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Star Wars:
Episode II, Attack of The Clones

Fox
Official Site
Director: George Lucas
Producer: Rick McCallum
Written by: George Lucas and Jonathan Hales
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Lee, Ian McDiarmid, Temuera Morrison, Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels, Frank Oz

Rating: out of 5


Star Wars has become such an omnipresent part of our culture that going to see the latest film is probably more of an obligation than an option. Harry Knowles, the know-it-all cinema buff, has himself observed that most 20- to 30-year-olds are the Star Wars generation. We may have nothing in common save for the shared experience of an epic film from our childhood. And even if you didn't have the bed sheets, t-shirts, or light saber toys, you at least saw every film and acknowledged their inescapable popularity. Star Wars has become such a large part of our persona that separating the fine threads of hype, myth, and reality is no easy task. In fact many of us have such a strong attachment to these films that even when they sometimes suck, we still pay to see them anyway, and certainly Attack Of The Clones won't be an exception.

The latest Star Wars film picks up 10 years after The Phantom Menace. Young Anakin Skywalker (Christensen) is now a Jedi in training, but he's also a brooding teenager. One minute he's sulking and insecure, a second later he's cocky and self-assured of his Jedi skills. He constantly questions the judgment of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) who is exasperated by his headstrong companion. The Queen of Naboo (Portman) has also undergone some changes, trading in her crown for a position as a senator, and without the pomp of her former title she is now referred to as Padme Amidala.

Yet these are still tumultuous times for the Republic. A separatist movement continues to menace the stability of the galaxy and Padme's strong leadership threatens the success of this movement. After an attempt on her life fails, Anakin and Obi-Wan are assigned to protect her.

The Jedi pair decide to split up; starry-eyed Anakin will protect Padme by escorting her back to her home planet, where she'll be safer. They romp through fields and playfully flirt until temperamental Anakin suddenly decides he should return to the sand-blown planet of Tatooine to find his mother.

Meanwhile Obi-Wan trails the path of the would-be assassin, and discovers the formation of a secretly authorized clone army. When his detective work further reveals Jedi Master Count Dooku (<b>Lee</b>) is behind the impending crisis in the galaxy, he relays these plans to the Jedi High Council. This is where Attack Of The Clones is much better film than its predecessor, The Phantom Menace. The Council passively sat around during the first episode, but here they finally get off their butts and show us what Jedis are capable of. Yoda (Oz) and Jedi Master Mace Windu (Jackson) come to the rescue and a full-on attack between the Jedis and Dooku's forces ensues. This is clearly the most spectacular part of the film, filled with mesmerizing special effects and masterfully choreographed fight sequences.

Attack Of The Clones avoids the shortcomings of its prequel in part because of a stronger presence from its creator, George Lucas. As both director and writer, Lucas is fully aware of the power and mythology of his earlier Star Wars films, and he both exploits and pokes fun at the myth through carefully scripted action sequences and good casting choices. In the latest film, Padme and Anakin are chased to a dead end where their path is obstructed by a missing bridge. We've seen this scene before, when Luke and Princess Leia found themselves in identical circumstances on the Death Star. In the tradition of Errol Flynn, Luke fashioned a harpoon and swung across the abyss, saving the princess and himself. This time around Padme loses her footing and falls off the edge of the bridge, tumbling onto a mechanized factory floor. Instead of an impressive escape, Lucas tweaks our noses, while staying mindful of his Star Wars legacy.

With the roles of Obi Wan Kenobi and Count Dooku, Lucas offers further tribute to his earlier films and their late actors. Ewan McGregor gives an accomplished performance as a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi. He looks and sounds hauntingly like Alec Guinness. It's truly a pity Guinness isn't around anymore to marvel at the similarities. (Though Guinness was famously averse to being recognized for his participation in Star Wars. Once, when a young fan informed him that he'd seen Star Wars several times, Guinness opined that it was shocking that he would watch a movie so often and that he should find something better to do with his time.) Casting Christopher Lee as the sinister Dooku is also a fine homage to the late Peter Cushing, who played Grand Moff Tarkin, the ruthless commander of the Death Star. Lee and Cushing were friends as well as central figures in Dracula flicks of the early 1970s, and Lee's presence is clearly intended to evoke the ominous spirit of Tarkin as well as capture the nostalgia from the very first film.

Despite these reminiscences, Attack Of The Clones is not a perfect gem. The orchestral music is so familiar it spoils much of the suspense. Good and evil are always foreshadowed by a swelling accompaniment that reaches a loud crescendo. What should be background music instead drowns out any sudden plot turns or surprises.

Still, this latest offering is still a well-crafted package of special effects and samurai-like fighting. It's a sequel that's worth watching, but after all, it is the latest Star Wars flick, and you were probably going to see it anyway.

Nancy Semin

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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