Introducing Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones

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The Kids

Considering that I’ve already decided that my boys are too young to see the PG-13 Episode III, this is the final film of the series they will see for awhile. This is also the film that many consider to be the actual worst Star Wars film. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen this one twice myself – once in the theater and once on DVD. So I’m unclear as to what to expect, actually. But the boys are, as always, excited for another trip to the galaxy far, far away.

As I read the opening crawl, there’s more political backstory that is relevant to the events here, but over the heads of these young boys. In Episode I, the Republic was facing the problem of a trade federation that was exerting its will on the planet Naboo (which was actually a scheme orchestrated by the Naboo senator to seize the chancellorship). In Episode II, a few star systems have broken away from the Republic and are causing trouble. The crawl states that the Jedi Knights are too few to maintain order in this fractured state and the Senate is considering ordering the creation of a proper military army to assist them. Queen Amidala from the last movie is now Senator Amidala and is traveling to the Senate to argue against the creation of an army.

As the Senator is arriving, she narrowly escapes an assassination attempt on the landing platform! A body double is killed instead. Again, the boys are very confused by all this secret identity stuff. They’re convinced the queen is dead and they have a hard time with the fact that the Queen from before isn’t a queen anymore, she’s a senator. And they don’t know what a senator is anyway.  So confusing.

After this attempt on Senator Amidala’s life, the Chancellor asks the Jedis Kenobi and Skywalker to act as security guards to protect her. This is where we finally learn that 10 years have passed since Episode I. Anakin is an angst-ridden teenager studying under Obi-Wan. He’s hot-tempered and prideful and creepily obsessed with Amidala. Soon another attempt is made on her life and the Jedis chase down the would-be assassin in a wild action scene with lots of flying around and jumping off shuttles. The boys are on the edge of their seats for this. It’s the first real Jedi action they’ve seen in the movie. The assassin is about to talk when she herself is assassinated by someone else who rockets away. A mysterious poison dart is recovered.

Now that we know things are serious and Amidala is in danger, the Jedi council tasks Obi-Wan with tracking down the other assassin while Anakin is to escort Amidala into hiding back on Naboo. Jar Jar Binks takes Amidala’s place as senator (because… I don’t know).

From there, the film splits into two narratives: Kenobi’s mission to find the assassin and uncover a conspiracy versus Anakin and Padme awkwardly falling in love while tripping their way through terrible dialog.

The Kenobi parts are pretty good as he discovers that someone has already ordered an army for the Republic made up of clones. The order came in 10 years ago (just after Episode I, remember?) from a Jedi named Sifo-Dyas. Kenobi knows that Sifo-Dyas had been killed before that time. He finds out that the model for the clones is a bounty hunter named Jango Fett – who is the rocket assassin he’s been tracking! Kenobi has a very cool fight scene on a rainy launchpad against Jango and his young clone son (the future Boba Fett) who get away as Obi-Wan throws a tracker on their ship. The boys are intrigued by the clones and think Kenobi is very cool in his big fight scene. And the mystery of the clone order is interesting.

Meanwhile, Anakin and Padme are falling for each other and complaining about sand and arguing about how effective politicians are in keeping the peace. Blah. The boys are so bored by this and, frankly, so am I. But then, Anakin gets a sense that his mother is in danger back on Tatooine. He and Padme disobey their orders and secretly fly to Tatooine to find her. He learns that his mother was sold to a farmer who set her free and married her, but she was recently kidnaped by Sand People. Anakin goes off to rescue her and finds her bound in a camp of Sand People. She dies in his arms and he goes ballistic and slaughters all the Sand People. I remembered this scene, but I thought it was in Episode III. The boys are upset by the image of Anakin’s mother with cuts on her face tied up in the dark hovel. My 4-year-old says “I don’t want to see this part” and starts playing with blocks until the scene is over. I appreciate his self-censorship. This is a scary part.

After that Sand People incident, Anakin confesses to Padme that he killed women and children as revenge for his mother’s death. They don’t have time to process it all though, because they get word from Obi-Wan that he’s tracked the bounty hunter to Geonosis. Obi-Wan has seen a mysterious figure named Count Dooku overseeing the construction of  a new droid army for the Separatists. And Nute Gunray from Episode I is the one who ordered Amidala killed and he’s part of the Separatist leadership. Anakin retransmits Obi-Wan’s message to the Jedi council and then he and Amidala set out to rescue him. C-3PO comes along from Tatooine. The boys love 3PO and are glad to see him again. Plus, he’s silly.

On Geonosis, Obi-Wan has been captured and Count Dooku (a former Jedi) reveals he has turned to the Dark Side and tells him that he should join their movement and that a Sith Lord is in control of the Senate. When Anakin and Padme arrive, they wind up in the droid assembly line and fight through it but are ultimately captured. Plus, C-3PO’s head gets put on a battle droid and his body gets a battle droid head. The boys loved the goofiness of that. And the factory fight scene is pretty cool too, especially when R2D2 reveals he has had secret jets in his legs and could fly this whole time. What?!

Now our 3 main heroes are reunited in an arena where they will be killed by three giant beasts while Count Dooku and his cronies watch. It’s reminiscent the Jabba scenes from Return of the Jedi. Of course, our heroes escape their chains and fight the beasts only to have the droid army surround them. Then the Jedis show up along with the clone army and the war is on! This is the first mass Jedi fight scene and it’s a pretty cool thing to see tons of lightsabers chopping up battle droids. The boys shout out all the different lightsaber colors they see and bounce around during the whole battle. Also, 3PO’s head gets reattached to his body as he spouts dumb puns. Again, the boys love it.

Dooku is getting away, however, and Obi-Wan and Anakin give chase and fight him in his lair. Kenobi gets knocked down and Anakin’s hand gets severed! The boys are surprised and shaken by this, but not too much since they’ve now seen their fair share of severed hands in this series. That’s when Yoda appears and the boys instantly realize that Yoda is finally going to fight! They’re SO excited and seeing the little Jedi flip and fly around with his lightsaber is straight up perfect. But Dooku topples a pillar towards Obi-Wan and Anakin, which makes Yoda stop fighting in order to save them. Dooku escapes and reports back to his master, Dark Sidious, that the war has begun as planned.

Back at the Jedi council, Kenobi tells everyone what Dooku said about a Sith Lord controlling the Senate. They are skeptical (surprise surprise), but acknowledge that the Dark Side is strengthening and their ability sense things has been diminished. They agree to keep a close watch the Senate. Meanwhile, Chancellor Palpatine looks on as legions of clone troopers arrive as the republic’s new army. The boys ask for maybe the dozenth time if the clones are good guys or bad guys and I tell them they are good guys… for now.

Oh, and then Anakin and Padme secretly get married back on Naboo and he has a robot hand. THE END!

So overall, the boys liked this movie a lot. They loved the cool fight scenes and especially the big Jedis and Clones vs. Battle Droids brawl. The highlight was definitely Yoda busting out his lightsaber and taking on Count Dooku.

In the end, I had to tell them again that they can’t see Episode III yet and they seem okay with that. My 5.5-year-old says that he already knows what’s going to happen in that one anyway: Anakin will become Darth Vader. Smart kid! I told them that we can re-watch these 5 movies though and that they’re making more movies that they might be able to see. It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan!

My Re-Watch

Going in, I remember that many people say that Episode I is not as bad as we remember it and Episode II is worse than we remember it. Well, at least on this viewing, I felt the opposite. I felt like Episode I had too much goof and kiddie stuff.  Episode II, on the other hand, had lots of great elements that just weren’t fleshed out enough. For instance, all the Obi-Wan stuff here is pretty much gold. His mission to Kamino to track the bounty hunter is cool and I wanted more! Plus, the Jedi battle scene is also very cool and has a few shots that are downright gorgeous.

Granted, there’s still the problem of all the lovey-dovey dialog. Those scenes are so painful they make me angry. Hayden Christensen is rough.

On this watch I, again, understood the plot of the Sith a little better than before. So filling in the gaps, Palpatine got chancellorship in the last movie, but lost his apprentice in the process. So he quickly coerced former-Jedi Count Dooku to the Dark Side and dubbed him Darth Tyrannus. His first mission was to impersonate recently deceased Jedi Syfo-Dyas and secretly order an army of clones. Then, he was to spark the Separatist movement and oversee the creation of a battle droid army too! All this was to create a need for an army to fight the droids and then conveniently find that an army already existed. Looking into the next film, we’ll learn that the clone army was actually created to eventually exterminate the Jedi and eliminate the Sith’s main opposition, clearing the way for the Empire. Villains always seem to have the most circuitous plans, don’t they?

So yeah, I liked a lot of what this film had to offer and that’s not something I expected. With some tweaks and edits, this could have been a really good movie. In fact, there are a couple of really good YouTube videos that work out some of the kinks to propose a more streamlined and refined set of stories. Check them out below.

So that’s all, folks! I’m really enjoyed sharing these movies with my young boys! I’m glad that they enjoyed them and that they’re already showing themselves to be my sons by quoting lines from them and talking through confusing plot points with me ad nauseam. And we’ve spent lots of time over these last few weeks playing with my old action figures and their newer lightsaber toys. What more can a nerd dad ask for?

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