STAR WARS PART 2
ATTACK OF THE
Now was it such a good idea to start your story at episode 4? George Lucas,
back in 1977 thought so. Drowning us in cleverness, he started with "A New
Hope", a storyline in the middle of an implied bigger tale along the lines
of 'just when things looked really bad, a small valiant bunch of rebels
nicked off with the plans for the ultimate deathstar weapon thingy.'
And then after this solid start, he kept his story nice and linear, giving
the Empire the chance to strike back, and ending up a few years later, with
some returning Jedi, and a shitload of annoying cuddly toys taking on and
defeating the mighty Evil Empire. Happy endings all round, and so it would
have remained, if George had left it right there.
(Digression:- If there is one thing more annoying, and blatantly bunged in
for merchandising opportunities than Jar-Jar-Binks, it was those bloody
cutesy and frantically masturbatingEwoks. If I had the power, I would have
an Ewok and Jar-Jar fight each other in a deep hole in the ground with razor
blades elastoplastered to their fingernails!)
But a long time and a lot of money later, rumours rumbled of a revival of
the Star Wars canon, going right back to the very beginning, episode 1.
George had often hinted about this when the whole Star Wars thing was at
its height first time around. I even remember a serious proposal that he was
considering a trio of trilogies, with the first three episodes being made in
sequence, then parts seven, eight, and nine, (what happened to the
descendents of Han, Leia, et al?)
Anyway, the first episode, "Phantom Menace" appeared a couple of years ago,
and perhaps could have been more suitably retitled "Part 1 - Hope triumphs
over experience." The massive wave of hype crashed down into the shallow bay
of disappointment. The critics snapped shut their notebooks and laptops with
a smug "I told you he was crap!" air of satisfaction. The rest of us shut
down our brains to the dismal plot, and gawped at the pretty pictures
Undeterred, Lucas carried on, the second part took shape, burning questions
such as "Will it have that loser, Jar-Jar Binks in it?" burned the airwaves,
and the actual pre-release publicity was sensibly lower key than before. Now
we come to confront the beast that is episode 2, or "Attack of the Clones",
and you might want to ask, how was it?
Well, I have been to see it, and the news is rather mixed. The good bits are
all there, so are the bad. Here we go now....
There is quite a bit of this, happily. It's still as eye-droppingly gorgeous
as ever. Lucas has spared no expense, or expertise on the look of the film.
Whatever you might say about the rest, Star Wars, especially in the later
(earlier?) movies has some of the best eye-candy you will ever see. The CGI
really rocks, the effects are damn near lifelike, the illusion convincing.
Indeed, many of the CGI aliens are some of the most expressive characters in
the film, possibly more so than certain human actors?
Next up, I liked the revamped Princess, er sorry, Senator Amidala. Natalie
Portman has grown up into a very attractive young lady indeed. She gives the
impression of being clearly up for it. Just a shame she only has the
pantingly stupid Anakin Skywalker as the major male order love interest
then! The unfortunate job of playing a failed Bjork-alike goes to some other
unfortunate jobbing actress, they elect Queens in Naboo, and only for a
limited number of terms, you see.
Jar-Jar Binks has been kept to a bare minimum.
Not nearly as good as being able to say "Jar Jar Binks is being scraped off
the underside of an Empire Star Destroyer", but it is a step in the right
direction. Actually, an underplayed and almost subtle Jar-Jar was given one
cruelly hilarious moment to prove his underlying stupidity, when he was the
muppet who submitted the proposal that the lovely innocent not-a-sith-lord-
at-all Senator Palpatine should be given emergency powers to raise a clone
army. And he would relinquish these powers as soon as the current crisis has
passed, Ho Yeah! So history will record that Jar-Jar Binks was in fact the
unwitting agent of destructionof the old Republic, and the accidental
midwife of the new Evil Empire!Nice one Jar-Jar!
We get our first good look at an urban society in the entire Star Wars
canon, and it turns out that Coruscant, the capital of the galaxy, is a
rather cool place, somewhat like Blade Runner on steroids in fact. The
death-defying Jedi chase, early in the film, was one of the best action
sequences in there. Who would have thought that Obi-Wan had useful contacts
in a burger joint!
Christopher Lee's character, the chief baddie, Count Dooku, managed to
outshine everyone else off the screen. Not quite Darth Vader, but good
enough to be going on with. Hope we see him again in the third film.
Yoda is a surprise in this episode. The yogi-like dwarf, full of wise words
and little else in later years, manages to kick ass somewhat here. Bending
the air with his lightsabre he is. Running around in the desert with his big
army like Rommel, he does! With what is clearly the prototype for the later
empire army. Look at them, and their equipment, a tweak here, a tuck there,
and you are looking at a generation away from the bad guys roaming around
and searching under dustbin lids for Skywalker and company from episode 4
The action is good, there are many lasers and explosions, much crashing and
burning. You get the sense that hostilities have been properly declared
here. The lame and pathetic Trade Federation from the Phantom Menace are
back, but sensibly sidelined. Even the blantantly written for console game
bits are better than before, with a battle in the robot foundry sure to make
an appearance in some game or other. Will episode 3 have a Chucky Egg
A partial return of the famous C3PO/R2D2 comedy partnership is very welcome
here. C3PO, in particular, is always brilliant as an accidental bystander
being dragged along by events out of his control, the more sensible R2D2
manages to save the day of course.
There was much less hype this time around, than for the Phantom Menace. This
was welcome, and also meant there was less of a crashing disappointment when
reality failed to match up. Judged objectively, this was a half-decent film.
NOT SO GOOD NEWS
This is the tale of the half that was not so decent, unfortunately. Into
every life, a little meteor shower must fall...
The plot, which meandered lazily all over the place in part one, is still
incoherent, wandering, slack, and has gaps where you could drive a nebula
through it. This got annoying, as far too much was left unsaid, or a mystery
started, but never gone into.
For an example of the point above, there is never really an adequate
explanation given for the creation of the mysterious clone army, hidden in
an empty star system. The perfunctory explanation refers to some long dead
Jedi, which confused an investigating Obi-Wan, but was never followed up. At
the same time, the Jedi and the Republic happily accepted the use of this
clone army without awkward questions when they needed it. The misgivings
expressed at the beginning of the film conveniently forgotten!
In spite of the obvious attractions of Natalie Portman being given greater
(ahem!) prominence, there is still a tendency to try to strangle her with a
number of 'scare-hair' moments.
Jar-Jar Binks is in it. 'Nuff said really.
Now we come to the major weakness of this film in my view. Senator Amidala
is the target for constant assassination attempts, she has a heavy workload
as a galactic senator, she hasn't had a lot of luck romantically speaking,
so it is cruel fortune to be lumbered with Anakin Skywalker's abysmal
"courtship" attempts. It looks like Jedi training doesn't include how to
handle flirting in the workplace smoothly. To say that the 'romance' grates
horribly is an insult to fireplaces!
I'm not sure, but was Hayden Christiensen told to think back to when he was
thirteen years old, hormonal, and arguing with his parents, in order to get
into the Anakin Skywalker character? Much of the Anakin/Obi Wan dialogue,
especially when they were arguing, was laughable.
This flowed over into Anakin's not wholly convincing early stages of
embracing the dark side. Worrying to think that the menace and majesty of
Darth Vader started from a little hissy fit?
Whilst we are into deep Anakin-slagging, take a look at the stupid little
ponytail he's wearing. Do you get the impression that the biggest weak link
in this production is a certain apprentice Jedi with the initials 'A' and
Generally, the onscreen partnership between Obi Wan and Anakin is played
without inspiration or charisma, and is rather leadenly presented. We really
needed a Han Solo character to set this thing alight!
This might be a minor point for a lot of people, but the fact that there
seemed to be no real sense of time and distance bugged me enormously. The
galaxy is a huge place, it was impressed on the audience that a lot of the
locations were a very long way away, remote, and hard to find, but getting
there seemed to take no longer than a local bus ride?
Ultimately this film suffers lot from the mere fact that it is part of the
prequel of a very well known tale. We all know what is going to happen, and
this removes a major reason for watching the film with concentration, namely
You can probably guess most of the crucial third episode already, Amidala
dies, this may be due to an accident, or some underhand ploy from the bad
guys. A suitably deceived Anakin then goes over to the dark side. On the
way, he has a major falling-out with Obi-Wan, which results in the injuries
that put him into the Darth Vader suit. The old Republic is swept aside,
Obi-Wan and Yoda go into hiding, waiting to reappear in the later episodes.
The only suspense left for the movie watching public, is in how well, or
not, Lucas handles this predictable series of events.
CiH - For Alive! Mag,May '02