Monday, May 09, 2005

attack of duh clones

I wrote a bit this weekend. I wrote the ending of "End of the Line," which is not to say it's finished--I just wrote the last two scenes, skipping past the climax. I do that a lot. Sometimes I have to see where I'm going to know how to get there. I also wrote a bit more toward the climax. There are a lot of things I have to work in at that point, so I did a little outlining, wrote a couple pages, stepped back to see where I could splice-and-dice. I'm afraid it's going to come off looking too compressed, but we'll see. I'm finding that the parts of this story I like best are not the action sequences, which makes sense because the action bits aren't really what the story is about. Of course, in a really well-done action sequence the characters' development is enhanced. It works best if you can do both things--develop the characters, and forward the story--at once.

And that brings me to the presumption part. I bit the bullet and watched Attack of the Clones this weekend. Scott watched about half of it with me, Saturday morning. He said, "This is even worse than I remember," and left for work. I watched the rest of it by myself, while ironing. I put all the pleats into the ruffle at the bottom of my midnight-blue underskirt. It was a pain in the ass, but the results are fab.

But I was talking about Clones. It's embarrassing. Disjointed and shallow and confusing because of it. I was thinking seriously about writing a crit of it and posting it with my other writing essays, but that would take days to do properly and other people, I'm sure, have already covered that ground, so I'll just post a brief outline:

  1. It's too choppy. There are too many cuts back and forth between Anakin/Padme and Obi-Wan. This is both an editing and a writing fault. The scenes should have been longer and they should have been more efficient, conveying character while they were forwarding the plot.
  2. The romance subplot is too disconnected from the politics. There was no real reason to sweep Padme out of town, except George apparently thought that people cannot fall in love in the course of their everyday lives. This was a grave error. Danger and intrigue create tension, tension hightens emotion, emotions make people do things they wouldn't normally do with people they shouldn't do them with. Besides, what better way than to develop Padme's character than to show us how competent and clever she could be at her job? And what better way to make Anakin fall for her? As it is, there's nothing to make us believe these two people would be attracted to each other, other than their both being pretty.
  3. Shallow world development. I'd have to watch it again and keep a list to track all the seeming contradictions and misassumptions in this universe and its politics, but the most glaring, to me, was the Jedis' total apparent lack of intelligence in the military sense--they had no spies, in other words. I don't care how noble and honorable they're supposed to be, if you've been a peacekeeping quasi-legislative body to the galaxy for umpteen thousand years, you've got to have a street-level network. There was no excuse for the Jedi being so clueless about what was going on. None. They could have had conflicting information, they could have had inaccurate information. But they should have had something.
  4. Basic confusion/unanswered questions/insider information. Who was the Jedi who ordered the clones? Was he dead or in hiding? Has he changed his name? Is this some fanboy in-reference I can't understand unless I read issue #78 of some out-of-print sci-fi journal? Sorry, George, but that doesn't cut it. A movie has to be a self-contained unit, even if it is part of a continuum. You can leave cookies for your die-hard fans, but any facts which affect the basic story logic must be included.
  5. That awful, awful American Graffiti salute in the diner, when Obi-Wan goes to visit his "contact." (Again, Obi-Wan has a contact but Yoda doesn't? Must be because Obi-Wan is young and reckless.) Don't even get me started.
Anyway. It was bad. It was amateurish, and I think poor George knows it. When The Phantom Menace came out, everyone said George had gotten too insulated, that no one would say no to him. Frankly, I think it's the other way round. George knows he can't write. That's why he got other people to write and direct Empire and ROTJ for him. That's why he bought up all the copies of the original A New Hope novelization. But I think when it came time to write the prequel trilogy, every writer and director in Hollywood dived into a hole in the ground, because no one wanted to make a movie that could only fall short of expectations. But of course they show must go on, George wrote the script and showed it to everybody, and of course they all knew it was bad but not how to fix it.
Attack of the Clones shows signs of too many cooks, in my opinion. It has bandages slapped on the rough parts, when the bones should have been broken and reset. Things that don't make sense are explained in ways that seem to make sense--if you're willing to believe the Earth is flat because we don't fall off. And I've seen that over-edited choppy quality in far too many Critters rewrites not to recognize it here--it wasn't that George was ignoring everyone's advice: he was taking it indiscriminately, trying to please everybody.
What's really sad is, the overall story structure could have worked. The second half of the movie is smoother, more sure than the first half, and I could see glimpses of personality in Anakin, his idealism and frustration. It wasn't the idea that was flawed, it was the execution.
Interestingly, the resulting mess ties in with what I was saying about iconic characters into which people build their own rationalizations. Not saying George did that on purpose, but that, I fear, has been the result. You don't believe me? Read Harry Knowles review of Revenge of the Sith, if you don't mind the spoilers. Yeah, maybe it's presumptuous of me to crit a movie I haven't seen, but I stand by my assessment. If I'm wrong, I'll be admitting it some time this fall. Don't hold your breath.

ADDENDUM: David Brin, author of The Postman and other stuff, has a crit of Eps. 1 and 2 on his site. He attacks it from a political/idological angle, rather than a strictly storytelling angle, but he, interestingly, makes the same point my husband did: Obi-Wan should've been the hero of this first trilogy. I don't necessarily embrace Brin's Obi-Wan/Anakin conspiracy solution to the whole thing, but at least it would hold together better than what we've got now.

Honestly, I am never going to let my kids watch these movies. They rot your brain.

1 comment:

C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

Said it before, I'll say it again: watched the entire Attack of the Clones waiting for someone, anyone to use the line 'send in the clones'...

Wasted opportunity, if you ask me (and one you'll note I never miss).

And that's all I'm sayin' on Lucas' latest. 'Cos, really, it's the only remotely original thing I have to say on the subject. Just crossing my fingers like just about everybody else that it's not another painfully soulless waste of film stock, is all. I can still hope. Sort of.