Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones(PG)
The fifth movie to be released, but the second chronologically. This came out in 2002, and I think I probably saw it in a theater at the time, but I don't remember for sure. Anyway, it's something I'd been waiting for ever since one of Leia's lines in Episode IV. Also I should say that between 2003 and 2005, there was an animated microseries on Cartoon Network called Star Wars: Clone Wars which was intended to bridge the gap between this movie and Episode III. (Later, from 2008-14, there was an ongoing CGI series that began with the movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which covered the same time period.) Anyway, I'm writing this review after having finally seen this movie again in 2020 (on Star Wars Day).
It has been ten years since the events of Episode I. (Which I guess means Anakin is now 19 and Padmé is now 24, so the age difference isn't as noticeable anymore, especially since Padmé is still played by Natalie Portman, while Hayden Christensen has replaced Jake Lloyd as Anakin.) One thing that has changed about Padmé is that she is no longer queen of the Naboo; she served two terms in that office, which is apparently the limit. Now she represents her world as a member of the Galactic Senate. There is a Separatist Movement, with thousands of star systems threatening to secede from the Republic, and a vote is to be held in the Senate about whether to raise an army to stand against the Separatists. Padmé travels to Coruscant to vote on the matter (though why she wasn't already on Coruscant, I'm not sure). Her ship is blown up moments after it lands, but despite the tragic loss of its crew and one of Padmé's decoys, the senator herself survives the attack, since she had been traveling incognito on an escort ship. Everyone is very concerned that another attempt may be made on Padmé's life, so Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his padawan, Anakin, are assigned to protect her. And another assassination attempt does soon take place, which leads Obi-Wan and Anakin in different directions. Anakin is assigned to escort Padmé back to Naboo, where it is presumed she will be safer, while Obi-Wan tries to track down whoever is behind the attacks.
Obi-Wan's investigation soon leads him to a planet called Kamino, the existence of which has been removed from the Republic's archives. Once there, he learns that nearly ten years ago, someone claiming to have represented the Republic placed an order for the creation of a clone army, though the people creating the clones had no idea that this was done without the Senate's knowledge. Meanwhile, the genetic basis for the clones, a bounty hunter named Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) has been living on Kamino and raising one of the clones, Boba, as his son. (Unlike the other clones, Boba's aging process wasn't accelerated, nor was he conditioned to be obedient to his makers.) I must also mention that the armor the clone troopers wear looks very much like that which will, in the future, be worn by the Empire's storm troopers. So that's rather ominous. Anyway, Obi-Wan believes Jango is responsible for the assassination attempts, and learns that he had been hired by someone named Tyranus. After a battle, Jango and Boba escape the planet, but Obi-Wan tracks them to the planet Geonosis, where he discovers the Separatists and their droid army. The Separatists are led by a former Jedi Master named Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). Obi-Wan manages to send a message to Anakin, to be forwarded to the Jedi Council on Coruscant. But in the midst of recording the message, Obi-Wan is captured.
Now, I'll backtrack to what's been going on with Anakin and Padmé. Anakin... has a few problems. One is that he feels Obi-Wan has been holding him back unfairly, not allowing him to take the trials to become a Jedi. (His resentment is further stoked by Chancellor Palpatine, who has apparently spent the past ten years telling Anakin how great he is, and he believes Anakin will one day become the greatest of all Jedi. Pretty obvious manipulation, but it works, because Anakin trusts Palpatine more than any other politician.) Another issue is that Anakin is kind of obsessed with Padmé. (He believes he's in love with her, despite not having seen her for ten years. But I don't believe it's real love.) As for Padmé herself, she still thinks of him, to some extent, as the little boy she used to know. Besides which, Jedi aren't supposed to have romantic relationships, I guess. But over time, her feelings to begin to come more into alignment with Anakin's... and yet, she's more mindful than he is of the reasons they shouldn't give in to their feelings, including the fact that if they did have a relationship, it would have to remain a secret. Anyway, another problem Anakin has is that he's been having nightmares about his mother, Shmi, suffering. Finally, he and Padmé go to Tatooine to look for Shmi and see what they can do to help. (One of the things I most recalled from the first time I saw this movie was when they see Watto, Anakin's former owner, for some reason I've always remembered Watto seeing Ani all grown up and saying "A Jedi, whattaya know?") Watto tells them that he had sold Shmi to a moisture farmer named Cliegg Lars, who had married her. So Anakin and Padmé go to find him, and they also meet Cliegg's son, Owen, and his girlfriend, Beru. They learn from Cliegg that Shmi had been abducted by Tusken Raiders, so Anakin goes to rescue her. I don't want to say how that turns out, except that it pretty obviously helps Anakin along the path toward the Dark Side. (He later says to Padmé that he knows himself to be "better than this," and she comforts him, when I think she should be recoiling in horror.) Anyway... they eventually receive Obi-Wan's message and pass it along to the Council, then they go to Geonosis to try and rescue Obi-Wan from the Separatists. Meanwhile, Yoda goes to Kamino to learn more about the clone army, which it is becoming increasingly clear will be essential for the defense of the Republic.
Well, Anakin and Padmé end up being captured, themselves. The two of them and Obi-Wan are chained up in an arena where they have to first slip their bonds (which Padmé is obviously well prepared for), and fight some monstrous beasts, which they manage to defeat, then they have to fight battle droids. And it's not just the Jedi who do reasonably well in these battles; Padmé is pretty badass, herself. (And I especially liked the fact that at one point, she used the chain she had been bound with as a weapon against a beast. That was certainly... familiar.) Of course, ultimately, the three of them are outnumbered, even after being joined by a team of Jedi that had been sent to Geonosis after the Council had received Obi-Wan's message. So it's lucky (if predictable) that they end up being reinforced by the sudden appearance of Yoda, commanding the clone army against the droid army. (Hurray, the clones finally attack! The title of the movie is fulfilled!) And soon, there's another of the things I remembered most about this movie: a battle between Count Dooku and Yoda, who is surprisingly badass, himself. (I've always liked how he abandoned his walking stick, called upon the Force to give him the speed, agility, and strength of a much younger whatever-he-is, and after the battle goes back to needing his walking stick.) Alas, Dooku manages to escape and report back to his master, Darth Sidious... who calls him Darth Tyranus. And apparently, despite the defeat on Geonosis, everything is going according to their plan.
Well, I've said a hell of a lot, but I've also left out a fair bit. Like, there's a warning that the Senate is controlled by a Sith Master, which the Jedi find unlikely. (It amazes me that they still have no idea who Darth Sidious is, but... I guess they haven't seen him, yet. I should try to remember that viewers have seen things the characters haven't. Although I sort of feel like we're expected not to know who Sidious is yet, either, and that just feels absurd.) I should also say that Mace Windu had a somewhat bigger role in this movie than in Episode I. And of course C-3PO and R2-D2 are both in the movie, though I don't feel like there's much to say about them. And Nute Gunray is back, working with the Separatists. (There's a mention of his having been betrayed by Darth Sidious, so it's ironic that he's now unwittingly working for Darth Tyranus.) I definitely think Dooku/Tyranus is an interesting character, mainly because he's responsible for the creation of two armies that are meant to fight a war against each other. Really, the complexity of the political intrigue is probably my favorite thing about this movie. I also want to say that while, for the most part, I think Padmé is way too good for Anakin, and it's surprising that someone as wise and intelligent as she is would fall in love with someone like him... maybe it shouldn't be that surprising. Ani is still basically a good guy, at this point. And I understand her desire to help him with his emotional struggles. I don't even think I could say he's gaslighting her, or anything; he's the one being gaslit by Palpatine. (I also really liked that when she joked about him possibly using Jedi mind tricks on her, he denied it by saying that that only works on the weak-minded, which I think demonstrates a respect for her intelligence.) I also liked how many little allusions there are to future events. And I liked a lot of the movie's humor. And its action. And the fact that we see relatively little of Jar-Jar. (And the fact that one of the things he does in the movie unwittingly helps set the stage for Chancellor Palpatine to eventually become Emperor Palpatine.) And... hopefully I've left out enough details and a few spoilers, but I also hope I'm not leaving out anything I meant to say. Anyway, it's not quite as much fun as the first movie, but it's more dramatic and generally a better story, and makes for a really good middle act of the trilogy.