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It's springtime, and once again we have a bombastic space opera from George Lucas to fritter away our hard-earned money on. Last year's offering from Skywalker Ranch had many diehard fans leaving the theater a bit disappointed, so while the hype may be a bit less than it was in 2001, the underlying tension is much greater. Among those who place value judgments on this sort of thing, the second of the first trilogy is considered the best of the three. Will Attack of the Clones be the same? Is the magic numeral II installment the one that will be full of depth, subtlety, and complex character development?
Probably not, but we're going to take you through the movie anyway. Grab a bucket of popcorn and prepare yourself for the Adequacy movie review of Star Wars: Episode II - The Attack of the Clones.
Note: We at Adequacy have made every effort to ensure that our review won't ruin your intended movie-going experience through the inadvertent revelation of any "spoilers".
So the movie starts off with the requisite main score while the oddly skewed yellow text brings us up to speed on the goings-on in the galaxy. Something about unrest in the Senate, a separatist movement led by a "Count Dookie", Amidala being a Senator herself, yada yada yada. The main message is that the forced-perspective text looked lame as fuck in 1977, and seems downright abysmal 25 years later. One would think that with all the billions Lucas has made on the previous films he could afford a decent title sequence.
True to a movie made for kids and dysfunctional adults, we then jump right into the action. Senator Amidala is getting off her liqui-chrome spaceship on Coruscant when... kaboom! ...she blows up. Omigod, is she dead?!? Of course not, it was her stand in (you remember her from Episode I, right?). This scene provides a great opportunity for Natalie Portman to get all weepy over her dead assistant and show us that Amidala even cares for the little people. What an angel.
After that we see Yoda, Samuel "Mace Windu" Jackson and some freaky looking alien Jedi talking to Darth Sidious. Er, um, I mean Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, who of course is in no way connected to Mr. Sidious. I mean, he's obviously a good guy, right? Yeah, sure. If you paid any attention to Episodes IV-VI you already know who he is. Also, those subtle facial expressions and tones of voice suggesting devious intentions sure do lend an air of, shall we say, insidiousness, to him.
So do the Master Jedi Knights pick up on Palpatine's two-faced treachery? No. The eight year-old kids at the theater see it plain as day, but to the leaders of the Jedi Council, people who have undergone the most stringent of training for detecting such duplicity, people who have freakin' powers of mind control and are sitting right across the desk from this guy, to them Palpatine seems A-OK.
Anyway, the whole point of this scene is to set up Obi-Wan "Ewen McGregor looks goofy in a beard" Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as Amidala's bodyguards since it seems like somebody is trying to kill her. Of course it is Palpatine who suggests this. My goodness, what sort of deviltry is he up to? We also briefly see Jar-Jar Binks stroll by in the background. No lines for him in this scene, though.
Prior to Amidala getting hooked up with her Jedi, we get to meet the two of them alone in an elevator. Anakin is now a moody teen and his pining for Natalie Portman's firm buttox is quite apparent. When the elevator door opens they are greeted by Jar-Jar and... he speaks! Nothing like a little racist, neo-Jamaican patois to tickle the funny bone.
Once the whole gang is reunited all the complex character development gets dumped, wholesale, in about 45 seconds of screen time. Obi-Wan is the wise yet caring teacher, Anakin is straining under the throes of pubescent hormonal lust and good old rebellion, while Amidala is distant yet maternal in her care for Anakin. Jar-Jar appears to be little more than house nigger.
The next scenes begin to suggest why Lucas chose Attack of the Clones as title for this movie. All of the visual imagery was stolen from other people's films. The super-dense high rise cityscape, complete with moody nighttime lighting through half-open blinds, is equal parts Blade Runner and The Fifth Elephant to such an obvious degree that it is painful. We get to zoom about this impossibly crowded aerial metropolis at high speeds in a futuristic flying car chase. It's all Luc Besson at this point, including people falling from building to vehicle. You could swap Hayden Christensen (Anakin) with Bruce Willis at any point and the transition would be seamless (admittedly, replacing McGregor with Milla Jovovich might be noticed).
During this chase Anakin and Obi-Wan banter amusingly and offer flip one-liners. It almost works, but not quite. After the necessary crash to end the pursuit we swing fully into Ridley Scott's corner with teeming ground-level streets and a seedy bar full of oddly dressed people.
There's some sort of plot development going on through all this, but it's not very important. What is important is that this movie tries very hard to drop little nuggets of joy for the aging Star Wars fan base. The first one occurs outside the aforementioned bar when a bounty hunter who looks an awful lot like the Boba Fett of Episodes IV-VI kills somebody and then zooms off with his nifty jet pack. It is at this point where the first real signs of plot strain begin to show.
Now for some reason Obi-Wan is going to a mysteriously undocumented planet to investigate whatever the hell it is that we're supposed to care about, while Anakin stays behind to give the screenwriter a convenient opportunity to have Amidala reciprocate Anakin's puppy love.
The mystery planet is actually a sterile looking clone factory run by tall, lizard necked folks. Hard to say which movie set is being cloned, since the sterile, white, space-based science facility has been done so many times before. It's probably safe to credit Kubrick with being the biggest victim of theft here. All the clones themselves look vaguely ethnic. Additionally, they are apparently the precursor to Stormtroopers. Basically, at the factory they quickly breed a bunch of brown-skinned people who are literally identical looking, dress them up in white armor, and now they represent a huge, sinister force. What exactly is George Lucas trying to say here?
The lizard-necked scientists are a bit daft and don't realize they are revealing details to the wrong person when they tell Obi-Wan that the clones were ordered 10 years ago by a supposedly long-dead Jedi. They are also oblivious to the error of revealing the presence of a bounty hunter and his cloned "son", named Jango and Boba Fett, respectively, at the station. People in technical professions like genetics and computer science are often socially and politically clueless that way, resulting in atrocities like nuclear weapons and peer-to-peer file sharing.
Jango and Obi-Wan have a tense little meeting where more plot details of some sort are revealed, including the fact that all the clones look just like Jango himself, and then they get into a fight. Neither one of them dies though, so they chase after each other in space ships instead.
Back in the world of sappy love stories, things are progressing quite slowly. Anakin is still behaving like the sort of teen you'd send to military school as punishment. This brings to mind another apparent failing of Jedi University. If they're so great at molding super-competent Jedi, how come they can't raise a teenager who isn't a whiny little brat?
Amidala stays cold and distant to the advances of "Ani", and it's hard to see how they're going to end up getting busy and squirting out two kids. Then, they kiss. Yes, that abruptly. First she couldn't care less, then she's probing for tonsils. Whatever caused her change of heart apparently got left on the editing room floor.
George Lucas seems to be awfully fond of himself, so eventually he starts cloning his own movies. First Anakin has a dream about his mother being in pain, so he disobeys his orders and goes off to help her (Luke, 1:2). Amidala tags along.
Of course helping Mom means dropping another joy nugget for the fans, so it's back to Tatooine yet again. We reminisce with Watto a bit, and then head out to an awfully familiar looking house. Yup, it's the same one where future whiny little Jedi wannabe Luke grows up, and we get to meet the aunt and uncle who will be so trivial in later movies. The plot strains become more noticeable.
But hey, what's the point of time spent on Tatooine of you don't get to see some Tusken Raiders? Seems they've kidnapped Anakin's mother, Shmi, so we get to bust a hang with a whole bunch of them. Hell, even the Jawas pop up for a cameo. Nothing like rehashing old ground when you can't come up with a decent plot device.
Oh yeah, Anakin's Mom dies in his arms just as he rescues her (how convenient), and then he goes bezerk and slaughters all the Tusken Raiders. Apparently this is bad. Even Yoda gets some negative Force vibes from it, and he's way on the other side of the galaxy.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan's story line isn't doing much better. Lacking anything more exciting to do in a space chase, they fly into an asteroid field. They even venture into an asteroid tunnel. To be fair though, the absolute coolest part of the whole movie happens in this scene. See, Jango Fett has these bomb thingies, and he's hurling them at Obi-Wan's ship. Whenever one of them hits an asteroid and detonates everything goes dead silent for a half second and then a wonderfully flanged and modulated kwaaang! rings out while a pale blue shock wave radiates through space. Hearing that sound is almost worth the price of admission.
Somehow Obi-Wan ends up on a droid factory planet pursuing Jango and Boba and he gets caught by the dread Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus/Saruman the White/Christopher Lee. Count Doofus tells him about some plot involving the Senate and the separatists that is entirely too confusing for this sort of movie. In short, he asks Obi-Wan to join him, and Obi essentially tells him to go fuck himself. Count Doodu responds to the snubbing by amassing a huge army of orcs, er, droids, and leaving Obi-Wan trapped in a tower until he is rescued by a giant owl.
Over on Tatooine, Amidala is revealing herself to be quite the mischievous little minx, and she talks Anakin into going to save Obi-Wan. They arrive at the factory and proceed to battle their way through the exact same sorts of choppy, bashing mechanical bits that so flummoxed Sigourney Weaver in Galaxy Quest. R2-D2 has no problems with them though because he has jet packs. I don't recall him having jet packs before. I imagine they would have been very useful if he had managed to hang onto them for his later adventures.
I wish I could say C3PO did as well as R2, but his head gets lopped off and installed on one of those battle droids, while a battle droid's head gets stuck onto 3PO's ungainly frame. I don't want to ruin the movie, but I must tell you that much hilarity ensues from this manufacturing gaffe. But this movie isn't about droids, it's about clones, so let's get back to those.
The next clone returns us to Ridley Scott territory. Anakin and Amidala get captured, and are joined with Obi-Wan in a gladiator arena (yes, a gladiator arena) where they are forced to fight animals and robots to the death. It is at this point where Natalie Portman's midriff begins to receive significant screen time.
Things go well at first, then our protagonists get into trouble as the robots multiply. All seems lost until Samuel Jackson's bald head strides in, accompanied by a whole bunch of other Jedi. Jedi and robot go at it in great numbers and there's lots of glowing phalluses being wielded about and much carnage. Jango Fett flies on into the fray only to get beheaded by Mace Windu. His young clone Boba seems to find this upsetting, and presumably he'll be holding a grudge for some time over this.
Things go well (again) until our protagonists get into trouble (again) as the robots multiply (again). The next turn in the battle occurs when Yoda comes strafing into the arena with several ships loaded with clones and utters his most absurdly spoken line ever: "Around the survivors a perimeter create!" It made me want to beat Frank Oz to death with a copy of Labyrinth.
As the arena battle winds down and everybody leaves to chase the fleeing Count Dooker we see Boba Fett cradling his progenitor's severed head. Somebody should get the kid some counseling or he's going to have some real issues later on.
After a rolling battle across the plains of... whatever planet they're on ...Doochu gets cornered by Anakin and Obi-Wan. As anybody who's ever seen one of the other Star Wars movies can tell you, it's light saber time.
Anakin attacks. Anakin gets tossed in the corner like a sack of dirty laundry. Obi-wan attacks. Obi-Wan gets beaten down like a filthy Scottish actor. Anakin attacks again, this time in the dark and with two glowing phalluses! He looks a lot like one of those irritating Rave kids waving glowsticks about, but he must've forgotten to take his vitamin E because he gets his hand chopped right off. Yes, his hand. The right one. Just like his future son. Oh, the anachronistic irony! This is profound stuff.
Our protagonists are once again in trouble and all seems lost (again) until... ninja Yoda!
He comes hobbling in on his cane looking a bit feeble, but oh is he pissed. After a short hand gesturing bit of "My Schwartz if bigger than yours" they get down to the wand waving. But Yoda doesn't grab his saber. Nosirree, he telekenesifies it from his belt to his wrinkled green paw. Yoda is one bad mother fucker.
He flips, he spins, he darts through the air like a mosquito on crack. If you watch Iron Monkey on fast forward it still won't come close to the acrobatics of this little gremlin. However, he doesn't win. He's forced to chose between killing Count Doosey and saving the other two Jedi from a falling pillar, and he lets the Count go. Despite his ninja skills, Yoda is a humanitarian at the core. The next shot shows the Count flying away in a ship powered by some sort of solar sail (the "hard science" geeks are going to love that bit).
As the movie draws to a close we see Anakin flexing his new prosthetic hand, just like Luke does in Episode V. It might be chilling if it weren't so contrived. When a screenwriter/director has a decade and a half to come up with a prequel you would expect him to conclude with something a little less obvious. But, that's what you get when you focus on joy nuggets of nostalgia for a pathetic group of emotionally underdeveloped adults.
We hope you have enjoyed this Adequacy