Original Release: May 16, 2002
Written and Directed by George Lucas
Notable Actors: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Ian McDiarmid, and Christopher Lee
Upon the completion of this film on this re-viewing, and several times while watching, I let out a heavy sigh. A sigh of relief that it was over? A sigh which allowed the tension of watching one of the most forced painful love stories in all of film to release from my body? A sigh for all of these things, perhaps? I won’t sugar coat it, this has always been my least favorite film in this saga and watching it now has not upped its likability. While there is a little good, and a whole lot of grandiose action which is pretty enjoyable to watch, this film borders on the fine line of disastrous, but if you’ve been to this little blog before, you know I’ll always look for the good. So come along, let’s explore together. The clone wars is about to begin and Senator Amidala is about to fall for the creepiest creeper that ever creeped. Deep breaths. We’ll get through this together.
Set ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace, production of the film actually began in early 2000. Lucas, who was a bit skeptical about writing the next film as his writing had been panned by critics in Phantom, decided to write yet another painful film. Near the end, however, he brought in Jonathan Hales to help clean up the final draft. I can only assume that the few lines that didn’t make my nervous system explode were created in this final version. An inside joke among the team was that the working title of the script was actually Jar Jar’s Big Adventure, as Lucas was well aware of the public’s hate for Jar Jar Binks.
This was one of the first films to really utilize digital story-boarding, in which a sequence would have a rough version animated digitally in order to show what the final product would look like. This meant that departments and teams all over the world could be working on a single scene and the scene could be made much faster. In fact, a scene added late in production, the droid factory, was done in a very quick way, going from conception on computer to animation within days. The live action portions of the scene were actually shot within 4 hours, which is a bit insane considering how long things normally take. In fact, several scenes were not even given the digital storyboard treatment and were instead sent straight to animation.
Two characters who I think have great stories in this one are Mace Windu and Yoda. This was the first time that Yoda was fully CGI’d and the animators worked closely with Frank Oz to make sure he looked just right. The idea was to make him look old and always in a bit of pain. This way, he leans on his cane and his movements are slow. One detail that the animators claimed ‘made’ the character was that his ears moved when he turned his head. “Without that,” they said, “you wouldn’t believe that it was Yoda.” Samuel L. Jackson requested a purple lightsaber, despite the choices of color being blue and green. Because of this, Mace Windu really becomes a memorable character in this film.
The film was meant to reflect the original trilogy in many ways. Despite the painfully awful writing, Lucas always thought of his saga like a poem which called back to itself often. “You’re going to be the death of me,” says Obi-Wan to Anakin. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” says everyone always. There are also themes in this film that are reminiscent of World War II and the rise of Hitler, as well as the Civil War in America. Yet even all the poetry and worldly themes are not enough to save this film.
Let’s just get right to it. The love story between Padme and Anakin has got to be one of the worst in film history. It isn’t bad enough that Hayden and Natalie have zero chemistry together, and that their acting is completely wooden throughout, but honestly, Anakin is terrifying. There is nothing charming or lovely about him.
We just finished watching Beauty and the Beast, which I will release an article for later this week, and in that film, the heroin falls for a monster, but there’s never a question about why, because deep down he’s a good guy. Anakin has no good qualities. I’m sorry, but no woman falls in love with a guy who talks about how he only thinks of her every minute and dreams about her and then tells her that all this just pisses him off. He’s creepy and the kind of guy that mothers should be teaching their daughters to avoid. Aren’t we supposed to believe that deep down there’s a guy worth saving? He’s childish, won’t follow rules and loses his temper constantly. Not to mention, he’s only 18. Padme, there are way more mature men out there. I promise you. Not a scene went by between the two of them that didn’t make me want it to end and there are a lot of scenes about them.
In general, I like the idea of the clones and why they’re brought in, but there’s so much of that story-line that goes unexplained. How did they get started? Who made that order? We are given the name of some random jedi but that just isn’t enough.
Why does no one seem to question that they’re conveniently ready right on time? There are many plot moments where the fact that a character doesn’t ask the right questions seems completely unbelievable. Hello, there is a friggin’ army being raised on the Empire’s dime. Really? No one is going to question this? Really?!
Despite all the stiff acting, bad writing and a plot that moves at the pace of a snail, there is some good to this film. Much like Phantom Menace before it, the film really is quite gorgeous. The CGI’d worlds and characters look great still to this day and it really builds a strong scope. In fact, the fight scenes are something of a high point as well. Whether it be speeding through Courescant by night or a battle between clones and stormtroopers, the action is all here and it’s very well conceived. There’s something very satisfying about seeing all the Jedi pull out their lightsabers and it’s fun to see the different fight styles. It’s just a shame that sometimes someone talks and ruins the whole experience.
I really love the Yoda scene. I know countless memes have been made about it and everyone has learned to mock it since its initial shock value in the theater, but I still find it special. I love the way that Yoda fights and there is something just wonderful about seeing him pull out his saber for the first time. It is definitely the high point of the film for me and in some ways, almost manages to rectify the messiness of the film which has already been happening for over two hours at this point. Almost.
There’s a lot to talk about in Attack of the Clones. Be it Jango Fett and his son learning what it means to get revenge, to countless characters showing up to be part of the politics, only to disappear again. There’s something to be said for the fact that the guy who ends up putting the Emperor in charge of everything is Jar Jar Binks. There’s even something to be said for Anakin’s mother dying, which is one of the most melodramatic scenes in any Star Wars film.
But it all comes down to this. Attack of the Clones is a beautiful disaster. It’s stunning to look at but falls short in every other regard of filmmaking. From a mess of a script, to awful acting and a story that is so boring I begged for the film to end, Attack of the Clones is the worst of the Star Wars saga and I’m just glad we don’t have to watch it again for another ten years. There’s one more to go. Will Revenge of the Sith redeem the trilogy? Find out next week in the final episode of Vault Vader.
* * *
NOTE: Obviously all the photos are courtesy of Disney Entertainment and I would never in a million years claim them as my own. That being said, all are actually taken with my phone during our viewing in order to capture the moment in a slightly different way than originally intended.
ALSO: My Fiancee has a blog too and he is talking about all the classics we are currently watching, which involves more than just Disney. Head over HERE and check it out!