Part IV. Luminous Beings Are We

Dexter Jettster “Those analysis droids only focus on symbols. I should think you Jedi would have more respect for the difference between knowledge... and wisdom.”

— Dexter Jettster,
Attack of the Clones

All of the Star Wars movies are drenched in symbolism, much of it obvious and much of it so subtle as to escape attention almost entirely. You can start with any particular thematic element and quickly discover a rich tapestry of ideas and meanings woven together in repeating patterns throughout the saga. I'm not saying that George Lucas deliberately planted every single nugget of symbolism I'm about to discuss in this section. In fact, it doesn't matter whether he did or not. Any mythic narrative worth a damn carries messages and resonance going beyond what its authors consciously set down.

In his book The Journey of Luke Skywalker, Jungian analyst Steven A. Galipeau describes the recurrence of descent imagery throughout the classic trilogy, particularly in The Empire Strikes Back. As the structurally analogous middle episode of the prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones likewise overflows with descent imagery, reflecting the downward spiral of the Republic and the Jedi Order in general, and the inevitable fate of Anakin Skywalker in particular.

Anakin's impending transformation into Darth Vader is foreshadowed in a variety of ways, most openly in the crowd-pleasing irony of Obi-Wan's lament, "Why do I get the feeling you're going to be the death of me?" There's also the none-too-subtle design of Anakin's dark leather Jedi robes, giving him an ominously familiar silhouette when he wraps his outer cloak fully around himself. On Tatooine, just before Anakin departs to search for his mother, his shadow against the Lars homestead resembles the profile of Vader's helmet, although the special effects crew has denied that this was an intentional visual manipulation.

Anakin and Padmé On a more oblique level, the movie contains two references to Anakin having trouble breathing. In their opening scene, Obi-Wan tries to calm his nervous apprentice, telling him, "Relax. Take a deep breath." Later, when Anakin is confessing his feelings to Padmé, he pleads, "I can't breathe." In both cases, it is his affections for Padmé that interfere with his respiratory processes, suggesting that his love for her will play a key role in the events that lead to his requirements for an artificial breathing apparatus.

Aside from these Vader-specific allusions, there are also numerous instances of characters falling and making other literal descents throughout the movie. Although this theme focuses on Anakin repeatedly, he is not the only one of our protagonists to "take a fall" in Episode II. This indicates the general decline and upheaval of everything in the galaxy, a condition which Anakin is not suffering alone.

Although we closely associate the theme of falling with the ideas of sin and being cast out of grace into perdition, descent symbolism doesn't necessarily carry a negative connotation. In fact, in Jungian terms, descent generally represents a journey into the depths of the unconscious to gain maturity and understanding — as in the notion of becoming "grounded" and more sure of oneself. I would argue that in the Star Wars saga, the distinction between "descent as personal growth" and "descent as fall from grace" can typically be seen in the choices that precipitate the fall. The classic example is Luke's deliberate decision to plunge down the abyss at Cloud City rather than join Vader, where an act of falling clearly marks a moral triumph. Likewise, it is Anakin's personal choices that will determine how his fate differs from that of our other protagonists.

A recurring motif of descent throughout the series is that of starships coming in for a landing on a planet or moon or asteroid. Lucas has always used his different worlds to represent different psychological states and aspects of life. Science fiction provides a rich metaphor in characters leaving behind one world and journeying to a whole new one, just as people must move from one stage of life to another as part of their growth and development. Choosing to leave your present environment is the first step, but the process of change is incomplete until you safely descend into the new world of your destination. Outer space (and also "hyperspace") represents the undefined transitional phase between stages of life. The saga presents characters who are most at home flying from one end of the galaxy to the other, avoiding commitments and responsibility, and others who hate space travel, hesitant to accept change. All these issues make every interplanetary voyage in the Star Wars saga symbolically significant, especially the scenes of arrival. A New Hope, for example, is notable for the absence of a planetary descent, since the intended destination of Alderaan is destroyed before our heroes can get there.

Attack of the Clones, on the other hand, contains no less than nine separate scenes of planetary descent, the most of any single episode so far. The movie also presents five different worlds, topping the saga's customary quota of three. This reflects how the characters are rapidly moving through a number of abrupt emotional and psychological changes at this juncture in the story.

Coruscant: World of Heights

The movie opens with a planetary descent, as Senator Amidala's entourage arrives at Coruscant. We can view this initially as a descent of positive growth, in light of what the opening scroll has just told us about Padmé's change of career. She has moved beyond her childhood mantle of queen and is arriving here to perform in her new leadership capacity.

Arrival at Coruscant But there are sinister overtones present, revealing that this is really more of a descent into horror and deceit. As the ship and its escorts cruise through the Coruscant skies, the buildings below are cloaked in thick fog. The ship momentarily disappears and then penetrates the enveloping haze before coming to a rest on the landing platform. Without question, the fog symbolizes the heavy corruption and evil that has settled over the Republic's capital, a smokescreen that has made it nearly impossible to see things as they really are. The darkest threat to peace and freedom resides in these gleaming towers, unchallenged and undetected. "There was no danger at all," Captain Typho says with a sigh of relief, and then the ship explodes. This arrival that should have marked a personal step forward for Senator Amidala turns into a bitter failure. Luckily, she was engaging in a deception of her own by traveling in disguise, or she would have been killed.

Coruscant is a world of unseen dangers where the truth is kept securely concealed. The Jedi and the loyalist politicians confer with the Supreme Chancellor on impending war and assassination plots, never recognizing that Palpatine is their enemy, and still remains the "phantom menace." The normally infallible R2-D2 fails to detect the poisonous kouhuns that the assassin droid deposits in Padmé's bedroom. The existence of the Kamino system has been expunged from the Jedi's supposedly all-encompassing archives. When they learn about the clone army, Yoda and Mace Windu agree that the hidden Sith Lords have succeeding in blinding their powers of clairvoyance and insight. Distressingly, the Jedi Masters conspire to keep their weakness a secret, themselves creating another hidden deceit on Coruscant.

Returning to the aforementioned entrance of Obi-Wan and Anakin, whom we first see as they're riding an elevator in Padmé's apartment building: this isn't a descent scene, but an ascent scene, symbolizing Anakin's progress since the end of Episode I. He has grown markedly in his mastery of the Force as well as in physical stature, but as the swift upward movement of the elevator reflects, he is still undergoing development and hasn't yet "made it to the top." This scene also evokes the truism that what goes up must come down. Consider Obi-Wan and Anakin's bantering recollections of when "we fell into that nest of gundarks," and whose fault it was — even as their elevator car speeds upwards, the two Jedi are having a dispute about falling. Anakin is rising in this scene at the beginning of Episode II as a counterpoint to his downward arc at the end. The tragic hero must attain a position of height and prominence in order for his eventual fall to carry the proper measure of dramatic heft.

A short time later, Obi-Wan and Anakin end up literally falling from the height that the elevator has carried them when they pursue the assassin droid that breaches Padmé's bedroom. Sensing a disturbance in the Force, the Jedi rush into the senator's private quarters. Padmé earlier covered the surveillance cameras to bar Anakin from even seeing inside her bedroom, declaring her sexuality off-limits, but now he leaps onto her bed and asserts his protective masculine identity with the swing of his lightsaber. I hate to resort to the word phallic, but there it is.

Obi-Wan jumps through the window and clutches the assassin droid as it soars through Coruscant's sky traffic, until Zam Wesell shoots it out of his grip and he plummets. Anakin catches him using a borrowed speeder, and the Padawan later makes a calculated jump of several thousand feet in order to land precisely on Zam's speeder. Although the consecutive scenes of self-assured skydiving Jedi seem similar, the circumstances differ in the choices taken. It may appear that Obi-Wan is making a suicidal jump out of Padmé's building, but he knows his Jedi abilities will enable him to hitch a ride on the assassin droid safely, at least for some distance. He only falls after Zam interferes. In his reprimand of Anakin's piloting, Obi-Wan states his opposition to reckless acts of "suicide."

Anakin Falling Anakin, on the other hand, steers their speeder in a straight-down nose dive with gleeful laughter, and later voluntarily elects to free-fall over Coruscant himself. He could have forewarned Obi-Wan about his plan, seeing as he has to wait for the exact moment to jump, but instead he keeps it to himself and leaps out with a casual "excuse me." Obi-Wan mutters, "I hate it when he does that." By that he doesn't mean his student has habit of plunging vast distances — he means he hates it when Anakin shows off and impulsively acts on his own. We can also appreciate the irony that Obi-Wan will really "hate it" on an altogether larger magnitude when Anakin makes his fall to the dark side.

The "falling Jedi" scenes in the speeder chase sequence make excellent use of the tension inherent in the vertiginous environment of Coruscant. In the brief scenes of the Republic's capital in The Phantom Menace, the heights of the countless skyscrapers seem so dizzying because we can never see the ground. At certain points the camera tilts downward, but the structures keep stretching on with no foundation surface in sight. As everyone treads so casually across those handrail-deficient landing platforms, you can imagine some poor soul getting bumped off the edge and falling for days. Attack of the Clones takes advantage of that very possibility to create an exciting action scene built around mere gravity, as well as the customary high-speed flying machines.

On a symbolic level, the heights of Coruscant reflect its dangers as a place where corruption and "downfalls" are possible on a grand scale. The key places of risk and change in the Star Wars saga are marked by structures possessed of treacherous heights: the two Death Stars, Cloud City, Jabba's sail barge, Kamino. Compare these settings to the places more associated with safety and refuge, such as the Lars homestead, Hoth, Dagobah, Endor, and Naboo, which feature flatter terrains and less technological development. The dangers that exist here are either natural or imposed from outside, and these worlds have few, if any, towering buildings or structures that one could fall from. It's no coincidence that every major lightsaber battle takes place near some sort of chasm or precipice, even the one set on the characteristically placid world of Naboo. The presence of a "bottomless pit" represents the moral dimension of these duels and the danger of plunging into the ideology of the dark side.

Of all the Star Wars worlds, Coruscant offers the most opportunities for falling, literally and figuratively. It is the home of ancient institutions whose power has built to unimaginable levels over the centuries, to the point that they have grown dysfunctional and ripe for overthrow. The Senate and the Jedi Order have become complacent in their grand ivory towers, unwilling or unable to take action against the corruption that eats away the Republic. Towers are heavily symbolic of hubris and misguided efforts to reach godhood. The image of a tower carries the inescapable association that the tower can be toppled and its glories undone, as demonstrated in the story of the Tower of Babel and the tarot card of a tower being shattered by lightning. This potent age-old symbolism was tragically seared into the modern consciousness by the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. I suspect that we may see the spires of the Jedi Temple collapse to the ground in Episode III, embodying the Order's crushing defeat.

When Zam's speeder crashes, we get to see the ground-level surface of Coruscant for the first time, in a neon-lit entertainment district. It's a seedy den of hedonism, teeming with gamblers, drug-dealers, and scantily-clad women of dubious virtue. This surface level represents the true face of Coruscant, or at least the closest we see in Episode II to the truth. The facades of the lofty towers cloaked in fog are set aside here, where the rich and powerful descend to wallow in base pleasures. Jungian psychology would describe this place as a "shadow" realm, a portion of the psyche where dark manifestations of the unconscious take free rein.

Zam escapes intact from her smashed speeder, indicating that she is right at home as a shadow figure in this underworld, and she effortlessly finds refuge in a nightclub. Anakin falls from the speeder before the crash — his second fall — and rolls to the ground without a scratch. He is able to complete this descent safely, and without a vehicle, since he is psychologically prepared to enter this unsavory world. With his humble roots as a slave from Tatooine, Anakin can feel at home among the scurrilous Coruscanti and easily adapt to their shadow world. The aristocratic Obi-Wan, on the other hand, needs to make a conventional vehicular landing in order to "step down" to a level so far beneath him, although his conduct in the nightclub proves that he knows how to handle himself once he's in such an environment.

Anakin and Obi-Wan descend into the shadow level of Coruscant's collective unconscious in search of truth, that precious commodity that can scarcely be found in the duplicitous upper levels of the galactic capital. They come very close to learning who is behind the assassination attempts on Padmé, before the long-distance interference of Jango Fett, an agent of the conspiracy. Jango's toxic dart demonstrates the nearly godlike reach of Chancellor Palpatine's influence, which penetrates the planet's deepest shadow levels as well as the gleaming towers of government, ruthlessly crushing and containing the truth. But the dart also presents an elusive shard of the truth in its own right, and thereby provides the Jedi the clue they need to continue their mission.

Naboo: World of Emotion

The Jedi Council splits up Obi-Wan and Anakin, charging the master with tracking down the assassin and assigning the apprentice to escort Senator Amidala back to her homeworld for safety. In story terms, Anakin and Padmé's trip to Naboo plainly represents a chance for them to be sequestered together in an idyllic setting where a romance can bloom. On their descent into Naboo, we see a cloudless blue sky and the planet's charming old-world architecture with buildings only a few stories tall. This is an entirely different sphere of existence than Coruscant, a place of beauty without deception, where truth can be found far more freely. Anakin and Padmé arrive on Naboo in disguise, reflecting the fact that they are not yet being fully honest with each other, but during their stay here they will begin to open up about their true feelings.

Anakin and Padmé The return to Naboo represents a step forward for Anakin, but a step back for Padmé. Not only is it Anakin's first opportunity to go out into the world unsupervised by his Jedi masters, but he's also getting to spend time with the girl of his dreams. But Padmé feels frustrated to be yanked away from her duties as senator during a political debate in which she was playing a key role. Anakin has been seeking fulfillment and the trip to Naboo promises it; Padmé had already found fulfillment and the trip to Naboo has taken it away.

In symbolic terms, Naboo is a consummately feminine realm. The planet is seemingly governed by a series of youthful queens, and its lush vegetation and expanses of water are classical emblems of femininity and fertility. As Padme and Anakin visit a scenic lake, she tells him how she loves the water. He replies by voicing his distaste for the sand that envelops his own native planet. The geographical discussion is charged with sexuality, as Padme luxuriates in her sexual identity and Anakin longs to become intimate with her on those terms. The water represents the perceptions of anima that Padme has aroused in Anakin. Anima projections enchant a man with feminine aspects that are missing from his masculine persona, as in Anakin's observation that Tatooine is sorely lacking in water. His psyche is figuratively a desert, and Padme offers water in life-giving abundance. Anakin perceives himself and Padme as two halves that can make a whole.

Unfortunately for him, his feelings are not reciprocated at this point. As previously noted, Padmé has already found personal fulfillment in her career and feels little desire for romantic involvement. Note that Padmé doesn't tell Anakin, "I like sand," or "Tatooine wasn't so bad to visit." He hasn't aroused sensations of animus fulfillment in her psyche, at least none that she's willing to confront. Padmé resists Anakin's stolen kiss at the lakeside, telling him that they "shouldn't" do that. But as they continue their time together in the picturesque Naboo countryside, her feelings begin to stir. Padmé's ever-changing wardrobe reflects her subconscious emotional state, with her enticingly feminine gowns and bared shoulders betraying her increasing receptiveness to her Jedi suitor.

Anakin Falling In the midst of their pastoral interludes, Anakin suffers his third fall of the movie, to return to our discussion of descent imagery. While goofing around trying to stand on the back of a galloping shaak, one of those grazing beasts that a friend of mine calls "the giant ass creatures of Naboo," Anakin gets bucked off and lands in a heap. Padmé laughs at his predicament until she realizes that he's not moving. When she runs to his aid with concern, Anakin rolls over and starts laughing at her. Even this silly prank carries symbolic meaning. Riding the shaak is a foolish and risky act that Anakin has chosen, just as a romantic relationship could be. The shaak is as wild and unpredictable as the raw emotion of love. Anakin's fall from the back of the beast presages, if in a comical way, how his deepest feelings will run out of control and send him to the dark side. But here he only pretends to be hurt, his ruse demonstrating how he and Padmé are still playing games and instead of being forthright with one another.

Anakin attempts to change that in his fireside romantic confession to Padmé. This encounter comes after the flirting couple symbolically partake of a "forbidden fruit," while Anakin notes that Obi-Wan would not approve. His master would probably be less troubled by Anakin's frivolous use of the Force than by the amorous intentions behind his actions. Padmé reveals her simpatico feelings through her choice of outfits, removing the outer blouse she wore at the dinner table to expose a seductive black leather corset. The dark animal-skin material of this undergarment matches Anakin's leather surcoat that he wears outside his Jedi tunic. This suggests not only that Padmé feels a growing affinity for Anakin, but also that she is suppressing a "dark side" of her own, which she cannot express as freely as Anakin does. Padmé typically wears black or subdued colors when she is feeling conflicted, as during her bleakest moments in The Phantom Menace and when she was forced to flee Coruscant before voting on the Military Creation Act. Even though it's a sexy little number, this black ensemble again reflects a situation in which Padmé feels uncomfortable and threatened — not by Anakin, but by her own emotions.

When Anakin comes clean that hiding his affections for her has left him in agony, Padmé counters in rational, intellectual terms. She argues that their different social roles make it impossible for them to pursue a relationship, "regardless of the way we feel about each other." (See Part V for more detail on this topic.) In fact, Padmé is performing the converse of Anakin's falsehood when he fell off the shaak. Anakin pretended to be injured when he wasn't, and Padmé pretends to be unmoved by his romantic advances... when she is. Even if she won't admit it to Anakin or herself, Padmé has begun a significant personal "descent" of her own: not falling in the literal sense, but falling in love.

Kamino: World of Mystery

Meanwhile, back on Coruscant, Obi-Wan continues his investigation of Padmé's would-be assassins. The analysis droids in the Jedi Archives are of no use in identifying his only clue, the toxic dart that killed Zam. So Obi-Wan turns once again to the lower levels of Coruscant for truth and insight on matters that remain clouded in the upper levels. He consults his old friend Dexter Jettster, proprietor of a ground-level diner and clearly a character who's been around the galaxy a time or two. Dex immediately recognizes the weapon as a Kamino saberdart, manufactured by a race of reclusive cloners beyond the Outer Rim. We already know about the Jedi Order's lack of regard for systems outside the Republic, so it makes sense that this "unidentifiable" artifact would have a non-Republic point of origin, landing it in the big blind spot of the Jedi.

In an analysis of Attack of the Clones such as this, it bears mentioning Dex's specific criticism of the Jedi's shortcomings: "Those analysis droids only focus on symbols." This is a valid indictment against those who make decisions solely on the basis of superficial facts and details, without the guidance of real-world experience and intuition. But you have to wonder, is Lucas also commenting on overly analytical viewers, like yours truly, whose pursuit of "symbols" leads us to confuse fanboyish obsession with wisdom? Nah, couldn't be.

Obi-Wan returns to the Jedi Archives to research Kamino, but finds no sign of the system. Archivist Jocasta Nu pompously declares that if an item does not appear in their archives, it does not exist. Unconvinced, Obi-Wan takes the issue up with Master Yoda, who allows his class of Jedi youngsters supply the explanation: someone has erased Kamino from the Archives' records. This "emperor has no clothes" situation leaves Obi-Wan looking foolish, not to mention the smug Jocasta Nu, but we have to remember how the Jedi have been conditioned. Raised from infancy inside the Jedi Temple's confines, with minimal contact with the outside world, the Jedi are trained to believe in the infallibility of their order, and they must rarely encounter any evidence to the contrary. It could be difficult for an adult Jedi to recognize when the Jedi's ways are flawed or deficient, even in an instance that is glaringly obvious to an outsider, or a child.

Having located his "missing planet," Obi-Wan sets off for Kamino. He travels in a one-man starfighter whose wedge-shaped design prefigures the Imperial star destroyer, demonstrating an evolutionary link between the Republic and the Empire. This marks the first time we see a Jedi other than the Skywalkers piloting a starship. Previously it had seemed that the Jedi so eschewed technology that they depended on others to chauffeur them around the galaxy, but Obi-Wan disproves that theory. It's interesting to note that he takes to the cockpit in his customary flowing Jedi robes instead of donning some more practical flight suit, which possibly reflects the Jedi's stubborn refusal to relinquish tradition and adapt to changing conditions.

Kamino Clone Hatchery Obi-Wan arrives at Kamino and descends through thick thunderclouds and rain to find a planet seemingly covered in storm-tossed oceans. As with Coruscant's fog, Kamino's dark clouds represent a layer of mystery and confusion that Obi-Wan will attempt to penetrate. In addition, the copious waters of Kamino make it a feminine sphere alongside Naboo. But Kamino's environment includes the further element of thunder and lightning, which are classically associated with the anger of the gods, or of nature, expressing disapproval of humanity's actions. This symbolism offers a commentary on the occupation of the Kaminoans, which is cloning. The clone army that Obi-Wan discovers here represents a perversion of the natural order, specifically of the feminine power of reproduction. The Kaminoans live and work in a sealed, artificial environment, cut off from the outside world and elevated above the ocean on stilts in another example of tower imagery. Their sterile, self-contained cities allow the Kaminoans to perform their cloning operations in a scientific and emotionless atmosphere, unhindered by the planet's natural elements howling their fury outside.

As Obi-Wan speaks with the Kaminoans, we see that they are a thoroughly amoral and detached people. Dex was apparently right when he hinted that money was their sole motivation. But the Kaminoans behave differently from the other mercenaries we've met in the Star Wars universe, smugglers and bounty hunters who are openly treacherous shadow figures. The Kaminoans are unsettling because they seem so polite and benign. They've probably learned that this hospitality gives them the best advantage when interacting with their paying clients, which is what they take Obi-Wan to be. Remember that Kamino supplies the clone army's weaponry as well as its soldiers, so their cities are doubtlessly well-armed even though they may appear undefended. If they hadn't identified Obi-Wan as a Jedi customer, they probably would have blown him out of the sky without hesitation.

When Obi-Wan plays along with the Kaminoans' misapprehension that he has come to inspect the clone army, they seem rather gullible and out of touch. This behavior becomes more understandable when Lama Su gives his tour of the cloning facilities. The prime minister describes the clones like a proud cattle rancher showing off his prize herd: "Magnificent, aren't they?" Now we get the impression that the Kaminoans are a highly evolved race that views human beings as animals. To them, all humans probably look alike, so this visiting human dressed in Jedi robes is readily assumed to be an associate of the ones who hired the cloners ten years ago. The affairs of a distant society of humans (and other "minor" species) would be of no more concern to the Kaminoans than a faraway ant colony, which is why they can't be bothered to keep up with whether Master Sifo-Dyas is alive or dead.

In this respect, the Kaminoans echo the Sith's chauvinism toward other living beings, as well as the strict absence of humanity and emotion that will be a driving force in the coming Empire. The austere, colorless design and architecture of Kamino distinctly prefigure Imperial stylings. The white armor of the clone soldiers marks the origin of what we know as the stormtrooper uniform, and the monochromatic corridors and chambers of Tipoca City look remarkably like the interiors of the Death Star. Considering that the Empire will be governed by human leaders seemingly prejudiced against other species, it's interesting that it should inherit so much of its sensibilities from an alien race that views humans as lower lifeforms. Thematically, the Kaminoans will assist the Republic in divesting itself of its humanity, leaving behind an empty shell.

The Kaminoans also represent the specific repression of femininity. Using genetic material donated by Jango Fett, the cloners have generated thousands of human beings who have only one parent, a "father." The cloning process has usurped the power of the feminine principle and rendered it irrelevant for the task of reproduction. The oceans and thunderstorms rage outside in protest of this affront against mother nature. Also, consider the symbolism to be found in the female Kaminoan, Taun We. Although their race physically matches our archetypal concept of "space alien," Taun We is unmistakably feminine in her personality and carriage. Incongruously, her long-limbed movements and tiny swaying hips strongly recall the affected gait of a size-zero model on the fashion runway. Despite the popularity of the stick-figure ideal in our culture, it is nothing more than a modern denial of the proper curves and natural fullness of true feminine beauty. Taun We's gaunt physical proportions reflect how her people's cloning technology has left the feminine principle starved and in restraint, a parody of itself.

Jango Fett, on the other hand, represents the emerging victory of the masculine principle. A "simple man trying to make his way in the universe," he is a warrior who lives by a code of violence and personal gain. Jango has also fulfilled the base male fantasy of "spilling his seed" freely and siring a vast number of sons (no daughters) to prove his virility, without the burden of being tied down to his progeny or their mothers. As a matter of fact, Jango is the first father we have encountered in the Star Wars films other than Darth Vader. (Cliegg Lars will be a third.) Since the saga is fundamentally built upon a father-son relationship, Jango must be significant for symbolizing a different aspect of fatherhood as a counterpoint to Anakin's story, as I will explore more fully in Part V.

As the solitary shadow figure on Kamino, Jango is savvy enough that he immediately recognizes Obi-Wan as a threat to him, in contrast to the Kaminoans' guileless welcome of the visitor. He gathers up Boba and prepares to leave Kamino, but Obi-Wan comes to arrest him before they can take off. In the frantic confrontation that ensues, Obi-Wan and Jango rapidly manage to disarm each other and resort to hand-to-hand combat. This is the first time we have seen a Jedi in a prolonged fistfight without his lightsaber, and it comes at a thematically fitting juncture. On Kamino, technology is threatening to supplant humanity, and it's appropriate for Obi-Wan to fight in humanity's defense without relying on his high-tech weapon.

Obi-Wan Falling During the struggle, Jango snares Obi-Wan with his grappling cable. Obi-Wan subsequently knocks the bounty hunter over the edge of the landing platform toward the ocean below. Too late, Obi-Wan remembers that he's still tethered to his plummeting adversary: "Not good!" Now we're back to the recurring descent imagery, and in this instance, a person falling drags someone else down with him. The cable represents a bond between two people which ties them together so tightly that a misfortune befalling one of them equally affects the other. This could be a foreshadowing of how Anakin's fall to the dark side will threaten to pull Obi-Wan down with him. Or the "relationship" formed here could even serve as a parallel for the perilous romantic bond developing between Anakin and Padme.

Jango secures himself against the platform's sloping hull and releases the cable, letting Obi-Wan continue to plunge. Obi-Wan uses the loose cable to break his fall and ends up in a predicament similar to Luke Skywalker's after his first duel with Vader, dangling in the wind on the underside of an elevated city. But being far more resourceful than Luke was at that stage, Obi-Wan safely returns himself to the top of the platform, though not quickly enough to stop the Fetts from fleeing. He does succeed at latching a tracking device on the Slave I, again tethering himself to the bounty hunter and being dragged along behind him.

Tatooine: World of Fate

Back on Naboo, Anakin finds himself overwhelmed with nightmare visions of his mother in jeopardy. Feeling rejected by Padmé, Anakin's psyche seeks feminine comfort from his mother, whom his Jedi senses warn him he is also in immediate danger of losing. When he tells Padmé that he has to go find his mother, Anakin is expressing a subconscious motivation to leave Padmé and her world behind in favor of his childhood home, where he can revert to associations of prepubescent contentment and run away from his broken heart. But Padmé thwarts any escapist desires when she volunteers to abandon her refuge and go with him.

And so we find Anakin and Padmé making another planetary descent together, this time on Tatooine. The journeys to Naboo and Tatooine are similar in that they are returns for Anakin and Padmé, as well as for the viewer, since these worlds are familiar to us as well. We see that these are two young adults who want to move ahead in life as mature individuals, but before they can proceed to the next stage of development they have to confront and reconcile issues from their respective childhoods.

The importance that the trip to Tatooine bears for Anakin needs little explanation: he is violating the Jedi edict against going home and he fears his mother is suffering terribly. For Padmé, this journey represents her growing attraction to Anakin. The harsh, rocky desert of Tatooine makes it a masculine realm, symbolizing Anakin's sexual identity. The couple began their tenuous relationship in view of Naboo's feminine waters, and now Padmé is subconsciously taking things to the next level by embracing Anakin's native environment, and the compelling animus sensations that his presence is stirring in her.

Arrival at Tatooine Tatooine is also a shadow world, teeming with "scum and villainy" enough to rival the lower levels of Coruscant. Note how its threatening nature factors into this arrival on Tatooine as compared to the one seen in The Phantom Menace. Qui-Gon Jinn ordered the Queen's ship to touch down in the desolate outskirts of Mos Espa, where they could remain undetected. This time, even though we're again in a situation where Padmé is on the run from danger, Anakin boldly lands in a docking bay right in the center of Mos Espa. The lack of subterfuge in this descent reflects Anakin's fearless will to confront the truth in his return home, however terrible it may be. But just as importantly, it also shows Padmé's readiness to dive directly into the perils of Tatooine (and symbolically, to enter Anakin's sphere), rather than approaching this place from a safe distance as she did ten years ago. Her only precaution is to conceal herself under a formless cloak, which she later removes to reveal a startlingly provocative midriff-baring outfit she wears underneath. Padmé is now permitting her sexual identity to be only superficially disguised.

After learning Shmi's current whereabouts from Watto, Anakin and Padmé travel to the Lars homestead. They fly there in their own starship, rather than using local transport, underscoring their self-reliance on this journey of personal development. The vaporators and adobe hovels of the moisture farm immediately strike a chord of familiarity with the audience, but this is a strange and foreboding place for Anakin and Padmé. The tension eases when the pair is greeted by a comforting emblem from Anakin's childhood, C-3PO. Now covered in dull gray plating, the protocol droid even prompts a smile of recognition from the pensive Padmé. But the moment of pleasant reconnection with Anakin's past is fleeting, as his new stepfamily explains that Shmi has been abducted by Tusken raiders and is presumed dead. The Force tells Anakin otherwise.

Before taking off to search for his mother, Anakin bids farewell to Padmé, their exchange depicted in the shadows they cast on the exterior of the Lars home. Whether deliberate symbolism or not, Anakin's stubby Padawan ponytail gives his silhouette the vague shape of Vader's helmet. The camera's focus on the shadows instead of the characters themselves indicates how Anakin is now departing into a shadow world of hidden dangers and moral uncertainty. The setting deliberately echoes the iconic "binary sunset" scene from Episode IV, with Luke gazing to the horizon and wishing for something to happen to him. The difference here is that Anakin has already experienced his departure from home and his first initiations into adulthood, and instead of passively staring into the distance, he decisively streaks away and actually touches the distant horizon in the blink of an eye.

That potent evocation of Star Wars mythology is immediately followed by another, as John Williams' sinister "Duel of the Fates" theme blares over Anakin's journey across the desert at dusk. We associate this chorus with the dark side and the Sith, and since this is the first time the music cue has been linked to Anakin, we know we're about to witness a momentous turning point toward his ultimate fate. We feel that it's right that Anakin should act to rescue his mother, but at the same time, there must be something wrong here. Visually, the high-velocity trek across the craggy desert geography recalls Episode I's podrace, but that was a frivolous sporting event involving other competitors and thousands of spectators. This time, the situation is desperately urgent, and Anakin is making his way alone.

Anakin Falling He locates the Tuskens' village and looks down on it from a rocky precipice. In a scene widely recognized for its symbolic content, Anakin makes his fourth "fall" in the movie, leaping the long distance toward the camp below, his dark cloak flailing behind him. Yes, there's a lot going on here. Consider the change in the terrain as compared the inhabited areas of Tatooine, which are situated on flat, featureless plains. The "safe" places have no heights towering above the ground, either natural or architectural. In fact, the Lars' living quarters are subterranean, showing that the humble, down-to-earth people of Tatooine are the thematic opposite of Coruscant's politicians and Jedi. But Anakin's quest has taken him far beyond the restricted pockets of safety and civilization, and into the heart of the shadow world. The landscape is drastically different, with mountains and huge formations of rock arching skyward. In reaching the precipice overlooking the Tusken camp, Anakin has come to a place where he can fall, literally and morally, in ways that are not possible in the civilized flatlands. Here in the wilderness he makes the decision to jump, leaving behind the moral codes of society, and prepared to deal with the Tuskens on their own animalistic terms.

Infiltrating a Tusken hut, Anakin finds his mother brutalized and bound to a crude wooden frame. Shmi serves as a "divine virgin" symbol in Episode I, with her claim that she conceived Anakin without a father, and here she becomes a Christ figure, unjustly crucified to the verge of death in spite of her kindness and purity. Even though she's been victimized by the forces of the shadow world, Shmi has not let them consume her spirit. With her dying words she expresses only her love for her son and her joy at seeing him again, rather than cursing the Tuskens or crying for vengeance, and she dies at peace.

Anakin chooses not to follow her example of turning the other cheek. Summoning his rage and his superhuman abilities, he viciously exterminates the entire Tusken village, momentarily abandoning the Jedi principles he has been trained to follow for the past ten years. He acts entirely according to his own emotional dictates. In the 19th century literary tradition of Romanticism, the protagonist commonly commits a "great sin" whose defiance of accepted ethical standards forces his expulsion from society. This marks a philosophical point of no return, after which the outcast hero is free to create his own moral universe. The Tusken massacre does not fully release Anakin from the boundaries of Jedi morality, but it still qualifies at least as his first in a series of great sins.

After bringing Shmi's body back to the Lars home, Anakin reveals his deeds of revenge to Padmé. Although still racked with anger and grief, he recognizes that his slaughter was excessive and wrong. Here we see that the incident has not made Anakin "turn to the dark side" entirely. The foundations of his morality remain intact, or else he would feel no remorse for slaying all the Tuskens. A major recurring theme in the prequels is that the transition from good to evil never occurs in one swoop or because of a single pivotal event, but is always a slow and gradual process with many stages in between. Anakin is still a good man at this point, but he has taken his first step down the dark path that will forever dominate his destiny.

Anakin and Padme; Though taken aback by Anakin's confession as well as his boasts about becoming the most powerful Jedi ever, Padmé forgives Anakin and tries to comfort him. She drew away from him the first time he emotionally opened himself up to her, but this time she comes closer. Some observers have commented that the tribal gown Padmé wears in this scene places a bullseye target right over her genital region, representing the increasing unspoken sexuality between her and Anakin. Indeed, if this is the beginnings of Darth Vader we are witnessing, it's also true that his eventual redemption will emanate from the womb highlighted by that circular pattern.

As a matter of fact, Episode II's scenes of the Lars homestead are charged with sexual content, even if it's easily overlooked. Tatooine may represent a dangerous shadow world, but it's also the planet of love. Here we find a household with two loving couples: Cliegg and Shmi, Owen and Beru. Anakin left Tatooine for a life devoid of love and marriage, and in his absence Shmi has found a new life centered around love and marriage. In many ways, Owen represents the road not taken for Anakin. Had he remained on Tatooine and found freedom for himself and his mother, Anakin would have turned out much like Owen: a young man doing boring work on a boring planet, without hopes of roaming the galaxy and performing great deeds. But the one thing his modest stepbrother possesses that Anakin can't is a girlfriend. Just by the simple act of holding Beru's hand while Anakin and Padmé remain apart, Owen lays bare the choice that Anakin has made between a life of personal fulfillment and a life of romantic intimacy. As much as he needs his adventure and excitement, the young Jedi probably must feel some small measure of envy.

Geonosis: World of War

The plot developments bring us to the fifth and final world of Attack of the Clones, as Obi-Wan follows Jango Fett to the rocky planet of Geonosis and Anakin and Padmé subsequently come to help their friend. The planet's asteroid belts look like beautiful solid rings from a distance, but prove to be made up of millions of deadly orbiting rocks when Obi-Wan pursues the Slave I through them. This continues the movie's theme of hidden dangers seeming deceptively harmless until you see them up close.

Those rings remind us of our own solar system's Saturn, while the surface of Geonosis is red rock, mostly undeveloped, evoking our deep-seated conception of the planet Mars — impressions gathered from real-life space probes as well as classic science fiction — in contrast to the various Earth-like environments typically seen on Star Wars planets. Thus we intuitively feel that Geonosis is an inhospitable and "alien" place. In symbolic terms, this is definitely a masculine sphere, with its barren expanses lacking moisture and vegetation.

While coming in for a landing, Obi-Wan discovers a fleet of Trade Federation starships, deepening the mystery he's trying to solve. More pieces of the puzzle quickly fall into place as Obi-Wan sneaks inside a Geonosian structure that looks like a natural rock formation on the outside but has an ornately fabricated gothic interior. Here he happens upon a battle droid factory, and eavesdrops on Count Dooku conspiring with powerful industrialists he's enlisting in his separatist movement. One of them is Viceroy Nute Gunray, who reveals he's the person trying to have Padmé assassinated.

Obi-Wan spies on the separatists from a secluded perch high above them, but in contrast to Anakin's sighting of the Tusken village far below him (which immediately follows this scene), Obi-Wan doesn't leap down and take on the conspirators single-handed. Lacking his Padawan's compulsiveness, Obi-Wan instead retreats and reports into his Jedi superiors. His transmission gets cut short when the Geonosian forces ambush and capture him.

The Geonosians are a peculiar species. On the surface they seem mindless and insectlike, but we see that they possess advanced technological capabilities as battle droid manufacturers and the engineers of the Death Star. They even have an artistic side, judging from their intricate architecture. Like the structures they inhabit, the Geonosians seem primitive and organic on the outside, but prove to be complex and creative within. They contrast intriguingly with the Kaminoans: both are mercenary races who deal in instruments of war, but their temperaments are completely different. The Kaminoans are polite and emotionless, driven by scientific precision and efficiency in their clean, hermetically sealed world. The Geonosians, on the other hand, are passionate and hot-tempered creatures, preferring ornamental craftsmanship and a dirty, hivelike environment. To borrow some terminology from the creative agency profession that I work in, the Kaminoans are the "Suits" (the high-minded executives in business management) and the Geonosians are the "T-shirts" (the lowly creative types who do the real creating). The Kaminoans are a brilliant people, no doubt, but all they do is make copies. The left brain/right brain sensibilities of these two species will curiously meld together in the completed Death Star, which combines Geonosian offensive technology with the Kaminoan approach to interior design. It plainly wouldn't do for the Emperor to allow vaulted cathedral ceilings and spiraling gothic staircases inside his weapon of ultimate terror.

Dooku and Obi-Wan Geonosian guards permit Count Dooku to confront the imprisoned Obi-Wan, testing whether the Jedi might be willing to switch sides and join him. During this classical temptation scene, Obi-Wan floats suspended in magnetic shackles, representing the moment of moral decision now forced upon him. He is literally up in the air until he decides to place his loyalty with either the Republic or with Dooku. In a surprisingly frank display, Dooku cuts to the ultimate truth of the grand conspiracy and reveals that the Sith Lord Darth Sidious is in control of the Republic, although he stops short of naming him as Chancellor Palpatine. Obi-Wan refuses to accept the disclosure of terrible truth, just as Luke did in a similar temptation scene in The Empire Strikes Back. Without hesitation, Obi-Wan refuses to join Dooku. The next time we see Obi-Wan, he is bound in conventional solid chains as opposed to an anti-gravity field. He has become morally grounded in his choice of loyalty, even though his life may be forfeit, which again parallels Luke's decision to leap into the abyss rather than join Vader.

Meanwhile, Anakin and Padmé have decided to come rescue Obi-Wan, against the orders of Mace Windu. This journey marks another significant developmental progression for the two young people. After making regressive visits to their respective homeworlds, Anakin and Padmé are now prepared to move forward to a new world and continue their pursuits of maturity and individuation. The trip to Geonosis carries particular meaning in Padmé's growth, since every time she has gone to a new location in Episode II, there has been some sort of contention or outside influence involved. When she arrives on Coruscant and her double is killed, Padmé questions whether she should have come back. Padmé later resents being forced to flee to Naboo and go into hiding. She next volunteers to go to Tatooine with Anakin, but only to offer support during his personal crisis that does not directly concern her. This time, the decision to go to Geonosis is hers alone. She even has to talk Anakin into going. Padmé has had enough with getting bounced around the galaxy according to the wishes of others, and now she's going to choose her own path. In contrast with the black outfits she has previously worn in times of inner conflict, Padmé slips into an all-white action suit that reflects her confidence of purpose.

On their descent into Geonosis, Anakin and Padmé choose to land their starship at the base of what appear to be steam vents. Once again, we see the image of an incoming vessel enveloped in thick clouds that represent mystery and deception. Obi-Wan descended to the Geonosian surface through clear skies, because he arrived at the planet through a mature process of exploration that was bringing him closer to the truth he was seeking. Anakin and Padmé come here less informed, as a result of an impulsive decision, so their landing is more clouded and uncertain than Obi-Wan's.

As they unboard to confront the mystery of Geonosis, Padmé tells Anakin to follow her lead, as she intends to use her political position to their advantage. Anakin notes that he has given up trying to argue with her. As I describe more fully in Part II, this signals a new phase in his relationship with Padmé. In Jungian terms, Anakin has moved beyond his anima projections of the idealized Padmé and reconciled his feelings for her as an individual. He is now willing to submit to her and cooperate with her more freely than he does with Obi-Wan and the Jedi Council.

Anakin and Padmé Falling Entering the Geonosian compound, Anakin and Padmé happen upon the battle droid factory Obi-Wan glimpsed earlier. They find themselves isolated on a narrow ledge that quickly retracts, and they both tumble down into the hellish industrial world of the factory. This is Anakin's fifth fall in Episode II, and Padmé's first. The scene unmistakably recalls Luke and Leia's predicament when faced with an unexpected chasm on the Death Star. But where the children succeed in swinging across to safety, the parents fall and become separated. Perhaps Anakin's Jedi utility belt was short a grappling cable, but I think the key difference is that Leia gave Luke an innocent kiss on the cheek, "for luck." Anakin and Padmé have denied themselves even that basic level of emotional openness. Their departure from the starship moments earlier provided the perfect opportunity for a good luck kiss before entering the unknown, but instead their behavior was all business. Their lack of honesty about their feelings makes them more susceptible to falling down and being divided in the face of obstacles.

Artoo and Threepio immediately follow their masters to the same ledge, and Threepio takes a similar dive into the droid factory. Artoo is the only member of our group who avoids falling, by unfurling his surprise rocket jets and blasting off. On a figurative level, Artoo's flight represents how he is perfectly at home in this world of droid construction. When placed in mechanical or computer-based environments, Artoo becomes a sort of "Jedi" in his own right, able to perform miracles and bend reality to his will, as indeed he saves the day for Padmé here. Threepio, obviously, is nowhere near as resourceful, but his misadventures on Geonosis are rich with symbolic importance, as I will discuss further in Part V.

Separated in the whizzing purgatory of the droid factory, Anakin and Padmé suffer ordeals that symbolically point to their dark future. Anakin gets trapped with his right hand riveted inside a huge piece of machinery, foreshadowing his imminent loss of that appendage and the start of his transformation into a cyborg. Padmé, meanwhile, is threatened with a dousing of molten metal, evoking the legendary lava pit where Anakin is expected to suffer his grievous injuries in a duel with Obi-Wan. The two end up getting captured and sentenced to an execution arena. Faced with death, Padmé admits her love for Anakin. Their arrival at emotional honesty in this dark hour marks a turning point in their fortunes, helping them find the strength to avoid their doom... at least for now.

The now-official couple reunites with Obi-Wan to confront a trio of execution beasts, and the ensuing struggles contain minor instances of descent motifs and tower imagery. Padme's white suit is shredded, suggesting that her self-confidence in embarking on this mission may have been a bit rash. Then the symbolism really kicks in once Mace Windu and the Jedi arrive. Windu scoffs when Dooku warns him that the Jedi are outnumbered, and Jango Fett's flamethrower attack forces the Jedi Master to leap backwards into the arena. Windu's fall represents the folly of his overconfident pride, as he's knocked off his high horse and made to acknowledge the truth of Dooku's superior numbers. A melee between Jedi and battle droids ensues, with the Jedi getting steadily worn down. At one point the Jedi Master Coleman Trebor attempts to attack Dooku, but ends up plummeting to his death in the arena below, the first of the movie's many falls to be a fatal one. We are witnessing the Jedi Order being knocked off its pedestal.

Just when the battle seems lost and Windu refuses to surrender, Padmé is the first to look to the sky and see the most dramatic planetary descent in Episode II. This is, after all, the event that gives the movie its name. The gunships of the Republic's clone army attack, led by Master Yoda, handily laying waste to battle droids by the score. It may look like a classic Saturday-matinee rescue, but this is no cause for celebration. As I expressed at length in Part I, the Jedi's alliance with the clone army is a dreadful development that bodes only ill. The descent of Yoda and the clones represents the Jedi's moral compromise, their loss of balance and wisdom, their deserting of their role as negotiators and diplomats, and their willingness to act as tools in the schemes of an increasingly corrupt and tyrannical Republic.

As the conflict escalates into a full-scale conflagration of giant war machines bombing each other to bits, the accumulating explosions, smoke and kicked-up dust begin to cloak the clone troopers in a blinding haze that represents the moral uncertainty of their presence. With the tide of battle turning against the Separatists, our heroes board a Republic gunship and chase the fleeing Count Dooku. The fallen Jedi sends his drone escorts to fire on his pursuers, and the violent impact knocks Padmé from the gunship to the ground below. The open design of the gunship makes it a hazardous vehicle for anyone to ride in at high speeds and altitudes, reflecting the moral risk that this army poses to those who accept it. It makes particular thematic sense that Padmé should fall from the gunship, considering her sworn opposition to the Republic forming an army. If she held to her principles, she should choose death before being rescued by the clone forces. Padmé's fall could thus be considered an act of karma.

Anakin wants to stop the ship and rescue Padmé, but Obi-Wan convinces him that his duty is to focus on confronting Dooku. Anakin suffers his final falls of Episode II at the hands of Dooku, humiliatingly zapped by Sith lightning and tossed across the hangar like a rag doll after being dismembered. This decisive defeat in his first face-to-face encounter with a Sith Lord will instill in Anakin a desire to become equally powerful, whatever the cost.

I have covered other details of the lightsaber duels in Part II, and will reserve further comments on Yoda's confrontation with Dooku for Part V. Suffice it here to note that the battle of Geonosis, the opening conflict of the Clone Wars, is a pyrrhic victory in the same mold as Episode I's battle of Naboo. The protagonists appear to pull victory from the jaws of defeat, but it is only the forces of evil who triumph.

Return to Coruscant

The final planetary descent of Attack of the Clones brings us back to Coruscant, as Count Dooku arrives for a rendezvous with his Sith master. Dooku's solar sailer glides in for a landing in a dilapidated industrial sector. The thick gray fog from the opening view of the Coruscant skyline is now replaced by belching black smoke. My initial assumption upon first seeing this scene was that Dooku was headed toward the remains of the Jedi Temple, which I thought might have been destroyed while the Jedi were called away to Geonosis. I was mistaken in that guess (or maybe just premature), but the gloomy landscape does indicate that things have changed here on the galactic capital.

Outside the Senate buildings in the blood-red sunset, battalions of clone troopers march in formation and board military assault vessels that closely resemble Imperial Star Destroyers. With the huge starships taking to the Coruscant skies, accompanied by the emerging strains of the Imperial March, the movie draws to a close with a foreboding image of ascent. Similar to Anakin's introduction in the rising elevator, this mass ascent signals the upward movement of a terrible cycle that will inevitably come crashing back down. Each of these Republic battle craft will extend Palpatine's tyranny in another system of the galaxy, under the farcical pretense of fighting a manufactured rebellion and preserving a hollow democracy.

But the movie doesn't end on that haunting display of military pageantry. In typical fashion, Lucas shifts from the grand galactic scale to a more intimate focus, concluding with the secret nuptials of Anakin and Padmé. Although the beautiful serenity of the simple ceremony on Naboo seems infinitely removed from the turmoil that threatens to rend the Republic asunder, this young couple will be central players in that greater tragedy. The far-reaching implications of these and other crucial roles being performed in the story form the basis for Part V of this dissertation. The marriage of Anakin and Padmé sets in motion events that will transform the galaxy forever... for better and for worse.

V. Much to Learn, You Still Have
The progression of roles, duties and responsibilities.

The Shroud of the Dark Side
Cinema