Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Director(s): George Lucas
Writer(s): George Lucas and Jonathan Hales
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Smits, Temuera Morrison, Pernilla August, Ian McDiarmid, Frank Oz, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman and Ahmed Best
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)May 16, 2002 - Wide
It only seems appropriate that a film with clones in the title has me reacting with two minds. But more on that in a bit.
Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones takes place about ten years after the previous film. The Republic continues to struggle with its problems and a growing separatist movement comprised of hundreds of planets and corporate alliances has the Jedi busy trying to keep the peace.
Some believe the Jedi need help and proposals are circulated to create an Army of the Republic. Senator Padmé Amidala, the former Queen of Naboo, opposes the idea and faces an assassination attempt when she arrives on Coruscant for the debate. When another attempt is made on her life the Jedi Knights assigned to protect her, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, split up. Obi-Wan heads off to look for the person trying to kill her, while Anakin heads off to Naboo with Padmé, a woman he has strong feelings for.
One of the most interesting aspects of this new prequel trilogy is that we already know the fate of many of the characters. We know that Chancellor Palpatine, the consummate politician who is worried about the rebel uprising, will eventually turn into the evil Emperor. We know that Anakin Skywalker, the young Jedi trainee, will turn to the dark side in Episode III and become Darth Vader. And we know there’s a lot of truth when Obi-Wan jokingly tells his apprentice that “You’ll be the death of me.” The challenge for director George Lucas and co-writer Jonathan Hales is to make you come along for a ride whose destination is known. As one of the authors of the various Star Wars books, Michael Reaves, once said, “People were able to invest themselves emotionally in Titanic, for example, even though they knew the ship sinks.”
So how much were we willing to invest? Let’s get back to those two minds.
One mind really likes the latest installment of the Star Wars saga. The effects are dazzling and when you realize that most of what you are seeing doesn’t exist, and was only added in after the actors had gone home, your mind begins to reel. The action scenes are well choreographed and the highlights included a high-speed “car chase” through the towering structures of the city-planet Coruscant and a Jedi/Clone vs. ‘droid battle scene on the planet Geonosis. The scene with the most buzz has to be the one where Yoda shows the galaxy he’s not just a backwards-talking teacher. It also got the biggest cheers from the audience.
This mind also loves the depth of the universe that Lucas has created. There’s a real sense of structure and backstory to the political environment that exists in these stories. And the really good news? Jar-Jar Binks is not much more than a cameo in this film.
The other mind has a few problems with this film. First off, the dialogue. The very first Star Wars flick had witty dialogue and snappy lines. The characters in Episode II talk a lot. A LOT. We get so much of what’s happened in the last ten years, and what’s happening in the galaxy now and what’s happening in Anakin’s heart that the first part of the film almost seems like a live action version of the scroll that starts these films off. The delivery of the dialogue is also stilted. The characters all seem to be fresh out of an enunciation class and their speech patterns seem intended to be slow enough for us not to miss any of the copious amounts of info they have to deliver.
When Hayden Christensen was cast as the Jedi apprentice, Anakin Skywalker, everyone said it was due to the chemistry he shared with Natalie Portman. They’re both attractive – Portman is stunning – but they go about their romance like two high schoolers doing Romeo & Juliet for a class project. Let’s remember too that Anakin is one day going to be the poster boy for the Force’s dark side. Episode II should be showing us more of the brewing anger that pushes Anakin over the edge. Instead, Christensen pouts and whines and complains. Perhaps he grew up in the Dawson’s Creek section of Tatooine.
Portman is a fine actress, garnering great reviews since her earliest work. She has all the acting chops needed to be the strong politician who falls in love with this complicated Jedi. At times though she seems reduced to being “The Babe” of the film. In one battle her form-fitting garment gets strategically ripped into a midriff-baring number and you almost expect the Jedi to start dancing behind her while she warbles a Britney Spears song. It would be appropriate too, since 95% of Spears’ singing doesn’t exist until post-production either.
I’m torn by this film. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for a long time and think that Lucas has done amazing things both with the stories and the effects he has created. Perhaps he needs to spend a little less time on the post-production CGI and a little more time concentrating on his dialogue and actors. I don’t hate Episode II. I just don’t love it.