Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones Review
And so Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones is finally upon us. All of the hype, or lack of it, and all of the expectations from fans that this will be the 'darker, better' part of Lucas' new trilogy has created an 'underground' buzz for this latest episode of the saga. The film is closer to an animation, in fact at times there is little to visually distinguish Attack Of The Clones from something such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within or indeed Shrek.
Lucas worried the majority of his fanbase three years ago with Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, a film that earned him considerable criticism for being out of touch with modern cinema and for pandering to heavy commercialism as opposed to crafting out another epic slice of fantasy the fans so craved. The film carried an almost overbearing reliance upon CGI special effects, and because of this the mystique of the previous trilogy had subverted the power of the original films. Whereas A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi were human stories depicted amongst wondrous fantastical landscapes, The Phantom Menace, and now Attack Of The Clones are mere spectacles, flexing Lucas's Industrial, Light & Magic muscle. However, Attack Of The Clones suggests Lucas is much more of a shrewd moviemaker than he lets on.
Firstly, fans will fall over themselves to be impressed with Episode II. There's enough plot revelations, humourous in-jokes and 'saga' situations to ensure that geek fans will be chewing over the plot discussions until Episode III arrives. If you don't consider yourself one of these types of fans, but do consider yourself someone who adored the original trilogy, then you will be disappointed. The film moves along at a slick pace, but is nothing more than a collection of set-piece video-game cut-scenes, complete with the typical banal conversations and also with plotting bereft of any beauty. There are sequences from the original trilogy that contain some of the most startling imagery of the latter twentieth-century. Yet Attack Of The Clones, because of its style-over-substance mainstream approach to film-making, will be all but forgetting when the next blockbuster epic is released, incorporating the latest brand of CGI effects that will render it instantly redundant. Indeed, it looks certain that Sam Raimi's Spider-Man will become the box-office king of 2002.
It's possible that the original trilogy of films succeeded because the characters were more humane. They weren't super-beings, they were humans struggling to battle an evil empire. Attack Of The Clones lacks any character that can compete for the audience's hearts with Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Leia, Chewbacca or Lando Calrissian. Even the younger version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, played in a terrible Alec Guinness-imitation by Ewan McGregor, lacks any charm or grace of the more-aged version of the man. Rather than depicting a battle between David versus Goliath or Flash Gordon versus Ming The Merciless, Attack Of The Clones is just a clash of two bureaucratic superhero tribes. In his haste to provide the 'show of all shows', Lucas has glossed over a screenplay that treats his characters as if they are equal with, if not less important than the sequences they appear in, and this never appeared to be his policy in the original trilogy. We cared about Luke Skywalker, and yet we hold no care towards Anakin Skywalker, who rather than represent a fascist character drawn towards the dark side because of an evil streak, presents the young man as a spoilt adolescent struggling to cope with growing up. It just seems impossible to imagine that Anakin, as played by Hayden Christensen, will ever become Darth Vadar.
That might be the film's major problem, in that it doesn't seem to adequately serve as a preceding episode to the original series. George has a lot of work on his hands with Episode III to ensure that both trilogies communicate in the same language. So far, they seem to stare at each other in bafflement. Also, you'd think that Lucas would have at least maintained plot continuity, as some scenes that occur in Episode IV: A New Hope have clearly been negated in Attack Of The Clones. No doubt George will spend the next three years reading internet forums about the film and its inconsistencies just so he can appease fans for the next film, and in turn completely forgetting about the remaining portion of his audience. Considering Boba-Fett and his father Jango-Fett are considered to be major characters in the film, one must question why Boba-Fett is only treated as a minor supporting-character in Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. Also, why the hell hasn't Queen Amidala appeared to age at all in ten years?
In terms of acting, the stars seem subdued and unsure as to whether to take the film ultra-seriously or treat it like the joke it's become. Ewan McGregor has frequently moaned about the extreme usage of blue-screen technology in the films, and he doesn't even have veteran Liam Neeson to bounce off in this film. Hayden Christensen is so dull as young Anakin that it's tempting to be cynical and wonder whether Lucas cast him purely for his pin-up looks. Christensen represents everything that is wrong with the new film, and he has even less charisma than Yoda, despite the green Jedi master being brought to the screen completely in CGI for the first time. Out of nowhere, Christopher Lee has managed to effectively confirm his legendary villainous status by appearing in both Attack Of The Clones and The Fellowship Of The Ring, and he wipes the floor with his fellow actors.
Despite all of these criticisms, you will enjoy the film for the most part, as long as you don't expect to feel the same way you did whilst watching the original trilogy as a kid. Some people will pay to see this five times or more in the next week, whereas others will not even want to see Episode III based on this. Rather than be excited about how the saga will tie up in three years time, a more interesting story might centre on the saga of Star Wars DVDs, and the journey that fans will have to endure before George gives them the DVDs they want. Maybe there will be a special edition version of Attack Of The Clones one day too, in which Lucas gives the film a beginning, middle and an end.