Category: Retro Reviews

Retro Review: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 7 out of 10

star_wars_episode_two_attack_of_the_clones_ver2A victim of the most forced love story in recent memory, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones had one simple mission; be better than The Phantom Menace. In that regard, it succeeded. On any other level, Attack of the Clones is another massive failure by George Lucas, and throws its hat into serious consideration for the worst film in the series.

Taking place 10 years after the conclusion of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones finds Anakin Skywalker as a Padawan under the teachings of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has ascended to the rank of Jedi Master. After a series of failed assassination attempts on Senator Padme Amidala, the Jedi Council has assigned Anakin Skywalker as her protection detail with an important senate vote on the horizon. A series of events leads Skywalker and Kenobi to the origins of the Clone Wars, a clone army set in motion by a secretive enemy, while Anakin comes closer to his destiny.

Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen were supposed to be the driving force of Attack of the Clones, but they end up being its biggest shortfall. Not only does their love story come off as forced, but the absolute nonsense spouted between the two is enough to make any Star Wars fan weep for more awkward interaction between Luke and Leia.

The famous “sand is course” scene has become the bannister for everything wrong with the prequel trilogy, but there are several more painful iterations of their mishandled relationship, including Padme’s omission of love for Anakin before the Battle of Geonosis or their rolling around the grasses of Naboo, either way there is nothing positively memorable about their interaction, and breaks the film at its core before it can ever actually gain momentum.

Attack of the Clones was also the first time that we were subjected to Christensen, and any pre-conceived notions of a good Anakin Skywalker impression was cast to the wayside. The attack on the Tuscan Raiders is arguably the most critical piece of Attack of the Clones, and Anakin’s shift from peace-loving Jedi to a genocidal psycho happens so quickly that it simply just seems forced for a near 2 ½-hour movie. For such an important scene in the prequel trilogy, it is glossed over and mostly forgotten by the time that the credits start to roll.

Although the relationship between Anakin and Padme is the worst part of this film, everything else happening around the couple is actually quality Star Wars canon. Kenobi uncovering the mystery at Kamino is interesting, except for the part when Jango Fett leaves his Mandalorian armor in plain sight, leading Obi-Wan directly to the next plot line.

Seeing the development of Boba Fett and the development of the clone army was an interesting aspect of the movie, and honestly is one of the biggest momentum shifting moments of the Star Wars saga.

In several ways, this movie is completely a victim of circumstance. There are so many coincidences in the movie that lead the major players from one plot point to another, and there is zero chance that Darth SIdious and the other antagonists could have laid a plan that caught this many lucky bounces. Not even to consider the inability of the Jedi to realize that the brooding Lord of the Sith was sitting seven or eight feet away from them, which is ludicrous.

The Battle of Geonosis set in motion the positive aspects of the prequel trilogy, delivering the special effects on a level never seen before. For every glorious shot in Attack of the Clones there is an equally disappointing visually altered shot in the Jedi temple, but the final 20 minutes is absolute insanity, only fortified by the fight between Obi-Wan, Anakin and Count Dooku.

Holding off on showcasing the main villain of the film until the end of the second act was a bold move and one that truly didn’t pay off as filmmakers intended. Dooku is viewed as a holdover Sith apprentice until Anakin filled the seat in Episode III, and it is mainly due to the handling of Darth Tyrannus in Episode II. Those that spend a great deal of time in the expanded universe understand the impact of Dooku, but for the more casual fan, Dooku is often an afterthought.

In 2002, the biggest piece of the film, rightfully so, was Yoda’s combat debut. Without a doubt, if this occurred in the modern age, Yoda’s lightsaber fight would either be revealed in a TV commercial or trailer, but upon release of the movie, Yoda’s fighting abilities were easily the highlight of the film and the best surprise of the prequel trilogy.

Attack of the Clones is an improvement over The Phantom Menace, but a small improvement does not a great film make. Still rife with thematic and developmental flaws, the largest strike against Episode II is the forced chemistry between Padme and Anakin, which as the focal point of the prequel installment derails the film quickly. A strong final 25 minutes does not save the two hours that came before it, and unfortunately, the lasting legacy of Attack of the Clones will be its spot near the bottom when fans rank the Star Wars installments.

MONTY’S GRIPES

  • So…Jar-Jar Binks started the clone wars, right? That’s pretty much what we got from Episode II. Seriously. Padme would not have provided Palpatine emergency powers under the current circumstances, at least not in the time frame that Jar-Jar did, resulting in the clone wars never taking place. So in a way, Jar-Jar is responsible for everything in the prequel trilogy. Good job, yousa.
  • A land-locked, lizard/bug style race developed the Death Star. Just chew on that for a second.
  • This film came out with I was a whopping 12 years old, and still embodies one of my favorite movie memories. Going to the theater on release weekend with my close friend who was, and I’m guessing still is a massive Jango Fett fan. The look on his face when Jango met his untimely end will always register on my face; it was the look of pure defeat.
  • Whenever Anakin makes an angry face it looks like he just found a piece of bone in his chicken nugget from McDonald’s.
  • If you watch the Geonosian foundry scene through the Battle of Geonosis without C-3PO’s transformation into a battle droid, it’s arguably the best battle scene of the series, let alone the prequel trilogy.
  • Sand really is course. And it does get everywhere. But if you’re attempting to woo a lady, you should probably move in a different direction.

Retro Review: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 6.5 out of 10

star_wars_episode_one_the_phantom_menace_ver2Let’s take a trip back to 1998. Moviegoers filing in and out of theaters merely 15 minutes after a film’s supposed show time, returning to the same theater several times, buying a ticket, then leaving the theater after the previews ran. Was it because they didn’t want to enjoy the Will Smith classic Wild Wild West? Was it due to a last minute errand or chore?

Possibly, but the phenomenon that took over the world in late 1998 to mid-1999 was the premiere of the trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. George Lucas’ return to the director chair was one of the most anticipated movies in history, but the end result unfortunately falls far short of expectations, especially as the film nears its 16-year anniversary.

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Retro Review: My Best Friend’s Wedding

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 7 out of 10 

Ah weddings, that magical moment when a killer party trumps sending your future children to college. This Friday marks the first wedding I’ll have been to where I wasn’t a flower girl, or and the groom isn’t an uncle. In fact I hardly know the couple at all! Friends of my boyfriend, I completely intend of utilizing their open bar and enjoying every mouthful of cake, while simultaneously not worrying that my grandma is going to shimmy so hard her slip falls to her ankles (true story, for another time). So I’m in a very matrimonial mood, that’s why this week’s Retro Review is one of my all time favorite wedding themed films, My Best Friend’s Wedding. Released in 1997 this is Julia Roberts at her best. Although I don’t think I can count on two hands how many wedding movies she’s starred in, it’s Julia Robert’s so it’s guaranteed to be a fantastic chick flick. Alongside Roberts the film stars Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz, and Rupert Everett. My Best Friend’s Wedding does what so many of us have wanted to do, or perhaps thought about doing, or for some of you inconsiderate folk, actually done… derail a wedding.

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Retro Review: The Awful Truth

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 8 out of 10

To me, Cary Grant will forever remain one of the classiest gentlemen ever to stride across the silver screen. The Awful Truth is a fantastic little romantic comedy that once again showcases Grant’s witty charisma, alongside sharp-tongued Irene Dunne. Released in 1937 The Awful Truth was a major hit despite Grant’s insistence that it wasn’t working. Audience’s fell in love with the stubborn lovers, modern storyline, and time-tested comedy.

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Retro Review: Miracle

By: Emily Kellas
Rating: 8 out of 10

With the summer Olympics taking over most American’s TV screens, iPhone’s, and Facebook news feeds, this week I thought I would return to Retro Reviews with an inspiring sports classic. I will freely admit that I am not the world’s foremost expert on sports films. But I do have a few that stand out in my mind as “Emily Classics.” I have seen Remember the Titans more times than I can count, I can’t watch baseball without thinking about A League of Their Own, and every time I mini golf I can’t stop quoting Caddyshack. But the one movie that stands out, as my favorite sports movie is a recent classic, Miracle. I realize that this Disney live action film is not truly “retro” with its 2004 release date, nor is it the cream of the crop when it comes to its competition like Raging Bull and Field of Dreams. But like most of our summer Olympic athletes, this film has what its subjects had, heart.

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Retro Review: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

By: Emily Kellas

Rating: 9 out of 10

 

The last film that Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn made together was perhaps one of their most prolific. 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is a romantic comedy/drama that explores the mostly untouched world of interracial romance. Directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, and Katherine Houghton Guess Whose Coming to Dinner chronicles a family trying to figure out a changing, yet stubborn, world.

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Retro Review: Meet Me in St. Louis

By: Emily Kellas
Rating: 9 out of 10

A little over a week ago the film community celebrated what would have been the legendary Judy Garland’s 90th birthday. Turner Classic Movies celebrated by playing some of Garland’s greatest films all day long, and you know I was parked on my couch for its entirety. I fancy myself a Judy Garland fan, and always have. She was the first actress to lead me into the world of classic film. Her fragility, comedic timing, relatable characters, and mind-blowing talent impressed me even as a kid. Though The Wizard of Oz remains in my top five favorite movies of all time, it is not my favorite Judy Garland film. Meet Me in St. Louis features a “teenage” Judy Garland at the top of her game. Though rumored to have not wanted to make the film, Judy did, and she later admitted it became one of her favorites.

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