A while ago I posted various ideas for improving on the existing Star Wars episode one. I promised to eventually post ideas for all three of the prequels, and at last, my post about episode 2 is ready.
Star Wars episode 2 might actually be the worst of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Sure, Episode 1 had Jar Jar Binks, an overly convoluted climax, wasted Darth Maul and had a poorly written political story that barely affected the rest of the series. At least it had a complete story and decent pacing overall (the pod race was a bit long, but otherwise the pacing worked). Episode 2 however is just boring. The pacing is dreadful, the romance plot feels like poorly written filler and the final battle feels kind of silly.
Because of these problems, Episode 2 might actually be the most difficult movie to salvage. When I talked about improving Star Wars episode 1, I had a rule that I couldn’t remove any major plot points or characters. I also didn’t walk through the movie in a linear fashion. I’m going to break both of those rules for this post because I have no idea how to improve Attack of the Clones otherwise. The bad romance dialogue can simply be fixed with better writing and there’s no reason to explore that. Still, there is a good movie somewhere in Attack of the Clones – let’s find it.
First off, I discovered this article since writing my post about improving Star Wars episode 1. After reading that, I’d like to propose an additional improvement to The Phantom Menace. Episode one ruins the Palpatine/Darth Sidious plot twist very early in the movie. Sidious almost flat out tells the leaders of the Trade Federation that he has power in the Senate. My proposal is to remove Sidious from the movie entirely, and perhaps place Darth Maul in his place. Maul can still refer to his master, but we never see him until the end of Star Wars episode 2.
Lots of the changes suggested in this post will be based on my post for improving Episode 1. Anakin is older in episode 1 (13 instead of 8 or 9). Padme is 16 instead of 14 and was simply a handmaiden – not the queen of Naboo. Obi Wan was the main character – the existing Episode 1 doesn’t have a main character. The Trade Federation was either a terrorist group or rebels of sorts against an increasingly corrupt galactic republic – thus hinting at a rising separatist movement. Also, Darth Maul is survives and is made more subtle than in Phantom Menace.
(One major problem with the prequels is that we hardly see these two together, even though their friendship is supposed to be very important.)
I also won’t necessarily talk about every problem with the movie. I’ll just talk about the ones that bother me the most, or what others have talked with me about (tearing apart the Star Wars prequels was a favourite topic among my college classmates). Now let’s begin.
To fix the pacing problems, some major changes to the story will be necessary. At its core, the mystery is an interesting plotline and it is salvageable, but it needs heavy tweaking. The side plot with the planet being deleted from the Jedi library is completely pointless and the idea that only a Jedi could delete it is silly, so let’s remove that completely. Jango Fett’s assistant, Zam, is pointless – either make them partners in life and crime and possibly Boba’s parents, or remove her completely.
(The scale of this battle is impressive, but by the time it arrives you’ve been sitting through 10 minutes of straight action already – you’re too tired to care.)
Perhaps the worst pacing problem is the final battle itself. Since the movie is called “Attack of the Clones”, the Clone War should be a significant part of the movie itself. Instead, the battle doesn’t start until the movie is almost over. The battle is largely glossed over and we don’t have a feel for which side is winning.
Perhaps the beginning of the Clone Wars should be in the middle of the movie, and the rest of the movie is the battle of Geonosis. That would fix the pacing problems and allow us to actually see the clone war begin. You could spread out the battle and inter-mix it with characters planning for and reacting to the war taking place around them. The first half of the movie should focus primarily on Obi Wan with a little bit of time for Anakin and Padme to plant the seeds for their romance.
(This scene’s dialogue is horrendous.)
Also, having Episode 2 take place 10 years after Episode one feels like a big stretch. In fact this is probably the thing that bothers me the most about this movie. The main reason being that Anakin isn’t a Jedi after 10 full years of full time training. Compare that to Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy. He learned how to be a Jedi in four years, and a good chunk of those years were spent either fighting in a war or training himself how to use the force. Depending on how you think about it, either Anakin is an incredibly slow learner, or Luke is more than a mere human. Kids generally learn faster than adults – just thought I’d throw that in there.
Instead, have episode 2 take place roughly four years after Episode 1. If Anakin was 13 in episode 1, that makes him 17 in episode 2. It’s still impressive that Luke Skywalker learned how to be a Jedi in four years while fighting a war, but Anakin isn’t made to look like a fool at the same time.
The improved movie starts with the republic ready to split in two – building up the plot threads that were planted in episode 1. The Federation/Terrorists from the Phantom Menace not only helped create the separatist movement, but they are now the official army for the separatists. Their droid army now has financial backing from the many planets that have joined the separatists, and now they can both build higher quality battle droids and research deadlier types of droids. They are no longer a minor threat to galactic peace, but are a significant threat to the entire republic. Of course, the republic doesn’t realize the level of this threat until the droid factory is discovered by Obi Wan.
There are two attempts on Padme’s life in Attack of the Clones, even though one should be enough. Perhaps the movie could start with Mace Windu leading an elite team of Jedi as they’re hunting Darth Maul (the same team would later attempt to arrest Palpatine in Episode 3). They somehow stumble on the Separatist plot to assassinate Padme, who has proven a valuable Senator in slowing down their efforts. Obi Wan and Anakin are sent to protect Padme, and soon afterward the assassination attempt happens.
(This scene wasn’t terrible, but it could have been much better.)
The movie should keep the chase through Coruscant at night, although it needs significant improvement. For one thing, if either Jedi would jump at a flying robot it should be the reckless Anakin, not the wise Obi Wan. Better yet, maybe have the assassin (Jango Fett) in view of Padme’s bedroom, and Anakin starts jumping around on rooftops after Jango Fett, who is using his jet pack. Meanwhile, Obi Wan grabs a speeder and catches up. Jango Fett almost kills Anakin in a short duel (knocks him off a building) because Anakin is arrogant, and Obi Wan catches him with the speeder. After that, the chase commences, Jango Fett shoots a poison dart at the two before he escapes, and one of the Jedi catch the dart.
After that, the movie would progress similar to the existing Episode 2. Like I said, cut out the plot where Kamino’s existence has been erased from the Jedi library, and get the plot moving faster. The romance between Anakin and Padme is seriously cut down while they’re on Naboo and Tatooine. They express their feelings, but mutually decide not to pursue them because it’s forbidden for Jedi to pursue a romantic relationship.
(Kamino is important to the story, it should be there more than Naboo.)
Suggestion – give a legitimate reason for the Jedi not being allowed to involve themselves in romantic relationships. Children of Jedi tend to be more powerful than their parents. The rule was originally pushed by Yoda himself, who had a child when he was still a young-ish Jedi. That child was nearly as powerful as Yoda even when he had just began training, and Yoda was the most powerful Jedi in the order. However, Yoda’s son was seduced by a fallen Jedi, and nearly rebuilt the order of the Sith. Yoda was the only one powerful enough to take out his own son, and the pain motivated him to forbid Jedi to involve themselves romantically with anyone. This is just a suggestion and it’s not really necessary.
(The scene where Anakin’s mother dies is fairly well done, and is the most important turning point in Anakin’s journey to the dark side.)
After that, all we see of Anakin and Padme in the first half of the film is Anakin’s reaction to the dreams about his mother, travelling to Tatooine and killing the Sand People that killed his mother. The aftermath scene in the current Episode 2 is one of the better scenes in the movie. However it would be more effective if Anakin only had time to say,
“Life seems simpler when I’m fixing things.”
Before he can expand on that, they receive Obi Wan’s distress call. This way, Anakin never properly deals with his guilt and it slowly builds up inside. This actually helps make his fall to the dark side more convincing. Also, he never tells Padme that he killed the sand people – he’s too ashamed of it to talk to anyone.
Obi Wan’s distress call informs Anakin and the Jedi Council about the droid army, and Yoda decides to collect this mysterious clone army to defend the republic. Obi Wan is then captured, and the senate collectively decides that this is an act of war.
(Christopher Lee was perfect as Dooku, too bad he’s barely in Episodes 2 and 3.)
Meanwhile, Obi Wan meets Count Dooku, the leader of the separatists. Here, we learn that Dooku was a former apprentice of Qui Gon’s – then he was kicked out of the Jedi order for excessive violence. It was suggested that he was Qui Gon’s master in the existing Attack of the Clones, but someone who is older than Obi Wan yet still young enough to be physically fit seems like a bigger threat. Keep Dooku’s suggestion that Palpatine is the Sith Lord – it’s not necessarily a spoiler on its own considering Dooku was banished from the Jedi order and might not be trustworthy. More on Dooku later.
The Geonosians attempt to execute Obi Wan, but Anakin and Padme help rescue him. The three of them fight a giant monster in the gladiator pit, and the Geonosians release several more. Shortly after, the clone army and the Jedi arrive together, and the clone war begins. There are battles on the surface, battles in the caves, and even a few battles inside the Geonosian hives.
Anakin and Obi Wan will work together a lot in the third act of the movie, which is all the battle of Geonosis. This will explore how much they truly care about each other, even if Anakin feels like he’s being held back. They fight instinctively well together and protect each other like brothers. Padme fights alongside them as well.
Suggestion – Obi Wan learns of Anakin’s attraction to Padme. He tells Anakin that the rule forbidding Jedi to love is one he disagrees with. He promises not to tell the other Jedi about their relationship if they pursue it as long as Anakin promises to deny that Obi Wan knew about it if he was ever caught. Again, this re-enforces their brotherly relationship. This isn’t necissary – just a suggestion.
Mace Windu can still have his fight with Jango Fett somewhere during the battle of Geonosis, perhaps when his team of Jedi attack the droid factory and shut it down completely. Jango manages to off two of Mace’s team members before Mace humiliates Jango in a duel, showcasing his immense skill as a Jedi.
Near the end of the movie, Obi Wan and Anakin track Dooku down and the chase/fight commences similarly to the existing movie. This lightsaber fight is quite possibly the worst in the prequel trilogy, but that can be fixed with better choreography and camera work. It’s here where we learn that Dooku and Darth Maul is the same person. This adds even more tension between him and Obi Wan, and the same goes for Anakin. Dooku/Maul pulls out his double bladed lightsaber again and they have an epic yet short lightsaber fight. He humiliates both Jedi as they are tired from the battle of Geonosis while he is well rested. Then Yoda shows up to save them.
(While Yoda’s lightsaber fight doesn’t bother me, a fellow Journalism felt that it ruined Yoda’s peaceful image.)
Yoda’s fight with Dooku in the original kind of ruined the character. Yoda is supposed to be powerful partly because he’s gentle. Symbolically, he’s supposed to show that gentleness is a sign of power in its own right. He is meant to be the perfect example of a good Jedi and having him have a lightsaber fight kind of ruins that. Instead, have him duel Dooku/Maul with the power of the force alone. Not only would that be amazing, but Yoda would still be a symbol of gentleness.
As bad as Attack of the Clones was, the ending kind of works. I wouldn’t change the ending all that much.
(In both Episode 2 and 3, the best scenes with Anakin and Padme are the ones where they don’t speak.)
And those are my suggestions for improving Star Wars Episode 2. You don’t have to agree with them – feel free to share your own thoughts on how it could be made better. Sorry it took so long, but it took me a while figure out where to begin with improving AOTC. I’ll post ideas for improving Star Wars Episode 3 eventually, but I should take care of X-Men 3: The Last Stand first.
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It always bothered me that Anakin told Padme he had slaughtered the Tusken women and children…because she doesn’t recoil in horror, and Padme’s character *would have*.
By revealing this detail, you falsify Padme in that moment too.