Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) – A Story Ruined By Excess and Horrible Dialogue

Attack of the Clones

   “Attack of the Clones” is a film that could have been and wasn’t dead from the beginning like “The Phantom Menace” there are good ideas here…a Galaxy on the brink of war, forbidden love as well as the chance to explore politics and philosophy…sadly we don’t get very much of any of this at all. There are inklings of all these ideas here but the script fails to execute them choosing instead to focus on fight and chase sequences that go on way too long and just bring the film down.

      “Attack of the Clones” was directed by George Lucas who also co-wrote it with Jonathan Hales and was produced by Rick McCallum.

     The story involves strife in the Republic as a faction of the Republic looks at leaving while an assassination attempt is made on Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) leading Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice Anakin (Hayden Christensen) to investigate the assassination attempt and protect her.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise is great. Love in a time of war, politics of grey and a mystery to be solved as a huge point of the plot is discovering Jango Fett’s origin and why the assassination on Padme happened. Sadly the same cannot be said for the execution of the premise.

 Ewan McGregor – I’m not putting Obi-Wan down because his character is not written consistently (sometimes calm and collected, other times more reckless than Anakin), but Ewan McGregor really does a wonderful job with all the dialogue and lines he is given. He gets into it fully and he is never boring to watch.

Palpatine/Darth Sidious – Ian McDiarmid is wonderful as Palpatine as we get to see him deftly manipulate everyone around him once more. He is good at playing it sad when he is given an army and when he talks to Anakin there is warmth there showing just how great of a sociopath Sidious is.

Okay: Padme – Padme was okay, she is there teach Anakin empathy and does a good job of it as she is the one calling him out on things (except when he kills the Tuscan Raiders). Sadly her motivations are never shown and we never get to see her faction in the Senate or her interact with them. This was a shame as it could have established Bail Organa as more than just a cameo and given us motivation. I had no idea why Padme made the choices she did.

 Contrast – One thing that was pulled off decently was contrast. Padme came from wealth and was from a beautiful world and had a family, Anakin’s world was desolate where he lost everything and had no support. Already they have trouble relating to each other which sets up the failed relationship better later on. It wasn’t great due to dialogue and things that were written but the idea and the contrast shown was decent at least.

The Cons: The Republic – The Republic never shows us the players outside of Palpatine, Jar Jar and Padme. All we get is the Naboo story and we never see the political factions, even the one Padme is a part of and what they are doing to fight for peace and keeping the Republic from militarization. It never gets past the idea and tell phase, we never see show.

The Jedi – The Jedi are also an idea when they aren’t cops or superheroes, which is a shame. War is going on and except for Yoda saying that they haven’t won and the the Clone Wars has begun we see nothing to really understand or know the Jedi. They come off as bland, faceless bureaucrats, just like the Republic and Separatists.

The Separatists – Dooku says the reason they are leaving is because the Sith are controlling the Republic, ironically he is one too but I never got that the Separatists were anything more than selfish businessmen using robots to fight their wars. This faction isn’t humanized and is simply there to be shot at. So much potential lost to show us complex players since this is supposed to be an era of grey that completely fails.

Sword as Life, The Death of the Jedi Philosophy in the Prequels – Obi-Wan tells Anakin “Your sword is your life.” This is messed up and unbalanced as Jedi are supposed to be more than the tools they use. Sadly the tools are all they are as we see Yoda pull out a lightsaber and fight Dooku when in “Empire” he tells Luke that weapons and war do not make one great and that size doesn’t matter. This entire film counters that as we see him use a tiny lightsaber…whatever happened to the philosophy of the force? I guess stupid action is easier.

Editing – “The Phantom Menace” had decent editing, this one has a lot of very awkward scenes that end before jumping somewhere else. It breaks up the flow of the film and was really distracting.

The Dialogue – I don’t need to say much here. Lucas can’t write romance and it really shows. Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen aren’t bad actors but the dialogue is bad they just come off as unnatural and stilted. There is nothing to believe and it isn’t just them.

Excess – Excess is a major theme of the film, especially excess of action. The Battle of Genosia goes on way too long, the chase to catch the Bounty Hunter Jango Fett hired goes on way too long, Jango hunting Obi-Wan goes on way too long, the droid factory is just thrown in there and countless other events that I could point out. They seem to be there because visually they might look good, but it doesn’t mean anything. All we get are pretty colors and it doesn’t mean anything at all. Also Anakin killing the Sand People and wanting to stop death…excess and everything being over-dramatic really brought it all down.

Questions and Things That Didn’t Make Sense – Why did Jango hire a Bounty Hunter? Didn’t his boss hire him to kill Padme? Was Sidious always planning the Clone Wars since the army was ordered 10 years prior? Who is Sifo-Dyus? Why did Dooku leave the Jedi order? Who are the factions in the Senate? Why do the Separatists want to leave and why would they trust the Trade Federation after Naboo?

Reference – “The Phantom Menace” had this problem too but it was bigger here. Jango being Boba’s father, certain scenes shot to be like “Empire” it was like George was afraid to just give us a story and had to tie everything to the Originals even if it didn’t make sense.

  This was a film that could have easily beat “The Phantom Menace” but fails to hold up under scrutiny. There are fewer pros in this one than “The Phantom Menace” but the cons are overwhelmingly worse. So often it felt like I was watching a videogame that I could not play and was expected to believe things I was told while never being shown the actions. The opening was meant to give us complexity but all we get were bland heroes and villains who left no impact.

Final Score: 3 / 10

Star Wars Rebels – Season 2, Episode 2 – “Relics of the Old Republic” – Clones and Jedi Together Again

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  “Relics of the Old Republic” is another solid episode of “Star Wars Rebels.” There hasn’t been a great episode so far but I think that’s mostly due to the writers developing the feel and characters of this season as we have a much more expansive cast thanks to the addition of the Clones and Ahsoka. How their arcs will all play out remains to be seen though.

    The story involves Agent Kallus’s assault on the Clones and Rebels as Kanan continues to deal with his distrust of them while Hera works on an escape.

The Pros: Agent Kallus – The guy should have done an orbital bombardment but I got to give him props for coming down in AT-AT’s and he did destroy the Clones’ Tank, even if all his Walkers were destroyed in the process. It was kind of out of his control since Constantine got recalled to pick up an Inquisitor

The Clones and Rex – I really like them, especially Rex who has adopted Ezra as a Ahsoka or Anakin type of partner. It was great seeing them in action against Kallus’s AT-AT Walkers and them having to work with the Jedi to survive. It was like “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” again.

Kanan – Kanan’s distrust is still just as strong but he begins coming around, especially when Rex tells him that the Jedi are the only ways they will survive the battle and that he always trusts his General. After the battle Kanan begins to warm towards them.

Ezra – Ezra is the one who has to guide them above when they are in the sandstorm and we see him step up to the challenge. It is awesome seeing that it is Rex’s belief in him that gives him the courage to do it too.

Okay: Sabine, Zeb, Hera and Chopper – All of them are just kind of there and we don’t get any real character time with any of them. They are just surviving and none of them had standout moments this episode.

  This was a good ending to the arc that started last episode. We meet the Fifth Brother Inquisitor at the end of the episode and the Clones join the Rebellion so there are lots of stories that could be made. Part of me is hoping that the Clones go out in a blaze of glory or get back in touch with their Mandalorian heritage. Either way, there is so much that can be done thanks to this episode.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 3, Episode 2 – “ARC Troopers” – What Kamino Means to the Clones

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      I know Kamino won’t fall, it’s too important to the plot, but I’m glad Ventress and Grievous were able to do some lasting damage, their plan to take the planet wasn’t so bad either…they were just going up against the plot armor of Anakin and Obi-Wan, so I’ll give Grievous a pass this time. This was a really enjoyable episode as it was great seeing the Rookies in action, along with 99, Cadets and Commander Cody and Captain Rex. This is their episode more than any other character as this story is about their world under assault.

     “ARC Troopers” was directed by Kyle Dunlevy and written by Cameron Litvack.

    The story picks up with the destruction of the Republic Outpost on the Rishi Moon and Obi-Wan and Anakin going with Cody, Rex and the surviving Rookies to protect Kamino from an assault on two fronts by Ventress and General Grievous. From here the story unfolds as 99 and new cadets are pulled into the battle for their home and the survival of Clones.

The Pros: The Clones – This episode is all about the Clones and they all get exploration. Whether they are new soldiers like the Cadets or the Rookies or old ones like 99 and Cody and Rex. Each of them are given a chance to claim their identity and fight for their world.

Commander Cody and Captain Rex – Cody and Rex show how personal this is and ask if they can be there to defend their world. It’s a powerful moment and we see them rally the troops and give the go ahead for the Cadets to join the fight.

The Cadets – The Cadets are just trying to survive and escape at first but after Fives and Echo rally them through their fear they ambush the attacking droids in the final holdout and manage to save the day.

Fives and Echo – These two are made ARC troopers and their telling 99 about what happened to Heavy is sad as you can see how connected they all are. They are trying to protect 99 the most through the episode and mourn his loss the hardest as he was their friend.

99 – 99 fights to the bitter end and gets ammo to troops, protects the children and in the end dies trying to get more ammo for the men. His death is felt as we have gotten to know this character and see that he never let age or being a “defunct” Clone get him down.

The Droid Army – We see Aquatic Droids and giant Squid-like assault creatures this episode. It is a great attack and they really feel like a threat, and they do a lot of damage too, killing countless members of the 501st and forcing the survivors to make a last stand before the ARC reinforcements arrive.

Ventress – Ventress kills and kisses a powerful Clone Soldier to introduce herself (of course it was banned on television) but I’m glad Netflix kept it as it shows how little she cares about anything but the success of the mission and accumulation of power. She holds her own agains Anakin really well and almost beats him and leaves with the Clone DNA but is stopped by the 501st.

General Grievous – Grievous manages to be a pretty big threat and almost kills Obi-Wan. He is nothing compared to Ventress though and she shuts him down multiple times. He of course runs away at the end, but that seems to be what he does all the freakin time.

Okay: The Jedi – Obi-Wan, Anakin and Shaak Ti are just kind of there. They get no real exploration as characters since this episode is primarily focused on the Clones. They aren’t bad but I can’t say anything unique about them beyond Anakin being overconfident.

   This is an amazing episode, like most are that explore Clone Identity. In this we see how much being a soldier is in regards to that, so much so that they are willing to fight no matter what their age is and that the DNA and creation of more Clones to serve the Republic is paramount to their purpose and why they fight. It’s powerful and I found the death of 99 actually mattering.

Final Score: 9.5 / 10

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Season 1, Episode 16 – “The Hidden Enemy” – A Reason to Betray

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Truth enlightens the mind, but won’t always bring happiness to your heart.

     “The Hidden Enemy” continues the Christophsis Arc and also shows us just how diverse the clones are in motivation and the full extent of the Separatist Threat. It is a great episode and it leaves things open too as the Battle for Christophsis still remains unfinished.

       The episode was directed by Steward Lee and written by Drew Z. Greenberg who was also one of the writers on the first part of this arc in “Cat and Mouse.”

        The story picks up with the Separatist Ground Invasion as the Clone troopers seek to mount a counteroffensive. Things go wrong when they are betrayed by one of their own leading Cody and Rex to find the informant while Obi-Wan and Anakin go to confront the Separatist leader. From here the story unfolds.

The Pros: The Clones – We see so much complexity in the clones in regards to their motivations and personalities. The fact that one is willing to betray the Republic to be free says a lot as well as the reasons Cody, Rex and the others choose to fight. They have distinct personalities too with some being nervous or shy and others being hardened and willing to confront their commanders forcefully…and even the twisted idealism of Slick.

The Separatist Threat – The Separatist Battle Droids and Tanks wipe the floor of the Clones to kick off this episode and we finally get to see them as a threat! They are never comedic relief really and the final shot of the huge army arriving on Christophsis really shows just how outmatched our heroes are in the coming battle.

Cody and Rex – Cody and Rex are great characters. We don’t know their personalities fully yet but they care deeply for their brothers and Slick’s words about them being slaves hits at least one of them. You can tell they don’t know fully why they fight except to protect other Clones who have no choice in the matter like them. It’s a sad state of affairs for them and you see that sadness, especially when Obi-Wan and Anakin choose to stay and fight rather than retreat and save lives.

Slick – Slick is the commander of the barracks and sold out Christophsis to the Separatists because he was tired of being a cog in the military machine. He has no freedom and is simply the property of the Republic. When he voices that it hits Cody and Rex too as they realize he is right to some degree. It’s a powerful episode and I hope we see more of Slick or clones like him.

Obi-Wan and Anakin – Obi-Wan and Anakin make a lot of jokes about going into a trap but manage to get out in time and realize that the longer they fight Ventress, the more likely Christophsis will fall, which leads to them retreating.

Ventress – Ventress makes her first appearance in the timeline of the 3D show and we see just how powerful she is. She isn’t a Sith but she is a powerful Dark Jedi and fulfills Dooku’s plan of stalling the Jedi until the forces could be landed really well. We see she has a history with Obi-Wan too as they have pet names they call one another. Together they are stronger than her but she is smart enough to stall them.

The quote that kicks off every episode is strong here. Why are the Clones fighting beyond programming when they are clearly slaves of the Republic and have no choice in battle. It’s a sad state of affairs and the Jedi just take them for granted. In this way the Separatist movement truly is one of independence since those who want power will be granted it. Dooku doesn’t betray the way Palpatine does and we see how far so many of those involved in the movement have risen while the Republic is already on the path towards the Empire. This was the perfect episode of the series for me and shows me just how great this show has the possibility of being.

Final Score: 10 / 10.