If I hadn't seen the other four Star Wars movies, I
would think Attack of the Clones was 90 minutes of shit
and 45 minutes of decent movie. Having seen the others, though,
I think this one is 90 minutes of shit and 45 minutes of really
good movie. It's not a great swashbuckling adventure like the
first one, and it's not a personal story like the second. For
the first two-thirds it's a bad Piers Anthony novel complete with
lousy puns and cheap double entendres. No, wait, it's worse:
it's like seriously discussing a bad Piers Anthony novel with
a high school science fiction club. The last third, though, is
when Yoda kicks ass, the moody teen Anakin shuts the hell up and
the movie finally feels like Star Wars. That's worth the
price of admission.
In his quest to find every annoying child actor in North America,
George Lucas plucked Hayden Christensen from well-deserved obscurity
to play Anakin Skywalker, a teenager with unlimited ambition and
potential to pursue the ultimate adolescent dream: to rule the world
and make his enemies pay. Because of the strength of the force within
him, Christensen is being trained as a Jedi. The Jedis are sort
of like Jesuit priests: celibate, learned and taken to wearing heavy
robes. Except, the Jedis kick more ass. Christensen and his mentor
Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) are assigned to protect Peacenik
Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), whom shadowy forces are trying
to kill because she opposes the creation of an army of the Republic.
Ever since they met in The Phantom Menace, Portman lights
up Christensen's little light saber. You know which one, the
one in his pants. (I'm talking about his wiener). Their love is
forbidden, however. Not in a Jerry Springer sense, like "I'm
Asleepin' Wit' My Baby Daughter and I Gots a Surprise for Her."
It's forbidden by honor. You see, Jedis aren't supposed to get
boners thinking about ladies, but Christensen is like a trailer-park
diabetic at the Country Buffet: desire overwhelms common sense
and he can't help but put his mouth to the spigot of her ice cream
maker and let 'er rip. As soon as he can get Portman alone, Christensen
starts in with the sappy love shit. Their courtship is illustrated
through scenes from the personals section of a free Christian
singles magazine: romantic nights by the fire, rolls in the tall
grass, longing gazes at sunsets, and a kiss interrupted with "No!
We shouldn't do this." If these clichés make you wince,
wait until you hear the dialog. "I'm not afraid to die. I've
been dying a little bit inside every day since you came back,"
barfs up Portman, looking as comfortable as a cat with a hairball.
I say, cut the crap. If you were dying a little bit inside each
day you'd be coughing up clots of blood and these crusty black
spots would appear on your gums. That's how it was with Lester
from A-1 Auto.
During the courtship, Christensen also shows us what a sniveling
prick Skywalker is and how it will lead to his embrace of the
dark side and eventual adoption of cool head gear. He's too big
for his britches, always thinking he knows best, quick to sass
his elders and a hot head. After a tragedy, his anger consumes
him and he does decidedly un-Jedi things. Really, though, that's
how every teenager is, and if this kid can become the ultimate
force of evil, I hate to think what those little shits sitting
in front of the 7-11 will become.
While Christensen is trying to give the story some emotional
impact, MacGregor tracks down Portman's attempted assassin. It
conveniently leads to a distant planet where he discovers a massive
clone army being made for the Republic (the good guys) from the
genetic code of a bounty hunter named Jango Fett (Temoura Morrison).
MacGregor follows him to another planet, where he learns of the
"mysterious" Count Dooku's (Christopher Lee) treasonous
plan thousands of planets to secede from the Republic and build
a giant droid army. (The movie's prologue actually calls Dooku
"mysterious." Isn't that something we should decide
for ourselves?) These events lead to much hemming and hawing by
the Jedis, the senate and, worst of all, Jar Jar Binks. They all
talk and talk, far too much and far too formally, about trade
relations, treaties and the presence of the dark side in the senate.
There is shit like "The day we stop believing in democracy
is the day it dies," and similar aphorisms recited from a
third grade civics book. Binks's "kooky" accent hasn't
become any funnier or endearing over the last three years.
Finally, in the last 45 minutes, everyone shuts up and starts
fighting. It's a long slog to get to, but for the first time in
the movie there is action organic to the plot. The good fight
the bad without pausing to speechify about trade federations.
There's a sort of cheesy Gladiator scene, but even it is ultimately
cool. Portman gets to stop being this pretty girl and she fights.
Christensen finally shows us why he is so highly regarded by
the Jedis. And Yoda and Christopher Lee get into the best tussle
of the movie. I wish more old people got into brawls like this.
Attack of the Clones mostly looks good, but a lot of
the coolest effects in the first 90 minutes are in the background.
We have to listen to senators and Jedis blather on while wishing
we were outside the window, where rockets, speeders and landwalkers
cruise by. A lot of the settings look like the airbrushed covers
of those cheesy sci-fi paperbacks featuring dragons in outer space.
Every ten minutes, Lucas throws in an action sequence, but they
feel like he's throwing us bones to keep us quiet, not anything
organic to the story.
The last 45 minutes are awesome, though, because they've got
light sabers and the big ground battles reminiscent of the beginning
of Empire Strikes Back. Finally, the audience gets to be
in the middle of it all. There are monsters, massive battles,
speeding spaceships and lots of mayhem. It's good versus evil
on the grand scale. There are Darths and Jedis duking it out in
a sea of clones and droids.
The acting throughout the movie is horrible, like someone asked
a group of six-year olds to read the Monroe Doctrine. The actors
appear to be reacting to digital creations that will be patched
in later, even when they're talking to each other. The shit-ass
dialog doesn't help. No actor can say "I wish I could just
wish this all away," and sound like he meant it. Portman
is the most uncomfortable, practically critiquing the clumsiness
of the script every time she speaks.
The plot is also unnecessarily convoluted. Lucas claims these
movies are intended for kids, but who was the last kid you knew
who got fired up about political alliances and trade federations?
When my sister was eight she did, but then these guys from the
U.N. came to the house and beat the bloody hell out of her. But
that shit ain't for the kids, and it ain't for the adults either.
In the first two movies, we cared about Luke Skywalker; the political
crap was secondary. The two recent installments revolve around
the governments and alliances with the characters being secondary,
or at least boring enough to seem so. I don't know about you,
but for me it's harder to emotionally connect to a federation
of hundreds of thousands of planets than it is to one kid up against
Still, this is better than The Phantom Menace, and it
finally gets around to delivering what it's supposed to. If it
would just make us care, then Lucas would have something. Three
For those wondering why my resident sci-fi expert Cousin Jimmy,
who changed his name to Necron, did not review Attack of the
Clones with me: Jimmy is on restriction for trying to suck the
blood out of the family dog. Tuggers will be okay.