Film Reviews

STAR WARS: EPISODE II – ATTACK OF THE CLONES (Roy)

By • May 16th, 2002 •

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Locasfilm / 20th Century Fox / PG / 142 minutes

What a wonderful experience…not the film, the event. There I was at six o’clock arriving at the Ziegfeld for the press screening, and the line was already down the block, stretched to the corner of 53rd and Avenue of the Americas. How fortunate I came an hour early. How equally fortunate that my place in line was adjacent to a food vendor’s cart. I got real hungry standing there for over an hour till they let us in.

Rocco (my writing partner on THE SUBSTITUTE, etc.) arrived about twenty after. The line was now winding all the way up Avenue of the Americas to 54th Street. Which still equalled only perhaps 600 of the 1200 available seats. Rocco, who thinks George Lucas is Satan (for not funding small films of substance as well as his effects epics), stared in bewilderment at the tents which lined the street, filled with STAR WARS fans, camping out so as to be the first in line for the opening. “It isn’t a rock concert” he stated loudly, “It’s opening in 7000 theaters. They’ll be able to get in if they just show up that day!” Someone else on line told him to speak lower, that there might be violence if any of the fans heard his derisive talk. “Oh, great,” he fired back, “So it’ll be ‘Attack of the Nerds’…”

There’s no taking him anywhere sometimes.

By 6:45 the line had looped around and up 53rd Street and disappeared behind a building. Finally we went in, about ten minutes after the film was supposed to have started. Fox representatives had been cruising the line, checking every ticket to make sure it was neither a counterfeit nor for the screening earlier that afternoon. And then we were in. Up the escalator to the mezzanine, where lines of candy buyers were crowding the flow of patrons into the theater proper. Inside, a huge number of rows were roped off for special seating, so Roc and I grabbed seats on the left side, about twelve rows from the screen. With us was Anna Musso, a very lovely SVA student and member of the NBR screening committee, and a hardcore fan. Somewhat upsetting was the fact that although we were among the first three hundred admitted to the theater, it was already half full. What was up with that? (Another critic informed me that despite Fox’s efforts to insure that no bogus tix were presented, they failed to clear the theater after the 4:00 pm show, and many viewers stayed behind to watch it again.)

A half hour passed while the crowd filed in and settled, and then the familiar Fox logo, the familiar music, the familiar “In a Galaxy…” title lit up the screen, and at each iconic moment, applause ringed the theater. This was a critics’ screening, but a great many tickets must have found their way into the hands of the faithful. A shimmering silvery-glass-like ship glided overhead, and the latest installment was officially under way.

Elsewhere in this issue you can find Victoria Alexander’s review, and it has some striking insights which probably haven’t appeared in any other review, which is of course due to the fact that there is only one Victoria on this planet. I don’t feel I’m quite as unique a reviewer, but for what it’s worth, here’s my two cents of input on Chapter Two:

While Roc sat there bitching and moaning about the overkill dose of special-effects-without-soul, I found the visuals quite dazzling, and more important, filled with delicious little nuances that bespoke true love and dedication to detail. I hungrily scanned the tableaus as quickly as I could, for often there was some compelling detail off on the right, or along the top…definately a tapestry to visit again and again, if one were so inclined.

The characters, which Rocco found so shallow, were admittedly occasionally so, yet I did find complexity in Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and the Princess (Natalie Portman), and their relationship was emotionally satisfying. Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), as the villain of the piece, was a show stopper for both of us only because we’ve followed his career for so long, and have enjoyed his pompous latter day DVD commentaries with such glee, that I can’t quite take him at face value any longer. (Check out his music video “She’ll Fall For Me” on Anchor Bay’s SCARS OF DRACULA DVD; I’m sure he’s in on the joke, but it’s still sidesplitting). That aside, it’s rather remarkable that he has garnered two such career-capping roles as the ones in this and in LORD OF THE RINGS, and I’m truly happy for him. I just hope they shot his material for Chapter Three at the same time as they shot this; how much longer will he be able to wield a light sabre? He’s 80 years old for god’s sake! But Roc assured me that even in this film they were probably computer-generating his face onto someone else’s body during the fight scenes.

The score also impressed me. I thought John Williams and Lucas made some creative choices in terms of counterpoint. What sabatoged the whole event, however, was the screenplay, and in particular the dialogue, which was gruesome. I’ve been teaching screenwriting for over twenty years, and I wouldn’t have let some of those lines get by in a second year student’s work. Sadly, one weak link in the many elemental pillars of a film can topple the whole (though certainly not always), and this consistent flaw severely weakened the structure. Several days later, I remember the film as being ‘good’, but not ‘very good’ and certainly not ‘great’.

But then, Lucas is…Lucas. He’s to Hollywood today what Howard Hughes was in the 40’s and 50’s, a billionaire who made the film industry his plaything. Which isn’t to say he doesn’t work his ass off on a project such as the STARS WARS franchise, but he clearly does whatever he wants, and I fear it is with very little heed to whatever criticism is offered. If I’m wrong about this, and the guy is a team player, then someone apparently forgot to tell him that his final draft still needed a major polish.

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