Film Review: Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones

So we jump forward ten years from Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace and arrive at a time when everything has changed and yet somehow stayed statically familiar. Episode 2 – Attack Of The Clones instantly feels connected to what has gone before it but because the characters have aged also feels removed. Watching them so close together you can feel that they naturally flow into each other, but also that they are basically two independent stories.

Sadly though, while I sense their shared history, I just fail to really buy into Attack of the Clones. Everything just feels to necessary. Forced together to fit a bigger picture rather than being a coherent story. It also swings wildly between action and romance and neither really convey the strength to carry the film. The fighting too weak and unsatisfactorily simple, the romance too dandelions and buttercup meadows.

Anakin Skywalker & Padme (Love) - Star Wars - Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones

And this sense of honeymoon sickliness isn’t helped by the fact that I can never really buy into Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and now simply Padmé (Natalie Portman) playing a game of “will they won’t they”. It somehow feels wrong, almost incestuous, that characters we first met and bonded to as almost brother and sister could be thrust together like this. But I suppose the franchise does have history, like father like son and all that!

Portman is her usual never rock the boat self, while Christensen, puts in an overall performance that I don’t like but also don’t actually mind. It’s a bit bland in the face and a bit wooden around the eyes, and yet he also seems to perfectly capture the turmoil and pain and inner warping that his hate and anger drive to the surface. You believe that he’s a messed up kid, but for large portions he feels more like a pubescence teenager rebelling against authority by declaring “it’s not fair”, rather than the chosen leader of the force deciding which path to tread to infamy.

My biggest problem though with Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is how it appears visually. It’s just so muddled and distracting. Phantom Menace while simple looked good. It didn’t feel dated. And yet this, felt cheap and tacky. There are large sequences that feel less CGI and more 1970s cardboard models, there are even times when you actually question if you can see the strings. And just as you get your head around the feeling this creates you’re suddenly treated to full on CGI that doesn’t blend into the background, doesn’t go unnoticed, but instead makes you feel that you’ve been transported out of a serious movie and into the world of a computer game. It just feels and looks totally wrong. Completely out of character with everything else and breaks what little tension the action on screen should be conveying.

Yoda - Star Wars - Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

Even worse is the computer game visuals, is the rendering of Yoda. Aside from a dress sense that appears at time to be “street”, he looks more like he’s wearing a tracksuit and hoody than Jedi robes, he also has a two-dimensional artistic quality that makes you think he’s pencil drawn. He’s flat, almost feathered in stroke and yet he’s set into a glossy, smooth world. It just doesn’t look. The styles just too unharmonious.

After all the visual problems, things don’t even improve with the usually saving grace of a John Williams’s soundtrack. The music in Attack of the Clones often feels out of character and overly audible. Coming across as demanding and forced rather than complimentary and evocative. Also, the film is really lacking that pivotal song. Borrowing from other sources to hint and connect than defining it’s own legacy.

Boba Fett - Star Wars - Episode 2 (Connection to Future Films) - Attack of the Clones

It’s the sense of borrowing and connection that you get from the soundtrack that defines my entire thoughts on the film. It really is just a small fragment truly designed to start connecting all of the films together and while there is just about enough going on to hold the film, to make it work independently, there are also too many element that are there to simply set up or explain future happenings. And that’s fine, I don’t mind that, now, because I’ve seen the story, I know what happens, but if you don’t, you’d miss so much, you’d be left with confused questions and lingering doubt as to why, and what, was truly going on.

Watching the films in order, I enjoyed Attack of the Clones more than The Phantom Menace because it’s paced quicker, the fighting harder and the story less wordy and ponderous; but sadly, like it’s little brother, it’s a visual and narrative mess, and even worse, it feels dated before it’s time.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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