Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones
The Star Wars saga has become embedded in our culture. Some have suggested that Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia are characters peopling a kind of 'Wizard of Oz' for a new generation. The stories have become technological marvels of sword and sorcery. The recent entry is no exception. 'Clones' returns to the high adventure of the first installment released in 1977 and regains some of the thrill lost in 'Phantom Menace'. Unlike the first picture starring mostly unknowns in leading roles, this one features a number of Hollywood heavy hitters. Prepare to sit still for some while as the film runs for 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Perhaps the first thing you notice is the startling clarity of the production. The film virtually leaps from the screen. This is the first major motion picture ever to shoot directly into computer memory bypassing film altogether. It is all amazingly realistic. The actors and the creatures and the fantastic sets integrate seamlessly. We meet several new races and a number of vile monsters. We also meet other Jedi Knights for the first time and discover that they are more akin to monks than to warriors (attachment is frowned upon). This is where our newest Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, strays from the path.
Set design and costumes are splendid. Padme (Natalie Portman) is attired in different costume for every scene in which she appears... sometimes changing twice. Views of her hillside getaway, and her accommodations on the city world of 'Coruscant' give us a humanizing taste of home life. There is a marvelous chase scene above the streets and between the buildings (ala 'Fifth Element'). Obi-Wan uses his 'mind control' skills to send a bar fly home on a mission to re-think his life. There is a similarly exciting chase through an asteroid field in the second half of the movie heralding back to the second installment. As usual Lucas spares no effort right down to CGI puffs of smoke from a slamming door.
We meet Luke Skywalker's step brother Owen and girlfriend (Maru) when Anakin returns to 'Tatooine' in an attempt to rescue his mother from Tuscan raiders (in the first movie we called them 'Sand People'). Unable to prevent her death, we learn how he begins to embrace the dark side of the force. We learn how he loses his hand. Young Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is almost continually brow beaten by his Jedi instructor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). It is not difficult to understand the Skywalker character portrayed with such angst. Factor in a missing mother and raging hormones for sweet Padme; add remarkable gifts from the force and we have something of a loose cannon. The Portman and Christensen characters have been given some of the worse romantic dialogue ever written, but we accept it because it isn't really a love story. Han Solo and Princess Leia had a love story.
Nothing can prepare you for the sight of 900 year old Jedi Master Yoda in a light saber fight with the current dark lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). This could never have been done with the Yoda puppet from previous episodes. The only way to get it up on the screen would be to create it digitally. Both 'Menace' and 'Clones' are noticeably lacking in the 'scoundrel' Han Solo plot element. We are given 'Jar Jar Binks' .
The film begins to bring together elements from the previous four pictures, but there is also a lot of clarifying to be done in the next and most likely final film. These films have in some ways become a right of passage and one has the feeling that even non-fans will dutifully haul themselves to the cinema. 'Clones' will most likely re-ignite much of the interest that has waned since 'Phantom Menace'. It is a good adventure and recommended viewing.