Jun. 23rd, 2002

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As we left the theater this afternoon, my friend said to me about Episode II, "It's much better than the first one." To which I replied, "It doesn't have to be very good to be better than the first one." And indeed it isn't very good. The Phantom Menace looked good on the screen while being an absolute disaster of a movie, but Attack of the Clones doesn't even have that going for it. The movie looks fake, and you'd think that for all the money that went into the special effects George Lucas could better blend the painted backgrounds into the foreground sets.

There are only two well-framed scenes in the movie, although, as my cousin pointed out, they're not really framed because it's all digitized. When Padmé emerges and finds Anakin on the balcony, George gets it right. He catches her to the left, halfway into the background. She's disheveled enough that I wonder if she's supposed to still be in her nightgown yet put together enough that it's possible for it to be her daytime wear. Anakin stands in the right foreground, and we see the two of them for just a moment in a perfectly beautiful shot. They comprise the other beautiful shot in the movie as the camera pulls away from their wedding and we see them framed against a backdrop with enough foreground set framing them that it blends well enough to look good, and with R2-D2 and C-3PO off to the right to complete the internal frame of the shot.

Unfortunately, George has neither a sense of timing nor any subtlety, and so the same things that made The Phantom Menace so bad reappear in Attack of the Clones. He leaves the battle scenes intact, yet those and the scenes of Obi-Wan's spying drag on at a pace that made me wish for a fast-forward button. The romance moves too fast for it to be believable, and yet I'm grateful because I didn't really want to see more of Padmé and Anakin on the screen. George has ruined one of the best love story plots out there: Person A is assigned to protect Person B. They have history. In the course of being so close, they fall in love. Alas, we see no build-up of the relationship. Anakin decides he's in love with Padmé, or rather his memory of this perfectly beautiful queen who was once kind to him, and she rightly rejects him until, for no apparent reason, she decides she really is in love with him. It doesn't ring true.

And George's lack of subtlety does not stop there. The Jedi are supposed to be smart, even if their connection to the Force is a bit wonky. Shouldn't they be able to tell as Palpatine and his flunky say, in a rather too obvious to be real tone, "If only Senator Amidala were here," that it's a set-up? If this is the way the Jedi work, it's no wonder that they can't see the darkness in Anakin.

Of course, no movie is completely without good points, and this has a few. I was quite relieved to see that there are female Jedi, even if there aren't quite enough for my tastes and the children all appear to be male. The movie is also quite funny, although I'm sure that many of the things I laughed at were not intended to be so humorous. The opening explanation, for instance, nearly had me in stitches because Spaceballs was in my crossword yesterday and that was all I could think of. But then there's Obi-Wan's response to Anakin's rescue attempts; Ewan McGregor's glance up at his chains is perfectly done.

The movie has three sexy moments: 1. Obi-Wan and Mace Windu fighting back to back. Perhaps it's merely a result of having read too many stories in which Mace does not approve or is the stuffy councilor, but I was completely unprepared for the seeming depth of their relationship, which also shows up in 2. Obi-Wan and Mace Windu standing at the window as they talk to Yoda. I crave Obi-Wan/Mace fic, and I don't know where to look for it. 3. Padmé in torn clothes with a creature ripping stripes into her back. At that moment, I thought, "I get why he wants her. Hell, I want to fuck her." Of course, I did wonder why she seemed to suffer no ill effects from rolling those scratches into the sand scant minutes later, but I suppose that's just one of those things you're not supposed to think too hard about.

The movie was also interesting for the semi-related thoughts it sparked off in my mind. As Anakin and Padmé have their first kiss, I wondered, "Did Hayden Christensen's mother name him after the composer?" And speaking of Mr. Christensen, his looks and demeanor throughout the movie reminded me of nothing so much as my brother at a sulky age 15. And then there's Obi-Wan. I saw Moulin Rouge again last week, and I couldn't help noticing Ewan's voice in Attack of the Clones. I couldn't separate Moulin Rouge's Christian from Attack of the Clones's Obi-Wan. And that, of course, made me imagine Baz Luhrman telling Ewan, "Remember that thing you did with Liam at the end of Phantom Menace? I want you to do the exact same thing with Nicole."

I hope I wasn't the only one who noticed that the child Yoda asks to get the blinds is named Liam, or that in the battle they speak of "Federation Starships," a clear reference to the other Star series--Star Trek. In this movie, too, I finally got what made Siubhan write Sidious as such a queen: He is just an old queen. I almost want a Sith Academy II, in which Obi-Wan and Sidious commiserate about the difficulties in training an apprentice, but I think I'll have to settle for a rereading of some of the best Sith Academy stories and jedimom's wonderful Hell/Mindfulness series. And, of course, any Obi-Wan/Mace Windu I may run across.

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Ruth Sadelle Alderson

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