Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

77

This was a monumental step up from the dull and dreadful first film in the prequel trilogy. However, the film could’ve been terrible and still have been better than the disaster that was The Phantom Menace. However, it wasn’t terrible, and was quite a good film, but of course it goes without saying that it was merely a shadow of a shadow of the original trilogy, and when the original trilogy casts a shadow as large and iconic as it did, it will be difficult for any film to attempt to reach that level, and while Attack of the Clones doesn’t come close to matching the original trilogy, it deserves some praise for its noble efforts at being a great film.

First of all, the biggest heap of praise has to go to George Lucas for nearly completely getting rid of Jar Jar Binks. If you remember my previous review, I made my thoughts about that creature clearly known, and while he is still in this film, it is only for a very limited time, and thankfully Lucas listened to the complaints of fans and critics, and ensured that Jar Jar Binks was far less annoying and grating as he was before. Don’t get me wrong – I still despise the character, and believe that George Lucas should be stranded in the middle of the desert for ever thinking that character was a good idea, but he came to his senses, and without completely getting rid of the character (the option many people would’ve preferred), but I am somewhat relieved that we didn’t have to sit through that dreadful performance for too long this time around.

With Liam Neeson being killed off in the previous film, the reigns of this film lay in the hands of Ewan McGregor, who is a great actor who brought such charm and wisdom to the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Alec Guinness was absolutely wonderful in the original trilogy, and McGregor is the perfect actor to play the younger version of that character, as he has the ability to appear youthful, but not naive, and wise, but not archaic and outdated. If there was one aspect of the prequel trilogy that Lucas got absolutely perfect was the casting of McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, because we can truly believe that this character as portrayed by him would eventually become the notable Obi-Wan in the original trilogy, as portrayed by Guinness. McGregor is wonderful in general, and his ability to lead a film such as this proves his talents as a performer, and makes me wonder why he isn’t used more in leading roles, because if one is able to lead a Star Wars film, one is certainly able to lead any other film.

Now someone else in the cast has received considerable hatred – Hayden Christensen has been called out for his wooden acting and bland performance, and while that is in essence true – he didn’t give a good performance, it is the same reason why Jake Lloyd received criticism for the previous film in the same role – Lucas simply cast the wrong people. I have yet to see the final film, where Anakin’s downfall occurs, but based on this film, Christensen has neither the charm nor the presence to make us care about him. The original trilogy presented the core three – Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as character we grew to love, and because the actors in the roles made them feel honest and assured. It is clear that even Christensen is amazed at how he was cast in this role – and considering the first choice for the role was allegedly Leonardo DiCaprio, it is an absolute wonder Christensen was chosen – if Lucas and his producers wanted someone of DiCaprio’s calibre, how many people turned down the role that they would have to cast Christensen. That isn’t to be nasty towards Christensen – he did the best with what he keeps in his arsenal. The problem is that he is simply just not a suitable actor for the role, and it bothers me that of all the 20-something actors that lurk around Hollywood, Christensen was the one chosen. It is very confusing, but I digress. If you need any further proof as to why Hayden Christensen is a limited actor, consider how his career didn’t take off nearly as well as people had expected. I honestly can’t remember a film of his, other than his brooding performance in Life as House, and his interesting performance in Shattered Glass, which was right in the middle of his Star Wars journey. Since then, there has been really nothing notable that he has done.

I won’t spend the entire review talking about the performances, because that’s redundant. However, there is one person who, by my standards, is a sin not to mention if he appears in a film. That person being the brilliant, iconic, wonderful and super-human actor, Sir Christopher Lee. He was exactly what this prequel trilogy needed – a compelling villain played by a powerful and assured actor. His mere presence in this film elevates it far above The Phantom Menace, and the fact that he is wonderfully villainous and commits to the role with all his talents shows how Sir Christopher was a great actor, but an even greater sport at agreeing to perform in these films. The paycheck and fame couldn’t hurt either. Frank Oz gives his best performance as Yoda yet, and Samuel L. Jackson is a refreshing presence in an otherwise bland set of performances from most of the cast (including Natalie Portman, who improves massively from the previous film, but leaves a lot to be desired).

Attack of the Clones comes closer to the original trilogy in the fact that Lucas was truly daring with this film in regards to locations. It doesn’t feel like a purely space-bound adventure, rather an intergalactic opera with locations and settings as diverse and uniquely colorful as the characters themselves. It helps that Lucas ensured that the greatest possible technological advancements were used to make this film as complex and revolutionary as possible. One great aspect of the Star Wars films is that they never rest on their technological laurels – the filmmakers use every cinematic advancement they can to make the Star Wars universe more dazzling and enjoyable, and through the constant chase for cinematic perfection, these films can never become technologically outdated, and as disappointing as the prequel films are, they are wonderfully made and look amazing.

Attack of the Clones is a film that improved upon the previous film in the trilogy, but could not come close to the brilliance of the original trilogy. It serves well to set up the action for the final film in the trilogy, and in itself is entertaining. It is the longest film in the entire series, both the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy, which is a useless point, but does go to show that this film took special effort to ensuring that the stage is set for the final film, and I personally am hoping that the prequel trilogy at least has a passable ending, because such a wonderful franchise certainly deserves it.

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