Movie Review: Star Wars: Attack Of The Clones

So, starting today, you can now watch not only the last season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but all the seasons, including some director's cuts as well!  YAY!

Sadly, I'm going out of town and my binge watching of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has to wait until I get back. BOO!

Anyway, when it was announced that all the seasons of The Clone Wars would be available on Netflix, I decided that I would watch Star Wars: Attack of the Clones first, then binge watch all the seasons of The Clone Wars and then finish with Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and see how it all comes together.  So, with that said, on Sunday, I watched Attack of the Clones.


I'm going to admit that I haven't watched this film since I bought it on Blu-Ray.  So, it's been several years.  And, watching it, I was quickly reminded why I haven't watched it in awhile.  It's a really hard film to get through.

Believe me, I am a big Star Wars fan.  I watched the original trilogy probably more than I've watched any other films in my lifetime.  And, I am a big repeat viewer of films in the theater.  To be fair, I watched these films in their original release when movies were cheap and my parents could drop us off at the theater every afternoon during the summer to watch them over and over again.  But, still, if they came out today, I'd still watch them several times in the theater.

Admittedly, the "prequel" trilogy is very hard for me to get through.  In fact, with the exception of a scene here and there, I just can't watch Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  The big reason, though, is that I felt, if anything, they should have just started the prequel trilogy with Attack of the Clones so that the second episode could have focused on the Clone Wars.  You know, that pivotal event in Star Wars history that was referenced in the original trilogy?

But, I'm here to talk specifically about Attack of the Clones.

I'm going to be absolutely honest.  The biggest failure of this film, along with Revenge of the Sith, is the casting of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker.  I do not mean to speak ill of his acting skills and I'm not even saying he can't act.  But, he just was not the man I feared so much as a child.  I get the fact that he was supposed to be a bit younger and more reckless, but he just came off as one of those annoying foot stomping kids.  I wanted to see darkness, but, instead, I got bratiness.  Frowning a lot does not the dark side make.


Speaking of frowning, another thing that I just cannot stand in this movie is the introduction of Boba Fett as a child.  The thing is that, growing up, Boba Fett was, perhaps, my favorite character from the Star Wars movies.  And, a big part of that is that I didn't know much about him.  Yes, he was dangerous, but, he was also cool and mysterious.  Attack of the Clones, however, reduced Boba Fett to a kid with a frown and in need of a haircut.


To a lesser extent, I also thought Natalie Portman was miscast as Padme Amidala.  I didn't think she was as terrible a choice as Hayden Christensen was for Anakin, but, I expect better from her.  After all, she is an Academy Award winning actress.  Yes, she received her Oscar eight years after Attack of the Clones.  But, she's always been a well respected actress, even in her younger years.  On some levels, I almost felt she was over compensating the light of her character for the lack of true darkness from Chrisntensen's Anakin Skywalker.  She was almost too sun shiny at times.  And, because of that, it made it difficult to see her as a respected member of the Galactic Senate.

And, given the amount of love scenes devoted to Anakin and Padme, you'd think, by the end of it, I felt like they were actually in love.  If anything, it felt they were trying to force a square peg into a round hole by constantly telling us how they feel rather than showing it to us.  I felt more of a love connection between Han and Leia in less amount of time in the original trilogy and they didn't need a romantic scene on Naboo in a field full of Heffalumps (yes, I know they're called Shaaks...but, I like to call them Heffalumps).


In fact, if anything, Attack of the Clones, like the rest of the prequel trilogy, is an exercise in excess without actually propelling the story along very much.  Massive love scenes.  Check.  Long drawn out fights.  Check.  Lots of dizzying flying scenes.  Check.  Huge battle scenes involving as many droids, Jedi and clones as possible.  Check.  But, if you really break down the movie into scenes that are actually needed to tell the story, you've probably got about thirty minutes of material.  That's all fine and dandy to use things to fill up some time, but, again, why wasn't the heart of the Clone Wars ever featured in the prequel trilogy?  Yes, once could blame wasting one whole movie on a young Anakin, a Gungan and Midi-chlorians.  But, really, there is so much filler in this film that they could have at least have included more of the actual Clone Wars.

Although, I will admit I actually like the way Attack of the Clones ends with the beginning of the Clone Wars and the shot of the Clone Wars getting ready for battle.


Another thing that is difficult to watch in Attack of the Clones is the over abundance of CGI.  I honestly don't mind CGI, but, not when we're comparing it to one of the greatest science fantasy epics of all time which used little computer graphics in comparison.  There is a lack of weight to the characters against the backdrops they're presented against.  While I understand George Lucas was dissatisfied with some of the scenes from the original movies due to the lack of budget and technology at the time, I also think that less is more.  For example, Tatooine, to me, in the original films feels very tangible to me.  A foreign place that seemed so real.  But, just looking at the scene in which Anakin flies off to find his mother who had been captured by Tusken Raiders, it just looked so fake.  And, I couldn't help but snarkily quip to myself, "I miss the days in which Tatooine looked real?"


Another example I'll give you is the choice to make Yoda CGI rather than using the puppetry of the original films.  I remember recently seeing some deleted scenes and alternate takes of Frank Oz performing Yoda in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.  The acting is amazing and, honestly, feels so more real than the CGI acting of the prequel trilogy's CGI Yoda.  And, speaking of Yoda, why is it that Yoda hobbles around with a cane, yet, when he fights, he can twirl around faster than the Tasmanian Devil?  In truth, it's to show what they could do with CGI that they couldn't with puppetry.  But, in the end, for me, it takes away from who Yoda is.  To me, Yoda is wisdom, not speed and endurance.  I just feel he would have been able to fight Dooku with less moves and with more elegance than he did in this movie.


But, ultimately, I think what the CGI hurt most in this film is the sincerity of the product.  Everything had to be a dazzling display of something and ended up distracting us from things that we needed to see.  And, in the end, I think it also made the prequel trilogy feel way too different from the original trilogy.  With the exception of the Jedi robes and Yoda, R2-D2 and C-3PO, there's hardly anything recognizable that could bridge the two trilogies.

Thankfully, Star Wars: The Clone Wars manages to bring us a universe that seems more real than their live action counterparts.  Admittedly, I started watching the series in the later seasons.  A great deal of it was in part of feeling betrayed by the prequel trilogy.  So, I'll be curious to watch the series in full and to see how the final season ties it back into Revenge of the Sith.  I'll be talking more about The Clone Wars and, finally, Revenge of the Sith in my blog.  So, stay tuned!

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