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Star Wars - Episode Two: Attack Of The Clones (2002)
Director: George Lucas

review by Debbie Moon

Ten years after events of The Phantom Menace, a separatist movement threatens to split the Republic in two. Amidala, now Senator for Naboo, escapes an assassination attempt, and Anakin, matured into a smart mouthed teenaged apprentice, is assigned to guard her, while Obi-Wan Kenobi tracks down her attackers. This leads him to the heart of the Sith's plans for galactic dominance; but meanwhile, Anakin's attraction to Amidala threatens his commitment to the Jedi, and tragedy looms on the horizon...
   The fact is, you don't go to a George Lucas film for good dialogue or deep characterisation. His strengths lie in epic storytelling, the power of mythic archetypes, and the creation of a fascinating, alien world. The problem with Attack Of The Clones is that it isn't even good at the things Lucas is normally good at. The effects are of a high standard - but they lack imagination and originality. There are too many lazy settings; a standard US diner with alien customers, a standard US bus that happens to fly. One action scene seems to have been borrowed from Chicken Run, and the epic battle is too reminiscent of Gladiator. Every Star Wars movie should contain at least one jaw-dropping image, and nothing here comes close to the old magic.
   The sense of epic struggle that carried Lucas' sometimes shaky plots through earlier films also seems to have deserted him. At no point are we sure who this film is about, what they want, and what's at stake for them. Anakin, who should be driving the story by this point, does little apart from fall in love. Obi-Wan is hampered by a plot that demands that he doesn't see what's right under his nose until it's too late. This, and his lack of authority in his scenes with Anakin, makes him appear weak, stupid, and unfit to be training any apprentice, let alone the Chosen One.
   Perhaps Lucas' mistake was to tackle this particular story in the first place. Character is not his strength, and the rise and fall of Anakin is a completely character-driven narrative, the story of an innocent child who becomes the most powerful of Jedi, and then descends into utter evil.
   AOTC's Anakin is a cardboard cutout, pushed here and there by the demands of the plot, making no decisions and showing no character development. We gain no sense of his power as the Chosen One, his relationship with Obi-Wan is reduced to a few lines of banter, and Amidala's instant attraction to this petulant crypto-fascist is laughable. Now and then, the film hints at what it should have been. Hayden Christensen comes close on occasion to the dangerous charm that Anakin should embody, and his painful confession to Amidala, despite being overwritten and ending abruptly, is quite moving. An underused Christopher Lee adds much needed menace, and brings out the best in any actor sharing a scene with him. There are some intriguing moments that could have been more effectively developed, such as Anakin's encounters with Palpatine.
   In the end, though, it's an incoherent travelogue; all pretty pictures, and none of the genuine emotional involvement that Lucas, despite his faults as a writer, has always conjured up.

Related item:
tZ  Shared Worlds - Elaine Cunningham, interviewed by Cristopher Hennessey-DeRose

Star Wars episode 2: Attack Of The Clones
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