ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones (2002)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: George Lucas

Starring:
Ewan McGregor/Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman/Amidala
Hayden Christensen/Anakin
Samuel L. Jackson/Windu
PLOT-CRUNCH
When a mysterious figure attempts to assassinate hottie Amidala (Portman), brooding Anakin Skywalker (Christensen), now all grown up, is assigned to protect the lady while his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (McGregor) ventures alone to the far reaches of the Galaxy to find out who and why she was attacked. Anakin and Amidala eventually express their love for one another and on his end, poor Obi-Wan is not only pitted against badass Jango Fett (Morisson) but also uncovers a peculiar cloning plot. It all ends with an all-out war and the birth of a new army that will one day become the feared Empire.
THE LOWDOWN
A Jedi Shall Not Know Anger. Nor Hatred. Nor Love.

I guess you guys should know where I park my Millenium Falcon in the Star Wars garage before I speak out on Episode 2. Like many of you out there, I grew up with Star Wars, played with the toys relentlessly, broke many broomsticks while imitating the lightsaber duels and yes, at one time wanted to elope with Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). I wouldn’t consider myself a "fanboy", but I do appreciate the series immensely. Today, with some maturity on my side (I said some) I can safely state that I love Star Wars, adore Empire Strikes Back (my fav), like Return Of The Jedi but feel that Episode 1 never lived up to the class the Holy Trilogy had established. Having spat all that at you, I can now safely venture into Episode 2 territory. The easiest way for me to tackle this epic is too break it down for you. Hop into your Sandspeeder and enjoy the ride, young Jedis.

THE STORYLINE: I always felt that Episode 1 had a weird balance when it came to its storyline. On the one hand, the politically-inclined narrative was overly complex (for me anyways) and on the other hand, the childish elements were hard to digest (Jar-Jar and his homies). Who was the film aimed at? Adults? Kids? I’m still not sure. Because the Holy Trilogy sported a simple narrative, Episode 1's talky plot took me aback. Well, I’m happy to report that Episode 2 is a more focused film with a heavier adult feel to it and way more action-driven than Episode 1. The childish shenanigans are few and far between, the themes brought up are mature and the political plot isn’t as complicated as the one in Episode 1. It actually leaves us wanting more! The birth of the Empire, the mention of the Death Star and the hints of aggression in Anakin’s behavior had me thirsting to know how it was all going to go to hell. Much like "The Empire Strikes Back" was to "Return Of The Jedi", Episode 2 pierces us with enough hooks to have us longing for Episode 3.

THE LOVE STORY: Even though I’m into chainsaws, loose women and severed heads, I’m still a sucker for a good love story. The one presented here is the core of the picture and it’s uneven but still acceptable. The romantic subplot’s worst enemy is the obvious and corny dialogue that the actors have to occasionally spit out. I sometimes felt like I was watching a bad Hallmark TV movie. The bad lines tarnished some soft moments. On the upside, Natalie Portman (Amidala) and Hayden Christensen (Anakin) made most of it click with their captivating chemistry. They truly are a cute couple. Christensen, in particular, often managed to overcome the tackiest bit of dialogue and come across as mucho genuine. Both leads are also very good looking (which always helps), the scenic settings in which their relationship took place looked like paradise and John Williams’ poignant score sure helped out. So all in all, the love angle could’ve been approached in a firmer manner but the “true” moments that did arise, made me want to get into it. So I did. NOTE: Next time, Lucas should hire a strong screenwriter to write the dialogue, especially the romantic lines.

THE ACTION: In my book, Episode 1 didn’t have enough to offer in terms of jaw-dropping action. The pod race didn’t do shite for me and the only time that I felt any real thrills was during the solid end lightsaber jamboree. Here, Lucas thankfully gives us lots of physical happenings and takes us on quite a wild ride. The engaging action is definitely one of the picture’s strongest assets. I’m talking about an insane flying Speeder chase which eventually leads to an exciting on foot hunt, a slick asteroid field sequence where two ships duke it out (shades of Empire Strikes Back there), lots of gripping lightsaber play (YEAH!) and a final massive battle that doesn’t pull any punches. For the most part, the adrenaline-pumped scenarios had me sitting up and grinning like a teen who just had his cherry popped...I was really into it. The sole downside is that Lucas is no John Woo when it comes to filming action. For example, apart from a few sharp shots, the final battle scene sometimes felt a little cluttered. There’s so much going on and Lucas doesn’t always make the right choices as to how to communicate it. But overall…I had a freaking blast and a half!

COMIC RELIEF: When I saw the trailers for Episode 2, I was sure that the sly bantering between Anakin and Obi-Wan would rub me the wrong way. Well, I’m happy to state that it wasn’t the case and that the light repartee between the two was very enjoyable. The best news of all is that Lucas finally focuses the comic relief where it counts: on C-3PO and R2-D2. C-3PO has this scene where his head gets separated from his body. I won’t say anything more but trust me, hilarity ensues. It was a pleasure to see the dynamic metal duo back in action. They were mostly ignored in Episode 1 and Episode 2 gives them the attention they deserve. Thanks Lucas. NOTE: Jar-Jar Binks is barely in the film (there is a god!) but in a ridiculous move, he’s actually put in a position of political power. I wouldn’t trust that mutt to clean my dishes, yet alone take care of things. What was Lucas smoking?

THE VILLAINS: One of this film’s shortcomings is that it lacks a kool villain like Darth Vader or Darth Maul to keep us foaming like raving banshees. Yes, Palpatine (McDiarmid) is still in the house and Count Dooku (Lee) is always pleasant to watch, but they’re far from super-duper dope dudes. The only slight saving grace is the inclusion of the way gnarly Jango Fett (Morrisson), father of Boba. We get a couple of enthralling fight sequences with the lad and his deadly gadgets really cranked my dial. We also get to meet a young Boba Fett (Logan); we learn about his roots and witness the event that will eventually lead him to becoming the hardened bounty hunter we all know (and love). I still think they should’ve brought back Darth “The Money” Maul though.

FEAR OF THE DARK SIDE: This flick has many opportunities to be as dark as The Empire Strikes Back. Although we do feel that the tone is somewhat grim here, Lucas still shies away from fully indulging himself in the dark side. In consequence, my full emotional investment wasn't as engaged in some particular scenes. Here’s the best example and although I’ll try to keep it vague, it might contain MINOR SPOILERS. After a heart-wrenching tragedy, Anakin filled with fury, lights his lightsaber and seeks blood against a group of folks who wronged him. Now the event that put Anakin in that mental state is a sad one and it touched me. So YES, I wanted to see Anakin kick those bastards’ asses like nobody’s business. Well, the film shows us Anakin killing a couple of dudes but then cuts away to another scene…WHY? I was feeling it, yo! I craved to be fulfilled but basically got teased and dropped. On the plus side, Anakin’s intense retelling of the story to Amidala (Christensen nails that scene like a champ), brought some Jedi tears to my eyes and kind of compensated for the revenge scene not going all the way. But still…I was disappointed. END MINOR SPOILERS

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS: I’ve come to terms with this and so should all of you. Lucas presents us with a CGI world and no matter how polished it looks, it still feels like CGI. Having said that, I really dug some of the panoramic backdrops: the waterfalls where our lovebirds flirt, the awesome space sequences, the base smack in the middle of the ocean (wow), the multitude of robots, the "Blade Runner"-like urban vibe of one specific city, the astounding Imperial Cruisers (awesome) and the psychotic flying Speeder scene all had me by the jewels. On a negative vibe, I wasn’t too fond of the CGI creatures in the arena bit. I felt like I was watching a game of Playstation. But that’s a minor qualm. Overall, yes...it's CGI but it's quality CGI and I was transported into another world for two hours. I learned to live with it and so can you.

THE END LIGHTSABER DUEL/YODA: The lightsaber duel is always what I look forward to the most when watching a Star Wars flick. Sadly Episode 2’s final “tête-à-tête” pales in comparison to the one in Episode 1. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still highly entertaining but it could’ve been so much more. It doesn’t help that the "heavy" played by Christopher Lee is no back flipping Ray Park (Darth Maul). I also wanted to see Anakin kick more bootie! I was hoping that the confrontation would be his moment to shine 100% in the arts of swordplay but alas, I guess I’ll have to wait for Episode 3 to see what our boy is really made of. But my biggest pet peeve with the end saber-party is definitely…SPOILERS….CGI Yoda getting in there to mix it up. I laughed my ass off, but dammit I didn’t want to laugh! I was hoping to be on the edge of my seat in fascination! Seeing tiny Yoda take a Kung Fu stance and hopping around like a bunny rabbit on cocaine diminished the impact of the sequence for me. It reminded me of the ass-kicking baby in "Kung Pow". Makes you wonder why Yoda needs a cane in the first place. That little bugger looked in tip-top shape to me! At least I got a good chuckle out of it, I guess. END SPOILERS

So what’s the verdict? Although not perfect, I really enjoyed my vacation at the Episode 2 resort. After the disappointing Episode 1 (to me, anyways), I didn’t think I’d ever sit through a TRUE Star Wars experience again. Coming out of this one, I felt an all-new positive Force in regards to the revival of the saga. This entry is the perfect apology to the letdown that was "The Phantom Menace". Apology accepted. IS THE FORCE WITH YOU?
GORE
The film has some violence. We get a cut off head, cut off arm and a CGI beast getting its legs chopped off. There’s also lots of lightsaber and laser gun mayhem.
ACTING
Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) does an admirable job as the older Obi-Wan. His timing is on, he’s too kool for school and he’s actually starting to feel like the Obi-Wan that the late Alec Guinness played so well. Loved the beard dude! Natalie Portman (Amidala) didn’t always put enough conviction in her dialogue, but to be fair, her lines are bad at times. She’s fun to look at though (she has engrossing eyes), her chemistry with Christensen is on and is it me or is she starting to look more like Princess Leia? I loved Hayden Christensen (Anakin), he was the perfect casting choice to play Anakin. The man manages to beat the sometime bad writing and convey true emotional turmoil. He’s photogenic, charismatic and will probably turn the “rat tail” hairstyle into a new fashion trend. CONGRATS DUDE ON A JOB WELL DONE!

No matter how hard he tries, Samuel L. Jackson (Windu) still comes across as Samuel L. Jackson. I expected him to call somebody a motherfucker many o' times. He does ok though and I dug seeing him kick that ass with his purple lightsaber. He really is a Bad Motherfucker. Genre icon Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) brings a touch of class to the picture. It’s always sweet to see the man onscreen. Notice how his character’s name is an obvious homage to his most famous role…Count Dracula. Nobody does Yoda like Frank Oz (Yoda voice) and he nails it here again. I did feel that Yoda talked a bit too much though. Shut up already! Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) doesn’t have much more to do but look menacing and he does it real well. Jimmy Smits (Senator Organa) does fine in his throwaway part. Did Lucas owe him a favor? Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine/Darth Sidious) is very effective as the creepy voiced deceiver. Anthony Daniels (C3PO) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2) still got the touch as the two loveable Droids. Danny Logan (Boba Fett) looks the part but isn’t the most talented child actor on the block.
T & A
I dug Portman’s (Amidala) many stylish outfits, my favorite being a tight white top that shows off her yummy looking, fit belly. Baby looks good! The ladies get Christensen shirtless.
DIRECTING
Lucas, once again, shot this puppy on Digital Video. I can’t say that I’m too fond of the look which it emanates but I made myself get used to it. Lucas does contribute a couple of nice stylish touches and also manages to slap in some slick atmosphere here and there. In terms of shot composition, Lucas handles his dramatic sequences better this go-around, they didn’t feel as stale as in Episode 1. The action scenes are also mostly well shot but sometimes Lucas’ direction lacked focus. I would attribute that to the enormous amount of CGI that probably interfered with his creative freedom. Either that or he got lazy. Overall though, a job well done but I can’t help and wonder what a stronger director could’ve accomplished with the same material. I think Lucas should do what he did with Empire and Return for future chapters in the series. Let somebody else direct them while he retains creative control. But that’s just me though…
SOUNDTRACK
John Williams is a freaking genius! With his score, he actually succeeds in saving a couple of scenes sporting bad dialogue by injecting the necessary emotional juice in there. I felt shivers down my spine when The Empire theme kicked in. Great stuff as always!
BOTTOM LINE
Episode 2 is definitely a way more rewarding experience than "The Phantom Menace" and I for one had an amazing two hours+ while living through it. I felt that pure energetic Force that the Holy Trilogy gave out in this one and it made my freaking day start on the right foot. Sure, the film’s love story is at times clumsily handled (it's that dialogue man) and the movie doesn’t always go all the way with some of the possibilities which it sets up, but the endless rewards this barrel of amusement hands out, outweighs its faults. When I came out of "The Phantom Menace", all I said to myself was: “Why wasn’t Darth Maul used more?” When I came out of "Attack Of The Clones" I said to myself: “This is Star Wars!” Any questions?
BULL'S EYE
Ryan Phillipe and Paul Walker both auditioned for the role of Anakin. Is it me or does Hayden Christensen look like Ryan Phillipe?

Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) talked about The Clone Wars in the original Star Wars.
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