Worth A Look: 17.22%
Pretty Bad: 14.06%
Total Crap: 25.11%
23 reviews, 559 user ratings
|Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones
by Collin Souter
First of all, I want to thank your for bringing Fun back to the movies. The 1970s has often been glorified as the Greatest Decade of All Time for cinema. While I can’t really disagree, the ‘70s did indeed lack a sense of fun that once existed a long time ago. In 1977, “Star Wars”—a terrific homage to Saturday matinee serials, ‘50s sci-fi and Kurosawa—changed all that, in some ways for better and in some ways, for worse. But whatever the case, none of us will ever forget where we were when we first saw it (Arlington Theater, Arlington Heights, IL. I was six). And we wanted more!On top of the world and with permission to take it further, you decided to hire a good pair of screenwriters (Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett) and a new director (Irvin Kershner) to take over for “The Empire Strikes Back” so you could go off with your good buddy Steven Spielberg to develop “Raiders of the Lost Arc.” Good move. The character’s personalities developed further, the 3-act structure worked smashingly well and the Force couldn’t have been explained any better. And, yes, fun as all hell! Best of all, you hooked us again. We wanted more!
"THX Digital sound and some great visual fury...signifying nothing"
“Return of the Jedi”—a title changed from “Revenge of the Jedi,” which, thanks to your dedication and your uncanny instincts, you altered because Jedi’s don’t get revenge—came off as too cute for some, but at the naïve age of 10, I found myself laughing out loud at the antics of the Ewoks, but more importantly, I felt completely spellbound by Luke Skywalker’s conflict with his then-supposed father, Darth Vader. You came back to write with Kasdan (and it showed), but with a new director (Richard Marquand). While not quite as good as “Empire,” the Speederbike chase scene stood out as an all-time classic. It had every patron in the house ducking under their seats. We still wanted more...but you asked us to settle for “Willow” instead.
“Star Wars” remained a part of the American consciousness ever since. It has been parodied, ripped-off, quoted and saluted more than any other franchise in cinema history. Something about that series gelled perfectly. As kids who grew up with the “Star Wars” films grew older, we carried that part of our childhood with us, unable to let it go or to brush it off as some sort of nostalgic embarrassment, a la “The Dukes of Hazard.” And it seemed that we could forgive you for those wretched projects of yours that followed (“Howard the Duck” and “Radioland Murders.”)
Rumors flew around for a whole decade and a half about the possibilities of Episodes 1-3 going before the cameras, but no, you resisted until you had the technology to make them the best films possible. You continued to release and re-release the trilogy on home video in order to keep it fresh in our minds. Then, you made cinematic history yet again, by re-releasing the “Star Wars” trilogy with enhanced special effects and added scenes, something no director had ever done. Finally, a new generation of filmgoers could discover the series the way you meant it to be seen: On the big screen with big sound and with today’s special effects technology.
And it all looked great. It sounded great. It felt great to have it back. Yet, something felt wrong. For instance, why does Greedo all of a sudden shoot at Han first? Doesn’t this take some of the edge of Han’s character? And why is Greedo such a bad shot both times? He’s sitting right in front of him! And why put back the scene you originally deleted with Jabba The Hut? It made very little sense and, frankly, it looked awful. These two obvious mistakes in storytelling seemed beneath you. It seemed as though you wanted to catch our eye while ducking our minds.
Finally, after 16 years of waiting, along comes “Episode 1: The Phantom Menace,” without question, the most eagerly anticipated movie of all time. And…holy cow, does it suck! Sure, with the current technology, you brought your world back to big and glorious life, but everything—the fight scenes, the drama, the humor and the characters—just fell unbelievably flat. Word got out before the film’s release that it wasn’t all that great. You came to the defense, stating, “Well, it’s for kids. It’s not for critics and adults, it’s for kids.” Please, George, show me a kid who knows what all the hubbub is about with the Trade Federation and taxes and all that. Is the traditional opening scroll for that movie supposed to make kids sit up and go, “Hell, yeah, this movie will rule!”
After about 20 years of being out of the game as both a writer and director, you seemed to have lost your instincts as a storyteller with a mythology so dense, meticulous and compelling that you wouldn’t need so much eye candy in order to keep us spellbound. As good as “Phantom Menace” looked, it lost a certain something that made the other three so special. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but I think I have it now.
The technology, which you have embraced, has all but consumed you as a storyteller. With “Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” I would have hoped you had learned from your mistakes on “Phantom Menace”—about which your truest fans were more than vocal—and perhaps hire a different screenwriter and director, as you did with “Empire” and “Jedi.” With this movie you kept insisting to us that it would be “darker,” concentrating on Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace, and that it would be a (gasp!) teen love story.
But, George, here’s your problem: You can’t do dark. You don’t have it in you. When you want dark, you go and hire dark. You don’t hire the guy who wrote “The Indiana Jones Chronicles.” I’ve seen episodes of “Fraggle Rock” that felt more dark than “Episode II.” Really, George, anybody who creates a character as grating and disgustingly cute as Jar Jar Binks, and actually leaves it in the movie has no business trying to convey Anakin’s tormented soul.
As for the love story, I would think bringing someone of Kasdan’s stature to make this teenage love story believable and interesting would be a good idea. Where did Anakin’s dialogue during his declaration of love to Padme Amidala come from? A Meat Loaf song? The love between them feels way too forced and way too convenient, even for a "Star Wars" movie. It brings back those moments of unintended laughter that I remember feeling when Anakin said goodbye to his mother in “Episode I.” And why waste Hayden Christensen and the great Natalie Portman for scenes such as these? Why not just hire Mandy Moore and Shane West to do it if they’re going to be this bad? (And why have Amidala change her hairstyle every other frame? How high-maintenance is this chick that she has to sit in front of a mirror for an hour before she can go talk to Anakin?)
Now, I know a lot of “Star Wars” fans will come to your defense saying, “Hey, lighten up, it’s a ‘Star Wars’ movie. The dialogue has never been great and neither has the acting.” Okay, fine, there certainly exists some truth in that. But again, let me remind you of my problem with the series as it stands: It has become all about the noise and less about the story. The possibilities have become limitless and you have filled the screens with so much dazzling detail that I forgot what a “Star Wars” movie originally looked like and felt like.
Because of this, I felt completely disconnected from everything. With the original trilogy, you had a limit. You couldn’t do it all, so you had to work with what you had. Obviously, the budget went up a few notches with each film, so each film looked a little more grand in scope than the last. Fine. But everything still felt real. Yoda sat right there next to Luke Skywalker. Those creatures in the Cantina bar and in Jabba’s lair existed before our eyes. The settings looked outlandish, yet natural. Almost everything was on the set and in front of the camera. It took us away and, because of that, we could certainly forgive an awkward line of dialogue here and a vacant expression on Mark Hamil’s face there.
Here, though, you didn’t convince me that Yoda or any of the other creatures truly existed. It felt as though you gave them the best life you could off your laptop. Yoda has about as much life and blood pulsing though his veins as the dancing baby on “Ally McBeal.” This has always been my problem with CG effects in general, and it certainly doesn’t help here. Most of your actors give stilted performances because they are acting in front of a green screen. True, the screen was blue a long, long time ago, but now more than ever, I miss the days of creature shops and puppetry. It at least gave your actors something to go on.
With “Episode II,” the beauty of your other world is there, but it overwhelms every single little thing. We can only be in awe for so long before we realize we are being bombarded at the expense of good storytelling. When you aren’t trying to sell us some scenery, we’re left with your version of drama, and none of it works. You cut scenes too quickly and settle for third-best from your actors. When that fails, you bring in the Roger Dean paintings and have thousands upon thousands of ships fly around it. When that fails, you actually bring back Jar Jar Binks, much to the utter dismay of your loyal fans. Plus, you now seem to think that by having thousands upon thousands of people/droids fighting in a scene, that somehow makes it better, more spectacular. It doesn’t. It just makes for more noise.
I guess what I’m trying to say, George, is that you seem to be hell-bent on advancing the state of cinema by way of CG and Digital Projection, that I’m left here wondering what ever happened to the “Star Wars” series I once knew. You clearly don’t seem to care that you’re in danger of creating a series that feels hopelessly inconsistent, so I have to wonder if you truly care about telling a good, cohesive story. Or do you just want to show us where all that money you made has gone? We know you have the technology. We get it.
“Episode III” promises to be even darker and, George, I beg you to consider hiring some good, creative people to help you out with it. It seems as though you have surrounded yourself with a bunch of yes-men, people who don’t want to say anything the least bit critical to you for fear they will lose their jobs. You have said in the press that you don’t listen to what fans say about your films. Who will you listen to? I know you won’t listen to internet critics, and that’s fine. Your movie is critic-proof. Good for you, seriously. But I don’t think it should be committee-proof. Remember, George: You’re your own worst critic.A bewildered, yet hopeful, fan. Collin Souter.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5827&reviewer=233
originally posted: 05/17/02 15:08:55