AOTC Revelations #1: The Players

Warning: Massive Spoilers!

Written: 2002-05-18
Last revised: 2002-06-08

Palpatine

Well, Palpatine is one sneaky sunuvabitch, isn't he? In this film, we confirm that his goal has always been to start a war and play both sides against the middle. Or, to be more specific, create a false threat against himself and then use it to achieve political gain. He tried this ten years earlier at Naboo:

  1. Attain political power in Naboo, a defenseless but politically influential star system (he became Senator).

  2. Quietly push the Senate to approve trade taxes which will infuriate commercial groups such as the Trade Federation.

  3. Maneuver a young ingenue into the position of Queen (not shown, but quite plausible, given his behind-the-scenes manipulation of the Senate).

  4. Secretly offer to help the Trade Federation. Convince Nute Gunray that if he blockades Naboo, he can put enough political pressure on the Senate to repeal the hated trade tax.

  5. Quietly begin spreading dirty rumours about Chancellor Valorum, specifically with regards to those "baseless accusations of corruption" we heard him tell Amidala about.

  6. Have his Trade Federation patsies attack the planet and kill her (as foreseen by Qui-Gon Jinn), knowing that by now, they're in over their heads and they'll think it's too late to back out. This creates a compelling tragedy: the invasion of a completely defenseless and beautiful world, and the tragic death of a beautiful young girl.

  7. Use the pointless, ugly bloodshed to wring sympathy out of the Senate and complete the disintegration of the Supreme Chancellor's credibility, thus vaulting himself into power.

However, his Trade Federation patsies were too incompetent to pull it off. They couldn't kill two Jedi Knights on their starship, Queen Amidala slipped away from beneath their noses, and in the end, they actually got beaten by the pathetic Naboo police force and Gungan army despite vastly superior forces that they squandered through mind-boggling stupidity (sending away thousands of blockading ships was the height of idiocy, among many other horrible mistakes). Worse yet, his apprentice died. However, he was able to improvise a new plan, and he used Queen Amidala as the catalyst for the vote that unseated Valorum and gave him the position of Supreme Chancellor. The plan, while not perfect, still achieved its principal objective.

This time, he abandoned his now-disillusioned patsies and pushed them into the arms of a new apprentice: Count Dooku, who told them everything they wanted to hear. But in the end, the method was merely a continuation of the same theme: create a crisis and play both sides against the middle. If you're Emperor, er ... Chancellor Palpatine, the next phase of the plan seems to be:

  1. Order a clone army from Kamino. Order the Jedi Knight Sifo-Dyas to secretly perform the transaction on your executive authority as Supreme Chancellor, since he is a "leading member of the Jedi Council" and his word will be taken at face value.

  2. Have Count Dooku kill Sifo-Dyas because dead men tell no tales, and then erase Kamino from the records so that no one will inquire into the matter.

  3. Approve a steady stream of regulations and taxes which will be sure to enrage commercial groups and economically depressed outlying systems.

  4. Have Count Dooku incite unrest among disaffected systems and commercial groups.

  5. Describe the widespread unrest as the unruly, self-serving actions of a small minority, and use the crisis as an excuse to remain in power beyond your term of office. Continue to pass more regulations intended to keep the peace (which coincidentally enrage these commercial groups and outlying systems further).

  6. Have Count Dooku go public, and begin organizing disaffected groups and systems into an organized political secession movement.

  7. Quietly groom Anakin Skywalker to become your next apprentice, so that he will strike down the strong-willed Count Dooku before he becomes too powerful and covets your position.

  8. As the ten year period draws to a close, have Count Dooku accumulate an army, carefully selecting the powerful but gullible as his patsies (first stop: those Trade Federation morons). Engage in a duel of increasingly heated public rhetoric with Count Dooku's separatists until it becomes apparent to all that war is imminent.

  9. Kill Amidala, who is leading the political opposition to your militarization act (when this fails, go to plan B: tell her to go away so you can manipulate Jar Jar, her mindless idiot proxy).

  10. Use the increasing threat as an excuse to seize emergency powers, declare martial law, and initiate a massive military buildup.

  11. Let all hell break loose. Cue the Imperial March. Get medieval on the separatists, and bring order to the galaxy.

In the ensuing conflict, the separatists will undoubtedly be destroyed, but not too quickly. Palpatine has probably established just enough military power to fight the separatists, but not enough to quickly overwhelm them, particularly if neither side is willing to use weapons of mass destruction quite yet (a conventional war on that scale could be an enormously time-consuming prospect). This will drag out the war and give him the time he needs to get more clones and ramp up the recruiting programs that would eventually be used to build the Imperial armed forces (remember that clones are useful because large numbers can be produced and trained in secret, but a clonetrooper takes years to produce, while a military recruit requires only a few months of training). It would appear that he intends to drag out the war long enough to transform the Republic into the Empire. Dooku even managed to confiscate the plans to the Death Star for him, which the Geonosians apparently designed in an effort to compensate for their small numbers (or small members; take your pick).

Better yet, Palpatine seems to have Anakin ready for the dark helmet. His clever ruse to put Anakin and Amidala in close proximity has paid off handsomely by creating a huge secret which Anakin must hide from Obi-Wan and the rest of the Jedi Order. We learn that Palpatine has been covertly counselling Anakin for some time, driving subtle wedges between him and the Jedi Order and telling him all the things he wants to hear. For all his power and arrogance, Anakin can be easily led by someone who understands human nature, and Palpatine appears to understand human nature all too well. Palpatine appears to have decided that he's not going to continue the tradition of training an apprentice to replace him. Instead, he seems to want to seize power for himself, with no serious contendors to his throne (including a successor). He doesn't want a strong-willed, independent apprentice who will take over after his death (or worse yet, kill him); he wants someone of great power but little wisdom, who can be manipulated and led. Count Dooku doesn't qualify, but Anakin does.

It has even been suggested that Palpatine might have had something to do with the sandpeoples' abduction of Anakin's mother. The timing is certainly convenient; his mother was abducted just before the Kaminoan clone army was ready, and she was apparently tortured but kept alive until he finally showed up. What was their motivation? They were established to be a somewhat violent society, but they had no intelligible reason to keep a prisoner alive and in captivity for that long. Palpatine undoubtedly knew of Anakin's attachment to his mother, and he could have easily ordered the Jedi to free her or check on her, but he chose not to. While it may seem implausible that Palpatine could have had his hooks into so many different places, one must not discount the prescient vision of a man who would someday foresee the Rebel attack on DS2 at Endor, in such detail that he planned a seemingly foolproof trap for them (only to be foiled by one of the most implausible lucky victories in the history of sci-fi, but still impressive). The novel suggests that they captured her to test the strength of their enemy, but that seems dodgy at best; if you want to test the strength of the enemy, why would you capture a middle-aged woman instead of a strong male? The soundtrack lends weight to the notion that it was deliberate; when Anakin confesses his massacre, the soundtrack conspicuously plays the Emperor's throne-room theme from ROTJ, not Vader's theme (the Imperial March).

Palpatine has already begun assembling other elements of his Empire, such as his signature red-suited private Imperial guardsmen. According to the Visual Dictionary, they are under his direct authority, with no Senate oversight whatsoever. Their training is kept secret, and no one even knows where they come from (small wonder, since the training regimen shown in Crimson Empire was remarkably brutal, and Crimson Guardsmen approached Jedi Knights in their combat skills). This indicates that he has already begun creating the first of many institutions which will exist under his direct control and beyond the jurisdiction of the Senate.

On a somewhat sour side-note, it is widely believed that George Lucas wants Palpatine's seizure of power to resemble that of Adolf Hitler in pre-war Germany. If that is indeed the case, then Mr. Lucas appears to be subscribing to a commonly held historical myth about Hitler, namely the idea that Hitler was a genius who tricked everybody. First of all, Hitler was not a genius. He failed at virtually everything else he ever did in his life (even high school!), and every teacher he ever had described him as a shiftless, lazy, and generally useless clod. Secondly, he did not trick everybody. His platform was made very clear in "Mein Kampf", long before he gained power (he outlined everything in that book; his plan to exterminate the Jews, his plan to declare war on Russia and take "living space" from the Slavs to the east, etc). Goebbels propaganda films made it very clear that Hitler thought the Jews were no better than animals, and that he intended to brutalize and remove them from the presence of ethnic Germans. His fascist ideologies, racial supremacist attitudes, and militaristic intent were never hidden from anyone. People want to believe that Hitler was an evil genius who tricked everybody because they would rather choose to believe that than the truth. The ugly truth is that Hitler was nothing but a psychologically disturbed moron who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, when enough of the German people wanted someone like him.

Anakin and Amidala

When I watch Anakin and Amidala, I get the impression that they both developed their notions of love from bad harlequin romance novels. Do they have any clue what real, adult love is? Probably not; Anakin has never known any woman besides his mother, and Amidala was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, elected Queen at a young age, and surrounded by politicians and assorted sycophants ever since. He is the slave-boy who dreamed of becoming a Jedi and marrying an angel (unfortunately incompatible goals), and she is the spoiled rich girl who was "elected" Queen (presumably from a rather limited pool of applicants drawn from an aristocratic ruling class in a rather old-fashioned society).

So they spout cornball lines at each other and generally play at being star-crossed lovers. Is this lousy script-writing? Or is it good writing for characters who are genuinely fucked-up people? I suppose you could go either way, although the film certainly could have done a better job of pushing you toward the latter interpretation. Does it all come crashing down in the next film, when they both discover that they don't really love each other at all? Does Amidala discover that Anakin is incapable of genuine love, and that cliched come-on lines are all that he really has to offer? Does Anakin discover that Amidala is no more capable of true love than he is, and that she only acquiesced to his advances because she's lonely?

We will see, but in the meantime, I find it curious that Amidala forgave Anakin's massacre of the sand people so easily (even when he admitted that he killed the children too). Is Amidala really so needy, so desperate for romantic love that she can still fall in love with a confessed mass murderer, despite all of the high-minded principles she claims to hold dear? This is a person who supposedly leads the opposition movement against a militarization act, and who had such strong principles that she was willing to risk her life by flying to Coruscant despite threats to her life, in order to vote against it! Why the sudden collapse of moral fibre in the face of Anakin's massacre of women and children? Was Amidala being subtly and subconsciously manipulated by Anakin, through his power over the Force? Perhaps he didn't even realize he was doing it; he had used the Force throughout his entire childhood without realizing it, so it certainly wouldn't be the first time.

As an aside, the whole romance sub-plot would have worked a lot better if the whole "forbidden love" theme had been completely discarded. Have Anakin trying to win her over (unsuccessfully) throughout the entire film, and then have her acquiesce at the end, perhaps due to the tragedy and desperation of the events on Tatooine and Geonosis. That would have worked better, by making her character more consistent and giving her a plausible reason to change her mind at the end (not so effusively, mind you). Instead, they had to have her reciprocate almost immediately, so that there would be a mutual forbidden love, as per the Romeo and Juliet theme. But it felt forced, and didn't play well. Also, a slight manipulation of the sound-track would have made the whole sub-plot much more interesting; if we heard a subtle low-frequency Force rumble every time Anakin coerced someone (eg- telling Zam Wessel to talk, or telling Watto to tell him where his mother is), and we heard that same rumble whenever Anakin tried one of his lines on Amidala, that would make every audience member suspect that Anakin was manipulating her.

The Jedi Order

Something is very wrong with the Jedi Order. According to Mace Windu, their ability to use the Force has weakened. And according to Yoda, the Dark Lord of the Sith is aware of this. But how? How would Darth Sidious know of their weakness? How would they know that he knows? And for how long has this decline been going on? A year? Ten years? A hundred years? Despite annoying expository dialogue on many other issues (particularly some painfully repetitive declarations of love for democracy), the dialogue on this particular point was curiously vague. Is Palpatine somehow manipulating the Dark Side of the Force to interfere with the Jedi and reduce their powers?

Perhaps each successive Dark Lord has been learning how to gain more and more control over the Dark Side of the Force, until so much dark power was wielded by one man that the Force itself had to create a corresponding singular point of concentration for the Light Side: Anakin. Perhaps Anakin, by now acting as such a singular point of concentration, obscures his fellow Jedi knights' view of the Force. Perhaps Anakin is even draining Light Side power from his fellow Jedi through constant use of his power. Not only does he routinely engage in pointless parlour tricks, but for a short kid, he grew to be quite tall; was he subconsciously using the Force to enhance his own physical growth for years? Questions, questions ...

Given the current controversy over the Catholic Church hierarchy's willful cover-up of sexual abuse involving priests (and its outright refusal to take proactive steps to solve the problem, such as instituting the zero-tolerance rule which various bishops decry as "excessive", allowing women to be priests, or allowing priests to marry), this movie is surprisingly topical. The Jedi Order betrays the same kind of insular arrogance and love for its own institutions that characterizes the Catholic Church; when Amidala questions Count Dooku's possible involvement in the attempt on her life, Mace Windu and Ki-Adi-Mundi dismissed the idea out of hand, and all of the other Jedi in attendance seemed to agree. As far as they were concerned, it is simply impossible for a Jedi to be involved in that kind of thing, yet we find out later that this is precisely what happened. Their arrogance and refusal to doubt a fellow Jedi clouded their judgement. Does this not remind you of the Catholic church hierarchy's arrogance and their refusal to excommunicate fellow priests, even when presented with crystal-clear evidence of their sexual misconduct?

Similarly, Obi-Wan wasted precious time trying to figure out how a planetary star system (Kamino) could be remembered by a trusted informant and cast a gravity silhouette, but not be present in the Jedi Archives. Any idiot should have immediately concluded that the records were deliberately altered, but Obi-Wan has such mindless blind faith in the integrity of the Jedi Order and its institutions that the possibility of deliberate manipulation simply does not occur to him. He has to consult Yoda, who seems to be getting wise to the problem. He addresses Obi-Wan in a sarcastic tone and theatrically asks the children to answer his question for him. He even makes a thinly veiled criticism of Obi-Wan when he criticizes the younger Jedi by saying "too sure of themselves they are", and then looks at Obi-Wan and says "even the older, more experienced ones." For all the supposed "wisdom" of the Jedi Order, they are incapable of questioning themselves or their much-vaunted institutions, and only Yoda seems to have even the slightest inkling of their problems.

Yoda

Their policy on marriage is also reminiscent of the present-day Catholic sexual abuse crisis. Just as repressed sexual desires are often implicated in the misdeeds of priests, Anakin's forbidden desires cause him to break with Obi-Wan and embark on a secret life with Amidala, beneath the nose of the Order. One who watches AOTC cannot help but conclude that the Jedi Order is a deeply dysfunctional society, and since the script was written before the current Catholic sex-abuse crisis hit the American scandal sheets, it is eerily prescient.

The Force

It is widely agreed among both critics and fans tha the Force is genetically inherited. However, upon closer inspection this appears to be a facile interpretation which does not hold up to scrutiny. TPM pushed this interpretation into the coffin with Anakin's bizarre "immaculate conception", and also by showing how Force skills are evenly distributed throughout thousands of species while being a rarity in every one of them. AOTC seals that coffin shut, by informing us that the Jedi are forbidden to love. In other words, since they are abducted at birth and forbidden to reproduce, Jedi powers must not be inherited, otherwise the Jedi would swiftly die out! Has anyone ever seen Mrs. Yoda, or Mrs. Windu, or Mrs. Kenobi? I haven't!

Consider the facts: the galaxy contains millions of sentient species and quadrillions of sentient beings, but only 10,000 Jedi Knights (according to the TPM novelization), with no dominant species of Jedi, and no species in which Force sensitivity is common. Why?

If this trait evolved naturally, like a normal biological feature such as eyeballs or thumbs, we would be able to make several predictions from basic evolutionary theory:

  1. There should be precursors to Force skills evident in the evolutionary ancestors of species which have produced Jedi (such as the rudimentary light sensitive organs or non-opposable digits on primitive species which became modern eyeballs and thumbs). A biological feature does not simply appear out of thin air with no precursors (despite ignorant creationist misrepresentations of the evolutionary process). Instead, it must slowly and gradually develop over a very long period of time. In other words, you should expect to see thousands or perhaps even millions of different animal species which exhibit latent Force sensitivity.

  2. Whatever biological structure which produces Force attunement must be present in all members of any species which can produce Jedi, with some minor "tweak" to make it more effective in the case of Jedi. Entire unprecedented biological structures do not simply mutate out of nothing; they are modifications upon an existing structure of some sort. This, in turn, implies that all members of the species have Force attunement, and that the only difference between Jedi and "mundanes" (to steal a Babylon 5 term) is one of degree, rather than the on/off situation envisioned by most fans and critics.

  3. Force sensitivity should have become a dominant trait in most of the species which developed it at all. The advantages of enhanced strength, enhanced speed, telekinetics, danger sense, short-term precognition, and subconscious optimization of physical movements are blatantly obvious to any reasonable observer, and it is clear that natural selection would favour these traits. It is analogous to eyesight; eyesight is almost universal because it is such an obvious advantage to creatures in most terrestrial environments (excepting those that are microbial or live underground or at great ocean depths).

  4. Corrollary to #3: there should be entire planets dominated by species in which almost all members have Force sensitivity (see eyesight example again). Evolution does not work on a universal timescale or path; if it were possible to evolve this trait, some species on some planets might be just evolving it now, but species on other planets might have evolved it billions of years ago, whereupon it entered the evolutionary tree and influenced all development from that point on.

  5. Force sensitivity should be predictable through DNA analysis. There should be no need to test for midichlorians, when DNA analysis should reveal Force sensitivity not just at birth, but before conception. Unless we imagine that the Star Wars civilization has not yet mapped out its genome or identified Force sensitivity genes (even after tens of thousands of years of technologically advanced interstellar civilization), there is simply no reason that they should have to search randomly for Jedi recruits.

If Force attunement is genetically inherited, we can derive a further prediction from our observations of Force training: Force skills should be more obvious in less intelligent species. Luke's brief training under Obi-Wan's tutelage in ANH was a quick primer on Force skills, and we learned that he became attuned to those skills not by using his head, but by listening to his instincts. This galaxy should be rife with examples of unintelligent beings demonstrating mysterious telekinetic powers, short-term precognition, etc.

So what is the evidence that Force skills are genetic? There is precisely one piece of evidence: Anakin's transference of Force sensitivity to his children. Everything else is inconsistent with this theory, so one is forced to ignore virtually all of the evidence in favour of one interpretation of a single piece of evidence, in order to cling to the genetic interpretation.

But why does Anakin's transference of Force skills to his children necessarily denote genetic inheritance? Mothers with AIDS give birth to children with AIDS; does this mean that AIDS is genetically inherited? Of course not. Mothers who have been exposed to radiation exhibit signs of radiation poisoning, and they may give birth to children who exhibit the signs of radiation poisoning too; does this mean that radiation poisoning is genetically inherited? Of course not. The Force was strong in Anakin Skywalker, and it was also strong in his children. Since we know nothing whatsoever about what causes Force sensitivity, is it reasonable to ignore all of the other evidence and conclude that this singular incident proves the Force is a genetically inherited trait? Of course not.

The now-infamous "midichlorians" from TPM do not necessarily prove that Force abilities are linked to genetics; they are obviously just a measuring device. Just as a modern doctor might measure a white blood cell count to determine certain aspects of your physical condition or look for antibodies in order to detect the presence of a virus, a Jedi might measure your midichlorian count to determine your affinity for the Force. At no point in TPM was it stated that this count was fixed at birth, nor did it state that it was inherited genetically. For all we know, it can change over time, or be enhanced with training. Moreover, as stated before, the fact that they tested for midichlorians rather than performing a simple DNA test is further evidence that Force skills are not genetic in nature.

Numerous attempts have been made in order to shore up the genetic interpretation despite its deficiencies:

  1. "The Jedi Order was forcibly suppressing the evolution of Force skills by abducting Force-sensitive children into the Order and forbidding them to reproduce, hence their continued rarity (this idea echoes a plotline on Babylon 5 in which normal humans tried to control a developing telepath population with a targeted bio-weapon)." This is an interesting idea (particular for the cynic in you), but it is simply not realistic. Neither the Republic or the Jedi Order could have forcibly suppressed this evolutionary development everywhere in the galaxy, since they obviously don't even check for Force skills in the entire Outer Rim region (as we discovered in TPM). Moreover, at 25,000 years old, the Jedi Order may seem ancient to us, but it's a flash in the pan on evolutionary and astronomical timescales. In a galaxy with millions of sentient species, some would have undoubtedly developed this trait hundreds of thousands or even millions or billions of years ago, long before the Jedi existed, and it would have become dominant. Did the Jedi exterminate entire worlds in order to suppress Force skills? Pogroms and holocausts on an unimaginable scale, in order to prevent the genetic hegemony of Force sensitives who would (oddly enough) command galaxy-wide respect and fear as the Jedi Order? This stretches credibility to the breaking point, and beyond.

  2. "Force skills are a double-recessive trait. This explains their rarity." This explanation is inadequate on many levels. The first problem is that it cannot explain the sheer magnitude of the rarity; even with a 1 in 10 million double-recessive trait, you would have at least 100 million Force sensitive people in a galaxy of quadrillions. The only way to whittle down this number to 10,000 Jedi is to assume that only 1 in 10,000 Force sensitive people is identified and trained, which (once again) stretches credibility. The second problem is that it completely ignores all of the five problems cited above (go back and review them if you like); it focuses singlemindedly on the notion of rarity and ignores all the other problems, as if a weak attempt to explain rarity will magically make the other problems go away. The third problem is that it presumes Force sensitivity would just happen to be a double-recessive trait in thousands of separate species on thousands of different worlds, but why? Why would it always be a double-recessive trait in thousands of unrelated species? Sheer coincidence? A quasi-magical compulsion for Force skills to invariably start as a double-recessive trait and stay that way indefinitely, wherever they may happen to independently evolve across an entire galaxy? This interpretation doesn't just stretch credibility; it murders it, and it casually tramples upon the entire conceptual basis of biological evolution just for good measure.

  3. "The entire ysalimiri species [from Timothy Zahn's novels, not the films] can block the Force, so Force attunement is genetic." Again, this explanation actually ignores the 5 biology problems cited above. Moreover, it's a non sequitur. So what if the entire ysalimiri species can block the Force? Why does Force blocking lead to Force attunement? A squid's black ink spray blocks eyesight; does this mean that the organ which produces this spray must be able to function as an eyeball? Of course not; the ability to block the Force would seem to be genetic if the entire ysalimiri species has it, but it's also a red herring.

The more one examines the nature of the Force, the more it appears to be a self-limiting, self-regulating phenomenon. The fact that it takes direct action in order to maintain balance is intriguing to say the least; what genetic structure has ever bypassed normal reproductive processes to spontaneously fertilize an egg? What genetic structure must maintain an overall balance on a galactic scale?

The leap in logic from "Anakin's children were strong in the Force" to "The Force is genetically inherited" may seem quite reasonable upon first blush (as many commonly accepted non sequiturs do), but make no mistake; it is a leap in logic. Force skills have never been shown to be caused by any genetic or biological feature of any Jedi knight, a double-recessive trait cannot explain such mind-boggling rarity (1 in 100 billion), and if every living cell in Anakin's body possesses an affinity for the Force (as measured by the midichlorian count), it stands to reason that his sperm might possess this attribute as well, even if it's not in their DNA. In other words, just as AIDS or drug addiction can be passed from a mother to her child through non-genetic means, Force attunement must be transferred from a father to his children through non-genetic means. Any other interpretation gives rise to a laundry list of unresolvable conflicts with virtually everything we know about biology.

Jedi Combat

Jedi combat abilities in heated battle were made more obvious in this movie than any before. One on one, Jango Fett was clearly outmatched by Obi-Wan despite his experience, his combat skills, his body armour, his son's fire support, and his vast array of personal weapons, so he was forced to flee in Slave-1 (indeed, Obi-Wan would have sliced off an arm and incapacitated him at the very start of the battle if not for Jango's jet pack, which lifted him out of lightsabre range).

However, when faced with vastly superior numbers (ie- the battle droids in the Geonosis arena) or heavy weapons such as the large Geonosian sonic cannon, the Jedi proved very mortal. Many Jedi were killed (but not as many as one might think, considering the vast firepower arrayed against them). This generally substantiates the speculation from TPM that only overwhelming firepower can allow a conventional foe to defeat a Jedi. Jango was easily killed by Mace Windu, and while he did kill a Jedi with his blasters earlier in the battle, it was a special case because that particular Jedi was concentrating all of his attention on the deadly Count Dooku at the time.

However, while their skills may be impressive, their tactics were not. Why is Yoda in command of the clone army on Geonosis? Does he have any military training? Does he have any knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of various clone trooper combat units, and how to best deploy them for maximum effect with minimal losses? Does he have any appreciation for the usefulness of combined-arms tactics, coming from a background where just one weapon (a lightsabre) is deemed sufficient for any situation? Does he care that the clone troopers were trained in squad units, and would be most effective if deployed that way? To be fair to the little guy, he did demonstrate some cleverness when he ordered heavy artillery to redirect from distant ground targets to the nearest evacuating Tradefed core ship. It plummeted to the surface and exploded with an enormous cloud of flying debris which appeared to destroy a large portion of the droid army (in addition to proving that clone troopers and by extension, Imperial stormtroopers are unaffected by the smoke, debris, and toxic chemicals released by the impact). However, the point remains that he had no business directing the clone army. They need real officers, either drawn from their own ranks or from experienced men in existing Republic sector forces.

And what of Mace Windu? His Jedi accomplished the stunning coup of infiltrating the Geonosian arena in large numbers without tipping off the enemy, and what do they do with this achievement? Do they sneak up on Count Dooku and all of the other leaders and ambush them? Of course not; that would be too easy! Instead, Mace Windu has them spread themselves throughout the entire arena, then he demonstrates that they could have easily ambushed Dooku by sneaking up on him, alone. Is this mano a mano confrontation the result of a macho warrior's code, or is it the result of stupidity? Perhaps more to the point, what's the difference? And why did they all have to broadcast their locations by deliberately revealing themselves in highly visible locations and igniting their lightsabres? Shouldn't they have been moving through the tunnels rather than engaging in macho chest-beating? It appears that they assumed they could simply reveal themselves and the enemy would flee because of the Jedi reputation (remember the Neimodians' terror at encountering just two Jedi in TPM, and the way the Geonosians mostly fled upon seeing the Jedi in the this film). Amazingly enough, even after wasting his forces in this manner, Mace Windu still had one more chance to redeem himself. When he snuck up on Dooku, Jango, and the others, why didn't he take advantage of Dooku's distraction to stab him in the back, kill Jango, and then take Nute Gunray hostage? Mind-boggling stupidity or a Jedi code of honour? Again, what's the difference? Couldn't he have at least brought a handful of Jedi with him?

In any case, the Jedi then congregated in the middle of the arena and presented a nice fat target for their enemies, who proceeded to grind them down to the brink of total defeat. The Jedi may be a good terror force, but they make a terrible army unit. Their tactics were entirely based on individual heroism, with no co-ordinated actions or cohesive goals in sight. They made no attempt to co-ordinate their Force powers (rather than taking down an occasional random droid, they could have tried to clear a path to an exit or worked in conjunction with blaster-blocking squads), they made no attempt to escape the death trap of the arena by leaping to the lower seating levels, and whenever possible they clumped together, thus presenting the Geonosian sonic cannon with rich opportunities! At no time did they show any sign that they had a plan for getting out of there; their only plan seemed to be to fight until they were worn down, which is precisely what happened.

In the words of Princess Leia, "when you came in here, didn't you have a plan for getting out?" Han Solo was a cocky and overconfident hotshot so no one was surprised that he had no escape plan, but the Jedi are supposed to be wise and prudent. What we learned in AOTC is that they are neither.

The Separatists

The Separatists appear to be primarily composed of commercial entities (the Trade Federation, the Commerce Guild, the IG Banking Clan) and manufacturers (the Geonosians), who appear to control "thousands" of star systems between them, with at least another "ten thousand" ready to join, according to Dooku.

While this may not seem like a significant portion of a galactic civilization containing millions of star systems, simple numerical ratios can be misleading. In real life, a June 1998 workers' strike at a single metal-fabrication plant in Flint, Michigan idled no less than one hundred and twenty six different GM manufacturing and assembly plants across North America (figures taken from a Time Magazine article on the strike), in addition to "economic shockwave" effects through GM's vast satellite network of first-tier, second-tier, and third-tier suppliers. With that example in mind, it is not surprising that the loss of certain key systems could potentially have a devastating effect on the galactic economy of Star Wars.

If we use a 1:100 ratio and assume that the separatists had 5,000 systems under their control at the start of the film, it is quite reasonable to use real-life precedent to imagine that the impact of their secession could affect the economic activities of ½-million star systems. If they added another 10,000 systems throughout the course of the movie, a 1:100 ratio could lead to a staggering 1.5 million star systems whose economic activities are adversely impacted. This kind of widespread economic havoc is more than enough justification for the Republic to use military force to retain the would-be separatists, hence the Clone Wars.

Moreover, the sheer industrial output of the Separatists is made clear when Poggle the Lesser indicates that not only have they designed a Death Star, but they intend to build one. The Republic could obviously ill-afford to allow this group to secede; they are weighed toward manufacturing and commercial groups, and would therefore have a disproportionate impact on the Republic even without the amplification effects of a networked economy.

Kamino

The Kaminoans must have a highly isolationist society for Dooku to be able to erase them from the Jedi Archives without anyone noticing. Any appreciable level of imports and exports would make the erasure of an entire star system from public record virtually impossible, so Kamino is probably a self-contained planetary economy. This is not difficult to imagine (the Earth is presently a self-contained planetary economy), but it does make one wonder what proportion of Kamino's economy was devoted to the manufacture of this clone army.

Did they take a ten-year advance order and devote 1% of their planetary economy to clone production? 10%? 100%? It is difficult to determine how much production they were capable of. They were able to produce 1.2 million units for the start of the Clone War, with an undetermined number still to come. If we assume that a "unit" is an individual trooper rather than a squad, platoon, or division, that's 1.2 million soldiers. But they are obviously in full cyclic production mode, with children and babies and units of various maturity levels seen in Obi-Wan's tour of the facilities.

How many batches are concurrently being made? The first batch was apparently 200,000 units, with a much larger production run of 1 million units to come shortly. If we assume that they are being made in production runs of 1 million, how many production lines are running concurrently? How far apart are the two lines, in terms of timeframe? Do they start one batch a month after the previous batch? A year? A week? A day? There are many unknowns, but considering the density of the operation, they could very well be producing many billions of units planet-wide at any given time.

Geonosis

Geonosian society is highly optimized for the task of manufacturing. According to the Visual Dictonary, their insect-like hive society is composed of a service cast, worker caste, warrior caste, farmer caste, and maker caste, as well as a ruling caste (I suppose the "maker" caste is the one that handles engineering, since they must have rather impressive engineering skills to have designed the Death Star). They appear to have a very war-like culture, as the Visual Dictionary makes reference to the arenas being used in part of a "network of gladiatorial societies", reminiscent of ancient Rome. The industrial benefits of an insectoid society are not a new theme in science fiction (perhaps the Geonosians are remotely related to the Klackons from Master of Orion), and the Geonosians had some impressive underground factories on their planet.

Hmmm ... what did I forget? Oh yes, I remember now. You didn't expect a mechanical engineer to talk about the Geonosians without describing their factory, did you? The factory through which Anakin and Amidala were chased appeared to be a combination of a metal-fabrication and final assembly plant. Electronic and ambulatory components were presumably brought in from some other area of the plant and then assembled with the final component manufactured onscreen, which was the battle droid chest-plate: the single heaviest component in the droid.

This was a one-stop-shopping metal-fabrication operation, in which they began at square one: liquid metal being poured into vats which appeared to be made of a refractory ceramic. From these vats they were presumably cast into ingots in some other part of the plant, which were then sliced into plates, probably with lasers. Without screenshots it's hard to produce accurate scaling, but I'd guess that the resulting plates were roughly two feet square, and perhaps 3 inches thick. At this point, we could very clearly see a multi-stage hot-forging operation, in which the plates were stamped into droid chest-plates in heavy vertical presses (we saw Amidala jumping through them). This gives us an idea of the thickness of the droid chest armour, as well as the firepower necessary to blast through it (never mind the firepower of the clone troopers' heavy guns, which push the boundaries of "small-arms" and which were so powerful that they effortlessly blasted battle droids into debris).

At no point did I see a heat treatment facility, but that does not necessarily preclude its existence. The hot-forged chest plates would have a relatively soft microstructure which could be improved through proper heat treatment, and it seems reasonable to imagine that some kind of heat treatment was probably performed at some point, even if we didn't see it (we saw only a miniscule portion of the overall factory).

The vertical integration of this operation is astounding. While modern manufacturing operations split different operations such as casting, hot-forging, and assembly into different plants (hence the importance of "just in time" delivery systems from plant to plant and supplier to manufacturer), the Geonosian plant had such extravagant space and resources available to it (not to mention process isolation technologies) that they could integrate all of the operations from raw material all the way to finished product in a single enclosed space. I wouldn't be surprised if they even manufactured the electronics locally. The droids were being manufactured by pairs, and cycle times for manufacturing and assembly operations were typically on the order of 1 to 2 seconds.

The industrial output of this single plant is impressive indeed; since such short cycle times could not be maintained unless downstream operations could handle the volume, it seems likely that the entire plant ran on the same cycle, which implies a production frequency of two units per 2 seconds, or roughly 82,000 units per day, assuming 5% downtime for maintenance. Of course, one could say that given the way the Republic clone troopers and gunships annihilated them en masse, they needed that much production :)

However, it is possible that the Geonosian droid foundries will not be a factor in the Clone Wars, since the Republic appeared to have control of the surface by the end of the battle. This implies that they will also have control of the droid foundries, unless the planet is stll being contested. At the very least, they should be able to deny use of the foundries to the separatists, thus forcing them to rely on other makes of battle droid and to use up their existing inventories in battle without a source for resupply or spare parts (unless they can rapidly ramp up production elsewhere, or retake Geonosis).

Republic Society

It was quite gratifying to see the society of the Republic fleshed out for us in AOTC. Dexter Jettster's greasy-spoon diner, the seedy lower-level bar into which Obi-Wan and Anakin chased Zam Wessel, the neon-lit commercials on the wall outside, and the televised sporting events all reminded us once again of one of the key differences between Star Wars and Star Trek, which is that Star Trek depicts a sterile geek fantasy future of techno-masturbation and cultural elitism, while Star Wars incorporates various cultural elements from the past and present into its future, without the suffocating blanket of political correctness that smothers the futuristic culture of Star Trek.

We could see everything from casual revelers to hookers and drug dealers walking about (although the drug dealer was about to rethink his life). We also learned that Anakin and Amidala planned to conceal their movements by masquerading as "refugees", which implies that there are regular movements of refugees from Coruscant to other parts of the galaxy. What are they fleeing from? Holonetnews weighs in on the subject by saying that Coruscant is tightening security in an increasingly paranoid state of affairs due to the threat of terrorism, and that it is turning away incoming refugees. Therefore, it would appear that the refugees are not fleeing Coruscant per se, but rather, they come to Coruscant from somewhere else (eg- seceding worlds, or economically depressed areas) and are then forced to go elsewhere.

Does Naboo have a liberal immigration policy, thus making it a popular destination for refugees? What is its economic base, and how does it wield such disproportionate power in the Senate? It looks like a completely useless tourist-trap world, with nothing to recommend it apart from its idyllic scenery and lush vistas (maybe it's a popular makeout spot for young lovers or honeymooners, like Niagara Falls in real life). It seems almost ludicrous that such a "boutique" society could possibly hold a Senate seat and significant influence, but then again, the real-life UN counts Monaco as a member, despite the fact that the entire country occupies less than 2 square kilometres and is home to less than 40,000 people. In other words, one of only 189 UN member nations (ie- 0.5%) comprises less than 0.0007% of the world's population and 0.0000013% of its land area. This means that Monaco's representation in the UN is proportionally 700 times greater than it warrants by population, and 380,000 times greater than it warrants by land area.

If we use these ratios as a guideline, it is not at all unrealistic for one out of a thousand Senate seats to be occupied by one out of a million inhabited star systems, and one with no real economic or military influence at that. This is one of the inherent weaknesses of democracy, which is that most democratic models are designed to trade off democracy for regional interests. If an individual state or province has ten times more population than another state or province within a given union, one would think that it naturally deserves ten times the representation in the federal government, but that's not the way it works. In fact, certain "checks and balances" are designed to actually prevent this from happening! Moreover, if you break voting districts down, you will often find that an individual voter in one particular region might have significantly more or less voting power than an individual voter somewhere else. The rationale is that you can't allow sparsely populated regions to suffer from a lack of representation (why not?), but the end result is that democracy itself is diminished, warped, and made seriously unequal. This leads to countless absurdities in real life (such as miniscule provinces vacuuming up huge amounts of federal grant money, or farmers receiving tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies while city infrastructures crumble from neglect), and in Star Wars, it has apparently led to the tiny nation-state of Naboo wielding political power which is completely disproportionate to its size and economic or military influence.

Note that the SW2ICS describes Naboo as the representative capital of "36 full-member worlds and more than 40,000 settled dependencies, and 300,000,000 barren stars." This is still much less than a thousandth of all the million member worlds, so its representation is still disproportionate, but it does mitigate the imbalance somewhat (and as previously noted, real democracies usually incorporate a certain inequity in representation anyway). In light of this fact, It is possible that Naboo is actually a "capital planet", just as modern nations have capital cities, and that its entire economy is based on taxes. This would help explain how it can sustain itself without any noticeable industries apart from tourism, and it might also explain the civil unrest (disgruntled miners on the moons of Naboo) mentioned by the Jedi.

Cloning

Some have attempted to claim that AOTC is a comment on the current cloning controversy. However, not only is any suggestion of a deliberate link simply absurd (we first heard about the clone wars in the original movie in 1977, long before it was an issue), but the use of clones in this movie bears no resemblance whatsoever to the issues being debated with respect to real-life cloning.

The clone troopers are more of a statement on the potential perils of genetic modification and conformist learning systems than the process or principle of cloning itself, since Boba Fett is a clone, and he seems to share a nice father/son bond with his "parent" Jango.

Acknowledgements



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