My quest continues to revisit all the 'Star
Wars' movies in their I-VI order, which means we are now up to
II, or 'Star Wars: Attack of the Clones'. After
re-watching 'The Phantom Menace', there wasn't much I could
say in defense of that film as it still rates as one of the
biggest disappointments I've experienced in a life of watching
disappointing movies, but what 'The Phantom Menace' did
succeed in doing was lower my expectations for 'Attack of the
Clones' which was a movie I ultimately kind of had a good time
watching… but… we will talk about the 'but' a little later.
The scroll comes up again and tells us some more nonsense
about trade routes or something I can't remember that almost
put me to sleep, and then we see somebody try to blow up
Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Also not too
sure why she's not a princess anymore because I would think
being a princess is a birthright, but who really cares about
any of that?
The important thing about this attempt on the senator's life
is that a couple of Jedi will be assigned to protect her and
investigate the attack in Obi Wan (Ewan McGregor) and his
padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Anakin in
particular is really excited about this. Really excited. I'm talking about
making the casual viewer super uncomfortable excited about
seeing this woman he's been thinking about constantly since he
was nine years old. Padme seems a little uncomfortable
about Anakin and his fawning too, but she'll get over
it. Not sure how, but she will.
After another attempt on Padme's life, the Jedi Council has
determined that Anakin should protect her off-world while
Obi-Wan investigates the source of these attacks.
Obi-Wan objects to this, thinking Anakin isn't mature enough,
but who should really be objecting are these Midichlorian
filled, chin-stroking Jedi Knights who The Force should be
clearly telling them that there is something not right with
this stalking lunatic.
Anyway, adventure is afoot. Obi-Wan
goes on his way and unearths this thing called a clone army
and runs into a bounty hunter named Jango Fett (Temura
Morrison) that he's been looking for. Action
ensues! Anakin and Padme go on their way back to Naboo,
engage in some truly painful conversation and forced romantic
interludes which only make us more uncomfortable before
searching out Anakin's mom on Tatooine. Action
ensues! And Genocide! Which only solidifies the
love! Back on the council planet, change is afoot as the
council gives supreme power to Palpatine (Ian McDarmid) which
history tells us will be a bad thing. Action ensues!
A couple of hours in we finally meet this movies heavy in
Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) who is up to something.
Not sure what. I see a blueprint of a Death Star so he's
gotta be a bad guy, and more action will ensue. More
droids get mowed down. I hate droids so much. And
eventually the love that Padme was resisting, she can't resist
anymore. Because Anakin has smooth lines like 'Sand is
course and rough… not smooth like you'. Who wouldn't
fall for that? Other than every single female I've tried
to use it on?
So when I say that 'Attack of the Clones' is scads better than
'The Phantom Menace' but close it out with a 'but'… the 'but'
would be that I have memories of seeing 'The Phantom Menace'
but I have recollection of ever seeing 'Attack of the Clones',
even though I had seen it twice before my revisit… once at the
theater and also on my DVD copy. And after watching it
again, for the first time in a decade or so, chances are I
won't remember it too much longer either because as a film
it's just not all that memorable.
Things are better though. For starters both Ewan
McGregor and Natalie Portman seem much more comfortable with
their characters of Obi-Wan and Padme respectively, and most
of the stiffness they exhibited in the first film is all but
absent. This film is also a little more personal and
invites the audience to be a little more involved than the
last one, and there are way fewer congregations and meetings
and trade discussions going on in this movie which by default
means that this one moves much, much faster. The action
is bigger, better and more far reaching and at least in this
one I think we begin to get a better feel of the vision Mr.
Lucas is setting up. Now this next bit is just a
random, mindless musing, but if future Jedi are picked out as
children and if Jedi are pretty much instructed not to have
romantic relationships, and if midichlorians are a genetic
trait… then shouldn't the Jedi eventually be genetically
eliminated? Just pondering.
But the lynchpin of this film, that being the relationship
between Anakin and Padme, is an abject failure. A lot
was put on young Hayden Christenson's plate for this role, as
he had to sell us on the fact that he will eventually become
the baddest Jedi to ever hold a light saber, that he had the
magnetic appeal to attract a much older and mature woman in
Padme, and that the darkness was in him to eventually turn him
into Darth Vader. None of that actually happened
here. What we got was less Dark Lord and more Spoiled
Teenager, and then when you combine young Hayden's complete
inability to act at that time (he has truly gotten a lot
better) with the horrible dialog that he was given, eventually
you just have to buy into this forced, non-existent romance
because you have no other choice.
Still, despite being better, 'Attack of the Clones' as a movie
is easily forgotten. Detached droids, detached clones,
detached Mace Windu… I can't say that for any of the
other Star Wars movies, even 'Revenge of the Sith' which we
will watch next, which I still remember… dare I say
'fondly'. We will see soon enough.