ATTACK OF THE CLONES
Lest you think these first three prequel reviews will just be complain-o-thons, let me start off my Attack of the Clones review with a controversial compliment: I think Attack of the Clones gets off to a somewhat promising start. It introduces elements that were completely missing from Episode I, which I will highlight in blue. First, an explosion kills a decoy Natalie Portman (sense of danger), which makes the real Natalie Portman feel sad (emotion). Someone must be out to get her! (comprehensible plot point) We see Anakin and Obi-Wan (main characters) talking to each other and learn that they are assigned to protect her from her would-be killer. But the assassin tries again, and so Anakin and Obi-Wan go on a chase through the city of Coruscant, quipping playfully at each other as they do so.
Now, there are still huge, glaring problems in this first half hour. The Jedi Council refuses to do anything other than sit in comfortable chairs and talk to each other SOOOO SLOWWWWLLYYY. Natalie Portman has still no personality traits other than “a Good Guy” and “played by Natalie Portman.” And Anakin…well, I’ll let Anakin speak for himself.
“I’d much rather dream about [Natalie Portman]. Just being around her is intoxicating.”
“I’ve thought about her every day since we parted (ten years ago).”
“You’re exactly the way I remember you in my dreams.”
“She (Natalie Portman) covered the cameras. (chuckle) I don’t think she liked me watching her.”
Awesome. Before Darth Vader was a bad-ass Force-choking villain, he was: Edward Cullen.
Still, I would say that the beginning has…potential. It gives us more of Ewan McGregor, introduces bounty hunters, and raises the stakes from the last movie, suggesting that Galactic War may be imminent. On my first viewing, I was pretty pysched at this point.
But then Obi-Wan and Anakin go on separate adventures, and the movie plummets. First of all, the friendship between Obi-Wan and Anakin should be the emotional cornerstone of the prequels. Otherwise, where’s the heart-ache when that bond is destroyed? Anakin and Obi-Wan barely talk to each other in Episode I, because Lucas kept locked Obi-Wan in a ship the whole movie so the audience could focus on Jar-Jar stepping in poop. So Episode II should be making up for lost time. Instead, it introduces them, has them quibble, has Anakin whine about Obi-Wan being “overly critical,” and then separates them. No bond is ever formed.
Second of all, their separate adventures are f#%&ing terrible.
Obi-Wan goes off by himself to play Nancy Drew. He chit-chats with a blue-collar alien living in the 1950s, an elderly librarian, and a bunch of little kids and CGI Yoda*, trying to figure out what location the script will send him to next. These scenes all could have replaced by a single line of dialogue (“Obi-Wan! We’ve tracked the bounty hunter to the planet Kamino! Go investigate!”) without losing anything. But hopefully these detective scenes do it for you, because they are awesome sauce compared to the
I just want to play a quick game here with George Lucas called You Might Think…But!
You Might Think that the most romantic place for your leads to fall in love is in a beautiful fairy-land paradise But it actually removes any sense of danger (remember how Natalie is being pursued by assassins? Neither does the movie; that plot point does not reappear) while making your heroes seem like spoiled sophisticates who thought it would be a lark to travel to Thomas Kinkade-land.
You Might Think that having Anakin describing his love in superlatives (“The thought of not being with you…I can’t breathe! I’m haunted by the kiss you should never have given me…you are in my very soul.”) means his love is extra special, But it actually makes him seem like a teen scribbling love notes in his binder he got from Hot Topic. Remember, you can tell a love story with only five words (“I love you!” “I know.”) or no words at all (WALL-E holds EVE’s hand, everyone cries).
You Might Think that comparing Natalie’s smooth skin to sand is really hot But I am not sure why you would think that.
Things get a little better once Natalie shoots Anakin down (figuratively, sadly), and the characters get back to actually doing things. Obi-Wan fights the bounty hunter from Empire Strikes Back, flies through an asteroid field like in Empire Strikes Back, and gets captured, almost like how the leads get captured in…aw, you know. Anakin goes to Tatooine and talks to his money-grubbing, big-nosed former slaveowner. The slave owner now has a brimmed black hat and a black beard. Good, that’ll quell the rumors of anti-Semitism.
Anakin’s mother dies in his arms in a moment with some genuine emotion, and he retaliates by killing lots of people. This is an ok idea, since Anakin needs to turn evil eventually and the death of a loved one is good motivator, but it happens too soon in the franchise. We’re still supposed to be rooting for Anakin, (right?) and so far all he’s done is stared creepily at a girl and done some murders. Then the movie makes its biggest miscalculation: Anakin tells Natalie about it and she doesn’t freak out. Even when he says that he killed women and children, Natalie just raises an eyebrow and goes, “Huh!” George: If your character cannot think of a good reaction to slaughtering a whole village, SHE IS NOT A CHARACTER. I would say she’s a robot, but in Star Wars, even the robots are better developed than poor Natalie Portman.
Regarding the last third of the movie, I’ll make it brief, since this review is long enough. Basically, everything I said in my last review about the pod race applies here. There’s some neat stuff in the final battle scene. I like the concept of the escalating conflict, which goes from lead characters vs. monsters, to Jedi vs. robots vs monsters, to Jedi AND clones vs. robots. That’s the kind of plot summary that 11-year-old dreams are made of (disclaimer: I was 15 when I saw Attack of the Clones and I thought it was rad (hides)).
But, like the pod race, it all lasts too way long. By the time the lightsaber duel between Ani-Wan and Saruman arrives, we’ve been watching dizzying, overstuffed action scenes for about an hour. Our senses are fried, and our brains have learned that our leads can’t actually be harmed by any of the vaguely videogamey stuff flying at them. Also like the podrace, the seriousness of the danger is undercut by constant juvenile jokes. As Jedi are dying around him, 3PO makes pun after pun and for some reason nobody puts a lightsaber through his metal brain.
Attack of the Clones is a movie of some decent ideas with at least one unpleasant distraction per scene. Some of the distractions are minor (baby Boba Fett tries to do baby evil laugh during asteroid field chase). Some are major (“hero” of the movie is a creepy, homicidal emo-kid). As a whole, the movie is a step up from the last one, but man, you better have your finger on the fast-forward button for a lot of it.
Best Scene: Our heroes fight the monsters. Each Star Wars movie needs a cool monster or two, and Clones gives us three pretty neat ones. This scene also contains the movie’s Best Line of Dialogue: After Anakin says that they came to rescue Obi-Wan, Obi-Wan looks at his chains and sarcastically says, “Good job.” I like Obi-Wan being catty toward Anakin.
Worst Scene: Anakin and Natalie hang out in a field, he mentions he loves fascism, and she chuckles tolerantly/Anakin tells Natalie about his murders and she pats his shoulder (TIE)
Worst Line of Dialogue: Everyone goes for the “I hate sand” monologue, but I think I’m going with “to be angry is to be human” which is only bad in the context of being Natalie’s only reaction to a confession of mass-murder.
Most Confounding Line of Dialogue: When Obi-Wan’s talking to the greasy diner walrus, he says “Well, if droids could think, we’d none of us be here.” Wh…what? Because of the Singularity and Terminator droids? Or why? Obi-Wan, I guess no one has told you this, or you’ve never looked around, but you live in a universe where droids can think. The best explanation for this scene is that Obi-Wan is super racist against droids.
*I hate CGI Yoda. I hate how he looks like a videogame cutscreen, I hate how he has had all trace of personality removed. The idea of a small green puppet Jedi Master seems like a joke in concept, but Empire’s strong writing and Frank Oz’s great performance made it somehow make sense. Then in Clones, CGI Yoda does his battle cry and a bunch of flippy kicks and he’s a joke again.