The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 30, 2002

An old hit remade with sensitivity
Ervell E. Menezes

Star Wars: Episode II --- Attack of the Clones is a complete bore
Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones is a complete bore

HOLLYWOOD has a way of reviving old box-office hits, dressing them up, giving them a new marketing angle and, in some cases, adding new footage. How much of it, however, is never specified. And this is precisely what it has done with Star Wars and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Their aim, of course, is to cash in on the popularity of yesteryear’s winner. But, quite often, yesterday’s winner may be today’s loser. After all, it is all a question of timing or topicality.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is of course more acceptable because it has always been one of Steven Spielberg’s better films and though the early-1980s were better suited to it, it is still able to keep the audience in rapt attention almost right through the film. The plight of an alien on earth conjures enough excitement even today.

Besides, there is something personal in it. It was his childhood fantasy, that of finding a friend, when his parents were divorced and he was only 10. But Elliott’s (Harry Thomas) rapport with E.T., a creature from outer space left behind from a spaceship, is dealt with with sensitivity and tenderness and this is precisely because of an excellent script by Melissa Mathison.


How big brother Michael (Robert McNaughton) and little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) keep this prized secret form their mum (Dee Wallace Stone) forms the meat of the film. When someone says, "Elliott thinks its (E.T.) thoughts", he is corrected with, "Elliott feels his feelings." And one has to see this fairly ugly creature and the way Elliott and his siblings are drawn to him to believe it.

That E.T. is clever there is little doubt, but the rapport is quite believable. In fact, it is a child’s fantasy which is given wing and the adventures Elliott and R.T. go through are almost plausible. Of course, there is poetic licence as to how he learns the language and there are other imponderables but they can be overlooked in the light of the fantasy they provide for children’s entertainment.

E.T. the Extra Terrestrial has been made with sensitivity
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial has been made with sensitivity

Actually, adults play a small part in the film and it is meant to be so. Everything is kept from the mother who learns of this secret only at the end. The dad (Peter Coyote) is shown only briefly (because they had separated) when the story reaches a climax. But as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the ending is a bit of a let down.

Henry Thomas turns in a sterling performance as the young boy quite obsessed with his alien friend and Drew Barrymore is cute as the precocious Gertie. That she isn’t as successful as a grown-up star is another matter though with the Barrymore surname many expected acting to be in her blood. Robert McNaughton is at best fair as the bigger brother, but Dee Wallace Stone is very convincing as the divorced mother. Peter Coyote, an excellent actor, is quite wasted as the dad.

George Lucas’s (the other whizkid of the 1970s) Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones is longer than the earlier title, The Empire Strikes Back and much more boring. In fact, it is hard to figure out how Lucas could have come out with such a dud. May be he’s lost it.

If one went by the superb sets and the outlandish locales, Lucas is unbeatable. But, at best, these are embellishments, the story is the thing, as the purists say. And there is no story to speak of. Anakin Skwalker (Hayden Christensen) is the father of Luke Skywalker and later becomes the Dark Side or Darth Wader and as a young Jedi he is asked to protect Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). His mentor is Obi-Wan Kanobi (Ewan McGregor), the part made memorable by Sir Alec Guniness in the earlier film. being around her (Amidala) is intoxicating," says the green-at-the gills Christensen. But their love affair is far from intoxicating to the audience. It is puerile.

So is the action which goes on and on endlessly. Christopher Lee and Samual L. Jackson are wasted and our own Ayesha Dharker, heavily made up as some queen is gone in a twinkle of an eye. May be, Lucas has made his special effects company Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) work overtime and the variety of creatures he comes out with are amazing.

But the film is a complete pain. Why should Hollywood resurrect such past classics? Time magazine has cover story on it with Yoda on it. And they say the first film Episode I — the Phantom Menace was bad. But did they say so when it was released? It is all hype for this film but all in vain. The robots R2D2 and C3PO provide some relief but hardly enough to salvage this complete bore of a film. It’s like flogging a long burnt-out meteor.

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