So Episode II was upon us ten years ago. Yes it has been a decade already! There was no way this film was going to be worse off than what was done with Episode I, surely. The complaints came in thick and fast for that one. This time round George also hired a second writer to help him with the script. This time round was going to be a love story. This time things were going to be different.
Well shit, I even convinced myself that this film was better than part one when I first watched it in the cinema screen in Ipswich. I even recall it so much that I even spotted fellow Filmwerk writer Ben Pegley in the crowd (who knew years later we’d be doing all this stuff together). But watching it again on disc just let the cold hard reality set in. And now watching it again years down the line I’m even less impressed than I was then.
But I shall try to shade in the light and dark elements of the film as we go along. At this point in my life I should also point out that I am so done with Star Wars. I still have the odd toy lying around, I have the childhood memories, but from here onwards it’s all about what else is new in the future, or what I perhaps missed out on in the past. So how high do I rate as a Star Wars fan? Well back in the day around a good solid 9. When these new films came out: a good solid 6 or 7. But now? Probably around a 3 or 4, if that. Never got into the lightsaber craze that effects some friends of mine, except maybe from a mini Vader replica saber I bought at a convention. I did have an unopened Darth Maul toy that was bought for me that I never opened, but then gave that away one year in order to procure tickets to my favourite bar for a New Year celebration. Well spent I think, and it was for charity (although I suspect the broad I gave it to wanted to keep it for herself). I can also safely say that Star Wars (any of them) have never even penetrated my top 20 films of all time! (But they are at least ahead of Pulp Fiction – but don’t get me started on that one).
Ok so I’m not going to rehash the plot as I really don’t have the energy to think about the politics involved or the convoluted ideas dreamt up. You know, so just go along.
I was happy that the opening section took place on the city planet of Coruscant. I like cityscapes, especially the ones that rip off Metropolis. We are soon after introduced to Anakin and Obi-Wan, and there is some antagonism going on there. I didn’t think Hayden Christensen was a particularly good choice for the role, but he did have a good “Why?” response to Obi-Wan insisting they were not there to conduct an investigation. Obi-Wan’s immediate “What?” response suggests he is not in mood to put up with childish insubordination. Sadly it’s not really delved into all that more. Neither is the friendship really. Each banter scene between them seems placed just to outline Anakin’s character arc and his obsession with Padme.
Anyway – Jango Fett appears on the scene. A big hurray! Maybe they will make up for the way they treated his offspring in the later films. I’ll get this out the way now. Well no, turns out not only that Jango is even more inept towards the end, and indeed loses his head before he has much of a chance to put up a fight, but also that Boba Fett it turns out is a frickin clone!
But the aerial chase through the city planet is not too bad. It’s all sound design that gives it the feel, and has several death defying leaps into the air from our Jedi that seem a little preposterous. But it ends nicely in a bar scene where in amidst all the chaos Obi-Wan insists on going for a drink.
So I’m still with the film at this point, just about. It’s when Obi-Wan heads off to waterworld that the film starts to look as level as that planet’s surface. And what the hell is up with that bright white room he conducts an interview in. I remember wincing. I don’t wear glasses, but I swear I needed sunglasses for that scene. It looked just awful.
Still we are given a bit of a diverting fight between Kenobi and Jango. But nothing that ups any stakes. It is worth noting that Obi-Wan get’s to fight most of the major bad guys in the series. He fights Darth Maul (and promptly takes his ass out), Count Dooku and Jango Fett in this film, and then Dooku, General Grievous and Anakin/Darth Vader in the next film. He really should be quite the bad ass Jedi.
Ok onto the creepy love scenes. The mere fact that Padme greets Anakin as “always” being that “little boy” she met on Tatooine doesn’t help matters. And his stalker-esque behaviour is hardly something girls throw themselves at – especially when it is this evident. And even the moment he has part of her attention he starts to whine like a little brat who doesn’t have all the toys he wants to play with. Quite why he has grown up to be so spoilt and ill tempered is beyond me. What happened to the happy-go-lucky child from the first? Has Kenobi really given him far too much growing up? And the fact that he gets away with it doesn’t give the Jedi council any credit they may deserve.
So ok we are forced to believe a bond develops between boy and girl. Then Anakin has a wet dream about his mother and goes off to find her captured by the sand people (Nice to see these characters getting a bit more screen time in this universe). The sand people bit is fairly brutal when we see the beginning of the execution from young Skywalker.
What else is going on? Jar Jar the senator? Gulp.
A well executed bit of effects work and sound design again goes to Obi-Wan’s pursuit of Jango through the asteroid field. The sonic booms are an absolute delight. Then we finally get introduced to Christopher Lee as Count Dooku. Lee may be getting on a bit and requires the aid of CGI when it comes to those saber fights, but it truly is a thrill to have him in the series after Cushing appeared in Episode IV (It’s a shame Lee can’t roll his R’s like Cushing could though: “Evacuate? In ourrrr moment of trrriumph. I think you overrrestimate theirrrr chances”). We also get a link between the films as Dooku delivers the plans for the Death Star.
So when Obi-Wan is captured (which apparently is something he does far too often) we get a factory scene involving Anakin which is a bit pointless (but does mirror that years Minority Report from Spielberg which also had a factory action set-piece).
Worse still is the coliseum monsters. Jesus what kind of film has this turned into. I think Lucas was having perhaps a little bit too much fun with this scene, and it leads into the let down that is the start of the clone wars. And do I need a comedy C3PO in battle? Why is Dooku surprised about the Clone army? He ordered them! And aren’t they supposed to be on the side of the bad guys anyway? Huh? What? And then of course Jango goes down far too quickly.
It was around the same time that this film was being promoted that Samuel L Jackson was out in the media telling them that his character would die in the third part, and that he insisted to George Lucas that his character “Not go out like some punk.”
Now at this point I had no idea that Jango Fett would be introduced and killed off in the second film. I had it in my mind that he would carry over to the third film, and thought wouldn’t it be cool if George had Jango be the one to bump off Windu. It might help make up for the idiocy of Bobba’s death in Jedi. But at the same time – I also know how George just tends to fuck things up. So I thought “ok, Maybe it would actually go down like this”:
Let me set the scene: Mace Windu is in some sort of space hanger surrounded by various craft, but the place is in disarray – it’s all out battle around him. Enter into the scene: Jango Fett, airborne, as he swoops sideways across the top end of the hanger, ready to man up and take on Windu.
Windu notices his foe, and without missing a beat, and keeping eye contact on his enemy, lifts both his arms out in front of him, and as he does (using the force) his light saber comes unbuckled from his belt line and flips into his hands in a battle ready position. As it reaches that position his purple light saber turns on… Only he has it aimed the wrong way and the purple blade shoots through his stomach and out his back. Windu’s eyes shoot wide open, he glares down at what has happened (still holding the sabre in position) and screams like a little girl. Falls over dead.
Meh! I can dream.
Anyway! Back to the film.
The logic starts to really break down at this point. They pursue Dooku, and even once Padme falls out of the ship she still seems to know exactly where they are headed “we have to get to the hanger.”
The Dooku vs. Obi and Anakin fight is a bit brief, and isn’t as well choreographed as the previous film. But there is a nice touch of watching Anakin fight with shadows and light crossing his face. A nice visual reference of things to come for the character. Then the ultimate love it or hate it moment in this film – The Yoda fight. Many love it; I’m on the other side. I just could not believe what I was seeing. Never mind the ropey effects, but Yoda the ninja swordsman?
By this point I’m completely checked out – and only thankful that the wrap up happens very quickly. Oh look there’s one of those “Where are they now” actors, Jimmy Smits appearing as Bail Organa. Was this pointless casting?
Clones was only lucky in that it used Episode I as a human shield against critics and fans. But if this were the first film it would have gone down as a tale of tragedy. There is debate among the fans as to which of the prequels is the worst, but I think Clones takes the crown. It’s the Keyser Soze of the bunch. It is the Devil that tricked me into believing it didn’t exist. When I first saw this I came out going – “Well at least that was better than the last one!” How wrong I was. Episode II is like a letch that comes along and abuses you after you have just been dumped by a loved one. The first one broke my heart – this one abused me in my despair.