| 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
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.