Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Samuel L Jackson
Director: George Lucas
They said that 2002 would be a big year for sequels and they don’t get much bigger than this. STAR WARS: EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES is the second episode of the series and the fifth STAR WARS movie to be made, arriving nicely in time for summer.
Set ten years after the events of EPISODE 1 THE PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES opens with two assassination attempts on former Queen Amidala by separatist rebels, who are feared to be leading a revolution against the Republic. Meanwhile Anakin Skywalker has grown into a teenager under Obi-Wan Kenobi’s tutelage but has grown too big for his boots as well. We see the rift beginning to emerge between master and arrogant student. Anakin is assigned to protect Amidala whilst Obi-Wan hunts down the bounty hunter that tried to kill her, which turns out to be Jango Fett (played by Temuera Morrison of ONCE WERE WARRIORS). Obi-Wan’s mission brings him to the watery planet of Camino where he stumbles upon a colossal clone army being created. From there onwards romance blossoms back home, the dark side of the force awakens and the real ‘star wars’ commence, culminating in an all-out action spectacular.
I’ll begin the critique with ATTACK OF THE CLONES’ good points. Firstly, the visual effects seem to have reached an unsurpassable pinnacle of quality, making the action sequences – the Coruscant chase and the final battle in particular – some of the most stunning scenes one can ever hope to witness. Secondly, there seems to be an upward movement in acting prowess with Natalie Portman, Samuel L Jackson and Ewan McGregor all given meatier roles and raising their game accordingly. Portman’s blossoming paves the way for a hundred costume changes, each one exposing more and more flesh, whilst Jackson, after spending most of both episodes sitting around glumly reflecting on things, finally gets to kick some rebel butt with a purple lightsaber. The star of the show is McGregor who has matured well as the bearded mentor and pulls off his expanded part with Jedi-like expertise. And all the while, thank God, the grating Jar-Jar Binks is relegated to a few fleeting scenes.
The cleverly controlled foreboding surrounding Obi-Wan and his upstart apprentice clashes heavily with what is the film’s major weakness, the ‘TITANIC-like’ doomed romance between Anakin and Padme. Perhaps Lucas was trying to attract a dormant audience – namely teenage females – but his attempts at handling teenage love are weak. All the Industrial Light and Magic in the world cannot mask the stilted dialogue that besets the couple’s courtship, and the rolling around in the meadow scene is just not needed.
We’re supposed to see early signs of Anakin’s eventual defection to the dark side but all we get is a typically annoying, moody teenager who acts immaturely in front of his royal woman-to-be. And then, after hardly a mention of his enslaved mother, he suddenly zooms into the desert to rescue her. There is no emotion attached to it. It’s almost as if Lucas has said that we’ve forgotten about the mother part… let’s stick it in here. Indeed, it feels like Lucas is ticking off a list of things that need to happen to ensure continuity in the STAR WARS saga.
The masterstroke of ATTACK OF THE CLONES arrives at the end where we see the battle to end all battles, a cameo from the Death Star and Yoda hilariously displaying an unseen side to his character up against the evil Count Dooku, played skilfully by Christopher Lee. Elsewhere, humour is scarce and typified by ‘hilarious’ one-liners such as “what a drag” from C-3P0 as he is dragged around by R2-D2. It’s actually Yoda that provides the most amusement with wise observations like “full of themselves, the young ones are” in reference to Anakin, whilst Obi-Wan secures a guffaw when he says to the boy, “you’ll be the death of me one day”.
ATTACK OF THE CLONES is a vast improvement over EPISODE 1 THE PHANTOM MENACE. Though still slightly flawed, fans will greedily lap it up and come back for more. It was always going to be hard to pull off this chapter with so many gaps to fill, and the next one will be even harder, so hats off to Lucas and co for still managing to churn out such visually stunning entertainment. With more character, more action, more Portman and less Jar-Jar, what more could you ask for? We’ll have to wait for the next instalment.