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"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" Movie Review

Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) enjoy a romantic interlude in
"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones."
©2002 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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Hayden Christensen
Natalie Portman
Ewan McGregor

In a galaxy far, far away, "Star Wars: Episode II - The Attack of the Clones" may be the franchise's savior. Alas, here on this planet, despite some breathtaking scenery, dazzling new worlds and alien beings, and 'ahhh, so that's where it's heading' plot twists, "the Clones" is a near miss (or is it near hit?). There's a lack of the fun and frivolity that made the original releases such a wild ride for casual viewers and "Star Wars" fanatics alike. Gone are the days of fluffy Ewoks (which I liked, go ahead - scream at me, I can take it), Princess Leia and Han Solo's cleverly written repartee, and the unforgettable mass of hair we affectionately knew as Chewie.

The most loathed sidekick in recent film history - Jar Jar Binks - does make a return appearance in this film, however he's been toned down and he's moved into the political arena as an assistant to Senator Amidala. Politics and Jar Jar Binks - who would have thought?

This film has too many plotlines going at once to explain, but to briefly sum it up, there are two major storylines taking place concurrently. George Lucas gives us one plotline full of burgeoning love and another that's more action-oriented. The love story begins with Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) returning to the Senate to cast a critical vote, hoping to help stabilize the Republic. A plot to kill her fails, and she is ordered to be closely guarded by Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his trainee, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen). Anakin takes one look at the gorgeous Senator and is flooded with feelings for her. Apparently he's been holding a torch for her since his youth and now, with her so close, he's snatched from being the serious Jedi student to a salivating puppy dog (we do have to cut him some slack since he is a teenager and he does, after all, have that whole 'dark side' thing in his future).

Soon after their assignment as bodyguards, Obi-Wan and Anakin thwart another attempt on Padme's life and give chase to her would-be assassin. This leads us to one of the film's most heart-pounding chase sequences, and helps demonstrate that while Anakin does admire his teacher, he's not the most respectful or obedient student. The two end up in a 'sports bar' (similar to the Cantina scene but even more visually out there) and Obi-Wan gets to use his Jedi mind trick to stop a drug dealer and set him on the straight and narrow. They capture the assassin and from there, the story splits up. Obi-Wan, after seeking the help of an obscenely overweight amphibian mutt-thing, sets out to find Kamino, a planet that's been hidden away and where the assassin's boss supposedly makes his/her/its home. Meanwhile that leaves Anakin to watch over Padme - and 'watching over her' is the least of what's on his teenage boy mind.

Lucas switches the film to a softer tone as Padme and Anakin explore Naboo and each other. The settings for their playful trysts are spectacular, with magnificent waterfalls and other such backdrops created with stunning textures and colors. Their romantic fantasy world is soon shattered when Anakin has visions of his mother in great distress. Disobeying Obi-Wan's orders, Anakin and Padme set off for his home planet of Tatooine. Obi-Wan then reenters the Anakin/Padme storyline with a call for help. Anakin and Padme again disregard Obi-Wan's orders and head straight to Obi-Wan's side (Anakin leaves Tatooine emotionally devastated as Lucas allows us a further glimpse into Anakin's evil future).

Obi-Wan has been a very busy Jedi while the kids have been off 'discussing' their forbidden love. Kamino is not only the home to bounty hunter Jango Fett and his son Boba, it also houses sleek, towering, aliens (very similar in my mind to the one's in Spielberg's "A.I.") who have built a massive army of clones to fight for the Republic - supposedly at the request of a Jedi (this plot twist will surely figure prominently in the next edition). Obi-Wan battles Jango Fett and chases after him to another remote planet, where Obi Wan, Padme and Anakin eventually get captured by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and his evil alliance.

And that's where my recap of the story ends. To say much more - though other reviewers certainly will - would be to give away far, far (that far, far thing is contagious) too much of the movie. There are some hilarious moments with a little green guy that make you want to pick the little dude up and give him a huge kiss, but that's all I'm saying.

As far as the plot, the dialogue, and the acting goes, well, it won't win any awards. The romantic dialogue between Anakin and Padme is bland and hokey. Because of his impending turn to the dark side, Anakin's lines are mostly delivered while whining about how good he is and how no one lets him do anything. It's annoying, but don't blame the actor - that would be like shooting the messenger. I believe Hayden Christensen does the best with what he's been given. Natalie Portman is a fine actress but Padme Amidala comes off as a two-dimensional character. There are a few moments of flash and fire, but in general, the character is flat. Ewan McGregor is the true acting star of this film as he shows off his Jedi-ness with a maturity and sense of himself that plays completely true.

There are a few things about the film that confounded me, chief among them the fact that Anakin Skywalker has aged 10+ years and yet Padme Amidala looks exactly the same as she did in "The Phantom Menace." Amidala's either found the fountain of youth or those people on Naboo just really age well.

In "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" Lucas has delivered new worlds, characters, and creatures but has left in little of the humor that sparkled throughout the original "Star Wars." "The Phantom Menace" left the majority of its viewers with a bad after-taste, even worse than the disgusting taste of stale movie popcorn chased down by a lukewarm soda. Though "Episode II - Attack of the Clones" is a definite improvement over "The Phantom Menace," it won't become the franchise's most beloved edition. That said, it is a good film, it does have its moments, and it's sure to do well at the box office, no matter what critics, reviewers, or others who put pen to paper or fingers to keyboards, say.

Overall Grade: C/C-

"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" is rated PG for sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence.

Director: George Lucas
Producer: Rick McCallum
Executive Producer: George Lucas
Written By: George Lucas and Jonathan Hales
Director of Photography: David Tattersall
Production Designer: Gavin Bocquet
Film Editor and Sound Designer: Ben Burtt
Costume Designer: Trisha Biggar
Music By: John Williams
Visual Effects Supervisors: John Knoll, Pablo Helman, Ben Snow and Dennis Muren
Casting: Robin Gurland
Set Decorators: Joanne Tastula and Peter Walpole
Art Directors: Phil Harvey and Jonathan Lee
Stunt Coordinator: Nick Gillard

Obi-Wan Kenobi - Ewan McGregor
Senator Padme Amidala - Natalie Portman
Anakin Skywalker - Hayden Christensen
Supreme Chancellor Palpatine - Ian McDiarmid
Count Dooku - Christopher Lee
Cliegg Lars - Jack Thompson
Shmi Skywalker - Pernilla August
C-390 - Anthony Daniels
Yoda - Frank Oz
Mace Windu - Samuel L. Jackson
R2-D2 - Kenny Baker
Senator Bail Organa - Jimmy Smits
Jar Jar Binks - Ahmed Best
Jango Fett - Temuera Morrison
Boba Fett - Daniel Logan

Photos: ©2002 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

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