- Written and Directed by George Lucas
- May 12, 2002 (Tribeca) / May 16, 2002 (US)
Anakin begins a forbidden romance with Senator Amidala as he and Obi-Wan investigate an attempt on her life and the specter of war spreads across the galaxy.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is where the prequel film series should have started. With a few judicious lines added here and there the story of The Phantom Menace could have been made unnecessary.
We start the story at a very serious point for our fictional galaxy. There is a growing separatist movement in the Republic. And honestly in the opening moments of the film it feels like there is something wrong. I’m not saying with the story but that something just isn’t right in this fictional universe.
Hayden Christensen takes over the role of young Jedi Anakin Skywalker from Jake Lloyd. His Anakin is impatient. At times I can almost expect him to fall on the ground and throw a tantrum. Luke was a bit of the whiner in the original but Anakin is worse.
Ewan McGregor returns as Obi-Wan Kenobi in a role that he redefined and became more identified with than the original actor. Obi-Wan is much less youthful and more fatherly in this. He has formed a close bond with Anakin whom he clearly regards just as much a friend as an adopted child.
Natalie Portman is an improved Senator Padmé Amidala. I’m still not impressed with Portman’s performance but Padmé is a better character here than she was previously. She actually contributes to the story rather than being the focus of Anakin’s attraction.
Christopher Lee was one of those actors that was always good. He becomes Count Dooku in here and he is just a brilliant iteration of a villain. The best part about his character is that he does all his evil stuff by telling the truth. Seriously. His major move to sow doubt is to reveal that a new Sith is in control of the Republic Senate. Where is the lie?
By taking this part Christopher Lee became the only actor I can think of to be a part of multiple huge fictional film universes. He was Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond film The Man with the Golden Gun. He was Saruman in The Lord of the Rings movies. And here he became part of Star Wars. You could make an argument for Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man but essentially the Marvel films are all one universe and not individual universes unto themselves.
Palpatine’s (Ian McDiarmid) plot really gets moving here. While the first film was just to maneuver him into power this one is the one that gets the ball rolling for his eventual takeover of the Galactic Republic. And he has had many moving parts going over the years. Ten years at least judging by when Master Sifo Dyas died. I’ve always wondered if that one Jedi was connected to Palpatine’s plot or Palpatine just usurped his identity to get things going with the cloners on Kamino.
Attack of the Clones did Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) no favors. Previously he was the comedy relief. Now he’s the idiot senator that helped to hand the entire Galactic Republic to the Sith Lord. Worse he went against Amidala’s clearly expressed wishes to not create an army though in truth I’m not sure what you could do against the Separatist threat without an army.
The film is very political though wrapped in a Star Wars exterior. In the original films the Empire had many elements modeled on the Nazis. Palpatine’s rise to power here can be seen to parallel that of Hitler’s in getting granted emergency powers by an all too enthusiastic legislature more concerned with doing anything rather than the right thing.
Boba Fett’s (Daniel Logan) dad Jango (Temuera Morrison) felt a little shoehorned in to events. He was a cool addition, but this is it for him. He shows up and that’s it. The ever cool Samuel Jackson as Mace Windu decapitated him so further expansion was not likely to happen. I think perhaps he could’ve been mentioned but not actually seen. I’m not sure if we needed a detailed origin for Boba Fett when a few lines would’ve sufficed. Not to say that I didn’t appreciate it but if I’m being honest it was a little unnecessary
It was great to finally see Yoda in a lightsaber duel. I remember exclaiming “Holy shit!” in the theater. Yoda was always stated to be this great Jedi master but in Empire he was a crazy hermit and then in Jedi he was just this side of a corpse. You never got to see him actually do a lightsaber duel. His fight against Dooku there was in my mind very epic. He’s bouncing and spinning and all sorts of stuff. The thing is 20 years later he’s a crazy hermit and significantly arthritic from the looks of it. Living on Dagobah is rough on a body. Oh well..
George Lucas is not a writer capable of crafting a good romance. That we know Anakin and Padmé end up together helps one get through the dialogue and the acting of the love story between both of them. It’s not the worst romance I’ve ever seen develop on any screen but far from the best.
Padmé’s reaction to her new boyfriend wiping out an entire tribe of Sand People is not the reaction I think most people would have. She’s not creeped out or concerned about his mental state at all? She’s not at all worried about her own safety? Yes they caused the death of his mother (Pernilla August) but he’s a Jedi and he just slaughtered entire tribe from the adults to the babies.
And to rewind a little bit Anakin’s dialogue with Padmé just is a little creepy when they first meet after ten years. She should have been calling for security or making excuses to avoid him. It’s done in a rather juvenile way. If you’ve ever watched one of those young adult novels turned into a movie, well, that’s what we get here. Perhaps Lucas should’ve brought in a ghost writer to polish up the scene. Maybe he did for all I know.
As per usual the action is great. I’m not sure if Star Wars has ever gotten it wrong though I admit to not being totally up on the current crop of Star Wars TV shows. I have fallen behind there. Not only did it contain that fantastic lightsaber battle between Dooku and Yoda but the whole assault by the Jedi and the clone army was just fantastic. One of the best ground battles in Star Wars and in film. Speaking of that ground battle on Geonosis…
The prequel films overused CGI. I was unhappy with it then and I’m still unhappy with it. I know George Lucas wanted to create this very involved fictional world and I applaud him for that but the impact of real people or real puppets or real whatever doing things rather than CGI is notable. It was good but the use of more real and less CGI would have made it better.
If I had my druthers and had control over George Lucas at the time I probably would’ve had him hand the script over to someone else. There is nothing truly terrible about it but there are a few points here and there that could’ve been improved upon. Having said that the film is entertaining. It’s exciting. And it’s visually stunning. It’s a solid action-adventure bit of space opera.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is an enjoyable second act in the prequel saga. It’s got all the right elements for a great Star Wars film and mostly executes them well. I certainly recommend this.