As we move into this new era of Star Wars, I want to take a look back at the saga films, how my perceptions have changed over time, and the ever-changing canon of Star Wars.
Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones was released in May of 2002. Expectations were varied due to the mixed responses to The Phantom Menace. While I enjoyed the previous film quite a bit, I believe Attack of the Clones is a much stronger film. The Phantom Menace was setting up the world and it’s here that we take our first deep dive into that world.
This film has it all, mystery, suspense, action, romance, even Mandalorian armor! However, that may be the film’s biggest problem. While The Phantom Menace was fairly light on story, Attack of the Clones gives us almost too much story. The galaxy is on the brink of civil war, a thousand systems have left the Republic, the Republic is voting on creating an army, someone is trying to kill Padme, and that’s just the first five minutes. Add to that the complicated political situation in the Republic senate, Dooku’s history with the Jedi and Sith, the origins of the clone army, the build-up of the droid armies, and Anakin and Padme’s romance. That’s a lot of information for one film to get across. No wonder this is the longest of the 7 current Star Wars live action movies. I wonder if any of these story points could’ve been put into The Phantom Menace?
Obi-wan Kenobi is possibly my favorite Star Wars character and it’s in this film that he really gets to shine. In fact, the whole prequel trilogy is almost more Obi-wan’s story than Anakin’s. I love almost everything about Obi-wan’s part in this film. His fight with Jango Fett is one of my favorite scenes in the whole saga. My only complaint is the fake hair and beard he wears through parts of the film. If you ever want your viewing experience changed forever pay attention to Obi-wan’s hair in all the films. Some could say that Obi-wan’s magic hair is an important part of his character.
Obi-wan is nothing without his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker. Anakin has taken a lot of criticism for his scenes. I think it’s mostly unfounded though. Hayden Christensen did a good job with the emotionally complicated role. Anakin’s constantly in conflict between his natural emotional responses and the Jedi training — which is to not be ruled by your emotions.
Anakin’s role is further complicated with the budding romance with Padme Amidala. These two characters did not have what we would call a normal childhood. He was raised by stoic monks and she has been in public service since before she hit puberty. They are both awkward and inexperienced at love. I see shades of my younger, more awkward self, in Anakin during the romantic scenes.
Rounding out the great cast is Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku. Dooku is a fantastic villain. He doesn’t go into the more mustache-twirling villain cliches and in a brilliant stroke from George Lucas, Dooku mirrors Anakin. Pay attention to Dooku and Anakin’s dialogue and how they are often times saying the same thing. It’s a great foreshadow of where Anakin is going. It’s a shame that Christopher Lee didn’t get more screen time.
Attack of the Clones is a fantastic film, however, I think it is held back by an overburdened story and small technical problems that keep it from reaching true greatness. Once again, George Lucas may have slightly exceeded his reach with what can be told in a single story. Story threads that are started here, are continued through the Clone Wars TV show and into Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, and it’s not until you have seen all of them that you can fully appreciate what is begun with this film.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!