- Publisher: 20th Century Fox
- Production Studio: Lucasfilm
- Release: 16 May 2002
- Genre: Action, Fantasy
- Director: George Lucas
- Producer: Rick McCallum
- Writers: George Lucas (screenplay & story), Johnathan Hayes (screenplay)
Previously on the SDP, I reviewed Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I finally posted it about a month after it would've been relevant, partly because I crammed it with enough words and thoughts to make it one of the longest reviews I have ever posted on this blog. But its sequel, Attack of the Clones, is a different animal entirely. Next to its predecessor, I remember very little of it, which could be indicative of its own unique form of failure.
I suppose I should start with how the plot starts. A whole bunch of planets are withdrawing from the Galactic Republic and forming their own army, with the help of the Trade Federation from The Phantom Menace. ...Yeah, if the political doldrums from that movie didn't do anything for you, then you ain't seen nothing yet, my Padawan. It even slogs down the opening text crawl. But the short of it is that with the growing separatist army threatening the Republic, Queen-turned-Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) survives a couple of assassination attempts, and recruits Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as her bodyguards. The two Jedi Knights chase one of the assassins across the cities of Coruscant, and we finally get shades of what these prequel movies should have been all along: swash-buckling adventures of the Jedi in their prime. That said, my vision of this dream movie does not include Anakin at odds with Obi-Wan over his rebelliously rash decisions, but work with what you've got, I guess. They chase her across flying cars and through alien bars, during which we get the only passage of dialogue throughout this whole film which stuck with me from day one:
Hustler: You wanna buy some death sticks?
Obi-Wan: [Using a Jedi mind-trick] You don't want to sell me death sticks.
Hustler: ...I don't want to sell you death sticks.
Obi-Wan: You want to go home and rethink your life.
Hustler: I want to go home and rethink my life.
That's our Obi-Wan! [laugh track] So anyway, he and Anakin corner the assassin, only for her to get silenced by yet another bounty hunter. Obi-Wan goes off to track this mysterious new-comer across the galaxy, but before we get to see that, we have to join Anakin as he escorts Padme back to her home planet for safe-keeping. And by "safe-keeping", I mean going on dates while exchanging dialogue that would make even the sappiest chick flick gag itself with a spoon. Perhaps you're familiar with this infamous line:
Anakin: I don't like sand. It's coarse and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here, everything is soft and smooth.
Although, given his dialogue in the last movie, this is something we should have been prepared for. Remember that one about angels on the moons of Iego? ...Well, I do. Between all this glurge, Anakin whines about how Obi-Wan doesn't respect his decisions all the time, and exposits how Jedi aren't supposed to fall in love with other people, except not really, maybe, it's complicated. I suppose he's trying to set himself up as a tortured soul for fangirl bonus points, but his angsty charms are wasted upon me, as I keep thinking of him as a Twilight Saga reject. Also, miss Amidala used to be a queen in the last movie, but apparently she was democratically elected, ran out her term, and then became a senator. Umm... aren't kings and queens supposed to be kings and queens... for life? Is Naboo a monarchy or a democracy? Make up your mind, you dotty bint!
|Anakin and Padme's so-called romantic dialogue is unbearably lame.|
Meanwhile, over in the not-fun part of this movie, Anakin takes a break from glurging it up with Padme to witness a Force-fueled nightmare of his mother in pain. Against Padme's wishes, he flies off to Tatooine, meets up with his future brother-in-law, and learns that she was kidnapped by Tusken Raiders. He makes it to their camp, too late to rescue his mother from death by... plot convenience, and blinded by rage, slaughters the camp's remaining population. This is a distinct turning point in Anakin's character, as his retrospective bout of wangst makes none-too-subtly apparent, but in the context of the rest of this movie, it sticks out like a sore thumb. (An expression which I don't quite understand, but never mind.) The generally lighter-and-softer Attack of the Clones has not yet delved into Anakin's turn to the dark side, so this scene would have fit more congruously into its sequel. But, that's a review for another day. For now, let me just state that the line-read he did for this scene, and quite frankly 99% of all his scenes, was simply embarrassing.
|This film loves using CGI where it isn't even necessary, like entire settings for even slower scenes like this.|
Speaking of a lack of restraint, there is yet more political wrangling we have to sit through. With the help of the newly-appointed senator Jar-Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), because [verb] you, Chancellor Palpatine (Ian MacDiarmid) is appointed emergency powers, and forms a new Army of the Republic with the aforementioned clone troopers. They are dispatched to Geonosis, but until they can get there, Anakin and Padme get captured in turn, and are brought out with Obi-Wan to a colosseum, where they are to suffer death by space-animals. Their escape actions are quite improbable, and their CG-assisted stunts are quite more fake-looking, but soon enough, the cavalry arrives! Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), the Jedi Master who was sadly relegated to a non-action cameo in the last movie, finally comes into his own in Attack of the Clones. He slices droids and blocks blaster bolts with the other Jedi, and even kills Jango Fett, all the while wielding a pimpin' purple lightsaber. It is cool because Samuel L. Jackson is cool; that's just how it works. Oh yeah, and C-3PO got his head swapped with a battle droid's while he was following our other heroes. I thought it was worth a chuckle, at least until he started delving into cliched one-liners to describe his situation.
|The early 2000s were a simpler time, where all a gal had to do to make herself lustfully attractive was show a little bit of midriff. Padme shows us how it's done.|
We also get more scenes with Yoda (voice of Frank Oz), who was portrayed as a computer-generated character for the first time (not including later re-releases of The Phantom Menace). Far-removed from the over-acting floppiness of Jar-Jar Binks and the other Gungans from before, Yoda's animation is quite more subdued and refined, befitting of the character's old age. That is, until he and Anakin square off against Count Dooku for the final fight, where the diminutive creature leaps about to clash with his human foe at eye level, occasionally breaking to deflect objects thrown his way by the Force. It's actually quite awesome to see Yoda, a character whom we've grown to love in other ways, get an action scene all of his own. But, in the end, Dooku manages to hold them off and escape, the Chancellor ominously oversees his new army, and Anakin and Padme get married. You are now free to turn off your TV.
As with the last movie, Attack of the Clones has its own fatal flaw that I picked up on, and it is one of not having its priorities in order. It wastes so much of its 2 hour and 20 minute runtime on , both handled as ineptly as your average stormtrooper handles a blaster. All the while, there are hints of other, more interesting stories, both existing scenes and throwaway bits of dialogue, that aren't developed nearly as well as they should have been. For example, this film does mark the beginning of the Clone Wars, which was referenced all the way back in A New Hope, but it doesn't actually take place until near the end. To quote Zero Punctuation (yet again), "Is this the most exciting part of our character's life? If not, why aren't we witnessing it?" But for what we got, I just don't feel any interest for Attack of the Clones. Yeah, The Phantom Menace was bad; I've finally started to internalise that concept. But it was a more engaging kind of bad, the kind that stuck with you, so I can't really stay mad at it. A lot of the bad James Bond movies were like that too, as I have extensively documented. But Attack of the Clones lacks anything that sets it up as "so bad, it's good". Really, it's just "so bad, it's... meh". And that can be even worse... from a certain point of view.
+ A few good action scenes.
+ A decent performance from Christopher Lee's Count Dooku, name notwithstanding.
- Grating dialogue and performances, especially from Hayden Christensen's Anakin.
- The incessant political intrigue fails to... intrigue.
- Too many fleeting glimpses of what would have been a much better story.
- Overuse of unnecessary CGI, especially on backgrounds.
Acting: 2 Clonetroopers out of 5
Writing 1 Clonetrooper out of 5
Special Effects: 2 Clonetroopers out of 5
Visual Design: 3 Clonetroopers out of 5
The Call: 45% (D-)