Confessions of a STAR WARS Virgin: Allison Watches EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES for the First Time

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Our daily series where Allison Keene watches the Star Wars movies for the first time. Read her intro/explanation here, and here’s her reviews of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

I found Attack of the Clones to be a much improved installment after the mess of The Phantom Menace, but it remains entrenched as predominantly adolescent fair.  Shoe-horning in characters from the original trilogy doesn’t really do much to repair things, either, particularly since too often the logic quickly breaks down.  Something about R2 and 3PO’s origin stories continues to bother me (including why R2 has a jetpack in the prequels).  It all just feels a bit too try-hard.  Even though in my original trilogy articles I said I wanted to know more about Vader and the Stormtroopers and Boba Fett, and went on and on about how I loved R2 … well, fans shouldn’t always be given what we want!

Attack of the Clones did succeed in making Anakin a lot more interesting than he was in Phantom Menace, though I fear Hayden Christiensen‘s took too many notes from the first 30 minutes of Mark Hamill‘s performance in A New Hope.  Anakin isn’t just cock-sure and arrogant — which is fine — he’s also extremely whiney (and can’t figure out how to speak like a human).  Make a decision to go against Obi-Wan by using his skills with the Force to wrangle bad guys is one thing, but to throw tantrums in front of Padmé is entirely another.  Hit the jump for my relationship advice to Padmé, and my annoyance with how the Republic suddenly turned into America.

star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-imageFirst of all: Padmé, girl, no.  Look, I got out with the wrong type of guys too, but if one of them told me that he had just slaughtered an entire encampment or men, women and children because of his rage feels, well, as Liz Lemon would say, “that’s a deal breaker!”  Like things weren’t creepy enough in Phantom Menace between these two, now Anakin has just taken to staring at her with dead eyes, to which she replies “you’re making me uncomfortable.”  Red flags!

Attack of the Clones wasn’t as outrightly horrid as Phantom Menace, but it offended in a different way: it was boring.  The complete commitment to CGI meant much larger-scale battle sequences, and while some of the effects were kind of cool (I liked the chase scene with the Fetts and Obi-Wan through the astroids – I always like a good astroid chase), the battles (in space or in the arena) seemed to go on forever, with ultimately low stakes.  I’ll admit that in general that kind of mass-scale war isn’t really my bag visually, but even my inner romantic was bored with Anakin and Padmé’s flirtations, especially the totally illogical idea that they would suddenly get married at the end of things.

star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clonesPlot-wise, I did feel that the rise of Darth Sidious was quite ingeniously wrought, even though there was very little time devoted to it, and it was complicated to the point of incomprehension with the inclusion of Count Dooku (much as I love Christopher Lee, mind you) and how that all related to Darth Maul.  Although, I did get some perverse pleasure that it was basically Jar Jar’s idiocy that lead to the rise of the Stormtroopers in service to soon-to-be Empire.  Serves them all right for putting him in a position of power.  Omnishambles.

I almost liked Attack of the Clones, despite its pacing (it seems like it would be tedious to rewatch, unlike the original triology), but the increasingly lazy use of American cultural touchstones (two-term Presidents, constitutions, senates and elections) regarding the Republic and Naboo, and the fact that translators aren’t necessary because overwhelmingly everyone speaks English just annoyed me enough to not.

Bottom Line: Like Phantom Menace, part of a fair kid-oriented sci-fi franchise.  Not generally up to Star Wars snuff, though.

star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-posterEpisode II Roundup:

Favorite Character(s): Obi-Wan, R2, 3PO

Least Favorite Character(s): Jar Jar, the trade union guy won’t take a hint, and Dooku (if he was so powerful … I don’t know, the logic again breaks down) 

Pop Culture Moments: “If droids could think there’d be none of us!” – Shhh, don’t tell the Cylons!  And I see that Keira Knightly was replaced more or less by Rose Byrne as one of Padmé’s handmaidens.  Also, Jimmy Smits, what are you doing there?

What worked best: Ewan McGregor works with green screens exceptionally well.  I also really liked the reveal about the Stormtroopers.  It was weird, but it was perfectly sci-fi and also could conceivably make sense with the original trilogy.

What didn’t work:  Why is Jar Jar always 20 decibels louder than everyone else?  Also, it didn’t occur to Obi-Wan that someone had just deleted the planet from the star base?  Come on, I thought you had this!

Best Quotes: “I think you need to go home and rethink your life” – if only I could use that Jedi mind trick on people I meet in bars…

If you missed my previous reviews, here’s Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Look for my Episode 3 review tomorrow night.

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  • Brett

    Star Wars… a great story undone by terrible storytelling. The original trilogy=shitty movies. The prequel trilogy=slightly less shitty but with the same terrible acting and storytelling.

    • Austin

      you’re trolling

    • Sean

      You did it! You got attention by saying something stupid!

      • Brett

        Yeah…I’m a troll. You got me!

    • Rise

      Brett…… Brett Ratner?

  • Robert Downey

    First!

    • Reidydog

      Really????

  • Austin

    “two-term Presidents, constitutions, senates and elections” what the hell are you saying? You get that that’s how most democracies/republics are set up right? That’s not trying to be America, that’s trying to be authentic…

    • Austin

      Oh and guess what! When the film is translated into spanish the whole senate speaks spanish without need for translators and when the film is translated into german the whole senate speaks german without the need for translators. That’s just how sci-fi movies work. But even still, the United Nations’ default language is usually English, why couldn’t the republic’s be? There was really no need for your “too American” observation as it’s not really founded in anything

      • Nom

        She’s commenting on election terms and conditions because, compared to the original 3, the new movies are blunt when it comes to making connections to our real world. The fact that it immediately makes you think of Earthly democratic rules immediately removes you from the sci-fi worlds that the original 3 films had created so well.

        Pertaining to the old films about languages, the originals had multiple aliens speaking different languages we can’t understand – creating a feeling that you’re dropped into an actual world of aliens, while the new films have mostly English speaking aliens, breaking that feeling of being in another world again.

        There is such a hostile anger in these comments. She’s not bad-mouthing America – she’s simply pointing out some dry dialogue and plot.

    • Steve

      A faint glimmer of hope, such as it is, Episode III provided a hint of redemption for the Star Wars saga by allowing Anakin’s turn to the dark side and the Republic’s fall into Imperialism somewhat watchable. Best line from Episode III (a line that makes all that American symbolism especially resonant): “So this is how liberty dies….”

      • Bauer

        In this Galaxy, liberty dies when the united s,tates government supports coup d’etats that fits it’s need for resources and violates sovereign foreign territory under false pretenses like reports of Darth Vader’s Death Star in I,rak.

        Among others: 1903 Colombia, 1946 Greece, 1964 Brasil, 11 sept 1973 Chile, 1973 Uruguay, 1975 Operatio,n cóndor in South America, 1976 Argentina, 1981 Nicaragua, 1989 Paraguay, any similarities to the empire and its mindless stormtroopers are pure coincidence.

  • James Freud

    Allison, you need an editor or just a friend to look over your grammar and spelling before you post a story.

    • Mike Hutnan

      I was going to ask if she typed this on a phone or tablet and auto-correct just messed with her..

      I am liking these reviews, they were better for the original trilogy though. Although there has been a greater period of time since the release of the original trilogy (meaning there are way more pop-culture references) the movies themselves haven’t been discussed as much with the people/society around Alison. Since she was 12 (that was it right?) when Phantom Menace was released she has had way more knowledge of what was going to happen and more influence from societies opinions. It is no surprise to me that she is taking a dislike to the prequel trilogy.

      I am no champion for the prequel trilogy, or the originals. They are all good fun in my opinion. But if Alison can get behind the [definitely] cheesy originals, then I don’t see why she wouldn’t do the same for the prequels. I agree that the story/stories, in general, for the prequels was botched, but the overarching story-line is much better than in the originals. The only reason people would disagree with me is because everyone knew what was going to happen throughout the prequels – but more specifically Revenge of the Sith – so there was nothing that would really wow the audience like the first two Star Wars movies did.

      TL;DR – Alison only dislikes the prequels because she was told to, she says she doesn’t mind the CGI because then that sets her opinion apart. That is just my opinion though, could be wrong.

      Looking forward to tomorrows review though, I’m excited for your thoughts. Hopefully there will be a recap and overall musings for Sunday too..?

  • Straymo

    Thank you for introducing me to the word “omnishambles.” I want to use it in every sentence from now on.

  • ScaredForMovies

    Anakin: I’m never going back to Jedi school!!! Never!!!

    And thus the appeal of the original trilogy Darth Vader was diminished forever.

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

  • Melack

    AOTC – the only SW movie (so far) I don’t really like as a whole. It has it’s moments though, I love all the scenes on Tatooine for example, great images and great score! And the scene when Anakin professes how he wants to be all powerful is very strong to me, Hayden’s best scene in AOTC. Luckily he stepped up his game plenty for ROTS.

    Oh and I like Obi-Wan’s little detective journey. Ewan McGregor is great! And the fight he has with Jango is damn cool.

  • Chris

    Don’t sweat some of these fanboy comments. You’re reviews are
    great. Personally I really enjoy all of the SW films. I understand all the
    nitpicking people do, because of some life changing experience that
    they fell with them. However I connect with the whole SW universe. I just
    sit back and think about traveling around the SW galaxy, perhaps being a
    Smuggler, or something… I just really enjoy the movies allot.

    And just for the record, I’m 40, I grew up with the OT, had all the toys, AND I cannot
    Wait for the new ones.

  • Chris

    Sorry. Got “invalid code” error. And it posted a few too many.

  • bearmon2010

    Who cares. He admitted ? So what.

  • Travis Scott

    I love you Allison. This stuff was hilarious. Ill read anything you do.

  • Moe

    Interesting seeing your perspective. Enjoying these article.

    Star Wars, Ep 4,5 and 6….honestly, they were just so far ahead of their time, the effects were absolutely stunning compared to any other space movies at the time. The cast was perfect together, Lucas was hungry, young and inventive. Alot of talented people working on those, most of whom who have gone on to be very successful. Throw in every small kid on the planet buying the bed sheets, toys, toothbrushes, etc…the phenemenon was a product of great talent, perfect timing and great marketing.

    (Side note: the main cast of the sequels, Ford, Hamill and Fischer, complained to Lucas that the writing was bad and wooden. Ghosts of prequel future : )

    Fast forward to the prequels. We have silly looking CGI that looks fake and takes you out of the movie. Lucas has grown old and has ultimate power…his word is law, because he is now seen as a legend based off of SW and Indiana Jones, and there is no Spielberg or any other visionary to tell him that, George, look…the writing is goofy, the Anakin casting has been atrocious, most of the effects look crappy, and the story borders on really cheesy. Lucas created the monster, when what he needed was someone with some balls to say, look, make them shorter, develop your characters, recast…basically he needed someone to Empire Strikes Back the films, which is to say, direct them, tighten them up, and not try to shove every iota of an idea he had been thinking of for twenty years down our throats.

    And as for going back and changing the originals, yeah…that whole thing falls right in line with the prequels. Unrestrained Lucas. I honestly feel bad for the guy in a way, and I think that now that the dust has settled and they are considered terrible, he probably wonders…why didn’t someone tell me? Why didn’t someone point out this crap while we were making them? I think Lucas had great intentions, and he came up with a great idea…he just never had the abilities of a great writer or director. No shame in that, as long as you don’t surround yourself by yes men.

    Anyway, long winded, sorry. Revenge of the Sith is by far the best of the three, I know it felt like a breath of fresh air to me, it was like OK, this movie kind of belongs with the sequels. The fight scene between Obi Wan and Anakin is as good as anything in New Hope or Return, IMO. Movie overall isn’t excellent, but it’s like Citizen Kane compared to the first two.

    • Chad

      CGI doesn’t take you out of the move anymore than herky-jerky stop motion animation or really obvious matte lines did. It’s one thing to quote something you heard online, but at least make it consistent.

      And Star Wars wasn’t “ahead of its time”… it was a blatant copy of serials that came in the 1930s. That’s BEFORE its time, really. There was nothing done in SW that wasn’t done first in Flash Gordon (or Kurosawa, where Lucas stole the story from). The only groundbreaking element was the SFX which is why we have films like Transformers now… all SFX, bad acting, lazy writing. Sound familiar?

      • Moe

        Did you even read what I wrote? Or are you just trying to sound like you know what you are talking about?

        I said the phenomenon of Star Wars was due to the talent involves, timing and great marketing. And yeah, the effects from the sequels are pretty much universally considered waaaaay ahead of their time. When did I say that the story was ahead of it’s time? Great cast, though you can probably nitpick that and try to say the acting sucked….but I’m assuming the fact that the films are universally acclaimed and made billions means something….though I respect your opinion if you actually believe all that negativity.

        And I completely disagree that the effects in the sequels took you out of the film. I don’t know if you are like 23 and grew up with the prequels, but seeing the originals in the theatre was an experience…the entire audience was in awe at the visuals. CGI has never looked real, and every movie I see with cartoon-like animals and characters just look ridiculous.

        And Lucas has openly stated that Kurowsa was an inspiration. Of course, their are only so many archetypes to create interesting stories out of. And did you really just say that SW is comparable to Transformers??? The prequels, OK, but the first three, that’s just silliness.

      • ScaredForMovies

        The effects in the original Star Wars were ground breaking. You don’t know what you’re talking about. The opening of the Star Destroyer chasing Leia’s spaceship blew peoples minds. The effect still stand up well against todays standards. Everything feels more real and tangible. I won’t even go into the CGI aliens vs puppets/make-up debate. The prequels CGI is way too clean. Twenty years from now CGI will be photo realistic. You’ll look back at the prequels and realize they didn’t age as well as the original trilogy.

    • JohnDoe

      The Original Trilogy was, and is still great because of the collaboration between very talented people. Gary Kurtz, Lawrence Kasdan, Irvin Kershner, George Lucas, etc.

  • MainFragger

    Unfortunately, the only way you can tell Hayden Christiensen is acting is when he whines and act so bad that there can be no doubt that he’s trying to. Otherwise, he is the most monotone flat actor I’ve ever seen..He’s even worse than Kenau Revees..And thats SAYING something!

  • Yahzee

    When I first read about this series of articles I though it was a great idea for someone to watch and review every Star Wars film without preconceived notions.
    Problem is, you can already tell that she already had preconceived notions from working in such environment were you are “told” which Star Wars movies suck and which doesn’t, what characters suck and which ones are great, and you can tell that from the way she describes things, sometimes with no real fundament on her side.
    Also, please do a double check to your writing, so many typos (I can forgive the incorrect names) take away from a serious article.

    • Yahzee

      WHERE you “told”, not ‘were’. Damn, there goes the credibility of my rant :P

  • Moe

    Did you even read what I wrote? Or are you just trying to sound like you know what you are talking about?

    I said the phenomenon of Star Wars was due to the talent involved, timing and great marketing. And yeah, the effects from the sequels are pretty much universally considered waaaaay ahead of their time. When did I say that the story was ahead of it\’s time? Great cast, though you can probably nitpick that and try to say the acting sucked….but I\’m assuming the fact that the films are universally acclaimed and made billions means something….though I respect your opinion if you actually believe all that negativity.

    And I completely disagree that the effects in the sequels took you out of the film. I don\’t know if you are like 23 and grew up with the prequels, but seeing the originals in the theatre was an experience…the entire audience was in awe at the visuals. CGI has never looked real, and every movie I see with cartoon-like animals and characters just look ridiculous.

    And Lucas has openly stated that Kurowsa was an inspiration. Of course, their are only so many archetypes to create interesting stories out of. And did you really just say that SW is comparable to Transformers??? The prequels, OK, but the first three, that\’s just silliness.

  • RorshachLives!

    Another fine review, kudos Allison… and you’re absolutely right about the pace of AOTC, the cut is clearly a good twenty minutes too long (at least); if both the interminable romance between Anakin and Amidala plus many of the big action setpieces had all been tightened up, expository scenes jettisoned, and three deleted scenes restored – Padme’s address to the Senate, the visit to Padme’s family home on Naboo, Obi Wan and Mace Windu in the docking bay of the Jedi temple – with a maximum running time of about 127 minutes at most, AOTC would have been a much more enjoyable film as it stands now.

  • JohnDoe

    Easily the absolute worst of the prequel trilogy. I haven’t seen this movie since I saw it in the theater, and I don’t care to. Well, I don’t care for any of the prequels, but I’d watch Episode III again over this.

  • Wombatawa

    “the increasingly lazy use of American cultural touchstones (two-term Presidents, constitutions, senates and elections) regarding the Republic and Naboo”

    Just for the record, more for some of the fanboys who have griped about such things for the past decade, the political intrigue and senates and so on were in the original plans way back in the 70s. And don’t forget even in ANH 4 they even specifically mention the Imperial Senate and diplomats and regional governors and such.

    More to this, constitutions are hardly any American-only thing, nor elections, nor senates, nor even term limits.

    (but these reviews are interesting, loved your 4-6 takes, it does feel like you were probably a touch influenced by the general outcry about certain things about 1-3 and not seeing them in entire purity though but still interesting)

    I know many fanboys went hysterical that it dealt with so much ‘boring’ politics but if you read early stuff from Lucas in the late 70s/early 80s his plans had been for TONS of politics, even more than we got in 1-3.

  • Northern Star

    I agree with the comments above about the running time on ‘…Clones’, there’s a pretty great ‘Star Wars’ movie in there among all the dead wood of extraneous scenes and sections thereof, a great editor could easily trim that movie down to about 124 or 125 minutes – same length as ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ – not lose anything important, shape the performances through clever and precise editing, and what a difference it would make…

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