Friday, May 17, 2002

CLONES REVIEW OF THE DAY: Franklin Harris has his posted. His verdict:

Lucas can be happy to know that he has almost redeemed himself for the failure of "The Phantom Menace." Like "Return of the Jedi," "Attack of the Clones" is a flawed but enjoyable film, at least as far as its intended audience is concerned. But it isn't the great film it could have been if Lucas knew half as much about love and loss as he does about droids and Death Stars.

I saw it last night and it was tons better than Phantom Menace, if only because the Jar Jar and Trade Federation cretins appearances were kept to a minimum. It was a little disconcerting to see Jedis fighting with and not against Stormtroopers, but I guess the plot called for it. Whatever. Was this thing as good as Jedi? Jedi was a movie caught between opposite poles of high-coolness (the Jabba's palace scene, the space battle, Darth turning on the Emperor) and unredeemable suck (the death of Boba Fett, anything with the Ewoks.) There isn't anything unredeemably sucky to drag down Clones like Jar Jar dragged down Phantom Menace and the Ewoks strangled Jedi --which gives it a vast advantage over Jedi. And yet there isn't anything like the Jabba palace scene to weird you out and impress you and get you really engaged in the movie. The guest appearance by Los Angeles in the year 2019 only reminded me (obviously) of Blade Runner, and the all-CGI final clone vs. droid battle came across like a completely pale imitation of the Empire Hoth battle. So Clones is not quite stinky poo, but nothing like the first two Star Wars where you knew you were going to see something you'd never seen before. I think Franklin is right to put it on the same level as Jedi, but it fails for different reasons than why Jedi failed. No blatant suck factor, but a flatness of tone in just about every scene besides those on the cloners' planet --now those worked. Even if I was rooting for Jango Fett.

Which leads me to Item #417 in the Case For "George Lucas Has No Clue Why People Like His Movies": Boba Fett. Here's this guy, we see him first in Empire, the movie that also made Vader as a total badass what with the killing of subordinates right and left and the boots-quaking fear every slumming Shakespearean actor in that movie had for him. And Boba Fett was the only guy in that movie with the nuts to stand up to Vader. And Lucas has, like, no clue why this was so awe-inspiring and why everybody wanted Boba Fett underoos back in the day; he had no idea how to exploit Fett's presence and fed him to the friggin' Sarlaac in the first scene of Jedi. And as if to underscore the point we get mega-Fett presence in Clones: the whole clone army is Jango copies. Lucas knows people like the character, but still can't quite put his finger on why; I picture him saying to himself, "People seem to like this Fett fella, so I'll make sure he gets a huge role in the Star Wars mythos, even if I never liked him myself and offed him the first chance I got. That'll work." Fett worked because he was just a bad-ass guy standing up to Jedi weirdos and the Empire with nothing more than a jet pack and a cool outfit --he was like the "evil" version of Han Solo, or at least the version of Han Solo who was pure mercenary. And Papa Jango is the only one mixing it up with the Jedis in Clones, fighting Obi-Wan and winning in the best action scene in the movie, and he still gets offed (just like Darth Maul in Phantom Menace; Lucas never lets his more engaging characters live.) So now we have an origin for Boba Fett and a zillion clones of his daddy, none of which makes me think Lucas knew what he had in bounty hunter Fett. The Mismanagement of Boba Fett: another plank in the George Lucas, Creative, Clueless Guy platform.

And there's still no Han Solo guy to add irreverence to the good guys in Clones, leaving Jedi stiffs Obi-Wan and Anakin to carry the burden of levity. They aren't quite the zero-charisma tag team that Liam Neeson and MacGregor were in Menace, but they do have to switch between "formal" dialogue and "snappy banter" dialogue (safe to say that neither one has Harrison Ford's comic timing) and it's a little, well, obvious. So it lacks the fun factor of Jedi in that sense, though C-3PO and R2-D2 end up carrying the comic load in the final third of the movie and I did enjoy their scenes. But....yeah: Clones is on a similiar level as Jedi but does not work for different reasons. That's the only point I have.

And Ewan MacGregor has a zit on his forehead the whole movie long. Did Alec Guiness have a zit in the first three and I never noticed? Huh.

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