Do you know what I would have liked to see from Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, the fifth film in the franchise? Something entertaining. This is the first of the series that was dull, and I have no idea why. So much of it was made with computers that it almost feels like an animated film. And yet, it seems the creativity is all but gone for most of the experience. As a result, we have people sitting around fake-looking rooms talking about nothing of importance for the vast majority of its running time. Boring.
Attack of the Clones begins a full decade after the last film ended, apparently because there’s no need to rush anything. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now the apprentice to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and the pair act like a couple out of a buddy cop movie. In fact, the initial chase sequence — one of two highlights we’re provided — plays out like a less daring Rush Hour. The pair crack wise, don’t listen to one another, but succeed in their aims. It takes place in a magically rendered city.
They’re separated soon after. Obi-Wan is tasked with tracking down someone who tried to kill now-Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), while Anakin has to protect the woman who was so nice to him when he was a wooden little child. Of course, you could have predicted in The Phantom Menace that he and Padmé would eventually fall in love, and so they do. They play out a terrible romantic drama for a good 45 minutes or so, which is where much of the tedium in this Star Wars comes from.
All the while, the Jedi council, which apparently consists of a now full-CGI Yoda (voice of Frank Oz), Master Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), Obi-Wan and nobody else of importance, meets and tries to decide what’s best for everyone. There isn’t even a villain or even a great danger until about the last third of the film; people just sit around, ominously talking about things that may or may not ever happen, and then we get a relatively exciting final battle scene to wrap it all up.
The pacing is off, and for the first time in the franchise, I was often dozing off while it was playing. It doesn’t help that the only interesting character, Obi-Wan, is the only one who doesn’t get a whole lot of dramatic moments. He’s off chasing a bounty hunter named Jango Fett (Temeura Morrison), and therefore doesn’t get to do anything as a character. Anakin and Padmé talk a whole lot, but they’re so underwritten and underperformed that nothing they talk about is worth listening to. The Jedi council would be fun if they had reason to meet, but it seemed to be there mostly so the non-puppet Yoda could be shown off as often as possible.
This is also the first time I thought that there were too many special effects, and that the focus was more on them than anything else. Seemingly everything in the movie was created digitally. Sets that would have been actually made years earlier were whipped up in a computer, and the technology hasn’t advanced enough for that to always work. At times, it looks fake — fake enough to draw your attention away from the movie and onto its craftsmanship.
Some more world-building does happen in this film, and a few more incidents and characters are set-up for the “main” trilogy, but there’s absolutely no reason for it to all be this boring. And there isn’t even a whole lot that is established in this one that we didn’t already know. Why Boba Fett gets involved in later years is brought up, and we see that one of the characters has plans drawn up for a primitive Death Star, but these take a few moments, not more than two hours.
Attack of the Clones also starts to show us how Anakin descends into darkness. Although that’s not really what happens. There’s a bit of that, but mostly he’s just shown as disrespectful and more like a teenager than a young adult. He feels Obi-Wan is holding him back, and sure, that might be the case, but the way he disregards orders and does his own thing just makes him so unlikable. We’re supposed to be rooting for this guy at this point, right? I found that difficult.
It’s not helped that he’s been played by stiff actors for the last couple of movies. You can kind of excuse it the last time around, as Jake Lloyd was really young. What’s Christensen’s excuse? Does he have no grasp on the character? Was he given no direction? Many of the actors are poor, so I almost think that might have been the case. George Lucas directed this installment and seemed so transfixed on the special effects that, to him, it might not have mattered what the actors were doing.
Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones is the worst of the Star Wars franchise for a few reasons. It looks fake — even more so than the original which was made in the ’70s — it is dull for the majority of its running time, it has no characters worth following or caring about (despite giving them a ton of time to sit around and talk), and it has actors who look lost in front of the green screen behind them. The effects are the focus and they’re not good enough, for the most part, to be the spectacle that is needed to make them the star.