I will defend The Phantom Menace to just about anyone. I think it is unfairly maligned as the poster boy of George Lucas and his terrible prequel trilogy. The main reason I will always defend it is because Episode II is by far the weaker movie. Even I can admit that this movie has considerable flaws sometimes making it border on unwatchable. I like to split Attack of the Clones up into two movies. The first half with Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) falling for each other without a hint of any chemistry, and the second half which is an action extravaganza where we finally get to see the beginnings of the Clone Wars that Obi-Wan Kenobi mentioned in Episode IV. The second half is almost entertaining enough to forgive some of the pitfalls from the first half, but even I have to admit there are faults with this film. Far more than any other movie in the series.
Clones picks up ten years after Episode I. Anakin is now Obi-Wan Kenobi’s (Ewan MacGregor) padawan learner, although he is headstrong and stubborn, which is hindering his Jedi training. The two Jedi are assigned to protect Naboo senator and old friend, Padme Amidala. She is being targeted by terrorists due to her involvement in attempting to prevent a war between the Republic and the Separatists, led by the mysterious Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). Anakin is keen to get to know his childhood crush again, which he is given an opportunity to when she is ordered back to Naboo for her protection while Obi-Wan hunts down the her assailants. The two young lovers spend their time trying to hide their mutual feelings for each other, before heading to save Obi-Wan, who has been captured by the Separatists during his investigation. This move from Dooku eventually leads to the breakout of the Clone Wars and the end of peace in the galaxy for hundreds of years.
Like I said, the first half of this movie is pretty abysmal. We spend much of it watching Anakin and Padme pretending they don’t have feelings for each other. I am not sure if this is the fault of the actors or the wooden direction of Mr. Lucas, but the two have zero chemistry with each other. I found it very hard to believe they were in love, which given this is a big reason for his eventual downfall in Episode III, really needed to happen.
Other than that, the movie is great. We have heard for years about the Clone Wars and to finally see this event on the big screen was quite a treat. Seeing legions of Jedi running into battle was definitely worth the wait, culminating in Yoda picking up a lightsabre for the first time ever in the series. That moment alone almost makes up for the average first half of the film.
My biggest feeling when I watch Episode I and II is that they really should have been combined into one film. There isn’t much that happened in Episode I relating to the larger story of Anakin Skywalker that couldn’t have been told in Episode II. If you had combined the two films into one, then have him become Vader in Episode II, you’d have a whole extra film where we can see Vader hunting down Jedi and establishing himself as Palpatine’s muscle. I really feel like this is a missed opportunity for Lucas. I think the point of these films was to understand more about Vader and his downfall, and we really don’t know much about Vader by the time they’re done.
Is this a great film, probably not. But it is Star Wars. Just start from when Obi-Wan lands on Kamino and throws down with Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and you’ll have a decent time.
I previously wrote that Episode I is my least favourite of the Star Wars prequels. However, Episode II is my actual least favourite. Or maybe they’re equally bad in my mind. Let’s see how I feel by the end of this review!
Episode II is the only prequel I did not see in theaters. This was released just as I was graduating from high school, and I had far more pressing activities on my agenda. You know– signing yearbooks, buying cheap decor for my dorm room, talking smack on AOL Instant Messenger. Very important shit. Besides, I’d had a couple years to rethink the Jar Jar Binks character and was now dubious of George Lucas’ ability to do these movies right.
I did eventually see it on DVD (probably rented from Blockbuster), but could barely remember the plot a hour after viewing. In fact, the only reason I remember most of it now is because I’ve played the Lego Star Wars video game like a hundred times. For what it’s worth, the best level is when Obi Wan visits Kamino and after completing a side task a couple aliens come out and dance to the disco version of the Star Wars theme. Here, watch this YouTube video and be delighted.
Anyway…. We watched Episode II again last night, and I realized that Anakin is maybe the least at fault for his own defection to the Dark Side. Obi Wan and Padme spend the entire time antagonizing him and enabling his shitty/inappropriate behavior, respectively. Neither of them acts like the responsible adults they supposedly are, which is maddening to watch. Obi Wan (played by a bearded Ewan McGregor) takes every opportunity to belittle and condescend his padawan. Yeah, Anakin needed to learn respect, but Obi could have handled most of their interactions better, or at least more privately. Then there’s Padme. She initially puts Anakin in the friend zone (as well she should), but turns around and flirts with him at every opportunity knowing full well he’s obsessed with her. Like, who tells a guy about their first kiss and then literally rolls around in a field with him if you’re tying to create distance? Then when Anakin decides to grow up and follow orders, she takes it upon herself to get involved, forcing him to go against these orders. WTF, Padme. W.T.F.
As far as Star Wars films go, this one is pretty poor. The plot is complicated and forgettable, save a few scenes, many of which are remembered for the wrong reasons (Padme’s strategically ripped shirt, anyone?). The dialogue is as wooden as ever, but the seasoned pros mostly rise above it. Hayden Christensen suffers a similar fate to Jake Lloyd. He was newer to the movie game and could have shone brighter under better direction. The CGI looks better than in Episode I, but is also showing it’s age.
Bring on Episode III…