DIRECTOR: George Lucas
May Contain Spoilers!
Three years on from the omen of foreboding which was The Phantom Menace, I doubt that I was on my own when I was hanging the fate of the entire Star Wars franchise on this film redeeming itself, and not replicating the first major mistake of the saga. The big question is, did it work?
No. But it could have been a lot worse! Lucas seems to have taken his true premise and motives from the first film, by creating an even bigger universe of exotic characters, but selling any form of narrative cohesion or integrity down the river.
The effects became more pronounced and there was a change in the esthetic from the Episode I, which for all it’s faults, was grounded and a more reasonable blend of visual effects and real life than this. A major misstep in a film by shot with green screen, and it shows.
It would take James Cameron the rest of decade to perfect this with Avatar, and you would think that if Lucas with all his wealth and power behind him, could either had waited or worked within the limitations of what was available at the time, because trust me, the technology that he was using, just simply wasn’t up to it. The matt paintings from his original trilogy were leagues better than most of the CGI effects here, but that’s not to say that they were all bad.
The sound design worked very well and effects such as the chrome starships from Naboo likewise, but I do feel that Lucas was again “inspired” by other sources for his production design, such as Courasent for example, which was basically is right out of Blade Runner.
But enough about the VFX, sound design and plagiarised production design, what about the narrative? What about it; The story is, without being distracted by the contrivances meant to convince us that this is a real grown up drama, that 10 years after The Phantom Menace, Anakin has grown up and fallen in love with Padmé, now a senator for Naboo.
Obi Wan Kenobi had continued his training, though little interest is show in developing this plotline, it’s just stated, and the pair of Jedi Knights are assigned, like to New York cops, to investigate an assassination attempt on Padmé.
Is this what you think of when you think Jedi Knights? I didn’t think so. So they separate, with Obi Wan winding up at the Planet Kemino, a planet of cloners (Hey up! Wink!) where he is introduced to the Stormtrooper army Mk1 and the clone army’s father, Jango Fett along with his son, a direct clone of him, Boba.
It’s this wish-fulfillment Fan-boy plot which pits Jango, who is basically Boba Fett for all intents and purposes, and Obi Wan against each other. They engage in a physical battle on a landing platform, in which Jango escapes only for them to fight again, this time in the rings of a planet.
This and many sequences in this film hark back to better days in the Star Wars franchise, in this case, the asteroid chase from The Empire Strikes Back, but it all plays out quite well. Meanwhile, Anakin and Padmé are falling madly in love in the corniest way possible and as part of some of the worst scriptwriting that I have ever seen.
The acting isn’t much better either, something which we should be surprised about from the oscar winning Natalie Portman, but that’s the same story with everyone in these prequels. There’ no flair, no Harrison Fords, just good actors being green screened to death!
Then, as their forbidden love is on the brink of being explored, Anakin has a dream, a recurring plot device to move characters around in the prequels and mush return home to find his mother. She is killed by the Sandpeople, so Anakin “Kills them all” but whilst teetering, still fails to turn to the darkside, seemingly brushing this incident to the back of his mind as they set off to rescue Obi Wan, who has been captured by the Trade Federation and Count Dooku. Yes, they’re back.
So, after a computer game styled sequence in a Droid factory, everyone is captured and they must battle a series of monsters in an arena… blar, blar.
So, it’s come to this we’re thinking, when suddenly “begins, The Clone Wars do”. The action kicks off, Anakin looses his arm, bad guy, this time in the form of Christopher Lee’s, Count Dooku, gets away for the next film and finally, the rubbish is out-of-the-way, and the story which we actually want to see is almost upon us.
Just three years later, and 22 years after Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi, we would finally see the creation of Darth Vader in a film, whilst far from what we would have hoped, was certainly more in tune with fans that these two.
On a plus note, the nod to fans that Jar Jar was now relegated to a supporting role was much appreciated, though I’m sure that many wanted him dead. But how well would a death scene have gone with Jar Jar anyway, it was probably best to simply cut their losses, tough it was nice to see his stupidity set up Emperor Palpatine in office, ready to take over the galaxy, thanks again, Jar Jar!
Overall, like the first film, not a bad watch as a glossy entertaining film, but not on par with the originals, lacking any real weight, with a screenplay which would not have passed any rigorous form of editing, and no theatrical of creative flair what so ever; Confirming that Lucas is the Ed Wood of our generation, only through one great film, Star Wars, and one of his most well judged decisions not to direct of write the screenplay for the sequel, and the best film of the franchise, The Empire Strikes Back, has been managed to become something that the famed “World’s Worse Director” (Ed Wood) couldn’t and make a ton of money in the process!
But I’m back with the same question. Would a film of this quality, after the last one, have spawned another sequel? If it was up to these two films, then we would never have seen Anakin become anything more that a piece of the scenery, let alone the iconic Darth Vader.