As we approach the end of the Skywalker saga with Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, we here at Full Circle agreed it was time to take a look back. Every day until The Rise of Skywalker‘s release, we’ll be discussing every single theatrical project in the Star Wars franchise, in canonical order. This time, we will talk about perhaps the most divisive one of them all: Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
A lot of people consider Star Wars as the most beloved franchise of all time. Its story spans through movies, comics, books, TV shows and even video games. Yet, despite it being so loved, each installment of the story goes through the “Is This Ruining Star Wars?” debate. And few other Star Wars films polarize the fanbase more than Attack of the Clones.
Some of my friends have described me as a “Prequelist” because of how much I both defend and love the prequel series. People criticized The Phantom Menace for not feeling like a true Star Wars movie because of its space politics. I mean, it’s a movie about wars in space. At some point, we will have to talk about space politics. On the other hand, many people describe Attack of the Clones as “boring”. People thought Anakin was too broody and whiny. A friend of mine even described Yoda’s epic lightsaber moment as “stupid”. It has even reached the point where there are memes related to the defenders of Attack of the Clones.
The film begins by catching the audience up on what’s been going on with the character since their last appearance. Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) has now stepped into a senator role. Seriously, she’s no longer the queen fans were introduced too. Turns out, on Naboo, the queens serves two terms and has to be voted in. Hell yeah, let the space politics begin!
The opening portion of Attack of the Clones sees Padmé return to the planet Coruscant, where an assassination attempt takes place. After meeting with Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) and the Jedi, Padme is assigned guards to protect her. This gives the writers a reason to bring back Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) Into the politicians life. The on-screen reunion is super awkward, to say the least. Anakin gives off a creepy vibe and Padmé immediately friend-zones him, for lack of a better term.
During the meeting with Palpatine and the Jedi, someone brings up Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) as a suspect. Then it’s revealed that although he’s a political idealist, he was once a Jedi and an assassination wouldn’t be in his nature. I really love how this keeps his past ambiguous enough that future stories can still expand on it. Star Wars has always done a great job with this aspect of their movies.
Later, a second assassination attempt takes place, but this time with poisonous bugs. Thankfully, Anakin jumps in and slices them with this trusty lightsaber. The bugs are just so dangerously close to Padme’s face that it seems dumb to just go slashing away, but he nails them! This scene really shows you just how precise the Jedi are with their primary weapon.
The two Jedi begin chasing the assassin through the slums of Coruscant, where we really get to see the city and the landscape of this planet for the first time. The visuals here do not hold up by 2019 standards, but for the time, they were awesome. Obi-Wan and Anakin catch up with the assassin after a high speed floating car/speeder chase (yes, you read that correctly) and finally corner her in a space bar. This scene has divided a lot of fans because it’s a literal car chase in a Star Wars film, but at least there wasn’t a “yo mama” joke in there. It manages to be original, yet still feels like it fits into the larger universe landscape. The fact there’s a nightclub also doesn’t bother me. The universe has floating cars, space ships, a government, and politics. A space nightclub is well within my suspended belief.
The assassination investigation leads Obi-Wan to the discovery of a Clone Army on the distant planet of Kamino. Here we meet Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), the father of the Star Wars icon Boba Fett. Jango leads Obi-Wan to Geonosis, where someone captures the Jedi Knight. This is where the aforementioned Count Dooku comes in. The Sith tries to play it off like he’s a good guy and the whole “getting captured” thing was a mistake, but movie trailers already gave away that he was a villain. The sad thing was, it would be a shocking reveal if the promotion hadn’t already gave the reveal away. I understand that Lucasfilm had to get butts in seats, but at what cost? If The Empire by Strikes Back came out in 2019, I’m sure Darth Vader’s infamous truth bomb to Luke would have been in every trailer.
Meanwhile, Anakin is playing out the Star Wars version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”. He’s just laughing in fields, having picnics with Padme and doing his best to escape the friend zone. You know, Jedi stuff! It’s a seemingly unimportant moment that has a more long term effect, as opposed to immediate payoff. It’s not a bad scene at all. Even the whole “I hate sand” line seems kind of natural within its context, but let’s all make fun of it because it’s the cool thing to do.
After a nightmare involving his mother, Anakin decides that it’s best to go back to Tattooine to find her. The Last Jedi received criticism for having a subplot involving a space casino and this seems pretty similar to it, but it’s not. This one was actually effective and added to the story without stacking on to it. Luke’s aunt and uncle were completely absent in The Phantom Menace which led to the whole “Well, where are they?!” argument that Anti-Prequelists love to bring up so much. From there, we find out that Anakin’s mother was sold and married to Cliegg Lars (Jack Thompson). Cliegg tells Anakin that Tuskan Raiders captured Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August) and that’s what’s been causing Anakin’s nightmares.
Anakin goes out to look for her. She dies almost immediately after he finds her. It’s the single most depressing thing in the entire franchise. She dies not having enough breath to tell her only son “I love you.” It is just gut-wrenching! He freaks out and slaughters every single Tuskan Raider. We cut to a shot of Yoda sensing the carnage and we hear Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) yelling “Anakin! Anakin! No!” It’s a short little cameo, but he’s my favorite Jedi so I’ll take any Jinn material I can get!
It’s interesting to see that the monster who would become Darth Vader is just a scared, heartbroken boy. Sometimes, it’s not enough to say “Well, he’s just pure evil.” All of the most interesting villains have a great story. Mr. Freeze is evil because he wanted to save his wife. Magneto craves power because of his exposure to what happens when you have none. Darth Vader is evil because he wanted the power to keep the people he loved from dying and lost them in the process. This scene marks the beginning of his descent into madness.
After a message from Obi-Wan, Anakin and Padme head to Geonosis to rescue him. Just like Obi-Wan, they are captured and are set to be executed gladiator-style: in an arena with hundreds of spectators. It is here that Padme confesses her love for Anakin. It’s one of those “Is this really the best time” kind of moments, but let’s not forget Leia did the same to Han in The Empire Strikes Back and we haven’t shut up about it since.
The Star Wars franchise has a variety of cool moments, but nothing beats seeing all the Jedi in the Geonosis battle arena fighting together! I’ll never forget the first time I saw all of the lightsabers turn on at the same time. It was also amazing to see Jango Fett kill a Jedi before being beheaded by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson). I could try to describe it, but the words for it have yet to be invented. Just a quick fun fact: Jackson demanded his lightsaber be purple so he could see himself more easily in a crowd of blue and green.
The Jedi are surrounded and all hope seems lost. Lucky for the heroes, Yoda comes in with clone reinforcements. The Clone Wars have now begun! They chase Dooku down and we get to witness a lightsaber duel! Dooku takes both Anakin and Obi-Wan down. Who else can he fight if not those two? That’s right, he’s going to take on Grand Master Yoda! Yoda deflects waves of force attacks with very little effort. It is here we finally get to see Yoda use a lightsaber. I know people who think this scene is stupid and looks funny, but we’ve been under the impression that Yoda is the greatest Jedi of all time. Now we get the chance to see why. Unfortunately, Dooku escapes the battle and the movie ends with the Jedi and the Republic losing the war and Anakin marrying Padme in secrecy.
Attack of the Clones is full of action and plays out more like a novel from the expanded universe than the typical film installment. It didn’t get the best reception, but it isn’t nearly as bad as everyone makes it out to be. It’s not amazing, but it fits perfectly with the rest of the series. Attack of the Clones is not the beginning of the story, and it’s not the end. It’s Episode II! Given its purpose to build and create a larger story, the movie achieves exactly what it sets out to do. – Derek Flores
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is available on Blu-ray, Digital HD, and Disney+.
The film stars Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee.