Directed by: George Lucas
Stars: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee
Rated: PG for action/violence
Notes for Parents: Like the other Star Wars films, this is a kid-friendly action flick. Although younger children might find the aliens too frightening and the action sequences too intense, older kids and teens will probably like it.
When it comes to the newest installment in the Star Wars saga, most people only want to know one thing: is it better than “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” or not? Fortunately for fans around the globe, and for the continued stability of George Lucas’s franchise, the answer is ‘yes.’
“Attack of the Clones” picks up ten years after “The Phantom Menace” left off. Young Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now a pouty teenager, rebelling against older and wiser Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), his Jedi Master. The plot, which revolves around a series of attempts on Senator (and former Queen) Amidala (Natalie Portman) and an army of clones, is fairly straightforward but poorly explained. Mostly the film is a series of fight scenes and romance scenes unevenly cut together.
The romance between Anakin and Amidala is very poorly written. Where the love of Han and Leia in the previously released episodes is understated, and as a result very powerful, Anakin and Amidala spend a great deal of time declaiming at each other. The audience is frequently left wondering when the next fight scene is going to start.
Fortunately, those fight scenes are quite good, particularly the last one. A stadium-sized battle between a group of Jedi and an army of battle droids is a joy to every fan’s heart, and the climactic battle between villainous, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee, looking very spry for his age), and a number of Jedi, is worth the price of admission.
Although much better than its predecessor, “Attack of the Clones” has a number of problems, large and small. The pacing is uneven, many excellent characters are woefully underused (how is it possible to make Samuel L. Jackson as a Jedi Master actually boring?), and trying to figure out the time line will give you a headache.
Another flaw is the lack of a proper villain. Those familiar with the saga know that kindly Senator Palpatine is actually the evil Darth Sidious, future Emperor, but we don’t actually see the main villain of this part of the story until more than halfway through the film. One can’t help wondering if some of Count Dooku’s scenes are on the editing room floor.
Visually, however, the film is a feast for the eyes. Aliens of every type are present, all of them fascinating to look at. The spaceships are sleek and elegant, and the Jedi are graceful in combat. Senator Amidala has taken a hit in the clothing department, with a less interesting wardrobe than she had as queen in the last film, but she is still much better dressed than the heroines of the other summer action films of this year.
A further treat, at least for fans of the saga, are the forshadowings and in-jokes referring to events to come. Also, thankfully, Jar-Jar Binks, the computer-generated bane of the average fan’s existence, has much less screen time in this installment, appearing only as required by the plot.
In short, “Attack of the Clones” is a good film, although not as good as it could be. Those who aren’t fans of the saga may not be as enthralled as Lucas devotees will be, but it is still worth watching.