wind and rain (we'll see summer by and by)

I am 23. This is the movie I have wanted to see since I was 5. And it made me feel like I was 5 again and the universe was full of magic and wonder. Also cool shit blowing up.

BIG FAT SPOILERS. DO NOT READ THIS UNTIL YOU'VE SEEN THE FILM.

In the months before Episode One came out I O.D.'ed on spoilers. Not only did I know what would happen, I had seen and heard it all. And that really took a lot of joy out of it for me. So for this one, I said screw it. I'm not seeking anything out. I'd seen the trailers, against my will, and only once each-- They were in front of Monsters Inc., Lord of the Rings, and Spider-Man, none of which I could force myself to avoid. I'd read maybe three Entertainment Weekly articles and seen those photos. Even that was a mistake.

But what nothing could reveal is that the degree to which this film is just better than Phantom Menace-- compelling on its own terms, completely apart from the other films-- is both laughable and frightening. It's almost as if Lucas intentionally pulled the greatest mainstream filmmaking swindle since Eyes Wide Shut: He knows exactly the type of prequel you wanted the first time around, and thought it would be funny to make you think he couldn't do it.

I reluctantly grant that all the previous frantic establishing of locations pays off, as we descend into the world(s) far more deeply. There is much more breathing room here. The extended shots of spacecraft don't feel like "Oh, wow, look at ILM", they feel like Kubrick's appreciation for technology coupled with knowledge of its terrible applications. The mood pervades every scene: You can feel that the Dark Side has enveloped the galaxy, and you realize that the Dinotopia-meets-Disneyland happy sunshine of Episode 1 is a useful yardstick.

Think about it: What are the two things you hate most about Episode 1? That fucking kid and Jar Jar. Well, the kid is grown up now, and if he's a bit of a hammy actor (or if Lucas just picked the hammy takes) at least he's COOL, and I welcome the rarity of a flawed hero in Hollywood cinema. Jar Jar is on screen for about two minutes total, and this time his idiocy is not supposed to be endearing. He manages to fuck the galaxy in its collective ass. And damn, but I was relieved to hear that many boos when he showed up.

Does the love story between Amidala and Anakin work? Yeah, kinda, not really, maybe. It's longer and twistier than I expected, but some of the dialogue is just piss poor and it is irretrievably melodramatic. Natalie, however, is believable in every second of pain and passion. She is also relegated to the status of a full post-feminist adventure hero with eye candy on top: brave, beautiful, and diplomatic. Good role model for your daughters. Seriously.

The plot is solidly constructed, and thick yet clearly laid out. There's no longer much parallel action for its own sake (that means cutting away from the thing you want to see), and when there is, it's suspenseful; we aren't just watching the bad guys stroke their proverbial goatees. Plus, there's a terrific surprise near the end revealing that some of them may be doing the wrong things for the right reasons. More morally sticky than we're used to from Star Wars. Lucas beats you over the head with his democracy endorsement but he does have the right idea: Never give too much power to one man.

The final half hour of the film will leave you breathless from pleasure. It rivals the third acts of Aliens and The Matrix for sheer unrelenting asskickery. And the contorted hyperactive crosshatching we're used to is done away with, this is ONE epic battle in endless imaginative permutations. Threepio's Jar Jar style slapstick during it is comparable to a tiny brown spot on the juiciest red apple of your childhood: easily ignored.

Yoda is entirely digitized, there is no puppet. I thought this would anger me, but it's actually a wise move, avoiding a jarring transition between his dialogue and action. I love this little green guy more than I ever thought possible, even without the latex. Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, both phenomenal. All the focus and development I was hoping for.

And I just wanna say, I love the title "Attack of the Clones" and always have. Reasons why:

You know what's a shitty title? "Star Wars".

  • It almost rhymes but doesn't. It's awkward.
  • In A New Hope, there is just the one war.
  • All the battles are on different planets. None of them are anywhere near a star.
  • Star is a noun, not an adjective. The adjective form is solar, or maybe stellar.

I'll close with this: My friends Alyce and Rob coincidentally attended the same midnight screening as I, she as Aurra Sing, he as Leatherface. There was lightsaber dueling and the crowd cheered us. On the way out, I poked them, and they could barely mumble "Awesome" through their grins. It made me even happier. I'm all for meaningful, realistic films, but something like this, done right, can thrill and inspire you like nothing else. All is forgiven, George.

It's doubly fitting that John Williams, that master appropriator of the composing world, scored this movie, because there's hardly an original bone beneath its sleek, entertaining skin. Lucas liberally borrowed from dozens of other films in his latest creation.

Here are many of the movies, TV shows, and occasional video games that Lucas and his crew made little and not-so-little homages to throughout Clones (or at least the ones that Lucy-S and I were able to spot and remember after a single viewing; if you have others to add to the list, send me a message.):

Attack of the clones is the fifth movie in the Star Wars series. It was released on circuit worldwide on May 16, 2002.

In the chronology of the Star Wars universe, this is episode 2, and comes after The Phantom Menace but before the original Star Wars movie (now refered to as "A New Hope" or "episode 4" instead of just "Star Wars"), and it's sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Attack of the clones is the middle movie of the prequel trilogy, and thus occupies a position similar to The Empire Strikes Back. It leaves only one movie remaining that will be filmed to knit up the end of the prequel trilogy to the start of the original trilogy.

The plot concerns Anakin Skywalker, particularly in his relations to his Jedi mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi and to Senator Padme Amidala. This is set against the background of the galactic republic starting to unravel.

Spoiler alert

Read no further if you don't want spoilers.

Things I liked in this movie, a very short list:

  • Big-budget CGI
  • Jango Fett and Bobba Fett: the happy confluence of sci-fi storyline, interesting characters and acting
  • Ewan McGreggor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Yoda's killer mosquito-fu
  • the whole Obi-wan going to the bar scene, with the echoes of Episode 4.
  • Palpatine's win-win proposition is kinda cool. Essentially he's fighting a war and controlling both sides, so either way he ends up with a strong winning army and lots of Jedi squashed dead in the middle. This is not very different to his plot in Episode 1

This movie is not great. It is very not-great. In parts it is unintentionally funny. The editing is clumsy. The dialogue is wooden, and the plot is like a lace curtain: flat, thin and full of holes.

In general, this is a movie in the same way that a pile of expensive, good looking masonry is a house. The only reason that it didn't get panned like The Phantom Menace is that The Phantom Menace significantly lowered our expectations. Like episode 1, this is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

A kinder view is that of dutchess: I realize Lucas was writing for 12-year-old boys, and as such, I think he did a great job. I think that at 12 years old I would have been swept away by this movie, as I was by the original at a similar age. I would have overlooked its flaws, blinded by the special effects. What gets me is how easily the flaws could have been fixed, e.g. better dialogue, without detracting one iota from the movie's kid-appeal. That's just shoddy craftsmanship, This is in itself puzzling given the amount of effort put into the movie. One possible reason is that George Lucas now lives in a hermetically sealed criticism-free zone, surrounded by yes-men.

let's hit the highlights of the plot holes:

  • In Episode 4, Darth Vader walks right past C3P0 and R2D2 without recognising them, yet he is very familiar with them from episode 1 and 2, and probably episode 3. It has been suggested that he recognised them, just didn't show it. Yet by then he probably knows that they are involved with the rebellion and should have stopped them.

It has been suggested that the transformation from Anakin to Vader involved some kind of memory loss and personality change. Perhaps. But that would be stretching to keep continuity.

On that note, the presence of R2D2 and C3PO in the first trilogy in any way is my opinion ludicrous. It shows a lack of imagination in reusing minor characters incongruously instead of introducing new ones. A less charitable interpretation is that there were warehouses full of unsold R2D2 and C3PO merchandise.

  • Count Dooku reveals to Obi-Wan Kenobi the truth that the senate is controlled by a Sith Lord. Why would he want that fact to come out? It is true that he is not forthcoming with all the details, but why would he want the Jedi to think along those lines? Over some alcohol we came up with the theory that he knew that Obi-wan would never believe him, as Jedi mistrust the lies of those who have turned to the dark side, and so told him the truth in the knowledge that the Jedi would thereafter discount that possibility as the one think that was known to be false. Does that make sense? Not really.
  • More likely it was a spin on the old routine of "before I kill you I'm going to tell you all about our evil plan. Mu-haha"

  • Between episodes 3 and 4, the young Luke Skywalker is hidden for a period of at least 15 years. Where is he hidden from his father Anakin? How about on the planet where Anakin grew up. How about on Anakin's half-brother's farm? How about next to Anakin's mother's grave? he’d never think of looking there, would he?
  • Perhaps Amidala fled while pregnant, before Anakin was aware that the children existed. Then how did he know that Luke, I am your father?

  • Oh, look, a mysterious clone army of New Zealanders here at the disposal of us Jedi. let's just use them without ever worrying at all about how they came into existence or if it might be part of some plot.
  • War droids: A technology that gets lost between episode 2 and episode 4. The Jedi seem to be more than palace guards than any force for moral good. In the last 10 years they have made no progress at all in suppressing slavery on Tatooine. Anakin has himself not bothered to return to find out what happened to his enslaved mother.
  • Furthermore, upon learning of the existence of 200 000 cloned human beings who are essentially being treated as droids, i.e. machines, less even than slaves, what is the reaction of the Jedi? revulsion? Compassion? Nope: Send them into battle, and let Yoda command them, with hilarious dialog like "around the survivors a perimeter set up."

    Yoda also displays appalling character judgement. Episode 1's Anakin, a precocious but happy brat is deemed by Yoda unfit to be a Jedi. But Episode 2's Anakin, a landmine of anger, is entrusted with an important solo mission.

    Yoda, by the way, is slowly turning into Nelson Mandela. Their faces look similar, and both are old and kindly, wise yet resolute. Both enjoy photo-opportunities with children to demonstrate their grandfatherly nature.

    The 'love' scenes between Anakin and Amidala were flat and unconvincing, and were filmed in a sun-bleached, soft-focus, oversaturated, the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music style that jars when set against the red/orange/yellow palette of the rest of the movie.

    As a friend remarked afterwards, tragedy is when a good person is brought down by a single flaw. Anakin was not that good person, he is a git of the creepy, obsessive, stalker variety.

    His very teenage take on love was annoying, though somewhat realistic: "I have been obsessed with you for ten years, and now you are tormenting me" no, actually you are tormenting yourself, "so I'm turning bad and it's all your fault!" no, you decided to be a shit all on your own.

    Towards the end I found, to my astonishment, that I was mildly bored in spite of the incredible CGI. My feelings on realising that the movie was ending were a mixture of "where's the beef?" and "yay! it's over".

    We were happy when we realised that Jar-Jar Binks introduced the senate bill that authorised Emergency powers for Palpatine and lead to the Army of the Republic. Thus he will go down in galactic history as one of those names that will live in infamy. Yipee!


    After the movie, over beer and pizza, we talked about it. The sad thing is,G- remarked, every one of us will still pay to see episode 3.

    We speculated on what must happen in Episode 3. Here’s a speculative plot summary:

    Scene opens on Coruscant.

    Palpatine: Anakin, you are so great, so cool, you don't deserve that crap that Obi-Wan Kenobi and those silly Jedi put you through.
    Anakin: Gosh, you are even more like a father to me than that mean old Obi-wan. You must be right. Show me how to do that cool force-lightning stuff.
    Palpatine: Easy, just let your anger flow.
    Anakin: Raargh!
    Palpatine: The dark side is strong in this one. Mu-haha.

    Scene changes to Tatooine, for no reason other than that Tatooine is obligatory.

    Obi-Wan: Anakin, you cannot be married and a Jedi. You must give up one or the other. And I don't like your attitude.
    Anakin: I won't! It's not fair!! Raargh!

    The scene changes to Naboo.

    Amidala: Anakin, you scare me sometimes. You are so .. psychotic. I'm leaving with Obi-Wan, and taking the kids with me.
    Anakin: I'm not psychotic! Obi-Wan, this is all your fault for making her think I'm bloodthirsty. I'll kill you for that. Raargh!!

    The scene changes to a previously unvisited planet full of myriad things. It gives the special effects team a chance to show off and will feature in the video game.

    Obi-Wan and Anakin duel with lightsabers. Anakin finally has various limbs chopped off, and Obi-Wan flees.
    Palpatine: Anakin, you are so great, so cool, so I will save your life. Here, have this black exoskeleton and together, we will rule the galaxy. Wipe them out. All of them.
    Anakin: OK daddy. mu-hahaha.

    several inhabited planets are scoured to the bedrock. Entire races are wiped out during the clone wars. All Jedi either die or go into hiding in pestilent swamps.

    Obi-Wan: While this baby lives there is hope.
    Luke: Waaah! I want my bottle. It's not fair! Raargh!
    Owen and wife: Awww, cute!
    Focus on baby and cue happy ending

    Yes, I am a negative bastard. I try to play to my strengths.


    Update, May 2005. Three people have remarked on how accurate this summary is. I have not altered it since 2003. Fish; Barrel; smoking lightsaber. Having now seen Revenge of the sith, I think that my version has more emotional depth.

    Many American high schools no longer have a civics or government class, so its entirely possible that today's pre-teens won't find out the difference between dictatorships and democracy. Lucas to the "rescue"?

    If you ignore the source and just read the article, you will see a hilarious take in which the Weekly Standard's Jonathan V. Last makes "The Case for the Empire". Unlike many right-wing commentators on popular culture, this one actually is a knowledgeable fan.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/248ipzbt.asp

    My AotC nit-pick. We've known since the beginning that Tatooine is a binary system, it has two suns. Although we only ever see them at those awesome sunset scenes, when one is intense orange and the other, already at the horizon, fading to grey, it is clear that even at sunset both shine with significant light.1 Therefore they should both cast shadows.

    Now, the absence of dual shadows didn't bother me overmuch in the other episodes, since there are so many other physics violations. But the AotC scene featuring Anakin and Amidala casting shadows on the dome wall was too much. He's rubbing our faces in it. Minor spoiler: In this shadow scene, Anakin's shadow morphs to resemble his future Darth Vader silhouette

    Couldn't Lucas at least give us a dim, second shadow, that in the other movies might have been there but not noticeable? Had he done this I would happily conclude that physics and astronomy aside, Tatooine's two suns must be very different -- like one of them is all heat & dim light, or something. The universe is a big place.

    Wouldn't a second shadow be a much more interesting cinematic device? One hard, dark shadow for his future self, one faint wisp for the boy he no longer was, with a nod to the transformation and conflict that is adolescence? Or screw subtlety and just have the darker one tower menacingly over the other. The missed possibilities seem inexcusable.

    BAH! Now I'm definitely not going to pay the second time I go...

    Revised May 29, '02 and Sept 23, '03 by e-hadj

    Endnote

    1. Probably, the only difference in their brightness is because the one closest to the horizon has to pass through more atmosphere than the one that is slightly higher up. If we saw them anytime during the rest of the Tatooine day, they'd probably be of near-equal brightness. Liveforever and I actually traded several long, thoughtful emails on the question of, could the two stars be of significantly different sizes, and therefore of different brightnesses, and still produce the sunset scene. You can check out a cool Java simulation of all the different ways a binary system might work, at http://prancer.physics.louisville.edu/astro/107/week_rev/week8/binary/binary.htm. We tried to consider other "observations" about Tatooine, such as the fact that the climate, while harsh, doesn't seem to vary much. We concluded that it might be possible to construct a scenario or two for two stars of significantly different sizes, with the larger one farther away than the other, which would give them the same apparent diameter (just like the Earth's moon and Sol have the same apparent diameter). In the end we decided there were far more (and more likely) scenarios in which the two stars were of nearly equal size and brightness. We were unable to agree as to which pissed us off more, Lucas's presumed ignorance of orbital dynamics or his willful infidelity to photology.

    Update:The binary star simulation above has been taken down, but there are many like it on the Internet, try http://instruct1.cit.cornell.edu/courses/astro101/java/binary/binary.htm or http://www.google.com/search?q=binary+star+simulator. Also, lj speculates, "Would it be possible for a star to have the majority of its output outside the visible spectrum?" This does happen, in fact many distant objects are detected more readily by radio telescopes than by visible light telescopes. However, my understanding is that such stars are of a different mass, size and/or age (by several orders of magnitude) than Sol-type stars such as Tatooine's. In other words, due to the nature of the atomic physics involved, any two stars of roughly similar masses will have nearly identical distributions of radiation across the frequency spectrum. As already discussed, because Tatooine has a stable climate, a scenario in which Tatooine's stars are of radically different masses but have the same apparent diameter is unlikely. It is also unlikely that stars in a binary system are of radically different ages; that would mean the two stars began as different solar systems, and later suffered a near-collision of just the right parameters as to result in them forming a stable, binary system. But to me the best argument against Lucas is simply: if both suns are visible to the eye at sunset, they should both cast visible shadows of some sort.

    I think I should share an insight I made while re-watching the movie. Nowhere can anyone find a good top-down description of the events in Episodes 1 and 2, and eventually 3. There are several plots that come to the forefront of different movies. Director George Lucas says they can be told from the perspective of the two droids R2-D2 and C3PO, but the entire series can be based on Anakin Skywalker; the series shows how he goes from good to the Dark Side, an allegory for the fall of Lucifer, to paraphrase Newsweek's top critic.

    What I am about to say will cross into the other movies, as I'm going to explain the entire complicated story of the republic -> empire. I'd better point out that everything I say will be a spoiler for this w/u.

    In episode 1, Palpatine is just a senator/politician. You suspect something about him, but don't know what. There is also the black hooded figure that is bent on doing something bad (Darth Sidious).

    If you remember, Darth Sidious was in league with the trade federation in a blockade of Naboo. The Queen Amidala went to the senate for help. The senate was in disarray, all disagreeing, bureaucracy tangling up the effectiveness. Palpatine suggested a vote of no confidence. Amidala excercised that vote, calling for a re-election. There was a vote, and Palpatine became Chancellor

    Now, 10 years later, Palpatine is still Chancellor, but now the republic is threatened with a problem; many systems want to leave the republic. A faction of planets, led by Count Dooku, want to leave the republic. The only way to hold them back seems to be if there is an "Army of the Republic" to excercise the will of the senate. The senate doesn't have the power, though, and Amidala returns to lead in the vote against the creation of this army, as it could harm democracy.

    Her life is suddenly in danger from Count Dooku's side, so she goes into hiding, leaving Jar-Jar Binks as senator. It turns out that years before, a clone army was in the works, to be made ready now. At the same time, the separatist army is discovered. To keep the cohesion of the republic, Jar-Jar becomes the one to propose giving the chancellor Emergency Powers, meaning for a period of time, he can control an army for the republic's benefit. Palpatine promises that when the problem is solved, he'll lay down his power. Yeah, right. So he'll just hand over all his absolute power and control of the galaxy to a committee. Hint: Palpatine secretly is Darth Sidious, but you're supposed to glean that already.

    The biggest suprise, or the flash of inspiration, is when Count Dooku and Darth Sidious meet, and it turns out they're both working for the same thing.

    Here is what happened in a nutshell: Palpatine/Sidious wants power. He's the leader of the Dark Side, he wants to be supreme ruler. With aid from the trade federation, he engineers a conflict that deposes the Chancellor, and he gets elected in place. (Episode 1) Over the next ten years, he trains a new apprentice, Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku). Dooku helps him get even more power by creating a threat to the republic. To respond to the threat of separatists, the Republic gives him military powers. It's all going according to plan, as ten years ago he ordered a clone army in preparation.

    In Episode 3, Palpatine grows in power, and keeps his powers when the separatists have been vanquished, and starts being openly bad.

    In Episode 4, A New Hope, the Imperial leaders are meeting with Vader, and Governor Tarkin announces that the Emperor Palpatine has dissolved the senate of the old republic. Not only has Palpatine been a despot for some time, but he's taken his power and gotten rid of all his opposition in a coup, completing the transition from a republic to an empire.

    He had planned it all along, since the beginning. Look at how in just a decade, he managed to get elected by pulling strings in the background, then pulled some behind the scenes trickery to accomplish his ulterior motive; assemble an army and use it to overthrow everyone else.

    By episode 4 Palpatine is now the Emperor, and his only opposition is the Rebel Alliance, determined to fight against this.

    From this perspective, it looks a whole lot better. Before I understood it, it felt too Babylon 5ish for me. "Treaties? Too boring, show me lightsaber action!" That's why a great number of fans didn't like Episode 1 and hated the first half of Episode 2.

    If I made any mistakes, /msg me

    I came out of this movie with mixed feelings. I was aware that I felt disappointed, although I wasn't sure why. I enjoyed it, I thought about it quite consistently for days afterwards, but there was still something about it which let me down. I realised what it was this morning. It's the CGI.

    I can't really say this with absolute confidence that I'm right, but I would imagine that one of the best things about the first Star Wars films was that they were real; you could always have anything you wanted in a cartoon. In a cartoon, there's no such thing as special effects: it's all artwork and animation. But Stars Wars wasn't a cartoon. It was with real creatures and real goo and it was like someone's imagination had come to life. It was as real as Dirty Harry. But Episode II, to me, was more of an animated feature than a film. Now don't get me wrong: I love animated feautes (especially Peter Pan). But Star Wars isn't supposed to be an animated feature. Someone said to me that it was more than 70% CGI. I could tell. It seemed too much like Space Jam, having real people in a world that's mostly animated.

    And I know what you're saying: welcome to the world of today's special effects, kid. And I can't argue, only whine. But I didn't want to go see an animated feature. I wanted to see a movie with excellent special effects and CGI only to cement a scene which didn't quite look smooth enough. I don't want Star Wars to be dominated by CGI.

    Like others, I want Star Wars to be dark and scary. Darth Vader used to be the closest thing to Hell I could imagine. I don't think he'll be especially scary as a piece of artwork. I pray he won't become CGI as well. CGI is cute, and was responsible for some of the more excellent structures and landscapes of the film, but I don't think it should be what Star Wars is made of.

    SLIGHT SPOILER.

    Since the plot and the continuity and the acting and the music and the special effects have all been discussed to death by people far more learned than myself, I choose not to discuss them. Instead, I shall explain why I found this movie so loveable - the mistakes.

    OK, so I led you on, there's only one 'mistake' I've detected so far. You remember in A New Hope the now-infamous scene of a Stormtrooper hitting his head off the doorframe? In Episode II, Jango Fett does precisely the same thing when escaping Obi-Wan on the Clone Planet.

    A trivial fact, certainly. An intentional injoke? I think so. But useful to impress your friends with. Now if only Anakin had called Padmé "Natalie.."

    Attack of the Clones is a stupid title. Everyone I know thinks it's a stupid title. My hubby dragonwolf thinks that George Lucas chose a stupid title on purpose so people wouldn't build it up in their minds the way they did The Phantom Menace. But the only person on the inside with the guts to admit it's a stupid title was Ewan McGregor, who initially did so without thinking when some press person asked what he thought of it - before anyone had told him the title of episode 2. Not long after this hit the newsstands, he issued a public apology for the remark, which dragonwolf said must have required putting a gun to his head, but turned out not to really be an apology but a statement of the official "oh yeah, it harkens back to the golden age of sci-fi, Flash Gordon, yadda yadda" that sounded like an insult to Star Wars as a whole by comparing them. After it was released, he said, golden age, Flash Gordon, yadda yadda, "and that's why it's a stupid title!"

    Conversely, the general consensus (including an official statement by Ewan McGregor) is that it's a better movie than The Phantom Menace.

    It starts with Padme Amidala (who knew that was her full name?), who is now a senator, landing on Coruscant. The exit ramp of her ship blows up as her decoy is disembarking (which the Trade Federation, who are later revealed to be the ones trying to kill her, should have expected). Palpatine insists that someone be assigned to protect her and chooses Obi-Wan and Anakin for the job supposedly because she knows them and wouldn't be so annoyed about it but really because he knows Anakin is in love with her and hopes to use it a a wedge between him and Obi-Wan.

    We learn quickly that Anakin is way more than Obi-Wan can handle, but he made a promise to his dying master so he's going to see it through no matter what. Unfortunately he doesn't have a chance because Palpatine is over Anakin's other shoulder subtly turning him to the Dark Side. On the other hand, the pair have a great dynamic, lots of fun banter like we had between Han Solo and Chewbacca, something that was sorely missing in The Phantom Menace.

    So the next assasination attempt leads to our two Jedi chasing the attacker through the city in Corbin Dallas's cab - er - a speeder. They track her to a club where some drug dealer is stupid enough to try to sell to Obi-Wan who is of course wearing Jedi robes. ("I don't want to sell you death sticks. I'm going to go home and rethink my life.")

    Through a series of events that don't bear repeating, we end up with Anakin and Padme heading back to Naboo to hide out while Obi-Wan tries to find a planet of clone salesmen; it takes Yoda's twisted practicality - when in doubt, ask a child - to find it, and then he goes to it.

    Meanwhile, Anakin is telling Padme that Jedi are not actually forbidden to love (despite what the trailers and posters implied) but are rather discouraged from becoming attached to anyone because it interferes with one's duties, a philosophy probably intended to reflect the Buddhist detachment but which reminds me of the ideals of John Humphrey Noyes and the Oneida Perfectionists.

    Obi-Wan arrives on the lost planet and is taken to see the leader in the Men in Black written test room - or not. He discovers, as you all know by now, that someone claiming to be a Jedi who died before the order was placed had asked for a clone army for the republic. They show him where the humans are kept so robots can harvest their energy - er - where the unborn clones are being incubated, and they introduce him to Jango Fett (and his way-too-popular ten-year-old clone/son Boba) who seems to be behind the assasination attempts on Padme.

    Jango then tries to kill Obi-Wan on the launch pad where it's pouring down rain, but Ewan McGregor is wearing too many layers of robe to reveal much. The Fetts take off and Obi-Wan plants a homing device on their ship, allowing him to follow them to Planet Spaceball - er - the planet where the Trade Federation is building a droid army - where he sneaks around the Skeksis palace spying on them. He learns that rogue Jedi Saruman - er - Count Dooku is behind the whole thing.

    Meanwhile, there's this whole badly acted teen love thing going on between Anakin and Padme. I don't get it, because they have excellent chemistry in every other scene, but in the love scenes all I get is she's trying to keep it professional (while wearing a dominatrix outfit?) and I wouldn't want to be alone on a date with him unless I was absolutely certain I wanted to have sex with him. Maybe they're just trying to spit out the awful dialog without retching. When they're arguing, disobeying other people's orders, or in combat, though, they are the perfect couple (except that she's not turning evil).

    Anakin keeps having dreams about his mother, so they take off for Tatooine (which, incidentally, is an alternate spelling of the name of a real place in Tunisia, where the desert scenes were filmed). It turns out she's been kidnapped by Tuscan raiders and for some reason lives just long enough for him to find her, after which he kills the entire camp. Then he throws a fit, saying he could have saved her life if Obi-Wan weren't jealous of abilities and therefore constantly holding him back - revealing that he's not only angry but has narcissistic personality disorder.

    Then they get the call from Obi-Wan that he is in trouble, and Padme decides she'll go rescue him so Anakin has to go with her and help because the council ordered him to continue protecting her instead of saving Obi-Wan. (Instead they are sending every musketeer - er - Jedi they can drum up to do it even though they might not get there fast enough from Coruscant.)

    So Padme (in a white suit that only hides the color of her nipples) and Anakin go to Count Dooku's hideout, where they are attacked by goblins and then have to run through the chompers - er - the battle droid factory. But they get caught, and all three are chained up in a gladiator stadium without weapons. Scott Evil - er - Newt Gunray keeps telling Dooku to just shoot them, but he insists on trying to kill them the complicated way.

    Padme has to face a catlike thing that gratuitously slices her suit to reveal her midriff, Anakin is up against a huge boarlike creature, and Obi-Wan has to fight a bug. They are holding their own when Mace Windu, who for some reason gets a purple light saber when absolutely everyone else has either blue or green, shows up and holds said light saber to Dooku's throat. Dooku calls out the battle droids, and Windu calls out the rest of the Jedi, who include several much-loved comic book characters and the squid baby from Men in Black.

    The two sides charge across the Scottish Highlands - er - gladiator chamber, and much fighting ensues. Of course they have extra light sabers for our heroes, and Padme gets a gun from a fallen droid. Obi-Wan finally kills his bug (probably a bit of overkill involved there) and for about two second we get to see him with his hair down instead of pushed back (excuse me while I drool!).

    In the end, the Jedi are surrounded by droids and goblins, and they are ready to fight to the death when Yoda shows up with the clone army. They pick up our heroes, who go chase after the now-escaping-Dooku, and unload most of the clones to fight the droids. When Padme falls out of the transport, we learn from the ensuing argument between Obi-Wan and Anakin why Jedi are not supposed to get attached to people (and that Ewan isn't so able to hold onto affected accents when yelling). Both Jedi are incapacitated fighting Dooku, mostly because Anakin can't follow orders, then rescued by Yoda, who lets Dooku escape instead of throwing heavy objects at his ship. (But he is clearly much stronger than Gandalf, who was completely at the mercy of the same actor, Christopher Lee.)


    I also had the opportunity to see this movie in French (L'Attaque des Clones is only slightly less stupid a title.) Observations of note:

    • Jar-Jar Binks is actually funny in French ("J'accepte avec maxi-maxi humilité"). It occurs to me that the French like Jerry Lewis and probably, therefore, liked Jar-Jar all along.
    • The familiar vs. formal address (tu/vous) adds an extra dimension to the interactions, especially between Anakin and Padme. They start out both calling each other "vous," then she starts calling him "tu" when she gives him orders on Naboo, then he starts calling her "tu" during a later love scene.
    • The voice actors overacted a bit, but this was an improvement on the love scenes. If I closed my eyes (and therefore didn't see the lack of appropriate body language and facial expressions) I could believe every word of it. But what else should I expect; they're French!
    • Yoda just isn't right unless he's Frank Oz.
    • C3PO sounds about the same in both English and French, although they had to play around with some of his bad puns to get them to work right.
    • Three words: French battle droids.

    The IMAX Experience

    My wife and I strolled up to Seattle's Pacific Science Center, home of the infamous Space Needle, to check the times on the IMAX shows. I was expecting to watch Space Station or Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West or some other educational picture as so many IMAX features are. But to my utter delight, across the reader board read "Star Wars: Episode 2 starts Nov. 1". I don't live in Seattle, we were just in town for the weekend. With nothing really planned, I said to my wife, "Let's go take in an IMAX movie."

    Don't think for a moment that I didn't know that this, the latest installment of Star Wars, was opening in IMAX theaters all over North America. In fact, for over a month I waited checking the PacSci Center's web site and TheForce.net praying for information. The Internet lied to me. It appeared that the show times were all booked for other shows at the PacSci IMAX. I accepted the fact that I would not be able to participate in what I thought would be my greatest IMAX experience ever.

    But here was this billboard telling me different. After a short bit of jumping up and down and giggling between my wife and I (she is just as big of a Star Wars fan as I am) we went in and bought tickets for a show and came back an hour and a half before the show time. We certainly weren't the first in line, but close enough to the front to assure we would have good seats. And then we noticed the Stormtroopers standing guard at the gate at the front of the line.

    When we were let in, the troopers, blasters in hand, escorted us down to the Boeing IMAX Theater. They were from Garrison Titan, a fan group of Stormtroopers stationed in Seattle. As we entered the building there was a Tie pilot as well as a few other varieties. The uniforms were great replicas, and I'm sure, very expensive.

    Once in the theater, we had to stand in line again. Of course, common to other Star Wars lines I've waited in, our position in line slowly moved from 20 to 60 from the front with out us moving. However, we were still close enough and lucky enough to get center seating, the best seats in the house.

    It is really hard to describe how incredible it was. If you've never been to an IMAX movie the vinyl screens tower 6 stories high and the 12,000 watt digital sound systems are supreme. The detail from the 70 mm film (standard) moving at 24 frames per second is breath taking. These films are not for the faint of heart. It's not uncommon for a person to have their senses overwhelmed, forcing them to run from the theater to praise the porcelain god.

    The painstaking work of the Industrial Light and Magic team was brought to light on this gigantic screen. The detail in computer generated shots was spectacular and they enlarged to the IMAX format very well. However, because this movie was not shot with IMAX camera or with the idea that it was going to be shown in the IMAX format, there were a few problems. First of all, the close up shots of people's faces were very unforgiving. We could see ever zit, mole, scar or other. Also, because of the transfer from the 35 mm scale to 70 mm, at some points there was a bit of pixelized fuzzies. However, it was good to finally make out the inscription on Mace Windu's lightsaber, "Bad Motherfucker."

    Then came the scene that made it all worthwhile. Yoda moseyed on in to lay some smack down on Count Dooku. As the saber duel started I took my attention away from the screen for a moment to look at the other 400 heads bob and spin, as if a wave in the sea, following the Jedi Master's every move.

    There were several scenes that were cut for this release. IMAX film is so large that movies need to be kept under an hour and a half so they can fit on the reel. Although noticeable to the diehard fans, the cuts really didn't diminish the plot or the really spectacular visual sections.

    Sitting next to me in the theater (other than my wife of course) was a mother with her six year old son on her lap. I couldn't help but think of watching The Return of the Jedi on the big screen at the same age. But this kid got it on the really big screen, something I'm sure he will remember for the rest of his life. I know I will.

    Sources:
    http://cgi.theforce.net/theforce/tfn.cgi?storyID=18588
    http://www.garrisontitan.com/
    http://www.imax.com

    Star Wars as a libertarian/neoconservative parable

    Despite lackluster critical reception for its most recent iterations, Star Wars remains a perennial pop culture phenomenon of our age. Star Wars' endless dissection by various pundits is testimony to its enduring influence. e-hadj already documented how the trilogy was interpreted as advocating an authoritarian, Empire-esque government by a Weekly Standard writer. The controversial racist undertones present in Episode I and to lesser extent the rest of the series has also been covered in various other nodes. A writer at Salon.com read Star Wars as an elitist, Nietzschian "superman" fable to Star Trek's egalitarian, cooperative crew adventure.

    While these various interpretations are of varying weight, one interpretation that does bear a surprising amount of critical investigation is the neoconservative Star Wars. This particular reading of the series in general, and AoTC in particular, makes Chancellor Palpatine an Abraham Lincoln character, who unjustly consolidates state power in response to the red herring of a separatist threat.

    Indeed, the parallels are startling. Both Palpatine and Lincoln assumed "emergency powers." (Suspension of habeus corpus, anyone?) Both Palpatine and Lincoln were granted such powers because of "separatists." And most chillingly, both Palpatine and Lincoln formed what they both called a "Grand Army of the Republic," creating standing armies.

    The difference, of course, is that Lincoln saved the Union and freed slaves while Palpatine is at least indirectly responsible for blowing up a planet, not to mention a whole host of other nastiness. To neocons, however, Lincoln represents the point at which the American republic became a bureaucratic, authoritarian regime with the Federal government exercising far too much power over local sovereignty.

    It would be difficult to argue that George Lucas disagrees with them. Given the unnerving parallels between AoTC and American Civil War history, it is no wonder that Lucas has been hailed in neocon circles as a modern-day Aesop.

    The most convincing case for Lucas not being a political nut would probably refer to the commonly-held theory in Star Wars fan circles that the saga is a retelling of pre-WWII German history, with a Chancellor (Palpatine/Hitler) seizing the reins of the Republic. Any similarities between Star Wars and Civil War history are simply incidental to the true historical inspirations. This argument is only partially successful, as Hitler never had to deal with any separatists (in any case, separatists were not the major threat to the state as they were in The Civil War), and he certainly did not create a "Grand Army of the Republic."

    As one contributor to neoconservative website lewrockwell.com put it: "Senator Palpatine, meet President Lincoln."

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