Essay On Clones And Droids In The PT

RetroZap has a new installment in its Power To The Prequels series, “Do Clones Dream Of Electric Banthas?”, which looks at how the clone army of AOTC and ROTS are basically droids with a meat covering:

If the clones aren’t technically “robots” in the modern use of the word as a metal, mechanical being, they certainly are in the metaphorical sense and in the classic, original definition. Playwright Karel Čapek coined the term “robot” in his 1920 science-fiction play, R.U.R. and it referred to a genetically engineered synthetic creature that looked so similar to a human it could be confused for one. Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and its loose cinematic adaptation, Blade Runner, envision robots as similarly difficult to differentiate from humankind. Further, they dwell on the question we find ourselves circling at the moment: what does it actually mean to be human?


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29 Responses to “Essay On Clones And Droids In The PT”

  1. Hoggle Says:

    Covers many interesting prequel points, but the Clones were not robots. As Obi’s banter showed with Cody, they represent a different potential in of themselves.

    This was problamatic to the Jedi’s position in the force.

    • Michael Says:

      Thanks for reading, Hoggle! I respectfully disagree though. I think that outside the expanded universe and the Clone Wars animated show, the intent was very much to paint the clones as human robots (ala Capek’s RUR).

      I do address Cody’s banter with Obi-Wan in the piece; I think the fact he so effortlessly and unhesitatingly turns on Kenobi is evidence that the clones are subhuman in their cinematic iteration.

      • Hoggle Says:

        You’re welcome Michael & like how you’re big fan of the prequels 👌

        in my fan fic sequel trilogy (the first of which i’m actually solid with all the way through, others have some significant changes ahead) the first episode is of a Clone rebellion seeking to rule the galaxy – this is not a good thing in my fic! – and are partly crusading against all forms of force practitonership.

        In the end battle space battle against Empress Leia’s new republic forces, their central command structure is destroyed but then the attack is halted & they individually call in to surrender against Leia, & join her in autonomy although her rule of the galaxy is heavily force practitonership based but in the polar opposite way to what Palpatine’s was. The clones in the fic are actually serving a powerful Sith lords greater magic in attempting an eternal Sith empire to rule the galaxy, hehe. :|]

        The clones in the prequels are like a more primitive version of the Gungans and Jar Jar to me, if they were trained and efficicient at technological warfare. So in a sense they are more pathetic life forms than what Obi’s prejudices were in TPM, although debatably of a higher order than the Gungans. All the same, they have the potential of contributing and growing into their own equal place in the ‘living force’ in GL’s symbiance of the force. They are not afforded that respect collectively by the Jedi Order in the prequels in their relationship to the Jedi, although the capacity is clearly there in an advanced way & the Jedi encourage this on individual levels when working with the Clones.

  2. Timothy Eatough Says:

    It’s funny. I literally just watched Attack of the Clones yesterday and I was thinking to a minor degree about the stuff the article said.

    I can’t remember his exact words, but on the commentary track during Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s cut down of the droids at the beginning of The Phantom Menace, Lucas said that he wanted to established a droid army and then bring in a human army over the course of the trilogy. In that sense, the fact that Jedi were mow their way through the droids foreshadows their death at the hands of the clones.

    Also, another thought in regards in their similarities, central authority: In Phantom Menace, Anakin destroys the Trade Federation control ship and all the droids deactivate. In Revenge of the Sith, the Chancellor executes Order 66, so all the Clones turn of the Jedi. Obviously these are two very different events but they play with the same motifs (Lucas’ words on poetry, music, rhyming, and the repeating and variating of themes comes to mind) and connect to two armies together.

  3. Jacobesico Says:

    There’s something wonderfully eerie about the Kamino sequences.

    There’s not a hint of individuality amongst the rows of Clones and there is certainly something rather robotic about them. (Not a criticism about the CGI by the way. I thought that that was quite amazing.)

    I find the Battle Droids quite funny and have enjoyed their antics in The Clone Wars. The Clones are quite deadly on the other hand.

    • Michael Says:

      I wonder if the CGI was an intentional choice to make the clones a little eerier and unnatural. There’s that uncanny valley between computer generated imagery and reality that I think plays subconsciously to great effect with the clones. That whole Kamino sequence in particular gives me the creeps.

  4. ladylavinia1932 Says:

    I have a little problem with this article. It is very well written, but I think the author had forgotten that even individual humans can be “programmed” via propaganda and beliefs to accept society without questioning or even give up their individuality. Haven’t many fans of the Prequel movies commented on the Jedi Order’s own efforts to ensure that its followers march to the beat of the order’s drum? Or that a lot of them – like Obi-Wan himself – were willing to do?

    On the other hand, if we’re to believe that both clones and droids are merely “soulless” slaves of the more naturally organic characters, why did Lucas go out of his way to portray CP-30 and R2-D2 as individuals instead of mere robots with no personality? Why establish that relationship between Obi-Wan and Cody?

    • Michael Says:

      It all boils down to choice. The clones as we are introduced to them in the films have no choice; they can make decisions on the battlefield, sure. But nothing suggests that they can make moral or ethical decisions.

      On the other hand, the Jedi and members of the Republic or Confederacy may be “slaves” in the metaphorical sense to their causes or propaganda, but they have the option to resist, to not follow everyone else off the cliff. They are not “literal” mind slaves to anybody.

      Proof of this is the few who do resist the “programming.” Padme’s certainly not buying any of Palp’s nonsense when she says, “So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause” and that’s before she knows Palpatine is Sith.

      Furthermore, The Rebellion is the ultimate evidence that the human characters in Star Wars can resist against the popular consensus and choose another path for themselves.

      Droids like Threepio and R2 are clearly advanced well beyond the battle droids or clones; they do resist their programming, whether it’s 3PO trying to fight off the urge to kill Jedi when he becomes merged with a battle droid or R2 ignoring orders to stay on Padme’s ship.

      But look at the clones again, especially Cody. He doesn’t show the least bit of hesitation in ordering Kenobi’s death. I believe the scene of Cody joshing around with Obi-Wan is there to show the extent of the clones’ coldness and automation. His turning from warm to cold faster than a faucet changes temperatures is the best evidence of the clones’ robotic nature.

  5. Thorin Milliken Says:

    Neat article. Certainly it can be debated whether or not the Clones were like the droids, but it’s hard not to see the similarities at least. Also, Thx for mentioning Blade Runner! One of my all time favorite movies! Harrison rocks in that film. Even if replicants were artificial, they could be made to believe they were real humans. A lot to contemplate. What does it mean to be real, or alive? We’re all someone’s creation.

    • Michael Says:

      I have a dreamt that one day the prequels will be given the same mainstream acceptance and respect that Blade Runner enjoys today. When BR was released in theaters, it was a critical and financial flop. It took a long time for it to be rediscovered and reassessed as the brilliant piece of cinema it is.

      • Timothy Eatough Says:

        I think it’s only a matter time, patience, and dedication. The media’s ignorance actually pushed me (and others, I’m guessing) to a willingness to search for an understanding with these movies I otherwise wouldn’t have. Articles like yours give me even more reasons why I consider these to be among the best movies ever made, childhood nostalgia aside.

        Getting back on topic, Blade Runner sounds like a cool movie. I’ll definitely check it out sometime. Nice to hear to it’s now triumphant in the modern assessment.

      • lazypadawan Says:

        Yep, this is absolutely true. “Blade Runner” had the misfortune of coming out a decade before urban sci-fi/cyberpunk became a thing so a lot of people weren’t drawn to it. Plus, the studio found the film hard to follow so it insisted on narration, much to the annoyance of Ridley Scott. So Harrison Ford, who also hated the idea of narration, purposely did the whole thing in a monotone, hoping the studio would hate it and not use it. Nope! That annoyed the critics. If that wasn’t enough, the studio also insisted on a less ambiguous ending, so it lifted some leftover footage from “The Shining” and used it to help piece together a happily-ever-after ending! Scott’s original cut without narration came out in 1992. As the movie got played on cable in the years afterward, it acquired a following.

      • Hoggle Says:

        If you enjoy Blade Runner, a nifty lesser known film that does similar territory in a more oblique way, is one called Avalon by the Japanese Anime director of the Ghost in the Shell & could be worthwhile checking out.

      • Michael Says:

        Will definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. Cristian Martinez Says:

    If anyone want to understand how many species can work together in a galactic Republic, playing Stellaris would help you do that, the prequels really make easy the politics and the understanding between factions in the Republics, even that everyone has their own agenda, in Stellaris everyone want to conquer you or destroy you in one shape or form.

    I liked the idea of the Clones, even that I had no idea that Palpatine was the Emperor at the time, I trough that his speech at the end of Attack of the Clone was sympathetic (I had seen Originals when I was a pre-teen and The Phantom Menace) I only had seen Attack of the Clones in 2006 or 2007, I really trough that they were good guys and I had no idea how everything would turn out, even that they were clones that have some sense of individuality, that show very well in the Clone Wars cartoon were the clones assume different names and aspect to different between each other.

  7. buick runner Says:

    Excellent article that explains the movie clones. First we have to remember the clones are sourced from Jango Fett who is a ruthless thug which the Sith valued those traits in their army. It is reminiscent of how the Frankenstein monster had a abnormal criminal brain, only with the clones it is on purpose instead of by accident. Also the clones, similar to the replicants, in Blade Runner lack empathy, especially since Jango probably had little to begin with.

    The cloners, also inform Obi-Wan and us, that the clones have been genetically modified to be less independent and more docile to obey any order without question. Which ROTS shows to be all too true with Order 66, as the clones are loyal to Palpatine, not the Jedi. From their introduction, the clones have a sinister vibe running through the films. This is why Lucas originally envisioned stormtroopers to be clones, as it is the Empire’s MO to perverse life in this matter, to mass manufacturer disposable men for soldiers, and why both the PT and OT films hint that stormtroopers are indeed clones.

    Unfortunately, The Clone Wars series decided to greatly depart from the films concerning the clones. Portraying the clones far nicer and much more individualized than they ever were in the films. In ROTS, the clones don’t display no where near the amount of individuality the animated series clones display. Of course the clones are not the only elements that where changed with adapting the story from live action film to weekly cartoon TV series. Just look how much SG1, differed from the Stargate series.

    • buick runner Says:

      I meant to say just look how much SG1, differed from the original Stargate “film.” When a work is transferred from one format to other, like book to film, or film to TV series, it usually goes through adaptation decay.

    • Hoggle Says:

      Clones by the time of RoTS have an awareness that is beyond robotic compared the to battle droids. The battle droids have a sense of danger, a sort of Op Ole, eike! run for it! that has humor about it but it’s not much of a self awareness.

      Clones in RoTS has the pilot in the space battle, indirectly asking for help to not be killed, Cody has some pride specific to his relationship & abilities to Obi-1 & actually looked out for him in the midst of a big battle by retrieving & personally delivering his lost lightsaber. This individuality has no where to go or value though for the Clones in the context of obeying any order without question. In this sense, the Clones are stuck collectively in a deep sleep that they are never given the freedom to completely wake up from with a dream not of their making.

      I liked the idea ( & incorporated it in my fan fic ) that when Palpatine had his ‘freedom of existence’ death in the galaxy, in RoTJ, that for the Clones galatic wide, it was like waking up from a deep sleep. Then the backstory being that due to their clone background & orientation, they found it hard to integrate or fit in around the galaxy, & were widely persecuted for being the face of two messed up galactic eras as well as being taken advantaged of due to less developed sense of autonomy. WIthout Palpatine’s dark magic ruling them from their creation, this vacuum in their collective clone nature grew into a monolithic hive mind ability, which due to their post empire defeat difficulties, they end up gravitating to as a somewhat super-normal power which they start using in tandom again with what they originally were specialised in, for seeking an orderly Clone empire to fix the galaxy.

      • slicer87 Says:

        That would have been a better plot for TFA.

      • Hoggle Says:

        That’s a nice thing to say, thank you 🎈

        A fan fic can be as idiosyncratic as the person wants, & that’s just what it is. As turned out, TFA does have some similarities. Went into it being how the Kurosawa film the HIdden Fortress would have some type of influence. I start with Luke in a cave ( a crystal one with an clash of two space armadas taking place over the planet ) while TFA ends with Luke in a cave or similar. Out of the big 3 OT secondary characters, was also the episode where Han was most prominent. Han & Leia had a darksidy force gifted son ( although mine was more a swashbuckling dark jedi hero type & mix of Anakin & OT Han). The main protagonist was a extremely naturally force gifted & untrained late teen Heroine ( although was like a cross of OT Leia, Aeon Flux from the live action movie & Tauriel from the Hobbit trilogy : the extended edition Hobs strike me as masterpieces of Fantasy-Adventure Genre as a further aside )

        But then it had different characters, like the other main protagonist being a twi-lek princess who was a cross between Padme & Katara from the Last Airbender live action movie. Then it also introduced a main secondary character Jedi Ranger who was a cross between the female Jedi in the Old Republic ‘hope’ trailer and Megan Fox.

        It’s opening scroll was more in the style of TPMs with more ambiguity and part of it required watching the whole movie (in fan fic land 😀 ) & working out which bit was what.

        As to the Clone armies rebellion, they like everything else start to get over run by un-dead Sith armies in the second fic, which is also where Angelics/Guardians and Midi star system servants started to come into things. 📝

  8. buick runner Says:

    I am glad I am not the only person to recognize differences between the prequel films and the clone war series.

    • Michael Says:

      You make some great points, Buick! Especially with the connection between Frankenstein’s monster’s criminal brain and Jango Fett as the template. That’s a connection I was so close to making but just didn’t the corner on.

      • buick runner Says:

        Thank you. I didn’t even think of it until I read your article which helped me form the connection. That is a scary concept in the films, a army of Abby Normals, LOL.

        When you watch ROTS, you can see post 66, the clones drop all pretense of being remotely nice, and we see them detaining people in the background on Utapau and not giving a crap over dead ally Wookies while searching for Yoda. Personally I think order 66 reveals the true nature of the clones, and as you said, they are an army of monsters in a sense.

      • lazypadawan Says:

        They had no problem with killing kids either. The clones immediately became the first foot soldiers of the Empire.

        In my headcanon, the friendlier and individualized clones in TCW were more the exception than the rule, mostly guys who had been largely under the influence of Anakin or Ahsoka, and most of them probably had to be reprogrammed or eliminated after the establishment of the Empire. Rex and a couple of others managed to get away and went into hiding.

    • buick runner Says:

      I can see a few exceptions, as even the old 1978 Lucasfilm sourcebook that states stormtroopers are clones, raised through childhood to be soldiers,still have a a few and very rare AWOL clones that don’t officially exist.

  9. Michael Says:

    How did I forget to mention that the clones are first introduced with the battle droids’ theme!? If that visual cue of them marching doesn’t remind you enough of the battle droids lining up to attack the Gungans from TPM, surely that theme ought to do the trick.

    *Facepalm* The things you think about a week AFTER you’ve written your article! 😉

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