Star Wars Film Festival: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)

In preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Title: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Release Date: May 16, 2002
Director: George Lucas
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Count Dooku: What if I told you that the Republic was now under the control of a dark lord of the Sith?
Obi-Wan: No, that’s not possible. The Jedi would sense it.
Count Dooku: The Dark Side has clouded their vision. Hundreds of senators are now under the influence of a Sith lord called Darth Sidious.
Obi-Wan: I don’t believe you.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) doesn’t believe it, but Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is telling the truth. It’s a moment in this film where I thought George Lucas was being clever by having the Seperatists form in opposition to Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and Palpatine manipulating the Jedi to fight against them. But it turns out that while what Dooku says is factual, he is also lying, and is in fact Palpatine’s apprentice.  It’s one of the many moments in the prequel trilogy where there was an opportunity for the movies to more interesting, complex, and better than they actually were.  But Lucas always ended up going with the more lazy and obvious storytelling route.

When Attack of the Clones came out in 2002, it was under big pressure to redeem the Star Wars franchise from the dud of The Phantom Menace.  I remember some friends liking it at the time, but I wasn’t quite sold on it.  While it achieved the low bar of being better than its predecessor, there were things that I found about it that were good, bad, and ugly.

The Good

  • The chase scene where Obi-Wan and Annakin (Hayden Christensen) go after Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) through the towers of Coruscant is excellent.  It’s both a great action sequence and shows a terrific chemistry between Obi-Wan and Annakin.  I wish these two weren’t split up for most of the movie and we saw them together in action for more often.
  • I hadn’t remember this, but I like that Padme (Natalie Portman) also makes rash decisions, particularly when she takes the lead on rescuing Obi-Wan.
  • There’s thankfully very little of Jar-Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) in this movie, but he’s used well when Palpatine dupes him into introducing the motion to grant emergency powers to the Chancellor.
  • Reuniting C-3PO and R2-D2.  I love seeing these two together.
  • I have mixed feelings about incorporating Boba Fett’s origin story into the movie, but I think it was mostly well-done.

The Bad

  • The romance between Annakin and Padme is notoriously badly written and plotted.
  • While Portman was one of the highlights of The Phantom Menace, it feels like she’s mailing it in here. I suspect that could happen if you sign up for something when you’re 15 and then when you’re 18 and have different ambitions as an actor you’re presented a script with the aforementioned romantic plot.
  • I really hated Yoda (Frank Oz) arriving with the clone troops and spouting military cliches. Such lazy writing.
  • 17 years ago I didn’t know the term “fan service,” but that was clearly the intention behind the Yoda lightsaber duel.  I remember the audience getting very excited as Dooku’s cheezy proposal to fight with lightsabers set it up.  The actual fight is underwhelming though as a green, CGI blur bopping around the screen is not that interesting.

The Ugly

  • “Fridging” Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August). Having Annakin’s mother tortured and then die just as he comes to rescue her as way of setting up his rage is just awful.
  • Sexualizing Padme with increasingly revealing outfits, the worst offense being when her top is torn in half by the claws of a creature, exposing her skin but seemingly not injuring her.

Rating: **

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