Comics Ate My Brain

May 20, 2007

Instant Army’s Gonna Get You: Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Filed under: star wars — Tom Bondurant @ 10:30 pm
Attack of the Clones starts somewhat tentatively, but it finishes well.

Actually, it’s a little strange to describe AOTC‘s opening as “tentative,” since it features the destruction of a big chrome Naboo cruiser. After that sequence, though, the movie takes what I would call a turn towards “aggressive exposition” — as you might guess, exposition with a lightsaber. Because Teen Anakin is the only character unfamiliar from Phantom Menace, the movie has to present him as both a convincing Jedi and a convincing suitor for Padme. Obviously, the Jedi side has the easier job.

It is not quite an act of faith to accept Anakin and Padme’s love, but the movie doesn’t make the best case. Anakin’s fumblings and emo tendencies can be rationalized in large part by his bizarre upbringing: child slave thrust into a seedy adult world and just as suddenly taken out of it for an adolescence filled with adventure and monastic discipline. AOTC offers viewers the first look at Jedi younglings, clearly younger than Anakin was at the start of his training, and no doubt possessed of much greater control of their emotions. With ten or so years having passed since Phantom Menace, Anakin has gone through the bulk of puberty consumed by the visions of his fantasy woman, probably waiting and hoping for the chance to see her again — but bereft of anyone else in his life who’d encourage those feelings or at least get him to work on his social skills. I daresay Anakin didn’t run the “sand” speech by Obi-Wan before putting it to the test.

Padme’s side of the relationship is harder to figure. Perhaps there’s some idealization of Anakin on her part too. He did risk his life — twice — to help her. Anakin and Obi-Wan may even represent Padme’s ideal of the Jedi role in the Republic: great power used wisely, and under the direction of the Supreme Chancellor. Padme is clearly older than Anakin, though, making it very unlikely that she would have any romantic feelings for him back then. Her physical attraction to him, together with the knowledge that as a Jedi he’s almost certainly not involved with anyone else, might have combined for the final push over the cliff.

(That’s either one of the more insightful things I have ever written, or one of the more embarrassingly clueless — U-Decide!)

In any event, they do have some chemistry, especially by the time they team up to rescue Obi-Wan. It wasn’t hard for me to believe they would be together after that point. Their secret wedding is both the movie’s logical “happy ending” and a nice cliffhanger, considering what we know about Anakin’s future. Similarly, the climactic reviewing-the-troops scene is also presented as a triumphal moment, assuming that the troops’ ultimate development is unknown to the viewer. Attack of the Clones succeeds in making its heroes’ achievements wonderful and terrible at the same time.

It also has the advantage of playing with the viewer’s reaction to Phantom Menace. The destruction of the Naboo starship is just the first step in “dirtying” TPM. Jar Jar is pushed to the background and manipulated by Palpatine, Shmi is brutalized, and Nute Gunray and Watto are tragic figures, trying to make up for their TPM failures.

The locations AOTC explores are also more rugged than Naboo: the isolated Lars farm, the lower-rent areas of Coruscant, the perpetually stormy Kamino, and the rocky wastelands of Geonosis. AOTC feels more like a Star Wars movie because Star Wars isn’t supposed to be pristine.

Most of this movie is made of action sequences, and these are all pretty entertaining. The CGI flows freely, sometimes betraying the actors’ best attempts to keep up, but on the whole the illusion is effective. In fact, the CGI camerawork occasionally seems more authentic than its human-guided counterpart. There are some impressive “handheld” CGI shots, but for the humans, the standard camera move seems to be just a slow push in on an actor’s face. This especially occurs at the beginning of the movie, and I guess it indicates “intensity.” Overall, though, the movie is put together better than Phantom Menace, and it held my interest more.

I still can’t quite accept the clonetroopers’ equipment. I can buy that an army of clones was grown over a period of ten years based on an order from an obscure Jedi whose identity was stolen, but to then have them outfitted with heretofore-unknown starships, aircraft, and ground-support vehicles, seems a bit much. I didn’t see any shipyards on Kamino, but maybe they were on the other side of the planet. Or, maybe Palpatine threw some black-budget money at one of his defense-contractor buddies ten years ago, and was just waiting for all the clones to come of age.

Doesn’t look like I’ll get to “Clone Wars,” so next up, Revenge of the Sith!

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