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.”
The second installment in George Lucas’s “prequel” Star Wars films, Attack of the Clones is a bizarre mess of a movie filled with ridiculous, nausea-inducing CGI packed into nearly every scene. After the overwhelmingly negative “fandom menace” backlash to its predecessor 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 film 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. Padme Amidala (reprised by Natalie Portman) has decided to serve in the Senate rather than continue serving as Queen of Naboo. The film opens with an explosion which has been planted on Senator Amidala’s ship as it lands on Coruscant, however the assassination attempt merely kills her personal decoy named Sabé (she was played by Kiera Knightly in The Phantom Menace). Fearing for her life, the Jedi Council sends Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) are sent to protect Senator Amidala from future attacks. For unexplained reasons, Anakin, now much older than in The Phantom Menace, is romantically obsessed with Amidala. He is a moody teenager, he has not seen Amidala in the last ten years and he behaves like an awkward, creepy stalker. At any rate, the two Jedi manage to prevent another assassination attempt on Amidala –somehow a bounty hunter easily cuts a hole into Amidala’s bedroom in order to release a pair of worm-like creatures. In an absurd CGI-infused chase scene, the two Jedi hunt down Amidala’s attacker through the streets of Coruscant but before they can extract helpful information from the assassin, she is suddenly killed by another bounty hunter who then casually escapes without chase. Why does Obi-Wan simply allow this mysterious bounty hunter to escape? 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 him down, 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? Is the Jedi Council entirely useless at this point? Throughout Attack of the Clones a painfully awkward, dialogue-heavy romance unfolds even as Amidala continually rejects Anakin while frolicking through open fields and donning increasingly risqué outfits. The art of subtlety is thrown out the window as this budding romance induces nothing but endless cringe. And apparently Jedi are forbidden from falling in love? None of this makes much sense. 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 has been erased from the Jedi library due to mysterious reasons). On the rainswept ocean planet of Kamino, there now exists a large cloning facility run by a group of lanky-necked creatures under their leader, Lama Su. An unknown figure apparently once commissioned a large clone army to be created for the Republic, though none among the Jedi Council seem to be aware of its existence. It turns out to be a Jedi named Sifo-Dyas who had a vision of a forthcoming war and thus secretly commissioned a clone army, however Sifo-Dyas has been dead for nearly a decade by this point. One man is being used as the genetic original for all the clones: a bounty hunter Jango Fett. Why was Jango Fett selected to be the genetic original for the clones? Who knows (answers are never given). Somehow (reasons are again never given) Obi-Wan determines that Jango is also the very bounty hunter he has been seeking from Coruscant! Obi-Wan tracks Jango and his son Boba (who is actually just another special clone) 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 in violation of his promise to protect her on Naboo. This leads him to the desert where his mother, Shmi, has been enslaved by Tusken Raiders. Miraculously, he arrives just moments before her death and she dies in his arms. Then, 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), who was the former master of Qui-Gon Jinn. Dooku has employed a race of bugs to construct an army of droids. Obi-Wan learns it was actually Count Dooku who authorized the assassination attempt on Senator Padme Amidala (we are never given a full reason as to why he attempted to kill Padme). Obi-Wan also learns that Dooku is also building a droid army with members of The Trade Federation (wasn’t The Trade Federation resoundingly defeated in the first episode?) Back in the Galactic Senate, Senator Palpatine has been granted emergency powers with the support of the Senate (thanks to motion made by nobody’s favorite character, Jar Jar Binks), and this allows the clone army to be initiated and sent to fight against Dooku’s droid army. Anakin and Padme then travel to Geonosis to help free Obi-Wan but all three are quickly captured and sentenced to death in a mock-gladiatorial game. However, at the last moment they are all rescued by the Jedi Council members as well as a clone army led by Mace Windu, Yoda, and others. In the ensuing fight, Mace Windu beheads Jango Fett in front of his clone son Boba, while 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 sell 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 Sith Lord 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 until this point (somehow?). Anakin is now fitted with a mechanical hand, and the film ends as Anakin secretly marries Padme on Naboo (though there is zero romantic tension between the two characters throughout the film).
Upon release, the critical consensus for Attack of the Clones was not kind, and its status has only continued to decline with time. In all, Attack of the Clones is a tragically bland and forgettable film. From wooden and cliche-ridden acting, to uncomfortable dialogue, and a complete lack of character development (especially the awkward and uncomfortable budding romance between Anakin and Padme), as well as the strange plot-holes (such as why Padme is being targeted for assassination), and even the lack of background information on Count Dooku. I’m still a little unclear about politics in this universe –how exactly is Dooku a “Count”? Who dubbed him a Count? And what is the connection between Padme as Queen of Naboo vs. Senator of Naboo?We face questions about why the Jedi are apparently incapable of apprehending 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 I suppose, but by contemporary standards these effects are sorely outdated and most of the movie was shot on a green-screen backdrop leading to a jarring, lifeless, stilted, sterile tone in every scene. Much of this film drags on with inane senatorial bureaucracy, and we are not even introduced to the villain (Count 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 easily the comically indulgent CGI lightsaber fight sequence between Yoda and Count Dooku. Watch this film perhaps once to understand the backstory for Star Wars, but otherwise discard it, shelve it, and forget about it.
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