I’ll be the first to admit that of all the Star Wars films, Attack of the Clones took the longest for me to fully appreciate. In spite of the fact that I still feel that it’s arguably the most well-crafted film in the Saga, at least when it comes to symbolism, subtlety, and having a deeper meaning beyond the space fantasy, I still enjoy most of the other films on a far more visceral level than this one.
However, that doesn’t mean that there was ever a time I actively disliked the movie. On the contrary, even though it wasn’t my favorite and I was a little let down after expecting another The Phantom Menace, I still loved the film from day one. Each film in the Saga has moments that count amongst my absolute favorites not just in Star Wars, but in film in general.
One of these moments was among my favorites since my very first viewing of Attack of the Clones back when I was 15 years old, and I am shocked – Shocked! – that I have not heard anyone else discuss it yet. If there’s one trait I share with the rest of my generation, it’s that I’m a sucker for obscure references and post-modernism gags. Granted, this reference moment is relatively small in the midst of a trio of consecutive overwhelming action sequences. But this is clearly George Lucas being a film geek and reaching out to the other film geeks in the audience.
Have you ever noticed that in a lot of older films that used stop-motion animation to insert large monsters into live action settings, said monsters would often die when one of the human characters shoved a spear into its pectorals? It was such a prevalent trope that I’m surprised that I can’t find a TVTropes entry on it (if I’ve missed it, please point me in the direction, no pun intended). Whether it’s a Tyrannosaur or a mythical beast, it seems in these films that all it takes is one clumsily thrown spear to take them down. It was often rather hilarious.
So it is fitting that this trope appears – and is roundly subverted – in the Geonosis Arena, which is a Harryhausen tribute if ever there was one. Of course, the fantastic beasts here are not stop-motion, but computer-generated, and each a twisted reflection of the character it was meant to kill. The feline Nexu, which like Padmé is small and lethal (and feminine). The ceretopsian Reek, which like Anakin is powerful and attacking out of fear.
And Obi-Wan gets the crab-like Acklay which, like its intended victim, is a far more calculating animal, knowing when to dodge and when to strike. It’s fitting that it lasts longer in the ensuing battle than any of the other animals.
But we’re not there yet. The moment which I’ve been building up occurs fairly early in the fight, when Obi-Wan has used the Acklay’s strike to free himself from his chains but not yet his hand binds.
He steals a polearm from one of the Geonosian guards who is then dispatched by the Acklay.
Obi-Wan then goes into the familiar dance with the Acklay, jabbing with the spear as the beast retreats and advances.
Finally, Obi-Wan does it. He throws the spear, and it hits the creature square in the arm joint, which is if you remember the Instant Kill Button in those classic films. Except we’re not watching those films, are we?
Obi-Wan, clearly having watched the same films, is just as surprised as we are.
I may have laughed out loud in the theatre, triumphantly. I love this gag. I can’t sling enough positive adjectives at it. It is an absolutely brilliant affectionate parody of something we’ve seen a million times. Again, I am astonished that I never hear anybody talk about it. It seems to have slipped under too many people’s radars, like almost everything else about the film. Well, George, if you’re somehow reading this, here’s one person who got the joke and loved it.
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