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Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (PG)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/05/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 142 mins

George Lucas single-handedly redeems himself after the traumatic awfulness of Episode 1 – the acting and the script may have their dodgy moments, but the special effects and the action sequences are fantastic. Star Wars fans, prepare to weep with joy…

Let’s face it – The Phantom Menace was a gigantic disappointment of Biblical proportions. Shoddy-looking CGI-work, lots of boring stuff about trade disputes, kids flying spaceships, Annakin The Annoying Child Actor (cruelly and rightfully dubbed ‘Mannequin Skywalker’), Jar-Jar Effing Binks, a wooden McGregor, not to mention the shameful waste of Darth Maul – under the circumstances, Star Wars fans could be forgiven for a certain lack of enthusiasm with regard to Episode II.

Luckily, Lucas has sensed their pain. The waiting is over and the good news is that the fans won’t be disappointed, even if there are a few dodgy moments, acting-wise.

The Plot

The plot picks up ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor, now with beard) and his impatient Jedi apprentice Annakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are reunited with Senator Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) when they are assigned to protect her after a failed attempt on her life.

While Annakin escorts Padmé back to her home planet of Naboo, Obi-Wan tracks bounty hunter Jango Fett (yes, Boba’s dad) to a mysterious planet, where he makes a startling discovery…

The Acting?

Fortunately for everyone, the acting is a vast improvement on the previous film. Christensen makes a fine Annakin, crucially exuding just enough of a dark side to make you believe that he could become Darth Vader. Physically, he is perfect, and although a couple of the love scenes and some of his petulant teen angst scenes (“It’s not FAIR!”) are awkward, this is equally the fault of the script.

However, let’s be honest, no one goes to a Star Wars movie to see the acting, and a cheesy script is practically a Star Wars tradition in itself. Indeed, this time round, some of the lines seem deliberately designed to get the audience to groan in unison.

As for McGregor, he has really relaxed into the part this time round and delivers a confident performance, aided considerably by the fact that his character gets the majority of the ‘cool’ moments - a witty exchange in a bar, a thrilling fight or two, a stunt here, a great line there etc.

Portman fares less well, though some of the film’s best moments come from the scenes in which her character evokes the spirit of Princess Leia – she even adopts the same distinctive ‘buns-on-side-of-head’ hairstyle.

However, the film really comes alive with the appearance of the sinister Count Dooku, played with consummate ease by Christopher Lee (who is also in that other Great Big Franchise That Involves Hobbits). From the moment he appears, you know that the film is building to a light-sabre confrontation of some kind and when it comes, it doesn’t disappoint.

Special FX

It has to be said, the special effects are a thousand times better than they were in The Phantom Menace. The cityscapes are truly breath taking (though they still look too clean) and Lucas has lovingly packed scores of detail into each frame, so that repeat viewings will be needed in order to take everything in. And as for the creatures, well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Even Yoda has been entirely digitally created this time round, though you’ll be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

The set pieces are terrific this time round. As with Star Wars , Lucas has stolen from every movie he could lay his hands on (Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Gladiator, even Galaxy Quest, among many others), but he makes it work – the opening chase and, in particular, the final 45 minutes, are among the most exciting action sequences you’ll see all year.

If there’s a problem, it’s that Lucas takes too much for granted in terms of the audience’s understanding of the convoluted plot. As a result, the political scenes are frequently very hard to follow – particularly if you’ve never seen another Star Wars film. In addition, one or two scenes are unintentionally amusing, which is both annoying and momentarily distracting.

Digital Projection

Finally, if you get the chance, make sure you see the film at the Odeon Leicester Square, where the film is being projected digitally, as Lucas intended. It makes an astonishing difference – the images are sharper, the colours are brighter and the sound is phenomenal. Similarly, the less you know about the film going in, the greater your excitement will be. But rest assured – large quantities of arse are kicked.

In short, to borrow a phrase that “the kids” are all using these days, Attack of the Clones “rocks”, particularly if you’re a fan. Lucas has delivered on the action, the spectacle, the sets and most importantly the sheer sense of FUN that was missing from The Phantom Menace – it’s time to forgive him, particularly as Jar-Jar Effing Binks is only in it for less than ten minutes. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 09/12/2019 17:23

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