Star Wars Week: Attack of the Clones – The Magic of Not Directing

So we’ve discussed the first of the prequels, and now it is time to dive into what I consider the worst of the bunch–though that is hard to say, when all three entries in the first Star Wars films (chronologically) don’t really offer too many positives in the opinion of this writer. But we made a promise to tell you our feelings on these movies, and that means we have to take a bit of a dig on our personal watching tastes to be the completists we claim to be. So, with that, here’s a bit of a review on Attack of the Clones. 

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So here is a basic breakdown of what happens in Episode 2 of our story:

  • Anakin is a much more grown up Jedi in training. He also now has an annoying rat tail hair piece that seems so impossibly thin, you don’t know how it could actually be braided.
  • Obi-Wan is still his teacher, and spends most of his time cleaning up Anakin’s messes, and performing painful side-eye moves.
  • Padme realizes that Anakin has “become a man” and totally forgets that the first time she met him, he was 9 and she was 14.
  • The audience questions how these two could at all be sexually attracted to each other, considering that Anakin has the maturity of a 9 year old (look, nothing has changed!)
  • There are clones made from Bobba Fett’s dad.
  • Yoda and his fellow Jedi like to stroke their chins a lot. I MEAN A LOT.
  • There is a giant battle scene with two sides that are filled with pointless, underdeveloped “characters” (robots and clones) you really don’t give a hook what happens in the 20 plus minutes we watch them battle each other.
  • You come to the conclusion that, if you see Anakin touch Padme’s bare back with his thumb one more time, you’re gonna vomit all over your R2-D2 pillow.
  • And the movie is over. Thank the Maker.

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Essentially, Attack of the Clones is the complete polar opposite of the mid-entry to the original trilogy, Empire Strikes Back. Meaning that is the absolute worst, where as Empire is considered by many to be the best. Why? Because if Good Ol’ Uncle George (Lucas) didn’t prove it enough in The Phantom Menace that he is not an actor’s director, Clones proved it big time. The most important example of this comes from the “love” scenes between a certain future villain, and the mother of his future children. How these two produced offspring with such a lack of chemistry, the world will never know.

Now, I’m not saying that Hayden Christensen or Natalie Portman are truly bad actors–Hayden actually was pretty enjoyable in Shattered Glass and lord knows I love Portman in Black Swan–what I’m speaking of is that George clearly doesn’t know how to get what he wants out of his cast, a flaw that is shown throughout the prequels in almost any scene that features more than one minute of a dialog exchange or is not taking place in an action scene. If you want to see this lackluster magic first hand, I’d like to point to the wonderful attempts at “flirting” by Skywalker himself.

In a similar vein, Lucas also doesn’t know where to place his cast, and has no real “vision” of his characters or his “eye” (camera) within that universe. Many of the shots in Clones seem to be composed of the same creativity that one would find in a plain glass of Seltzer water. When you look at the cinematography of A New Hope compared to that of Attack, one looks like the highest form of art, while the other looks like a set up of action figures by a 5 year old. There’s no risk taking here, and instead it’s all a bunch of visual filler for us to get from one lengthy, blown out action scene to another.

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But when George gets to his beloved action sequences, he falls in love with his job–almost to a fault. Though I adore, in a childish way, the battle between baddie Count Dooku and Yoda, it is of course a bloated fight scene at best–which is also proceeded by, if you can’t guess, another bloated fight scene. I get that George wanted to push the boundaries of CGi for its time (which he did, and to great effect) but this sort of almost obsession with showing what he and ILM could do with a computer drives away from what many people go to Star Wars for–the story. We came to see these movies to be presented with what drove Anakin to the dark side, and instead we were given the cut scenes of a video game patched together with a plot that is as thin as the hair that falls out of my hair when I brush it too hard.

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But many of you will cry, “But DALIN, a movie can’t be thin in that plot department if there’s a LOVE STORY, and POLITICAL TALK!” Well, my dear readers, when it is written to the forced degree that Mr. Lucas has accomplished, then indeed it is thin. Mr. Lucas proved greatly in these prequels that he is more an idea man, than he is a screenwriter. A New Hope is the exception in an otherwise questionable catalog of examples of his screenwriting, and it makes one wonder: Did Lucas plan all these movies out from the beginning? Personally, I think well–no–he didn’t. He might have had intensions and dreams of evolving his stories past three entries, but then again, we have Luke and Leia all over each other in our first introductions to them…. and since I’m pretty sure most of you know by now that they are indeed siblings, I can’t help but think that Lucas didn’t plan things to a T as much as he likes to claim.

One of the aspects that makes it quite clear that we don’t seem to have a good script here is that, well, there is no real main character. Okay, sure, you could give me a ton of movies that really don’t have a “main character” and still work out fine or even brilliantly. But this is Star Wars we’re talking about, the franchise that is so engrained in adapting Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey that it might as well have a sticker on further editions made for the next hundred years or more. Luke is, and always will be, the main character of the original three. He is the one that takes us on the journey and introduces us to the rest of the cast that we love. You know who doesn’t do that? Anakin, Padme, Jar-Jar and (INSERT EVERY CHARACTER’S NAME HERE). Possibly the only thread of a protagonist holding the entire thing together is Obi-Wan, but that is me just digging for answers at this point in the game (and because I like Ewan McGregor, plain and simple).

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But really, when you examine all of these facts together, what really is there for people to get out of this movie? Toys. Yep, always toys. This is the point in which Lucas was falling deeper into the rabbit hole of products and what money they could bring him. Yeah, this is a business and with that comes what can make it successful at the end, but that shouldn’t mean that we are thrown characters and plot lines left and right that are unfulfilled just to sell another nine dollar action figure to a random kid at Toys ‘R’ Us. There has to be some passion here, you know, like A New Hope had.

This is one of the many things that make this particular entry so hard to stomach, because at least with Phantom and later Revenge of the Sith, there was a tiny bit of success in the form of the storytelling to keep me going. In Episode One there is the mystery and overall coolness of Darth Maul to at least have me invested in his scenes (though there are few), and as Sarah mentioned, that Pod Race scene is pretty spectacular. And, with Episode Three, there are a few more positives than negatives (but you’ll find those out tomorrow). But Clones doesn’t have anything other than the obvious padding and thrown in filler tendencies of the plot to make it feel as if it is an entry to gloss over. But because this is Star Wars we’re talking about, everything in its history matters (even if told to us in such a drab sort of format).

At the end of the day, Attack of the Clones is an attack on my love of cinema. And it brings about all the things I hate about the prequels more than any of the other films can. And trust me, I’m not the only one that thinks this–as brilliantly explained by the guys at Red Letter Media. Seriously, I can’t do justice to explaining this pathetic entry in the franchise like they can.

So what do you think of Attack of the Clones? Is it one of your favorites or otherwise? Do you enjoy anything of it? If you do, please explain to me in the comments below. I’ve been looking for answers for a long time, and I demand them if that is at all possible. And if you dare to know my feelings about the next entry, tune in tomorrow for my  Revenge of the Sith review. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna need a lot Blue Milk to get me myself in shape to endure what is coming for me. Bottoms up!

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2 thoughts on “Star Wars Week: Attack of the Clones – The Magic of Not Directing

  1. Anakin’s actor was 9 in EPI, but the character was 10 when the two met. Only a 4 year difference, and they didn’t have a romance in EPI, so it’s okay.

    The braid is something all Padawan’s have. I’ve never heard anyone dislike it before, which is interesting take on it, Dalin. Just didn’t know that was a complaint people made.

    Robots and Clones don’t mean something here because they’re not developed here. But the TV show fixes that. The Clones are likeable characters, perhaps even some of the most interesting characters in the entire series. The movie didn’t have to sell us on which is better, clones or droids – the Kaminoans see them as essentially the same, just that clones are more useful because they can learn and adapt in ways that Droids can’t. It’s an interesting question to build a war over, but neither EPII nor EPIII are really about the War – that’s the TV show’s space – these films are about how the action leading up to the War and closing the War allow the Chancellor to become the Emperor, bring about the destruction of the Republic and the Jedi Order, and how a forbidden romance leads Luke’s father down the dark path to becoming Darth Vader. Focusing too much on the war effort misses the point; it’s a backdrop for the main action. The forces behind the war and how our protagonists are affected by the war are much more important to the story.

    Honestly, I love the Coliseum sequence. It’s pulpy in a John Carter or Gray Mouser sort of way. It harkens back to Luke fighting the Ranqor in EPVI. And that it turns into a huge battle between Jedi and Droids, and then Clones and Droids, really captures the outbreak of the Clone Wars in the strokes necessary to establish the conflict that will seethe for 3 years before EPIII begins.

    I enjoyed watching Red Letter Media’s deconstructions when I saw them a few years ago, but I think his arguments are overplayed. I actually found myself really enjoying this film from the get-go when I booted it up last week. The whole intrigue with the Assassin, and chase through the multi-leveled city of Coruscant was exhilarating and kept me asking questions. Obi-Wan is like a Detective in this film, and he’s just so much fun to follow. The dialogue between Anakin and Obi-Wan feels real and they’re just really fun to watch interact.

    The Prequels are as much Obi-Wan’s story as they are Anakin’s, and whenever Ewan McGregor is on stage, he’s just a bundle of fun. He really feels like he could become that ancient Jedi Master played by Alec Guiness. On the contrary, Anakin and Padmé’s love story is the weakest part of the trilogy, and yet everything hangs on it. This is the beginning of the romance and the beginning of the fall to darkness, so everything gets overplayed and becomes rather hammy in a bad way. But the scene with Anakin searching for his mother is gorgeous, and Padmé’s active leadership in this film (forcing Anakin to come with her to Geonosis, for example) is more like her strong role in EPI than her almost completely passive role in EPIII (if only Lucas hadn’t cut those Alliance to Preserve the Republic scenes).

    There are some bad filler scenes – the Geonosian factory is the most blatant. But some of my favourite moments in the entire saga are in this film (“Lost a planet, Master Kenobi has. How embarassing, how embarassing,” for example).

    Honestly, I went in to watching this expecting to hate it for Hayden Christensen’s acting and the writing. And I ended up really enjoying it – not as much as IV, V, or VI, but more than I, and perhaps more than III.

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