20 years ago, on May 16, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones premiered in theaters. And while a younger generation of new Star Wars fans were excited to see where the adventures continued, a generation of older fans complained online about how their childhood was 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 was first released; however, I had just turned one, did I really see it? All of my childhood memories revolve around the original trilogy, even though those movies were aimed at what we now know as Generation X, and I’m one of those old millennials. I had the toys. I bought the movie on VHS, and subsequent re-releases, like a fool. I read the books that expanded the lore of the galaxy.
My love for Star Wars was exceptionally deep until May 19, 1999, when I skipped school and saw The Phantom Menace. All the complaints you’ve seen about the movie, I probably had at the time because I felt the betrayal that my “childhood was destroyed” and that pain got worse/continued on May 16, 2002 when Attack of the Clones was released.
Now, I have nothing to prove to you, the person reading this. Our opinions about the things we love and hate in Star Wars are purely subjective based on experiences, personal tastes, etc. There is one person I need to address, me in 2002.
Listen, Mat, 20-year-old, I know you think you’re really important because you’re about to get promoted to floor supervisor at the local toy store, instead of going to college right out of high school, but you …I’m so wrong about Attack of the Clones for a plethora of reasons. First of all, let’s talk about the prequels in general.
They are not made for you. You are not the target audience. This is a new Star Wars for a new generation, and it’s marketed primarily to kids, just like you loved the original Star Wars as a kid. When it comes to Attack of the Clones, it’s more than justified to say that the CG doesn’t look very good, and especially doesn’t hold up 20 years later. You can discuss how Anakin and Padme’s relationship is stiff and unnatural. It can even be said that the Trade Federation Neimoidians sound like a racist stereotype. These are fair appraisals of the film. However, it’s much better than you’re giving it credit for because it forges its own path. It’s not what the original trilogy was, and that’s what makes it great.
The Phantom Menace shapes the world. The Galactic Republic rules 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 Lucas just can’t escape. Obi-Wan is going to train him to become a Jedi.
Now, 10 years after the events of that movie is when Attack of the Clones takes place, a title that I still find absolutely terrible. In the movie, we have an adult Anakin working with Obi-Wan to take on the sepratist movement within the Republic. They are a threat to order in the galaxy. Sifo-Dyas of the Jedi order commissioned a clone army, as his Force vision saw a great conflict coming and he wanted the Republic to be prepared. After Dyas is killed, at the hands of Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus, Obi-Wan finds out about this clone army, but Dooku wants control, so he sends Jango. Eventually, the Republic gains control of this army to confront Dooku and his Geonosian army.
This movie is a game of chess between the Sith and the Republic. Things are rosy, for the most part, in the galaxy when it comes to order, and this is where things start to fall apart. With the original trilogy, there was an antagonist from the very beginning: the Empire. The prequels were a bit more ambiguous, as it’s about the crumbling of the “utopian” Republic, so you don’t really know who the bad guys are, other than a second Sith, until the end of Episode III.
Now, let’s talk about Jango Fett because this was a great and terrible topic of conversation for you. You love Boba Fett, but not because of her 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 that happens in those books is a few years away from being cut from canon anyway.
Because of your love for this character, you were hoping to have more of him 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 coming out years later. . Plus, he’s hardly a sidekick here, in an already packed movie. Yes, it’s annoying that the Star Wars movies have the ability to introduce secondary villains and not delve into them, or just kill them off in the same movie, but a lot 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 expansive and the movies we know of, all but two of them currently, revolve around the Skywalker bloodline.
And speaking of that Skywalker bloodline, Hayden Christensen is great in this role. Your complaint that he is whiny, overly emotional, and difficult to handle is exactly what makes him great. That’s how he’s supposed to be the character. Sorry if you like your Jedi to be super stoic, but that’s not the story being told here. This is Obi-Wan’s biggest mistake. Jedi are not supposed to have emotions, but that’s not Anakin. He is on the verge of slipping to the Dark Side throughout the entire movie, and we have a few moments where it’s clear we know where the character is headed.
Attack of the Clones isn’t the best movie in the Star Wars franchise, far from it, but it’s certainly a lot better than you originally remember. It’s part of a trilogy that strays far from the original movies, and that’s okay. It’s made for another generation of fans and explores the change from Jedi to Sith. No, it’s not the most memorable movie in the Star Wars universe, and it’s a tough watch at times. However, it’s much better than the “final franchise apocalypse” I said it was when it first came out. I was mad that it wasn’t the original trilogy, and I didn’t judge it fairly.
You can revisit Attack of the Clones for yourself on Disney+.