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Alive 5


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 
interlude perhaps?

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.


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
the suspense.

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

Alive 5