Today is Natalie Portman’s 34th birthday and in honour of that I thought it would be interesting to take a look at Padmé Amidala’s role in one of the key moments in Attack of the Clones: the Battle of Geonosis. So here is a Scene It? post about the Battle in the Arena.
Before getting into the scene itself, it is worth saying that the Battle of Geonosis is a very important sequence, not only in Attack of the Clones but in the whole Prequel trilogy. In many ways it is the start of the end and it is definitely the beginning of the Clone Wars. For the first time we see the Jedi come out in full force and see the Clones join in the battle. There is a lot of subtlety at work in the whole Battle of Geonosis which is belied by the amazing battle sequences. Not only do we get to see Padmé in action, there is also an emotional story-line for Boba Fett and setting him on the path that was further explored in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Lucas uses this battle to let his characters do, rather than tell. Anakin shows his dedication to Padmé by constantly being at her side, Mace Windu shows his rashness by beheading Jango and Padmé shows her general capability and adaptability throughout the whole battle.
Arguably, the whole Battle of Geonosis starts in the Arena. Shortly before Anakin and Padmé get rolled into the Arena they declare their love to each other, arguably putting them both in a very vulnerable and emotional place. As they are led to their pillars, Padmé is already two steps ahead of everyone. Sneakily placing a pin from her pocket in her mouth, Padmé starts planning her escape before she is even put in chains. As Anakin and Obi-Wan start their bickering and worrying, Padmé, quite literally, gets ‘on top of things’. Rather than let her surroundings distract her, Padmé is intensely focused on finding a way out. Unlocking one of her hand cuffs, she climbs atop her pillar. When first watching AotC I loved her unwillingness to sit and wait for the Nexu to come to her and instead she finds the high ground. In my opinion, the Nexu is the most vicious of the three animals. Where the other two are large and therefore relatively slow, the Nexu is small and quick. Although this personal fight against the Nexu isn’t on the same level as Leia’s against Jabba in The Return of the Jedi, there is definitely something symbolic in it. Padmé initially outwits the Nexu by getting on top and then uses her position there against him by kicking him, full-swing. For Anakin and Obi-Wan their personal fights are equally symbolic of their character journeys and traits. Where Anakin seems to successfully tame the beast, Obi-Wan is methodical and precise in his approach.
Padmé, at this point, has no weapons or Force powers to help her. Instead, she uses her brains, hitting the Nexu with her chain, kicking it to the ground and not letting her injury stop her. Anakin doesn’t so much come to her rescue as give her a helping hand. The reveal of the Jedi is crucial here for all three characters since none of them would have survived without the distraction and the supply of weapons. Mind, Padmé is the best shot in AotC, hardly ever missing. This is partly a reference to the fact that Princess Leia is also one of the best shorts in the Original Trilogy. However, it is also important because it means Padmé can save herself. For most of the initial confrontation in the arena, Padmé is the only non-Jedi fighting on the Republic side. She is surrounded by men and women who, through their connection with the Force, are stronger and faster and have the advantage of a light saber, yet she holds her own ground and once again keeps her eyes open to opportunities that others might disregard. This is doubtlessly an ability she developed in her political career to make up for the fact she was so much younger than most others.
This leads us to the wagon that is being hysterically driven around the Arena. Again it is Padmé who notices this and sees its advantages. While on the move she will be harder to hit, while having the time to consider her own targets and being an additional distraction to the droids. Anakin jumps onto the band wagon, quite literally, and together they make the best out of a bad situation. Padmé, throughout this battle, constantly reaffirms the fact that she is not a damsel in distress. The fact that her midriff is exposed pales, in my opinion, against the strides she makes in defending herself and others. The quip between her Anakin about her now adopting his ‘aggressive negotiations‘ is funny but again something which underlines her adaptability. She is always on the side of diplomacy but also not afraid to defend that side and herself with weapons, if must be.
Although The Clone Wars TV series was the first show which gave us a main female character wielding a light saber, Padmé was never a wilting wall-flower or “just a politician”. She was head strong (let’s not forget it was her idea to go to Geonosis), courageous and clever. She holds her own in this battle where she seems out-skilled by both sides and once again shows Nute Gunray she is hardly the naive girl he presumed her to be. Once they are all rescued by Yoda, the trio takes off in a ship. Padmé is an unquestioned member of this operation until she gets knocked out of the ship. To a certain extent it was necessary that she was not present in the next scene since this is a learning moment for both Anakin and Obi-Wan. But rather than have her pass out or be rescued, she gets up and joins the clone troopers in finding Anakin and Obi-Wan.
Even when not taking centre stage in the action, Padmé is an active part of the story. Padmé’s role in the Battle of Geonosis was an empowered one which inspired me as a little child and still does so now. It taught me that even when you are disadvantaged and wounded you don’t have to give up. That keeping your eyes and mind open means you can find opportunities to help yourself and others, without having superpowers. And that being good with a blaster can come in very handy when aggressive negotiations are required.