Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Quantifying Star Wars: Part 2.1 (Episodes V & II)

Readers, today I envy you.  Today you get to sit back and read about Attack of the Clones (episode II) without actually having to watch Attack of the Clones.  By the way, feel free to toss on Empire (episode V) while you read.  I'd highly recommend it.

If you haven't picked up on it, this week I worked on the next two films in each of the Star Wars trilogies.  For the original trilogy that means The Empire Strikes Back, and for the prequel trilogy that means Attack of the Clones.

I'm not going to go into as much detail on the opening for this part, as if you want some of the setup and explanation you can start at the first part of this series, here: ( )

The idea of last week was that lack of character depth could be partly attributed to the breadth of characters introduced.  A sacrifice of quality for quantity, so to speak.  By coding the times in the movies that characters were mentioned, introduced, and killed, it gave a different sort of picture by which to compare the movies.

Spoiler alert: Episode I has a lot of characters, and almost none of them die.  Episode IV has quite a smaller cast, and lots of those characters are eventually killed.  So how do things look if we apply the same sort of coding to episodes II & V?

Well, here's Empire:

And here's Clones:

I kept both of these on the same scale that I used for The Phantom Menace to keep things easily comparable across all the movies.  I'm not sure yet if the last two movies will fit, but it's at least a good sign that both of these movies fit on it. 

The first thing I notice is that fewer characters die in Empire - at least in comparison to the first movie in its trilogy, A New Hope.  In A New Hope characters were killed all over the place - in Empire the number of characters killed is 7.  This is the same number that were killed in The Phantom Menace, but still almost twice as many as are killed in Attack of the Clones.

To be completely fair, two of the 'deaths' in Empire are worth discussion.  I am including in them both C3P0 and Han Solo.  Let me explain.  Suffice it to say there will be spoilers (but almost no blood).

Han Solo is tricky, as his freezing in carbonite marks the end of his input into the rest of the film.  He is now simply a stationary prop, not a character.  While the comment is made that he is in perfect hibernation, he is from a character standpoint - all intents and purposes - dead.  This is something that could be debated (and I'd love to hear debate on it), but I'm basing things partly on the fact that from a screenwriting/directing/acting standpoint Harrison Ford has no more work to do.

If I think to other movies for similar situations I'm drawn back to Lord of the Rings, and the character of Gandalf.  If you're familiar with LOTR this one probably starts to make sense to you, and if you're not I'm actually not going to spoil this one.  Okay, just a little - Gandalf also gets frozen in carbonite.    

The other character is C3P0, and there's an interesting contrast to his mortality across these two movies.  In Empire - shortly after arrival in Cloud City - C3P0 wanders off from the group and stumbles into a room of stormtroopers (though it's only revealed that there are stormtroopers later).  He tries to back out but is shot by a blaster - his parts scattered across the hallway.  He is decapitated by this blast and he appears to lose power, functionally dead.  His broken parts are about to be fed into a furnace when Chewie stumbles upon him.  Chewie doesn't just turn him back on, he puts his parts in a box.  He starts working on fixing him, but it's a long process, and likely only possible at all due to Chewie's mechanical prowess.  C3P0 is barely back together at the end of the film, after intensive work from both Chewie and R2D2.

I tried to think about things as if I had never seen Empire before.  When C3P0 was shot I moved him into the 'killed' column.  When he was reactivated by Chewie I moved him out of the 'killed' and back into the 'appeared' - it's why you'll see a 'takeback' of sorts in the 'killed' curve for Empire.

In Attack of the Clones, C3P0 is also violently decapitated.  Did I have to move him to the 'killed' column?  Nope.  He never stops talking.  He's a little disoriented, but it doesn't seem to affect him in the slightest.  His body continues walking around, ala Frankenstein.  Shortly after decapitation his head is welded onto a battle droid, and a battle droid head is welded onto his body.  Both continue to express slight disorientation, but also continue to function.  In fact, both continue to act like battle droids, raising some questions about where commands originate in Star Warsian droids.

A blaster shot again violently decapitates the battle droid head off of C3P0's body, and C3P0's head is violently pulled off by R2D2, dragged across the ground, and then hastily reapplied.  C3P0 never seems overly concerned (at least by C3P0 standards), but more than that he never comes even remotely close to a state that could be considered 'killed', and so no change had to be made to his state on the charts.

Now, it makes sense that there are less deaths in Empire than in A New Hope.  In A New Hope a ton of the deaths happen when Red and Gold Squadrons are assaulting the death star.  They are a dozen or so people assaulting a small moon, and the overwhelming odds pay off in almost complete extermination.

The entire story of Empire is about running away.  The rebels aren't trying to stop the imperial fleet on Hoth, they're trying to buy time for a hasty evacuation.  Luke removes himself from both the rebels and the empire and retreats to Dagobah , where there is no signs of war whatsoever.  The Millenium Falcon and its passengers spend the entire remainder of the movie trying to evade and escape imperial pursuit.  The death count is low because they are not fighting, they're fleeing.  Beyond that, they're fleeing in a ship that has a history of evasion.

[update - I originally mistakenly cited 'Dantooine' instead of 'Dagobah', which was caught by a few readers.  Just wanted to point it out as a good situation where a few extra sets of eyes caught something that I would have kept erring on over and over - this is why it pays to pay people to proofread something, regardless of how many times you might have proofed it yourself, Lucas]

Aside from Han and C3P0, which were described above, the only other deaths were a couple members of Rogue Squadron while fighting the Battle of Hoth and a couple members of the imperial fleet that Darth Vader chokes and kills unceremoniously.

Attack of the Clones is about the start of a full-fledged galactic war.  Unlike A New Hope where a small force is looking to exploit a strategic vulnerability, Attack of the Clones involves full scale, army-to-army, open conflict.  We'd expect this situation to prove a bit more fatal...right?

Deaths of actual characters in Attack of the Clones come roughly every 40 minutes or so.  The opening scene involves the death (by explosion) of one of Amidala's decoys, which seems like it might be setting a pace a little more grim than that of The Phantom Menace.  The next character to die is generic shape-shifting bounty hunter (by poison dart).  An accident-free hour almost elapses before Shim Skywalker is introduced, and almost immediately dies of...exhaustion?  Starvation?  Relief?  Prior wounds?  Boredom?

Slow up to that point, but then a war starts.  A star war.  

Yousa thinking yousa people gonna die?  Well, maybe Jar Jar.  But not if they have names.  Just Jango Fett.

It's okay that he's decapitated because he's wearing a suit and helmet, and it's functionally almost no different than C3P0's decapitation.  There's no blood, no guts, just a lifeless suit and helmet.  It might as well have been some Fullmetal Alchemist action going on there.  At least the suit of armor in Fullmetal Alchemist has some blood in it.  When Jango is killed it doesn't feel like Jango the guy has been killed.  It feels like Jango the suit of armor has been killed.  It feels like he's been removed from the suit, and the suit is all that remains.  Do you know what else that removes?  Emotion.      

Anyway, the entirety of Attack of the Clones is as dangerous guessed it - ONE POD RACE.

I want to make one more point on character deaths for a moment.  I'm not going to dwell on it, because you can go back to the last post for more on it, but I want to point out another death that is set up similar to that of Biggs in A New Hope.

At the start of the battle of Hoth, Dak is introduced as Luke's gunner.  It's quick, and his main line is "right now I feel like I could take on the whole empire myself!"  In that simple line you get the picture of his character and start to root for him to actually take them on.  Minutes later, Luke fails to pull Dak's unconscious body out of his speeder after being shot down, and Dak is crushed under the foot of an imperial walker and unceremoniously killed.  It adds to the despair of the audience because moments earlier you were rooting for this kid to take on the empire and he has now (literally) been crushed under them.  You now feel like maybe you can't take on the empire, and retreat is a reasonable option.  You're in there with them, and feeling the same emotions and motivations.  These moods and emotions are something we'll cover in a bit. 

Anyway, deaths aside, we can also just look at how many living characters there are in each of the movies up to this point:

I'm actually surprised how similar the trajectory is between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.  I think the biggest difference is that in Attack of the Clones the audience is introduced to a room of a dozen or so characters almost immediately, which accounts for that early spike.  It raises a good point, as a lot of (but not all) of those characters are characters that have been introduced in Phantom Menace.  What would these lines look like if characters were removed that had already been introduced in the prior movie?
Feel free to speculate on it, but it's something we're not quite ready for.  I do plan to look at that after we have all the movies taken care of, though.  

A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back are also somewhat similar - I think the biggest difference in those is that the main battles (Hoth & Yavin 4) take place at drastically different points.  These battles are where a lot of characters are introduced all at once.  The Battle of Hoth is basically still in the opening of Empire while the death star run is the close of A New Hope.  It's a different type of pacing that gives the movies distinct feels.

A New Hope is all about the buildup to the death star run, while Empire is all about the aftermath of Hoth.  It makes A New Hope more about triumph, while Empire is more about futility.  All of the training and running in Empire simply postpones the inevitable.  At the end of A New Hope Luke and Han save the day against all odds.  You cheer with them.  At the end of Empire the odds catch up to them - Luke is no match whatsoever for Vader, and Han is frozen and hauled away by a bounty hunter.  You mourn for them. 

It got me to thinking about how the moods of the films differ between Attack of the Clones and Empire.  It also just got me to thinking about scenes in general.  Before watching either movie again my initial remembrance of Clones was that of a movie that jumped back and forth between Obi-Wan scenes and Amidala/Anakin scenes for most of the movie.  I remember that on first viewing, years ago, I kept finding myself incredibly bored by all the Ami/Ani scenes, and just constantly asking myself 'I wonder what Obi-Wan is doing?'  

I'm getting ahead of myself.  The important thing here are the scenes of the two different movies.  I decided that this was something else I could code for these two episodes to try to get a little deeper into things.  To start I had to define how I was going to code a scene.

Now, I realize I could just go to the DVD menu and pull up chapters or something, but I don't think that would be very rigorous.  Instead, I decided that I would define scenes as segments of the movie where action with a set of characters occurred basically uninterrupted and the mood was fairly uniform.

This produced a pretty decent amount of data.  I took note of a lot of stuff, much of which I'm going to hold off on for a second post sometime later this week.  For now we can talk about a few things that I tried to do.
First off, this allowed me to look at the number of scenes in each movie.  Empire had 56 scenes, and Clones had 61, but Clones is also around 15 minutes longer of a movie.  Most scenes in either movie are three minutes or less, so this extra 15 minutes more than allows for those five extra scenes.

One thing I did seem to notice is the fact that scenes in Empire have much softer beginnings and ends, and are really only separated by other scenes.  The action doesn't really stop, and it gives the feeling that a lot of things are happening at the same time.  In Attack of the Clones the scenes are a lot more self-contained.  The characters involved need to do something, or want to answer a question, or want to get somewhere.  They do it, and the scene is over.

Obi-Wan and Anakin need to meet Amidala.  Obi-Wan and Anakin need to catch the shape-shifter.  Obi-Wan needs to figure out where the dart came from.  Amidala needs to pack.  Anakin and Amidala need to leave the planet.  Obi-Wan needs to find a planet.  Obi-Wan needs to get to that planet.

I could keep going.  I'd rather not.

There's very few big-picture goals going on in Attack of the Clones.  What little actual big picture goals exist, they're never really fleshed out.  I guess Obi-Wan is trying to find the killer (despite saying that's not his job in the opening scene), then later trying to find Jango?  Amidala is trying to pass legislation?

Actually, I just read up on it, and I guess she's opposed to the legislation.  I remember the opening crawl said she needed to vote on something, but didn't say vote for which side.  I guess I got that wrong.  Whoops.  Oddly, that doesn't really change my interpretation of the movie in the slightest.  I guess that's how important that legislation turned out to be - it might as well have been a minor tax increase or something.

After she voted I guess she was trying to...stay safe until the next vote?  Or did she not vote yet?

Anakin's goals are easy - he is trying to lure Amidala into his windowless van.  More on that later in the week.

Let me know if you think I'm missing some big picture goals here, but this is what I'm getting at - goals are hard to come by, so we're stuck with these really small goals, like needing to pack a bag.

In Empire the big picture goals are simple and blatant.  Luke is trying to become a Jedi.  Han and Leia are trying to escape the pursuit of the imperial fleet.  Vader is trying to catch Luke.  All the smaller goals come directly from these larger goals.

Luke is trying to get to Dagobah to become a Jedi.  Luke is trying to find Yoda to become a Jedi.  Luke is trying to master the force to become a Jedi.  Luke is trying to lift the ship out of the water to become a Jedi.  Luke is fighting Vader because he thinks if he wins he'll show everyone he's a Jedi.

Han and Leia go into the asteroid field to escape the fleet.  Han and Leia try to fix the ship to escape the fleet.  Han and Leia go to Cloud City to try to get parts to fix the ship to escape the fleet.

Vader sends the probe droid to Hoth to find Luke.  Vader brings the fleet to Hoth to find Luke.  Vader comes to the surface to find Luke.  Vader sends star destroyers into the asteroid field to find Luke.  Vader kills his own officers because he's angry because he's not finding Luke.  Vader sets a trap in Cloud City to find Luke.

Is this sinking in?

This sort of aim or aimlessness manifests itself in the mood of scenes in each movie.  In Empire, the story of Luke and Vader is that of frustration and anger.  Luke is frustrated that he can't become a Jedi faster and gets angry, eventually directing this anger at Vader.  Vader is frustrated that he can't find Luke, and directs his anger at his own officers.  The story of Han and Leia is one of escape and despair.  The empire is constantly on their heels, they have very few small victories, and a lot more setbacks.

In Attack of the Clones, the Obi-Wan story comes off as a murder mystery.  He's constantly looking for something, but it's completely unclear to the audience (and him) what it is.  He's in libraries and diners and sneaking around places.  Unlike Vader and Luke or Han/Leia and the imperial fleet, Obi-Wan has no true antagonist.  There's nothing and no one for him to play off of or share motivation with.

Amidala and Anakin are similarly lacking any antagonist, unless you count themselves as each other's.  Tell me, why are Amidala and Anakin having a picnic in front of waterfalls?  Why are they having a fancy dinner?  Why are they riding native animals?  Why are they getting married?

Seriously, I get the heavy-handed overtones telling me that it's supposed to be a love story, but there is simply no love on display at any part of this movie.  Love was never the dominant mood of any singular scene.  Anakin and Amidala are not doing these things because they are in love, they are doing these things so that they will eventually have a reason (if you think they eventually do) to say that they're in love.  There is a much longer discussion to be had here about the contrasting love stories of Empire and Clones, but I think I am going to push it off until later in the week as it's exceptionally harder to quantify, and I want to talk about actual things that were coded in this post.

Speaking of, the coding of scenes is what got me to thinking about the things in the last few paragraphs.  Before sitting down to either movie I decided to simply code each scene with one word (sometimes two) that reflected the overarching mood of the scene.  I had very few preconceptions of how this would work out, and it's only by doing it that I think I realized some of the main themes that were present in each movie.

Beyond that, I had to come up with ways to identify each scene, and I was looking for ways to keep myself entertained.  To that end I also tried to come up with good names for each scene.  I had more fun with this than I should have.  Disney, please feel free to use these names for any upcoming DVD releases.

I can't quite measure this in any easy way, but the more the scene delivered a sense of meaning the more I should be able to encapsulate that meaning in a title that speaks to all of you, right?

That's a long setup for a long table, so here it is:

Empire Scene Mood
Clones Scene Mood

Placing sensors foreboding
Arrival on Coruscant confusion
Echo base tension
Meeting with Palpatine despair
The droids frustration
Old friends tension
Skywalker's check-in worry
Security breach suspense
Escape from the Wampa suspense
The chase action
Closing the doors absolute despair
The club seediness
Rescue party suspense
Jedi council confusion
Recovery happiness
Palpatine's plans plotting
A visitor worry
A Jedi discussion mistrust
The Imperial Fleet dominance
Packing whining
Preparing for evac friendship
Leaving for Naboo transition
The fleet approaches dissatisfaction
The diner comedic
Evac plans resolve
Jedi archives confusion
The ion cannon suspense
Commoners tension
Rogue squadron persistence
Younglings comedic
The Millenium Falcon panic
Arrival on Naboo retcon
Luke's departure happiness
The Queen tension
The asteroid field panic
Arrival on Camino confusion
Dagobah suspense
The lakehouse creepiness
Vadar's chamber anger
Showing off the clones disconcerting
Down the rabbit hole worry
Don't go chasing waterfalls creepiness
Making camp tension
A romp in the field playfulness
Fixing the ship tension
Meeting Jango tension
Hunting the falcon persistence
Sunlit dinner playful
The emperor worry
Fireside chat tension
Yoda's home frustration
Contacting the council confusion
It's alive! panic
Anakin's dreams worry
Training begins curiosity
Jango's exit action
The dark side fear
Arrival on Tatooine nostalgia
Continued pursuit panic
Chasing Jango action
Yoda and the force frustration
Arrival on Geonosis confusion
Apology accepted anger
The farmstead nostalgia
Nothing but trash triumph
Meeting with Lars despair
Visions worry
Hunting tusken raiders anger
Cloud city worry
Spying on Dooku confusion
Lando happiness
Finding Shmi despair
Yoda's plea frustration
Yoda and the force confusion
City in the clouds worry
Contacting the council confusion
Chewie's rescue chaos
Anakin's return silent disdain
Let's make a deal betrayal
Anakin's anger whining
Fixing C3P0 despair
Shmi's rest sadness
Punishment despair
R2's message confusion
Containment anger
Obi-Wan's capture confusion
Carbon freeze absolute despair
Jar Jar's Pride triumph
Luke's arrival suspense
Arrival on Geonosis confusion
Enter Vader tension
The conveyer belt level action
Lando's escape anger
Arena preparations happiness
Fett's escape despair
The arena action
Luke's escape anger
This party's over action
Hunting Vader suspense
A diplomatic solution action
Evacuation panic
The command center worry
Revelations anger
Send in the clones action
Just hang in there hope
The death star confusion
Escape   panic
Time for a battle! action
The rebel fleet hope
Chasing Dooku tension

Dooku's hanger action

Yoda's embarassment action

Dooku's escape confusion

The council chambers confusion

Shotgun wedding somber happiness

So, spend some time with that, see with what you come up with.  I really tried to come up with valid and simple adjectives for each scene (the simpler the adjective the better), but there were some places where things just took a little more.

For example, there are a lot of scenes in Empire that are dominated by despair.  I used the adjective despair for a number of scenes, but then came up to two that were dominated by despair to such a high level that I had to append them with 'absolute'.  The first of these two scenes are when Han goes out (to his presumed death) to hunt for Luke (who is presumed already dead) in the snowstorm, and the rebels have to close the main doors behind him.  If you've seen Empire you can probably hear in your head the broken howl that Chewie lets out as the doors slam shut and Leia looks away in...well, absolute despair.  It is devastating.

The second 'absolute despair' scene is that in which Han is frozen.  I doubt that I really need go into that one.

There's actually also an interesting difference in mood in the imperial fleet between A New Hope and Empire.  In A New Hope, Darth Vader is not in command of the death star, or the fleet, or of much of anything.  He's clearly lower in the chain of command than Grand Moff Tarkin, and it's unclear if he's higher or lower than some of the officers who mock him, his 'ancient religion', and his failure to find the rebels or the plans.  He starts to choke one of those officers in A New Hope, and Tarkin yells at him like a child that he's just caught misbehaving.

In Empire, all those people who might have been at or near Vader's level have been killed on the death star.  Darth Vader is now in charge of the imperial fleet.  The mood of imperial scenes is drastically different - Vader knows he is in power, and everyone else knows it, too.  When his officers do things he doesn't like, he kills them in front of the crew and promotes someone else.  When one of his officers comes to him to personally apologize and accept responsibility for losing the Millennium Falcon he kills him, says "apology accepted", and calls on someone else to continue the search.

Moods like this are easy to come by in Empire.  Things are pretty clear cut, and you get to see what is motivating each character and even each larger group.   

What was really a surprise to me when I started to get into Attack of the Clones was how many scenes in it are dominated by confusion.  It's not to say that I was confused by these scenes (I often was), but rather that confusion was the dominant emotion expressed by characters in the scene.  There are many scenes with Obi-Wan and others standing around being confused, saying things like 'but why would X do Y?' or 'but isn't X a Z?' or 'did you know that X did Y?'  I think that long ago I always wondered what Obi-Wan was doing during Ami/Ani scenes simply because I always wondered what Obi-Wan was doing.

There are also many scenes where there is no mood, simply action.  The scene where Obi-Wan fights Jango on Camino is a perfect example of this.  The scene starts with Obi-Wan running out a door and bringing up his lightsaber.  Jango starts shooting at him.  I remember thinking - the first time I saw this in theaters - that this scene was a bit jarring.

There's no setup, there's no context.  A few lines of dialog at the start would have made all the difference.  It has the feel that Obi-Wan didn't come there to talk to Jango and then had the realization that he was the bounty hunter in the jetpack suit (which is what it should have had).  It has the feel that Obi-Wan just came there to fight, maybe having already pieced all that together.  He's never shown piecing it together, or walking down the hallway, or doing anything that would set this up, so you just get the action for action's sake.

It's a small thing, yes, but it's one of many small things.  I will keep coming back to this, but it's something so small that it could have been easily corrected, which is in some ways worse than something large that couldn't be.

Anyway, this table of moods has a lot of information, but it's a little tricky to get a picture of all of it.  To try to simplify things a bit I decided to code these moods into a number of larger categories across the two movies.  That produces this chart:

Now that's a little clearer.  By the way, I recognize that Attack of the Clones has a few more scenes total, but we've already discussed that this is simply due to the fact that it's a slightly longer movie.  The difference is also fairly minimal, and wouldn't change anything in the above chart.

You can see that the predominant mood of Empire is negative - despair, worry, fear, anger, etc.  The predominant mood of Clones is also negative, but it wins by only a hair above the second place finisher: confusion.  A tight third is scenes which have no mood other than pure action.  Oddly - as negative as a movie as Empire is - it still has more positive scenes than Attack of the Clones.

This is a good time to point out that Empire had no scenes which were simply coded as action.  There is plenty of action in Empire, but there's always other mood and emotion present.  When Rogue Squadron is fighting the Battle of Hoth there is quantifiable mood to those scenes because the characters are invested in it.  Think of the example of Luke and Dak above.

When the thousands of identical soldiers - all in full gear to obscure their humanity - fight the giant army of robots, well, there's really not any emotional connection to anyone involved.  It's just action for the sake of action.  The Battle of Hoth is not action for the sake of action, it's action to develop the characters and set the whole movie in motion.  The Battle of Geonosis is action for the sake of adding five minutes to the movie where they didn't have to pay actors, and to set a different series of profitable cartoons (The Clone Wars) in motion.  

There were some scenes in Clones that had action in them but also had a distinct mood, but those were by far the minority.  Obi-Wan was occasionally in action and able to look confused at the same time, as was Yoda occasionally in action but able to look worried and disapproving.

Speaking of Yoda.  In Empire he says - in response to Luke looking for a great warrior - "Great warrior, hmmm?  Wars not make one great."  In Clones, Yoda seems to be in full command of the force that attacks Geonosis.  Jedi are billed as having "kept the peace for generations", which might indicate that the first thing that he might try to do would be to negotiate with Dooku, maybe for a peaceful resolution.  Every major player in this scenario is present, so if he could sit down at a table with them he could potentially work out the surrender of the separatists.  He has the upper hand with a brand new Army of the Republic - something that the separatists don't know about and might completely change their mind about entering into peaceful negotiations.

Instead, he comes in with blasters on full, initiating the start of the war.  You might say that the attempted execution of Ani/Ami and Obi-Wan started the war, but to be completely fair they were all spies who were caught, well, spying.  You could say that the Jedi's attempt to rescue Ani/Ami and Obi-Wan was the start of the war, but it was another unwarranted attack on a group that had yet to do anything but execute some spies.

In fact, once Dooku had the upper hand he called for a cease-fire.  He gave Obi-Wan and the captured Jedi a full chance to surrender, promising that their lives would be spared.  You might say he was lying, but he has no reason to.  If he was planning on killing them after they surrendered he could much more easily kill them without surrender.  He might lose a few battle droids, but it would be a miniscule cost next to wiping out the majority of the Jedi.  If he was looking to use them for bargaining (which Obi-Wan accuses him of), why didn't he try to bargain with two Jedi and a prominent senator? 

So, the Sith are acting reasonable and trying to end the conflict with a peaceful resolution, and the Jedi come in and attack in full without any attempt at negotiations or offer of surrender.  Trade Federation ships are trying to retreat, and Yoda instructs the clone troopers to concentrate all fire on the closest ship in order to destroy it and all those on board.  What?

I guess if it's just robots (is it?) you don't really have to listen to the hundreds or thousands of voices crying out all at once before being silenced.  

I get it now, when they talk about the Jedi being peacekeepers they actually mean capital P 'Peacekeepers', like in Farscape.  You know, a militaristic organization that keeps the peace by attacking and destroying anyone that disagrees with them.  Can't believe I didn't think of that one sooner.

I think I can simplify things just a little bit more, and that's by really trying to collapse scenes down to positive moods (happiness, triumph, hope, etc.), negative moods (despair, anger, tension, etc), or neutral moods (action, confusion).  That allows us to look at the ups and downs (quite literally) of each of the movies.

Here's what Empire looks like:

And here's Clones:

Here they are on the same graph (though it's a bit more cluttered):

I think that should be quite clear by now that there's a fundamental difference in the way that moods are used across the two different movies.  Empire is a sea of bad news punctuated by a series of small victories, while Clones is a rapidly shifting movie trying to find itself.

I have a bit more that I've coded that I think I'm going to turn into a bonus post later in the week, along with questions similar to those I included at the end of the first post.  This will hopefully satiate all of you for an extra week, as with the lead-up to Thanksgiving I'm not sure I'm going to get to the third installment until after the holiday.

Before we go (you can feel free to leave now if you were only here for the pretty pictures), I want to touch on two more scenes to make one more point about confusion and dialog.  It is partly in the hopes that someone will finally be able to explain away what I believe to be the singularly most confusing scene in Attack of the Clones. 

The first scene in question is nothing more than a conversation between Obi-Wan and Count Dooku.  It immediately follows Obi-Wan's capture by the separatists, and Obi-Wan is being held in a stasis field.  This has the added benefit similar to having a conversation over the phone, as Obi-Wan is incapable of doing anything more than talking.

The scene unfolds as such (borrowed from with great thanks), with my comments in italics and brackets:

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Traitor! [true]
Count Dooku: Oh no, my friend. This is a mistake, a terrible mistake. They have gone too far, this is madness! [said incredibly quickly, seeming entirely facetious]
Obi-Wan Kenobi: I thought you were the leader here, Dooku. [Obi-Wan's constant air of confusion]
Count Dooku: This had nothing to do with me; I assure you. [could be true or lie] I will petition immediately to have you set free. [could be true or lie]
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Well, I hope it doesn't take too long. I have work to do. [true]
Count Dooku: May I ask why a Jedi Knight is all the way out here on Geonosis? [honest question]
Obi-Wan Kenobi: I'm tracking a bounty hunter named Jango Fett. [true] Do you know him?
Count Dooku: There are no bounty hunters here that I'm aware of. [lie] The Geonosians don't trust them.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Well, who can blame them? But he is here, I assure you. [true]
Count Dooku: It's a great pity our paths have never crossed before, Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon always spoke very highly of you. I wish he were still alive. I could use his help right now. [seems true, no reason to be a lie]
Obi-Wan Kenobi
: Qui-Gon Jinn would never join you. [could be true or lie]
Count Dooku: Don't be so sure, my young Jedi. You forget that he was once my apprentice, just as you were once his. [true]  He knew all about the corruptions of the Senate, but he would never have gone along with it if he had known the truth as I have.  [true]
Obi-Wan Kenobi: The truth?
Count Dooku: The truth. What if I told you that the Republic is now under the control of a Dark Lord of the Sith? [totally true]
Obi-Wan Kenobi
: No, that's not possible! [lie] The Jedi would be aware it!  [lie]
Count Dooku: The Dark Side of the Force has clouded their vision, my friend. [true] Hundreds of senators are now under the influence of a Sith Lord called Darth Sidious. [true]
Obi-Wan Kenobi: I don't believe you. [true]
Count Dooku: The Viceroy of the Trade Federation was once in league with this Darth Sidious, but he was betrayed ten years ago by the Dark Lord. [true] He came to me for help; he told me everything. [true] You must join me, Obi-Wan, and together we will destroy the Sith! [seems legit]
Obi-Wan Kenobi: I will never join you, Dooku. [true]
Count Dooku: It may be difficult to secure your release. [true]

The first time I saw this I remember scratching my head and wondering that had just happened.  I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt in that things might become clearer later in the movie, but it only ever gets more confusing. 

From Dooku's first line I'm thrown off-guard.  The delivery comes off so quickly it seems like Dooku is making a show of being facetious.  It's like he needs to get some procedural stuff out of the way, and just wants to get it over with quickly.  So he's either lying, or the directing in the scene was abysmal.

Dooku next starts moving through a series of possible lies.  He infers he's not in charge, which would allow for the fact that he doesn't know that Jango is there.  It seems like he is in charge, though, which would mean that he would almost certainly know that Jango was there.  This seems to back up the point that he's lying to Obi-Wan.

Then the mood changes, unexpectedly, and he's going all nostalgic about how he trained Qui-Gon and how much he misses him.  This, immediately, seems heartfelt - a rarity in Attack of the Clones.

Then things go totally off rails and Dooku starts revealing huge truths to Obi-Wan, like that Palpatine is Darth Sidious, the sith lord behind everything that's been going on so far.  Obi-Wan scoffs at this, and Dooku gives detailed information on how he came to know this and how credible the information is.  Obi-Wan - who has been on an investigation the entire movie to this point and is one of the rare voices of reason - seems completely uninterested in this information, or for that matter on every following up on it later.

Dooku makes an impassioned plea to Obi-Wan for him to join him, and destroy the sith.  There's no reason for Dooku to be lying here.  He's making a reasonable case that if Obi-Wan helped him they could both rally the Jedi to overthrow Darth Sideous.  It's a win-win situation.

Dooku is revealed to have been a Jedi, and nothing is shown that would suggest any motivation for him to have turned to the dark side.  He's not fearful, he's not angry, and he doesn't hate anyone.  He's calm, and well-reasoned.  Moreover, there's no talk of any fear, or anger, or hate in his past.  A throwaway line at some other point in the movie - maybe from Yoda or Mace - would be as simple as 'Dooku succumbed to fear and anger after X event, and his desire for power led him down a path to the dark side'

Instead, you're left wondering if Dooku might actually be against Darth Sideous, if he was willing to reveal so much of the core of the entire plan.  Without any explanation or change in motivation, Dooku is later revealed to be Darth Tyrannus, Darth Sideous' sith apprentice.  His actions are completely incongruent.

A line or two would be all you'd need to establish back story, and another line or two would be all that's needed to explain his true loyalty.  That's all you need, and now there's a little more understanding of what might motivate Dooku.

I mentioned it earlier, but it's these small things that keep cropping up in Clones.  There is one more, and it's quick.

It's the opening scene.  Amidala's decoy has just been killed.  Her response, right before dying?  "I'm so sorry...I've failed you, senator."

Why would Amidala’s decoy say that she was sorry that she failed her? From where I’m sitting it looks like she did exactly what she was supposed to do - distract people from killing the actual Amidala. She did her job to the fullest extent, and if she was the kind of person who signed up for that job she should die proud instead of regretful.

Her last words shouldn’t be 'I’m sorry' or 'I've failed you', but something that actually shows her dedication, like “my life...for the queen!”

If a member of the secret service takes a bullet protecting the president they’re not going to turn around and with their dying breath say “I’m sorry I didn’t stop that bullet harder, sir.  I've failed you.” or “I feel like my dive could have used a little more work.  I've failed you and I'm sorry.”

The goal of the queen’s decoy is to shield the queen from all the people trying to kill her. Did the decoys not get that from the job description? What was the discussion like before they left for Coruscant? “Hey handmaiden, do you know what would be fun today? Why don’t you ride in the nice big ship, and I’ll fly the fighter - I always get to ride in the big ship, today you’ve earned it. It’s my present to you for your years of undying service. Feel free to put on any clothes you find - really dress up and feel like a queen.”

The problem is again that this is such a glaring error, and the fix is so simple.  You could honestly just dub this over in post and correct what stands out as a major point of disconnect.

I keep asking myself, Attack of the Clones could not possibly be worse than The Phantom Menace, right?  No matter how I come at it, I think I have to admit that The Phantom Menace is in fact a better movie (deep breath, deep breath).

Episode I is plagued by some big problems, and there are really no good fixes.  Episode II did not learn the lesson that having two or three people read the script with a critical eye would fix a lot of things.  The errors are more egregious because they're so easily fixed by a little bit of script work.  It's death by a thousand cuts vs a sledgehammer to the face.

It's not that this sort of dialog that would fix things is completely foreign to Attack of the Clones, either.  The astute reader may have noticed that the scene 'Arrival on Naboo' is coded as 'retcon'.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it stands for 'Retroactive Continuity' - the act of going in and altering prior facts or worldview to be consistent with new facts or worldview.  You see, the only point of this scene - the absolute only reason it is in the movie - is so that Anakin and Amidala can have a quick chat and explain why she's not Queen anymore.  Spoiler alert, turns out that on Naboo the royals are elected, and Amidala was elected at the age of 13 or 14. 

A whole scene is devoted to fixing that mess.  One line of changed dialog makes the opening scene make sense.  A few lines of dialog could explain Obi-Wan's motivation for fighting Jango on Camino.  A line or two of dialog could give Dooku the needed back story.  A line or two from Yoda could turn a preemptive strike into a plea for peace.  A few more lines from Dooku could explain his conflicting motivations.  A line or two from Jango could return his humanity, and any emotional lines at all from the clone troopers could give them theirs (oh, I forgot, they were bred not to have emotion).  

The Phantom Menace felt like the script only made it to the very early stages of peer review, and those that looked at it were blinded by their love of the other Star Wars movies.  In Attack of the Clones it feels like they simply said forget it, and used the first draft.

In contrast, The Empire Strikes Back feels so incredibly tight.  There are no wasted lines, and everything seems to have a focus and a purpose.  Characters have clear motivations and speak and act accordingly.  Their slightest moves and expressions seem carefully planned to pack as much emotion into every scene, while Clones seems to try to pack as much action and CGI into every scene.  

It's almost unfair to put Attack of the Clones up against a film like The Empire Strikes Back, but there it is.

Anyway, be sure to check back later in the week for the less statistical follow-up that I find myself unable to avoid.  

And if you've made it through all of this, thanks again!  These are getting...a little long.


  1. Awesome, except replace "Doku" with "Dooku" and "Dantooine" with "Dagobah".

    1. And "Amidala" should probably be "Padme", but I'm willing to let that one slide.

    2. Dang, I can't believe that I mistyped "Doku" once and then just thought that's how it was. Good catch.

      Another of my friends also caught the "Dantooine" error, unless you're anonymously the same person. I swear I didn't make the mistake on purpose, but man isn't it a good example of why it pays to have even just a handful of other people critically read your stuff? I proofed this several times, but I just somehow got it stuck in my head that Yoda's planet was Dantooine, when it should be Dagobah.

      It's very likely Lucas got caught in the same place when proofing his scripts - it's really hard to see errors in your own work because you are in the mindset that only you can be as the person who wrote it. If you made a mistake you're not going to see it as easily as someone else, because you're still the person who made that mistake. Just a few more sets of eyes who were willing to be critical - especially on the script for episode II - would have made all the difference.

    3. In terms of Padme/Amidala, I'd say my choice of Amidala is twofold.

      The first is that in episode I she's set up so much more as Queen Amidala than as Padme - partly due to the whole secret double thing - a trend that continues into the start of episode II (as Senator Amidala). Senator Amidala is the first thing she's called in episode II, and so that's the first thing I wrote down. It's just hard to get change mindset for me and switch away from calling her Amidala.

      The second is that Padme actually has the e with the extra accent on it, which I didn't want to dig through keyboard shortcuts to always be inserting. So, chalk that one up to partial laziness.