It’s no secret I love Attack Of The Clones. It’s also no secret I’m in the minority here. Even among those who love the Prequels, Attack Of The Clones is often ranked last when the films are discussed. But not for me! I’ve said it before and I’ll proudly say it again: I love the Prequels and Attack Of The Clones is my favorite film of the Trilogy! On that note, a few months back, Kiri (of Star Wars Anonymous) and I were having a comment section conversation about this film when she proposed an intriguing idea. She suggested we do twin posts, she writing about her disdain for the film (while trying to highlight some things she enjoys about it) while I write on my undying affection for this cinematic masterpiece (while pointing out some things that bother me). Obviously, I was in. Can I convince you, my lovely reader, of its brilliance? I say…GAME ON.
Now, I’ve written about my love of this film before and I’m not planning on reusing those points. Instead I’ll link them here if you want to read them. Or, realistically, if you want to reread them because I’m sure you’ve adored everything I’ve written about Attack Of The Clones and it’s tattooed on your heart.
Here’s a piece I wrote proclaiming “Across The Stars” is my favorite score of all Star Wars films. I talk about the importance inherent in the tragic beauty of Padmé and Anakin’s doomed romance, both in the narrative of the Star Wars Saga and to human experience as well. We’ve all suffered the exquisite pain of not being able to be with the one we love. We’ve all longed for our Soul Mate. There’s SO MUCH going on in this score and between those two.
Then here’s a piece I wrote about how Anakin’s line to Padmé, “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating. And it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft. And smooth…” is one of the best lines in the whole Saga. Stop laughing! For real! I also defend their awkward, uncomfortable dialogue and romance as being a perfect depiction of where they’re both at emotionally and far more tender/beautiful then they ever get credit for being. Yeah…I know. It was a hard sell but I’m proud of the work! Now let’s move forward.
Undying, unconditional love doesn’t mean you see no faults in the Beloved. Rather, it means you see all the faults in the Beloved but you love them anyway. Such is my relationship with Attack Of The Clones. While it’s my favorite of the Prequels I admit it’s not a perfect film. There are certainly things that bother me; things I wished were included, omitted, or done differently.
For example…Jango Fett. I know! BOOM. Right?? I bet you weren’t expecting this. Ever since I first heard he was going to be in the film I thought it was kind of dumb. As far as I was concerned, we never needed to know where Boba Fett came from. I liked his mystery! Every single facet of this universe doesn’t need to be fully explained (did you hear that Disney?). I always felt Jango Fett was only in Attack Of The Clones because so many Star Wars fans love Boba Fett and Lucas wanted to give us more Mandalorian action. But I can take or leave Boba and I’ve never really cared for Jango. I’ve always felt it was sort of lame the Clone Army was based on him too. Now, I grant his rain-soaked battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Kamino was badass. And I don’t hate Jango Fett…but he doesn’t blow my mind either. And whenever I watch this film there’s a part of me wondering what could’ve been if Jango Fett wasn’t thrown in as the blueprint for the Clone Army just because people liked Boba’s armor.
I also struggle with some scenes Lucas chose to cut. In particular I think “Extended Arrival On Naboo,” “Padmé’s Parents’ House,” and “Padmé’s Bedroom” (as seen in the deleted scenes on the DVD) should have been included. I don’t care if it would have made the movie longer. We needed them! One of the major complaints people have of this film is how Padmé and Anakin’s love seems to materialize out of nowhere. But it wasn’t out of nowhere! In reality, it takes time to travel through hyperspace and they were on Naboo for awhile before leaving for Tatooine too. They had plenty of time to share, to grow closer. However we only see a fraction of what Lucas wrote and shot of their time together in the final film. These scenes cut were primarily quiet, intimate, dialogue-driven scenes. In a movie with so much spectacle, we needed more of this. I want more romance. I want more of their growing love. And to all those who hate this stuff? I’m sorry but Padmé and Anakin’s love is the core of the Star Wars Saga! Without them, there’s no Luke and Leia. Without Luke and Leia, there’s no redemption. And without Padmé there’s no fall for Anakin and thus no beginning of the process that brings balance to the Force. This relationship – the willingness to love regardless of the consequences – is what it’s all about. In this sort of courageous love redemption and salvation will be found. Meeting Padmé’s family is especially important too; her sister, her parents, her nieces and nephews, all showing what those closest to her see in her and Anakin as well as make her death in Revenge Of The Sith even more heartbreaking. We saw where Anakin came from, seeing Padmé’s roots was necessary.
Lastly, I agree some of the scenes just look too shiny. At times the Battle of Geonosis, for example, looks more like an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars than a live action film. BUT I don’t think it’s fair to criticize Lucas too much for this. He was pioneering a lot, in the way of digital filmmaking with these films, just as he did with practical effects in the Original Trilogy. They just look a little awkward now because a) digital effects have grown by leaps and bounds in the last fifteen years and b) he went ahead and did all this in these films before the technology was polished. But without the Prequels we wouldn’t have Caesar in Planet Of The Apes or the Hulk and Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. So yes, they look a little awkward, a little cartoony, a little too shiny. But they paved the way for all the brilliant effects we now take for granted.
In many ways, discussing what I like about this film is harder than discussing some of the more frustrating facets simply because I love it so much. I could go on and on about my love for Attack Of The Clones but I don’t want this to turn into a hundred page dissertation. In the interest of efficiency, I’ll try to speak generally of themes or story points developed throughout the film that make this my favorite of the Prequel Trilogy.
At the very core, I love Attack Of The Clones because this is the Star Wars love story. And I love love stories. I always have. I adore rom-coms like Love, Actually, The Ugly Truth, or What Happens In Vegas. My favorite genre of film would be those exploring the philosophical nature of love, like (500) Days Of Summer, the Before… series, Her, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, or Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. This is what Attack Of The Clones gives us, Star Wars’ exploration of love. While they will only share a few stolen moments over the course of a few short years together, the galaxy will be burned down and reborn in the wake of Padmé and Anakin’s love. Heck, I can go on and on about how brilliantly their love was illustrated in the Prequels but I already did in this post, here.
More generally, there was never a time I didn’t like this movie. I remember seeing it opening night in 2002 and being blown away. I remember the very real struggle of trying to balance my multiple viewings of this with Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man that summer. Ahhh ninetten-year-old me, what a difficult life you lived…
I loved how close Attack Of The Clones felt to the Original Trilogy. I enjoyed The Phantom Menace but Anakin and Padmé were just kids. We saw how their stories began but there were so many narrative miles still to travel to A New Hope. Here we saw them fall in love! And I’m a romantic :). We knew their relationship would bring us Luke and Leia, even if we didn’t know how (I mean we knew how…when a Jedi and a senator love each other very much and slip up with protection in their secret, forbidden marriage…but we didn’t know when they’d have their children or how they’d end up on Tatooine and Alderaan). We saw the creation of the Clone Army and realized the haunting similarity to the Empire’s stormtroopers. In the final moments of the film we saw those clone soldiers marching into early model Star Destroyers. It’s all so important! The Empire is beginning to rise and the Jedi have no idea what’s in store for them.
I loved the scope of the action too. The speeder chase through Coruscant, the rain-slicked battle on Kamino, the fight in the arena and the First Battle of Geonosis, and of course Yoda’s lightsaber duel with Count Dooku! These are some of the most exciting action sequences in the entire Star Wars Saga! No matter how much you may roll your eyes at Attack Of The Clones I want you to close your eyes and think of the first time you saw Yoda draw his lightsaber. I’ll never forget it. He pulls his robes back, extends his hand, pulls the lightsaber to him…and THE ENTIRE THEATRE erupted in cheers and applause! It happened every single time I saw this film too. Even when we teach this film in our Star Wars class now, kids get excited to see Yoda do his thing.
I’ve also always loved how this film gives us glimpses of what normal life on Coruscant would be like. We see several different areas of the city in the speeder chase. We see a sample of nightlife when Obi-Wan and Anakin enter the club looking for Zam Wesell. And I love Dex’s Diner!!! I love the characters in the diner. I love the layout of the place. And I especially love the people walking by on the street outside while Obi-Wan and Dex chat about the Kamoni poison dart. They’re talking about pressing matters of galactic importance. But I’m sure a few booths over are the Star Wars versions of Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer talking about which button is the power button on their robes. It feels very every day-y to me and I love that.
As with all of Lucas’s Star Wars films, Attack Of The Clones is filled with theology, philosophy, and ethical questions to explore. For me, it’s not Star Wars without this stuff! Just War Theory is debated in word (with Padmé’s attempt to defeat the Military Creation Act) and action (with the questions rising around the Jedi’s participation in the Clone Wars). We see how silently and sinisterly corruption grows, both in the Senate and in the Jedi Order. We see Anakin’s fall begin and we’re forced to ponder what causes lead to this end. Is it just his nature? Is it his love of Padmé? Is it a deficit in Obi-Wan as a teacher? Is it the rules the Jedi Council insist they live by? And we get to contemplate the fragile human tragedy of this vulnerable boy – because nineteen is far from an adult – forced to live his life with more bravery, strength, independence, and control then he’s yet learned how to master.
Of course we also have to wrestle with whether or not the Jedi are right to refuse romantic relationships. Is the celibate life the right life to do the work a Jedi must? Or do the Jedi fear love in their own way, as the Sith do, knowing love will always be more powerful than their code? In Plato’s Symposium, Diotima teaches Socrates the path to infinite love begins with the love of one person. If this is true then this has huge implications for our understanding of romantic and platonic love. The steps we take in our relationships are the steps towards unconditional and agapic love. So are the Jedi then wrong in forbidding the love Anakin has for Padmé?
This takes us to the final issue I want to briefly discuss – relationships. Attack Of The Clones is filled with important relationships. There are so many we could touch on here but, to my mind, three are most important. Obviously, there’s Padmé and Anakin. But I’ve already kinda discussed them in detail, both above and in those other three posts I linked. So there’s no sense in beating a dead gundark, you know? But I want to consider Obi-Wan and Anakin as well as Shmi and Anakin.
Attack Of The Clones alone shows us Obi-Wan and Anakin at this vital stage of transition and transformation. Through the Clone Wars and in Revenger Of The Sith we see Anakin and Obi-Wan as peers and, more importantly, as friends – two Jedi doing their best to hold the galaxy together. In The Phantom Menace we see their meeting, in A New Hope their end, and in Revenge Of The Sith we get the most emotionally charged lightsaber duel of the entire saga. But in Attack Of The Clones we see the oh-so complicated bridge connecting all these dots. Obi-Wan sees Anakin like a brother and, like an older brother, he can be a bit of a douche at times. He belittles Anakin’s age, constantly calling him “my very young apprentice.” He dismisses his opinions and embarrasses him in front of others. He lectures him like he’s still a youngling. There is genuine compassion and love between them, but Obi-Wan obviously wasn’t ready for the responsibility of a Padawan. Anakin, on the other hand, sees Obi-Wan like a father. Obi-Wan is unprepared to play that role either, leaving Anakin seeking something he can’t hope to find. This brother/father disconnect certainly affects Anakin’s emotional development. We see all of this but we also get to see them laugh, joke, and fight side-by-side. While we’ve come to take it for granted with years of The Clone Wars, this was the first time we got to see Obi-Wan alongside “the cunning warrior…and a good friend” he tells Luke about in A New Hope. That’s magical! It’s special too.
In a series focusing a weird exclusivity on fathers, Shmi is the one mother we see developed (don’t bring Leia and Kylo into this…the Disney Canon’s the alternate timeline). Shmi is the Marian figure in this story, the mother of the Chosen One, the font from which salvation will flow. Despite how important Shmi is to Anakin, you get the sense the Jedi Order sees Anakin’s memory of and connection to his mother as a weakness. They never allow him to go back to visit her and when he begins dreaming of Shmi’s torture and death the most Obi-Wan offers is (an admittedly compassionate), “Dreams pass in time.” But when he loses her, arriving too late to save her from the torture at the hands of the Tusken Raiders, Anakin takes his first steps towards the Dark Side, cutting them down “like animals.” It is vitally important, both to Anakin’s character as well as the discussion of the nature of evil in the saga, it’s not a moment of hate and anger beginning Anakin’s descent towards the Dark Side. Rather it’s a moment of heartache and pain. He’s hurting. He’s alone. He hasn’t learned how to deal with these emotions (as the Jedi teach nonattachment to a, perhaps, unhealthy degree). So; scared, alone, unprepared, and hurting, he begins his journey to evil.
I grant much of this comes down to personal taste. A lot of what people dislike about this film, I enjoy. I like the dialogue. I appreciate the acting. I like the pacing. I love the romantic moments :). I’ve always loved how Hayden Christianson plays Anakin (a discussion, I feel, for another post). And I like how the film shifts in tone from these bright, hopeful moments to the somber darkness. The shifting tone perfectly illustrates where the galaxy is heading. This – these precious moments where Anakin and Padmé fall in love – will be the final moments of brightness in the galaxy before the Empire rises. We, as Star Wars fans, often think of the Clone Wars as something good because we loved the show, Ahsoka, etc. and so on. But it isn’t. In the closing moments of Attack Of The Clones Yoda proclaims, “The shroud of the Dark Side has fallen. Begun the Clone War has.” He’s right! The Clone Wars are a bad thing.
No matter how cool we think the cartoon series was, the Jedi were never meant to be soldiers. Each day, each battle, they fall farther from their purpose and more into the corruption of the Dark Side. They willingly and blindly pervert who they are in the service of the war. Palpatine played the entire Order, destroying them from the inside out first, by corrupting their moral code. Then he put them down physical by executing Order 66. What flows from Attack Of The Clones is death and destruction, not fun and adventure. I think, tonally, Attack Of The Clones conveys this with painful precision. There is so much light, so much hope, so much happiness as we watch Padmé and Anakin’s relationship blossom…only to have it all stripped away until all that remains will be a newly minted Sith Lord and the rising Empire he serves.
There’s light and darkness, hope and fear, love and vengeance. In addition, while The Phantom Menace (which I do love, don’t get me wrong) was so much rising action, here we have moments of foundational importance to the Star Wars Saga. These moments are illustrated through some of the best actions scenes in the series as well as some of its most tender, intimate moments. Attack Of The Clones has it all.
Now, as I’ve done my best to convince you of the beauty and brilliance of Attack Of The Clones, why don’t you jump over to Star Wars Anonymous to see Kiri’s thoughts on why she’s not a fan of Attack Of The Clones? It seems like the right thing to do.