Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
CLONES was among the first movies to be shot entirely digitally, on a high definition 24 frame per second system. Speaking of excitement, a group of friends and I drove with anticipation to Orlando for a premiere. An enthusiastic young emcee introduced the film like a fanboy who could barely contain himself. He explained the digital process, how film stock was becoming passe. How we were "about to see colors that we've never seen". Yes, it looked sensational, but hardly unprecedented. The content defeated any potential for a "wow" experience. The tech just wasn't enough. I was reminded that night of the time I went to the Cinerama Dome in L.A. to see WILD WILD WEST, a wretched film. I had to seize the opportunity to see something, anything in that historical theater with its wide, concave screen, but when the movie ain't there, it just doesn't matter.
EPISODE II picks up ten years after the close of its predecessor. Obi-Wan (McGregor) and Anakin (Christiansen) are enlisted to protect Padmé (Portman) after an attempt is made on her life. While Obi-Wan travels to the ocean planet of Kamino and beyond to investigate (and uses the old Jedi mind trick on a slythmonger), Anakin and Padme trek to her home planet of Naboo, where romance inevitably blossoms. To say that their scenes are wooden is being generous. A far cry from the sparks between Han and Leia, the latter of whom is of course, Padme's offspring. That is not to say that mom doesn't exhibit pluck and spunk, but Portman seems lost and bored. Christiansen is earnest but boring.
Exhibiting considerably more life is Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, a Jedi master and eventual turncoat for Darth Sidious. His rebellion against the Republic leads to the Clone Wars, a battle involving multitudes of interplanetary systems which have seceded from the Republic. Yep, more droids. Obi-Wan eventually discovers Dooku's betrayal and nefarious deeds. Later renamed Darth Tyranus, the traitor engages Obi-Wan, Anakin, and even his old Master Yoda in an elaborate battle with lightsabers, in a nicely articulated sequence. As I said, the action is solid in ATTACK OF THE CLONES, especially the rescue scenes.
Along the way, we also travel to Tattooine where Anakin discovers the fate of his mother and meets his step brother Owen Lars (recall EPISODE IV). Anakin's discoveries will lead to his unleashing of unbridled rage, a precursor of what's to come. This story thread does offer some development of the drama of the young man's downfall, but could've allowed more scenes that were less melodramatic to flesh it out. I realize that the original STAR WARS saga was based on old Westerns and campy serials, but Lucas would've done better to follow that other influence, Kurosawa, a bit more with these prequels. It seems that the Creator was so enamored with his palate of technology that he forgot what made the saga so compelling in the first place.
And again, what held my interest was the observation of the development of the characters who are held dear from the original trilogy. As I watch those films, I study the faces of Obi-Wan and Yoda. Think on Darth Vader as he chokes Empire underlings and engineers construction of rebuilding of the Death Star. By that time, all had endured a lifetime of struggle. How their thoughts must haunt them. Vader will recognize the shred of good left in him by RETURN OF THE JEDI. As mediocre as Anakin is drawn in the newer films, it's still fascinating to see the origins, where in the timeline the corrosion began.
But considered overall (along with Episodes I and III), I'm afraid this comic says it best: