George Lucas In Love…
With Awful Movie Titles

So I’m looking over the latest financial statement from my Individual Retirement Account when a sadistic friend who enjoys my pitched fits of misery e-mails me the just-announced title to the new Star Wars movie.

If you haven’t heard it, get ready. Here it is:

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.

I’ve been feeling old for a while now, what with my 10-year high school reunion coming right up and 30 staring me in the face and laughing, so this news wasn’t altogether welcome. The first film I ever saw in the theater was The Empire Strikes Back (sorry, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back), a captivating experience for a six-year-old, and I’m afraid to go back and watch it again. There are precious few parts of my childhood that I’d like to hold on to and remember fondly, but Star Wars is one of them.

Hence, I go through every rationalization in the book for each boneheaded move George Lucas makes in his quest to permanently sully the treasure of my youth. “Jar-Jar wasn’t that bad,” I’ll say. “In fact, I kind of liked the little shit.” And deep down, I’ll pretend I believe that. Oh sure, the accent got a little grating, and I could have lived without the feces and fart jokes, and okay, it might not have been necessary to put him in every scene, infecting the film like a cancer, and shit, there’s no way I can do this anymore because oh holy Jesus, did Jar-Jar suck.

Still, it’s important to me to think well of Lucas and his work. Thus, the little pained smile comes out, and I speak drivel like, “Little Anakin was really cute,” or, “I dig the Ewoks.” Lately it’s been a bit harder to breathe through my gritted teeth, but I manage.

And then this.

If you think about it, the titles for these films have never been very good. Putting The Phantom Menace aside for a second, look at the so-called classics: The Empire Strikes Back, for example. “So there’s this Empire, right,” Lucas may have said to his incredulous staff, “and in the first movie, which is really the fourth movie, they got their collective asses handed to them by these rebels, so I was thinking that maybe in the second movie, which is really the fifth movie, I’d have the Empire strike back. What do you think?”

Even the very name Star Wars is stupid. Admit it. Say the name out loud, and try to think of it as something you just heard, as opposed to something ingrained in the cultural consciousness. Stupid, isn’t it? Star Wars. A five-year-old could have come up with it. That’s why I can cut the episode titles some slack. It’s all in the spirit of campy fun adventure serials, even if the movies aren’t so much.

But Attack of the Clones? Come fucking on.

“There’s these clones,” Lucas may have said to the same incredulous staff, “and in this film, I think they should attack. See? The clones… they attack. Attack of the Clones. Get it?”

I hate the title of this film. It’s not the mid-level distaste I had for The Phantom Menace, an awful title in its own right, but one which leaves questions and some sort of overarching sense of dread. Attack of the Clones is just downright stupid, and will only serve to make me feel more retarded when I wait in line for 20-some hours again to get into the first showing. I did the same for Menace, and even saw it seven or eight times, convincing myself that it sparked my childhood sense of wonder. I’ll no doubt do the same this time, though I’m already finding that repeating Attack of the Clones aloud is diminishing my excitement by degrees.

The fact that this is the real, actual title of the film and that no “just kidding” e-mail seems to be forthcoming may mean one of two things.

One: George Lucas is an idiot who wouldn’t know good cinema if it crept up behind him and violated him with an R2-D2 doll. There’s much evidence to support this, including a good chunk of Menace. A mythical grand vision notwithstanding, there was no need for most of that film, especially the aforementioned atrocity named Jar-Jar, and that pointless game of “I’m the Queen” that gets dragged out for an hour and a half. Still, I’d like to think that he knows what he’s doing, and that he’s purposely put together the grandest and greatest stupid adventure serial ever filmed. Besides, the concluding lightsaber battle was pretty cool.

Two: George Lucas has somehow retained his childlike sense of whimsy, and he really believes the kid in all of us will respond to a title like Attack of the Clones with exuberance. “Cool,” he thinks we’ll say. “Attacking clones.”

Believe it or not, I think this is the more likely of the two. Lucas remembers being of an age when attacking clones were an important part of any moviegoing experience, right behind murderous zombies and 50-foot-tall monkeys. What this unfortunately means for your faithful author is that I’ve grown up. While the kid in me is still psyched about the lightsaber battles I’ve heard about (including one in the rain – think about that), the adult in me is looking for depth of character, motivation and truth in his cinema. He’s unable to muster up the innocent excitement this film is going to require, and a title like Attack of the Clones is only going to make it harder for the child in me to convince him to go.

Thing is, I want to like this movie. I want to sit down in 10 years with the complete six-movie DVD set and be transported back to my early adolescence. And so, I’m probably going to practice gritting my teeth and lying to myself. “Those clones were pretty cool,” I’ll say. “Did you see them attack? Awesome.”

See you in line Tuesday morning.