Empire's Original Attack Of The Clones Review
- 16 May 2002
By Chris Hewitt | Posted 7 days ago
In 2002, George Lucas made a film. I reviewed that film. That review did not go down well. So much so that we eventually unpublished it. But here it is, over 17 years on, for you to point and laugh at. But bear two things in mind. One: before you throw space shade my way, I feel the same way you do. For more details, read my full piece about this in the Star Wars supplement that comes free with the new issue of Empire, on sale now. And two: this is not the review you think it is. Enjoy?
- Chris Hewitt
The Phantom Menace was awarded four stars by this very magazine. Going by that rationale, Attack Of The Clones deserves, oh, 20. Okay, Clones isn’t the greatest film ever. It’s not even the greatest Star Wars film ever, falling short of close relative The Empire Strikes Back. Yet it outstrips TPM completely, gives Return Of The Jedi a run for its money, and Steven Spielberg thinks it’s better than A New Hope. Make no mistake, Star Wars is back.
For a man supposedly oblivious to Phantom’s critical pasting, Lucas’ fifth instalment feels like it was made by a fanboy committee. There’s more action, more humour and more humanity (McGregor’s Obi-Wan is more confident and cynical, while Portman’s Padme is less regal and more sexy). On the flip-side, there’s no midi-chlorians and - hurrah! - barely any Jar Jar. Meanwhie, Lucas directs capably, showing off his visual skills (breathtaking shots are legion) while letting the increasingly dark story develop unhindered.
Make no mistake, Star Wars is back.
Phantom may have been just for kids, but thanks to its frequent decapitations and murky tone, Clones skews a lot older. It’s not as simple as white hats, black hats anymore: the proto-Stormtrooper Clones are here — oh, the irony! — led into battle by Yoda; while the loathed Jar Jar inadvertently sets in motion the Clone Wars. Lucas also bravely consigns his nominal baddies — Jango Fett and Christopher Lee’s imposing Count Dooku — to the background, allowing him to focus on Anakin’s fall from grace. The Tusken Raider slaughter and Anakin’s subsequent hate-fuelled confession is the most emotionally-charged Star Wars sequence since Empire‘s climax; thankfully the glowering, preening Christensen delivers a suitably tortured performance. Episode III awaits.
It’s not all perfect: the romance never escapes its plot device origins; the dialogue is still clunky; non-fans might get lost, and the mid-section lacks pace. As for ILM’s wall-to-wall CG (most of the walls are CG), such hyper-reality means Clones occasionally resembles the most expensive Babylon 5 episode ever made.
Then again, the climactic battle, featuring Jedi kicking ass and — heyl — Clones attacking, is a mind-boggling fusion of technology and entertainment that eclipses anything seen before in the fantasy genre. Hell, in any genre. And then, along comes Yoda’s astonishing, crowdpleasing battle with Count Dooku. A showdown that is — inarguably — the Star Wars saga’s greatest single moment, and for that, all past indiscretions are forgiven. Welcome back, George.