On Second Thought: “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”

  As far as sequels being good, it depends solely on the series. Do you like it enough to invest so much time and energy into getting excited? Or, as would be understandable, you just approach each new sequel with some caution. Some optimism might sneak in, but largely it’s skepticism as you don’t want to be too disappointed. If this is a sequel to a previously bad entry in a series, you may just begin with absolutely low expectations and be absolutely justified.

The 20th Century Fox film “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”, is only interesting if you don’t mind watching people forcefully force a story down your throat.

This space saga stars Ewen McGregor (“Mortdecai”, “Doll & Em”), Natalie Portman (“Thor: The Dark World”, “The Simpsons”), Hayden Christensen (“90 Minutes in Heaven”, “Outcast”), Frank Oz (“Zathura: A Space Adventure”, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”), Ian McDiarmid (“Elizabeth I”, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”), Pernilla August (“Gentlemen”, “The Last Sentence”), Ahmed Best (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV Series)”, “W.M.D.”), Oliver Ford Davies (“37 Days”, “Royal Shakespeare Company: Richard II”),Temuera Morrison (“Tatau”, “The Barefoot Bandits”), Anthony Daniels (“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”), Silas Carson (“Unforgotten”, “Tut”), Kenny Baker (“The King and I (1999)”, “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”), Samuel L. Jackson (upcoming “The Hateful Eight”, “Chi-Raq”), and Christopher Lee (“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”, “The Wicker Tree”).

The film was directed by George Lucas (“Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”, “Star Wars”, “American Graffiti”) and written by Lucas (“Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi”, “Filmmaker (Short 1968)”) and Jonathan Hales (“The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Scandal of 1920”, “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Winds of Change”).

The film originally opened on May 16, 2002. It would go on to be nominated for one Academy Award, 10 Saturn Awards; winning two, and seven Razzie Awards, winning two.

Gotta complete this, gotta complete this. Only one more film in this terrible prequel trilogy and I’ll be free. Oh, hi. I didn’t know you were here. So you too decided to return to this series and see what happens in the second film of this trilogy? Glad to see I’m not the only one willing to suffer through a bad film in order to see all the films in the series. Too bad it’s way less worth it than the third film, but I’ll get to that at another time. For now, let’s revisit as fast as we can why this film is just as a bad as the previous film and only furthers the reasoning behind why sequels and prequels, or in this case “pre-sequel”? “Sequel-prequels”? don’t end up being worth it.

I honestly didn’t think it was possible to have worse special effects than what you saw in the original trilogy. Well, it is. Now, I’m not talking about low budget bad, but for some reason these special effects actually looked worst than the previous film’s special effects. In this case, it was incredibly distracting. So much of it was also fake looking and very noticeable.

The first big action sequence at the start of the film, which was executed pretty well, was a bit tiresome because of the bad visual effects. Every single bit of Obi-Wan’s chase, first on the flying droid, and then as he and Anakin chase the assassin, screamed green screen! Try as I may, I couldn’t forget this until the sequence was over.

Then, sadly this one also affects the character, but any sequence with Yoda was just painful. Mind you, I’ll say this now, some of them were constructed in a way that could make them entertaining, if you could stay in the moment, but when you get the first chance to evaluate them, they look terrible and become less amazing. The Yoda and Count Dooku fight at the end is the biggest example of this. While it does make for a relatively cool sequence, especially when considering what this old Jedi is capable of doing, it doesn’t keep it from also looking downright silly. So much so, that I’m surprised I wasn’t laughing all the way through it.

Even to a larger extent than I remember, the big fight towards the end with all the Jedi showing up, was reliant on a lot of CGI. I’m not sure who wasn’t CGI in that whole sequence. When watching it, it became so apparent that the entire background, the stands and walls and what not, we’re all fake, or fake enough that even Jackson couldn’t mesh well with it. So much green screen! I truly wonder if any of the spectators, whom I don’t think we even really see, were real. Another instance where a mildly entertaining sequence can be completely overtaken by bad CGI. And this is only the second film. The CGI quality didn’t exactly get better in the next film.

For this film, unlike in some of the others, we didn’t get much in the way of characters. Mostly, there were no interesting characters on either side. The characters that were remotely interesting, were returning ones. Obi-Wan and Padme, if only for a little bit. Padme become more interesting, because she wasn’t merely some tag along. She actually, somehow, which is never explained, quite intelligent and capable of taking care of herself. She breaks free of her restraints and takes on that creature trying to eat her. Then, when the Jedi’s all arrive and the droids attack, she takes out a whole lot of them and even steers that floating chariot like thing. She had some awesome moments! But, before and after that, she was largely lifeless. Actually, most of the characters were uninteresting and did nothing for me. For Christensen’s Anakin, he just annoyed the hell out of me. He’s this film’s Jar Jar Binks, but without the attempts at being funny. No, he was wooden and uninteresting through and through. Oh! Jango Fett is actually the only new addition! However, most of that’s when he’s engaged in a battle with another character.

I saved Obi-Wan so I could give him his on paragraph. I liked him that much. From the start of “Episode I” he always had this vibe about him that signaled he was someone worth listening to and liking. He certainly, up to a point, was brighter and more rational than Qui-Gon Jinn. Too bad he felt he owed it to his former master to train Anakin. In this film, he’s grown and you can tell, but it’s not just that. He’s still a rationally thinking person, and probably the most rational one of any of the Jedi’s Sorry, Yoda. And it’s through this, and the determination to figure out why Senator Amidala is being target that allows for him to breath a lot of life into this film. Even while the CGI isn’t that great with the chase through Coruscant (I can’t believe I had to look that up), it’s how Obi-Wan handles this pursuit of the assassin that makes him an incredibly fun character. Then, after he finds Kamino (again I had to look this up), and discovers its secrets, Obi-Wan gets into a fight with Jango Fett. Not only does this fight sequence secure Obi-Wan as one bad ass person, who doesn’t take too kindly to being blasted at, but he’s also an incredibly skilled fighter. Unlike in the original trilogy, he gets into a rough and tumble hand to hand fight with Jango. Kicks and punches all around! It certainly made me enjoy this sequence more, which was also accompanied by terrible CGI, as there was something more going on than just light sabers defecting the shots fired. If it had not been for these sequences, I think even Obi-Wan would’ve been a lost character.

Before I forget, it was also nice to see through Obi-Wan’s investigation, some mystery in this film. At least Lucas or Hales saw fit to try and give us something to wonder about. The rest of the film was just another paint by numbers event.

With prequel films it’s sometimes understandable that you have a certain amount you have to tell, especially when you established and built a world in other film’s, that relies on it. However, what one does not expect, or should be forced to endure, is tedious scenes and characters, that only manage to make up several moments that are so overly forced, even the characters in the scenes can’t fake looking happy. Paint by numbers would certainly have been better.

One big moment, which was made up of so many little moments I’m surprised there was any room for the rest of the film, is the forced love between Anakin and Padme. These scenes do nothing but extend the length of the film. Every time I watched, and then pretty much stopped paying attention, I was bored. I just couldn’t bring myself to give a shit. Why didn’t I care? The two characters that were supposed to be falling in love or showing that they had feelings for one another, couldn’t even be bothered to do that. There was nothing in any of the scenes between Padme and Anakin that said they even wanted to be in the same place with each other. I’ll say once more, just in case I haven’t yet or simply said it enough, I get that you need to make events unfold so that they line up with the later films, but please, do me a favor and actually make it interesting. You’re not just trying to construct a love story between two characters that clearly don’t love each other, but also trying to make these characters interesting and even more likable than before. If you can’t do that, then I see no reason why I’m even bothering to continue watching the film. Of course, there’s also the whole bit where Anakin admits he killed a lot of people and Padme’s still willing to marry him. Could that relationship be any more fucked up and doomed?

I also couldn’t take the many references to the events in the original trilogy. I’m not sure what Lucas was going for, but it wasn’t funny or clever. My thinking on this is that we’re a smart audience, who after a terrible first prequel film, came back for another in the hopes it would be good. We don’t need to be so obviously teased on something we know is going to happen. In this case, they’re not Easter eggs or bread crumbs. No, they’re big stumbling blocks. And yes, I realize that using Easter eggs in this may not have been all that correct. I don’t care. It sounded good.

For instance, when it comes to my just stated point, Obi-Wan says, “Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” Oh dear god! I can’t even go further on that one. This next one doesn’t irritate me too much, due to the timeline of the series, but I think by the time I spotted it, it didn’t matter. I was too annoyed with this film. Anything and everything pissed me off. Count Dooku escapes from his fight with Yoda, and remembers to take the plans for the future Death Star with him. This one makes me wonder why we really needed to see this reference. We knew it was going to be built and probably could’ve done without this obvious pointing out of the future. Or couldn’t we have just waited until the next film? Everything else falls into place in that film, why not also the reveal of who has the Death Star plans or where they came from. Who designed them or instructed them to be created at all? I’d rather know that.

Adding to the negative of this film is the general nature of nothing happening in this film. A few more action sequences, mainly with Obi-Wan involved, but overall this film also took its time, which should’ve been okay, but did so in a boring fashion.

Oh! And just like with “Episode I” Lucas kept up the charade of, “Who is this Darth Sidious?” All the while still pointing the camera at Palpatine, but still looking like he’s trying to nudge you or something and bring you in on the secret you already know about. It still was annoying as it was obvious he was trying to create mystery even when there was no need to. It’s one technique to filmmaking and storytelling I’ll never understand. Is he hoping more first timers are watching, or what? Let’s just add this to the many reasons why this film and the prequel films don’t work, which have to include the fact that as a writer, Lucas was pretty terrible at it. I’m once again really glad he hasn’t written anything since “Episode III”. Are those torches and pitchforks? Please tell me those aren’t torches and pitchforks?

And I can’t forget to mention the obvious, and most crucial! Although I almost did as there’s so many that seem to pop up and want to be talked about. The start of Anakin’s path to the dark side. I don’t think I have a problem with the overall how he ended up able to start his Dark Side path, but the why it started, if that makes sense. Yes, Anakin went searching for his missing mother, but that only led to him finding her severely beaten and injured. After he finds his mom, all too easily I might add, he thinks there’s hope. Sadly, after uttering a few final words and one final gasp of breath, she all too conveniently dies in his arms. I couldn’t help but laugh at this. It was so ridiculous and again, convenient. It’s the sad and bad thing about doing prequels. You have to fill in stuff in a preset design so as to make things mesh with the film you’re angling for.

While this prequel-sequel might not be as bad as the previous film, it’s still cringeworthy and makes me wonder what other people truly think of this in relation to the entire series? Hey, at least this film had a much more toned down and less obnoxious Jar Jar Binks. While this film was largely comprised of crap, there was enough in it to see that this could’ve been a much better film. Of course, now having said that, I think about how tight the constraints on creativity were. So much had to be done to lead to the clones coming into play as a not yet held Clone War had to start somewhere. Yes cool sequences occurred, but in order to get even those, there was so much more that lacked attention to get through. If anyone ever needs a reason to not make a prequel or sequel or prequel-sequel, all they need to do is look at this film. At the very least, if they insist on making it, they can look to this film on what not to do. There’s a lot to be learned.

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