eyelights: its decent pace. the exciting action sequences. Christopher Lee. now with 99% less Jar-Jar!
eyesores: Hayden Christensen’s performance. Anakin Skywalker whinyness and unreliability. Nathalie Portman’s performance. the über cheesy “romantic” sequences. its antiseptic quality. the overabundance of CGI.
“I’m not afraid to die. I’ve been dying a little bit each day since you came back into my life. “
By the time that ‘Attack of the Clones’ came around, in 2002′, the reality of ‘The Phantom Menace‘ had firmly set in. Some people were more gracious, wanting to give George Lucas the benefit of the doubt, but many of us were in shock that 16 years of wait and anticipation had landed that steaming pile in our laps.
That’s what years of writing and plotting had amounted to? This was the opening volley in the new trilogy?
When ‘Attack of the Clones’ hit the big screen, I didn’t know anyone who even remotely considered going to line up for tickets. Sure, some people would try to attend the premiere, but the enthusiasm and eagerness had dwindled considerably. Personally, I went to see it at a matinée showing on the morning of.
My two buddies and I were amongst the few there. Granted, people worked and had school, but that wouldn’t have stopped anyone in 1999 (my own shift started later – I didn’t take time off).
I liked it. I certainly liked it far more than its predecessor, and it even managed to sneak into my Top 13 for the year. I didn’t even mind the romantic subplot which so many decried; it was done cheesily, yes, but I didn’t mind its existence. Still, it was also a mixed bag – albeit to far lesser degree.
(Nota bene: Since the ‘Star Wars’ movies have been already talked about to death, we decided to simply pick apart their strengths and weaknesses as we watched them – in list format and (mostly) in chronological order.)
Light Side of the Film
- Better balance of dialogue and action: Right from the onset, the picture mixes up dialogue and action better than its predecessor, which was an ADD nightmare. Oh sure, it has an awkwardly early assassination attempt, but then it gets better.
- The set designs: This is probably one of the greatest strengths of this picture. The sets, whether real or CGI, are absolutely splendid – and not all Disney’s Magic Kingdom from start to finish. Again more balance.
- 99% less Jar-Jar: Need I say more?
- The chase across Coruscant: Yes, it’s dumb (more on that later). But it’s dumb fun. It’s well-paced and exciting.
- The pace: Even though its predecessor was ADD-addled, it was boring as !@#$ and uneven. Somehow, Lucas righted his aim and this one flows relatively well.
- The Naboo lakeside palace: While many of the sets and location are impressive, this is one is especially stunning (they used actual location filming here, at Villa del Balbianello; it’s not just CGI). It deserves a special mention.
- Ben jump kicks Jango: Yeah! Enough of just lightsaber moves – finally a Jedi that can do something else!
- Seismic charges: Those are both visually and aurally memorable. Granted they sound quite a bit like V’ger in ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture”, but whatever – they’re still cool.
- The asteroid chase: It’s a little action-crazy but the chase between Ben and the Fetts was exciting as all get out.
- Lars and Beru’s farm: Sets are better than CGI. Especially on location. Case-in-point, the Owens’ farm which is simple yet far and beyond better than the lavish CGI ones.
- Christopher Lee: Okay, he overacts, his toupee looks lopped off of a tauntaun, and his character’s name is silly. But it’s Christopher f-ing Lee! Bonus points just for that.
- Hayden Christensen can do action: Say what you will about his “acting” skills, or his grating character, but the guy could do action scenes with the best of them! And he sure could wield a lightsaber.
- The sweeping “Across the Stars”: There may be very little else that truly captured my ear in this film, but John Williams at least created another theme as stunning as the series’ best, this one perhaps even equaling the original’s “Binary Sunset”. One killer new theme per film is pretty damned good at this point.
- Padme’s abs: Rowr. I don’t know when the Senator has time to work out, let’s be honest, but I wuvs it. I’d lick ice cream off that tummy anytime.
- The arena sequence: Yes, it’s a ridiculous mess of CGI, but it’s exciting anyway.
- Dozens of Jedi kung fu fighting: By that point in the series, this is the first time that we get to see many Jedi in action together. It’s a fanboy’s wet dream.
- Sammy J in action: Yes, his performance was disappointing in ‘The Phantom Menace’. But he makes for it here and he sure gets to kick some ass. And he’s excellent at it. You have been forgiven Sammy.
- Mace beheads Jango: It’s not that I hate Jango, but it was stunning to see him gets his @$$ (read: head) handed to him like that. And it’s all in the way that Sammy J did it. There was no hesitation there; he was mercenary about it.
- Kit Fisto: He’s got the goofiest name (perhaps he’s very kinky?) but I love the look of this squid/dreadhead Jedi. He’s f-ing cool and I’d easily follow his adventures.
- Boba holds up Jango’s head: It’s the closest thing to emotional poignancy in the whole film, but seeing Boba, in shadows, regretting his father’s death has impact. Good thing the head didn’t plop out of the helmet though – that would have ruined the moment.
- Droid army vs Clone army: It’s mot stunning, and certainly not enough to name the film after it, but it’s good fun.
- Hailfire droid: Yes, it’s probably not that practical in combat, since one of its oversized wheels could easily get damaged and grind it to a halt, but those combat units are quite a sight.
- Yoda breaks out the lightsaber: The combat sequence itself is a mixed bag, but the moment he breaks out the saber is pretty damned cool.
- The Imperial March/Across the Stars: Such a great closing piece of music, hinting at the coming of the empire and then tying it to its diametrically opposed theme, a love theme. And it works. Nice.
Dark Side of the Film
- Count Dooku: Really… George is just asking for it by giving his main villain such a silly name. I can only hear Doodoo, and I’m sure many other children did too.
- The attempt on Senator Amidala’s life: The scene is barely established and BOOM, all goes to heck. At least give us some time with the characters first, George. B-t-w, how is it that the Senator’s old trick of using a decoy hasn’t gone public yet? Everyone knows except the separatists, it appears… and since they’re fueled by Palpatine’s people and he has connections with the Senator, you’d think they’d know this.
- CGI Yoda: CGI allows George to make Yoda more articulate, but he looks fake, not at all like he used to (just like ROTJ Jabba vs CGI Jabba) and he sticks out when playing against live actors. !@#$ CGI.
- CGI sets: As intricate and lovely as they are, people simply don’t blend into CGI sets.
- The Chancellor’s influence on the Jedi Council: Why the heck does Palpatine have influence on them? Aren’t they an independent body?
- Obi-Wan’s mullet: It’s not the length so much as the fact that it looks fake. And why is it so perfectly moussed? Vain that Jedi must be.
- The weak-@$$ exposition: Just like in crap sitcoms, we are re-introduced to Obi-Wan and Anakin with a “Remember when…?” exchange between them. Really. Why do they feel the need to spell it out to each other like that? Oh yeah… for our benefit. Talk about poor writing…
- Hayden Christensen’s performance: Look, he may be good in other movies, I don’t know, and it’s common knowledge that George Lucas is not an actor’s director, but Christensen doesn’t appear to have a credible moment in the whole picture. He’s bloody awful. And he’s the star!
- Anakin is unprofessional: Firstly he tells the Senator how beautiful he finds her during a diplomatic meeting and then he contradicts Obi-Wan in front of the others. Did he not learn anything in 10 years? How undisciplined can you get? And why wasn’t he sent back to the Jedi farm team until he smartens up?
- R2 is watching on Padmé but fails: Um… why is R2 in Padmé’s room, watching over her, if he’s in sleep mode most of the time? Why isn’t he on the whole time? And why don’t they have a better security system to star with?
- Cheesy romantic dialogues: “I’d rather dream of Padmé. Just being around her again is… intoxicating.” Ugh. Cringe-worthy stuff. Anyway, it’s called hormones, Anakin. Go play with your fleshsaber a while and come back when you’ve finished mopping up your midi-chlorians, m’kay?
- Anakin saves Padmé: Anakin uses his lightsaber to chop the poisonous spaceworms instead of using the Force, and risks hurting her in the process. It’s exciting but stupid. He could easily have waved them out of the way. Or choked them at a distance.
- The killer droid can carry Obi-Wan: Seriously? It was designed to carry a dead weight of over 150 pounds, without struggling? Or even noticing?
- The droid and Obi-Wan don’t collide with other vehicles: Given how much traffic there is, and how fast everyone is going, how could these two not have an accident?
- Obi-Wan lands on Anakin’s pod w/o getting hurt: Plummeting many stories down, onto a stationery vehicle should hurt. It doesn’t.
- Anakin always apologizes: Apologising ceaselessly becomes meaningless if you don’t stop being a douche bag. Listen to your mentor for once, you insincere little twerp.
- Anakin’s own multi-story drop: Anakin randomly drops from his craft and luckily lands on the villain’s craft. Good thing she didn’t change speed or divert her course at the last minute, or he’d’ve been screwed. And no, he didn’t get hurt either. Must be a Jedi thing.
- Anakin stabs into the cockpit and somehow misses: How could Anakin miss his intended target with a lightsaber at close range when she’s stuck in the confined space of her cockpit? Heck, he doesn’t even nip her or damage the controls: he totally misses everything! It doesn’t make sense.
- They crash but neither are hurt: Sigh… what else is new?
- The bar scene: How is it that Obi-Wan and Anakin can’t find their target in a bar so sparsely populated? There are no real crowds to hide in…
- They don’t chase after Jango: After Jango kills their suspect, they just let him go. What? All chased out…?
- The council agrees to send Anakin with Padmé: Given how irresponsible Anakin has proven himself to be time and time again, this seems like really poor judgement. Oh well, natural selection. That type judgement worked wonders for Qui-Gon. As it will for the Jedi.
- Et tu, Lucas?: “His abilities have made him… well arrogant.” “Yes. Yes. A flaw more and more common among Jedi. Too sure of themselves they are. Even the older, more experienced ones.”
- Amidala would let Jar-Jar take her place: Oh yeah, smart move. Wisdom of the ages. How does Jar-Jar manage to get so many opportunities given how utterly useless he is?
- Anakin is such a whiny bitch: ‘Nuff said.
- Obi-Wan “hugs” a CGI character: I was almost convinced. Almost. Except not.
- The Padawans’ saber practice: God that looks lame.
- Obi-Wan is shown the way by younglings: What? He couldn’t even think of this possibility himself? What good is he?
- Erasing the data: So, only a Jedi could have erased the data, but there aren’t that many. So wouldn’t it be easy to do a system scan to see who accessed and made modifications to the database?
- The new Queen of Naboo: Why doesn’t she talk all croaky? Wasn’t this supposed to be some sort of ceremonial thing? Now she talks with a vaguely Indian accent instead.
- Anakin is out of line. Again: Anakin interrupts and imposes on Amidala in front of everyone. He’s a rude, immature, and unprofessional jerk. God I love him. *swoon*
- The 100% CGI Kamino: Let’s be honest: this is probably the worst CGI set in the whole series. Ewan McGregor looks like he was dropped into a really crappy CGI world and sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s like a reverse ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’.
- Obi-Wan is mistaken for another Jedi: How could the Kamino mistake Ben with the Jedi they’d been expecting? They knew he was a Jedi ahead of tine, so why didn’t realize he wasn’t the right person?
- …especially after Ben clearly has no idea what they are talking about: Didn’t THAT raise alarms? Are they complete idiots? At the very worst they protect their clients’ data rather poorly, even worse than Facebook.
- Padmé’s love for Anakin: Why is she falling for him? He is constantly grating or saying stupid crap. What’s the attraction, the connection between them? It’s totally unconvincing. I really want to believe, I do, but it’s just not possible to. And that is why Lucas fails.
- The Clone Army: So the Kamino have a whole army marching about in platoons? Um… where are they going?
- Anakin and Padmé’s “romantic” interlude: The whole thing f-ing sucks. This type of romantic crap could maybe win over a 4-year-old that has been consistently dropped on her head. Maybe.
- The “romantic” banter: “From the moment I met you, all those years ago, not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought of you.” Awwwwwwwww
“And now that I’m with you again, I’m in agony.” What?
“The closer I get to you, the worse it gets.” Lovely. Must be great for her self-esteem!
“The thought of not being with you… I can’t breathe.” Wait, wait… close means pain, and distant means suffocation? Sounds healthy!
“I’m haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me.” Urp.
“My heart is beating, hoping that that kiss will not become a scar.” Beurp!!!!! Wait, wait… WTF is that supposed to mean?
“You are in my very soul, tormenting me.” Go !@#$ yourself, stupid head.
“What can I do?” Do everyone a favour and go jump in a Sarlaac pit!
- Anakin’s politics: Anakin is supportive of a dictatorship, but Padmé is unconcerned about his judgement or intentions.
- The large larva cows: Those big sacs of mucous looked ridiculous to start with. Showing a crappy CGI Anakin riding one to impress Padmé made it even worse.
- Anakin feigns being hurt: Haha! Fooled you! Somehow and she finds it cute and they roll around. Urp.
- The CGI pear: Why didn’t they just fly the pear from Padmé to Anakin (and back) on ropes and fix it in CGI? It looks SO fake: look at where Hayden cuts the pear to hide the CGI subterfuge – the piece he cuts would have been smaller. And when she takes a bite, it just flips into her mouth; she doesn’t actually bite it off. It must be said: CGI rocks in the way it emulates real life.
- Obi-Wan’s message from Kamino: He sends it from outside the ship, in the pouring rain. Doesn’t rain pour into the ship’s aperture?
- Anakin’s nightmare: What? Christensen can’t even act having a nightmare? He has spasms instead?!!!
- Anakin watches the sunrise: Christensen can’t even act watching a sunrise. Christ.
- Anakin disregards his mandate: …so that he can go save his mom. So predictable. He has no sense of duty and/or responsibility. Again, why the !@#$ did the Jedi Council think he was a good candidate to protect the Senator, exactly?
- Obi-Wan’s attack on Jango: A moment before we had a scene of dialogue and, suddenly, without warning, Ben is lunging at Jango. Can you say ADD?
- A CGI Jango crashes: It looks like crap; it doesn’t even land with the weight of a human being.
- Obi-Wan’s saber doesn’t smoke in the rain: In other places in the series rain evaporates immediately upon contact with the lightsabers. It doesn’t here. I prefer that it doesn’t, that it disintegrates rain, not evaporates it, but this is inconsistent.
- Watto sold Shmi to the Owens: What a coincidence!
- Obi-Wan is so obviously CGI-ed into the asteroid scene: Looks about as crap as the rear projection of yore, except more sophisticated.
- Shmi’s death: Cliegg tells Anakin to accept his mother’s death just after saying that he’s just waiting to heal to go after her again. What?
- Anakin’s bike ride: He basically rides his bike through CGI painting. Looks crap.
- Obi-Wan overhears the villains plotting: Ben arrives just as the villains discuss their plot, not while they’re trying to decide what they should order for lunch or talking about the latest pod race results.
- The CGI Tusken dogs: Crap.
- Anakin arrives just as Shmi dies: Convenient. Thankfully he didn’t waste a split second, (ex: stop for a leak) huh?
- “Now I am complete”?: Complete what? Toast? Yeah, Anakin does suck the life out a room that way…
- Anakin’s irrationality: The kid’s judgement is even worse than Qui-Gon’s. By this point he blames Ben and wants to stop people from dying. Whatev. Shut up and go to your Time-Out space you dickweed.
- Anakin’s admission to Padmé: He admits to Padmé that he’s killed all the Tuskens and she isn’t freaked out. Must be love.
- The heat between Anakin and Amidala: <0
- The grand army of the Republic: So… Palpatine controls most of the Senate, but he has to rely on Jar-Jar to make a motion? Couldn’t he just get one of his own to do it?
- The CGI steam: When Anakin and Padmé arrive on Geonosis, they’re immersed in steam. But it’s all CGI and it looks like shit Photoshopping. Couldn’t Lucas just surround them with a thousand boiling kettles or something?
- Padmé falls down in the factory and doesn’t get hurt: Of course she doesn’t; can’t have her fighting with a bum knee or a slipped disc.
- The factory conveyor belt sequence: Anakin and Padmé are stuck on this huge conveyor belt, avoiding machinery like they’re in a video game (could it be a cynical plug for the Episode 2 game? Could it…?), and neither ever get hurt; their timing is impeccable.
- C-3PO is CGI and flexible: After R2 inexplicably drops him into the foundry/factory, C-3PO hangs on to a flying droid and bounces about as though he were limber – which is the last thing one would ever describe him as, being only slightly more mobile than Jabba. But I guess that’s why they made him out of CGI: because CGI, unlike real stuff, can do anything.
- R2 can fly: I’ve long joked that he’s the Swiss Army Droid, but this seals the deal! Since when can he fly? And why didn’t he use this power at other points in the series? Like, on Dagobah? Totally inconsistent and ridiculous. Next thing you’ll try to make us believe is that he can transform into a landspeeder and will join the Autobots against the Decepticons.
- Padmé is dropped in a FOUNDRY TUB: …and doesn’t get hurt. Naturally.
- C-3PO gets his head knocked off: As per canon, C-3PO’s head was obviously poorly designed by Lord Vader… ahem… I mean, Anakin, and it comes off easily. Plus, somehow, it’s also compatible with attack droids’ bodies and vice versa. And even more strangely, while his head is aware, he can’t control his new body – whereas the attack droid head can control C-3PO’s body. Talk about 2 for 1!
- Anakin’s hand is caught on the conveyor belt: Somehow, some piece of crap is being built around Anakin’s hand and he’s pinned down by it. But it conveniently fits his arm enough that it doesn’t injure him. And he doesn’t he use the Force to get out.
- Anakin’s capture: He’s easily caught by Jango and some droids just because his saber is broken. What? The Force is no longer strong with this one?
- “I truly, deeply love you…”: But… why? He’s such a big loser!
- The crowds in the arena: They’re basically throngs of sameness – like the pod race, but worse.
- Padmé gets clawed by a space kitten: Except that, somehow, it’s just a surface wound; the kittie pulled its claws back to avoid gouging. It just wanted reveal her abs, I guess. Rowr! Thank you space kittie!
- CGI Anakin rides a CGI critter: Sigh… need I say more?
- The actors are fighting CGI creatures: They’re fighting against thin air. And it shows.
- Padmé jumps down on Anakin’s ride: The creature has no saddle and is thick-shelled but the landing doesn’t dislocate her crotch. Lucky her.
- Dooku couldn’t sense Windu’s arrival: Even though he’s more powerful than any Jedi, he can be sneaked up on?
- C-3PO slapsticks his way through combat: Well, better him than Jar-Jar, I suppose…
- C-3PO’s head is easily popped off by R2: He just tugs on it. And he easily soldered it back on Threepio’s body. Naturally. And everything works fine. Like magic. Movie magic.
- Attack droids with shooting arm: Why give them an arm if it’s used as a canon? Doesn’t it unbalance them? Why not just give them head or shoulder-mounted guns?
- Spider combat units: Who designed these silly, spider-looking combat vehicles. And why?
- Bovine combat units: See above. But think four-legged, cow-like vehicles.
- Dooku’s allies are building the Death Star: Well, there’s another coincidence, one of the final details from the original trilogy that had been left undisturbed. Until now. All that’s left now is the secret of the blue milk.
- Dooku riding through a CGI desert: Incredibly, this looks even worse than Anakin’s own ride on Tatooine.
- Anakin’s lack of discipline: To the end, he is woefully undisciplined – he’s only concerned by Padmé, not the mission. What do the Jedi see in him?
- Lightsaber battle between Dooku, Obi-Wan and Anakin: The lightsaber battle is kind of lame: Ben is easily felled, as is Anakin, the most powerful Jedi ever. And yet Dooku really doesn’t look threatening. I could take him with my toothbrush and a generous amount of Polydent.
- Close ups of Christopher Lee: Since Lee was unable to do the fight scenes (as evidenced by the poor stand-in), Lucas used crappy close-ups of him to insert him in the action. Yeah, it looked like was right there. Could have fooled me. *cough cough*
- Padmé gets up and “runs” on the sand dunes: Wow, it looks like she’s never run before, like it’s a foreign motion she’s only trying to emulate. Not only is she so slow she could be outrun by a senior, her form is all swoop. Where’s the urgency, the skill? Pathetic…
- Aged villain vs CGI dwarf: Crap… the fight between Dooku and Yoda is awful. An out-of-shape geiser versus and animated hand puppet? Lame.
- Dooku is Yoda’s old Padawan: Aw, c’mon!The coincidences never stop! It’s such a huge universe, but really it’s so small…
- Natalie Portman’s acting: I didn’t want to say it, but by the end there’s no redemption for her here. She’s just bloody awful in this one. She’s a terrific actor, so I know it’s all context.
- Dooku = Lord Tyranus: Vader, Sidious, Maul, Tyranus. When one critic complained that they might as well call one Darth Bad (or some such thing) he/she made a good point.
- Large clone armies = rows of sameness: Yes, we had rows of sameness with the Stormtroopers in the original trilogy. But not to this degree. And there’s been so much lazy CGI copy and paste in the prequels so far that it just dulls the mind to see this at the end. It’s an anti-climax, the reverse of the impression it was intended to make.
‘Attack of the Clones’ was mostly viewed by fans as a massive improvement over ‘The Phantom Menace’, but it failed to ignite the interest of the general public, leaving the picture financial successful, but relegated to the bottom of the list in box office earnings compared to the other films in the series.
Personally, I don’t think it has withstood the test of time. Still, it fares much better than its predecessor.
Date of viewing: December 1, 2015