STAR WARS EPISODE II: Attack of the Clones

Review by Mark Walters

     I used to believe that you couldn't have too much of a good thing. Now I'm not so sure. In this installment of the STAR WARS saga, creator George Lucas does his best to raise the bar yet again in the area of special effects. While his technical accomplishments here are undeniably impressive, the film falls short of being perfect. I've seen this film twice now, and given a considerable amount of thought to what sort of opinions I'd express about it. I'm not looking to upset anyone with my statements, so please consider this as nothing more than one person's perspective. That said, our story opens with Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), formerly Queen Amidala, arriving on the giant city-planet of Coruscant. After an attempt is made on her life, it is deemed necessary by the powers that be to have Jedi protection assigned to her. The Senator's old friend Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is called upon, escorted by his student Anakin (Hayden Christensen), who is all grown up and eager to see Padme after so many years apart. Their arrival to assist the Senator is met with pleasure, but Anakin quickly realizes his feelings for Padme are stronger than expected. After a second attempt on her life, members of the Jedi council decide to begin an investigation to find those responsible. Anakin is told to protect Padme, while Obi-Wan searches for some answers elsewhere. Thus begins two journeys, and two continuing storylines that will carry us through the rest of the film. Anakin must deal with his love for Padme, which is forbidden by his beliefs, and unacceptable for a woman in her position. During his quest for the Senator's assassin, Obi-Wan discovers a plot much more complicated than anyone imagined. A clone army is being created under the supposed authorization of the Jedi council. As the events unfold, we find out there are more key players involved than originally expected.

     Attack of the Clones attempts to tie together some of the subplots established in STAR WARS EPISODE I: The Phantom Menace, and hopefully provide some lead-in elements for STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A New Hope. While is succeeds on many levels, the film unfortunately drops the ball with plot and pacing. The story feels very disjointed. For a majority of the time our lead characters are simply planet-hopping, and find themselves in totally random situations for no reason other than to keep us awake. Many people are comparing this film to The Empire Strikes Back. Personally I don't see that, and would push the point that it doesn't really feel like a STAR WARS film at all. Oh sure, there's lightsabers and starships, but the mood and depiction of characters here seems foreign to the expected formula. While Lucas pushes the forbidden love story between Anakin and Padme, he lacks the tension necessary to make it work. Hayden Chistensen, who I must admit surprised me with his acting ability, is actually best when portraying elements of self-conflict. Those scenes are far more effective than the romance we're supposed to be fascinated with. This movie suffers from many of the same problems exhibited in other STAR WARS films, particularly with poor pacing and wooden dialogue. Many of the characters are nothing more than set dressing, and several are downplayed, some to the point of being annoying. For those of you wanting to see action, you'll definitely get it. The sad part is you'll have to sit through 90 minutes of jumbled story before it happens. There are sporadically placed action scenes throughout, but they usually seem more obligatory than important. The final series of battles are phenomenal, but also very lengthy. One would think these moments would seem more acceptable if spread out. Therein lies the main problem with EPISODE II. We wait patiently for a payoff, and it finally comes only to be experienced in excess. I never thought I'd complain about too much going on in a battle scene during a STAR WARS film, but the sheer amount of action overload during the final moments almost becomes disorienting. It was as if George was sitting there saying "Look what all I can do!", and REALLY rubbing it in. I'm almost scared to see where it goes from here.

     On the positive end, this is a visually stunning film. Lucas has crafted a work of art, albeit somewhat faulted, that we simply can't look away from. We can see a progression, not only with the lead character's personalities, but also with their environments. This is all heading somewhere, and George is making that clear. If he can calm down on the effects just a tad, and concentrate more on the story and pacing of events, then the next installment should be a terrific end to a great idea. Jedi Master Yoda, now fully computer generated, is given a considerable amount of screen time. The mysterious bounty hunter Jango Fett, not unlike Darth Maul in EPISODE I, is used a bit too sparingly for my taste. While EPISODE II is flawed, it's fairly more entertaining than it's predecessor, and will leave many fans feeling quite satisfied. But is that enough? I for one want to be more than satisfied. When it comes to a George Lucas product, I expect to be overwhelmed. That statement refers to the overall product, not just a select portion. Maybe the problem is I'm not a kid anymore. Back when the original trilogy came out, I didn't find myself complaining about things like script errors and pacing of scenes. I guess I just grew up, much like Anakin in the new film, and now I want more for my money. In conclusion, I must admit that I'll always be a sucker for a good lightsaber fight, and that's one thing that thankfully we get plenty of here. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give STAR WARS Episode II: Attack of the Clones a 6.

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