00:15:01 – 00:30:00
As our previous chapter of the 15-Minute Force concluded, Anakin Skywalker had just lopped off Count Dooku’s Christopher Lee head at Chancellor Palpatine’s command. When Anakin paused for a moment to feel a little bad about it, Palpatine reminded him that he was already a bad person who did bad things a lot. It almost seems as if the Chancellor of the Galactic Republic is trying to seduce Anakin over to the Dark Side or something.
But, Anakin isn’t completely bad. Not yet. As Anakin and the Chancellor are leaving, Anakin goes to the unconscious Obi-Wan to check on him. The Chancellor tells Anakin to leave him, there’s no time. Anakin says that Obi-Wan seems to be all right. Well, of course he is. A couple of tons of metal decking fell on him and he is unconscious—which indicates, at least, a head injury of some sort. What do I know? I’m a postal clerk, not a doctor. When the Chancellor insists that they leave without the Master Jedi (which seems a little evil, no?), Anakin glares at Palpatine and says that Obi-Wan’s fate will be the same as theirs.
I can’t help but feel a little pride in the boy. He has balls. Jedi balls, which I can only imagine resemble miniature Death Stars. Now I’m imagining Jedi balls. That’s a sure path to the Dark Side.
A brief continuation of the space war sequence follows, with the great battlecruisers firing at each other broadside. It’s a little detail, but one that I love, when you see a few of the great guns firing and ejecting shell casings. A touch of verissimilitude that stimulates that part of the brain relegated to nerdy things (which is straight wired to the nerd bone, I might add). There’s also a Wilhelm Scream in the sequence. Sound designer Ben Burtt can’t resist adding at least one per movie.
Carrying Obi-Wan across his shoulders, Anakin tries to access an elevator that doesn’t seem to be working. He calls R2 and asks him to access elevator 3224. I’m not even going to bother trying to find out if that number has any significance. I do have to point out that the other elevator was designated 31174. Just how many elevators are on this ship?
The ship takes a barrage of cannonfire that suddenly sends it plummeting nose-down towards Coruscant. This violent change in course seems to affect everyone in the ship as well. I won’t dwell on this too much, because this is space opera/fantasy not hard science fiction. I’m not sure why the characters are affected by gravity at all while they are out in space, but it seems that the planet is exerting its gravitic pull on the ships that always seem to be oriented with the planet below them. I know that even in Star Trek, which is only slightly more hard science-fiction than Star Wars, there are technobabble explanations like inertial dampers and artificial gravity to explain such things, but even that is just magic in a brightly colored candy science shell. In Star Wars, if your ship is going nose down, then the effect is just like that on the Titanic when it was sinking into the frigid waters of the ocean. Even though all the previous warfare and cannonfire and such didn’t seem to rock the boat much at all. As I said, I won’t dwell on this too much. Like Jedi balls, this is a path to the Dark Side.
In any case, the ship plunging towards the planet allows Anakin and the Chancellor to run along the elevator shaft, in the direction of what I assume to be the hangars, where, of course, any spacecraft that might happen to remain there would also be crashing into bulkheads and such, probably smashed beyond all use. Okay, stop thinking—
The characters attempting to pilot the ship are saying things like “reverse stabilizers” and “magnetize, magnetize,” which is merely the verbal equivalent of flipping toggle switches and pressing buttons.
General Grievous says, “Fire the emergency booster engines!” Yeah, yeah. That’s the ticket.
This genius command causes the ship to begin leveling out. Which, of course, causes Anakin (and Obi-Wan, on his back) and Chancellor Palpatine to begin falling down the elevator shaft rather than running along it. As Obi-Wan comes to, no worse for wear it seems, regardless of severe crushing injuries or head trauma, the three characters are now dangling precariously in the elevator shaft. Of course, this is just in time to see the elevator above rapidly descending towards them. Anakin attempts to call R2 to shut down the elevator, but Obi-Wan, suddenly quite clear-headed, says it’s too late and, “Jump! Jump!” Anakin lets go and the three are falling again. The ship must still be at an angle, though, because they seem to be sliding along the shaft rather than falling freely. This gives Anakin and Obi-Wan time to hurl their grappling hooks and swing the three of them through an open elevator door into relative safety as the elevator car (3224, one might assume) hurtles past.
Obi-Wan says they should see if there’s something in the hangar bay that’s still flyable. Okay, I guess someone did acknowledge that the spaceships there would be banging around as well. There’s some internal logic in the Star Wars universe, I guess. Gravity is a tricky concept.
A battle droid tells Grievous that the Jedi have been located in some hallway (it has a number, too: it’s not important) and Grievous orders them to raise the ray shields. So, the “ray shields” are raised in the exact spot where Obi-Wan, Anakin and Chancellor Palpatine are standing, and the three characters are trapped. Obi-Wan says something to the effect of: How did this happen? We’re smarter than this. I think Anakin says, Apparently not. Or maybe it was the Chancellor. Either way, kind of a douchey remark. Anakin advises patience because R2 will be along momentarily.
And he is, speeding across the deck as if it is still tilted, even though that doesn’t seem to affect the Jedi or Chancellor at all, and followed close behind by destroyer droids, gym-rat droids and your everyday rank-and-file battle droids. Our heroes and secret Sith Lord seem seriously screwed at this point. Not out of the frying pan into the fire. More like out of the frying pan and into another endless series of frying pans.
The two Jedi, the Chancellor and R2-D2 are brought before General Grievous on the impressive bridge of the ship. A battle droid gives Grievous the Jedi’s lightsabers, which he adds to others in a pocket of his cape-like cloak. I remember Grievous as having more than two arms, and I find myself looking for the other arms in this sequence and being unable to find them. Maybe they were a later upgrade. Or maybe they are expertly designed to remain concealed behind his back and under the cloak. That would be a tactical advantage. You would think that they could have engineered some compartments in his torso or legs where the lightsabers could be stored more securely than in the liner of his cloak. Unless there was some other convenient plot reason for the lightsabers to remain so readily accessible—
At a cue from Obi-Wan, R2 creates a distraction and the Jedi use the Force to regain their lightsabers and free themselves from their bonds. I choose not to stop to think about when Obi-Wan had the time to plan this out with R2. Maybe it’s just a routine occurrence and this is SOP, a subroutine in R2’s programming that’s always running and waiting for a command.
General Grievous has special droid guards with him. I knew that they would have names, since all toys must have names. According to Wookieepedia: the Star Wars wiki (gotta love the name), these droids are the IG-100 MagnaGuards, and their weapon of choice, with the purplish lightning at either end, are called electrostaffs. I like the look of the MagnaGuards. Their fighting style is impressive as well. When Obi-Wan decapitates the MagnaGuard that he’s squared off against, it continues to fight, as if it doesn’t need a head at all. I would sarcastically refer to them as Chicken Droids, but I think they’re too impressive for such name-calling.
Impressive or not, they fall quickly enough to the Jedi’s superior might.
General Grievous orders his droids to keep the ship in orbit. Then, he picks up a fallen MagnaGuard’s electrostaff. When it seems that he’s about to begin battling it out with the Jedi, he says, “You lose, General Kenobi!” and uses the crackling staff to break the glass from one of the bridge’s many windows. Glass? Transparent aluminum, maybe? Why include such a structural weakness in a starship? And why hadn’t it already been broken by all the ship-to-ship gunfire going on, if it is so easily broken by an electrostaff? Why do such questions always bother me during a critical viewing of a piece of fluff entertainment?
Anyway, Grievous uses the sudden explosive decompression to make his escape, although he has his own magnetic grappling device to keep him from hurtling off into space. He makes his way back into the ship, then makes his escape in an aptly-named escape pod, firing off all the other pods in the process. Meanwhile, back on the bridge, safety doors have closed off the window breach, and the Jedi continue to slice-and-dice their way through battle droids.
Then, through mutual consent, Anakin begins preparations to land the ship. He orders all hatches to be opened and all flaps and drag fins extended. One would think that opening all hatches would be suicidal. Eh, whatever. Then he begins flipping toggle swtiches and pushing buttons.
The ship breaks in half as it’s entering the atmosphere of Corscant. Just like the Titanic, to continue the earlier analogy. Not to worry, says Dad-Joke Kenobi, we’re still flying half a ship. I’ll just add here that, half a ship or not, it looks about as aerodynamic as a rock. But, as a veteran of about a dozen Enterprise crashes, I know what’s going to happen next. At least, I think I know.
Flaming chunks of starship are flying off as our stalwart heroes are buffeted by the atmosphere. Anakin gives Obi-Wan one order that makes me laugh out loud: “Grab that and keep us level.” I couldn’t tell what he was telling Master Kenobi to grab, and Obi-Wan looks confused as well. Makes me wonder if this was an ad-lib that survived the edit.
As they are coming in lower and hotter, the ship is flanked by fire ships which begin dousing the flames. The landing strip is straight ahead. As the ship is crash-landing, it demolishes a control tower. Either the area has already been evacuated, or we just witnessed more unmourned Jedi collateral dead. The ship plows its way to a slow stop, our two Jedi, the Chancellor and R2-D2 left unharmed.
As this exciting first sequence comes to a close, nearly 24 minutes into the movie, I’m struck by the audacity of Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious. He engineered this entire kidnapping and rescue to keep the Clone War going, obviously, which keeps him with the emergency powers granted by the Senate. This was extremely risky. He was in the middle of a full-scale battle. The Republican Army was firing on the starcruiser he was held in as if they weren’t concerned about the Chancellor dying at all, and, in the end, he just narrowly survived an emergency crash landing of half the ship. I guess the Republican Senate has a firm policy about not negotiating with terrorists, but this all seemed like a risky plot. Or, the Sith can foretell the future with much more accuracy than the Jedi can. This theory may fall apart later.
Next, we’re back on the ground and the special effects are the most impressive so far. Coruscant looks even bigger and more populated than ever. Ships are flying everywhere and the scale is huge. Our two Jedi and the Chancellor take a Hertz-Rent-a-Car shuttle from the airport to what I believe to be the Galactic Senate building. Anyway, it’s a huge domed structure where they are greeted by a bunch of people I assume are all senators. And a newly-golden C-3PO, which was apparently a Padme Amidala upgrade since he seems to be her servant now.
Obi-Wan doesn’t bother to get out of the bus. He tells Anakin that he is the hero of the day and he gets to bask in the attention of the politicians. Besides, Obi-Wan has to go report to the Jedi Council.
I guess the Council doesn’t include Mace Windu today, because he’s standing there with the politicians, waiting to greet the Chancellor. Palpatine gives credit to the Jedi for rescuing him. But, he tips his hand when he says that since General Grievous escaped, the Senate will vote to continue the war. Windu says that the Jedi Council will make finding Grievous their highest priority.
This exchange makes me wonder how much the Jedi suspected about Palpatine’s behind-the-scenes maneuverings, and when exactly they began to suspect it.
Anakin is walking along chatting with Bail Organa, future daddy to Leia, when he spies Padme lurking un-Senator-like in the shadows of one of the columns. He hurries over to her and they begin smooching right out in the open, as if unafraid of having their illicit love found out. Padme has her hair done up in Leia honeybuns this day, but there’s another bun she can’t wait to tell Anakin about. One—two, in fact—in the oven, in case that was too subtle a hint.
The two have been separated for a while, we’re told, and they act like it. Anakin may not have been recalled from the Outer Rim yet if Palpatine hadn’t been kidnapped. That was fortuitous.
How long have they been apart? Hmm. And just how pregnant is Padme? It would be funny if the twins came out with floppy Gungan ears or pigmentation closer to Mace Windu than Anakin Skywalker. But, that would be a completely different movie, one in which Anakin went over fully to the Dark Side in the delivery room.
Their conversation makes it clear that they’re still trying to keep their secret marriage…well, a secret, despite these public displays of affection. Padme, trembling, tells Anakin that she’s pregnant. Anakin hesitates before responding—I assume trying to remember the last time they were together, you know, in the Biblical sense—but he seems happy with the news. They agree not to worry about what they are going to do yet.
Cut to Grievous, landing on some planet I don’t recognize. It reminds me of Geonosis, but I don’t think that’s it. General Grievous is once again flanked by MagnaGuards with their electrostaffs. I like the MagnaGuard droids. Greivous has a holographic conference call with Lord Sidious, who tells him to move the Separtist leaders to Mustafar, and that the end of the war is near. That sounds ominous. I’m assuming that Mustafar is another planet, although since Star Wars is now owned by Disney, it also sounds a lot like the name of Simba’s dad. Voiced by James Earl Jones. Hmm….
Lord Sidious also tells Grievous that Count Dooku’s death was a necessary loss, and that soon he will have a new apprentice who is younger and more powerful. So, that answers that question. Dooku was indeed Sidious’s apprentice, which means that Darth Maul was—
Wait? What does that mean? Is it the Sith Rule of Two or not? Did Dooku become Sidious’s apprentice after Darth Maul was cut in twain? He had apparently been working for Darth Sidious’s interests before then, since it was Tyranus who ordered the production of the clone army. This doesn’t entirely make sense.
Calm down. Take deep breaths to center your Chi. Repeat to yourself: It’s just a show…it’s just a show…
Screen wipe to a view of the Coruscant city skyline at night. Again, very impressive. These are the best special effects ever. The “camera” pushes in on Senator Amidala’s balcony, where we see Padme sensuously brushing out her long hair while Anakin stares on like a black-garbed lecherous creep. Or, like her Jedi husband. Take your pick.
As we close out this chapter of the 15-Minute Force, Padme tells Anakin that she wants to go back to Naboo to have their baby (Shh…she doesn’t know she’s having twins yet). In the lake country, where no one will know about it. She’s planning to go back early and fix up the baby’s room. She has the perfect spot in mind, right by the gardens.
What? She’s not planning on dying in childbirth, separating her twins and giving them to co-workers or near-strangers while her Jedi husband becomes an evil Sith cyborg? Not that this is what’s going to happen. This is a spoiler-free zone.
Wow. I am enjoying the brisk, exciting pace of this movie so far. Sure, there are some logical inconsistencies to whistle past, but whistling past them is what I plan to do. The important thing is that this movie is keeping me from getting bored. Here we are now. Entertain us. So far, it is still my favorite of the prequel trilogy, and I have to restrain myself from watching more of it today.
Until next time…Does Anyone Know Where I Can Pick Up a Couple of MagnaDroids with Electrostaffs on the Cheap? And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.