Comfortable and Furious

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

“Let He Who Lives At Skywalker Ranch Cast Out The First Stone.”

Written and Directed by Geroge “Have You Seen My Neck” Lucas

Starring Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
-Natalie Portman as Senator Amidala
-Ewan McGregor as Obe Won Kenobe
-Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
-Emmanuel Lewis as Yoda

Stiff acting, corny love story and out of control computer graphics aside, Attack Of the Clones is a decent Star Wars movie, nowhere near as good as the first three, but several orders of magnitude better than the last one. Clones however does pose an interesting question. Are people as stupid as I fear them to be? George Lucas and everyone who interviews the neck-less one, always talks about how the Star Wars movies are such an ingrained part of our culture, how they are our modern myth. I’m not debating that. What I am going to bitch and yell about is this; does anyone involved with the movies realize this? Or do they just rely on the fact that your average movie viewer really doesn’t give a shit about plot holes so large you could drive the Millennium Falcon through them? For instance, if they made a movie about Jesus, and said his father’s name was Hank, wouldn’t somebody besides me question this? Well, I guess most Christians are pretty nit-picky. So what would Jesus do? Probably a review similar to this.

I talked an awful lot of shit in my review of the Phantom Menace, a movie where one third of the screen time is given to a six year old child and another third to the despicable, retarded, insulting and ultimately boring Jar-Jar Binks. A movie that I strongly feel should never have been made, especially in light of Attack Of The Clones. I don’t have nearly as much shit to talk about Episode II. The main reason being, that it doesn’t completely suck ass like The Phantom Menace did. Was it perfect? Nope. Was it as good as any of the first three (And as my Mom says, “real”) Star Wars movies? Nope. Was it a great movie? Nope. Did it have great parts? Yes. Yes it did. And that is important. In The Phantom Gayness, as far as I could tell, there was one great scene. That was the light saber battle between Darth Maul and the two Jedis. Honestly, I’m not even sure if that scene was all that great. Attack Of The Clones has a number of really great scenes, a few of which even made me remember why I like Star Wars so much in the first place. Like when Ode Won fights Jango Fett. On the flipside of that coin, Clones had a lot of scenes which were reminiscent of Phantom, including three that I counted with Jar-Jar. That means not only were those scenes stupid, but they were insulting, too.

George Lucas is mad with power. There is no question about that anymore. The guy has the money and the clout to literally do whatever it is he wants on screen. The trouble is, he is a crappy director, totally out of touch with reality and firmly holding onto a belief that since he is doing something, that something is always good. Let’s break all this down. Directing: hone your skill, man. How many films do you think George Lucas directed between 1977 and 1999? Right, zero. While Lucas is nowhere near as rusty as he was in The Phantom Gay Mass, there aren’t going to be a lot of film students watching Clones and saying, “I knew that was how Fellini did it, I just wasn’t sure why.” Towards the very beginning of the movie there is this incredibly painful scene where Senator Padmé Amidala (Portman), Senator Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (McDiarmid) and a bunch of stupid looking green and blue monsters are having a discussion concerning what to do about all the planets that are backing out of the Republic.

When I begin teaching film class, I am going to use this scene as an example of when to alter a script because what is written sounds stupid when it is spoken. I’ll also tell the students not to get the guy who wrote The Scorpion King to co-write your script. Since I’m not a real critic, I can’t rewind the tape and tell you word for word what happened, but McDiarmid, who normally looks and sounds like a competent actor, chokes over a few phrases. It is just a poorly directed scene all around. Plus, many of the “love story” scenes play like Lucas made Portman and Christensen watch General Hospital for a week before shooting.

Next: Lucas is out of touch with reality. He really does live in a fantasy world. I’ll start with the love story. Anakin Skywalker was too young in The Phallic Menace. He was just too fucking young! This gets back to what I talked about earlier, the fact that people are for the most part dumb and have short attention spans and poor memories. But seriously, does anyone actually believe that there is a ten-year age difference between Anakin and Amidala? Anyone? Here’s a fun fact, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin, were born in the same year! 1981, look it up. So, that whole thing is really dumb and just lends more credibility to my theory that The Phantom Man’s Ass should have never been made.

It’s not just that. Lucas is also way out of touch for a whole bunch more reasons. First, why would a queen be elected? Why even bother to call her a queen? And what was with all the pro-democracy crap? They’re not even on this fucking planet. And term limits? God Almighty that was lame. But there is more.

Why on earth would he put an anti-smoking ad in the middle of Clones? Was this necessary? Especially in light of the fact that the actor delivering the anti-smoking message is none other than Ewan McGregor. A guy who not only smokes, but who turned on an entire generation to the joys of heroin. See Trainspotting. Recently, I was reading an interview with a hero of mine, Mike Watt. He plays bass. Anyway, they were asking him why he quit drinking and his answer was basically like, “I don’t want a bunch of kids who look up to me seeing me drunk.” Fuck that shit! I swear to God, the gun goes in my mouth the day I turn thirty. Why does everything have to always be positive? More importantly, why would you tarnish a movie, especially a movie that takes place in another fucking galaxy, with some bullshit politically correct message? That scene angered me so much that I want to start smoking again.

Just to wreck it for you if you still haven’t seen Clones, some weird guy at a bar offers Obe Won some “Death Sticks.” Obe Won proceeds to use the Jedi mind trick on the “dealer” and gets the guy to leave the bar. I think the line is, “you don’t want to sell me death sticks.” To which the guy answers, “I don’t want to sell you death sticks.” Stupid. Now, I am not only saying that we all should have known how soft and kid-friendly Lucas had gotten when he made Greedo shoot first, but does anybody besides me remember how bad ass it was in the first Star Wars when old Ben used the Jedi mind trick on the storm troopers who were looking for the Droids? Anyone?

“And God said to Noah, gather four or five beasts of each kind just to be safe, and put them in your ark.”

Now we get onto my favorite subject; namely attacking George Lucas for thinking that just because technically you can do something, means you should, when more often the opposite is true. Learn a little restraint! I’ll admit right now that watching Phantom softened me up for Clones. Otherwise I would be complaining about how everything was constantly beeping and blinking. Also, how nearly every single CGI character had some annoying and stupid comment or catchphrase to make. That seems to be just how Lucas does business. If you watch the (totally unnecessary) remake of the first Star Wars, you will notice the genesis of this trend. But that is not really the overkill that got to me this time around.

What rubbed me wrong was the fight scene in the coliseum. I can already hear the clickety clack of you fan boy’s keyboards coming to life to send me nasty emails. Before you do, hear me out. (Although I have to admit that I cannot wait for your flood of, “You are so stupud! Kit Fisto [Actual character from the movie] is not a veiled reference to fisting children.”) Aside from the fact that the big Jedi – Droid battle in the coliseum variously ripped off Gladiator, Men In Black, and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, that particular scene also suffered from Braveheart Disorder. What that means is that there is so much going on that the viewer cannot possibly focus on anything. Also, that so many extras are being used that there is no way to really direct a scene that large. Plus, extras can’t act. If you do look closely at Braveheart and Attack Of The Clones, you will see a bunch of guys in th background with pugil sticks pushing at the air in a real lazy manner.

Maybe it is just me, but wouldn’t you rather make the greatest scene you possibly could, and not just settle for the busiest, highest tech and the most costly? Then again, we all know what Joseph Stalin said, “Sometimes quantity is quality.”

My last major gripe, aside from the fact that a quarter of the movie looked like AI and that the first half was pretty damn boring, is what the fuck are R2-D2 and C3PO doing in these movies? It was bad enough that they were in The Phantom Payoff, but now why are they in Clones? Ask yourself this; would you have enjoyed the movie any less if R2 had been another droid? Say T5-W1? Would you have liked the movie any less if C3PO hadn’t gotten his head stuck on a battle droid? And again, to reiterate add to what I said in my review from the last Star Wars movie;

  1. Darth Vadar being from Tatooine is stupid. It was stupid in Phantom when he was just a little kid, and it is more stupid now that he is “all grown up”. The whole scenario is laziness on Lucas’ part. Remember, in the first Star Wars, Ben talks about how he hid Luke on Tatooine to protect him from Vadar. In Attack Of The Clones we see Vadar actually go to the house where Luke grows and up and he meets Luke’s future step parents! Again, it must be that Lucas is banking on the fact that the average person is so stupid they would never think these things through. And yes, I wish I had better things to do with my time, too.
  2. Darth Vadar building C3P0 is really, really stupid. To quote one of my detractors, “We’ve yet to see the answer to why the droids and Vader seem to have memory lapses.” To put it more Ruthlessly, how the fuck is Lucas going to get himself out of this one? Whatever the eventual resolution is, I have a prediction. It will be dumb.
  3. Darth Vadar knowing who R2-D2 is – – – See above.

In all fairness, there were some great things about Attack Of The Clones. Chief among them was the awesome fight scene between Obe Won Kenobe and Jango Fett. This scene not only woke me up (the first half was SLOW) but it made me remember why I love Star Wars so much. I almost even felt like buying some action figures. This scene had everything. A cool set, no Jar-Jar, a Jedi fighting a bounty hunter and a cool ship. Seriously and all, this was the highlight of the movie. Also of great note, is that it is the only action sequence from either of the last two movies where nothing is beeping or twirling or blinking in the background. Nice.

Also of note, is the fact that Lucas put Natalie Portman in a tight half shirt and even tighter pants for the second half of Clones. I guess all my gay-baiting paid off. Go George!

There were some well shot, almost surreal scenes during the final big battle between the clones and the battle droids. At first it was just complete chaos and CGI overkill, but then it morphed into what seemed almost like paintings. The camera was up close so that you could only see four (gasp!) characters at a time. It was dark and exciting. All in all, a very well done battle scene that is better than what took place in the coliseum. The final battle was hundreds of times better than the retarded big battle in Phantom – George Lucas presents the hippy Gungans of Marin County Vs. The really boring battle droids in War For Two Year Olds. In Clones commander Yoda was pretty darn cool. I liked him commanding a ship in battle. Very calm, very Zen. Sort of like if Phil Jackson got really, really sick. Yoda sword fighting? Well, not so much cool as it was funny. But I was having such a good time by that point that Yoda could have stripped off his robe and stood muscle bound in a g-string – I still would have cheered. All the light saber fighting was much improved in Clones, even if there were a few too many Jedi’s looking like they wandered off the Xena set. Count Dooku was creepy and sinister, not to mention that for an old dude, Christopher Lee can swing a sword. Sam Jackson did a real good job as Mace Windu, especially considering how underwritten Windu is. Jackson seems to be the only person in the movie who didn’t turn into a chunk of wax when they are being spoken to. He emotes and reacts. Neato.

Hayden Christensen does a pretty good job as Anakin Skywalker. He’s not tall enough, but no matter. I’m sure Vadar wears boots. What kills Anakin’s performance, is not Christensen as an actor, but the dumb ass shit Lucas makes him do. Like go and find his Mommy that he happily abandoned as a slave ten years prior. Or having to act with Portman, who like most good child actors, morphs into wooden crap after age turn 18. She looks really hot, though. Then, the shit we really wanted to see, that being the future Darth Vadar slaughtering lots and lots of Sand People, Lucas cuts away from it. And cuts badly. Also, we never get to see Vadar fucking Natalie Portman, which would have guaranteed that Attack Of The Clones makes more money than Spider-Man. Maybe in Episode III. But Hayden is good, I mean bad. There are even moments when you can imagine this lanky blond kid turning into the supremely evil Darth Vadar. There are other moments when you can picture him joining N’Sync after Lance Bass dies in space next November. My biggest concern, is why on earth didn’t Lucas have Christensen play Anakin in Episode I? All it would have done would have been to make the first prequel watchable. Lucas often excuses a lot of his missteps by explaining that Star Wars is aimed at twelve-year-old boys. Let me ask any twelve year olds out there this; would you rather watch an action movie about a little kid, or a big one? Exactly.

One more quick thing; before Phantom came out, Lucas talked a great deal about how digitized characters were to be the wave of the future. Luckily for us, the movie going public, The Phantom Menace proved old George wrong. However, there is a quick seen in Attack Of The Clones where Mr. Lucas might have proved himself right. Obe Won is trying to find out the origins of a toxic dart used to kill an Assassin he and Anakin had been chasing, so he goes to visit an old friend named Dex. The two of them sit and talk and it really was as if one person were talking to another, even though Dex was completely digital. I was impressed. Now if Lucas can just get back to making his creatures look like they did in Episode IV, and not like rejects from Monsters Inc. I might be happy.

To wrap it all up, if the first three Star Wars movies had never been made, Attack Of The Clones would have been an excellent movie. In contrast, it is a cheap date. Yes the plot is murky and dull. But, you had to have a Clone War. Yeah, the acting plays like people doing Shakespeare with American accents. Yes, nearly every scene was mind numbingly over-rendered. Yes, Jar-Jar is in this one as well. (Lucas had a perfect opportunity to kill Jar-Jar in the opening scene when the Queen’s ship blows up. He didn’t. Bastard.) In fact, quite a few of the horribly annoying creature characters from Fan Dumb Menace creep their way into Clones, but they don’t take up nearly as much time. McGregor, Jackson, Christensen and Portman are all fine, but they sure as hell ain’t Hammil, Fischer, Ford and Guinness. While it is no Empire, Clones is ten times better than the idiotic Episode I. Let’s all pray that Episode III is ten times better still.

Ruthless Ratings

  • Overall: 6
  • Direction: 4
  • Acting: 5
  • Action: 8
  • Story: 5
  • Re-watchability: 7

Special Ruthless Ratings

  • Number of times you found yourself enjoying the movie: 25
  • Number of times you realized that Jar-Jar Binks really is the dumbest thing in the history of Cinema: 4
  • Number of times the oppressive sound track made you wish John Williams was dead: 102
  • Number of times you wish that the Fetts had their own movies: 13
  • Number of time you wished that Episode I would have been, “Han Solo Vs Boba Fett In The Land Of The Sand People”: 34 (Thanks Davey)
  • Number of times Natalie PORT 68,38,224,65,134,194 kill Amidala (you know: the hot one).