After the astronomical mess that was The Phantom Menace, fans can be thankful that George Lucas awoke to his senses when he made this second entry of the sprawling prequel trilogy. What came of the sudden realization of Lucas’ misdirection was Attack of the Clones, a considerably superior sequel that, while building on the foundations of its predecessor, improves on what went wrong last time. For starters, there’s considerably less politics involved in the plot, which is good because it’s a sign that the prequel trilogy had shifted towards more focused storytelling, or so I hoped.
The film is even longer than its predecessor, which is baffling because I had hoped that this would be more action-oriented (which, to be fair, it was). I guess they decided to replace some of the politics with a lengthy romantic sub-plot revolving around the now teenage Anakin and Padmé. Why we needed to see Anakin try to court Padmé for nearly ten minutes of the film is unclear. Those contrived scenes just seemed to me like an excuse to get Padmé to wear a sexy outfit, even if for a brief moment. It’s bad enough that her character as a whole deteriorates through most of the film (although I have to say, she proves herself to be a capable fighter in the arena scene near the end), but I wish George Lucas didn’t attempt to write romance, because it’s clear that he’s simply awful at it.
Meanwhile, the rest of the story lumbers on, but the events unfolding never seemed boring, or at least not for long. What makes it better is that the worst characters in the previous film have a less prominent role. In fact, Jar-Jar Binks, the most undeniably awful character from the previous film, only appears for a few times. The other characters perform quite well, with the best performance coming from the late Christopher Lee as Count Dooku, who in my opinion makes for a better villain than Darth Maul, who didn’t even do anything until right at the end of the previous film. The cast was mostly well-picked, but the choice of Hayden Christensen as Anakin presents a lot of problems, especially as the film begins the prequel’s habit of putting this poor man’s Mark Hamill at the centre stage. Hayden’s performance as Obi-Wan’s apprentice seems almost completely robotic, and when he tries showing any emotion, he only seems to do worse. Of course, I’m fully aware that he’s trying to play the inexperienced teenage apprentice, but let’s just say that his character begs for a passionate performance, and Hayden simply failed to deliver.
At the very least the film is a visual spectacle with very good special effects, which I guess Mr. Lucas can count on with every Star Wars film. More importantly, the film attempts to salvage the prequel trilogy with a more action-oriented approach (in other words, more lightsaber duels), and in that regard, this extra emphasis on action is what saves the film from suffering the same fate as The Phantom Menace. The many well-choreographed fight scenes are really good, and it’s nice to see the Jedi in combat for once. All in all, I’d say that, despite its shortcomings, I found Attack of the Clones quite enjoyable, and I’m thankful that it at least manages to clean up the mess left behind by its messy, overindulgent predecessor.
- Score: 67%
- Grade: C