Attack of the Clones (2002) from Bud Frump and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Bud Frump's comments in yellow:

My wife wanted to rent and show The Phantom Menace to some friends the other night.  Since she couldn't find a rentable copy, she (gasp!) up & bought one. I did find the ancillary material fun, especially the expanded pod race. 

Sondra tells me that Jar Jar is still the most detested & dissed character, even in The Attack of the Clones. I find this bizarre. I actually view JJ as a tolerable, sometimes belly-laugh-inducing stock comic slapstick character. He's a bit of a Bottom the Weaver. And if anything, I regret his reduced role in Clones. To me, Anakin in Clones is utterly insufferable. He makes the Luke of films 4 & 5 seem grave and respectable by comparison. I found the Obi-wan & T. Morrison (Jango Fett) scenes redeemable, and of course the Yoda vs. Dooku light saber battle delightful.  But oh did those love scenes drag! 

I saw it on opening night in Carlsbad, a 9:30 p.m. showing with mostly teens & 20-somethings. In one slow-moving nighttime Padme & Anakin scene, she was wearing a bare-back slinky sort of tease-the-audience gown.  The mood was sultry and blue-balling, and we were all bored. The dialogue was wooden. Then some horny bastard in the audience hollers out, "Skin 'er!". We all bust a gut. That's why I like a big crowd.

The Houston Press review commented on the Christopher Lee character that it's hard to take seriously someone whose name sounds like something Jar Jar stepped in.  Cute.

Scoop's thoughts follow:

It's good to see someone step up to defend the comic relief provided by the Jar Jar character. I always thought that C3PO was an important element in the success of the first film. Unfortunately, if the first film were made today, they would say C3PO was a horrible stereotype, and that Lucas was making fun of gay people.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Yeah, right.

The 20th century was the great era of populism. The monarchies fell, then the intellectual oligarchies. When filmed entertainment (including TV) replaced books as the most commonly experienced form of literature, the intellectual elitists suffered a blow as devastating as the nobility had experienced a few decades earlier. The immediate impact of film's dominance over all other media is the degenrefication of criticism. Don't look the word up. It's my neologism. It means that, except for this page, people don't evaluate films within their genre, but compare totally dissimilar efforts across genres. Look at the list of the best films of all time at IMDb. You'll see a group including - The Godfather, Schindler's List, Star Wars, Memento, Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction, The Wizard of Oz. All on the same list, mind you.

That degenrefication would be unimaginable in literary terms. Imagine a comparable list of the greatest books of all time: Gone With The Wind, The Hardy Boys and The Tower Treasure, Ulysses, Shakespeare's Henry V, Conan the Freebooter, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Wind in the Willows, The Complete Sherlock Holmes. How can you compare books written for little kids, books written for young male teens, books written for adolescent girls, books written for personal pleasure, books written to make a buck, and books written with the highest literary aspirations? You can't, of course, and sensible literary people never really tried, so books remained an elitist art form with a clear-cut distinction between what was lofty edification, what was a pleasant diversion, and what was for kids or specialty markets. It was possible for some cross-over to occur, as in the case of Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Dickens, a very talented guy who wrote genre fiction and a very talented guy who wrote to make a buck, both of whom came to be treated as serious authors. This type of cross-over was exceedingly rare, and the process usually required generations to pass before popular writing could be accepted as literature. Cross-over from juvenile fiction to "literature" status was next to impossible. Wind in the Willows, Jules Verne's works and Alice in Wonderland are rare exceptions and, let's face it, are not considered the equal to Hamlet. Even now, if you wish to be taken seriously in a book discussion, I would not suggest that you claim that James Joyce's best work is approximately equal to the highlights of the Hardy Boys' series.

And yet this happens in film discussions all the time. Star Wars is the filmed equivalent of the Hardy Boys, but it appears in "best" lists next to Schindler's List and Andrei Rublev, and the people who make those lists intend no irony. Film is truly a populist, degenrefied medium.

Is that good or bad? I don't know. I leave that for you to discuss and debate among yourselves. I don't know jack about how criticism and evaluation should be approached. I do know, however, that this democratization produces some problems:

1. It makes awards meaningless.

As an example, my three favorite movies of 1999 were American Beauty, South Park: Bigger Longer Uncut, and Run Lola Run. If you know how to construct some logic that says one of those is better than the others, please tell me how, because I have no idea how to formulate that argument. Those are three brilliant movies, but I don't have any idea how to say one of them is better than the other two. If you have to choose one, your choice will simply hinge on what kind of movie you like best. At that moment.

2. It has altered the meaning of "good".

In literary circles, there is still an attempt to find some kind of quality measurement, however subjective. Literary critics are precise in the statements they choose. They don't say "this is the best book ever written", as film fans do. When they do make up fantasy lists of "the greatest books of the 20th century", they retain their standards. The Hardy Boys don't get listed next to the works of T.S. Eliot and Umberto Eco. Literary types try to distinguish between statements like "it is good" and statements like "I like it". This distinction has disappeared in the evaluation of films. When a person says "that's a good film", he means "I like it". "Star Wars is a good film" can be translated into literary language as "I really enjoyed it, and I am part of a large group which agrees".

3. It makes criticism contentious.

The reviews and internet flame wars over Attack of the Clones are divided between people who think it is juvenile crap and people who think it is kick-ass fun. There is no reason for this division to exist. It is juvenile crap, and it is kick-ass fun. Those things may co-exist peacefully. Why do the critics of Attack of the Clones persist in saying "the dialogue is artificial" and "the love scenes drag", and "there are no nuances in the characterizations". Of course. And if you changed those things, the film would be less appealing to its audience. This is precisely the same as making the same three comments about "The Hardy Boys and the Tower Treasure". This movie, like the Hardy Boys books, was not made for people who want to hear David Mamet dialogue, learn the true meaning of love, and learn about the infinite shades of gray in relative ethics. David Mamet dialogue would make the story worse for the target audience, not better. A timeless romance would make it worse for the target audience, not better. If there were complex bad guys, and we felt sorry for them, it would spoil the adolescent fun when they get their butts kicked.

Don't think I'm letting you guys off the hook if you liked Attack of the Clones, and can't understand why serious reviewers say it sucks canal water. Some reviewers don't like juvenile movies, and the Star Wars movies are for the very young and the young at heart. Don't expect every critic to take this stuff seriously. Yoda is not some kind of genius. If he's so goddamned smart, fan boy, answer me this. Why is it that he's several hundred years old and still speaks English like some guy who just got off the boat at Ellis Island? My brother-in-law has been in the U.S. for a year, didn't speak a word when he arrived, and is not the brightest crayon in the box, yet he speaks English better than Yoda. I think we can assume the little guy is no mental giant. And don't try to pass this juvenile adventure off as something more than it is. Dooku against Yoda is not good versus evil. It is a very old man playing "imaginary swordfight" with an animated puppet, post-dubbed with CGI flashlight beams and cool sounds. Yoda is not only a dumb-ass, but he's a fucking muppet, lads. He's Kermit the Frog with a bad Polish accent. Your other heroes are dressed up like a bad road show production of Kismet. Surely you can see that not everyone will find that as enjoyable as you do.

George Lucas said this about the original Star Wars, "we're going for eight and nine year olds". That was his target, and his dialogue was always written with that in mind. Harrison Ford once said to him, "George, you can type this shit, but you sure can't say it''. Lucas himself said, "I got fifty stormtroopers shooting at three people from ten feet away and nobody gets hurt. Who's gonna believe this?" It was always for kids, still is, except that his new target is the kids who are eight and nine, and the people who were eight and nine when the earlier films entered their lives. The degenrefication of criticism has forced Attack of the Clones to get some "stars" from the same critics who have to evaluate "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Memento". The critics don't know how to go about that task, and neither would you if you had their job.

Personally, I think Attack of the Clones is a pretty cool movie, but it could have been much better. George Lucas has a marvelous imagination, but he could use some collaborators to help him through his weaknesses:

  • The first part of the movie includes some seriously boring stuff. What is all this trade discussion? It's like watching Michael Kinsley and William F. Buckley debate the Uruguay round of the GATT treaty on Crossfire, except that they're wearing bad Halloween costumes.

  • Jimmy Smits?

  • Anakin is a pussy. How is this wimp going to grow up to be James Earl Jones? He sounds like Tom Cruise sucking helium, and he says stuff like, "my heart is beating, hoping that kiss will not become a scar. You are in my very soul, tormenting me". I believe that the proper response from Padmé would have been, "Slow down, there, sonnet-boy. You're taking that kiss too seriously. You have about as much chance of getting into my royal drawers as Henry Kissinger has of winning the Nobel Peace Prize". That will give him quite a good laugh when he comes back in the sequel with Kissinger's prize in one hand and some K-Y jelly in the other.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Commentary by writer-director George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, picture editor and sound designer Ben Burtt, ILM animation director Rob Coleman, and ILM visual effects supervisors Pablo Helman, John Knoll, and Ben Snow

  • Eight exclusive deleted scenes with introductions: Padme Addresses the Senate, Jedi Temple Analysis Room, Obi-Wan and Mace on Jedi Landing Platform, Extended Arrival on Naboo, Padme's Parents' House, Padme's Bedroom, Dooku Interrogates Padme, Anakin and Padme on Trial

  • "From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in Episode II": all-new full-length documentary about the creation of digital characters in Episode II

  • "State of the Art: The Previsualization of Episode II": witness the vital role of the animatics team

  • "Films Are Not Released: They Escape" sound documentary

  • Three featurettes examining the story line, action scenes, and love story through behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast and filmmakers

  • 12-part Web documentary

  • "Across the Stars" music video: an original composition by John Williams crafted exclusively for this DVD

  • Exclusive production photos

  • One-sheet posters

  • International outdoor campaign

  • Trailers and TV spots

  • "R2-D2: Beneath the Dome" mockumentary trailer

  • ILM visual effects breakdown montage

  • Exclusive DVD-ROM content

  • Widescreen anamorphic format

  • Number of discs: 2

  • Their romance will not cause you to recall Ilsa and Rick, nor Fiennes and Paltrow. Anakin has all the passion of Howard K Smith reporting an unchanged Dow-Jones. Padmé is a beautiful babe and a half, but she has all the depth and natural presence of Dan Marino doing an Isotoner ad. In fact, compared to her, Marino is Edmund Kean.

  • Jimmy Smits?

  • "You will learn your place, young one. Open your mind, my very young apprentice." "Yes, my master." Nice dialogue. OK, now get back in that bottle, Jeannie, before Colonel Bellows arrives.
  • Anakin whisks the princess away to protect her from the Fetts and other bounty-hunting families of Greek cheeses. So where does he take her, with the entire universe to choose from? To the general area of her palace on her home planet. Helluva plan. As Yoda might say, "no strategist, that boy is".

Is it a great film? I don't know. Show it to an 8 year old boy and watch his reaction. When the first Star Wars movie came out, my sons watched it in silence through the back window of a car, without the sound, while their mother and I watched a different movie at the drive-in. Then they pretty much forced me to take them to it for real the next day. They were spellbound through several viewings. So I know that was a great movie, no matter what any critics said, no matter what I thought. (I liked it. Still do.) That film was sheer magic. As for the new one, take your kids, then tell me if it is a great film.

My guess is "no, it's just OK".

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: two and half stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 3.5/4

  • General UK consensus: two and a half stars. Daily Mail 8/10, Independent 4/10, The Guardian 6/10, The Times 7/10, The Express 8/10, The Mirror 4/10, BBC 5/5

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.2/10, Guardian voters a much lower 6.2/10
  • Box Office Mojo It grossed a phenomenal $310 million dollars. (Costs in millions: $114 fixed, $25 variable)
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+. A film treasured by genre lovers and devotees of this series, but minimal crossover.

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