i saw this in the theatres with my mother and my sister, and i do remember quite well that we all quite liked it. I thought it was faster paced than The Phantom Menace and it didn’t have Jar Jar popping up and annoying everyone.
Well that belief is firmly in the past…
George Lucas, ever the innovator was one of the biggest names to jump onto the whole HD production phase and was an ardent believer that HD was the future. As a result this film is the first major motion picture to have been shot entirely on HDCAM Sony’s new full HD format and used the prototype of the F900 camera (now a staple in broadcast) to do so. Time has for the most part proved Lucas right, digital production has absolutely exploded and although not the first film to showcase HD this film showed that it was a viable format to use in the distribution and view of cinema.
This film also was a showcase of the advancement of CGI effects in their abilities to simulate people and places. This film came out after the Final Fantasy film and the idea that CGI could eventually replace sets as well as people was still very much alive. Now whether or not people actually accepted this idea is another matter entirely; you can still sense that the film makers were excited to push the techniques and technologies to their absolute limits. Which regardless of what the outcome is i believe is still an attitude that is worth recognising as a good thing, and even a good reason to make a movie out of.
Although a complete picture of events is not the focus of the film the story itself revolves around what could be said to be the inciting incident for the creation of the Empire. I personally always find the beginnings of something to be a deeply fascinating subject, and i for one appreciate this aspect of the story.
John Williams unsurprisingly delivers a score that contains all the hall marks of the series, and with the addition of Across the Stars gives the Star Wars series a proper love theme.
Also i get a kick watching a half crippled little green man like Yoda flying around waving his light sabre like its the most natural thing in the world.
There’s a lot of unarguably bad in this one.
Although this film can be seen as a trailblazer for HD production, that fact alone can’t help the movie from being a pastel washed, plasticy looking movie. The movie looks digital in every bad way that description could mean.
On top of the whole overly digital appearance of the film we have the fact that just about everything we see is made in a computer. People like models and sets, its just something we all expect to see. The Phantom Menace struck a good balance between physical sets/props and CGI creations but this movie goes for broke and even parts that could have been played by real people or puppets (all the clones are CGI rendered and so is Master Yoda) and honestly throwing it all away entirely and suddenly really cemented the resentment against the series. I would wager that this movie has a lot to do with the current backlash against CGI effects that is currently going on in the world of movie making, and with good reason. Although they were state of the art when they were first seen they still looked fake, i could tell then that it was all done on a computer. The passage of time has done absolutely nothing to relieve these issues and while the original trilogy has a timeless and nostalgic sense with its SFX, Attack of the Clones immediately dates itself to a certain era of film making.
All of George Lucas’ failings from the previous film seem to be amplified here. You want a shallow go almost nowhere narrative? Here it is. You want awful dialogue? Here it is. You want awful awful awful acting from otherwise talented people? Why here it is!
The real meat of the story would appear to be the falling in love of both Anakin and Padme. Now a love story playing out against intergalactic war, political intrigue and fated to end in tragedy, would be a damn good thing to watch. But that just doesn’t happen here. Instead we get two good looking actors with absolutely no chemistry trade terrible lines between one another. Their lack of chemistry makes all of their intimate scenes fall flat (don’t get me started on that awful scene with the fields and the water falls…) and Lucas’ failure as a director of actors robs any of those scenes of any humanity that these characters need to make a connection with one another.
The whole romantic arc is just poorly written from the ground up as well; the scene where she is given the chance to see Anakin at his most broken and vulnerable is marred by the fact that she accepts that he had just slaughtered women and children. His rage and actions can perhaps be justified as a crime of passion, and her acceptance of the fact that he has this terrible rage within him and still decides to comfort and consul him wouldn’t be a problem if they had a few scenes previous to really establish a connection. But all we have to go on is a few conversations, a terribly cheesy scene in a field and Anakin otherwise just smothering her with his neediness. As a result when Padme says that she truly and deeply loves Anakin thus completing the reason for this story to exist it just falls flat.
The fact that the love story is so poorly executed has the effect of ruining everything else associated with the narrative. All of the political schemes and conspiracies are really just meant to be window dressing to Anakin and Padme’s love story, with its representation being so poor the story is left to flounder. Also the fact that this is a middle movie in the series (the main story is already started and it has yet to finish when the credits roll) any relevance of the plot of this film depends entirely upon all of the rest of the films in the series. Now this wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the love story was better done, but alas that just isn’t the case.
Now while not being the worst duel in the series (A New Hope has that honour) , the duel presented here is perhaps the most uninspired and has the least amount riding upon it thematically. The core reason it exists is so Anakin can be defeated and go through “growing pains” by having his arm lobbed off. Now if this sounds familiar you would be correct in saying that as a result this duel is more or less a copy of the one in The Empire Strikes Back.
Now admittedly, it is an interesting concept to have history repeat itself between father and son; however the biggest problem with the execution of this here is the fact that there is very little running time left in the film to show what the consequence of the duel is to Anakin. After the duel In The Empire Strikes Back we see Luke as a broken shell of a man, whose life has changed irrevocably due to his impatience. Anakin’s arrogance leads him to attack Darth Tyranus head on, with events leading up to him squaring off alone and unsupported which by the end leads to his maiming. Afterwards though we are only shown him as being married off to Padme in a montage (if my memory serves me correctly). The fact that the duel makes him “grow up” isn’t seen until he appears in Episode III where he is a level-headed Jedi Knight.
Because the effects of his loss are glossed over so quickly the duel is gutted of any metaphorical weight and it results in it really lacking its own personality, as it would be interesting to see how differently father and son react to the same events.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones is most certainly the weakest the Star Wars series has to offer. It is the poster boy of what everyone can dislike about the prequel series. Its weak story and thematic elements strand it in the middle of the series and taken as a whole all of the events presented here can be described best when the are regulated to foot notes in a summary of the Star Wars story.
Despite all of its problems though, i don’t find it to be unwatchably bad as most people would say. Its failures although large are not by and large offensive (bar that terrible terrible field scene…) and despite it making the mistake of putting SFX before story it still displays a passion for the film making process or at least the aspect of showing what could be done with modern technology. As a result the film contains a number of battle sequences that are quite large in their scope and presentation that i find myself returning to from time to time.
** STARS OUT OF FIVE