Wow, this series is speeding by MUCH faster than I anticipated, we’re already to number 5!!! Thank you for sticking with me and indulging my rememberries. It’s time to discuss another of the most divisive entries in the Star Wars saga: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. This is the lowest-performing film at the box office, and I think there are several reasons for that, one of which is the lack of anticipation surrounding the second film in any series. I suspect it experienced significantly less repeat-viewings as well. Some have accused it of being too long, too convoluted, and poorly-written. Others defend it as a wonderful addition to the story with a terrific Obi-Wan storyline. It’s possible that both sides have valid arguments. I personally find it overly long and I have trouble not fast-forwarding through several sequences. I definitely consider it one of the weaker portions of the series, but I DO watch it on a semi-regular basis. What is it that brings me back to it time and again? When I think about Attack of the Clones, the things that immediately come to mind are the colors (again), Kamino, the Obi-Wan detective storyline, and the sound. Read on to find out more!
I won’t spend a lot of time on the color, since we all know that Jeff likes pretty colors, but I do want to touch on it a bit. Attack of the Clones takes us to a variety of locations, and each one has a very unique color scheme attached to it, which helps to keep the audience oriented as the story chugs along. We start out on Coruscant and its cold, gray buildings, but we venture into the nightlife of Coruscant as Obi-Wan and Anakin chase the assassin who attempts to kill Padme. We travel through the industrial district, which looks a LOT like Los Angeles in Blade Runner. The bar that the Jedi follow the killer into is a feast for the eyes, with bright neon greens, blues, oranges, and yellows. It feels like a real location and seems like a place in which I’d like to hang out. Even Tatooine looks richer than it has in the past, with the sky popping a bright blue against the sand. Kamino is dark on the outside, and so bright on the inside that you can barely make out any detail, which is by design and a wonderful touch. The final location, Geonosis, has always reminded me of an ant hill, and I have to assume that is intentional. It looks like a place that insects would inhabit, and that is precisely what it is. As always, this Star Wars films uses color perfectly to present a specific sense of place, and it is a joy to watch from that standpoint.
Star Wars has always been known for its one-dimensional planets. No, I don’t mean they’re flat, I mean they consist of a single type of environment, like the ice planet of Hoth, the desert planet of Tatooine, or, in this case, the water planet of Kamino, home to the Kaminoan cloners who built the Army of the Republic in secret. We don’t get to spend much time on Kamino, and most of it is spent inside, so we do not get a real sense of what the planet is like overall, but we can assume that it is constantly raining and that very little or no dry land exists. One thing that always comes to mind when I think of Attack of the Clones is the flying creature that comes up out of the water with a Kaminoan riding on its back. It’s such a striking image, and one that makes me curious to know what else goes on here. Thankfully, the film does not stop to show us, we just move on to the story of Obi-Wan tracking down the dart that killed the assassin earlier in the film. It seems odd to me that an environment that gets so little screen time could have captured my imagination so completely, but that is one of the greatest strengths of this universe, its ability to spur the thoughts of the viewer by just showing us a glimpse of a larger world that exists around the fairly personal story that is being told. I want to go back to Kamino. I know we saw more of it in The Clone Wars, but I want another live-action segment here, showing us the history of the planet and the daily life of its inhabitants. All of this from a quick shot of a storm and a pterodactyl that can apparently swim as well as fly. That’s a wonderful creation.
While Kamino intrigues me, the storyline that brings us there is my favorite element of Attack of the Clones. Obi-Wan Kenobi: P.I. would make for a great hour-long detective series. Are you listening, Disney? The story begins when an attempt is made on Padme’s life, and that sends Kenobi off on an adventure that eventually brings about the beginning of the Clone Wars. Ewan McGregor’s performance in this film is a real treat, as he echoes Alec Guinness while really making the character his own. His incredulity at Jocasta Nu’s dismissal, his obvious suspicion of Jango Fett, his successful pursuit of Fett to Geonosis, and his escape from capture remind us that he is truly one of the greatest Jedi who ever lived. Along the way we get to meet Dexter Jettster, a four-armed short-order cook with pants that don’t quite fit, and we get a glimpse of the creation of the Clone Army. This could have been a feature-length film on its own, and I really wish it had been. I haven’t mentioned much about the dialogue or the Padme/Anakin story line because I want to focus on the positive aspects of my experience. However, much of the dialogue in this film in general, and in particular between the two falling-in-love characters rings false and sounds stilted. An actor of Ewan McGregor’s caliber manages to make it sound like actual conversation instead of scripted dialogue, and that is a big reason for my enjoyment of this segment of the story. It’s nice to see a Jedi doing something successfully for a change. There are times when I just watch these segments, and I enjoy them immensely. Of particular interest to me is the chase through the asteroid field between Jango and Obi-Wan, which I will discuss next.
I mentioned the sound of this film as being one of my fond memories. That includes the score, which contains a BEAUTIFUL theme to accompany the doomed love of Anakin and Padme. The six-step jump in that theme conjures up memories of “There’s A Place For Us” from West Side Story and invokes the longing and passion that will ultimately be the undoing of an entire galaxy. However, the sound I referred to before is the SOUND DESIGN of the film. Sound design is always a strength of Star Wars, and this film is no different. The clicking of the Genosian language, the rain falling on Kamino, and the busy city sounds of Coruscant all work to make the audience feel like we are actually in the location we are seeing on the screen. It’s award-worthy work, to be sure. There is one sequence that puts this one near the top of my sound-design list, and it’s actually because of what we do NOT hear. When Jango and Obi-Wan are racing through the asteroid field before landing on Geonosis, Jango manages to get behind Obi Wan’s Jedi Starfighter and launches a seismic charge at him. When I saw this in the theater, my immediate thought was, “What happened to the sound?” I quickly realized that there was no error, just a genius designing the sound. When the charges explode, the immediate reaction is for ALL the sound to completely drop out, leaving the audience in a deafening silence for just a moment, long enough to make Jeff wonder if the sound has broken-down. Then, an explosion happens that jolts me in my seat every single time I see it, even though I know it’s coming! This happens a couple more times, just enough to make you smile, but not so much that it gets old or slows down the action. I cannot commend the sound designers enough for having the boldness to make this choice. At first hearing, you wonder why they did it, and you immediately understand that it was the exact right choice to make. It sets this action sequence apart from any other in the series, which is exactly what we need at this point. We’ve seen an asteroid chase before, but we’ve NEVER heard (or NOT heard) an explosion like this. It is always a treat to reach this scene in the film, and I always stop whatever I’m doing to pay attention. It may be my favorite sequence of the film. In fact, I can safely say that, yes, it is.
It’s no secret to people who follow my musings that I’m not a huge fan of the prequels. I just do not find them as satisfying as the original trilogy. That doesn’t mean that I discount them completely. As I’ve stated above, there are things that bring me back to each film, and the prequels are no exception. Attack of the Clones has a look and sound that is unique among the saga, and the Obi-Wan storyline is endlessly fascinating to me. Add in the locales of the film, especially Kamino, and you have a film that I will come back to repeatedly, because I find something different to focus on each time, and it makes for a richer experience than it might ordinarily provide. I hope you’ve enjoyed this entry, and I look forward to reading about the elements of Attack of the Clones that keep YOU coming back for more!
Until next time,
May the Force of Others Be With Us All.
Margot and Archie say hi.
Jeff can be heard weekly on Assembly of Geeks (www.assemblyofgeeks.com) and on his own podcast network, MarvinDog Media (www.MarvinDogMedia.com) where he hosts The Pilot Episode, Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff, and Bantha Banter: A Star Wars Chat Show. He is also co-host of Comics With Kenobi with fellow CWK blogger Matt Moore, on CoffeeWithKenobi.com, which you have already found if you’re reading this blog. You can contact Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org.