Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) Director: George Lucas
Attack of the Clones is the second installment of George Lucas’s “prequel” films in the Skywalker saga. Lucas was a little hesitant to return to the drawing board for the sequel based on the critical backlash to The Phantom Menace, however he finished the script shortly before principal photography took place. Jokingly, the working title for the script was called “Jar Jar’s Grand Adventure” – a reference to the critical consensus that Jar Jar was a terrible character in the first film.
The film takes place about ten years after The Phantom Menace. The galaxy lies on the brink of civil war with many planets threatening to secede from the Galactic Republic, meanwhile an attempt has been made on senator Amidala’s life, though she is no longer the Queen of Naboo. Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin are sent to protect her. For some reason, Anakin, older now, is romantically obsessed with Amidala and he has not seen her since they were children. The Jedi prevent an assassination attempt and just before they can get an answer out of the assassin, she is killed by a bounty hunter. Their task becomes to discover the identity of the bounty hunter. Obi-Wan goes to track him down, while Anakin remains to protect Amidala. Obi-Wan visits an old friend (who we get zero information about) who leads him to an isolated ocean planet called Kamino (which was erased from the Jedi library from some unknown reason) where there is a large facility. Someone commissioned a large clone army to be created for the Republic. An unusual man is being used as the genetic original – Jango Fett. Somehow (reasons are never given) Obi-Wan determines that Jango is the bounty hunter he is seeking. He tracks Jango and his son Bobba to a rocky planet called Geonosis. Meanwhile, Anakin has been having terrible dreams about his mother on Tatooine. He decides he must go to Tatooine and he brings Padme with him. This leads him out into the desert where his mother has been enslaved. Miraculously, he arrives just before her death and she dies in his arms so, in anger, he kills the whole tribe of Tusken raiders who had enslaved her. In a fit of rage, he declares that he will discover a way to prevent the death of the people he loves. Then, back with Obi-Wan on Geonosis, he 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 Dooku who authorized the assassination attempt of Padme (we are never given a full reason as to why Padme and not someone else). He also learns that Dooku is building a droid army with members of the Trade Federation (weren’t they resounding defeated in the first episode?) Back in the Galactic Senate, Palpatine has been granted emergency powers, which allows the clone army to be put to use. Anakin and Padme then go to Geonosis to help Obi-Wan but all three are captured and are sentenced to death in a mock-gladitorial game. However, at the last moment they are all rescued by the Jedi with a clone army led by Mace Windu and Yoda and others. Mace Windu beheads Jango Fett in the ensuing fight. County Dooku wounds Obi-Wan and cuts off the hand of Anakin, but Yoda arrives and battles Dooku (in a rather absurd fight scene). Dooku distracts Yoda and he then flees to Coruscant with the plans for a massive super weapon to deliver to Darth Sidious, his master. The Jedi reconcile with the coming clone wars and acknowledge that there is a shadowy sith lord pulling the strings that they were unable to foresee (somehow?) and Anakin is fitted with a mechanical hand. The film ends as he secretly marries Padme back on Naboo (though there is little romantic tension or relationship development between the two throughout the film).
The critical consensus for Attack of the Clones was not kind, and has only degenerated as time has gone by.
In all, Attack of the Clones is tragically a bland and forgettable film. From wooden and cliche-ridden dialogue, to complete lack of character development (such as the unromantic and off-putting relationship between Anakin and Padme), and the strange plot loopholes such as why Padme is being targeted for assassination, and information on Count Dooku, and why the Jedi are incapable of discerning the evil sith that is lurking right under their nose, despite being able to “sense” a great deal, including foreseeing the future – this film is not worth the time. Hayden Christiansen delivers a forgettable and whiny performance to a character that we are somehow led to believe becomes the great and fearsome Darth Vader. Some of the visual effects are impressive for the time, though even now the are sorely outdated. Questions abound with regard to plot loopholes and a desperate attempt to connect the film to the original trilogy. Much of the film drags on with inane senatorial bureaucracy, and we are not even introduced to the villain of the film until the end, but his villainy is somehow uninteresting and unbelievable. One of the worst scenes in the film is the comical CGI fight scene between Yoda and Count Cooku. Watch this film perhaps once to understand the backstory to Star Wars, but otherwise discard it.