Episode II: Attack of the Clones
A lot of carry-over from Phantom Menace, though Hayden Christensen has been brought in to play an older Anakin Skywalker. Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman return as Obi-Wan and Padmé. Esteemed Christopher Lee (sadly passed away in 2015, but is extremely memorable for playing Saruman in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit [he had met Tolkien once], as well as voicing the Jabberwocky in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. He was also Rochefort in some of the older Three Musketeer movies featuring Michael York as D’Artagnan, and was a Bond villain in The Man with the Golden Gun; portrayed Dracula, and several different characters is various Sherlock Holmes renditions. His filmography goes back to the mid-forties, with over 280 credits, after serving in the Royal Air Force in WWII) plays Count Dooku. Jimmy Smits (spent a decade with NYPD Blue and a few years after that on The West Wing, and has a role in the new In the Heights movie. Prior to that, he was with L.A. Law; I think that’s how my parents knew him…I do remember him hosting A Capitol Fourth one year; the orchestra played Battle of the Heroes after Revenge of the Sith came out) joins as Senator Bail Organa (yes, Leia’s father down the road).
Takes place ten years after Phantom Menace, Anakin and Obi-Wan have grown as a Master-Padawan team and are assigned to protect Padmé Amidala, now a Senator after an attempt has been made on her life (the opening of the film). Anakin still puts his foot in his mouth and apparently has not lost his crush on Padmé. Obi-Wan cautions him, but Anakin is also distracted by dreams and visions he’s had about his mother. That is why they almost miss a bounty hunter sending a droid to put two worm creatures into Padmé’s room. Obi-Wan takes the quick way and jumps out the window after the droid (who’s reckless now?) Anakin chases after his Master in a speeder, weaving in and out of Courscant traffic. The bounty hunter shoots down the droid and Obi-Wan almost plummets to his death, but Anakin catches him. Then they banter back and forth a bit and Obi-Wan comments “if you spent as much time practicing your saber technique as you do your wit, you’d rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.” “I thought I already did.” “Only in your mind, my very young apprentice!”
What follows is a bit of a chase, where Obi-Wan is not fond of Anakin’s flying; “I don’t mind flying, but what you’re doing is suicide!” [I did an excerpt of this scene from the novelization as a dramatic reading when I was on the forensics team in high school] Until a shortcut doesn’t work out so well and the pair thinks they’ve lost the bounty hunter. Anakin then leaps out of the speeder to catch the bounty hunter; “I hate it when he does that,” Obi-Wan mutters. The bounty hunter tries to shake Anakin, but he persists, though he drops his lightsaber in the process. Obi-Wan follows and catches his Padawan before he can run after the bounty hunter again. They track their prey to a bar, Obi-Wan bemoaning a bit, “why do I have the feeling that you’re going to be the death of me?” Anakin insists not, Obi-Wan is the closest thing he has to a father. Obi-Wan sends Anakin to scan the crowd while Obi-Wan draws their prey out by having a drink at the main counter, after sending a patron away with a mind trick. Obi-Wan catches the bounty hunter with his lightsaber and they attempt to question her, but another bounty hunter fires a toxic dart, leaving the Jedi with more questions and few answers.
The Jedi Council instructs Obi-Wan to track down the second bounty hunter. Meanwhile, Anakin is to escort Padmé back to Naboo and keep her protected. Chancellor Palpatine is eager to help young Skywalker and remarks he sees Anakin becoming the greatest Jedi, even more powerful than Master Yoda. [This is not going to end well]. While Padmé is packing, Anakin complains to her about Obi-Wan; yes, his master may be as wise as Master Yoda and as powerful as Master Windu, Anakin still feels like he is ahead of Obi-Wan. The older man is holding him back (fueled no doubt by the general consensus that Anakin is the Chosen One and probably nudged further by Palpatine’s slippery words). An old informant of Obi-Wan’s sends him to Kamino; once he gets some help from Yoda and younglings when the Jedi Archives are incomplete regarding the planet. They’re cloners, Obi-Wan is told. They seem pleasant enough when he meets them, though they were expecting a Master Sifo-Dyus. He ordered an army created for the Republic, using a man named Jango Fett as the base. Jango claims he was recruited by a man named Tyranus. Oddly, Sifo-Dyus was killed ten years ago. When Obi-Wan reports to the Jedi Council, they confirm that this army was created without their authorization. Obi-Wan is to bring Jango Fett in for questioning. Jango Fett is undoubtedly the bounty hunter that Obi-Wan is searching for and they battle each other in the rain. Jango has a young son named Boba (he’ll pop up down the road) who tries to help out (and that ship probably looks a bit familiar). Obi-Wan manages to plant a tracker on their ship and follows.
Padmé’s not terribly keen on hiding out on Naboo, but she can’t really go against everyone. There are some deleted scenes that show more of Padmé’s family; very sweet. And the scenery for Naboo is gorgeous, feels very Tuscan. She and Anakin do manage to share a kiss while at the lake house (cue gorgeous love theme), but Padmé breaks it off. Anakin tries to awkwardly talk about their feelings [the dialogue here is terrible], but Padmé keeps insisting that even if there was something between them, it is terribly unwise and forbidden. While there, Anakin continues to have nightmares about his mother. Padmé agrees to go with him to Tatooine. There, they discover that Shmi is now married to Cliegg Lars. But she’s not at the Lars homestead; she was taken by Tusken Raiders. Anakin leaves Padmé with Cliegg, his son Owen and soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Beru (not the last time we’ve heard those names), so he can track them down (we hear Duel of the Fates reprised briefly). He indeed finds his mother, but she dies in his arms. Rage fills Anakin and he slaughters the entire village. In the background we can hear Qui-Gon Jinn beg Anakin “no!” Even Yoda hears it. It does nothing to sway Anakin. He confesses to Padmé after he brings his mother back. She tries to comfort him, saying that to be angry is to be human. Anakin retorts that as a Jedi, he is better than that. He blames the Tusken Raiders, he blames Obi-Wan (and in pops a theme that will gain significance as we go).
Obi-Wan tracks the Fetts to Geonosis, after surviving an asteroid field; again, he’s not too keen on flying. [Fun note, in the books that precede this film, mainly the Jedi Apprentice series, Obi-Wan didn’t mind flying, but there was an incident at some point that made him not as keen. And Anakin is very reckless when flying, so that probably doesn’t help] He transmits his report to Anakin to relay to the Council, then is captured. We finally meet the man behind a lot of this; Count Dooku (yep, over an hour into the film and we finally meet the big bad). Dooku tries to sway Obi-Wan to his side, telling him that the Senate is under the influence of a Sith Lord named Darth Sidious. We all know this is true, but Obi-Wan doesn’t trust a fallen Jedi. Dooku was once Qui-Gon’s master and feels that his former Padawan would have aided him and attempts to sway Obi-Wan that way. Together, they can destroy the Sith! [All Sith seem bent on destroying something or someone]. Obi-Wan holds firm.
The Council is disturbed by the news from Geonosis. They order Anakin to stay put. Jar Jar is chosen to petition emergency powers being granted to the Chancellor in order to take control of the clone army (another reason for us not to trust the Gungan). Palpatine makes a rousing speech promising to lay down the power that has been granted to him when the conflict is over. [Liar! And further disturbing note, this is very similar to how Adolf Hitler gained power in Germany]. Yoda will go to Kamino and Windu will take what Jedi he can to Geonosis to rescue Obi-Wan.
Luckily, Padmé firmly tells Anakin she is going after Obi-Wan, so if he wants to continue protecting her, as ordered, he will have to come with her. They find a droid factory on Geonosis and almost make it through, even R2-D2 and C-3PO get in on the action, but the couple is captured. They declare their love for each other, considering there is a good chance they’re going to die soon and share a kiss before taken into the large arena (sweeping love theme!) Obi-Wan quips they did a good job of rescuing him. Dooku announces that the three will be executed and three animals are released. Padmé quickly makes it to the top of her tower (cause she was smart and snuck a lock-pick into her mouth); she’s showing up the men. All three manage to get free, notwithstanding any injuries. But droids roll out. Countered by Mace Windu holding a purple lightsaber to Jango Fett’s throat, the cue for dozens of Jedi to enter.
Battle commences. Everyone gets in on the action, Padmé picks up a blaster and R2 has to rescue 3PO. Jango and Windu face off and Windu decapitates the bounty hunter (with his son watching; I think the Jedi Master does regret it). Dooku calls for a halt when the droids seem to be winning, offering the Jedi a chance to surrender. Windu refuses for them to become bargaining chips. “Then my friend, you will die.” Not so fast, Yoda to the rescue with the clones. Now it’s clone versus droid with the Jedi taking the lead. Anakin, Padmé, and Obi-Wan follow after Dooku. Unbeknownst to them, Dooku has secret plans for the ultimate weapon [and that picture should look familiar] in his possession. The trio’s carrier is knocked about and Padmé falls out. Obi-Wan insists to Anakin they continue with their mission (except he hasn’t missed what his Padawan’s reaction implies).
Obi-Wan and Anakin face off against Dooku [his fighting style is influenced by the fact that Christopher Lee was trained in fencing (Three Musketeers, etc)] Anakin rushes in and Force lightning quickly throws him into a wall. Obi-Wan lasts a few minutes against the master swordsman, but two cuts put him down. Anakin leaps to his master’s defense. For a moment he even has two blades, then they fight in dim lighting (call forward to some duels in the originals), but Dooku cuts off his arm (and I think he even regrets that for a moment). Yoda hobbles in to face Dooku, who turns out to be his own former Padawan. They’re equal in knowledge of the Force, so it comes down to skills with a lightsaber. And Yoda jumps everywhere! Just a blur of green! Dooku can sense he’s losing, so turns his attention back to the fallen pair and tries to bring machinery down on them. Yoda saves them, but that allows Dooku to escape.
Dooku meets with Lord Sidious on Courscant, revealing that he himself is now a Sith, named Darth Tyranus. Everything is falling into place as Sidious planned. The military parade outside the Senate building is ominous (paired with a very familiar theme). Yoda sadly announces to Obi-Wan that the Clone Wars have begun (hinted at back in the original film). And Anakin and Padmé secretly get married on Naboo.
There are elements of the film that I like; of course the music is amazing. As much as I may not like the love story between Anakin and Padmé, or at least how poorly it was developed, the love theme, Across the Stars does make me think of a grand romance with a hint of yearning; it’s just perfect for that deep passionate kiss…I mean, you could use it as inspiration for any favorite pairing. There is a dramatic bit in the middle that signifies that all is not wonderful and happy in love. (At times it does sound a bit similar to Fawkes the Phoenix from the soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; the movies were released the same year and shared a composer; we’ll forgive him).
The arena scene is probably the best of the movie; very cool to see that many lightsabers. Again, compared to the original trilogy, this is when the Jedi are at their height. And it was fun to see how our main trio each fought their monster. The duel between Dooku and our heroes was a bit of a letdown; he defeats Anakin and Obi-Wan fairly swiftly, though certainly left his mark (and it makes another connection between him and Luke). Yes, it was rather cool to watch Yoda finally duel.
Often the middle movie in a trilogy will suffer a bit, because the set up has occurred, but you don’t get to the pay off yet (this occurred with Dead Man’s Chest). Spoilers for those of you who have not managed to actually watch the rest of the series. We know that a Clone Wars occurs during Obi-Wan and Anakin’s lifetime, though this was not how I was expecting it to occur; I always thought that the Jedi were fighting against the clones. We know that Anakin at the very least sleeps with someone if not outright marries them and they clearly set that up back in Phantom Menace. But what is supposed to be the main focus of this film, the developing love between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala falls flat. There’s no chemistry between the couple. Their conversations about feelings are almost painful. Anakin feels he is entitled to Padmé because he had a crush on her as a boy and has thought of her for ten years. She still sees him as that boy she helped rescue. They just seemed forced together because it’s “supposed” to happen; and it’s Star Wars so there’s got to be some other action.
We all kind of fall in love with Obi-Wan a little more; well, a portion of the fanbase at the very least. Man, I love sarcasm. Or quips. Or snark, whatever you want to call it. I appreciated all the bits thrown in to connect to the original films. And yeah, we can now clearly see where design elements of the Empire originated, lot of clone influence.
For me, not the best Star Wars film, but better than basically all of the sequel trilogy…we’ll get to that rant in due course. What are your thoughts?
Up Next: Revenge of the Sith