Star Wars Movie Retrospective: Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones

 

episode II poster

“One day, I will become the greatest Jedi ever. I promise you. I will even learn how to stop people from dying.” – Anakin Skywalker

Anticipation for the second film in the prequel trilogy and the fifth Star Wars film to be produced was much lower than for the first prequel film. However, many found Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones to be a better made prequel, although it’s not without its own faults.

According to the opening scrawl of the film, a distant galaxy is on the brink of a civil war. Under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), several thousand worlds have begun to secede from the Galactic Republic. The Jedi naboo shipKnights, the guardian force of the Republic, are overwhelmed with handling so many insurrections and so the government wants to pass a law to create a standing army to help the Jedi. Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), the former queen of planet Naboo travels to Coruscant, the capital of the Republic, to vote on the matter of creating an army.

Unlike other Star Wars films, Episode II begins on a quiet, furtive note as a Naboo starship escorted by fighter ships enters the murky atmosphere of Coruscant. The starship lands on a cloud-covered platform in the planet’s global city. But there is an ominous air on the landing platform since the senator has a price on her head. Just as the senator and her entourage walks down the plank of her starship, it explodes and she is killed. Fortunately, the woman that died was a decoy and the actual Padmé was one of the fighter pilots. The incident underlines the danger that she is in from the Separatist forces who want to keep her from voting.

Star Wars diplomats

 

She and other government officials, including Representative Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) and Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan (Jimmy Smits), meet with Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to discuss the coming vote. Palpatine is concerned for her safety and assigns two Jedi to protect Padmé.

ready for battleThe Jedi tasked are Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice or Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). They last met Padmé ten years ago in the previous film when Anakin was a boy and Obi-Wan was himself a Padawan. Anakin is instantly infatuated when he sees the beautiful young senator, while she merely looks upon him as a younger brother.

Later that night as she sleeps in her room a drone outside her window dispatches poisonous worms into her room. The Jedi, who are outside her room standing guard, sense something is amiss and Anakin rushes in and kills the worms. As he does this, Obi-Wan spots the drone and throws himself out the window to grab it. He latches on as the drone takes him on a whirlwind tour through the crowded skies of the city. The drone is shot and destroyed, but Obi-Wan is saved from falling when Anakin shows up with a flying vehicle and catches him. They then pursue the female assassin (Leeanna Walsman) who shot out the drone and is fleeing in her own vehicle. Eventually the chase leads them to a bustling, street-level night club.

 

Inside, Obi-Wan dismembers the assassin before she can shoot him from behind as he has a drink at a crowded bar. Outside, he tries interrogating her, but she is killed with a poison dart shot by a distant figure who escapes in a rocket pack.

The next day at the Jedi Temple, the Jedi High Council gives Obi-Wan a new assignment, which is to track the assassin’s killer. Meanwhile, Anakin is to escort Padmé back to Naboo to ensure her safety. In her absence, Jar Jar assumes her duties.

On her home planet Naboo, the relationship dopey romancebetween Anakin and Padmé starts to intensify. Both have trouble denying their mutual attraction even though Jedi are forbidden to have romantic relationships. Frustrated, Anakin begins to berate his lot because he feels disrespected by the other Jedi. He also expresses jealousy towards Obi-Wan.

As the two star-crossed lovers exchange incredibly corny dialogue and frolic on CGI fields, Obi-Wan’s investigation directs him to the water planet Kamino. After he lands his spaceship amidst a raging storm on an above-water facility, Obi-Wan is greeted by its inhabitants. It turns out that the Kaminoans had been expecting him or at least a Jedi and tell him the order is ready. Confused, Obi-Wan plays along and learns that ten years ago, a Jedi named Sifo-Dyas hired the Kaminoans to grow a human clone army.

clones 2Obi-Wan is given a tour of the facility and he sees with his own eyes vast numbers of young and mature clones who are being trained and conditioned. He is told that the clones are being psychologically modified and trained to be more efficient and compliant soldiers. Then he is introduced to the Mandalorian bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and his young son Boba (Daniel Logan). Jango was hired by the Kaminoans to provide the genetic template for the clones who are all copies of him. As part of his payment, Jango was given his own clone to raise as a son, who happens to be Boba. Jango is instantly mistrustful of the Jedi and when Obi-Wan leaves their quarters he tells Boba to prepare to leave the planet.

Once the tour is finished, Obi-Wan goes outside in the tempest to report his findings to the High Council. Afterwards, obi wan and jangohe tries to capture Jango because he believes Jango is the killer of the assassin on Coruscant. He finds the bounty hunter, now donning a high-tech battle armor, on a landing platform by his ship the Slave I. The Jedi and the bounty hunter then engage in a furious battle that ends with Jango escaping into his starship thanks to some help from his son. Before the ship can leave the complex, Obi-Wan tosses a homing beacon on its hull.

On Naboo, Anakin has trouble sleeping; he keeps having disturbing prophetic visions of his mother Shmi (Pernilla August) in danger back in his home planet Tatooine. He can’t take it anymore and tells Padmé of his intention to rescue his mother. Understanding his pain, she decides to go with him.

anakin meets relativesAt the desert planet Tatooine, Anakin’s search leads him to the moisture farm of Cliegg Lars (Jack Thompson) and his son Owen (Joel Edgerton). He learns that Cliegg purchased his mother from her slaveholder, then freed and married her. But just a month ago, she was captured by savage tusken raiders and he was unable to find her.

The young Jedi heads off in a determined quest to rescue his mother. He finds her badly beaten in a tusken raider camp. Their bittersweet reunion is short lived however. She dies in his arms from her injuries but not before telling him how proud she is of him. Anakin’s grief immediately turns into an uncontrollable rage and he shortly takes it out on the raiders, killing everyone in the camp, including the women and children.

Meanwhile, Jango Fett unwittingly leads Obi-Wan to another planet, Geonosis. The Jedi learns that the planet is a hotbed of Separatist activity. Enemy ships are everywhere, as is dooku and othersa battle droid factory. Not only that, he eavesdrop in a meeting held by Count Dooku and several important Separatist factions who plot a devastating attack against the Republic with a huge droid army. Obi-Wan is unable to get a signal to Coruscant, but Anakin’s location is closer to Geonosis. He transmit a signal to Anakin so that it can be relayed to the High Council. He is just able to make a transmission before he is captured by droid soldiers.

Back on Tatooine, after he brings back his mother’s body to the Lars homestead Anakin goes on an enraged tirade and tells Padmé of what he did to the tusken raiders. She is naturally aghast at his actions, but feels sympathetic towards him. Shortly after his mother’s funeral, they pick up Obi-Wan’s report and see on the holographic message that he is captured. Anakin relays his friend’s report to the Jedi led by Yoda (Frank Oz), who intend to rescue him. Even though he is ordered to stay put, Anakin and Padmé leave the planet to go rescue their friend. Little do they realize that they’ll soon be embroiled in a series of fast-moving events that ignite the Clone Wars.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Tomorrowland Is A Whimsical Place

tomorrow poster

Tomorrowland is a bright, sometimes wondrous spectacle that shines in spite of its flaws. Thanks for that goes to director Brad Bird who continues to demonstrate why he is one talented director. Tomorrowland has so many fantastic merits: acting, cinematography, special effects and it’s a fast-moving adventure that celebrates optimism. With all it has going for it, it’s unfortunate that a sometimes pedestrian script grounds this film at times, particularly in its final act.

Tomorrowland begins with the story of Frank Walker (George Clooney), who as a child attended the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Disney fans will delight with these scenes, which are a fond tribute to the genius of Walt Disney as the basis of well-known theme park rides are presented. At the fair, he meets this mysterious young girl called Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who gifts him with a pin that has the Tomorrowland symbol on it. That pin turns out to be an entry way of sorts to another realm where a beautiful, futuristic city is located.

casey

Then the film jumps to the present and introduces the other major character Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), a teenage girl living in Cape Canaveral who laments about the demise of NASA and the pessimistic nature of our world. She is baffled that so many people around her, including her father, have given up on their dreams and she’s rebellious as a result. Later, she comes into possession of the same kind of pin that Frank received years ago. Only this time whenever she touches it, Casey is transported to the outskirts of Tomorrowland, the same future city that Frank visited as a youth. Her visit to this whimsical place are some of the most moving and stirring scenes that will delight sci-fi fans. The city is reminiscent of the same futuristic locale featured in the animated film Meet the Robinsons as it features nifty flying vehicles, fantastic robotic workers, gleaming skylines and people zipping through the skies in jet packs. The city is an actualized version of the Tomorrowland section in the Disney parks and it’s a hoot to behold. This is one of the best utopian places ever featured on film.

As joyous as is her visit, it abruptly ends. Determined to go back to Tomorrowland, Casey soon meets Athena, who is still a young girl. The two of them set out to meet Frank, who is now a bitter recluse having been exiled from the future city years ago. Impeding their journey are teams of fake-smiling androids with the same plastic demeanor of a theme-park workers, who pursue them across the country with deadly ray guns. When Casey and Athena finally encounter Frank in Upstate New York, the mystery of Tomorrowland is revealed, as well as the fact that our world is imperiled. It turns out that the only person that can avert disaster is Casey herself and time is against her.

For most of the film’s running time, Tomorrowland is a captivating ride with many unexpected twists and turns just like a theme-park ride. The film is a good example of the journey being more interesting than the destination. That is because once the film actually gets to that city the script starts to come apart with lazy exposition and going overboard with the message Brad Bird and company try to present. That is unfortunate because the message about hope and casting aside cynicism is something that we all need in these times. Tomorrowland champions the themes of innovation, imagination and hope, but it should have been more stirring with its delivery. Talented as Brad Bird is, the lauding of these ideas doesn’t feel natural in its final act when its crucially needed. What doesn’t help is the revelation of the film’s villain, who lacks real teeth and a too-convenient explanation of what is going wrong. It felt very tacked on and robs Tomorrowland of the tension and mystery it was building towards.

more tomorrowland

Still, Tomorrowland does a fine job of involving viewers in the story of a youthful optimist and an older cynic. Casey’s journey is engrossing and full of adventure, but what truly resonates is that through her and Athena Frank learns to dream again..and to hope. It’s that message about hope that resonates with Tomorrowland and gives one reason to look forward to the future, and to work for an optimistic vision.

Lewis T. Grove

 

 

 

Mad Max Delivers A Fury Of Action

Director George Miller makes a triumphant return to the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland of Mad Max in the fourth installment of that pulse-pounding saga. Mad Max: Fury Road now stars Tom Hardy as the sullen, scarred highway loner “Mad” Max Rockatansky and he is the same embittered road warrior as in the previous Miller films.

joeAt the start, Max is captured by a bizarre cult called the War Boys led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a hulking tyrant with long, flowing white hair and a chilling breathing mask adorned with horse teeth and vacuum pipes. During his captivity Max is swept up in an escape by Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who flees the cult’s territory with a souped-up War Rig along with Immortan Joe’s prized Wives­: nubile young women he enslaved solely for breeding. From there it’s a frenzied pursuit caper with Furiosa in her rig frantically outrunning her former leader’s outlandish armies and their tripped-out vehicles.

fury road

As with the other Mad Max films, there isn’t a tremendous amount of plot. Basically the heroes have to get from point A to point B and avoid the bad guys. Max is still haunted by his past and uncaring about Furiosa’s dilemma at first, before allowing his heroic side to emerge. But Mad Max: Fury Road is still an outlandish, adrenaline-fueled action film! What makes this exciting film so fantastic is its simple nature and ability to deliver the pulsing goods. Astounding practical guitar playereffects and stunts, plus a non-stop pace add to this exhilarating viewing experience. Then there are the many off-the-wall images like a hellish guitar player that is used to spur on the War Boys and terrify the enemy with a flame-shooting electric guitar. Other moments include the sickening sight of women used as cows to pump milk or men used as mobile blood banks. Those along with long-sweeping vistas of imposing desert lands enforce the notion that hell has come to this future Earth.

FURY ROAD

Interestingly, the film isn’t afraid to slow things down once in a while because these moments allow the audience to know and care about the characters. One of the more interesting people in the film is Nux (Nicholas Hoult), a War Boy that was obsessed with capturing Furiosa and the Wives, but winds up fighting for them instead. More importantly, Hardy is a worthy successor to Mel Gibson, the original portrayer of Max. It’s a relief to see that the character is in good, stoic hands with Hardy. That is because Max is able to exhibit his savage and noble heart in the heart-pumping climax where he and Furiosa have their final confrontation with Joe and his army.

FRD-22003.JPG

Given all of its fast-moving and engaging merits, Mad Max: Fury Road is as terrific as The Road Warrior and in some ways better. That’s because it harkens back to the good old-fashioned action/car chase films from the ’70s and ’80s, while delivering something more tangible.

Waldermann Rivera

Top 10 Star Trek: Enterprise Episodes

cast

It’s been ten years since the final two first-run episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise aired. The prequel to the Star Trek phenomena was derided by many for its bland and derivative nature. But a careful and objective look reveals that Star Trek: Enterprise had many terrific episodes, especially its later episodes. These are the best episodes of the fifth and (to date) final Star Trek TV show.

leaving drydock10. “Broken Bow” The pilot episode of the series (which at the time was simply called Enterprise) introduces the crew of the Earth starship Enterprise, including Captain Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula), as they embark on an impromptu mission to establish relations with the infamous Klingon Empire.

9. “Affliction”/”Divergence” This two-part fourth-season episode answers the nagging question that has perplexed Star Trek fans ever since the late ’70s –why do the Klingons from the original series look different from modern incarnations of the warrior race? The answer was quite inventive.

xindi attack8. “The Expanse” The second-season finale introduces a radical shift in the show’s direction and has echoes of the then-recent 9/11 attack. A surprise assault on Earth by an alien race called the Xindi leads to the Enterprise being re-assigned to undertake a military mission to Xindi territory to prevent another more devastating attack that is coming within a year.

7. “Zero Hour” The Xindi super weapon archer vs xindicommandeered by an ill-tempered Xindi faction finally arrives at Earth in this thrilling third-season finale. The only hope to prevent Earth’s destruction is a desperate Archer and his crew, along with Xindi allies. The final moments were tense beyond belief and featured slam-bam space battles and the episode’s cliffhanger was way out of left field.

6. “The Forgotten” The personal ramifications and loss from the Xindi attack on Earth are seen through the eyes of Chief Engineer Charles Tucker (Connor Trinneer) whose sister was lost in the attack. Trinneer’s acting was quite memorable in the moments when his character broke down over his intense grief. Other standout acting came from T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) and Degra (Randy Oglesby), an Oppenheimer-like Xindi who has a change of heart about his race’s destructive plans for Earth.

5. “Twilight” An accident leaves Archer with the inability to form new memories. As time passes, the Xindi destroy Earth and humanity is scattered. As years pass by, Doctor Phlox (John Billingsley) discovers that curing Archer’s condition is the key to undoing the past. But will Archer be cured before the Xindi eradicate the last vestiges of humanity?

old archer

From the shocking cold opener where a visibly older Archer witnesses Earth’s destruction to its final, nerve-wracking scenes, “Twilight” excelled in presenting us with a dismal future where the Xindi succeed and put humanity on the brink of extinction.

4. “United” This episode was actually the middle part of a three-episode arc where Romulans try to instigate war between Earth, Vulcan, Andorians, and other planets. As a prototype Romulan ship with the capability to alter its outer appearance attacks different alien ships, the Enterprise crew and alien allies try to discern what is actually happening before war breaks out.

The alliance formed from the effort was one of Star Trek: Enterprise’s best moments and this episode used its all shipsprequel status to its best advantage. The highlight of “United” was a lingering shot featuring an armada of Earth, Vulcan, Andorian and Tellarite spaceships after confronting the Romulan menace. Thus, the seeding of the eventual United Federation of Planets has begun.

azati prime3. “Azati Prime” Archer and the Enterprise finally reach the Xindi super weapon in the aliens’ territory and prepare to destroy it, but Archer is suddenly whisked into the far future by the enigmatic time traveler Daniels (Matt Winston). As this goes on, the Xindi discover the Enterprise and launch a devastating assault that ends in a nail-biting cliffhanger.

What made this episode stand out is the revelation that what Archer does has a pivotal impact in Star Trek’s distant future. Plus, a hint of a future Enterprise is shown for good measure.

2. “Demons”/”Terra Prime” As Earth and its allies begin its first steps to forming the basis for what will become the revered Federation, those plans are threatened with the emergence of a xenophobic human terrorist group that wants to keep Earth and humanity isolated.

tera primeEven though “These are the Voyages” was the official final episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, this penultimate two-part story is a much more valid conclusion to the series. That is because it points the way towards Star Trek’s optimistic future and illustrates quite nicely how the characters help pave the way for what lies ahead with Star Trek.

1. “In a Mirror Darkly, Parts I & II” Starting with a cold opener where humanity’s first contact with Vulcan takes a more savage turn, and then showcasing a dark, militaristic opening credits in a mirror darklyfans were in for a treat as the cast chewed lines and reveled in playing evil versions of their characters. Amidst the histrionics, questions about the original Star Trek episode “The Tholian Web” were answered and we learned the origins of the brutal Terran Empire seen in other Star Trek shows. “In a Mirror Darkly” was a true treat for fans with its numerous shenanigans and shout outs to the Star Trek mythos.

Strange as it seems, the best episode of Star Trek: Enterprise doesn’t even feature the main cast. Rather this two-part story is solely about the Mirror, Mirror parallel universe versions of the Enterprise crew. It was easy to tell the cast had a great time portraying twisted, malevolent versions of their normal characters and that added to the joy of seeing “In a Mirror Darkly”.

enterprise

This fourth-season episode best shows the strengths of Star Trek: Enterprise when it fully realized its potential by being an actual prequel rather than recycling old storylines from other Star Trek shows. Sadly, the improvements the show underwent came too late since it was cancelled at the end of its fourth season. As lamentable as that was, at least Star Trek: Enterprise has a distinctive honor that other Star Trek shows lack: it ended on a creative high note.

Honorable Mentions: “The Andorian Incident”, “Awakening”, “The Council”, “Countdown”, “Dead Stop”, “Harbinger”, “Kir’Shara”, “Minefield”, “Observer Effect”, “Regeneration”, “Silent Enemy”, “Similitude”, and “Storm Front, Parts I & II,

José Soto

Avengers: Road To Civil War & Infinity

cap vs iron man

First of all, anyone who is reading hasn’t seen Avengers: Age of Ultron should stop reading and see the film because some spoilers from that film will be covered. With that warning out of the way, let’s go over the ramifications of the newly released film.

Just like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron has proven to be a pivotal film in the ever-growing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). By the film’s end, the status quo of the superhero team has been irrevocably changed symbolized by a new lineup. But more importantly, the seeds for future films in the MCU have been planted or nurtured. Specifically, the next Avengers films, Avengers: Infinity War, Parts I and II, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and next year’s Captain America: Civil War.

A complaint lodged against Avengers: Age of Ultron is that it spends too much time setting up these future films, but as one of the final films in Phase Two of the MCU it needed to set up strangePhase Three with its many references and subplots that weren’t intricately involved with the film’s main storyline. In fact, some have griped that more Easter eggs weren’t dropped, namely having cameos by Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, and Captain Marvel (who was supposed to be briefly introduced but dropped at the last minute). In reality, the film followed the mode of modern comic books that have many references to other titles, especially during big events. But never mind these gripes, looking ahead, one can’t help getting excited by the prospect of what is to come.

Comes The Civil War

After this summer’s Ant-Man, the next major event in the MCU will be the third Captain America film. It’s to be a loose adaptation of the classic comic book mini-series, Civil War, that came out last decade and forever changed the Marvel Universe. In that story, Iron Man and Captain America become bitter enemies with each other and formed factions that battled each other. It all started in the wake of a 9/11-type tragedy that had the public demanding that super-powered beings be held more accountable. This culminated in the passage of the Superhuman Registration Act and with the two heroes taking opposing viewpoints about the law and arms against one another.

Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios has stated that the film won’t be a strict adaptation of the mini-series, “So this will be Civil War based off all the other films you’ve seen up to this point, particularly Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron…Something happens. It has made the governments of the world say ‘we need to have some oversight of these guys.’ It’s not about the secret identity thing, as much as it is about, overall, who reports to who.”

iron capWhat will exactly happen? We can only speculate at this point as we wonder the following: Will the Winter Soldier be involved in some incident that leads to the Civil War? Or perhaps the film’s villain, Baron Zemo will orchestrate events to bring about chaos and the Civil War. It seems that Captain America: Civil War will be as deep and exciting as its predecessor with mature themes while delivering the big thrills. And it promises to be one of the bigger epics in the MCU.

But wouldn’t it have made more sense to make this an Avengers film instead? To have a war, one needs an army and presumably both camps will have its supporters, hence a large group of characters at least for a solo superhero film. Already, Robert Downey, Jr. will reprise his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark. It’s been announced that the film will introduce Black Panther and Spider-Man (making his MCU debut). Other featured heroes include Black Widow, Hawkeye, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, Ant-Man and Vision. The coming film runs the risk of being too bloated with characters and a story that needs more time or additional films to satisfactorily tell its core story. But the film is in good hands with Anthony and Joe Russo directing it. Continue reading