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 saga. Lucas was a little hesitant to return to the drawing board for the sequel based on the deservedly harsh 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 prequel film.
Attack of the Clones 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 for some inexplicable reason. Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin are sent to protect her. For some other unknown reason, Anakin, now much older, is romantically obsessed with Amidala and he has also not seen her at all since they were children apparently. The Jedi prevent the assassination attempt on Amidala but in an absurd CGI-infused chase scene, just before they can extract an answer from the assassin, she is killed by another bounty hunter who then casually escapes. The Jedi’s task becomes to discover the identity of the bounty hunter (after letting him escape). Obi-Wan then tracks him down, while Anakin remains behind to protect Amidala per the Jedi Council’s instruction. Obi-Wan visits an old friend (a cliche diner proprietor about whom we receive zero information and he never returns again). This odd interlude leads Obi-Wan to an isolated ocean planet called Kamino for some reason (which was erased from the Jedi library from some other unknown reason) where there is a large cloning facility. Someone apparently once commissioned a large clone army to be created for the Republic. An unusual man is being used as the genetic original – Jango Fett. Somehow (of course reasons are never given) Obi-Wan determines that Jango is the bounty hunter he is seeking. He tracks Jango and his son Boba to a rocky planet called Geonosis. Meanwhile, Anakin has been having terrible dreams about his mother on Tatooine. He suddenly decides he must travel to Tatooine and he brings along Amidala, now called Padme, with him in violation of his promise to protect her. This leads him out to the desert where his mother has been enslaved. Miraculously, he arrives just moments before her death and she dies in his arms so, in anger, he kills the whole tribe of Tusken raiders who had enslaved his mother. In a fit of rage, he declares that he will discover a way to prevent death for 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 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, which allows the clone army to be initiated against Dooku’s army. Anakin and Padme then travels 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 with a clone army led by Mace Windu and 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 stupid fight scene clearly placed into the movie to impress teenage boys and sell toys. Dooku distracts Yoda and then flees to Coruscant with the 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 pulling the strings, a fact which they were unable to foresee (somehow?) and Anakin is fitted with a mechanical hand. The film ends as Anakin secretly marries Padme 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 acting, uncomfortable dialogue, 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 the lack of background information on Count Dooku, and 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 events in the future). 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 becomes the great and fearsome Darth Vader. Some of the visual effects are impressive for the time, though even now the are sorely outdated. Yet questions abound with regard to plot loopholes and a desperate attempts 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 very end, but his villainy is somehow uninteresting and unbelievable –“I’ll never join you Dooku!” One of the worst scenes in the 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.