Posts Tagged ‘Great Scenes’

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Obi-Wan Discovers The Clone Army

May 5, 2017

AOTC is in part a noir detective story, which is a good portion of Obi-Wan’s thread through the film. He’s trying to find out who had been attempting to assassinate Senator Amidala and each clue leads him further down the rabbit hole of secrets and galactic conspiracy. Once he finds out the poisonous dart that killed Zam Wesell originated on Kamino and he locates the planet, he drops by the watery world for a visit.

There he encounters Lama Su, the prime minister of Kamino, and Taun We who proceed to tell him a Jedi named Syfo Dias, who had died a decade beforehand, ordered a clone army for the Republic. Obi-Wan has to absorb all of this shocking information and still act as though he knows what’s going on. He is then taken of a tour of the clone facility where we see scores of clone fetuses, clone kids (Daniel Logan), young adult clones, and finally clones in full armor getting ready for action.

Visually this scene is very striking. The dark grays of Kamino’s rainy exterior and the bright and clinical white of Kamino City’s interiors make for an eye-pleasing palate while conveying the grays of secrecy outside and the stark light of truth on the inside. The storm portends the disaster to come for the galaxy because of what is being created there. ILM’s work on the Kaminoans still looks incredible. I’m especially impressed with their skin texture, their unique and graceful gait, and the movement of fabric. I also dig the “spoons” they sit on. The clone facility reminds me of “THX-1138” on a much bigger budget and updated technology. It’s astonishing and creepy all at the same time.

As an aside, the utensils the clones eat their invisible food with (heh heh) came from IKEA. I only know this because I had the same utensil set but in green. Don’t go running to your nearest IKEA to look for it because it was discontinued years ago.

Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan is cheeky as he’s forced to b.s. his way through this conversation. I just love his “that’s why I’m here.” He has to maintain his poker face as he sees this insane operation going on, all done on the Jedi Council’s dime.

John Williams’s score adds to the ominous air of mystery, giving way to the militaristic music as armored clones march in formation and board huge ships.

To borrow from Lama Su, “magnificent.”

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Yoda Confronts Dooku

November 28, 2016

 

Perhaps the biggest crowd-pleasing scene in AOTC was Yoda confronting Count Dooku.  Up until the time AOTC was released, we’d never seen Yoda do anything other than train Jedi, walk around with that stick, and say wise stuff.  But Yoda could open a can of whoop-ass if necessary and thanks to ILM’s digital magic, what was once impossible for a character realized by a puppet was in 2002 a reality.

This was something George Lucas had wanted to do in AOTC from the get-go.  He wanted to show audiences why Yoda was “the” Jedi.  But he found a lot of resistance from people along the way.  ILM balked at the logistics of creating a credible fight scene with the little Jedi Master.  Others thought it would look dumb and people would laugh at it.  But of the 11 times I’d seen AOTC in the theaters, audiences applauded the top of this scene every single time.  The audience at the first screening I’d gone to at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C. went absolutely bananas.

We all know the drill.  Obi-Wan and Anakin attempt to battle Dooku and get it handed to both of them. It gets quiet and all of a sudden, Yoda humbly enters the scene.  After some trash talking, Dooku tries to fling things at Yoda with the Force.  After Yoda deflects the flying objects, Dooku tries Force lightning.  When that doesn’t work, it’s time to take out the lightsabers.  Yoda flips around and engages the really tall Dooku like a champ.  It’s only when Dooku tries to topple a pillar on top of Anakin and Obi-Wan that he’s able to escape from Yoda.  Cheater.

ILM’s visual effects artists of course did an amazing job realizing this scene. If the visuals didn’t work, the whole thing would’ve been a disaster. While today’s animation would be even better it was pretty spectacular for 2002. I happen to think it works now. Not only does Yoda look great in fight mode, I like his whole attitude prior to the fight. Some of those poses were seemingly inspired by Neo in “The Matrix.” Christopher Lee had to sell the duel on his end and he didn’t even have anyone to fight as it was shot on a soundstage. Lee does an amazing job but that just goes without saying. The lighting in the scene–some of it digital, some of it done on set–is perfect.

This was a high risk scene that walks the line between “wow, this is awesome” and the absurd but it became one of the most iconic fight scenes in the saga so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Anakin And Watto Meet Again

June 27, 2016

In AOTC, Anakin returns to Tatooine to find his mother, Padmé and Artoo in tow.  He is disobeying his orders to remain on Naboo with Padmé and she goes along ostensibly to make sure he’s not “technically” in trouble, but of course it’s also because she is in love with him.

Anakin first finds Watto in Mos Espa.  Watto, wearing a nifty hat, at first doesn’t recognize his former slave.  The odd thing about their meeting is Anakin first addresses him in Huttese and helps him fix a troublesome piece of what looks like a pit droid.  It seems almost affectionate, as though Anakin is acknowledging that tie with Watto and at the same time is hoping that would remind Watto of who’s addressing him.

Watto realizes he’s speaking with a Jedi and then recognizes that it’s Anakin.  Watto tries to be friendly, even affectionate with Anakin, like an uncle who hasn’t seen his nephew in a long time.  He even has the nerve to ask Anakin for his help to go after some deadbeats.  But Anakin becomes intimidating.  He dispenses with pleasantries (to borrow from his later alter ego Vader) and demands to know where his mother is.  Watto starts to seem uncomfortable as he reveals Shmi was sold.  Anakin speaks softly but his “I’d like to know” is delivered like a Mafia enforcer looking for the guy who owes him protection money.  Watto gets the message and goes to find the location of the Lars homestead.

One amazing thing about this scene is to see how the dynamic between Watto and Anakin changed from TPM to this awkward reunion in AOTC.  Here is one moment in the film where Anakin’s growth into a young man served to his advantage.  He’s no longer Watto’s property; the Toydarian no longer has Anakin’s fate in his hands.  Anakin is tall and casts an imposing figure over his former master.  Plus Anakin is a trained warrior.  The body language and tone of the scene seems to reflect Anakin saying, “You don’t scare me anymore.  I can swat you like the flies all around here.”  This is an empowering scene for him and it’s interesting to note that Padmé is there beside him as this is happening.

At the same time, Watto clearly had some affection for Anakin and in a weird way, Anakin seems to have a teensy-tiny soft spot for Watto as well.  It’s not as though Anakin took out his lightsaber, held it to Watto’s throat, and demanded Shmi’s whereabouts.  Watto had better thank his lucky stars he didn’t encounter Anakin as Darth Vader!

Watto doesn’t get enough credit as an achievement of CGI.  I always found him believable and loved his characterization.  Hayden Christensen does a fine job interacting with Watto and expressing Anakin’s conflicting emotions.

Plus there is the visual feast of Mos Espa, a place teeming with animals, aliens, people, and droids.  There’s something about Lucas’s visuals that make a place come alive.  Mos Espa always make me think of Moebius’s comic art, which served as inspiration for the PT.  Completing it is John Williams’s score reflecting an ancient and exotic culture.

 

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: A Visit To Dex’s Diner

April 19, 2016

This interlude in AOTC packs a lot into a short seemingly simple scene. Dex’s Diner is another one of Lucas’s throwbacks to mid-20th century Americana. Even though it is on Coruscant, it looks familiar enough inside and out so that the audience instantly recognizes what it is and you’d almost be willing to try whatever the GFFA’s versions are of chocolate milkshakes, club sandwiches, French fries, chef’s salads, cherry pies, and a damn good cup of coffee (perhaps that’s “jawa juice”). A jukebox plays a bouncy tune. Dex might have several arms but his gruff but friendly demeanor is reminiscent of t.v. greasy spoon proprietors like Mel on the ‘70s sitcom “Alice” or Al on “Happy Days.” Plus he’s got issues with keeping his pants up.

The scene though is more than Lucas marinating in his small town youth. For one thing, it moves the detective story arc forward since Dex knows where the poison dart comes from and about the cloning operation on Kamino. It also shows how Obi-Wan has changed somewhat since TPM. In that film, Obi-Wan didn’t seem terribly engaged with people outside of the Jedi Order. You can practically see him rolling his eyes every time Qui-Gon gets chummy with a local and there is that “why do I sense you’ve picked up another pathetic lifeform” comment. Now here he is warmly embracing Dex like an old friend and taking advantage of Dex’s underworld knowledge when he’s exhausted sources at the Temple. Some of Qui-Gon had rubbed off on Obi-Wan and he probably knows at this point that it helped make him a better Jedi.

What Dex has to say is important too. He jokes about the Jedi (not) knowing the difference between knowledge and wisdom.  It indicates that even the guy who runs a regular diner knows the Jedi are starting to trust knowledge over wisdom. “If it’s not in the archives it doesn’t exist,” though of course it can. There’s a theme throughout AOTC that the Jedi were “too sure of themselves” and even “arrogant.” Which, along with their vision being clouded by the Dark Side leads to their downfall.

Most of Obi-Wan’s detective arc scenes are in dark or shadowy locations. Even Kamino, where it’s very bright in the interiors, is a dark and stormy planet. This scene is in bright “daylight,” which indicates honesty and openness.

Ewan is just way too adorable in this scene and he plays off of the guy playing Dex beautifully.
Bonus trivia: Dex’s full name is Dexter Jettster, the last name of course taken from Lucas’s son Jett. He’s not to be confused with Dex Dexter, a character on ‘80s nighttime soap opera “Dynasty.”

Extra bonus trivia: If you watch the closeups carefully, you’ll notice Obi-Wan’s got a pierced ear ;).

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Qui-Gon’s Funeral

February 22, 2016

Qui-Gon’s funeral on Naboo is one of those important, fascinating yet kind of overlooked scenes in the saga.

The major players in the prequel trilogy are assembled in a tiny room as they watch Qui-Gon’s body burn on a funeral pyre.  The fire provides the only light in the room as they stand grim-faced, John Williams’s funereal score emphasizing the solemnity of the scene.  (For you trivia buffs, the lyrics are in Sanskrit, as are the lyrics to “Duel of the Fates.”)  Anakin asks Obi-Wan what’s to become of him, and Obi-Wan reveals to the lad that the Council has agreed to let Anakin be trained.  (You’d think they’d bother to tell Anakin sooner.)  It’s interesting to note that in many scenes crucial to Anakin’s fate or to Vader’s, there’s fire present.  This is one of them.  Anakin is officially taking his first steps forward on the Jedi path.

Yoda and Mace Windu mull over Maul; here is where we hear the Sith Rule of Two for the first time.  There is only a master and an apprentice.  Just after Mace Windu ponders aloud whether Maul was the master or the apprentice, the camera focuses on Chancellor Palpatine.  There he is, right under everyone’s nose!   Is it possible he overheard the chatty Jedi?

I always felt like this scene also foretells the fates of everyone in the room.  Only Yoda dies of old age; everyone else dies tragically or violently.  Nobody lives past ROTJ.  Curiously enough it is the death of Qui-Gon that sets those events in motion.

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Padmé’s Ruminations

October 22, 2015

Arguably the best scene in ROTS, arguably the best scene in the saga. Certainly one of if not the most effective Star Wars scenes shot to date.

Part of me absolutely loves this scene because I’m a diehard Anakin/Padmé shipper. That silent expression of connection and love is amazing as Anakin is once again torn between doing what he was ordered to do (remain in the Council chamber) and doing what he wants to do (make sure nobody kills Sidious so that he’s able to save Padmé). They’re not able to see each other but Anakin gazes toward the tower where she is and she is gazing back at the Jedi Temple through her window. I think Padmé is aware through the Force of something troubling Anakin but doesn’t know quite what it is. Anakin’s awareness of whatever it is he is sharing with Padmé just emphasizes his need to save her. The only dialogue in this scene is either Anakin remembering Palpatine telling him it’s the only way to save her or Sidious putting the words into his head through the Force. Either way, Anakin tearfully makes his choice and leaves the chamber, then the moment ends, breaking off their connection.

Part of me absolutely loves this scene because it’s just awesome filmmaking. Usually Lucas saves his silent sequences for the end but in this case, he puts one right at the moment Anakin makes his pivotal decision that causes the whole galactic house of cards to come crashing down. The film cuts seamlessly and effortlessly between Anakin and Padme, temple and senatorial suite. Here, without dialogue, is where Lucas is the most understood…I think everybody got that scene and what it means. Lucas is definitely a silent movie guy at heart. Emphasizing the impending tragedy is the red-orange sunset enveloping Coruscant. The light is dying out brilliantly and darkness will soon fall. It also symbolizes the turmoil of Anakin’s feelings and the passion Anakin and Padmé feel for one another. The acting is subtle but very well done. I find it interesting that for the most part Anakin is the more openly emotional of the two but from this point forward, Padmé becomes very emotional herself.

Capping it off is John Williams’s score for this scene that’s sad and ominous, especially with the vocals. The first time I saw the movie I wondered if it was Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance but it isn’t. Sounds like her though. Williams must’ve seen a few Russell Crowe movies.

All in all, a perfect scene.

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Jedi Don’t Have Nightmares

August 30, 2015

After Padmé friend zones Anakin, he suffers through nightmares about his mother Shmi. He is seen the next morning standing on a balcony with his hands clasped behind his back, staring off at clouds obscuring the sun and blue sky as he is lost in his thoughts about what to do next. The visuals signal his confusion and conflict between his assigned duty and his urgency to go to his mother, who might be in trouble.

Padmé emerges from her bedroom and is about to leave him, figuring she is interrupting his meditation or something but he asks her to stay. She tells him she heard his nightmares even though he denies it. Anakin reveals he is troubled about his mother’s fate and he has to go to her. Padmé, because of course she loves him in spite of what she’d told him, volunteers to travel with him.

This is another one of those quiet moments but there is a lot happening here. The nightmare is the catalyst for what happens with Anakin and Padmé’s arc for the rest of the film and leads to Anakin’s first surrender to the Dark Side. Anakin’s vision is “clouded” because he’s torn between what he feels he has to do and his duty on Naboo. He has no one to turn to for guidance; Obi-Wan is off on his own adventure. He has to make a choice and given his age and his attachment to his mother, of course he’s going to choose going to Tatooine. He’s no different from Luke deciding to run off to Cloud City to save his friends.

Many have noted the way Anakin is standing in the shot on the balcony is exactly the same way Darth Vader stands at various times during the OT. It’s a testament to both Hayden Christensen and George Lucas that they were thinking of keeping a character’s quirks consistent throughout the series.

What doesn’t get discussed as much is the intimacy between Anakin and Padmé in this scene. There’s no kissing or anything like that and Padmé is wearing a robe, but for a couple absolutely determined Not To Fall In Love, Anakin isn’t uncomfortable wearing a see-through shirt around her and you can tell Padmé’s nightgown is a little sexier than the one she had on earlier in the film. She doesn’t try that hard to make sure it’s absolutely covered up. Watch Padmé’s eyes as she is initially talking to Anakin; she is looking him up and down. Then she insists on going to Tatooine with Anakin instead of demanding he remain on Naboo with her or asking the Jedi Council to send somebody else. They’re in love all right.

The beauty of the scene, the on-beat performances, and the use of visuals to express the characters’ emotions make it a memorable one.

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: The Duel Begins

June 18, 2015

Darth_Maul_lightsaber_reveal

The whole sequence that makes up the big climactic act of TPM is one amazing piece of cinema. Taking a cue from ROTJ and its three crosscut battles (Endor, the space battle, and the lightsaber duel aboard the Death Star), TPM goes for four with the fight with Darth Maul, the space battle, Queen Amidala retaking her own castle, and Gungans battling the droid army.

But it all starts with perhaps one of the most popular moments in the film, when the queen, her handmaidens, and other crew are in the hangar with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, a door opens, and there’s Darth Maul waiting for them to the opening fanfare of “Duel of the Fates.” Darth Maul takes out his lightsaber and for the first time we see both blades ignited. Here’s where it gets real, boys and girls!

“We’ll take care of this,” Qui-Gon says in an understated way.

“We’ll go the other way,” the young queen says, wisely getting out of there with her retinue as quickly as possible. It’s a great little exchange not out of place in any of the Star Wars films.

The cloaks drop—beginning a prequel tradition of dumping off robes at the beginning of lightsaber duels–and the lightsabers ignite. Maul reveals he has two blades, enough to take on two Jedi at once.

This is where editing, Williams’s score, and Ray Park’s performance (which is amazing, especially when you consider he’d never really acted in a movie before) helped make that particular scene stand out. I’d seen TPM at total of 13 times with an audience and every single time, it brings cheers.

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Opera House Scene

May 19, 2015

Not only is this one of the great scenes of the prequel trilogy, I think it rivals the “ruminations” scene as the single greatest scene of the saga so far.

There are no space battles, no lightsaber duels, no explosions, or chases happening, just two guys sitting in a theater talking. It’s a scene that could’ve been in “The Godfather” or “The Departed” or some other “adult” movie film critics and trophy committees love and serious students of cinema go back to again and again. But no, it’s in Star Wars, mainstream pop culture “popcorn” fare and it’s perfect. Everything works in this scene: the cinematography, sound, acting, dialogue, you name it.

There’s a strange “ballet” going on at the opera house but the real drama is up in Palpatine’s box. Palpatine has been grooming Anakin little by little for years and now he is going to spring open the trap. He starts talking about the Jedi, power, and equivalence which intrigues Anakin even as he starts out by answering Palpatine’s assertions with memorized Jedi lessons. Then Palpatine goes in for the kill…he brings up Darth Plagueis and the Sith Lord’s quest for eternal life. NOW he’s got Anakin’s attention, because Anakin is desperate for a way to prevent his visions about Padme from coming true. “The dark side is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural,” Palpatine intones. He goes on about the fate of Plagueis, but all Anakin wants to know is, “Is it possible to learn this power?” “Not from a Jedi,” Palpatine says, leaving it hanging in the air for Anakin to snatch. All Palpatine needs to do next is set events into motion that will compel Anakin to act.

Ian McDiarmid is at his absolute best in this scene. He’s still playing the Chancellor: calm, smooth, and understated. The only thing that gives away “Sidious” in this scene is when he tells his flunkies sitting there with him to scram. Palpatine knows the key to bringing Anakin to the Dark Side isn’t promising of money or fame or anything like that but telling Anakin what he wants to hear and a way to save Padme is what Anakin at this point wants to hear the most. McDiarmid is so engrossing to listen to, Hayden Christensen admitted to occasionally losing where he was because he’d been so captivated by McDiarmid’s performance.

Speaking of which, Hayden does a great job playing off of his co-star. Anakin is at first answering Palpatine with what’s been instilled in him as a Jedi, but I always got the impression that this is just deflection, like the guy who’s about to cheat on his wife but keeps protesting he still loves her to the other woman ready to tear off his clothes. Anakin says it because he knows that’s what he’s supposed to say, though he’s not really sure if he believes it anymore. It’s also clear Anakin is hooked, like a little boy listening to a campfire story. He even says, “What happened to him?” in almost a child-like way.

The whole cadence of both actors’ dialogue is hypnotic, matched with the odd deep sounds coming from the ballet, which remind me of recordings I’ve heard of Tibetan Buddhist chants.

The framing is perfect and the lighting is perfect. It’s appropriate that this secret exchange about the Dark Side occurs in a darkened theater. The visual effects of the performers floating around and through the bubble create the sense of not being in Kansas anymore.

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Podrace

January 26, 2015

TPM’s major showpiece was the Boonta Eve pod race. It’s like the big showstopping musical number right before intermission. It’s Lucas at his very whimsical, bizarre, and entertaining best.

We know the stakes are high. The heroes all need Anakin to win to get off-planet. Anakin needs to win not only to help his new friends but also to win his own freedom (though he doesn’t know it yet). If that’s not enough to put on the young boy’s shoulders, the kid has never finished much less win a race before.

It’s not a soapbox derby either. It’s a very dangerous race where extreme speeds, topography, unpredictable vehicles, Tusken Raiders, and cheating competitors guarantee some casualties every time.

But along with all of this tension and drama is a great deal of goofy humor throughout the scene: whimsical and silly-looking aliens, the hard luck of Ben Quadinaros, the even harder luck of Ratts Tyerell, flatulent eopies, a pit droid getting sucked into an engine, Fode and Beed the two-headed commentators, the Jawas yelling “utinni,” etc.. It’s “Ben Hur” meets “Spongebob Squarepants.”

Of course, the scene also allows Lucas to indulge in one of his favorite things ever, racing. Races are in several of his films, going back to his student days. If it involves speed, Lucas is there. He lives for it and it shows throughout the scene.

This scene is largely built on editing and on ILM’s visual effects. The latest in effects for that time, ILM combined model work with new digital effects. John Williams’s music doesn’t kick in until toward the end, just as it’s down to the wire between Anakin and Sebulba. Otherwise the only score is the sound of the racers’ engines.

The drama and comedy culminate in a victory for Anakin and his friends, set to Williams’s soaring score. We know it’s another step down Anakin’s path to his destiny but for that moment, he’s on top of the world.