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Attack of the Clones – One of our heroes is missing

Thursday, May 23, 2002

It’s difficult to garner much sympathy when everyone knows you’re Darth Vader. Especially when you’re a snot-nosed teenager in a sulk.  George Lucas has been watching Harry Enfield – in Attack of the Clones, Annakin Skywalker is the teenager Kevin. With a light sabre.

The film is much better than The Phantom Menace, but the ass-backwards order of the two trilogies doesn’t help any. The Jedi are protecting the Republic – yay! The leader of the Republic is the Emperor Palpatine – boo! Yay for defeating the army of the droids!  Boo that it’s done with clones that will grow up to be stormtroopers.

And our foreknowledge ruins thing for young Annakin, who ideally should have two options, both based on the mythic archetypes than Lucas loves so much:

Option 1 – Child to Man – seen in everything from Cuchulainn to The Karate Kid: An impetuous and talented youth comes from nowhere, and matures into his powers with help from mentors. He makes mistakes, but eventually wins the day and the girl. This is the shape of the original Star Wars, but since we all know what’s going to happen to little Anni, this options’s out, leaving:

Option 2 – Tragic Hero – seen in everything from Macbeth to Blade Runner: A strong and brave character is brought low by a fatal flaw in their personality. Try as they might to extricate themselves, fate conspires against them and the audience is left chastened but sympathetic.

Lucas is trying for this, but Annakin’s part is so badly written that what we get is more Dawson’s Creek than Oedipus Rex.

Essentially, Annakin goes over to the Dark Side because Ewan McGregor keeps telling him what to do, and won’t let him go out and meet girls. God, it’s just so unfair! Hayden Christensen pouts and strops, slams doors behind him and leaves his room in a terrible state. His relationship with Amidala finally pushes him over the edge, but what Natalie Portman sees in him is anyone’s guess.

You just don’t care about Annakin, but if you don’t think too hard, there are distractions from this hole in the middle of the film. Yoda gets to hang out of a Huey like he’s in Apocalypse Now, McGregor’s modified his Alec Guinness impression into a likeable character and Sam Jackson almost becomes the first Jedi to say ‘motherfucker’.

The set pieces are great, but we’re still need a Han Solo charater to laugh at all the earnestness. Go for the swordplay and stay for a cameo performance from Trinity Library’s Long Room. Just don’t expect to feel anything.

Posted by David in • Square EyesUSAFilm