After the ending of The Phantom Menace, I was really curious to see how Anakin’s character arc and relationship with the Jedi order would develop. The way that the ending of Episode I positioned Anakin in relation to where he is at the start of Episode IV was staggering and I didn’t know how the movie would forward his corruption. While George Lucas’s sequel, Attack of the Clones, is flat and awkward , it’s poetic undertones and emotional contours are commendable and moving.
The movie picks up 10 years after the end of the last one and Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan as they protect Padme (Natalie Portman) from some unknown assassins. The movie continues the discussion on politics from Episode I and kept me interested in how it developed. Some of the discussion might seem dry to others, but I enjoyed the way that concepts like emergency powers were discussed and introduced. In particular, Ian McDiarmid’s performance as Palpatine breathes life into these scenes and watching his political maneuvering was a joy. The twists in the second and third act keep the ploys interesting and I’m excited to see how he continues his machinations.
Outside of McDiarmid there are only a few other note-worthy performances. Ewan McGregor’s is great as Obi-Wan and he manages to bring some personality to otherwise drab scenes. Frank Oz’s performance as Yoda also helps lighten up the mood because he’s funny again. Episode I Yoda is too serious and boring, so I’m happy that he’s a better balance of serious and fun. Everyone else comes off fairly similar to one another. I don’t blame them. It’s probably hard to give a lot of emotion in your words when you’re surrounded by a blue/green screen instead of a real environment.
I had a love/hate relationship regarding the romance between Padme and Anakin . Personally, I love cheesy dorky romance and am a huge romantic at heart. Even the cringy dialogue and “interesting” delivery of said dialogue couldn’t stop me from smiling at the romance between the parties. Christensen’s creeper faces as he stares at Padme had me laughing, but I didn’t think they were that bad given how strange the dialogue is. I wish there was more of a noticeable chemistry between the two. Outside of a few choice scenes on Naboo everything feels so rigid. Plot wise, I think the entire relationship would have benefited from a better initial set up. Padme never feels interested at the beginning of the movie (in fact she actively seems against a romance) and the transition towards her change in feelings is never explained. I would have loved to see her slowly lowering her barriers or showing more interest in him in their initial encounter. Anakin’s obsession with her makes sense (to me at least because I gave The Phantom Menace a lot of credit with the ‘angel’ comments). I just wish it came off cuter and less creepy. It’s hard to get into it, when it feels like he’s a stalker. I do appreciate why the romance exists and know it’s going to gut punch me in the next movie. I can just feel it.
Speaking of emotional gut punches – wow. I didn’t expect to cry while watching this movie. There’s a scene that happens in the second act that really tugs at your heartstrings. The impact of the scene was so profound that no amount of odd acting could stop my heart breaking. I’m a softie in general, but this just got me hard. The scene also highlights one of the issues I had with the film- it’s rating. I wish it was rated PG-13, because I think that some of the scenes needed a darker and more violent tone to really drive in the impact of certain scenes. There’s one moment in particular where a dark event plays out, but before it starts getting really intense we just cut away from it. It feels like it does a huge disservice to a major character arc.
Now it’s time for the bad. The dialogue in this movie is nothing to write home about and illustrates one of Lucas’s biggest problems- emotional dialogue. A lot of moments that could be resounding or interesting come off as plain and drab because they’re described in the most cliched or bland ways. Add on the monotony in acting and I can see why the movie can feel boring to people.
Additionally, the green/blue screens in this movie feel rough. I could tell that characters felt imposed on their backgrounds and this hasn’t ever really been a big problem for me in other movies. It feels unpolished . In addition, the problematic CGI in this movie comes up a lot more often way sooner. The light saber fight (the first part) in the third act is probably my least favorite on screen fight. The camera doesn’t highlight the choreography of the fighters and isn’t satisfying in its resolution either. It’s disappointing after how great the Darth Maul fight from Episode I was.
Finally, there are certain plot elements that are just so bad that I couldn’t ignore them no matter how much I tried. There’s a key element that’s introduced early on – literally characters talk about how this is something important to discover- and then it’s completely dropped. The implication of it is HUGE and is pivotal to the events of the entire movie and it is literally never mentioned again. There’s another action encounter that also makes a scene from Episode VI a lot less meaningful and I was kind of in shock when it happened.
TLDR: Attack of the Clones isn’t perfect. The film is filled with acting flaws, graphics issues, and corny dialogue. In spite of that, i think there’s a lot of beauty in its more emotional moments and I enjoyed a handful of scenes.
Final Rating: 7.5/10. This movie isn’t for everybody but it has a lot of enjoyable and meaningful moments. People who like cliched romances or subtle political discussions can find a lot to have fun with here.
Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!