Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) Director: George Lucas
“I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere.”
Attack of the Clones is the second installment of George Lucas’s “prequel” films in the Skywalker Star Wars saga. After the overwhelming “fandom menace” popular backlash to the first film, George Lucas was initially a little hesitant to return to the drawing board for a second film, however he finished the script shortly before principal photography took place and with money to be made and merchandise to be sold, Lucasfilm began work on Attack of the Clones. Jokingly, the working title for this script was called “Jar Jar’s Grand Adventure” –a reference to the general consensus that Jar Jar Binks was a terrible character in the first film.
Attack of the Clones takes place about ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace. The galaxy lies on the brink of civil war with many planets threatening to secede from the Galactic Republic. There has been an assassination attempt on Senator Amidala, she is now no longer the Queen of Naboo for unexplained reasons. Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin are sent to protect her from future attacks. For further unexplained reasons, Anakin, now much older, is romantically obsessed with Amidala. Now a moody teenager, he has not seen Amidala once in the last ten years. The two Jedi manage to prevent another assassination attempt on Amidala but in an absurd CGI-infused chase scene, they hunt down the attacker through the streets of Coruscant but before they can extract helpful information from the assassin, she is killed by another bounty hunter who then casually escapes without chase. The task of the Jedi is now to discover the identity of this second bounty hunter (the one they allowed to escape only moments ago). Obi-Wan spends much of the movie tracking down the assassin, while Anakin remains behind on Coruscant to continue protecting Amidala, per the Jedi Council’s instruction –did the Jedi Council not foresee that Anakin would fall in love with Amidala? Their awkward, dialogue-heavy romance painfully unfolds throughout the film, even as Amidala continually rejects Anakin while frolicking through open fields and donning increasingly risqué outfits. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan pays a visit to an old friend, a cliche-ridden diner proprietor-creature named “Dexter Jettster” about whom we receive zero information and he never again returns in the series. This odd interlude leads Obi-Wan to an isolated ocean planet called Kamino for unknown reasons (the location of Kamino was erased from the Jedi library due to more inexplicable reasons). On Kamino, there now exists a large cloning facility. An unknown figure apparently once commissioned a large clone army to be created for the Republic, though none in the Republic seem to b aware of its existence. One man is being used as the genetic original: Jango Fett. Somehow (reasons are never given) Obi-Wan determines that Jango is the very bounty hunter he is seeking from Coruscant. He tracks Jango and his son Boba to a rocky planet called Geonosis. Meanwhile, Anakin begins having terrible dreams about his mother on Tatooine. He suddenly decides to return to Tatooine, bringing along Amidala (now called Padme) in violation of his promise to protect her on Naboo. This leads him to the desert where his mother has been enslaved by Tusken Raiders. Miraculously, he arrives just moments before her death and she dies in his arms. Thus, in anger, he slaughters the whole tribe of Tusken Raiders. In a fit of rage, he declares that he will soon discover a way to prevent death for his loved ones.
Then on Geonosis, Obi-Wan discovers a separatist faction that has arisen under the leadership of a former Jedi, Count Dooku (played by Christopher Lee). Obi-Wan learns it was actually Count Dooku who authorized the assassination attempt on Padme (we are never given a full reason as to why he attempted to kill Padme). Obi-Wan also learns that Dooku is building a droid army with members of The Trade Federation (weren’t they resoundingly defeated in the first episode?) Back in the Galactic Senate, Palpatine has been granted emergency powers with the support of the Senate, and this allows the clone army to be initiated against Dooku’s army. Anakin and Padme then travel to Geonosis to help Obi-Wan but all three are captured and sentenced to death in a mock-gladiatorial game. However, at the last moment they are all rescued by the Jedi and a clone army led by Mace Windu, Yoda, and others. In the ensuing fight, Mace Windu beheads Jango Fett, Count Dooku wounds Obi-Wan and cuts off the hand of Anakin, but Yoda arrives and battles Dooku in a moronically slapstick fight scene which was clearly inserted into the movie in order to impress pre-teenage boys and with the hope of selling more toys. Just when you thought Star Wars couldn’t sink any lower! At any rate, Dooku distracts Yoda and then flees to Coruscant with plans for a massive super weapon to deliver to Darth Sidious, his master. The Jedi reconcile with the fact that the clone wars are coming and they finally acknowledge the existence of a shadowy Sith Lord who has been pulling the strings behind the scenes, a fact which they were unable to foresee (somehow?). Anakin is now fitted with a mechanical hand, and the film ends as Anakin secretly marries Padme on Naboo (though there is almost zero romantic tension between the two throughout the film).
Upon release, the critical consensus for Attack of the Clones was not kind, and has only degenerated with time. In all, Attack of the Clones is tragically a bland and forgettable film. From wooden and cliche-ridden acting, to uncomfortable dialogue, and a complete lack of character development (such as the awkward and uncomfortable budding relationship between Anakin and Padme), as well as the strange plot loopholes (such as why Padme is being targeted for assassination), and even the lack of background information on Count Dooku, we face questions as to why the Jedi are incapable of discerning the presence of an evil Sith lurking right beneath their nose (even though they can apparently “sense” a great deal of other things including future events). Anyway, this film is not worth anybody’s time. Hayden Christiansen delivers a forgettable and whiny performance as a character that we are somehow led to believe is soon to become the fearsome Darth Vader. Some of the visual effects are impressive for its time, though even now they are sorely outdated. Much of this film drags on with inane senatorial bureaucracy, and we are not even introduced to the villain (Dooku) until the very end, and yet his villainy is somehow uninteresting and unbelievable –cue the silly line: “I’ll never join you Dooku!” One of the worst scenes in this film is the comical CGI fight scene between Yoda and Count Dooku. Watch this film perhaps once to understand the backstory to Star Wars, but otherwise discard it, shelve it, and forget about it.