Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones  answers that classic age-old question we have all asked ourselves: what would Star Wars be like if all of the characters were sociopaths? Director George Lucas receives negligible help from co-writer Jonathan Hales to bring to the screen a compelling story poorly told. Returning are Ewan McGregor as the adroit Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and Natalie Portman as the stern and passionate politician Padmé Amidala. Joining them is Hayden Christensen, who struggles with a character who is as complex and challenging as he is poorly written.
You must imagine the set around you! Like their own personalities, these characters are wandering through a world that is virtual. The first film ever shot entirely on high-definition digital cameras, Attack of the Clones often has a stark, animated look exacerbated by the sheer quantity of its computer-generated effects. Often, these visuals inspire awe; just as often, they incite disappointment. But the film’s various art directors work hard to prevent anything from looking truly bad.
Creep…? I like the sound of that. Christensen’s reckless Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker is a true puzzle. He is portrayed here as something of a savant: socially backward, carelessly powerful, and deeply troubled. It’s an inspired interpretation of a young man who will later develop into a terrifying monster, but Christensen is not helped by his material or his director. While his weird detachment can be understood as a side-effect of his genius, Anakin’s behavior is nonetheless tolerated to a baffling degree by Padmé, the object of his affections, who for some reason can’t figure out that her beau is a complete psychopath. Christensen and Portman have no chemistry, nor does the audience and the dialogue: their courtship is disgustingly rudimentary, as if writers Lucas and Hales grew up in isolation, where their only connections to the outside world were parodies of erotic paperbacks. I guess Anakin doesn’t know everything about women yet, either.
You got a lotta guts writing that. The story, regardless of its execution, is profound. More complex and thought-provoking than its classically basic predecessors, the film observes the struggle not of light against dark, but of light within dark. Like Anakin with his unpredictable antics, the plot is at constant tension: even when things are going well, we are not sure if they are going well for a good reason. Additionally, unlike its prequel, Attack of the Clones is clearly an essential chapter in an epic saga, and its events echo critically throughout the vast chambers of the franchise. Unfortunately, the script was written by a battle droid.
Crude beings are we! Not this luminous matter! What’s without question are the thrills and spills. This movie delivers on the action. A refreshingly messy fistfight and a jaw-dropping gladiatorial arena sequence hold up under scrutiny and illuminate the drier scenes with the edges of their brilliance. It’s easy to see that these action scenes act as something of compensation to the ill-fated drama that causes them, but it’s far from an unforgivable apology. Because it’s awesome.