Published on June 1st, 2008 | by simeon0
Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones
In 1999 George Lucas brought the first of three new Star Wars films to the screen. Amidst hype and expectations never before encountered for any previous film, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” was released to a rabid public and was met with mixed reactions by fans and critics. Many viewers cited the child like tone of the film, and did not like new characters such as the clownish Jar Jar Binks, and Nute Gunray as they paled when compared to the characters in the original series. Nevertheless, the film went on to gross over $400 million at the American Box office alone, and gained millions more in merchandise sales as well as video and DVD sales and rentals.
The problem in many ways was that the film was a victim of the previous films success. It had been 17 years since audiences had last seen a new Star Wars film, having only books and comics to further the series in the meantime, and with the promise of a new series, fans expected a continuation of what they had grown to love from the original series. The problem with this thinking is that the new trilogy is a different time, and a different setting. The new series follows the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker as well as the fall of the Old Republic. Lucas knew he had three films in which to tell his tale, and I believe that the first film was nothing more than an introduction to characters, situations, and places in order to delve into a deeper and darker storyline in the next two films. It should also be noted that since the new series centers on Anakin Skywalker, the tone of the films likely would reflect his age. For example he was a child in the first film, so the tone went accordingly. In the second film, he is a young man, and as he has the trials of growing into adulthood and learns the ramifications of decisions he makes as well as from his mistakes, the film has a more mature theme, as it is a coming of age story in many ways.
Awash in speculation, conjecture, optimistic hype, and plenty of secrecy the second chapter of the Prequel trilogy “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones”, went into production roughly a year after the debut of the last film. The Internet was abuzz with casting rumors, alleged storylines, and pictures from the closed film sets and fans spent the two years plus production time of the film speculating how the new film would fit into the series. Would it fail to live up to expectations for some as the last film did, or would it soar as Director George Lucas was no longer shaking of the rust of a 17-year sabbatical from directing and has a established premise and characters?
I have been a huge fan of the series ever since that Imperial Star Destroyer zoomed across the screen back in 1977. My then nine-year-old imagination was sparked by the images of the series and in many ways, that series fueled my love for films and prompted me to start writing about the genre back in my Prep School days, and has continued to this day. I rode a fine line between wanting to know about the new film, and not wanting to learn everything there was to know. I posted an outline of the story as I understood it to be a year ago, but I refrained from reading the book or learning more about the film until the press screening, as I wanted to have some surprises much as I did with the first film. So while I did go in with a general outline of the events of the film and a desire to see just how accurate the information given to me was, I was ready to be taken away to that Galaxy far, far away.
“Attack of the Clones” is set ten years after the events of “The Phantom Menace” as the Republic is continuing to crumble and faces a new threat from a separatist named Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), who is leading systems to break away from the Republic, and a state of galactic civil war is brewing. Into this backdrop, Senator Padme Nabariee (Natalie Portman) of Naboo travels to the Galactic Capital of Coruscant for a Senate meeting on how to deal with this crisis. Padme avoids and assai nation attempt upon her arrival and is put under the care of Jedi Knight Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Anakin has not seen Padme since she was serving her people as Queen Amidala ten years ago, and is captivated by her. Padme sees Anakin as the little boy she knew years ago and even refers to him by his childhood moniker of “Annie”. Subsequent attempts on Padme’s life lead the Jedi to uncover a darker plot that threatens not only Padme, but also the entire galaxy. It seems that a large clone army is being created on the water planet Kamino, and this event can only be seen by the Republic as a prelude to war. It is against this backdrop that Anakin and Padme begin to fall in love despite her misgivings and the fact that Anakin is strictly forbidden to have close relationships as a Jedi. Their courtship takes the two lovers to her home world of Naboo, Anakin’s home world of Tattoine and to a desolate planet for the films spectacular climax.
I do not wish to give away much of the film as the joy of this film is discovering the plot as it unfolds and watching the love blossom between the two characters against the backdrop of war. The fact that we know what is to come for Anakin in many ways makes his love for Padme even sweeter as it is something that is his, and he has lived a life of servitude and isolation and is starting to find himself for the first time and questions authority figures and rigid structures in an effort to express himself.
Christensen and Portman are fantastic as they have an electric chemistry between them that makes the their relationship not only believable but heightens the tension of the film as the audience knows that the quite moments for the two lovers are to be cherished in the face of the brewing storm as if just for a moment, the audience and the characters can wonder what if, for the couple as people have for “Romeo and Juliet” in the past.
Of course this would not be a Star Wars film without action and rousing special effects and the artists at Industrial Light and Magic have once again set the standard for others to follow as the film is a visual marvel. A rain-soaked battle between Obi-Wan and Jango Fett (Temura Morrison), is a frenzy of images and moves that combine visual style with action movies worthy of the best fight sequences in film history. In a bold move, Lucas pauses the battle briefly only to resume it soon after in a space setting as the two combatants take their battle to the skies. It is a sequence that will leave audiences exilherated and breathless but as good as it is, it pales when compared to the epic battle at the films conclusion.
McGregor gives a tour deforce performance as Obi Wan, as he blends the wisdom and compassion of his character, with the fierceness and loyalty that he displays as a warrior battling for the Republic. You can see the love he has for Anakin and his turmoil to instruct Anakin as he grows into a man just as his mentor Qui Gon Jinn did for him tempered with the strain of his duty to the Republic. Christopher Lee is solid in an all to short role as Count Dooku, he is a man who is charismatic as he is malevolent, and is a character that has a complexity about him that is hinted at briefly in the film, yet does not leave his character lacking.
In summary “Attack of the Clones” delivers the goods. The political turmoil of the plot is a rich and pleasant surprise as it elevates the entire film and provides a maturity and sophistication to the story and characters that was not present in the last two films in the series, and makes the film easily the most mature themed film of the series, and easily the best film of them all
5 stars out of 5