History, Legacy & Showmanship
Monday, 12 September 2022 14:20

Across the Stars: Remembering “Attack of the Clones” on its 20th Anniversary

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Attack of the Clones represents George Lucas’ forward-thinking perhaps more than any of his other films. – Stephen Danley, Star Wars at the Movies

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective commemorating the 20th anniversary of the release of Attack of the Clones, the second and middle episode in George Lucas’s Star Wars prequel trilogy.

For the occasion of Attack of the Clones’s recent anniversary, The Bits features a multi-page article consisting of a Q&A with a trio of Star Wars historians and enthusiasts who reflect on the film.

It also contains detailed box-office data and statistics, passages from film reviews, and a reference listing of its North American first-run D-Cinema and IMAX presentations. [Read on here...]

Before we begin… In case you missed them or desire a refresher read, this column’s other Star Wars-themed retrospectives include Star Wars 40th anniversary, The Empire Strikes Back 40th anniversary (analysis of the 70mm early cut), The Empire Strikes Back 40th anniversary, The Empire Strikes Back 35th anniversary, Return of the Jedi 35th anniversary, Return of the Jedi 30th anniversary, The Phantom Menace 20th anniversary, and Fanboys 10th anniversary.

George Lucas directs Attack of the Clones



  • 0 = Number of Academy Awards
  • 1 = Number of Academy Award nominations
  • 1 = Rank among top-earning films during opening weekend
  • 2 = Rank among top-earning films released in 2002 (calendar year)
  • 2 = Number of Razzie Awards
  • 2 = Number of weeks North America’s top-grossing movie (weeks 1 and 2)
  • 3 = Rank among top-earning films released in 2002 (legacy / lifetime / retroactive)
  • 4 = Number of days to surpass $100 million
  • 4 = Rank among 20th Century Fox’s all-time top-earning films at end of release
  • 5 = Rank among top-earning movies directed by George Lucas (adjusted for inflation)
  • 6 = Number of months between theatrical and home-video releases
  • 7 = Number of Razzie nominations
  • 10 = Box-office rank among Star Wars movies (adjusted for inflation)
  • 11 = Peak all-time box-office chart position
  • 12 = Number of days to surpass $200 million
  • 13 = Rank among top-earning films produced by Lucasfilm (adjusted for inflation)
  • 16 = Rank among top-earning movies of the 2000s (earnings from 1/1/2000 - 1/2/2010)
  • 33 = Number of weeks movie was in release
  • 55 = Number of Digital Cinema presentations during opening weekend*
  • 58 = Number of IMAX presentations during re-release
  • 100 = Rank on all-time top-grossing films (adjusted for inflation)
  • 104 = Number of days to surpass $300 million
  • 3161 = Number of cinemas playing the movie during its opening weekend
  • $25,317 = Opening weekend per screen average
  • $30.1 million = Opening-day box-office gross (May 16)
  • $31.3 million = Highest single-day gross (May 18, Day 3)
  • $80.1 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross (May 17-19, Days 2-4)
  • $115.0 million = Production cost
  • $189.4 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $310.7 million = Domestic box-office gross (includes IMAX re-issue)
  • $343.1 million = International box-office gross
  • $653.8 million = Worldwide box-office gross
  • $1.1 billion = Worldwide box-office gross (adjusted for inflation)

*established new motion picture industry record

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones



“Yes, Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones is better than Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, but that’s a meaningless answer to a misleading question. Simply put, there were episodes of Lost in Space better than The Phantom Menace, 1999’s tedious and disappointing first installment of George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. The only relevant question is whether Attack of the Clones recaptures the giddy heart and adventurous sweep of the original Star Wars films. Lucas certainly pulls out all the stops—this is a visually arresting film awash in rousing digital action sequences. But Lucas again stumbles, missing the mark. Instead of zesty and daring, Attack of the Clones is often labored and stiff. Like The Phantom Menace, this film lacks the quirky charm and punchy humor that, a quarter-century ago, immediately elevated the Star Wars films above standard sci-fi fare.” – Renée Graham, The Boston Globe

“‘Are you hurt?’ emailed a friend in mockery of the Saturday-serial dialogue style in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones. ‘Are you blind?’ I emailed back. For the latest entry in George Lucas’ transgalactic saga of the moral rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and the deterioration of democracy into despotism has an electric visual majesty and boasts Lucas’ best direction since American Graffiti.” – Michael Sragow, The Sun (Baltimore)

“[Anakin and Padmé] have to fall in love, we know that. Or Luke Skywalker won’t be born. There’s a timetable over their heads. Unfortunately, that seems to be the only discernible reason for their romance. The chemistry between them is a frigid zero. For one thing, neither party is particularly engaging, either as character or performer. Christensen’s Anakin is a one-dimensionally arrogant brat given to surges of petulant rage. It’s not his fury so much as his limited range that brings him up short. Portman is brittle, chilly and unconvincing as Padmé; it’s as if she hasn’t quite committed to being a Star Wars character yet. The net result: a love affair between a hothead and an ice bucket.” – Desson Howe, The Washington Post

“Some early reviews of Clones have dismissed the film as a hollow showcase for special effects, which is like saying the only good thing about an opera was the singing. Special effects have always been a big lure of the series, from the now-quaint outer space dogfights that felt so revolutionary in 1977 to the pod race that jolted audiences awake in Menace. If Attack of the Clones lacks the heart of, say, The Empire Strikes Back, it still feels more inventive and vital than the rote complacency of Return of the Jedi.” – Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

“In reviving the saga, and setting out to chronicle Luke’s genealogy and the earlier history of the Jedi order, Mr. Lucas seems to have lost his boyish glee. As the effects have grown more intricate and realistic, their ability to yield pleasure and astonishment has diminished.” – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

“Why can’t they just clone The Empire Strikes Back? The fifth installment of George Lucas’ Star Wars saga is better than The Phantom Menace. But it’s not enough better. After the heroic grandeur of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and the zest and cleverness of Spider-Man, this movie is a disappointment.” – Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, The Atlanta Constitution

“George Lucas’ digitally shot movie looks incredible. From the mile-high skyscrapers of the city-planet Coruscant (a luminous Metropolis-like capital moving to a lurid Blade Runner beat) to the icky, wasp-winged Genosians in the mood for gladiatorial carnage at a coliseum made of what looks like skeletal remains, the Star Wars universe is rendered in breathtaking strokes and mouse clicks.” – Steven Rea, The Philadelphia Inquirer

“The hype is more muted for Episode II, the marketing campaign has been scaled down, and fan expectations are at a once-bitten, twice-shy level. Episode II meets these more realistic standards with ease and may qualify as the third-best episode yet—behind The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars.” – Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Lucas makes no advances as a director. He seems clueless about how to wring deep emotions from his actors, and he is sluggish with his camera movements—perhaps to accommodate the computer graphics added later. He still changes scenes with the wipes and blackouts that went out of style in the 1950s.” – Frank Gabrenya, The Columbus Dispatch

“For the hard-core, the wizard of Skywalker Ranch can do no wrong. But the emotionally distant Attack of the Clones may leave more casual fans cold.” – Michael H. Kleinschrodt, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

“I sure miss Han Solo. I miss him because whenever director George Lucas strayed too far into the made-up mysticism of Star Wars, good old Han would bring us back to reality with a wisecrack and a smirk. Of course, Han is gone now, leaving Lucas to wallow in his special brand of meaningless gobbledygook, taking it so seriously that most of the time, his characters are not even allowed to use contractions. Jar Jar Binks aside (yes, he returns, though in mercifully short doses), Lucas has never been able to conjure another Han Solo, a character who could, with simply a wink, remind us that this was just an overgrown Saturday afternoon serial.” – Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic (Phoenix)

“George Lucas has the last laugh, or at least the penultimate chuckle, with Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones. The fifth movie in his long-running series of grandiose, light-hearted space operas and the second in chronological order is the most visually spectacular and exciting of all Star Wars movies to date.” – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

“It is not what’s there on the screen that disappoints me, but what’s not there. It is easy to hail the imaginative images that George Lucas brings to Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones. To marvel at his strange new aliens and towering cities and sights such as thousands of clones all marching in perfect ranks into a huge spaceship. To see the beginnings of the dark side in young Anakin Skywalker. All of those experiences are there to be cheered by fans of the Star Wars series, and for them this movie will affirm their faith. But what about the agnostic viewer? The hopeful ticket buyer walking in not as a cultist, but as a moviegoer hoping for a great experience? Is this Star Wars critic-proof and scoff-resistant? Yes, probably, at the box office. But as someone who admired the freshness and energy and the earlier films, I was amazed, at the end of Episode II, to realize that I had not heard one line of quotable, memorable dialogue. And the images, however magnificently conceived, did not have the impact they deserved.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“One thing can be said for Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones: It’s a big improvement over Episode I—The Phantom Menace. Appearances by the egregious Jar Jar Binks are kept to a minimum. There’s no annoying kid. The art direction is eye-catching, and there are even some identifiable touches of human emotion. While The Phantom Menace lay dead on the screen from the opening scroll, Attack of the Clones is lively enough to maintain interest for about half its running time.” – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

“Anakin Skywalker grows up, but the artistic growth of director George Lucas appears hopelessly stunted; all helmet, no Jedi.” – Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press

“We’ll never see another Star Wars, no matter how much we want to. And we want to very much. But like the cherished passions of first love, the fervor called forth by the landmark film is never coming back, and no amount of prequels or sequels is going to change that. Paradoxically, the fact that the latest prequel, Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones, is a bit better than its predecessor makes it clear how lacking in the things that matter these newcomers are.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times


Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

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