Movies That Hate You: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

A ship lands on Coruscant and everything seems to be in order.  Senator Amidala is walking down the landing platform and her ship explodes.  A pilot rushes to her aid and we find that Amidala was actually one of her decoys – as the pilot was actually Padme Amidala.

At Palpatine’s office, we find that he has ordered an investigation into the matter, and that Amidala would be assigned Jedi protection.  Master Windu and Yoda assign Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi to protect her, and both have a run-in with an assassin, who is taking orders from someone wearing a costume similar to that of Boba Fett.

When Anakin and Obi-Wan finally corner the assassin, she is killed by a bounty hunter.  Realizing that Coruscant is no longer safe for Amidala, Palpatine orders Anakin to escort her back to her home planet of Naboo.  Obi-Wan, in the meantime, has started investigating the dart used by the assassin, and makes his way to a planet that has been creating an army for the Galactic Republic.

On Naboo, Anakin and Padme get closer to each other, but Anakin has been having terrible dreams about his mother.  They decide to go to Tatooine, and find that Shmi Skywalker had been sold to a moisture farmer named Lars.  Anakin meets his step-brother Owen and his girlfriend Beru, as well as being reunited with his protocol droid C3PO.  Lars, however, gives Anakin some bad news:  Shmi had been taken by the Sand People and is their prisoner.  Anakin takes a speeder bike and goes after her.

He comes across the Raider’s camp and finds his mother.  Having seen her son one last time, she finally passes away.  Anakin loses it and kills all of the Sand People in the camp.  He returns to the Lars Farm with his mother in his arms.  They hold a burial and Anakin laments not being powerful enough to save her.

Obi-Wan, on the other hand, finds that his investigation has led him to Jango Fett, who is considered to be the greatest bounty hunter of the generation.  Jango, in return for using his DNA to create the army for the Galactic Republic, only wanted money and a clone that would age normally.  This clone, named Boba, was being raised like a son.  When Obi-Wan deduces that Jango was the bounty hunter behind the assassination attempt on Amidala, he pursues Jango and the two of them fight.  Jango escapes, but Obi-Wan had placed a transmitter on Jango’s ship.

Obi-Wan would follow Jango to Geonesis, where a clandestine meeting is taking place between the Trade Federation and other galactic powers looking to bring down the Republic.  Obi-Wan would send a message to Anakin and Padme to send to the Jedi Council, and Padme would attempt to rush to rescue Obi-Wan.  When they are captured themselves, Padme declares her undying love to Anakin.  The captured Republic Representatives fight for their lives in a Coliseum, and are about to die when Mace Windu shows up with the Jedi.  A battle ensues, and the Jedi are about to meet their last moments when Yoda appears with an army of Galactic Republic soldiers.

The soldiers and the robots fight across the planet, and Count Dooku, the leader of the Robot powers, attempts to escape.  Anakin and Obi-Wan pursue, and Amidala is slightly injured.  The two Jedi catch up with Count Dooku, and attempt to fight him, but they find that he has mastered the Dark Side and defeats both of them.  Yoda shows up, and he and Dooku also battle.  The fight is a standstill, until Dooku creates a distraction that requires Yoda to use all of his powers to stop.  Dooku escapes, carrying a set of plans for a powerful battlestation with him.

As the Republic marches off to war, Amidala and Anakin get married in a private ceremony on Naboo.

Review and Analysis:

If there were any doubts as to whether or not George Lucas could actually tell a story on his own, Attack of the Clones proved once and for all, that his ability to write, produce, and direct a story as large as the one in Star Wars is not within his realm of abilities.

Given the fact that Lucas was once reported as having written the first six movies before he began filming A New Hope back in 1977, it serves as a notice that if you get too powerful in Hollywood parlance, you run the risk of not being able to get the advice you need to make your movie an enjoyable experience for your audience.  This was the case starting with Return of the Jedi, when David Lynch declined to direct this particular movie.  By the time The Phantom Menace would make to pre-production, those who worked for Lucas were unwilling to challenge him on any of his ideas, since this was being funded by Lucas’ own studio.  And, because of this, everyone was willing to go along with whatever Lucas wanted, even if it meant that movie would drone on and on and on…

There are far too many scenes with very little importance taking up far too much screentime.  Whether these are supposed to be paying adequate homage to the fanbase or are merely attempts at pandering, they do very little to advance the story in any positive direction.

What you're supposed to see is a "Shadow" of Darth Vader. What you're not supposed to notice (or are supposed to forget) is that this film no longer has a coherent story.

For example, there is a moment on Tatooine where Anakin tells Padme that he is going to rescue his mother.  The visual of this scene was focused on the shadows of the characters, in which Anakin, in his cape and hairstyle made his shadow look like that of the helmeted Darth Vader most of us have grown to admire.  While this scene visually makes a point, the characterization throughout the film makes moments like this irrelevant.

When Padme was sleeping in her room in Coruscant, the assassin sent snake-like robo-killers.  The setup just for this scene alone takes twice as long as it should, and the hovercar chase which follows seemed to be overkill.

The final 40 minutes, which should have been the crown on a masterpiece, instead comes off as visual effects junkie trying hard to find that rush they experienced back with A New Hope during the final Death Star attack.  However, despite the attempts to 1-up the action, none of it makes any difference in the end.  Twice, there is an action sequence, and twice the moment is lost because of Yoda intervening.  The main problem with 1-upping an action sequence with another copy of the sequence with more set pieces or characters is that you remove the significance of the last sequence from the minds of the audience.  In other words, there is no time to take in the scenery, and both sequences end up being forgotten.

Wait, Female Jedi?

And even more surprising, an Asian Female Jedi?

A human female Jedi? And she's a woman of color? And she's Asian? Oh, it doesn't really matter, she'll either die here or during Order 66 in the next movie. Still, it's a welcome sight.

This woman is the only non-Alien female Jedi in 6 movies.  But she, like the other female Jedi in this franchise, has no lines of dialogue whatsoever.

While on the Subject of the Jedi:

Considering that the ideas behind the Jedi borrow much from Japanese and Chinese mythology and tradition, it is interesting that there are no Asian men as Jedi (even as many of the Jedi have Asian sounding names).  In fact, there is only one Asian male in the six movies (a Y-Wing pilot who gets two lines before he is blown to bits in Return of the Jedi).

Other than the Asian female Jedi who shows up during the rescue, there are no other women of color as Jedi.  As a matter of the course, there are only 4 female Jedi ever shown on screen in the 6 movies of Star Wars.

Broken Record:

As I seem to state over and over again these days, there are no women of color with any appreciable part to play in the movie.  Despite the fact that Amidala seems to be based on an Asian Marionette design, Amidala and her doubles are played by non-Asian women.

It goes without saying that Black Women are absent from Star Wars.

Anakin Skywalker:

Remember, this kid is supposed to be Neo, according to The Ambiguous Prophecy.

The biggest problem with this character is the fact that in trying to show Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side of the Force, he comes across as a boy who never grows in any direction.  Despite the fact that his at least 17 or 18 at the time of the events in Attack of the Clones, he acts as if he still 6 years old.  Now this may be endearing to some people, but if you’re attempting to tell the story of someone who would grow to become the most hated person in the universe, one would expect the reasons for their evil to be more than petulance, petty jealousy, and a misunderstanding of motives.

Star Trek made a similar mistake with the Borg.  In attempting to provide a storyline, they made their most mysterious villain rather…uninteresting.  Star Wars does the same for Anakin/Vader.

Dark Premonition Storytelling:

If you have scenes where characters sit and talk AND it doesn't advance the plot, cut them. Even if it means the fans don't get pandered to here.

A favorite method of comic book and science fiction storytellers is to have a scene or two where the main characters of a story will ponder the events and proclaim either through words or gestures that there is going to be something dark and destructive that will happen soon.  We get these kinds of moments in Attack of the Clones, and they almost always fall flat.  Dark Premonition Storytelling is a lazy writing device which is usually disguised as pandering to the loyal fanbase.  It attempts to take a nostalgia hook to get the fan to think about how the scene hooks into something that has already been shown to happen in the story’s future – which attempts to gloss over the real lack of consistent internal story for the current film.

Everything Goes on Too Long:

One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is never to waste screentime.  Make your scene effective to promote character, story, or plot and move on.  In the Star Wars universe, there has been a tendency to detail things that aren’t completely necessary, like ship flybys and ship landings.  Instead of having the ship land in 5-10 seconds, after establishing a change in scenery which should last 5 seconds at most, Star Wars will spend 25 seconds at minimum to land/dock a ship with a character on it before advancing a scene.

If this happens once or twice, then the significance of the ship landing is not completely lost.  However, such scenes are prevalent in Star Wars movies, and do not serve any other purpose than a scene fade that lasts far too long.

By the time this scene rolls around, it comes as a welcome change from the bad romance of the first act and a half. But this is only a respite, and the scene itself becomes its own problem.

The investigation that Obi-Wan performs in tracking down Jango Fett – Too long.  The “vacation” that Padme and Anakin take, which is supposed to show how they fall in love – Too long, in the sense that not much actually happens to advance either character.  The Obi-Wan/Jango Fett combat, on the ground and in space – Too long.  Way too long.

The Robot Factory assault by Padme and Anakin…you get the picture.  The general feeling is that the movie tries too hard to dazzle you with visual effects that any chance that the story Attack of the Clones wanted to tell didn’t stand a chance.

Conclusion:

This movie lasts 2 hours.  And it will be two hours that you will never, ever get back.  It does not serve to nitpick this movie in the usual detail because the entire movie is like a miasma, or a morass of unrefined tree sap.  By all rights, Attack of the Clones is a storytelling disaster; and would have been a movie that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would have rightfully trashed.

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8 Responses to Movies That Hate You: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

  1. Eric S says:

    I agree with most of your points here. Lucas should have hired a screenwriter or at least an editor to improve the dialog and trim some of the overlong scenes. There are in fact more than 4 female Jedi in Star Wars, but none play a significant role in the films, so your point is well taken. Your assertion that movies should only take as much time as they need to further the plot and characters is not necessarily true; many films are more about mood and visuals than plot, dialog, action, etc. In the case of the Star Wars prequels, however, scenes tend to drag on unnecessarily.

  2. KingJC says:

    Princess Leia is a Jedi, she just didn’t know how to use the force by the end of the original trilogy, although it was implied that she would learn how

    • Heavy Armor says:

      KingJC,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I really didn’t count Leia as a Jedi because she had not been trained in the Jedi Arts. One can be trained in the use of The Force without becoming Jedi (and, in Leia’s case, she does not become a Jedi until well into the EU Novels). This is most of the reason why I only counted the Asian female Jedi in the count.

  3. Gerry says:

    Check out The Phantom Edit and Attack of the Phantom, both available on torrent. Far superior edits of Eps 1 & 2 scrapping excess dialogue, nipping long action sequences, upping the pace and tension and telling the story waaay better by using deleted scenes. And MINIMUM Jar-Jar. 🙂

  4. Jack Fearon says:

    most of your points are a bit crap i would say.
    the point about scenes being unnecessarily long, if every scene was cut to be precise and to the point, the film would be boring as sin. nothing would happen, you wouldnt get any sort of depth in anything, often the dialogue that you claim to be pointless actually helps thicken the plot alot more, and without them viewers would be lost.

    If the battle/ chase scenes were shorter, they would not be engaging enough and so on.

    In order to tell a story well, you must tell the whole story. half of what you propose would cut out most of the sub story and there would be no content or interest in the films at all.
    Films are made by the subtleties and the details in scenes like those, lose the details, you lose the thing that makes the film a success

    • Heavy Armor says:

      My, oh my, how little you really know.

      For example, the pod race in this movie was originally supposed to be in the first Star Wars movie. But, because Lucas was still a smaller fish in the Hollywood pond, it was excised from the final shooting script (You can still find it in his fourth version of the movie). Instead, a line was inserted for Obi-Wan to mention that he’s heard that Luke was a very good pilot.

      Also, there was supposed to be a bigger scene with Luke talking with Dak and Biggs about defecting to the Rebellion after they joined the Space Forces, but that too was excised. Again, a line gets added for saying “Biggs is right; I’ll never get out of here!”

      Back to the Pod Race – the scene gets a trial run in Return of the Jedi…with the Speeder Bike chase. A better storyteller and scriptwriter could effectively cut the running screentime in half and still manage to tell the story progression – which was to separate Luke and Leia – and introduce the Killer Teddy Bears.

      It’s obvious that you have little experience in writing, editing, or producing media for commercial distribution.

  5. Fixer65 says:

    Hi, I have come to necropost. You write, “It goes without saying that Black Women are absent from Star Wars.” Jabba’s Twi’lek dancer Oola is played by Femi Taylor, who is black. Or does that not count because the character is green?

    • Heavy Armor says:

      Let me see if I have this straight:

      Are you wondering if my statement that Black Women are absent from Star Wars is false because, somewhere buried deep on Page 24, in the Movie’s equivalent of the Classified Ad section, we get a token, whose appearance was not only brief, in deep makeup, and whose role was of little consequence to the story…

      …but the character dies shortly thereafter?

      Do I have this right?

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