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Movie Review:
Attack of the Clones:
Star Wars Episode II

Robert M. Price


In the first Star Wars (now paradoxically dubbed "Episode IV: A New Beginning"), Darth Vader faces Obi-Wan Kenobi, his old swordmaster, in a duel to the (seeming) death, and he says to the old man, "The Circle is now complete! When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master!" Yesterday, as I walked back to the theatre parking lot with my thirteen-year old daughter, I could not help reflecting on how Lord Vader's quip applied to my own situation: a quarter of a century agone I had reported on opening day to see the original Star Wars. I was then a callow lad of 22. I have seen that film over 30 times since then. Here I was, performing the ritual again, and with my little pal (that's why I had kids, by the way, to share my geeky interests!). The circle is now complete.

            But the circle is complete (or nearing completion) in another way, too. Of course the whole point of the current trilogy of Star Wars movies (The Phantom Menace from 1999 and Attack of the Clones, as well as the next one in 2005) is to fill in the implied backstory for the initial trilogy (A New Beginning, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). In these new movies we are catching up to the beginning, and it must be said writer-director George Lucas is doing an amazingly effective job of it. Despite occasional claims to the contrary, I cannot believe he had any of the others planned out when he was putting the original Star Wars together. Princess Leia being Luke's sister? An afterthought. The Clone Wars? Just a nice sci-fi throwaway to set the stage for the original film and Obi-Wan's role in it. Yoda? They created him to replace Obi-Wan when it appeared Alec Guinness was terminally ill (it turned out he wasn't, so he appeared as a Force-ghost in the second and third films alongside Yoda). And so George Lucas set himself quite a task when he determined to connect all those dots.

            I feel quite certain that most viewers will feel as I did that, watching Attack of the Clones, they are seeing what "really" happened leading up to the events of the first trilogy. You can see Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as both an older version of the tousle-headed child we met in Phantom Menace as well as the embryonic Darth Vader. I noticed only one continuity glitch: if the Laurel-and-Hardy droids C-3PO and R2-D2 really met Luke's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru as early as Attack of the Clones, why do they not recognize them when they meet them "again" in the original Star Wars? But I can forgive that. Star Trek has done worse.

            Attack of the Clones is a fantastic spectacle from first frame to last. The vast complexity and beauty of the sets is stunning: alien landscapes and cities, aerial traffic jams and speed chases, strange monsters, etc., are all great. The action is virtually uninterrupted, but it never obscures the story or the development of the characters. Just as important, George Lucas seems finally to have snapped out of the delusion that he was writing Muppets episodes. No cosmic teddy bears this time around (boy, did they ruin Return of the Jedi), and the step 'n fetch it Jar Jar Binks was mercifully scarce this time around. Plotwise, there is plenty of intrigue to keep you guessing. And despite some rare moments of wooden acting, most performances are very effective. Ewan McGregor is spot-on as a younger Obi-Wan, with a perfect Alec Guinness impression. As Count Dooku, the great Christopher Lee (utterly wasted in the Hammer horror films of the 1960s, sometimes with no lines at all!) plays much the same role as he did as Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. In both he is a veteran adept who has turned to the Dark Side, seduced by Sauron in the one case, by Darth Sidious in the other. Either way, he is great! And to see him here nicely compliments the presence of his Hammer co-star Peter Cushing in the original Star Wars (where Cushing played the evil Grand Moff Tarkin).

            Attack of the Clones is by far the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back (which had to be good, based on a script by science fiction immortal Leigh Brackett). Watching it, you think equally that you should have seen this back in 1983 instead of those darn Ewoks, and that you can hardly wait till 2005 for the next, and final, installment.


Copyrightę2004 by Robert M Price
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