Thursday, 5 November 2015

BlogalongaStarWars: Episode 5:
Star Wars: Episode II: Attack Of The Clones

My first viewing of Attack Of The Clones was in Orlando, and the reaction of the American audience - especially to the moment when Yoda pulls his lightsabre out of his trousers and waves it around - was so absurdly excitable that it's left me with a falsely fond memory of the film. Whenever I pop it on nowadays I remember how much fun all that Stateside whooping and hollering was, and lull myself into thinking I'm going to get that for the next 142 minutes. But I don't. I don't get that for about 129 minutes, and when I do it's only for one measly minute, and also I'm invariably alone and in my pants rather than surrounded by hundreds of hyped-up yanks. Such is the cold, cruel truth of the Star Wars prequel experience: never as good as the first time, and saddled with the realisation that you're over 40 and watching a cartoon about robots and aliens in your least flattering underwear.

In its defence, Attack Of The Clones is at least better than The Phantom Menace. I mean, syphillis is better than The Phantom Menace (I imagine), but with such a low starting point any sequel would have to be full of terrible actors spouting atrocious dialogue, overly dependent on CGI and saddled with the most excruciating love story in all of cinema to be any worse, ha ha oh dear.
Theirs was a desire that burned across the galaxy

As with its predecessor, the most interesting stuff here is all the Machiavellian machinations Palpatine is up to, only now he's targeting this arrogant young punk who's juiced up to the eyeballs with midichlorians and pissed off with his father figure for having better hair. The slow turning of Anakin to the dark side is one of the few things the prequels (well, Episodes II and III) do well; it's just a shame you have to wade through hours of GCSE drama to get to it. The tension between Anakin and Obi-Wan is palpable, if in danger of being overplayed by subtlety vacuum Hayden Christensen, and Anakin's throbbing chubby for Padme is a reasonable bit of pipe-laying for his later rage. It's just unfortunate that the romance is about as sexy and heartfelt as watching two books on a shelf.

Attack Of The Clones' weird structure is interesting, if not entirely successful, and its ping-ponging back and forth between Obi-Wan's detective work and Anakin's attempts to throw one up Padme make it the least Star Wars-y Star Wars film. For well over an hour we're batted between the two storylines, and it gets a little tiresome after a while, especially as one of them is about two books on a shelf. (The connection here to the other middle episode, The Empire Strikes Back, and its hopping between Han and Leia's adventures and Luke's Dagobah training, is painfully obvious thanks to the earlier plot's vast superiority.) But Obi-Wan's investigation is fun, if rote, and the characters are eventually reunited believably, even if it is in a silly arena designed for watching executions carried out by unpredictable monstraliens.
The anal gas expulsions of the Reek could disassemble a battle droid at five paces

Along the way we get the Obi-Wan / Jango Fett rumble and dogfight, featuring the prequel trilogy's best sound effects, and the surprisingly dark massacre of the Tusken Raiders (although frankly I'd like to have seen more of that; I guess it's not appropriate for the same audience who lapped up Jar Jar Binks three years previously), both of which are distracting enough to forget about the books on the shelf for a few minutes. And the final act - with the arrival of the Jedi (especially Mace Windu, who George Lucas finally realises is his MVP), the lightsabre duels between Anakin, Obi-Wan, Yoda and Count Dooku and the beginning of the Clone Wars - is a high point on which to end a mostly unexceptional film.

Things are improving then, but only just: shit needs to get real dark if we're going to see the creation of the galaxy's biggest bastard, Hayden Christensen really needs to get up to speed with this acting lark and someone seriously has to restrain George Lucas if he starts typing anything like "I'm haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me" again.

Fucking Binks
Tragically, Jar Jar Binks doesn't die a horrific, brutal death in Attack Of The Clones, but he is at least not in it very much. I refuse to believe this is because Lucas listened to fans, given that he's done so much else to annoy us, but I welcome it nevertheless. I still haven't decided whether the fact that Binks effectively ensures decades of war across the galaxy, indirectly causing the loss of billions of lives, is infuriating or just downright hilarious.

Fucking C-3P0
Fast becoming this film's Jar Jar Binks, C-3P0 is once again shoehorned into a story in which he has literally fuck all to do just for the sake of a handful of unbelievably shit gags. Inexplicably dragged along from Tattooine, he nonsensically wanders out of a perfectly safe starship and into an excruciating series of atrociously unfunny moments designed to destroy any goodwill left towards one of the two characters who brought us into this universe in the first place. If anyone can adequately explain how a robot from a long time ago and a galaxy far, far away would ever use a phrase like "this is such a drag", I'm all ears.

John Williams' score

At least somebody manages to not be annoying, and obviously it's John Williams, who cranks out a fairly avant-garde score this time round: electric guitars in Star Wars? Madness, but cool, sexy madness. And his love theme 'Across The Stars' is absolutely beautiful, so much so that you almost believe two books on a shelf could fall in love.

Jango Unbrained
You can't beat a good decapitation in a PG-rated kids' film, and it's great to see Samuel L Jackson exact furious vengeance on Jango Fett by lopping his bonce off in front of his young son. I like to imagine the rest of Mace Windu's life was spent in blissful ignorance of Boba Fett's consistently unsuccessful assassination attempts, like an intergalactic version of Michael Palin's Ken and the old dear from A Fish Called Wanda.

Yoda's punking
When Yoda is revealed to be some kind of samurai ninja at the end, it's an undeniably fun and exciting moment. But for me, the bit where - having flung himself around like a little green pinball trying to kill Dooku - he stops, picks up his walking stick and hobbles about like a 900-year-old whatever-he-is again is exactly the kind of comedy we needed more of in these films I'M LOOKING AT YOU BINKS

What is the point of all this? I'll tell you. (short answer: no point)
Header pic by dark lord of the Sith Olly Moss

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