Three years after everyone got upset by ‘The Phantom Menace’, we all failed to learn our lesson and flocked to the cinemas in our droves to see ‘Episode II’, the equally badly titled ‘Attack of the Clones’.
I actually went to a midnight showing, so I could see it before everyone else.
And I thought it was brilliant.
I was clearly wrong, but that’s what sleep deprivation will do to you.
Going to see films at midnight is not a good idea.
It was genuinely better than ‘The Phantom Menace’ though.
Now I’ve got to offer the obligatory spoiler alert.
Spoiler Alert – if you haven’t seen this movie then don’t worry. It’s not going to change your life. But if, some eighteen years after its release, you do still fancy giving it a go, then I’m possibly going to ruin it for you by revealing some plot details. Honestly, it won’t ruin it that much – it’s all quite predictable really, but it only seems fair to warn you.
The main benefit was that Anakin Skywalker was no longer ten years old. Not that Hayden Christensen’s version is much less annoying than Jake Lloyd’s incarnation (I’ve no idea if Christensen is a good actor or not because I’ve only really seen him in the Star Wars prequels. He’s not great in this, but there are times when Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor also seem quite wooden and they are both generally great in most things, so it could be the script rather than Christensen’s acting that’s the problem). But he is slightly less grating and far more plausibly someone that could become a bad guy. It’s still a stretch from this version of Anakin to actual Darth Vader, but we’re closer in this movie. Which was something.
Also, there was far less Jar Jar Binks. He’s barely in it. Although he is still in it a bit. And his main contribution is to allow the main bad guy of the whole ‘Skywalker Saga’, a certain Mr Palpatine, to establish a dictatorship of sorts. It is a necessary plot development, but it seems pretty stupid that Jar Jar Binks was ever in a position to be that influential.
Don’t worry though, in the absence of Jar Jar, there is still all kinds of stupid in this movie. In particular, C3PO, a character who I initially disliked and then grew to quite like during the original trilogy is back to his annoying worst in this. George Lucas just cannot do comic relief.
The plot is still generally quite feeble but there are no trade disputes in this one. Which is also a bonus.
Too much screen time is dedicated to the love story between Padme and Anakin. It’s never especially convincing and it’s one of the places where the poorly written dialogue really hurts. It actually physically hurts to listen to it.
But they have to fall in love. It’s quite important. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia need parents after all. Although Anakin got by with only one parent, lest we forget, so maybe they didn’t need a mother. But there would be all kinds of biological questions to answer if Anakin was established as the sole parent and I’m not sure ‘midi-chlorians’ would cut it.
So we needed Anakin and Padme to fall in love. I just wish they could have done so without me needing to vomit.
Like Han and Leia managed in Empire Strikes Back. Proving it is possible to have a compelling love story in the Star Wars universe. Surely, given that template, the Padme/Anakin love story could have been better.
But the love story in ‘Attack of the Clones’ is definitely the worst bit of this movie.
Although there are other bad bits.
If there was too much CGI in ‘The Phantom Menace’ then ‘Attack of the Clones’ takes things up a notch. It sometimes looks like the most expensive cartoon ever made. Which it sort of was at the time. It’s technically very impressive but it’s just too much.
The whole ‘Clone Army’ thing is quite weird. I know ‘The Clone Wars’ are referenced in the very first Star Wars movie (known back then as ‘Star Wars’ but now oft-referred to as ‘Episode IV’ and/or ‘A New Hope’). And you do need to be able to suspend your disbelief when watching Star Wars movies – they were never meant to be realistic. And it was nice to see Storm Troopers after the annoying droid armies of ‘The Phantom Menace’ (although the droid army is still around and as annoying as ever and the Storm Troopers are called Clone Troopers and look ever so slightly different, presumably so more action figures could be sold). But the fact there appears to be a service where you can just order an army seems to be quite thin as plot developments go. And if it is that easy, why haven’t other people also ordered armies? And I don’t care if this is all explained in some novel or in the cartoon series, it should be clear in the movie. It was lazy writing.
And for some reason George Lucas persisted in trying to explain things from the original movies that just didn’t need explaining. Like pointlessly giving a minor character from the original trilogy (Boba Fett – cool action figure, little more than a prop in the movies) a back story. And the Death Star apparently being invented by the Geonosians (the CGI insect creatures who talk with weird clicking sounds). It was unnecessary, pointless and distracting.
Conversely the introduction of the characters who would go on to raise Luke Skywalker, Owen and Beru, is unsatisfactory and massively underuses the considerable acting talents of Joel Edgerton. That was actually a backstory I would have been interested in seeing develop but they barely feature.
But there were some good bits. If you’re going to stupidly kill off Darth Maul, the coolest and most marketable character in the first movie, then Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku might have a ridiculous name, but he was not a bad replacement as antagonists go. Coming across as an evil version of Alec Guiness’s original incarnation of Obi Wan Kenobi, Lee steals pretty much every scene he’s in. And he survives! Admittedly only to be killed off ridiculously early in ‘Episode III’ but at least we know we’re going to see him again.
The main progression from ‘The Phantom Menace’ is that there is a lot more action. And way more lightsabers.
Also, we see Samuel L Jackson’s Mace Windu fight with his purple lightsaber for the first time. And we see Yoda fight. Admittedly he does look a bit like a video game character but I remember an audible cheer in the cinema when we saw that scene for the first time. Granted it must have been near enough 2am at that point and we weren’t responsible for our actions, but it was a definite fan-pleasing moment.
Best Character – Obi Wan Kenobi
Obviously not Ewan McGregor’s finest on-screen performance, but he does his best with some quite shockingly bad dialogue. The majority of the movie either deals with Anakin and Padme’s romance or Obi-Wan’s hunt for the bad guys. And it’s definitely the latter which is far more interesting. I actually like Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Obi Wan Kenobi in all three of the prequels but in this movie he’s at the heart of most of the action and seems to be enjoying himself immensely.
Worst Character – Jango Fett
Controversial choice this, given that a lot of people love Boba Fett. And I liked the action figure, but I never thought the character did anything much on-screen and it felt to me that Jango Fett was only ever put in this movie because George Lucas realised he should have done more with Boba in the original trilogy. But he didn’t, so there was no need for an origin story. Jango Fett, much like his offspring, looks cool, but he doesn’t really do all that much apart from an admittedly fairly good fight with Obi-Wan. And he takes his helmet off way too much, which inherently makes him less cool.
Unsung hero – Zam Wessell
Because bad guys can be unsung heroes too. And Zam Wessell seems to do all the heavy lifting in the early part of the movie in terms of villainy, only for Jango Fett to swoop in, kill her, and take all the credit for her hard work.
And that concludes my views on ‘Attack of the Clones’
Tune in tomorrow to see what I thought of ‘Revenge of the Sith’.