Even before it was released, The Phantom Menace was arguably the most talked-about and hyped film of 1999. Once released, it broke several box office records, including the largest single-day gross held by The Lost World: Jurassic Park. The film went on to gross over $900 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing film of the year. However, despite its commercial success, the film received mixed to negative reviews, with many fans lambasting it over the years. Because of the backlash, Lucas was reluctant to keep writing but soon completed a rough draft three months before shooting. He brought Jonathan Hales on board to co-write the screenplay due to his experience on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. With the final script written, most of the original cast returned, along with a few new additions. Finally, three years later, 2002 saw the release of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
After an assassination attempt on Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), the Republic decides to vote on creating a new army. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) goes off to investigate who was responsible for the attempted hit on her. Meanwhile, his now-grown apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) agrees to protect her and escort her back to Naboo. Obi-Wan’s investigation leads him to the planet Kamino, where a Clone army has been secretly created for the Republic. He also finds Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), the bounty hunter hired for Padmé’s assassination and chases him down. The chase leads him to the planet Geonosis, where he encounters Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), who’s organizing a Separatist movement. Obi-Wan reports his findings to the Jedi Council before being captured, prompting Anakin and Padmé to rescue him. Unfortunately, they also get captured and are about to be executed before the Jedi arrive with the Clone army.
Compared to the previous film, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is an improvement, but it’s still flawed. One positive I can give is that the storyline isn’t as jumbled or as slow as the last film. That felt like there were at least four simultaneous and seemingly irrelevant plots going on, and none were particularly interesting. Here, there are only two simultaneous plot threads that fit together well and are somewhat engaging, some more than others. Obi-Wan’s plotline about finding the assassin, learning about the Clone army, and confronting said assassin and Count Dooku is interesting. However, except for a sequence on Tatooine, the romance between Anakin and Padmé is sappy, cliché, and very unengaging. It doesn’t help that while the writing isn’t great, these scenes, in particular, have some of the worst writing ever. Perhaps most infamous is Anakin’s monologue about how he hates sand.
Acting-wise, like the storyline, it’s much improved here, though, for every good or decent performance, there are more weak performances. Like before, Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid give good performances, and Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson try their best. Newcomers Christopher Lee and Temuera Morrison also stand out, but Hayden Christensen is probably the weakest link in the cast. That said, I think Christensen’s poor performance is more so due to the lack of strong material he’s given. He does have his moments, particularly when he finds hid dying mother, snaps, and slaughters several Tusken Raiders in rage. Like the last film, this goes overboard with the CGI, most noticeably in many of the blue screen compositing shots. Ultimately, while this is an improvement over the last film, this film is still largely forgettable. Overall, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is mediocre at best.
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