In honor of Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ release, we’re rerunning our series from 2012 when I watched the Star Wars movies for the first time. Read my intro/explanation here, and here are my reviews of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
I found Attack of the Clones to be a much improved installment after the mess of The Phantom Menace, but it remains entrenched as predominantly adolescent fair. Shoe-horning in characters from the original trilogy doesn’t really do much to repair things, either, particularly since too often the logic quickly breaks down. Something about R2 and 3PO’s origin stories continues to bother me (including why R2 has a jetpack in the prequels). It all just feels a bit too try-hard. Even though in my original trilogy articles I said I wanted to know more about Vader and the Stormtroopers and Boba Fett, and went on and on about how I loved R2 … well, fans shouldn’t always be given what we want!
Attack of the Clones did succeed in making Anakin a lot more interesting than he was in Phantom Menace, though I fear Hayden Christiensen‘s took too many notes from the first 30 minutes of Mark Hamill‘s performance in A New Hope. Anakin isn’t just cock-sure and arrogant — which is fine — he’s also extremely whiney (and in this case, can’t figure out how to speak like a human). Making a decision to go against Obi-Wan by using his skills with the Force to wrangle bad guys is one thing, but to throw tantrums in front of Padmé is entirely another.
First of all: Padmé, girl, no. Look, I’ve gone out with the wrong type of guys too, but if one of them told me that he had just slaughtered an entire encampment or men, women, and children because of his rage feels … well, as Liz Lemon would say, “that’s a deal breaker!” As if things weren’t creepy enough in Phantom Menace between these two, now Anakin has just taken to staring at her with his dead eyes, to which she replies “you’re making me uncomfortable.” Red flags!
Attack of the Clones wasn’t as outrightly horrid as Phantom Menace, but it offended in a different way: it was boring. The complete commitment to CGI meant much larger-scale battle sequences, and while some of the effects were kind of cool (I liked the chase scene with the Fetts and Obi-Wan through the astroids — I always like a good astroid chase), the battles (in space or in the arena) seemed to go on forever, with ultimately low stakes. I’ll admit that in general that kind of mass-scale war isn’t really my bag visually, but even my inner romantic was bored with Anakin and Padmé’s flirtations, especially the totally illogical idea that they would suddenly get married at the end of things.
Plot-wise, I did feel that the rise of Darth Sidious was quite ingeniously wrought, even though there was very little time devoted to it, and it was complicated to the point of incomprehension with the inclusion of Count Dooku (much as I love Christopher Lee, mind you) and how that all related to Darth Maul. Although, I did get some perverse pleasure that it was basically Jar Jar’s idiocy that lead to the rise of the Stormtroopers in service of the soon-to-be Empire. Serves them all right for putting him in a position of power. Omnishambles.
I almost liked Attack of the Clones, despite its pacing (it seems like it would be tedious to rewatch, unlike the original trilogy), but the increasingly lazy use of American cultural touchstones (two-term Presidents, constitutions, senates and elections) regarding the Republic and Naboo, and the fact that translators aren’t necessary because overwhelmingly everyone speaks English just annoyed me enough to not.
Bottom Line: Like Phantom Menace, part of a fair kid-oriented sci-fi franchise. Not generally up to Star Wars snuff, though.
Episode II Roundup:
Favorite Character(s): Obi-Wan, R2, 3PO
Least Favorite Character(s): Jar Jar, the trade union guy won’t take a hint, and Dooku (if he was so powerful … I don’t know, the logic again breaks down)
Pop Culture Moments: “If droids could think there’d be none of us!” – Shhh, don’t tell the Cylons! And I see that Keira Knightly was replaced more or less by Rose Byrne as one of Padmé’s handmaidens. Also, Jimmy Smits, what are you doing there?
What worked best: Ewan McGregor works with green screens exceptionally well. I also really liked the reveal about the Stormtroopers. It was weird, but it was perfectly sci-fi and also could conceivably make sense with the original trilogy.
What didn’t work: Why is Jar Jar always 20 decibels louder than everyone else? Also, it didn’t occur to Obi-Wan that someone had just deleted the planet from the star base? Come on, I thought you had this!
Best Quotes: “I think you need to go home and rethink your life” – If only I could use that Jedi mind trick on people …
Tomorrow: Episode III.