Defending Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Ah, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones . . . where jolly barkeeps called Dex dish out Kaminoan inhibitor chips on a whim and curt Jedi Temple Librarians tell people that’s not the planet they’re looking for. There’s also the matter of a certain dislike towards sand on the part of a certain Jedi Padawan. Neither as dramatic as Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith nor as comical as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, it’s usually seen as the ‘halfway’ point in a prequel trilogy that’s generally agreed to go from best to worst in descending order, with the best, being Revenge of the Sith – famous of course for dead younglings and an over-the-top Emperor Palpatine (“POWER!”). And yes, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones probably is the second-best prequel, but it’s a heck of a lot closer to Revenge of the Sith in quality and deserves better from us.
For one thing, Attack of the Clones packs in just as many battles and high-octane chase scenes as that movie. Yes, the harrowing Order 66 sequence is an incredibly hard act to follow, but there’s still the Coruscant sky chase, the Droid Factory escape, the arena fight and the (First) Battle of Geonosis, not to mention two Jango vs Obi-Wan face-offs: one in the asteroid-filled depths of mid-space, the other in seemingly eternal rain.
It’s a movie that does away with the juvenile naivete of The Phantom Menace, when Obi Wan has developed into a wizened mentor and Anakin is coming into his own as the Chosen One, sprouting the seeds of his gradual descent into the Dark Side (a.k.a. Tusken Camp Slaughter 101). As a nifty bonus, Jar Jar’s screen-time is limited to well under ten hours. And for the first time ever, we even get to see a lightsabre-wielding Yoda in full force. A maniacal, screaming Yoda.
Unlike The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones goes into more depth on the Jedi with their infamous Code and impressive Temple. We also get to meet the Kaminoans – certainly one of the more interesting species in the Star Wars universe. And, of course, the first batch of Clones themselves, with a million more well on the way (a figure which seems awfully low to fight a galaxy-wide conflict). Then there’s the regal yet twisted Count Dooku (reflected in the shape of his lightsaber) played by Christopher Lee, whose swordsmanship is truly a joy to watch. Unless you’re Anakin or Obi-Wan, of course … They’re left defeated and maimed by the end of it, ready to fight another day.
It’s also welcome for a much lighter tone when compared with Revenge of the Sith. Not as dark. Remember, in that movie, evil wins the day, so it’s always nice to go back and see the good guys have their day in the sun – the particularly gruelling sun of Geonosis. That’s if you can bare sitting through those sleep-inducing Padme-Anakin love scenes. (They’re more relatable as an adult. Promise.) And how can you not love the arrival of the Clones to save the day?
Unfortunately, those same CGI-generated Clones are much less impressive twenty years on. That’s the problem with utilizing age-prone technology over live human actors, but how else was Lucas going to get tens of thousands of Clone Troopers on screen? And it’s puzzling how the Jedi mostly overlook the shady origins of that same army, with the mysterious, deceased, and off-screen Sifo-Dyas’ identity left just as shadowy as that of Sidious. Might have been better not mentioning him at all, and it would take expanded universe material to explain exactly who Sifo-Dyas is and his role in the creation of that army. But maybe that would have been giving too much away, even if the majority of viewers knew it was just Sidious up to his old tricks.
To use Math terminology, on its best day, Attack of the Clones is equal to or less than Revenge of the Sith. Well, okay … it’s probably less than, but that’s still a compliment when set against The Phantom Menace. If Revenge of the Sith bursts all that Clone Wars tension with a pin, like all good ‘middle movies’, Attack of the Clones sets the scene and builds it up nicely beforehand (The Phantom Menace is more its own thing, taking place years previously, which is probably for the better). It’s gripping because everything is still in the balance and could go either way, and that should make it passable enough in anyone’s Star Wars ratings.Watch Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones