Sometimes I wake up and wonder which side of the mirror I live on.

The opening crawl is over and thus far nothing terribly exciting has been imparted to the audience. That’s about to change, because nothing spells excitement like awesome looking spaceships. The camera pans down to follow the incoming republic cruiser, which zips past us on its way to the “blockade of deadly battleships”. At last it appears that we’re getting somewhere. Cut to the interior of the ship, where a cloaked figure delivers the first line of the Star Wars saga and ushers us on to the 2nd major failing of the film: Dialogue.

Our cloaked figure tells the captain to signal the federation ships, and tell them they wish to board immediately. Straight forward enough. We’ll overlook the dreadful acting on the part of the captain, and cut right to the first problem. Upon receiving her instructions, the captain signals the Trade Federation ship, and for no apparent reason, begins speaking as if in mid conversation “With all due respect, the Ambassadors for the Supreme Chancellor wish to board immediately.” I’m sorry, but that is not how someone would open lines of communication with another vessel. An introduction, at the very least, would be required. Something along the lines of “Trade Federation command ship, this is Republic Cruiser whatever, carrying Ambassadors from the Supreme Chancellor, requesting Permission to board immediately.” Now, I don’t claim to be a script writer, and I’m sure this suggested dialogue could be cleaned up a bit, but it’s certainly better than what made it to film.

This communication was directly followed by our introduction to the Neimoidians, who, for some reason that is beyond my comprehension, talk with thick Japanese accents. Their reply to the abrupt, mid-conversation opening of the captain is also not inspired as far as dialogue goes, but for expedience sake, I won’t repeat it here. I do, however, wonder why George abandoned aliens having their own languages. I would have much preferred the Neimoidians to speak in their own language, and have had subtitles. Part of the charm of the OT, to my mind, was the way everyone in the universe seemed to understand all these alien languages. It was just taken for granted, and it was a conceit of the OT that I loved. Sadly, it is lost in Episode I.

So, the Republic ship lands in the Trade Federation docking bay, and a bunch of poorly CG’d droids who, for some reason, just happen to be milling around, look over at the new arrivals. I don’t like that myself. What are these droids doing? They are clearly the Battle Droids we’ll see later in the film, so why don’t the Jedi notice them as they disembark their ship and are lead to their meeting? Surely the Trade federation isn’t in the habit of keeping droid armies just milling about on their ships for no apparent purpose. These droids fold up, and are easily stored. If they’re out and activated, there’s a purpose for it, why don’t the Jedi pick up on this? Sadly, it’s because George writes his Jedi to be pretty stupid.

Our Jedi are greeted by a Protocol droid of the same variety as C-3PO. BZZZZZ, WRONG! This is supposed to take place at least 32 years before Episode IV. Droids that were in service and apparently, reasonably current in A New Hope (ANH), Empire Strikes Back (ESB), and Return of the Jedi (ROTJ), should not also appear to be new and current in Episode I! I’m not saying there needed to be a radical difference in design, but being identical pretty much says “Hey, there’s not going to be any kind of advancement in droid technology for the next 30 years.” Look at cars. Do the cars of 30 years ago look anything like todays? Do the cars of 60 years ago look like the cars of 30 years ago? No, of course not. Has the basic design and principle of the automobile changed drastically since its inception? No. Analogy made. Now, I’m willing to concede that the design of protocol droids may have reached its zenith by this time, but I still think that we’d see at least some variation over the years.

We’re about to get into the thick of the plot now, so I’ll stop here. Hang on to your seats kids, more action to come!

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~ by Pagz on June 13, 2008.

6 Responses to “Sometimes I wake up and wonder which side of the mirror I live on.”

  1. Is it just me, or is this all material recycled from another Pagz rant?

  2. Oh, and those Neimoidians sounded a lot more Chinese than Japanese to me, particularly the (deliberately bad) intonation.

  3. Never mind, I see you’ve already covered this is your previous entry…

  4. I disagree with two of your points. The first is that not everyone apparently understood alien languages in the OT. Only Han obviously understood Chewbacca. The others could pick up on his meaning just as they could with R2. In ROTJ, C-3PO did the translating of Jabba to the main characters. I don’t remember a situation where everyone understood any alien language. I appreciated the realism. That said, the accents of the Neimodians were pretty bad.

    Secondly, I take no issue with 3PO being 30+ years old. The OT were supposed to have come from the perspective of the two droids (though not in a strictly literal sense). The PT should have been similarly framed. If anyone can survive unchanged for decades in good working order…its going to be a droid.

    When a company is mass-producing for a galactic market, the earthly principles of market research and changing aesthetic tastes do not apply. The Alderaanians may be clamoring for a sleeker design, Hutts for a more robust design, Ithorians for a more natural design (etc etc for many thousands of planets). Maybe droids are made for each specific market and the designs change with time. That’s no the kind of droid 3PO is. Quite probably he is less sophisticated than brand new 3POs by the time of the OT, but there is no reason the external design would be different.

    The problem is not that OT droids were prevalent in the PT, but that there weren’t more of yet older droids – R1s rolling around, perhaps some (unsightly) CZ droids.

    2011 comment ftw

  5. Discussion! Hooray!
    Point 1: examples of denizens if the star wars universe knowing multiple languages. Uncle Owen understands Jawas. They understand him. He speaks basic to them, they speak Jawa to him. Obi-Wan and Han Solo understand Wookie. Han Solo understands huttese. He also understands Greedo (nuts to lucasfilm, Greedo wasn’t speaking huttese). Stormtrooper understood Garindan (that snoot nosed spy in ANH). All the bounty hunters understand basic in ESB. Lando understands Nien Numb.

    As for Threepio at Jabba’s palace, that seemed to me more of a status thing. Jabba understands basic just fine. He doesn’t need a translator, but having one just seems very grand and fancy.

    point 2: I don’t deny that threepio and artoo might be old models, but I expected more variety. I still think my car design analogy is pretty sound. Car designs seem to change every decade. The cars of the 60s ate distinctly 60s, ditto the 70s, 80s, 90s etc. It seems to me droids would follow a similar patern.

  6. True there was a variety of languages understood by many. But there were still many examples of people not understanding alien languages. That aside, I agree about having actual alien languages – I just don’t know if Neimoidian should be readily understood by officials on Naboo or officials on Coruscant. Owen had frequent enough dealings with Jawas it made sense for him to have some understanding. Han Solo certainly gets around and would have understanding of some languages. Jabba didn’t understand Leia as Boushh (and I suspect Leia didn’t speak Ubese). Garindan came to mind, but even there it was not clear he was understood. His words were just as likely translated when he spoke by radio and IIRC, he pointed rather adamantly to express exactly where the droids had gone.

    Whether or not the Neimoidians were central enough that a particular character would have understood their language would need to be plausible. If some of the Naboo understood, it could establish how central the Neimoidians were to their commerce. I’d be just as satisfied with interpreter droids (they were created for a reason!). Mostly a debate of geekery. As far as own language, I agree…just don’t think they should necessarily be intelligible to many people.

    I think I need to amend my answer on the second point. I do agree there would be evolution of design (eg R1 units). I don’t think it need be as rapid or notable as earthly car design. But if 3PO were brand-new at Episode I, it would be appropriate to have other brand-new droids of his kind. Of course, this begs the question of where were all the brand-newer protocol droids in Episode IV-VI who would ostensibly look a bit different than 3PO. I agree about more variety by showing yet older droids along with the OT droids.

    On a similar point, I wish there had been shiny new X-Wings in the service of the Republic.

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