Attack of the Clones (2002)
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Review Date: May 07, 2002
Director: George Lucas
Writer: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales
Producers: Rick McCallum
Hayden Christensen
Natalie Portman
Ewan McGregor
Ten years have passed since THE PHANTOM MENACE and Anakin Skywalker is still training in the way of the Jedi, under the careful tutelage of his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. When an assassin pursues Senator Amidala (she used to be Queen), the duo accept the responsibility of protecting her life, and ultimately separating, to work more efficiently. There is also great fear about certain political separatists breaking away from the Republic, and leading an all-out revolution against the Jedi-scarce good guys. Love blossoms, the real star wars begin and the dark side of the force awakens.
The continuing saga of the STAR WARS universe is in good hands after all. George Lucas manages to, once again, wow us with impeccable visuals, intriguing characters, awesome action sequences, a surprising romance and a generally more "adult" feel, as well as a visit from some of your favorite buddies from the past and future. Admittedly, from a visual point of view, it has become more difficult for a movie to get me hard since THE PHANTOM MENACE dropped my jaw three years ago, but knowing what I know now, and having seen what I have in other films of the sort, I have to say that this baby still came across as quite impressive in regards to its imagery, special effects and its ability to gel it all together as a fascinating whole. There are a lot of things that I really liked about this movie and only a few, for which I didn't care so much. Let's start with the good stuff. Anakin Skywalker, as played by Hayden Christensen is a forceful lead and charmed me enough to follow him through this story. He projected the required amount of confused feelings throughout the flick, and even managed to make me feel sorry for him a few times. He's so torn up about everything! The rest of the cast is also decent, but I personally don't think the casting of Samuel L. Jackson and Jimmy Smits in an epic series of this sort, are good choices. My opinion doesn't have anything to do with their performances per se, as much as it does with the actors' well-known personas in real life, which makes them kind of "stick out" in the STAR WARS setting ("Hey look, it's Jimmy Smits with a goatee!"). Luckily, Smits is barely in the film (and even luckier are we, that one Jar-Jar Binks only has about 5-10 minutes of screen-time as well-although mesa still finds him extremely annoying!), and Jackson does kick some mighty ass when he gets into battle with his ultra-cool purple lightsaber, so it wasn't that big of a deal.

One other person who did stand out, but in a very good way, was Ewan McGregor, who really comes into his own as Obi-Wan Kenobi in this picture. He's entirely believable, he's stoic, he's very much a mentoring type, and the interaction between him and Anakin, was definitely one of the finer human points of the movie. The buildup of antagonism between the two also gives you a true sense of what's to come. The chemistry between Christensen and Portman, on the other hand, wasn't as palpable, but it was still pretty good, especially during the scenes in which they rolled around in the fields a la THE SOUND OF MUSIC. In their defense, I will say that they weren't helped by the fact that they had to deliver some pretty clunky romance dialogue. Of course, being the great thespians that they are, they still managed to pull it off without looking too much like soap opera goofs. As for Christopher Lee, well, he's always great as the bad guy and he solidified that even further here, while adding juice to the flick in the process. Great stuff!

But what blew me away the most? Well, it's simple really...the action scenes! Yes, most of us got a little pumped by the "pod race" sequence in THE PHANTOM MENACE, but what did that have to do with the movie really? Not much, right? Well, not only are the action scenes entirely delectable in this go-around, but they're also very much related to the development of the story, which actually drives you deeper into the action and visual mastery. One of my favorites comes right off the bat and features Anakin and Obi-Wan chasing an assassin through the skies on a super-duper glider. This scene kicks all kinds of ass with an amazing backdrop, zooming traffic throughout, death-defying moments and me muttering "cool" on more than one occasion. It's one of those scenes that I immediately wanted to see again. It also lead to the other interesting aspect of this tale. Once we get past the introduction of the issues, the movie separates into two distinct plotlines, one which features the budding romance between Anakin and Amidala, and another centering on Obi-Wan and his search for the bad guys. This section of the film also worked for me, because each side of the story was interesting on its own and ideally inter-mixed. Sure, the romance stuff got a little "thick" at parts (again, this might've been because of the bad dialogue), but I liked Christensen enough to follow him all the way through, and McGregor more than held his own with his side of the story.

And speaking of which, his narrative also featured the introduction of yet another cool baddie to the STAR WARS milieu: Jango Fett. This dude was as badass as they come and the confrontation scene between he and McGregor was yet another keeper. The Boba Fett cameo was also cute and certainly quite foretelling of the future. All of which lead to the final hour of the film which is basically...all-out action! Yeah, I was pretty content with the film up to that point, but the final sixty minutes really got into the true STAR WARS of it all, to the point that I could barely even look down to reach for my next cheese-infected nacho. It starts with a very cool CHICKEN RUN-esque scenario in a manufacturing factory, packed with many tense moments, then a GLADIATOR-type execution piece in a giant forum featuring some of the cooler special effects from the film (and is it me, or did one of those crazy man-eating beasts resemble a certain dinosaur from Lucas pal Steven Spielberg's JURASSIC PARK franchise?) and ends with the beginning of what seems to be a balls-out war between the clones and the nasties. What else did I like? I loved that C-3PO brought some much-needed humor into the mix, I had a blast when Yoda pulled out his lightsaber and started kicking that baddie bootie like he was a strapping 18-year old puppet again (although I'm still not sure how he requires a cane in one scene and then turns into Bruce Lee in the next), I liked how some of the aliens from another planet very much resembled a particularly favorite character of mine from THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (Jack Skellington, baby!), I think I speak for everyone when I thank George Lucas for somehow getting Portman's character to run around in half a shirt through the latter portion of this movie (nice!), I dug the Death Star "cameo" and last but certainly not least, I adored the booming score, which is a constant reminder of the power of the series and the music therein. I'm still humming it as I write this...very infectious!

So what didn't I like? (damn...this is turning into my longest review ever!) As in THE PHANTOM MENACE, I didn't much care for the actual behind-the-scenes bickering about politics and such. I understand that this topic could be engaging to some, but in my case, politics bore me to death and don't make for a particularly interesting subject matter. Jar-Jar Binks also sucked the big one, although I do want to thank Lucas personally for reducing his screen-time to next to nothing. The dialogue was also pretty stilted in some scenes, especially the more person-on-person stuff between characters. And one major plot point which I also didn't "buy" as much as the rest of the film featured Anakin's resolution with his mother. This turn of events didn't generate the required emotions for me when it occurred, and I think that had to do with the fact that Anakin's character didn't invest enough time or emotion into his mother beforehand (he barely seemed to mention her before the incident). But these are all pretty small points, which are certainly made up for by all of the other more concrete points, mentioned before them.

Overall, this movie will definitely satisfy all major STAR WARS fans, it will likely be enjoyed by girls as much as boys this time around (gotta love that "love" angle) and is thankfully, in my opinion, not as targeted to kids as was EPISODE I ("Eeeeeew, they're kissing, mom!") The movie provides us with a stunning visual world, developed characters to whom we can attain a greater emotional attachment and many out-of-this-world action sequences that should paste smiles across the faces of millions of movie fans across the world. Lucas is back, the Empire is around the corner and yeah...I'm super-stoked for the next installment!
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian
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