I saw “Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones” only once about a year ago, and I should probably see it again if I want to write at least a half-proper review. But I’m not sure I’m willing to do that. Actually, I’m sure I’m not. Especially now, when a new Star Wars movie is sweeping theaters around the world, promising to bring back more of the magic of the original trilogy.
What follows is the simple truth as I see it, and some people call the truth either sad or ugly: “Attack of the Clones” is the most disappointing of all the Star Wars films I’ve seen so far.
There were a few aspects of it that I liked, and a few people that actually took their part in this film seriously, who took Star Wars itself seriously. There’s Ewan McGregor as young Obi-Wan Kenobi, who makes an effort to give his character as much old-fashioned Jedi charm as he could, and to infuse into him as much of the nobility of the Jedi as seen in the original trilogy as was possible. There’s also Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu. I still think he’s there just because he’s Samuel L. Jackson, but he brings a believable weight to his character that justifies his presence in the film.
Then, there’s Sir Christopher Lee, who is probably incapable of not giving a memorable performance no matter the movie he’s in. He was the absolute perfect choice for Count Dooku, as dark aristocracy seems to come natural to him. The parallel to his other great role as Saruman in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy is inevitable. Watching Count Dooku was many times like watching a younger version of Saruman, without the long hair and the white robes. The two characters are similar in that Dooku is also a powerful ‘wizard’ who has defected from the good side and is now working for the dark side thinking that he will get a part of the spoils of war. There is also the scene where he battles Yoda with magic which made me recall a similar scene between Saruman and Gandalf. And whenever he speaks of the “Dark Lord” I can’t help feeling like he’s talking about Sauron. This connection is natural and is perhaps one of the few things about “Attack of the Clones” that is truly Star Wars, as a sci-fi clad fantasy story that has deep roots in Tolkien’s work.
Sadly, that is where the good things stop.
The greatest disappointment to me was the character of Anakin Skywalker, and I’m not about to blame Hayden Christensen for that disappointment. I don’t think George Lucas ever gave him a chance to do anything at least interesting in this movie. And it would not have been very hard to do. Darth Vader of the original trilogy created certain expectations for Anakin. Vader is an iconic character for a reason: he has complexities, he has mystery, he has unknown hurts that made him choose Evil over Good, but he also has the capacity for redemption. The original Star Wars showed us how a character that starts out as the absolute villain is turned to the good side, and when he eventually remembers who he really is under his scary costume, the payoff for the audience is extraordinary. What I and many other people expected of the prequels was to show us that journey in reverse: how a young Jedi of remarkable potential came to serve the Dark Side, how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader.
“Attack of the Clones” does not give us that. What it does give us is an empty shell of a character whose arrogance makes him completely unsympathetic. Arrogance is not an endearing response to anything, let alone to being a hotshot pilot and especially to being hailed as the Chosen One. Anakin also seems to be in very little control of his emotions, which does not bode well for someone who is meant to bring balance to the Force. The way he massacres his mother’s abductors on Tatooine comes across as an imbalanced, impulsive reaction that is not in line with the Jedi way. The problem with Anakin in this film is that there is no real background to his rebellion and no real progression towards the Dark Side.
Another problem with Anakin is his relationship with Padme, which is very hard to buy because there is nothing believable about it. Real people in love don’t talk and act the way Anakin and Padme do. The dialogue is ridden with atrocious clichés, the acting is much too obvious, and the music playing in the background is only making things worse. Sadly, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman come across as mere puppets submitting their strings to an inadequate master. George Lucas tried too hard and at the same time too little to make us believe in their romance, and as a result, we don’t. This is so far removed from the fresh, intelligent depiction of Leia and Han that I really have to wonder if this movie belongs to the same franchise.
There is little else that I can say about this film, other than that I’m happy we have “Rogue One” to warm our Warsie hearts this holiday season.
Livia Miron is a hired writing gun in the IT industry and a creative writer in real life. She is a long-time Star Trek fan, a devout Middle-earther and a recent Star Wars convert. Currently, her passion for writing is driving her deeper and deeper into the mithril-laden mines of Hobbit fan fiction. Livia lives in Romania and is proud of her heritage, but she is also an incurable Anglophile.