Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 32, Number 2, 2002
- pp. 102-103
- Additional Information
Film Reviews | Regular Feature Film Reviews Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Star Wars Episode II: Attack ofthe Clones (Lucas 2002) is the second installment of George Lucas's new Star Wars trilogy, which depicts the decline and fall ofthe Republic and the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. In Clones, the adolescent Anakin starts down the dark path, and the Republic teeters on the brink of collapse. But even fans of the original trilogy will find little of interest in these developments. Although Joseph Campbell has pointed to the "timeless" aspect of Star Wars, that film is better understood as a product of its times. Conceived in the 1970s, the original Star Wars trilogy chronicled the Rebellion against the evil Galactic Empire. The Empire, as portrayed in Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return ofthe Jedi, is the apotheosis of the military-industrial complex, representing in stark form the ascension of technology over the natural. The destruction of Alderaan by a single blast from the Death Star demonstrates, in horrifying fashion, the negation of the natural by technology. This negation is also embodied in both Darth Vader, who is described as being more machine than man, and the Empire's faceless Stormtroopers. The Empire is ultimately thwarted, however, by the Rebel Alliance, a hodgepodge of resistance fighters. In contrast to the Empire, the Rebels employ what appears to be out-of-date technology and "the Force," a mystical energy field created by all living things. Using the Force, Luke Skywalker destroys the original Death Star, a climax that holds out the hope that human beings may yet prevail over the technological marvels that they have created in order to dominate nature but which, in the end, dominate them. In Jedi, the original trilogy ends with good triumphing over evil and nature (e.g., the Ewoks) triumphing over technology; even Darth Vader is redeemed from the dark side of the Force. Despite their somewhatuneven quality, the films comprising the original trilogy drew on these themes in a way that spoke to the Zeitgeist. In areal sense, the films ofthe original trilogy were about something more than X-wing fighters, lightsabers, and Ewoks. The first two films ofthe new StarWars trilogy, however, are not really about anything at all. The films altogether lack a coherent theme and thus have disappointed adult and even adolescent viewers. This filmpresents a complicatedplot and stateof -the-art special effects, but, without thematic interest, Clones fails to duplicate the original trilogy's appeal. Indeed, the new films even undermine the themes of the original trilogy, as Lucas appears to have been seduced by the dark side of technology. There is barely any natural world in Clones. Most of the screen is filled, most of the time, with computer-generated special effects, and much of the action takes place on the planet Coruscant, which, like Trantor in Asimov's Foundation series, is one enormous, world-sized city. Technology is everywhere in this movie, and even the Jedi Knights appear to be completely dependent on it. Yoda, the Jedi master who lives as a hermit in a primitive hut in Empire and Jedi, is shown riding on a hovering mobility cart, at the center of the political action, and Obi-Wan Kenobi is stumped when the answers are not available in the library's database. In the end, the Jedi are only saved from annihilation by biotechnology—in the form of an army ofclones, which is led by Yoda himself! If Lucas were a more subtle thinker, the portrayal of the Jedi in Clones might be taken as a sign of corruption in the Republic's last days. Indeed, the corruption of the Republic and its fall could have been a theme to speak to the Zeitgeist. Instead, the fall ofthe Republic is depicted as the result ofthe machinations of Darth Sidious, a master of the dark side of the Force. Sidious plays faction off against faction, employing a strategy of divide and conquer in pursuit ofabsolute power. All the other characters, including the hapless Jedi, are simply his dupes at every turn. This is more the stuff oífilm noir than...