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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Countdown to the Force Awakens (Episode II) - Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Well, here it is, the one that you've all been waiting for. If you thought "The Phantom Menace" had issues, well, we might be here for a while. It's the one, the only, "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones," just the name alone conjures chuckles, a reminder that even Ed Wood used to be called a director. And as much as it pains me to say, while this film isn't very good, it does lay some good foundation for spin-off material such as the animated "Clone Wars" TV show and even includes some actual lightsaber fighting that is longer than a minute.

Saber up Anakin...
So, "Attack of the Clones." Our story begins with an attempted assassination on now Senator Padme Amidala of Naboo. The plot thickens as now Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan learner, Anakin Skywalker, are brought in to investigate the botched assassination and to try and uncover a deeper conspiracy that involves planets erased from the Jedi archive, clones, poison darts, bounty hunters, and as much stuff as you can pack into the longest "Star Wars" films on record (142 minutes).

Once again, George Lucas, who actually stuck around this time and directed all three of the prequel films, packs it all in in this one; from laughable dialogue, convoluted political intrigue that now involves the universally loathed Jar Jar Binks, and one of the most cringe-worthy love stories in recent history. However, there is more polish on the visuals this time around, and on a Blu-Ray copy, the CG doesn't look as dated as some of the CG in "Phantom Menace."

While I sort of remember my experience in going to see "Phantom Menace" in the theater, I have little too no memory of seeing "Clones" in the cineplex. I was just about 19, so I remember that, but could a film be so bad or lackluster that maybe you erase all memory of the film itself. I think the only thing that I might remember, and perhaps this spoiled me, is that I read the novelization before seeing the film and I was looking forward to scenes popping up on screen. Some did, and some didn't, and some even popped up as deleted scenes on the DVD version. Reading the novelization is properly the route I would go at this time. You know the old saying "the book was better" well, this is indeed the case for "Clones."
Another take George?


Now before you all think I'm just going to poo poo all over "Clones" (and I'll get to that) like I've been, and people might argue me on this; there is some good that came out of this film. Namely, both the animated and CG "Clone Wars" series on Cartoon Network and you could even say the success of those shows lead to 2014's "Star Wars" Rebels." You also had the introduction to another decent Sith villain, Count Dooku, played by none other than Count Dracula himself, the late Christopher Lee. Maybe it's just the horror fan in me, but casting an ageless actor like Lee was something very cool and took just a little bit of the sting away from this film. While "Phantom" was so bad, there are some nice takeaways from "Clones" albeit the bad outweighs the good most of the time.

So, transitioning to the bad. Well, at least you can say that "Phantom" tried to incorporate some practical sets and costumes, very little can be said for this film. Much of the film is set on green or blue screens, including some of the acting as well, but more on that soon. There has always been a certain magic to the "Star Wars" films that blurred the line between practical and CG, those days all but died in "Clones." It's like overcooking a Filet Mignon; you can do it if you want, but I wouldn't advise it (why a food saying that doesn't exist? Maybe I'm just hungry).

With that out of the way, can be talk about acting, or "this is what happens when you decide not to re-take a shot and use your first take." It's been harped on how bad the acting is in these prequels, but to be honest I haven't always been the biggest fan of the acting in the original trilogy either. Acting should be secondary to good storytelling, and that is what saves the original trilogy for me. With that being said, "Clones" is lacking in the acting department, but it's even more frustrating when you think about the people that are doing the acting. Natalie Portman won an Oscar later on down the line. Samuel L Jackson, Oscar nominated. Ewan McGregor, gives it a shot, but you can't paint a Monet when all you have is the color brown. I can keep going, but I think you get the point.

You're covered in sand....I don't like you anymore...
Of course this brings me to Hayden Christensen, and I saved an entire paragraph for him. Full disclosure, I liked his performance in "Life as a House" I think him and Kevin Klein but turned in great performances. But outside of scowling, Christensen sullied the likeness of Darth Vader and turned him into a whiny emo brat and turned his Padawan braid into the modern Jedi man bun. But just wait until you see him and Natalie Portman on screen together, that's when things get real hot. Conversations about sand, not being able to be together, eating digitized fruit, and "I call this aggressive negotiation," wow, this could go on all day. My point, I understand why people hate his performance, and yes, maybe he wasn't the best pick for the future Darth Vader, but you need to have a good screenwriter and a director that actual directs to get the best out of your actors. You don't have either.

"Clones" is neck and neck with "Phantom" as being the low-point in the "Star Wars" film franchise. The saving grace is that we at least got something positive out of it with some kick-ass animated series' and the fact that it couldn't get any worse.....or could it? More on that in the next installment.

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