In ‘Attack of the Clones,’ it’s time to appreciate Detective Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Attack of the Clones is a bad Star Wars film. There’s no need to get into another lengthy dissertation on the flaws of this film that nerds have been pounding into the ground for decades now on its 20th anniversary. However, it’s worth noting that this film may be the bottom of the Star Wars prequel trilogy because it’s also worth noting that Attack of the Clones isn’t completely devoid of interesting stuff. One particular plotline, in particular, acts as the film’s centrepiece and offers a glimpse at what a more confident Attack of the Clones might look like.

Of course, I’m referring to the subplot in which Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) takes on the role of quasi-detective in the investigation of a foiled assassination attempt.

After Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) is almost assassinated by bounty hunter Zam Wesell, this chapter of the Attack of the Clones story begins. Following this near-miss, Obi-Wan is tasked with determining who was guilty for the heinous crime. Thus begins a subplot in which Obi-Wan Kenobi channels his inner Sam Spade, checking into dark corners, interviewing potential targets, and catching up with old knowledgeable chums, all in the pursuit of figuring out who may want Senator Obi-Wan Kenobi dead.

After Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) is almost assassinated by bounty hunter Zam Wesell, this chapter of the Attack of the Clones story begins. Following this near-miss, Obi-Wan is tasked with determining who was guilty for the heinous crime.

Thus begins a subplot in which Obi-Wan Kenobi channels his inner Sam Spade, checking into dark corners, interviewing potential targets, and catching up with old knowledgeable chums, all in the pursuit of figuring out who may want Senator Obi-Wan Kenobi dead.

Granted, this subplot may benefit from a stronger aesthetic impact from this genre. When compared to, example, The Third Man, there aren’t as many shadows or stunning uses of darkness as Obi-Wan searches the truth. Still, in his framing of one guy seeking answers in a corrupt society, a narrative template with decades of history in Hollywood filmmaking, you can feel Lucas come to life a little more. This is especially noticeable when juxtaposed to the action-packed passages or the love interludes between Amidala and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), which lack liveliness and vintage movie inspirations.

Meanwhile, McGregor enjoys going through many digital places and talking with colourful supporting characters far more than he enjoys stale action sequences or dealing with the other main characters in Attack of the Clones. In retrospect, McGregor and the other Prequel Trilogy key performers (including Christensen) were let down by how novel the process of acting against largely artificial backdrops was at the turn of the century, not by Lucas as a director.

When Attack of the Clones was made, everything we see now in large movies was unknown ground. When you combine that with the acting decisions made in The Phantom Menace, it’s clear that not even McGregor could make this material work.

Even some amusing scenes starring Ewan McGregor as a classic noir protagonist aren’t enough to save Attack of the Clones from its worst creative impulses. This intriguing plot finally devolves into a confrontation between this Jedi master and Jango Fett, a clear attempt to cash in on Boba Fett fandom. However, Obi-Wan Kenobi as a detective injects some much-needed vitality into the prequel trilogy’s low point for a variety of reasons. The benefits of this subplot are evident… from a specific perspective.

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