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Review of Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

REVIEWS BY SAPHSAQ,  BELLE, AND DARK LADY.

"Attack of the Clones" - A Rewind by saphsaq


Episode 2 PosterA last flicker on the screen, the sound faded and I did fall in Standard Imperial Procedure - collect what shall become dumped as garbage. Unfortunately the box of crackers slipped form my hand to describe a perfect arc and distributed its content all over the ground before it touched down eventually. Technically this accident happened because I've had problems to emerge from the depth of the cushions with a minimum of grace. At the spiritual side however the picture of the spread out crackers felt oddly in place. (For the record: The idea to add an amount of Coke to the still I considered just for a moment.) Why that? Well, because AOTC left my mind in confusion like a shower of crackers. So I sat down on the ground to pick up the crackers dutifully and decided to make advance of my misfortune. Instead of insisting on a all-embracing and well balanced review I decided to feed you with some pieces from my wise-crackers box.

Do you like AOTC?

Ah, the most difficult issue first! Actually no, I don't like it. But it has it's moments. Literally! AOTC is not the kind of movie you would label "Lousy set, but brilliant actors!" (Dark Star) or "Awful performance, but touching plot!" (Titanic) or "Absolutely political incorrect, but a firework of dialogues!" (Die Hard) However, when singling out one or another scene, then it appears, the details are meticulously laid out. You could find those little gemstones in quoting "Maul's theme" when Anakin is deliberately on the road to the dark side first time. Or in the way Taun We the Kaminoan moves. Or in the communication between Mas Ameda and Palpatine which manipulate its mute witness, Jar-Jar Binks. Or in the moment of shocked silence, when Anakin has lost his manners at the public of Naboo' throne room. And not to forget: Christopher Lee's stare. Now, all this is nice to watch, but does it make a collection of graphical details a tale in pictures?

But then, why did most fans consider AOTC better than TPM?

This might be because this movie is closer to the original trilogy. (Not in quality I should add.) When TPM is one piece of a puzzle, with AOTC the picture becomes clearer. Comparing only TPM with the saga as we knew it, it appears like space opera without space. While in the original trilogy the quotations of a spiritual side of the world have been used like spice - one Jedi per movie only - we've got now a immaculate deception, a Manichaean conception of the world and satanic as well as heavenly hosts - pardon: Jedis - galore. AOTC is pushing this rather fantasy-like story line further and thus reveals, there are indeed two closed trilogies: Ep 1 to 3 covers the fairy-tale like past of far-away-and-long-ago, while ep 4 to 6 is the rather sober reality, with robust people in tangible situations. If you believe in the rumours about the existence of ep 7 to 9, the picture clears once more: ep 1 to 3 becomes the childhood with all it's magic, ep 4 to 6 the adolescence with it's serious fights to reclaim a place in the world of maturity and ep 7 to 9 would be saved for depicting the later ages of wisdom (or the second childhood).

Have the love scenes really been that bad?

Amidala and Annakin!I've been told, in some theatres the crowd should have scanned "Titanic! Titanic!" during those crucial moments. At least regarding the scene of flight in disguise at a cheap freighter they've been right. In other scenes - e.g. at the pastures of Naboo' Lakeland - the breathtaking set prevents you eyes from lingering much on the couple's actions. However, those seconds of kitsch prevent you from recognising how good the forcing and urging Anakin is. The shy ruthlessness while Padme packs her suit cases is exceptional, same with the shy pride in the declaration of his personal approach to the Jedi code regarding love. No, I can't find much that is blameworthy in Anakin. It is rather the sight of Padme, which really disturbs in these scenesIt might not matter that in other scenes her character is reduced to a mere decorative function, at least in those intimate moments with her would-be lover she should be more alive, more animated. But this is most likely not the fault of the actress - remember of Leon e.g. - perhaps more of the director and the textbook, what means this time the same as we know. Another idea originating from the directors textbook is Anakin's nightmare. In an interview George Lucas told this scene follows the traditions of early 20th century acting. Why do I mention it under the headline of love scenes then? Now, watching a scarcely clad adolescent trashing moaning and groaning in his bed, I didn't first hand think of Roberto Valentino or Gloria Swanson, but of the order: "Leave your hand upon the sheet, boy!"


How would you describe the emotional impression this movie left on you?

Confused - the crackers, you know? The scenes followed logically one after the other, but it tasted like the logic of a set of Lego bricks. They seemed to be exchangeable without hurting the plot too much, shallow and predictable as it is. Obi-Wan lost a planet? Right, Yoda, right, how embarrassing it is to be damned to ask such silly questions only to get a bridge to the next scene! Count Dooku's Geonosis underground looks like a set from Rhinegold? Yeah, since Richard Wagner we know the bad guys have subterranean forges! Padme confesses her eternal love in the gangway to the arena? Not a second too late I would say, because there is left very limited space to stuff the marriage in before the next episode becomes really dark (which excludes a marriage naturally). So I felt compelled to search for a second level of meanings ... and I became rewarded with a bunch of absolutely mysterious items. I'll only name the most prominent one: Sifo Dyas. Who the f*** is this guy?! The Third Man? Harvey? A fault of the script? Now, aside this mental confusion AOTC is an overwhelming visual experience (probably the reason for sitting back so much in the cushions). This movie is the cream of the crop of today special effects technology. No other movie ever reached this level of complexity and dynamic in animation. But, what is there left to be called classic about AOTC, when we'll watch next year's CGI?

What do you think about the fighting scenes?

Dooku and Annakin Sykwaler Battle it OutWell, the first thing you'll notice is the lack of big space fights as known from the original trilogy. Probably it's their trademark exclusively. (Not a single word wasted about the ridiculous entry of an Airborn Cavalry at the Geonosis show down.) Much more interesting is a comparison with TPM, which reveals striking differences. There is at first the almost linear sequence of scenes, which slowed down the speed of the film remarkably. TPM, on the contrary however, draw a lot of it's vividness from oscillating between the three final battle places. The second difference is in the setting of the combat scenes. AOTC definitely prefers crowd scenes. Although this goes perfectly along with the leitmotif - a honourable yet ancient minority gets exchanged by the faceless masses of modern soldiers - the martial arts fan can mourn with good reason the lack of eye candy. Just one word: Maul!!! For the movie connoisseur might be of interest, the fact the final light sabre fight between Count Dooku and Anakin plays with images from the encounter between Darth Vader and Luke in ROTJ. In both we've those strong contrasts of dark rooms and laser beams. I should add this short joyride into the fields of expressionistic cinema is the only one during the whole movie. This was to be expected, because unlike true action movies, all SW episodes relinquish any dynamic camera work, but fancy a almost unmoved, straight view.

Starwars is known as the source for a couple of famous phrases, do you remember any from this one?

This is the most sad chapter of this episode. While busy with tying connections to the rest of the saga - e.g. here: "Why do I think you are going to be the death of me?" - AOTC missed the opportunity to leave its mark in the hall of famous words and phrases. Django Fett's poker face when he gets questioned by Obi-Wan is probably the outmost of quotable expression in the whole movie. Yet the dialogues don't overstep the border to awkwardness! They're so sleek, no uneven patch invites to become target of a parody. And isn't the lack of potential for parodies the worst thing to say about a movie of such importance?

Would you recommend this movie?

Count DookuYes, to be sure. Again yes, for getting the recent state of CGI at a glance. Once again yes, to indulge in the sentimental remembrance of your former incarnation as Mary of Scotland - ah, those costumes... Another yes, to have a reason to purchase the expensive tickets for a theatre equipped with Dolby Digital, SDDS-Digital and DTS-Digital. I won't say it's the best reason, because until now I have no real confirmation for the advance of a fully digital showing compared with a analogue one. Not only to me did the textures in a middle distance appear blurry. However, if you're a proud member of the file-sharing community, you can still tell your pals no screener or promo can beat the experience on the silver screen. And this movie is made for it! Still yes, if you're a devoted fan of the original trilogy with a masochistic trait - enter the world of pain! Finally yes, if you don't expect an action packed, aesthetically convincing movie with a sophisticated plot and pioneering movie maker's work. George Lucas did neither. I seldom heard him use the words of a proud artist in interviews, but only the terms of finance to express the success of AOTC.

And finally?

Well, re-reading this recommendation, I feel urged to precise my response to the first question: Deep in the bottom of my heart I do like in a very irrationally fashion AOTC. Now, there are many ways to approve a movie for the wrong reason. Be it thinking "Dobermann" is a pro-handicapped movie, because the Dobermann's girlfriend Nat is a deaf-mute. Be it thinking "Samurai Fiction Episode 1" is a pro-gay movie because Rannosuke Kazamatsuri invite a male servant to take a bath with him. Or be it - in my case - to like every bit of the Star Wars saga regardless of its quality, because of the credit the original trilogy still holds in my heart and because of the striking semblance of my hairdresser with George Lucas (only from the outside I should add).

saphsaq
25 June 2002

From Belle Bayard

It's very true about GL and John Williams using recycled music, but I can't really complain too much. We got some of the stuff from ESB (I can live with the Imperial March as it's really cool music). Oh, okay I could also like the part with the Duel of the Fates as Anakin searches for his mother in a fury, though I still had visions of the original scenes. But the excitement just wasn't there in a lot of it. Maybe I'm jaded. I could have wished for the scenes with Jango and Boba Fett as R.A. Salvatore wrote them and some of Anakin's dream sequences, but the film was already over two hours long so I guess they had to cut something out. Actually, none of the irritating stuff (Jar-Jar, Neimoidians) got to me as much this round out. More like a slightly clashing piece of furniture in an otherwise pretty room. As for Anakin and Padmé... Well, it wasn't that bad really. I think he actually practiced a fair amount of restraint. Given his age, he could have ignored her protests and really pressured her. Also interesting to see how he really lost his right arm. Ended a lot of speculation on that count.

Dooku interoogates Obi-Wan KenobiAs for Dooku... It rather surprised me that Sidious would take him as an apprentice, given his age. Perhaps he figured his cultivation of Anakin would take so much time that he needed another powerful Force user in between. Who better than Dooku, Qui-Gon's Master, Yoda's old Padawan, someone conversant with the ways and secrets of the Jedi, yet disgruntled and willing to stir things up in the Republic?

As for Maul... Our beloved Sith Lord we may miss, but somehow I can't see him negotiating with the separatists in quite the same way. I missed him terribly (the music poignantly bringing him to mind), but GL has laid him to rest permanently. I wonder if Dooku knows about Sidious' previous apprentice falling to Obi-Wan after killing Dooku's old Padawan?

Overall, yeah, I'll go back to see it again, if only to look for other stuff and absorb the story fully. But my hubby was right (grr... I hate admitting it) it was like another ESB with more questions posed than answered.

Got to see more of the seamy side of Coruscant and I loved the parts with Obi-Wan and the diner owner and in the cantina where he slices off Zam Wesell's arm (Gee, where have I seen that before?). Ah, heck! It was fun in several places, even if it did drag in others.

Belle Bayard
20 May 2002

From Dark Lady

Or Dark Lady's point of view about the film
(which she thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommends.)


A General Pre-amble.

Episode II Teaser PosterDid you say the biggest screen in Europe, and full THX digital sound? Did you say the best seats in the house, halfway up the theatre and right in the middle, with no-one in front of you for miles? That's right, and a better way of seeing this film is hard to imagine. (And organise, for that matter.) Fortunately, the six of us have a friend who is just as mad about the films, and whose job enables him to queue for the tickets, which were put on early release, on 12th April.

On the night in question, 16th May, the cinema was crowded, there were long queues, and we just sailed in past everyone. Your web mistress was wearing the DMEB2.net T-shirt, which was duly pointed at and muttered about. Hopefully, this bit of advertising will lead to some more visitors to the Dark Side.

So, uncritically, we switched on the Sithly flashing red earrings, waved the red sabre about with some of the rest of the audience who had sabres, and settled down to watch the film. After, that is, the usherette had snappily requested us all to 'switch those things off during the performance'. Of course we did, and after well over two hours, this is what we thought of it all.

The Characters And The Costumes.

Anakin, a petulant teenager, grumbles and whines about his Master, gets the girl who loves him, reneges on his vows, and gets to wear a very cool outfit. All this is interspersed with some excellent battles in exotic locations and wonderful planets.

Yoda, a wise and wizened master of the Force, shows his temper, and why he is a Jedi Master, in a final confrontation with Dooku, alias Tyrannus. This was a popular scene with the audience, who were vocally urging Yoda on, in no uncertain manner. The scene with the 'younglings' however, could have been cut and that would have enhanced the film somewhat.

Force LightningCount Dooku, or Saruman in another guise, does pretty well the same sort of thing as that venerable character from LOTR. However, this really is the part Maul should have played, because he would have exuded a much more sinister and evil aura, and any battle scene would have been so much more vibrant. Maul would have enjoyed the stews of Coruscant, and, no doubt, would have used the Force to encourage the seller of 'death sticks' to double or treble his consumption as payment for annoying him. However, Christopher Lee struts very well indeed, and I particularly liked the gentlemanly manner in which he saluted Yoda with his sabre, before laying into him with it. This part was very well acted with panache and flair.

Obi Wan plays an upper class English gentleman-about-the-universe, I would do something about that too-plummy accent, Ewan, it doesn't quite gel in this fantasy. Apart from that, one can see why Obi Wan's continual sniping at Anakin would wear the boy's patience down. Cool moves in the bar, though.

Amidala looks very pretty, all the time, even when she is a bit dishevelled. Her costumes are just perfect. There wasn't much acting involved here.

Jar Jar Binks. What can be said about Jar Jar? His part is very down-played, possibly thanks to George listening to what has been said about this character and his unpopularity. Does anyone know anyone, young or old, who likes Jar Jar? Like it or not, the Star Wars films cover some very serious issues, and 'cute', or 'cuddly', do not fit. Neither does comedy. Interesting, however, that Jar Jar is the one who is the unknowing traitor.

As for Jango Fett? Not much to be said. Without his DNA we would not have the clones, but that is about it.

Most importantly, Sidious/Palpatine. Is there now any doubt that Palpatine is also Darth Sidious? Ian McDiarmid's Palpatine is very well played, with dignity, and cunning.

The costumes were fabulous, totally perfect, and superbly done. The design team should really get an Oscar for this aspect of the film, alone. It was interesting to learn that Jedi do not have a 'uniform' as such, but are expected to conform to an outline design in suitable clothing. The fact that Ani does not quite conform, is seen as arrogant, and that he wishes to draw attention to himself.

The Guardian newspaper has an excellent feature article on Star Wars costumes in general, including the (in)famous golden slave-girl bikini worn by Princess Leia.

The Plot!

Read no further if you don't like spoilers and have not seen the film yet. The plot is a thin device around which to build a series of well paced action scenes, which, this time, are neither too long nor too short. (That pod race got quite tedious by the fourth time of watching.) The battles are well done, and the sight of twenty or so Jedi knights fighting it out with aliens, monsters, and droids, in the arena, is quite startling - and remember, none of this in anger.

Count DookuThe next-to closing scene where Dooku meets with Sidious is cleverly done. The onlooker sees Dooku and a silhouette figure of Palpatine, and then the angle changes, and we see Sidious, in his cloak and hood. There is still no confirmation that they are one and the same, but does Sidious use the Force to affect Dooku's mind and appear to him thus?

Something of particular interest to me, was the fact that Jedi are not allowed possessions, or love, and that obedience is without question. In other words, they are warrior monks, as we have suspected for some time on this site. If the Jedi are, then so are the Sith, for the two orders have the same roots. This perhaps, makes it a religious war that is unfolding. Another thing mentioned by Yoda, was the fact that the 'dark side clouds everything for the Jedi, and makes their use of the Force more difficult'. Yet more plot bunnies for the authors here.

The fact that Anakin is the 'chosen one' was mentioned, and the fact that he will bring balance to the Force. Is it time to consider the possibility that this may indeed be the case, but also that that balance may be a swing over to the dark side? The assumption is that Anakin's role is to bring it towards the light - that may not be so.

As for Jar Jar, the naive and innocent Jar Jar! What a traitor he makes. Other than that. his role is played with dignity, (thank the Force) and there is no pseudo-comedy about him.

Visually, it is all a very different matter.

The Dialogue

I do have to say that George Lucas still hasn't got the hang of film dialogue yet, but who cares. George's talent gives us well over two hours of amazing fantasy, in a galaxy, far, far, away, and there is enough to give us a clue about what is going on in the minds of the characters. Other than that, non-sequiturs abound, conversation leads to speculation and wild leaps of imagination, and you have to imagine that everyone is using the Force to some extent, in order to know what people really mean, when they speak.


The Music And Special effects.

I felt the music of Episode 1 had some excellent grand pieces, of the type that were truly theatrical, and missing from Episode 2. Duel Of The Fates is quite unsurpassed, and while there are faint echoes of it in EP2, there is nothing quite like it. It would be interesting to know why he felt Maul's theme, (Duel of the Fates) was appropriate at the point it was played, even if it was only a short excerpt. Otherwise, master that he is, John William's music fits the film perfectly, from striking a romantic mood for the meadow picnic, to augmenting the battles and chases with stirring music, in his inimitable way.

The Special Effects - A Very Special Mention.

The Clone Army (Special Effects!)The Computer Generated Imagery, (CGI) is much better than it was for Phantom Menace. In 'Phantom', the clothes did quite not move quite perfectly over the bodies of the aliens. In this film, they do.

The effects are staggering, one can only imagine the computing power and software required to achieve all this, not to mention the imagination of the creators involved. Complete worlds and their inhabitants are created, starship engineering and state of the art cloning are enhanced by a faintly medieval feel to the whole movie. The atmosphere is of quaint courtliness, set against a backdrop of the most advanced technology. Things are used, and battered and discoloured because they are used, everything fits in these virtual worlds. There should be an Oscar for these effects, and if there is not a category they can be assigned to, perhaps one should be created, they are ground-breaking.

If ever George wants another career, he could do worse than to go into the virtual experience business, to enable us to talk to those Jedi and Sith Knights, and visit those worlds.

The Overall View

I shall be going to see this movie again, because it is a very good action romp, and already, the DVD is awaited with interest and anticipation. It is my involvement with the fan aspect of Star Wars though, that has widened the appeal of this universe and enriched the saga for me. There are so many aspects to Star Wars, the side issues, the origins of the Sith and the Jedi orders; how they interact; the costumes and the meaning of the garments they wear; what vows they might make; how costumes are made and imagined; the different worlds that come into being; the list is endless. It is too much for those of us who are not so talented, to encompass, so we must be content with taking a little piece and exploring that as best we can.

The people who produce these films are truly talented. From the artists who design the beautiful and strange worlds and their peoples, to the engineers and technicians who make them come alive in CGI technology. All to watch for just a few dollars, when we suspend disbelief and journey to other worlds and times, mix with the scum of the universe, and converse with those who have the most awesome powers. Go and see it, you will enjoy.

****

There is a plethora of other material available. Some of the best can be found at the usual places, but also here:

George underlines his personal view of Star Wars, in a Guardian interview on 16 May, his birthday.

For a more critical review by the in-house critic of this newspaper, the infamous and rightly reviled Peter Bradshaw, read this. Peter is not in tune with modern culture, and regards Citizen Kane as the epitome of good film production. Personally, I like a little colour, and a lot of action, but if you want a good burst of dry wit on occasions, and biting sarcasm, this is your man. And unusually for him, he is so right about the special effects. Reviews from 'real people' who are not professional critics, are here. Another review by Philip French, of the Observer, is also worth a read. More details about the film, and an extensive collection of trailers, is at The Internet Movie Database site.

Dark Lady
17 May 2002.

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