20 years ago, on May 16, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones was released in theaters. And while a younger generation of new Star Wars fans were thrilled to see where the adventures continued, a generation of older fans were complaining online about how their childhoods had been ruined. I was one of those people and I was wrong.
I was lucky enough to see Return of the Jedi in theaters when it first came out; however, I had just turned one, so did I actually see it? My childhood memories all revolve around the original trilogy — even though those movies were aimed at what we now call Generation X, and I’m one of those former millennials. I had the toys. I bought the movie on VHS – and subsequent re-releases, like a sucker. I read the books that expanded the lore of the galaxy.
My love for Star Wars ran exceptionally deep until May 19, 1999, when I skipped school and saw The Phantom Menace. All the complaints you saw about the movie, I probably had some at the time because I felt betrayed that my “childhood was destroyed”, and that pain got worse/continued on May 16, 2002 when Attack of the Clones came out.
Now, I have nothing to prove to you, the person reading this. Our views on the things we like and dislike about Star Wars are purely subjective, based on experiences, personal tastes, and the like. There’s one person I need to talk to, me in 2002.
Look, Mat, 20, I know you think you’re really important because you’re about to get that promotion to floor supervisor at the local toy store – instead of just going to college. after high school – but you’re very wrong about attacking the clones for a plethora of reasons. First, let’s talk about the prequels in general.
They are not for you. You are not the target audience. This is a new Star Wars for a new generation, and it’s primarily aimed at kids, just like you loved the original Star Wars when you were a kid. When it comes to Attack of the Clones, you’re more than justified in saying that the CG doesn’t look great – and more importantly doesn’t hold up 20 years later. You can discuss how Anakin and Padme’s relationship is rigid and unnatural. You can even say Trade Federation Neimoidians sound like a racist stereotype. These are fair assessments of the film. However, it’s much better than you give it credit for, as it charts its own path. That’s not what the original trilogy was, and that’s what makes it great.
The Phantom Menace sets up the world. The Galactic Republic governs the galaxy with representative democratic discussions and decisions. There is also a trade federation, which is the source of all the problems. Anakin Skywalker is introduced, a Force-sensitive boy from Tatooine – a planet that Lucas just can’t get away from. Obi-Wan will train him to become a Jedi.
Now, 10 years after the events of that film, is when Attack of the Clones takes place – a title that I still find downright terrible. In the film, we have an adult Anakin who works with Obi-Wan to tackle the separatist movement within the Republic. They are a threat to order in the galaxy. Sifo-Dyas of the Jedi Order commanded a clone army – as his vision of the Force foresaw a huge conflict ahead and he wanted the Republic to be prepared. After Dyas dies – at the hands of Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus – Obi-Wan discovers this clone army, but Dooku wants control, so he sends Jango. Eventually, the Republic takes control of this army to confront Dooku and his Geonosian army.
This film is a game of chess between the Sith and the Republic. Things are irresistible – for the most part – in the galaxy when it comes to order, and that’s where things start to fall apart. With the original trilogy, there was an antagonist from the start: the Empire. The prequels were a bit more ambiguous, as it’s about the collapse of the “utopian” Republic, so you don’t really know who the bad guys are – aside from a second Sith – until the end of the game. Episode III.
Now let’s talk about Jango Fett because that was a huge, terrible talking point for you guys. You love Boba Fett, but not because of his appearance in Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi. You love the character mainly because of Tales of the Bounty Hunters, Tales from Jabba’s Palace, and The Bounty Hunter Wars: The Mandalorian Armor. Everything in these books is a few years away from being out of the canon anyway.
Because of your love for this character, you were hoping for more here, but he’s a kid, and his moments in the movie are just a starting point for something else – part of an animated series that will be released. years later. . Plus, he’s barely a secondary kid here, in an already jam-packed movie. Yes, it’s annoying that Star Wars movies have a knack for introducing secondary villains and not deepening them – or killing them outright in the same movie – but a big part of the appeal of Star Wars is the secondary material. You loved Boba Fett because of the novels, and you’ll fall in love with The Mandalorians as a whole because of two animated series and one live-action series. Star Wars is vast, and the movies we know of – all but two of them currently – revolve around the Skywalker lineage.
And speaking of that Skywalker lineage, Hayden Christensen is terrific in the role. Your complaint that he’s whiny, overly emotional, and unwieldy is exactly what makes him great. That’s how the character is supposed to be. I’m sorry if you like your Jedi to be super stoic, but that’s not the story told here. This is Obi-Wan’s biggest mistake. Jedi are supposed to be emotionless, but that’s not Anakin. He’s about to slide to the dark side the whole movie, and we have a few moments where it’s clear we know which direction the character is headed.
Attack of the Clones isn’t the best movie in the Star Wars franchise — not by a long shot — but it’s certainly a lot better than you originally remember. It’s part of a trilogy that deviates a lot from the original films, and that’s fine. It’s made for another generation of fans and explores the move from Jedi to Sith. No, it’s not the most memorable movie in the Star Wars universe, and at times, it’s a tough watch. However, it’s far better than the “franchise-ending apocalypse” I claimed when it first came out. I was angry that it wasn’t the original trilogy and didn’t judge it fairly.
You can revisit Attack of the Clones for yourself on Disney+.