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!