Attack of the Clones holds a special place in my heart because it was the first time I had ever seen a Star Wars film in the theaters. It was my first time, experiencing the Star Wars magic. I must admit, I was blown away by it all, and at the time (I was 7), it was my favorite of all the Star Wars films. Oh how time has changed things. Just like with The Phantom Menace, I will try my best not to nitpick and I honestly do not hate this film like many fans do, but it has plenty of faults and it is definitely not my favorite Star Wars film. However, I do have an appreciation for every film in the saga. With that in mind, Let's get into it!
Right from the start of the movie there is way more action and suspense than The Phantom Menace. An attack is made on the now Senator Amidala's life and there is talk of systems leaving the Republic and they are forming a Separatist movement with Count Dooku. Although this is another politics related plot I do like the tension it builds and it has a greater effect than the plot of Episode I. In this movie, Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Oz get a bit more to do as Mace Windu and Yoda, respectively, and I like how they both feel something terrible on the way but they can't figure it out. And Yoda's look as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine talks to Padme' is so badass.
Obi-Wan and Anakin (now played by Hayden Christensen) are assigned to protect Padme' and when they are introduced, I believe the nature of their relationship and it's given many dimensions that people fail to notice. They clearly care about each other, they have gained a history with one another, memories that they can recall, but they also have a sense of budding conflict and frustration with each other and I do believe the father son relationship. This makes it even more upsetting that they are split from each other for the majority of the movie.
The first half hour is amazing, with the Coruscant chase sequence being a highlight. The look of the city is fantastic, the humorous banter is there, the tension builds in the scene with Anakin looking for the assassin in the club. Obi-Wan is great here with his jedi mind trick scene and his confidence as he easily disarms the shape-shifter, Zam Wesell.
It is after this scene where things start to get disjointed. Two plots are created with Obi-Wan tracking down a bounty hunter and Anakin protecting Padme on her home planet of Naboo. The middle section of the film is where I get lost in terms of focus and this is due to the poor editing of these two plots. Every scene switches back and forth too quickly, preventing me from getting invested in either storyline. Once it gets more evened out, sadly Obi-Wan's story becomes a lot less interesting, which is why I think his storyline is so underrated and sidelined in most reviews.
Speaking of Obi-Wan's storyline, I personally believe Obi-Wan is the star of this movie and his story is the main one, as his investigation is the continuation of the scene before it with the toxic dart and the bounty hunter attack. Ewan McGregor is much better in this film than in Phantom Menace. Here, he is able to flesh out Obi-Wan's character and he takes over lead duties from Liam Neeson, becoming the teacher and his growth is played well here. His scene with Jango Fett is nice and intense and his fight with him later has some good and funny moments. The investigation aspect of the story is something we haven't seen before and it seems like a mission a Jedi would normally be sent on. More happens after Obi-Wan's asteroid chase, which is also pretty cool, especially with the seismic charges, but we'll get back to that later.
The Naboo sequences are the parts that most people can't stand. Yes, the dialog is not the best, but I don't really care about the sand line, if anything, it's just a bad attempt at flirting. I do like the scene in the meadow where they joke and play around with each other and I even like the subtle Vader foreshadowing. The romantic scenes really aren't that bad and they last nowhere near as long as people think it does. The only part I can't stand is the fireplace scene where Anakin gives this weird speech. Padme does try to resist but that's where it gets a bit too cliched and creepy.
Padme gets some nice fleshing out of her character here and I like it, but it's when they return to Tatooine where Anakin really gets the spotlight. Anakin has been having recurring nightmares about his mother in pain and he decides to go find her. There's a nice scene where Watto returns and shows fear in Anakin now being a Jedi. The Lars family is a nice addition and when Anakin goes looking for his mother, you can see him becoming a darker character. Shmi's death is handled perfectly in my opinion and I like Hayden's look when he gets filled with rage.
Most people do not like his monologue afterwards, but I honestly think his acting is great here. He is angry and frustrated and he plays it as such. If anything it kept my attention. I believe every second of that scene and I find it interesting that it is Padme' who tries to excuse his actions, but Anakin says he knows he is better than that. And later, at his mother's funeral, he promises that he will not fail again and even there you feel his pain and I can relate to it, having blamed myself for the death of one of my family members as well.
After about 70 minutes, the villain of the movie is finally revealed, and he is played by none other than the late Christopher Lee. Lee plays the mysterious Count Dooku, who was once a jedi and is now creating a Separatist Army which includes the droids of the Trade Federation. Obi-Wan finds this out and is captured. The two have a scene together which I quite enjoy, mostly due to their acting and it has a nice callback to The Empire Strikes Back without it being too corny.
Jar Jar gets one big scene in this movie, that ironically sets in motion the rest of the series' events. He asks the Senate to give Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers so that he can approve the use of the Clone Army. Anakin and Padme' go to find and save Obi-Wan but they are quickly captured. They are set to be executed but right before, there is a scene between Padme and Anakin that seems cliche again. All of a sudden Padme tells Anakin that she truly, deeply, loves him and while I loved this scene when I was little, now it seems completely unearned. I can see that she has gained feelings for him, but this true and deep love seems forced because she has to be the mother of Luke and Leia. Anakin has not done anything great that should make her fall in love with him. Now maybe, if Anakin had saved her in the previous scene, maybe I could believe it, but Anakin just has not earned Padme's love.
The next scene, however, which starts the final act, is amazing. The creatures at the arena are distinct and present different dangers to the group. Mace Windu's entrance was great and his purple lightsaber debut is very memorable. I love the fight with the jedi in action and when the clones arrive with Yoda, I get excited to see this "attack" that the title suggests. The humor attempt with R2 and 3PO is better than Jar Jar in the first one, but it still isn't all that great and it didn't really need to be in the scene. And quick note, I like how when Jango is killed by Mace WIndu, you can see the shadow of his head coming out of the helmet. I thought it was a nice and dark touch.
The final fight isn't all that great, to be honest, it's the worst lightsaber battle in the series. Everyone is defeated too quickly, and the choreography is nowhere near as great as Episode I. The Yoda sequence is exciting and it was cool to see, easily the best moment of the movie to me when I was a kid. However, now I can see what people mean when it is just too over the top. He does hop and flip around too much and even that only lasts a few seconds and then Dooku escapes. The movie ends with the birth of the Clone War and the marriage of Anakin and Padme'. When I was a kid that ending made me curious to how everything was gonna happen in Episode III, especially since there were more things that needed to happen.
In conclusion, this is a very average Star Wars movie for me. It's not terrible, but it definitely isn't great. The funny thing is, with all the improvements, it still seems less epic and ambitious than Episode I and I can totally understand why people actually consider this to be the worst of the films. It's like the 2 Fast 2 Furious of Star Wars movies. It's decent but it is not a highlight in the series and is possibly the lightest in tone. I think this film deserves a re-evaluation just as an individual movie rather than comparing it to the other films. Again, keeping with the Chris Stuckmann reviews, if I had to give this movie a letter grade, I'm gonna give Attack of the Clones, a B-. Hope you enjoyed this review and next, I will be talking about Star Wars: Clone Wars.