RELEASED: May 16th 2002
DIRECTED BY: George Lucas
WRITTEN BY: George Lucas & Jonathan Hales
PRODUCED BY: Rick McCallum
MUSIC BY: John Williams
STARRING: Ewan McGreggor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Temuera Morrison & Christopher Lee
After The Phantom Menace reignited the Star Wars franchise in 1999, Attack of the Clones continued the story of young Anakin Skywalker three years later, with Star Wars mastermind George Lucas still taking writing and directing duties, this time accompanied by Jonathan Hales, who co-wrote the screenplay.
The second chapter in the prequel trilogy sees Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, now a Jedi Padawan, reunite with Padme, who has finished her time as Queen of Naboo, and become a senator in the Galactic Republic. When her life is once more put in danger, the Jedi duo split up; with Anakin acting as Padme’s bodyguard and Obi-Wan tracking nefarious bounty hunter Jango Fett, which leads him to a discovery that could bring the entire Republic into a devastating war.
With The Phantom Menace being as mediocre as it was, you would think the prequel trilogy could only get better, but in terms of writing, you’d have thought wrong. Somehow, the scripting in this film is even worse than that of the previous entry, with shockingly awful dialogue, and characterisation that paints Obi-Wan as condescending, Padmé as someone with hybristophilia and Anakin as a total psychopath.
“I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children, too. They’re like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals. I HATE THEM.”
– Anakin Skywalker, hero and Jedi Knight
Furthermore, some of these characterisations directly contradict what has happened in the previous film. As Queen, Padmé makes a point of stating that politics isn’t for her. Yet here she is in this film, a politician. In-universe, it’s been ten years between the events of the films, so I’ll let that slide – it does, however, make it hard to watch these movies in close proximity.
Once again, the acting that accompanies this poor script is also a problem. It’s debatable how much the performances are tied to the lines the actors are forced to read, but Portman and Christensen do not give good goes of it at all. Furthermore, the chemistry between their characters is nonexistent, so the fact the film is building to them being the parents of Luke and Leia is incredibly underwhelming and poorly done. Anakin’s creepy advances are more likely to push a woman away than get them to marry you two hours later (real-time, that is). It doesn’t help that all of their scenes during the central act of the film are dull as hell.
Another let down when moving from Episode I to II is the visuals. Whereas The Phantom Menace gave us fascinating worlds and locales, Attack of the Clones buries them under mountains of CGI. Sometimes it works, but for the most part, things look off – especially when you consider that just one film ago, Yoda was a puppet and not a CGI gremlin jumping and flipping all over the shop.
However, that CGI does come in pretty handy when it comes to showing the scale of the movie; the Battle of Geonosis is perhaps one of the most epic and vast battles seen in the Star Wars saga so far. So that’s something.
And despite what I said about characterisation previously, another good factor would be Temuera Morrison’s Jango Fett, who is a definite highlight. He’s everything Boba Fett should have been in the original trilogy; just as deadly on the ground as he is in space. He goes toe-to-toe with Obi-Wan Kenobi, who, bear in mind, bifurcated a Sith Lord in the last installment. Similarly, Ewan McGreggor, despite coming across as condescending, has the most fun scenes in the film, and you can feel McGreggor coming into his own in the film. It’s once he’s separated from Anakin that he starts to become the character that everyone knows and loves.
It’s thanks to things like this, that the majority of this film is actually kind of fun. It’s exciting, for sure. Unfortunately, the lull in the middle centred around Anakin and Padmé will most likely make you forget that.
All-in-all, I give it a: