Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones (2002)—Begun, The Meme War, Has
In honor of Hayden Christensen’s return to Star Wars in the new Ahsoka series, now might be a good time to take a look at Star Wars: Episode II-Attack of the Clones. Perhaps one of the most entertainingly-bad Star Wars films, 2002’s Attack of the Clones has got to be my personal favorite bad Star Wars film for its cheesy dialogue and laughable romantic subplot.
Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) has a bounty placed on her head by her political enemies. Chancellor Palpatine (Sir Ian McDiarmid) assigns two Jedi knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), to protect her. While Obi-Wan doesn’t want to exceed their mandate, Anakin hasn’t seen Padme for almost 10 years, and wishes to go the extra mile to protect Padme.
After a failed assassination attempt, the assassin is killed by a mysterious man who escapes via jetpack. Obi-Wan is sent to investigate the whereabouts of the new assassin and Anakin is tasked with protecting Padme by taking her to her home world: Naboo. The young couple spend much of their time reminiscing on their past and discussing their feelings for each other. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan manages to track down the potential assassin to the planet Kamino, where he uncovers a secret: an enigmatic clone army is being created for the Republic. He decides to meet with the genetic template for the clone army. While meeting him, Obi-Wan takes note of a jetpack in the man’s closet.
I will say, unlike 1999’s The Phantom Menace, this film uses much more CGI compared to its predecessor. For example, the entire scene on Kamino with Obi-Wan was composed completely of blue screen and CGI. Ewan McGregor was literally looking at nothing the whole time. While CGI helps with bringing more life to a world, over-using it can be more detrimental to a film. This rings especially true when it comes to the actors’ reactions to certain scenes. Many scenes felt extremely robotic and stiff compared to the original trilogy. Despite this, the visuals were still impressive for its time.
Such feats in CGI have led to the battle of Geonosis which brings all the epic scale Star Wars has become known for. While extremely CGI heavy, there are solid moments throughout such as Mace Windu taking Jango Fett's head clean off and the arena fight. Although its large scale can help generate the stakes of the situation, it can become a little incomprehensible at times with everything happening at once. It’s also crazy how thick the main cast’s plot armor is, as most of them do not get hit even once. This all culminates in Yoda coming to the rescue with a grand army of clones.
Other fight scenes that are amazing include the fight between Anakin and Obi Wan and Count Dooku. While Anakin shows his hubris and recklessness early on, it also gives us a glimpse into how powerful Dooku is. Putting Skywalker out of commission with force lighting, before dispatching of Obi Wan with just as much ease. This also gave us a fantastic moment of fan service with Yoda coming to the rescue and proving himself to be more powerful than his old padawan, showcasing pristine acrobatics and reflexes in his old age when taking on the Count.
Acting-wise, the actors all do their best with the material given to them, especially Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan. He adds a new level of charisma that the character never had in A New Hope, where he was mostly just portrayed to be the stereotypical old, wise mentor figure who dies to raise the stakes for the heroes. Ewan’s performance not only made Obi-Wan one of the most popular Star Wars characters to exist, but also made him a meme legend. Perhaps the most controversial star of Star Wars, Hayden Christensen as Anakin was met with mixed reception. At the time, many fans criticized his wooden performance. However, as time went on, fans began to see that it wasn't his acting that made the prequels bad, rather it was George Lucas’s direction and bad dialogue which contributed to Hayden’s performance.
Now onto the bad, and where do I begin? The romantic subplot is absolute trash. Anakin and Padme have zero chemistry with one another. It’s obvious that he has a crush on her, but she doesn’t really see him in the same light. All his attempts at flirting come off as extremely creepy, making me wonder how any girl would fall in love with him. Most of the time we spend with them, their conversations start off normal, but any romantic chemistry that could’ve developed is soon squandered by Anakin’s creepiness and whininess. He even goes as far as killing a whole village of men, women, and children and Padme has no reaction to his crime. I mean, seriously, what the hell?!! And then she ends up marrying him, because why not?!
The assassination subplot also makes no sense. So Count Dooku hires Jango Fett, the most skilled bounty hunter in the galaxy to kill Padme, but then Jango hires another assassin to do his job? Why bother? If you’re the most skilled bounty hunter, why don’t you do your damn job?! And after the other assassin is apprehended by Obi-Wan and Anakin, Jango has to kill her to prevent her from leaking any info. You know what you could have done instead, genius? GO KILL PADME YOURSELF!! And people say the sequels make no sense!! HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THIS, THEN?!! Then we get to the actual assassination plan. The other assassin sends a drone with 2 poisonous worms to Padme’s apartment. Ok, so if you know where her apartment is, why bother sending the drone with worms? Why not just drive by and shoot her? Or better yet, why only have 2 worms? Why not send like a hundred of those worms? That way, the Jedi would be overwhelmed. You know what pisses me off more? That the assassination subplot is completely abandoned after Anakin and Padme go to Naboo. You’d think that Jango would probably try to track Padme down to her home world, but no, he doesn’t. If this is the best bounty hunter in the galaxy, then consider me sorely unimpressed.
After Anakin kills the worms, Obi-wan, the voice of reason, jumps out a fucking window when he sees the drone and Anakin has to go find him via speeder. The film clearly establishes that Anakin is the hothead who would do anything to protect Padme. You’re sure it wasn’t Anakin who was supposed to jump out the window? When Anakin catches up to the assassin, he automatically tries to kill her, and ends up losing his lightsaber. Obi-Wan retrieves it and later tells Anakin that his weapon is his life. So a lightsaber is his life? What about the whole speech Yoda gave Luke about how being a Jedi was more than just fighting? One of the things The Last Jedi gets right is how Luke doesn’t automatically suit up to kill the First Order. He takes the peaceful approach and actually buys time for the Resistance to escape without anyone getting killed.
Overall, Attack of The Clones is the weakest link in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. I feel that this film would have worked if George Lucas made it as a political thriller disguised as a Star Wars film, but halfway he abandoned that notion and just makes it a sci-fi action film. If The Phantom Menace felt too slow with its overly long scenes of dialogue, Attack of The Clones just overwhelms you with CGI and explosions. To me, it felt like Michael Bay was directing half of the film. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, since he interned with Lucas. What more can I say? Attack of The Clones sucks. Its good material for memes, but that alone doesn’t make it a good film.
Co-Written by: Noah Kloss