On this day in Film History: Star Wars Episode II (2002)

I’ve been looking forward to this week for almost a month, ever since I realized the next two weeks (starting today) are when all but one of the Star Wars films came out (thanks Episode VII for bucking the trend and coming out in December).


Up first (in terms of dates): 14 years ago today, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, launched into theaters and (correct me if I’m wrong) is considered the weakest film in the prequel trilogy, largely due to the clunky, unnatural, and at times downright awkward “romantic” moments between a teenaged Anakin Skywalker (now played by Hayden Christensen) and an adult Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman).

I was happily oblivious to all of these flaws when I saw this movie in the theater (I was only thirteen at the time, what did I know about good or bad dialogue? I was just excited to see Star Wars in the movie theater). But now that I’m older, I (somewhat reluctantly) have to agree that this isn’t the best entry in the series (Hayden Christensen’s acting isn’t THAT bad though).

Episode II takes place about ten years after Episode I and the extremely Force-strong boy from Tatooine has grown up into an exceptionally moody Padawan, still mentored by the ever-exasperated Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). A state of civil war is brewing in the Republic, as the Separatist movement, led by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), threatens the peace. The Jedi are oblivious to the fact that Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is actually the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, and that he has been manipulating galactic events for years. Anakin has grown to view the chancellor as a trusted advisor, and is also struggling with his growing feelings for the now-Senator Amidala.

For all the movie’s flaws, how cool is it that Christopher Lee plays a former Jedi?? And how awesome is it that Yoda is revealed as a bad-ass fighter! (It’s CGI-ed to death but it’s still pretty cool I think).

The Clone Wars themselves are only mentioned twice in the original Star Wars film (Luke: “You fought in the Clone Wars?” and in the Leia recording: “…Years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars…”) but we really knew nothing else about them. Now this movie was allegedly going to show us what the Clone Wars were all about, which excited many. Unfortunately, while there are some pretty impressive moments (the revelation that the clones are the predecessors of Storm troopers comes to mind, along with the impressive-as-always lightsaber battles), the story is really bogged down by way too much CGI, a weird as heck romance subplot, and a shade too much politics.

Musically though, the film is great. John Williams returned once again to score the film and I firmly believe his music made the film better than it might have been otherwise. One of my favorite moments comes at the end of the film (right before the scene showing Anakin and Padme getting married in secret): the Jedi are watching the clone troopers arrive on Coruscant and Yoda sternly reminds them all that the fight is far from over because “begun, the Clone Wars have” and then, you hear IT, a clear refrain of the Imperial March (aka “Darth Vader’s theme”). Williams only used a clear rendition of that theme once in The Phantom Menace (when Yoda tells Obi-Wan “grave danger do I fear in his training”), but Anakin’s “good” theme was otherwise built on a rendition of the March placed in a major key (the original is in minor). Now though, as the clone ships land (clearly an early version of Star Destroyers), the camera pans over the assembled troopers and a loud rendition of the Imperial March plays, and there is no mistaking it. The Jedi don’t know it yet, but the final seeds have been sown for their annihilation.

(Incidentally, if anyone was curious: Yoda trained Dooku, Dooku trained Qui-Gon, Qui-Gon trained Obi-Wan and Obi-Wan trained Anakin).

Have a good day!

*all images are the property of 20th Century Fox/Walt Disney Studios

For more “On this day” posts, see here


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