Friday, February 17, 2012

Star Wars—Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Attack of the Clones ventures into new territory for a Star Wars film. Where The Phantom Menace was light, innocent, and regal, this middle episode of the prequel trilogy is brooding and dark. Its noir-ish mystery plot is fairly uncharacteristic of George Lucas’ established narrative approach and a welcome shift in tone. Clones features some exotic locales and set pieces that feel fresh and alive. For instance, after a sensational chase through Coruscant, the film takes us to the city-planet's Blade Runner-esque street level, a seedy place cocooned from the sterile rooftops occupied by Jedi and politicians. But in spite of these energetic flashes in storytelling, Lucas again fails epically at creating a real moment between characters. More pointedly, his struggles with dialogue are especially evident in this entry, which sees young love bloom between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. Here we see that Lucas’ problem with dialogue is not just a matter of stiff writing, but also with delivery that lacks any sense of rhythm. I suppose Lucas can fall back on how the players in his young lover’s tale don’t know how to be in love (which in part explains their awkwardness), but that doesn’t let him off the hook for his unshakeable propensity for explicitly stating or visualizing every idea he wants to convey. This is the main problem with the prequel films. Since we're taken carefully taken from Point A to Point B with painfully direct methods, the films become incapable of suggesting, observing, or expressing anything beyond their pixilated panoramas and consonant-free dialogue. (Next week I'll discuss how Lucas finally finds his voice and offers more successful attempts at visual poeticism with Episode III.) As for Clones, we are only afforded brief glimpses of the lucid storytelling and simple, powerful images that marked the original films. In particular, one stirring vision of lumbering spaceships riding to the horizon of war amid orange skies captures more feeling than anything before it in the prequel movies. While not making up for Episode II’s flaws, these images fleetingly realize the potential of a marriage between digital technology and narrative. Unfortunately, they also illustrate the missed opportunities of these films. (George Lucas, 2002) **½

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