Attack of the Clones at 20: How the Star Wars Prequel Changed My Life

Attack of the Clones at 20: How the Star Wars Prequel Changed My Life
A crop of Drew Struzan's poster for Attack of the Clones. (Image: Lucasfilm)

My life changed drastically the day I first saw Attack of the Clones. It was the first day the film opened, May 16, 2002, and I’d been awake a long time. The day before, May 15, I spent over 12 hours outside of the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City waiting for a midnight screening of the latest Star Wars film. Afterward, I went to sleep, woke up, and graduated from college. “Today is a day we’ve been waiting for a long time,” a speaker said during the graduation ceremony. “Today, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones is finally in theatres.” Everyone laughed and the quote burned into my memory.

Graduating college is obviously a life-changing event, but Attack of the Clones had a profound impact on me long before, and after, the film was finally released. The lead-up to its predecessor, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, is how I came to find websites that covered movies. Surfing sites like Countingdown.com, Rebelscum, TheForce.net, and many others, I not only got my daily fix of Star Wars gossip, I unknowingly opened the door into what my life would eventually become, writing for sites like the one you are reading right now.

But that was as an observer. During the lead-up to Episode II, I was a participant. While balancing a part-time job, and full-time school, I began working for a few of those sites, specificall Countingdown.com. Though I’d written reviews for my high school newspaper and was writing about movies for college, this was the first time I was doing it “professionally.” And I got a real taste for it. I’d write posts about Star Wars here and there while also doing some of my first press junkets, and by the time graduation hit and the speaker made a joke about the movie, I knew the next step. By the time Episode III was released, I wanted to be somewhere writing a review. A goal I accomplished three years later at a mid-level newspaper in southern New York.

Oh forbidden love. (Image: Lucasfilm)Oh forbidden love. (Image: Lucasfilm)

But Attack of the Clones was the linchpin. The film that came out at just the right time to set everything in motion. And wow, the memories of seeing Attack of the Clones are strong. Stronger, for me, than either of the other two prequels. For starters, as I said, I waited an entire day on a footpath for the midnight screening of the film at the legendary Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan. If this is ringing a bell, that’s because it’s where Triumph the Insult Comic Dog did the legendary Star Wars nerd sketch for Conan O’Brien, a sketch that I’m literally in (A fact I wrote about extensively in a separate article you can read at this link.)

The waiting was special but the screening was even better. As you can imagine, over a thousand rabid Star Wars fans sitting in the same room, ready to see the next chapter in the saga, was electric. The moment when the Jedi stormed the Geonosian arena, every single person jumped out of their seats. Minutes later, when Yoda ignited his lightsaber, it felt like the entire room shook. I left that theatre on such a high that, despite having to be up at 8 a.m. for graduation, I seriously contemplated seeing the film again at 3:30 a.m.

However, in the years that followed, Attack of the Clones has lost some of that shine. The memory of waiting for it and watching it greatly outweighed the film itself. Oh sure there are some great characters, excellent action beats, and a dynamite finale, but for the most part, the story is convoluted, performances wooden, and pacing abysmal. Some of the dialogue, especially between Anakin and Padmé, is cringe-inducing. For my money, it’s the worst Star Wars film to date (though 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker is currently giving it a run for its money).

Come on. What a moment. (Image: Lucasfilm)Come on. What a moment. (Image: Lucasfilm)

Even so, this now 20-year-old movie still means the world to me. Not because of the movie itself but because of what it represented in my life. Professionally, my excitement and anticipation for Attack of the Clones set me down a career path I follow to this day. Personally, it’s even mushier. The first time I kissed the woman who would eventually become my wife, the love theme for Attack of the Clones, “Across the Stars” by John Williams, was randomly playing on the radio (an old XM station called CineMagic if you’re wondering). As we were kissing I thought, “Wow, this will make a great story if we ended up getting married.” When we did get married 12 years later, we played “Across the Stars” after we were pronounced husband and wife.

Never forget, movies are art and art means different things to different people. Attack of the Clones isn’t a great movie but it holds a great place in my heart. It’s a prism that, if I look through it, allows me to see my past, present and future. It’s part of who I am. The Padmé to my Anakin.

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.