Sequel Surprises: Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Sequel Surprises is a bi-weekly column by staff member Mathew Bradley Tschirgi. Within, he'll shed a light on some overlooked sequels in major franchises that are well worth your time. This week he looks at George Lucas' Attack of the Clones.
The Star Wars Prequels are movies that will always prove controversial. To a generation raised on the Original Trilogy (Star Wars: Episodes IV-VI), the prequels are a stodgy epic with corny dialogue. To a younger generation, this is “their Star Wars”, and the original trilogy has a smaller scope in comparison. To an even younger generation, their first take on Star Wars is with the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars: Rebels. Regardless of what your take is, Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones is one weird, fearless film that changes genre and tone from scene to scene. We’re never going to get a Star Wars movie this unconventional again.
Taking place a decade after Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, we’re introduced to a teenage Anakin Skywalker. In a casting decision that makes little sense, a new actor portrays Anakin (Hayden Christensen, playing the role with all the charisma of a slice of burnt toast) while the same actress plays Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman, doing the best she can). After a failed assassination attempt, Anakin’s Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates who was behind it; turns out, it involved a rogue Jedi Master who was financing a Clone Army. Meanwhile, Anakin and Padmé flirt, Anakin kills a village of Tusken Raiders, and both get captured when they return to get Obi-Wan. A battle at a coliseum ensues in which loads of Jedi are slain. There’s a large ground assault between the Republic and the Separatist forces. Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda face off against Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), Anakin loses a hand, and a despondent Yoda proclaims, “Begun, the Clone Wars have.”
Whether it’s the creepy build-up of a CGI space slug trying to kill Padmé in her sleep, a goofy scene in a retro 1950s diner, or an exciting battle against monsters set in a coliseum, with Attack of the Clones we never know what’s going to happen next. While this makes the movie very jarring and even exhausting to watch, the sheer go for broke mentality is something to behold. George Lucas and Jonathan Hales’ screenplay is way too complicated; much like The Phantom Menace, the story at hand is not as vital to the series as what we’ll get with Revenge of the Sith. Instead, we zip from planet to planet and adventure to adventure with a child-like glee. What other movie has a battle in the rain, infamous dialogue about sand, and a decapitation?
While not the best Star Wars movie ever made, Attack of the Clones is a wonder to behold simply because it’s so different. Instead of playing it safe, George Lucas forged ahead with a movie that does whatever the hell it pleases. Sit back, enjoy the ride, and marvel at this little oddity.