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Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Padme (Natalie Portman) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen), chart a course into star-crossed romance and ... zzz ... zzzz ... zzzzzz ... (Image © Lucasfilm).

Padme (Natalie Portman) and Anakin (Hayden Christensen), chart a course into star-crossed romance and ... zzz ... zzzz ... zzzzzz ... (Image © Lucasfilm).

By the time of the release of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones in the spring of 2002, Star Wars was less of a phenomenon and more just another blockbuster. It was the first Star Wars film that was not the highest grossing film of its year. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man both out-performed Star Wars at the box office. From the viewpoint of 2015 we can see that this was the beginning of movies as we know them now--lengthy, reverent adaptations of YA novels and super-hero movies with a sense of humor.

I saw all three of those films in the theater, but I only saw one multiple times. You see, I am a Star Wars fan. And fandom makes you do strange things. Also, my wife and I had moved to the middle of Nebraska. She had the job, I did not. Unemployment also makes you do strange things--like seeing the absolute worst Stars Wars movie multiple times in theaters across Nebraska. In fact, I did more than just that. I flew back to Washington, DC for the opening weekend so I could see the movie with my old college roommate. We saw it three times in the first twenty-four hours. Then I went back to Nebraska. I saw Attack of the Clones in Hastings, Nebraska. I saw it in Lincoln, Omaha, and Grand Island. (Did you know there’s a city in Nebraska called “Grand Island?” I can assure there are neither islands nor anything grand in Nebraska.)

Did I know there were flaws? Oh, sure. I mean, in the middle of a Star Wars movie a brooding teenager talks about how much he hates sand. But, whatever, there was a Star Wars movie in the theater and I had nothing better to do than go see it. So I did. I saw it enough times that I learned to appreciate things. Things like the slow build-up of zoom shots in the film. The slow zooms in the early scenes on Coruscant lead to the action zooms during the Jango Fett/Obi Wan fight, which all lead up to the faux-handheld crash zooms in the final clone battle. Intrusive camerawork had never before been a part of the Star Wars grammar and this film introduces it carefully. I noticed how the Clone Troopers moved from right to left across the screen, rather than the traditional good guy movement of left to right. (The AT-ATs on Hoth and the Battle Droids in the fields of Naboo all moved right to left.) What clever foreshadowing! These are the things a fan who took a couple of film classes in college notices in an effort to dismiss the obvious flaws of a movie.

For most people, though, Attack of the Clones was just another summer movie. It’s not only the worst, it’s the least significant (for now) of the Star Wars films. Its flaws will be discussed in great detail in the discussion appearing on this site soon, so I don’t need to do any punching here. I’ll say this instead: 2002’s Spider-Man shows the roots of what will become the Marvel Movie formula. After some misfires like Ang Lee’s strangely indulgent Hulk in 2003, Marvel Studios became a thing and refined the Spider-Man formula to a flawless algorithm. You know exactly what you will get in a Marvel movie and they flawlessly deliver. Attack of the Clones, on the other hand, certainly does not deliver what you expect. Make of the following statement what you will, but at the very least Attack of the Clones is a movie that only George Lucas could have made.

Join us tomorrow for our in-depth discussion of the few successes and man, many failures of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.