Star Wars: Episodes I, II, and III – Am I really the only person who does not absolutely hate them? – Part Two
With all the Star Wars Talk going on as of late I am seeing a resurgence of the bashing that follows the prequel trilogy, and for the record – yes they were bad, yes that had flaws, and yes they cursed us with the knowledge that Jar-Jar Binks is now part of our Star Wars collective consciousness – BUT IT IS STILL STAR WARS!!!
In the part two of this Series I tackle Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Domestic Total Gross: $302,191,252
Domestic Lifetime Gross: $310,676,740
Flaws: The Love Story, Buffalo sized Ticks with bulbous asses, The Love Story, the selective blindness of the Jedi, The Love Story, Obi Wan goes down like a bitch, The Love Story, whiny Anakin, and have I mentioned The Love Story?
Strengths: Count Dooku, The Clone backstory, Yoda fight, Dual wielded light sabers, Jango Fett, The Battle of Geonosis, Midriff, Jedi Mullet, Blurred lines, Kit Fisto in action, Boba Begins, Bad MF’rs, Purple Light Saber.
In Episode II Lucas thrusts us into the story, wasting no time setting up the scenario that unfortunately engulfs a large part of the movie – the reunion of Anakin and Padme. We fast forward ten years to find a Teenaged Anakin doing exceptionally well in his Jedi training. Due to an attack on Padme’s life she is assigned Jedi protection in the form of Anakin and Obi Wan, presumably due to their familiarity with the senator. From the moment she comes into the story, things begin to spiral downward for Anakin. He clearly cannot control his feelings when it comes to her. This also sets up one of the worst flaws in the trilogy – the fact that Anakin and Padme have feelings for each other and the Jedi are completely oblivious.
The inability to use the force to sense the goings on around them is a major theme in the trilogy, and one is to believe that this is all the doing of Chancellor Palepatine, whom we later find out is also known as Darth Sidious. It is meant to underscore just how powerful of a Sith Palepatine is, however this message does not get nearly the attention it should in order to make the intended statement. In general Palepatine remains in the background, but we never get to see what he is doing there. The idea is that Sidious is controlling all of the events that unfold in the course of the trilogy, however not showing him putting effort into that goal is a mistake in my opinion.
Again, Ewan McGregor puts in a wonderful performance as the now seasoned Obi Wan Kenobi, sporting the traditional Jedi mullet human seem to adopt. It is very easy to see that the connection between he and Anakin has evolved into a father-son relationship. In a scene with Anakin and Padme we hear the description of just about any father-son relationship there ever was – “It’s worse… he’s overly critical! He never listens! He just doesn’t understand. It’s not fair!” This is our introduction to the very unpopular character I like to call “Whiny Anakin.” And god does he whine like a little fucking bitch, over and over – Woe is me pretty much becomes his mantra in this film. This, Padme falls for hook, line and sinker.
Apparently she is into the angst ridden teen archetype, and though she does her best to avoid it she eventually succumbs to his melancholy laden charms. This brings up something that I know that for the sake of the story we are supposed to ignore, but given this is a visual medium is extremely difficult to dismiss. When last we see Anakin he is a boy of 9 years. Now we see him ten years later and he is for all intents and purposes a man, yet Padme appears to not have aged a day. This element is completely jarring to me and often pulls me out of the story. This issue arises more as a result of their failure to make Padme look like a 14 year old girl in Episode I. Their age difference is only 5 years, so the idea that they look similar in this film is not horrible, but the difference between them in the first movie visually is so vast it is simply difficult to overlook.
After the second attempt on Padme’s life in 11 minutes (of the film), it is decided that the best way to protect Padme is to send her home, with Anakin as her protector. This is where they really begin pushing the ill-fated love story. I get it – the love story between them is a necessary evil, but it was so poorly executed. I mean the cheesy sound of music vistas while they literally roll around in the grass laughing and making googly eyes at each other – it was nauseating. What’s worse is I felt no real chemistry between the two characters, which makes the whole thing feel forced. The relationship between the two is extremely dysfunctional. Anakin’s courting of Padme is more like the actions of a stalker obsessed with their subject. It is extremely difficult to comprehend why she gives in to it, and for me this really taints the rest of their story. When I think of Episode II, what comes to mind is the awful love story – but the truth is the movie is PACKED with great elements for long time Star Wars fans.
We are introduced to Christopher Lee as Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyranus), and for the first time in the movie universe to the idea that a Jedi might walk away from the Order. In the extended universe this is not so foreign a concept but in the movie universe it is unheard of. The Jedi scoff at Padme’s suggestion that Count Dooku could be behind the attempts on her life, even saying “You know, My Lady, Count Dooku was once a Jedi. He couldn’t assassinate anyone. It’s not in his character.” This is the first time that we are given the idea that a Jedi could choose to leave the order and NOT fall to the dark side. Of course we find that Dooku in fact does fall to the dark side, but the idea that leaving the order does not mean necessarily becoming evil is an intriguing one.
In the scene in which Obi Wan and Dooku converse while Obi Wan is a prisoner, several of the elements of the story come together really well. Dooku comes out and tells Obi Wan that there is a Sith Lord in control of the senate and that together they could stop him. Of course this is an expression of Sith apprentice plotting to overthrow the Sith master – but he gift wraps this information and the Jedi STILL can’t see that Palepatine is a Sith lord. This again shows just how blinded the Jedi are and brings up another flaw in this installment of the trilogy. Yoda can sense Anakin’s pain from across the galaxy, but can’t determine who the Sith lord is after being told? This again is a function of Darth Sidious controlling the story through the use of the force, but we don’t really get to see that. This really makes it look like the Jedi have Selective blindness.
We also get to see the Clone troopers portrayed as highly trained soldiers, and not the buffoons they appear to be in the original trilogy. This was also a great way to introduce Jango Fetts story line, Which of course leads to the introduction and creation of Boba Fett. (As an aside I’d like to say that the moment Boba picks up his father helmet after he is killed would be a WONDERFUL place to start the standalone movie centered on the Boba Fett character. Hopefully Lucas Arts is paying attention.)
This chapter of the story is also responsible for some of the best Jedi action ever seen on the big screen. The Battle of Geonosis introduces us for the first time to we’ve never seen before, the Jedi – en mass – fighting as a team. This scene provides some of the best moments in Star Wars history. The image of the Jedi charging the droid army is seared into my memories as one of the greatest moments in geekdom! We also get to see other Jedi from the extended universe in action for the first time, most notably the popular Kit Fisto, and Mace Windu and his purple light sabre. And of course we get one of the greatest gifts Lucas has ever given us – we get to see Master Yoda show his skills with a light sabre.
Overall this film does a GREAT job of bringing the world of the Jedi to life and it really does have the grandiose, epic feeling that a Star Wars movie should have. Unfortunately the story is marred by poor execution and missed opportunities that could have made this one of the greatest Star Wars films of all time.
What would I have done differently?
The fixes in this installment are really easy – tone back the love story, give the emperor more character development and show him actively influencing events, (think Loki in the post credit scene in Thor where he is shown directly influencing Eric Selvig during his conversation with Nick Fury.) I also would have made this movie much more graphic, particularly in the scene where Anakin kills an entire village. I think had they shown him committing these atrocities, it would have gone a long way to really allowing the audience to connect with Anakin’s darkness and would have made his whining seem less pathetic.
Episode II exposes us to more of the world of the Jedi than any other single movie in the franchise. It shows the Jedi are flawed individuals which makes their power and dedication all the more impressive. Had this film not be wrought with poorly executed plot lines I have no doubt that to many this would have eclipsed Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back as the best film in the franchise.
Next week, the third and final installment of this series – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith!
Did you miss the first installment? Click Here for part one.
Want to read the next installment? Click Here for part three.