(See also: How To Watch The Phantom Menace, How To Watch Revenge of the Sith.)
The general consensus is that Attack of the Clones, while not great, is much better than The Phantom Menace, though I've heard a few people express the opposite opinion. I think it basically comes down to one question: what do you find more excruciatingly unwatchable, Jar-Jar's slapstick or the Anakin / Amidala romance?
Me, I found the latter much more forgivable, thanks to something a reviewer once wrote about Titanic: while he conceded that the romantic dialogue in Titanic was atrocious, he pointed out that it was also a fairly accurate depiction of how young people in love actually talk, i.e., maudlin, dramatic, and as cliched as all get-out. I don't think for a moment that Lucas wrote lines like "you are in my very soul, tormenting me" because he was trying to emulate what 16 year-olds say when they are trying to convey the sentiment "holy shit, being a virgin sucks!" but if you pretend like that was Lucas' intent the film is much more bearable.
That said, skipping all the love scenes detracts not at all from the movie -- we didn't need to see the nitty-gritty of Han and Leia falling in love to know it was happening -- so feel free to do so.
Here, then, is the cheat-sheet for fast-forwarding through Attack of the Clones. As with the previous guide, this is intended for folks who have already seen the film and are only interested in refreshing their memories about the plot in anticipation of Revenge of the Sith. Again, my goal was to get the film down to about 90 minutes and to axe anything that wasn't integral to the story. I've also included tips on removing much of the love story, for those who can't abide it.
|Start FF time||End FF time||Elapsed Time||What you're missing||Why you might want to watch it|
|14:25||24:46||10:21||Following the formula that worked oh so well in Phantom Menace, Lucas grinds his film to a halt 15 minutes in for an interminable sequence that does absolutely nothing to advance the plot. This time we have Obi Wan and Anakin racing around in a jetcar as they chase down the assassin who attempted to kill Amidala, confronting the assassin in a bar, and then dragging the out to a back alley, only to see her killed by a dart from the gun of Jango Fett before she can reveal any useful information.||The bar scene is marginally interesting so you could stop fast-forwarding at 21:46, but I suggest you just lose the assassin entirely, since she in completely unnecessary. Just imagine that Jango himself was the one who tried to kill Amidala and Obi Wan found the dart on the scene.|
|34:50||36:03||1:13||Love scene: The first of many.||Anakin gives a little background on the Jedi and mentions that they discourage "attachments" (i.e., "nookie").|
|44:00||45:48||1:48||Love scene: Good gravy, this one is really dreadful. AVOID.||To see Anakin and Amidala first kiss.|
|47:47||50:17||2:30||Love scene: Anakin and Amidala talk politics||The scene contains this exchange which is actually kinda important:
Amidala: The trouble is that people don't always agree
Anakin: But then they should be made to.
Amidala: Sounds an awful lot like a dictatorship to me.
Anakin: Well? If it works ...
|53:00||56:41||3:41||Love scene: Anakin and Amidala discuss the assorted reasons why their relationship is forbidden.||If you've ever wondered what Romeo and Juliet would have sounded like had it had been written by a 12 year-old girl.|
|1:37:17||1:42:38||5:21||Anaki and Amidala wander into a droid factory; the subsequent scenes are as exhilarating as sitting on your couch and watching your roommate play Tomb Raider. This whole sequence looks so much like a video game that I expected the Master Control Program to be awaiting them at the end. Skipping this scene is also essential if you want to avoid entry #3 in the litany of Wrongheaded Star Wars Revisionism; namely R2-D2 CAN FLY WTF DON'T YOU THINK THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL IN EPISODES 4-6??!!||There's no good reason for this scene, and it doesn't even make sense according to the movie's own (tenuous) internal logic. All you need to know is that Amidala and Anakin are captured by Dooku's forces.|
|1:42:38||1:49:32||6:54||Dooku tosses Anakin and Amidala into a arena along with the previously captured Obi Wan, and the three have to fight off a multitude of crappily-rendered CGI beasties.||Astute readers will notice that the start time for this segment is the same as the end time for the last. Why didn't I just lump them together into one fast-forward, then? Because you need to see the conclusion to the arena battle -- my recommended fast-forward ends as the heroes are surrounded by battle droids -- so you may just want to watch the whole thing. But I still advise against it.|
|2:15:47||2:22:20||7:07||End Credits||You want to check for the thirtieth time to see if that's really Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Mace Windu, so you can marvel at Lucus' uncanny ability to coax subpar performances out of even great actors (see also: Natalie Portman).|
Total time saved: 41:21
Analysis: I so loathed Phantom Menace that I swore I wouldn't see Clones in the theater, but when my in-laws hornswoggled me into going I was surprised by how much I liked it. It's mediocre to be sure, but mediocre is still one infinity better than Episode I (though I realize that "better than The Phantom Menace" is damning with the faintest of praise, like saying "more delicious than echinacea!"). Watching it again on DVD gave me a glimmer of hope that Revenge of the Sith may be as good as some are claiming.
Some have claimed that the Star Wars movies should be judged lightly because they are, after all, kids films. I agree, insofar as the original trilogy goes goes. But Episode I was about taxation, fercrissakes. And in Episode II you have a clone army fighting alongside the Jedi but was secretly commissioned by the Sith to make the Republic more powerful so that they can subvert it. That's a little more involved than "The bad guys have a Death Star; the Death Star blows up planets; the good guys need to destroy the Death Star." The problem isn't that Lucas is making space operas for kids or that he's making political thrillers for adults, but that he's trying to make both at once, and that's how you wind up with Jar-Jar fart jokes in one scene and lengthy discussions of the Republic Senate's legislative procedures in the next.
But the big big problem with this whole trilogy is that I don't give a rat's ass about any of the protagonists. The Jedi -- Obi Wan, Qui-Gon, Yoda -- are too noble to be endearing; Anakin is a rageaholic jerk; Amidala isn't even much of a character, just the obligatory catalyst for Anakin's lovelorn dramatics. Furthermore, these first two movies aren't even about these people -- they are about Darth Sidious and his subtle machinations to seize power. This is in sharp contrast to episodes 4-6, which really were about the heroes: Luke, Han, Leia -- even Chewbacca felt like your buddy by the end of it all. I wouldn't want to go for beers and pinball with anyone in Phantom or Clones, except for Anakin's mom who was kinda hot until the Tusken Raiders got to her.
Lastly, I'd just like to say that Ewan McGregor's impersonation of Sir Alec Guinness is just shy of miraculous, and almost makes up for the fact that all the other acting sucks.
Plot Points For The People Too Smart To Rewatch This: Again, a complete summary of the film can be found at sf-worlds.com. But for those who just want the highlights:
- After several assassination attempts on Amidala's life, Anakin is assigned to protect her. This is the first time they've been reunited in 10 years, and Anakin reveals that he's been pining for her all the while. Though the Jedi Order forbids (? perhaps just "discourages") attachments, the two fall in love and are secretly married.
- A separatist movement, headed up by former Jedi Count Dooku, has begun waging war against the Republic with an army of droids. Worried about being overrun, the Republic Senate grants Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers to use a clone army, which, curiously, has already been created, having been requested ten years prior by another Jedi.
- The Jedi Council's mastery of the Force is fading, and they sense that the Dark Lord of the Sith is controlling much of the Republic's Senate. The council is unable to divine the Dark Lord's identity or goals, though, as the Dark Side clouds their vision.
- Anakin is chafing under the yoke of Jedi training, feeling like his exceptional abilities are being stifled. Though he often refers to Obi Wan as his "father," he also seems extremely resentful of him. When Anakin discovers that a Tusken Raider tribe has killed his mother, he slaughters them all, every man, woman and child.
Random Revelation: Hmm, an angst-ridden young man learning to cope with his extraordinary powers and being tempted by the Dark Side? The novelization of this movie should be called Harry Potter And The Order of the Jedi.