Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Release Date: May 16th, 2002 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: George Lucas Actors: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Jimmy Smits, Rose Byrne, Anthony Daniels, Joel Edgerton
tilizing a title as generic as “Attack of the Clones,” this second part of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy intends on more closely resembling the outlandish Saturday matinee serials on which the basic ideas for the series were developed. Bringing Christopher Lee into the mix has an undeniable appeal that reminds of Peter Cushing’s involvement in the original 1977 film, along with a certain Hammer Films production feel. Lee is one of the smartest choices, classing up the cast with a veteran villain and a superbly iconic actor. Since Vader can’t be duplicated, Lee’s “Lord Darth Tyranus” is a most fitting antagonist.
Unrest in the Galactic Senate, exacerbated by a separatist movement orchestrated by the mysterious political idealist and ex-Jedi Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), has caused countless solar systems to threaten to leave the Republic. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has scheduled a vote for the creation of an army for the Republic, to assist the overwhelmed Jedi peacekeepers, which draws Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman), former Queen of Naboo, back to the bustling city of Coruscant. When her arriving ship explodes, killing her decoy handmaiden, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and burgeoning apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are mandated to guard the returning politician.
It’s been 10 years since the events of “The Phantom Menace,” and Anakin has aged considerably (with Amidala aging very little). He’s now in love with Amidala, though she tries not to reveal her own romantic interests. A second assassination attempt forces Obi-Wan to pursue the bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) to a secret planet erased from all archive maps, while Anakin escorts Amidala back to Naboo. He’s brash, arrogant, and filled with anger, but possesses enough determination and charm to seduce the young woman (though he’s supposed to be markedly younger), who quickly succumbs to his unsubtle advances. Eventually, Anakin becomes preoccupied with reuniting with his mother, leading to some disturbing revelations, while Obi-Wan tracks Jango to the remote moon that houses Dooku, his nefarious cohorts, and a massive droid army.
Now that the story no longer revolves around a small boy, the tone of this second chapter has become significantly more serious. Even the upsettingly ridiculous Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), who single-handedly ruined a large portion of the previous entry, has been wisely relegated to a background role. Anakin and Amidala’s romance takes the place of the former insincere factors, with Christensen’s clunky deliveries and unconvincing dialogue combating Portman’s stiff conveyances. As Anakin clearly heads toward a path of self-destruction and consuming rage (with Darth Vader’s theme music swelling up from time to time), the adventure sequences begin to resemble other notable science-fiction classics, including the darker “Blade Runner,” with the design of the capitol of Coruscant, blanketed by neon signs and foreign advertisements as an on-foot pursuit commences; and the more comedic “The Fifth Element,” with a fast-paced chase through midair lanes of flying traffic while exchanging sarcastic comments.
As if again running out of ideas, writer/director George Lucas is looking back on his original middle chapter, “The Empire Strikes Back,” for inspiration – which leads to more than a few coincidences. This film also introduces bounty hunters, has an asteroid field battle, and sees a major character losing an appendage. Yoda also magically reverts back to the way he appeared in 1980, calling into question why he couldn’t just be a puppet once more, instead of the CG version designed to look like an animatronic. A prophecy still pervades without much definition; C-3PO gets a larger part; a legion of assorted Jedi get to engage in combat in a decently climactic gladiatorial arena (which segues into an even larger droid vs. clone assault); more than one lightsaber duel is included; and elderly, feeble, hobbling, shaky Master Yoda gets to participate in his own unexpectedly nimble showdown.
– Mike Massie