The following article contains spoilers.
Set ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace, the Republic continues to be mired in strife and chaos. A separatist movement encompassing hundreds of planets and powerful corporate alliances poses new threats to the galaxy that even the Jedi cannot stem. These moves, long-planned by an as yet unrevealed and powerful force, lead to the beginning of the Clone Wars — and the beginning of the end of the Republic.
Attack of the Clones is sort of notorious within the Star Wars fan community for being not only one of, if not the worst entry in the prequel trilogy, but one of the worst entries in the entire saga. Personally, I would have to disagree and say that The Phantom Menace is a lot worse than Attack of the Clones. I genuinely enjoy George Lucas’ second outing in the prequel trilogy. It’s a gripping and expansive story of love, family, and impending corruption within Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen).
Lots of people like to make fun of this second installment because it’s sort of a big action-packed science-fiction romance movie. But, honestly, that’s kind of what I love about it. It’s bold and is never afraid to take big risks in terms of its story. Half of this movie depicts the ever-blossoming romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), and the other half tells a more traditional Star Wars storyline of Jedi versus Sith and the beginning of the long-spanning Clone Wars. Not only that, but it also serves as one of the last times Anakin Skywalker truly wants to be a Jedi and wants to do good for the ones he loves before he inevitably falls to the dark side in Revenge of the Sith.
We truly needed the Padmé and Anakin romance to be depicted in this movie because once you see what happens in Revenge of the Sith, it makes everything all the more tragic and heartbreaking. It’s kind of like a William Shakespeare tragedy akin to Romeo and Juliet. Anakin Skywalker’s actions ultimately lead to the death of his one true love and once he makes his final decision to become Darth Vader, it’s too late. All hope is lost in the galaxy.
But Attack of the Clones tells an exciting and riveting story of Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) as they attempt to track down a bounty hunter known as Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) who plans on assassinating Padmé. Of course, seeing as how this is a Star Wars movie, plenty of other things happen along the way, but I think my favorite aspect to this film was seeing the adventures of both Anakin and Obi-Wan. Anakin sees Obi-Wan as a father figure. He has known Obi-Wan ever since he was a young child, and therefore, whenever Obi-Wan gives him advice or orders, he respects his words.
As per usual with a Star Wars story, Attack of the Clones is loaded with tons of awe-inspiring action sequences that left me speechless. I haven’t seen this movie since I was a pre-teen or so, so I genuinely don’t remember a lot of the scenes in this film and I was greatly impressed at how excellent all the visuals looked even back in 2002. The CGI in The Phantom Menace looked really bad. You could tell that everything was made on some computer somewhere, and it just didn’t look right. Even though this series is set in space, the objects in The Phantom Menace just didn’t sell the location of space.
The reason why the original trilogy looks so good even to this day, despite the fact that A New Hope was released all the way back in 1977, is because all of the set pieces and a lot of the imagery on-screen such as the Star Destroyers were physical objects that the filmmakers used to their advantage. The original trilogy will always look good because they used real, tangible objects that were not made on a computer.
And although there are some moments in Attack of the Clones where you can tell that there was some sort of computer-generated-imagery involved, it’s not noticeable to the point where it will bother you. Nothing sticks out like a sore thumb, and it all looks incredibly impressive, especially considering the fact that this was released in the early 2000s back when technology wasn’t too advanced.
One of the things that people complain a lot about when it comes to this movie is some of the acting and the line delivery by Hayden Christensen. I have never understood why he got so much hate for his performance as Anakin Skywalker in both this movie, and its follow-up, the aforementioned Revenge of the Sith. I thought that Christensen did a truly remarkable job in the role and I honestly can’t imagine any other actor portraying the character. Yes, a ton of the dialogue in this movie is downright awful (take the sand monologue for instance), but none of those lines were written by Christensen. He simply did his job and spoke whatever lines George Lucas and Jonathan Hales wrote for him. Bad writing is to blame here, not bad acting.
Speaking of great acting, Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor continue to knock it out of the park here as Padmé Amidala and Obi-Wan Kenobi respectively. You can tell just by watching them that they had the time of their lives portraying these characters. Both actors give nuanced and powerful performances that shouldn’t be understated. Padmé feels like the voice of reason for a lot of the movie. Whenever Anakin is about to do something that he perhaps shouldn’t do, Padmé is the one to help calm him down and help him see the big picture of the scenario. She seems wise and helpful throughout the whole story.
Speaking of wise, Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the most amazing characters ever created in fiction, and Ewan McGregor is an absolute delight in the role. He has had some excellent roles throughout his decade-spanning career, but I think his performance as the wise Jedi Master is my favorite of all of his roles to date. He is wise in the way Yoda is. He manages to be the most exciting and riveting character, and a large part of it is thanks to McGregor’s amazing acting abilities.
All in all, Attack of the Clones really doesn’t deserve the large waves of hate it gets. It’s a brilliantly told story of love, family, and corruption and marvelously paves the way for a third entry that is equal parts heartbreaking and poignant. This is Anakin Skywalker’s final story of being a true Jedi. What follows after this is tragedy.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: PG for sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Directed by: George Lucas
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: May 16, 2002
Running Time: 142 minutes