Lori links Salon’s review of Attack of the Clones, saying someone’s getting too deep about a shallow movie. I don’t know when demands for more on-screen rolls in the hay became intellectual - probably back when virginity became an unnatural affliction with which teens are “stricken” rather than born. Such revealing counterfactual preconceptions are scattered throughout the article. Anakin wasn’t “grim”, he was whiny. Padme wasn’t grim either; she played it cool until she decided she was going to die anyway and she might as well kiss the boy.
The reviewer gives away his ignorance when he talks about millions of cloned Boba Fetts being “gloated over” by the producer. They weren’t exactly the Ewoks, Mr. Thomson. He claims it’s never explained why the happy couple can’t just go roll in the hay, when it was actually made quite clear that Jedi don’t do the wild thing.
But what I find disturbing about this review is that it would fit any story in which two people fall in love on screen and manage to get married in the final scene, all without taking parts A and B out for a test drive. This is a criticism that could be made of Episode 2, or of Jane Austen for that matter, sight-unseen - which is to say, it’s not criticism at all. It is a statement of faith that it’s impossible to tell a love story; it is pure disbelief in romance.
Lori distracted me from what I was planning to say, so I have to back up a bit now, to Sunday night. I never meant to be trendy enough to see Episode 2 on it’s big premiere weekend. Dr. Deb and I had decided to watch the X-Files finale for old times’ sake. We used to watch XF when it was all about the fat-sucking vampires, sewer-dwelling fluke-men and UST. We went on strike when Mulder disappeared; in our minds it’s still the cult-classic of third season, when the occasional mytharc episode could be ignored as just so much inane prattle about smallpox and bees.
Imagine our disappointment when the finale turned out to be all mytharc, all the time, in a little locked room. Dr. Deb didn’t know about the Suddenly and Dramatically Resolved Sexual Tension, and I didn’t know Scully had given up Mulder’s spooky love-child - for adoption, I presume. That was the least of my problems with the new Puffy Scully. Who was that weepy woman, and what has she done with my calm and rational scientist-in-flats?
As for the episode itself, it was dreck on the level of the worst maudlin angstfic. Skinner and the prosecution posturing at each other with Scully telling-not-showing on the witness stand hardly makes for a plot, never mind a two-hour finale. So forty minutes into our abject horror and suffering, I suggested to Dr. Deb that we blow the joint and go catch Attack of the Clones instead. We made the 9:30 show, which was as man-heavy as a physics conference. “At least there are no children,” I said, little suspecting how the excess of males would contribute to later events.
After the tragedy of the mytharc, we were in the mood to be pleased. Dr. Deb made nominal protests against Jar-Jar, but when he brought an end to a thousand years of peace in the Republic, we were sufficiently avenged upon the animated pest. Jar-Jar didn’t start the trouble; Anakin Skywhiner, heir and forebear of Luke Skywhiner, did it when he confessed his undying (and extremely painful) love for Padme Clotheshorse. This was too much for the heavily-macho audience; they laughed. (Don’t tell George, eh?) I’ve seen audiences laugh at the wrong bits of movies before, but never with quite so much justification. Giggling continued on and off until the combined fashion show/love affair was interrupted by the Shmi incident and subsequent “rescue” of Obi Wan.
Let me pause to Be Like Liz here, and praise Obi Wan. He’s such the dashing hero - noble, intelligent, and forceful (sorry). I loved all his scenes, especially the ones bluffing his way through the clone factory. The poor dude was saddled with his Young Padwhine Anakin by his dying Jedi master in a massive guilt trip last movie, but does he bitch and moan about it all through this one? No. Does he complain that having a clueless idiot for an apprentice is holding him back? No. Obi Wan is a real Jedi.
Despite the audience’s impromptu laugh track, I enjoyed the follies of the One Fated to Restore Petulance to the Force. Just watching him bumble his way through the movie brought up rare questions of good and evil. When he stares at Padme that way, is he just moon-eyeing her, or is he manipulating her? Does he stop and think before his little starter-kit genocide, or was he only beserking when he killed not just the things, but their wo-things and child-things? And when he blames Obi-Wan afterwards, does he really mean it? (I think he does.)
Is the soul of evil, then, blaming others for what is your own or no one’s fault? Or is it wanting to force people to be good, or wanting the power to do so? Is it wanting to be a Jedi and get the girl, too? (Padme deserves some share of the blame for getting involved with Jedi-boy, but who can help kissing the boy when your timeline is about to dead-end gladiator-style?)
Yes, I’m reading all this into the movie because I know Jedi-boy is scheduled to do an interstellar Evil Willow in the next ep, but if I’d lived under a rock for the past few decades and walked into the movie blind, I would still have loved it. You see, I’m constitutionally unable to resist a secret wedding - I’ve written at least six of them, and I have a bad habit of keeping the wedding secret from the bride and groom themselves. It’s more than just the wedding, though; the whole self-destructive, “we’ll be living a lie and it will destroy us,” star-crossed romance is just lovely in a live-fast, rule-Naboo-young kind of way. It doesn’t matter that Lucas wrote it badly enough that the audience laughed, because he still wrote it and it’s still floating around in my head teasing the muse with ideas of love as suicide, love as greed, love as irresistible as the dark side, and the fundamental tragedy of the good.
Which brings us to the last deep theme of this laughable piece of fluff: that the Evil Overlords have a plan that’s coming together, while the Jedi Knights are falling apart. They are blind to the Sith they’ve elected provisional Emperor, blind to the clone plant cranking out Boba Fetts for the past ten years, blind to the fact that “balance” is the last thing they should want restored to the Force after a thousand years of peace, blind to their pretty-boy messiah practicing genocide and marrying a Senator, blind to the truth of the war, which is both sides against the Jedi - blind and self-defeating.
There’s nothing in the world like a good old-fashioned tragedy, unless it’s good old-fashioned badly-written science fiction into the gaps of which you unconsciously read the story you would have written, if you had millions to blow on your own personal space opera. Fanfiction, by the by, is the act of writing the shadow-story down.