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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Lenten Blogging 2022: Day 43

Wow.  Where did the years GO to?

A few weeks ago, for whatever reason, I popped in the Blu-ray of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.  It had been quite some time since I'd watched the second chapter of the saga's prequel trilogy.  Actually, I think it might have been since before The Force Awakens premiered, and that was in late 2015.

A few minutes into it, I realized that this May marks the twentieth anniversary of the film's release.  A week and a half before Episode II premiered, I was at Star Wars Celebration II in Indianapolis, Indiana.  Not just as an attendee but as a member of TheForce.net's staff.  We had our own booth and everything.  We even got to attend the dinner with a lot of Star Wars notables on the night before the event's opening (Kenny Baker, thank you for forgiving me for almost stepping on you).  After the dinner Bonnie Piesse (Beru in the prequels and in the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series) joined the staff for a really nice pic that resembles the "Scarlett and her suitors" pose from Gone with the Wind.  A jolly time was had by all!

Of course, Celebration II was the big lead-up to Attack of the Clones.  A movie that for various reasons, will forever be a curious touchstone of my younger life.  As a TheForce.net staffer I was privy to just about EVERY "spy report" that got leaked from behind the scenes.  It's safe to say that I knew far more about the movie as it was being made, than what we saw in the final cut of the movie itself.  In one especially memorable incident, another staffer and I almost flew to Sydney, Australia to take part in a sting operation involving a stolen copy of the Episode II script.  But that's all I should probably say about that...

Maybe for that kind of stuff and others, I'm forever going to be looking at Attack of the Clones through rose-colored glasses.  Instead of seeing it for what most perceive the film to be: perhaps the most mediocre and problematic of the entire Star Wars movie library.  It's not without reason that Episode II gets that reputation.  For one thing, it's the LEAST quotable Star Wars film.  The ONE line that sticks out - when Anakin says "I hate sand..." - is only repeated when mocking the film.

For another reason, the very title is somewhat of a misnomer.  It's not a very good title at all when you think about it.  At the time though the official PR line was that the phrase "attack of the clones" hearkened back to the B-movies of the Fifties: "The Attack of the Monster that Ate Minnesota" etc.  As one who was "in the know" about Episode II more than most, I found the title more than a little ludicrous.

Personally, I think that the biggest reason why Attack of the Clones is so derided, is that it looks the least like a Star Wars movie.

This was the first installment of the saga to be shot digitally as opposed to traditional film.  George Lucas got his grubby little paws on a sweet new camera system and he was eager to put it to use.  Digital was the wave of the future and Lucas wanted Episode II to be the movie that blazed that path to glory.  But going all digital came with an unforeseen price: the finished picture looks, well... too DIGITAL.  There is no real warmth or film grain that had come to be expected of a Star Wars movie.  It's jarring, to be honest, to go from the analog look of The Phantom Menace to the almost sterile tone of Attack of the Clones.

And on top of THAT, there was ALL of the computer-generated effects that Lucas ladened the movie with.  There were very few practical effects.  Again, it was almost completely digital work, done on a workstation at Industrial Light and Magic instead of in-camera or with miniatures and pyrotechnics.  There were even CGI costumes (and the clones themselves are completely computer rendered).

It is a movie rife with problems, and I don't know why I pulled it out of my "Star Wars shrine" to watch again.  But I did.  And maybe some fresher eyes would better appreciate the film.

And now?

Having watched it again for the first time in awhile, I'm more forgiving of Episode II's shortcomings.  In hindsight it builds well upon the foundation laid by The Phantom Menace, and some have argued that Attack of the Clones makes Episode I an even better film.  It also raises the stakes, and sets up things to come in Revenge of the Sith.

I now think that Attack of the Clones is a worthy Star Wars motion picture, that unfortunately suffers from some significant production choices.  It is glaringly obvious that Lucas went mad with power in making this movie, and was hellbent on bringing EVERY toy in the box to bear on his endeavor.  That was not a good thing to have done at all.  Sometimes "less is more".  Not everything has to be a 3D model to be rendered on a Silicon Graphics mainframe.

For all its faults though, and as noted for various reasons which shall remain personal, I like Attack of the Clones.  Warts and all, it's still a Star Wars movie.  And the franchise has yet to completely go off the rails.  If it ever does, it will be for far worse reasons than any that Episode II represents.