Cult Movies

Cult Movie Essentials: Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is the second movie in the highly anticipated Star Wars Prequel Trilogy.

Just like its predecessor, 1999’s The Phantom Menace, it continues to further detail the story of a young Anakin Skywalker as he makes his transition from a small boy on Tatooine to the hugely popular villain, Darth Vader.

The film is a very strong entry in the Star Wars saga in comparison to the first episode, yet sees its fair share of criticisms from both Star Wars fans and critics alike. But despite these criticisms and buried under all the controversies exists a very well polished and interesting story.

What follows is a full plot summary, so, if you haven’t yet seen Episode II just be aware that this summary is spoiler heavy!

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                                                   ***********SPOILERS************

A separatist group of star systems has broken off from the Republic, led by Count Dooku, a former Jedi. Padme Amidala, now the Republic Senator from Naboo, returns to Coruscant to debate the creation of an Army of the Republic to meet this new challenge. When Padme’s ship lands on Coruscant, however, it is blown up in an assassination attempt. Padme survives, thanks to the Naboo custom of using decoys and doubles. However, Chancellor Palpatine insists that Padme receive an extra guard detail: Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan, Anakin, now grown from a small boy to a brash young man. Anakin is the most gifted Jedi of his day, but he is also reckless and headstrong, challenging Obi-Wan’s authority though looking up to him as a father figure. Anakin has never forgotten his early friendship with the beautiful Padme and is now completely in love with her. As they stand guard over Padme’s bedroom, Obi-Wan advises Anakin to control his feelings, reminding him that he has pledged his life to the Jedi.

An assassin, taking orders from a mysterious bounty hunter, attempts to kill Padme using poisonous centipede-like creatures. Obi-Wan and Anakin foil the plot and trace the droid sent by the assassin back to her hiding place. After a wild speeder chase through the skies of Coruscant, Obi-Wan corners and captures the assassin in a nightclub. Before Obi-Wan and Anakin have the chance to interrogate her, however, the assassin is herself killed by the bounty hunter who hired her, who then makes his escape. In response to this new development, the Jedi Council asks Obi-Wan to investigate the assassination attempts, while Anakin is assigned to escort Padme back home and to guard her once she is there. In addition to these political matters, the Jedi are concerned that as the dark side waxes in power, their own influence over the Force seems to be waning. While Anakin and Padme travel incognito, they continue to grow close, with Anakin explaining the way of the Jedi to Padme and having more and more trouble hiding his affection for her.

Obi-Wan learns through his sources that the poison dart used by the bounty hunter comes from a distant planet, outside the Republic, called Kamino. Obi-Wan discovers that Kamino has somehow, and for some unknown reason, been erased from the charts in the Jedi archives, as if to keep the system hidden. At Yoda’s urging, Obi-Wan travels to Kamino, where he discovers that the master cloners of that world have been busy creating a massive clone army at the request of the Republic and the Jedi, or so they say. When Obi-Wan asks the leaders on the Jedi Council about this army, however, they are as surprised to learn of its existence as he. Back on Naboo, Anakin’s crush on Padme blossoms into a full-fledged love affair, despite Padme’s initial reluctance. Padme and Anakin’s idyllic time together is disturbed, however, both by the knowledge that theirs is a forbidden love and by a vision Anakin has of his mother’s suffering on Tatooine. Padme and Anakin journey together to Tatooine so that Anakin can investigate his vision.

On Kamino, Obi-Wan inspects the clone army and learns that the model for the clones is none other than Jango Fett, the bounty hunter he has been pursuing all along. Obi-Wan questions Jango and his clone son Boba, but with little result. Jango then tries to sneak off the planet, but Obi-Wan catches him and, after a short but fierce clash, tracks him through space to the planet Geonosis, where Dooku’s Separatist movement is based. There, Obi-Wan finds yet another giant army under construction, this one composed of droids. Obi-Wan sends a message reporting his findings to Anakin, telling him to relay it to the Jedi Council, and then Obi-Wan is captured. On Tatooine, Anakin and Padme learn that Anakin’s mother, Shmi, has been sold by Watto to a man named Cliegg Lars, who later fell in love with and married her. Anakin now has a stepbrother, Owen, and meets his old droid C-3PO as well, but he is more concerned with finding Shmi, who has been kidnapped by the Sandpeople. Anakin tracks down the Sandpeople and finds his mother, but it is too late, and she dies in his arms. Enraged, Anakin slaughters the Sandpeople, including the women and children, as he later confesses to Padme. Padme is disturbed by this confession and by Anakin’s desire for power great enough to stop death itself, though she tries to remind him that there is good in him as well.

In response to Obi-Wan’s message, Padme and Anakin journey to Geonosis to rescue him, taking C-3PO along with them. Count Dooku attempts to win Obi-Wan to his side, telling him that the Sith have somehow gained control of the Senate and are manipulating events, but Obi-Wan refuses. On Coruscant, Jar-Jar Binks, acting in Padme’s place and under the influence of Chancellor Palpatine, calls a vote to give the chancellor emergency powers. Thanks to this vote, Palpatine now has unprecedented sway over the Republic and vows to bring an end to the Separatist movement. After a dangerous battle in the Geonosian robot factory, Padme and Anakin are captured and sentenced to execution, along with Obi-Wan, in a huge arena. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme battle the giant creatures sent out to kill them, though with little hope. The sudden arrival of Mace Windu and a strike team of Jedi Knights alters the situation. The Jedi free the captives, and Mace Windu himself kills Jango Fett, but soon even the skills of the Jedi begin to be overwhelmed by the unending waves of droid soldiers Count Dooku commands.

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At the last second, rescue arrives in the form of the clone army, which has been commandeered by Yoda. Yoda evacuates the surviving Jedi and leads the clone army in an all-out assault on the Separatist base. The Jedi and their new army defeat the Separatists, though the Separatist leadership mostly escapes. Anakin and Obi-Wan follow the fleeing Dooku to his hangar, where they finally confront him. Anakin foolishly attacks Dooku on his own, and Dooku is able to take on each in turn, defeating first Obi-Wan and then Anakin, severing Anakin’s arm in the process. Yoda appears on the scene once more, however, and forces Dooku to flee after a spectacular lightsaber duel. Dooku returns to Coruscant, where he is greeted as Darth Tyranus by the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, who has indeed engineered this chain of events. Yoda reminds his followers that despite the triumph on the battlefield, there is no victory, since the Clone Wars have now begun. Padme and Anakin, fitted with a cybernetic arm, are wed.

The story is structured well, with a distinct beginning, middle and end which allows the viewer to follow the plot at a very decent pace. The script does however become slow in places, almost crawling desperately into the next scene, but despite these script mishaps, the actors manage to pull off blinding performances. Ewan McGregor is far more believable as a younger Obi-Wan, and Ian McDiarmid once again shines as Senator Palpatine.

While the film stays true to the tried and tested Star Wars formula, It also introduces new elements. There is a very strong “Detective Noir” feeling to the movie which really comes to light as Obi-Wan tracks down the missing planet of Kamino. It is on said planet that we are introduced to the clones…

These clones would ultimately become the Galactic Empires Storm Troopers.

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While Episode I was a good effort, the Star Wars feel we’ve all come to love only really comes to light in this movie. Death Star plans, Storm Troopers, Anakin’s anger rising… all help to steer the series in the right direction.

The only thing really missing from the movie is a decent villain. While Christopher Lee is an amazing Count Dooku, the threat that Darth Maul imposed back in Episode I is simply missing. His character is never really developed in the movie itself, but does eventually flourish in the Star Wars television series The Clone Wars, but it all feels a little too late.

While it may not be the best Star Wars movie out there, it truly is deserving of the Star Wars title.

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