Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) / Sci Fi-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG for sustained sequences of sci-fi action/violence
Running Time: 142 min.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Chrisopher Lee
Director: George Lucas
Screenplay: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales
Review published May 17, 2002
Perhaps a large part of the reason I seem to be enjoying the new STAR WARS arc more than most comes down to my educational background. Having a degree in Classical Civilization, I have always had a fascination with the times and tales of Ancient Greece and Rome, both in politics and their respective mythologies. The reason I find this relevant to bring up for this review is of shared themes. If the original arc (Chapters 4-6) were sci-fi/fantasy updates of old Samurai stories, then this trilogy is a Greco-Roman tragedy in futuristic form, a la Julius Caesar, Agamemnon, or Oedipus Rex. Evidence exists in the governmental structure (complete with senate), art and architecture, scenic locales, pod races (nod to the chariot races in BEN HUR), gladiatorial combat, etc. The Anakin Skywalker story is one of hubris and unavoidable destiny, a three-part classic tragedy for today's audience.
The setting takes place ten years after Episode I, where we find the planet of Naboo about to undergo a siege at the hands of Count Dooku. Queen (now Senator) Padme Amidala seeks to protect her homeland and assassination attempts are imminent, causing the Jedi to assign young Anakin Skywalker as her bodyguard. With the Jedi ranks still in short supply, Chancellor Palpatine is given autonomous control by the Senate, and when an army of mercenary Jango Fett's clones are discovered, their aid is enlisted to help stem the tide. While alone with Padme, Anakin reveals his love for her, but the Jedi code forbids romantic liaisons.
Much of the criticism that critics and fans had attributed to EPISODE I seem to have made an impact on George Lucas, as he plays this movie much more seriously, with a heightened emphasis on action. Jar Jar Binks, thankfully, has had his role reduced down to a couple of scenes, and the introduction of better characters, like Jango Fett (Boba Fett's daddy) gives the film a real boost. Once again, Lucasfilm gives us gorgeous special effects that make this adventure a feast for the eyes, making this almost must-see even if the story were lacking. Luckily for us, there is a relatively compelling story going on, even if we basically know how it's going to go, and Lucas makes the most out of his somewhat thinly defined characters.
There are some weak points as well, mostly stemming from the ersatz romance between Anakin and Padme, a little too rushed to be convincing, and some of the action pieces go on for prolonged periods of time given the fact that they have little to do with furthering the plot. Yet, it's hard to truly scrutinize when the main object of the film is to ultimately entertain and inject a sense of other-worldly awe, and which Lucas pulls off to a great extent with such lavishness that any holes, lulls or flaws are easily glossed over with the next action piece or incredibly detailed locale.
STAR WARS was, is, and always will be escapist entertainment of the most grand scope and EPISODE II only further solidifies the series as one of the most exciting events for moviegoers today.
©2002 Vince Leo