Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Director: George Lucas
Cast: Ewan McGregorNatalie PortmanHayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee
Plot: Ten years later, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padmé, while Obi-Wan investigates an assassination attempt on the Princess and discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi.

Genre: Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi/Romance

Awards: Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Visual Effects
Runtime: 142min
Rating: PG for sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence.



“Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin.  They'll betray you.”

This film marks the first time we see Master Yoda, that green fur ball thing, in light-sabre action.  He battles Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) in a short-lived fight sequence in the film’s climax.  However, Master Yoda is rendered digitally here using CG animation, a far cry from the authenticity of modelling and puppetry work in the ‘Old Trilogy’. 

This brings into focus the CG-laden ‘Prequel Trilogy’ and its questionable ability to thrill and entertain the older generation of fans.  Is it all just style and fancy imagery, devoid of narrative substance?  Or does it contribute to the totality of George Lucas’ grand vision for the Star Wars universe?

Crucially, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is an improvement over the massive disappointment that was The Phantom Menace (1999).  The latter was not exactly the worst blockbuster ever made, though it continues to be rightly regarded as the lowest point of the entire franchise. 

Attack of the Clones relegates the annoying Jar Jar Binks to a few lines, centers on the blossoming romance between Anakin Skywalker (played by a wooden Hayden Christensen) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), and sets the stage for ‘convergence’ in the third film Revenge of the Sith (2005).  By ‘convergence’ I refer to the epic transformation of key characters in the Star Wars mythology, and how their character arcs coincide with the inevitable trajectory of its narrative. 

Attack of the Clones does just that, though sometimes it does so too explicitly with no shades of grey.  A scene that illustrates this occurs about two-thirds into the film, during an interaction between Anakin and Padme in the aftermath of a massacre when the rather obvious musical motif of Darth Vader underscores Anakin’s rage. 

The problem I have with Lucas is his condescending treatment of his audience.  He fears that our unsophisticated minds might not be able to catch implicit cues.  He forbids us to make assumptions.  This is most appallingly (and boringly) manifested in a chunk of narrative that sees the tepid intercutting between two threads: the romance between Anakin and Padme, and Obi-Wan’s (Ewan McGregor) trip to an obscure planet. 

This goes on for about thirty minutes with no signs of variation and too little plot advancement.  This inert form of storytelling causes pacing problems which bloat up the running length to almost 2.5 hours. 

However, at least the visual effects and the action sequences are more spectacular and enjoyable (read: less cartoony) than that of The Phantom Menace, which somehow makes this second installment more bearable, though it still remains firmly in the shadow of the excellent Revenge of the Sith and the undoubted greatness of the ‘Old Trilogy’.

Verdict: An improvement over The Phantom Menace, but not without its fair share of pacing problems caused by inert storytelling.

GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)

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