Blogged on my Handspring on Friday night:
I'm sitting in the historic Senator Theater here in Baltimore, with my sons waiting for the start of Episode II. Kevin & Jonah are engaged in a vigorous debate with a kid in the row in front of us over the relative merits of Super Smash Brothers on Nintendo 64 and Super Smash Brothers Melee on GameCube, as well as the quality of the stories of the N64 “Zelda” games.
Now the movie's rolling. Previews: one for the Matrix sequels, one for a kid movie called “Like Mike” (a kid with no game finds a pair of Michael Jordan's sneakers hung over a telephone wire, gets hit by lightning pulling them down, and turns into a b-ball wunderkind), and one for Minority Report.
Handspring off for the feature.
And now the wrap-up
Attack of the Clones has now rolled credits. I have to say I enjoyed it, honestly–despite the mechanations to tie all of the plot points from the original series into the movie, it worked for me (and more importantly, my kids). I guess that's partially because I came in with low expectations. But I think the lambasting that the movie has gotten from the critics is, at least in part, George Lucas' own fault.
Okay, the acting was somewhat wooded; Yoda was the most well-developed character. But given the amount of action in the film, and the limited room for character development, it was almost a non-issue. The real problem is that Lucas' skill in producing escapist, “turn-off-your-brain” entertainment runs against everything everyone wants to attach to this movie–including Lucas' own “higher” goals of a love story. The lead weights attached to this movie are the story points George has to hit for continuity–the whole backstory for the original Star Wars depends on what happens in this movie, and that weight is what robs some of its energy.
Annakin is written and played as a sulking teenager. My 11-year old can connect with him on a base level. Any male who went through puberty can; Hayden Christensen plays him as the adolescent id, with little if any impulse control. He's all emotion, no intellect–the high school quarterback with super powers, trying to impress the head cheerleader. That doesn't make for a whole lot of sympathy for him from adults, mind you. But you can see where he's going.
Criticism of the performance of Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen is pointless. There's so little to work with for the two of them to develop the “love story” grafted onto this action film that the chemistry can seem forced at times.
But chemistry is not what the core Star Wars constituency (male geeks, teenagers and preteens) cares about. All the older ones *really* want to see is Natalie Portman in something as close to the slave girl outfit Carrie Fisher had to wear for “Return of the Jedi” as possible.
Given that George Lucas is making these movies as wholesome as possible for the preteen toy-demanding set (aside from all the computer-generated violence crammed into them), it's doubtful that they'll ever see something like that again, or anything more passionate than light kissing and low-grade sexual tension in the final installment.
But my kids don't care. My 8-year old closed his eyes through the few kissing scenes. And my 11-year old was more concerned about the fate of Jango Fett, the bounty hunter–whom he considered the most interesting character in the movie. (Frankly, I did too, and found myself rooting for him against Ewan McGregor's Obi-wan).
So the movie works for its real intended audience–kids who can't get into a PG-13 movie on their own. It's the most expensive sci-fi serial adventure series of all time, 40 years after the genre's prime. Like Lucas says, “It's just a movie.” If you want some real exploration of psychology, go see a Sam Raimi movie–like <a href=Spider-man.