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AOTC - From a Writer's POV

Discussion in 'Attack of the Clones' started by DarthLascivious, May 23, 2002.

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  1. DarthLascivious

    DarthLascivious Jedi Youngling

    May 18, 2002
    Hey all. I'm hoping to get some feedback from other folks out there who write. What worked in AOTC and what didn't. How could it have been different. Please no "FX were cool" and "Yoda rocks" comments. Let's talk about the script and the plot - and what you might have done differently.

    As a writer myself, I can't help but see a script scrolling away as the I watch ANY movie, not just Star Wars. So I'll get the ball rolling. And let me get out of the way that I loved this movie as a fan, thought it was better than TPM and was thoroughly entertained for 2+ hours. That said....

    The majority of my criticism (good and bad) assumes that the story from point A to B works. How we get there is the real problem.


    The plot of Clones can be compared to Empire pretty easily. Imagine an oval, pointed at the ends like a football. Both films start with our heroes at the point on the left, whereupon they diverge, one along the top arc and one along the bottom, until they meet again at the end of the movie, or the point on the left. Pretty simple. And effective! It?s a classic structure, and there?s a reason it?s classic.

    A friend of mine thought Clones? plot line was too confusing and preferred the more linear plot of Phantom Menace. Actually, I found the overall plot easier to follow in Episode II, and less predictable. And still very linear. Kudos to George and Hales for avoiding the four-plots at once method from the ending of TPM.

    The film also follows the three-act method so dearly loved by Uncle George. Again, it works. The heroes are thrown together, have their adventures away from each other, and come back together. Empire had the exact same structure. So far so good.


    Not so good is the lack of character development through each respective arc. Let?s first establish that one arc consists of Anakin and Padme, and other consists of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Clearly, Anakin and Padme change, or are supposed to change, over the course of their arc; Obi-Wan does not. Discovering new information does not constitute character development unless it changes the character?s perceptions and their actions in the future.

    And here?s where things start to come apart. Obi-Wan?s character, as delightfully droll as he can be, does not change much during the course of the film. Okay, I can accept that for a space fantasy. But Anakin and Padme change in a way that feels forced and, well, written. ?Written? is a term used to imply that, on the screen, one can almost see the script writer feverishly trying to make everything work, resulting in a script that is labored, dull, and a series of encounters.

    It starts well, with their characters thrown together in a troubling situation, the assassination attempt on Padme. The stasis is broken and they are sent on their way, packing for Naboo. More on some of the questions I had during this sequence later. But then, over the course of the trip to Naboo and Tattooine, they express their love in ways both awkward and strange and, sadly, clichéd.

    Anakin is given the most to work with during these scenes. I feel the script lets him down, however. He has the most choices to make but the script doesn?t let us feel the weight of them. His decision to go to the Tusken Camp seems like an afterthought, and his reaction on coming back is too short. I also wish that his decision to go to Tattooine had been prompted by more than a dream. Yes, he?s been having them all along, but?.

    Well, my prescription for this, entirely in hindsight of course, would be the following: charged with taking care of Amidala, Anakin agrees to take her to Naboo, but decides at the last minute to divert them to Tattooine. Kind of a ?No, R2, we?re not going with the others, we?re going to the Dagobah system? kind of sentiment. Logic? A) Tattooine is desolate and out of the way ? where better to hide? B) He can find his mother while they are there.

    Because, when you think about it logically, why go to the assassination target?s home planet? Talk
  2. GriffZ

    GriffZ Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    May 27, 2001
    That was the most intellegent thing I've read around here in weeks.

  3. Jedi Daniel

    Jedi Daniel Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Apr 7, 2000
    What a great read.

    SNIPER_X Jedi Youngling

    Apr 27, 2002
    YODA ROCKS!!!!!!!!

  5. Sapno Krei

    Sapno Krei Jedi Master star 3

    Feb 23, 1999
    Wow. Probably the most even-handed review of AOTC I've read. The thing which amazes me is that despite all the film's shortcomings, you could still love it as a STAR WARS film.

    If only more critics shared your point of view...
  6. --RogueLeader--

    --RogueLeader-- Jedi Youngling

    May 21, 2002
    GO YODA WOO-HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!
  7. Vertical

    Vertical Former Head Admin star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 6, 1999
    Excellent post.


    SNIPER_X Jedi Youngling

    Apr 27, 2002
    Oh yeah, almost forgot...

    the FX were SO cool!!!!

    BTW : your "prescriptions" are a great "cure" for individuality. What a great way to make AOTC just like EVERY other film! Have any good ideas for cleaning up some other messy scripts? Say "Casablanca" or "Barry Lyndon"? Whew, what stinkers! Poor motivation & excess scenes everywhere!
  9. Nrf-Hrdr

    Nrf-Hrdr Jedi Master star 4

    Aug 3, 2000
    Decent threads in this forum just aren't the same without two dozen "If you don't like it, why are you here?" / "It's Lucas's story to tell as he likes, deal with it"-posts screwing everything up. Are all the obnoxious jerks taking a lunch-break or something?
  10. smauldookie

    smauldookie Jedi Knight star 5

    Mar 5, 2002

    so that makes the movie good!!
  11. DarthMalifluous

    DarthMalifluous Jedi Youngling star 2

    May 11, 2002
    I agree with most everything that you say. Naboo was a "non-event" scene. It truely did provide very little "motivation" (which I believe locations should).

    I am curious. You mention that lack (slight or great... it doesn't really matter) of character development for Obi-wan Kenobi throughout this film. I felt that he had moments; as you said the dramamtic tension between Jango and Obi-wan on Kamino in Jango's quarters... very effective albiet, clunky dialogue. It's these little moments (I call this the Goldfinger Golf Moment) that allow an audience to form opinions of a character and helps them through a film. However, I am in agreement with you when you say that there were not enough of these moments to tie the "set-pieces" together.
  12. Sapno Krei

    Sapno Krei Jedi Master star 3

    Feb 23, 1999
    DarthLascivious: The points you make are great, and I think George Lucas would have received such advice had he employed the help of others earlier in the scriptwriting process.

    Perhaps the third time will be the charm, and Lucas will be man enough to step back and let more qualified individuals handle the writing and directing.

    C'mon, George. You let Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan, and Richard Marquand contribute their skills to Eps. V and VI, but we still consider them YOUR films. We will think just as highly of you if you hand over the reins to someone else so that you can concentrate on fleshing out the concepts and story points of the film.
  13. IfAnakinLikedJazz

    IfAnakinLikedJazz Jedi Padawan star 4

    Mar 22, 2002
    I enjoyed reading your post, and being one who dabbles in scriptwriting as well, i can see your points (and i often have the same problems as you talked about when i write)......kudos to you...
  14. Telemachos

    Telemachos Jedi Youngling star 2

    May 21, 2002
    Amen, DarthLascivious. I agree entirely, and have made similar posts here (in another thread) and on other boards. However, you stated it far better than I could have, and in greater depth.

    Kudos to you.
  15. DarthLascivious

    DarthLascivious Jedi Youngling

    May 18, 2002
    First, thanks everyone but please post what YOU think too!

    I agree with you that Obi-Wan definitely had his moments (in fact, as characters go, I found him the most compelling because of his wit and the trials he goes through while Anakin and Padme are busy falling in love). And you're right, the set pieces are where we form an opinion about his character.

    I guess my thoughts are along a stricter "character changing through action" guideline in that nothing about Obi-Wan seems to really change throughout the movie. I would have liked him to know more about Anakin's decisions somewhere in there and try to fix it, guide him, in other words, be the mentor he's trying to be.

    Sorry, I'm verbose! Thanks for the post.
  16. Vertical

    Vertical Former Head Admin star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 6, 1999
    Now that I've re-read your post, I'll drop some thoughts:

    I think you're dead-on regarding the love dialogue feeling "written". I felt exactly the same way hearing it. It was awkward, and I think most audiences picked up on that. The first showing I went to no one reacted. By the 4th time I saw the film, the awkward dialogue had people (who already knew it was coming) laughing about it, quite loud. Several groans. It was somewhat painful, and I find it hard to believe that someone who has as much experience as Lucas (even if you take him to be tyrannical director and writer some folks make him out to be here) could simply miss the fact that audiences aren't going to buy that dialogue. The forced feeling is far more powerful than anything they're actually trying to say. It's almost as if someone had told Anakin "if you don't tell her how you feel in the next 5 minutes, I will kill her". It was rushed, overly-cliched, and it sounded like a Hallmark card.

    Those scenes, to me, are the biggest flaw with AOTC.

    I do have to disagree with you on one point, however (although you do recognize how it should work, you just don't think it did) - When Anakin returns from the Tusken slaughter, you say you want to see more, as you think Padme's love for Anakin could be fully justified and could hinge on this scene, and how she handles it. I think she reacts precisely the way you say you want her to. I see a young Padme comforting a distraught Anakin, after first trying to combat his feelings with logic.

    The scene starts with her trying to explain to Anakin why he should accept what has happened ("You're not all-powerful, Ani"). She's trying to get him to understand that he had no control over it. She wants him to think about things rationally (something, in fact, she is trying to do throughout the film, juxtaposing his desire to get her to act on her emotions... a great, seldom noticed point in the character development of both of them), and not just react emotionally. Only when she sees how enraged Anakin is, and how upset he actually is that he is capable of such hate (he collapses in tears after his confession... which I would attribute more to guilt and a heavy conscience than to grief over his dead mother), does she finally break down and just *comfort* him. She ceases to try and reason with him, and simply consoles him. She abandons her usual method of dealing with things, and reaches out with her heart, as opposed to her mind. I feel the scene works. It sets up why she later breaks down and ceases to think rationally and logically, and begins expressing her emotions to Anakin, as opposed to trying to justify them away.


    I think you're right in that there isn't much character development, in terms of Obi-Wan, but I think that may be more due to the fact that we all know how Obi-Wan turns out in the end, and Lucas is more concerned with fleshing him out as that character, as opposed to giving him more depth. You know what I mean? We certainly got to see more of Obi-Wan in this film than we did in TPM, and I think that's a step in the right direction for Episode III, where I feel most of the development will take place. After all, up to this point, Obi-Wan is not much more than a friendly, wise, powerful Jedi Knight with a strange affinity for bars and seedy characters. I think in this film Lucas was more interested in presenting him as the epitome of Jedi Knights. His development, I feel, is better placed in Episode III. You shouldn't lose sight of the fact that there is an entire movie left to develop this character with. I think in the final installment we'll see Obi-Wan go from being a cock-sure Jedi Knight to a withdrawn, conflicted teacher. It's not until ANH that things finally turn around for Obi-Wan, so I don't feel that we fully need to see him developed much more at this point...

    More thoughts as they come...

  17. Kaea Lioren

    Kaea Lioren Jedi Youngling star 1

    Jun 14, 1999
    Excellent thread, Lascivious. You've pretty much made all the points I could even think of making. As a wannabe writer myself (finished a novel, at work on the second, got a nice little stack of rejections to show for it ;) ) I felt like my reaction to AOTC was colored by the writerly glasses I wear these days. To tell you the truth, sometimes it's a major pain in the keister. It's hard to enjoy a book or a movie these days since my suspension of disbelief tends to plummet all too easily.

    Sooo...I think ole George needs to brush off his high school creative writing skills and show, not tell. Anakin and Padme 'told' each other, in excrutiatingly horrible dialog, that they loved each other. But I never got the sense that they really did love one another. I think this was a failing of both the actors *and* the dialog, since in the OT, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had some pretty clunky dialog (esp in ROTJ!) and yet it worked for them.

    So even though Obi-Wan's character didn't really change in a major way over the course of the AOTC plotline, I feel he was the better-developed character; which may just be a testament to Ewan's acting ability. We got to see aspects of his character (ie, getting a drink, hanging with Dex) and weren't just told in clunky exposition that he was not just an uptight, by-the-book Jedi.

    Thanks for a thought provoking thread!

  18. SWfan2002

    SWfan2002 Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 28, 2002
    We have to remember that AOTC is only 1 part of a 6 chapter series. The characters develop subtely over the course of all six movies, not drastically during each individual episode.
  19. DarthLascivious

    DarthLascivious Jedi Youngling

    May 18, 2002
    Absolutely. I do NOT want to suggest that I entirely know what the hell I'm doing. There's a lot to be learned from what other people think - that's why I posted this on a forum. We talk about this stuff to keep it in mind on our own writing.

    (This in part replies to Sniper_X as well. Yes, this is prescriptive, that's the point, and more satisfying than reading a journalist-hack's one-sided review in a newspaper, magazine, etc. And yes I would do some things differently in Casablanca. See you on the Casablanca website forum. ;)
  20. bcollins

    bcollins Jedi Youngling

    May 21, 2002
    DarthLascivious you are so right in your analysis. I agree with skipping Naboo. It was a total waste. It would have been more effective to show their love grow through diversity rather than sitting around. I think the scene that ruined it for me was when Anakin admitted that he killed everyone. They should have shown him killing the Tuskens and cut right before he slashes a mother and child Tusken. With the Padme scene he should have lied to her. It would show us that he is starting to fall to the darkside because he killed all the Tuskens in anger, and then lied to Padme. It would have been perfect. I don't understand how Lucas could miss these glaring problems with the film. I think he is too attached to the movies, because he can't see the flaws. When I write stories I often lose all recognition of what is good and bad about my story because I am so familiar with it.
  21. augusto

    augusto Jedi Padawan star 4

    Aug 6, 2001
    No, the Tusken scene is great as it is. We don't need to see more "slaughter", and it is better for Anakin to make a "confession" than to lie about it.

    Yes, he did a horrible thing, but his mom was just bound and killed by these "savages"/"animals" (as they are called in the movies).

    Having him confess it and be confused about his anger shows that he's a person struggling with some powerful and dangerous feelings inside.

    It works great the way it is.
  22. Vertical

    Vertical Former Head Admin star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 6, 1999
    I disagree (with bcollons' point, not the preceding post). I don't think having Anakin lie about anything would be anything but inconsistant. He's still a Jedi, and a good-guy, at that. He's upset with himself for doing it. The darkside got a hold of him for a minute, and it scared him. That's what this scene says to me.

    One act of violence doesn't have to lead to the darkside immediately. Having Anakin tell Padme the truth demonstrates that he wants to be honest with her, and explain his feelings to someone, but he obviously feels as though he can't tell Obi-Wan. He's in desperate need of a friend to talk to, and he finds it in Padme. Having him lie to her would be going against all of that.

    He's afraid of his feelings, not ashamed of them.

  23. SW3TheHolidaySpecial

    SW3TheHolidaySpecial Jedi Padawan star 4

    Oct 19, 2001
    A very good post,but I do disagree with something,you say we don't see Padme's motivation but I saw it quite clearly in that she didnt want to hide because the vote was very important to her.
  24. Red-Seven

    Red-Seven Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Oct 21, 1999
    Fantastic ideas. Really, thank you for sharing. I'd love to add a few reactions that really struck a cord with me...

    "And here?s where things start to come apart. Obi-Wan?s character, as delightfully droll as he can be, does not change much during the course of the film."

    At first my reaction was, "Yeah, I what?" Then, I began to think of the story arc, as it related to The Empire Strikes Back. In that story, Luke changes and develops to an incredible extent while seperated from the others. Now, while Anakin is clearly the central character and the closer comp to Luke, it really is dissappointing that Obi-Wan does nothing other than show 'this is Obi-wan during the clone wars' to the audience.

    Perhaps if he had met Dooku earlier in the film, to give more weight and conflict to Dooku's plea to join him...I don't know.

    "Anakin is given the most to work with during these scenes. I feel the script lets him down, however. He has the most choices to make but the script doesn?t let us feel the weight of them. His decision to go to the Tusken Camp seems like an afterthought, and his reaction on coming back is too short."

    You are right in that the movie obscures some of the choices and stages that Anakin is faced with, and it is left to us to discern what is occurring in his subconcious. Despite the weakness, though, I felt he was still the most powerful character on-screen in terms of presence. Through cinematography and physical acting, Anakin holds your eyes.

    "Kind of a ?No, R2, we?re not going with the others, we?re going to the Dagobah system? kind of sentiment."

    Perhaps Lucas wanted to set more of a foundation to their relationship before putting it under the stress of Anakin's family situation. I suppose that a more complicated (another bounty hunter?) transit, along with more dialouge, could serve this purpose.

    "Unlike Leia and Han, our two young lovers say everything they feel, a key no-no to any good writing."

    Wow. I would not have known how to put that simply into writing or a coherent thought...but now that you mention it, yes!


    Padme's love announcement was not a confession, but submission/acceptance of love. Anakin knew she had feelings, but was more surprised that she was accepting them. I think that the way she delivers these lines, and their content, should have been different to reflect this difference. More of a 'I was being too sensible, and too stupid to see what I thought was impossible'. I'm not sure.

    "Had the dialogue been better between Anakin and Padme..."

    Lawrence Kasden!! Crisp, witty dialouge is what makes Empire the movie everyone loves, not the dark ending that is often cited. I told my roomate last night that the romance would be more believeable, or at least less cringable, if the dialouge had more edge to it.

    "Because I did not believe that Padme, after learning of his slaughtering of the entire camp, would say, ?Now here is a nice boy I can settle down with.? In fact, during the entire movie, I have no real idea why she is love with Anakin."

    My complaint on opening night. The explanation I have been told is that it was 'love at first sight', and that she just repressed it the entire time. I'm not ready to buy that yet, completely. And I have no idea how to handle the slaughter's too much to put on the audience, forcing them to deal with our fears for Anakin that had not yet been revealed, and figure out what Padme will do with this information. 'Nothing' wasn't on my list.

    "I understood who the Separatist movement was, though I would have liked to have seen them fleshed out a bit. The meeting near the last 1/3 of the movie comes a little late. I may be one of a few people who would have liked to see more of the politics involved, particularly the way Palpatine/Sidious is maneuvering everyone into war. One big fat juicy scene in the Senate near the top (which was apparently almost a reality) would have done it. Give it to me straight, then cut me loose."

  25. a. block

    a. block Jedi Master star 1

    Oct 1, 1999
    I feel that the biggest problem with little Annie and Padme adventure was that there was absolutely nothing going on when they were on Naboo. Palpatine knew that she was leaving and I'm sure he could've (or maybe he did) known where she was going. Even though I'm not sure if I would care for another bounty hunter chase for whatever following the two, I feel that something else had to be going on. Personally, I do like the idea that they end up going ot Tatooine instead. There was much more going on there and I think it would've made the love story a bit better and not so obvious.
    For me, the reason I haven't quite liked AOTC is because I don't see any "artist things" in it. I could find plenty of things even in TPM, which causes me to like that movie more-simply for those reasons. I do think that the things that weren't well in TPM were improved upon in AOTC, but I just don't see that many "little things" that get me personally excited.

    Please help me see the light if there is some.
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