Now I’m no prequel hater, but I at least understand the flack this one gets.
In many ways, ‘Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones’ is an improvement over ‘The Phantom Menace’. For one, there is an actual plot. Episode I had a plot that wasn’t interesting. And on top of that, it was a story that is almost completely irrelevant to the over-all mythology of Star Wars. ‘Attack of the Clones’ shows us the real tensions within the Republic that eventually led to its demise, and it shows us the story of Anakin Skywalker’s “forbidden” love that eventually becomes the whole reason for his downfall as a Jedi. It’s a film with more importance than ‘The Phantom Menace’.
The second thing improved on, is that there are clear cut main characters. ‘Phantom Menace’ suffered from this greatly, but here, it is clear that the focus is on Anakin and his relationship with Padmé, and on Obi-Wan Kenobi, with his discovery of the mysterious creation of the Clone Army.
The third thing, is that Jar Jar Binks has a vastly diminished role!
With all this said, it may seem as though ‘Attack of the Clones’ is an all around better movie than ‘The Phantom Menace’, and a large step in the right direction to bring the series back to the classic story-telling we had in the originals. But that really isn’t the case at all.
In fact, we kind of get the opposite. First, I’ll go back and start with the plot, which also weaves its way into the main characters.
In all honesty, the plot is actually quite good in this…on paper. It’s the execution that’s poor.
Everything going on with Obi-Wan is fine. In fact, they’re my favorite scenes of the movie, and a lot of fun action and humor are within his parts. You almost feel like you’re watching a Bond film, but with a Jedi in the role instead of a Super Spy. With Obi-Wan’s end of the story, it’s very cool and interesting to see the stuff with the Clones unfold.
The “death sticks” scene is not only the funniest part of the movie, but one of the funniest moments in the entire saga.
It’s the second plot that is horribly directed. The love story.
And this is where some confusion begins with a lot of people when they judge actors, and their abilities. Was Hayden Christensen miscast? Probably. But in the case of this film, he is not to blame. George Lucas is.
When you think about it, there are many terrific actors in this film, between Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, and Natalie Portman. We all know Jackson is a great actor, especially from his Tarantino roles. And Portman would later win an Oscar for ‘Black Swan’. Yet, neither one of these people express much more when comparing to Hayden Christensen.
The script is clichéd and horribly executed, and it’s entirely because George Lucas decided to dedicate more time with his special effects than directing his actors. This was an issue with Episode I, but in this one, it just shows a lot more.
The reason I find these bland love scenes so offensive is because of the importance they’re supposed to serve. These are the parents of LUKE AND LEIA! We should believe that their love is real and powerful. These moments, as well as the relationship Anakin has with Obi-Wan, should give us reasons for why we care that this “good person” eventually falls to the dark side. Instead, we’re left with a whiny Skywalker, who seems to hate his mentor, and goes about getting his girl in a very, VERY creepy manor.
Again, this is not at the fault of the actors (entirely) but more on George Lucas’s direction. Yes, if a much more experienced actor was in this role, it could have been better. But Hayden was just starting out and was only following (horrible) directions.
Thankfully, ‘The Clone Wars’ television show, as well as Episode III do a much better job of displaying the friendship of Obi-Wan and Anakin, and his relationship with Padmé. It just totally sucks that this movie did it so poorly.
This whole thing really is my only large issue with ‘Attack of the Clones’ though. I admit that everything else is pretty well done.
The music is always terrific, and ‘Across the Stars’ might even be my favorite love theme by John Williams, next to ‘Can You Read My Mind’ from ‘Superman’. So if there’s anything that saves the horrendous love scenes, it’s this theme.
The action is insanely entertaining and even suspenseful. Obi-Wan vs. Jango Fett, both on Kamino and in the asteroid field, and the chase on Coruscant at the beginning are all terrific scenes.
If you don’t like the gladiator scene on Geonosis as well as the rest of the Jedi and Clone Army battle, you’re just fooling yourself. The last 40 minutes of this movie is fantastic, and my only gripe is that the lightsaber duel with Dooku is very underwhelming. Yoda’s bad-assery makes it a bit better, but at the end of the day, this duel doesn’t hold a candle to Episodes I, III, V, and VI. Even the saber duel in Episode IV is more intriguing, despite how lame it might come off as. At least you feel the history between the two characters fighting.
In my ‘Phantom Menace’ review, I mentioned that I first saw that movie when I was 6. An age where I was too young to notice the difference between a good movie and a bad one. Because of this, nostalgia has always factored into how much I enjoy Episode I, despite how much I’ve realized the things that aren’t so perfect about it.
‘Attack of the Clones’ might have actually been the first time I walked out of a theater disappointed. I remember it very well, at age 9, thinking “That’s it”???
I felt underwhelmed. And through time, I’ve developed a bit more of an appreciation for Episode II, but I’ve also grown to see more and more issues with it also.
My whole life, my friends and I have always debated; which movie is worse? ‘Phantom Menace’ or ‘Attack of the Clones’? They’re both easily the lowest points of the Star Wars saga, but it really comes down to personal preference. Depending on the day, I might choose this over Episode I. But most of the time, I find the poorly executed love story far more cringe-worthy and more offensive than Jar Jar’s antics.
It’s still Star Wars, but it’s definitely my least favorite Star Wars. There are great things about ‘Attack of the Clones’ but for the most part, this might always be the most underwhelming chapter in the series to me, mainly because of its execution. I’m also not saying Episode I had better execution. It didn’t. But the thing with ‘Phantom Menace’ is that the story it told wasn’t as important, so the execution of that story could only be so good anyways. Episode II had a very important love story to tell, and it came very close to failing.
Final verdict: It’s important to view ‘Attack of the Clones’ whether you like it or not. Obi-Wan’s side of the story is under-rated and entertaining, while the love story makes the film as a whole suffer quite a bit. But both stories serve great importance to the saga, and the final act doesn’t disappoint too much either.