30:01 – 45;00
The brisk opening 30 minutes of this movie have adeptly set up a central story question: Will the Republic establish an army to oppose Count Dooku’s Separatist Movement? It also gave two of our main characters—Obi-Wan Kenobi and his young Padawan Anakin Skywalker—immediate character goals. Obi-Wan will continue the investigation into the assassination attempts on Senator Amidala of Naboo, and Anakin, last seen leering lustily at the senator, will escort her back to Naboo while disguised as refugees. The assumption is that the senator will be safer on the pacifist world that has no standing army. This is Star Wars logic.
As this quarter-hour begins, Anakin and Padme take public transportation—a sky-bus—to begin their undercover journey to Naboo, wearing disguises. They are seen off by Jesus—I mean, Obi-Wan—and Captain Typho and someone I think is another of the senator’s doubles. Anakin and the senator also have R2-D2 with them. An astromech droid. Definitely keeping a low profile.
Obi-Wan gives Anakin strict instructions not to do anything without talking with him and the Jedi Council. Then he reassures the senator that he will find out who is trying to kill her.
As Anakin and Padme walk away with R2, Obi-Wan tells Captain Typho that he hopes Anakin doesn’t do anything foolish. Captain Typho says he’s more worried about what Padme will do. Those crazy kids.
In the next scene, Obi-Wan visits his old friend Dex at his diner, which appears to be in an Airstream trailer. George Lucas is mining that ’50s vibe. Obi-Wan shows him the toxic dart (you know, our clue?) and Dex says, “I ain’t seen one of those since I was prospectin’ on Subterrel, beyond the Outer Rim.”
At this point, I feel I should point out that Dex is a large four-armed alien being. The CGI effects are very well done here. More realistic than, say, the cartoonish creatures from the last movie, like Watto and Sebulba. He’s also very much like a bartender on Law & Order who remembers every customer he’s ever served, only Dex has a head for obscure ammunition.
It turns out that the toxic dart is a Kamino saberdart. You know, the type used by those cloners. It also seems that, on Coruscant, diners are a great source of technical information. Dex’s establishment may also be known as The Exposition Cafe.
Obi-Wan muses that the analysis droids couldn’t identify dart from their databanks. Hmm…
Obi-Wan’s not familiar with Kamino. Dex tells him it’s beyond the Outer Rim, about 12 parsecs outside the Rishi Maze. Notice that Lucas used the word “parsecs” accurately this time.
Next, Obi-Wan is in the archives, unable to find the Kamino planetary system in the charts. He asks for assistance. The librarian asks if he’s sure he has the proper coordinates, and he says yes. She says that the system he’s looking for doesn’t appear to exist. When Obi-Wan suggests that the archives are incomplete, the librarian says that’s not possible and leaves in a huff. The plot thickens.
On board their crowded transport vessel, Anakin and Padme spend a lot of time together, talking about deep subjects such as whether or not Jedi are allowed to love. Anakin says attachment and possessions are discouraged, but Jedi are all about the love, baby.
Obi-Wan interrupts Master Yoda as he is training a group of younglings. He tells Yoda that he can’t find a planet his friend told him about. Yoda makes light fun of Obi-Wan in front of the younglings, then has him project a map of the stars in the darkened room. Yoda puts the question to the children. The silhouette of gravity remains where the system should be but it doesn’t appear on the charts. What could this mean? One of the younglings says that someone erased it from the archives. Why didn’t I think of that?
Yoda says the Padawan is right. He tells Obi-Wan to go to the center of gravity’s pull and he’ll find his planet there. It seems to me that Obi-Wan already knew the answer to this before he brought it to Master Yoda. He just wanted to show off his fancy star chart.
Yoda says that only a Jedi could have erased those files. This is a dangerous and dark puzzle. He says he will meditate on this.
Anakin and Padme arrive back in Naboo. I’m not sure how long the journey takes. Days, weeks, months. There’s no real indication. Natalie Portman actually seems to be doing more acting in this movie. I’m not sure what Hayden Christensen was doing. I’ve been trying to give him benefit of the doubt up to this point, but he’s just god-awful. I don’t want to jump on the dogpile of criticism he’s received over the years, but, here’s the thing. He’s worth millions and millions of dollars now because of his role in Star Wars, and he earned them. They also cover the cost of criticism. If I think he gets better, I’ll say it. At this moment in the movie, he’s just bad.
Anyway, terrible acting aside, they arrive at the royal palace in Theed to meet with the new queen, who’s made up like an extra in a Tim Burton movie. Our old friend Governor Bibble is there, also. Padme tells the queen that she feels that the formation of an Army of the Republic will result in full-scale civil war with the Separatists.
After a rousing discussion about civil war and democracy and stuff, the queen asks what are they going to do about the senator’s security. Padme takes charge, over Anakin’s rather immature objections, and says she’s going to the lake country, where it’s isolated. She’s sure she can be safe there. Anakin manages to gain control of his temper—as she pointed out, he is still a Padawan, not a Jedi yet—and takes her advice.
Obi-Wan goes into space and finds Kamino exactly where everyone from the diner cook to the child Jedi-in-training said it would be. Where Obi-Wan himself had pointed to on his snazzy star chart projection.
Obi-Wan lands. Kamino is a watery world with a lot of rain and electrical activity. He is greeted by a Kaminoan who says the Prime Minister has been expecting him.
The Kaminoans are a tall, willowy race that look a lot like the aliens we saw at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Maybe Spielberg let Lucas borrow them.
Obi-Wan isn’t sure what’s happening here, but he decides to go with it. He is escorted to the chambers of the Prime Minister, Lama Su.
Lama Su tells Obi-Wan that he will be pleased to know that they are on schedule. 200,000 units are ready, with 1 million more well on the way.
“That’s good news,” says a perplexed Obi-Wan.
Lama Su says to tell Master Sifo-Dyas that the order will be ready on time. Obi-Wan tells the prime minister that Master Sifo-Dyas was killed almost ten years ago. Lama Su is sorry to hear that, but thinks he would be proud of the army they’ve built for him. It’s one of the finest armies they’ve ever built.
Obi-Wan asks if the Master said who the army was for.
Of course he did. It’s for the republic. Lama Su says Obi-Wan must be anxious to inspect the army himself. Obi-Wan says that’s why he’s there. Jedi know how to improvise.
As Obi-Wan follows Lama Su out of the room, we switch back to Anakin and Padme, arriving at the lake house. This fifteen minute chapter draws to a close as Anakin and Padme are walking along a garden terrace overlooking the lake, a sunlit romantic setting. Anakin says some things about hating sand, it being coarse and rough and irritating, and getting everywhere, not soft and smooth like everything here in Naboo. Anakin punctuates the “soft and smooth” by stroking Padme’s bare skin. She no longer seems skeeved out by him like she did on Coruscant. He’s using either the Jedi Mind Trick or roofies on her .
My assessment at the end of these fifteen minutes? It was a quieter set of sequences after the raucous first half-hour. But, not a boring one. Obi-Wan quickly solved an easy mystery, from Kamino saberdart to Kamino’s location itself. And, at the end of fifteen minutes, he is on Kamino, finding out about the clone army ordered by the long-dead Master Sifo-Dyas for the Republic. In the same fifteen minutes, Anakin and Padme traveled from Coruscant back to Naboo and began to intensify their relationship at Padme’s romantic hideaway. Lots of stuff happening, just not a lot of action.
In spite of Christensen’s dubious acting skills, I’m still enjoying this movie more than Phantom Menace. Until next time, If You’ve Lost a Planet, Ask a Youngling to Help You Find It, and May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.