Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Star Wars

Released: 2002
Director: George Lucas
Starring: Ewan MacGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen

A great action adventure (but a rubbish love story)

The second episode in the Star Wars saga is a big improvement on its predecessor, The Phantom Menace.  Gone is the dull and convoluted trading dispute plot and while there are still elements of political machinations in the storyline these are much simpler and don’t ever threaten to overwhelm the action.

It is ten years since the end of the first film and Anakin is now a talented but headstrong and arrogant apprentice Jedi under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  The Senate is debating the formation of a Republic wide army to assist the Jedi Order with their peace-keeping duties.  The move is strongly opposed by the former Queen of Naboo and now Senator Amidala, making her become a target for assassination.

Obi-Wan investigates the source of the threat to Amidala’s life and in the process uncovers the creation of a clone army.  Anakin is tasked with providing close protection to Amidala who seeks refuge on her home planet of Naboo.

Anakin is increasingly troubled by his inability to control his feelings, particularly in respect of his mother on Tatooine and his love for Amidala.  His emotional turmoil makes him vulnerable to the allure of the Dark Side which is growing ever stronger and clouding the ability of Jedi Masters to use the Force.

Ewan MacGregor has matured well into the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  He displays a good mixture of power, authority and uncertainty that the character needs.  Hayden Christensen continues to portray Anakin as an annoying brat – I think it’s deliberate this time but we really should be feeling more sympathy for Anakin rather than irritation.  Again, Natalie Portman makes an appealing heroine but it’s a shame to see her reduced to a clothes horse in a never-ending display of awful floaty dresses and ridiculous hairstyles.  She is much more impressive when she gets to flex her muscles in the action scenes.

The supporting cast is absolutely stellar with Samuel L Jackson’s role as Mace Windu substantially beefed up from the previous installment.  Christopher Lee is magnificently menacing as the evil Count Dooku and Ian McDiarmid continues to impress as Palpatine. Jimmy Smits’ role as Bail Organa is minor, but he brings his usual gravitas and sincerity to the screen, even when he is just standing in the background.

There are two distinct stories here; a fun, exciting science fiction action adventure and a ponderous, soppy, dull love story.  The scenes of Anakin and Amidala frolicking in Naboo’s fields are nauseating and it’s always a relief to switch from this part of the narrative back to the action and Obi-Wan.  Lucas is far better at creating big set-piece action sequences than gentle love stories.

The film really comes to life in the last 40 minutes or so.  A massive battle in a coliseum is reminiscent of great gladiatorial contests and it’s fun to see Samuel L Jackson get into the thick of the action with his very, very cool purple lightsaber.  The battle between Yoda and Count Dooku is spectacular.  For a little guy with a walking stick Yoda has got some moves.  What kind of creature is Yoda anyway? He’s green and hairy with a peculiar grasp of the English language (every sentence is structured in Latin).  Whatever he is, I love him dearly as I’m sure all Star Wars fans do.

The film foreshadows impending doom throughout.  The music, lighting and effects all contribute to a growing sense of fear and create a real excitement and anticipation for the next part of the story and the conclusion of the first trilogy.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceStar Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith >>
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