May 15, 2002
7:59 AM   Subscribe

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Critics. Begun, this Clone War has. From Chicago Sun-Times, NY Times (registration required), LA Times and Washington Post.
posted by LinusMines (55 comments total)
 
David Denby, The New Yorker: "The mayhem is delirious fun... [Lucas'] dramatic imagination is still severely limited, but it would be nice to think that his visual imagination is just taking off."
posted by muckster at 8:16 AM on May 15, 2002


Yay! Nice to see some critics cuttin' through the hype. The first three movies may have had substance, but these prequels are nothing but lifeless promotional behemoths. George Lucas and his fanboys can bite me.

"I have a baaad feeling about this," indeed. Right on, Han.
posted by andnbsp at 8:29 AM on May 15, 2002


Rotten Tomatoes currently has it at a 60% fresh rating, barely making it out of the rotten category.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:31 AM on May 15, 2002


Positive review at Film Threat. "Clones is not just a home run – Lucas hit this one out of the park."
posted by eyeballkid at 8:31 AM on May 15, 2002


but these prequels are nothing but lifeless promotional behemoths. So you've seen it then?
posted by eyeballkid at 8:32 AM on May 15, 2002


...or are you just bashing it because it's cool to?
posted by eyeballkid at 8:34 AM on May 15, 2002


Perhaps he's basing his opinion off of his viewing of the first prequel and similar critical "acclaim" for the second?
posted by Ptrin at 8:39 AM on May 15, 2002


quotes from the Village Voice review by Michael Atkinson:
There is an odd cognitive dissonance at work between the obvious ingenuity dedicated to the film's visual details—alien anatomies, industrial machinery, technological minutiae—and the retarded intelligence quotient evident in its content.

and

Why should this invasion of self-ratifying, trans-marketed mythopoeia—so electrifying and meaningful to so many—be so inarguably empty and inconsequential?
posted by panopticon at 8:41 AM on May 15, 2002


The only thing I enjoyed watching in the phantom menace was queen amidala's fabulous costumes. The fighting lacked passion and spontanaeity, I wanted to kill jar jar, and the dialogue was awful. I'll probably watch the attack of the clones when it comes out on DVD, but pretty much just to see what other costumes they cooked up for Natalie.
posted by jojo at 8:41 AM on May 15, 2002


Looking at the excerpts of reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, I saw an amusing pair of articles:

"On a purely visceral level, Clones is a delightfully rousing, eye-popping, crowd-pleasing homage to Saturday-morning serials of the '30s and '40s."
-- Lou Lumenick, NEW YORK POST

and:

"Lucas has in fact come closer than anyone could desire to the cheap, graceless, hackneyed sci-fi serials of the '30s and '40s."
-- Michael Atkinson, VILLAGE VOICE
posted by adrianhon at 8:47 AM on May 15, 2002


Perhaps he's basing his opinion off of his viewing of the first prequel and similar critical "acclaim" for the second?

"Acclaim?" TPM was universally panned. So was Star Wars. Of course, by the time it came out in the "Special Edition" format 20 years later, that had all changed.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:48 AM on May 15, 2002


No, I haven't seen it, and I don't plan to. I'm judging on the (lack of) merits of Episode One, and the countless bottles of Mountain Dew, bags of Dorito's and Lay's, and fast-food toys aligning themselves with the Star Wars brand.

Why do sci-fi fans flock in droves to see plastic, poorly acted dreck like Ep1 when we haven't even gotten a big-screen adaption of Neuromancer yet?

Star Wars had the potential to become a timeless mythology (or something), but it's become a big fat corporate circle jerk instead.

See also: Branding Star Wars
posted by andnbsp at 8:49 AM on May 15, 2002


Star Wars had the potential to become a timeless mythology (or something)

It's a movie. It's entertainment. The original trilogy provided more than ten years of merchandising. What did you expect from the prequels? There is not connection between the merchandising of a film and the quality of a film.

As for the big screen version of Neuromancer, it's because Gibson can't seem to decide what he wants.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:01 AM on May 15, 2002


Episode I wasn't universally panned - Janet Maslin, when she was with the NYTimes, wrote : "... stripped of hype and breathless expectations, Lucas' first installment offers a happy surprise: it's up to snuff. It sustains the gee-whiz spirit of the series and offers a swashbuckling extragalactic getaway..."
posted by panopticon at 9:04 AM on May 15, 2002


I've seen it, and the Post's review is on target — Anakin's lines in particular, as poorly read as they are by Hayden Christiansen (who in acting ability makes Mark Hamill look like Alec Guinness, and in charisma makes Mark Hamill look like Harrison Ford), are so leaden and incoherent — and at one point ungrammatical ("As a senator, we will find it difficult to protect Amidala...") — that it's obvious that no-one even read through this mess before it was filmed (er, digitally stored).

jojo: Amidala's costumes are again great, and skimpier as the movie progresses — gee, Natalie Portman does a lot of sit-ups. And in the scene where they watch Obi-Wan's hologram she has distractingly hard nipples (hey, MacGregor's a stud).

But, the big "Gladiator" fight scene at the end is fun, and the big battle scene that follows is spectacular. (If you like that sort of thing.) Don't walk out early just because the love scenes and Jar Jar are sapping your will to live.
posted by nicwolff at 9:10 AM on May 15, 2002


Does anyone really think a "thumbs-down" from Ebert or anyone else is going to stop people from seeing this movie?

It's going to do its $300 million plus, and no critic (or critics) will be able to do anything about it.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:12 AM on May 15, 2002


"I have a baaad feeling about this," indeed. Right on, Han

It was Leia who said that.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:13 AM on May 15, 2002


Things are going to go the obvious way; New Warsie apologists will flail about defending the indefensible, Old Warsie Nostalgists will bewail the death of a legend, and everybody else will say, "Ok; well, here comes Men In Black 2..."

Have a look at eyeballkid's weblog, and see the futility in arguing this particular point with him.
posted by Perigee at 9:15 AM on May 15, 2002


Episode II is yet another example of the zenith of marketing: The ad is the product is the ad is the product is the... ad nauseum. Of course this is no different from a hundred other movies, TV shows, and other hypercommercial "products" tolerated by the thoughtless masses.

The original Star Wars had a spark of something good which transcended the movie (it was still mostly a big ad though). Everything after it was just calculated commercials for toys. blech.
posted by plaino at 9:16 AM on May 15, 2002


There is not connection between the merchandising of a film and the quality of a film.

There can be: when the merchandising and/or legacy of a film guarantees money in the bank regardless of how good a movie actually is, filmmakers can get lazy. Case in point: probably every movie based on a videogame franchise, ever.

And I'm saying all this simply because it's my opinion, not because it's "cool" to bash Star Wars.

It was Leia who said that.

See? Shows how much I know about this whole Star Wars thing. Oh, well. Right on Leia, then.
posted by andnbsp at 9:22 AM on May 15, 2002


eyeballkid: Star Wars (later renamed Episode IV: A New Hope) was not critically panned. While everyone knew that it was not Great Art, it was immediately recognized not only by the public but by all but the most nose-in-the-air critics as both technically revolutionary and a hell of a lot of fun as a movie.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 9:28 AM on May 15, 2002


"It was Leia who said that."

Wrong - Han says this when they come out of hyperspace on their way to Alderan and get locked on by the Death Star in the first movie, Episode IV. So try right on, Han again andnbsp.
posted by gloege at 9:40 AM on May 15, 2002


Yep...I saw it on Saturday with a friend who works at ILM, and I'd agree with most of the critics: an amazing visual and action spectacle, but the "love scenes" made me want to chew off my leg and beat myself over the head with it.

It's worth seeing in a theater with good sound and a good screen, but not at full price. Matinee only.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:45 AM on May 15, 2002


"It was Leia who said that."

Wrong - Han says this when they come out of hyperspace on their way to Alderan and get locked on by the Death Star in the first movie, Episode IV. So try right on, Han again andnbsp.


I think you're right, but Leia says it when they're in the mouth of the asteroid worm in "Empire."
posted by Ty Webb at 9:54 AM on May 15, 2002


Ebert: No, wait: Anakin tells Padme at one point: "I don't like the sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating--not like you. You're soft and smooth." I hadn't heard that before.
I bet Roger hears that all the time. He is soft and smooth, like a mound of Jell-O.

Snarkiness aside, that's a really bad line. I hope it's not indicative of the quality of dialog we're in for, but I have a feeling it is.
posted by me3dia at 9:55 AM on May 15, 2002


That's probably the worst line in the movie; and it's worse than Ebert reports, because it's really "I don't like the sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere — not like you. You're soft and smooth." Which doesn't even make sense.
posted by nicwolff at 10:14 AM on May 15, 2002


IV:
Luke: I have a very bad feeling about this
(when confronted by the Death Star for the first time)
Han: I've got a very bad feeling about this
(trash compactor)
V:
Leia: I have a bad feeling about this
(cave/space slug)
VI:
C3P0: Artoo, I have a bad feeling about this.
(on way into Jabba's throne room)
Han: I have a really bad feeling about this
(Ewok village, after "impersonation of a deity" scene)


Someone, please shoot me.
posted by dwivian at 10:14 AM on May 15, 2002


Perigee: I'm willing to call a piece of crap a piece of crap. I'm just not willing to do so without seeing it. I'm also not willing to consider it crap because of a Pepsi can. I thought Phantom Menace was a waste of time. But then so was Godfather III. That doesn't make me want to toss the whole series. As for my weblog, it's just this week, for obvious reasons, that all of the Star Wars links have come fast and furious.
posted by eyeballkid at 10:15 AM on May 15, 2002


They both said it. Wasn't it said by Luke at some point as well?

I am going to see it, and I can't think of much that would lead me to dislike it. I am not a fan of that Haden dude ("I'm gunna be the greatest Jedi EVUH!!!"), but I don't give a shit. Jar Jar was horrible, but I just accepted him as an unfortunate part of a greater whole. Call me a biased fan, but I am willing to take whatever Lucas shoves down my throat. Unless there are more Jar Jar freaks. I love the story and just the whole thing. No, I haven't seen EPII yet, but I honestly can't wait.

ps. dwivian is my new hero. saw that post during my preview of this one.
posted by adampsyche at 10:19 AM on May 15, 2002


you are all idiots. shutup, idiots.

sorry, i didn't mean that.. it just seemed funny at the time... i imagined a group of geeks huddling over whatever geek huddle over, and the master geek walking in, dismissing their inferiority..

anyway, i'll probably see this on friday. i'm somewhat excited. i don't even like star wars. i just like scenes that involve blocking shots with a lightsaber.
posted by lotsofno at 10:21 AM on May 15, 2002


I remember that, after about five minutes of watching The Phantom Menace, the old Iggy Pop and the Stooges song "No Fun" got jammed into my head and didn't leave until well after the movie finished. I mean, that was the real problem -- that movie was no fun at all. At least Star Wars and Empire knew they were crap -- they were fun. When they added bits of actual pain or serious thought, it was still fun, like a magic trick; turning crap into a gold coin. They had jokes, they copped scenes from old movies, the mythology was basically silly, the action was straightforward, the bad guy had a breathing problem, the good guys made things fly around. They didn't have anything as excruciating as Jar Jar because they didn't need comic relief. The movies themselves had a comic sense, and what good action movie would be crying out for relief?

Now that the whole saga/epic/creation myth has this gawdawful patina of seriousness about it, like it's Thus Spake Freakin' Zarathustra or something, there's no room for fun. The heroes are pompous and faceless, the plot's choking on sludgy politics, the action scenes are confusing, the acting is torpid, the special effects are static non sequiturs, and the mythology is something we're supposed to study, like we're graduate students. No thank you. Close up shop. Go home.
posted by argybarg at 10:32 AM on May 15, 2002


Print Newsweek damned it with faint praise.
posted by UncleFes at 10:40 AM on May 15, 2002


metacritic has bits from about 15 reviews. overall average: 56. (Spidey has a 69)
posted by gwint at 10:58 AM on May 15, 2002


You never see threads like this about, say, Life As A House. Which is too bad, since Kristin Scott Thomas looks kind of like a Gungan.
posted by Skot at 11:04 AM on May 15, 2002


I have a bad feeling about this

Obi Wan says it at the beginning of Ep.1 too... it is a recurring SW thing. I'm sure the line will be in Ep.2 at least once.

Oh shit... movie starts in less than 10 hours... I've gotta go get in line...
posted by spilon at 11:21 AM on May 15, 2002


While discussing bad Victorian melodramatic fiction with my graduate students, I started off one analogy with "It's like the time I saw Star Wars again as an adult..."

Chorus: "No! You can't do that!"

I've been snookered by the machine, however. I'm sure I'll go see this one sometime next week, after all of the undergraduates have decamped for the summer...
posted by thomas j wise at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2002


Umm, go back and watch episode 4 again. As is stated above, Hamill is no Olivier, and Ford is always pretty wooden in his performances. And the dialogue from Episode 4 is lightyears behind the films like pulpfiction et al.

Nevertheless, Star Wars Episode 4 is one of the top films of the 20th century, and for many reasons. Somehow it rose above the sum of its parts. And no sequilae can ever expect to do the same cuz they aren't bold and fresh new concepts.

Storywise, I myself found ep 4 to be almost as good as 5 and better than 6 and 1. But in terms of design, every single episode is 100%. And plenty of films get by on just that e.g. Blade Runner and Alien(s). There's no shame in that, is there? Afterall Busbee Berklee never aspired to make anything more than epic eye candy, and no one faults him for that...
posted by BentPenguin at 12:56 PM on May 15, 2002


Uh, which one is ep4? I misplaced my secret decoder wheel.
posted by muckster at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2002


Ep4 is the bit where the Munchmunch Spruters divulge the location of the mysterious Querg to the Jedi knockverost Amil Dentristisss. I particularly enjoy the sequence in which Murkin Fletwinth and Snarty Belotovest hunker down into the gresperter nest and sort of shimmy about for sausages.
Mmm!
"I'm a whole town full of those cans of knock" indeed!
posted by davidgentle at 2:13 PM on May 15, 2002


And plenty of films get by on just that e.g. Blade Runner and Alien(s).

Oh, that's just silly. Blade Runner, Alien, and Aliens all have great science-fiction plots, good scripts, and superior acting.
posted by nicwolff at 2:15 PM on May 15, 2002


I dunno. I'll go see it (probably more than once) because I'm a total geek when it comes to CG. But I also know that Lucas can't write to save his ass; his best move is still THX-1138, where the dialog is held to a minimum. And the best SW movie is still The Empire Strikes Back, which was directed by Irvin Kirshner and written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan (Lucas got some writing creds, but word has it that almost none of his stuff made it into the final print).

Lucas is happiest when he doesn't have to deal with human actors; his heart is in the digital world. I have a feeling that he'd be far happier if no humans at all were in the last SW movie.
posted by mrmanley at 2:30 PM on May 15, 2002


Print Newsweek damned it with faint praise.

As did Entertainment Weekly, (I believe the overall review grade was a conditional C, and it wasn't even from Owen Gleiberman) while simultaneously featuring the movie on its cover for the second time in a month and offering multiple 'behind the scenes' pages in this latest issue.

As for the marketing tie-ins, the cast wasn't thrilled about them either. Referring to the KFC toys, Natalie Portman said "(T)hat wasn't the highlight of my moral life."
posted by Dreama at 2:32 PM on May 15, 2002


And plenty of films get by on just that e.g. Blade Runner and Alien(s).

Oh, that's just silly. Blade Runner, Alien, and Aliens all have great science-fiction plots, good scripts, and superior acting.


blade runner yes, alien yes, aliens...don't think so.

to answer andnbsp's:
Why do sci-fi fans flock in droves to see plastic, poorly acted dreck like Ep1 when we haven't even gotten a big-screen adaption of Neuromancer yet?

because johnny mnemonic sucked way more than ep 2 ever could.

new rose hotel was okay, but the last third of it is just reusing footage from the first two thirds.

and any gibson adaptation begs comparison to blade runner which imo is a pretty high standard to live up to.
posted by juv3nal at 2:34 PM on May 15, 2002


actually johnny mnemonic wasn't all bad. it gets bonus points for having takeshi kitano in it before he had any real popularity in north america.
posted by juv3nal at 2:37 PM on May 15, 2002


Critics are irrelevant to the box office performance of a blockbuster style flick. I honestly don't know what world they live in, and was floored when so many of them liked Spider-Man - usually they keep looking to movies as A Big Statement On The World. In reality I just want some fun for my cash.
posted by owillis at 3:18 PM on May 15, 2002


Critics are not totally irrelevant to the box office performance of summer movies, because at least one ticket buyer - me - looks to them to find out which movies aren't just lots of things blowing up. I'll only see a movie if I hear good things about it. That helps me catch the Men in Blacks and miss the Wild Wild Wests.
posted by gspira at 3:41 PM on May 15, 2002


owillis, I doubt any critic goes to movies to be punished. I write reviews, and I love good movies. Fun comes in many forms, and good blockbuster fun is only one kind. I like Indie drama fun and French comedy fun and Spanish coming-of-age fun too. Any curious, stimulating, fresh, interesting thing can be fun. Good explosions, digital effects and cartoony action can be fun. Pauline Kael loved good trashy movies. "The critics" aren't nearly as bland or monolithic as they're often made out to be.

And as for relevancy -- who cares? I don't write reviews to make friends and influence people but because I find it interesting to engage in discussions about films. I love them and hate them and I want to say why. It's not a power play. I've never understood the fascination with box office numbers, and influencing them should be the last thing a critic cares about.
posted by muckster at 3:58 PM on May 15, 2002


From the "If you can't say anything nice" department...

George Lucas helped to acquaint the SciFi palette with sunlit earth tones.

On second thought, I'm not sure this was a good thing. Oh well, I tried...
posted by Opus Dark at 4:05 PM on May 15, 2002


Those damn lazy sci-fi directors. We should boil them in oil.

How about that product placing, reeses pieces eatin', product tying-in, Spielberg? He didn't even make a sequel to ET he just took out the guns and sold it back to us at full price! What about the guy who made Flash Gordan? Where's the sequel? There was a question mark at the end.

How are us work-a-day Joes supposed to bitch and complain when these lazy directors are spending their lives doing other stuff than feeding our nostalgia?! George, get rid of the computers, find Jim Henson's son and film MY script.

[/whiney fanboy mode]
posted by skallas at 4:41 PM on May 15, 2002


The first thing I saw when I got up this morning was The Oregonian, which had a banner across the top of Page One: "Episode II: Epic!" or something like that. I turned to Shawn Levy's review, which said "Clones" was a great movie and a lot of fun. Cool, I thought, maybe this thing will be worth the money I spend to see it.

Then I took a look at Metacritic's listing for "The Phantom Menace," and there was a snippet from Levy's review at the very top. He gushed over that dreck, too. Sigh.

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon "The Empire Strikes Back" on network TV and was hooked almost immediately. Sat there, watched the whole thing (for maybe the third time in my life), loved it. *That* was a great movie, easily the best of the lot.
posted by diddlegnome at 5:51 PM on May 15, 2002


johnny mnemonic was the worst film I have ever, ever, ever seen.
posted by Neale at 7:20 PM on May 15, 2002


You've never seen "Highlander 2: The Quickening," then, have you, Neale?
posted by kindall at 9:31 PM on May 15, 2002


Interesting review by Armond White in the New York Press: what Lucas should have done with the sequels.
posted by muckster at 9:39 PM on May 15, 2002


Just saw it in San Francisco. If anything, the bad reviews are too kind. OK, the Yoda fight scene was kinda cool.

Aside from that, it's worth noting that they couldn't even fill a free screening of the film. There were at least 150 seats empty. Also every piece of dialogue between Queen, er Senator Bad Hair (we sure know where Princess Leia got those cheese danishes that were stuck to her head) and Darth-to-be was met by literal howls of laughter by vast portions of the audience.

Rather than just recut the film to get rid of Jar Jar, as was done for the first one (or fourth, this is so confusing), what should be done here is to rewrite and redub the entire film. Go for that whole "What's Up, Tiger Lily" thing.

Trust me (and the force), it's the only hope.
posted by Mack Doggy at 10:55 PM on May 15, 2002


You've never seen "Highlander 2: The Quickening," then, have you, Neale?

Highlander two had Connery and a relatively cool mythos to fall back on. Johnny was drek without even a history to support it.
posted by Neale at 11:21 PM on May 15, 2002


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