Episode 2 is several parsecs better than Episode 1.
Cherubic Anakin has grown into a brooding teenager, while Obi Wan has assumed Qui Gon’s spot as handsome bearded old jedi at a comparatively young age. Natalie Portman is still sweet and bland on the surface, with a simmering undercurrent of righteous smugness, as she explains how electing young girls to take turns serving as queen is actually democracy.
Recently I saw a cute video on the Mid Atlantic accent, or the “classy” style of American speech heard in mid-20th century movies. It occurred to me that in episodes 4-6, the characters speak Midlantic when they’re being formal (Princess Leia sometimes loses her accident under pressure).
In the prequel trilogy, the Queen of Naboo has her very own super-emphasized Midlantic, which none of her fellow citizens use. It goes with the dress.
After some great Coruscant car chases and stylish new outfits (even Jarx2 has silken draperies), the teenage not-lovers are sent to languish in a lovely rural resort while Obi Wan sneaks around doing Jedi intrigue. They have to pose as refugees, and Padme even carries one of her own suitcases while wearing a Syrian-style headwrap, and feasting from the humble steerage buffet. Fortunately she soon has her regular non-queen wardrobe of cute dresses, and she changes into several of them while trading romantic dialogue with Anakin that would be unendurable in an uglier setting.
Meanwhile, Obi Wan’s getting it done. A chrome diner full of aliens! The Jedi library! Jedi kids lightsaber practice! Clone factories on a planet made up of stormy seas! Stormtrooper origins! Boba Fett origins! Temuera Morrison being awesome as Jango Fett! The unnervingly slender Kamino people and their conveyor belts full of fetuses! All of it leads up to a kickass space battle featuring the Slave I, which Boba is about to inherit, and its stash of seismic charges.
I should mention that for this rewatching of Star Wars, I tweaked my home audio so that my speakers are now suspended, dangling on each side of my head at approximately ear height, because that eliminates the rattle of subwoofers interacting with furniture. Why yes, the audience is listening, in a little cocoon of optimized sound on the couch.
I was still glowing from the seismic charges all the way through Anakin’s taking his girlfriend home to meet mom, and enjoy some nice chilled blue milk. And execute a bunch of tusken raiders, and then cry about it, even though Anakin personally obliterated a trade federation ship full of robot-controlling personnel (almost some of which were certainly independent contractors) before he even hit puberty. And yes, they were attacking Naboo, but the tuskens were attacking his mom. Of course, that’s kind of a reoccurring cycle with Darth Vader – massive overkill, guilt and angst, leading to emotional explosion, leading to massive overkill, repeat. He’s so operatic.
With Padme taking a properly assertive and active role in the action, they then head over to rescue Obi Wan from the wicked geonosians, who are in league with Count Dooku aka Tyrannus the guy who ordered up the clone army, and the trade federation, and the Fett family. After an arena contest with some Oddworld monsters –
Oddworld is an odd little series of computer games, in which you play a sentient meat animal escaping from sadistic factory farms. One of the monsters you must face is a long-legged galloping crab, the “scrab.” Scrabs apparently struck a chord in the collective imagination and they have made their way into places like Star Wars, and World of Warcraft. The Star Wars scrab is a particularly big and scary one, with a mouthful of pointy teeth.
Also, while everyone’s busy, Jarx2 uses Padme’s proxy to give Palpatine unlimited power. Yoda and Mace Windu trade exasperated looks and prepare for battle.
-- our heroes find themselves in a big old Jedi versus robots battle, followed by a big old mech battle, followed by some insane lightstabering. Even Yoda gets a few slices in. Heroic stormtroopers beat up evil battle droids, spaceships drop off walkers for a ground battle, lasers go pewpew and stuff explodes. Seriously, all the fighting one can ever hope for in a Star Wars movie is in the last half hour of this film. Followed by a brief and understated secret wedding. Because if Padme had a non-secret wedding she’d probably have a dress that takes up an entire city block, and ice sculptures depicting works of fiction she thinks are more literate than Star Wars.
This movie goes on way too long, and most of that has to do with the young lovers’ agonizing courtship, but it has a lot of high points and photogenic moments. The debris-filled rings encircling Geonosia, and the sloshing blue milk on Padme’s tray betraying her trembling hands, and the deathstick peddling hoodlum in the nightclub, and C3PO’s joyful reunion with R2D2.