TBT – Attack of the Clones (2002)

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I know that it’s a very subjective thing but I think we mostly all agree that, when it comes to Star Wars films, the second ever film in the franchise is the best. I know over the years I’ve changed my mind on the matter many times and can still switch whenever I’m a bit hungry or my mood changes slightly. However, The Empire Strikes Back, ended up being a far better film than A New Hope and it was certainly not surpassed by Return of the Jedi. If you were to ask me, Empire is up there with a limited number of sequels that were better than the original film. This fact may have given fans a glimmer of hope after the disappointing prequel The Phantom Menace by suggesting that lightening could strike twice. We all madly hoped that Attack of the Clones would show us how great Star Wars could be with lashings of CGI and plenty of stupid characters to keep the kids entertained. Unfortunately, it did the opposite and managed to make the first film look like fucking Shakespeare. Just as we can pretty much all agree that the original sequel is the best film in the franchise, I think we all know that the worst is the prequel sequel. So, in honour of this great day, I decided to re-watch it and rip it to shreds.

As you may remember, back in 2015 I wrote a blog post in which I defended the prequels and offered several examples that I believe were genuinely good about them. There are a fair few good things about Revenge of the Sith and some aspects of The Phantom Menace that really worked well. The only things I could think of for Attack of the Clones? The Jedi battle on Geonosis and Obi Wan’s face. Now Ewan McGregor’s face has got me to watch many questionable films over the years and definitely will do again. His casting was the best thing about the prequel films and has caused me to re-watch specific scenes in all of the prequels way too many times. He’s bloody beautiful and super talented despite the god awful lines he’s continually forced to spout. Still, there is only so much that his good looks can cover up.

For the most part, Attack of the Clones is just a long and slow continuation of Anakin’s story where very little happens until the final half hour or so. The tale picks up 10 years after the end of Phantom and Anakin is still Obi Wan’s padawan. He is cocky and still unable to control his emotions. Even if you weren’t aware of the future events in his story, it’s super obvious that he shouldn’t have been allowed into the Jedi order and I spend most of the film wondering why people didn’t realise the outcome sooner. I mean he just comes across as a fucking creep the entire time and looks as though he could kill at any minute. It’s insane that Yoda let him just wander around the galaxy freely carrying a weapon.

Unlike it’s counterpart for the original films, The Empire Strikes Back, there is no dramatic and exciting opening to this film. Instead of a great battle on Hoth, we have an introduction to space politics and a really boring assassination plot. A plot which only serves the purpose of messily putting  Anakin and Padme together to allow them to fall in love. Which is basically all this film cares about. It pushes the romance angle way more than it should, especially because it’s two stars have absolutely no chemistry. Hayden Christensen is incredibly wooden and unemotional throughout his 2 Star Wars films but when he is attempting to woo Natalie Portman there is just nothing there. It doesn’t help that the lines are the worst kind of cliches imaginable but you can’t really tell from the on-screen talent that these two characters are falling in love. It just kind of sneaks up on you and doesn’t make sense. Remember how, the more you think about it, the love story in Beauty and the Beast is super questionable and weird. This one makes that look like fucking relationship goals. It’s just not good.

Thankfully, there is Obi Wan’s side-plot to keep people interested but even that veers off into dull territory from time to time. We see some new worlds and meet some interesting new characters but it isn’t until way down the line that the excitement really kicks in. He goes on a rather tame Space tour and follows bounty hunter Jango Fett to Geonosis. It’s not much to write home about. Until he, and in a painfully laboured way, Anakin and Padme get captured by Separatists and forced to fight in a massive death arena. It is here that the fucking awesome Jedi battle I mentioned as the main positive takes place. It’s a great sequence that really, for the first time in the franchise, shows us the real scope of the Jedi Order. We see why they are considered the Space Police of the whole Galaxy and understand why they were remembered as great warriors.

Still, that’s only 1 scene. We have to wade through an immense amount of shit to get there. We all wanted to love Attack of the Clones and, if it’s sequel brother was anything to go by, it should have been great. Instead it featured and some really boring narrative points and some of the worst writing in cinematic history. The lead couple never really gels enough to sell the only part of the film that George Lucas gives a fuck about and there just isn’t enough of Obi Wan’s face. This film, even more than Phantom, is just a mess of CGI backdrops and awful cartoon characters for the kids. There are moments when I start to feel embarrassed for the people involved in making it. I mean the scene between Obi Wan and Dex the Diner owner is just pure children’s cartoon. Then there’s the moment that could fit in any B movie or soap opera when the director attempts to trick us into thinking Padme is about to be melted. Or, finally, the laughable moment when Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku is speeding along on a CGI space scooter. Who the fuck signed off on that visual? Lee looks super uncomfortable and the end result looks so shitty.

Ultimately though, the problem with Attack of the Clones is that nobody really gave a shit about it. It was just a placeholder. It didn’t matter to the story and was just the inevitable 3rd movie to let the whole double trilogy thing come to life. Phantom was about introducing us to Anakin and explaining how he became a Jedi. Revenge would show us the moment Anakin became Darth Vader. Attack? Nobody really knew what that needed to be about so it was just about nothing really. It was let down by lack of plot and sense of direction. It’s aimless so there is nothing it can do to make up for any shortfalls. If it weren’t for a couple of great moments and some decent acting from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee and Samuel L Jackson then it would have completely crumbled. Also, CGI Yoda is the fucking bomb!

TBT – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

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This month marks the 10thanniversary of the release of the third episode in the Star Warssaga: Revenge of the Sith. As such, it marked the end of the prequel trilogy and the end of the three films that managed to break the hearts of so many people. Fans were fucking jaded and sad come 2005: the excitement pre-Phantom Menace a fading memory of a more naïve time in their lives. To a certain group of society, George Lucas was the fucking villain who pissed on their childhood thanks to an over-reliance on CGI and a fucking racist alien. Although, people still flocked to see the final film to get the closure they needed but they weren’t going to enjoy it. It turned out that after the abysmal first two films, Revenge of the Sithwas the best of Lucas’ modern trilogy but, really, what does that accolade mean?

As mentioned in my last post, Revenge of the Sithstarts with by swiftly slapping you in the face with an epic space battle taking place of Coruscant. It starts fast and the pace rarely slows. Well except for those moments when characters just sit in silence looking longingly into the distance: you can’t fucking get away from those moments. However, there is no denying that there is plenty of action on offer and enough Jedi duelling to keep your attention for the most part. If Revenge of the Sithisn’t a good film then it is at least a pretty decent spectacle. Even those maudlin moments of starring are fucking visual treats in their own CGI’d way.
Of course, in terms of story there isn’t much to write home about. Although, this is mostly down to the fact that Sithhas the awful job of revealing several plot twists that were revealed up to 30 years previously. That’s no excuse for the dismal use of language throughout, of course. Some of the lines in this film are so horrible that I’m pretty sure I’ve lost a necessary number of brain cells with each watch. I don’t think I can afford to do it again guys.
Poor Natalie Portman gets the brunt of these lines, having been relegated to pregnant love interest. It really isn’t the Padmé that was suggested to us from the last films. Although, to make it up to Portman, she is also given one of the film’s greatest lines: “so this how liberty dies… with thunderous applause”. That line gives me fucking chills every single time. Portman often finds herself lost in this shitty role that is becomes more emotionally charge than Padmé’s inevitable and uninspiring death.
Of course, acting was something that the films always had a lot of potential with and in Siththe likes of Ewan McGregor and Samuel L Jackson continue to revel in their respective positions as Jedi badasses. There are moments when it’s impossible to ignore the sheer joy on McGregor’s beautiful, beardy face as he nears completion in his transformation into Alec Guinness. Even Hayden Christensen seems to have taken some notes after Clones and started to really think about what his fucking job entails. Sure he’ll never be a great performer but there are moments when it’s almost forgiveable.
Of course, he’s in full evil mode now: something which is very apparent from the opening scene thanks to the tell-tale scar of immorality over his right eye. Although, to hammer the point home, Anakin is the only Jedi wearing all-black robes (you’d think someone would have picked up on it), only ever appears half-lit and looks fucking evil. I know we all knew he was going to become Darth Vader but this is half-arsed even for George Lucas.
So far, Revenge of the Sithsounds much like the first films but there are a few inspiring moments. I’ve discussed a couple in my last post and maintain that the fight on Mustafar and General Grievous in general are fucking fantastic. Then there is the almost perfect scene at the end when the action cuts between Padmé enduring a painful labour and Anakin’s “rebirth” as Darth Vader. There are some genuinely inspired moments of filmmaking from a director who’s name has become synonymous with shitting over a beloved series of films.
Of course, before we get too comfortable with Lucas again that are a lot of questionable choices within his direction. Most worryingly of all, his apparent obsession with extreme close-ups. There’s no need for it and they crop up at the most inconvenient times. He is on shaky ground still and attempts to mask the film’s many flaws by bombarding the audience with endless scenes of action and CGI wonderment. Sithtakes on board the frustration many felt with the prolonged exposure to Galactic politics and decided the best way to keep people happy is to blow all the shit up. Hey, as strategies go I’ve hear worse.
Revenge of the Sithis as good a science-fiction film as you’d want from 2005 once you remove it from the nostalgia tainted world of the Star Wars fandom. People were never going to welcome it with open arms and many stubbornly failed to see any of its good points out of sheer spite to Lucasfilm. It’s a visual feast and has enough within it to keep an audience entertained. I’m not ashamed to say that I have a certain fondness for this film despite my unending devotion to the original trilogy. It’s the part of the franchise that I’ve watched the most in recent years but that might have more to do with that beard I mentioned earlier. I’m not going to beat around the bush here: Sith is good. Not great by any stretch but a good film.

Until you start comparing your viewing experience with your first taste of original Star Wars. You can’t compare watching A New Hopefor the feeling you got for this film and come out singing George Lucas’ praises. Die hard Star Warsfans are, perhaps, some of the most stubborn people on the planet and would have no doubt hated the films even if they were Oscar worthy. Let us not forget the initial hyperbolic reaction when it was announced that JJ Abrams was to direct the next one. People acted like it was the worst thing to happen to mankind in the whole of existence. It’s about time they stopped being such fucking cry babies about everything.