The most densely plotted instalment of the saga so far, Attack of the Clones is a tale of both Machiavellian political drama and doomed romance; it’s epic war film and silly comic-book fantasy combined, as teenage Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) chafes at the restrictions imposed by his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and falls in love with Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Renegade Jedi Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) is leading a breakaway federation of disgruntled systems; while the insidious influence of Darth Sidious is felt rather than seen as his invisible hand guides apparently unrelated events, from Jar Jar’s unwitting instigation of a disastrous Senate decision to bounty hunter Jango Fett’s revelatory role at the centre of the conspiracy.
Along the way the story has fun with the conventions of Chandleresque detective fiction as Obi-Wan explores the seedier side of Coruscant, and incorporates the noble warrior ethos of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in its portrayal of the Jedi order. The portentous tone is lightened by tongue-in-cheek self-referential dialogue and the antics of robotic clowns R2D2 and C3PO. (One niggle for music fans, though, is the cavalier cut-and-paste approach to John Williams’s music score.) Like the Empire Strikes Back, Clones is the bridging film of the trilogy and thus ends on an equivocally bittersweet note