Continuing on from L8wrtr's wonderfully watchable "Shadow of the Sith" comes my 2nd go-to in the ever-elusive "perfect SW prequel fanedit series " search. I like L8wrtr's takes on the first two films more than any others; they fit right in with Lucas's "jazz riff" comment on the significance of the first two movies, but now they actually do feel like jazz riffs, lead-ins. If you follow the canon chronology of Star Wars, after this film comes the "Clone Wars" TV series (some fine edits from smudger9 to be found over there) and, with that, a lead character we actually grow to understand, care about, and find worthy of the title of ANAKIN SKYWALKER.
...and with that, let's discuss what fanedits of "Attack of the Clones" have in common - they're all trying to outwit, outrun, and otherwise nullify, neutralize, and make a persona non grata the CHEESE, the CORN, the serious stupidity that forever marks the prequels as their own worst enemy. Lucas had the world in the palm of his hand, and he blew it.
But not entirely. There's a reason why we care so much - there's so much mythology that Lucas filled in, probably more than we give him credit for. We were all rather clueless before the prequels "me so"-d themselves all over the damn place; now that the cat is out of the bag we forget how mysterious it all was the 16 years of waiting between ROTJ and TPM. Attack of the Clones suffers from almost as much clawing-your face-in-horror idiocy as its predecessor, but we live in an interesting era where, truly, the best criticism of a movie is to make another movie. That L8wrtr has done.
What's improved enough to recommend this one over all others?
1 - the usual first act scenes eliminated - esp. that diner. Right from the get-go this film was in trouble with that opening line - "We made it!" Now it's gone. Love how restrained Anakin is w/ Padme.
2 - Many fanedits take some really unorthodox approaches to that Naboo courtship horror. This edit takes the simplest approach - just eliminate the "sand-speak." No need for day-for-night, or halfway editing the dialogue - just jettison the obvious. I do enjoy the left-in waterfall fascism silliness - just two kids slugging out half-baked political ideas. The fact that Padme and Anakin is the focus of the story arc is exactly right.
3 - all action-based set pieces - Obi-Wan's visit to Kamino, the asteroid chase, the droid factory - they're all edited in order to keep the excitement there, but not outright deleted.
4 - the Battle of Geonosis is the diamond in the rough from Attack of the Clones. This entire sequence - from arena-execution stuff to the final chase across the dunes - is astonishing. L8wrtr gets the appeal and keeps what is necessary, allowing it to feel like a rich, full climax - the first battle of the Clone Wars. We are very far away from the juvenility of the Naboo battle in the first movie.
What could have been fixed (these are nitpicks. I'm so happy with the edit I don't really care about these that much, but I'll mention them anyways).
1 - there are a couple of edits that feel really abrupt - the Kamino translation-death scene, the lone couple of shots of the fireplace sequence, etc. The scenes really rocket and the Lucas-wipes are a little overwhelming as we cut between Naboo and Obi-Wan.
2 - the opening chase could have kept some of the good-natured banter between Obi and Anakin. I think the lead-up to the eventual betrayal (esp in context w/ the entire Clone Wars series) must include the nature of their closeness, even in it's corniness.
3 - There are some really, really forced moments on Geonosis between Padme and Anakin. Lucas, you must show, not tell - and having Padme say "I love you, truly, deeply" or whatever instead of us being able to feel it as naturally as the weather is really evidence of GL's waning abilities. Watch David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" - expository dialogue between the two leads on their love for one another serves to reinforce what we already know and feel. Here, it's as if GL is panicked we don't get it (which we don't, at that) and needs Padme to try and shove some feeling into this stone robot of a romance. The KISS that follows, when Anakin saves her on that beast-thing, is in a handful of "worst moments of all time" in Star Wars. A lot of this stuff could have been jettisoned. Isn't it OK for us to know and feel how crazy-in-love Anakin is for Padme, but not necessarily the other way around? Couldn't "not knowing" Padme's feelings be part of the insecure streak that causes Anakin to gradually lose all rationality? I mean, regular, non-Jedi teenage Earth boys are basket cases when first romances come around, largely due to not knowing truly and fully the other's feelings. Leaving the dialogue and the KISS in there isn't bad (again, this is a nitpick), but it would certainly keep Padme's entire character, personality, and motivations just a tad on the secretive side. If that makes the story seem more like "Raging Bull", well, so be it! Maybe Padme would need another scene or two removed in this film and the third to continue that arc of possibility. Perhaps the build-up of having her emotions distant and removed would add another angle, and a believable one, at that, to Anakin's 11th-hour choke-hold.
What cannot be salvaged -
Only one point to make, the obvious one: Like TPM, AOTC is awash in amateurish performances. On the good side, Natalie is still Natalie, though it clear her acting chops are getting better. Sam Jackson has a big role, nothing wrong here....Ewan is as reliable as ever. But Hayden's acting is the not-so-white elephant in the very small room. His irritating and embarrassing scenes are thankfully minimized, but it's quite telling when an ANIMATED series makes you feel like you're finally meeting the character. Seriously, the way the series handles the character is just fantastic (great voice acting). Here Hayden couldn't act his way of a potato sack, and the god-awful attempts at acting post-lessons or whatever in the third movie are just that - attempts at "acting". There is no character here, just a symbol. Maybe that's enough for some people, I don't know. Anyways, L8wrtr has gone a long ways towards trying to find essence of personality here (that's why i like the waterfall talk), but, good god, the kid doesn't react AT ALL to getting his ENTIRE ARM CHOPPED OFF. And no, I don't believe he is using "the force" to control his emotion. This is just BAD ACTING. And, yes, a weak central performance can kill the entire film. While L8wrtr clearly has that in mind, how can we ultimately hope to get around this? Shot of reshoots, we can't. For comparison, just look at Mark Hamill's brilliance in Ep. 4 & 5 - his ability to control emotion or express it in any way makes us totally forget WHO LUKE IS - a supremely cocky and arrogant kid who, by ROTJ, has some pretty strange perceptions on what being a "Jedi" is. We just picture Luke as the hero of heroes. That's what a great performance can do - create layers of contradiction, emotion, and mystery. Here, it's just the empty-shell symbol who doesn't like sand and 'slaughters them like animals'. It's about as deep as a puddle of spit.
Anyways, we got a movie worth seeing here after all's said and done. That battle of Geonosis is just amazing to behold, and I appreciate being able to not think about it's impending arrival - that means what I'm currently seeing onscreen is worth something. As I mentioned in my review of Shadow of the Sith, this one feels like what GL should have released if wanted us to get another snapshot-jazz riff experience before the real heart of the story came to be. Can you imagine the furor and feelings that would have flown about if he had released this exact version in 2002?
This is what Attack of the Clones should have been. I hated the original Episode II. It was slow, clunky, silly, and don't get me started about Anakin and Padme on Naboo. Thankfully, that has been trimmed down as much as possible while still advancing the love story that has to happen to set up the events in Ep III.
L8wrtr has taken the worst of the Star Wars films and turned into something I not only enjoyed but will definitely watch again.
WOW, I just fished watching this movie, and it was amazing. If they make another star wars movie they should hire l8wrtr to edit it. I have probably watched episode 2 20 times and this was the first time I felt any connection between anakin and padme. The movie moves at a good pace, and I actually like anakin now. I do wish that the jengo fett scenes weren't cut short. I will never watch the lucas version again, and I cant wait to watch your other edits. Good job!