So I watched Attack of the Clones…
Of all the films in the Star Wars Saga, this was the one I was dreading watching the most. I’m not sure if this film is better than I remember or The Phantom Menace is so much worse in comparison that it made this film look good. Either way, it wasn’t the torturous experience I thought it would be but it’s still a terrible film.
Okay, basic plot: After an assassination attempt is made on Senator Padmé Amidala’s life, the Jedi Council assigns two Jedi to protect her – Obi-Wan Kenobi and his padawan, Anakin Skywalker. While Skywalker stays to protect the senator, Kenobi travels to the mysterious planet Kamino in pursuit of the suspected assassin. What he discovers on the planet extends far beyond the senator’s life. The planet has been creating clones for over a decade and now have an army amassed, an army commissioned to protect The Republic. With the Sith lord, Darth Sidious, manipulating the Senate to the point of war, this mysterious army will soon be called to action!
I feel the prequels had two mandates: 1. To show how The Emperor rose to power and took control of the galaxy and 2. To show Anakin Skywalker’s descent from trusted Jedi to the Sith lord, Darth Vader. I think the first two films in the prequel trilogy only performed one of these mandates well. There can be no doubt on how The Emperor rose to power. It was actually quite clever. He created situations of conflict which would require his secret identity – Supreme Chancellor Palpatine – to be given more and more power. It’s beautiful because it was all legal and by the time anyone realised what was going on, it was far too late to change it. Now if this was a political drama, I would have loved it; but this is Star Wars and the focus on politics was not appreciated.
The second of the two mandates is one I feel this film doesn’t even begin to handle properly. There are moments it probes at the idea of Anakin falling to the dark side but it never fully commits to the idea. There’s a fundamental flaw in this film’s DNA – and it’s the same flaw The Phantom Menace had – it treats Obi-Wan like he’s a side-character. In A New Hope, when Obi-Wan and Vader face off, there’s a real sense of history between the two characters. They refer to their times as master and student and this relationship should have been the focus of the prequels. We needed to see adventures with the two characters fighting side-by-side so that, that confrontation in Episode IV would have meant more.
Instead, the two characters spend half of the movie literally on different sides of the galaxy. We never get to see their friendship but are rather told that it exists. This makes the relationship hollow. Think about Luke, Han and Leia – their friendship is never in doubt because we actually see them develop their bond. Obi-Wan and Anakin have a bond that we never see develop or mature so how are we supposed to ‘buy’ their relationship. Another thing that I had trouble buying was the apparent love story between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padmé (Natalie Portman). Even though a fair portion of this film is devoted to the two characters recreating The Notebook, in a Star Wars movie, it was completely unbelievable. The two have no chemistry and the age gap between them just makes you feel gross. Okay, in reality Christensen and Portman are the same age; and in the film the two characters only have a five year age gap. The problem is that Portman looks ten years older than Christensen and when you think that Padmé met Anakin when he was only nine, it just feels disgusting.
The movie is not completely devoid of enjoyment though. There are some epic battle scenes and more fight scenes using lightsabers that are actually fun to watch. We also get to see Yoda in a fight and it is…so disappointing! Personally I thought that if we ever got to see Yoda fight, he’d take down twenty guys at once, with his hands tied behind his back and half-asleep. He does alright but it’s nowhere near as grand or ceremonious as you’d expect from the hallowed Jedi master. One thing that never loses its majestic magnitude is John Williams’ score. It’s the only constantly enjoyable aspect of this film. The way he incorporates Vader’s theme into Anakin’s theme is amazing and sets up the transformation quite well.
There isn’t a real antagonist in this film. There are opponents that our heroes have to fight but there’s no one central evil that they have to battle against. There’s no Darth Vader-like character in the prequels and I think that was a big mistake. Obviously there can never be another Darth Vader but there’s no continuous threat in this series and, as a result, the stakes never feel high. You know whoever opposes our heroes is going to lose and there’s no sense of danger or reason for you to invest your emotions.
Overall, Attack of the Clones, improves on its predecessor without actually raising up high enough to be a good film. There’s still far too much CGI and not enough heart in the characters created. There’s far less Jar-Jar and that’s something that needs to be celebrated. I really can’t come up with a single reason for you to watch this film 4/10