Thursday, August 9, 2007

Attack of the Clones Revisited (1999 to 2007)

I think we're going to have to go with shorter reviews. At this rate, I'll get around to reviewing EPISODE III sometime in the summer of 2009.

Anyway, upon second viewing STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES leaves me with mixed feelings. I honestly think Lucas took a long, hard look at some of the problems of PHANTOM MENACE and tweaked them here. Having the (dubious?) honor of being the first film shot entirely in a high definition digital 24-frame system, the film's startling visual effects and locations feel much more organic and a part of the film, rather than a distraction. In fact some locations, such as the "lost" planet of Kamino, look incredible.

The action is ratcheted up a notch as well, especially the chase through the streets of Coruscant after a second assassination attempt on now Senator Amidala, a.k.a Padme, a.k.a Natalie "Fence Post" Portman (see previous post), whom I already railed off about during an admittedly drunken episode of my own last week. Not only that, but in Christopher Lee's Count Dooku, who is part of a larger plot to throw the galaxy into civil war, we finally get a villain who's actually menacing. There's still some silliness and a generous helping of cheese, but overall I think CLONES succeeds more as a STAR WARS movie than PHANTOM MENACE. Especially with cool battle scenes like this:

And yet, the film still leaves you with a horrible taste in your mouth. So, a sequel with better action, more seamless visual effects, and a dip in all the politics and bureaucracy that mired the first film in mediocrity still manages to suck. What the heck happened?

This happened.

If you thought watching Darth Vader as a LITTLE RASCALS meets GOONIES kid was bad enough, wait until you meet him as a dour, sulky adolescent. I can't even begin to understand how this happened. I want to put all the blame on Hayden Christensen, who I think up until then was best known for being in LIFE AS A HOUSE. I want to completely blame him, but I thought he was great in SHATTERED GLASS. The kid CAN act. So where can we place the blame?

Because let's face it, blame needs to be placed. The core of the movie is the budding romance between Anakin and Padme, who we all know will wind up siring the Super Twins, Luke and Leia. It is absolutely crucial that this cursed love makes you believe everything that will happen as a result could be worth it because, dammit, their love is so strong he HAS to defy Jedi law! She HAS to go against all her logic telling her it's a bad idea!

Instead, we get an after-school special enacted by local kids who look as if they've never been to a movie before, let alone acted in one.

A lot of blame can fall to Lucas the screenwriter, but I think an equal amount has to fall to Lucas the director, who uses cliched images and boring shot choices to attempt to show a relationship that has to anchor all the choices that come after it.

A couple other things that get my goat about the movie. Boba Fett is completely wasted. We already saw Vader as a kid, do we really need to see the same thing enacted by our beloved bounty hunter too? I enjoyed the Jango Fett/Ben Kenobi fight on Geonosis; in fact, I think that's one of the best parts of the movie. But using him as bait to change our perceptions of his actions later (he's really just misunderstood! He saw his Daddy killed and THAT'S why he's so bad) is ridiculous. Couldn't we have just left him as the badass he was in the original trilogy?

But for me (and I know a million STAR WARS geeks will scream in rage against me), the worst laugh-out moment was...Yoda's duel with Count Dooku. I know, as soon as the teasers and trailers hit and we got that iconic glimpse of Yoda with his light sabre, the cheers were loud and proud. But upon watching the actual fight, especially when it's against an obvious stunt man with Christopher Lee's face digitally mapped on, didn't you feel kind of, well, silly? All that jumping around with Frank Oz's voice? I think I even saw Ewan McGregor laughing in the scene. I was more content being left in the dark as to how Yoda became so powerful. The Force should have been so strong in him he had no need for actual physical fighting. It's the explanation for the Force all over again. Sometimes the mystery is better than the proof.

That's it. Potential squandered by a few pieces that, ultimately, drag the whole show down. I did like it more than PHANTOM MENACE, which was thoroughly terrible on all fronts. But the errors here are more egregious, and that's a pain that cuts just as deep. My only hope of salvation is that EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH will be able to lift us up from this galactic pit of despair!

* Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...a moment in EPISODE II that is just as BATMAN-cheesy as the one in the previous post! Watch as she runs across the screen! Wheee!

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