Retro Review: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 7 out of 10

star_wars_episode_two_attack_of_the_clones_ver2A victim of the most forced love story in recent memory, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones had one simple mission; be better than The Phantom Menace. In that regard, it succeeded. On any other level, Attack of the Clones is another massive failure by George Lucas, and throws its hat into serious consideration for the worst film in the series.

Taking place 10 years after the conclusion of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones finds Anakin Skywalker as a Padawan under the teachings of Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has ascended to the rank of Jedi Master. After a series of failed assassination attempts on Senator Padme Amidala, the Jedi Council has assigned Anakin Skywalker as her protection detail with an important senate vote on the horizon. A series of events leads Skywalker and Kenobi to the origins of the Clone Wars, a clone army set in motion by a secretive enemy, while Anakin comes closer to his destiny.

Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen were supposed to be the driving force of Attack of the Clones, but they end up being its biggest shortfall. Not only does their love story come off as forced, but the absolute nonsense spouted between the two is enough to make any Star Wars fan weep for more awkward interaction between Luke and Leia.

The famous “sand is course” scene has become the bannister for everything wrong with the prequel trilogy, but there are several more painful iterations of their mishandled relationship, including Padme’s omission of love for Anakin before the Battle of Geonosis or their rolling around the grasses of Naboo, either way there is nothing positively memorable about their interaction, and breaks the film at its core before it can ever actually gain momentum.

Attack of the Clones was also the first time that we were subjected to Christensen, and any pre-conceived notions of a good Anakin Skywalker impression was cast to the wayside. The attack on the Tuscan Raiders is arguably the most critical piece of Attack of the Clones, and Anakin’s shift from peace-loving Jedi to a genocidal psycho happens so quickly that it simply just seems forced for a near 2 ½-hour movie. For such an important scene in the prequel trilogy, it is glossed over and mostly forgotten by the time that the credits start to roll.

Although the relationship between Anakin and Padme is the worst part of this film, everything else happening around the couple is actually quality Star Wars canon. Kenobi uncovering the mystery at Kamino is interesting, except for the part when Jango Fett leaves his Mandalorian armor in plain sight, leading Obi-Wan directly to the next plot line.

Seeing the development of Boba Fett and the development of the clone army was an interesting aspect of the movie, and honestly is one of the biggest momentum shifting moments of the Star Wars saga.

In several ways, this movie is completely a victim of circumstance. There are so many coincidences in the movie that lead the major players from one plot point to another, and there is zero chance that Darth SIdious and the other antagonists could have laid a plan that caught this many lucky bounces. Not even to consider the inability of the Jedi to realize that the brooding Lord of the Sith was sitting seven or eight feet away from them, which is ludicrous.

The Battle of Geonosis set in motion the positive aspects of the prequel trilogy, delivering the special effects on a level never seen before. For every glorious shot in Attack of the Clones there is an equally disappointing visually altered shot in the Jedi temple, but the final 20 minutes is absolute insanity, only fortified by the fight between Obi-Wan, Anakin and Count Dooku.

Holding off on showcasing the main villain of the film until the end of the second act was a bold move and one that truly didn’t pay off as filmmakers intended. Dooku is viewed as a holdover Sith apprentice until Anakin filled the seat in Episode III, and it is mainly due to the handling of Darth Tyrannus in Episode II. Those that spend a great deal of time in the expanded universe understand the impact of Dooku, but for the more casual fan, Dooku is often an afterthought.

In 2002, the biggest piece of the film, rightfully so, was Yoda’s combat debut. Without a doubt, if this occurred in the modern age, Yoda’s lightsaber fight would either be revealed in a TV commercial or trailer, but upon release of the movie, Yoda’s fighting abilities were easily the highlight of the film and the best surprise of the prequel trilogy.

Attack of the Clones is an improvement over The Phantom Menace, but a small improvement does not a great film make. Still rife with thematic and developmental flaws, the largest strike against Episode II is the forced chemistry between Padme and Anakin, which as the focal point of the prequel installment derails the film quickly. A strong final 25 minutes does not save the two hours that came before it, and unfortunately, the lasting legacy of Attack of the Clones will be its spot near the bottom when fans rank the Star Wars installments.

MONTY’S GRIPES

  • So…Jar-Jar Binks started the clone wars, right? That’s pretty much what we got from Episode II. Seriously. Padme would not have provided Palpatine emergency powers under the current circumstances, at least not in the time frame that Jar-Jar did, resulting in the clone wars never taking place. So in a way, Jar-Jar is responsible for everything in the prequel trilogy. Good job, yousa.
  • A land-locked, lizard/bug style race developed the Death Star. Just chew on that for a second.
  • This film came out with I was a whopping 12 years old, and still embodies one of my favorite movie memories. Going to the theater on release weekend with my close friend who was, and I’m guessing still is a massive Jango Fett fan. The look on his face when Jango met his untimely end will always register on my face; it was the look of pure defeat.
  • Whenever Anakin makes an angry face it looks like he just found a piece of bone in his chicken nugget from McDonald’s.
  • If you watch the Geonosian foundry scene through the Battle of Geonosis without C-3PO’s transformation into a battle droid, it’s arguably the best battle scene of the series, let alone the prequel trilogy.
  • Sand really is course. And it does get everywhere. But if you’re attempting to woo a lady, you should probably move in a different direction.
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