Star Wars: Episode II: Attack Of The Clones Film Review

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Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee

Written by: George Lucas and Jonathan Hales

Directed by: George Lucas

Attack of the Clones is the hardest of the saga to review. I recall that upon first viewing, it was almost unanimous that it was better than the childish Episode I. There was more action, more adventure, the acting had improved…well at least incrementally.

And of course there was MUCH less Jar Jar.

But interestingly enough, Attack of the Clones is the one that falls apart the most under repeat viewings.

It opens as if Lucas was trying to  listen to the fans. It is less about Trade Federation and treaties and more about seditious activity against the Old Republic as a whole automatically leading to a more epic feel. We also open with familiarity. (Now) Senator Amidala is arriving at Coruscant to vote against the creation of an army of the Republic.

There is an assassination on the Senator’s life that spurs forward an odd choice for Star Wars. A detective story in space. Obi-Wan and an older Anakin are assigned to guard the Senator and they foil another attempt, but realize they are going to have to find out who is behind this, so young apprentice Anakin Skywalker is put in charge of guarding Amidala’s life while Obi-Wan becomes Sherlock Holmes.

Amazingly it works. Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan, no longer held back or overshadowed by Qui-Gon Jinn, has grown into his own and it’s a good choice to focus on him. It is this story that is needed to overshadow what happens in the other portion of the story but we’ll get there. In Obi-Wan’s story we get to meet colorful characters such as Dexter Jettster and Taun We and of course get to meet the young Boba Fett and his “father” Jango.

Obi-Wan’s trail leads to the discovery that someone posing as a dead Jedi Master had authorized the creation of a grand clone army for the Republic. Clones of bounty hunter Jango Fett, they are a lethal force. Obi-Wan and Jango battle on the water world of Kamino in an exciting duel in the rain. The effects of the lightsaber in the rain are accomplished and add to the enjoyment. Obi-Wan follows Jango back to the world of Geonosis where we meet the much mentioned, Count Dooku, who has obviously turned to the Dark Side. Played with great charisma and effect by the amazing Christopher Lee, we see that the political machinations from Episode I are still in full effect.

Some may not appreciate it, but watching a dictator come to power without the knowledge of its people is thrilling to me.

Obi-Wan is captured and held hostage until the Jedi can come and rescue him.

BUT let’s go back to that other story since…well we have to.

The love story. Honestly, it just doesn’t fit in Star Wars. Love does most certainly as it is a key aspect to the storyline. But there is a big difference between a love story subplot and trying to do a romance movie in Star Wars. It just doesn’t work.

A lot of people complain about the Anakin-Padme love story as unbelievable, forced, and silly. I actually disagree despite my rant. It’s young love. Young love IS hard to understand. Two people can believe they are in love in a heartbeat, especially given the naive backgrounds of the two. A slave boy who joined an order of celibate monks and a young political woman who probably has never had enough time for a date really, let alone something really more. To me that works. And if it was a subplot, and we just saw them getting close rather than explore in detail how it happened, we would be much better off.

As it is it showcases Anakin to be a petulant child, far far from the Darth Vader we know. And while I don’t have a problem with Anakin being a spoiled child, it is hard to reconcile the two.

That’s not to say the storyline is all bad. There are parts not to do with the love story that do advance the storyline greatly. Most especially Anakin’s mother. Anakin returns to Tatooine to find his mother had been captured by Tusken Raiders. He finds her near death, and she seems overjoyed to see him, but also relieved as if she’d been hanging on for just that purpose.

She dies in his arms and we get our first glimpse of Anakin’s true dark side.

Anakin feels the dark side flow and he slaughters the whole village of Tuskens and we see an interesting sequence of Yoda feeling Anakin’s pain and hearing an old friend, Qui-Gon through the Force.

Anakin recovers with Padme who doesn’t seem to be too affected when her chosen one tells her about becoming a mass murder. The scene is kind of ridiculous. I understand what they were going for, but it didn’t come across well at all.

But it is quickly forgotton as they discover Obi-Wan in trouble. After re-directing his signal back to Coruscant, Anakin defies orders and flies to Geonosis to save Obi-Wan and is promptly captured.

What follows is the tour de force of the film…at least visually, but I’ll get to that. The beginning of the Clone Wars. As Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Amidala do their best to survive in the gladiatorial pits against some creative monsters, Mace Windu shows up with the calvary.

The Jedi are at war, something we’ve wanted to see since old Obi-Wan told Luke about during the early portion of Episode IV.

And it doesn’t disappoint. Effects are great and the fighting sequence is very well done, especially when Yoda arrives with the clone army backup.

When Dooku attempts to escape, Obi-Wan and Anakin end up chasing him. The sequence that follows is a little disappointing to be honest. Despite the eventual four combatanats, we end up following the war with the shortest lightsaber duels in all of the movies. Anakin gets taken out early by Dooku leading to Dooku vs. Obi-Wan, and as powerful as Dooku is, he dispatches of Obi-Wan way too quickly, letting Anakin come back and take on Dooku one on one.

Due to Christopher Lee’s advanced age, they chose to not to dramatic acrobatics at first, which is probably good as it would have paled in comparison to Ray Park in Episode I. They chose to do light cues as they fought in the dark and it works, but again it is too short.

Then the arrival of Yoda really spices things up and we see Yoda does not have to rely on his cane so much as he shows the meaning of lightsaber duel. Rivaling Ray Park as best as a CGI muppet can do, it is cool to see but again short.

Dooku is able to escape and return to Coruscant to Darth Sidious who is unsurprisingly behind the whole thing.

In the meantime Anakin marries Padme in a rushed ceremony.

The visual effects are nothing short of stunning. Yoda is downright real which is the best compliment I can give. The monsters were great, and the sonic effects, such as Obi-Wan in the asteroid field were very powerful.

Unfortunately sound editor Ben Burtt got WAY too heavily involved with the editing as a whole. As a sound effects man, he constantly chose to have the sound effects upstage the awesome score of John Williams, which led it to be drowned out constantly. Even worse due to the re-editing of the final sequence at such a late date, they were forced to RE-USE old Williams score instead of what he had scored. It reeked of desperation and almost ruined the battle as it was distracting hearing podracing music during the battle.

Basically Ben should stick to making effects.

Overall it is the least re-watchable despite initial reaction. It is still a phenomenal part of the Star Wars Saga, but it is the one I would choose to watch least, unless as a part of a marathon.

C+

-Paul Talon

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