Welcome to the first article in a series called ‘How to Fix’, in which I will be offering my opinion on how to improve on stories from various entries in different franchises. It must be noted that not all of the films, games or episodes that I will be talking about in this series have to necessarily be ‘broken’ in order to fix them, simply that these articles will offer alternate means of telling the same stories.
To introduce my new series, I will be focusing on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, a film that is considered by many to be among the worst of the Star Wars franchise alongside The Phantom Menace and (dare I say it?) The Last Jedi. This film is probably the Star Wars Prequel film that I have seen the most, and I adored it as a child, but it is not without its flaws. Some of the fixes here will also involve small alterations to The Phantom Menace, which I have purposely skipped as to attempt to correct the huge amount of plot holes in that film would require an entire rewrite of the script. So without further ado, lets start with the most obvious fix to Attack of the Clones:
Change the Backstory of the film so that it is easier to Understand
A major criticism levied against the Prequels is the excessive use of political dialogue, particularly considering the film is supposed to be for children. This could work if it was done well, and in a way that was simple enough for children to at least grasp the basics whilst also not boring adults who don’t have a clue what the characters are talking about half of the time. Attack of the Clones commits the cardinal sin of having a tonne of political dialogue that not only has no preliminary explanation whatsoever, but also crosses in the realms of the ridiculous even from a political standpoint.
For a start, the film should make it clear who the main villain is from the beginning. Rather than hiding the reveal of Dooku until the very end, the film should demonstrate who Dooku is and why he is a threat as soon as possible in more than just dialogue between the Jedi and Senator Amidala. Realistically, Dooku should have been in The Phantom Menace as a member of the Jedi Council, that way we’d at least have a face to put to the name when we’re watching Attack of the Clones, and would also serve to demonstrate that not even the wisest and most powerful of the Jedi can resist the lure of the Dark Side entirely.
From the similar vein, the mysterious ‘Sifo Dyas’ should have at least made an appearance. Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Dyas as if we, the audience, are already aware of his existence – we are never given any explanation as to who Dyas was, when and how he died, why he would want to order the Clone army, and how he paid for it. We must assume that he was somehow a puppet for Sidious, and apparently in an earlier draft of the film ‘Sifo Dyas’ was a disguise that Sidious used to order the clones himself. Ultimately, the Jedi Council in The Phantom Menace should have had both Dooku and Sifo Dyas as members in order for the backstory of Attack of the Clones to make sense, and the political dialogue should have been reduced or altered. On that point:
Expand the role of Padmé Amidala
For the prequel trilogy’s leading lady, Padmé Amidala is woefully underused and blatantly one-dimensional. To her credit, Natalie Portman does her best with the material, but she was essentially wasted on this character. The next step in fixing Attack of the Clones should therefore be to expand Padmé’s role and make her more important to the story outside of being the future mother of Anakin’s children. After her monochromatic persona of Queen Amidala fell away in the final act of The Phantom Menace, Padmé proved herself to be quite an interesting character, capable of maintaining her deception to the extent that she fools the Jedi and still finding the time to befriend young Anakin, making her the most engaging character in The Phantom Menace, although that’s not saying much. In Attack of the Clones, however, her motives are less clear, and therein lies the problem.
In The Phantom Menace Padmé‘s role boiled down to essentially saving her planet – her motives were always clear, and even when she takes the time to dress up as a maid and follow Qui-Gon Jinn into a junk shop it definitely gives the impression that she is curious and wants to learn more about the world that they have found themselves stranded on, whilst also keeping an eye on the clearly drunk Jedi Master. In Attack of the Clones, however, Padmé bounces between roles and seemingly allows all of the major decisions regarding where she goes and what she does to be decided by other characters, be it the Jedi, Anakin, her Security Chief, and even Palpatine. Padmé should certainly have taken the reigns more, perhaps in the sense that she is the one who decides to leave Coruscant and visit other planets, perhaps with Anakin in tow. As far as the politics is concerned, it gets even more dire.
We know from the text in the opening crawl of the film that Padmé is opposed to the creation of a Republic Army, but this position is never once challenged even as the Clone War erupts around her. In the opening scene of the film, Padmé should witness a Separatist attack on an innocent planet that leads to the destruction of her ship, having kills her bodyguards die in a clear Separatist raid rather than a political assassination. This would challenge Padmé‘s view of the idea of an Army and might create some conflict down the line that was woefully absent, and might explain why she ends up falling for Anakin – after seeing all of her capable guards slaughtered, perhaps spending time with Anakin on missions and learning more about how the Jedi benevolently resolve disputes would appeal to her. But this brings us to the next major point:
Completely change Anakin’s character
We all know that the guy who was destined to become Darth Vader was essentially portrayed in the Prequel Trilogy as a whiny, stroppy brat who hated not getting his own way, moaned incessantly about every tiny problem in his life and switched between any degree of cringey or creepy when chatting up his future wife. But it didn’t have to be this way, if you think about it. After all, Obi-Wan Kenobi talks about Anakin in A New Hope as if he was a great and noble Jedi, as well as a ‘good friend’, and wouldn’t it be far more tragic if a level-headed and by-the-books Jedi Knight fell to the dark side as opposed to a stroppy teen with anger issues?
This would also greatly improve the on-screen romance between Anakin and Padmé. After all, nobody on planet Earth has ever been fooled by the pathetic excuse for a romance that we see in Attack of the Clones, mostly because Anakin is such a monumental arse that it seems totally impossible that Padmé would ever fall for him, even if her mind was being manipulated by the Dark Side or whatever the expanded universe material has conjured up to explain away this point.
Whilst it may seem that at this point the film would be completely different after these changes, it would still be possible to implement these changes whilst keeping the ideas that we see in the finished film. Ultimately, even if the actual story of the film was exactly the same, it would still be a monumental improvement to expand Padmé‘s role and change Anakin’s character to fit the story better, and it would also lend more credibility to Old Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. The other scenes in Attack of the Clones are actually quite good, especially the parts with Obi-Wan as he attempts to unravel the thinly-veiled mysteries of the Clone troopers. The final and most pressing issue with Attack of the Clones can be fixed with one final amendment, and that is:
Show why the Separatists are doing what they are doing
One of the main reasons why the politics in Attack of the Clones falls flat is that we are only given one side of the story, namely, the Republic side. There are moments in the film in which we hear Separatists talking, like the scene in which Obi-Wan eavesdrops on Dooku’s council discussing tactics, but we are never given tangible explanations as to why the Republic is splintering – surely if the Separatists leaving the Republic is central to the political dialogue in the film, we should at least have an idea as to why this is the case? Are we expected to believe that the vague ‘trade disputes’ mentioned in The Phantom Menace, a film set ten years before this one, are to blame? I don’t think so.
By effectively conveying to the audience the motives of the main villains, the film opens the door for possible fan debate over the morality of each faction – after all, the Republic stands for democracy and peace but is also equatable to modern-day ‘mega-states’, the epitome of centralised government, an idea that does not appeal to everyone in this day and age. Likewise, we could learn more about the methods of each faction – the Separatists use droids in combat rather than living people, so could this be twisted to imply that they want to reduce loss of Separatist life? Star Wars is certainly a franchise of clear-cut heroes and villains, but for a trilogy that leans more heavily on political dialogue and storytelling, perhaps this would have been a better direction to take things.
So they were my thoughts on how to ‘fix’ Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like either here on on Facebook, and if you have any points to add on how Attack of the Clones could be improved, be sure to leave them down in the comments. Thanks for reading!