That's not how the Force works
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is directed by George Lucas and stars Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee.
Ask yourself, "What is the worst Star Wars episode to be made so far?" If your answer isn't The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, you want to go home and rethink your life. Okay, not really. The permanent scar on Star Wars that is the prequel trilogy hits its rock bottom in Attack of the Clones, which, if you can believe it, is actually worse than The Phantom Menace. It not only brings back many of the problems that marred The Phantom Menace, but it adds insult to injury by putting some extra scum on top of it all. Confusing politics, wooden acting, and annoying characters now come with cringe-worthy dialogue and a boring romance. But before I dive into all of that muck, the first thing to address is how the film can't even get its title correct. Attack of the Clones has little to nothing to do with what Episode II involves in the grand scheme of things, since the only time that the Clones "attack" something is during the big fight in the film's third act. It isn't even an attack; it's a rescue mission that just happens to turn into something resembling an attack. We don't even see the clones in action until the film nears its 2 hour mark, and, by that point, you might be beyond caring.
The plot: Ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace, Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (reprised by McGregor) continues to mentor the now-grown Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). The two are assigned to protect former Queen of Naboo, Padme Amidala (Portman) after a failed assassination attempt on her life. After a second assassination attempt fails, Anakin takes Padme to safety on her home planet of Naboo, while Obi-Wan investigates who is responsible for the attempts on Padme's life. Obi-Wan's investigation leads him to the rainy planet of Kamino, where he discovers that an army of clones is being created for the Republic. The clones are given their genetic make-up with the help of bounty hunter, Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison). Obi-Wan finds out that Jango is the bounty hunter responsible for the attempts on Padme's life, and finds that Jango is in allegiance with Sith lord Count Dooku (Lee). Dooku is attempting to rally thousands of planetary systems to secede from the Republic. While the galaxy appears to be on the brink of war, Anakin and Padme develop a romantic relationship on Naboo.
Episode II's plot has no idea what it wants to tell us and gives no clear understanding of which part of the story is the main part. The opening crawl informs us of how Count Dooku is out and about scouting various planetary systems, so, clearly, we are led to believe that Dooku is the main antagonist of the film. The movie then proceeds to make little mention of Dooku until we finally see him about an hour in. For that first hour, we must deal with teacher-student bickering between Obi-Wan and Anakin and a lot of Anakin and Padme trying to act like they love each other. There are a few action set pieces when appropriate, but the effects are the most cut-rate that you'll see in a Star Wars film such as a fairly noticeable green screen when Obi-Wan is hanging onto a flying ship while he and Anakin are chasing an assassin through Coruscant. If we had to pick a central plot-line, then the top candidate would have to be Obi-Wan's investigation in which he discovers the cloning facility. Obi-Wan is the only character who propels the plot forward, while Anakin and Padme bloat up the run-time with their fruitless romance and the other Jedi sit around continuing to not realize that an evil Sith plan is right under their noses.
- The third act culminates in a final showdown on the desert-terrain planet Geonosis, beginning in a Colosseum where the Jedi attempt to fight the Droid army. The Jedi are rescued by the Clone army, and the battle then translates into a wide-open landscape that resembles the only war-like action sequence during the entire film. Nearly every major character: Obi-Wan, Anakin, Mace Windu, Yoda, and so on all get something to do, and that's ironic for a movie that struggles for nearly two and a half hours to give its characters something meaningful to do. The battle doesn't last very long, though, and it ends with the most forgettable lightsaber fight in the entire Star Wars saga.
- Hollow characters and bad acting are low points, but it's the god-awful dialogue that is the real low at work when it comes to the characters and acting in Attack of the Clones. If we want to talk about bad acting in Attack of the Clones, there is no better place to start than with Hayden Christensen. You might not believe it, but Christensen actually got nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for Life as a House a year before Attack of the Clones was released. Christensen struggles to be convincing here, but the half wood, half whiner that is Anakin Skywalker in this movie is not entirely to blame on Christensen. I doubt even Christensen could think up some of the too-easy-to-make-fun-of lines that George Lucas and screenwriter Jonathan Hales concocted. From Anakin telling Padme, "I don't like sand" to Obi-Wan saying, "I hate it when he does that" when Anakin jumps out of a speeder (apparently, the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin involves Obi-Wan continuously trying to stop Anakin from jumping out of flying cars), Lucas keeps making the characters spit out lines that are stupid, corny, and sometimes nonsensical. So you have Hayden Christensen who not only has bad lines, he can't even say most of them without sounding as if he has something better to do. Portman is not much better, as her acting more-so fits the "I'm just here to get my mortgage payment" approach. The awfulness is cranked up even harder when Anakin and Padme have their various "romantic" exchanges, in which Anakin spills out to Padme how frustrated he is about how Obi-Wan is keeping him from reaching his full potential ("It's all Obi-Wan's fault! He's jealous! He's holding me back!").
This same Anakin that is straight-up complaining about how Obi-Wan is holding him back is the same person who would go on to become one of cinema's most famous villains. If Phantom Menace was supposed to just introduce us to Anakin, then, surely, George Lucas would use Attack of the Clones as a means to explore the darker side of Anakin's character and put some cracks in his resistance to the Dark Side. But since we all know how the story goes in the end, Lucas was stripped of all subtlety with Anakin in the first place, and what we got left with was a bratty teenager who is somehow able to win the heart of a woman that would make any young, immature Star Wars fanboy get all happy in his pants. So anyway, the dialogue has no punch, and the characters are all worse for wear because so.
- If I didn't make it clear already just how reprehensible that the romance is between Anakin and Padme is, then let me make it clear now; the romance between the two is utterly atrocious. The age difference is never clearly defined. Anakin and Padme are definitely on the younger side in Phantom Menace, but it seems like Anakin used his Jedi powers to somehow age jump Padme. She only looks slightly older than she did in the first film, while Anakin hit and went through puberty faster than any one could ever hope to. Anakin tells Padme, "From the moment I met you, all those years ago, not a day has gone by when I haven't thought of you." I can't decide if this sounds romantic or just plain creepy, but given how Anakin gives Padme various creep faces throughout the film, I think I'm going to go with the latter. Yeah, so there are several times when Anakin tries to be romantic and utterly fails primarily because of the horrible string of words that George Lucas provides him with. Padme is usually trying to prevent Anakin from having a temper tantrum, and the extent of "happy" moments between the two involves rolling around in the Naboo grass and eating space fruit together. Other than that, it's uninteresting and facepalm inducing exchanges that make me almost miss Jar-Jar Binks.
I don't think there's any question that Anakin and Padme are the worst couple to be seen in the galaxy far far away. There is zero chemistry, but a lot of this dull romance has to do with the horrendous dialogue that George Lucas must have been too stubborn to take out from the script's first draft. Outside of Obi-Wan, characters are given little to nothing to do until the film's final act on Geonosis, the only part of the film that has at least the smallest chance to be complemented. So is Attack of the Clones one of the worst films that I've ever seen? No. Far from it. There's enough action and ridicule-worthy bad moments so as to be watchable, but unforgivable missteps with dialogue, characterization, and the romance between Anakin and Padme all shape up to make Attack of the Clones undoubtedly the worst of the Star Wars episodes. It's amazing how George Lucas had a film much worse than Phantom Menace in him.
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