Jan 13, 2012

[Movies] Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Continuing this series of Star Wars movie reviews in commemoration of the re-release of the films in 3D (not that I want to shell out money for this), we now come to the "second" movie in terms of the franchise's continuity timeline.

Okay, that last sentence ended in a bit of a mouthful. I apologize.

Now given how the first movie certainly generated a strong reaction among the fans, it's funny how a lot of us still trekked back to the theaters to catch the next installment. Are we that stubborn? Do we put that much value in the franchise as a whole over the immediate experience of a really bad prequel? Or are we just that starved for decent science fiction entertainment outside of superhero movie remakes that we go see almost anything with spaceships in it?

I exaggerate I know, but I think you can appreciate that I'm coming from a good place. Or at least a rather geeky one.

So upwards and onwards to the review proper!

Attack of the Clones is tagged as Episode II in the Star Wars movie franchise. It was again directed by George Lucas, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jonathan Hales.

Ewan McGregor (left) as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Hay...
Image via Wikipedia
10 years after the events of The Phantom Menace, the Galactic Republic is now dealing with a Separatist Movement led by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) threatening to rip the Republic apart in a civil war. The Republic is now trying to come to a consensus about whether or not they should form an army to counter this threat, thus bringing now Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) back to Coruscant. After narrowly dodging an assasination attempt, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) tasks Jedis Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as her protectors.

Now it turns out that "little Ani" has been harboring a school boy crush for Padmé Amidala for the past decade as well, which I admit is a tad creepy but I'll let it slide for now. Thus he is eager to impress the senator with his prowess as a Jedi (to-be), although his headstrong nature is often a major source of stress for his master Obi-Wan. The two do their best to keep her safe and eventually start tracking down the possible origins behind the threat to her life, which leads to rather startling discoveries.

Now the movie clearly tried to address some of the pains of the first prequel. This meant a lot less of Jar Jar Binks (although he was still present as an official delegate of Naboo, of all things). We got a lot of battles both involving Jedis in all their glory and some nifty ship-to-ship combat in space as well, so that all worked out. And we got Yoda finally demonstrating how kick-ass he really is, which was a tad campy but still fun.

Now it was always kind of weird to me how the Galactic Republic did not have a standing army of any kind. I mean seriously, given how many star systems it covers they never saw the need for a naval presence to help keep the peace? So why go through this whole dog and pony show to get approval, especially considering some of the people who get to steer the vote are members of the same Separatist movement you're trying to stop! Seriously people? And while we all know as members of the audience that the Republic Senate is being manipulated by the Supreme Chancellor for his own ends, it would be nice if his grand plan actually made a bit more sense.

Plus there's the whole revelation about the origins of Boba Fett, who had been presented as one of the most feared bounty hunters in the original trilogy. While I suppose I can still accept the story they presented here, I guess I had fallen in love with some of the more "romantic" stories that had been crafted around him in the Expanded Universe. While they have made efforts to resolve the movie origins with the stories that have appeared in the novels, it still doesn't feel quite the same.

And suddenly R2-D2 can fly. Seriously?

Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala
Image via Wikipedia
Of course my biggest issue with the movie has to be the actual Amidala-Skywalker romance bit. It's already creepy given their age difference, but add in the complication that two can't seem to reasonably convince me that they're passionately in love just killed it for me. And while I'm sure there are those little girls who enjoyed Anakin's classic waking up from a nightmare all sweaty and shirtless moment, Hayden Christensen just can't act to save his life. And given how Natalie Portman hasn't been all that colorful in her portrayal of Amidala either, it's definitely a weird focus point for a romance indeed.

On the whole, this movie wasn't nearly as bad as the first. If you forgive the romance and some of the sillier banter moments ("Do you want to buy na death stick?") the movie is a decent enough action romp with a fairly rewarding big battle towards the end. Jedi vs battle droids > Gungans vs battle droids.

Attack of the Clones may have a rather cheesy title, but I suppose it still works. And I rate the movie a perhaps over generous 4 silly excuses to have R2-D2 fly out of a possible 5.

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