By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by George Lucas
- Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee
Welcome to Star Wars Wednesdays! Every Wednesday I’ll be talking about/looking at a new piece of Star Wars media, starting with the movies and going onwards into the shows, games, and maybe even comics and books if people are interested. These will work differently from my normal reviews as they will be also discussing the piece as it works within the canon of Star Wars as a whole.
On paper, Attack of the Clones really should be the best of these things. Both a noir political thriller and a grand space war epic at the same time, it’s got the sweeping romance and the big emotions one would expect from this kind of story while also leaning into the stuff that worked about the prior film. After all, with established groundwork and all of the pieces in place, this should be a no brainer. Right?
And then the characters open their mouths.
It’s a shame that Attack of the Clones flounders so quickly and so early, and it pretty much never recovers. While it’s premise is rock solid on the onset, the film quickly gets bogged down in it’s own exposition – little to no dialogue here is actually there to advance character and the bit that is there is so haphazardly written that you would swear these characters are nothing more then blank slates that speak. While George Lucas has never been the best with dialogue (his many other strengths lie elsewhere) this is easily his weakest showing and the film’s reliance on it when compared to other Star Wars films is it’s downfall.
That weak dialogue affect’s what should be a great story to boot. There is a great story in here somewhere – the fall of democracy in the rise of war, our leaders and religious group blinded by their own arrogance – but there is a muddied lack of clarity. Why is the Republic crumbling? Why aren’t there enough Jedi anymore? These questions are pervasive throughout the entire film and for all of the film’s focus on exposition, it’s weird they never once actually sit down and lay more groundwork.
I don’t normally like to harp on these things as to me I’m always more focused on theme and general filmmaking prowess but it’s when it’s this obviously rushed it brings down the whole production, which is already being held at by the seems. Compared to Phantom Menace‘s brilliant mix of production design, VFX, and practical creatures, Attack of the Clones is shot entirely on digital (the first big budget film to ever do so) and filled to the brim with CGI that ranges from impressive looking to downright ugly. In large wides it looks stellar but on close ups it looks weak and even flat at points, particularly with the clones whose decision to make them all CGI feels bizarre and last minute.
Which it likely was. Attack of the Clones’ production was the most hectic out of all of the prequels and it’s rushed script was a means of production necessity – written in about two weeks in order to meet a strict filming deadline as well with the action sequences already done on digital animatics beforehand. While this is normal for many blockbusters nowadays, back in the day this was revolutionary technology so it makes sense why the production was so hectic and so all over the place. Lucas was, to an extent, flying blind, so many of the film’s faults can excused to some extent.
Still, the faulty structure of the film makes the film in the grand story of the saga feels somewhat half-baked. And when it comes down to it, it’s nothing more then an elongated prologue to the Clone Wars and it’s galactic ramifications so it has to rely on it’s character dynamics which just aren’t there either. Obi-Wan is separate from the rest of the cast for most of it, Anakin and Padme has little to no chemistry thanks to the weak dialogue here, and when they do have screentime together it’s mostly “go go go” action sequences with very little downtime. It’s just a shame too cause I like the dynamics potentially at play here it’s all surrounded by lackluster storytelling.
I’ve tried to like Attack of the Clones for years. Hell, there are sections of it I do like, but overall it’s just the weakest of the bunch by a good margin and it just has too much going against it to fully recommend. Obviously those getting into Star Wars will watch it regardless so I’m mostly just talking to brick walls here but it remains, at least to me, the weakest in the main saga films and I doubt that opinion is gonna change.