Wow! Two of these posts in the same month! Will wonders never cease!
So, having addressed what I feel to be the most damaging scene in the Prequel Trilogy in the preceding post, we'll address what I consider to be the biggest missed opportunity in the Prequel Trilogy in this post. As much as I love Attack of the Clones -- and really, I love it, it's a terrific movie and I'll have words with anyone who says otherwise – George Lucas just didn't get the Naboo scenes right, and they drag down everything else that happens.
But first, after Padme and Anakin's fireside chat, we cut back to Obi Wan on Kamino, where he checks in with the Jedi Council (actually, just Yoda and Mace Windu):
INTERIOR: TIPOCA CITY, CORRIDOR – DAY
OBI-WAN stands with TAUN WE just inside the open door.
LAMA SU: Tell your Council the first battalions are ready. And remind them that if they need more troops, we will need time to grow them.
OBI-WAN: I won't forget. And thank you.
TAUN WE: Thank you.
EXTERIOR: TIPOCA CITY, KAMINO LANDING PLATFORM (RAINSTORM) - LATE DAY
OBI-WAN comes out from the tower into the driving rain. The door closes behind him. He pulls his robe around him and stands braced against the gale. OBI-WAN glances back toward the closed door, confirming that LAMA SU has left.
Below, a huge wave crashes against the stilts. Spray flies high and whips across the platform to where OBI-WAN is standing. He walks over to his Starfighter, looks to see if anyone is watching, then addresses ARFOUR.
EXTERIOR: TIPOCA CITY LANDING PLATFORM, JEDI FIGHTER (RAINSTORM) - LATE DAY
The R4-P17, OBI-WAN'S Astro-Droid, who is still sitting on top of OBI-WAN'S Starfighter, switches on and BEEPS.
OBI-WAN: Arfour, relay this, "scramble code five," to Courscant: care of "the old folks home."
ARFOUR BEEPS and WHISTLES. The panels light up inside the cockpit. A transmitter disc emerges from the top of the Starfighter and the message is transmitted.
INTERIOR: JEDI TEMPLE, YODA'S QUARTERS - LATE AFTERNOON
YODA sits with MACE WINDU. between the two Jedi, a hologram of OBI-WAN speaks.
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) I have successfully made contact with the Prime Minister of Kamino. They are using a bounty hunter named Jango Fett to create a clone army. I have a strong feeling that this bounty hunter is the assassin we're looking for.
MACE WINDU: Do you think these cloners are involved in the plot to assassinate Senator Amidala?
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) No, Master. There appears to be no motive.
YODA: Do not assume anything, Obi-Wan. Clear, your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains behind the plot.
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) Yes, Master. They say a Master Sifo-Dyas placed the order for a clone army at the request of the Senate almost ten years ago. I was under the impression he was killed before that. Did the Council ever authorize the creation of a clone army?
MACE WINDU: No. Whoever placed that order did not have the authorization of the Jedi Council.
YODA: Into custody, take this Jango Fett. Bring him here. Question him, we will.
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) Yes, Master. I will report back when I have him.
The hologram of OBI-WAN fades.
YODA: Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see.
MACE WINDU: I think it is time to inform the Senate that our ability to use the Force has diminished.
YODA: Only the Dark Lords of the Sith know of our weakness. If informed the Senate is, multiply our adversaries will.
I wouldn't change any of this. The Kamino sequences are extremely well done; as has been so often the case in this series, I keep finding things that are well done in this trilogy of movies that most people have derided as wall-to-wall suck. Oh well.
I like that the mystery apparently shows no sign of being solved at this point; in investigating an assassination attempt on Padme, Obi Wan has happened on something much larger. I like how Yoda and Mace Windu are now suspecting that something very grim is going on, and that it's something they've failed to sense. The implication that the Jedi have been so successful for "over a thousand generations" by virtue of their ability to sense what the servants of the Dark Side were up to is a big one, as is their suspicion that those days are at an end. This scene lays it out clearly: the Jedi are on the wane, and they are nowhere near their top form anymore. One snarky complaint about the Prequel Trilogy I often hear goes like this: "Jeez, the Jedi sure get their butts kicked! How can these be the cream of the Jedi crop?" Obviously, they aren't. It amazes me how often George Lucas's critics manage to completely miss the point.
By the way, I love that Obi Wan's coded reference to the Jedi Council is "the old folks' home". The Prequel Trilogy is full of little details like that which are awesome; it's almost as if George Lucas thrives on the small details and thus sometimes loses sight of the entire thing.
Anyhow, just after this, we cut back to Naboo. Anakin is trying to sleep, and having some difficulty: we see him writhing about in bed, moaning a lot, before he suddenly wakes up. Clearly he's having a nightmare, although the way the scene is filmed, well...let's just say that it's shot in such a way as to allow the more juvenile members of the audience to jeer the screen as though Anakin is doing something else in bed. By himself.
Anyway, here's where Lucas made the mistake of showing Anakin having a nightmare about his mother without actually showing the nightmare. After Anakin awakens, we fade to a gorgeous Naboo sunrise (really, the shot of the sun-dappled waters of the lake is one of the most beautiful shots in the entire Star Wars saga), and Anakin standing on a veranda, watching it:
EXTERIOR: NABOO LAKE RETREAT, LODGE, BALCONY OVERLOOKING
GARDENS – MORNING
ANAKIN is on the balcony overlooking the gardens. After a moment, PAMDÉ comes onto the balcony behind him. She sees he is meditating and turns to go.
ANAKIN: (eyes closed) Don't go.
PAMDÉ: I don't want to disturb you.
ANAKIN: Your presence is soothing.
PADMÉ: You had a nightmare again last night.
ANAKIN: Jedi don't have nightmares.
PADMÉ: I heard you.
ANAKIN opens his eyes and looks at her.
ANAKIN: I saw my mother. I saw her as clearly as I see you now. She is suffering, Padmé. They're killing her! She is in pain... I know I'm disobeying my mandate to protect you, Senator. I know I will be punished and possibly thrown out of the Jedi Order, but I have to go. I have to help her! I'm sorry, Padmé. I don't have a choice.
PADMÉ: I'll go with you. That way you can continue to protect me, and you won't be disobeying your mandate.
ANAKIN: What about Master Obi-wan?
PADMÉ smiles and takes his hand.
PADMÉ: I guess we won't tell him, will we?
This scene starts out really well, as shot: the gorgeous sunrise, the way Anakin is standing on the veranda, with his hands behind his back, suggestive (and therefore foreshadowing) of the shots in the Original Trilogy of Darth Vader standing on the bridge of his Star Destroyer, and the awkwardness between Anakin and Padme after the conversation the night before. I also like what Lucas is trying to do here: he's setting up another of the many parallels between Anakin's experiences and the later experiences of his son, Luke. Remember in The Empire Strikes Back, how Luke is tormented by visions of his friends suffering, so he abandons his Jedi duties to go after them, with disastrous consequences? Anakin is doing the same thing here, and the consequences will be even more far-reaching.
And yet, I'd replace the scene entirely. Bummer. Why? Because, while I think the scene is nice and gets some things done nicely, those things can be done better in another way, and some other things that need to get done can get done.
In previous installments, I've argued that Padme's feelings for Anakin come to the fore a little too quickly in the film, and that they need something to help them along. In the great movie traditions, what drives film romance is often shared adversity. So I'd use this part of the film to give Anakin and Padme some adversity to share, in the form of something I've thought the film needed ever since I first saw it: a third assassination attempt on Padme. So here's how I would rewrite this entire sequence:
INTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – bedroom – night.
ANAKIN is sleeping restlessly. He is tossing about and moaning.
ANAKIN: Mom...no...Mom, look out!
ZOOM IN on ANAKIN as we FADE TO a series of confusing shots: SHMI SKYWALKER standing in the Tatooine desert, holding out her arms to ANAKIN; ANAKIN trying to reach her but not being close enough; SHMI being set upon by shadowy attackers and carried off; SHMI and ANAKIN screaming.
ANAKIN snaps awake. He is sweating heavily.
His shout is loud enough to awaken ARTOO, who whistles with concern as ANAKIN rubs his eyes and swings his legs out of bed. He gets up, pulls on a robe, and exits the room. ARTOO follows.
EXTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – balcony – night.
ANAKIN emerges from the house onto the balcony and gazes at the moonlight upon the lake. Then he glances down and sees the boats tied at the pier.
INTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – Padme's bedroom.
PADME is awake as well. She is sitting in an armchair, sipping a cup of tea and looking at some holographic photos of her life, from the time of the occupation ten years earlier. She glances at the table beside her, and we see what she is looking at: the little wooden pendant that ANAKIN had carved for her ten years before. She sighs, and then gets up and exits.
EXTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – beach - night.
PADME is walking along the beach, a short distance away from the villa. She comes to a particular spot, where she removes her robe, revealing a beautiful but discrete bathing suit underneath. She wades out into the water and then starts swimming toward the small island she'd indicated earlier.
EXTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – island – night.
PADME swims onto the shore of the island and walks up onto the grass, and then onto the knoll where the small island's highest point is. She gasps: ANAKIN is sitting there, gazing out at the water. She starts to say something, and then doesn't; she turns to go back when ANAKIN speaks.
ANAKIN: Don't go.
PADME: I didn't realize you were here.
ANAKIN: I wanted to see this island. You talked about it the other day.
PADME: You said you don't like to swim.
ANAKIN points to where he beached the boat.
She comes to his side and sits down in the grass.
PADME: I don't remember it being this cold up here when I was young.
ANAKIN: Most planets feel cold to me. It took a long time after I left home to get used to that. Sometimes I miss Tatooine. I guess that seems weird to you...you saw my planet....
PADME: It's normal to miss home, no matter where that is.
ANAKIN: I guess.
A silence. Away to the north, the surface of the lake is dotted with golden lights.
PADME: Anakin, I shouldn't have been so harsh with you before.
ANAKIN: You were right. It's time I stopped dreaming about you.
Something in his voice makes PADME look a bit sad. There is another silence. PADME points to the northern end of the lake.
PADME: Those lights, out there? Those are Gungan fishers. As it gets close to dawn, they come up from their cities, near the surface, to catch the lampfish that gather at the top of the lake. Now they're moving back north and deeper into the water. They'll get dimmer and dimmer until they're all gone. Tomorrow they'll do it again.
They watch the lights for a few moments.
ANAKIN: It's beautiful. But...
PADME: But what?
ANAKIN: Why are three of those lights coming this way?
He points. Three of the golden lights are, indeed, moving toward them.
ANAKIN: Come on. Those aren't Gungans.
They get up and run down to the boat. PADME jumps in while ANAKIN shoves it into the water and climbs in and starts to fumble with the engine.
PADME: I'm sure it's nothing.
ANAKIN: That's not what the Force is telling me.
He gets the engine started and points the nose of the boat back at the villa. They can now hear three ENGINES whining behind them.
ANAKIN: Do the Gungans use craft with engines to go fishing?
The boat moves slowly across the water. ANAKIN looks back and sees three WATER SPEEDERS bearing down on them.
ANAKIN: We're not going to make it back to the villa. Hold on.
He yanks the rudder and aims the boat right at the beach. Seconds later they run aground and ANAKIN and PADME leap out.
But it's too late. The speeders run aground around them, and the three ASSASSINS on them leap out onto the shore, firing blasters at their feet to stop them. ANAKIN and PADME come to a stop. They are surrounded by human ASSASSINS who level blasters at them.
ASSASSIN #1: You were hard to find, My Lady.
ANAKIN: Who are you? Who hired you to--
ASSASSIN #1: Shut up, Jedi. Your Council should have known better than to send a Youngling to do a man's job. You couldn't even remember to put on your lightsaber.
ANAKIN glances down at his belt. His lightsaber isn't there. A look of intense anger is coming over his face.
ASSASSIN #1: You Jedi are getting worse and worse. "Guardians of Peace and Justice!" You can't even stop the Republic from falling apart.
There is a sudden WHISTLING sound. Everyone turns to see ARTOO rolling out of the grass onto the rocky beach.
ASSASSIN #1: An astrodroid?
ANAKIN: He's no astrodroid. Now, Artoo!
ARTOO snaps open one of his compartments and extends a probe that emits a crackling burst of electricity that SHOCKS one of the ASSASSINS, who leaps back in pain. In that instant, ANAKIN thrusts out his hand and uses the Force to RIP the blaster out of the ASSASSIN's hand. The weapon flies to him, and he quickly blasts the first two ASSASSINS. Then he whirls about to face ASSASSIN #1, who has already grabbed PADME from behind and is holding his own weapon to her head. He is holding her by hair hair, pulled back tightly.
ASSASSIN #1: Ahh ahh, Jedi. That will be enough. Thanks for doing that, by the way. Now I don't have to kill them myself.
PADME: Killing me won't stop opposition to the Separatist movement.
ASSASSIN #1: Senator, what makes you think I care about your politics? This is just a job. Now, Jedi, you just stand there while I take the Senator away. I promise that when I kill her, I'll make it fast and painless. She won't feel a...a....
A strange look comes over the ASSASSIN's face. ANAKIN is staring at him, hard, his jaw clenched. We hear the low RUMBLE of the Force being used. The ASSASSIN opens his mouth and his eyes grow wide. Suddenly he can't breathe. He involuntarily releases PADME, who falls to the ground, and reaches for his throat, which is being constricted by something invisible. ANAKIN's eyes are blazing with rage. The ASSASSIN is choking to death. With his dying gasp he lifts his blaster and tries to aim it, but ANAKIN Force-grabs it from his hand as well. The ASSASSIN falls to his knees, still clawing at his throat. PADME watches as ANAKIN comes forward and, standing over him, makes full eye contact with the ASSASSIN as he finally falls over dead. ANAKIN suddenly HOWLS with rage and kicks the corpse.
PADME: Anakin! Anakin, it's over.
She rushes to his side and puts her hand on his shoulders, trying to calm him in his rage. Finally he snaps out of it, a little. He stumbles away and rubs his forehead as if what's happened has caused him physical pain.
ANAKIN: That...didn't feel...I've never done that before...using the Force shouldn't feel like that....
Finally he looks at Padme, and gets some control over himself again.
ANAKIN: Pack your things, Senator. We can't stay here.
PADME: I'll talk to the Queen. There is a place in the mountains --
ANAKIN: No. Ask the Queen for a ship. We're leaving Naboo.
PADME: (growing stubborn) Anakin, you can't command me.
ANAKIN: I was charged with your protection, My Lady. Whoever wants you killed just found you, and they'll find you again. I listened to you before and they almost murdered you at the secret place "you know very well". We can not stay here.
PADME: Then where will we go?
ANAKIN thinks for a moment. He suddenly has another flash of memory from his dream: he sees SHMI again, smiling before being taken away. He looks at PADME.
ANAKIN: We'll go to Tatooine. Can you get us a ship?
PADME is a bit taken aback at his intensity. She nods.
ANAKIN: Good. You'll be safer there, My Lady.
He turns and starts walking back toward the villa, with ARTOO rolling along behind him.
ANAKIN: Artoo, don't ever let me go anywhere without my lightsaber again.
ARTOO whistles. PADME glances one more time at the dead assassins on her family's ancestral beach, and hastens to follow.
Another attack would have helped matter so much, I can't fathom why George Lucas didn't think of it. I think it would save the whole Naboo sequence of AOTC from feeling like the "Romancey" part of the movie; it would add some more tension and nuance to a part of the film that's pretty tension-free; and it would start to move Anakin in our minds toward a more adult view. He's not just a child or a teenager. By giving Padme a new way to start seeing Anakin, it would give us a new way to see him.
And of course, shouldn't we see the first time Anakin uses the Force to strangle someone? His first hint of using the Dark Side of the Force? Why not?
That's a good place to stop for now. Next time, we're done with Naboo and we're almost done with Kamino as well, which means we'll go to Tatooine and to Geonosis. Stay tuned!