The good, the bad, and the Force: Re-evaluating Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones
NOW THAT Andrew and Jozef have excised The Phantom Menace from our collective minds forever (if only), it’s time for us to continue our retrospective of the Star Wars filmography. This week, John and Tom are taking a skew-wiff stare at the difficult second child in the prequel trilogy: Attack of the Clones. Strap yourselves into your speeders, it’s gonna get hairy.
John Gallagher: A long time ago, in a cinema in New York City, millions of voices seemed to cry out in fear when Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones premièred at the Tribeca Film Festival.
It’s easy to think of Attack of the Clones as the second worst Star Wars film in the saga, and I can definitely see why many would think this. As a big Star Wars fan myself, I can’t say Attack of the Clones was the best of the six. It has a lot of flaws, but it also has its high points. It’s way too easy to write this film off, and I’m here to prove why.
First things first; it wasn’t The Phantom Menace. In response to Mr Raczka’s negative review of Episode I: Come on, people! Jar Jar. Just Jar Jar.
Secondly; Kit Fisto. Best. Looking. Jedi. Ever. Eyebrow raising name, but awesome.
On a more serious note, Attack of the Clones feels more structured as a film in comparison to Phantom Menace. It’s obvious that the film makers and Lucas decided to make a few changes concerning the negative comments given against Episode I. For starters, Jar Jar is given less screen time (and yes, I know he is the reason Palpatine is voted with emergency powers thus being able to control the senate and form his new Empire, get over it) and the film is automatically far less annoying.
Despite its flaws, it’s still an enjoyable film. It’s undeniable that Attack of the Clones does add exciting and interesting details to the Star Wars universe. I admit, a lot of it is not well done, but it is there. Anakin dealing with the tragic loss of his mother, Count Dooku proving that Sith can be intimidating, the Republic’s clone army which sort of links in with the Imperial Stormtroopers, and character traits which are now essential to Star Wars personalities. Take, for instance, Master Yoda. The moment his little hand reached out and grabbed his little lightsaber from his belt with the force, his walking stick falling to the ground, the music lifting; it was without a doubt the single most awesome moment of the entire film, nay, the prequels. It was like Speedy Gonzalez wandering into a club, drinking too much, and stealing a green glow stick from a teenager’s hand.
Attack of the Clones is not the best Star Wars film, but it’s the little things, the little details that essentially add to the Star Wars universe. It gives Episode III a good introduction and, most importantly of all, it gave way to one of the best Star Wars series to the extended universe since the Thrawn trilogy: Genndy Tartakovsky’s The Clone Wars.
Tom Jennings: Attack of the Clones is a terrible film simply because you can’t ignore it. Machete Order says that Phantom Menace is ignorable because it has no relevance to the rest of the series and a lot of what is shown in it is alluded to in the other Star Wars films with no information lost. Attack of the Clones is, arguably, the first Star Wars prequel that you should really pay attention to. It’s the first film to show the Stormtroopers, in the guise of the clones; it shows us the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan properly and it shows us the beginnings of Anakin’s descent into becoming Darth Vader. It’s a pretty crucial piece to the series. But it just gets so many things wrong.
Let’s start with Hayden Christensen’s acting. I understand it was his first outing in a pretty big role but he never seems to be comfortable playing Anakin, swaying between mild disinterest and angsty teen shouting. He brings a disappointingly hammy style to what should be a very important portrayal. What’s worse is that he seems to actually be alright in the same role in Revenge of the Sith. So maybe it’s more of a problem with the script, which leads me to my next point.
There are some moments in this film that scream of amateurish scriptwriting. The example that is always pulled out, but is the clearest, is the relationship between Padmé and Anakin. Their conversations are awkward to watch. It’s like watching that love-struck teenage couple on a bus who just can’t help themselves when professing their love in public. You just want to shut the both of them up by showing them The Joys of Parenting.
It’s not all awful though. Ewan McGregor is fantastic as Obi-Wan, John Williams’ score is still as excellent as it is in the other films and there is such a tiny amount of Jar Jar Binks that you can essentially ignore him. But all of the good stuff simply doesn’t outweigh the absolute abomination that is the rest of the film. It got nominated for seven Razzies and Roger Ebert gave it 2 out of 4 saying he “had not heard one line of quotable, memorable dialogue”. And he praised all of the others, even Phantom Menace. Eesh.