Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002): ****
Directed by George Lucas.
Wait. I didn't do that right.
That's better. This is one of those rare films that comes along that pretty much
immediately lets me know that it's going to be a four-star film. Like Titus or
Ghost Dog, my jaw dropped early in the course of the film and stayed dropped until
the end credits rolled. I was almost too stunned to be able to get up and leave the theater.
My legs didn't work right (and it wasn't the rickets this time).
Like I said. SPECTACULAR!
The rest of this review contains numerous spoilers. If you
don't wanna know, you don't gotta read.
This is the first Star Wars movie ever to break from the Star Wars story structure. What do
I mean by that? Let me explain. The Star Wars movies are all based on the "interrupted journey"
story template. Basically, after an opening act (usually an action scene or character establishing scene)
a group of characters try to physically get from point A
to point B, and a whole bunch of crap pops up that they have to deal with (and that they
never expected to deal with) before they can get there. Usually they reach their goal in some
form at the end of the 2nd act, which sets up the big 3rd act climax (in all except Empire)
Let's look at The Empire Strikes Back: Han, Leia, Chewy, and the droids are all simply
trying to get from Hoth (point A) to the Rebel rendezvous point (point B). Along the way they
get caught up in the asteroid belt, and have to make a detour to the Cloud City to get their
ship fixed, and once there a whole bunch of bad shit goes down. Eventually they all (except Han) make it
to the rendezvous point.
How about The Phantom Menace: Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan have to take Padme to Coruscant to address
the senate. Before they can get there, though, they have to get a new engine, and so they have to
set down on Tatooine, where a whole bunch of shit goes down. Eventually they all make it to the
Coruscant. This isn't the end, though; it just sets up the final climax of the third act, the
four big battles that happen simultaneously (Gungans vs Droids, Anakin vs Spaceships, Padme vs Trade
Federation, Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan vs Darth Maul).
In A New Hope they're just trying to get to Alderaan. Whoops: Death Star!
In Return of the Jedi they're just trying to get to the Endor power station to shut down (blow up)
the Death Star shielding device. Whoops: Ewok crap!
But Attack of the Clones doesn't work this way. It's an actual, honest-to-god mystery plot.
Who's trying to kill Padme? Like in any mystery, each seeming answer just leads to more and
more questions (who ordered the building of a clone army? What does Jango Fett have to do with
Count Dooku? Is the Dark Lord of the Sith really running the Senate?).
One of the most fascinating things about this movie is that even though the audience learns
the answers to all the questions, the characters don'tthey hardly learn any answers at all, in fact.
The plot is actually really clever. About ten years ago, Darth Sidious (Palpatine) had Darth
Tyrannus (Dooku) secretly start the creation of a clone army. He then had Tyrannus start to plant
seeds of dissention in hundreds of star systems, making them want to break away from the
Republic. Now Tyrannus is coercing several alliancesThe Trade Federation, the Banking League,
etc., to combine their small droid armies into a massive one, with the apparent purpose of being
able to overpower the Republic's small stable of Jedi Knights. But his actual goal is to
scare the Republic so bad that they will throw out democracy and hand all control over to
Palpatine, so that he may create an army to match this new threat. Where will he get an army
so quickly? Well, there's already more than 500,000 clones waiting to go. How convenient...
And our heroes are really just patsies in this movie (all except Yoda, who always feels a bit
uneasy about everythign that is going on). They make all the choices they think will be in
the best interest of the Republic, little knowing that they are helping form the very evil
Galactic Empire. It will be interesting to watch them all come to realize their mistakes in the
next movie as Anakin hunts them down and kills them.
Ewan MacGregor as Obi-Wan is spectacular, especially after his last, more restrained outing.
Here you can definitely see the man that will be come Ben Kenobi by A New Hope. He's
confident but restrained, lovingly worried about Anakin but a stern disciplinarian, serious but
easily able to find ironic humor in situations:
We relayed your message as you asked. Then we decided to come rescue you.
(watching Anakin get chained to a post)
I've heard a lot of people criticize Hayden Christensen as Anakin, but I thought he was
actually really good for the role. The young punk kid Anakin we knew has grown into a big,
dorky, clumsy teenager basically. He has erratic mood swings. He awkardly tries to hit on
the girl he has a crush on (Padme). He vents his frustrations in strange directions. He
wants to brag and show off his abilities. A big doofus.
It's still kind of difficult to see this Anakin becoming our lovely Darth Vader, mostly
because this Anakin is so chock-full of emotions and passions, and our Darth Vader seems
so dead and cold. That will no doubt happen in the next movie. We get hints as to what
Anakin is capable of, like the horrifying revelation that after his mother died he killed
the entire clan of Sand People who kidnapped her:
But it is still quite a leap to go from a passioned, pained massacre brought on by unbearable
grief to coldly, unemotionally crushing a man's throat until he dies.
I killed them all.
And not just the men. But the women. And children.
They're animals, and I slaughtered them like animals!
Natalie Portman doesn't seem to do as well in this movie as in the last. She probably didn't
get very good direction from Lucas, who most likely spent most of his time setting up the
shots. It's really hard to tell at times what she's feeling, so that when she finally
professes her love to Anakin, we're as surprised as he is.
Christopher Lee as the villainous Count Dooku slash Darth Tyrannus is basically playing the
same role he did as Sauromon in The Fellowsip of the Rings; he's the most powerful
second-in-command of a villain whom the heroes never actually see in person during the course
of the movie. But Christopher Lee is just so fantastic. He's got the scariest looking fingers, and
when that bad-mojo force lightning comes out of them, you know it's extra bad. He delivers
his lines like an opera singer, full of vigor and basso profundo. His fight scenes (which
he did mostly himself) are also spectacular. Have I used that word too much? Tough.
Sam Jackson gets to bring some of his nice kick-ass attitude to Mace Windu, and his cold stare at
Dooku is really chilling. There's a great scene where the Jedi are escaping the arena in
the clone ships, and as Mace stands in the doorway of the ship he casually flicks away a laser
blast as if it were just a mosquito. He doesn't block it. He just absently flicks it away. Now
Speaking of basass, there's more badass in this movie than in any other. When Jango Fett shoots
a Jedi to death and Count Dooku looks impressed, Jango does an old-school twirl of his blaster
as if he were a cowboy in the old west before slipping it in its holster.
Also, when Obi-Wan finally manages to kill one of the giant beasties plaguing him, he
doesn't just stab it. He twirls his lightsaber over his head and brings it straight down,
samurai-style. Badass. The lightsaber fight scene between Anakin and Dooku at one point gets
thown into darkenss, and the camera just starts cutting back and forth between shots of their
faces, with only thier lightsabers flashing in front of them for illumination. It is one of the
most awe-inspiring ways I have ever seen a fight filmed. You don't even see the actual fight!
Just the look in each man's face. I was grinning in amazed glee when it happened. Badass.
And of course, most badass of all, Yoda. He doesn't draw his lightsaber. He simply draws
back his cloak to reveal it, holds out his hand, and the lightsaber comes to it. Badass.
Then ensues perhaps the best fight scene in the history of Star Wars, in which Yoda transforms
into a hyperkinetic tornado of fury, leaping and spinning. At one point he leaps through the
air, doing two complete barrel rolls, all the while also spinning his lightsaber, so that it does
like six entire revolutions in barely one second.
See what I mean when I say spectacular?
The film was also suprisingly funnyand not Jar-Jar funny. Actually funny. Obi-Wan has
some great comedic moments, especially when he's in extreme danger, just the look on Ewan's
face is funny as Obi-Wan realizes just how ridiculous their predicaments are. And I also
thought that 3PO and R2 were excellently hilarious, especially the whole part where 3PO's head
gets on a droid army robot's body and vice-versa. And, surprisingly, there are some hilarious
parts between the romance of Anakin and Padme. Just look at the confused look on Anakin's
face after Padme stops thier first kiss a bit too late. Great stuff.
Lucas also loosens up his directing style, with fast zooms and handheld cameras during the fight scenes.
He truly makes this movie get more and more exciting as it goes along. I also loved some of the
sound choices. For some of the big spaceships he actually blended in sounds of old propellor planes
into their engines to give greater power to their sound. Fantastic. Sorry: SPECTACULAR.
Okay, that's enough out of me. I won't even get into Boba or the way the title Attack of the Clones
turns out to mean something completely other than what you thought it would mean.
I've seen this movie twice already. I might just end up seeing it
again before it goes out of theaters.
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