Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones Review
(Just a pre-warning that although there aren’t any heavy “spoilers” here, I will be discussing quite a lot of the plot).
Those of us old enough to have gone to see the original three episodes of the Star Wars saga in the late seventies and early eighties remember the magic and excitement of the first instalments of the saga when they unfolded on the big screen. Back then there was nothing quite like them; they were true cinematic events. The opening sequence of Episode Four: A New Hope (then just called plain old Star Wars) where the camera panned through space to reveal the huge Imperial Battlecruiser, generated a true sense of awe and amazement. The Empire Strikes Back was if anything, even better, and even though The Return of The Jedi was full of those damn teddy bear Ewoks, it was still a hugely enjoyable film. Immediately after the third film was released, George Lucas announced that episodes one, two and three (and possibly seven, eight and nine) would be made. However, we had to wait a very long time for this to happen. Eventually, in 1999 the first (or fourth, however you want to look at it) episode was released, The Phantom Menace. The word that seemed to be on most people’s lips was: disappointment. The mainstream critics ripped it to bits, and even many diehard fans were less than satisfied with the end result after a sixteen year wait. The major complaints were a dull story of a trade dispute, some under par acting, and worst of all, Jar Jar Binks. So Episode 2 had a lot to live up to, to get the series “back on track”, as it were.
Episode Two, or Attack Of The Clones as it is otherwise known, is set ten years after The Phantom Menace. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now the Padawan learner of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor); Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) is now no longer Queen of Naboo but a Senator. After an attempt on her life, the Jedi Council assign Kenobi and Skywalker to protect her, and investigate who is behind the attacks. This leads Obi-Wan Kenobi to track down the bounty hunter Jango Fett, and discover that a huge clone army is being assembled, to form the firepower behind a separatist movement led by a former Jedi that will threaten the peace and security of the entire galaxy. Meanwhile, Anakin is left to protect Padmé, and in doing so a romantic relationship begins between them.
The key question is of course, how this film compares to the previous episode, and the original trilogy. In comparison to The Phantom Menace it is quite clearly a no contest decision in favour of Attack Of The Clones. We are in the strange position of already knowing what is going to happen, as these films are back-story to episodes four, five and six. This edition, far more than the previous episode, really feels like a true prequel. Events are set in motion that can clearly be seen to be building towards the storyline of the original trilogy. Anakin Skywalker was just a little kid in the last movie; here we get to see some of the life-changing events that will set him on his path to the dark side. There are plenty of other interesting characters as well, including Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), who is a far more menacing villain than Darth Maul ever was. We get to see the Jedi Knights in full action, in particular Mace Windu (Samuel L Jackson as his usual “cool” self), and Yoda gets to show that there’s more to him than just cryptic words of wisdom. Visually, it’s absolutely stunning, far bigger in scope than the previous movie. From the early chase sequence on Coruscant through to the final battle sequence, this is one impressive looking movie. The most important plus point: very little Jar Jar. He is around and about, but only for a few minutes, and when he is on screen he is largely driving the story forward, rather than being the racially stereotyped annoying buffoon that he was in the last movie.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news though. George Lucas’s strong point is making an impressive looking movie (he has), but characters, storyline and dialogue are not his forté. Even though he has brought in the assistance of Jonathan Hales for the screenplay, there is still some pretty bad dialogue going on. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman often come over as far worse actors than they really are, given some of the cheesy lines they have to deliver. Their romantic scenes frequently make them seem like the two leads in a school play. In contrast though, Ewan McGregor does looks a lot more comfortable here than he did in The Phantom Menace, and is beginning to resemble a character who could, one day, be Alec Guinness. None of them feel as natural and “fun” as the characters of the first three movies though; it’s as if everyone is taking it way too seriously now.
Lucas’s direction can also at times fall a bit short of the mark, this is a man who after all has produced and written a great deal of material, but who has only directed five full-length movies. The aforementioned romantic scenes are somewhat disappointing, but also at times the action scenes are a bit lacking. The final battle sequence is extremely impressive, but can be confusing at times, and the decision to put in an RD-D2 / C-3PO comedy routine in the middle of it badly kills the pace. There are other sequences, as in the droid factory, that are there less for the story and more for the video game they will be turned into.
This brings me to my last, but not least, criticism. Is George Lucas really making new films, or is he is just remaking the first three? Look at the evidence. In Episode One, a young Jedi is found on Tatooine, who goes on to show his potential by destroying the enemy’s space station against all the odds. Everything ends in a huge royal presentation. Didn’t that happen in Star Wars: Episode Four? In this movie the young Jedi begins to hone his skills. The principal characters split into two groups during the movie, to join up at the end. The principal female changes from a royal caught up in a war to more of a fighting character. The principal female develops a romantic interest. The Fetts are introduced. There’s a spacecraft chase through an asteroid field. The bad guys are getting the upper hand. Maybe I’m being picky, but didn’t all that happen in Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back? This isn’t new for Lucas though, as right back at the first Star Wars movie, it was noted that quite a few scenes heavily resembled sequences in his previously directed American Graffiti.
After all the negative points, it seems that I should not have liked this movie as much as I did. On balance, even though there are plenty of flaws here, the positive outweighs the negative. There’s much here to enjoy, and far more than Episode One, this feels like a real Star Wars film. It’s not without plenty of faults, and it’s not a patch on The Empire Strikes Back, but as a cinematic spectacle, it is certainly worth seeing, and demands to be watched on the biggest (and most technically advanced) screen you can get to. My final recommendation is that I’m keen to see this one at the cinema for a second time, something that I certainly didn’t feel about The Phantom Menace.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 17:50:10