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

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, 2002 (Ewan McGregor) 20th Century Fox/Lucasfilm

“Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?”

Usually every holiday season (not this most recent holiday season), I force my family to watch Star Wars movies, and what’s more, I like to show them in chronological order, starting with The Phantom Menace and ending with The Rise of Skywalker. Phantom Menace isn’t absolutely horrific to me like it is to so many others, but Attack of the Clones is another story. Even with the upswing of popularity with the prequels in the wake of The Last Jedi, audiences still can’t seem to stomach the courtship of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala.

They’d rather watch Luke drink gooey green milk straight from the udder than look at two hormonal airheads rolling around in the grass. George Lucas wasn’t exactly a fan of his own work, but he knew he had to try to win back those disappointed with The Phantom Menace. For a time, it seemed hopeful as he brought in a collaborator, Jonathan Hales, to help him write the script. Unfortunately, Hales was nothing more than a lackey, who had written episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. According to producer Gary Kurtz, Lucas always had a problem with dissent and preferred to surround himself with yes-men, which kind-of explains Jedi.

Even more interesting news was coming out of Lucasfilm. Attack of the Clones was to be shot completely in High Definition, on the Sony Cine Alta. The Cine Alta was an incredible camera for the time, but these days you can make a gorgeous film on your cell phone! The resulting transfer was a muddy, murky affair, and the original DVDs did not correct the problem. It was only when the remastered blu-rays came out that we could see what it was Lucas intended. It still didn’t solve the real problems with the movie.

With Qui Gonn dead, Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has become Obi-Wan’s (Ewan McGregor) padawan and they’re ordered to protect now-Senator Amidala after it is discovered Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is organizing a separatist movement to fight the Republic (I still want to call it the “Old” Republic, but it’s “New” at this point). After a failed assasination attempt on Padme, Obi-Wan tracks the bounty hunter to the planet Kamino, where he sees the creation of a clone army in progress and meets the basis for the clones, Jango Fett (Temeura Morrison) as well as his own clone/son Boba (Daniel Logan).

It turns out Jango is also the bounty hunter who tried to kill Padme. Meanwhile Anakin and Padme journey to Tattoine. He finds out his mother was abducted by Sandpeople. He finds her, but she dies soon after, causing him to go around the bend and slaughter the Sandpeople. Worse, he tells Padme what he did and instead of running for the nearest hyperdrive spaceship, she comforts him instead. There, there my psychotic little angel! She even falls in love with him.

I know the story would work if it was a decent fit for more capable actors, but you can’t get blood from a stone. Natalie Portman is very beautiful, but she isn’t capable of the kind of dramatic heavy-lifting required for this part. The same goes for Christensen. Their little love story gets worse in the next movie, so for now let’s move on to the final scenes. Obi-Wan is captured by Count Dooku. Anakin and Padme are captured while trying to rescue him. They are scheduled for a public execution when Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives with a group of Jedi knights.

Eventually, Yoda shows up with the clone army to save the day. Anakin and Obi-Wan give chase when Dooku takes off. They fight and Anakin loses an arm. Ooh! Just like Luke … The movie ends with the same kind of pathos as Empire, but in much more banal surroundings. Anakin and Padme are secretly married on Naboo with only C-3PO and R2-D2 as witnesses. (Is that legal?) I’ve always wondered if Lucas was trying to make connections between Anakin’s lack of chastity (apparently a cherished virtue among Jedi) and his eventual downward spiral. If so, it’s shallow, childish, and parochial. If not, well, sorry George. People are a helluva lot more complicated than you think.

For more Franchise Rewind, visit Second Union!

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