Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

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Film Analysis written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 6.7/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 3/10

Film Review & Analysis: Plot Holes and Writing [SPOILER ALERT]
STAR WARS EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002) - George Lucas

"You fought in the Clone Wars?" asked Luke Skywalker from the original A New Hope. What was the Clone Wars? We never knew in the original trilogy. Now that the second prequel is going to be called Attack of the Clones, are we going to see what the Clone War is? The answer is yes, but there is unfortunately nothing excited about it. Unlike The Phantom MenaceAttack of the Clones now has a main character that we follow, grown-up Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). What you did not know is that the second film would be plagued by the worst writing possible that The Phantom Menace was lucky enough to avoid.

In all seriousness, the film began with a legit initiating incident, a failed assassination attempt at Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), now a senator. What butchered this scene though, and what told me that this is going to be a complete failure, was the opening line of this incident. The security chief, who lands alongside Padme, says, "Guess I was wrong. There was no danger at all." Well, I guess he spoke too soon.

Anyways, the plot line for Attack of the Clones does make an attempt at continuing the story left by Phantom Menace, which shows promise. After the Trade Federation left Naboo, several star systems start joining together against the Republic. These group of separatists are led by a mysterious figure named Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). During this whole secession, an assassination attempt is made on Padme Amidala, and as a result, Anakin Skywalker is assigned to protect her while his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is assigned to investigate this assassination attempt.

As mentioned before in The Phantom Menace, characterization was indeed a flaw but was not one that I paid much attention to. Here, everything is different. Here, characters all matter, since this film dives into the love story between Anakin and Padme, as well as the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan. The film begins with the concept that both of the Jedi are friends. However, George Lucas displays his poor writing skills on this part. Instead of showing us their actions for each other, Lucas "tells" us that Obi-Wan and Anakin are friends by recounting things they have done in the past. These things, though, we have never seen on screen before. We do not physically see them act like friends together throughout the film. In fact, we see them arguing more.

Though I mentioned that Anakin is the main character, the film does not show that in detail, because it jumps back and forth between Anakin and Obi-Wan. In all honesty, Obi-Wan's plot line is far more interesting because he is investigating a mystery. After another failed assassination attempt at Padme, Obi-Wan uses a toxic dart used and tracks it to the planet of Kamino. Here, he not only meets a bounty hunter called Jango Fett, but he also finds a clone army secretly being made for the Galactic Republic. The true mystery is that the Kamino aliens soon reveal that this clone army production was ordered ten years ago. You would think to report this news back to the Senate and have them investigate this, because this is probably the most fishy thing that can ever happen at a time like this. However, the Jedi Council are blind enough to connect this clone army to the assassination attempt at Amidala, and they do not reveal this at all to the Republic. Maybe if this was spilled, Chancellor Palpatine's true colors would have been revealed.

As for Anakin's plot line, his assignment was to protect Padme, because there is still a bounty hunter out to kill her. However, as we progress through their days on Naboo, they do not look like they are hiding at all. From standing at a beautiful wide-open balcony to sitting in a wide-open grass field, you would think that a sniper can just easily take down Padme while the two are talking about sappy love. Speaking of love, this is where the screenwriting takes a turn for the worst, because none of it makes any sense at all.

First of all, Anakin made more negative moves on Padme than he did positive moves. These range from complaining about being a Jedi to interrupting and losing temper. As a matter of fact, every interaction between the two are when they sit or when they stand. There is no real physical interaction nor chemistry nor substance in this relationship. Oh, and did I mention that the film told us that Jedis are not allowed to love, for no explained reason. For me, this is only a cheesy effect used to make Anakin's love for Padme even more "forbidden," and as a result, more "romantic." But wait, Obi-Wan confessed that he loved Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. Is that forbidden too? A love story needs to explore characters, where it studies the personalities of both individuals, with their strengths and flaws, and slowly show how they need each other and become fit for each other. This is something called "substance." Here in Attack of the Clones, Anakin and Padme start talking about love even when they do not truly know each other yet. By the way, they get married in about a week of being together. Because George Lucas is unable to tell this love story to us, he has no choice but to visually tell us. So what can he possibly throw onto the screen? How about a beautiful island that they arrive to via boat, similar to Venice? How about having lunch at an exquisitely designed dining room? How about sitting in a wide-open grass field with a lot of flowers and totally fake-looking waterfalls in the background? Nothing but visual cliches.

By the way, halfway into the assignment, Anakin diverts to Tatooine because he has a nightmare about his mother. This then leads to him watching his mother die, then leads him to slaughter entire groups of men, women, and children. Somehow, Padme still marries him. Seriously, if one takes all of Anakin's lines and analyze them, they are nothing but rants and complaints coming from a man who whines. Aren't we supposed to like him? Wasn't he "seduced" by the dark side of the Force? Shouldn't this be a tragedy story? By this time, we really no longer care for Anakin.

In fact, when looking at all the characters and their actions in this film, everyone says and does things as if they read the script in advanced, or they dumb themselves down so that an upcoming event that Lucas wants can occur. In addition, every scene that involves talking is heavily different from every scene that involves action, almost as if the two types of scenes are directed by two different people. Every time a conversation scene occurs, the two characters are either sitting on a couch or standing by a window. Every time, in the middle of the conversation, a character would look away, walk a few paces, then turn around and resume the conversation. As for the camerawork, it is nothing but standard formulaic over-the-shoulder shots. There is nothing in the environment to immerse the characters in, nothing for them to interact with. Seriously, you can put the characters talking at any place you want and it probably won't make a difference. This is what happens when you handicap the actors at nothing but a green screen wall. As a result, with a computer-generated background, everything looks way too clean, too unreal, and therefore unable for the audience to connect to. A fancy setting like Coruscant is no better than the actual set built to represent the rebel base at the planet Hoth in Empire Strikes Back

When Ewan McGregor walks down the hallway in Kamino to look at the clones in Attack of the Clones, he is walking on nothing but a green floor, staring at a green wall. The only thing Lucas can do is tell McGregor that that green wall is where the clones are at. This is why I heavily praise directors who use animatronics and special effects combined. When Spielberg does big action scenes in Jurassic Park, he uses computer-generated imagery, but when he does dinosaur-human interactions, he uses animatronics so that there is something that the actor can interact with and therefore use his/her acting skills in that scene. Here, it appears that Lucas is just using the actors as a tool to tell his badly written story. Filmmaking is a collaboration, and believe me, actors can do things more amazing than you think.

Think the Jedi are cool, right? I think so too. But never have I thought that shoving over a hundred Jedi on the screen can be a bad thing. This is a flaw that many American filmmakers do, and is a flaw that George Lucas makes a lot in the prequels: the assumption that "bigger is always better." This assumption happens a lot in comedies. To quote Wade Major, this is the assumption that "If one mouse scaring an elephant is funny, then ten mice scaring a thousand elephants would be hilarious." Here, Lucas believes the same thing, but in the action genre instead. Putting over a hundred Jedi to fight the droid army is not more interesting than watching Obi-Wan himself fighting Vader. Having Jango Fett chase Obi-Wan and repeatedly shooting, but missing him is not more intense than Luke and Solo trying to pass by the stormtroopers unseen. By the way, Attack of the Clones does a rather entertaining but bloated battle that leads to, of course, a climactic lightsaber fight, which eventually leads to a surprise fight between Count Dooku and Master Yoda. Although many fans despised this scene, I found it acceptable. In Empire Strikes Back, we never expected a tiny little creature to be a Jedi Master. The same thing applies here in a way. A little creature like Yoda can still fight fluently against a Sith, even by jumping around and doing flips. Unfortunately, this fight does not last for more than two minutes.

In conclusion, Attack of the Clones is the most disappointing thing for a Star Wars film, the worst in the prequel trilogy. Though it bears more depth and a moodier atmosphere than The Phantom Menace, it does nothing but expose Lucas' frailty in writing character development and plot development. Remember, a filmmaker's ambition generates my expectation. If you plan to make the second prequel darker and more character-driven than the first, then I expect it to be better and legitimately written. Instead, the complete opposite was delivered. At this point, I rather see a low-rank story film like Phantom Menace be done normally against a high-rank story film like Attack of the Clones be done horribly. Truly upsetting.

In the end, the Clone Army is officially made, and the Chancellor has now been given emergency powers to lead what is now called the Clone War. As the imperial march theme from Empire Strikes Back begin to play, we get a moody and rather atmospheric transition to what would soon be the last entry to the prequel trilogy. But wait, quickly cut back to Anakin and Padme and have them get married. Oh jeez. Begun, the horror has.


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