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“Attack of the Clones” 20th anniversary (retro article)

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    Across the Stars: Remembering “Attack of the Clones” on its 20th Anniversary

    Originally posted by Michael Coate/The Digital Bits



    By Michael Coate

    Attack of the Clones represents George Lucas’ forward-thinking perhaps more than any of his other films. — Stephen Danley, Star Wars at the Movies

    The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of Attack of the Clones, the second and middle episode in George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel trilogy.

    For the occasion of Attack of the Clones’s recent anniversary, The Bits features a multi-page article consisting of a Q&A with a trio of Star Wars historians and enthusiasts who reflect on the film, plus box-office data and statistics, passages from film reviews, and a reference listing of its North American first-run D-Cinema and IMAX presentations.

    Before we begin… In case you missed them or desire a refresher read, this column’s other Star Wars-themed retrospectives include Star Wars 40th anniversary, The Empire Strikes Back 40th anniversary (analysis of the 70mm early cut), The Empire Strikes Back 40th anniversary, The Empire Strikes Back 35th anniversary, Return of the Jedi35th anniversary, Return of the Jedi 30th anniversary, The Phantom Menace 20th anniversary, and Fanboys 10th anniversary.


    0 = Number of Academy Awards
    1 = Number of Academy Award nominations
    1 = Rank among top-earning films during opening weekend
    2 = Rank among top-earning films released in 2002 (calendar year)
    2 = Number of Razzie Awards
    2 = Number of weeks North America’s top-grossing movie (weeks 1 and 2)
    3 = Rank among top-earning films released in 2002 (legacy / lifetime / retroactive)
    4 = Number of days to surpass $100 million
    4 = Rank among 20th Century Fox’s all-time top-earning films at end of release
    5 = Rank among top-earning movies directed by George Lucas (adjusted for inflation)
    6 = Number of months between theatrical and home-video releases
    7 = Number of Razzie nominations
    10 = Box-office rank among Star Wars movies (adjusted for inflation)
    11 = Peak all-time box-office chart position
    12 = Number of days to surpass $200 million
    13 = Rank among top-earning films produced by Lucasfilm (adjusted for inflation)
    16 = Rank among top-earning movies of the 2000s (earnings from 1/1/2000 - 1/2/2010)
    33 = Number of weeks movie was in release
    55 = Number of Digital Cinema presentations during opening weekend*
    58 = Number of IMAX presentations during re-release
    100 = Rank on all-time top-grossing films (adjusted for inflation)
    104 = Number of days to surpass $300 million
    3161 = Number of cinemas playing the movie during its opening weekend

    $25,317 = Opening weekend per screen average
    $30.1 million = Opening-day box-office gross (May 16)
    $31.3 million = Highest single-day gross (May 18, Day 3)
    $80.1 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (May 17-19, Days 2-4)
    $115.0 million = Production cost
    $189.4 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
    $310.7 million = Domestic box-office gross (includes IMAX re-issue)
    $343.1 million = International box-office gross
    $653.8 million = Worldwide box-office gross
    $1.1 billion = Worldwide box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)

    *established new motion picture industry record


    “Yes, Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones is better than Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, but that’s a meaningless answer to a misleading question. Simply put, there were episodes of Lost in Space better than The Phantom Menace, 1999’s tedious and disappointing first installment of George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. The only relevant question is whether Attack of the Clones recaptures the giddy heart and adventurous sweep of the original Star Wars films. Lucas certainly pulls out all the stops—this is a visually arresting film awash in rousing digital action sequences. But Lucas again stumbles, missing the mark. Instead of zesty and daring, Attack of the Clones is often labored and stiff. Like The Phantom Menace, this film lacks the quirky charm and punchy humor that, a quarter-century ago, immediately elevated the Star Wars films above standard sci-fi fare.” — Renée Graham, The Boston Globe

    “’Are you hurt?’ emailed a friend in mockery of the Saturday-serial dialogue style in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones. ‘Are you blind?’ I emailed back. For the latest entry in George Lucas’ transgalactic saga of the moral rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and the deterioration of democracy into despotism has an electric visual majesty and boasts Lucas’ best direction since American Graffiti.” — Michael Sragow, The Sun(Baltimore)

    “[Anakin and Padmé] have to fall in love, we know that. Or Luke Skywalker won’t be born. There’s a timetable over their heads. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only discernible reason for their romance. The chemistry between them is a frigid zero. For one thing, neither party is particularly engaging, either as character or performer. Christensen’s Anakin is a one-dimensionally arrogant brat given to surges of petulant rage. It’s not his fury so much as his limited range that brings him up short. Portman is brittle, chilly and unconvincing as Padme; it’s as if she hasn’t quite committed to being a Star Warscharacter yet. The net result: a love affair between a hothead and an ice bucket.” — Desson Howe, The Washington Post

    “Some early reviews of Clones have dismissed the film as a hollow showcase for special effects, which is like saying the only good thing about an opera was the singing. Special effects have always been a big lure of the series, from the now-quaint outer space dogfights that felt so revolutionary in 1977 to the pod race that jolted audiences awake in Menace. If Attack of the Clones lacks the heart of, say, The Empire Strikes Back, it still feels more inventive and vital than the rote complacency of Return of the Jedi.” — Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

    “In reviving the saga, and setting out to chronicle Luke’s genealogy and the earlier history of the Jedi order, Mr. Lucas seems to have lost his boyish glee. As the effects have grown more intricate and realistic, their ability to yield pleasure and astonishment has diminished.” — A.O. Scott, The New York Times

    “Why can’t they just clone The Empire Strikes Back? The fifth installment of George Lucas’ Star Wars saga is better than The Phantom Menace. But it’s not enough better. After the heroic grandeur of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and the zest and cleverness of Spider-Man, this movie is a disappointment.” — Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, The Atlanta Constitution

    “George Lucas’ digitally shot movie looks incredible. From the mile-high skyscrapers of the city-planet Coruscant (a luminous Metropolis-like capital moving to a lurid Blade Runner beat) to the icky, wasp-winged Genosians in the mood for gladiatorial carnage at a coliseum made of what looks like skeletal remains, the Star Wars universe is rendered in breathtaking strokes and mouse clicks.” — Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer

    “The hype is more muted for Episode II, the marketing campaign has been scaled down, and fan expectations are at a once-bitten, twice-shy level. Episode II meets these more realistic standards with ease and may qualify as the third-best episode yet—behind The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars.” — Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

    “Lucas makes no advances as a director. He seems clueless about how to wring deep emotions from his actors, and he is sluggish with his camera movements—perhaps to accommodate the computer graphics added later. He still changes scenes with the wipes and blackouts that went out of style in the 1950s.” — Frank Gabrenya, The Columbus Dispatch

    “For the hard-core, the wizard of Skywalker Ranch can do no wrong. But the emotionally distant Attack of the Clones may leave more casual fans cold.” — Michael H. Kleinschrodt, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

    “I sure miss Han Solo. I miss him because whenever director George Lucas strayed too far into the made-up mysticism of Star Wars, good old Han would bring us back to reality with a wisecrack and a smirk. Of course, Han is gone now, leaving Lucas to wallow in his special brand of meaningless gobbledygook, taking it so seriously that most of the time, his characters are not even allowed to use contractions. Jar Jar Binks aside (yes, he returns, though in mercifully short doses), Lucas has never been able to conjure another Han Solo, a character who could, with simply a wink, remind us that this was just an overgrown Saturday afternoon serial.” — Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix)

    “George Lucas has the last laugh, or at least the penultimate chuckle, with Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones. The fifth movie in his long-running series of grandiose, light-hearted space operas and the second in chronological order is the most visually spectacular and exciting of all Star Wars movies to date.” — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

    “It is not what’s there on the screen that disappoints me, but what’s not there. It is easy to hail the imaginative images that George Lucas brings to Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones. To marvel at his strange new aliens and towering cities and sights such as thousands of clones all marching in perfect ranks into a huge spaceship. To see the beginnings of the dark side in young Anakin Skywalker. All of those experiences are there to be cheered by fans of the Star Wars series, and for them this movie will affirm their faith. But what about the agnostic viewer? The hopeful ticket buyer walking in not as a cultist, but as a moviegoer hoping for a great experience? Is this Star Wars critic-proof and scoff-resistant? Yes, probably, at the box office. But as someone who admired the freshness and energy and the earlier films, I was amazed, at the end of Episode II, to realize that I had not heard one line of quotable, memorable dialogue. And the images, however magnificently conceived, did not have the impact they deserved.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

    “One thing can be said for Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones: It’s a big improvement over Episode I—The Phantom Menace. Appearances by the egregious Jar Jar Binks are kept to a minimum. There’s no annoying kid. The art direction is eye-catching, and there are even some identifiable touches of human emotion. While The Phantom Menace lay dead on the screen from the opening scroll, Attack of the Clonesis lively enough to maintain interest for about half its running time.” — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

    “Anakin Skywalker grows up, but the artistic growth of director George Lucas appears hopelessly stunted; all helmet, no Jedi.” — Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

    “We’ll never see another Star Wars, no matter how much we want to. And we want to very much. But like the cherished passions of first love, the fervor called forth by the landmark film is never coming back, and no amount of prequels or sequels is going to change that. Paradoxically, the fact that the latest prequel, Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, is a bit better than its predecessor makes it clear how lacking in the things that matter these newcomers are.” — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times


    Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones opened in North America on May 16th, 2002, in over 3,000 theaters. Fifty-five of the bookings were in the nascent Digital Cinema format and are cited below for historical record.

    Peoria — Harkins Arrowhead Fountains 18
    Yuma — Main St. 8

    Rogers — Malco Towne 12

    Richmond — Famous Players SilverCity Riverport 19

    Carlsbad — UltraStar La Costa 6
    Chula Vista — UltraStar Chula Vista 10
    Del Mar — UltraStar Del Mar Highlands 8
    Irvine — Edwards Irvine Spectrum 21
    Los Angeles — Loews Cineplex Century Plaza 4
    Los Angeles — Magic Johnson Crenshaw Plaza 15
    Los Angeles — Mann Grauman’s Chinese
    Los Angeles — Pacific Sherman Oaks Galleria 16
    Los Angeles — Pacific The Grove 14
    Poway — UltraStar Creekside Plaza 10
    San Diego — AMC Mission Valley 20
    San Diego — Edwards Mira Mesa 18
    San Francisco — AMC 1000 Van Ness 14
    San Jose — Century 22 Triplex
    Santa Monica — AMC Santa Monica 7
    Universal City — Loews Cineplex Universal Studios CityWalk 19

    Denver — UA Denver Pavilions 15

    Hartford — Crown Palace 17 & Odyssey
    Trumbull — Crown Marquis 16

    Lake Buena Vista — AMC Pleasure Island 24
    Pinellas Park — R/C Parkside Mall 16
    West Melbourne — CinemaWorld 16

    Chicago — Loews Cineplex McClurg Court Triplex
    Schaumburg — Loews Cineplex Streets of Woodfield 20
    Skokie — Crown Village Crossing 18

    Olathe — AMC Studio 30
    Wichita — Dickinson Northrock 14

    Annapolis — Crown Annapolis Mall 11

    Boston — Loews Cineplex Boston Common 19
    Framingham — AMC Framingham 16
    Randolph — National Amusements Showcase Randolph 16

    Birch Run — Emagine Cinema Hollywood 10
    Southfield — Star Southfield 20

    Las Vegas — Century Orleans 18
    Las Vegas — Century Sam’s Town 18

    Edgewater — National Amusements Edgewater 16
    Elizabeth — Loews Cineplex Jersey Gardens 20

    Farmingdale — UA Farmingdale 10
    New York — AMC Empire 25
    New York — Clearview Ziegfeld

    Springdale — National Amusements Showcase Springdale 18
    Valley View — Cinemark Valley View 24

    Oakville — AMC Winston Churchill 24
    Vaughan — Famous Players Colossus Woodbridge 19
    Waterloo — Galaxy Conestoga Mall 10

    Memphis — Malco Cordova 16
    Memphis — Malco Majestic 20

    Big Spring — Ritz
    Plano — Cinemark Legacy 24

    Merrifield — National Amusements Arlington Blvd/Lee Highway 14

    Seattle — Cinerama


    On November 1st, 2002, Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones was re-issued in North America in IMAX format. Clones was the second live-action narrative movie to be converted into IMAX format (the first was Apollo 13), kicking off the IMAX DMR conversion trend for selected “Hollywood” releases.

    The IMAX version of Attack of the Clones featured a shortened running time and a modified aspect ratio.

    Huntsville — Spacedome IMAX at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center

    Calgary — Famous Players IMAX Paramount Chinook
    Edmonton — Famous Players IMAX SilverCity West Edmonton Mall

    Tempe — Arizona Mills IMAX

    Langley — Famous Players IMAX Colossus
    Vancouver — CN IMAX at Canada Place

    Cathedral City — Desert IMAX
    Dublin — Regal Hacienda Crossings IMAX
    Los Angeles — National Amusements The Bridge: Cinema de Lux IMAX
    Sacramento — Esquire IMAX
    San Francisco — Loews Metreon IMAX
    San Jose — Hackworth IMAX Dome at the Tech Museum of Innovation
    Universal City — Loews Cineplex Universal Studios CityWalk IMAX

    Colorado Springs — Cinemark IMAX

    Washington — Johnson IMAX at the National Museum of Natural History

    South Miami — Sunset Place IMAX
    Tampa — IMAX Dome at the Museum of Science and Industry
    Tampa — Regal Channelside IMAX

    Buford — Regal Mall of Georgia IMAX

    Honolulu — IMAX Waikiki

    Chicago — Navy Pier IMAX
    Lincolnshire — Regal Lincolnshire IMAX
    Woodridge — Cinemark Seven Bridges IMAX

    Indianapolis — Indiana State Museum IMAX

    Winnipeg — Portage Place IMAX

    Boston — Simons IMAX at New England Aquarium
    Natick — AT&T Broadband IMAX at Jordan’s Furniture

    Dearborn — Henry Ford Museum IMAX
    Grand Rapids — Jack Loeks Celebration! IMAX

    Apple Valley — Imation IMAX at the Minnesota Zoo

    Kansas City — Sprint IMAX at the Kansas City Zoo

    Las Vegas — Luxor IMAX

    Gates — Cinemark Tinseltown USA IMAX
    New Rochelle — Regal New Roc City IMAX
    New York — Loews Lincoln Square IMAX
    West Nyack — Palisades Center IMAX
    Williamsville — Regal Transit Center IMAX

    Raleigh — Exploris IMAX

    Halifax — Empire IMAX

    Tulsa — Cinemark IMAX at The Tulsa

    Mississauga — Famous Players IMAX Coliseum Mississauga
    Toronto — Famous Players Paramount IMAX
    Vaughan — Famous Players IMAX Colossus Woodbridge

    Portland — Oregon Museum of Science and Industry OMNIMAX Dome

    Pittsburgh — Rangos IMAX at Carnegie Science Center

    Montreal — Famous Players Paramount IMAX

    Providence — Feinstein IMAX at Providence Place

    Charleston — Aquarium Wharf IMAX
    Myrtle Beach — Discovery IMAX

    Nashville — Regal Opry Mills IMAX

    Dallas — Cinemark IMAX
    Galveston — Moody Gardens IMAX
    San Antonio — Rivercenter IMAX

    Hampton — Riverside IMAX at the Virginia Air & Space Center
    Richmond — Science Museum of Virginia IMAX
    Virginia Beach — Virginia Marine Science Museum IMAX

    Seattle — Boeing IMAX Theatre at Pacific Science Center
    Spokane — Riverfront Park IMAX

    THE Q&A

    Stephen Danley is host of the Star Wars at the Movies podcast.

    W.R. Miller is the author of The Star Wars Historical Sourcebook (2018).

    Richard Woloski is the author of Today in Star Wars History (2022) and co-host of the Skywalking Through Neverland podcast.

    The interviews were conducted separately and edited into a “roundtable” conversation format.

    Michael Coate (The Digital Bits): How do you think Star Wars: Episode IIAttack of the Clones ought to be remembered on its 20th anniversary?

    Stephen Danley: It should be remembered as what very well may be the most pure, undiluted and completely unleashed George Lucas creation of them all, in both the best and worst ways. The pressures of re-introducing Star Wars with The Phantom Menaceand wrapping the prequel (and at that point, entire saga) story up with Revenge of the Sith were nowhere to be found with Clones. And it shows! These days, I try to view it with the carefree attitude that Lucas seemed to have made it with, and it’s much more fun.

    W.R. Miller: The original Star Wars had raised the expectation that the Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, were wise, noble, and good. Attack of the Clones subverts this expectation. The hope of the galaxy becomes… corrupted.

    George Lucas had been enamored with the idea of false Messiahs. Damien in The Omen. Paul Muad’Dib in Dune. Now Anakin Skywalker.

    So who are we rooting for this time? The Republic and its clone warriors, soon to become agents of the Jedi’s destruction? The Jedi, who turn out to be negligent and incompetent, outfoxed by Palpatine? Jar Jar Binks, who makes the motion to grant Palpatine emergency powers? Padmé Amidala, whom we are supposed to believe falls in love with a hothead? Obi-Wan Kenobi, constantly deriding Anakin, yet we’re supposed to believe they’re good friends? Anakin, destined to become the mass-murdering Darth Vader? The droids, who are along for the ride, with R2-D2 kicking C-3PO into an assembly line for no apparent reason, given rise to Threepio’s head being severed and later, dragged through the dirt for a lame joke, “What a drag”?

    Whereas the story of Star Wars was clearly a battle of good vs. evil, Attack of the Clones and its sequel was not. The adventures of Luke Skywalker was becoming the tragedy of Darth Vader. Bait and switch.

    By the next film, “there were heroes on both sides.” And, “There are no absolutes.” So much for good vs. evil. So much for Star Wars’ original purpose: fun.

    Richard Woloski: Two schools of thought here. First, it should without a doubt be remembered as a great Star Wars film! It has so many phenomenal sequences. The Obi-Wan vs. Jango Fett battle on Kamino gets me excited every time I see it. Anakin’s decision to follow his own path as he defies the Jedi order over and over again. And the introduction of clones which we've been hearing about since 1977! Now we see Palpatine’s long game finally play out in an epic battle.

    Then on the other hand, George Lucas heard The Phantom Menace complaints and tried to give fans the Star Wars film they wanted. But once you turn the asylum over to the inmates, there is no happy ending. He gave fans their favorite character in Boba Fett, however he made him into his father Jango. He decreased Jar Jar Binks's role to a very minor character and even made the Gungan into the ultimate bad guy as he gave Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers to form the grand army of the Republic. Fans still weren't happy. Sure there are questionable performances but Lucas still insists on going for the 1930s Flash Gordon acting style. It’s his film, he can do what he wants. Having grown up watching Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, I get a thrill at this throwback style.

    The Digital Bits: What was your first impression of Attack of the Clones?

    Miller: Having been impressed by the original Star Wars, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed, that the noble Jedi had instead become incompetent boobs, that George Lucas had strayed from the attributes that made the original so special. It was fun to root for Han, Leia, and Luke. The prequel cast? Not so much.

    Woloski: I saw the second showing of Attack of the Clones on opening day, May 16th, 2002 at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. I would have seen the first show but I didn’t want to sleep on the sidewalk like I did for The Phantom Menace where I then felt overtired and grumpy. This time I wanted to be well rested and ready. I always look forward to the opening shot of a Star Wars film, and here Amidala’s royal starship flies through the Coruscant clouds. This is only second to the iconic opening shot of A New Hope.

    Danley: This was my first experience with an opening night midnight screening among a rowdy group of fans and it’s one I’ll always cherish. I saw Episode II at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara with two of my best friends in high school and the energy of that initial viewing definitely carried over into a positive reaction. That night, a classic movie palace was overrun by (mostly young) people who were absolutely bonkers for Star Warsand thrilled to see where the story was going next. We all collectively went wild.

    Woloski: In Attack of the Clones, you can really see that George Lucas loves to play in his digital sandbox. It doesn’t even matter that sand gets everywhere (one of my favorite Anakin lines), the style of the film, and prequels, stays consistent with a very clean look as opposed to the gritty feel of the original trilogy. My biggest takeaway from the first time I saw the film is the reaction to the Yoda vs Count Dooku duel. I never heard a crowd roar like when Yoda pulled his lightsaber from under his cloak and lunged at Dooku. Everyone in that theater was having a great time and they were enjoying Star Wars once again.

    The Digital Bits: In what way is Attack of the Clones a significant motion picture?

    Danley: It represents George Lucas’ forward-thinking perhaps more than any of his other films. While Clones may be lacking to some when viewed singularly, the groundwork it laid in terms of storytelling and filmmaking trends remains critical to the Star Warsfranchise and the wider contemporary blockbuster landscape.

    Miller: The answer is simple: Because of its technology—both in the rendering of visual effects, and the advent of digital cinematography, thanks to George Lucas investing his own money to advance the digital frontier. Clones pioneered being shot with a high-definition digital 24-frame system. Additionally, Lucas continued to show the vastness of his imagination, showing the world that whatever the mind conceived, it could be accomplished. Compare, for example, the Federation Council in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) with the vast Galactic Senate in Star Wars: Episode II.

    In time, other studios—such as Weta in New Zealand—would apply digital technologies to enhance their own productions. Today, effects-laden films can be taken for granted. Any environment is digitally possible. What really matters is, do we care about the characters inhabiting those environments?

    To accommodate the 3D craze of the early 2010s, Lucasfilm made 3D versions of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. The 3D Phantom Menace, given general release, earned below expectations at the box office. The 3D Attack of the Clones was, to the best of my knowledge, screened only at two Star Wars conventions: Celebration Europe II on November 7, 2003, and Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, April 16, 2015. Disney, with its acquisition of Lucasfilm, has apparently not elected to do a 3D version ofRevenge of the Sith.

    The Digital Bits: Did you experience Attack of the Clones in 35mm, Digital Cinema, in the IMAX re-issue, or on a home-media format?

    Woloski: As a completist, I experienced Attack of the Clones in all available formats. (I had a friend who got a pirated copy and watched it for the first time on her computer which I refused to do. She is a friend no longer.) The IMAX version that came out in November of 2002 was mind blowing! This was my first IMAX film and I was amazed at the sheer volume of the screen. It was like seeing it for the first time again.

    Danley: I never got to see it projected digitally, though in hindsight I wish I had. Even though our local theater was showing a 35mm print, there was still a discernible difference in the image when compared to The Phantom Menace. It somehow simultaneously felt softer yet sharper. I was also able to catch it in IMAX that fall at the Universal City CityWalk Cinemas, which was an epic experience where the runtime limitations of the format actually benefited the movie quite a bit! It was a leaner, meaner, adrenaline-filled (and admittedly overstimulating) moviegoing excursion. I would truly, deeply love to relive it someday. Recreating the then state-of-the-art DVD experience was a recent delightful trip down memory lane. It still holds up surprisingly well!

    Woloski: Attack of the Clones was the last film I bought on VHS and the first film I bought on DVD. The DVD format was far superior but I wasn’t ready to let go of the VHS legacy that had gone back to 1982.

    The Digital Bits: Do you have a favorite scene or sequence?

    Miller: The duel between Yoda and Count Dooku. Finally, we get to see the little green guy cut loose! Size matters not!

    Woloski: Whenever I need a taste of Star Wars I go to Attack of the Clones, and scrub right for the Geonosian arena/Clone Wars sequence. Being a creature fan, I love the threat of the nexu, reek and acklay as they approach our heroes tied to columns. I cheered as Lucas paid homage to stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen in the shot where the crab-like acklay was trying to stab Obi-Wan with its massive claws.

    Danley: The rain-soaked brawl between Obi-Wan and Jango Fett was a longtime standout scene for me, though my favorite moment is and always will be the shot of the multitude of Jedi charging across the arena floor to take on the legion of battle droids. To see that many lightsabers ignited and in action at once was something fans could only dream of at that point. In 2002 it became a reality in the most cinematic fashion.

    Woloski: Lucas also paid homage to his friend Steven Spielberg in the shooting style in the battle of the clones versus the battle droids where he would use zooms instead of an insert cut or dolly shot. We saw this documentary style in Saving Private Ryan (1998). Then the smoky shots where you could mainly see the bright blue and red laser bolts firing from clone troopers and battle droids. I could go on and on as to why I love this sequence.

    The Digital Bits: Where do you think Attack of the Clones ranks among the Saga?

    Danley: Saga-wide rankings have never worked out for me personally, but I’ll say that I’ve only grown fonder of each prequel after revisiting the first two as they hit these two-decade milestones. I’d still rank Episode I above II and will have to see where III lands in 2025.

    Miller: How can I choose between the stupidity of Jar Jar Binks in Episode I, and the awkward relationship between Anakin and Padmé, clunky storytelling and paradigm shift in Episode II, and the despair of Episode III? Six of one, half a dozen of the other. I have little desire to rewatch any of them. It’s the original trilogy—with George Lucas’ unspoiled-at-the-time original vision—that grabs my attention. No bait-and-switch for me. I prefer The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, not The Tragedy of Darth Vader.

    Woloski: Personally, Attack of the Clones is near the top of the list when I rank the Star Wars Saga. I tend to root for the underdog and sing its praises when most fans talk negatively about it. There are so many reasons to love this film and the exciting sequences surely outweigh the scenes with questionable lines of dialogue. I believe Lucas and co-writer Jonathan Hales did a great job keeping the film planted in the Star Wars universe. And, John Williams’s Across the Stars is one of his best themes in not just a Star Wars film but in any of his soundtracks. This was also the theme to which my wife walked down the aisle in our wedding.

    Miller: Considering all nine Skywalker films, and Rogue One, the original Star Warstrilogy remains the best, and of those three, the original Star Wars tops them all.

    The Digital Bits: What do you think is the legacy of Attack of the Clones?

    Danley: Its zaniness in style and boundary-pushing technological sandboxing make it truly stand out twenty years later.

    Woloski: The legacy of Attack of the Clones is that it is the first major motion picture to be shot completely on digital and is the first movie exhibited in more than fifty theaters equipped with digital projection.But in thebigger pictureit gave us the spin-off animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. There’s only so much you can do in a feature and this series filled in seven seasons worth of great stories before the events of Revenge of the Sith. It is my hope that moving forward, Star Wars tales will play out in Disney+ series where narratives can be developed in long-form. There I said it!

    The Digital Bits: Thank you—Stephen, Bob and Richard—for sharing your thoughts about Attack of the Clones on the occasion of its 20th anniversary.

    Selected images copyright/courtesy IMP Awards, Los Angeles Times, Lucasfilm Ltd., 20th Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company.

    The primary references for this project were the motion picture Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox, 2002), regional newspaper coverage, trade reports published in Boxoffice, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety, and interviews conducted by the author. All figures and data pertain to North America (i.e. United States and Canada) except where stated otherwise.

    David Ayers, Stephen Danley, Mark Lensenmayer, W.R. Miller and Richard Woloski.

    Khan Bonfils (“Saesee Tiin”), 1972-2015
    Christopher Lee (“Count Dooku”), 1922-2015
    Aletha McGrath (“Madame Jocasta Nu”), 1920-2016
    Kenny Baker (“R2-D2”), 1934-2016
    Kenneth Wannberg (Supervising Music Editor), 1930-2022

  • #2
    The biggest thing I hated about the prequels is that they ushered in the era of the episode name being more important than the title of the film. In the first series, you had STAR WARS. The words "A New Hope" never even appeared on the onesheets. (I realize that title wasn't added until later, but bear with me.) Then you had THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK with a tiny "Star" and "Wars" encircling the logo. The same with Return of the Jedi.

    Then along came the prequels and it became Star Wars EPISODE I The Phantom Menace. And the rest of the prequels, rather than having their own logos, followed the same boring pattern.

    This underlines that those sequels were more about marketing and fan service than they were about telling a story.


    • #3
      A passage from the Q&A has been corrected since this was posted.

      The sentence, “Disney, with its acquisition of Lucasfilm, has apparently not elected to do a 3D version of Revenge of the Sith.” in WR Miller’s response to the question about the movie’s significance has been revised to “(Revenge of the Sith, like Attack of the Clones, was screened in 3D only at Star Wars Celebration conventions and not given a commercial release.)”