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Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Reviewed by Martin Thomas, © 2002

Format: Movie
By:   George Lucas (emperor)
Genre:   Science Fiction
Released:   May 16, 2002
Review Date:   May 14, 2002
Audience Rating:   Rated PG
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

It began
with the STAR WARS
trilogy, the most beloved and
money-making movie franchise of all
time. It had spurred the imaginations of the
populace in such a way as almost become a religion
unto itself, even long after its third and final chapter. After ten
years the creator George Lucas, who had done little since then, teased
the hungry public with the notion that he might be thinking of making more
STAR WARS movies. Perhaps prequels, as the story had already pretty much
been told.

Years later,
he finally announced
that he would indeed make more
STAR WARS movies, though not before
frustrating the people further by re-releasing the first
three movies with unnecessary special effects. In 1999, a year which
contained many of the greatest movies of the last couple decades, Lucas
released STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE, perhaps one of
the worst movies of the year.

Now, Lucas
is releasing STAR WARS
EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES with
the hope of returning the franchise to its former
glory. Perhaps in the wake of such critically acclaimed
genre movies as THE MATRIX, LORD OF THE RINGS, and most recently
SPIDER-MAN raising the bar on such films, STAR WARS can still measure up.
Maybe EPISODE II will avoid the mistakes of EPISODE I...

I won't hold you in suspense on this one: Attack of the Clones does not suck!
...but it really isn't a very good movie.

There's twice as much action as in Episode I, and the light saber battles are more exciting.
...but it really isn't a very good movie.

More of the Star Wars mythos is revealed, including the significance of Boba Fett.
...but it really isn't a very good movie.

Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) is a much better actor than Jake Lloyd.
...but it really isn't a very good movie.

Jar Jar Binks is on screen less than 10 minutes.
...but it really isn't a very good movie.

Samuel Jackson has a lot more screen time and you finally get to see him kick some ass!
...but it really isn't a very good movie.

There's a huge payoff at the end that will leave you clamoring for Episode III .
...but it really isn't a very good movie.

Sorry about all the counter-Jedi mind tricks, but either my last statement is true or these movies have a way of spinning their own Jedi mind tricks on the audience. I wasn't the only one to leave the theater feeling that I'd seen a flawed but thoroughly entertaining movie, only to look back a day later and wonder if I'd been hoodwinked. Attack of the Clones is definitely better than The Phantom Menace—then again, what movie not starring Martin Lawrence isn't?—but the structures of the two movies are very similar.

It has always been my contention that the only reason people liked the pod race scene in Phantom Menace was because it came after the movie spent the first hour boring us to tears. This time around the 'pod race' is an action sequence where two Jedi knights in a speeder chase an assassin through a bustling city. It ends with the lamest, most throwaway use of a Jedi mind trick yet (beside mine), a light saber-severed hand... and THEN it goes on to bore you for the next hour plus. Episode II also ends with a huge battle scene, this time much more engaging than two CGI armies fighting against a Teletubbies-ish background. And manages to avoid interrupting the battle with painfully unfunny scenes of Jar Jar's slapstick... by interrupting the battle with painfully unfunny scenes of C3PO's slapstick...

*Sigh* Oh well.

You don't have to worry about me dropping spoilers for what happens in between because... I, uh, really couldn't figure it out. I'm no dumbass. I know it's all about war, corruption, subterfuge, EEE-ville, and the seizing of power, but when the film was done I wasn't sure exactly who was going to war with whom or why... Or maybe I just didn't care.

However, in watching Episodes I & II there were some important things I've learned:

Star Wars took place neither "A long, long time ago" nor "in a galaxy far, far away."

If so, why all the 20th century Earth references?! In Attack of the Clones, there's a scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi goes looking for information in a 50s-'style' diner—meaning it has that unauthentic polished look, like a Johnny Rockets. If Fonzie had tapped a jukebox in the background you would not have noticed. Not to mention how much all the cities look like there were lifted from the pages of Dinotopia or Roger Dean's Yes album covers. As well as all bastardized Japanese, Native American, and Gypsy names the characters have (Obi-Wan, Qui Gon Jinn, Skywalker, Jango Fett). There's even a villain named "Nute Gunray," which sounds a tad too much like Newt Gringrich... coincidence?... subtlety? And lest I forget, the aliens that talk like circa-1942 racial slur cartoon characters; the bucktoothed Jap-Nemoidians; the greedy Jew-Watto the slave trader; the West Indian sambo-Jar Jar Binks.

And don't try to explain any of this away as simple unoriginality... that's too obvious.

Mark Hammill is not a bad actor.

...Or at least not as bad as you all make him out to be. Remember, it was through the eyes of Luke Skywalker that we all came to know and love the Star Wars universe. Sure, later we were Han Solo and viewed the love triangle from a different perspective, but X-Wings and Ewoks be damned, it was always the characters that we really cared about. It's the only thing that keeps any series alive. Now, we're already two chapters into these prequels and there is yet to be one character who elicits sympathy—or even shows a steady pulse.

I don't know if it's the bad writing (how many times can you repeat the line "I've got a bad feeling about this" and keep it fresh?) or poor direction, but not one of these veteran actors is able to deliver their dialogue convincingly. Only Hayden Christensen (whom you would never in any other circumstance refer to as a good actor) speaks with any passion. It's nice to know that he's guaranteed not to die in the next movie.

Being a Jedi sucks!!

Yeah, up to now it looked like it was all telekinesis, wicked fencing skills and Hong Kong acrobatics, but there are aspects to being a Jedi knight that don't get covered in the brochure: The policy that you can't have sex with women, I think, is a biggie. Hell, the last guy they hired was even the product of a virgin birth! Recent problems with the Catholic Church aside, this is quite humorous considering the "wise" Jedi Council can't quite figure out why their ranks are thinning.

When a Jedi is expecting a fight he keeps his light saber clipped to his belt. Any other time it must be tucked deeply up the rectum; at least, that's the way they all act. They don't seem to know it, but it is possible to be stoic and still have a semblance of a personality. Check out Mr. Spock, or Quai-Chang Caine form the old Kung Fu TV series. The only time a Jedi even smiles is when he's being condescending, which they do a whooooole lot. The last thing you want is for one of them to tell a joke... because they really... really... suck at it.

The majority of your tenure is spent calling people "master" or putting a younger Jedi in his place. There is never a sentence out of Obi-Wan's mouth to Anakin in which he doesn't remind him that he's only a lowly apprentice. It's a true sign of insecurity and becomes annoying fast. One usually has to join a frat to enjoy that level of constant humiliation. Believe me, any Jedi who flips to the Dark Side has been more than provoked.

Perhaps worst of all is that your "grand master" is a wrinkled green muppet who speaks in fragmented sentences. It was cute back in The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda was kickin' the knowledge (who doesn't remember, "There is no 'try.' Only 'do' or 'do not'"?), but this time the writers show up empty handed. Couldn't any of them have listened to a Tony Robbins tape, popped a fortune cookie, or watched an episode of the aforementioned Kung Fu? Without those pearls of wisdom, most irritating, Yoda is.


****SPOILER ALERT!!!- TURN BACK NOW!*****

...Speaking of Yoda...

If you do leave the movie feeling you enjoyed it, it will be solely because of the last 40 minutes in which there's a massive battle between all the Jedi knights and... um, the 'bad guys' (*shrug*). Especially the last 10 minutes, when Master Yoda whips out his light saber and throws down. I saw this movie in a theater full of jaded critics and we all cheered from the edges of our seats during this scene.

Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu) gets the second coolest scene where he lops off the head of Boba Fett's dad, thus elevating Jimmy Smits to the "Ethnic Actor in a Glorified Cameo" position. The NAACP can now fax all of its paperwork over to LULAC. Viva Latino America!

The biggest revelation come when Obi-Wan discovers that the entire army of proto-Stormtroopers is made up of clones of Jango Fett. Noteworthy only because they don't look like him but Queen (now Senator) Amidala's bodyguard, which no one (including the filmmakers) seems to notice. Look for it.

**** SPOILER SEQUENCE TERMINATED****

I assume someone within Skywalker Ranch (who was probably fired right afterward) got the balls to go right to George Lucas and point out his most fatal mistakes in Episode I. Obviously, he or she was heard. Painful humor misfires and overuse of CGI effects aside, those of you who camped out for tickets (get a shrink and go to Fandango.com next time), or held on tight and prayed to your action figures, can feel relieved when you leave the theater. You can hold your head high as you pass the naysayers, secure in the knowledge that Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is so better than Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace!

...

...but it really isn't a very good movie.


RevolutionSF contributor Martin Thomas is a retired comic book artist living out his remaining years hosting two movie review TV shows down in Austin, Texas.

 
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