EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES
I'd mellowed considerably on Star Wars by the time AOTC was announced and Trailered. I kept my geek on "simmer" and avoided any preconceptions other than
a) the title was kinda clumsy
b) there appeared to be a few Jedi fighting in it
I hadn't completely absorbed George Lucas' "it's like a cheesy Saturday morning movie serial, see?" for his title choices yet, and, busy with work and life, I simply missed the trailers that showed glimpses of dozens of Jedi hacking at crap.
But when me and some friends hit the theater, I was, more than anything, psyched to see a new Star Wars film - what, was it NOT going to have flashy lightsabers and whizzy starships? What I didn't realize was that it was also going to give me some pain mixed in with its delight.
Things I liked:
1) Different flow. The "big chase" scene being in the first act, and the last action act being relatively continuous was something not seen since the original movie, really. (Star Wars/A New Hope, - all a single space battle at the end; Empire - escape scene mixed with duel, followed by pursuit scene; Jedi - trio of space/land/saber battle, all at end; Phantom Menace - repeat of Jedi; AOTC - land
fight then land battle followed by duel then duel; Sith - double saber duels.)
2) Big Clone battle on Geonosis. This just looked spectacular and I loved every second of it.
3) Again, Ewan McGregor's Kenobi. It's just fun to watch.
4) Natalie Portman's hinder. This just looked spectacular and I loved every second of it. It's just fun to watch.
Things I liked less:
1) The "romance". Yep, pretty painful, and unforgivingly-so. Clunky dialogue, bad giggles, super-powered angst coming from nowhere, and absolutely zero subtlety. George definitely should have had someone tag in here - a better director could have at least softened the cheeseball factors with better performances out of his leads.
And come on - I've known a few manipulative and downright mean chicks in my life, and yeah, they'd cook me a meal and invite me to a cozy firelit room to give me the Big Surprise Stop Sign, but even they'd never've donned a black bondage outfit to do so. I mean, they had standards.
2) Dooku's fighting style. You go out of your way to design a different saber that hints at and, in the geeky backstory, harkens to a one-handed classical fencer pose and style, and you even FX Christpher Lee's head onto a stunt guy anyway; but in the end it's still all big sweeps and swings instead of cuts and lunges.
Same as TPM from last week; if there are any changes in the BluRay version compared to the DVD version, I'm the wrong guy to spot them. Sound still great, the picture is perfect (maybe they cleaned up some of the digital stuff in Palpatine's office? The reds seemed a little less fuzzy than I'd recalled). A nice feature in this BluRay release is that they've cobbled together an additional commentary track for each film. It says it's "archival", and is clearly snippets of interviews and quickie comments, and I suspect even pieces of commentaries they recorded but didn't use all of. Nice to hear a few comments from some actors who aren't an embittered Carrie Fisher, for instance.
(Maybe they should have CGId in a shawl for Amidala's "I dump you hotly" scene?)
If there's a down side to the BluRay it's the gorrammed time it takes to load each new section of menu - reminds me of booting up my dad's old 8086 PC. I know part of that can be my player, but man, it's annoying, and it's not even George Lucas's fault!
I like it. I know I'm supposed to hate the whole thing because of the flubbed romance thing, but c'mon - Obi-wan Kenobi fights a Harryhausen monster! With a spear, even! Does it feel cheesy to end up spending a buttload of time on "I'm never coming back to this planet again" (oh, but we are, Luke - in 5 out of 6 movies) sandy Tatooine? Sure. Is Lucas showcasing his ability to drag mediocre performances from capable actors? Sure. Does mommy-loss, adolescent angst, and stolen love seem like a solid base on which to build a black-armored badass who chokes his way through less-than-perfect friendlies like Pee Wee Herman in a chicken factory?
No. And that's the movie's biggest failing to me. I'm simply not convinced that Anakin Skywalker can become Darth Vader - not a bit. And since this whole overarching thing is the story OF Anakin's evolution into Vader, I'd say that's a pretty big problem.
Still and all, I think it works better than The Phantom Menace, and is ultimately visually more rewarding, hence...
My rating of its place in the pack, best-to-worst:
1 - XXXX
2 - XXXX
3 - XXXX
4 - Attack of the Clones
5 - The Phantom Menace
6 - XXXX
Next up, for the non-geeks: Revenge of the Sith.