Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones ★★★★½

Let me begin with a criticism, perhaps the only substantial one I actually have of Attack of the Clones . Lucas, like almost every American filmmaker who attempts to conceptualise the Idea of America, falls into the trap of assuming that it ever actually existed. Oddly while rewatching (although perhaps not quite as oddly as I first believed the association to be) I was drawn to a recollection of Ridley Scott's Gladiator , specifically in the way in which the idea of Rome, a clear analogue for the liberal conception of American Democracy, seems so impotent in Scott's film. The idea of something being lost within American ideology at the turn of the millennium is perverse for anyone with an understanding of the history and class struggle of the 20th century. The Golden age of liberal democracy, the impenetrable kernel of benevolence at the heart of American culture, is of course a figment of a specifically American capitalism.

Lucas does not indulge in this liberal yearning anywhere near as much as Scott does. His democracy is diseased, the Jedi ideology that he demystifies is a brutal and flawed one. Yet while there is a blurring of the binary between good and evil, Sith and Jedi, it is an ineffectual one. The Jedi are more dysfunctional than outwardly disavowed - in the phantom of the Empire there is always an objectively worse force on the near horizon. As a consequence, Lucas's universe is still one in which the liberal conception of democracy, as ineffectual and harmful as it is shown to be, still shines as the best option.

However, everything else in the movie is genuinely splendid. It is so radically different from EP1 in terms of themes and scope that watching them consecutively is almost jarring. It is a film of a world falling apart under the weight of its contradictions. It is also a fantastically astute political piece. Lucas' prequels are not about the decontextualised battle between good and evil - Jedi and Sith - that the franchise later became infatuated with. The Sith barely exist in any tangible capacity, only as a spectre, that instils paranoia, fear and destruction amongst the frames. In expecting a tangible evil, one sculpted in the corridors of epics and myths, they are blind to the creeping forces of materiality; they fixate on a black sun while the ground around them crumbles away.

Never again will films quite like these be made

Nathan liked these reviews