Letters: But we love "Star Wars"!

Readers respond to Stephanie Zacharek's "Attack of the Clones" review. Plus: "X-Files" fans gripe one last time.


Salon Staff
May 23, 2002 11:00PM (UTC)

Read Stephanie Zacharek's review of "Attack of the Clones."

When I first read Ms. Zacharek's review, I suspected that her groans were the result of a faux-intellectualism that had no appreciation for wonder, beauty and fun. I am sorry to say that I was wrong. "Attack of the Clones" sucks.

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Not only was she not missing the point in declaring how god-awful it was, but she was being too kind to Mr. Lucas' latest offering. Yes, there are a few whiz-bang-neato scenes, but there are far more moments of torturous lameness.

One final note: As a long-time but relatively light-weight "Star Wars" fan, I can say that I never imagined Yoda would fight like a frenetic green housefly, crazily careening off of walls. I always imagined his saber flying around his body in a wild tempest of motion as he stood, calm and dignified, in the eye of the storm. His mini-kung-fu posing was just too much.

Never again will I so easily dismiss Ms. Zacharek's opinion.

-- Matthew Burack

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I wonder why Stephanie Zacharek would review a movie she had no intention of watching objectively.

There are many fair reviews of "Attack of the Clones" that are negative. At least those reviewers were paying attention.

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Ms. Zacharek apparently doesn't know or care anything about "Star Wars" or the rather simple (as opposed to convoluted as she says) plot would be clear. Episode 2 fits neatly in the six-movie arc of "Star Wars" and accomplishes its goals. Those goals include: Showing how the Empire is born, how Anakin turns into Darth Vader and how Luke and Leia come to be. Of course, Episode 2 must presume that the viewer watched Episode 1. Episode 2 cannot on its own be a complete story because it has always been a portion of a greater story.

Ms. Zacharek faults Lucas for stealing from "Fifth Element." The scene she speaks of takes place on the planet Coruscant, which was featured briefly in the special edition of "Return of the Jedi" and has been a part of "Star Wars" for decades. In any event a futuristic city with flying vehicles is a sci-fi staple. As for the alleged "Gladiator" scene, Ms. Zacharek cannot mean to suggest that "Gladiator" was the first movie to use that scene.

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It's clear that the verdict on "Attack of the Clones" was decided before Ms. Zacharek entered the theatre. I just wonder why she felt compelled to share her vitriolic nonsense with the world.

-- Torrick Ward

Does Stephanie Zacharek even like movies? I have long since stopped paying attention to any of her reviews, because they are almost always negative and almost always wrong. The latest installment of "Star Wars" may not be a masterpiece, but I was hardly running from the theater. Please. What planet does Ms. Zacharek live on anyway? She clearly doesn't know a fun, entertaining movie when she sees one.

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-- Terra Davidson

Hoo boy. It sounds like the reviewer decided that if she was going to be damned, she might as well be damned for a reason. Good for her. I certainly enjoyed the review more than the fence-sitting "It was okay. Good special effects!" from my local paper, and she summed up the problem with the "Star Wars" universe masterfully.

-- Kris Nelson

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I expected far greater from you and Salon. Your review was laughable given how far off the mark it was. I suggest you consider the context in which this film was made. [For me] and many of my contemporaries(fan-boys as you so claim), who at age 8-15 saw "Empire Strikes Back" in the theatre originally, who on averaged owned $50 of related toys, this installment is everything we've always wanted to see from Lucas. He illustrated all of our fantasies ... the events we had heard of in lore but could only imagine.

Yet the depth of the film reaches beyond the sheer eye candy, and your meager attempt to be sensational would have been bearable had you made any mention of the larger elements and themes involved in the film. You make no mention of the social commentary put forward in both the hesitant use of cloning, the negative effects of consumerism and technology's general negative effect on the nurturing family. I suggest you read a bit of Joesph Campbell if you wish to take a further stab at intent (given your limited attention span maybe the books on tape would be better).

Context is the key, and to write a review of the single most influential story of a generation without placing it in context is simply poor journalism. Remember this is Salon, not Rolling Stone or Spin. (It appears you yearn to run in those circles given the lack of intelligent insight you warrant your work.)

Oh, and since when did ones religious beliefs dictate what one looked like? Talk about stereotyping: "Looked like a Jew?" You should be ashamed of yourself. You are entitled to your opinion but save your high school era fashion attacks and stereotyping for the simple-minded magazines you so long to write for and leave these pages open for perceptive free thought so that we may tackle the greater issues.

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I propose this: "Attack of the Clones" is the greatest of Lucas's cautionary tales. He asserts that western society ineffectively operates based on perceived knowledge and not true wisdom. Your review is a standing testament.

-- Ryan Troy

I can't resist pointing out to Stephanie Zacharek that Kermit the Frog actually does ride a bicycle in 1978's "The Muppet Movie." Pre-CGI, it is an animatronic Kermit on a bicycle presumably being towed, or at least kept upright with invisible cables. Nevertheless, a heck of a trick for those last innocent days of special effects.

-- Mike Gebert

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Stephanie Zacharek's dismissal of "Attack of the Clones" is an opinion I've heard before, almost as if she ransacked every other reviewer's list of cliched criticisms without looking at the larger picture. There are many valid points -- the choppy editing, the embarrassing scenes involving the "Sound of Music" romance -- but is a "Star Wars" movie in which characters are allowed to show real emotion really that bad? There are a lot of things that I wish Mr. Lucas would have done differently, but I found that my involvement with the characters was light years beyond (and more exciting) than Episode One, and the film was actually paced better than the lackluster "Return of the Jedi," which also suffered!

Maybe I have just come to accept Lucas's ideas on his own terms. Is that so wrong? "Star Wars" has always existed in a filmmaking vacuum, but I'll take it before I see one more lifeless and forgettable action flick like the trash Hollywood has regurgitated over the past few years ("The Mummy Returns," for example). Yes, Lucas was way too expository and should have followed through on the No. 1 rule of storytelling (show, don't tell), but everything in here was a vast improvement on the telling of Episode One, and I don't feel that Ms. Zacharek's supported her argument well. Yoda returned to his playful -- yet at the same time dark and powerful -- nature hinted at in "Empire," Sam Jackson got to act like Sam Jackson should, and Portman and Christensen got to be real people. Even Watto (which is the name of the junk dealer, btw), a CGI creation, got to show some humanity when he recognized that his former slave Anakin was now a powerful man. Touches like this hearkened back to the realism of the first two films of the series. Was it better than "Star Wars" and "Empire?" Maybe not. but it was entertaining, and it elevated my imagination, as all good science fiction/fantasy should.

The other thing that critics seem to hate about the "Star Wars" prequels is the fact that the films are talky and too political. I've actually found the prequel films to be, despite their flaws, very frightening metaphors for what is happening to the world--and namely America--right now. A President who knew of evildoings but lets them happen anyway (Palpatine/Bush). A chancellor who is "beleaguered with problems" and leaves office in disgrace despite his political brilliance (Chancellor Valurum/Clinton). The out-of-control influence of business on politics (the Trade Federation/Enron). The impact of technology and cloning ('nuff said). Maybe that is an oversimplification on my part, but this is myth and metaphor and "Star Wars" is now doing what Star Trek used to do so well before the powers that be at Paramount gave up on real storytelling -- that is, provide a reflection of our own reality.

"Attack of the Clones" is not the greatest film ever made, but its themes and situations were a vast improvement on "The Phantom Menace," and provided me, if no one else, with two and a half hours of "Star Wars" entertainment that felt like "classic" "Star Wars". It also gave me a lot to think about. Most films should be so lucky if they can do one or the other.

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-- Adam Throne

It's one thing to have intelligent criticisms of the film, and another to shower contempt upon it and all its fans for no readily apparent reason. This kind of vomit is an embarrassment! Stephanie Zacharek is right about one thing, it's virtually impossible to review this as "just" a movie. It works on levels other films don't even have access to, because moviegoers have an extraordinary relationship with "Star Wars". If I want terrific script and acting, I wouldn't look to any of the "Star Wars" films. I think "Attack of the Clones" succeeds pretty admirably in what it tries to do, and while it's not beyond reproach, it's a wild, enjoyable ride people will flock to see.

-- Elizabeth Durack

Man, the review you posted for "Star Wars" Episode II: Attack of the Clones" was brutal. While I do agree with some of the comments therein (Ewan McGregor is the most emotionally connected actor in the film, the love story between Portman and Christensen's characters is cliched and forced -- no pun intended) I don't think the film was horrible.

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"Star Wars" geeks are going to love the Yoda-Dooku battle. They are also going to love seeing the creation of the clone army, Jango and Boba Fett, Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson kicks ass and you know it), and the entire "Gladiator" battle.

I also have issues with the statement, "Lucas seems to have gone out of his way to make the plot complicated." Episode I was so childish and simple that the fans want an Episode II with some meat in it. What your reviewer calls "complicated" others would call "intricate."

-- Joseph Prisco

I'm certainly not one to defend George Lucas to the death. But why do I get the feeling that Stephanie Zacharek wrote her Episode II review before she saw the movie? Her critiques of the movie seem to be subordinate to the self-indulgent glee she takes at refusing to give in to mass culture. She gives herself away when she writes in the first paragraph about how daring it is to give a "Star Wars" movie a bad review and warns of torrents of mail from angry fans. "Look at how countercultural I am! Take that, Darth Lucas!" Well, Ms. Zacharek is hardly a voice in the wilderness; if she doesn't like the movie, she should get in line with A.O. Scott, the Onion's A.V. Club, that bastion of nonconformity Entertainment Weekly, and many others. Episode II may indeed stink (I haven't seen it yet), but I'd rather hear so from a review that isn't so proud of itself.

-- Rob Goodman

Read Aaron Kinney's "The truth is, um, where, exactly?"

As an "X-Files" fan, I've been mostly irritated by the fact that almost without exception, every article written about it since the announcement of its cancellation has been the same. A whine about the disconnect between the vampire episodes and the alien ones, a sharp attack on the last one or two seasons, and a somewhat mournful look back at the show's "better days." While Kinney's article didn't tread new ground, he clearly actually watched and (at one point) enjoyed the show, which is more than could be said of most of the wankers that are writing about the "X-Files" lately.

-- Max Postman

I wish the writing during the last two seasons of "X-Files" had been as good as Aaron Kinney's was in his fine column about the series ending.

As an old time "Shipper" (die-hard fans who wanted a personal relationship to blossom between Agents Mulder and Scully) I submit that the series flatlined when Chris Carter and staff not only wrote Agent Mulder out of the series but out of Scully's heart.

We could handle the departure of David Duchovny but when she bonded within three episodes with Agent Doggett in the form of Robert Patrick we found ourselves in a place we never thought we would ever be. Resenting Scully.

She was having way to much uncharacteristic fun "breaking in" Doggett. In the feature film "Fight the Future," Mulder told Scully in an emotional scene, "You made me a whole person. I owe you everything -- you owe me nothing."

When Doggett showed up Scully, and the writers, took that literally --and Shippers left the Ship in droves.

Trust no one indeed!

-- Robert McArthur

I so agree with your writer! It seems like Chris Carter has just been messing with the loyal fans the past couple of years and vastly overestimating our loyalty, that we would stick with the show even though he seemed to have no idea himself how all the pieces would come together. Robert Patrick and Annabeth Gish are great and were inspired casting, but even they couldn't pull off such lazy writing and lighting, etc. When I get too annoyed with Chris Carter I try to remember those lovely little gems we were blessed with in the past, like the episode "Small Potatoes," among others. Then he's forgiven for the past few years ... almost.

-- Meg Schmidt

Though there have been occasional gems like "Postmodern Prometheus", it's clear that the writers of "X Files" lost their way years ago. The fact that they dragged so many viewers along on their road of teasing promises to nowhere is both a tribute to the inventiveness of network TV's increasingly sophisticated skills at misleading hype and self-promotion and a shame for those fans who hung on through seasons of confusion and disbelief while the carcass of a once brilliant series mindlessly decomposed.

R.I.P. "X-Files." Your childhood was a delight.

-- Havrylak Kern


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