This week:
Attack of the Clones

Filthy says:
"Worth the price of an admission, but not two, so don't bring a date."

If I hadn't seen the other four Star Wars movies, I would think Attack of the Clones was 90 minutes of shit and 45 minutes of decent movie. Having seen the others, though, I think this one is 90 minutes of shit and 45 minutes of really good movie. It's not a great swashbuckling adventure like the first one, and it's not a personal story like the second. For the first two-thirds it's a bad Piers Anthony novel complete with lousy puns and cheap double entendres. No, wait, it's worse: it's like seriously discussing a bad Piers Anthony novel with a high school science fiction club. The last third, though, is when Yoda kicks ass, the moody teen Anakin shuts the hell up and the movie finally feels like Star Wars. That's worth the price of admission.

In his quest to find every annoying child actor in North America, George Lucas plucked Hayden Christensen from well-deserved obscurity to play Anakin Skywalker, a teenager with unlimited ambition and potential to pursue the ultimate adolescent dream: to rule the world and make his enemies pay. Because of the strength of the force within him, Christensen is being trained as a Jedi. The Jedis are sort of like Jesuit priests: celibate, learned and taken to wearing heavy robes. Except, the Jedis kick more ass. Christensen and his mentor Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) are assigned to protect Peacenik Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), whom shadowy forces are trying to kill because she opposes the creation of an army of the Republic.

Ever since they met in The Phantom Menace, Portman lights up Christensen's little light saber. You know which one, the one in his pants. (I'm talking about his wiener). Their love is forbidden, however. Not in a Jerry Springer sense, like "I'm Asleepin' Wit' My Baby Daughter and I Gots a Surprise for Her." It's forbidden by honor. You see, Jedis aren't supposed to get boners thinking about ladies, but Christensen is like a trailer-park diabetic at the Country Buffet: desire overwhelms common sense and he can't help but put his mouth to the spigot of her ice cream maker and let 'er rip. As soon as he can get Portman alone, Christensen starts in with the sappy love shit. Their courtship is illustrated through scenes from the personals section of a free Christian singles magazine: romantic nights by the fire, rolls in the tall grass, longing gazes at sunsets, and a kiss interrupted with "No! We shouldn't do this." If these clichés make you wince, wait until you hear the dialog. "I'm not afraid to die. I've been dying a little bit inside every day since you came back," barfs up Portman, looking as comfortable as a cat with a hairball. I say, cut the crap. If you were dying a little bit inside each day you'd be coughing up clots of blood and these crusty black spots would appear on your gums. That's how it was with Lester from A-1 Auto.

During the courtship, Christensen also shows us what a sniveling prick Skywalker is and how it will lead to his embrace of the dark side and eventual adoption of cool head gear. He's too big for his britches, always thinking he knows best, quick to sass his elders and a hot head. After a tragedy, his anger consumes him and he does decidedly un-Jedi things. Really, though, that's how every teenager is, and if this kid can become the ultimate force of evil, I hate to think what those little shits sitting in front of the 7-11 will become.

While Christensen is trying to give the story some emotional impact, MacGregor tracks down Portman's attempted assassin. It conveniently leads to a distant planet where he discovers a massive clone army being made for the Republic (the good guys) from the genetic code of a bounty hunter named Jango Fett (Temoura Morrison). MacGregor follows him to another planet, where he learns of the "mysterious" Count Dooku's (Christopher Lee) treasonous plan thousands of planets to secede from the Republic and build a giant droid army. (The movie's prologue actually calls Dooku "mysterious." Isn't that something we should decide for ourselves?) These events lead to much hemming and hawing by the Jedis, the senate and, worst of all, Jar Jar Binks. They all talk and talk, far too much and far too formally, about trade relations, treaties and the presence of the dark side in the senate. There is shit like "The day we stop believing in democracy is the day it dies," and similar aphorisms recited from a third grade civics book. Binks's "kooky" accent hasn't become any funnier or endearing over the last three years.

Finally, in the last 45 minutes, everyone shuts up and starts fighting. It's a long slog to get to, but for the first time in the movie there is action organic to the plot. The good fight the bad without pausing to speechify about trade federations. There's a sort of cheesy Gladiator scene, but even it is ultimately cool. Portman gets to stop being this pretty girl and she fights. Christensen finally shows us why he is so highly regarded by the Jedis. And Yoda and Christopher Lee get into the best tussle of the movie. I wish more old people got into brawls like this.

Attack of the Clones mostly looks good, but a lot of the coolest effects in the first 90 minutes are in the background. We have to listen to senators and Jedis blather on while wishing we were outside the window, where rockets, speeders and landwalkers cruise by. A lot of the settings look like the airbrushed covers of those cheesy sci-fi paperbacks featuring dragons in outer space. Every ten minutes, Lucas throws in an action sequence, but they feel like he's throwing us bones to keep us quiet, not anything organic to the story.

The last 45 minutes are awesome, though, because they've got light sabers and the big ground battles reminiscent of the beginning of Empire Strikes Back. Finally, the audience gets to be in the middle of it all. There are monsters, massive battles, speeding spaceships and lots of mayhem. It's good versus evil on the grand scale. There are Darths and Jedis duking it out in a sea of clones and droids.

The acting throughout the movie is horrible, like someone asked a group of six-year olds to read the Monroe Doctrine. The actors appear to be reacting to digital creations that will be patched in later, even when they're talking to each other. The shit-ass dialog doesn't help. No actor can say "I wish I could just wish this all away," and sound like he meant it. Portman is the most uncomfortable, practically critiquing the clumsiness of the script every time she speaks.

The plot is also unnecessarily convoluted. Lucas claims these movies are intended for kids, but who was the last kid you knew who got fired up about political alliances and trade federations? When my sister was eight she did, but then these guys from the U.N. came to the house and beat the bloody hell out of her. But that shit ain't for the kids, and it ain't for the adults either. In the first two movies, we cared about Luke Skywalker; the political crap was secondary. The two recent installments revolve around the governments and alliances with the characters being secondary, or at least boring enough to seem so. I don't know about you, but for me it's harder to emotionally connect to a federation of hundreds of thousands of planets than it is to one kid up against the odds.

Still, this is better than The Phantom Menace, and it finally gets around to delivering what it's supposed to. If it would just make us care, then Lucas would have something. Three Fingers.

For those wondering why my resident sci-fi expert Cousin Jimmy, who changed his name to Necron, did not review Attack of the Clones with me: Jimmy is on restriction for trying to suck the blood out of the family dog. Tuggers will be okay.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Tom Wolfe - Bonfire of the Vanities

Listening to
Radio 1190

Raging Bull

Victoria Snee of WB-Dallas

Enough is "gripping and powerful!"

The Importance of Being Earnest is "Wickedly fun!"


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