Monday, June 10, 2019

It's Not All Bad...Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

It’s Not All BadStar Wars:  Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Hey, my fellow Jedi Knights!  Welcome back for another installment of “It’s Not All Bad…”, my new semi-regular feature where I take a look at films that are collectively called bad by the court of public opinion and make the argument that, even with their problems, there are still some redeeming factors held within them.  Today, I am on the second in the prequel trilogy; Star Wars:  Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

Obi-Wan's "Bitch please" face.

"I know it was you, Anakin, and don't try to pull the
'smelt it, dealt it' nonsense."
So, as I stated in my look back at The Phantom Menace, I actually like the prequels.  This always causes the “smart geeks” to act smug around me because they are cool enough to hate them and then proceed to talk down to me for daring to have an opinion that isn’t exactly the same as theirs.  Hell, those types are probably already jumping to the comment section to call me an idiot (ha, as if people read and/or comment on this).  I’ve been hearing this condescending garbage for years but that doesn’t change the fact I like the prequels.  I admit there are things wrong with them but there are some really awesome things I love about them so I don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Hell, this spectrum of appreciation is why my reviews come in a 1 to 5 scale and not a Good or Bad method.

I attended Celebration III and Captain Typho (Jay Laga'aia) was the emcee at a bunch
of the panels and he was an insanely charismatic host and made a lot
of the panels super fun. 

So, Attack of the Clones came out in 2002.  I was a college boy still a couple of years away from graduating.  I, of course, went and saw the film opening weekend and really did enjoy it.  Now, what exactly did I enjoy and enjoy to such a degree that I don’t hate the film?  What exactly about the film makes it not all bad?

For one, Samuel L. Jackson is in the film with a purple lightsaber.
If that's not the coolest shit in existence than I don't know what is cool.

First off, Attack of the Clones has some great action.  Whether it is the exciting chase that Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) take on after they foil an assassination attempt on Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) or the final battle that introduces the clone army as they take on the Separatists’ droid army.  One battle that I am particularly fond of is Obi-Wan’s fight with Jango Fett on the landing platform on Kamino.  The battle is short but I definitely found it exciting.  Not to mention seeing a bounty hunter hold his own against a Jedi is fun stuff.  And that leads me to my next point…

I know people are split on a lightsaber battlin' Yoda but I still think it is awesome
when he draws his weapon and goes nuts.

From the rainy planet of Kamino to fathering Aquaman.
I really enjoyed the character of Jango Fett and the actor portraying him; Temuera Morrison.  I know a lot of fans were up in arms over the reveal that the badass bounty hunter Boba Fett was a clone but I really enjoyed seeing his origin and found Jango to be a very interesting character.  On the surface, he’s exciting because he’s got that badass Mandalorian armor, he did that cool flourish with his blaster after gunning down the Jedi during the Battle of Geonosis and he equipped the Slave I with those wicked seismic charges (which the sound design on those babies is incredible!) but Morrison’s performance is the big reason why I found the character intriguing.  Morrison brought this quiet calm that coated a badass veneer and when you add in the fact he agreed to be cloned so he could have an unaltered one to be his son gave him a complexity that we never got to experience in his limited screen time from Boba Fett.  Finally, Jango’s fate and final confrontation with Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) made for a great moment that puts young Boba on the path of being that quiet and cool looking badass we all became enamored with in the original trilogy.

This is definitely one of my favorite parts.

And speaking of the cast, seriously how cool was it to see Christopher Lee in a Star Wars film?  Lee (Rest in Power) had a long career of being a badass—the dude even was in a metal band—and seeing him bring his regal poise and threatening demeanor that he’s capable of to a fallen Jedi who has aligned himself with the Sith was pretty epic.  Fans are split about his battle with Yoda because a lot of fans see it as a betrayal for the little green character (fighting was something a lot of fans just didn’t picture Yoda doing) but this scene—and really any scene with Lee—was made better by his presence.  The way the man carried himself and spoke just commanded attention and he made Dooku feel incredibly threatening and powerful.

Let's be real, too...the curved hilt of his lightsaber is awesome!

One finally element I really enjoyed about the film is the expansion it provides the universe.  The old Expanded Universe books, comics and games did a tremendous job of bringing about new worlds, weapons, ships, creatures and alien species.  However, at the end of it all, they were usually in a print media or in a video game format.  The prequels somehow made these new worlds and beings legitimate and real.  In this one we see more of the city-planet Coruscant and visit a termite-looking world of Geonosis and a water-based planet called Kamino.  We meet bug-like aliens that speak in chirps and clicks and aliens with long necks and elegant voices that are amazing with cloning technology.  This is all fun, universe-building stuff that plays to my overactive imagination and adds depth to this property that I’m such a fan of and I really dig that.

Damn bugs are responsible for the Death Star.

The advancement of the special effects are amazing.
This scene blew me away because Watto literally
looks like he's thinking and trying to remember
Finally, Attack of the Clones has all the little things that embody Star Wars.  There’s John Williams’ mood-setting score and the just amazing sound design that gives unique life to the galaxy far, far away.  Lastly, there are the special effects.  Since the inception of this property, it has always been at the forefront of movie magic and has push the boundaries of visual effects, both practical and computer.  Attack of the Clones once again ventures forth into this with the impressive feat of having two completely computer generated armies.  I know computer effects are quickly becoming cool things to hate but when I saw this and realized that all the droids and all the troopers were totally digital and they looked amazing, I was blown away.

A legion of Jangos!

That sound effect for the seismic charges was epic!
When I say that it’s not all bad when it concerns Attack of the Clones, I’m not making the argument that the film is perfect.  Far from it.  Hayden Christensen’s performance is really hard to sit through.  Additionally, the story is loaded with problems.  For example, the development of Anakin and Padmé’s relationship is extremely weak.  It’s already weird enough that she met him when he was a child but their budding romance never feels natural and the two performers have no chemistry together.  Hell, the development of Anakin’s skirting with the dark side isn’t handled that well either.  I will admit I did like the conflict within him after he slaughters the Tusken Raiders and it feels like we’re really going to see him struggle but this moment is fleeting and dropped due to poor development and performance.  The point is, despite the problems, there are still things I love in this second film in the prequel trilogy and they are why I think it’s not all bad with Episode II.

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