Kenobi – Episode 2 – A Complete Disaster

This review is only going to be about the first fifteen minutes or so of the episode, because that’s all I could stomach watching. I couldn’t watch any more – it was that bad. It’s rare that I can’t finish watching an episode of a television show if I intend to review it, but this episode was so bad it was repulsive.

Let’s dissect this episode moment-by-moment.

Kenobi lands on a city-planet called Daiyu. It’s like Coruscant, but not. As soon as Kenobi comes out of the spaceport terminal, he looks around at the busy environment as though slightly scared of it all. Already, this is bollocks. Obi-wan Kenobi has been in environments like this for most of his life. He’s spent a huge amount of time on Coruscant; he’s been all over the galaxy as a Jedi Knight, to countless different planets with different peoples, cultures, and technologies. He would not be scared of a busy street. ‘But he’s been living in isolation on Tatooine for ten years! He’s changed!!!’, I hear the Twitterati scream. No. When you’ve had that much experience of all these kinds of places, ten years on Tatooine is not enough to make you scared of it all again. What is this bizarre obsession with diminished characters that Hollywood and idiots on Twitter have nowadays? They relish in the idea of making great characters shit. It’s grotesque. Kenobi is a Jedi Master – he didn’t stop being that just because the Jedi Order was disbanded. He should still be an extremely powerful Jedi. He does not have this timidness at the end of Revenge Of The Sith; he doesn’t have it at the start of A New Hope. This is bollocks.

Kenobi goes and asks a random person about a ship he’s tracking. Why? Why does he go and ask this person? It isn’t apparent. And then we get some more insanely expository dialogue – the person replies ‘You’re in Daiyu now. All signals in or out are blocked. People like their secrets out here.’. This is just pathetic. A real person, in this setting, would not talk like this. This line reeks of the writers wanting to say something to the audience, but not having the talent to do it in a naturalistic way. The line is also performed in a way that only Hollywood actors can do – as though this one line is going to be their big break into television, if only they can perform it with enough over-the-top American brashness.

We see a lingering shot of a street on this planet. It lingers too long, suggesting that this street is somehow central or important – it’s one fucking street on a city planet – this street is not important. We see Kenobi wandering down the street, looking at the others on it. The framing of the shot and the primary-school-level acting of the other actors make you painfully aware that this is just a set (somewhere in Los Angeles, I assume). It’s a caricature of a ‘bustling street’ – makes you wonder if the writers and directors have ever even been down a busy street. (Perhaps this is enduring effects of America’s car-centric, non-walkable cities.) Kenobi just wanders around – you’d have no idea he was on a time-critical mission at all.

There’s a homeless clone army veteran at the side of the street. This allegory isn’t just on-the-nose – it’s kicking me in the head, I collapse, unconscious, and then it’s kicking me on the ground out of baseless spite.

A lot of people nowadays accuse television shows of being ‘political’. Now, this isn’t really a correct use of the word ‘political’, which ought to mean ‘having to do with polity’, where ‘polity’ means ‘the organisation and governance of human society’. This is a television show – it has nothing to do with organising society. But I know what these people mean – the term their looking for is ‘social commentary’. This is social commentary – it’s making a comment about society.

Now, I’ve written many allegorical stories in my life. In some of them the allegory is very obvious – deliberately so – and in others it’s a bit more obscure – also deliberately so. Now I would hope that my stories have never come across as preachy or patronising. (I would like to think that I could tell if that were the case, and edit that tone out, but it might be that when one is writing an allegorical story, one just can’t tell if it’s going to come across that way.) Because it is bad when stories or story elements come across as preachy. I think it’s particularly bad when the message is something that’s so obviously true (yes, it’s bad that there are so many homeless people – this isn’t a revolutionary thought), and when so little effort is put into the metaphor (I mean, here, they just have a homeless veteran in the street – that’s it – that’s the extent of the allegory – put some fucking effort in). It comes across as someone thinking their a genius for coming up with something everyone already knows and putting in very little thought or effort.

I think it’s fine for stories to have social commentary in them, but if it comes across as preachy, it completely pulls you out of the story, and you realise you’re just hearing the opinions of the writers. And I think in order to not be preachy, it’s got to be more deftly done than this.

We are 1:30 into the episode, and there has already been THIS much wrong with it.

Some Stormtroopers walk along the street saying ‘Clear a path.’. Why?

Then we get an absolutely disgusting scene. A random person comes up to Kenobi and says ‘You wan’t some spice, old man?’. This is very obviously a reference to the ‘deathsticks’ scene in Attack Of The Clones, but this time, rather than Kenobi instantly telling this person to go away and rethink their life, this person just gives him one of the substances she’s selling – Kenobi doesn’t even agree to take it – she just puts it in his pocket.

The sheer arrogance of the writers to do this. Apparently they were so insulted by a scene in the prequels telling a drug dealer to maybe stop selling that shit (I would guess because some of these writers are obsessed with consuming a particular intoxicant themselves), that they wanted to put in a new scene where instead Kenobi is just given some of this shit – doesn’t even get a choice. I have had the misfortune to meet a lot of very arrogant people in my life – I have never seen arrogance like this. It’s pathetic, disgusting, and grotesque. To be so self-obsessed, smug, and self-righteous that when given the opportunity to write a sequel to another writer’s work, all they can do is think about how they can undermine and displace what that writer did, to put their own vapid, self-centred, immoral worldview into every corner of it. There are few things in this world that I have been more revolted by.

We are then introduced to a fake Jedi who is some kind of people-trafficker. This allegory is harder to not notice than a used dildo in a public library. This scene tries to be funny, but it’s a style of humour that is very un-Star-Wars.

Kenobi then goes through some kind of drugs factory – again, this allegory is harder to not notice than a condom in a bride’s hair. This scene looks more like something out of a contemporary Marvel action show than something out of Star Wars.

Kenobi then finds his way further into the building / complex. It’s not really very clear where he is (other than a film studio somewhere in California). It’s a bit weird that the first street he tried on this city planet just happens to be the one with the building where Leia’s being kept, but that’s what happens when the writers are thinking more about shoving a message down the viewers’ throats than worldbuilding.

Kenobi is immediately found by some goons. They fight. We see that Kenobi has gotten a bit out-of-practice. Again, what the fuck is this obsession with diminishing characters?! This guy is a very skilled Jedi Master – taking on two goons should be piss-easy, even after ten years. Why? Because this guy is an incredibly skilled force user, and that doesn’t diminish with age (see Yoda). Bizarrely, Kenobi doesn’t use the Force or his lightsaber at any point in this fight, despite both being available.

There’s another fight. Kenobi continues not to use the Force or his lightsaber, for no good reason. Another goon comes in; there’s some pointless dialogue. Then the goon says ‘You’re not a Jedi anymore, Kenobi.’, and here once again we are hearing the voice of the writers, not the characters. The writers are thinking about Kenobi as ‘no longer being a Jedi’ – that thought was in their head when they were writing this show. But this just shows how utterly misguided they are. You don’t stop being a Jedi just because the Jedi Order has been disbanded. That would be like saying you stop being a Christian if the Vatican shut. Jediism is a way of life, and a belief system. As long as you continue to live the Jedi way of life, or continue believing in its tenets, you are still a Jedi.

We see a bit more of the Inquisitor – not the main one – the other one – Reva, I think she’s called? This actress has absolutely no ability to come across as menacing or threatening whatsoever. (And this time it can’t be put down to bad writing – she has some very short, simple lines, that should be easy to deliver well, but they are weak and ineffectual. This is what happens when your understanding of evil is merely a caricature of evil.)

Kenobi finds Leia, and once they’re out in the street again, Leia says ‘You seem kinda old and beat up.’ – once again, this is just the thoughts of the writers. This is such basic shit – I don’t think I have ever seen such bad writing in a television show. (I might even include the ending to Game of Thrones in that.)

The inquisitors talk to each other for a bit – the main one and Reva, with a few throw-away lines from the others. The whole thing comes across like an annual review in a big corporation, not like two dark side users talking to each other – it’s quite comical. The main inquisitor guy tells Reva that she’s the ‘least of us’ because she ‘came from the gutter’ – for fuck’s sake – when have force users ever cared about class? Dark side users care about one thing: the accumulation of power for its own sake. Your status is determined by your power, not your class. They don’t give a shit about where you came from.

The main inquisitor guy then puts Reva on leave, promising that HR will speak to her later.

And that’s it. That’s the first fifteen minutes. I couldn’t watch any more, and won’t. I mean, bloody hell, almost every frame of those fifteen minutes had an issue. It’s so bad it’s almost nauseating – I feel like throwing up.

This show is quite possibly the worst television I have ever seen, and I will not be watching any more of it. This isn’t Star Wars, or even remotely connected to it. This is artistic defilement.

Kenobi – Episode 1 – Just Dreadful

I haven’t seen any of the Disney Star Wars television series’ up until this point. In my opinion, The Last Jedi was just awful, and killed the franchise. (And The Rise Of Skywalker did nothing to counter this.) I’ve generally held the position that I won’t return to the franchise unless they decanonise The Last Jedi. So I’ve not seen any of The Mandalorian or The Book Of Boba Fett. I haven’t seen the Han Solo movie either.

But I decided to watch (at least the first episode of) the new Kenobi series. I didn’t have high hopes for it, but I liked Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel films, and thought he might be able bring a similar magic to this show.

But it’s garbage.

Starting with the worst part of it: the dialogue. The dialogue is just awful. It’s some of the worst-written dialogue I have ever seen on television. It’s glaringly expository – so obviously trying to just inform the audience about who’s who and what’s what that it immediately pulls you out of the story. When the main villain says his first line, I actually laughed out loud, it was so badly written.

The villains spend an awful lot of time monologuing. (It’s like the writers have never seen The Incredibles.) Monologuing isn’t so bad in a melodramatic, somewhat flamboyant and romantic setting like the actual films, but it really doesn’t work in a show that’s trying to be gritty. It also doesn’t work as the opener for your villains. The villains in this show spend a ridiculous amount of time pacing backwards and forwards, surrounded by what must be 0.0001% of Mos Eisley’s total population (I assume it’s Mos Eisley – I don’t think it’s ever said). They desperately try to look menacing and evil, but the writers seem to have a cartoon idea of what evil is. These characters have no presence whatsoever, and do not appear threatening.

Moving on to the next-worst part: there’s basically no plot. One of the first rules of writing for television must surely be: in the first episode, establish what your protagonists want, and are trying to do, and establish what your antagonists want, and are trying to do, and create tension between them. I see so many shows ignoring this principle nowadays – including this one. What does Kenobi want? Well … just to sit around and work cutting up meat in the desert. Not very compelling. What do the Jedi hunters want? To find Jedi. Kind of obvious in the name. How are they going to do it? Just sort of walking around and occasionally smouldering. There are three of them, but they don’t seem to have individual motivations. Leia gets captured, but obviously we know she’s fine in the end, so no real suspense there.

These things alone are enough to condemn the first episode, if not the whole series (which is only going to be six episodes long, so they’ve wasted the first episode not doing the essentials). But there are various other weird things that the show does that pull you out of it.

The main one is that where Kenobi works – at some kind of thrown-together outdoor factory in the middle of the desert, next to the body of some large creature that they’re cutting up and getting the meat from – when all of the workers finish for the day (which, curiously, is when the suns are still high in the sky), they just leave all these huge slabs of meat out in the desert sun. They do this every day. I was staring at the screen thinking ‘You’re just going to leave raw meat out in the desert sun? And then you’re going to continue cutting it up for sale the tomorrow? What?!’. How switched-off do you have to be not to notice a problem like that when you’re writing? Did no-one mention that during the production? (Or worse, and more likely, someone mentioned it, but a bad culture on the production meant that that person was ignored or shut down.)

Another one: Leia’s toy flying droid has a circular saw attachment, which it uses to untie her hands after she’s captured. What the fuck kind of children’s toy has a circular saw attachment? This droid isn’t big either – there is limited space for what kind of attachments to give it, and apparently the manufacturers decided on a circular saw.

They’ve also decided to do a Luke Skywalker on Obi-Wan Kenobi – he’s now a bitter, reluctant old guy who doesn’t want anything to do with the Jedi anymore. I mean, for goodness’ sake, who’s writing this shit? People didn’t like that in The Last Jedi; they’re not going to like it here. Stop doing this – it isn’t a good character point.

So it looks like this series is going to be a disaster. It’s a shame, because I don’t think it had to be. The CGI on the show is mostly excellent (though there are a few weird moments where it falls apart completely). The music is not especially good, but it’s not dreadful either – it’s passable. McGregor does what he can with the lines he’s been given, but he’s been given shit lines and no character work. The young actress who plays Leia is quite good (some very unrealistic lines, but quite fun). But while I like seeing a lot more of Alderaan, I don’t think they’ve chosen a particularly interesting story path for Leia.

So it looks like Disney continues to have no idea how to make Star Wars stuff, and continues pumping out shit.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope – Review

On to the originals. My posts about these films aren’t really going to be reviews, so much. Almost everyone already agrees that these are good films, so there’s no need for me to go through them and point out the good things in them. Instead, in these posts, I’m just going to make some observations about the films, and point out that some of the things that the prequels are criticised for also exist in the originals, but a lot of people are much more forgiving of them.

Watching the films in the order that is chronological for the internal universe really highlights that the original Star Wars films were very simple films. The prequels are a lot busier by comparison – a lot more happens in them, over far greater scales, and it happens a lot faster. In fact I think the complexity of the prequels is part of the reason why a lot of people don’t like them (not that I ever really hear anyone say that), whereas the simplicity of the originals is partly why they are so successful. The originals don’t try to do too much – why, in Episode V, Han, Chewbacca, and Leia spend most of their time just trying to avoid capture. In this way the originals are also unlike the main Disney films. Those films are also very busy – it seems to be a very common thing with modern Hollywood films – they don’t like to have a scene with just two characters talking or trying to solve a problem – they like to have five characters all talking to each other while trying to solve one problem while walking to another location where there’s another problem.

An example of the simplicity of this film is right at the start. When C-3PO and R2-D2 land on Tatooine in their escape pod, they land in the middle of nowhere. This is very likely, given that Tatooine is mostly desert. Their first objective is to find their way out of the desert. Even this goes wrong, and they end up being captured by the Jawas. They do eventually find Luke and get to Obi-wan, but all of this takes quite a bit of screen time. If this were a Disney film, I expect the droids would land right outside wherever it is that Obi-wan lives.

In the original films, C-3PO and R2-D2 get a lot more to do, and are a lot more interesting. They don’t get as much to do in the prequels – partly because those films are just so busy – and they are merely accessories in the Disney films. The banter between them is much better in the originals – it’s great that R2-D2 plays the fool in order to get his way, and that we can tell that simply from what he does and what C-3PO says.

Peter Cushing is just amazing. He has such extraordinary presence. Just from the way he walks into the room in his first scene, you can tell that he’s in charge – the way he walks is brisk, confident, and assured, but not arrogant – which is what you would expect from someone near to the top of the empire, and who has a lot of power and authority. Despite there being other people playing similar parts in Star Wars films since then, no-one has managed to equal that portrayal – no-one else has had that presence.

Even though it was actually different in the original version of A New Hope, when it came out in cinemas, I really like the concept of Jabba the Hutt. I really like the idea of giant slugs being the mobsters of the universe. This shows the raw creativity that went into the original Star Wars films. Again, if this were a Disney film, Jabba the Hutt would probably have been humanoid. The Disney films seemed to be very against having any characters that deviated much from humans.

As with the prequels, there are some bad reaction shots in this film. In fact there’s one particularly egregious example, and that’s Luke’s reaction to seeing his aunt and uncle incinerated. This reaction is nowhere near strong enough. This reaction is so underplayed that the first two or three times that I watched this film (many years ago now – back when I was about twelve or something), I didn’t even realise that those skeletons were his aunt and uncle. I just thought that they were two other random people who happened to be in the area – precisely because Luke’s reaction isn’t very strong. Luke is looking at the bloody skeletons of his aunt and uncle, and his reaction is to just slowly look away. It’s not strong enough.

There are also several bad lines in this film. The dialogue between Luke and Han when Luke tries to convince Han to rescue Leia is a bit unrealistic. And the dialogue between Luke and Biggs is – I dislike the word ‘cheesy’, but that’s the only word that really describes it. The performance of that dialogue is amateurish. It’s bad in the same way that some of the dialogue in the prequels is bad.

They convey the sense of scale in this film very well. This is something I’m very interested in with films that have very large objects or environments in them. In this film, the Death Star genuinely feels big. This is something that they failed to do in The Force Awakens – in that film, Starkiller Base did not come across as something planet-sized. Conveying scale well is all about physics. Large objects in large environments work differently to everyday-sized objects. Another example of a film that failed to convey scale well was Jupiter Ascending. In that film, ships go in and out of Jupiter’s Red Eye storm. The ships are shown as being comparable in size to the storm itself, but in reality, the Eye of Jupiter is 1.3 times the width of planet Earth – far bigger than the ships.

Part of how the scale of the Death Star is conveyed is the final battle of the film. The final battle has a lot of screen time, and we see a lot of the surface of the Death Star in it. This close, the surface of the Death Star appears flat. This is what shows its scale – we’ve seen that the Death Star appears spherical from afar, but when you get close to it, it’s so big that you can’t tell at all – and we see lots of positions in between these two extremes throughout the film.

This final battle also shows the simplicity of the film – which is part of its success. The rebels make multiple attempts to blow up the Death Star, and several of them fail. This raises the tension. As the battle goes on, fewer and fewer ships remain to make the attempt, and the more times they fail, the harder we understand it to be. The fact that the film takes its time in this battle is what makes it successful.

And finally, my favourite scene in this film is the final one – for one reason: the music. The music in the final scene is just fantastic. Of course, this film being the first Star Wars film, it gets the credit for all of the main music in the series, but I particularly like the music in that final scene. It’s not just triumphant, but a true finale.

So this film is good, but not without its flaws. Its main success over the prequels comes from it giving enough time for the various scenes and sequences – it doesn’t rush anything. In terms of raw creativity, world-building, performances, music – this film and any of the prequels are roughly equal, I think.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones – Review

So, Episode II. The objective with this review is going to be the same as with the previous one. The objective is to examine some of the main flaws of the film (some, but not all), but also to point out some of the good things in it.

To broadly summarise the problems with this film, while its overall structure moves things in the right direction (in the sense that it sets up many of the things that it needs to for Anakin’s fall and Palpatine’s rise in the subsequent film) it again comes across more as an outline than a story. Many crucial scenes are too short, and crucial reactions are wrong or missing. Many of the scenes do not develop the tension as the story progresses. Because of this I’m going to have to go through the film in (mostly) chronological order.

The first scene of interest is the scene where we see Obi-wan and Anakin in the elevator. This is when we first see the older Anakin, and when we see how much time has passed between the previous film and this one.

This scene attempts to set up the relationship between Anakin and Obi-wan. This scene tries to show us that even though Obi-wan is Anakin’s mentor, and is senior to him within the Jedi Order, they are friends, and have had many off-screen adventures. They have – dare I say – a bit of banter. (It’s pretty weak, early-2000s banter, but it is banter.) This is supposed to show how well they know each other, but it’s actually a bit off. I wouldn’t describe the dialogue in this scene as rigid, but it doesn’t really sell it. This scene comes across – slightly – as two actors acting, rather than two people who know each other very well talking as they realistically would. It’s not very convincing. This is a problem, because the final battle between Anakin and Obi-wan in the next film is made much more significant if we are convinced that these two people have known each other for a decade and were friends.

This is, I think, primarily a writing problem. The dialogue that’s been written for this scene is not easy to perform. It’s quite minimal – it includes only what it needs to in order to convey the facts of the story and no more. This is a problem with A LOT of the dialogue in this film. It might have been good, in this part of the scene, to let the actors improvise, but of course it’s very difficult for actors to improvise if the story takes place in a very different universe (because they don’t know what the reference points would be).

This scene also attempts to set up that Anakin is nervous to meet Padmé, which it does quite well. I actually think that Hayden Christensen performs many of the lines in this scene very well. (It’s mainly Ewan McGregor’s lines that are a bit off.)

After this, Obi-wan and Anakin meet Padmé, who is now the senator for Naboo. This is the second scene of interest (well, really it’s the same scene as the previous one, but for simplicity let’s call it the second scene). This is also a crucial scene.

This scene tries to show us, again, that Anakin is nervous to meet Padmé, and that this is because he hasn’t stopped thinking about her since they met ten years ago. This is an often-criticised scene. A lot of people complain that this scene is wooden or awkward. But I think this criticism is incorrect. Anakin is supposed to be awkward when he first meets Padmé in this film, because he is nervous. Anakin has spent the last ten years living and training within a religious order – he has no experience of this. I think Christensen performed this in the right way. I think the problem with this scene is that we don’t get the right reaction shots. We don’t get any reaction shot of Obi-wan, who is standing right next to him, and who must have seen and heard the whole thing. We needed a reaction shot from Obi-wan expressing ‘What on earth are you doing?’. We also needed a slightly different reaction from Padmé. While Padmé’s reaction does suggest that she’s noticed how awkward Anakin is being, it’s not strong enough, given just how awkward Anakin is being. A third reaction shot from one of the other characters in the room would also have been good. So the problem with this part of the scene is that we the audience don’t get the sense that the characters have realised the same things we’ve realised, even though they should.

The same problem happens later in the scene. When they’re all talking about what Obi-wan and Anakin are there to do, Anakin cuts in and promises more than what they’re supposed to do, and Obi-wan has to walk things back. This moment is in many ways quite good – it shows that Anakin is headstrong and will argue back with people who are senior to him in the Jedi Order. These are traits that lead to various events in this film, and to his eventual downfall. However, again, in this part of the scene, we don’t get the right reaction shots and we don’t get enough of them. Anakin arguing back against a senior Jedi – which he’s not supposed to do, and everyone there knows it – should make the whole conversation tense, and we should see this in reaction shots from the other characters, but we don’t. This gives the whole interaction less of an impact. However, as I say, it does show the essential traits of Anakin.

The third scene of interest is shortly after this. It starts with Anakin and Obi-wan standing guard outside the room where Padmé’s sleeping. An assassination attempt is made, and it leads to a speeder chase through Coruscant at night.

At the start of this scene, there is some dialogue between Anakin and Obi-wan. Anakin says how he would like to dream of Padmé, and for the first time in the film we get some indication that Obi-wan has realised that Anakin is attracted to Padmé. He reminds Anakin ‘You have made a commitment to the Jedi Order – a commitment not easily broken.’.

This moment is crucial. In this moment, we the audience are informed that Anakin must not fall for Padmé. It’s important that we understand the magnitude of this – we must really get a sense that this must not happen. Without that sense, we will not get a strong enough sense that Anakin and Padmé’s romance is a forbidden one, and we won’t get a sense of foreboding as we watch it happen. We don’t really get this sense strongly enough in this scene – because it’s only one line. In this moment we really needed to get a sense of what would happen if Anakin were to fall for Padmé – we needed a stronger sense of what the consequences to that would be. We needed more of an idea of how the Jedi Order – the institution – would react, and we don’t really get that.

Another important aspect of this scene happens during the speeder chase. I get a sense that a lot of people don’t like the speeder chase. I myself have never minded it, because I have always found that it is the other things that are happening that are more interesting and important.

During this chase, we see even more examples of Anakin being headstrong – he does several dangerous manoeuvres, despite Obi-wan’s warnings (and the fact that Anakin succeeds at those manoeuvres shows how he has become used to his extraordinary powers). But we also see, many times, another important aspect of how Anakin and Obi-wan interact. Obi-wan often berates Anakin (‘If you spent as much time practising your saber technique as you did your wit, you would rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.’, ‘I thought I already did.’, ‘Only in your mind, my very young apprentice.’) and Anakin often apologises to him. This is crucial.

The fourth scene of interest is shortly after this, and is the scene between Anakin and Padmé just before they leave for Naboo. In this scene, Anakin says how he finds Obi-wan frustrating. (‘It’s infuriating. He’s overly critical; he never listens.’) However, he then says that he does actually appreciate having Obi-wan as a mentor. (‘I am truly thankful to be his apprentice.’) Anakin first says that he finds Obi-wan frustrating, but then, knowing that he is supposed to follow the customs of the Jedi Order, and show deference to his teachers, he expresses that despite that, he is grateful for Obi-wan’s teaching. This is what we saw in the previous scene (and what we see throughout this film): Obi-wan berates Anakin, and then Anakin apologises, because he must follow the Jedi way, and show deference to those senior to him within the Order.

This scene between Anakin and Padmé is one of my favourite in this film. It shows – very well, I think – someone who has been brought up in a martial, religious order, which has a hierarchy, and customs and traditions associated with it, and a moral code, but who is also exceptionally gifted, and who is constantly frustrated by the constraints of that religious order. This is someone who has been told – for the last ten years – that he is the Chosen One – that he is expected to be a great Jedi – but every time he actually uses his exceptional gifts, he is berated for it. He is constantly expected to be the Chosen One, but is frustrated because his teacher and the Jedi Order are preventing him from achieving it. This is why I really like this scene. I think Hayden Christensen performs it very well.

Around this point in the film we get several scenes set in the Jedi Temple. Getting to see more of the Jedi Temple is one of my favourite parts of this film. I really enjoy seeing the Jedi Order at its height. One of the frustrating things about the Disney films is that we never got to see any kind of new Jedi Order. I like just seeing inside the Jedi Temple – the cavernous hallways – it’s incredibly immersive.

I really like the scene in the Jedi Archives – with one of my favourite characters in the series: Jocasta Nu. Jocasta Nu is basically the Jedi’s head librarian. Obi-wan is in the Jedi Archives, trying to look up Kamino, and Jocasta Nu comes over to him, and says in a very fusty tone ‘Are you having a problem Master Kenobi?’. After Obi-wan shows her that Kamino isn’t showing up on the main computer, she insists that therefore Kamino does not exist, and then bustles off to help a young padawan. I really like this – I like the idea of a fusty librarian in the Jedi Order who’s not afraid to tell Jedi masters that they’re talking nonsense. I like that this reminds us that the Jedi Temple – as well as being, essentially, both a shrine and a military command centre – is also a school, and that lots of young Jedi spend their lives there. We see this even more as, after Jocasta Nu has finished dealing with Obi-wan, she goes off to help another young student. (And also, since Jocasta Nu is quite a lot older than Obi-wan, she might well have been a librarian even when Obi-wan was a young student or a padawan.)

We get another scene set in the Jedi Temple shortly after this – the scene where Yoda is teaching some very young students. I really like this scene too, despite the fact that it doesn’t make sense. Obi-wan has gone to Yoda to ask why the planet Kamino – which he trusts does exist – wouldn’t show up in the archives. Now, Obi-wan already knows the coordinates of where the planet’s supposed to be, and he knows that all the stars around the star system are being affected by gravity from something that’s there. If you know all of that, it doesn’t take much to realise that the data has been deleted, and that if you just go to those coordinates, you’ll find the planet. But seemingly, Obi-wan and Yoda need to ask some six-year-olds. This doesn’t really make sense. (In fairness, Yoda might have realised the answer, but just saw this as a teaching opportunity for his students, and Obi-wan might have had such strong conviction in the completeness of the Jedi archives that he just didn’t think it would be possible for anything to have been deleted.)

However, there are many things that I like about this scene. I like that we get to see Yoda teaching, and we see that Yoda – grandmaster of the Jedi Council, figurehead for a galactic religion (basically the equivalent of the Pope but for the religion of the Force), and quite possibly the most powerful Jedi of all time – still sometimes teaches the beginners. It really sells the idea that the Jedi Temple is a school, and that even Jedi like Yoda, who has Jedi Council meetings all the time, and often meets with important figures like the chancellor of the republic, are still involved in the day-to-day running of a school. Again, it’s incredibly immersive.

I also like how Yoda and Obi-wan speak to each other in this scene. Yoda essentially ‘performs’ for the students, pretending to admonish Obi-wan, as though he were another student, even though he’s another teacher to these six-year-olds. This reminds me a lot of what teachers would do in my secondary school – if one teacher came into your German class and had to ask something of your German teacher, the teacher coming in had to talk in German, as though they too were part of the class.

In this part of the film we’re cutting between scenes with Anakin and Padmé and scenes with Obi-wan – the film’s A and B plots – though one of the problems is that it’s difficult to tell which is the film’s A plot and which is the film’s B plot. These films are about Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, so in a way, the plot with Anakin and Padmé should be the A plot, but the plot with Obi-wan seems to get far more screen-time, even though it’s a lot of action scenes and CGI. Again, I wonder if this is because George Lucas was too focused on the bigger picture of the events leading up to the clone wars.

We get a scene between Anakin and Padmé as they are travelling to Naboo. I really like this scene, because we get to learn more about the Jedi Order – what it’s core precepts are – and also what Anakin thinks of them. This is something that I would have liked to have seen more of in Star Wars – what is it really like to be a Jedi, to live in the temple? What’s it like growing up in that system? What are the rules? How do young Jedi respond to those rules? As it is, I like this scene, but it’s a bit short – it cuts off in a bit of an odd place. While we learn some interesting things about the Jedi in this scene, nothing happens apart from that. It should probably have been merged with another scene later or earlier, so that the whole thing could be a bit slower, and a bit more in-depth. As I say, one of the problems with the prequel films is that many scenes just aren’t complete.

We get some great world-building at this point in the film with Kamino – what looks like a planet that is entirely covered by ocean. The Kaminoans look distinct from the species’ we’ve seen so far, and they seem to have a distinct culture and customs as well. At the same time, in the other plot, the location that they chose for that part of Naboo – which is Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como in northern Italy – is just stunning. This one location choice is better than anything we got in the Disney films.

We also get some great music with Across The Stars – probably my favourite piece of music in the whole series. As a theme, it’s used for Anakin and Padmé’s romance, and it’s absolutely perfect for this. The piece is sweeping, epic, romantic, but also tragic, because this romance will lead to the fall of Anakin, and the rise of Palpatine. This one piece of music is better than everything produced by Disney.

It’s at this point in the film that we get the infamous line ‘I don’t like sand.’. People who despise the prequels seem to think that this line is proof that the prequels are the worst films ever made, but watching this film back, this line is completely forgettable. The reactions to this line are completely over-the-top. (And the same people seem to have no problem with ‘I saved you, dummy!’ from the Disney films, which is infinitely worse.)

Shortly after this, we get a scene between Anakin and Padmé where they’re just sitting in a meadow, talking about politics. What I like about this scene is that it shows Anakin’s naïveté when it comes to politics. The system he proposes as an alternative to the current one is completely un-thought-out – when Padmé questions him on it, he has no good answers to the questions. This is good because it shows that Anakin can be easily manipulated by Palpatine. Anakin is not savvy enough to realise that Palpatine might have ulterior motives for doing things, or might be deceptive. The idea that Palpatine is both secretly fuelling the separatist movement, and fighting it, in order to justify being given more power, is well beyond the level of political thinking that Anakin is doing.

This scene is one of several intended to show the developing romance between Anakin and Padmé. A lot of people criticise Christensen’s performances in these scenes, but I think if you watch closely, they’re very good. The problem with a lot of these scenes is that they are too short, and that prevents them from building any romantic tension. As an audience, we must see that this romance is going to happen before it does. This gives the storyline suspense, and this is what makes it engaging. I think doing this requires having longer, slower scenes, and having the right reaction shots at the right time – which, as I’ve said many times already, is one of the things that these films often get wrong.

One scene that I think Christensen performs exceptionally well is the scene between Anakin and Padmé at the Lars family home on Tatooine after Anakin has attacked the sand people. I don’t know how anyone could think that that scene is badly performed by Christensen. The reactions from Padmé are lacking – whether this is due to the way Portman chose to perform it or direction from Lucas is difficult to tell here. Padmé doesn’t seem at all shocked by what Anakin tells her, despite everything us knowing about the character suggesting that she should be.

But this scene really sells Anakin’s frustration. He wants to be a great Jedi, and he knows he can be, but killing the sand people puts that in jeopardy. There is a great expectation on him to be the Chosen One, but it’s all going wrong. He needs a mentor who is not going to berate him, in the way that we’ve seen Obi-wan do the entire film. Obi-wan might be very good at teaching Anakin the more practical aspects of being a Jedi, like using the Force and wielding a lightsaber, but he’s not very good at helping Anakin deal with attachment and impulsiveness. At this moment, Anakin needs a mentor who is not Obi-wan, but he doesn’t have access to anyone at that moment, and even when he gets back to Coruscant, there will be very few people – if anyone – within the Jedi Order who can help.

We then move into the final part of the film. The world-building of Geonosis is excellent. This planet looks different again to what we’ve seen before, with the distinct Geonosian architecture. The Geonosians are unlike anything we’ve seen before in appearance, and their language is distinct, and relates to their particular biology. We also get Christopher Lee as Count Dooku. As I’ve said before, many of the lines that Lucas wrote are a bit off – they’re a bit obvious and cliché – but even these lines Christopher Lee manages to pull off, showing just what a great actor can do even with a bad script. (Although sometimes a script can be so bad that even a great actor can’t perform it well.)

When Anakin and Padmé arrive on Geonosis we get an action sequence of them in the droid factory. This I think is the worst part of the film. This action sequence does nothing. It happens by accident, and Anakin and Padmé achieve nothing from it. On top of that, they could have avoided the machines just by stepping to the side at any point – the conveyor belts have panels on the side that you could stand on. Or even easier – just walk along the conveyor in the opposite direction to that which it’s moving in, then you won’t get hit by the various robotic arms. This sequence takes up A LOT of time considering it adds nothing to the story.

This is actually true of several sequences towards the end of the film. The fight above Geonosis between Obi-wan and Jango Fett is similarly pointless, and also quite long, though I do give the film points for showing us a different kind of space battle to what we’ve seen before – taking place in an asteroid field, and having Obi-wan and Jango actually use the asteroids to their advantage. That’s more than we got from any of the Disney films.

The sequence in the arena is also over-long. It starts with Obi-wan, Anakin, and Padmé being chained to the pillars to be executed. The Geonosians release the different beasts, which are swiftly killed. The Jedi turn up to take down Dooku, and there’s a big battle between them and the droids. Then Yoda turns up with the clones from Kamino. Most of this adds nothing to the story, and it takes up a lot of time. This sequence also has no tension. At no point does it really seem like Obi-wan, Anakin, or Padmé might die. It’s just not established that this situation is in any way all that dangerous.

A way to streamline this part of the film would have been to cut out the battle in space between Obi-wan and Jango Fett, and instead give them a battle in the arena. They’ve already had one fight in this film, of course, so it might be too much to have another, but Jango Fett goes down a bit too quickly.

One thing I did like about this sequence is that when Anakin and Padmé are brought into the arena and tied up, the first thing Obi-wan does is berate Anakin, and Anakin apologises to him, despite Anakin coming there to rescue him, reinforcing again just how completely unsuitable Obi-wan is as a mentor to Anakin at this point.

As I say, the action sequences in this part of the film are too long, and do nothing. It would have been far more valuable to give some of that time to the scenes between Anakin and Padmé, as their romance is a crucial part of this trilogy and the hexalogy as a whole. Many of their scenes are too short. One in particular is the scene just before Anakin and Padmé are taken into the arena, where Padmé finally says that she loves Anakin. This should have been a big, big moment in the film – if anything the moment that everyone comes away from the film talking about and remembering most vividly, as it is utterly crucial to Anakin’s storyline. As it is, the scene is too short, and there is no tension. In this scene, we should really have gotten a sense that these two are in danger – that they really are about to be executed. This could have been shown by Padmé’s fear. (Anakin would be unlikely to be fearful in this situation, as he will have been used to using the Force to get out of situations like this by this point.) The greater we sense Padmé’s fear, the bigger the impact that her saying she loves Anakin has – because we understand the importance of the sentiment at that moment. (The fact that this sentiment lacks impact in the film is also – and in large part – due to not enough focus being given to the romance storyline up to that point.)

As for the battle between Obi-wan, Anakin, and Dooku, I quite like it – it shows Anakin’s flaws very well. As for the battle between Yoda and Dooku, I know a lot of people don’t like it. I like the fact that we get to see just how agile Yoda can become when necessary, by channelling the Force into his movements, and Christopher Lee is brilliant as always, but the fight certainly seems to lack a distinct choreography. None of the camera angles used seem to be particularly satisfying angles to see the fight from. I think the first time we see Yoda use a lightsaber, we ought to be able to describe it with more adjectives than just ‘fast’.

So, to summarise, like the last film, many of the scenes in this film are incomplete. Many of the scenes are too short and lack the right reaction shots. There is an overemphasis on action – particularly towards the end of the film – and an underemphasis on the crucial plotline of this film, which is Anakin and Padmé’s romance. There is some excellent world-building, some sublime music, some brilliant actors, some great performances, and we really get to understand Anakin’s flaws, the frustration he has being the Chosen One, and how it is both the wrong guidance from Obi-wan, and the wrong guidance from the Jedi Order as a whole, that lead to his fall.