Monday, November 9, 2015

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones ★★

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    To put it plainly, "Star Wars Episode II" is not only the worst offering of George Lucas's rather rocky and inconsistent career as a filmmaker, but it is a picture that suffers mightily from what is commonly known as the sequel syndrome. I mean, let's face it: "Attack of the Clones" clearly excels in its ability to provide spectators with an amalgam of over-the-top special effects and source material specifics, yet this hardly gives us a viable reason to care. Actually, this "Star Wars" outing seems to be an overstuffed and indifferent product whose intentions far outweigh its capacities. Is this excoriation just a consequence of comparative criticism and analysis? (Considering that we know and understand what Lucas is capable of.) It is a possibility; however, it seems as if "Episode II" is deprived of a number of necessary traits that otherwise make a terrific film.

    Of course, when examining a picture of this particular stature, one must focus solely on its structure. For, Lucas's subject matter here is patently original, and it is quite bereft of any measure of banalityit is untouchable in that regard. Sure, the storyline may seem a bit muddled as it routinely emphasizes the happenings of what can only be dubbed the political realm of this alternative reality, and although I may cringe at the inclusion of several unwarranted moments of comedic relief (which mostly include the lovable droid duo of C-3PO and R2-D2), it would be relatively unprofessional of me to fault the film for such characteristics. After all, many of these so-called disagreeable details are vital to the progression of the overall narrative.

    What I can comment on, however, is the film's ineptitude when it comes to an on-screen romance that is about as hollow as it is unconvincing and, in a sense, its inorganic appearance. (The latter of which surfacing as a startling repercussion of the picture's digital makeup, which, I think, robs the film of its naturalness, among other things.) This is surely not to shed light on a smokescreen that becomes entirely ineffectual, a degree of dramatic irony that completely loses its cachet, a repetitive and almost elementary execution of foreshadowing, a climactic ending that features a less than stellar exhibition of action choreography, and a score by John Williams that can never truly capture any hint of emotion. (There certainly are more flaws than strengths; I'm afraid that listing them all would veritably be an uneventful task.)

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    Is there a more talented actress in Hollywood at this juncture than Natalie Portman? I doubt it. And yet, her performance here is unarguably plagued by poor stretches of dialogue, and, essentially, she struggles in scene after romantically-inclined scene where her character is forced to commit to motives and actions that, well, they make little sense. (Portman's chemistry with co-star Hayden Christensen is actually quite good; nevertheless, the script does not allow her to do what she does best: that is, emit a certain level of sincerity.) Meanwhile, Christensen is reduced to lines that become tarnished by teenage angst, and the presence of Ewan McGregor and veteran actor Christopher Lee only adds to this bitter feeling of disappointment. (Not because they give substandard performances, but because they are limited to roles that lack any sort of ingenuity.)         

    Lucas shows much promise in "Attack of the Clones" both as a filmmaker and storyteller. Sadly, this potential is overshadowed by what I would designate to be an unproductive execution of technique and a lackluster story whose only motivation is to bridge the gap, so to speak. ("Episode II" is simply a stepping stone to Anakin Skywalker's more defining moments, and it is a dull one at that.)

    You know, there were times when Lucas could have made a statement of some kind, whether it be moral or political (which would obviously have given the film an increased proportion of profundity), yet we are ultimately left with a picture that becomes all too predictable and, in a way, unfulfilling. "Star Wars" is a franchise that is known for its charming and engaging personalities, and the characters on display here can never fully take possession of that same sense of desirability. Lucas abandoned what has been a highly successful formula up to this point, and this was not only a perplexing move but a damaging one.  

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