Star Wars has always given us a share of interesting creatures, but ultimately one of the most interesting and, sadly, underused would appear in Attack of the Clones.
Senator Amidala has been the target of several assassination attempts, the latest claiming the life of one of her handmaiden decoys. We later meet the assassin who, it turns out, is a subcontractor – She was hired to do the dirty work by a man in familiar armor lurking in the shadows. Giving her some deadly-poisonous arthropods, he says “Zam, there can be no mistakes this time.” This attempt fails, a high speed chase ensues, and the man in the shadows is forced to kill Zam in order to keep her from talking (though the dart he used wound up being just as good at leading the Jedi to Kamino anyway. One has to wonder if this wasn’t just part of the show, as it was about time the Republic found out about its army. But I digress).
It’s during the chase that we get our first glimpse that Zam Wesell isn’t everything she seems. When Anakin nosedives and lands on her speeder, and after several attempts to literally shake him off, she looks up in surprise and annoyance. For a split second her youthful female face contorts into a grotesque reptilian mask. When meeting outside the bar where Zam took refuge, Anakin says to Obi-Wan “I think he’s a she, and I think she’s a Changeling.” Upon her death, Zam reverts once again to her reptilian form while shouting epithets at her murderer in Huttese with her dying breath.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a shapeshifter on our hands. Not the first in the Star Wars universe, but the first in movie canon.
And I’m very sad that almost nothing was made of it. We didn’t see her change into any other form, even as she was hiding and sneaking up on Obi-Wan in the bar, she stayed in her human disguise. Did she think her clothes would give her away? It’s possible. Does it take too much effort to maintain one form, let alone switch between multiple forms under duress? That seems probable enough. Or is this simply a casualty of the fact that the whole shapeshifter angle was thrown in during production at the last minute as a sort of “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if?” moment. Well, it was cool, but almost too much.
Don’t misunderstand me; I don’t count it against the film in general. Attack of the Clones was a long movie that had to get a lot of character development in a surprisingly small amount of time. It was to the film’s benefit that it kept the focus where it needed to: on the relationship between Anakin and Padmé, and the revelation of the Clone Army. Still, when you throw such a potentially amazing ability into the mix and don’t really follow up on it, well, the word “tease” comes to mind. Even the Expanded Universe’ attempts to fulfill on that promise makes one think “Well, where was this in the film?” Although, to be fair, that’s a common thing with the EU and a good reason why it should remain dubious canon and what the hell are you thinking Star Wars Story Team?!
I guess my point in this article is to give Zam Wesell her day in the limelight. She deserved more than she got, both in-universe and out. And even though she failed multiple times to take out a target that, let’s face it, had plot immunity for another film and a half, I’d hire her over a Fett any day of the week.
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