Attack of the Clones: Reevaluating The Star Wars Prequel

Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, and Ewan McGregor in Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones.

After watching The Clone Wars and Obi-Wan Kenobi, I’m reevaluating Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones with a new review.

My initial review ran during the Road to IX but since that time, I feel that the prequels were really enhanced by The Clone Wars. When one watches The Clone Wars, they get more out of the prequels. Adding onto that, Part V of Obi-Wan Kenobi puts the movie into a completely new perspective. For one, we have additional insight into Anakin Skywalker’s (Hayden Christensen) thinking than we did in 2002. He looks off at Padme Amidala’s building just before his training. Two, he has this need for victory, which Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) says will be his undoing. Three, The Clone Wars really put in a massive amount of character development beyond the films. It is through watching those films that you begin to understand why character decisions were made. It would have been fun to see Ahsoka during the hologram scene in Revenge of the Sith but oh, well.

There are multiple things going on in this film. One is that Attack of the Clones must set up the relationship between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). The second is coming up with the origins of the Clone Wars, where Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker fight alongside each other. This is one of those things that comes up in A New Hope and so we need to see it during the prequels. Little did we know at the time that there would be a seven-season series. Qui-Gonn Jinn (Liam Neeson) makes a brief vocal cameo when Anakin’s anger leads him to kill Tusken Raiders after his mother’s death.

It is rare to make a Star Wars property that does not visit Tatooine. Well, aside from much of the sequel trilogy. We’re back on the planet full of sand that is coarse and irritating and it gets everywhere. But first, let’s meet the Lars family. They aren’t as fully developed here but they are still a small part in Anakin’s life. The film doesn’t really develop their characters all that much. One thing it does is explain how C-3PO becomes a part of the rebellion down the road. The last time we saw C-3PO, he was still on Tatooine in The Phantom Menace. Unlike Jar Jar Binks, it’s the droid that becomes the comical relief.

While Anakin is off protecting Senator Amidala, Obi-Wan Kenobi has gone off to Kamino, home of the cloners. He discovers that an order of clones for the Republic. However, the Jedi who placed their order has been dead for a decade. In all likelihood, the Jedi did not place the order but the Sith. Their genetic template is none other than Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison). If this name sounds familiar, it’s because Jango’s 100% genetic son is Boba Fett (Daniel Logan). The developments in this film–Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson killing Jango–play a role in Boba’s revenge during The Clone Wars. He’ll also learn from what happened in the asteroid field because history ends up repeating itself during The Empire Strikes Back.

The Jedi and the Grand Army of the Republic come to the rescue when Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme are captured by the Separatists, led by Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (Christopher Lee). You have to love the easter egg here because it shows who originally proposes the Death Star. The lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Count Dooku is not on the epic level as other films. It results in Anakin losing what would be the first of many limbs in a few years. The epic fight comes when Yoda (Frank Oz) walks in. At first, it’s a battle of their abilities with the Force but then it becomes a work of CGI magic. You could only make this fight work with CGI because a puppet of Yoda would not be able to pull off the fight in Attack of the Clones.

Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid)  is playing both sides here. Regardless, one cannot look at his rise to power without thinking of world history. The senate gives him emergency powers while Padme is off on Naboo. Jar Jar is the fool that moves to give the Sith Lord all of this unchecked power. Not even the people close to him know just how dangerous Palpatine really is. The Jedi figure it out eventually but by this point, Anakin needs him to save Padme from death–what Anakin doesn’t know is that he force-chokes her before the images in his vision.

Not taking the additional insight into account, there’s some things that I really enjoy in watching Attack of the Clones. There’s an exciting speeder chase on Coruscant. The Battle of Geonosis is classic Star Wars. While I’m no fan of the Empire, John Williams brings back “The Imperial March” to help close out the film. He also gives us a new memorable tune for Anakin and Padme’s love story with “Across the Stars.”

In my original review, I gave this film a 2.5/5. Today, I am moving the review up to a 3.5/5. It is short of being a 4/5 because I still believe that there are places where the execution could be better. The love story takes audiences out of the action but it plays very differently from watching Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back. At the same time, I accept that this is important to help pave the way for Anakin’s seduction. After watching Part V, one begins to understand why Anakin is so angsty while traveling with Padme to Naboo. I’m going to blame this aspect on George Lucas’s direction more so than Hayden Christensen’s acting choices.

In watching the prequels, one begins to understand where Leia gets her fashion sense. And again, this is especially true in watching Obi-Wan Kenobi. To say that the costume design in this film is underrated is not an understatement. We tend to focus on the Jedi robes but Padme Amidala has an impressive wardrobe and it shows during the latter films.

I have to stress the need to watch The Clone Wars. The series is important because it fills in the gaps between this film and Revenge of the Sith. Lucas introduces new fan favorites such as Ahsoka Tano and Rex while the show really develops characters in a way that the film does not. That and finally getting into the backstory of Order 66. The return of Maul, too, because otherwise one would be really confused when watching both Star Wars Rebels and Solo.

The love story might drag Attack of the Clones down a bit but there’s still plenty here to appreciate as a Star Wars fan.

DIRECTOR: George Lucas
SCREENWRITERS:  George Lucas and Jonathan Hales
CAST:  Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz

20th Century Fox opened Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones in theaters on May 16, 2002. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.