Thursday, 31 May 2018

Rewrite: Attack of the Clones [TV&Film]

To end Star Wars Month off in terms of blog posts, I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. Attack of the Clones is my least favoured of all the films. While I don’t harp on about the romance between Anakin and Padme as though it destroyed the entire film, it is the area that’s dragging it down the most. For this Rewrite, I’m going to look at all of the film.

The first thing to note is the opening. Nearly everything about it is fine. There’s just one thing that bugs me. Where is the bomb placed? The explosion makes it look as though it’s in the ship, and if it is – how did someone get access to the ship to place it there? Jango and Zam are professional bounty hunters. They should know the best places to set up sniper positions and wait. A single bolt would be all it takes. After all, they wouldn’t know a decoy had been used until after Padme arrives at the Senate building later. There’s no need to gun the others down, so as soon as the decoy had been shot they quickly shoot off. Padme then appears at the Senate and we get the scene cut from the film where she appears before the Senate and Palpatine expresses his gratitude that she survived. In other words, aside from seeing the ship coming in to land, the first scene is from the perspective of Zam – but we wouldn’t see exactly who she was.
Palpatine discussing the military creation act with the Jedi council and Padme arriving to then get Jedi bodyguards plays out the same, as does the scene within her suite. The Coruscant chase plays out much the same as before. All of that I don’t have any problems with. The nightclub scene and the subsequent ones are those I’m going to put some detail to.
Anakin and Obi-Wan head into the nightclub to chase Zam, but run head-first into a staged meet between her and Jango. Seeing the armoured man takes them by surprise, allowing him to make a quick getaway. Anakin and Obi-Wan quickly decide to go after both, splitting off to go after one each. Jango’s ship takes off, and to make sure the Jedi cannot mistake it for anyone else, Zam is stood on the outside with a sniper and fires off a shot before retreating inside. The ship then takes off. With no way to quickly get back in the chase, Anakin and Obi-Wan head back to the Jedi Temple to report.
The Jedi council decide, as in the film, that Padme needs to go into hiding. Both Anakin and Obi-Wan are in charge of protecting her. Two bounty hunters. Two Jedi. Anakin is to be within the ship while Obi-Wan follows with the starfighter guard. The ship used is the same one she arrived in, and the two Jedi know that it is a risky move, but the best one to succeed. The ship quickly enters space but gets ambushed by two ships. Jango’s and another one that Zam took control of. The guard do all they can to protect the ship, but it gets damaged just as it enters hyperspace. Obi-Wan manages to fire a tracker onto Jango’s ship before it goes into hyperspace. Zam also jumps to hyperspace, leaving the rest of the guard to jump to Naboo. Obi-Wan stays to report to the Jedi council from where he is, then follows Jango.

Following Anakin’s story, the ship breaks down due to losing power, dropping out of hyperspace near Tatooine. However, as they’re heading down through the atmosphere, Zam shows up and starts blasting away at them. The ship crashes onto the ground, with Zam still firing upon them. Anakin uses the Force to bring Zam down, and a quick fight ensues. Anakin disables Zam, and that’s when they realise they are on owned land. Bringing Zam inside the place, the people inside are willing to give them some space to hold their interrogation. Cliegg Lars watches as Anakin uses his mind control powers to little effect. He then starts getting angrier, using more brutal uses of the Force, wanting to find out who hired her and Jango. In his excessive Force use, he kills her, getting even irate. Padme tries calming him down, but then C-3PO arrives inside. The surprise is enough to bring Anakin from his rage. Then the story comes out of Watto selling Shmi to Cliegg, them getting along as a family, and then the reason she isn’t here. Anakin wants to head out to find her, but Cliegg tries to persuade him not to go. Again Anakin’s rage builds within, and nothing is stopping him going. Like in the film, he heads out on a speeder, finds his mom, she dies in his arms and he goes berserk on the Tuskens. When Anakin returns with his mother’s body, he has much the same dealing with his emotions as in the film, though also with regret at going too far with his interrogation.
Concurrent to all of this is Obi-Wan following Jango to Kamino, where he gets introduced to the Kaminoans and the story of the clone army for the Republic comes out. The meeting with Jango takes place, but instead of the incriminating evidence being Jango’s armour not being hidden, Obi-Wan makes a judgement from the battle of words the two exchange. He reports on the clone army to Yoda and Mace, with the two asking if the bounty hunter who he was tracking and Jango Fett are one and the same. Obi-Wan says he isn’t one hundred percent, but plans on taking a closer look at the ship. Upon doing so, he gets involved in battle with Jango on the landing field of the ship. Jango manages to force Obi-Wan back enough to jump onto his ship that Boba is piloting, and it takes off. Obi-Wan returns to his own ship to find the tracker still active, and sets off to follow. The space battle follows the same as the film, with Jango leading Obi-Wan to Dooku.
You might wonder where all the Anakin and Padme romance talk fits in with little in the way of a pause. All of that has been reduced greatly. The scene that takes place on the transport in the film happens the same as before, so Anakin’s dream of his mother happens and his talk of being encouraged to love takes place. Padme is hiding her own feelings, but she at least recognises them and those of Anakin. On Tatooine there’s little time for such discussion, but once Anakin returns with his mother and has laid his feeling bare, Padme wants to help him, but knows that what he needs she cannot give. The third part of the bonding before Geonosis is during the repair of Zam’s ship takes place so they can leave. This part is where the two talk about Anakin’s feelings in more depth, with Anakin admitting he feels lost without love. He admits that the only two people who have shown him any friendship is Palpatine and Obi-Wan. Padme says that she has too, but Anakin says it isn’t the same – they hadn’t seen each other for ten years. Padme says that their friendship does matter, and shows him the japor snippet he had given her. She admits that she couldn’t help but wonder what he had been up to during the ten years, and had always kept the carving on her for good fortune. Anakin starts asking about commitment, but that is when she starts backing away again. He cannot go too far with that line of thought, as R2-D2 comes along saying that the transmitter on their broken ship was still working, and news was coming in from Coruscant.

The Jedi council, Palpatine, and certain Senators are within the Chancellor’s office to receive the news of Obi-Wan being captured, having previously gathered to hear the news that Padme hadn’t arrived on Naboo. Now they listened to Dooku saying that the Chancellor is to disband the Senate and hand over control of the Republic to him otherwise he would send droids to all Republic systems and create chaos across the galaxy. The discussion of needing the clone army starts up, but then Anakin appears to ask what news they had, reporting that Padme was fine. The group decides that the clone army is indeed needed, with events following the same as the film. Yes, Jar Jar is the fall guy here as well. Palpatine accepts emergency powers that Jar Jar proposes, Yoda heads to Kamino to collect the clones, with Mace organising a Jedi strike. Anakin and Padme head to Geonosis in Zam’s ship, with Padme hoping to settle the conflict peacefully.
Upon arrival, the two are captured. Jango was waiting, expecting Zam to return, but instead finds Anakin and Padme. Instead of taking a pot shot, he uses his jetpack to escape, leading the two to Dooku as well. Padme tries her best to reason with Dooku, but he reveals that Viceroy Gunray wouldn’t be joining him unless she was dealt with, and having Anakin along for the execution would put two Jedi out of action as well. The arena happens here, with Padme finally admitting all her feelings to Anakin. The two agree that no matter what happens, they have each other, and will forever. The three battle against the creatures. The droidekas roll in and surround them, then Mace and the Jedi arrive and the battle between Jedi and droids begins. Instead of Mace vs Jango, Obi-Wan gets to deal with him instead, proving to be a short but not insulting fight. The Jedi are eventually surrounded, the clones come in and the war starts. The CIS begins its retreat, trying its best to get away while their remaining forces continue the battle.
I’m kind of forced to include the final battle here due my rules with this series [keeping with the basic template of the events that happen], so Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme head off in a gunship to follow Dooku hoping to capture him and end the war before it gets out of this system. Padme doesn’t get knocked out of the ship and follows them in. Anakin rushes in for the attack same as the film and gets knocked aside. Obi-Wan takes a more measured approach but is still taken out. Padme again tries reasoning with Dooku, but he again says he cannot keep her alive. Just as he is about to strike, Anakin gives a wild Force push and forces Dooku away. He leaps into action but fares little better, getting his arm sliced away and pushed over to Obi-Wan. Yoda then comes in and with only a small battle of the Force Dooku realises he cannot win. He quickly creates a distraction and leaves.
Back on Coruscant, Obi-Wan and Yoda talk over events, with Obi-Wan finding it funny that a bounty hunter would be involved in both sides of the army that is now set against each other. Both fail to realise the ulterior motive – that Jango was just the catalyst intended to bring both sides together, as orchestrated by the Sith. Anakin and Padme finally arrive on Naboo, holding a secret ceremony to prove their commitment to each other through marriage.

There are three things I set out to do with this Rewrite. The first was to handle the romance between Anakin and Padme better than what the film provided. While I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether this version succeeds in that, I felt it would be better to be more subtle about it. It’s less in your face, and while Anakin’s feelings for her are still present, I tried to make it have more meaning than just Anakin trying to force his feelings onto Padme. The second point of this was to allow Zam to better prove her skills, as I felt she was an underused character, and it’s clear her and Jango have a history of being partners – and I’m not just saying that because of the Bounty Hunter game. In the little they interact, there’s definitely a feel of shared experience between them, such the same as Obi-Wan and Anakin have. And the third was the plan of the Sith to start the war not so reliant on luck.

Rewrite Series
Sonic Forces / Star Wars – Attack of the Clones

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Star Wars - A Look at the Prequels [TV&Film]

As part of Star Wars month, I thought I’d do this review of all the films. I’ve talked Star Wars a lot. I’ve reviewed the newest films, reviewed the closing of The Clone Wars and opening of Rebels, but aside from mentions of the original and prequel trilogies, I haven’t ever given full thoughts about them. I know there’s lots of reviews – both serious and parodical – that give a variety of different opinions, and I doubt there’s much I can add that hasn’t already been said. However, Star Wars is my number one core franchise, so it only makes sense I finally review all six films. I’m adding the new ones to the list as well, though they won’t be in full.

I’ve always said that The Phantom Menace is my number one film, and nostalgia has nothing to do with it. Okay, so a bit of recognition of elements might have come into it – especially with Maul – but that’s the same for all six films. Especially when I’d been playing Battlefront 2 pretty much non-stop since being introduced to it. I started with the original trilogy the same as most, and while I enjoy the originals, there’s something about Phantom Menace that inches it above the rest.
In terms of the plot – I admit if you look into it there are plenty of things wrong. Just as with most films though, logic goes out the window if spectacle is coming to play. Or something was just overlooked. I’m not one to say. Nearly every scene doesn’t overstay its welcome, and while those scenes on Tatooine can feel stretched, it more than makes up for it with the pod race. Oh, I love the pod race, with the audio effects giving it real energy, along with the sense of speed thanks to the cinematography. And that really goes for all the action involving vehicles. Even in ground battles the audio and visual elements work really well to create some stunning scenes.
As for characters, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan work well together, as do Anakin and Padme. There’s a great sense of chemistry between the two pairs, and all these interactions really shine on Tatooine. Anakin and his mom feel like a real family, and Anakin’s friends even from the small while we see them feel a diverse group. Jar Jar isn’t a curse of existence for me. He’s here, and to me he’s just an excitable goof who’s fumbling around in a wider world he’s been introduced to. Same can be said of Anakin once he leaves Tatooine. The Jedi Council… They’re certainly an interesting bunch, and I can see where the characterisation of the council as a whole comes from when you get into the story. You get hints of it within Phantom Menace – what with their refusal to believe the Sith have returned. They keep the peace, and want nothing to break it. While they deal with the things that happen, they’re ignoring the larger problems, and in the next two films we see exactly the depth of that problem as they fail to see things right in front of them. As for the Sith, I really feel Maul could have been used more. It’s unfortunate he gets killed at the ending battle, but at least he goes out with a cool fight between two Jedi. That ends because it feels the need to… I get being surprised, but this is just one major part of all the prequels that shines the brightest. Watch the ‘saber fights, and look for the point that it ends. Someone will easily manage to win just because it needs to end. Of course, that fits under the idea of logic being shelved for the sake of spectacle, and as such easy to overlook.
Overall, everything comes together fine. Palpatine is a master of his craft, managing to do a lot of behind the scenes work and taking advantage of any situation that arises. There are a few slow moments that manage to fill in some of the world building, such as Otah Gunga. Speaking of the underwater world, that is just one other area where this film shines. It might seem like another pointless scene, but just as with the pod race, it manages to show off just what the world is all about. The music is also another strong point, but that goes for all the films.

Attack of the Clones is the weakest of the prequels and all the films. The first hour just seems to drag even when action is involved. I’ve said my piece about logic disappearing to create a fun scene, and while this film takes that to new heights, I’m not saying any more about it. Once the film reaches Geonosis and Tatooine, that’s when the good starts to come through.
It paces itself well at the start, getting through the first assassination attempt quickly and moving on to show Palpatine performing more of his gentle nudging and subterfuge in getting Anakin and Padme back together. Then we get the speeder chase through Coruscant which gives a good look at this city-world we haven’t seen much of aside from the Jedi Temple and Senate. If there’s one thing Attack of the Clones does good at, it’s introducing new sights to old places. The Naboo-Kamino segments are where it drags the most. Naboo for obvious reasons. Kamino is harder to place, but I feel it might be more to do with having to share the time with scenes on Naboo rather than anything wrong with the story of Kenobi. The Jedi vs droids battle, and the battles that come before and after are favourites of mine. Dooku vs Jedi… not so much. But the film as a whole does well in showing how much arrogance the Jedi now have. Yoda even admits it, but seems to find he himself doesn’t have any.
Anakin and Obi-Wan have a good relationship with each other. It might be undercut by the differing opinions of the two, but it is obvious there is some respect. Anakin and Padme works. Yes, the scenes are not the greatest, the dialogue is awful at times and it certainly feels the romantic partnership is forced to happen by necessity of the original trilogy. But it works. It might not be the greatest relationship in the galaxy, but Padme knows he’s troubled and wants to help. I could go into greater detail, but this is a general review and not an ultra-specific character analysis. The Jedi council are still blind to the world around them, failing to see the real problems. Jar Jar has no real point here, it was just easy to use him as an unknowing pawn of Palpatine’s larger game. Along with Palpatine pulling the strings, we have Dooku acting as leader of the splinter group that forms as the Confederacy of Independent Systems. We also have Jango Fett, the clone donor on Kamino for the Grand Army of the Republic. There… really isn’t much to them. Jango is the better of the two, giving the film a great battle of the mind and later of brawn against Obi-Wan, but then he gets spoilt on Geonosis by getting beheaded like a complete chump. As for Dooku, the only things he really offers are those that take place behind-the-scenes that are hinted at within the scenes he’s in.
Audio and visuals are great as ever, with Kamino being a favourite of mine. As mentioned above, world building in this film is as great as ever, with the Kaminoans and Geonosians looking great. Coruscant proving to be a diverse city-planet with industrial and retail sectors to go along with the upper-class lifestyle. And while we don’t get to see much of the fighting, the clones and the droids doing battle is absolutely masterful, with a variety of units placed on the field and moving about.

Revenge of the Sith has great pacing, but the characters here are worse for the most part. The opening battle in space and assault of Grievous’ cruiser provides some great action, with the battle between Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Dooku being just under that par. There’s some powerful moments later in the film, such as Order 66 and the End of the War scene [mixing Palpatine’s speech with Anakin’s murder of the Separatists], and the Windu-Palpatine duel had some good moments, but while the action is good, the characters mar the scenes with… it’s difficult to put into so few words. Padme has so little to do that her strongest qualities seem to have disappeared. Anakin continues his struggles of internal conflict except for the fact he no longer seems to do so. Instead he just flits between light and dark. Obi-Wan seems mostly in character, and the only one who hasn’t suffered is Palpatine – who continues being masterful in his interactions. Dooku is his usual self, and while he gets put out of action pretty quickly, it serves as the set-up for the later plot. The Jedi council I feel have hit the point where they would have decayed had they not been decimated. That set-up has been strong throughout all three films. Grievous is the new one here, and comes across as both threatening and comical at the same time. He is a force to be reckoned with, but it just seems he’s downplayed in terms of actually being a threat here. The book Labyrinth of Evil, The Clone Wars TV series [and the Tartakovsky Clone Wars series], and even the Revenge of the Sith novelisation all manage to portray a more menacing vision of this great droid general.
The greatest part of Revenge of the Sith would be seeing a host of new worlds. There’s Coruscant, much the same as it’s always been. Kashyyyk is introduced, as are Utapau and Mustafar, and all give variety in their looks. Even the planets we see little of – such as Cato Neimoidia and Felucia – have a diverse look to them. Even in space or inside facilities or cruisers, the concept of differences is present.
There’s good here, and I certainly enjoy it, but there’s also the bad. As I said, most of that comes from the characters, but there’s also other things. I’ve mentioned the opening as a standout part, and I count Obi-Wan vs Grievous as another great part. The final two duels lack impact for me. Palpatine vs Yoda, and this is probably me having a preference for the novelisation over the film again, feels awkward. It starts fine with a clash of the Force, but the lightsaber battle feels empty and the entire fight has no meaningful conclusion [which is where my preferring the novelisation comes into it with Yoda releasing he can’t win the fight and needing to make a getaway]. Meanwhile, Anakin vs Obi-Wan sounds great in concept but also falls flat by trying to be the greatest duel put to film. These are two characters who have been pretty much side by side for years. They have shared experiences that are not easily forgot. Yet the duel has no character. Anakin is dark, making the bond these two have for each other somehow mean nothing. It’s just another empty duel that not even the ending can alleviate. Once again I’ve been spoilt with the novelisation on this, and I just know that thanks to the stronger writing of it the film feels flat in comparison. Neither The Phantom Menace’s or Attack of the Clones’ novelisations manage to do what Revenge of the Sith’s has done, and while I try not to judge a single entity based on the entire series, it’s definitely hard in the case of film vs novelisation for Revenge of the Sith.

I’m ending this here for now, with the Original Trilogy and the Sequel films getting covered in July [I’m expecting E3 to keep me busy with content in June].
As I said in my review back in 2016 for the film, Rogue One provided a great amount of character and exploration of a darker side to the Rebellion we hadn’t really seen. Jyn’s story is really effective, along with Cassian getting a whole questioning his morals and how it affects people he knows. The Empire elite work in one-upping each other, and Krennic serves a great purpose in the film. The action of the film is some of the best seen, especially the battle of Scarif. The references are strong, as is the film as a whole.
My opinion on it hasn’t really changed upon repeat viewing. It stands as a great example of characters defining a story. There’s great set-pieces, some interesting worlds, and Vader’s presence is minimal but fully felt.

This is coming to a close for now, as it’s reaching the same point a season of Power Rangers would. The Original Trilogy and Sequel films will get covered in July. As I’ll be saying in the June monthly update, I fully expect E3 to be keeping me busy with content throughout the month, so there will be little but gaming posts during that month. I was waiting until I’d posted this to bring forth another post. This one is focused on Attack of the Clones, and if you remember a post I did with Sonic Forces, I’ll be doing the same with the second of the prequel trilogy.