Some directors learn from their mistakes and listen to the audience’s feedback. While this is certainly no bad thing in the games industry due to obvious gameplay flaws or other problems which can be smoothed out, it’s not as easy with movies, especially if the director sticks to his vision. As epic as the Star Wars trilogy was, as disappointing was Episode I. While Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones isn’t perfect, it’s at least an improvement, even if it comes with new problems.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
(USA 2002, director: George Lucas)
Anakin Skywalker has to protect former queen and now ambassador Padmé Amidala and falls in love with her, while Obi-Wan Kenobi finds that the attempted assassination of the Senator also leads to a secret Clone army.
George Lucas certainly shows creativity and imagination when far away worlds and creatures are concerned, but plot and character development were never his strength. Attack of the Clones is another showcase how bad his writing is. Even if the annoying child actor is replaced by Hayden Christensen, playing an older version of Anakin Skywalker, he’s not the most likable with very bad dialogue and subpar acting. Throughout the movie the bad writing shows through. Trying to capture the fun of the old movies, even an “I have a bad feeling” is out of place (having already been used in the first episode), while other forced humor scenes don’t work with the darker tone of the story.
Fortunately, the plot is much more interesting, even if very convoluted. At times it feels like a big mystery the audience actively participates in unraveling. The Clone Wars preparation offers a few surprises, while Anakin Skywalker’s slow downfall to the dark side of the Force is also done much better than what the first movie could deliver on. Unfortunately, the whole love story between Padmé and Anakin feels so forced and (even worse) unnatural that it becomes annoyingly clichéd with no chemistry between the actors. The same can be said about the Jedi Council whose members don’t get enough screentime to really stand out, not even Master Yoda. It’s also telling that their meddling in political affairs stands in stark contrast to what the original trilogy made fans believe, making them a rather unlikable bunch.
Disregarding the slow plot and even slower character development, the action is quite good and almost feels like the epic original saga, only with much more CGI which becomes extremely ridiculous when the small Yoda jumps around and fights at the same time. Space and lightsaber fights almost create a sense of excitement, even if they’re not particularly innovative or memorable, borrowing at times from movies like The Fifth Element (the taxi chase scene) and of course the old saga (the asteroids chase sequence). The biggest problem the movie faces and which is ultimately its downfall is that it takes itself way too serious. While parts of Anakin’s coping with the darker side of his psyche is at times quite moving, other aspects of the story don’t fare so well.
Trying to tell the origin story of bounty hunter Boba Fett is one such example. Building an emotional bond between him and his father and tying it all together with the Clone Wars is just too much. Using Christopher Lee as a villain without any charisma is another missed opportunity, and while Jar Jar Binks is suddenly turned into an ambassador who is almost completely missing for the rest of the movie, using R2D2 as a robot who can easily fly around is another sign that George Lucas has lost his way (although his interaction with C-3PO is reminiscent of the old movies), even if it’s a more enjoyable one than the first failed attempt.
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