Retro Review: Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Here are some updated thoughts:  Looking back, as I recently did with The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones has not aged particularly well . . . thought it does fair significantly better than Ep. I.  There are several aspects of AotC that don’t sit well with me today.  1)  We live in such a politically disparate and charged world today, that the parallels between AotC and what happened in the United States after 9/11 are often distracting and too obvious to ignore.  Yes, Lucas took many liberties extrapolating it to the extreme in the Star Wars universe, but it’s clear that he was trying to make a statement.  I watch movies to escape the bullshit of politics, not to be taught covert history lessons.  2)  Some of the special effects will look really, really good.  But the CGI stormtroopers often look awful, in my opinion.  No better than what we’ve seen from some of the animated series released since AotC.  They look like plastic toys.  3)  Some of the dialogue between Anakin and Padme is painful to watch.  “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.”  Yes Anakin, we get it.  You came from the shithole planet Tatooine and hated it there.  But George.  George!  Those lines go down as some of the worst written and delivered in movie history.

So that means I now hate AotC, right?  Nope.  Still like it, there’s a lot of good in it despite the bad.  Not 4.5 star “like it”  . . . maybe 3.0 star “like it.”

We managed to squeeze into a midnight showing of Attack of the Clones (hereafter AotC) last night and I must say that it met my expectations.  I’m probably the last remaining human on the planet who can still honestly say enjoyed The Phantom Menace (hereafter TPM) even with all of it’s flaws, but I have to say that AotC is vastly superior in every way.  Yes, Lucas appears to have learned something from TPM.  AotC is more dark, much less kid oriented, yet has more comic relief.  The much maligned Jar Jar Binks does make a few appearances, but his part is very small and trivial.  But I’m sure that won’t keep people (who have nothing else better to do) from endlessly complaining about him even though he probably takes up only 2% (a few minutes) of the entire film.  Couple his appearance with the fact that he makes one of the worst decisions in the entire movie (empowering Palpatine), and the Star Wars Lunatic Fringers will be frothing at the mouth with more hate fodder to fill their shallow days with glee.  But I digress . . .

The acting throughout AotC is fairly wooden, as it has been (let’s be honest) for every Star Wars movie.  The bright spot being Ewan’s work as the matured Obi-wan.  Hayden does a decent job as Anakin, definately a better job than Jake Lloyd did in TPM.  What can I say about the special effects?  They are jaw dropping.  Does the movie suffer due to too many FX shots?  Possibly.  But let me ask the naysayers this:  How are you supposed to present a movie that spans a massive far flung galaxy filled with enormous cities, planets, populations, and creatures and NOT use lots of FX shots to make it look so?  How are you supposed to portray the hugeness of a space faring clone army?  With three dweebs in armor standing on a sound stage with a cardboard cutout behind them to represent the ship?  Or old school models hanging from wires rotoscoped from a blue screen?  Do you propose 500,000 extras be hired for the clonetroopers, or that massive city sets be built?  You want all the aliens to be puppets and animatronics?  Get real  Star Wars is epic, huge, sweeping.  The FX are there to portray this.  Without the FX Star Wars would “feel” small.  Star Wars is not a “ship in a bottle” movie like Alien.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones PosterAnakin Skywalker has grown into an accomplished Jedi apprentice, and he faces his most difficult challenge yet as he must choose between his Jedi duty and forbidden love.  Meanwhile the phantom menace, Darth Sidious, continues to grown in power as he spread his Sith tendrils throughout the fragmenting Galactic Senate.

Star Wars Episode II:  Attack of the Clones
Director:  George Lucas
Starring:  Hayden Christiansen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman
Genre:  Science Fiction
Media:  Film, 142 minutes
Rating: PG
Budget: $115 million
Box Office: $649 million, worldwide
Year: May 16, 2002
4.5 out of 5 stars

While TPM has some foreshadowing in it, AotC has massive amounts of it . . . some of it subtle, some of it outright open.  As foreshadowed in TPM (and predicted by me three years ago), Anakin’s push to the dark side starts with his mother . . . that’s all I’m going to say.  But I wish Lucas would have handled how it happened a bit differently. I think he could have done it more effectively than introducing the mundane storyline of the Tusken Raiders.  We also find out who Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen are and how they are related to Anakin (and later Luke).  We find out who Jango Fett is.  We find where Boba Fett “comes” from (contrary to early belief, he’s not Jango’s son) and why he’s full of hate for the Skywalker clan and Jedi in general.  We see early plans for what Darth Sidious has planned for his mighty Empire.  We see R2 and 3PO finally team up like in Ep. IV-VI.  Yet at the same time many questions go unanswered . . . a perfect setup for Episode III which is seriously going to rock the house in my opinion.

I said it three years ago, and I’ll say it again: each of these movies are part of an ongoing serial.  When viewing them you have to look at the big picture, not just the movie as a standalone.  AotC works better than TPM because it adds more to the tale of the entire series.  When all 6 are finally out and available, I believe that they will flow together quite nicely.  Another cool thing about AotC is that it is similar to ESB in the way it fits into the first trilogy.  It has no celebratory ending, in fact the Anakin/Amidala ending is very similar to the Luke/Leia ending in ESB.  Note I said similar, not exact.  It is somewhat of a cliffhanger ending . . . many things are not resolved, and the Clone Wars are just kicking into gear.

Many people have complained about AotC being a love story. Yes it is, and a bit of an awkward one at at.  But it is an underlying theme that must be told to complete the entire six movie story arc.  The love story isn’t overpowering, I thought it was handled very well.  You can see why Anakin and Amidala eventually fall in love . . . they are both young and headstrong and don’t like and shackles of authority placed upon them.

But THE BEST part of the movie is to see many, many Jedi putting the smack down on the baddies.  And THE absolute best part of the movie is to FINALLY see how powerful Yoda is.  All I have to say is that when Yoda starts flexing his Jedi muscles the entire audience erupted in cheers and applause.  The duel scene between Yoda and Count Dooku is crazy.  It is so insanely awesome I literally, not figuratively, laughed out loud.  It truly is one of the best parts in any of the 5 movies.

After seeing it I don’t even think it’s appropriately named. “The Clone Wars” would have been perfect.  Since the movies are all told from the point of view of the good guys, “Attack of the Clones” implies that they are attacking the good guys.  But the clones are the good guys.  You’ll see.

Is AotC a perfect movie?  Hell no.  It is without doubt a much better movie than TPM which I still enjoy.  AotC gets back to more of the old school style Star Wars that we’re used to, and provides us with a tasty middle to the prequel trilogy.  I can say without hesitation that almost everyone will like this movie more, since the entire story arc has more meat to it now.  And a lot of the Lunatic Fringers will also finally embrace the new movies and realize there is fun to be had despite their attitudes.  The rest of us can be thankful for this.  But there will be a remaining few out there that will still grasp to their “Lucas destroyed my childhood” ideology, and to them I have to say that I’m truly sorry.

Words © 2002-2022, Neal Ulen. All rights reserved.
Images/videos cited © to their respective owner(s).

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