True story: a couple of weeks ago I was at bar trivia and the host, who I’m friendly with, stopped by our table for some casual chit chat and – as casual chit chat at bar trivia often goes – Star Wars was referenced. And by Star Wars, I specifically mean Attack of the Clones. And by “referenced,” I mean a joke was made at the expense of Attack of the Clones. It was one of those moments where, at first, I played along, hoping the subject would soon change. But, alas, I couldn’t take it anymore and I blurted out for anyone that was within earshot, “I like Attack of the Clones! It’s my favorite prequel!”
As time goes by, I become more and more fascinated by the Star Wars prequels. In nine months, Revenge of the Sith will celebrate its 15th anniversary. I moved to New York just a few months before Revenge of the Sith was released and I always have to remind myself of that because all three of the Prequels feel like they belong to another time and another era of my life. Compared to the Original Trilogy, they look like cartoons. Compared to the new Disney Star Wars movies, well, they also don’t fit in because the new movies are trying to emulate the Original Trilogy. Yet, as kids who were, say, age six when The Phantom Menace came out, they are now 26 and the popularity of these movies seem to be rising on a wave of nostalgia. I’ve written about this before, but eventually there will be so many Star Wars movies and they will all look so different than the Prequels, the Prequels will become these weird outlier movies that, someday, people will be surprised they exist.
It’s funny, when I tell people my favorite of the Prequels is Attack of the Clones people look at me like I’ve said something truly crazy, like I just said my favorite of all the Star Wars movies is Attack of the Clones. Look, in no way do I think Attack of the Clones is a “good” movie, I just think it’s the most rewatchable of a not great bunch. The Phantom Menace is one of those movies I used to at least pretend I thought was somewhat rewatchable, but, boy, does it drag. Revenge of the Sith is a failure on almost every level, mostly because it should have been the easiest one to do well. We have three Prequel movies and the only amount of actual “plot” is pretty much all contained in the third film, yet it somehow screws this all up. At least with The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, I give them credit for existing at all without having a plot.
But, yet, every time I run across Attack of the Clones, I find myself watching. And, yes, I fully admit Attack of the Clones has some of the worst scenes in any of the Star Wars movies: which is pretty much anytime Anakin and Padme flirt or express their love for one another, which happens quite a bit in this movie. But there’s one simple reason these scenes don’t kill the entire film: those terrible scenes are scattered throughout and are fairly short, while there are four killer action scenes spaced out pretty perfectly throughout.
(As an aside, part of the reason I am writing this is almost my entire past weekend was inadvertently devoted to Star Wars. About six months ago, I came home one evening and needed to grab something out of the home office, but instead tripped and went careening toward a shelf. On this shelf sat a 1685-piece Ultimate Collector Series TIE-Fighter, one of those LEGO sets “for adults” that takes forever to build. So, to regain my balance I grab this shelf, but the shelf is loose, so the side I grab goes down, while the side with the TIE-Fighter goes up. I’ll tell you this, man, for a couple of seconds there, that TIE-Fighter could really fly. Of course, when it hit the hardwood floor, it disintegrated into all 1685 pieces. Its remains have sat in a sad plastic bag for the last six months until, this past weekend, I finally decided to try and rebuild it and it took forever. Anyway, I thought a lot about Star Wars this past weekend.)
Attack of the Clones is less a movie and more just four really cool scenes that keep the movie flowing. It’s the only prequel that kind of realizes it doesn’t have much of anything to say, so instead it just gives us some really good standalone scenes instead. (As opposed to Revenge of the Sith, which thinks it has a lot to say.) The scene of Obi-Wan Kenobi, hanging onto an assassination droid, racing through Coruscant, is a great scene and still looks pretty good today, which is rare for these movies. Everything with Obi-Wan and Jango Fett is really great, culminating in two fights. I’d rank Obi-Wan’s fight with Jango Fett in the pouring rain of Kamino up there with anything we’ve seen in a Star Wars movie. People always point to the fight with Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, but it’s broken up too much with other scenes of things going on elsewhere. Here, there is no cutting away, we just get full Obi-Wan and Jango Fett action. (And one of the only true centerpiece battles between a Jedi and a non-Jedi, with the non-Jedi winning.)
Then, instead of a standard dogfight, Jango Fett and Obi-Wan have a space battle that involves sonic depth charges. Finally, we get a full-on battle on Geonosis between pretty much every Jedi in the galaxy against the trade federation – which also includes a scene of Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu cutting off Jango Fett’s head with a lightsaber. (In Revenge of the Sith, Mace Windu’s big scene is dying by “falling out of a window.”)
Look, I am not here to convince you that Attack of the Clones is a good movie. But it doesn’t deserve its punchline status, even though, yes, a few scenes certainly do. And those scenes are cringe-worthy! But Attack of the Clones also has, pound for pound, the best scenes in any of the three prequels. So, yes, it’s time for Attack of the Clones to finally get its due: “Bad, but not quite as bad as its made out to be.”
You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.