Last night, on impulse, I went to see the new Star Wars film, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I’m not going to inflict a full review on you, since there must be a million reviews out there already, but I’d like to log a few thoughts on it while they’re still fresh in my mind. Spoiler Alert: while I’m not going to discuss plot details, you may still want to skip the next section if you haven’t seen the film yet.
- Why “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”? There’s no particular reason why that should matter, if all the characters involved have no connection with Earth. Since they are apparently human, however, it’s interesting (to me) to imagine a connection with human science fiction of the last century.
- Much has been made, elsewhere, of George Lucas’ debt to the pioneering work of Joseph Campbell, but in my opinion he owes equally as much to Isaac Asimov in particular. Starting with the obvious, there are the robots, with C-3PO stepping straight out of Asimov’s Robot stories. I expect him (it?) to quote the Three Laws of Robotics at any time. The bad guys in Episodes 1-3 use robot soldiers without such safeguards.
- There’s the matter of Coruscant, which is the capital of the Republic, a city covering a whole planet. Rename Coruscant as Trantor, and we’re looking at a scene from Asimov’s “Foundation”. In both Star Wars and the Asimov books, the rulers of the Republic/Empire are forever bickering among themselves, while struggling to manage outlying regions and overlooking the threat from the “dark side”. The difference is that Asimov’s books document the downfall of an Empire into chaos, while Star Wars charts the downfall of a Republic and the rise of an evil Empire.
- My major gripe with the film: too many impossible stunts. Some are fun to watch, but others leave you asking “why?”. In the former category is Anakin’s perfectly-timed skydive through the crowded skies of Coruscant, and Obi-Wan’s battle with Jango Fett on the roof of the clone factory. Near the end, however, Amidala takes a 20-foot leap from a pillar on to the spiny back of some alien creature, landing without so much as grunt. She’s not even a Jedi, so that can’t be it. The gravity appeared Earth-standard, so that would normally mean that even if she survived such a jump, she wouldn’t be able to have children, and we would thus have no Luke Skywalker or Leia Organa later.
- If it appears that I’m turning into an anorak, well, so be it. Looking at it cynically, if the Star Wars universe was perfectly thought out, with no plot holes, it would be average, but human nature means that it’s fun to poke holes in stories and imagine how we might have done better. I think George Lucas has been doing the same, having fun filling the holes in the original Star Wars universe, taking note of outside criticism, and plotting how to set the stage for the “main sequence” (episodes 4-6).
- It’s also fun to plot how things will turn around in the gap between the current storyline and the known story. For example, we can see the beginnings of the Empire in the designs of costumes and ships, and there’s a glimpse of a Death Star design. Also, while the Clones were fighting in the service of the Republic, they are clearly the first versions of the later Stormtroopers. The Republic’s downfall will not come from external attacks, so Count Dooku had no need to take on the Republic’s clone armies at this time. It doesn’t appear that he had a choice, since they were only invoked in the rescue attempt of Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Amidala. When Palpatine takes over, the Clones will presumably go with him and become the Stormtroopers.
Yikes! How many words was that? Get a life…