John Carter of Mars with a Star Wars skin? A failed investigation story that should’ve been so much more? The second entry in the prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones, marks a step better than The Phantom Menace by being the second weakest of the Star Wars movies for me. For some fans, this is the absolute worst of all the movies due to the frequent complaint about the acting and writing being some of the absolute worst in the series. While I agree with that, I feel this movie has way more redeeming moments and some of the best Star Wars moments, more so than the previous installment. Going back to the original Star Wars movie A New Hope, we were teased with a small bit of dialogue from Ben Kenobi to Luke Skywalker about how he fought in the Clone Wars alongside Anakin. This one single bit of dialogue at the time was not as significant at the time with that being the very first movie that could’ve failed, but it would soon be a focal point for many excited fans going into the prequel series. “What? No Clone Wars in The Phantom Menace? Okay maybe the next one. Wait. This one is actually called Attack of the “Clones”? Oh we’re definitely getting the Clone Wars in this one.” That’s essentially the thought process I would presume, and they weren’t exactly wrong, but not quite right either. So what exactly did we get from this movie? And was it worth the hype?
What I love about this movie and really most of the Star Wars movies is how it drops you right in the middle of the story. It takes no time at all for them to get you hooked into the action. An assassination attempt brings our heroes, Anakin and Obi-Wan, right in the thick of a plot to kill Anakin’s rushed love interest. So far so good except for Anakin’s obsession with Padme right off the bat. I’m sure given the circumstances, that would be how he would act about getting to see her for the first time in a long time, but the writing and acting in these romance instances really fails overall. Moving past that, we keep up with the quick pace by going right into one of the George Lucas staples, a high speed chase. Again, this chase scene like the pod race, is an absolute highlight of the movies and series as we finally get a good feel for the city planet Coruscant. All of this sets up two things, 1. Anakin gets to take Padme to her home world and keep watch over her and 2. Obi-Wan gets to investigate the perpetrator to this assassination attempt. Anakin’s mission is simply a means to build a romance between him and Padme. It’s a plot point that was very clearly placed here and forced because they knew that the romance had to have more meaning for the next and final film of the prequels. The biggest pitfall for this movie is that, the worst writing and acting comes from those two and their romance and unfortunately that’s all the two are given to do until a forced plot point for Anakin to slowly begin his turn. This takes him back to his mother that he ends up finding and she dies in his arms which leads him to a murder spree of the Tusken Raiders that took her. This is where his dark side turn begins even though it very much seems forced. Oh and to top it off, of course Anakin is close enough to Obi-Wan in the wide vast universe that he can get to him before anyone else…
Back to Obi-Wan, we actually have a very interesting story and a realization that maybe this whole trilogy would’ve been better off coming from Obi-Wan’s perspective for the majority, rather than this back and forth jarring between a good story and a not so good story. With Obi-Wan we actually have a very interesting investigation story where he goes to various locations and chases different leads before leading him finally to a new planet where we finally get our first glimpse of the “clones”. We also find out *cringe moment* that the hired assassin is a bounty hunter named Jango Fett who is Boba Fett’s dad and Boba is actually a clone and all of the clones are made from Jango’s DNA. So the investigation went off the rails pretty quick and gave us our first big disappoint about our perception of what the Clone Wars was, but not all is lost yet. In another chase sequence we follow Obi-Wan who is chasing Jango to another new planet (props for all of the planets we got to see in this movie), and he finally gets captured. All of this leads back to Anakin and Padme through a droid factory and they get captured too.
John Carter of Mars is a clear influence of the next events. A coliseum where our three heroes must fight three monsters to survive while the alien natives and new big bad villain, Count Dooku, played fantastically by Christopher Lee. A big surprise brings along one of the coolest moments in all of the movies when the several Jedi reveal themselves to rescue our heroes. This is the first time we’ve seen this many Jedi fighting in one area. It’s a fist pumping moment as we see them fight the emotionless droids, but of course they’re outnumbered and about to lose, but then…the rest of the Jedi arrive with…THE CLONES. Here it is, the moment we’ve been waiting for. The Clone Wars. But just like getting candy taken away as a kid, we only get to see a few minutes of the clones in action. The biggest upside to the prequels is that it does contain some of the best lightsaber duels with stunning visuals. The final fight with Anakin and Obi-Wan could’ve been much more and feels like a letdown with how quickly the fight is over. It’s only saved when old hippity hoppity Yoda walks in and whips out his own lightsaber. While it does seem a little goofy watching Yoda bounce around the way he does, it’s also at the same time badass and we get to see how powerful he really is in a fight that he would’ve won if not for the fact that Dooku cheated and ran away. To end Yoda says the Clone Wars has begun.
Now like I said before, the biggest tease for these prequels was the anticipation of seeing what exactly the Clone Wars was. What this movie did was nothing more than building up that hype by teasing the actual Clone Wars even more. This is something that will be looked back on as a missed opportunity. Where this movie fails, is that it doesn’t take advantage of its own setup and own opportunities and instead decides to force plot points and character moments that should’ve been setup better in The Phantom Menace and expanded upon through this one and the next one. What sucks the most, is that there is a great movie in here somewhere. The moments with Obi-Wan investigating is a great opportunity that left more to be desired. There are many more moments that make this better than the previous film, but not enough to make it that much better. While the previous movie seemed like an odd one out, this one is just disappointing. It had every opportunity, but overall dropped the ball.