There was a moment when “The Phantom Menace” was the movie that burrowed under everyone’s skins and made them cry out to the heavens. Yet, I noticed that as time went on, that mantel shifted to “Attack of the Clones.” For whatever reason, this has now become the whipping post for all of George Lucas’ perceived failures. To be honest, I can see where they’re coming from, but based on what I saw back in 2002 when this movie came out, few back then seemed to hold that opinion. Nowadays they decry and claw at this movie as the low point in the Star Wars lore.
Are they right? Sort of. “Attack of the Clones” is certainly a deeply flawed film. It’s too long. It has structure problems. It has pacing problems. It drags in many spots. It has far too many attempts at fan gratification. It’s overloaded with too much CGI. And of course there’s the dialogue. Written by Lucas and with no help from anyone else, the dialogue here is flat, dull, bland and colorless, and that sinks a lot of the drama. Yet, I wonder if the public reaction would have been so vitriolic if the dialogue had been better because underneath its problems, “Attack of the Clones” does tell a good story.
It is the story of an angry kid who sees that the entire universe is dead-set against him. He wants to go his own way, but can’t have it. He wants Padme in his life, but can’t have her. He wants to have a family but can’t have it. Everything in Anakin’s life seems to be slipping right through his fingers. The course of destiny always seems to work against him, and that makes a dangerous and already frustrated kid even more dangerous. Everyone can see it but him. It’s a story we can all relate to. You had problems and frustrations as a kid and you were surrounded by adults who you felt were holding you back. That’s a universal theme. The problem is that the dialogue wrings out a lot of the emotional weight.
My objections to “Attack of the Clones”, however, take a backseat to sentimentality. This was the first movie that my wife and I saw together. So, flaws and all, I look at the movie with great memories of a time when I met the person that I would spend my life with. So, maybe I have rose-colored glasses about this movie but it means something more to me then to the average person. Do I hate the film? Certainly not. Much like “The Phantom Menace” I try and find the spaces in between, the areas of great achievement in the film (it’s there, trust me) and those moments when Lucas got it absolutely right. It is flawed, it’s imperfect, but there’s a story here worth telling. You just have to get through George’s dialogue to get there.