Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter One: An Assassination-Attempt Sandwich

00:00 – 15:00

A Star Wars movie definitely wouldn’t be the same without the 20th Century Fox fanfare and logo at the start of it. . . Then the Lucasfilm logo. . .and then. . .

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

I had been disappointed by Phantom Menace when I first saw it in the theater (also when I last saw it on my computer), so I approached Attack of the Clones with considerable trepidation. But, hope springs eternal, and I wanted to like this one. I wanted to love this one.

When the preamble to the crawl showed up on screen, I felt that familiar thrill of potential that I’ve felt with every Star Wars movie since 1977, including the Special Editions a couple of decades later. Star Wars was telling me a story, and its version of Once upon a time always puts me in a receptive mood.

Please don’t suck.

This opening crawl, with its classic John Williams score, is better than in Episode I. We are told that several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic. This Separatist movement (the capitalization is mine: it’s not capitalized in the crawl) is under the leadership of the mysterious and unfortunately named Count Dooku. The Jedi are overwhelmed and need help, so Senator Amidala, now the former queen of Naboo, is returning to the Senate to vote on creating an ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC to assist the Jedi. (This time the capitalization is not mine).

Still a lot more politicky than I want in a Star Wars crawl, but at least there’s nothing about blockades and trade federations this time. Short and to the point, let’s get the action started.

At around the 2-minute mark, as the opening crawl crawls away, we execute that familiar Star Wars pan up to see spaceships we now recognize as Nubian (of Naboo) approaching a planet that we are immediately informed is Coruscant. We’ve been here before. The royal Naboo starship—the cool-looking shiny chrome model—descends beneath the clouds of Coruscant and lands along with its escort of fighterships. On the platform, an explosion destroys the royal ship, apparently killing the senator. But, it is one of Amidala’s doubles who dies, not the senator herself, who was riding in a yellow fightership with someone sporting an eyepatch who obviously isn’t Captain Panaka. R2-D2 is there as well, and is unharmed.

Obviously, there is some intrigue afoot. Starting with the disappearance of Captain Panaka.

Chancellor Palpatine is meeting with the Jedi when Amidala and her entourage arrive. Palpatine was discussing the upcoming vote for an army. Mace Windu insists that there are not enough Jedi to keep order. Palpatine asks Master Yoda if he really thinks it’ll come to war, but Yoda says the Dark Side of the Force has clouded over the future, making it difficult to see.

Amidala wants to know who was behind the attack on her ship. Windu says the evidence points to disgruntled miners on the moons of Naboo. Amidala thinks Count Dooku is behind it. Jedi Master Conehead says Dooku is a political idealist, not a murderer, and Mace Windu informs Amidala (and the audience) that Dooku is a former Jedi, which means it’s not in his character to assassinate anyone. Hmm…

From what we’ve seen of the Jedi Council in two of these prequel movies now, it seems that they were at least partially to blame for their own downfall. They seem to be as mired in politics and tradition as the Galactic Senate itself. Sure, Palpatine is evil and all, but he rose to power on the wave of reform and popular opinion. That doesn’t seem familiar at all.

Yoda points out that Senator Amidala is in grave danger. She just survived an assassination attempt, so that seems like a pretty obvious statement. Once again, my theory that Jedi are accomplished con men is given some support.

Chancellor Palpatine says he’s concerned about Amidala’s well-being, and would like for her to accept some extra protection from the Jedi. Perhaps from someone she is familiar with, such as Master Kenobi. Windu says they can make that work. Jimmy Smits, as Bail Organa, is there in the scene as well. I’m not exactly sure why, except that he’s the one who eventually raises Leia Organa as his own daughter, as we’ll find out in the future. He presumably died on Alderaan when the first Death Star blew it up as well. What I don’t really understand is, if Organa is a senator, why was Leia a princess? I’m missing something here.

Jar Jar Binks is in the scene, in the background, as well. He says nothing and doesn’t do any comic pratfalls. Maybe Lucas took some of the criticisms of Episode I to heart.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and his padawan Anakin Skywalker take the elevator up to Senator Amidala’s quarters. Anakin is now taller than Obi-Wan, with that punky little padawan rat-tail. He’s nervous because it’s been ten years since he last saw Padme. That would make him nineteen-years-old, to the senator’s twenty-four.

I want to point out something that occurred to me in this scene. Anakin is the person the Jedi consider to be the Chosen One who was prophesied, the product of a virgin birth. But it is Obi-Wan who looks a lot like Jesus in this movie. Mixed messages.

Unfortunately, Jar Jar greets the Jedi at the door and has a small speaking part. Let’s get that out of the way, shall we? I silently hoped he would execute a Dick Van Dyke somersault over a hassock and crash through a window, falling to his death on the streets of Coruscant below. No such luck.

Amidala greets Kenobi and then remarks how much Anakin has grown. Anakin, no longer the smooth-talking Mack Daddy Ani he used to be, stumbles through a sentence in an attempt to say she has grown more beautiful. For a senator, I mean. Senator Amidala says that Anakin will always be that little boy on Tatooine to her. Ouch.

No one says anything about how Anakin looks nothing like Jake Lloyd. Maybe I’m the only one who noticed.

The Not-Panaka introduces himself as Captain Typho. In a way, this was a relief to me. Even without the eyepatch I would have known it wasn’t Panaka. If George Lucas thought no one would notice, that would imply a level of racial insensitivity near that of—well, near that of Phantom Menace, I guess. I sort of wanted an explanation for the switch, though, but it’s not coming. At least not in this fifteen minutes, if ever.

I don’t normally do much research for these things. Oh, you’ve noticed? Well, I just looked this one up. The in-universe explanation for the switch is that Captain Panaka is still assigned to guard the current queen of Naboo, which makes sense. Also, Captain Typho is Panaka’s nephew. I’m not sure why. He doesn’t really have to be. Is it that there are so few black people in the Star Wars universe that they’re all related to each other? Mace Windu is Panaka’s cousin, I guess. Lando Calrissian is his illegitimate son.

The real world explanation is that the actor who played Captain Panaka declined to reprise his role due to conflicts with the film’s producers. Or, he was fired. Take your pick.

Anyway, Captain Not-Panaka Typho tells the Jedi that he’s glad they’re on the case, because the situation is even more dangerous than the senator will admit. The senator says she doesn’t need protection, she needs to know who’s trying to kill her. Obi-Wan says that he and Anakin are there to protect her, not perform an investigation. Anakin oversteps his authority and promises Padme that they will find out who is trying to kill her.

Obi-Wan verbally bitch-slaps his young Padawan learner and insists that they will not exceed their mandate and Anakin will follow his lead. Anakin says protection is a job for local security, not Jedi. It’s overkill, and investigation is implied in their mandate.

He’s got a point. His delivery is pretty flat and unemotional, either because Lucas wanted it that way or Hayden Christensen wasn’t much of an actor at the time. But, he has a point.

Still, Obi-Wan says that they will comply with the Council’s wishes, and that Anakin will learn his place.

The senator suggests that their mere presence will cause the mystery to be revealed. That sounds like foreshadowing to me.

We cut away for a brief scene in which someone with the familiar silhouette of Boba Fett gives a tube of some sort to a veiled female assassin named Zam, who failed to kill the senator earlier. This meeting takes place outside in the Blade Runner district. The Boba Fett doppleganger tells her to be careful with the tube, as the contents are quite poisonous. He also tells her that she must not fail this time: their client is getting impatient.

Back to Amidala’s quarters. All is quiet. The senator has covered the cameras in her room and has only R2-D2 watching over her. Obi-Wan figures out that Anakin is using the senator as bait to draw out the assassin. He says it’s too dangerous a plan, but Anakin insists that the senator is in on it and that everything will be okay.

Back to Zam the Assassin, who is feeding the tube into a drone. Star Wars loves its drones, especially the villains. The drone flies off, acquiring its target.

We rejoin Obi-Wan and Anakin in mid-conversation. Obi-Wan says that his Padawan looks tired. Anakin admits that he doesn’t sleep well anymore. Apparently he keeps having bad dreams about his mother, the Blessed Virgin Shmi. He’d rather, he says, dream about Padme. Obi-Wan tells Anakin to be mindful of his thoughts. He has made a commitment to the Jedi Order, which seems to preclude romantic entanglements. Besides, she’s a politician, and you know that they’re not to be trusted. She’s not like the other senators, Anakin asserts.

While this scintilating dialogue is being committed, the drone appears outside the miniblind-covered windows of Padme’s bedroom. It uses lasers to bypass security and cut a small hole in the window, through which two plump millipedes crawl and head directly for the senator’s bed.

Meanwhile, the Jedi have moved forward with their thoughts on politicians. Anakin says that Obi-Wan overgeneralizes. Chancellor Palpatine isn’t corrupt. Just ask him. Obi-Wan says he thinks Palpatine is a smart man, and he tends to follow the passions and prejudices of the senators. Anakin says he thinks he’s a good man.

Then, suddenly, both Jedi sense something in the bedroom. Something R2-D2 must have missed. Maybe it’s time for the little droid to be decommissioned.

As the poisonous millipedes are crawling close to the senator’s sleeping head, the Jedi burst into her bedroom, lightsabers a-blazing. Anakin deftly flicks the little assassin bugs off of the counterpane. Padme gasps. Obi-Wan sees the drone outside the window and, without a second thought, leaps through the highrise window and grabs the drone as it’s flying away.

Anakin brusquely orders Padme to stay put as he runs out of the room.

As this quarter-hour ends, Obi-Wan is swinging beneath the drone in heavy air traffic while Anakin is choosing which of the yellow aircars to take to chase after his master.

I liked this 15 minutes more than most of the previous movie. We started with an explosive assassination attempt, then got some exposition out of the way through that other Star Wars trope—a series of meetings (though, thankfully, no holograms yet)—and ended with another assassination attempt. An assassination-attempt sandwich, if you will. And we also ended with an exciting cliffhanger (drone-hanger…whatever).

What have we learned?

Someone wants Senator Amidala dead. Why? It’s a mystery. The intermediaries are someone who looks suspiciously like Boba Fett and a veiled assassin called Zam.

Count Dooku, the leader of the Separatist movement, is a former Jedi Knight.

The Republic needs an army because there aren’t enough Jedi to go around.

Anakin still thinks Padme is the bee’s-knees, and she still thinks of him as a little boy.

Anakin’s relationship with Obi-Wan is a bit contentious. In this regard, Anakin seems more like Qui-Gon Jinn in the relationship, which makes sense since he’s also taller than Obi-Wan.

Anakin is having bad dreams about his mother.

Anakin think’s Chancellor Palpatine is a pretty cool dude.

It’s a fast-moving fifteen, and it sets up major story questions without getting boring. And, Jar Jar is kept to a minimum. As far as I can tell, there have also been no offensive racial stereotypes so far.

Although, from his accent, it seems that puberty has caused Anakin to become Canadian. Makes sense. His mother was Swedish, and his father was a midichlorian.

Until next time…Though the Dark Side Clouds Your Vision, Remember, The Force is Always with You…at least 15 minutes at a time.

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