Following the release of “The Phantom Mencace”, fans and moviegoers alike hoped the second act of the prequel trilogy would would strike gold the way “The Empire Strikes Back” was able to for the original trilogy. George Lucas continued his homage to old school Saturday morning serials by calling Episode II, “Attack of the Clones”. Of course, because most everyone knew that this trilogy was supposed to focus on the mysterious Clone Wars alluded to by Obi Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia in “A New Hope”, there was a significant buzz surrounding this flick.
Jumping ahead 10 years following the events of “The Phantom Mencace”, Anakin Skywalker was recast. Hayden Christensen replaced the much maligned Jake Lloyd. Lucas promised a darker tone for this movie that would continue the fall of Anakin to the dark side before he finally became Darth Vader. This time around, we meet an older Anakin, who has become the Padawan apprentice of Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Anakin is cocky and eager for power. After an bounty hunter tries to assassinate Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), now a senator from the planet Naboo, Anakin realizes he still digs her and his emotions begin to get the better of him. As the movie unfolds, Anakin and Obi Wan split up as Anakin is put in charge of protecting Padme by Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid); while Obi Wan is dispatched to an isolated planet to investigate some evidence that leads him to the discovery of a clone army which has allegedly been sanctioned by the Jedi Council.
“Attack of the Clones” does offer more action sequences including a bounty hunter chase through Coruscant early on, an Obi Wan Kenobi vs. Jango Fett battle around the middle of the flick and a Clones vs. Battle Droids on the planet Geonosis, which is ultimately the start of the Clone Wars. While the plot sounds interesting, we are left with little development of the relationship between Anakin and Obi Wan. The Anakin and Padme affair feels a little forced and there a lot of things that could have been connected back to “The Phantom Menace” but instead Lucas introduces more characters and plots where he could have really dug deep into a mythology.
All we are left with is the fact that Anakin doesn’t like being told what to do. We don’t ever get the sense that he is the powerful Jedi he supposedly becomes nor do we get a bond of friendship between he and Obi Wan. Their relationship plays more like a step-father/step-son situation. The bad guys are still plotting from the shadows. Introduced here is Count Dooku, played by Christopher Lee, a fallen Jedi who grew tired of his associates and now works for Darth Sidious. He tries and fails to recruit Obi Wan, kicks Anakin’s butt in a duel but that’s about all he does. Like Darth Maul, he is grossly under used.
“Attack of the Clones” is a step up from the inferior “Phantom Menace” but still fails to capture the magic and awe of the original trilogy. At this point we are 2/3 of the way through the fall of Anakin and the Rise of the Empire and we have yet to see why either is about to happen. The much hyped Clone Wars start at the very end of the movie but it never feels like it is the realization of what was promised with Leia’s fateful message to old Obi Wan in “A New Hope” when she uttered the famous line, “Obi Wan Kenobi, years ago, you served my father in the Clone Wars…”.