By now, you have most likely read many scathing reviews of the latest installment in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy, "Attack of the Clones". Do not let them convince you that George Lucas has lost touch with the Force. His latest movie, number two in the prequel trilogy chronicling the transition of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, does what the "Star Wars" movies are supposed to do. It sweeps you off of your feet and provides a spectacle of escapist entertainment that should not be missed. Unlike the easily enjoyable but tough to absorb piece of eye candy "The Phantom Menace", "Attack of the Clones" actually feels like a "Star Wars" movie.
The Republic is in grave danger of being torn down by thousands of separatist star systems who are threatening to abandon it. The Galactic Senate, lead by Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDarmid), must vote on whether to create an army for the Republic to counter this threat. Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), former queen of Naboo, arrives at the planet of Coruscant only to be the target of a failed assassination attempt. Two Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are sent to protect her.
If you think the above sounds boring, you're right. For the first fifteen minutes or so, "Attack of the Clones" is bogged down in political mumbojumbo that really has no place in a "Star Wars" movie. I was slightly interested, but spent most of that time wondering when the fun would start. I was not squirming in my seat for long; fifteen minutes into the film "Attack of the Clones" gets back into the old "Star Wars" tradition with an incredibly exciting chase through the city of Coruscant. From there, the film had me in its grip.
Mostly. The overlapping of three storylines was well handled, but the execution of one of them; the supposed romance between Padme and Anakin, is not. The screenplay, a collaboration between George Lucas and Jonathan Hales, feels recycled and tired. Simply put, it is quite obvious that it was written by two middle aged men. That is not to say the dialogue doesn't have its moments, but it needs to spread its wings and get comfortable with itself. It is in the romance where it falters the most, making what could have been a grand affair into a silly flirt that jumps to quick conclusions. It serves its purpose in the big picture, but does not press any of the emotional buttons that it would like to think it does. It represents George Lucas' stubborness that the "Star Wars" series belongs soley to him. I can think of other screenwriters who could have done a magnificent job with a screenplay for "Attack of the Clones", but George Lucas simply will not have it.
One other place where "Attack of the Clones" falters is in its dialogue for the Jedi Master Yoda. There are times when what came out of Yoda's mouth was not at all like the backwards Yoda-isms we have come to know and love. Nonetheless, Yoda is the star of "Attack of the Clones". Yoda is the kind of character who will live on as long as movies do; he deserves the title of legend just as much (and in some cases more) than many filmmakers or actors who have been given that title. In "Attack of the Clones", Yoda does have a surprise up his sleeve which some may deem to be out of character. It is not. Yoda is a movie legend, so I feel he's entitled to a little ass-kicking. It's an adrenaline high in a movie that definitely has a few.
Aside from the romance, "Attack of the Clones" is a wonderfully exciting movie that cannot be seen as anything else but an event. It is a mystery of sorts that harkens to "The Empire Strikes Back"; intelligent and involving. It leaves the viewer wanting more; setting up a feverish anticipation for Episode III, which is to be the last film in the series. Don't think that means you don't get bang for your buck. "Attack of the Clones" builds up to a rousing climax; a final 45 minutes of pure, pulse-pounding, gee-whiz action bliss that outdoes anything in "The Phantom Menace". Also, "Attack of the Clones" gives you something more than a subtle wink at how things are going to turn out for our characters in the future, unlike the previous installment.
The acting in "Attack of the Clones" does not stumble through the film as the screenplay does. The performances are all as good as any have been in a "Star Wars" movie. Ewan McGregor is slowly turning into Alec Guiness' Obi-Wan, but he is his own and not merely an imitator. Natalie Portman shows a nice amount of peril here and there, but it was her performance that I grew tired of most quickly. Christopher Lee, who is a master at playing characters like his treacherous Count Dooku (see him as Saruman in "Lord of the Rings"), is the perfect villain to counter Ian McDarmid's mysterious, brooding Senator. I particularly liked Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett, who was able to give the character a good amount of menace while still being fatherly and even warm towards his son, Boba (Daniel Logan II). Out of the entire ensemble, all eyes are on Hayden Christensen. Rest assured, he fills Anakin Skywalker's shoes admirably. His Anakin is just juvenile enough, just reckless enough, and just sympathetic enough. There are times when we can feel for Anakin, and with this screenplay, that is no small feat. I'm looking forward to more of Christensen's performances both inside the "Star Wars" universe and out.
"Attack of the Clones", not surprisingly, is a feast for the eye and ear. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM for short) has outdone themselves this time. This may just be the most visually enticing "Star Wars" film yet. From its beautiful, brilliantly designed atmospheres to its varied and complex creatures, "Attack of the Clones" never ceases to amaze. George Lucas realizes that CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is a paintbrush and not a firecracker; a way to create ingenious worlds and not just blow things up. "Attack of the Clones" may just be one of the best uses of CGI since the technique was introduced. John Williams compliments what's up on screen with his most memorable score since "Schindler's List". It's subtle, inventive, and has a classic sense to it that even helps save some scenes that would otherwise be left in the cheese-ball gutter. The love theme is especially grand, it's just too bad the romance itself isn't up to snuff.
George Lucas is not a masterful filmmaker. He cannot handle the complexities of the human heart, nor are his recent films groundbreaking. He does, however, remember how much fun movies are supposed to be. No matter how cheesy, no matter how silly, the reason we go to the movies is to escape. "Star Wars" has always been the perfect potpourri of pure escapist fun. That's all they have ever been meant to do, and "Attack of the Clones" most definitley delivers the goods.