Runtime: 2 Hours
and 22 Minutes
I'm gonna be quite honest with you: it's better than "The
Phantom Menace". It's got some nice action, the acting is
better than in Episode One, and there are several moments where you
can almost touch that ethereal essence, that passion, that sprightly
sense of playfulness and wonder that made the original "Star
Wars" trilogy such a treat. The original "Star Wars"
films were fast and loose and a hell of a lot of fun. The last two
haven't been perfect, and neither were the others (but "The
Empire Strikes Back" was awfully damn close) but they were
onto something. They were spiritual cousins to those matinee serials
that our grandparents enjoyed. They were kid-friendly, but adults
could enjoy them without worry. They were fun yet they also had their
moments of darkness and ominousness. They had glorious creatures,
yet they also had human characters that you cared about. They took
you to new worlds and brought those worlds to life. They were dazzling,
action-packed and you could still respect yourself in the morning.
When watching "Attack of the Clones", there were many things
I enjoyed. There were a lot of great special effects and nice moments
that had nothing to do with special effects. But that playfulness,
that sprightly energy which seethed through the original trilogy,
that "force", if you will, that made them such a treat seems
to be in short supply this time around. "The
Phantom Menace" may have been, by and large, crap. But it
was entertaining crap. I knew from the first viewing that it wasn't
that great, but I had so much fun I went to see it again anyway. I
cheated myself into loving it until I saw it on video and the experience
of watching it in my own home laid all its flaws bare. After seeing
"Attack of the Clones", I know that it is a much better
movie. But I have no desire to rush out and see it again.
That may not seem like a big deal. But, to a guy who was born and
raised with these movies, who feels some element of them in his blood,
that is a stumbling block.
"Attack of the Clones" has two stories going on within
its running length and they never quite jibe. The most interesting
one is a plot to kill Senator Padme (Natalie Portman, who was a queen
last time, but oh well). Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, who actually
gets to do something in this installment) is assigned to hunt the
assailants down and find out who is behind these assassination attempts.
The plot involves an army of clones (we have a title!), political
corruption (even in galaxies far, far away politicians can be dirtbags),
Sith Lords, and a bounty hunter named Jango Fett. This plot brings
a nice sense of mystery back to these films and is by far the most
Unfortunately, for the most part, we also have the romance between
Padme Amidala (Portman) and her Jedi bodyguard Annakin Skywalker (Hayden
Christensen). It's not terrible. Don't get me wrong. It just isn't
particularly great. The dialogue is often lame in these sections of
the film, but it isn't as lame as the trailers or Episode One might
suggest. It just doesn't convince. The romance feels very flat, and
whenever the film goes back to it, one sighs and wants to check one's
watch. Christensen and Portman have absolutely no chemistry together,
and the whole affair is fairly dull.
As a result, the entire film is mired by a sense of dullness. The
film seems eternally long, and the pacing of the movie can best be
described as "glacial". It has enough great moments to recommend
it. A light saber fight between Yoda and Count Dooku (Christopher
Lee) is alone worth the price of admission. A chase through the sky
streets of Coruscant was also very pulse pounding: it reminded me
of an airborne version of the "French Connection" chase.
And all the scenes in which Ewan McGregor is hunting down his leads
are very compelling. I also loved a scene taking place in a futuristic
sports bar of sorts. In this scene, you get a tangible sense of what
makes us so excited about these movies in the first place.
And though it did bore me much of the time, I cannot go so far as
to say it was a bad movie. There is a great deal to recommend about
this picture. The moments where Hayden Christensen asserts himself
and actually shows that he is the man who will be Vader are chilling.
Portman actually stops being wooden long enough to give a good performance
in one or two scenes. And you get to see both Yoda and Samuel L. Jackson
kick some ass Jedi style. But the movie seems to think itself too
much of an institution. It lets its hair down once or twice, but for
the most part it adopts a ponderous and regal style much like the
"Godfather" films. Which is too bad. There is the potential
for some pulse-pounding filmmaking here that is only capitalized upon
in a dozen or so scenes. It seems to distance itself from the audience.
It seems to want to be a legitimate picture rather than just a fun
time. And that's fine and dandy, but...well, something is missing
here. I never thought I would say it, but "The
Phantom Menace" had a better bead on the feel of a "Star
Wars" picture than this one does. It had the feel, but it didn't
have good dialogue or great characters or a streamlined story. This
one has a better story, better dialogue (most of the time) and a few
characters that you are interested in. But it doesn't feel right.
It feels like a hollow spectacle, albeit an impressive one. Much like
the battle toward the end of the film, in which an army of clones
fights an army of droids. Sure, it looks nice. But we really don't
care. Who gives a rat's ass which one wins? There is no emotional
stake here whatsoever.
If this movie had more heart, we might really be getting somewhere.
But as it is, it's a pretty good step in the right direction.