I remember the reviews of Attack of the Clones at the time. Everyone said it was better than The Phantom Menace. They were on crack. This is easily the worst of the prequel trilogy.
Tagline: A Jedi Shall Not Know Anger. Nor Hatred. Nor Love.
More Accurate Tagline: A Jedi Shall Not Know Anger. Nor Emotion. Nor Acting Lessons.
Guilty Party: George Lucas. What, you thought it would be someone else? This movie was such crap it made me question my entire childhood.
Synopsis: Senator Amidala (a Natalie Portman mannequin), returns to Coruscant to protest the creation of an Army of the Republic, when she narrowly avoids an assassination attempt. Far more distressing is her apparent demotion from queen to senator; it’s never explained how she suddenly doesn’t have royal blood anymore. Chancellor Palpatine (clearly eeeeevil), assigns Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacDonald) and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as bodyguards. But these two chuckleheads nearly fuck that up when a couple of snakes (hired by a droid which was hired by an assassin which was hired by a bounty hunter which was hired by Palpatine) almost kills Amidala. Obi-Wan gets the job of tracking this mysterious bounty hunter while Anakin gets to guard Amidala. Why the Jedi do this is unclear. They could send a master who would be better equipped to protect her and able to resist her charms, but instead they send a leather-clad bad boy with a legendary magic bacteria count and mommy issues.
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan’s search leads him to a planet that has been expunged from all records and is on no maps, populated by polite iMac aliens who love Jedi. In other words, if Obi-Wan, say, ever needed the perfect place to hide himself and a kid, he just found it. Anyway, he learns that a clone army has been commissioned and Jango Fett, the bounty hunter that tried to kill Amidala by proxy, is the template. So basically, every Stormtrooper in the Star Wars universe, some of the most incompetent morons in film history, men who got beat up by teddy bears and shoot like Robert DeNiro in Awakenings are genetically identical to Boba Fett, the deadilest bounty hunter in the galaxy. Riiiiiiight.
Anyway, on Naboo, Amidala is a gigantic tease, which, for some disturbing reason, makes Anakin remember he has a mom on Tatooine. Sadly, Dr. Freud was unavailable for a consultation. Anakin goes home, only to find sand people kidnapped mom the previous day. Damn, kid, if only you’d thought to visit, I don’t know, once in the last decade, or even showed up one day earlier, mom would be okay. She dies and Anakin slaughters the sand people. He returns to Amidala, who has rebuffed his every advance, and tells her that he just killed women and children, and suddenly, she’s all “show me your lightsaber!”
Meanwhile, Obi-Wan tracks Jango Fett to yet another planet where a group of so-called Separatists are massing a droid army. Led by Count Dooku (Saruman), these folks want to… oh, who knows. It actually doesn’t matter. They turn out to be a dummy threat cooked up by Palpatine so that the idiots of the Republic will declare him Caesar. Anyway, Obi-Wan gets captured right as he learns this, causing Anakin and Amidala (now having robotic sex offscreen) to rush to his rescue. In their haste to leave, Anakin steals some droids from Uncle Owen, which partly explains why Owen is such a prick in Star Wars. Because Anakin and Amidala are incompetent, the Separatists capture them too, and because George Lucas had just rented Gladiator, the heroes get chained up in the middle of a large arena. A long, dull battle sequence ensues which culminates in a lightsaber duel between Dooku on one side and Anakin and Obi-Wan on the other. Dooku kicks both their asses and escapes. Palpatine becomes Emperor. Anakin and Amidala get secret-married on Naboo.
Life-Changing Subtext: Women really dig the slaughter of innocents.
Defining Quote: Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” This movie is filled with clumsily ironic foreshadowing. It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to hit your head against something wooden. Maybe Hayden Christensen is available.
Standout Performance: I really wish they would have let Sam Jackson play Mace Windu, Screaming Jedi, but they have him on downers the whole time. Saruman manages to inject some gravity, even though his character is named after something the dog did on the carpet.
What’s Wrong: A lot of the film’s unbearable running time can be chalked up to its lack of character. No one has anything interesting to do, so it’s left to the actors to fill in the blanks. Ewan MacGregor, the consummate pro that he is, coasts on his easy charisma and uncanny Alec Guiness impression. The rest of the cast is at sea. Jackson is only good when he’s screaming profanity, Portman needs a strong director to coax human emotion from her, and Christensen needs a new line of work.
Flash of Competence: I enjoyed Planet iMac. Not because it was well thought out. Not because the aliens were in any way interesting or real. Mostly because the Star Wars universe has some of the rudest aliens anywhere. Seriously, try to find a polite alien in the movies. The closest you get is Bib Fortuna, Jabba’s majordomo, and for all we know, “Tay wanna wanga” is Twi’leki for “Suck on my head-tails, flatface.”
Best Scenes: You really can’t beat any part in which Portman and Christensen are “acting.” The romantic scenes, even for the film’s dwindling apologists, are hilarious. Filled with the prequel trilogy’s clumsy foreshadowing, it’s sort of like being groped in the back of a VW Bug by a drunk gypsy. I also feel I should mention the endless scenes of ships gingerly landing on planets. They’re not impressive.
Transcendent Moment: Droid theft is up there. So is Amidala’s heart growing three sizes at Anakin’s sniveling declaration: “I killed women and children!” But the best/worst moment was branded by the soulless marketing drones at Fox. “Who da man? Yoda man!” Referencing the single worst sequence of the trailer, Yoda pulls a lightsaber – yes, the same character who would later say “Wars not make one great” and “You will know when you are calm, at peace, passive” pulls a lightsaber – and bounces around like a Turkish superhero. It’s a betrayal of character on the level of Superman beating the shit out of that guy in the diner.
Hopefully I beat Plinkett to the punch on this one. If not, maybe I can jinx him into posting his sure-to-be-awesome Attack of the Clones review.