Hoo boy. What to say. How to explain? We all know that the film version of Attack of the Clones has some issues. Despite them, I grew up on the movie and it holds a special place in my memory. As I prepared to read the novelized version by R.A. Salvatore, I held out some hope that without the performances to distract, I might find a new appreciation for what is otherwise my least favorite of the mainline Star Wars films.
As with the novelization of The Phantom Menace, my review is going to focus on the differences from the film version or on things unique to the novel medium and avoid critiquing the film itself. I assume anyone reading a bunch of reviews of Legends Star Wars books has seen the movies, and the point here is to look at how the story holds up as a book.
Welcome to Legends of the Hydian Way, the chronicle of my attempt to read through and review all the novels that make up mainline Legends canon in chronological order. May the Force be with me.
We open on Tatooine with a lengthy chapter focused on the Lars family and the tale of how Shmi Skywalker came to be freed from slavery and subsequently kidnapped by Tusken Raiders. Honestly, I think these are the strongest parts of the book. I felt immediately invested in the Lars’ life. Each member of the family gets characterization and you would be forgiven for thinking the whole novel was about them.
Shmi brings a joy to the simple lives of the moisture farmers and it’s truly heartwarming to see her living free from Watto’s cruelty and thriving with a family she loves and who love her in return. A scene of the Lars family eating dinner and trading some good natured jibes rang especially true and I found myself hoping they’d get more screen time as the book went on.
Alas, Shmi is kidnapped along with many others from the surrounding farms, leading Cliegg to organize a posse to rescue them. The Tuskens, however, lay a fiendish trap behind them by stringing thin, sharp strands of wire across a canyon mouth. When the posse crosses in on their speeder bikes…well, let’s just say we have the origin story of Cliegg’s missing leg.
From here we cut back into familiar territory with Padme’s arrival on Coruscant and our story continues apace. I held out brief hope during the first Anakin/Padme scene, as Salvatore actually does a fairly good job of using the character’s inner dialogue to recontextualize the awkwardness of the encounter. Anakin can barely think straight because he’s spent the whole morning building up Padme in his mind and thus he babbles like the lovestruck teenager he is. We get less of a read on the scene as Anakin chafing against Obi-Wan’s authority and more of him being extremely embarrassed by Obi-Wan condescending to him in front of Padme. It humanized him more than the film treatment and again gave me hope for better interpretations of the characters. But then we see how Padme is feeling in these scenes…
Ok. Padme. *sigh* Star Wars doesn’t have a stellar history with its female characters. I thought possibly going into this book that knowing *why* Padme falls for Anakin would help explaining her otherwise “because the plot needs it” romantic interest in someone so obviously troubled and philosophically anthemic to her own views. It…um…doesn’t do that. You want to know why Padme falls for Anakin?
She worries her career as a Galactic Senator is going to make her miss out on having kids, and Anakin happens to be both hot and there while she’s constantly thinking about kids.
In an attempt to be fair I’ll say there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a family, or even with worrying that your career might make that difficult. However, especially given everything we’ve been shown about Padme so far, it’s the laziest, most frustrating reason to explain her falling for a whiny, half-trained Jedi who comes on to her with all the subtlety of a twitter guy with a shirtless profile pic. There are all kinds of reasons Padme might fall in love with Anakin. He’s brave, he’s compassionate, he refuses to compromise on things he believes are right. These are traits they have in common. Constantly and explicitly reminding us that her only two motivations for entering into that relationship are physical attraction and a vague desire for children because her family keeps nagging her for grandkids is *painfully* 1950s.
What’s more, it has absolutely nothing to do with Anakin at all. From all the reasons she likes Anakin specifically we’re given Padme would have fallen in love with anyone both capable of having kids and present. As in the film, Anakin gives plenty of reasons why that person should not be him, and Padme brushes them all aside in what I’m sure we’re supposed to see as her magnanimous personality coming through, but just left me at the end of the book even more baffled by their romance than after the movie. Why does Padme like *Anakin Skywalker* specifically? The book provides no concrete answers, and that’s a shockingly glaring omission.
My hangups on how the romance is handled aside, this novel follows the film much more closely than The Phantom Menace did its own film. The mystery of Padme’s would be assassin leading into the Clone Army and culminating with the Battle of Geonsis. Of note, Shmi’s torment at the hands of the Tusken Raiders is given an uncomfortable level of attention that wasn’t present in the film, which put me off even further.
When I read a novelization of a movie, I’m usually looking for a longer, more in depth treatment of the plot than I’d get from a 2 hour film. Attack of the Clones certainly takes longer than the movie to get through, but aside from an excellent first chapter and a bunch of belittling motivation for Padme, I can’t say there’s much additional content or depth to this version. This is one Legends entry I’m happy to forget.
Next time we plunge into the confusing, recton-fest that is the Legends Clone Wars era Novels. Hang on to your helmets!