Movie Review | Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Why this order? In the build-up to The Last Jedi, I'll be working my through the films in what I believe is the best order to experience them: namely, Machete Order. There are two differences: 1) Rogue One has to fit in there, and 2) I'll also include The Phantom Menace for completeness.
It's a shame that this movie is the low-point of the entire series as it shows us the beginnings of Anakin Skywalker's fall to the Dark Side of the Force, an event so integral to the overall story that you can't help but wish there was a better film to tell the story.
It doesn't help that it's Anakin's relationship with Padmé and his lack of emotional control around her that really drags him down - a potentially great man being undone because of a woman is hardly the best of messages to be sending, is it?
Another disappointment is that Attack of the Clones also shows us the birth of the Empire, with the introduction of the cloned Stormtroopers, proto-Star Destroyers, and more along with the return of John Williams' iconic Imperial March to accompany them once the battle is over.
Again, what should have been a pivotal moment in the series is reduced to effectively an animated movie thanks to the continued excessive use of CGI. The only (grim) enjoyment to be gained is the irony of them being brought into the fray by the Jedi, blissfully unaware of how the clones will later be used against them.
Movie Summary: Ten years after initially meeting, Anakin Skywalker shares a forbidden romance with Padmé, while Obi-Wan investigates an assassination attempt on the Senator and discovers a secret clone army crafted for the Jedi. (IMDb)
And so we reach the absolute nadir of Star Wars as a movie franchise with a film so lacking in any depth or heart that it’s almost difficult to believe. What should have been a tense, nerve-wracking affair building up to the start of the devastating Clone Wars ends up feeling like some toddlers banging together action figures.
It really is the endpoint of George Lucas being allowed to run unchecked in his play box with no-one daring to stand up to him and say “this is bad”. Unlike The Phantom Menace, this movie has barely any memorable moments to stand against the overwhelming tide of awfulness.
Hayden Christensen takes over as young Anakin Skywalker from Jake Lloyd, but is just as wooden and boring. This future Darth Vader manages to be one of the whiniest characters ever – although it may explain Luke’s own whinging in Star Wars. Like father, like son after all.
Natalie Portman is barely any better although at least the actress seems a little more confident this time even if the character is still just as terrible. Even Ewan McGregor has finally been dragged down to the film’s poor, poor level and looks genuinely unhappy with what he’s being asked to do at points.
It’s nice to see Christopher Lee in this and he’s the only one who manages to strike the right balance of creating a character that he is clearly taking very seriously, yet knowing when to be that little bit larger than life to not be taken too seriously.
Unfortunately, John Williams’ score is treated even worse here than in The Phantom Menace with some pieces hacked apart and cut back together. Again, the score is lacking in anything truly iconic thanks to there being very little to work with, but still much better when listened to separately from the movie.
Then there’s the almost toxic over-use of CGI throughout the film. Much like Episode I, the technology still wasn’t quite there at the time and has aged abysmally. I can understand wanting to push visual effects as far as they can go, but Lucas seems to have just wanted to put whatever his brain could conjure up onto screen rather than coming up with any alternatives.
It really doesn’t help that the CGI isn’t even needed a lot of the time and only seems to have been put in because of directorial desire. Whether they were backgrounds that could have been built, small creatures that could have been animatronics, or any number of other equally insignificant background detailing, Lucas went straight for CGI simply because he could, rather than because that was the best, correct option.
It stands out even worse at the end when the completely computer-generated Clone Troopers finally enter the action and just look completely fake next to the real actors. Why not make a few suits to be used for close-ups or interactions with the actors? Was the CGI really saving that much money?
Looking back at Attack of the Clones almost makes me angry at how bad it is and just how few memorable moments there are. Even then, ‘memorable’ might be the wrong word – there are some scenes (usually involving McGregor) which work fairly well the first time you see them, but don’t retain any impact once it’s all over.
Attack of the Clones is a bad film. There are really no other words for it, with the extremely few good scenes only as enjoyable as long as they last and are soon forgotten. Almost everyone involved looks bored, annoyed, or simply aren’t up to the task, and it proves a complete failure on the audio-visual level as well. This is the closest the Star Wars franchise ever came to being ruined.