Movie Notes: Star Wars Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones
= 3 stars
Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christiansen
Directed by George Lucas
Ten years after The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) continues his Jedi training with Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) when there is an attempt on Senator Amidala’s (Natalie Portman) life. A sinister plot is uncovered to tip the galaxy into war.
- Plot wise I found this more satisfying than its predecessor, especially the “whodunit” mystery around a thwarted assassination. This leads Obi Wan and Anakin on a search that takes them to a chilling water world and the discovery of a huge clone army.
- A civilization manipulated into waging a huge war in order to declare martial law and install a dictatorship. Senator Palpatine is the puppet master pulling the conspiratorial strings, and as he rises to power, the Jedi are oblivious to the Dark Lord of the Sith within their midst.
- Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi is again, solid as he continues his transformation into Alec Guinness from Star Wars, and essentially the primary reason why I can stand to watch this movie. His face-off with Jango Fett is particularly moody with distrust, and his banter with Anakin is more satisfying.
- Hayden Christiansen is a relatively better Anakin Skywalker than Jake Lloyd. Christopher Lee as Count Dooku adds some original trilogy menace as a creepy villain making stupid lines sound profound through an old-school scary voice.
- Some action sequences worth watching, in particular the final twenty minutes of an all-out-war.
- A few creepy moments have more power because anyone who’s seen the original trilogy knows what’s coming. Namely, the sight of the clone army creation where they start putting on storm trooper outfits, the young boy who will become Boba Fett, the asteroid belt, Owen and Beru’s house on Tatooine, Dooku’s cape and proposition to Obi Wan to join him to destroy the Sith, the re-pairing of C-3PO and Artoo, Anakin’s robot arm, and some lines like Obi Wan telling Anakin that he’ll be the death of him. The music does much to reinforce this – during the final few minutes we hear strains of the Empire march and the Luke and Leia theme from the original trilogy magically rise to the surface.
- Lots of unnecessary moments: a fifties diner, Yoda on a flying chair, the Jedi jumping out of moving air cars at high distance, a giant flea. There’s a lot of wasted time with ships taking off, landing, and flying from one place to another, people riding CGI creatures, and people walking while talking, probably to show off the ornate CGI backgrounds. I chalk all of this up to an unhealthy fascination with CGI, as if Lucas loves the technology making the film more than the characters.
- Still don’t like the CGI Yoda, and prefer the puppet from the original trilogy. The “best part” of the movie – Yoda doing some crazy lightsaber fighting, now looks quite ordinary. There’s also some Jar Jar, and the CGI 3PO and Artoo is personally, extremely unappreciated. Absolutely hated the flying Artoo or the entire Mario Brothers type escape sequence in the droid army factory – I personally have a really hard time feeling any tension when a CGI creature attacks a human actor, so that entire sequence feels like marking time.
- The romantic stuff between Anakin and Padme (Natalie Portman) is a total wash. Many simply awful lines and scenes – “I don’t like sand,” “I’m in agony.” The picnic in a meadow where Anakin rides a gigantic flea, and that strange black leather outfit. Amidala must not get out much to be wooed by such stupidity.
- The biggest failing: Within in the larger canon of the six films, I’m not that invested in the Anakin’s moral meandering, while Padme bores me. I was very invested in the fates of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo. Much of this is the fault of the script and directing. Christiansen does the best he can with the emotional speech about how he killed the raiders, but Padme has a completely monotone reaction. Only Obi Wan emerges as a character I still have some respect for, and I suppose I’ll chalk that up to the awesomeness of Ewan McGregor.
On my initial viewing several years ago, I really liked Attack Of The Clones. But after the passage of time for the wow of CGI to fade, the film wildly alternates between great and awful. It’s most noticeable during the middle part where the action cuts from Obi Wan on Camino and Anakin / Padme’s adventures.
That said, after a lot of hit and miss, the movie gets progressively better and about the time of the asteroid belt battle through the final twenty minute all-and-all battle, it’s a decent ride.