Retro Review | Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Retro Review | Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)

In the second part of my Star Wars prequel re-evaluation, I see if Attack of the Clones can stand the test of time.

As I stated in my previous review of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, I picked up a second-hand copy of the six film Skywalker saga for a very cheap price. I hadn’t sat down and watched The Phantom Menace for over a decade at least, and I wondered how it still holds up today.

I had the chance to continue this series when I sat down and watched Star Wars: Attack of the Clones. Admittedly, again, I haven’t watched this in full since its first year or two of release back in 2002.

Of course, I saw Attack of the Clones soon after opening, and I imported the US DVD as with most of my films back then (They very often arrived in the US months before these British shores).

The only other time I have seen this film is via watching my favourite segments again on YouTube or more recently checking out the 4K version available on Disney+.

Let’s start at the very beginning with the opening crawl. The Phantom Menace informed us of a tax dispute that needed settling. Not the usual thrilling material of a space saga.

Attack of the Clones isn’t that much different to be honest. We’re told that thousands of star systems are threatening to leave the Republic. This separatist movement under Count Dooku will make it very hard for the limited number of Jedi to keep the peace in the galaxy.

Meanwhile, Queen Padmé Amidala is returning to the Republic centre on Coruscant to vote on the critical issue of creating an army for themselves.

You have to remember, all this is basically extra content to help propel the main story which is the rise of Anakin Skywalker and how he will eventually become the dark lord of the Sith, Darth Vader.

So this is where our film begins, ten years since the events of The Phantom Menace with Queen Amidala returning to Coruscant in the beautifully designed chrome ships of Naboo.

After a failed assassination attempt on her life, Jedi Knight Obi Wan Kenobi and his young apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, now aged 19, are assigned to protect Queen Amidala.

Anakin and Obi Wan meet with Padmé ten years after the Phantom Menace. This is when Anakin starts his awkward ‘I still love’ you dialogue!

Another failed assassination attempt will eventually split the two Jedi apart and create the two main story threads of the film, which like most Star Wars stories will see them reunite just before the end.

So, lets go with the honestly more interesting half of the film, Obi Wan Kenobi’s mission to discover who tried to assassinate Queen Amidala.

The weapon of choice is revealed to be a poisoned dart which has come from a planet known as Kamino, the home of the cloners. However, this planet does not exist in any star chart held at the Jedi archives. What is someone trying to hide?

Obi Wan will fly to the planet where he has been expected by the strange race of alien beings who are creating a clone army. He also gets to meet the source donor, a bounty hunter by the name of Jango Fett.

That’s right, the father of everyone’s favourite bounty hunter, Boba Fett. It is revealed that Boba is a clone of Jango and that was part of the payment for being a donor for the clone army.

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When Jango realizes that their secret plan involving the clone army is about to be revealed, he tries to leave but not before an entertaining hand-to-hand fight with Obi Wan first.

Obi Wan will follow Jango to the planet of Geonosis where the separatists are building a droid army. Once again Jango and Obi Wan get into a battle but this time with their respected starships.

In one of my favourite battles of the film, Jango will use seismic charges, one of the best Star Wars weapons of all time. I was so glad to see them once again in a recent episode of The Mandalorian.

Once on the planet, after discovering more plot details, Obi Wan will be captured and will be reunited with Anakin and Amidala.

So what does Anakin get up to all this time he is with Amidala? Moaning and whining like a lovesick horny puppy dog!

Obi Wan Kenobi, meet bounty hunter Jango Fett and his son Boba!

Okay, maybe that is a little harsh, but he does do this quite a lot, constantly telling Padmé how he’s thought of her every day for the last ten years since the event of The Phantom Menace. Sometimes I wonder if Padmé just gives in to shut him up!

It’s not helped at all by the writing of the saga’s creator George Lucas. The dialogue can be quite clunky in these films and when it comes to romance, this isn’t really George’s forte. Harrison Ford has been quoted as saying, “George, you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!”

Not only is the romance aspect of Anakin’s character, for lack of a better word, annoying, he also feels that he is and will become the best Jedi ever! When he goes into this rant two thirds into the film, he just sounds like a stroppy teenager who can’t get his own way, but I guess that is what Anakin really is at this point of his story.

This angst will come at a price. Anakin is in too much or a hurry to get things done and quite often he will fail in his tasks or perform them sloppily.

Finally, we learn that Anakin hasn’t been sleeping at night due to nightmares about his mother. He will travel back to Tatooine to find her and rescue her from a group of Tusken raiders.

In a sequence that is very short considering its importance to his story arc, Anakin finds his mother, but she dies just minutes later. Anakin snaps and uses his anger to kill the Tusken raiders, adults and children, in an attack that happens off-screen which does reduce the impact of the moment.

After returning to Padmé and telling her of the Tusken raider slaughter, they receive Obi Wan’s emergency message from Geonosis. Anakin and Padmé leave Tatooine to try and rescue him. This will kick off the huge climatic sequence that will feature Jedis, droids, clones and lightsabers whilst also setting up events for the final film of this trilogy.

Here are the very clones in question!

Released a few years after The Phantom Menace, visually Attack of the Clones, I think, actually looks a little worse just under twenty years later.

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The Phantom Menace features a lot of practical sets with CGI enhancements whereas Attack of the Clones went in the opposite direction. A lot of the sets are fully CGI except for maybe the floor and after all this time, it doesn’t hold up to well.

The design work is once again stunning with new vehicles and ships and locations, but it doesn’t always gel on screen. There seems to a rule of thumb for me with Attack of the Clones. If it’s all CGI, it looks wonderful. If it’s a rare moment of all practical work with maybe a touch of CGI enhancement, I didn’t notice, it’s great. However, when a scene features a 50/50 practical and CGI split it starts to show.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not throwing scorn at the hard-working people at Lucasfilm. This was simply the limit of the technology twenty years ago and they did their best.

There is however one exception, the Kamino water planet sequence. Everything here seems almost flawless. The alien creatures are well-designed, animated and integrated into the scenes with Obi Wan perfectly. I do not know how much of the sets were built for real, except Jango’s room, that’s obvious, but it all looks so real.

The fight between Obi Wan and the bounty hunter Jango Fett is entertaining and kinetic. It’s fun to see a Jedi fight when he can’t rely on his lightsaber. Setting it during a rainstorm just gives it that extra visual layer.

Humour always has a part in the Star Wars universe, but it’s usually a one line joke or a single situation and I almost forgot about the low point of this film. There is a sequence in the robot factory where C3P0 will have his head removed and put onto that of a battle droid and vice versa.

Quite bluntly, it’s not funny, it doesn’t do anything for the story, and it sets up some very corny one liners. It feels like Lucas was intentionally adding something for the younger members of his Star Wars audience.

Christopher Lee plays the films main protagonist Count Dooku. (Not pictured his wife Sue)

Speaking of humour, If there’s one item on the agenda where Lucas did listen to his audience, then it must be in relation to Jar Jar Binks.

After The Phantom Menace was released, the backlash against the character of Jar Jar Binks was huge, even taking a huge toll to the actor who portrayed him on set and provided the voice, Ahmed Best. In Attack of the Clones, there is barely any Jar Jar at all and to be honest, he doesn’t outstay his welcome.

As the middle of the prequel trilogy, Anakin’s slight turn towards the dark side coupled with his teenager mood swings and his, ‘I know everything’ attitude doesn’t feel as interesting as the Obi Wan’s plot discovering about the armies that have been built in secret.

If you forgive the early digital work, the films not bad, however one half of the story is definitely better than the other.

3 out 5

Some great visuals, especially with the Kamino sequence. However, the film is bought down in this modern age with some dated visual effects and a stroppy teenager. – 3/5


John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.