Attack Of The Critics

The Washington Post has reviewed Star Wars Episode 2: Send In the Clones… err… Attack of the Clones. In the words of the great animated film critic Jay Sherman: "It stinks."

The opener to this review is a killer:

The emotional climax of "Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones" is fabulous. Soaring and majestic, it reaches deep inside you to stroke chords of fond memory, to reaffirm the pleasure and healing power of narrative, to liberate the imagination.

Unfortunately, it comes in the first two seconds. That’s when the legendary words "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . ." materialize on the screen and John Williams’s familiar music rises thunderously. After that, the movie doesn’t go downhill or uphill; it doesn’t go anywhere. It flatlines.

Ouch! Then it gets better (the review, not the movie).

But as for human contact with the story, as for the themes of love and honor, of loyalty to family and tribe and kind, of heroism and sacrifice, wisdom and craven opportunism, there’s almost nothing, certainly nothing like those sounded in the first cycle of "Star Wars" films. Not even the action sequences truly stir; too often, they simply resemble "Jetsons" shtick — individual space buggies as sports cars buzzing through Tomorrowtopia — re-created digitally at a budget of billions.

Agh! It’s so frustrating to see so much pictorial energy wasted. But then that appears to be where the energy was invested: in an immaculate vision of that long-ago faraway place, which now more than ever has come to resemble a dream in the mind of the smartest teenager of 1935. Even the ships have been retro-ed back to ’30s art moderne, and when Senator Amidala’s chrome hood ornament of a ship glides in for a rooftop landing, all gleamy, creamy, shiny and sleek, the sound produced isn’t the whoosh of rocket engines but the drone of props. Very impressive. It’s like the Hindenburg mooring at the radio mast of the Empire State Building. Strange, but impressive.

The review makes some good points about British versus American actors, which is an interesting digression. British actors tend to work from the outside in, using very precise body and facial control to embody characters. American actors basically ask "what is my motivation?" Which helps explain why the British actors in Clones can breate some kind of life into the cardboard cutouts they’ve been written into.

As soon as I see the movie, I’ll see if these criticisms are fair or unfair. Yet after the bloody mess that was Episode I, I don’t hold my hopes up. George Lucas may be a visionary designer, but his writing and directing skills aren’t so hot. He may be good at directing pixels, but human beings appear to be quite another thing. It looks like not even the Force can stem the tides of bad reviews this movie’s already gotten.