Why Attack of the Clones Sucked

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

On Monday night, we celebrated by playing Star Wars trivia at our local nerd bar.  So on Tuesday, I posted this to Twitter:

The response was as though millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
Yet the weird thing is that The Phantom Menace is bad, but it’s weirdly bad, uniquely bad, the Rebecca Black’s “Friday” of bad, where yes it’s a terrible movie and yet there’s just enough good remaining in it to stick with you.  The visuals are often amazing: Princess Amidala’s outfits are beautifully improbable, the Gungan City is still a breathtakingly interesting, and the final lightsaber battle is still a physical feat of amazing stuntwork.
Attack of the Clones, however?  I’d forgotten whole swathes of it.  TPM sticks because it’s got so many unique elements, but Attack of the Clones slides out of you like yesterday’s bad burrito.
The weird thing about Attack is how Lucas forgot the number-one lesson about being a writer: a story is about growth.  Emotionally speaking we have to go from A to Z in our stories, and the ending of the prequels is known, Khaleesi.  We know Anakin will become Vader.  We know Obi-Wan eventually has to cap his ass.
So it is completely inexplicable that Attack of the Clones starts with Obi-Wan and Anakin sniping at each other.
They’re not friends, to start – they’re snappish, clearly separated already, and though Anakin recites some dialogue about “Obi-Wan is like a father to me,” there’s none of the camaraderie that we had between, say, Han and Luke.  They scowl at each other, Obi-Wan berating Anakin to oh, don’t go there, Anakin reminding Obi-Wan peevishly that he’s really good at the force, and…
Where’s the evolution?
We start off by seeing two people who don’t get along.  And then the plot makes it so that Anakin and Obi-Wan are instantly separated, and spend the next two hours on separate plot arcs, not even thinking about each other.
So there will be no surprise in the Star Wars series.  They started off fighting, and they end up fighting, and how do you get any emotional revelation from that?  If we’d seen them as really good buddies, the best of friends, two experienced men who trusted each other implicitly despite their differences, then this could have been heartbreaking. But no.  Lucas bobbles that.
He bobbles the relationship, too, where Anakin is instantly stalkerish to Amidala, and jealous, and angry, and again, we have no where to go except to wonder why the hell Amidala is attracted to this creep.  People blame Hayden Christianson’s performance, which Lord knows doesn’t help, but the dialogue is repeatedly I AM GOING TO CHOP OFF YOUR LIMBS HAH HAH ONLY KIDDING, and that’s the opposite of romance.
Like, we knew he was going to be Darth Vader. Why did Lucas forget to put in the reasons that we should be rooting for Anakin?  Was he afraid we would feel betrayed when he turned evil?  Yet what we get is clearly a nascent bad guy, and it’s hard to feel bad for him when he’s being a jerk all the time.
And Lucas forgets that we need to see people together. The scene with him and his Mom is sad, yes, but abstractly so, because Mom’s only gotten five minutes of screen time total.  The scenes with him and Obi-Wan are, as noted, almost absent after the first and last action sequence.  If you want us to understand two characters’ relationships, we need to see them working together, and it’s like Lucas went so heavy on the archetypes that he just assumed we’d be sad because Mothers Love Sons and Sons Losing Mothers is sad.
Even more bizarre: The special effects are worse, in Attack of the Clones. Watching Phantom Menace, Jar-Jar still holds up, and had TPM been a better movie I think we’d celebrate the visuals more. Attack of the Clones has Anakin riding very fake monsters, action sequences that are clearly CGI, and if you’d asked me from an SFX perspective, I would have told you that TPM was made after Attack.  It looks cheesier.
And again, Attack is weirdly bland.  I remember several scenes from TPM vividly, but Attack seems to be pasted together from other movies.  The chase scene through Coruscant is very well done, but visually it’s a sped-up Blade Runner.  The space scenes are, well, space scenes, and the white light of the clone factory looks like an Apple store, and the glorious fields of Amidala’s home retreat are generic romance covers with a bit of sci-fi mixed in.  Attack of the Clones is both stunning and redundant, and I kept looking up and going, “Oh, yeah, that’s there, too.  How did I forget?”
But it’s easy to forget.  The movie is cloned, its sources too clear, and it’s bad in the worst kind of way: the kind where you have to be prodded into remembering it exists at all.  Such a waste, when you had such a juicy storyline about friendship and betrayal and love curdled sour.
So much lost potential.

1 Comment

  1. Gayle
    May 6, 2015

    Yes. Exactly this.

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