Any chance I can talk you out of this one? You don’t want to hear it, and I don’t want to say it. Yes, I am that desperate for company: I’ll cave. When you’re not here, I have to talk to that fern in the corner and he can’t pronounce my name right. He calls me Alnald. Or Arnord, I can’t really tell. What? Oh right, ‘Attack of the Clones’. How could I forget?
Okay, Attack of the Clones is, by any sane metric, a godsforsaken mess inviting only disdain and contempt from the fortunate few who haven’t seen it. For those poor fools who have, prepare your most reliable prayers because the wretched, seething cesspool in which we have swum has stained our souls. I believe in only the cold, empty embrace of perfect death, and I’m afraid even that might reject me when the fanboys murder me next week. I hope that lovingly tortured metaphor gave you an idea of my general feelings about this film. Let’s dive back in. Come on, the excrement is lovely and warm!
The plot of Attack of the Clones is a bloated, horrible tangle of spaghetti-brained ideas, in desperate need of editorial oversight, in which nothing happens. Well, one thing happens. The short plot summary of Attack of the Clones is “the Clone Wars start”. The long plot summary of Attack of the Clones follows.
We begin on Coruscant where two Jedi, the renowned warriors, diplomats and arbiters have been assigned to Senator-not-Queen’s bodyguard detail because the CEO from the last film bears a little bit of a grudge. Another fascinating opening from the prequels there, all told. A quick elevator chat shows that kid Jesus has grown up into teen Angst, lovingly portrayed by secret offspring of an illicit and tempestuous affair twixt a human and an Ent, Hayden Christensen (get it, because he’s so wooden? Ha ha. Wood jokes). To be fair to the man, he probably also received some pretty abominable direction, but that alone does not excuse acting less animated than Ed, Edd n Eddy‘s Plank.
In all seriousness, though, how is it possible that the faceless broken shell, left with only rage and bitterness, displayed both a greater emotional range and a more animated performance than Jesus falling to the Darkside? Someone “done gone cocked it up royal” is the only answer I can summon, though where the true blame lies is not a question I have the answer to. Moving on from our MDF bromance elevator moment with Obi-Wan and Anakin, we’re reintroduced to Padme and have an awkward moment, which I think, in hindsight, may have been the inspiration for the Twilight films. Don’t watch them again, but think on it. Angst rolls slowly by until the promised assassination attempt occurs. Fight time? No. Killer centipedes. Fat killer centipedes. Sensing danger from the, ugh, fat killer centipedes, Anakin whips out the compensator and leaps to the rescue, slicing the, ughuh, fat killer centipedes with his lightsaber dangerously close to the sleeping Senator. An argument ensues before Obi-Wan rocks up and, deciding it’s time for an action sequence, leaps through the window.
Not joking. On the infinity-ieth floor of an exosphere-scraper in the super future of Star Wars, the windows can be broken by jumping through them. So that’s what Obi-Wan does and then proceeds to hump a lift on the back of the, uhuguhga, robot fat killer centipede delivery system, through the throngs of traffic of the galactic capital. Meanwhile, Anakin gets a car. A chase scene ensues until the thrilling climax where the assassin is killed by the assassin that hired her with a poison dart. The killer flies away on a jetpack integrated into suspiciously familiar armour (Boba Fett’s armour. For fanservice!). It turns out the killer was a shapeshifter and we move on. Wait, hold your space horses. A shapeshifter? Star Wars has shapeshifters? Surely this changes our understanding of everything considering the impact this fact has on intelligence, crime, espionage, everything! Moving swiftly on back to the angst festival never to mention this again? Oh, okay then, we’ll just brush that fact under the rug. Unless the greatest Sith Lord ever is one of these shapeshifters and has been hiding in plain sight all along. The Darth Binks theory strikes again! No, wait, it’s a cool idea lazily thrown in with no real thought behind it, brought to you by the mind that brought you fat killer centipedes.
At this point we have our The Empire Strikes Back parallel as our main heroes split into two divergent plot lines before meeting again in the finale. But there the similarity ends, as these are not the elegantly simple threads of Empire. Let’s start with team CSI Coruscant. Obi-Wan takes the poison dart from the murder to a corrugated shed diner to meet a six-limbed, moustachioed shark man. I didn’t write it, I’m laughing too. Turns out they’re old friends and shark man happens to know a little about cutting-edge poison dart technology and points Obi-Wan to the next plot point. Just another quick point before I drop the Empire comparison, remember how I said Empire had great side characters? Attack of the Clones doesn’t. Shark man here has a name, but I really don’t care about it when I should. How does a large, oafish shark man with such curious knowledge come to be running this corrugated shed diner? I was curious so I checked the clip and apparently he used to be a prospector of some description. I mean this guy’s clearly had a pretty interesting life, but even watching just this scene I got no sense of who he is or what he’s doing now, let alone how he knows Obi-Wan. Throwaway side characters may be par for the course, but we know Star Wars can do better, with far less screen time and dialogue, than shark man (his name is Dex as it happens). It comes back to those two damning words: wasted potential.
So then there’s a bit of faff, and a bit of ultimately pointless conspiracy stuff, before Obi-Wan jets off to Kamino. Here we meet the albino giraffe people, or rather the Kaminoans. I jest, but I actually rather like their design and their odd cities shaped like upside down spinning tops with thin spires poking downwards into the raging seas. Either way, we faff around here for a bit, discovering that a Jedi ordered a clone army and all the clones are of this bounty hunter dude Jango Fett, who is obviously the guy who killed the already forgotten shapeshifter. Why they aren’t cloning the shapeshifter is anybody’s guess. Then it’s fight time and we get a brief battle outside in the storm before everyone jumps into their ships to have a space chase battle. Of course for that sweet, sweet fanservice, it turns out that Jango kept one of the clones and is raising it as his son, named Boba, and has the iconic ship Slave I. It’s those little touches that remind me of the better films I could be watching. Thanks for that.
So, an asteroid chase happens, leading Obi-Wan to Geonosis where Obi-Wan discovers the malcontents running the Separatist movement behind the scenes. Didn’t I mention the Separatist movement? Disillusioned systems leaving the Republic after the whole corporation-invaded-a-planet thing. But, seeing as they’re abandoning democracy, they must be evil. Who are the Separatists in this meeting? More CEOs. Wait, what? Despite clearly being able to get away with whatever pleases them under the Republic, they’ve all joined up to milk the CEO from The Phantom Menace‘s raging hate boner for Padme-Not-A-Queen-No-More. That’s all the reason I can figure out. To be fair, it’s a catch-22. Don’t explain your reasons and you confuse me and rip me out the experience. Explain your reasons and you’re lecturing me on fictional economics and government policy when I want to be watching Star Wars. No matter how you slice it, this was a bad call. A bad call in the same way that stabbing someone in the throat as a form of greeting is a bad call.
Ultimately, Obi-Wan gets his ass captured and we get to have a chat with the Sith Apprentice du jour, Count Dooku. Darth Vader being the primary antagonist throughout the first three films was a strength, not a weakness dumb-dumbs, who exactly said that the best way to go for the prequels was to have a different Sith every film and not develop them at all. Yeah, that’s compelling. That’ll get the audience invested and enthralled. Christopher Lee is wasted on this worthless tat.
Now, with a heavy heart, we turn away from our protagonist to our “angstagonist” (definition: the useless, self-doubting moron who detracts from the protagonist’s story. Can be heroic or villainous). So after the, ugahargh, fat killer centipede incident, Anakin and Padme get carted off to Naboo to hide. Because nobody would think to look in the summer retreat of the Un-Queen-Yes-Senator on her home planet. What happens now is an eternity of awkward advances by the no longer tiny rectal louse as he continues his attempts to creep up Padme. This was intended to be romance, I think, but it has about the same consistency of soiled bogroll fished back out the bowl, and about the appeal of that. Do you mind if we gloss over this bit? I really don’t want to dwell on it.
Due to reasons I do not care to recall, the talking fencepost and Stockholm Syndrome move on to Tatooine to check up on the fencepost’s mum. Turns out mum’s dead. Sad, in theory, but in practice it was a relief that we wouldn’t have to see that character again. This is where C-3PO gets reintroduced to the story, now with skin. I’m sure the reunion with his creator was beautiful after their 10 years apart. Did I say beautiful? I meant forgettable. So the living splinter, refusing to accept his mother is dead, goes charging off after some Tusken Raiders who took her in a raid. Turns out he was right and turns up just in time to hear mum’s final words before she cops it. Boo hoo? No, not boo hoo. It’s rage time as wood chip decides murder is on his mind. Time to crack out the heavy metal and enjoy some wholesale slaughter. Wait, no, my mistake we’re going to fade to black for this bit. And I was just about to start enjoying myself.
At this point, the creepy sapling and the Woman with no Taste get a distress call from the plot and rock on over to Geonoisis, leaving the pointless side stories behind. Nearly. This next bit gets Anakin and Padme captured and reunited with Obi-Wan pretty swiftly, but we get to watch the approximation of hijinks that occur when C-3PO and R2-D2 find their way into the massive battle droid assembly line buried in the planet. That’s because, true to form, our idiotic CEOs think that the best way to respond to an imaginary threat is with overwhelmingly lethal force. I hope you’re not as bored as I am thinking about Attack of the Clones, but if you are, the blessed light of day will soon shine through. We just need to power through a climax you wish had come early and then we can make like history and forget this film exists.
The climax of Attack of the Clones is the eponymous clones turning up and a big battle. As is now the norm for Star Wars, this battle is a frenetic mess, trying to follow too many characters, despite there really only being one group approaching interesting. You see all the Jedi rock up shortly before the clones, meaning we have Samuel L Jedison fighting Jango Fett, Obi-Wan and Anakin having a gay old time, Padme wandering around doing not very much and C-3PO’s head on a battle droid just generally trolling about. Then the clones show up with Yoda so you have Yoda commanding them. Then Obi-Wan, the emotionally stumpy stump and his lady stump chase after Dooku, only lady stump falls out the plane, and Obi-Wan, stump and Yoda take it in turns to fight Dooku. All of which starts in a gladiatorial arena with vicious beasties getting sicced upon our tepid heroes.
The highlight of the mess is, of course, Yoda whipping out a lightsaber and telling physics to go do one as he begins to buzz around Dooku like a large green housefly. This is Attack of the Clone‘s midichlorian moment. The moment where we take a treasured aspect of the original trilogy and put it through what posh knobs in a nineteenth century boarding school would call a “hazing”, but what we today call assault. It may look the same on the surface afterwards, but you can tell from the haunted, faraway look in its eyes that serious and lasting damage has been done and it will never truly recover. Yoda is an old sage, the pinnacle of what a Jedi should be, strong in the Force and always looking to turn to wisdom, rather than violence. He should never hold a lightsaber and perform acrobatics. That is so phenomenally outside what the character stands for, I’m suffering from whiplash merely recalling it. Please tell me you understand this. It would be like Gandhi saying “sod this fasting lark, get me an Ak-47 and some nitro, let’s bring down the sky”. It’s, quite frankly, insulting to anyone who invested in Star Wars, and don’t dare attempt a Rule of Cool justification. Darth Maul and the Shaftitecture in Phantom Menace was pushing it, but this is so far beyond too far that I’m not even going to put an attempt at sarcastic wit here. Only show you the bruises and point out on the doll where this hurt me. It’s my heart, in case you didn’t get that.
Pass me that towel, my mouth is frothing again. Ugh. I hate this film and I hate the last one and I hate the next one, and I hate you for putting me through this. Unless you want to quit now? No? Pretty please? Ugh. Fine. Just give me one more day, I’m going to dose myself to the eyeballs for the last stretch or it will kill me. See you tomorrow, I suppose.
WORDS: JAMES ARNOLD
You’ve read what James thinks of a bad ‘Star Wars’ film. Here’s his glowing tribute to the best.