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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fixing the Prequels: Attack of the Clones (part two)



part one


Returning to Attack of the Clones, we've just left the Chancellor's office where Palpatine has just prevailed upon Senator Amidala to accept the protection of the Jedi for the time being, after the attempt on her life. We also have already fleshed out the political situation a little more, giving more of a face and feel to the Separatist movement that threatens the Republic.

Now, we're ready to meet our heroes: Obi Wan Kenobi, now a Jedi Master, and his Padawan learner, Anakin Skywalker.

In the film, we cut from the Chancellor's office to the elevator on Senator Amidala's building, where Anakin is really nervous. For a few reasons I'll discuss afterward, though, I would add a bit of material before the elevator scene. Here's what I would do:

EXT: Tatooine – The Dune Sea.

Riding across the Tatooine landscape on an eopie [those are the cow-like things on Tatooine, seen a few times in the PT] is SHMI SKYWALKER. She looks tense, nervous; something is wrong here. The appearance of the scene is glaring and washed out; this is a look to Tatooine that we haven't seen before. There is no sound at all, until she crests one dune in particular and then the sand before her gives way, causing her eopie to slide down the deepening slope. Before her, at the bottom of a giant bowl of sand, opens the mouth of s SARLACC. Shmi screams in terror--

INT: Coruscant – Jedi temple – bedroom.

ANAKIN SKYWALKER suddenly awakens, his face covered with sweat and his breathing labored.

ANAKIN: Mother!

He's just had a nightmare about his mother. He blinks, sips some water from a glass on the table next to his bed, and rises. Ten years older since we've las seen him, Anakin is tall, muscular, and confident in his motions. He gets a hold of himself and heads into the other room.

INT: Coruscant – Jedi Temple – living room.

Anakin walks into his sparsely furnished living room and moves to the exact center of the circular chamber, where he makes a Force gesture toward a lockbox that pops open, releasing the four REMOTE DROIDS that had been at rest inside. The remotes stream toward him, automatically assuming the attack; they bear down on Anakin and start firing their electro-shock rays at him. Instantly he drops to the floor and rolls to one side, summoning his lightsaber to his hand as he does so. Activating the blade, he begins to do battle with the remotes, deflecting their shots with his lightsaber and evading them with seeming ease. He smiles a little in self-satisfaction, when suddenly the remotes kick into a higher gear, bringing their attacks even faster now. Anakin keeps up, but the remotes increase speed again, and one manages to get a shot through Anakin's defenses, zapping him on the shoulder. Anakin suddenly lunges in anger, bissecting the remote with one fast and mighty slash of his weapon. The other remotes zip away from him to hover in one corner of the room. Anakin prepares to charge them, when another lightsaber is activated and intercepts his own. Anakin, surprised by the new presence, turns to find himself face-to-face with his teacher, OBI WAN KENOBI.

ANAKIN: Obi Wan!

OBI WAN: They're just remotes, Anakin. You don't have to kill them every time.

ANAKIN: I'm sorry, Master.

OBI WAN: Did you know that you go through more remotes than any other two Jedi combined?

ANAKIN: You said it yourself, Master. They're just remotes. I needed the practice. There wasn't much action on Ansion.

OBI WAN: (mildly offended) There was plenty of action!

ANAKIN: For you! I had to stay and fix the ship after your so-called landing.

OBI WAN: And a fine job you did, my young Padawan. That ship's never flown better.

ANAKIN: The Jedi aren't mechanics. And did you turn up the intensity settings on my remotes? I didn't do that!

Obi Wan gives him a sheepish grin and shrugs.

ANAKIN: How long have you been doing that? Why are you here, anyway? Shouldn't you be practicing your piloting or something? We're on leave....

OBI WAN: Not anymore. It seems that a certain high-ranking Republic dignitary is in need of Jedi protection, at the request of the Chancellor himself.

Anakin groans....

ANAKIN: Not another protection job, Master! All we ever do is stand around looking mean in the face of a threat that never materializes. Can't Master Shak-ti take this one?

OBI WAN: No, it's ours. As I said, we've been requested personally by the Chancellor. Meet me on the shuttle pad in thirty minutes. And you might want to touch up your hair.

ANAKIN: (touching his disheveled hair) Why?

OBI WAN: Oh, I just think you may find yourself more enthusiastic about this assignment once you know who we're protecting. Thirty minutes.

Obi Wan turns and exits, leaving Anakin to puzzle over that last thing he said.


OK. What I've done here is, first of all, to try to turn up the banter between Anakin and Obi Wan. It's important that we establish that their relationship isn't just that of teacher/student, or father figure/son figure. They're also friends; remember, many years later, when reminiscing about Anakin with Luke Skywalker in ROTJ, Obi Wan says that "Anakin was a good friend." So we need to see more of that dynamic between them. (I do think that Lucas did a pretty good job in depicting that aspect of their relationship in the finished products; I just think it could have been highlighted even more.)

Also, I include a brief dream sequence. I always thought it a bit of a problem in AOTC that we don't actually see any of Anakin's dreams of Shmi's danger; all that happens is that we're told of them (and later we see Anakin in bed having the dream but not actually seeing the dream itself, a moment that's awkward in another way – but we'll get to that at a later time). I imagine George Lucas came to the same conclusion, since in RotS he would show us Anakin's premonitions of Padme's dolorous fate.

I also establish here that Anakin's a man of action, and rather impulsive; he's been on leave for mere hours and he's hankering for action, and he's got a bit of a problem in not giving in to anger. (Obviously that little aspect of his character will end up having some disastrous consequences later on.) I also take the opportunity to give a little glimpse into what daily life is like for a Jedi. It's not all-lightsaber fights, all the time.

OK, now we cut to the elevator scene, which I always liked a lot, and only tweak just a bit, again to bump up the level of banter between Obi Wan and Anakin. Obviously now Anakin knows who they're going to protect, and he's a tad nervous about it. I always found it interesting, by the way, that Anakin's now nervous about meeting Padme again; ten years before, he'd been serenely confident around her, having no problem at all telling her that she's as beautiful as an angel and carving her a pendant out of wood and stuff like that. Now, he's nervous. What's changed? Well, he's a teenager now. That's awkward as hell, for all concerned.

(And by the way, before I get back to the script, let me say that I have no objections at all to Anakin Skywalker being an awkward teenager, even if he's at the end of his teen years. A lot of fans have over the years objected to the Prequels on the basis that it's just inconceivable that a villain as odious as Darth Vader could have his genesis in teen love, but that's never bothered me at all. This was set up from the very beginning, really, when in ANH Obi Wan describes Vader to Luke as a person "a young Jedi who was a pupil of mine, before he turned to evil", and the way Vader himself greets Obi Wan after twenty years by saying that he's no longer a student but a master. OK? OK.)

Anyhow, the elevator scene:

INT: APARTMENT BUILDING ELEVATOR – TWILIGHT

ANAKIN and OBI-WAN ride in a windowed elevator attached to the outside of the Senate Building. They are on their way to SENATOR AMIDALA'S apartments. ANAKIN nervously rearranges his robes, which are spotlessly clean.

OBI WAN: I've never seen your robes that clean before.

Anakin says nothing; he just keeps fidgeting.

OBI WAN: Did you repair the stitching yourself? That's nice work.

Anakin still says nothing.

OBI WAN: My robes could use some stitch repair as well.

Still nothing.

OBI-WAN: You seem a little on edge.

ANAKIN: Not at all.

OBI-WAN: "Not at all"? I haven't felt you this tense since we fell into that nest of gundarks.

This grabs Anakin's attention.

ANAKIN: You fell into that nightmare, Master, and I rescued you, remember?

OBI-WAN: Oh. Yes.

Obi Wan chuckles, knowingly, and Anakin realizes he's been tricked into acting less fidgety. Anakin laughs as well.

OBI WAN: You're sweating. Relax. Take a deep breath.

ANAKIN: I haven't seen her in ten years, Master.

OBI-WAN: She's not the Queen anymore, Anakin.

ANAKIN: That's not why I'm nervous.

OBI WAN: Just remember, she's not a remote, either. I'd hate to have to explain that to the Council.

ANAKIN: I'll keep that in mind, Master.


Now we're in the apartment, and here comes Jar Jar Binks!

INT: APARTMENT BUILDING, APARTMENT CORRIDOR – TWILIGHT

The door to the apartment slides open. JAR JAR walks into the corridor, where TWO JEDI are exiting the elevator. He recognizes OBI-WAN and becomes extremely excited, jumping around, shaking his hand.

JAR JAR: Obi! Obi! Obi! Mesa sooo smilen to seein yousa. Wahooooo!

OBI-WAN smiles.

OBI-WAN: It's good to see you, too, Jar Jar.

JAR JAR notices OBI-WAN'S APPRENTICE.

JAR JAR: ...and this, I take it, is your apprentice...Noooooooo! Annie? Noooooooo! Little bitty Annie? (Looks at Anakin) Noooooooo! Yousa so biggen! Yiyiyiyyi! Annie!!

ANAKIN: Hi, Jar Jar.

JAR JAR grabs hold of ANAKIN and envelops him in a big hug.

JAR JAR: Shesa expecting yousa. Annie... Mesa no believen!

They move toward the main living room of the apartment.

ANAKIN: You're a diplomat now, Jar Jar?

JAR JAR: I am parten of de official Naboo delegation. Boss Nass himself appointed mesa.

ANAKIN: Not like battle, is it?

JAR JAR: Sometimes itsa worse!

INT: SENATE BUILDING, APARTMENT – EVENING

PADMÉ is in a conference with CAPTAIN TYPHO and DORMÉ. JAR JAR enters the room, followed by the TWO JEDI.

JAR JAR: Senator? Desa Jedi have arriven.

PADMÉ and TYPHO rise as OBI-WAN and ANAKIN stop before the SENATOR. OBI-WAN steps forward. ANAKIN stares at PADMÉ. She glances at him.

OBI-WAN: It's a pleasure to see you again, M'Lady.

PADMÉ walks over to OBI-WAN and takes his hand in hers.

PADMÉ: It has been far too long Master Kenobi. I'm so glad our paths have crossed again... but I must warn you that I think your presence here is unnecessary.

OBI-WAN: I'm sure the Jedi Council has its reasons.

She moves in front of ANAKIN.

PADME: And your Padawan learner...(now she recognizes him) Annie? (stares) My goodness, you've grown.

They look at each other for a long moment.

ANAKIN: (trying to be smooth) So have you... grown more beautiful, I mean... and much shorter... for a Senator, I mean.

OBI-WAN looks disapprovingly at his apprentice. PADMÉ laughs and shakes her head.

PADMÉ: Oh Annie, you'll always be that little boy I knew on Tatooine.

This embarrasses ANAKIN, and he looks down. OBI-WAN and CAPTAIN TYPHO smile. They all move toward the sitting area, Anakin rolling his eyes at himself as they do.

ANAKIN: (under his breath) You've grown "shorter"?

They all sit, Anakin and Obi Wan facing Padme and her assistant. Captain Typho remains standing, next to Jar Jar.

OBI-WAN: Our presence will be invisible, M'Lady, I can assure you.

CAPTAIN TYPHO: I'm very grateful you're here, Master Kenobi. I'm Captain TYPHO, head of Her Majesty's security service. Queen Jamillia has informed you of your assignment. The situation is more dangerous than the Senator will admit.

PADMÉ: I don't need more security, I need answers. I want to know who is trying to kill me.

OBI-WAN: (frowning) We're here to protect you Senator, not to start an investigation. That is a matter for--

ANAKIN: We will find out who's trying to kill you Padmé, I promise you.

He's looking earnestly into her eyes; only too late does he realize that Obi Wan is glaring at him. He's done it again. He bites his lip in frustration and shame. OBI-WAN gives ANAKIN a dirty look.

OBI-WAN: We will not exceed our mandate, Anakin.

ANAKIN: I meant in the interest of protecting her, Master, of course.

OBI-WAN: We will not go through this exercise again, Anakin. And you will pay attention to my lead.

ANAKIN: Why?

OBI-WAN: What??!!

ANAKIN: Why else do you think we were assigned to protect her, if not to find the killer? Protection is a job for local security... not Jedi. It's overkill, Master. Investigation is implied in our mandate.

OBI-WAN: We will do exactly as the Council has instructed, and you will learn your place, young one.

Now, finally, Anakin shuts up. Several awkward glances are exchanged throughout the room. Finally Padme decides to break the tension.

PADMÉ: Perhaps with merely your presence, the mysteries surrounding this threat will be revealed. Now, if you will excuse me, I will retire.

Everyone gives AMIDALA a slight bow as she and DORMÉ leave the room.

TYPHO: Well, I know I feel a lot better having you here. I'll have an officer situated on every floor and I'll be at the control center downstairs.

OBI WAN: What levels are above this one?

TYPHO: A speeder garage only, accessed by this stair....

Typho shows Obi Wan the door on the far wall leading to the roof; meanwhile Anakin turns to Jar Jar.

JAR JAR: Speakin' out of turn? Mesa know that feeling. Are yousa sad?

ANAKIN: She hardly recognized me, Jar Jar. I've thought about her every day since we parted... and she's forgotten me completely.

JAR JAR: Shesa happy. Happier den mesa seein her in longo time.

OBI-WAN: Anakin, you're focusing on the negative again. Be mindful of your thoughts. She was pleased to see us.

ANAKIN: Master, I'm sorry for before.

OBI WAN: We will continue our long series of discussions of your impulse control later on, Anakin. For now, let's check the security around here. Work will help you focus.

ANAKIN: Yes, my master.

For the most part, I've always liked this whole scene too. The only main fixes I'd make are to have Jar Jar's speech be a bit more refined; he's a diplomat now. I don't imagine the diplomatic community on Coruscant would take him all that seriously if he were still wandering around jabbering and using words like "Okeyday!". But I'd retain a little of his unique speech patterns, like "Mesa" and others.

I'd also highlight Anakin's awkwardness, his awareness of his awkwardness, and his desire to impress Padme anew. Also, that bit I have there at the end, with Obi Wan referring to Anakin's problems with "impulse control", will come in handy in the next installment of this series.

So that's where we'll break off for now. Next time, the plot thickens as the assassin strikes again. Carry on, Star Warriors!

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