Sunday, January 1, 2017

Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones (2002, Movie Review)

       So, my last review of “Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace” wasn't to favorable, but now it’s time to talk about “Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones”, and this is a crappy horse of a different color. On the one hand, this film offers a lot more entertainment and comes closer to what a fun Star Wars movie should be like, but the problems I have with this film are actually worse than its predecessor. I really wish I could say that this film isn’t that bad, but it’s only gotten worse with age, and the problems are so obvious that I just can’t decide if it’s better or worse than “Star Wars 1: The Phantom Menace”. Now I will give credit where it's do and highlight some positive things in the movie, but will that be enough to save a bad film, lets find out.   

      The movie is set ten years after the events of the last film, and things haven’t been going to well. Turns out that the galactic government is all messed up and several factions are breaking away to join the evil trade federation in order create a super army of battle droids and war machines that will force republic planets to bow to any of their demands. What are their demands, what do they hope to gain, honesty they don’t go into much more detail about it. Anyway, the former queen from the last film (Padme Amidala), is taking a lot of action against this movement, which leads to the bad guys recruiting an armored assassin named Jango Fett to silence her once and for all. The threat to her life then calls our two Jedi hero’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker to solve the problem. The film then falls into a very repetitive pattern as we constantly cut back and forth between Anakin and Padme in a relationship, while Obi-Wan investigates the conspiracy. In my review of “The Empire Strikes Back”, I commented that the writing was only slightly repetitive, with no real barring on the pace or the character development. Well guise what, this movie is boring and repetitive story telling on firkin steroids.     

     The first problem with this film right off the bat is that there’s no real story being told here, it’s more like an overload of plot exposition with the occasional action scene interrupting, then back to more meaningless exposition with no real substance to the experience. Instead of setting up a conflict between heroes and villains with humanity and tension, the movie just explains the situation. There are also several details that are left incredibly vague, which makes it even harder to care about what’s going on in the film. Please don’t get the impression that I find this movie boring just because it has a lot of dialog heavy scenes. On the contrary, I could watch the characters from “Game of Thrones” talk about politics all day long, and that would be just as exciting as watching a strait forward action picture. The problem with this movie is that there’s just nothing of intrigue, and its repetitive pattern of jumping back and forth between two irrelevant plot lines just gets boring and predictable very fast.     

     I’m also annoyed that the Force is less of a spiritual element and more of an excuse for characters to display super powers. Even though it’s awesome to see the Jedi in battle, the writers seem to have forgotten about the spiritual elements that made the force so meaningful in early films. It’s also annoying that the Jedi are mostly just characters to be stuck in the background with nothing to say or do. Samuel L Jackson at least gets to shine as Mace Windu, who stands out with an all-around cool factor. Yoda is great as always and thankfully he has a lot more to do in this film. While his new CGI makeover isn’t as good as the original puppet, he dose at least shine in some cool action scenes. Obi-Wan Kenobi is mostly lead by the nose from one plot point to the next with no real character growth to speak of, but Ewan Mcgregor is fantastic in the role. He has the energy and strength of a young warrior, but the same wisdom and charisma of his older self is definitely present.

    The remaining characters unfortunately are a huge problem that way this movie down big time. Padme Amidala is about as boring and dull as female leads get, not even her gallery of attractive clothing can help. Granted, I like Natalie Portman, and she’s proven to be a very talented actress in other films, but she’s given nothing to work with here, and her performance sadly comes off as blank and lifeless, most likely due to bad direction. Her relationship with Anakin is just as empty and lifeless. Both characters have zero chemistry, most of Anakin’s remarks to her should more likely turn her away from him instead of win her over, their conversations are terrible, it never makes any sense why these two are falling in love in the first place, and there’s one scene that really shoots this relationship in the foot, but I’ll talk about that in a moment. I will say that John Williams romantic music track titled "Across the Universe" is actually very good.       

       Now we come to the biggest problem of the whole franchise, and that is Anakin Skywalker himself. I can’t even express in words how much I hate this character, but let’s start by quickly addressing what he does in this film. He whines non-stop, treats everyone like cabbage, advocates for a dictatorship, expresses disdain for all of his pears, including his own master, makes blatantly traderious remarks and commits mass murder. Oh, and by the way, this is our lead hero, the guy where supposed to be cheering for. Obviously, we know this guy is going to become Darth Vader, but the original trilogy built him up as this great man who did noble things, and his fall from grace was a huge shock. There is nothing heroic and honorable about this character, he’s just evil before he becomes a villain, and it’s impossible for me to care about what happens to him. 

       Now let’s address the white elephant in the room. If you’ve seen the movie, you know there eventually comes a moment in which Anakin’s mother dies after getting kidnapped by a group of desert people, to which Anakin responds to by committing mass genocide. No joke, he murders everyone in this camp ground, including all the woman and innocent children. Then he confesses all of this to his girl friend Padme, to which she responds by saying “Oh, we all get a little angry sometimes”, and then she marries him. How could she possibly marry this guy, I mean aside from being boring, dull, lacking any personality or heroic qualities, this guy has the blood of innocent woman and children on his hands, she knows this, but doesn’t care. This isn’t a small nitpick by any means, this is a huge problem that really damages the film, it’s worse than Jar Jar Binks, worse than the biological explanation of the force, it’s just plain terrible and the worst thing to ever happen in the Star Wars franchise.    

      Adding to the laundry list of problems are the villains, who just aren’t given enough involvement, even the Emperor is given a really short cameo. The main antagonist of the movie is called Count Dooku, who’s actually a really cool villain, despite his stupid name. Unfortunately, the movie just doesn’t take advantage of him, and worse, this guy even had more potential then Darth Maul did. We’re told that he was once a proud Jedi master who fell from grace due to mysterious circumstances. We also learn that he taught Qui Gon Jinn, the Jedi who died in the last film, and he’s also revealed to be Yoda’s former apprentice. Holly cow, with a set up like that, this guy could have been the next Darth Vader, but we never get a clear picture of his back story, and he just isn’t developed the way a good villain should be. In the plus column, he’s played by Christopher Lee, my favorite villain actor of all time, and he doesn’t disappoint in the role.  

      Now despite being one of the worst installments in the Star Wars film series, I can at least give this movie a lot of credit for making the bounty hunter Jango Fett a main character. This is really what Boba Fett should have been because while Jango certainly looks cool in his armored suit, he’s actually more than just a cool looking background character. This guy actually contributes to the plot, interacts with the hero’s, and he’s even present in the film more than the actual main antagonist. Yeah, Count Dooku doesn’t show up until the 1 hour 30 min mark, but Jango is there from the beginning, he stays till the end, and half the time he feels like the main villain of the film. Plus, he has some awesome action scenes, the fight between he and Obi-Wan on the platform is one of the coolest duals in the entire series, and it’s just a real treat to finally see a non-Jedi hold his own against a Jedi master. My only problem with Jango is that while he’s functional in the plot, he’s still nothing more than a cool looking obstacle for our hero’s to face, and he could have been a little more than that. There’s a scene when Jango and Obi-wan have a conversation, and it’s the perfect opportunity for an exciting hero/ villain talk. I mean these two are both warriors from opposite backgrounds, there’s so much they can discus, maybe even relate to, but their conversation is unfortunately more of the same boring exposition rambling that just waists time, and adds nothing to either of the characters.  

       At Jango’s side is female assassin named Zam Wesell, who’s a shape shifter of sorts, and kind of cool, but she doesn’t do enough to leave an impression. It’s nice to see Jango’s space ship “Slave 1” in more combat scenes. That chase in the asteroid field was great, and takes full advantage of all the things that this ship can do. Boba Fett is also seen as a child, and the ending sets him on his path to become the armored villain that we’d recognize from the original trilogy, but he has little to do in the film, and is mostly just there for fan service. Speaking of fan service, C-3PO and R2-D2 get a little more involvement in this film and have their own fun little mini adventures that definitely brings back fond memories of the original series.

        The comedic moments in this film aren’t bad either, Obi-Wan has some really funny lines, C-3PO gets into some amusing situations, and even Jango Fett offers a subtle touch of hummer when he twirls his gun like a cowboy. The action scenes are hit and miss, some are exciting, while others just feel like video games that I can’t play. The hero’s exchanging terrible witty banter during the fights, and once again there’s a noticeable lack of suspense. We also have that problem of too many special effects that are there just for the sack of eye candy, but to be fair, some of the locations are impressive looking, and I really like the background textures.    

     Now let’s talk about the Climax, which I have to admit is pretty damn cool at first, then it starts to suck, but let’s go about this one step at time. Just like “The phantom Menace”, the climax is a combination of 4 separate battles, however, in a rare instance, these battles all happen in sequential order instead of bouncing around from one to the other. Things kick off on a high note in the Geonosis Battle Arena where our three hero’s have to fight savage monsters. I have to say, the designs and effects of these creatures are great. Plus, our hero’s have no weapons, so they have to fight these monsters with ingenuity and force techniques, which is great. Then hundreds of Jedi enter the stadium, a massive battle is under way and it’s nothing short of awesome. Seeing all these Jedi go into battle is a thrill, and there’s a terrific variety of action going on.

    Once they leave the arena, we see that there’s an even bigger battle waging outside with lots of war machines, armies going head to head, and at this point I always find myself checking my watch wondering when they’ll wrap this up. Seriously, even though it’s a spectacle, it just wears out its welcome and feels tired by this point. Then everything wraps up with a light saber dual between our two hero’s and the villain, and it’s one of the most generic duals in the series. I hate the way this was shot and edited, with slow motion close ups of the characters swinging their swords, murky lighting and very little excitement, aside from Yoda kicking ass at the end. 

      I really wanted to like this movie, and it’s even a little entreating to watch some of the time, but no amount of action and special effects can change the fact that this is a bad movie. The plot is repetitive, boring and lacks humanity. The characters are either terrible or under developed and the movie just makes one irritating mistake after another. This is undeniably one of the weakest entries in the series, but even at its worst, the film at least provides some entertainment that might make it barley salvageable for some viewers.

               I give Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones 2 ½ stars out of 5.

  To Be Continued...

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