Day 6 of the Prequel Appreciation Week.
Well, I sort of said Coruscant yesterday, so I’ll try to come up with something else. I’ll confess that I have never liked Naboo. Yeah, never liked it. Tatooine isn’t a PT planet. Kamino or Geonosis? Nope, I’ve got it.
Utapau and Kamino are certainly unique among the offerings of the PT: Naboo is just Italy in space; Tatooine we’ve seen before, and Geonosis is just red Tatooine. But these two offered the kind of CGI-enhanced vistas we long for in science fiction–vistas you won’t see from earth. One planet is nothing but ocean and the other is nothing but savanna. And while I love the Kaminoans as a race far more than I like either of the sentient species on Utapau, the planet Utapau really attracts me.
Even as I sat in the theater for the midnight showing of Episode III the first time, my first thought on seeing the savage beauty of Utapau was, This is a science fiction planet. This epitomizes what an imaginary scifi world should be.
An Outer Rim world with water making up only .9% of the planet’s surface, Utapau has nine moons, an arid temperate climate, and a 27-hour day. This planet covered with cave networks and sinkholes made an attractive hiding place for the Separatist General Grevious–and in 2005, I know I wasn’t the only one reminded of the ongoing search for Osama bin Ladin in the caves of Afghanistan. I’m sure this wasn’t accidental on Lucas’ part, either, though I can’t give you a citation of him saying Obi-Wan’s triumph over Grevious was meant to inspire Americans in the midst of a decade-long wait for justice.
The Utapauan visuals are dazzling, and I’m never going to forgive Disney for denying me the chance to see it in the retro-3D that made Episode I a fresh thrill. I felt as giddy as on a roller coaster watching Boga dive over the edge of the cliff just on a normal cinema screen! How much more incredible would it have been? (sad sigh)
Speaking of Boga, where would any discussion of this awesome planet be if I didn’t mention the amazingness that is the varactyl?
Not only does this hero remind me of a floppy Newfoundland dog we had when I was a teen — which we lost to cancer the same year as Episode III, actually — but she helps show us a side of the Jedi that is under-represented: connection with all life. Obi-Wan says in E4 that the Force binds all living things together and Luke repeatedly uses this power to dispel predators from flesh-eating grubs to mutant cthons and one yeti-like creature in The New Rebellion. Obi-Wan’s preference for a live animal mount over a mechanical speeder recalls Tolkien’s emphasis on nature over industry, and the book and a deleted scene further emphasize that Obi-Wan chose Boga specifically because of the connection between them.
Also, the cooing and yipping is another Ben Burtt masterpiece and I’m kind of really super excited to get a varactyl mount of my own in The Old Republic!
So, yes, all that cool stuff combined makes Utapau my favorite planet of the prequels, though Kamino is a narrow contender because I like Kaminoans and they also have flying giant manta rays.