TBT – Attack of the Clones (2002)

bullshit, CGI, Christopher Lee, Ewan McGregor, films, fucking awful, fucking creepy, fucking sad, George Lucas, natalie portman, Samuel L, sci-fi, Star Wars, star wars day, TBT

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!

Tuesday’s Review: Jackie (2016)

America, films, fucking beautiful, fucking tragic, history, John Hurt, natalie portman, president, real life, review

I have to be honest, if it hadn’t been for John Hurt’s death last month I probably wasn’t ever going to see this film. It wasn’t that I thought it would be bad but it discussed a prominent American figure that, really, I didn’t know a great deal about. I mean I know enough about Jackie Kennedy but, when it comes down to it, my knowledge of American history is pretty limited. It’s probably something I should rectify but my historical education really just focused on the United Kingdom. Although, I guess everyone knows about JFK, Jackie, and the assassination. However, the name Jackie Kennedy only really brought images of pink Chanel suits and pillbox hats to my mind so I didn’t really see much need in seeing Natalie Portman playing her on screen. Then, we heard the tragic news about John Hurt’s death in January. Jackie was one of his final films before his death so I decided it was a good reason to see the film. John Hurt was one of the finest actor’s around and could turn his hand to any part. Yes, he wasn’t a traditional leading man but he has been a significant part of some great films. I can think of worse reasons to want to watch something.

I was worried when Jackie started and I first heard Natalie Portman speak. I had the horrible feeling that her attempt to emulate Jackie Kennedy’s soft spoken and breathy accent was quickly going to descend into a terrible parody. Thankfully, the actor manages to keep a hole on her mimicry and keeps the vocals situated in something resembling reality. It all adds to the character of Jackie Kennedy that director Pablo Larraín is attempting to capture. A woman who, having already been catapulted into the spotlight, suddenly finds herself having to deal with the ultimate tragedy whilst the whole world watches her. The wife of the President of the United States who is caught between a state of mourning, helplessness, and desperation to preserve her husband’s legacy. To prove me extra wrong, Natalie Portman’s portrayal of Jackie is absolutely brilliant.

The film’s narrative is framed by an interview Jackie gave to Life magazine reporter Theodore H White (Billy Crudup). As the interview takes place Kennedy makes it clear that she will have ultimate control over what is printed and she wants her husband to be remembered the way she thinks he should be. She is a woman who is perfectly in control. Until she relives the horrific moment when her husband was shot twice as he sat next to her. She breaks down as she remembers trying to keep the contents of his head from spilling over her lap. This, obviously, is the kind of thing that she does not give approval to be printed. Jackie takes the public figure that everyone things they know and show the emotionally lost person underneath.

The story flits back and forth between Jackie’s life before and after the assassination. We see her conduct a television tour of the White House and it is a different image of the First Lady. She is unsure of herself and self-conscious. She attempts to justify her redecoration of her new home in order to bring a sense of history. She wants to surround herself with beautiful and significant things. Something that her husband and potentially the American people just don’t understand. She wants to present her husband and his presidency as she thinks it needs to be remembered. This is the age where television gives everyone an eyewitness account of every moment so she understands the importance of her performance.

The narrative then jumps around between the days after the President was killed, whilst Jackie tried to arrange a funeral on the same level as Lincoln, and in the future when Jackie speaks with a Priest (John Hurt) about her fears and doubts. Really, these different narrative aren’t necessary as the most important and stand-out sections occur in the aftermath of JFK’s death and Jackie’s desperate attempts to get her own way with the funeral. The time when she has to wrestle with the public image of a grieving wife, the statesmen like role of the First Lady, and lost woman who has no idea what her life will become now her husband is dead. The woman who has become synonymous with her looks is unable to find order within her wardrobe. In fact, the most memorable scene is the one in which a numb Jackie peels off the infamous pink Chanel suit and tights that are covered in her husband’s blood. It is a devastating and poignant scene.

As with all of these types of biopics, you won’t rid yourself of the sense that the reality on show still isn’t being completely truthful. However, the narrative opens up the figure of Jackie Kennedy beyond what was on show during her public life. It gives you the chance to view her from a perspective that you may not have considered and, thanks to the great performance by Natalie Portman, presents her in a measured and understanding way. The film is a stark look into an important and difficult time for both the Kennedy family and America. With a great supporting cast, including a short but memorable turn from the late John Hurt, and an incredibly haunting score from Mica Levi, Jackie is a film that I’m so grateful I took the time to watch. It would have been a shame to have missed such a wonderful film.