This is the one that I was dreading. Attack of the Clones is no doubt the worst of the Star Wars films. Much more so than Phantom Menace. This is the film where the inconsistencies with the original trilogy really begin to pile up.
R2-D2 has extendable rockets that allow him to fly. Where in the hell were those in the original trilogy?
If C-3PO was sold along with Shmi to the Lars family, then how could Owen and Beru not recognize C-3PO when they bought him again in Episode IV?
Why does Yoda tell Luke that the Force is used for knowledge and defense only if he went all spastic on Count Dooku?
And then there’s a whole bunch of non-canon related issues.
The acting continues to be bad in this film. Anakin and Padame have no chemistry between each other. Hayden Christensen turns in a poor performance and comes across as a whiny brat. Padame does not help by dressing suggestively when they are on Naboo. Their love for each other is completely unmotivated. I’m not going to say that Han and Leia had the best relationship but at least they had some fun moments between each other.
The environments and sets in the film are not as memorable as those in other films. When I think of A New Hope, I think of the barren and rugged landscapes of Tatooine and the military industrial look of the Death Star’s interior. Empire Strikes Back has the snow planet of Hoth, dark swampy Dagobah, and the pristine Cloud City. Return of the Jedi had the green forests of Endor along with recycled aesthetics for Tatooine and the new Death Star.
What does Attack of the Clones have? A lot of the film takes place on Coruscant. A planet-wide city could be made to look good, but I do not find the look memorable at all. The architecture does not stand out. There are more scenes on Naboo, which look fine but lack the scale of Phantom Menace. I feel that there is no opportunity to properly appreciate Geonosis. The planet is a desert one like Tatooine but has no real interesting look to it. The droid factory and the colosseum could have been made to look interesting but they fail in this regard.
The idea of Obi-Wan going to the cook of a slow food restaurant is… odd. It looks like a future version of a 1960’s diner. That seems a little out of place in a galaxy far far away. Everything else in the films takes inspiration from fantasy stories, ancient legends, and old film serials. I guess the idea of a Jedi going to advice in a slow food diner is supposed to be funny but it comes across as lame.
Christopher Lee is underused. He only shows up about half way through the film. We never really learn about his motivation for trying to start a war. Why should he be invested in Palpatine’s plan?
Jar Jar Binks is gratefully downplayed. Unfortunately, his comedic antics are transferred to C-3PO. Threepio’s bumbling subverts the tension in the latter half of the film and is just plain annoying.
The scene where Yoda fights Dooku is hilariously terrible. I know that this is fiction and that Yoda is an alien but I cannot believe that the short toad can do flips and spins in the air with a lightsaber. And when the fight is over, Yoda goes back to hobbling on his cane.
So, with all of that said, is there anything good about the film? Well, I do like the extended fight scene in the colosseum. The alien animals that were intended to execute the heroes all had memorable designs. Seeing a bunch of Jedi slice through an army of droids is satisfying.
There are a few good quotes and exchanges but not as many as in the original trilogy. Some notable ones include, “She is a politician and they are not to be trusted.” The ‘aggressive negotiations’ phrase is catchy. And I like the exchange between Obi-Wan and the death stick salesman. That was the funniest part of the film.
One of the better parts is when Anakin goes to Tatooine to look for his mother. I like the image of him on a speeder hell-bent on finding her. John Williams’s score is at its best here. It really drives home the intensity of the situation. Even Christensen’s acting here is not that bad. I really felt for Anakin. It gives the little runt a reason to turn to the dark side to try and cure death.
Sadly, I cannot say that the little that is good in this film outweighs the bad. I remember going to the theater to see this film and coming away underwhelmed in a way that I did not feel with the Phantom Menace. Unlike the original trilogy, I can probably count the number of times I have seen Attack of the Clones on a single hand. It is just not as memorable as the other films.
Now I dread watching Revenge of the Sith.