After the childish and cartoonish Phantom Menace where a bunch of one-dimensional space wizards faced-off against the cleanest and most beige military force ever conceived, pretty much anything would feel like The Godfather by comparison. Maybe that’s what I’m feeling right now, because I definitely don’t remember liking this movie this much, even though I still don’t think it’s great. But a step up is a step up, and this movie is at least one example that proves George Lucas does (occasionally) listen to his fans.
10 years after those events we’d prefer to forget, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is all grown up and assigned to protect Padmé (Natalie Portman), the girl he’s been in love with since he was nine. Meanwhile, his master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) scours the galaxy to find the assassin trying to kill Padmé, stumbling across a clone army of white-armored soldiers supposedly under the supervision of a dead Jedi Master. While this is going on, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is a former Jedi leading a group of separatists against the Republic, and it’s not long before that clone army comes in handy when all-out war breaks and our Jedi heroes are caught in the middle.
This movie is far from perfect, but it still does a lot of things right. The story is clear, the action is great, the characters are fleshed out, and the world feels real. While the pacing could use some tweaking, it still manages to move forward with (nearly) every scene. It begins on a serious note and gradually gets darker from there, never reaching an extreme low, but still getting dark enough to keep the audience wondering what evil may be lurking in the next scene. George Lucas’ dialogue is still mostly wooden, but the talented cast make the most of it, particularly Ewan McGregor who manages to draw some laughs with what other actors would treat as throw-away lines.
Where the movie REALLY fails is in the absurd romantic subplot between Anakin and Padmé. I’ve seen people wear their heart on their sleeve before, but ol’ Darth ‘bater here seems to vomit lovegasms every time he opens his mouth around her. The characters’ chemistry is so lifeless that you can almost see the actors cringing the closer they get to each other. And their heartfelt confessions sound like the blog of a thirteen-year-old boy who thinks he knows everything about love and yet never kissed a girl. In fact, George Lucas should have had a thirteen-year-old virgin boy read this dialogue first, and if the boy had liked it, that would have been Lucas’ cue to revise, revise, revise.
Aside from all that, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is still a fairly enjoyable movie. Lots of memorable action set-pieces leading to an epic climactic battle that begins the war we’ve all been waiting for. It’s a massive step up from Phantom Menace, but still not nearly on par with the Original Trilogy or even Episode III. But that’s an argument for another day. This movie brings Star Wars fans closer to Star Wars, and that’s really what the prequel trilogy was meant to do in the first place.
3 out of 5