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The Messiest Scene in Star Wars Reveals Everything Right — And Wrong — With the Prequel Trilogy

The arena scene in Attack of the Clones is Star Wars in its purest form.

Lais Borges/Inverse; Lucasfilm
Celebrating the Prequels

On a far-flung planet, three beautiful heroes face their most difficult challenge yet. Chained to three massive columns at the center of an even more massive arena, the trio seems to be pretty doomed as three chimeric monsters approach while a crowd of gleeful aliens hoot and holler from a safe distance.

Of course, our heroes — Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Padmé Amidala — are never in any real danger. This is Star Wars, and the good guys always beat the special effects monster.

The arena scene from Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones feels like the best and worst of the prequel trilogy all rolled into one. It’s got enough CGI slop and weightless, twirling lightsabers to make even the most diehard fan groan. But it also features the type of pulp sci-fi storytelling and effortless world-building that makes Star Wars so special in the first place.

The Petranaki arena in all its glory.


Let’s talk about the bad stuff first. Those CGI monsters, while cool in theory, are so visually over-designed and so comically useless to the narrative that they might as well not exist at all. This is one of the best examples of George Lucas’ undiluted vision run amuck — a child smashing his million-dollar toys together while studio executives cash their bonus checks.

Once the beasts have been swiftly dealt with (even Padmé gets in a few good shots), the scene somehow takes a turn for the worse. As all hell breaks loose and the screen floods with evil robots, soon-to-be-evil clones, and soon-to-be-dead Jedi, it becomes near impossible to follow the action. Sure there are some good moments: Mace Windu going full Samuel L. Jackson and slicing off Jango Fett’s head is a franchise high point. But in a scene with multiple fatalities we’re supposed to care about, that’s the only one that sticks.

Heads will roll.


On the plus side, the entire arena scene is Star Wars in its purest form. The quips are fun, the lightsabers are legion, and the vibes are immaculate. It’s everything we love in Star Wars (and everything we hate) condensed into one long sequence. You might not remember many of the details, but you’ll never forget the scene itself.

But there’s a deeper level to the Star Wars prequel trilogy’s most excessive scene. For our three heroes, the arena isn’t just a backdrop for CGI shenanigans, it’s a memorable moment they’ll likely reflect on for years; a life-or-death experience that brought them together. Years later, it’s easy to imagine Darth Vader reflecting fondly on the time he fought a giant praying mantis monster with his old Jedi master. Even amid all their shared memories, how could anyone forget something like that?

This article is part of the “Celebrating the Prequels” series, a two week-long series of articles about the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy leading up to the 25th anniversary of The Phantom Menace.

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