Star Wars: Attack of the Clones at Twenty

Photo by Kevin Shirley

The Star Wars track at Dragon Con 2022 brought together a diverse panel to discuss the legacy of George Lucas’ middle chapter of the prequel saga. Logan Magaw, Sarah Dempster, Brandon Medley, Alex Borland, and Mike Fabre joined moderator Bryan Young in the Marriott A706 Friday at 2:30PM. Young launched the conversation by asking about the rumors driving discussion of the film before its release. The film’s most anticipated and rumored about issue in the run up to its launch was the question of who would play Anakin Skywalker. Rumors had every popular young actor in Hollywood filling the role, with Leonard DiCaprio leading the way! Fan trailers, production diaries, and images captured by a web cam on the set only heightened anticipation.

The film itself left powerful impressions upon the panelists regardless of whether they saw in the theater during its original release or on DVD. Young, whose son was born within a week of the film’s release and spent his first two weeks in neonatal ICU, described getting to watch Attack of the Clones (after wife and baby had recovered and gotten home) as nothing short of “cathartic.” The richness and beauty of the costuming as well as the aesthetic of the film itself captured the imagination of a young Sarah Dempster. Seeing the Jedi Council for the first time, scenes of the capitol city Coruscant, and the battle of Geonosis were stand out moments. Several panelists pointed out though that Yoda using the force to pull out a lightsaber and fighting the Chancellor was nothing short of “magical.”

Lucas always maintained that he needed the technology to “catch up” to his imagination. The work of Industrial Light & Magic, the company he founded to produce the effects for Star Wars: A New Hope, revolutionized the way movies are produced, and consumed, with their development of computer graphic imaging (CGI), digital cameras, and digital projection. Innovation always comes with challenges, and Young pointed out that every line of dialogue in Attack of the Clones came out of post-production because the digital camera developed for the film was too noisy. Digital cameras required costumes to be redesigned and models to be rebuilt because it captured so much detail and light. The amount of data used by these cameras and needing to be stored on hard drives created yet another challenge. Motion capture, the technology most associated with Gollum from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films wouldn’t have happened, Young declared, without Jar Jar Binks.

The film has had its share of criticism. The panel addressed that acknowledging the difficulties Lucas had with the script, especially the scenes capturing the developing romance of Anakin and Padme, Dempster offered an interesting explanation. She argued that it’s important to remember the damaged nature of these characters. They are tragic, and in a film with a concentrated timeline Lucas had to tell their story while simultaneously managing all the other elements of the plot. Consider the impact, she asked those in attendance, of the fact that Anakin was a slave as a child who, when freed, became a member of an order in which his elders were referred to as “master.”

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones continues to impact the Star Wars universe. Like all of the prequel movies, Attack of the Clones grows in reputation and stature as fans come to realize and appreciate its legacy. Young touched on this near the conclusion of the panel when he argued that setting up the theme of selflessness and its power to drive the actions of the hero (Anakin, Luke, and Rey in each respective trilogy) was critical. In fact, this middle film made all the other middle films better. That is an insight that comes through the reflective lens of 20 years. The influence and value of Attack of the Clones has only grown with the passage of time and none of the panelists see any loss of the film’s momentum moving forward.

Author of the article