Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

StarWars2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
It’s getting there.

Star Wars is an interesting series. No matter how much people hated the original series, they continued to go to the theaters hoping it would get better – which in my opinion, it did. At the same time, the original trilogy should stand a bit separate from the prequels in general, because the stories in the original were more, almost post-apocalyptic in nature, while the prequels were the political stories that got them to that point. That shouldn’t really be an issue, but it is for a lot of people. I may have agreed with the majority of people about the first episode, but to be honest, I honestly enjoyed Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. It was really important for the overall Star Wars collection, and it was quite fun.

This time around, Senator Amidala’s life has been targeted, as she plans to participate in a certain political vote that would hurt the empire. Anakin, now ten years older, is tasked with taking care of her while Obi-Wan investigates who was behind the attacks on her life, which leads him to discovering a hidden planet manufacturing clones…apparently for the republic, but Obi-Wan is weary of that. As Anakin cares for Padme, the two grow intimately closer together, but nightmares of his mother plague his mind.

This film can be separated into two basic stories that focus either on Obi-Wan or Anakin. The story with Obi-Wan feels very much like Star Wars, but Anakin’s story doesn’t…but they couldn’t get away without telling it. This film is part romance, the only film in the whole saga that is part romance – and I’m not saying they did it wrong, but it does feel a little foreign to see it in Star Wars. Not only that, but they switch it between the romance and action a lot – which feels a bit strange. John Williams does a great job transitioning the two polar genres together with his score, but you just can’t escape how wrong some of the romance feels. Like I said though, it was important to the series that it happened.

What I wanted to mention most of all, though, is that the story is much more grounded than the last. The last movie didn’t really even make sense – they needed to introduce Anakin, and get him to the point of being Obi-Wan’s padawan – but past that, the movie was more or less annoying and unnecessary. This one makes sense, and takes you to a place that’s important for the series – including the introduction of the clones – later to be known as Storm Troopers and even Boba Fett. It may not be the best Star Wars film, but it’s not one that you should miss, either.

Some people might have issues with what they did with Yoda in this film, let’s just say they made him more active in this one. Some may say it was out-of-character, but once it happens, I was blown away in the theaters – and I thought it was the coolest and smartest thing I’ve seen them do in a while. The lightsaber duel in this movie wasn’t the best…it was against a really old actor that has trouble moving around…kind of like in the original Star Wars film, but there are some nice visuals to make up for it.

The Good:

For the most part, Attack of the Clones is highly important for the entire saga, and has a lot of unique and original content that basically feels like a very fun science fiction film.

The Bad:

I hate to say it, but Hayden Christensen isn’t the best actor – he’s loads better than Jake Lloyd or Jar Jar, but I still think they could have hired someone else. I also had a problem, somewhat, with the balance between the action/adventure/mystery and the romance – especially when they kept switching it back and forth constantly.

The Random:

Paul Walker auditioned to be Anakin Skywalker?!!

Men in Black II (2002)

MIB2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Rehashing the first.

Now here’s where my personal opinion clashes with the general public’s opinion. I personally really love Men in Black II and would buy it in an instant (which I did), and in some ways, I consider it much better than the first – however, I do understand why that may not be true for everyone. At the very least, you can enjoy this film for what it is – a comedy that brings back two very funny characters that bring magic to the screen whenever they show up.

MIIB is about Agent J’s continuing adventures in the government organization that monitors extraterrestrial life on earth. One problem, though. He knows as well as the audience that his chemistry only works well with Agent K, and that guy has since retired and wiped his memory. So when a new case arises, Agent J must find K in order to return his memories and solve the current crises. There is a Light of Zartha somewhere in the city, and they must find it before Serleena, an evil alien temptress, finds it and destroys the planet.

Okay, first things first – this is the same plot as the first film, masked under different faces and flipped scenarios. The first half of the first film was a fish-out-of-water comedy with Will Smith – same thing here; it’s just Tommy Lee Jones. In both films, an evil alien is looking for an item that is responsible somehow for the ultimate destruction of earth – if in the wrong hands. So then, it turns into a race against time between the MIB and the aliens in finding this McGuffin. To add some more, you have Frank the Dog and the similar scenes with Jack Jeebs (Tony Shalhoub).

The similarities between the two films is ultimately the sequels greatest downfall, as there is a great lack in creativity and originality after five years. Now, where it lacks originality, it gains better graphics and at times, better jokes. Not only is Will Smith pulling the humorous weight, but so is Tommy Lee Jones, and to be fair – Jones has some incredible scenes that are indeed hilarious. It’s his balance between seriousness and hilarity that really help the film move along. We also see a more mature side of Will Smith in this film, as his career had moved up in the world by now – which is great.

Now, what really sets the film apart from the first is most definitely the addition of Rosario Dawson as Laura Vasquez. Sure, you might think about the lady in the morgue from the first film, but Dawson’s importance in the sequel greatly outweighs the importance of Dr. Weaver in Men in Black – especially when it comes to her chemistry with Will Smith (they also work very well together in Seven Pounds). If I could bring something else up, I would also prefer the song Will Smith wrote for the second movie over the first. I know it’s not much, but it’s something.

Yes, the film is a little bit of a carbon copy of the first, but in the end it’s still pretty enjoyable all on its own. It loses a lot of the character development, and it relies a bit on your knowledge of the first film – but other than that, it’s still very entertaining. It’s hilarious in parts, has characters you can really love as well as love-to-hate, some good lines, and you can just have a general good time. Take that as you will.

The Good:

Men in Black II brings back the characters that you loved in the first film in a story that is both hilarious and reminiscent of the things you loved the first time around.

The Bad:

Unfortunately, the main complaint about the film is also the worst one – there was too little originality and so much copy-paste material from the first film. It needed to be a little bolder and come up with a more unique story. This one was okay, but in my opinion, wasn’t completely enough.

Signs (2002)

Signs

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A Shyamalan Favorite.

I truly believe people have judged M. Night Shyamalan too harshly over the years. I saved Signs for last. Not because I think it’s the best film of M. Night’s, but rather my personal favorite – and one that I’ve seen the most out of all of the films. Thus finishing all of the films by M. Night starting with The Sixth Sense – and you know what? I like most of the movies. There are only a couple that I wasn’t the biggest fan of, but the rest I either really loved or really liked – so take that as you will. Signs is my personal favorite for so many different reasons.

Signs stars Mel Gibson in what I think is his best role – Graham Hess, a retired reverend who has previously lost his faith in God and lives on a farm with his brother and two children. When crop circles show up in his corn field, they have to come to terms with the fact that they may not be the only ones in the universe, and that they may actually be in danger.

When you really think about it, Signs isn’t exactly what you would expect from M. Night Shyamalan in terms of mystery. You would think that, maybe, it would be a film where the audience has to guess if it is actually aliens, meddling kids, or simply their imagination. Instead, it’s pretty clear early on that we’re dealing with aliens. It’s not the what that’s important, but rather the why – and what that ultimately means for this slightly already broken family. It ultimately brings them a little closer, and it’s awesome just to watch their chemistry with each other. You wouldn’t expect a character drama from the film, but that’s exactly a huge part of the movie…but thankfully it blends perfectly with the creepy, horror aspect of the my mysterious beings from another world.

Also, again with M. Night Shyamalan with water! In Unbreakable, Bruce Willis’s weakness was his sensitivity to water; in Signs, you deal with the daughter’s issue with water and what that measures up to in the end, Lady in the Water is obvious, even The Last Airbender, you had a plot that drew a lot of it’s importance from water bending. In his films, he deals with these physical elements that have a bigger, unknown importance to the overall story – like the color red in The Sixth Sense and The Village. It’s partially how you know it’s a project of his – but he discarded the idea of a physical element since, and I hope he gets it back for The Visit next year. 

No, this isn’t the best M. Night Shyamalin film, but it’s my personal favorite; it may even be one of your personal favorites. It just has a lot going for it that you can connect and fall in love with. Everyone’s performance goes by really smoothly and effectively, the underlining messages of the sour-resentful feelings brought on by broken faith and how that ultimately affects a family reflects something really believable, etc. The visuals could have used a little help in terms of the CGI aliens, but it’s not a big deal because they are usually in shadows – but still.

The Good:

Signs may not the best movie in the Shyamalin universe, but it has the potential to be one of your favorite flicks – thanks to the performances of all of the lead characters, their character development, and the rising tension throughout the film – both in a physical and emotional stance.

The Bad:

Not a lot. The visuals weren’t the best versus some of M. Night’s other flicks, but that’s hardly anything to complain about. If anything – it’s just not as well done as some of M. Night’s other works – not that I really care about that or anything.