I think I've isolated
what makes Star Wars movies feel so different
than other science-fiction films: a sense of nonchalant
detail. Not only is every frame obsessive in honoring
every wart on every creature and every dent on every aircraft,
but it is executed in an almost offhand way. While most
sci-fi flicks seem to demand, "Isn't this the coolest
thing you've ever seen?", Lucas simply reports that this
is just the way the galaxy is. Didn't you know?
Each landscape he reveals
is breathtaking but, more importantly, it feels lived-in.
In Attack of the Clones we see, for the first time
in Lucas's beloved "galaxy far, far away," such mundane
things as advertisements for alien products, breakfast
diners, and assembly-line cafeterias. It seems clear that
this is a world that goes on with or without our watching
But we need to remember
that viewing the new prequels is like finding old 8mm
footage of your parents falling in love. Whether or not
it's good cinema, it's IMPORTANT to us and involves characters
we love. We are, in a way, required to like it, as much
as we are required to like our parents.
Therefore, the only way
Lucas can fail is by shaming the memory (and ancestry)
of our beloved Luke Skywalker. Unfortunately, this is
exactly what many fans felt he did in Episode One:
The Phantom Menace, by turning the young Anakin into
a shrill, Romper Room imp. Making our Jedi heroes consort
with the likes of Jar-Jar Binks didn't help much, either.
In Attack, Lucas
fares better, for the most part "honoring" the Star
Wars lineage. However, Anakinthe lynchpin
of the entire seriesis still a problematic character
and about the only thing preventing ATTACK from being,
at least, impressively distracting.
It's ten years after Phantom,
and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and teen-aged Anakin
(Hayden Christensen) are sent to protect Senator Padme
Amidala (Natalie Portman) from a series of attacks. The
story is as needlessly convoluted and confusing as Phantom
was, but essentially deals with two things: the rise of
the Dark Side of the Force, and the love affair between
Anakin and Padme that brings to light Anakin's growing
discontent with the Jedi ways.
The fact that Lucas is
telling his tale out of order continues to work to his
benefit, adding a veil of sadness over everythingwe
know that Anakin will fall victim to the Dark Side, we
know that the Jedi Council will be destroyed, we know
the galaxy will be put into slavery. It's like telling
the story of WWII, but ending with the rise of the Nazi
partyit's creepier because it's unfinished.
from a lack of what I call "the Han Solo factor": every
character was a Jedi or a Queen and there was no "Average
Joe" to identify with. Although the "Han Solo factor"
is still absent, Attack finally begins to draw
us in to a human story by focusing on the tortured psyche
of Anakin. With every "Yes, Master" he mutters, Anakin's
struggle with the life he has chosen becomes more vivid.
It is most unfortunate
that Christensen is miscast. Instead of going with a more
sensitive, intelligent, Tobey Maguire-style actor, Lucas
chose Christensen, whose unexpressive, inarticulate nature
would be more at home in something like Larry Clarks'
KIDS. His romantic scenes with Portman are terribly
written and come off like spoofs, complete with rolling-through-the-grass
scenes, coy figures of speech, and lines like "You are
in my very soul, tormenting me." No, I'm not kidding.
When the dewy eyes and
passionate glances are exhausted, Attack hurtles
toward an ending of sheer, hyper-space delight. We learn
the genesis of Boba Fett, see more light saber battles
than we can shake a stick at, witness Yoda doing things
that blow our mind, and feel a chill run down our spine
when we see the first army of Stormtroopers being assembled.
There's so much to get excited about that, only upon reflection
do I notice a shocking lack of plot coherency. It's just
chopped-up scenes, some great, some terrible; and actors,
some great, some terrible. And this is the second film
in a row without a strong, central bad guy. Who exactly
are we rooting against?
Attack is entertaining
in a way that makes all other "huge" moviesGladiator,
Titanic, Lord of the Ringslook
downright Jawa-sized. If you let yourself, you will be
taken away by it. Just don't think too much, or Lucas's
carefully constructed universe will all come crashing
down all around you.
Kraus is a nationally syndicated columnist and filmmaker.
Info on his latest film, Ball of Wax, can be found