Preparing for The Rise of Skywalker – Part II: Attack of the Clones
Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones is a hard film to review. As I might have mentioned in previous reviews and various rantings, I have a strong interest in mythic storytelling and the monomyth, also called “the hero’s journey” by writers such as Joseph Campbell, from which George Lucas drew much of his inspiration for the Star Wars series.
Attack of the Clones is the second episode in the Skywalker saga, and the second of the oft-discussed prequel movies. It stars, among others, the always excellent Ewan McGregor, the not-always-that-great Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson. As with The Phantom Menace, it was directed by George Lucas.
Attack of the Clones tells the second part of Anakin Skywalker’s hero’s journey. He is a teenager, brash and sometimes reckless, and obsessed by Padme Amidala, who he met and fell in love with ten years earlier. All this is to the frustration of his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, who struggles to teach Anakin the path to becoming a Jedi Knight. I often say that each of the Star Wars movies, especially the ones in the Skywalker saga, has a one-word theme, and for this, I would say that the theme is: “anger”.
The films narrative structure is different from the previous film in the series, as the Kenobi and Skywalker splits up in the second act, to follow their own threads of the plot. Kenobi investigates the assassination attempt on Padme Amidala in what could almost be called a “Star Wars Noir”, while Anakin takes Padme to her home planet to protect her. Here, he lets his emotions get the better of him, resulting in a series of awkward and somewhat creepy advanced on her.
A few comments must be said on the acting in this movie, especially from Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman. As I mentioned in my review for The Phantom Menace, I like the theatrical style, as it fits very well with the 50s and 60s science fiction inspiration George Lucas was going for. But in Attack of the Clones, Hayden Christensen sometimes comes through as a somewhat creepy and obsessed teenager. I know that his character has lived an almost monastic life with the Jedi for a decade, but I’m not sure if this was the intention when it came to the delivery of the lines.
The film is, at times, a bit preachy and heavy handed when it comes to politics. This, in itself, shouldn’t be too suprising, as it is well know that George Lucas let his own political views and disapproval of the Bush Jr. administration color his films. However, when these lines are delivered by Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, it quickly becomes awkward.
However, Kenobi’s part of the story is very exciting, witty and feels very noir-like. Much of his character, as we see him in the next episode, and, I would think, the upcoming Kenobi series on Disney+. will have been established in these scenes.
The final act in the film reunites the character in a huge and epic battle that is true Star Wars. This is a series of giant action set pieces with great character building and revelations in the unfolding story.
From a technical view, Attack of the Clones, like The Phantom Menace before it, looks very well, but the CGI is a bit hit and miss. Of course, the film was released in 2002, so it must be compared to the time. Then again, many of the shots looks amazing even now.
I like really enjoy this film. It has great world building and character development, even though some of the acting in it falls way off the mark. It is my least favorite in the prequel trilogy, but it is, and feels, like Star Wars, and it is an important piece of the Skywalker saga.