Director: George Lucas
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Christopher Lee
Series: Star Wars
MPAA Rating: PG
Length: 142 Minutes
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This review features spoilers for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars (1977), and Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
So The Phantom Menace happened. Like your first sexual experience, Episode I of the Star Wars Saga was a fumbling, if good natured attempt to induce pleasure. Poor George Lucas hadn't had a good creative coupling in so long, the he blew his filmmaker's wad all over the plot, pacing, and characters, resulting in a goddamned mess of a film.
If I'm really comparing Episode I to premature ejaculation, which I am, then Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones would be like waking up next to Farmer McClurgen's prize winning goat, Matilda, while you're both buried under about 42 bottles of Early Times Whiskey, and Matilda is dead from a toy lightsaber that's been lodged handle deep up her ass.
With that image burned into your brain...
Years after the defeat of the Trade Federation and the death of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is now a Jedi Master and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now a young man as well as Obi-Wan's Padawan. Together they've been assigned to provide extra security for Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), who has been the target of several assassination attempts.
After another daring attempt to kill the Senator takes place, Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) convinces Padme to go into hiding on her home planet of Naboo, and he also convinces the Jedi Council to appoint Anakin as her Jedi Bodyguard while Obi-Wan takes a turn at being an intergalactic Sam Spade, as he hunts down her killers who seem to have ties to a powerful former Jedi, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee).
Right away you can give one point to this film. It definitely has a more focused narrative than The Phantom Menace which, as I said in my review yesterday, was " like a live action Wikipedia summary for a chunk of the Star Wars timeline". So that's kind of nice...
Also, if I'm going to continue on the compliment train, which I am, the entire art department outdid themselves again. Everything looks incredible, including Natalie Portman, who unfortunately is just paraded around in a new outfit in each scene and not given a chance to do anything she's talented at... Like y'know... fucking acting or something.
Speaking of acting, HOLY FUDGE RABBITS! This film features the absolute worst performances from some of the most renowned actors of all time. Ian McDiarmid is the only actor who looks like he's having any fun, and that's because he's basically the star of this entire trilogy. Natalie Portman knows she's just there to show off a few coy hints at cleavage (this a PG rated film after all) and her toned, smooth midriff (which, if she would allow me, I'd use as a pillow so I could finally get a good night's sleep for once in my life, instead of waking up with my dog's stinky ass on my face), as she pretends to be in love with a woefully under-directed Hayden Christensen, who delivers his lines in one of two modes; serial rapist or angsty pre-teen.
Ewan McGregor, similar to Natalie Portman, just kind of rolls his eyes and says "fine...", and pretends that he's interacting with futuristic technology or strange aliens, while he's actually staring at a green screen with a look of bemused (and occasionally annoyed) bewilderment. Christopher Lee shows up eventually to Christopher Lee the shit out of his villainous Count Dooku, but again he seems horrifically under directed, and Dooku comes of as a totally one dimensional space wizard who does a Grade A Saruman impression.
It's no secret by now that this film's set was an actor's worst nightmare. George Lucas' directing style was, at best, "informal", and most of the sets were just the inside of a green box. So it's hard to blame most of the actors for their foibles. Except for Hayden Christensen, who turns in one of the most jaw dropping case studies in the history of schizophrenic over-acting, that he makes Jake Lloyd's Anakin look like an Oscar winner (but let's be honest, it's impossible to truly be angry at Jake Lloyd... we can joke about his performance, but he was simply an overwhelmed little boy cast in one of the biggest films of all time). Christensen, however, seems like sometimes he's intentionally sabotaging his character, lashing out not at the characters in the scene with him, but instead looking straight to the camera and going "eff you, Geroge!"
As dry as the acting is, the script and action scenes are drier than an armadillo's armpits. While the action scenes and scope of the plot are the largest ever seen in a Star Wars film (until the opening sequence of Revenge of the Sith), there's nothing within those scenes to make you give a damn. Everything is just a storm of dated CG, assaulting your eyes without remorse.
Similarly, the script, of you pay attention, is a profoundly stupid attempt at intrigue and suspense, with glaring plot holes that make the area where Alderaan was look like a cozy cottage. For instance, Jango Fett, while speaking with Obi-Wan Kenobi about the army of clones that has been made for the Republic, mentions that he was "recruited by a man called Tyranus on one of the moons of Bogden". So if Obi-Wan reports his findings to the council, which he does, then wouldn't they know this obvious Sith was an obvious Sith? And wouldn't they hesitate to use an army that no one knew existed, and that was commissioned by a villain? This is one of a legion of plotholes and lapses in sanity that dot this movie like advertisements in Times Square.
This movie's notoriety is well deserved. It just sucks, and with a second act that crawls like a snail, it's not only dumb, but it's boring. I've seen worse films, but this film is so universally panned (except by my friend at the local bar who told me with a straight face that this was his third favorite film behind Empire and A New Hope) that is basically destroyed the legacy of this prequel trilogy for all time, and nearly destroyed the careers of several of the actors. This is truly the darkest skid mark on the otherwise brilliantly white underwear of the Star Wars franchise, and if I were to turn this film off, which I am, I'd be reticent to turn it back on ever again.