November 10, 2013

Queer Review: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Director: George Lucas
Writers: George Lucas and Jonathan Hales
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Temuera Morrison

With The Phantom Menace out of the way, the Star Wars saga continues lumbering towards A New Hope with Attack of the Clones. Outside of a bloated middle section and an ill developed romance, Attack of the Clones still manages to offer up more than a few bits of Star Wars magic.

The story opens with the Galactic Republic in grave danger from political separatists. Following an attempt on her life, loyalist Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) is assigned two Jedi Protectors, the famed Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). It isn't long before Obi-Wan has left to track down a clue as to who may have been behind the attempt on Amidala, while the Senator and Anakin go back to Naboo to recite bad dialog about falling in love and sand that gets everywhere. Obi-Wans' investigation leads him to discover a mysterious clone army. Meanwhile, Amidala's and Anakin's journey leads them to discover that Anakin's mother has been captured and tortured. When she dies in Anakin's arms, Anakin is drawn that much closer to the Dark Side and to a destiny of sounding like James Earl Jones while scuba diving.

The Queering
I can recall going to see Attack of the Clones at the midnight showing way back in high-school with a friend, probably one of the few times I can recall seeing a movie in the the theaters with a friend. I remember the audience cheering at the scene of the Jedi forces first engaging the droid army in battle, as well as the tingly thrill that came with seeing Yoda lighting up his lightsaber before going mano-to-mano with Count Dooku.

Attack of the Clones takes the characters and plot threads established in The Phantom Menace and maneuvers them to where they need to be for the future chapters. Chancellor Palpatine moves closer to becoming the Evil Emperor. Anakin Skywalker finds himself confronted within the darkness deep within, otherwise known to most of us as teenage angst. Meanwhile, Padme and Anakin find themselves drawn closer to each other. As fans of the original movies know, this will lead to them becoming the parents of A New Hopes' whiny teenager/female royalty duo.

As a fan of the original movies, I found most of this fascinating, even if I have to admit that the middle section, where most of this setting up takes place, drags quite a bit. Also most of the romantic dialog is really, really bad. When Anakin describes sand as, "it's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere" he might as well have been talking about what the characters are saying to each other.

On a different note, it is interesting to note just how many parallels there are to the events of World War II. Not only does Palpatine first get elected Chancellor before going on (in the later movies) to become the evil Galactic Emperor, but the name Stormtroopers (who we discover in this episode are clones) comes directly from the NAZI Sturmtruppen. In a sense, The Clone Wars themselves almost seem a bit like World War I in the way they set up events for the later war between the Alliance and the Galactic Empire. While it's never really drawn all that sharply, there is enough political commentary going on here to add a degree of philosophical depth to the series.

Of course, Attack of the Clones also manages to emphacize the queer subtexts that I highlighted in my review of The Phantom Menace. Anakin and Padme have a discussion about the tenants of the Jedi code, where it is revealed that the Jedi's are forbidden from forming connections outside of the Jedi Order. Essentially this means that they are a chaste, monastic order and a common characteristic of chaste monastic orders is that members will often engage in sexual relationships with each other. Once again, the possibility is raised that the relationship between a Padawan and their Jedi Master is one of sexual pederasty.

Unfortunately, this idea is not really emphacized in the few scenes between Obi-Wan and Anakin. It is suggested through the dialog that the two have a deep and meaningful relationship but it's just not shown on screen. The two also spend most of the film at different ends of the galaxy once Obi-Wan is sent off to look for the assassins who are after Padme. As it is, we'll just have to wait until the next episode to have anything worth sinking our teeth into between the two.

As I mentioned above, Attack of the Clones has it's weak spots (to repeat: bad dialog and a weak middle section) but it' still enjoyable and more than just a soulless special effects extravaganza. Jar Jar Binks role has been reduced. The battle royale between the Jedi Knights and the Droid army alone is worth price of admission. Throw in some stunning visuals (and visual effects) along with finally getting to see Yoda kicking ass and you get a movie that is worthy of the name Star Wars.

Worth enduring any number of attacking clones to see.

The Rating
***1/2 out of ****


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