Ahhhh, the floodgates may finally open. I ran across so damn may spoilers over the past few months, but nothing too major, thankfully. I can finally flip through the Episode II Visual Dictionary (my favorite piece of "literary" merchandise). Hell, I haven't even read the back of the packaging for the action figures I bought (they're in a pile out of sight, under my desk).
A fan (obviously) echoed my feelings on the IMDB: "Everything George Lucas did wrong in "The Phantom Menace," the disappointing prequel to his "Star Wars" trilogy, he does right - brilliantly right - in "Attack of the Clones." This time out, the force is strong in him - in a very big way."
Another valid point: "The film echoes the structure of franchise peak "The Empire Strikes Back", and co-writer Jonathan Hales' contribution is keenly felt, with better defined characters and an altogether smoother story." I told a friend of mine the other day that this may very well be the ESB of the new lot. Phantom Menace was definitely the RotJ.
Here's another couple lines I agreed with: "Despite the silly title (a tongue-in-cheek nod to the old movie serials), Attack of the Clones is a more mature motion picture. In fact, the only age group who will probably like Episode II less than Episode I are those under 10, who may be frightened or intimidated by the darkness and intensity of this outing." It really pissed me off that it took roughly 20 years for people acknowledge that ESB was the pinnacle of the original Star Wars (it is my all-time #1 movie in several categories; more on that some other time). In fact I used to evaluate movie critics by checking their film guides. If RotJ received a rating equal to or greater than ESB, fuck his worthless opinion on everything else (yeah, screw you Ebert!).
One reviewer pointed out that the "shocking revelation" of ESB was lacking in this episode. True, but we kind of know where we're going. However, I did enjoy little things like the lineage of apprentices fully revealed this time: Yoda -> Dooku -> Qui Gon -> Qbi-Wan -> Anakin.
Another reviewer commented that AotC should stand up to repeated viewings. Indeed. I can't wait to see it again for the story revelations more than just the eye candy. I had the opposite feeling with tPM. I didn't want to watch it again lest I get sick over how goofy the plot(?) was. I have only recently gotten to the point where I enjoy it in terms of an "environment." The Fifth Element had the same effect on me; the juvenile story made me ill, but the visual style broke away from the pitiful script upon subsequent viewings.
One parallel with ESB that I haven't read anyone else pick up on is the re-shuffling of characters. The most brilliant feature of ESB was that they separated the obvious pairings like Luke and Leia, and R2 and C3-PO(they *did* keep Han and Chewie together, of course). Splitting up Obi-Wan and Anakin totally rocked. One critic commented that the separation is when the movie "really starts cooking."
From another review: "The pod race in Phantom is still probably the best action sequence in the series so far." Welllllllll, I wouldn't go that far. I think the original asteroid field chase from ESB kicks everything so far. However, I thought the Coruscant chase could have been paced a bit better. It was visually slow compared to the Pod race. I really thought that was a high point of tPM even though everything peripheral to it was crap!
Here's a scary thought from another review: "Much of Episode II feels like it's ticking off items to make sure we get to the appropriate state of the galaxy by the end of 2005's Episode III. There's still a long way to go -- Anakin has to turn evil and disfigured; Amidala has to have two kids, split them up, and have one become the princess of a planet still not introduced in the series; Yoda and Obi-Wan have to become hermits; and then there's the matter of the Death Star, which has to be built. Episode III is either going to be a complete disaster or a work of genius." Oh shit, he's right! This damn setting-things-up business is exactly what fucked up tPM.
Here's another funny bit from the web: "An impromptu conversation with another filmcritic.com staffer set us off on a number of incongruities and simply baffling moments that might be pointing to Lucas's senility. For example: When did R2-D2 become able to fly? When did Obi-Wan become afraid of flying (or afraid of anything for that matter)? What's with Jimmy Smits and his Elizabethan collar? Since when does a Jedi Knight have to go to a library to figure out where a planet is? And why didn't Lucas get the hint about Jar-Jar Binks the first time around?"
The battle between Yoda and Dooku was sort of silly. First of all, why have Dooku fight everyone one at a time. We see Obi-wan and Anakin fight everyone else in the movie. Save Dooku for Yoda. The let-down of it was that you basically see this same fight in the Jedi Knight video game. Still, the rest of the audience seemed to enjoy it, so maybe that was just me.
How about some new musical themes? There was only one, the nauseating love theme. Actually, it has started to grow on me since I have heard multiple arrangements, but my first impression of it was blah!
The circumstances of Shmi's death were the antithesis of the Pod race in the Phantom Menace. Let me explain: The pod race was excitement without a real emotional investment or sense of urgency (I mean, shouldn't they have just stolen a ship to get back to Naboo; they were wasting time cheating Watto on a long shot to get their ship repaired). There was room for more development of this influential an even in the life of the future Darth Vader. When did Tuskin Raiders start kidnapping humans anyway?
Contrary to what everyone else has said, I was surprised at how well-acted it was. Once again, this is on the basis of very low expectations. Where the acting was weak, I felt the direction and subsequent editing was largely to blame. If you leave the camera on someone after their "moment," you're just going to pull the curtain back and reveal that it's just a show.
The action seemed entirely purposeful this time around. In the past Star Wars movies have either been "sectioned" (chopped into 3 acts according to location) or (as with tPM) directionless. Throughout tPM I really felt like they were just going places just to have an interesting backdrop. This time around everything happened where it did because that was the best place to do it. On that note, I've read a number of reviews that pointed out that the plot of AotC was much smoother than tPM. Indeed! That was the one thing that was so cool about it. Once again there was the bifurcation of the heroes as in ESB (Luke and R2 vs. the Falcon's crew). There were only two storylines running, one for Obi and another for Anakin and Padme. This reflected, in part, a resolution of my earlier complaint against tPM: too many characters! It wasn't that they were hard to keep up with (I had already grown familiar with the action figures several weeks prior), it was just that they took up too much screen time. There were more heroes in tPM on the Queen's ship than there were characters at the end of the original trilogy after they brought everyone onto the field: Lando, Jabba, the Emperor, etc. The sound effect on Jango Fett's "sonic bombs" (I forget what they were called) was awesome. I think part of the sound effect is a heavily distorted open A string on an electric guitar. Of course, there are multiple levels of processing and layers of additional sounds.
Whereas ESB was more a bridge of the action between the adjacent episodes, I think AotC really holds something special. There are more than references to what's coming; there are secrets being slowly revealed. I'm not talking about the Death Star plans. There is much more meat to this episode. At the end of ESB we wanted to find out what happened to Han. This time there is still the mysteries regarding the order from a supposedly dead Jedi master to produce the clone army.
Anakin's move to the Dark Side is shaping up nicely. One reviewer commented that no one bought it in the last movie. This time, boy, he's kinda scary. Oh yeah, and now we know where Luke got that whine from!
Generally I like the emotional flatness of the entire series, but, once again, this movie was the antithesis of tPM. That movie just had the actors running around doing things without motivation. By contrast AotC was hardly an Ingmar Bergman movie, but there were sections when you just had pure character development. Some people are reacting to this the same way as they did to the last unexpected element of the saga: Jar Jar. I bought most character's motivations.
To elaborate on the "flatness" aspect, there are some people who work well in a Star Wars movie and some who just wouldn't. Sally Field would never fit. She would draw too much attention to herself. Ewan McGreggor and Harrison Ford both give great performances without making you watch them. You just follow the story.
Which armies were on whose side? Damn, I'm confused. Okay, I think I can keep it straight. the Jedi are all good (except for the bad ones) and everyone else is bad (except for the girls unless they are bounty hunters).
Why did they take 3-PO with them when they left Tatooine? Did they steal him? Buy him? Did he beg to go and the Lars family just had no use for him? Does "Uncle" Owen have a stroke somewhere down the line and forget he ever owned 3-PO for 10 years when he runs across him at a Jawa sale with Luke twenty years later?
"Size matters not," but Yoda has a big problem keeping that pillar from falling on the heroes. He doesn't have any such problem pulling his saber into his hand, yet he needs a cane to walk. What's up with that?
There are a number of scenes missing that advance footage seemed to indicate would be present. Check out the list (growing all the time) at theforce.net. Many of these I can confirm are *not* rumors. I really hope a bunch of them are re-inserted for the DVD (which is scheduled -though I doubt they'll do it- to be out in November!).
I'm curious to see how AotC will fall into the rank of the saga. My current ranking: ESB, ANH, tPM, RotJ. At the moment AotC falls right in the middle. That's not saying much, but the competition is pretty fierce on one end and non-existent at the other end of the spectrum. ESB happens to be my favorite movie of all time and RotJ is among the most disappointing (it's a rehash of ANH- they start on Tatooine with a bunch of creatures in a cantina and end with a party after they blow up the Death Star).
In closing (I know... finally!), a quick tale of audience participation.
A friend of mine told me about when he saw AotC. At the moment when Mace shows up and puts the lightsaber to Jango Fett's neck on the arena balcony with Dooku, someone in the audience called out (in his best impression of Jules Winnfield, Jackson's character in Pulp Fiction), "I'm sorry, did I break your concentration?" I would have loved to have been there for that!
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