Friday, June 19, 2015
Summer of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Directed by George Lucas and written by Lucas and Jonathan Hale, Attack of the Clones (Star Wars: Episode II) is the story of a growing dissension between many galaxies breaking away from the Galactic Republic as the Jedis cope with a growing conflict as it marks the beginning of the Clone Wars. The film would also explore Anakin Skywalker’s growth as a Jedi knight as well as the beginning of his own descent where he copes with his emotions and duty. Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Temura Morrison, Ian McDiarmid, and the voice of Frank Oz as Yoda. Attack of the Clones is an enthralling but very sappy and bloated film from George Lucas.
A decade after a dispute between the trade federation and the planet of Naboo, the Galactic Republic learns that members of the trade federation and other star systems are seceding from the Republic. The government asks the Jedi to step in following an assassination attempt on Naboo’s former queen Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) where Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are given the job where Kenobi would follow the trail of a mysterious assassin while Skywalker accompanies Padme home where the two fall for each other. Just as the Galactic Senate is to vote on whether or not it should build an army to respond to this separatist movement, Skywalker would also begin his own descent as he starts to have nightmares about his own mother Shmi (Pernilla August) who is captured in Tatooine by Tusken raiders.
While the premise is intriguing, the problem is that George Lucas and Jonathan Hale have no idea what story it wants to tell as there’s this sense of mystery into the identity of the assassins trying to kill Amidala and who they’re working for but there’s also this story of political turmoil and a love story. It is clear that Lucas and Hale want to put in so much there’s no consistency into what it wants to do which would eventually culminate into this battle between separatist robot forces and an army full of clones. The narrative would often move back and forth for much of its second half that plays into Obi-Wan’s discovery of a bounty hunter named Jango Fett (Temura Morrison) and who is he working for while the other narrative would follow Anakin and Padme in their relationship while they travel to Tatooine to find Anakin’s mother.
Though its third act would have a strong outcome which would start the Clone Wars, there are still some issues as it relates to some of the dialogue as it is often very poor. The characterization of Anakin is intended as someone who is quite arrogant and immature in his own powers but some of the issues with that isn’t just due to the dialogue but also in the development of who he is and his struggle to find good in a world that is very complicated. It’s a characterization that has promise but it’s execution however isn’t very good as Lucas wants to play into his descent in a major way but it comes off as annoying and childish. Even characters like Obi-Wan and Padme are stifled by the dialogue while the script’s attempt at ambiguity is mishandled in not just the way Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is portrayed but also in the main antagonist in a former Jedi-turned-Sith lord in Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) as the latter would recite dialogue about something that the audience seem to already know but that the Jedi doesn’t know. It’s just a bad attempt at baiting while a lot of the film’s discussions on politics comes across as very heavy-handed and overly liberal.
Lucas’ direction is quite vast as it is expected to be in the world that he create where it set in multiple planets to play into a galaxy coming undone by a conflict that is happening. Most notably in sequences that play into a world where things are complicated and the only resolution for this is war as the film’s climax is quite spectacular to play into not just an old world order in the Jedi fighting against the machines but also the new world order they have to be part of with the clones that they unknowingly had ordered against this separatist threat. Lucas does manage to keep some of the elements of suspense under control with some unique compositions and camera angles though much of it is presented with everyone acting behind a green screen surrounded by visual effects which does become overkill at times.
With some of the film shot on location in Spain and Lake Como, Italy for scenes set in Naboo and parts of Tunisia as Tatooine, Lucas does manage to show a world that is interesting but the visuals don’t help some of the drawbacks in the scenes involving the growing yet forbidden romance between Anakin and Padme. Lucas clearly has no idea in how to flesh out some of the dramatic elements where it sometimes comes off as very sappy and forced while having some of the dialogue in the film just makes things worse. Even much of the film’s politics is poorly handled where Lucas’ attempt at ambiguity isn’t very good as it is obvious into who the real villain is. Though things do pick up in its third act that includes a long-awaited moment where the Jedi master Yoda (the voice of Frank Oz) finally showcases his full skills in the Force. Overall, Lucas creates a visually-exciting but very messy film about a group of peacekeepers dealing with a conflict that had been building for years.
Cinematographer David Tattersall does excellent work with the cinematography to play into some of the interior lights in some of the settings including the interior in the caves at the desert planet of Geneosis as well as the look of the planet of Coruscant at night. Editor/sound designer Ben Burtt and sound editor Matthew Wood, with additional editing by George Lucas, do superb work with the editing with its approach to fast-paced rhythmic cuts for the action though some of the transition wipes do get overused while the sound work is amazing to play into the sense of chaos and the sound effects that are used in the film. Production designer Gavin Bocquet, with set decorator Peter Walpole and supervising art director Peter Russell, does brilliant work with the set design from the interior look of the Jedi council room to the secret home where Padme and Anakin would live in at Naboo.
Costume designer Trisha Biggar does fantastic work with the costumes from some of the lavish clothes that Padme wears to the robes of the Jedi. Makeup supervisor Lesley Vanderwalt does terrific work with the makeup of some of the alien characters including a few of the Jedis along with the look of Naboo‘s new queen. Visual effects supervisors Pablo Helman, John Knoll, and Dennis Muren do some spectacular with the visual effects from the film‘s climatic battle scene as well as the design of some of the planets though much of it is overkill in terms of the fact that it feels like it‘s more artificial rather than something that is supposed to look real. The film’s music by John Williams is great as it features some very bombastic themes to play into its sense of adventure along with scenes that play into its suspense though the romantic themes aren’t very memorable.
The casting by Robin Gurland is wonderful as it features some notable small appearances from Jay Laga’aia as Padme’s security chief, Veronica Segura as Padme’s decoy, Leeanna Walsman as the assassin Zam Wesell, Oliver Ford Davies as Naboo governor Sio Bibble, Ayesha Dharker as the new queen of Naboo, Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker, Jack Thompson as Shmi’s husband Cliegg Lars, Joel Edgerton as Cliegg’s son Owen, Bonnie Piesse as Owen’s girlfriend Beru, and Rose Byrne as Padme’s handmaiden Dorme. Other notable performances in the voice department feature Silas Carson in a dual role as trade federation leader Nute Gunray and as the Jedi master Ki-Adi-Mundi in full makeup, Ron Falk as an old friend of Obi-Wan in Dexter, Anthony Phelan as Kamino’s prime minister, and Frank Oz in a phenomenal performance as Yoda who would be the film’s real scene-stealer.
Then there’s Jar-Jar Binks, as the character who annoyed everyone in the previous film, is thankfully used to a minimum where he would provide a key moment that would set the stage for the Clone Wars as Ahmed Best was able to make him tolerable despite being an idiot. Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker are fantastic in the respective roles as the droids C-3P0 and R2-D2 where the former is presented in finished form while he finds himself in a droid battle while Baker provides some humor for the latter. Daniel Logan is terrible as Jango Fett’s young son Boba as he spends much of the film pouting and making stink faces while Temura Morrison is pretty good as the bounty hunter Jango Fett who provided the people of Kamino his blood to make the clone army. Christopher Lee is brilliant as Count Dooku as a former Jedi who has become a Sith lord as he helped organize the separatist movement against the Republic.
Ian McDiarmid is excellent as Chancellor Palpatine as the Republic’s leader who is trying to deal with separatist movement where he is later given emergency powers that would give him more control of what he wants to do as well as behind the scenes into his true identity. Samuel L. Jackson is fantastic as Jedi master Mace Windu who aids Yoda in what is happening with the Jedi as he would finally showcase his skills against Windu and the droid army. Natalie Portman is quite good as Padme Amidala despite some of the awful dialogue she had to recite while giving Padme a bit of an edge in dealing with the droids while looking very sexy in that tight, white thing she is wearing. Hayden Christensen is fucking atrocious as Anakin Skywalker where much of Christensen’s acting has him trying to emote as if he’s about to fart while being very whiny and wooden as it is clear that it’s not just the dialogue that hurts him but it’s also the fact that he just plainly fucking sucks. Finally, there’s Ewan McGregor in a superb performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi as the Jedi master who is tasked to track down Jango Fett where he would make a discovery that would set the course for the Clone Wars.
Attack of the Clones is a decent but very messy film from George Lucas. While it does feature some amazing visual effects and some good performances from its cast. It is a film that showcases what happens when visual effects would overwhelm the story to a point while the film is also hindered by its poor writing and some horrific acting. In the end, Attack of the Clones is a terrible film from George Lucas.
Star Wars Films: Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back - Return of the Jedi - The Phantom Menace - Revenge of the Sith - The Force Awakens - The Last Jedi - The Rise of Skywalker
Related: Holiday Special - Caravan of Courage - The Battle for Endor - The Clone Wars - Fanboys - The People vs. George Lucas
Star Wars Anthology Films: Rogue One - Solo - (Untitled Star Wars Anthology Film)
George Lucas Films: THX 1138 - (American Graffiti)
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