Wars: Episode II
Attack of the Clones
review by Carrie Gorringe, 17 May 2002
in Attack of the Clones, Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) turns to
Annakin Skywalker (Christensen) after a particularly harrowing and
magnificently choreographed chase through an unnamed city and tells
him that someday "you'll be the death of me."
Cruel irony and ironic self-reflexiveness aside, the
circumstances and the statement set the tone for the film itself.
It's ten years later and Annakin Skywalker (Christiansen), is
smarting under the tutelage of Obi-wan Kenobi (McGregor), whom he
believes is deliberately holding him back out of jealousy.
Annakin and Obi-wan have been assigned to protect the
Princess Padme Amadala (Portman).
Her life has been placed in danger by extremist elements on
the outer fringes of the Republic.
The reckless Annakin, fuelled by resentment, defies several
orders, just as his attraction to the Princess seems to be taking
shape. Meanwhile there
are questions concerning mysterious Count (Lee) and some clones that were ordered long
ago under questionable auspices.
Who's running what, where and why is clouded in an ambiguity
which threatens to destroy an already besieged Republic.
up, Clones contains brilliantly-conceived images coupled with
-- and it's no exaggeration --some of the most ill-conceived and
outright asinine dialogue dreamed up within the last fifty years of
cinema. Throw in a love
story that's saccharine enough to make a Harlequin Romance seem like
classic literature and two young actors who are both singularly and
collectively incapable of making this amatory drivel convincing, and
you have exposed the very weakness of the film:
it has a fragile, if nimbly constructed, frame which is being
forced to carry more weight than possible.
might have thought that co-writer/director Lucas might have sensed
these problems earlier and addressed them in this second chapter, or
maybe there was no real incentive to improve the structure of a
cash-cow franchise like the Star Wars films (Phantom
Menace, after all, has grossed over $924 million, and the
original -- now Chapter Four -- over $774 million).
It's especially shocking that co-writer Hales (responsible
for the storyline for The Scorpion King and several scripts
of the "Young Indiana Jones" TV series) didn't improve
some of the grade-z dialogue. Regardless
of any point in particular, there's no excuse for what's on the
doesn't help matters much when the two protagonists -- those most
crucial to the film's structure and credibility -- can't convey any
emotional range whatsoever. The
audience is supposed to believe that Padme and Annakin are willing
to violate their sense of duty in order to fall in love.
The problem lies in the inability of Portman and Christensen
to convincingly portray that love.
When Annakin tells Padme that he has dreamed about her every
night since he met her, her face and voice reflects an unconvincing,
almost lacquered response, even when she acknowledges that love,
Portman's delivery of her lines is stiff, and unrealistic, and
Christiansen's is on the same level. The dialogue is made remarkable
only by the alternating thuds the audience hears as each groaner
after another traipses forth from the actors' mouths.
sudden rush of passion is credible only if the audience members are
willing to accept the concept of an instant , and enduring
attraction between two pre-teens which was, presumably, established
in Episode One (and itís a premise that doesn't seem likely, since
they display absolutely no affection for each other during the
course of that film -- in fact, quite the opposite).
Clones now provides the explication for this
Romeo-and-Juliet romance, one that we know will end in similar
grief, thanks to what has now been designated Episode Four,
but the script stretches the audience's patience for so long that
there's a real danger of indifference kicking in. Only the
exquisitely designed special effects (partly created by Lucas
stalwart Dennis Muren) for this supposedly life-altering experience
compensates for, and makes barely tolerable, these hideously risible
for the other, and obviously more talented actors, they can do
nothing but fill space and articulate their share of threadbare
aphorisms until the final sequence kicks in. Poor Ewan McGregor and
the always delightfully sinister Christopher Lee can do only so much
to keep credibility and buoyancy alive in the characterizations,
especially since no one else in the cast is given enough screen time
to do so. This approach works
well in the case of Jar Jar Binks, many will be happy to hear
(although he does end up becoming a senator of the Republic --
perhaps this is the Republic's way of kicking him upstairs where he
can do the least harm), but not so well anywhere else.
Lucas's defense, it's too simplistic to complain that Clones is
suffering from a bad case of narrative bloat, as did Phantom
Menace. It does seem, on the surface, that the use of two films
(and eventually three, when the next installment rolls out next
year), as an excuse for an overly long prologue when the original Star
Wars was able to achieve a rational and discrete narrative unit
in a little over two hours could lead to that conclusion. Moreover,
the final powerhouse of a sequence, with every Jedi in town, even
Yoda, engaging in a massive attack against the clones, almost makes
up for everything else, but why did the audience have to wade
through two hours of mediocrity for the final payoff? Is the
audience for the Star Wars series being made to pay three
times over for one-third the material in this case?
The answer to
the last question hopefully might end up being "not
necessarily", particularly if Lucas can made the third film a
coherent and effective bridge between Episodes Two and Four.
If not, what might have seemed like a leisurely, and
entertaining exercise in expository development -- Episodes One and
Two -- just might come to seem like self-indulgence of the most
Samuel L. Jackson
PG - Parental
not be appropriate