If you’ve seen any one of the “Star Wars” movies, then you’ve seen “Star Wars: Episode 2 — Attack of the Clones.” Every movie in the series is plotted exactly the same, with approximately 2 big action sequences followed by a final battle that closes things out. And in-between, you get stilted dialogue, amateurish acting, and a whole lot of eye candy. That’s the franchise from an objective point of view, and nothing else.
“Star Wars 2” opens 10 years after the events of “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace” (“Star Wars 1”), with Amidala (Natalie Portman) now a Senator instead of a Queen and finding herself the target of bounty hunter Jango Fett. The Jedi Council sends Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) to protect the Senator. After a scuffle, Kenobi heads off after Jango, while Anakin takes Amidala back home to Naboo to continue protecting her. Along the way, evil Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) manipulates the Senate and begins creating an army of clones that looks a lot like Stormtroopers, and a whole lot of robots blow up and stuff.
The only thing slightly new about “Star Wars 2” is that the special effects have gotten better, and now aliens and droids move onscreen as easily and effortlessly as their human counterparts. The digital scenes are breathtaking and flesh and blood interacts seamlessly with their artificial environment, and more than half of the film could be guessed at being completely digital. But there is one big downside to having all this technology at your disposal: you start forgetting that movies are about human emotions, and about humans having said emotions.
Like “Star Wars 1,” “Star Wars 2” suffers terribly from too much artificiality and not enough humanity. The first action sequence, a high-speed chase through the bright and crowded cityscape of an alien planet, provides the perfect example. The only thing that is real about the scene is McGregor and Christensen, and like characters in “Blade 2,” the flesh and blood humans change to cgi and back again. The rest of the scene looks great and is quite incredible, but after 5 minutes of endless zooming cars, cgi aliens, towering skyscrapers, and flashing neon lights, things went downhill because, frankly, once you’ve seen this sort of thing for 5 straight minutes, why do you need to see it for an additional 15 or 20 minutes? The answer is, you don’t. In this case, more is too much, and less would have been better.
The movie’s standout scenes all involve humans battling each other, but there are so little of these types of action to speak off. There is one large sequence in an alien coliseum that has dozens of Jedis fighting robots and droids and winged aliens. Very nice to look at, but what’s the point? After seeing the battle go on for 10 minutes, I didn’t really need to see it for another 20 minutes. (Also, for robots with supposedly computer targeting systems, those droids can’t shoot the side of a barn.) The phrase “seemingly endless” comes to mind here. Again, another example of too much being way too much. Also, watching an army of lifeless tin cans battling lightsaber-wielding Jedis in an endless parade of cgi-manipulated action is not entertaining, but rather repetitive and passionless.
George Lucas cannot write romance to save his life. The man has absolutely no idea about romance, about women, or about passion. Take the awkward scenes between Amidala and Anakin, as the two “court” each other. That is, if you’ve been living under a rock all your life and think what is happening onscreen is how real people court. Lucas and fellow screenwriter Jonathan Hale (who I doubt had very much influence in the look of the final screenplay) fumbles their way through these scenes, seemingly biding their time until the next artificial battle sequence. It was painful to see such amateurish writing when you know the background is worth millions.
The only sequence that saves the film is a too-short one where Anakin discovers that his mother has been captured by raiders and goes to seek revenge. Unfortunately, following one of his tried and true formulas, Lucas cuts away from Anakin’s revenge scenes to follow Obi-Wan as he pursues Jango Fett. Continuity falls all over the place and seems to have no rhyme and reason for being save for Lucas to do his signature wipe/intercut editing style. As it stands, Kenobi’s hunt for bountyhunter Fett is long and uninvolving, and even a brief scuffle between Kenobi and Jango Fett in a harsh rain is not all that exciting. How could that be possible?
And the less said about the acting the better. George Lucas has forgotten how to direct actors. As she did in “Star Wars 1,” the very talented Natalie Portman once again shows absolutely no range. Ewan McGregor, it seems, has since realized that real acting isn’t required in a George Lucas film. Hayden Christensen tries as the temperamental Jedi apprentice, though he’s mostly just amusing as a wow-he’s-so-horny Jedi hitting relentlessly on Amidala. Of course, this is probably because Christensen has yet to realize Lucas doesn’t really care about his performance, just as long as he stands in the right place in order to interact with Lucas’ army of cgi aliens.
All that said, “Star Wars 2” is what it is, and nothing else. Let’s be frank, shall we? The “Star Wars” franchise has never been known for good acting or excellent screenplays, and “Star Wars 2” continues that tradition. The other plus for “Star Wars 2” is seeing how events are taking shape, since by now everyone knows what’s laying in wait for the characters in the near future. The Jango Fett character is an excellent addition, since we all know he is the father of Boba Fett, who is probably the most popular character in the whole franchise (despite a pathetically weak death in “Return of the Jedi,” natch). Lucas seems to really know the direction that his prequels need to take, and what needs to happen, in order for the original 3 films to make sense. Kudos to him for that, if not much else.
Dear George Lucas. Next time hire a real screenwriter, and let him do more than add one-liners to the screenplay. In fact, let him write the whole screenplay from your story ideas, but please George, I beg of you, don’t do it yourself again.
George Lucas (director) / George Lucas, Jonathan Hales (screenplay)
CAST: Ewan McGregor …. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman …. Senator Padm’ Amidala
Hayden Christensen …. Anakin Skywalker
Christopher Lee …. Count Dooku
Samuel L. Jackson …. Mace Windu
Frank Oz …. Yoda