attack of the clones

Attack of the Clones is my Favorite Star Wars Prequel

Attack of the Clones is my favorite Star Wars Prequel. But, if you read the title of this article, you probably already guessed as much. For most people that might not be saying much, it’s like ranking something the best among a list of your least favorite things, but if you were with us last month, you know I’m pretty much a fan of the Prequel Trilogy (The PT). But, even the most casual fan of Star Wars would probably scratch their head at that proclamation. Sure, it has a lot less Jar Jar Binks, but there’s the plank of wood that is Hayden Christensen, and the complete lack of chemistry he has with Natalie Portman. I like the movie, and even I admit it’s occasionally painful to watch. For me though, that’s the only true negative aspect in the film.

I spoke last time about how much I have come to enjoy the political machinations that penetrate the PT. Not movie better encapsulates that than Attack of the Clones. From its opening moments, featuring the near-assassination of Senator Amidala, to the closing battle, in which the Jedi assume the mantle of generals in a war they’ve been manipulated into fighting, it’s the entertainment equivalent of diving into the events that lead to World War II. So much so that Palpatine’s influence over the Senate, and his maneuvering to give himself emergency powers, is almost exactly how Hitler came to power. It’s compelling on a level that the other two films in this portion of the franchise just never reach, and it further shows how egotistical and misguided the Jedi Order has become.

Perhaps the best example of this comes when Obi-Wan is investigating the location of a planet, Camino, in the Jedi Archives. When Jocasta Nu (think of her as the head librarian) comes over to assist him, she assures him that if it’s not in the archives it simply doesn’t exist. This is then book ended when Obi-Wan is captured and confronted by Count Dooku, who attempts to bend Obi-Wan to his way of thinking, going so far as to tell him the truth: The Republic is now in control of a Sith Lord and the Jedi are doomed. Obi-Wan’s refusal to accept the missing planet speaks to hi ability to think outside of the Jedi Order, but he still hold it, and himself, in such high regard that he cannot believe they’ve fallen victim to the Dark Side influence. That continues to play out all through the Original Trilogy as well, Obi-Wan’s “from a certain point of view” way of thinking.

Amongst the political goings on are an excellent set of action scenes that outshine everything in Episode I, and most of what we get in Episode III. First up is the chase through the skies or Coruscant, something I was anxiously looking forward to seeing in 3D before those releases were scrapped. Sure, the dialogue is a bit too pithy, but it’s impossible for me not to spend a majority of it with a big stupid grin on my face. There’s Obi-Wan’s confrontation with Jango Fett, one of the few more fist-a-cuff moments in all of Star Wars. We finally get to see the beloved rocket firing option on the jet pack put to use, as well as a young Boba making good use of the Slave I’s blasters.

The arena battle plays mostly like something out of old Hollywood epics. Which given George Lucas’ love of cinema past, it’s easy to understand. It does have its clunky moments (Anakin mounting the giant horned beastie), but I dig Portman’s bits, it’s the most she ever comes to approaching Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Leia. Not only is she the first one out of her chains, but she’s constantly leading the charge, even in the face of undeniable odds. When things are completely hopeless, that’s when we get our first true glimpse of the Clone Army. I’ll never forget cheering in the theatre as Yoda dropped in to save the day, and given the 6-year run of The Clone Wars TV series, seeing them now is even more exciting. Knowing what these characters will become, both good and bad, just makes their first appearance on screen now one of my favorite Star Wars moments.

Then there’s the final set piece of the film. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and eventually Yoda, versus Count Dooku (sorry George, no one’s ever going to call him Darth Tyrannus). It doesn’t quite top the lightsaber duel on Naboo from Episode I, but it comes close for me. I love Anakin’s brashness, it’s one of Christensen’s finer moments with the character, and Lee (and his stunt double) do a phenomenal job of giving Dooku some menace with the sword. I’m sure it help that Christopher Lee had decades of training due to his extensive film career. The shining moment though, and one that was cheered at so loudly in every screening I attended during its theatrical run that I couldn’t hear the music, is Yoda. I’m not even going to talk about it, I’m just going to show you an animated GIF. Enjoy.

I think, in the end, Attack of the Clones comes closest to capturing the old-school action adventure romanticism (even if that last bit rarely works) of the Original Trilogy. There’s a number of elements I didn’t even touch on, including Anakin’s return to Tatooine, his descent into the Dark Side and the inability (or pure denial) of it from those around him. It adds more of the political intrigue that I love from this set of films, and brings up legitimate questions that are still being debated in fandom today. It is my favorite of the Star Wars Prequels, and I can’t see that changing any time soon.

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