Tuesday, March 03, 2009

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

part one
part two
part three
part four

Before resuming with Attack of the Clones, I note the existence of Darths and Droids, a comic strip not unlike Shamus Young's DM of the Rings, which even now, more than a year after its completion, still brings a few visitors to this blog every day, owing to his link to me in the commentary on this installment. The notion of Darths is simple: what if the story of Star Wars, beginning with The Phantom Menace, actually came about via a role-playing campaign? I've actually looked in on Darths before, but I haven't been following it in detail, so I'll try to get caught up over the next short while.

Anyway, Shamus also mentions an interview with the Darths creative team, in which one of them notes that close mining of the movies for comic strip material has led to a greater approach for the movies. I say, "Great!", although given my own process with the Fixing the Prequels series, I wonder what effect it'll have. I haven't watch The Phantom Menace all the way through since I wrapped up fixing it, so I don't yet know if I'll be able to watch it without summoning up all of my repairs in my head. I certainly hope I can; I don't want to not like these movies.

And with that, time to get back to AOTC.

Anakin and Padme have just left Coruscant for Naboo, with R2-D2 tagging along. (You know, what I wouldn't give to basically be able to go through life with a sentient mobile toolbox trundling along behind me. Wow, that would be useful.) While Anakin is playing bodyguard to the Senator, Obi Wan is doing his Sam Spade of the Stars bit.

In the script, and in a scene which was shot but edited out, Obi Wan takes the mysterious toxic dart to the analysis droids in the Jedi Temple, only to have them tell him that they can't identify the thing. This scene doesn't accomplish anything, and watching it on the DVD's deleted scenes, it's not even that cool of an effects scene (just more CG droids doing CG droid stuff), and it ends with a goofy bit where Obi Wan looks at the dart in his fingers and says "I know who can identify this!" It's a funny line delivery, and it naturally makes one ask, "Well, why didn't you go there in the first place, dummy?"

So Obi Wan heads off to visit an old friend of his, a big fat alien who is the cook in a diner:


OBI-WAN walks down the street. It is a pretty tough part of town. Old buildings, warehouses, beat up speeders and transporter rigs thundering past. Above, the old elevated monospeed with occasional "shiny freighters" hissing through.

OBI-WAN comes to a kind of alien diner. On the steamed-up windows it says "DEX'S DINER" in alien lettering. He goes inside.

In the movie, Dex's Diner isn't in a seedy part of town; it's all bright and shiny, looking more like one of those retro-diners you'll find in cities these days than an actual diner. I think this is a bit of a film-making error; they should have done the "diner in a seedy town" bit. As it is, it looks like Obi Wan is going to Johnny Rocket's.


A WAITRESS DROID is carrying plates of half-eaten food. There is a counter with stools and a line of booths along the wall by the window. A number of CUSTOMERS are eating - TOUGH-LOOKING WORKERS, FREIGHTER DRIVERS, ETC. The WAITRESS DROID looks up as OBI-WAN comes in.

WAITRESS DROID: Can I help ya?

OBI-WAN: I'm looking for Dexter.


WAITRESS DROID: Waddya want him for?

OBI-WAN: He's not in trouble. It's personal.

There is a brief pause. Then the DROID goes to the open serving hatch behind the counter.

WIITRESS DROID: Someone to see ya, honey. (lowering her voice) A Jedi, by the looks of him.

Steam billows out from the kitchen hatch behind the counter as a huge head pokes through.


OBI-WAN: Hey, Dex.

DEXTER JETTSTER: Take a seat! Be right with ya!

OBI-WAN sits in a booth.

WAITRESS DROID: You want a cup of ardees?

OBI-WAN: Oh yes, thank you.

The WAITRESS DROID moves off as the door to the counter opens and DEXTER JETTSTER appears. He is big - bald and sweaty, old and alien. Not someone to tangle with. He arrives, beaming hugely.

DEXTER JETTSTER: Hey, ol' buddy!

OBI-WAN: Hey, Dex.

DEXTER eases himself into the seat opposite OBI-WAN. He can just make it.

DEXTER JETTSTER: So, my friend. What can I do for ya?

OBI-WAN: You can tell me what this is.

OBI-WAN places the dart on the table between them. DEX'S eyes widen. He puts down his mug.

DEXTER JETTSTER: (softly) Well, whaddya know...

DEXTER picks up the dart delicately between his puffy fingers and peers at it.

DEXTER JETTSTER: I ain't seen one of these since I was prospecting on Subterrel beyond the Outer Rim!

OBI-WAN: Can you tell me where it came from?

DEXTER grins. He puts the dart down between them.

DEXTER JETTSTER: This baby belongs to them cloners. What you got here is a Kamino saberdart.

OBI-WAN: Kamino saberdart? ...I wonder why it didn't show up in our analysis archive.

DEXTER JETTSTER: It's these funny little cuts on the side give it away... Those analysis droids you've got over there only focus on symbols, you know. I should think you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

OBI-WAN: Well, Dex, if droids could think, we wouldn't be here, would we? (laughing) Kamino... doesn't sound familiar. Is it part of the Republic?

DEXTER JETTSTER: No, it's beyond the Outer Rim. I'd say about twelve parsecs outside the Rishi Maze, toward the south. It should be easy to find, even for those droids in your archive. These Kaminoans keep to themselves. They're cloners. Damned good ones, too.

OBI-WAN picks up the dart, holding it midway between them.

OBI-WAN: Cloners? Are they friendly?


OBI-WAN: On what, Dex?

Dexter grins.

DEXTER JETTSTER: On how good your manners are... and how big your pocketbook is...

I've always liked this scene. The bit at the beginning here, where Obi Wan asks for Dex and has to assure the waitress that he's not there to arrest Dex or anything, isn't in the film, and I'd put it back in. I would also have liked a couple of reaction shots from the denizens of the diner as a Jedi walks in; maybe somebody casually sliding their briefcase under the table or something like that. But I love the visual of a 1950s diner in the middle of Coruscant, and the ultimate waitress-on-roller skates.

That line of Obi Wan's, about droids not being able to think, shows a certain attitude toward droids that tends to show up sporadically throughout the entire SW Saga; most notable is in ANH, when Luke enters the cantina and the barkeep tells him that R2 and C-3PO have to wait outside. Droids just aren't seen as anything more than useful tools, which could explain some of the lackadaisical attitude toward them throughout the series – such as nobody particularly worrying about R2's memories after the events of RotS.

Anyway, Dex takes one look at the dart and identifies it as being from Kamino. Here we have more implied facts about the SW universe: that the Republic doesn't control everything, namely. I'd like to have heard a bit more about the fact that the Kaminoans are cloners. Obi Wan seems genuinely surprised to hear that there are still cloners about somewhere, and I'd amend this line a bit:

OBI WAN: Cloners. No wonder they keep to themselves, then.

DEX: Your Republic has never much liked cloners.

OBI WAN: With good reason. We don't want systems able to grow their own armies, do we?

DEX: And yet the Trade Federation and its allies build themselves droid armies. One wonders what the difference might be.

OBI WAN: Cloning is a dangerous business to be in. Kamino – are they friendly?

Something like that. If cloning on a mass scale is possible in the SW universe, why isn't the galaxy overrun with clones? Who knows? (Maybe this point has been addressed in some Extended Universe book or comic, but I don't deal with that at all, just the stuff in the movies.)

Anyhow, Obi Wan now has his first solid lead, and now he's off to follow it up, by going back to the Jedi Temple to see if he can figure out where Kamino is located. He consults with the Galaxy's least helpful librarian, but before he does, he has a conversation with her that was cut from the movie:


The main entrance at the base of the huge Temple is bustling with activity. All sorts of JEDI are coming and going.


A bronze bust of Count Dooku stands among a line of other busts of Jedi in the Archive Room. OBI-WAN stands in front of it, studying the striking features of the chiseled face. On the walls, lighted computer panels seem to stretch into infinity. Farther along the room in the background, FIVE JEDI are seated at tables, studying archive material. After OBI-WAN studies the bust for a few moments before
MADAME JOCASTA NU, the Jedi Archivist, is standing next to him. She is an elderly, frail-looking human Jedi. Tough as old boots and smart as a whip.

JOCASTA NU: Did you call for assistance?

OBI-WAN: (distracted in thought) Yes... yes, I did...

JOCASTA NU: He has a powerful face, doesn't he? He was one of the most brilliant Jedi I have had the privilege of knowing.

OBI-WAN: I never understood why he quit. Only twenty Jedi have ever left the Order.

JOCASTA NU: (sighs) The Lost Twenty... Count Dooku was the most recent and the most painful. No one likes to talk about it. His leaving was a great loss to the Order.

OBI-WAN: What happened?

JOCASTA NU: Well, Count Dooku was always a bit out of step with the decisions of the Council...much like your old Master, Qui-Gon Jinn.

She gestures to another nearby statue, this one of none other than QUI GON.

[OK, I put that bit in myself, the statue of Qui Gon. There's a reason for this that will eventually become clear.]

OBI-WAN: (surprised) Really?

JOCASTA NU: Oh, yes. They were alike in many ways. Very individual thinkers... idealists...

JOCASTA NU gazes at the bust.

JOCASTA NU: He was always striving to become a more powerful Jedi. He wanted to be the best. With a lightsaber, in the old style of fencing, he had no match. His knowledge of the Force was... unique. In the end, I think he left because he lost faith in the Republic. He believed that politics were corrupt, and he felt the Jedi betrayed themselves by serving the politicians. He always had very high expectations of government. He disappeared for nine or ten years, then just showed up recently as the head of the separatist movement.

OBI-WAN: It's very interesting. I'm not sure I completely understand.

JOCASTA NU: Well, I'm sure you didn't call me over here for a history lesson. Are you having a problem, Master Kenobi?

OBI-WAN: Yes, I'm trying to find a planet system called Kamino. It doesn't seem to show up on any of the archive charts.

JOCASTA NU: Kamino? It's not a system I'm familiar with...Let me see...

JOCASTA NU leans over OBI-WAN'S shoulder, looking at the screen.

JOCASTA NU: Are you sure you have the right coordinates?

OBI-WAN: (nodding) According to my information, it should be in this quadrant somewhere... just south of the Rishi Maze.

JOCASTA NU taps the keyboard and frowns.

[This next bit doesn't occur in the film.]

JOCASTA NU: No coordinates? It sounds like the sort of directions you'd get from a street tout... some old miner or Furbog trader.

OBI-WAN: All three, actually.

JOCASTA NU: Are you sure it exists?

OBI-WAN: Absolutely.

JOCASTA NU: Let me do a gravitational scan.

OBI-WAN and JOCASTA NU study the star map hologram.

JOCASTA NU: There are some inconsistencies here. Maybe the planet you're seeking was destroyed.

OBI-WAN: Wouldn't that be on record?

JOCASTA NU: It ought to be, unless it was very recent. [Now we're back to stuff that appears in the film.] (shakes her head) I hate to say it, but it looks like the system you're searching for doesn't exist.

OBI-WAN: That's impossible... perhaps the archives are incomplete.

JOCASTA NU: The archives are comprehensive and totally secure, my young Jedi. One thing you may be absolutely sure of - if an item does not appear in our records, it does not exist!

OBI-WAN stares at her, then looks back to the map. JOCASTA NU notices a young boy approach. She turns from OBI-WAN and leaves with the youngster, turning back only briefly to say:

JOCASTA NU: Oh, and Master Kenobi, if you could ask your Padawan to kindly return that holocron of Downfall of the Hutts, it would be greatly appreciated.

She leaves, and Obi Wan continues to stare at the computer readout.

Well now – if you want to get on a librarian's bad side, all you have to do is suggest that his or her library is not as comprehensive as it's supposed to be! Maybe that bit I threw in at the end about Anakin having overdue materials is too cute, but hey, librarians are librarians.

But unpacking this a bit, I wish the material about Dooku had been included, for the same reason that I put an introduction of Dooku very early into the film (see Part One of this series). By the time we meet Dooku, we already know that he's a bad guy and we know nothing else about him than that. This would flesh him out a bit, and also convey again how the Jedi believe one thing (that Dooku left for idealistic reasons) where the reality is, we will learn, something else (Dooku likely left because he'd been tempted by the Sith). Also, foreshadowing Dooku's skill with the lightsaber wouldn't be the worst idea; it would clarify a bit how Obi Wan was able to singlehandedly defeat Darth Maul but doesn't last long at all against Darth Tyrannus (Dooku).

Onto the discussion of the whereabouts of Kamino, I like the bit where Jocasta Nu comments on the likely source of Obi Wan's information, and in terms of the finished product, I loved the actress Lucas got to play the staid old Jedi librarian. It's a good scene in the movie, but the scene as written is even better. Another case, I suspect, of Lucas's goal for a certain running time to get in the way of some good storytelling.

The movie then cuts from Obi Wan to Anakin and Padme, who are en route for Naboo. Once again, some of the material in the script didn't end up in the finished movie, so I've put that material in red:


The massive, slow-moving Freighter moves through space.


The great, gloomy hold is crowded with EMIGRANTS and their belongings. To one side ARTOO is coming to the head of a food line holding two bowls. With one of his little claw arms, he grabs a chunk of something that looks like bread. ARTOO slips a tube into a tub of mush and sucks up a large quantity. A SERVER sees him.

SERVER: Hey! No Droids!

ARTOO takes one last big suck and heads away from the food line. The SERVER shouts after him angrily. The little droid moves past groups of eating or sleeping EMIGRANTS and comes to ANAKIN and PADMÉ'S table where ANAKIN is sound asleep. The young Jedi seems to be having a nightmare. He is very restless.

ANAKIN: No, no, Mom, no...

He is sweating. PADMÉ leans over resting her hand on his arm. He wakes up with a start, then realizes where he is. PADMÉ simply looks at him. He stares back, somewhat confused.


PADMÉ: You seemed to be having a nightmare.

ANAKIN looks at PADMÉ a little more closely, trying to see if he has revealed any of his secrets. She hands him a bowl of mush and bread.

PADMÉ: Are you hungry?


PADMÉ takes the food from ARTOO and sets it on a make-shift table. ANAKIN rises and takes a seat as she places a bowl in front of him.

ANAKIN: Thanks.

PADMÉ: We went to lightspeed a while ago.

ANAKIN looks into PADMÉ'S eyes.

ANAKIN: I look forward to seeing Naboo again. I've thought about it every day since I left. It's by far the most beautiful place I've ever seen...

PADMÉ is a little unnerved by his intense stare.

PADMÉ: It may not be as you remember it. Time changes perception.

ANAKIN: Sometimes it does... Sometimes for the better.

PADMÉ: It must be difficult having sworn your life to the Jedi... not being able to visit the places you like... or do the things you like...

ANAKIN: Or be with the people I love.

PADMÉ: Are you allowed to love? I thought it was forbidden for a Jedi.

ANAKIN: Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi's life, so you might say we're encouraged to love.

PADMÉ: You have changed so much.

ANAKIN: You haven't changed a bit. You're exactly the way I remember you in my dreams. I doubt if Naboo has changed much either.

PADMÉ: It hasn't...

There is an awkward moment.

PADMÉ: (continuing; changing the subject) You were dreaming about your mother earlier, weren't you?

ANAKIN: Yes... I left Tatooine so long ago, my memory of her is fading. I don't want to lose it. Recently I've been seeing her in my dreams... vivid dreams... scary dreams. I worry about her.

PADMÉ gives ANAKIN a sympathetic look.

This little scene, as it happened in the movie, is actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It's short and it's quiet and it's acted well; score another one for Lucas. I've always liked how Anakin casually steers the conversation toward love, but also manages to make it sound benign. It's just a well-done little scene, and I like it a good deal.

But reading the original script, I do also like the idea of Padme waking Anakin from one of his bad dreams. That's a good idea, and I'm surprised Lucas either shot it and cut it out or omitted it entirely. We really need to see that Anakin's dreams about his mother are intense and disturbing to him, and that's something that the finished film doesn't convey terribly well. What I would not do is have Anakin explain the dreams to Padme, just yet. I'd finish the scene off thusly:

PADME: Your dream – it was about your mother, wasn't it?

Anakin meets her eyes, his look suddenly vulnerable, and looks away quickly.

PADME: I remember how much you hated leaving her, even though it was to go join the Jedi.

Anakin looks like he wants to say something...but then:

ANAKIN: Uh, I want some more of that tea from earlier. Would you like some?

Padme nods, and Anakin quickly excuses himself from the table, and from this line of conversation. Padme glances at Artoo, who gives a sympathetic beep.

What I'm after here is setting up more of the conflict inside Anakin that will eventually lead to his downfall (and, many years later, his redemption). Even though he is desperately in love with Padme, it's a very immature love at this point, so I don't think he'd be ready just yet to trust her with his innermost fears about what may be happening to his mother. (And since this scene is more from Padme's POV than Anakin's, I would not do what I did earlier and include an actual look into Anakin's dream.)

The other material here that wasn't in the movie, the stuff about how beautiful Naboo is? I'm not sure if I'd put that back in or not. It wouldn't make the scene take a whole lot longer, and it might help make it seem as if Anakin's not quite as obsessive about Padme as we know he is, but I'm not sure it really adds anything that must be there. I'd flip a coin, maybe.

OK, this has been a fairly long entry, so here is where we'll stop. Next time we'll criticize Yoda's teaching technique, and we'll look in what happened when Padme brought Anakin to her home to meet her family, in a long string of scenes deleted from the final film. Star Wars Episode Two: Meet the Parents? Star Wars Episode II: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Well, it's not as bad as all that, as we'll see then. Excelsior, Star Warriors!


Kerry said...

Odd. This is the second time the Jedi library has come up in the past four days. It was modeled after the library at my alma mater, Trinity College, in Dublin. Sometimes when I studied there, I could feel The Force. Or perhaps it was just a hangover.

Anonymous said...

Jaq, I'm continuing to enjoy your prequel revamp, and finding I have far fewer disagreements with your ideas on Attack of the Clones than I did with Phantom Menace (but then, I think AOTC more strongly reflects the SW universe we knew before the prequels than does TPM -- no mention of midichlorians or virgin births).

Briefly (as briefly as I get when discussing Star Wars, anyhow...), I also really like the diner scene. I like authentic old-tymey diners, and it cracked me up to see one on futuristic fantasy-world Coruscant. I agree it should've been run-down and grungy as in the script instead of Johnny Rockets-style "faux-retro." Tangentially, did you know the waitress droid was named "Flo" after the character on the old sitcom Alice? And it seems to me that Dex bears more than a passing resemblance to Vic Tayback, too...

My real point, though: I find Obi-Wan's attitude toward droids somewhat odd in this scene, given that he generally seems far more accepting of droids as sentient beings. Consider his attitude toward Artoo in Ep IV, calling him "my little friend" and treating him and Threepio with some degree of compassion and deference. Of course, that's old Ben, who's had 20 years in the desert to adjust his thinking, not the young stallion of the Clone Wars, and, when viewed in context with the prequels, he of course knows these particular droids and can guess how they've come to be in his presence. But it still seems to me that his line in the diner scene is nothing more than exposition/foreshadowing, and rather clumsily done. The line would've been better spoken by Dex or cut altogether, IMO.

As for the attitude of the Mos Eisley bartender and the general disdain for droids seen throughout the original trilogy, my theory is that there's a lot of lingering resentment due to the Clone Wars, when the galaxy was crawling with battledroids and their variants, who were presumably doing some very awful things. After something like that, a lot of people probably wouldn't ever again trust a robot not to pick up a blaster and start mutilating children and pets...